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Why Is There So Much Disorder In The Universe?

Disorder

"If God exists, if God is all good, and if God is the governor and order of the universe, why is the universe such a mess? Why is there so much evil in the world? That's a very serious argument. In fact, I think it's the only serious argument against God's existence."
 
 

 

Bishop Robert Barron

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Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • Rationalist1

    "God permits evil to create a greater good" - So the end justifies the means.

    It's interesting that Fr. Barron uses the book of Job to deal with evil for it so typifies his statement about evil. There again the end justifies the means. God and Satan have a contest with Job to test his righteousness. In the process Job loses all his possessions, cattle, donkeys and sheep and God allows all ten of Job's children to die to test Job. But rest assure when Job vindicates God's side, Job has all his possessions returned doubles and is given ten new children. If God existed and this story were in anyway relective of God's actions that's why there's evil in the world. As Gloucester says in King Lear "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods, —They kill us for their sport."

    • primenumbers

      What can ever be truly evil if there's always a rationalization to greater good? It's like suggesting child murder isn't wrong because it sends them to heaven quicker.

      • Michael Murray

        Ultimately it all boils down to: "I for one welcome our cosmic overlord YAHWEH".

        It's the curse of all ideology. Eventual the gap between reality and the ideology you want so desperately to hold onto drives you to believe horrible things and in the worst cases to do horrible things. Steven Weinberg had it right:

        Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Baloney. But insert the word "ideology" and I'd agree.

          All those sincere Marxists murdering people to create a Marxist utopia.

          • Latitude89

            Agreed, that statement is so bogus. Do you (Michael Murray and the 7 people who upvoted the comment) honestly find it insightful or convincing?

            Every human being, even the good man, seems to behave like a strange combination of beast and angel, characterized by both 'lower' and 'higher' instincts, BOTH of which can cause him to commit evil acts.

            As for his bestial/survival instinct, a good man can be driven to do evil things because he is hungry or thirsty, angry or fearful, etc.

            As for the higher instincts, a good man can be driven to do evil by religion- true- but also by philosophy/ideology, patriotism/nationalism, and, most simply, love. Even science can be included in this list (think the Manhattan Project or perhaps Nazi human experimentation). Of course these things are dangerous, and they certainly have caused evil, pain, and suffering throughout human history. But they also represent the highest things in man; they are the pursuits driven by his desire to seek and love things beyond his mere individual survival.

            In pursuing knowledge through science, good men have created the atomic bomb. And in pursuing truth through religion, good men have killed in the name of God. That does not at all mean that science or religion are evil or an affront to human dignity that should be done away with.

          • I probably could work up some anger against Fr. Barron for thinking he could give a 5 minute 15 second talk on the problem of evil, and some more for giving this particular talk, and I could maybe work up some anger against Thomas Aquinas for saying some of the things the atheists have pointed (like what a joy it will be for the saved to watch the suffering of the damned), and while I could also work up some anger against some of the theists for giving pat answers about gut-wrenching things like the suffering of children, I am amazed that so many atheists seem to be hopping mad at a God they don't even believe in!

            Regarding the Steven Weinberg quote, hating religion is kind of like hating the weather—all weather. Religion is a human universal. It extends all the way back into prehistory and perhaps even to ancestors that we might even consider pre-human. It strikes me as bizarre to be so contemptuous of a human universal.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We aren't mad at god - we don't believe he exists, remember? There are atheists who are mad at theists and at religion, but that's a wholly different thing.

          • We aren't mad at god - we don't believe he exists, remember?

            I would be extremely annoyed if one of the "theists" said this, but it seems to me that at least some of the people who identify as atheists believe in God at least enough to be angry at him. I think it is very difficult for those of us who have been raised in certain religions, particularly Catholicism, to totally shake what we were taught as children. This is only natural, I think. I mean, how many people who don't believe in ghosts would be totally comfortable spending the night in an old graveyard, or being locked in a morgue during a power failure?

            In any case, it does seem to me that some atheists here are attacking and mocking and berating God himself rather than saying something like, "But if what you say about God is true, doesn't that mean he's committing such-and-such an offense?"

            It also seems to me that some people on both sides are sometimes aiming, one way or another, to hurt the feelings of people they disagree with.

            Of course, my own motives are always totally pure! :P

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I would be extremely annoyed if one of the "theists" said this, but it seems to me that at least some of the people who identify as atheists believe in God at least enough to be angry at him.

            An interesting point. I am certain there are folks who are atheists as an act of rebellion, and who continue to believe. Many of them go back to being theists. But my observation is that they are generally angry at the religion - the implementation of their faith - rather than an abstract being. But I don't have good data on this point.

            I think it is very difficult for those of us who have been raised in certain religions, particularly Catholicism, to totally shake what we were taught as children. This is only natural, I think. I mean, how many people who don't believe in ghosts would be totally comfortable spending the night in an old graveyard, or being locked in a morgue during a power failure?

            True. My own hypothesis (provisional) is that "belief" is a sort of "intuition" of something non-physical, something "divine". Religion is the culturally-defined explanation of that belief - a set of interrelated narratives that explain both the belief and certain unappealing characteristics of the world. More importantly, this belief varies tremendously from person to person. For some it's an overwhelming fact of life; for others (myself, for example) it's just non-existent.

            Religion is clearly a cultural artifact, and people generally accept a religion because they're trained to in childhood.

            In any case, it does seem to me that some atheists here are attacking and mocking and berating God himself rather than saying something like, "But if what you say about God is true, doesn't that mean he's committing such-and-such an offense?"

            Sure. See my first point.

            It also seems to me that some people on both sides aresometimes aiming, one way or another, to hurt the feelings of people they disagree with.

            Again. I agree. I think you raise a sound point. It's one of the reasons that these kinds of "discussions" degenerate so rapidly.

            Of course, my own motives are always totally pure! :P

            Oh, of course!

          • Michael Murray

            My point is one about ideology and beliefs that are unevidenced. There comes a time often when you have to choose between your unevidenced beliefs and the real world. Often that leads to otherwise good people doing nasty things. Kevin is right about many marxist revolutionaries and Weinberg is right about many religious people. Having an ideology leads to great evil if you can't temper it with some humanity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It seems like "evidence" is a word atheists love to bring out regularly.

            I don't seen what evidence has to do with, say murder. Do we need "evidence" to know that murder is evil? I mean, what would you said to Pol Pot if he asked you, "What empirical evidence do you have that murder is bad?" Wouldn't you use arguments, not evidence?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            He didn't say it did. We use evidence to show that a murder was committed. We judge it evil on the basis of a (generally) shared morality. Atheists (many) tend to object to unshared moral claims based on evidence free presuppositions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            >We judge it evil on the basis of a (generally) shared morality.
            Atheists (many) tend to object to unshared moral claims based on
            evidence free presuppositions.

            You wanna rephrase that?

            You want to build morality based on shared moral claims based on evidenced presuppositions?

            Are you talking about morality based on arguments about human nature or some kind of empirical evidence?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's what I get for trying to write and run simulations at the same time.

          • Michael Murray

            Imagine you believe that gay people who have gay sex are at risk of eternal suffering in hell. This is an unevidenced belief but it is going influence the way you might behave if you had a gay son or daughter. That is the kind of thing I am talking about.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Exactly.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I am not going to discuss anything gay, but evidence for thinking unrepented seriously sinful behavior can land a person in hell is the testimony of Jesus Christ. Of course, you reject that testimony.

            But then my same source tells me essentially to hate the sin but love the sinner, which will influence the way I might behave toward a son our daughter who is involved in seriously sinful behavior.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But it's this kind of unevidenced definition of a morality, along with the attitude that everyone should SHARE this unevidenced morality that is offensive to many atheists.

          • unevidenced morality

            What is unevidenced morality?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Homosexual acts are disordered and sinful.

          • M., I'm legitimately curious, what sort of evidence would you require to validate or disprove a moral claim?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Evidence that the event took place. Or am I missing something?

          • You're missing something. I was asking what you meant by "unevidenced morality." Are you you suggesting that moral claims--e.g. that Action A is good (moral) but Action B is bad (immoral)--somehow require evidential validation? If so, for an atheist what sort of evidence determines whether a particular action is moral or not?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I generally refer back to shared morality. Many species exhibit characteristics of reciprocal altruism - the essential basis for the Golden Rule. "I wouldn't want to be murdered, so I think murdering other people is a good idea.." As Heinlein pointed out, it is possible to construct a morality based solely on the concept that damage is bad.

            Various atheists use various methods to judge something good or evil - I can't speak for atheists in general, no one can. But most seem to share a set of acculturated moral laws which appear to be variable over time and may simply trace their way back to the most primitive of survival mechanisms.

            Some atheists even claim that it's possible to construct objective moral systems that don't rely on divine fiat.

            But my hypothesis is that most folks - theist and atheist - alike are moral according to their education and some hard-wired biology.

            How does my point about "unevidenced morality" play into that? (You WERE going to ask, weren't you? :-) )

            It probably plays back to the idea of evidential damage: murder causes damage. Theft causes damage. Gay sex doesn't cause damage.

            Oh, and I'm libertarian enough to say that what I do to my own stuff is my business.

          • "It probably plays back to the idea of evidential damage: murder causes damage. Theft causes damage. Gay sex doesn't cause damage."

            But this only pushes the question back one level: "damage" according to what measure? I asked what evidence you had to prove whether a particular act is moral, and you've proposed that we turn to "damage."

            The problem, of course, is that "damage" is an entirely subjective determination. Many people would disagree with your own conclusions above. For example, Pol Pot and his disciples would disagree that murder causes damage. Many people--religious and non-religious alike--would argue that "gay sex" causes damage both to the individuals, to the nature of the act, and to the social understanding of the meaning and purpose of sex.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,

            Its actually not likely that they Pol Pot or his ilk thought murder failed to cause damage. In fact you see in the writings of many such revolutionaries a clear understanding that it did. But they thought it served a greater good. The greater good sometimes has that disastrous effect (as Nicolas Angel discovered here: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/an-VrbM47numhbbYn/hot_fuzz_2007_the_greater_good/ )

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            An act is moral is it accords to "good" in a specific system of morality. Evidence will demonstrates whether it fits that category.

            Are you seriously arguing that Pol Pot would not recognize that murder is murder?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I can show you the damage to a person who is murdered. He is dead. You cannot show me the damage to the 'nature of the act.'

            QED

          • I was looking for a definition of "unevidenced morality," not an example.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Apologies. A claim that certain behavior is proscribed strictly on the basis of "we said so." Or "our god, who cannot be seen, felt, touched, or tasted, and who behaves exactly like he doesn't exist" says that certain behavior is proscribed.

          • M. So let me ask a very simple question then: as an atheist, what evidence do you have that murdering an innocent person is wrong?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            A person is destroyed.

          • "A person is destroyed."

            But how does that evidence prove that murder is wrong? The fact that a person is destroyed describes what murder *does*, but it says nothing about whether murder is moral.

            Of course we both agree murder is wrong, so I'm not arguing that it isn't. What I am asking though is that, from an atheist standpoint, what grounds do you have for claiming that murdering an innocent person is objectively wrong, for all people, at all times?

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,
            If by objective you mean, as you always seem to mean when you bring this up, backed by an omniscient lawgiver, then the answer is no we don't have an objective law. More on this in a moment.

            All we can do is point out to commonalities in our psychology, our desire for personal autonomy, our ability to feel pain, and our ability to suffer, and reflect on that suffering. Whether these have any meaning on the scale of the universe is simply not germane to human lives. They are germane to us, wars and revolts are consistently fought to achieve them for people who are arbitrarily denied them. I can reflect that I don' t want my autonomy unjustly infringed upon, I don't want to be made to suffer, or be subjected to pain. I understand through numerous methods that other people have pretty much the exact same sort of psychological experience of the world as I do, and it would be unrealistic of me to expect them to respect my autonomy unless I respect theirs.

            As atheists who don't think there is a god to back our morals (consequently sparing us the hard work of actually thinking about morality and the living of ethical lives), or clerical institutions arrogating power in the name of gods to tell us what to do, all we are left with the discussion and the debate about what constitutes the good life. We can marshal the evidence of biology and psychology to help us frame and clarify moral questions. This tends to focus atheists and humanists on problems of human and animal suffering and the myriad causes of that.

            To return to the lawgiver that makes morality objective I have to point out the following thing. You don't have that either. You merely have the assertion of that. What you have is a clerical class that tries to deepen, and justify obvious parochial laws and ideas that are, in some cases more than 2000 years old. In and of itself this would not be so bad. The problem comes that you try to impose this vision on those of us who don't share your religious conviction, and not just via argument, which would be utterly fine. The RCC often tries to use the power of the state to enforce its rules on the rest of us. This is not the case for those who find themselves opposing you on moral issues. No one is demanding that the RCC perform gay marriages, or force Catholic women to get abortions or to use contraception, or to have consensual gay sex.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Correct. But it comes back to a more interesting issue: what constitutes freedom for a catholic and freedom for most other people isn't the same.

          • Max Driffill

            THis certainly seems to be the case.

          • Steve Willy

            So from that you drew the wholly unsupported conclusion that God can't exist? At least we have identified the psychological basis for your otherwise irrational non-belief: you cannot acknowledge a limitation on your 'freedom.'

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            When did I claim that? Please try to deal with what I'm saying, rather than what you think I'm saying.

            Humans share a generally common morality. There is NO evidence that such morality is objectively wrong for all people at all times.

            And even catholics claim that's not true. It is possible for the murder of an innocent person to be good.

          • Andre Boillot

            What I am asking though is that, from an atheist standpoint, what grounds do you have for claiming that murdering an innocent person is objectively wrong, for all people, at all times?

            Brandon, I have to say it's disappointing to see you - the creator of this site, meant to foster dialogue between Catholics and atheist - seemingly act as though you are unaware of any non-theistic moral frame-works.

            I'm curious as to why you don't view the essence of Kant's categorical imperative as a frame-work that atheist could ground their values in? Its first formulation reads:

            Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.

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

          • Max Driffill

            Its worse than this even. He doesn't respond to comments that explain how these frame works operate. That is to say, he doesn't dialogue.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I agree. As I pointed out to him at once, I don't really get the impression that he's interested in what we're thinking. Some of his earliest comments here gave the general impression that, having solicited input from atheists, he simply wanted to tell us that we were wrong.

            That, combined with the general nature and tenor of the articles doesn't make me feel encouraged.

            Oh, well. Teething is normal, I suppose.

          • Steve Willy

            You really have no idea what you are talking about do you?

          • epeeist

            Or "our god, who cannot be seen, felt, touched, or tasted, and who behaves exactly like he doesn't exist" says that certain behavior is proscribed.

            Their god never says so. To rephrase the sentence above, "This is what we say that our god proscribes", where the "we" are the priestly caste.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Well, yes. I was too elliptical in my phrasing.

          • Homosexual acts are disordered:

            The species is constituted in two complementary genders, both of which are necessary for the successful propagation of the species.

            Homosexual acts are sterile by definition.

            This deprives the sex act of the primary end to which it is ordered.

            Therefore, homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.

            Homosexual acts are sinful:

            [1 Corinthians 6]
            {6:9} Can it be you do not know that the iniquitous shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not be led astray: neither fornicators, nor those serving idols, nor adulterers,
            {6:10} nor the effeminate, nor males who sleep with males, nor thieves, nor the avaricious, nor the inebriated, nor those who speak evil, nor the rapacious shall possess the kingdom of God.

            Homosexual acts disobey this commandment of God.

            Thetefore, homosexual acts are sinful.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Rick, as I indicated, you are not interested in discussion; I see no point in wasting time with you. When you bring something interesting and coherent to the table, I'll respond, but otherwise....

            Have a lovely day. I will not pray for you. I will, however, have my Mormon friends baptize you posthumously. :-)

          • Yes, Ms. O'Brien, you have several times now informed me that II am not interested in the discussion which you are, apparently, unable to resist extending anyway :-)

            But I will also respond, as occasion warrants.

            These self-evident truths having been (yet again) elaborated, I again wish you a pleasant evening.....

          • the primary end

            I thought there were two purposes—procreative and unitive.

          • Primary end.

          • "any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin."

            Pope Pius XI, "Casti connubii", Dec 31 1930

          • Sage McCarey

            How many people will possess the kingdom of god? Not very many if you really believe this. And don't leave out the people who wear cotton shirts with rayon ties.

          • I do not understand why the number of the saved is determined in any great way by the number of unrepentant practitioners of homosexual acts.

            The percentage of such people is very small.

            As for cotton shirts and rayon ties, we happen to have a New Covenant, built on better promises.

            But the "zing" factor might, possibly, still work in a desultory sort of way I suppose.....

          • Michael Murray

            What is unevidenced morality?

            Something like: It is better that I lock my son up in his room than he go and commit a homosexual act which will cause his soul to suffer torment for all eternity.

            If you believe in hell then imprisoning your gay son would be an act of love surely ?

          • If you believe in hell then imprisoning your gay son would be an act of love surely ?

            If we discuss the official Catholic position on homosexuality versus one that is accepting of homosexuality—and I hope we don't—I will be on the accepting side. But that would be a digression. The question is: "What is unevidenced morality?" Do Catholics espouse "unevidenced" morality and atheists or others espouse "evidenced" morality? Is there some kind of scientific basis for moral judgments?

          • Michael Murray

            What is unevidenced morality?

            Moral decisions based on things that you don't know are true. I gave an example above.

            Is there some kind of scientific basis for moral judgments?

            Yes and no. You can't use science to decide that hurting other people is a bad idea. You have to decide that for yourself. But you can use science to assess the impact your actions will have on others.

          • Moral decisions based on things that you don't know are true. I gave an example above.

            Your example was

            If you believe in hell then imprisoning your gay son would be an act of love surely ?

            I think the moral decision is whether or not homosexuality is wrong. It seems to me your example is not itself a moral decision but rather a decision regarding practical steps to take once you have arrived at a moral decision. And of course there are numerous reasons why imprisoning a gay son would be a very bad idea, even if you believe homosexuality is wrong.

            The discussion I think the "theists" want to have here (and the one that would be most interesting) is how do atheists decide what is moral and immoral, if they even believe those words have any meaning.

          • Michael Murray

            And of course there are numerous reasons why imprisoning a gay son would be a very bad idea, even if you believe homosexuality is wrong.

            But not if you really, really believe that your sons homosexual actions (not his being homosexual) will result in him suffering in hell for all eternity. Then lots of things become lesser evils. That really is my point. Extreme ideologies can justify all kinds of things that seem at first sight to be wrong.

            The discussion I think the "theists" want to have here (and the one that would be most interesting) is how do atheists decide what is moral and immoral, if they even believe those words have any meaning.

            Surely the atheists have explained this time and time again here ?

          • Surely the atheists have explained this time and time again here ?

            I haven't really seen the issue dealt with in any detail here. It would have to be a very long discussion.

            Also, there is no "atheist answer" to the question of what makes things right and wrong. Some atheists no doubt believe it is a meaningless question, and there are others who believe that, even without God, morality is objective. The most famous atheist philosopher in the world, Peter Singer, is apparently still undecided.

          • Michael Murray

            Also, there is no "atheist answer" to the question of what makes things right and wrong.

            There is no atheist answer to anything as there is no agreed atheist position. But I think many atheists will give you basically the same reasons for how they decide the way they behave and I suspect it will be based on the golden rule. It's the basic social primates approach after all. Treat the other chimps as you would expect the other chimps to treat you. Of course the details get complicated but it doesn't seem to me that getting your right and wrong from God helps much. You still have to work out what he wants or in the case of Catholics what the "natural law" is.

          • Michael Murray

            You could also look here

            http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ken_daniels/why.html#Chapter8

            It's a chapter of Kenneth Daniels book: Why I believed: Confessions of a former missionary.

          • epeeist

            The most famous atheist philosopher in the world, Peter Singer

            And there was me thinking it was Daniel Dennett...

            Are we allowed dead philosophers? If so, could I nominate J.L. Mackie when it comes atheism and ethics?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There you go again with your "unevidenced" thesis.

            Give us the basis of *your* ethics which allows you to feel offended by both natural law and Judeo-Christian morality.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            When did I say I was offended by natural law and Judeo-Christian morality?

            Although the natural law arguments are fatally flawed - for christians as well as atheists.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is implied by your rejection of "this kind of unevidenced definition of a morality" which claims to be universally valid and should should be SHARED.

            But what is your ethical system which justifies being offended at the one I try to articulate and follow?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I repeat, where did I say I was offended by the ethical system you articulate and follow? I indicated that atheists are bothered by ethical claims that cannot be supported by evidence. For example: you and I would both agree that murdering people is wrong, because it makes them dead. Dead is bad.

            You and I would NOT agree (presuming that you're catholic and we're talking catholic doctrine as the basis of your ethical system) that gay sex is bad, because there's no evidential referent to the 'badness'.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Where did you say you were offended? When you used the word "offended."

            But it's this kind of unevidenced definition of a morality, along with the attitude that everyone should SHARE this unevidenced morality that is offensive to many atheists.

            I know it *sounds* stupid to ask this, but I think it might uncover the flaw in demanding empirical evidence for moral judgments. Why do you say being dead is bad? What empirical evidence do you have that dead is better than alive? Or is it self-evident and does not need demonstration? Or is it the conclusion to a deductive rational argument? I don't think it is a conclusion based on physical facts.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ah. As I say, it's what I get for posting when I need to run sims. And three cultures are coming out today for shake-n-bake, so that will be a further distraction.

            And saying something is offensive to many atheists doesn't necessarily mean it's offensive to me. I'm special. :-)

            Are you arguing being dead is good?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I am not arguing being dead is good but I would "argue" something.

            I would not provide empirical evidence that being dead is bad and being alive is. I would present a philosophical (not a scientific) argument about how life is the most fundamental value and no one has the right to take it from another without a grave and just reason.

            Good luck on the shaking and baking.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Your reply isn't entirely clear. Could you expland? (New word I coined: to explain and expand on what you wrote).

          • epeeist

            Could you expland?

            Explanans and Explanandum

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To expland:

            >Life is the most fundamental good for a human being because without life no other good is possible.

            I think this is a self-evident truth. It can be explained but it is not arrived at or explained by empirical evidence.

            >Life is the most fundamental right because without it no other right is possible to be exercised.

            Again, self-evident and capable of explanation but no empirical study could yield results for or against it.

            >The right to life is not absolute. For example, if you unjustly threaten my right to life, I can defend myself, even to the point of taking your life. Justice is the principle which determines the boundaries of the right to life. Murder is the unjust taking of life.

            These principles are derived from reasoning. None of them gain more or less validity from empirical studies.

          • Only 11 messages to go, Kevin. Don't stop now! I am rather relieved to be out of the top 5, but when you're number 2, you really have to go for number 1!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ha! The distinction of having the least to say and saying it the most.

          • Michael Murray

            Short sharp posts are the best.

          • Michael Murray

            Or spread it over a

          • Michael Murray

            few comment boxes.

          • Michael Murray

            I am not going to discuss anything gay

            Why on earth not ? Is there anything else off limits ? What about left handed people, or red-haired people or people with blue eyes or dark skin ?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Thank you for asking. It's an admirable test subject, since it's on people's minds in the States at the moment, I believe.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes I have to admit to stirring a little here but I do think it is well past time that the human race moves forward on the question of homosexual equality. Even in Australia the argument amongst the politicians is about whether they should follow party lines or be allowed a conscience vote. As if they would consider a conscience vote on a law to stop black people marrying white people.

          • Max Driffill

            What did Jesus say about gay sex?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Nothing.

          • stevegbrown

            Well said Michael,
            Alex Carrel (the only Nobel Laureate known to have witnessed an apparent miracle at Lourdes) said: "ideology is the demise of civilization."

          • Michael Murray

            I did insert the word ideology.

      • Ben @ 2CM

        Hello again R1,
        I see you quite busy here. Good for you (not sarcasm). If a believer
        uses the phrase “the ends does not justify the means, “the means” are always are always in context of man acting in accordance to God laws or against Gods laws. God's “means” are always justified. Man’s “means” are not always justifies. We do not judge God. Is this a double standard??? You bet it is!

      • Distinguo.

        A child's murder is wrong.

        The child's arrival in heaven is the demonstration of the power of the Cross, which is a Sign that God will bring, even out of evil, greater good than would have been possible if the evil had not occurred.

        "O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem."

        • God will bring, even out of evil, greater good than would have been possible if the evil had not occurred.

          So shouldn't we try to maximize evil, if the end result will be that God will bring greater good from it than there would otherwise have been?

          • Paul anticipates you here:

            "But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?”8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”?Their condemnation is just!"

            Indeed, their condemnation is just.

          • “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?”

            I am not denying that a person who tried to maximize evil so that God could bring about more good would be personally culpable for the evil, although such a person's actions would, ironically, be the ultimate in altruism. Nevertheless, if the more evil there is, the more good God can bring out of it, then ultimately the more evil the better!

          • Bravo!

            The necessary stipulation concerning culpability in place, we are in complete agreement.

            This is the very heart of the secret.

            This is the meaning of the Cross.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "And why not do evil that good may come?--as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just." (Rom 3:8).

            It that the real David Nickol speaking?

          • It that the real David Nickol speaking?

            It was actually St. Paul, but don't feel bad. People are always mixing us up.

            It seems to me a questionable conclusion that things are actually better because Adam and Eve sinned. But the general proposition that God brings good out of evil, and therefore the more evil the better, is pernicious. I understand the former is Catholic teaching, but is that really true of the latter? It seems to imply God can bring more good out of evil than he can out of good.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think the greater good God brought out of the disobedience of Adam and Eve is Christ and Mary.

            I've never heard anyone say the more evil the better.

          • I've never heard anyone say the more evil the better.

            I am sure he will correct me if I am wrong—actually, I am sure he will correct me if I am right—but that seems to be Rick DeLano's position. Or if not the more evil the better, the more evil there is, the more good God will bring out of it.

          • It is God's position:"Now the law entered in, that sin might abound. And where sin abounded, grace did more abound."

            "For what if some of them have not believed? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid.[4] But God is true; and every man a liar, as it is written, That thou mayest be justified in thy words, and mayest overcome when thou art judged. [5] But if our injustice commend the justice of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust, who executeth wrath? (I speak according to man.) God forbid: otherwise how shall God judge this world? [7] For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie, unto his glory, why am I also yet judged as a sinner? [8] And not rather (as we are slandered, and as some affirm that we say) let us do evil, that there may come good? whose damnation is just."

            The Cross is the means whereby God has shown that even the devil serves Him, in the devil's worst and most atrocious evil.

            This ought not be news, but then again, it is a time of great disorientation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That does not mean, "the more evil the better."

          • t means precisely that, to the justly condemned, Kevin.

            " For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie, unto his glory, why am I also yet judged as a sinner? [8] And not rather (as we are slandered, and as some affirm that we say) let us do evil, that there may come good? whose damnation is just."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I guess I have no idea what you are talking about!

          • OK.

            Go to the Roman Missal and locate the Vigil Mass for Easter (Holy Saturday).

            In it, look for the Procession and Exultet.

            In English, locate this ancient chant of the Holy Catholic Church, sung only once per year, on this night:

            "For it profited us not to be born, if it had not profited us to be redeemed. O wondrous condescension of Thy mercy towards us! O inestimable affection of love: to redeem a slave, Thou didst deliver up Thy Son! O ******truly needful sin of Adam******, which was blotted out by the death of Christ! *******O happy fault**********, that merited to possess such and so great a Redeemer!"

            Lex orandi, lex credendi.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know what the felix culpa is.

            How does that mean the more people sin the better?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            As similarly stated in the old hymn Adam lay ye-bounden:

            Never had the apple taken
            The apple taken been

            Then had never our lady
            A been Heaven's Queen

            Then Blessed be the time
            That apple taken was !!

            Doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but if it works for you, go for it.

          • Andre Boillot

            Almost seems like God planned for us to sin all along...but yeah, um...FREE WILL!

          • Sage McCarey

            O inestimable affection of love: to redeem a slave.... Looks like somebody forgot to change "slave" to "servant" in this instance. Are you really happy feeling that you are a slave?

        • Corylus

          Omnia dicta fortiora si dicta Latina.

          No, I am wrong, it is actually pretty unpleasant either way.

        • Andre Boillot

          "A child's murder is wrong."

          Unless it's the first-born male, in a certain century, in Egypt. Then it's just.

          • Max Driffill

            And not just human males either. Which I found odd..

    • Ben @ 2CM

      Hello again R1,
      I see you quite busy here. Good for you (not sarcasm). If a believer
      uses the phrase “the ends does not justify the means, “the means” are always in context of man acting in accordance to God laws or against Gods laws. God's “means” are always justified. Man’s “means” are not always justifies. We do not judge God. Is this a double standard??? You bet it is!

      • Rationalist1

        And the scary part is people use God's will to justify all sorts of atrocities. No, if it's wrong without God, it's wrong with God.

        • Ben @ 2CM

          So here we go again. How do we know what is right or wrong?
          What is truth and how do we know it?

          • Rationalist1

            That's a very good question but we don't learn it from God, we learn it from each other.

          • epeeist

            What is truth and how do we know it?

            Here is your starter for 10:

            To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Barron's argument is that God kills us for "our sport". That is to say, all the physical and moral evil we suffer now will be something to laugh at and marvel over in heaven.

      • Rationalist1

        God and Satan certainly did that in the book of Job. Fortunately it's all fiction but sad that people take that story as ethically normative.

      • Andre Boillot

        What an abhorrent, sadistic notion.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          What else can it mean to say that God permits evil so good may come of it? The ultimate good comes after this life. I guess this qualifies as a "strange notion."

          • Andre Boillot

            Again, sadistic. If heaven is so amazing, why does it need the contrast of temporal suffering?

            If you could prevent your children from suffering through no fault of their own (I'm not talking about keeping them in a bubble all their life), and you do nothing, you're a monster.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm going to try to ignore the inflammatory rhetoric.

            Barron is using the analogy of a work of art to shed light on why God allows physical and moral evil. Bilbo in "The Hobbit" and Frodo in "LOTR" grow tremendously because of the evils they experience. No danger, no adventure. No possibility of evil, no love. No seeing another in need, to chance to come to that person's aid.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I'm going to try to ignore the inflammatory rhetoric."

            Sorry, remind me who's proposing that the suffering of conscious creatures will be a cause for laughter?

            "Bilbo in "The Hobbit" and Frodo in "LOTR" grow tremendously because of the evils they experience."

            Tell you what, let's go interview victims of torture and rape. Let's see how much personal growth they feel they've experienced.

            Studying for exams helps you grow too. Volunteer work, exercise, eating well, etc. Should we add some physical and emotional suffering to all these tasks? After, this should help us grow ever more, no?

            "No danger, no adventure."

            How limited your imagination is.

            "No possibility of evil, no love."

            You win the non-sequitor of the day.

            "No seeing another in need, to chance to come to that person's aid."

            Suffering and evil are not pre-requisites to "need".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Every mother who generously and lovingly takes care of her vulnerable baby grows tremendously. The vulnerability is a physical evil that calls forth goodness and service (and suffering) from the mother.

            That is an example of "no possibility of evil, not love."

            Pain is real. Moral outrage over suffering moral evil is real.

            Barron is talking about see these things from the perspective of eternity.

            But if this is all there is, then much suffering is worthless, I agree.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Every mother who generously and lovingly takes care of her vulnerable baby grows tremendously. The vulnerability is a physical evil that calls forth goodness and service (and suffering) from the mother.

            That is an example of "no possibility of evil, not love.""

            Wait, are you telling me that, if there was no kryptonite, Clark Kent's earthly parents wouldn't have loved him? How dare you sir. How dare you.

            That's all good to know though. In the future, I'll make sure to vote for the anti-science party (aka the GOP), lest we find the cures for diseases and human frailty that are the real reasons that I love my fiance.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            >lest we find the cures for diseases and human frailty

            You are being absurd. Christians are called to alleviate or eliminate suffering wherever it exists and they have responded admirably.

          • Rationalist1

            “Suffering is nothing by itself. But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.” Mother Teresa

            Alleviate the suffering of the unbeliever, but rejoice in the wonderful gift of suffering of the believer, apparently.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            MT is saying something profound.

          • Andre Boillot

            Here's more of MT being profound: http://youtu.be/yRk11BCR6VI?t=1m55s

            Transcript for Rick:

            "One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”"

          • Rationalist1

            And when Mother Teresa was sick she received palliative care in a modern American hospital.

          • Andre Boillot

            Why? You're weakening the narrative of this beautiful story, and will one day rob mothers of their ability to love their children.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Then christians are more moral than god. That's the essence of the problem of suffering.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            But we got this idea from God.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Evidence for that would be...?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Countless New Testament verses.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Excellent. And the Rig Veda is evidence. And the Tao-te-ching is evidence. And the Qu'ran is evidence.

            They all contradict each other. No exactly evidence, then.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            First, on what basis do you say the *call* "to alleviate or eliminate suffering wherever it exists" is not shared by the Koran, the Rig Veda and the Tao? Or are you just assuming that without evidence?

            Second, why would contradictions between various religious books invalidate them all? The basis for the authority of each must be established on historical and other grounds independently of the rest.

          • Sage McCarey

            The vulnerability of a baby is physical evil?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Physical evil is a philosophical term to describe anything which is evil, that is, harmful, but which has no moral dimension. A tidal wave is a physical evil for humans because it can drown them or destroy their property. However, the tidal wave isn't morally wrong for the destruction, since a tidal wave isn't a moral being capable of moral acts.

            The vulnerability of a baby can be said to be a physical evil because the baby's helplessness opens it to countless harms. However, there is nothing moral about that condition for the baby.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            All of this suffering is worthless, if god is all-powerful. Worthless because it is unecessary; god could create what she wishes to create without such evil.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If God exists, then there is all kinds of worth that could be found in suffering. Countless grown children have shown generosity, piety, patience, and other virtues by caring for their aged parents, to offer just one example.

          • BenS

            "No seeing another in need, to chance to come to that person's aid."

            Interestingly, if someone were to kidnap his wife and children and torture them in order to give him the chance to come to their aid, I'm almost certain the kidnapper wouldn't get profuse thanks at the end of it. God, however, does. Pretty weird, if you ask me.

          • No danger, no adventure. No possibility of evil, no love. No seeing another in need, to chance to come to that person's aid.

            This, of course, can be used to argue that Adam and Eve did the right thing in eating the forbidden fruit, just as teenagers must, in some sense at least, rebel against their parents and become autonomous adults.

            I can't go with you on saying we'll look back from heaven on all the evils and suffering in the world and laugh. I am able to look back on some of my bleakest moments and find some humor in relating them, but they weren't funny, and they never will be. They may fade in significance over eternity, but that in no way minimizes what the experiences were like at the time. And if I want to shoot someone, I certainly can't say, "Someday he'll look back on this moment and laugh." In trying to put our own sufferings in some grand perspective, it seems we run into the danger of minimizing the suffering of others. Why feed the hungry in this life when we can let them starve and reach eternal bliss sooner?

          • Andre Boillot

            "Why feed the hungry in this life when we can let them starve and reach eternal bliss sooner?"

            Obviously, the longer you stretch out the suffering, the funnier it is. Incidentally, Heaven as some sort of black-humor comedy-club is far more appealing to me than one long, eternal adoration session. Though, hopefully you can pick and choose which clips of human suffering to experience - while I'd likely never tire of watching nut-shots, I think the rape and murder bits might bum me out after a while.

          • Rationalist1

            It's worse than that.

            Here’s what St. Thomas Aquinas said:

            "Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned." Q.94, Art. 1

            and

            "But in the future state it will be impossible for them [the damned] to be taken away from their unhappiness: and consequently it will not be possible to pity their sufferings according to right reason. Therefore the blessed in glory will have no pity on the damned." Q.94, Art. 2

            and

            "…this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly." Q.94, Art. 3

            Positively sick.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't agree with your absurd characterization.

          • At a certain point, the logical conclusion is reached.

            The atheist is left to mock, scorn, and blaspheme.

            But there is not a single thing the atheist can do.

            God allows evil so that a greater good may come.

            The most monstrous crime in all of human history, the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the direct source of the salvation of every human being who will ever enter heaven.

            O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem

          • Andre Boillot

            "The most monstrous crime in all of human history, the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ"

            Oh come now. The idea that the death of Christ depicted in the Bible is the worst individual death experienced is hardly an argument you can make. As badly as he must have suffered, his was a relatively quick affair as crucifixions go, let along the kind of prolonged agony somebody suffering from cancer, for example, is likely to experience. When we broaden the scope to worst crime in human history, it's even easier to find "better" examples: the Holocaust (assuming you think it happened), rape of Nanking, Rawandan genocide, and awarding Patrick Kane the Conn Smythe trophy.

          • Andre Boillot

            Take heart, Kevin. Were it not for your absurd claim that we'll all look back on our suffering with a hearty chuckle, we wouldn't have been able to experience my characterization of it. It's for the greater good, don't you know?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, your about to get your own zinger from Rick.

          • Andre Boillot

            I mean, that's what I took from his promise to come wake me up from my sleep. I just hope he doesn't wake the fiance up, that might get awkward.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think the principle 'Do not do evil so good will come of it' takes care Adam and Eve, teenagers, and shooters.

          • I think the principle 'Do not do evil so good will come of it' takes care Adam and Eve, teenagers, and shooters.

            I agree they are fully culpable for their actions. But if we are happy that Adam and Eve sinned (O felix culpa), then why can't we say the same thing about Columbine and Sandy Hook Elementary? I have no problem (I think) with the principle that no evil should be done so that good may come of it. But nevertheless, the "o felix culpa" indicates that at least once, the whole world was better off because someone sinned. And some people seem to feel that whenever there is evil, more good will come of it than had it not happened. I can't accept that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know.

            I squirm when "righteous" people speculate the meaning of great tragedies for the people who suffered them. Somehow I feel silence is a better response.

            I think the greatest good has already been done (the Redemption) for the greatest evil (all human sin) and that's quite sufficient.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Suppose some atheist mad scientist were to cook up in his lab a new strain of virus, not identical to say, smallpox or HIV, but equal in puissance and with no known cure.

            Would there be indirect positive effects, should he then loose it upon the world??

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No.

          • Andre Boillot

            How can you say "No"? What if the remnants of humanity are hardier, virus-resistant folk?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I would say no for the same reason you would: the natural moral law principle, "Thou shalt not murder," which includes doing any direct, intentional harm to the innocent.

          • Andre Boillot

            Hey man, God said don't eat from the tree, and look at the amazing story that resulted from ignoring that...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I need a break from your wit.

          • Andre Boillot

            Sorry, just taking things to their "logical" conclusion.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which leaves god - sustainer of all things - guilty of murder.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Before condemning God as a murderer, you have to account for God as giver of life.

            We don't give ourselves or anyone else life (we can't claim to create our children). This is why except in just defense we can't kill (otherwise we are killing the innocent).

            You may call it "special pleading" but God is different because God gives life in the first place. Why doesn't God have the right to take away or permit life to be taken away when he wants?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Then were there indirect positive effects from the creation of smallpox itself?

    • Sid_Collins

      So what good came out of Job's steadfast loyalty through Satan-inflicted suffering?

      Satan didn't recant and re-dedicate himself to glorifying God.

      God's honor was upheld? Gosh, that sounds a bit Islamic--killing others to uphold one's own honor.

  • I am not sure it was wise of Fr. Barron to try to deal with the problem of evil in only 5 minutes and 14 seconds. His answer was bound to be inadequate, which of course it is. His argument seems to me to boil down to saying everything's really okay, we're just lacking sufficient perspective to see it.

    And I don't buy the idea that a toothache is the lack of something. Pain is not the absence of "no pain." It's something quite real.

    • Michael Murray

      am not sure it was wise of Fr. Barron to try to deal with the problem of evil in only 5 minutes and 14 seconds. His answer was bound to be inadequate, which of course it is.

      If he had longer it would just so how much more inadequate his answer is. Best to keep it short I think.

      There is no answer that fits the evidence of chaos and suffering in the universe better than "there are no gods and the universe has no ultimate purpose". Good old Friar William of Ockham's razor makes this clear.

      • There is no answer that better demonstrates the profound impotence and inadequacy of the atheist world view than "there is no God and the universe has no ultimate purpose".

        Atheism is a form of despair that is only found as a sort of parlor game, played by the rich, the angry, or the bored.

        No one really believes it.

        No one can live by its creed.

        It is, like Marxism, a fantasy in search of a multiverse in which it might yield a way forward.

        • No one really believes it.

          Yeah, well, I used to think nobody really enjoyed going to the ballet until I was dragged there kicking and screaming a few times.

          Atheism doesn't have a creed.

          • Sure it does.

            Stated succinctly by Michael above:

            "there is no God and the universe has no ultimate purpose"

            Perfect.

          • "there is no God and the universe has no ultimate purpose"

            Even if the universe has no ultimate purpose, that doesn't mean I can't choose a purpose for myself.

          • Of course you could.

            But there would be no purpose in it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think Rick is right: it is a creed. Compare:

            There is no God by Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.
            There is no God and the universe has no ultimate purpose.

          • Rationalist1

            Except very few atheists say that there is definitively no God. They say there is no evidence for the existence of a God or God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So most atheists are agnostics? Then doesn't that make them agnostics?

          • Rationalist1

            Technically yes. Just as we're all agnostic about astrology and Yeti. But in all practical purposes were atheists as we live our lives as if God doesn't exist.

            The same is true of theists. Unless you're 100% convinced of God's existence you're technically an agnostic too.

          • Andre Boillot

            Comes down to how narrow you are in your definitions. Agnostics might be said to hold that it would never be possible to know one way or the other. Many atheists will admit that there's certainly no way to disprove a merely deistic god, some might even be comfortable with this idea, just not the "traditional" god of mainstream monotheisms. 'There is no god' is perhaps better described as a-deism.

          • josh

            I call myself an atheist because I hold that belief in God (or religions generally) is unreasonable. The agnostic/atheist distinction is really more a social one than a rigorous epistemological position.

          • epeeist

            So most atheists are agnostics?

            Atheism is about belief, or rather the lack of it. Agnosticism is about knowledge.

            I do not know for certain that gods do not exist, though though the evidence that they do is minimal, so I live my life without belief in them.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            I truly have no opinion on what happened in the nanosecond before the Big Bang, or whether it banged by chance or did so for a purpose. In that sense I am agnostic.

            But my observation of the universe and what we know of its history since that moment leads me to conclude that there can have been no beneficent "creator" operating during that time. In that sense I am an atheist.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            On the grounds of sheer technical correctness, there was no 'nanosecond before the big bang.'

          • "On the grounds of sheer technical correctness, there was no 'nanosecond before the big bang.'

            >> It is alleged that there exists a quantum field from which virtual particles pop from *time to time*.

            It is a logically certain consequence that the field, and the particles, pre-existed the Big Bang.

            This is because the Big Bang emerges from a particular fluctuation in this pre-existing quantum field.

            And yet we are asked not to notice the fatal self-contradiction in the simultaneous assertion:

            "there was no nanosecond before the big bang"

            Nothing is really something.

            Time is really no time.

            This just keeps on getting better and better......

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            >> It is alleged that there exists a quantum field from which virtual particles pop from *time to time*.

            It is a logically certain consequence that the field, and the particles, pre-existed the Big Bang.

            This is because the Big Bang emerges from a particular fluctuation in this pre-existing quantum field.

            Your ignorance of basic physics and cosmology is profound. Do try reading up on it, since I see little point in trying to educate you - you simply don't have the background.

            And yet we are asked not to notice the fatal self-contradiction in the simultaneous assertion:

            "there was no nanosecond before the big bang"

            Your ignorance of science and inability to learn do not elicit anything from me other than amusement at the sheer stupidity of your statements.

            Really. If I claimed that the bible was written by pontius pilate, and jesus was a bicycle repairman from Leeds who founded mormonism, it would sound just about as ignorant as what you just said.

          • Alas, it is apparent that you have not been keeping up.

            Allow me to assist:

            "Meanwhile, Professor Carroll urged cosmologists to broaden their horizons: "We're trained to say there was no time before the Big Bang, when we should say that we don't know whether there was anything - or if there was, what it was."

            If the Caltech team's work is correct, we may already have the first information about what came before our own Universe."

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7440217.stm

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And yet you just made a claim Carroll doesn't make.

            Amazing. Do keep quoting material that contradicts your claims, won't you.

          • Alas, the claim by Sean Carroll is this:

            "Meanwhile, Professor Carroll urged cosmologists to broaden their horizons: "We're trained to say there was no time before the Big Bang, when we should say that we don't know whether there was anything - or if there was, what it was."

            This in reference to a theoretical claim by Carroll:

            "If the Caltech team's work is correct, we may already have the first information about what came before our own Universe."

            This is of course directly contradictory to your claim:

            "On the grounds of sheer technical correctness, there was no 'nanosecond before the big bang.'

            You're welcome :-)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Are you aware of what the term "we don't know where there was anything" actually means?

            And only the scientifically ignorant make claims about science based on a JOURNALISM article.

            :-)

          • So.

            Apparently physicists are ignorant just so long as:

            1. They disagree with M. Solange O'Brien, and
            2. They are speaking in a JOURNALISM article.

            I do not find this to be a particularly compelling claim.

            But then again, this exchange has served to identify a number of logical difficulties in your arguments.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Rick, you have become dull and repetitive. I will no longer respond to any post you make, since I'm interested in discussion, and you are not.

            Have a lovely day!

          • And you also, Ms. O'Brien.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Sure. But atheist agnostic. One is a position on belief, the other is a position on knowledge.

            Utterly different.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think this is the first admission I've seen here that atheists have a creed that they believe in.

          • I think this is the first admission I've seen here that atheists have a creed that they believe in.

            I don't think "there is no God and the universe has no ultimate purpose" constitutes a creed any more than "there is a God and the universe has an ultimate purpose" constitutes a creed.

          • Michael Murray

            Indeed I thought it was an observation based on what I see around me. I admit I could be wrong so it can't be a creed.

          • Basically, I just think a creed has to be longer. "There is no God and the universe has no ultimate purpose" might be the first statement in a creed, but to me an "atheist creed" would have to contain what follows from those statements. And different atheists would certainly have different conclusions. One might say everything is pointless and we all might as well commit suicide. Another might say that since we only have one, finite life to live, life is all the more precious and should not be wasted.

          • Michael Murray

            Basically, I just think a creed has to be longer.

            Ah OK. I'll try and make it longer. There must be more things I don't believe. :-)

          • It is difficult to understand how the two propositions:

            "There is no God and the universe has no ultimate purpose"

            and

            " we only have on finite life to live, so life is all more precious and should not be wasted"

            can be reconciled.

            But then again.

            Logic is clearly not high on the priority list of the atheist worldview.

          • Logic is clearly not high on the priority list of the atheist worldview.

            People in glass cathedrals shouldn't throw stones.

          • "People in glass cathedrals shouldn't throw stones."

            A prophetic word, there, Mr. Nickol.

            It is indeed the post-conciliar practice to inhabit glass cathedrals, as the recent acquisition of the Disney Dome....er.......Crystal Cathedral demonstrates.

            The Catholic Church of all ages worshipped first in the stone catacombs, and then in the magnificent stone cathedrals which arose, as if a Sign, across the Europe which established reason and logic as the holy instruments of the imago viva Dei.

            As the post-conciliar disaster continues to lurch its way from scandal to scandal, those cathedrals remain.

          • The Catholic Church of all ages worshipped first in the stone catacombs . . .

            If we want to identify the first followers of Jesus as the "Catholic Church," which is perhaps a bit anachronistic, they worshiped in synagogues, and after that in private homes. Churches came later, and cathedrals even later.

          • Yes, thanks for the correction.

            The first members of the Catholic Church worshipped in synagogues (made of stone, btw).

            After that, in private homes.

            Only after the establishment of Peter in Rome, and his subsequent martyrdom, did the Church move to the safety of the catacombs.

            From which She emerged, as above, to restore civilization to Europe, as in the cathedrals.

          • epeeist

            People in glass cathedrals shouldn't throw stones.

            Too true. As I have noted elsewhere on this site, when I did my doctorate (molecular physics) I also took courses on the philosophy of science and logic.

            Too often do I see people making a claim to logic when they wouldn't know a contrary from a contradictory.

          • I assume you are referring to that guy who "proved" the illogic of the Trinity by insisting, a priori, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are identical?

            Yeah, I remember that one too.....

          • Also, you can use all the logic you want, but if you start with faulty premises, you can construct an enormous and impressive body of internally consistent doctrine that will be no better than the faulty premises it is built on.

          • Sort of like:

            "The universe pops out of a nothing that is really something and we've got the math to prove it"?

          • "The universe pops out of a nothing that is really something and we've got the math to prove it"?

            I don't think that is a premise. I think it's a theory. It is also a highly respected theory.

            Lawrence Krauss's book was not deceptive. He made it clear what he meant by "nothing."

          • It is a premise.

            The theory- "M Theory" or "String Theory", or "The Landscape"- proceeds from the premise, as an elaboration of its logical consequences.

            It ends up telling us exactly nothing, since it presents us with something like 10^500 possible solutions.

            Lawrence Krauss certainly did make it clear what he meant by "Nothing".

            What he meant by "Nothing", was "Something".

            That might indeed be highly respected in some quarters (I have found it generally to be derisively hooted down even by many atheists)...........

            But it is certainly not in any way respectable.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which is the essential problem with christianity; the presuppositionalist position that even Barron - a relatively bright cookie - falls prey to.

          • I am dying to learn of the position which does not involve presuppositions......

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "Their arguments, not being founded in reason, cannot be swayed by reason." Attribution uncertain.

          • Applicability, even more so.

          • A creed has to be just as long as the expression of its content requires.

            Atheism is not a well-developed metaphysics (God knows that has been clearly demonstrated here), whilst Catholicism is the most exquisitely developed metaphysics in human history.

            So the atheist creed can be quite short:

            "There is no God, and the universe has no ultimate purpose".

            I mean, think about it.

            There really isn;t much of anything left to say after that, is there?

            It leads us nowhere.

          • Michael Murray

            I can't speak for the other atheists only for me. I have lots of beliefs based on various amounts of evidence. I hold them with vary degrees of confidence. But they aren't a creed I sign up to or recite on my knees every night at the bedside. I was done with that sort of rubbish years ago. Show me some evidence and I'll reconsider my beliefs.

          • epeeist

            I have lots of beliefs based on various amounts of evidence. I hold them with vary degrees of confidence.

            I like this quotation from Isaac Asimov:

            “Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don't you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?

            No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.

            One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"

            "Yes", I said. "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

            EDIT: Format

            Disqus really is a pile of foetid dingoes kidney's isn't it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Creed, as you know, comes from "credo" or "I believe." It is whatever claims you assert to be true based on belief rather than certain demonstration.

            Getting on your knees doesn't make it a belief.

            Not that you have, but isn't the Humanist Manifesto something some atheists and agnostics "sign up" for?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Atheism has no creed. Atheism is, solely, lack of belief in god. Beyond that, atheists have nothing in common.

            If you expect to be treated with respect by atheists - which, apparently, you don't - or even wish to hold a discussion with them, you should stop making false statements about atheism.

            It makes you look ignorant.

        • Michael Murray

          None of your assertions address the only important point which whether my statement is false. Perhaps without belief in gods the human race is doomed. But that does not make gods exist.

          • The statement is axiomatic, not evidence-based.

            It is, in short, a creed.

            It is stated on faith, as an article of faith.

            The faith is sterile, impotent, fruitless, and can appeal only to those who have way too much time on their hands.

            After all, no one can live by the atheist creed.

            No one does.

            Certainly not atheists.

          • Your posts often have many of the elements of declamations. Might you consider putting them up as videos?

          • I prefer the clarity and convenience of the written word, if it's all the same to you......

            Or even if it isn't :-)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But you are neither clear nor convenient. You are fond of making unsupported statements that are both offensive and incorrect.

            This is not the tone of someone who expects to be taken seriously.

          • "Taken seriously"?

            By whom?

            You?

            Please.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            By anyone. As I pointed out, your pontifications, falsehoods, and invective do not contribute to a civilized discussion.

            If you're here to preach, you've come to the wrong place.

          • I think an important part of civilized discussion is to address the logical validity of assertions.

            I can see why this would discomfit you :-)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            When you actually present a logical argument, I will address it. Making false claims about both science and atheists does not constitute making arguments.

          • The important thing, Ms. O'Brien, is that your assertion has been corrected.

            Have a nice day.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            When you correct something, I will address it.

            Have a lovely day. I'm sorry we won't be talking any longer, but educating you is taking time away from actually, y'know, having a discussion.

          • I appreciate the numerous occasions you have provided for enhancing my education concerning the way atheists think about things, Ms. O'Brien.

            All the best to you.

          • josh

            No, we atheists are quite content living as if God does not exist, because we actually don't think he does. It's that simple. It's not a creed, it's a lack of one.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Again, I repeat: if you continue to utter falsehoods, no one is going to take you seriously.

            There is no atheist creed.

            There are many atheists - and more all the time.

          • "There is no atheist creed"

            But of course there is.

            The atheist creed involves the necessary articles of faith:

            1. There is no God
            2. There is no ultimate purpose to the universe.

            Discomfort with the logically certain fact that these are, both, articles of faith, and aspects of an atheist creed, is merely evidence of the nominalist metaphysical worldview consistent with the articles of the creed.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "There is no atheist creed"

            But of course there is.

            Nope. No matter how many times you repeat this falsehood, it will remain false.

            The atheist creed involves the necessary articles of faith:

            1. There is no God
            2. There is no ultimate purpose to the universe.

            These are not things necessarily claimed by atheists.

            Atheists lack belief in god.

            Some atheists say god doesn't exist.

            Some atheists say they don't know if god exists.

            Some atheists simply don't care whether or not god exists.

            Even Dawkins isn't an atheist, according to you, since Dawkins doesn't claim there is no god.

            And atheists have wildly varying opinions on whether the universe has ultimate purpose.

            Discomfort with the logically certain fact that these are, both, articles of faith, and aspects of an atheist creed, is merely evidence of the nominalist metaphysical worldview consistent with the articles of the creed.

            You have three options at this point, as far as I can see:

            You can prove your statements above (which you can't).

            You can stop lying about atheists (and making claims which we can refute after you have been informed that they are incorrect is, in fact, lying).

            You can be ignored.

            Care to make a choice?

            Put up or shut up.

          • "Atheists lack belief in god."

            >> Atheists say there is no God.

            "Some atheists say god doesn't exist."

            >> All atheists say God does not exist. That is the explicit meaning of the *a* in front of *theist*.

            "Some atheists say they don't know if god exists."

            >> No atheists say they don;t know if God exists. That is what agnostics say. You can tell by the *a* in front of *gnostic* .

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Apparently you don't know anything about atheists. I will educate you (for the last time, I'm afraid, I'd rather spend time discussing interesting topics).

            Atheists lack belief in God.

            Strong atheists claim that god does not exist.

            Weak atheists simply claim that they lack belief in god.

            Agnostics claim they lack knowledge of whether god exists.

            Shall I call you a Mormon because you belief in Christ?

            That's about the equivalent.

          • "Weak atheists simply claim that they lack belief in god.

            Agnostics claim they lack knowledge of whether god exists"

            >> This is a classic example of a distinction without a difference: another consequence of nominalism.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Again, you have a choice. Atheists are the ones making the claim.

            From now on I will address you as a Mormon.

            And there is a huge difference. One is making a claim about personal belief. The other is making a claim about metaphysical certainty.

            Apparently that's too subtle a difference for you.

            App

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Rick,
          Who do you imagine will be persuaded by an argument like that?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            He doesn't. Rick doesn't appear to be here to persuade. He is here to hear himself talk.

            He gives theists a bad name.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        >There is no answer that fits the evidence of chaos and suffering in the universe better than "there are no gods and the universe has no ultimate purpose".

        How about "chaos and suffering are necessary to create the kind of world God wants us to live in?"

        That is simple, too.

        • josh

          It's not parsimonious because there is no evidence to support the existence of this God or the exact set of desires and abilities that would lead such a being to create the exact world we find. 'Simple' isn't just how short a sentence you can write, it is how much can be predicted that isn't explicitly in the proposed explanation.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Simple, but false. An all-powerful god does not need chaos and suffering to create the kind of world god wants us to live in."

          The heart of the POE.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How do you know this?

      • Christian Stillings

        Responding to your second paragraph: "the evidence of chaos and suffering in the universe" is neither an argument against supernatural reality nor against an ultimate purpose. It may be an argument against specific sorts of supernatural entities and specific sorts of ultimate purposes, but I think that your stated claim significantly overreaches. The Friar's razor is useful for addressing causes of specific occurrences/events, but it loses its efficacy when applied to metaphysical conditions, as you seem to have done here.

    • Corylus

      I don't buy the idea that a toothache is the lack of something. Pain is not the absence of "no pain." It's something quite real.

      Yes, this is daft. There is precedent for it though. If I am not mistaken, this is the privatio boni argument. (Oooh! I am up with the Latin today). It is a swipe at the third bit of the following formulation:

      God is omnipotent;
      God is wholly good;
      Evil exists.

      You can try to get around the problem of the inherent contradiction with these three statements by knocking out one of them. The first two are a bit of a kicker for the orthodox who I understand, have to say 'omni' rather a lot. This, I suspect, is the reason that Robert has taken the tack of bringing into question most number three.

      A fuller exposition of the common (unsatisfactory) attempts to get around the problem can be found in J.L.Mackie's classic:

      Evil and Omnipotence.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        God is omnipotent in terms of everything that is possible to be done. It may be possible for God to create persons who are free to do good but not evil, but that is not the kind of world we live in. Freedom seems necessary and leaves permission to do evil.

        • And yet the Mary the Mother of Jesus was preserved from all sin from the moment of her conception. She was exempted from original sin. Was she not free?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think Mary was free to do evil, just as Eve was.

          • I think Mary was free to do evil, just as Eve was.

            But the question, as I understand it, is whether it would be possible to create beings with free will who nevertheless did not choose to sin. Mary would be proof that such beings are possible. A freely made choice isn't free because the two alternatives are equally tempting. Offer me vanilla ice cream and shrimp ice cream, and I will freely choose vanilla every time.

          • Rationalist1

            The other question would be. Would God have been really mad if Eve had not sinned? Wouldn't he have planned the atonemnet from the beginning and Eve not sinning would have messed things up big time.

          • The problem I see with the Christian story and God's plans is as follows. God created Adam and Eve, and they sinned, going against his plans. Then his creation went so badly awry after a time that he decided to wipe it out, but then decided to save Noah. After he saved Noah and the population grew back, men behaved so badly (the Tower of Babel) that he had to confuse their language and scatter them. Then he took the Jews as his Chosen People, and they were endlessly disappointing and unfaithful. Then he sent his Son to "the lost sheep of Israel," and they rejected him, so the gentiles had to be sought out to do what the Jews refused to do. And then (according to the Catholic Church), there was "one true Church" established, but now there are an estimated 38,000 Christian denominations (although the Catholic Church is by far the largest). So every time God has a plan, a monkey wrench gets thrown into it.

            I should add that I have not made any decision as of this point in my life to reject Christianity, but that doesn't keep me from seeing lots of problems.

          • Rationalist1

            David Nickol - Gee, when you put it that way, I wonder why I ever believed.

            Thanks for being honest and open minded about all this.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In any good story, it's just one damn thing after another. In other words, no conflict, no story.

        • Corylus

          I see. So she made persons who she would not later be able to control and stuffed her own future omnipotence into the bargain.

          • Sage McCarey

            “We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.”
            ― Gene Roddenberry

          • Corylus

            Indeed.

          • One can question it to one's full satisfaction.

            What one cannot do is escape the logical fallacy which lies at its root.

            For the atheist, free means faulty.

            This explains much.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What logical fallacy?

        • "It may be possible for God to create persons who are free to do good but not evil"

          >> No. That is not possible.

          CCC#1732: As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Of course it's possible.

            God could create beings who FREELY choose the good and right every time. Choose it freely.

            No need for evil, suffering, or Justin Bieber

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rick, if you parse out 1732, you get "Freedom . . . bound . . . definitively to its ultimate
            good which is God" no longer has the "possibility of choosing between good and
            evil." I'd guess it only has the possibility of choosing the good.

            In heaven, we are newly created and are free to do good but not evil. Why is is not possible for God to created such a being somewhere in the physical universe if he wants to.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          False. Heaven is, supposedly, full of such people. Therefore we know that they can exist. If they can exist, god can create them directly.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think I agree, but how do we know that it would be better in the long run than the sh!tstorm world we live in now?

          • The problem I have in all of this is not the fact that there is evil and suffering, but rather the fact that it is basically impossible to understand why, even though there are pat answers. And this is made all the worse by the notion that such things are deliberately obscure so that there is room for doubt, on the bizarre theory that presenting humans with clear choices would deprive them of free will. The idea that God would make things so murky that there is room for doubt so that atheists can be free to disbelieve and theists get "extra credit" for believing is basically just silly. It seems to me it's better to say the problem of evil is a mystery than to come up with an inadequate explanation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree with you.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      The idea of evil as privation is that evil is the lack of a good that ought to be there. In a toothache, the good that ought to be there but is not is dental health. The toothache is telling us that rather stridently. Our suffering is the result of the privation. We really feel it.

      • In a toothache, the good that ought to be there but is not is dental health.

        There is a certain very real sense in which pain is a good thing. Rarely, there are people who do not feel pain, and it is a very serious problem. Also, in the physical world, one creature's pain is often another creature's gain. A decaying tooth and it's pain may be a sign of the privation of dental health for the person, but on the other hand, the bacteria that cause tooth decay can only thrive if they have teeth to feed on. The small pox virus could only thrive when it had human victims to infect. I think we can be quite confident that the predator-prey relationship, or the infected organism and the infecting organism relationship goes far back before the fall. It it clearly part of the way the world has worked for millions of years. It seems to me basically word play to say the presence of pain is really the absence of health.

      • josh

        The pain may be caused by the presence of bacteria, or by another section of the dental area pressing on the nerve, etc. It is not a lack. What you feel is the positive presence of certain nerve impulses. One could equally define good health as a lack of disease and abnormal function.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          No because the human body needs positives: health, eyesight, digestion, etc.

          • josh

            Lack of blindness, lack of indigestion, etc.

          • josh

            I want to emphasize that I'm not particularly interested in debating whether everything can be defined in terms of negatives. I just want to note that it is glib to assert that evil is a lack of good. It would follow that the 'nothing' out of which God created things was the greatest possible evil, so it would have been better to create a race of eternally ignorant and wicked people who suffer infinitely than leave things be.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is not glib! You think St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and even the Baha’I religion are glib?

          • josh

            Yes on the first two. Don't know enough about Baha'I to really comment. Arguments from authority are also glib.

  • Michael Murray

    In fact, I think it's the only serious argument against God's existence."

    I'm not sure how many times it needs to be said. So let's say it again. Nobody has to argue against the existence of gods. The onus is on those who think gods exist to give us the evidence.

    Got evidence ?

    • If the vast majority of people believe, based on no (conclusive) evidence, that something is true, and they hold the power in society and make the rules that even the minority who disagrees with them must abide by, then certainly the minority will want to demonstrate that the majority believes something that is not true.

      "Got evidence?" is often a good question, but it seems to me that those who believe in God and the supernatural have evidence. It is simply not such conclusive evidence that there is universal agreement. It may be their evidence is inconclusive or actually does not support their case at all, but as long as they put it forward, and especially as long as significant numbers of people agree with it (especially when those people are powerful), it's not good enough just to say "Got evidence?"

      Also, when the establishment rejected Wegener's ideas about continental drift or Semmelweis's ideas about puerperal fever, the establishment could fairly reasonably have said, "Got evidence?" I don't think the idea that nobody need take something seriously until conclusive evidence has been plunked down before them is particularly helpful. There have been too many case (and in the most empirical of sciences—physics, for example) where people have been right prior to having conclusive evidence to prove their position.

      • Michael Murray

        In science if your evidence is not convincing you gather more and if that is not convincing you generally decide you are wrong. There is no shame in that. Theism has had thousands of years to gather evidence and instead we see more and more obfuscation and ill-defined concepts. There still isn't a definition of what a god is. If this was an area of science the scientists would have given up by now.

        I agree that the

    • "Nobody has to argue against the existence of gods."
      Why does this claim seem to get a lot of traction when, as I see it, it seems so unreasonable?
      Just because someone *denies* something someone else asserts as a fact does not automatically mean that the person asserting the fact is the only participant responsible for producing evidence to support one's claim.
      Argument or debate is reliant upon the claims and counterclaims, evidence and counter-evidence, that ought to be produced by *both* sides of such discussion.
      Seriously, why would any theist even be remotely interested in becoming an *atheist* if the atheistic view does not actually present an argument *against* theism? Seems a bit absurd, and also seems the "Strange Notions" comboxes are filled with atheists seeking to argue against theism, so can we at least agree that such dialogue and discussion actually *does* require the presentation and consideration of evidence on *both* sides of the God question?

      • Michael Murray

        If you say there is an invisible fire-breathing dragon in your garage the onus is not on me to disprove your claim. The onus is on you to produce some evidence.

        http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm

        • But there is an inherent bias in your statement--your statement is akin to saying "If you say something is true that is on its face wildly fantastic and improbable, then *you* have to produce evidence." Claims about God, if taken seriously from the beginning, ought not be cast into such a biased statement. Claiming God exists *isn't* as wildly fantastic and improbable as claiming to have an invisible mythical creature in your garage.
          Those who deny certain things exist or that certain things happened are *just* as responsible for asserting evidence to support their denials as are those who seek to refute them.
          At best, the "deniers vs. asserters" equation might work *once*, in the first go-round. That is, whoever is cast into the role of "asserter" might indeed need to offer a *first* round of evidence, followed (one would hope) by *counterevidence* offered by the "denier".
          But turn the tables: if the "asserter" is the atheist who says "I don't believe God exists", it's just as natural for the theist who "denies" that assertion to say "got evidence?"
          A fruitful discussion might develop as long as *both* sides offer evidence supporting their views, but it won't develop if only one side does....

          • primenumbers

            "Claiming God exists *isn't* as wildly fantastic and improbable as claiming to have an invisible mythical creature in your garage" - oh but it is..... And anyway, the ridiculousness of the claim is not why evidence must presented, it's because anything that can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

          • Oh but it is not.... :-) If we decide, a priori, to erode our objectivity by casting the opposing view into the role of something absurd, then we're not adhering to a level playing field in the conversation. If God is merely = 'an invisible firebreathing dragon in the garage,' then our mind is utterly made up long *before* engaging in discussion....
            The statement "anything that can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence" works *both* ways, though.
            If you do assert "there is no God" without evidence by saying the theists have to provide evidence while the atheists don't, then the theists can dismiss the atheists "without evidence" too....

          • primenumbers

            We don't assert "no god". We assert God and then show it results in contradiction. Otherwise we lack a belief in God which is not to assert "belief" or "no belief".

            Of course, what you forget is the evidence for a non-exisisting being is similarly non-existent. That you seem to be demanding evidence for non-existence makes utterly no sense at all.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So all gods are back on the table then?

            I will leave Banshee's and Leprechaun's out of it for the time being.

          • Michael Murray

            But an invisible fire-breathing dragon could be due to advanced alien technology or advanced time-traveller technology. Gods are vastly less plausible. They just seem more plausible because of the myths of the society you were raised in.

          • Gods are vastly more plausible. They just seem less plausible because of the myths of the society you were raised in.
            It would seem that bias is in the eye of the beholder? :-) Of course, we could simply dispense with such characterizations on both sides and seek to be as objective as possible?

        • Vuyo

          I think what Jim is saying is that the conversation is fuller when you do provide evidence to disprove my claim.
          Me: "There's is a fire-breathing dragon in my garage."
          You: "No there isn't."
          Me: "Why do you say that? I just saw it."
          You: "Fire- breathing dragons don't exist. There's never been a sighting of one on record anywhere at any time."
          Me: "Maybe they're just extinct and the one I saw was frozen in ice."
          You: "There's none in the fossil record either. Are you on something?"
          Yes the onus is on me but isn't it more fun when arguments for both sides are provided.

          • Michael Murray

            The problem is that if you say "are you on something" on this website your post is likely to get deleted for excessive snark. Also to be fair the only thing they are likely to be on is incense and altar wine!

      • primenumbers

        "Just because someone *denies* something " and if we're making a positive argument of denial we'd expect to have to demonstrate our case, which we do. However here we're saying we lack belief, we lack the evidence to believe. In this case the theist is the one who must prove to us the existence of their proposed deity.

        • If the end goal is to bring the atheist to belief in God, then evidence for God is crucial and absolutely necessary.
          If the end goal is to bring the *theist* to reject belief in God, then evidence against God's existence is crucial and absolutely necessary...

          • primenumbers

            So you're saying that unless we present actual evidence of a non-existing deity then you won't stop believing? That makes no sense.

            What the atheist does is demonstrate that the proposed properties or definition of the deity are contradictory, therefore the deity doesn't exist.

            What we can also do is demonstrate that the epistemology you used to produce a belief in the deity is poor and hence your belief is unreliable. A rational person rejects unreliable beliefs, favouring agnosticism.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Jim,

            Do you think that the atheists on this site in general desire to bring about a loss of faith on the part of the believers??

          • Rationalist1

            Believe or not, that's up to the believers, but only get them, as we all should, to question their presuppositions and to realize that good, intelligent, thoughtful people can choose to not believe and it's a reasonable choice.

      • josh

        The atheist, if s/he wants to change someone's mind, is or course prompted to refute the believers stated reasons for believing, which is what people in these comboxes have been doing. But that is all. Once the reasons are refuted, it is incumbent upon the 'reasonable' believer to give up their belief. No positive case for atheism beyond that is required, although some have also been offered.

        • josh

          Just to expand on this for the slower students, it doesn't have anything to do with a priori likelihood. I'm a particle physicist, I can easily write down a mathematical equation for new physics that would include a new particle that we can't see. It could be mathematically very similar to all existing particles, with the exception that it doesn't interact with any of them. There's nothing inherently crazy with this idea and it can be made entirely internally consistent. But I would be wrong to ever assert that these particles exist. If you prefer, we could say that I am formally agnostic on their existence, which still means that I don't believe they exist. They sit in the infinitely large category of things it is unreasonable to believe in because their is no sufficient reason to believe.

          • "It could be mathematically very similar to all existing particles, with the exception that it doesn't interact with any of them. There's nothing inherently crazy with this idea and it can be made entirely internally consistent. But I would be wrong to ever assert that these particles exist. "

            >> Please keep the above very excellent summary in mind the very next time you read or hear some physicist employing the terms "dark matter", "dark energy", "multiverse", "inflation", "graviton", "curvaton", etc.

          • Andrew G.

            Dark matter interacts with all other particles via gravitation, and the evidence for its existence (which is considerable) is based on this.

          • josh

            Since I am some physicist who uses those terms, (although not a cosmologist, whence most of them originate), I think I have a decent grasp on them. :) Dark matter and dark energy exist, we have excellent evidence for both at this point, although not a complete understanding of the mechanisms underlying them. Inflation is a historical phenomenon which is in much the same category. Multiverses are a very compelling conclusion on certain understandings of quantum mechanics and cosmology. One can argue that the QM multiverse is the only really consistent interpretation but it's not a settled matter in the community, nor is the cosmological multiverse. These are both agnostic positions at the moment. Gravitons are a prediction that seems to be pretty unavoidable given QM and general relativity, but they aren't considered confirmed until we have evidence. Hope this helps.

          • epeeist

            If you prefer, we could say that I am formally agnostic on their existence, which still means that I don't believe they exist.

            No, it means that you don't know whether they exist.

          • josh

            The statements are not in contradiction.

          • josh

            One in fact implies the other. I don't see how one can sensibly say 'I know something, but I don't believe it.' Then by extension, 'I don't believe something, therefore I cannot know it.'

    • primenumbers

      And it's by far not the only serious argument either. That Fr. Barron may not see the numerous arguments from contradiction as serious is not to make them so or enable them to be ignored by the theist.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Here are twenty arguments: https://strangenotions.com/god-exists/

      • Rationalist1

        Those are logical arguments, not evidence and even is any of them were true would only establish the existence of a diestic God, so far from the common Gods that listen to prayers, command us to worship him or obsess about our sex lives.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Well, as has also been said countless times, if you demand empirical evidence for God you won't get it so "got evidence" is a meaningless demand.

          • Rationalist1

            Then put it another way. What evidence do you use to reject Allah or Buddha? Spell it out and I can replace that God with Jehovah and claim the same.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think I would used "evidence." I would use arguments. I might argue that the conception of God which Islam posits is gravely deficient compare to the Christian conception. I might argue that Buddha never claimed to be God or a god so there is nothing I need to prove.

        • Christian Stillings

          "The distinction between theism and deism, therefore, is really a claim about the personality of God, and the nature of his actions (or lack of same) in our created world." - Kenneth Miller

      • josh

        I think he was looking for good arguments. Those have all been refuted many times over.

  • Print, please.

    If videos are, for some terrible reason, to be imposed on us, then at least be good enough to supply a transcript.

    Please.

    • primenumbers

      Gosh yes how much I agree with you!

  • stanz2reason

    I disagree with both 1) the notion that the problem of evil is the only serious argument against God's existence, and 2) the notion that the problem of evil is necessarily an argument against gods existence.

    For #1 the unwarranted reliance on invoking the supernatural to fill in the holes of our ignorance, or worse to offer as alternative to what are already sufficient natural explanations is a compelling argument. The variety of religious beliefs and practices is another. I could go on, but suffice it to say, there are far more serious arguments than one.

    For #2, I've never been convinced that the problem of evil necessitated the non-existence of God. The problem of evil is an issue when defining God as Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent & Omnibenevolent. Fr. Barron notes this, I feel correctly. You could of course have a God who is only some of these things, or perhaps none at all. Perhaps he's indifferent, or even malevolent. Perhaps there are many Gods, and not in the deliberately ambiguous trinity sense, but numerous non-connected partial deities. I'm sure there are additional options here, but God's non-existence isn't the only option in the face of evil.

    HOWEVER

    What follows is an explanation about God being an artist contrasting dark & light on a cosmological scale and that we're only privy to an infinitesimal portion of this work. This of course runs in direct opposition to the notion of a personal God taking interest in and loving all his creation. I'm not debating an artist's prerogative to contrast dark & light, however as in this analogy we find ourselves as the characters in a Quentin Tarantino film, I'm sure 'The Bride' could fairly describe her creator as not having her best interests in heart. God's either omnibenevolent or he's not. God's either concerned with the well being of every single person, or he's not. You can't have it both ways Fr. Barron, and certainly not by hiding behind some vagueness of God being an artist.

    Next he attempts to hide behind God not causing evil. I'm curious how we could have lengthy discussions about God being the prime mover or first cause, yet not give him any of the responsibility for the parts where he might be absent. God's either omnipresent or he is not.

    Perhaps evil is not a 'thing' per se, however I'm fairly certain that that's not a very compelling suggestion to someone standing on a beach moments before a tsunami hits. When you have a toothache, it's not that 'heath' (also not a thing) is missing, but a notification to your brain that something is wrong. I mean seriously, if you break your leg, are you laying there thinking to yourself that the intense pain is the result of absence of bone being 1 contiguous piece?

    So God doesn't cause evil, but he permits evil… So God, who is the cause of everything yet somehow that doesn't include the bad things, who is everywhere, yet somehow absent with respect to bad things can prevent evil but willingly & deliberately chooses to permit it. Would you say that a parent is under no moral obligation to grab a child that is running in front of a car? Would you say a person who witnesses a crime is under no moral obligation to testify to that fact? Is someone monitoring for underwater earthquakes under no moral obligation to alert people of a potential tsunami? By deliberately standing on the sidelines when you're capable of helping makes you culpable and complicit with the evil in question.

    The notion of God working towards a 'greater good' is all find and dandy but is in no way consistent to a notion of omnibenevolence. Hiding behind God 'produc(ing) in a way we can't see clearly' is the height of moral cowardice. You could justify all inaction in such a way. Downshifting into God is mysterious and seeing the big picture is the end result of looking at the problem of evil and throwing your hands in the air and your head in the sand.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I see no contradiction between God crafting a great story and God caring about every person. If the story of the universe as a whole is ultimately a wonderful one, why can’t the same be true of a person’s life taken as a whole? George Bailey though his life was a waste and that it would have been better if he’d never been born, but he didn’t see the whole picture.

      I don't think Barron's argument attempts to hid God’s place in existence of evil. In a sense you can argue that God is the ultimate “cause” of evil in that he is the cause of persons who can do and suffer evil. His responsibility is precisely in that he permits it. We can rightly say, “God you better have a good reason for letting me suffer.” The answer is that “It is to bring out an even greater good."

      The key thing is this argument justifies God after all is said and done.

      • stanz2reason

        By sending an army to war a president might be acting in the best interest of his country and serving the greater good in some sense, but this is undeniably at the cost of those who are maimed or killed as a result. Similarly perhaps you could say that the picture that God is creating is most interesting by using a light/dark contrast (but somehow isn't culpable for the dark) and that's nice for the big picture, but this is then done at the expense of the suffering of the unfortunate few. It is patently false then that God is then acting in the best interests of everyone.

        I'm not suggesting the story of the universe isn't wonderful. People suffer and die in many wonderful stories, the difference of course being that we're under no illusions that the creators of such works have all of their subjects best interest at heart. I'm curious were you to ask the characters of Game of Thrones whether or not they think George R.R. Martin has their best interests in mind. I'd venture they'd answer no. Wonderful story though.

        In a sense you can argue that God is the ultimate “cause” of evil in that he is the cause of persons who can do and suffer evil.

        ... and also unintentional acts of man, disease, and any and all forms of natural disaster. You could go so far to say that God is either directly or indirectly responsible for every ounce of suffering anyone has ever experienced. Such a being, however well intentioned is clearly not omnibenevolent.

        His responsibility is precisely in that he permits it.

        A responsibility conveniently and repeatedly ignored every time a believer utters 'God' & 'perfect' in the same sentence. Part of being responsible for something is actually being responsible .

        We can rightly say, “God you better have a good reason for letting me suffer.” The answer is that “It is to bring out an even greater good."

        That notion might be comforting to someone who believes and is looking to make sense of a tragedy, but there is no reasonable way to justify that line of thinking as it demands either passivity to the horrors of the world or the abandonment of free will.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          There is so much to respond to, it will have to come in drips and drabs.

          • stanz2reason

            Sorry Kevin... Some days I have the opposite of writers block.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actually, in reading over your long response, I think I can make a simple reiteration (which some think monstrous).

            Seen from the perspective of "when all is said and done," an imperfect world in which there is suffering, freedom to commit moral evil, and death" are necessary for the great story we have been dropped into.

          • stanz2reason

            I don't think that mostrous, however it is in no way compatible with an all benevolent deity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God has shown his benevolence by sending a Divine Physician into the world. Medical care usually hurts, no matter how much the physician wants to ameliorate it.

            My son has gone out for football. I think the coaches are pretty benevolent. They make him suffer, becasue that's what it take to get in shape.

          • stanz2reason

            But again, that's not the christian claim for God. It's not that God is mostly benevolent or that he's sorta benevolent. It's also not being unappreciative of medical care to recognize that care is inferior with pain & suffering to care with neither.

            In addition, a doctor wants to alleviate pain and does everything in his power to do so. What's God's excuse?

            God is either unaware of the pain (bye bye omniscience) not present to alleviate the pain (bye bye omnipresent), not able to alleviate the pain (bye bye omnipotent), or not willing to alleviate the pain (bye bye omnibenevolent). I couldn't tell you if God is only 3 of these or 2 or 1 or none. But he is demonstrably not all 4.

            Giving a child a smack on the back side to discourage them from walking in the street is helpful to their living a long fruitful life. Having the child run over and die is not. There is a stark difference here that is conveniently ignored.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Giving a child a smack on the back side to discourage them from walking
            in the street is helpful to their living a long fruitful life. Having
            the child run over and die is not. There is a stark difference here
            that is conveniently ignored.

            I agree.

            I know this might make you pull out some of your spaghetti but from the beginning Christianity has considered suffering a mystery. This is because she can't finally explain it. There are plenty of great and deep explanations and insights, like Pope John Paul II's Salvifici Doloris but in the end it can't be explained.

            Suffering is not a mystery for atheists because that is just the way the universe is. There are many religions that think they have the full explanation for suffering. But like the Jews, Catholics don't. Job was suffering even though he was a good guy. No explanation given.

            For Catholics, we have a number of truths we know are true separately but don't know how they work together. God is omniscient. Omnipotent. Good and loving. Just and merciful. We don't know how to reconcile them with the death of an innocent child. I've always cringed whenever I've heard someone try.

            A related thing that is hardly talked about is GOD KILLS EVERYONE. God calls human beings into an existence which from the moment of their conception will be eternal. He does this without consulting them. And then, when he decides the time is right he kills them or lets them die.

          • Sage McCarey

            'Job was suffering even though he was a good guy. No explanation given. ' But the explanation is given: the devil bet god that Job would turn against him if he suffered enough. And god said, "Okay, bring it on."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God gave no real explanation to Job when he asks Job "Where were you when I created the universe?" In other words, the Sacred Writer is saying "It is beyond us."

    • Christian Stillings

      In response to your second paragraph, Christian theology (by which I mean what the Church has always taught) has never required Christians to believe that any regular function of the physical world was the direct result of Divine intervention. Some Christians have tried to employ arguments along those lines and ended up with egg on their faces, but the failure of their arguments is no actual argument against "the God hypothesis".

      • stanz2reason

        This seems contrary to the reality of any and all supernatural claims suggested by the church and its community. As your church attributes the creation of the physical world to divine action I'd say what you just posted is entirely incorrect. Perhaps it'd be better to clarify.

        • Christian Stillings

          Please read carefully what I wrote:

          ...to believe that any regular function of the physical world was the direct result of Divine intervention. (emphasis added)

          The creation of existence is indeed attributed to Divine action; however, said ex nihilo creation is not a regular function of the physical world. The hypothesized miracles of the Christian faith, such as the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, are directly attributed to Divine action, but again, neither such occurrence is understood as a regular function of the physical world.

          I'm happy to clarify as necessary, but I think that a careful reading of what I wrote would've spared us both the trouble.

          • stanz2reason

            My mistake, I didn't realize we were talking about random acts of magic.

  • ZenDruid

    "God permits evil, so as to bring about a greater good."

    I know that Catholics go by the bible, except when they don't, but I'd be happy to see that book consigned to the landfill of history. God actually permits his chosen people to commit evil, time after time, story after story.

    People do evil. The universe is totally amazing, doing what comes naturally, and evil is not recognized as a force or any other aspect of nature. In fact, it would be good evidence for god if 'evil' was a measurable force like gravity.

    • How do you get to decide what is evil and what is not, and who gets to be the judge of whether God does something evil?
      If someone can judge God's morality, isn't that someone ipso facto more powerful than God and therefore that someone is God?

      • ZenDruid

        Who gets to be the judge of whether god does anything at all?

        • My point is that one who argues against the existence or actions of God-as-understood-in-a-monotheistic-Christian-sense needs to keep in mind that the Christian view of God does not admit of some external source of morality that allows us to judge whether God has done something good or evil. Doing so becomes inherently contradictory...

          • ZenDruid

            ...which is why it makes more sense to discard the god idea altogether, and treat morality as a necessarily human feature.

          • That doesn't make sense to everyone, particularly those who understand that the very concepts of good and evil necessarily arise not from a "human" source but from a divine source, without which the terms good and evil become meaningless...

          • primenumbers

            But as you point out above "good and evil" become meaningless when you refer to God. If as you say "without which the terms good and evil become meaningless" - rendering something meaningless is a reason to reject a theory, then your God theory is similarly rejected.

          • Was I not clear? Or are you deliberately trying to re-cast what I've said?

          • primenumbers

            I'm trying to point out to you that your argument cuts both ways. If it's a good enough argument for you to use, then you should also accept it's application when applied against you.

          • But I didn't say good and evil become meaningless when you refer to God. I said the exact *opposite* of that. I said that without God, those terms are meaningless....

          • primenumbers

            "does not admit of some external source of morality that allows us to judge whether God has done something good or evil. Doing so becomes inherently contradictory" - but that's what you said above where you point out that we can't judge God to be good or evil - in other words, "good and evil become meaningless when you refer to God".

          • I prefer my words to the "in other words" you've provided. I also said above: "Doing so (that is, admitting an external source of morality by which we judge God) becomes inherently contradictory"...
            The inherent contradiction arises when one claims a non-God-based source of morality by which we should be judging God. It is only in *reference* to God *as* source of morality that morality retains its objective meaning...
            And if there *is* an authority that can judge God, then *that* authority must be God...

          • "I prefer my words to the "in other words" you've provided."

            >> Zing :-)

          • primenumbers

            "It is only in *reference* to God *as* source of morality that morality retains its objective meaning" - no, you've just re-defined objective to mean subjective. Objectivity is mind independent, which obviously cannot be the case here as God is mind.

            What you're failing to see if the inherent contradiction in calling God Good (or God Evil) if God is the defining point for morality. In other words, "good and evil become meaningless when you refer to God".

          • God is not "mind"--God's Divine Nature is possessed of a Divine Intellect and a Divine Will. Because God Intellect and Will are Perfect, they qualify as the only authentically objective source of truth and morality that exists (also because everything that exists comes from God, including all truth and morality).
            So you're making an error of category when you attempt to reduce God to something "subjective", when by definition God is the ultimate *Objective*. He has Divine Personhood and therefore is also the ultimate *Subjective* in that sense (particularly in the Triune Godhead of Three Divine Persons), but God is by definition the source of morality.
            If he's not, then he's not God, and whoever has moral authority over God must be God....

          • primenumbers

            Objective is mind independent. If you're going to suggest your God is mindless, I can agree with you if you want. "Divine Intellect and a Divine Will" - intellect and will are a function of mind.

            I'm not saying your God is subjective. I'm saying that if you have something that is an objective source or measure for something, then it's just pure tautology to say "God is Good", and hence meaningless.

            I suspect you're now playing word games with me to avoid the obvious contradiction.

          • Objectivity, relative to the human person, is "mind-independent", but not so relative to God, insofar as God is all-knowing and omnipresent. Objectivity has to do with what merely "is", and not only is it true to say that God "is", but everything else that "is" comes from God. These are not word games, but philosophical basics as applied to the Christian definition of God. It's not meaningless to say God is good.

          • primenumbers

            So now we have a wonderful equivocation that objective means "mind independent" for people, yet "God dependent" when applied to God. This renders your definition tautological when applied to God and hence meaningless. Or you can look at it as special pleading. Either way you appear to be running around in circles.

          • I just thought the Christian definition of God's nature was more self-evident than it appears to be, given your comments. The Christian view is straightforward: God is where the buck stops on all this. We humans are made in His image and likeness. But we're not God. So this is dramatically far from tautological...

          • primenumbers

            "I just thought the Christian definition of God's nature was more self-evident than it appears to be," - sorry, not self-evident at all.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Would you, then, say that God does things which would be evil if a human did them, but because he is God, those same things are definitionally good?

            I certainly can't agree with that concept, but I do have to admit that it reconciles Epicurus' contradiction.

          • DAVID

            Jim is right. It would make no sense for theists to claim a creator God if objectivity did not come from God's mind. Objectivity is only independent of mind from the standpoint of created beings.

          • primenumbers

            Objective is mind independent. That that means you have to invent some special pleading to exempt God is typical theistic games they play to avoid their inherently contradictory position.

            If words have to have special meanings when applied to God, then those words are slippery and very wet. If we can't use the same word to have the same meaning when applied to all things, then every time a you use that word you're engaging in equivocation to hide the logically fallacies in your arguments. I don't intend to go down your rabbit hole, but to call you on the equivocation and special pleading.

          • DAVID

            If we can't use the same word to have the same meaning when applied to all things, then every time a you use that word you're engaging in equivocation to hide the logically fallacies in your arguments.

            We are not equivocating: we are speaking analogically. We are claiming a similarity in definition without there being a univocal meaning. Its a time-honored philosophical distinction.

          • primenumbers

            Analogies make for poor arguments David. Methinks you're just rationalizing your equivocation. Without sound meanings of base words in a discussion that don't radically alter their meaning, conversation is over as I don't play those games.

          • DAVID

            Analogies make for poor arguments David.

            While I'm not necessarily implicating you in the following statement, I would be implicating many of your fellow atheists on this website: analogical thinking is being used all the time in arguments.

            My favorite is the "quantum physics" argument that causation is not universal. Does the math of quantum physics tell us that causation is not universal? No. Instead, we look at the math and say: it looks "as if" causation is not universal. As soon as you see the words, "as if", in any statement, you can bet that someone is thinking analogically.

          • Rationalist1

            The measurement of the decay rate of an atomic nucleus shows it is totally random. Now you can change the rate, by say adding an extra neutron to the nucleus making a new isotope, and that isotope's decay rate is different but still totally random. It's not an analogy, it's a fact of measurement.

          • DAVID

            In order to reach the conclusion that the decay rate of an atomic nucleus is "totally random," you have to show conclusively that there are no factors at work which are influencing it. Short of that, what you have is an analogical argument: "we have no way to determine what causes this, therefore it looks like other situations which we would classify as totally random, therefore this, also, is totally random."

          • Rationalist1

            It's you desperate to preserve a 2000 year old metaphysics that says there must be a cause. It's scientists, who by the way would love to find a cause (instant Nobel Prize there) who have measured and in all the experiments have shown the decay process to be random. It's not that we can't find a cause, it's that the decay is random, precluding a cause.

          • DAVID

            Scientific models are provisional, aren't they? Aristotelian physics is modified by Newton. Newtonian physics is modified by Einstein. Etc. Why should we conclude that the last word on the subject of the nuclear decay of atoms has been spoken?

          • Rationalist1

            David - Exactly. Although this is less a model and more experimental evidence science remains open to changing it but we as has been said before science changes its theories as the evidence changes, religion (in this case) ignores the evidence as it conflicts with the theory.

          • DAVID

            I don't want to lead us too far off topic. I should also say that my views on atomic nuclear decay are my own. (I'm not speaking for all Catholics.) But I would say that I applaud science for sticking to provisional understandings as it constantly refines its tools and experiments. The reason that religion, or Catholicism, doesn't change with new scientific discoveries is because its not in competition with it. Neither is science, properly understood, in competition with Catholicism.

          • Rationalist1

            But what you're saying is that science knowledge of radioactive decay is necessarily wrong because it conflicts with Catholic (actually Aristotelian) teaching? Is that fair?

          • DAVID

            I think I might've answered this more or less above, so I'll quote myself:

            I'm "agnostic" on this subject. The problem with saying: "there is no cause," is that you cannot observe something nothappening and treat it as positive proof. So, I agree that something can be random. Saying that something has no cause is hard to substantiate with evidence.

          • primenumbers

            Our empirical observations of quantum events demonstrate un-caused events. I fail to see where the analogy is coming in here.... On the other hand, causation is often used analogously by theists when they talk of divine causation (which is analogous to, but different to our notion of causation).

          • DAVID

            The quantum events share things in common with other events which we classify as "un-caused." By way of analogy, we reason that these quantum events can therefore be classified, with these other events, as "un-caused."

          • primenumbers

            That an un-caused event is analogous to an un-caused event is not show argument by analogy. We don't say the quantum events are un-caused because they're analogous to other un-caused events (and what events are they, because any un-caused events disproves universal causation) but because they lack a cause.... I think you're creating an analogy where one is none is actually being used.

          • DAVID

            I am using Rationalist1's description of "un-caused": "totally random." We look at the decay of an atomic nucleus and say: "this is totally random. This looks like other things which are totally random. What do these things all share in common? They are un-caused." Its an analogical argument: if something bares one similarity to something else, then we can reasonably expect to find more things shared in common.

          • primenumbers

            You're constructing an argument from analogy where there is no need for one. True randomness demonstrates directly a lack of cause without us having to example other causeless random events and imply lack of causation in this particular example.

            However, when you say "What do these things all share in common? They are un-caused." you're making the atheist's case that there is no universal causation for them. Is that what you're intending?

          • DAVID

            I am putting forth the argument that I have heard, that's all.

            What you're saying would be true if "random" and "uncaused" meant the same thing. But they don't. Random can be a lack of discernible pattern. It doesn't necessarily mean that there is no cause behind it.

          • Rationalist1

            Random does mean a lack of a discernible pattern and the difference between you and us is that we accept that because the evidence shows that. You reject it because your apriori theology rejects it. Which approach is more intellectually honest?

          • DAVID

            I agree that the pattern is not discernible. But whether or not there actually is a pattern is another thing. Its one thing to not discern it and another thing to say that it doesn't exist.

          • Rationalist1

            And quote another to say cause must exist to prop up one's theology. The scientists view is that there is no evidence of cause. Would you ever accept that events can have no cause if that's what the evidence says.

          • DAVID

            I'm "agnostic" on this subject. The problem with saying: "there is no cause," is that you cannot observe something not happening and treat it as positive proof. So, I agree that something can be random. Saying that something has no cause is hard to substantiate with evidence.

          • Rationalist1

            Science never said that radioactive decay has no cause, only that there is no evidence to support it and decades of overwhelming evidence to show that the process is totally random.

            To risk an analogy it's like saying there is no evidence of magnetic monopoles (independent magnetic north and south oles just like there are independent positive and negative electric charges). They may exist but scientists have hunted far and wide for them and find no evidence. But because the non existence of magnetic monopoles contradicts no one's religious presupposition no religious person says just because you can't observe them doesn't mean they don't exist.

          • DAVID

            Science never said that radioactive decay has no cause, only that there is no evidence to support it and decades of overwhelming evidence to show that the process is totally random.

            No evidence to support it. I'm happy to agree with you on that. Plus I don't want to carry us too far off topic. :)

          • primenumbers

            So agnosticism on this particular issue doesn't sound unreasonable. Does that also imply agnosticism on universal causation?

          • DAVID

            Not really. I could entertain the notion of some physical phenomenon which had no physical cause. But then I would immediately jump to a non-physical cause.

          • primenumbers

            So you invent some unknown thing to bolster universal causation to support your theology? That's not rational.

          • DAVID

            A non-physical cause need not be irrational. The Uncaused Cause, which is nonphysical, is itself, reached through inductive reasoning. With that said--I'm not saying that God is, right now, directly intervening at the quantum level and screwing with scientists' heads. I would much prefer to think that there's a physical cause which we simply haven't discovered yet.

          • Michael Murray

            A non-physical cause cannot cause anything. It's non-physical.

          • DAVID

            Only if physical and powerful are synonymous.

          • Max Driffill

            Wouldn't that violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics anyway?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Always remember the SLOT is an observable approximation; like any other observed regularity valid on the scale on which it's observed.

          • The SLOT is alleged to be operative at t=0, in various arguments which suffer from precisely the same difficulty Max suggests apply to theistic arguments above.

            Of course, the theistic arguments have no difficulty at all, since the act of Creation is prior to the temporal manifestation of its laws.

          • Bad news for "A Universe From Nothing", I should think.....

          • primenumbers

            A non-physical cause makes no sense as the only causes we know of are physical and in-time and space and that causes happen in time and space is inherent to "cause". To posit your super-natural cause is to stretch the word "cause" beyond breaking point.

          • DAVID

            On the contrary, an immaterial cause does make sense. It makes sense in a fairly mundane way. We recognize that abstract universals such as "truth," "goodness," "wisdom" are immaterial. Aside from instances which substantiate these ideas, you never see the ideas, themselves, floating through the air. And yet these immaterial ideas are the causes of a great deal of activity among individuals and societies.

            Not only that, but there is no rational reason to limit the power of causality to physical entities. The one thing we know about matter is that it entails the ability to change. Whether or not it is the exclusive possessor of the power to effect change only makes sense if you are a committed materialist. If you're not, then there's no reason to hold that view.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, these immaterial ideas are not 'causes' in the sense that you've been arguing. Human agents are causes. They hold those ideas in their heads based on neural activity in the brain.

            No such thing as immaterial causation has ever been observed.

            Ever.

          • DAVID

            They hold those ideas in their heads based on neural activity in the brain.

            [small edit]
            When I read about how highly problematic it is to claim, based on evidence, that ideas can be reduced to neural activity--I'm amazed that anyone can emphatically state it as a fact. Even some neuroscientists are convinced that this isn't true. From what I've heard, one neuron looks almost exactly like any other, and the evidence that neural activity can produce such a wide variety of sensual perception, let alone ideas and self-awareness, is simply non-existent.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Apparently you're not familiar with science. Where do you want to begin your education? Basic neurology?

          • Oh yes, let's begin with basic neurology.

            Let's hope you do better here than you did with cosmology.......

          • primenumbers

            Abstracts in their abstract form are indeed immaterial, but what they are is material patterns on our brain matrix.

            Such abstracts don't cause anything other than in an abstract sense. We cause them because we are physical. Yet again you confuse the actual with an abstract of it.

            Of course, if you don't agree with that, I can agree that God is indeed an abstract concept and no more.

            "to limit the power of causality to physical entities" and no rational reason to expand causality to things that don't exist.

          • "are indeed immaterial, but what they are is material"

            >> This seems to be a persistent difficulty in your thinking, prime.

          • primenumbers

            You have a very difficult time with things, and abstractions of them, don't you?

          • Just violations of the law of non-contradiction, prime.

            These are, always and in every case, conclusive evidence that the argument is fatally flawed.

          • primenumbers

            If you have trouble with contradictory things, your God is the most contradictory of all. No wonder you refuse to evidence your God because you know you can't.

            I love it that when you quote me above you pick the middle of a sentence missing either end to make it appear a contradictory statement when upon reading the full quote it is not. That you represent such a statement as mine is basically a lie. You presented false witness to my statement. Do you think your behaviour shows your religion in a good light or a bad light?

          • epeeist

            That you represent such a statement as mine is basically a lie.

            Ah, but breaking the ninth commandment doesn't count when you are "Lying for Jesus" (TM).

          • primenumbers

            Obviously not because enough of them do it.

          • "If you have trouble with contradictory things, your God is the
            most contradictory of all."

            >> This is often asserted, never demonstrated.

            "No wonder you refuse to evidence your God because you know you can't."

            >> I have. The evidence consists in the logically bulletproof observation that the cosmos cannot have caused its own existence, and the logical steps which follow to the Necessary Being.

            "I love it that when you quote me above you pick the middle of a sentence missing either end to make it appear a contradictory statement when upon reading the full quote it is not."

            >> I select the direct contradiction in order to bring it to your attention. Burying it does not remove it. Ignoring it does not remove it. Insisting it is not there does not remove it.

            "That you represent such a statement as mine is basically a lie."

            >> No. Instead I have correctly pointed out that your statement involves a contradiction, which you apparently think disappears if words on each side are added in.

            It doesn't. The contradiction is clean, clear, and well-defined:

            "are indeed immaterial, but what they are is material"

            Please think very carefully about the word "they" in the above excerpt.

            If you do, your thinking will improve.

            "You presented false witness to my statement."

            >> I present the fatal self-contradiction that exists within your statement.

            "Do you think your behaviour shows your religion in a good light or a bad light?"

            >> An excellent light.

            It is charitable to assist persons in ridding themselves of poor habits of thought, even if they seem very offended by this.

          • primenumbers

            And not even man enough to admit it.....

          • DAVID

            I would say that no material configuration could produce an immaterial result. Matter is always particular and concrete, the opposite of universal and conceptual. Therefore, an immaterial result must come from an immaterial source. A soul. If we allow for the existence of a soul, then we not only allow for an immaterial cause, but one which bares directly on matter. (The soul is the organizing and animating principle of the body.)

          • primenumbers

            "I would say that no material configuration could produce an immaterial result." - the obvious extension of this is that I can see no way a supernatural force can produce a natural result, and a vast amount of evidence backs this up.

            Except we don't allow for the existence of ad-hoc theories like the soul without good evidence, which of course, we lack.

          • DAVID

            "I would say that no material configuration could produce an immaterial result." - the obvious extension of this is that I can see no way a supernatural force can produce a natural result, and a vast amount of evidence backs this up.

            I think that the problem is solved, theoretically, by assuming that the immaterial is of a higher order of reality than the natural. In this way, the immaterial can exert its influence on matter without the converse being true.

            Going all the way back to Plato, the ancient and medieval philosophers assumed that the immaterial was "more real" than the material and therefore more powerful. Specifically, the immaterial was the principle of permanence in the world; all things possessed immaterial "forms" which allowed them to keep their shape and purpose, at least for awhile. On the other hand, the only thing that distinguished matter from the immaterial was precisely its ability to change; it was the reason that material things never kept their shape indefinitely and always tended toward decay and corruption.

            This way of thinking is more than "ad-hoc" because it explains the stability and structure of the universe in ways which a materialist metaphysic cannot. It can account for the reason why flux and randomness are not the only things that we experience.

          • primenumbers

            "I think that the problem is solved, theoretically, by assuming that the immaterial is of a higher order of reality than the natural." - that's quite an ad-hoc un-evidenced assumption.

          • Quite to the contrary.

            "Top down causation" is a well-evidenced, scientifically observed aspect of reality:

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1212.2275.pdf

            Excerpt:

            "In this essay I will make the case that top-down causation is also prevalent in physics, even though this is not often recognised as such. This does not occur by violating physical
            laws; on the contrary, it occurs through the laws of physics, by setting constraints on lower level interactions. Thus my theme is that the foundational assumption that all causation is bottom up is wrong, even in the case of physics."

          • DAVID

            Top down causation actually dovetails nicely with what I'm talking about. Its at the higher levels of causation that the immaterial is most apparent. If social environment plays a role in biology (such as brain structure), then you have interactions between matter and the immaterial, as Aristotle and Aquinas understood it. Social interactions are governed by concepts and abstract ideas, which are expressions of formal and final causality. These things are both immaterial. Thus, you have the immaterial causing an effect on the material.

          • "Top down causation actually dovetails nicely with what I'm talking about."

            >> Sure 'nuff ;-)

            "Social interactions are governed by concepts and abstract ideas, which are expressions of formal and final causality. These things are both immaterial. Thus, you have the immaterial causing an effect on the material."

            >> Sure do :-)

          • DAVID

            Depends on what you allow as evidence. If we start from the assumption that matter is the only thing existent, then we only allow matter as evidence. But why should we start with that assumption? I'm convinced that human experience is much better explained and evaluated if you don't start with that assumption.

          • primenumbers

            We don't assume only matter, we just don't assume what we don't have evidence for.

          • DAVID

            The evidence is there. We already agree that abstract concepts are immaterial. You say that they are the result of material configurations in the brain. I say that a material cause cannot produce an immaterial effect. Now if I'm wrong, it must be because neuroscientists have already discovered how neural networks can produce abstract concepts. But from my understanding, neuroscientists cannot even explain the particularities of human consciousness, let alone abstract ideas. The only people who have attempted to explain such things, are people like Daniel Dennet. They propose theories which they hope will be validated by further discoveries. That being the case, the material configuration of the brain is not strong evidence against my claim.

          • primenumbers

            Abstract concepts are only immaterial in abstract. What abstract concepts actually are is physical (as part of the brain matrix). It's like you can think of computer software in the abstract as having no physical form, but in reality, there's always a physical form be it droplets of ink on your print-out of the program or the electron arrangements in the computer memory running or storing the program.

          • "Abstract concepts are only immaterial in abstract"

            >> Redundant. Abstract only in abstract? You really ought to try and remedy the logical difficulties in your thinking here, prime.

            "What abstract concepts actually are is physical"

            >> But wait. You just told us abstract concepts are immaterial. Now you are telling us they are material. This is a direct self-contradiction.

            Until this is remedied, further rational examination of your argument were impossible.

            But it gets worse for you.

            ". It's like you can think of computer software in the abstract as having no physical form"

            >> But this is manifestly absurd. I have never yet purchased computer software with no physical form.

            Neither have you.

            Neither has anyone else.

            "in reality, there's always a physical form"

            >> Yes. Exactly. You seem to blithely go on asserting directly contradictory things without so much as a pause for reflection.

          • primenumbers

            You have problems with abstract concepts and what they are. You just don't understand them do you? My only pause for reflection is that you appear to wilfully unable to understand. Of course, it could be my poor explanations. Perhaps you need to explain to us all what abstract concepts are so we can understand your point of view better?

          • "You have problems with abstract concepts and what they are."

            >> Ummm...prime, whatever problems I might have with abstract concepts, simultaneously identifying them as material and immaterial isn't one of them.

            That one is all yours.

            "You just don't understand them do you?"

            >> I understand, completely, that they cannot be simultaneously material and immaterial.

            It is a logical certainty.

            "My only pause for reflection is that you appear to wilfully unable to understand. Of course, it could be my poor explanations."

            >> It is not a matter of will. It is certainly a matter of poor explanation, since no adequate explanation of a thing requires us to believe a contradiction concerning it.

            "Perhaps you need to explain to us all what abstract concepts are so we can understand your point of view better?"

            >> Abstract concepts are mental objects. These include love, justice, right, wrong, etc.

          • primenumbers

            "understand, completely, that they cannot be simultaneously material and immaterial". I've never said they are.... They're always material as part of the brain. You can think of them as mental objects, but that's just an abstraction of them - that's not what they physically are.

            "Abstract concepts are mental objects" and what are mental objects?

          • DAVID

            I appreciate your point. A computer is a strong analogy for the way in which the brain might register input from the senses. But I would insist that abstract concepts are entirely different. That's where the analogy breaks down.

            You can display the image of a horse on a computer screen using nothing but code, hardware, and electricity. But its impossible for a computer screen to depict an abstract concept. The closest it can come is through alphabetic characters. Likewise, the mind uses words to depict concepts, but the ideas are not reducible to the words. A very simple proof of this is that the same concept can exist in many different languages, and be translated from one to another. These universal ideas escape the particularity and concreteness of matter.

          • primenumbers

            I know of no place where we get a "naked" abstract concept.

          • DAVID

            I know of no place where we get to see a "naked" abstract concept.

            That's partly my point. We can't see it nor confine it to a place as we could a material entity. Even in principle, you couldn't localize a universal concept.

          • primenumbers

            "That's partly my point." - an mine too :-) But I take it in the direction that they're always just brain states - very material. The reason we don't see a naked abstract concept is because they don't exist.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And actually, there is a great reason to limit the power of causality to the physical: we don't have any evidence that non-physical things are effects in a cause-effect relationship.

            'sides, Aquinas is USING physical causality in his proofs.

          • Michael Murray

            I would much prefer to think that there's a physical cause which we simply haven't discovered yet.

            This is the difference between theology and science. In science your preferences as to what you would like to be true don't' come into it. Instead we try to find out what is actually true.

          • epeeist

            We've been over this before. There is no inductive argument back to an Uncaused Cause because the physics doesn't support it.

            Quite. And we only have an "uncaused cause" because Aristotle thought that one needed to constantly apply a force to keep something moving. Falsifying his physics removes the superstructure of a prime mover that he built upon it.

          • DAVID

            We've been over this before. There is no inductive argument back to an Uncaused Cause because the physics doesn't support it.

            I would say that's a mischaracterization. Physics generally supports cause and effect. At the quantum level, the interpretation of data presents some ambiguities. That's about as conclusive as your claim is.

            This is the difference between theology and science. In science your preferences as to what you would like to be true don't' come into it. Instead we try to find out what is actually true. Not what we would like to be true.

            I certainly wouldn't stand in anyone's way in discovering the truth.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Physics supports cause and effect within the specific manifold we specify: the space-time manifold has boundaries beyond which any discussion of cause and effect is meaningless.

            In addition, all physical cause and effect situations we are aware of are based on exchange of particles. How does the uncaused cause create an effect, when it has no way to "interact" with reality?

          • DAVID

            ...the space-time manifold has boundaries beyond which any discussion of cause and effect is meaningless.

            The philosophical concept of the Uncaused Cause is that which gives meaning to cause and effect within space-time. If everything within space-time relies on something else for its existence, it makes a lot of sense for the whole structure of existence to be supported by a Cause, outside of space-time, which does not rely on something else for its existence.

            ...all physical cause and effect situations we are aware of are based on exchange of particles. How does the uncaused cause create an effect, when it has no way to "interact" with reality?

            Following on what you've said about the exchange of particles, a non-physical cause would not need to undergo a change such as a physical cause would. It could apply force without undergoing any change to itself.

          • Michael Murray

            I would say that's a mischaracterization. Physics generally supports cause and effect. At the quantum level, the interpretation of data presents some ambiguities. That's about as conclusive as your claim is.

            But the quantum level is fundamental reality. The physics you see cause and effect is just the range of physics we live in built up from the quantum level. So at the fundamental level of reality causality is a problem.

            The quantum causality problem isn't the only issue with your first mover story. There is the other issue of time not being defined back when you want your first mover to do something.

            I certainly wouldn't stand in anyone's way in discovering the truth.

            But are you sure you're not standing in your own way ? Like Richard Feynman said:

            The first principle [of science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

          • "The physics you see cause and effect is just the range of physics we live in built up from the quantum level. So at the fundamental level of reality causality is a problem."

            >> The problem, of course, is that quantum reality yields a non-stochastic universe that includes self aware beings who can decide, with one hundred per cent certainty, to end the sentence which they are typing with exactly four, not more, not less, periods....

            Another problem is that quantum reality does not include a little thing called gravity which we notice to be operative in the universe.

            Therefore quantum phenomena, as presently generally understood according to the "matrix mechanic" approach, is manifestly completely inadequate to describe reality.

          • DAVID

            The quantum causality problem isn't the only issue with your first mover story. There is the other issue of time not being defined back when you want your first mover to do something.

            The problem with the issue that you present is that its founded on circular reasoning. You are essentially asserting that God needed time to create time. Obviously, God's creation of time cannot be conceptualized within the framework of time elapsing while God "does" something.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm asserting that god needs time to "do" anything. What does the word "do" mean if it doesn't involve acting in time. It's good to see we are agreed on the absurdity of the notion.

          • DAVID

            In order to agree with you, I'd have to be anthropomorphizing God pretty soundly. If God created time, then why would he need it to do anything?

          • josh

            For 'God' to 'create' anything you are already anthropomorphizing beyond all recovery.

          • DAVID

            No. Humans don't create things from nothing. Now, if God was working with available material, like humans do, then I would agree with you.

          • josh

            If God preexisted his creation then he didn't create from nothing either. If you define 'nothing' as nothing except God, then 'nothing' except the quantum vacuum is an equally valid 'nothing' and Lawrence Krauss is right.

            Creation is a concept that derives from what humans do and was later anthropomorphized to God. You can see hints of this in Genesis, where the world is 'void and without form' until God shapes it into something. But as the concept of God was given more and more 'bigness' by priests trying to one-up each other, it became theologically necessary that nothing exist independent of God, so we get the 'ex nihilo' doctrine.

            If you don't start with the already anthropomorphic God, one never has a need for a 'creative' 'act' expressing 'power' or 'will'.

          • DAVID

            If God preexisted his creation then he didn't create from nothing either. If you define 'nothing' as nothing except God, then 'nothing' except the quantum vacuum is an equally valid 'nothing' and Lawrence Krauss is right.

            But the quantum vacuum isn't nothing. Even if you only had space and time, that still wouldn't be nothing. Nothing means nothing at all. Zilch.

          • josh

            I'm pointing out that by the same standards God can't create from nothing because he isn't zilch either. There was God, and then there was something else. There was the vacuum and then there was a quantum fluctuation that resulted in our universe.

          • DAVID

            I'm pointing out that by the same standards God can't create from nothing because he isn't zilch either.

            Its true that God isn't zilch. If you are saying that God used Himself as a "resource" for creating things, then I guess that I agree. But, technically, its still true that God created "from nothing." Even though the universe came from God and, in a sense, it preexisted in Him, the universe is still not God. Unlike God, for whom nonexistence is impossible, the universe could cease to exist at any moment. The universe came from nothing and always has the potential to go back to nothing.

          • josh

            "But, technically, its still true that God created 'from nothing.'"

            Then technically, the universe creates particles from nothing.

            "Unlike God, for whom nonexistence is impossible, the universe could cease to exist at any moment."

            I'm amazed how you could know these things. The universe clearly exists, so it's non-existence has no evidence and there is no basis for saying it is possible. God does not clearly exist so it seems extremely obvious that he can possibly not exist. Let me play this game. 'I define the correct answer as one that makes me right'.

          • DAVID

            "But, technically, its still true that God created 'from nothing.'"
            Then technically, the universe creates particles from nothing.

            You seem to start with the assumption that "God" and "the universe" are the same thing. But I am arguing that they are two very different things.

            I'm amazed how you could know these things. The universe clearly exists, so it's non-existence has no evidence and there is no basis for saying it is possible. God does not clearly exist so it seems extremely obvious that he can possibly not exist.

            Its actually fairly conclusive that the universe has not always existed. So the universe must've had a source. We call that source God. Otherwise, the universe "popped" into existence from nothing and for no reason.

          • josh

            I don't make that assumption, I point out that 'from nothing' has to be defined independent of God if you are to avoid begging the question. You have not argued that they are different, you are asserting it.

            It's not very conclusive, but the bigger problem is you can't get from 'the universe has a finite length in time' to 'the universe had a source'. The universe didn't pop into existence, there was nothing for it to 'pop' into. The universe defines existence. Nothing has no time, nor space nor any other characteristics. So it can never make sense to say there 'was' nothing and then there was a universe. The universe always exists because 'always' applies to a feature of the universe: time.

          • DAVID

            The universe defines existence. Nothing has no time, nor space nor any other characteristics. So it can never make sense to say there 'was' nothing and then there was a universe. The universe always exists because 'always' applies to a feature of the universe: time.

            The key distinction is whether or not time and space had a "beginning." If it did, then our conceptual knowledge is incomplete unless we know what caused the beginning. The only way to explain a "beginning" to time and space would be to posit a Source which possessed time and space as part of its nature. In such a fashion, time and space did exist before the "beginning" but not as things separate from the Source.

            Now, even if I grant the possibility that there was no beginning to time and space, I would still say that our conceptual knowledge is incomplete. Nothing in the universe is entirely constant and unchangeable. Physics demonstrates that even time and space are manipulable and subject to change. The implication of an inherently unstable universe is that it cannot keep itself in existence without assistance. It requires a Source to keep it in existence. Therefore, we need to postulate a God to explain the continued existence of the universe.

          • josh

            "If it did, then our conceptual knowledge is incomplete unless we know what caused the beginning."
            Don't confuse 'a beginning' in the sense of a finite boundary, with a beginning in something, which assumes there is 'something' (not nothing) outside the boundary. A boundary does not require a source, and if you assume there exists something outside the boundary then you are begging the question rather than proving a source. If you want to explain a boundary then you need a theory/description that predicts the boundary AND some other information. You need reduction but God ends up being the opposite: lots of extra 'facts' in the theory and no explanations.

            When you say the universe is changing you are looking at one piece of the universe relative to another. If you view it as a whole it is unchanging. There is no evidence of 'assistance' for the universe's existence. Your source itself equally 'requires' something to keep it in existence. You exempt it, I can exempt the universe. Moreover, if there was a source in some rigorously defined way it doesn't follow that it would be God. God denotes all sorts of anthropic characteristics which cannot be inferred from the universe's existence.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't see why any anthropomorphizing is involved. How can the words "action", "cause", "do" etc mean anything beyond space-time. Beyond space-time means there is no space and there is no time. No time means things can't "happen" or be "caused".

          • DAVID

            Its true that God exists beyond space and time. But God's essential nature includes space and time. All of creation existed within God as part of his essence, before he externalized it like a painter externalizes a painting on a canvas. God can "cause" time to happen because it is part of who He is.

          • Michael Murray

            I guess it would be too much too ask you to explain what this means beyond some sort of mystical poetry ? Space time is everything so "exists beyond space and time" is a logical absurdity. That's just for starters.

          • DAVID

            God is pure "actuality." That means that everything that could possibly exist, already existed within God before creation. Space, time, matter, spirit--everything was contained within his simple, undivided essence. Creation, itself, is a "self-expression" of God, in which, everything that existed within Him, is "thrown out" of Him into its own being. Creation, itself, is in many ways the opposite of God: everything here is complex, divisible, and also finite. But, within God, everything that could possibly exist is part of his undivided, infinite essence.

            A painter composing a painting is a good example. The concept and image of the painting exists "within" the painter. Then he puts it on a canvas. The painting still exists "within him," but now it also has a "life of its own."

          • Max Driffill

            David,Can you make any predictions about the universe and its behavior based on this hypothesis? Or can you say, essential, anything at all about God based on this?

          • I can.

            I predict science will ultimately determine that the universe had a beginning.

            I predict science will ultimately determine that quantum events are not purely random.

            I predict that Artificial Intelligence will prove to be the research equivalent of Free Beer Tomorrow.

            I predict that the metaphysical research program of evolution (mutation plus natural selection) will, within a generation at most, lose its grip upon the academy.

            I predict that the Copernican Principle will be abandoned within twenty years.

            I predict the SETI program will be extraordinarily fruitful in its failures.

            I predict the universe will be shown to possess billions upon billions of planets perfectly adequate for intelligent life to have arisen, but no intelligent life will be found.

            I predict all of these things will lead- after a very difficult interregnum- to the restoration of Christian civilization, and the repudiation of phenomenology, empiricism, dialectical materialism, and the other poisonous fruits of the Endarkenment.

            What does this tell us about God?

            It tells us God is the Ultimate Catholic.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            As per usual, you have failed to grasp the meaning of my question. I was asking David if there were any predictions that flowed from the logic of his premise that we could test against reality? Or if one could, using David's "actuality" hypothesis say essentially anything thing one wanted about gods.

            You have not utilized David's hypothesis to frame your Sylvia Brown like litany of wishful thinking.

          • DAVID

            David,Can you make any predictions about the universe and its behavior based on this hypothesis? Or can you say, essential, anything at all about God based on this?

            What I have described tells us enough about God to make sense of the Uncaused Cause argument. If the universe, and everything in it, has its ultimate source in God, then everything must have had prior "existence" in God in some fashion. In other words, God had the ability to create time, space, matter, intelligence, etc., because all of these things "preexisted" in God's essence.

            Since everything, including our own intelligence, comes from God, we can therefore have a great deal of confidence in our own rational inquiries into the inner workings of nature. The same Creator that gave us our intelligence, also produced an intelligible universe. Therefore, we have a metaphysical foundation for scientific inquiry.

          • Michael Murray

            Got evidence ?

          • DAVID

            Inductive evidence. The known universe is too unstable to exist on its own. It requires an Uncaused Cause to keep it in existence. This Uncaused Cause would have to fit the description that I have presented.

          • The known universe is too unstable to exist on its own.

            In what way is the known universe too unstable to exist on its own? This is an assertion I have never heard before. I know, of course, that there are arguments that God keeps things in existence, but I have never heard anyone make a scientific claim that the universe is unstable. Are you actually asserting that science shows the universe is too unstable to exist on its own?

          • DAVID

            This, I believe, is part of the inductive reasoning behind the Uncaused Cause argument. Everything is unstable (i.e. contingent) and does not explain its own continued existence without assistance. While science cannot directly prove this philosophical claim, it does lend it credence. Even space and time are unstable.

          • Michael Murray

            Inductive evidence. The known universe is too unstable to exist on its own. It requires an Uncaused Cause to keep it in existence. This Uncaused Cause would have to fit the description that I have presented.

            There is a radical statement that demands some evidence. What makes you think the known universe is too unable to exist on its own ?

          • primenumbers

            You might have to go back to whoever has put forth the argument then. They could be just using analogy to aid in the explanation rather than as forming the core of their argument.

            I think you get un-caused from randomness via randomness not being deterministic.

            Of course, part of the problem is that although we have a very good common-sense notion of cause, us beings causing things to happen all the time, we lack a good notion of cause when it comes to non-agency causes. We analogize from our agency causes to the non-agency causes to the point where theists automatically assume their God agency behind all causes. So causation can be chock-full of argument from analogy, and such analogies are where theistic causal arguments often fail.

          • DAVID

            I think that the beauty of analogy is that it allows us to think of things "in miniature." We look at a clock and we come up with a "mechanistic" model of matter. Its obviously insufficient. But that's why its only an analogy. Theists are perfectly aware that the analogies applied to God are insufficient. But they still serve a purpose.

          • primenumbers

            Analogies do serve a purpose. But they're not the argument itself. Many analogies are drawn with the God concept, but ultimately God is such a concept that it's doubtful if anything we have experience of could be said to be analogous to it in any way.

          • DAVID

            Analogies can make for a good argument if you can prove something in common between two dissimilar things. For example, I might be very different from you in many ways, and yet we might share in common the same taste in literature. Despite our differences, I can logically conclude that I would enjoy reading the book that you are now reading.

            More scientifically, when we experiment on rats, we reason, by way of analogy, that the observed outcome would be similar if we were to experiment on humans.

          • primenumbers

            "I can logically conclude that I would enjoy reading the book that you are now reading." - I'd say probably rather than logically though. Analogies are only as strong as they are similar and are as weak as they are different.

            With rat experiments though, we know which parts of the body work similarly enough to give reasonably valid results, but we test that empirically. Analogy doesn't do the proving, it just provides a rough guide, and of course when the analogy fails, this happens: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGN1412

          • DAVID

            Yikes!

          • primenumbers

            Yup. Be safe when it comes to the results of rat experiments!

          • DAVID

            Analogy doesn't do the proving, it just provides a rough guide...

            That seems fair. I think this is more or less what theologians mean when they speak of God's attributes. God's "mind" can be described as the "perfect mind" but even that is "rough" or inadequate.

          • primenumbers

            Such an analogy may be useful to help those not skilled in the theological arts gain and understanding of the issues, but for the purpose of our discussions it encourages use of slippery language and obfuscation.

          • Rationalist1

            The fact that an event occurs randomly precludes a cause (unless of course that cause is random too in which case we're no farther ahead.) How is this an analogy? I'm not comparing radioactive decay to anything.

          • DAVID

            "Random" is a lack of perceptible pattern. It doesn't imply no cause, nor does it even imply that a pattern might not exist (we just can't perceive the pattern). It is an analogy because you take two different things, you show that they both hold one thing in common, then you reason by analogy that they hold even more things in common. You are reasoning by analogy when you say two things which are random also share in common being uncaused.

          • Rationalist1

            I only say one thing is random. I apply the attribute of ramdomness to radioactive decay based upon the measurement of the process. What am I comparing radioactive decay to.

            And further, if radioactive decay was found to be non random, could I just say it's only random by means of analogy and then dismiss the claim?

          • Rationalist1

            David - Can you name something else that we classify as "un-caused"?

          • Causation certainly applies to the measured rates of radioactive decay; that is, the rates of decay are observed to change in periodic ways:

            http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/time.html

          • You keep repeating this definition, but it seems arbitrary. Here's what the dictionary says:

            Adjective

            (of a person or their judgment) Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

            A being with a Perfectly functioning intellect would have all of the facts, and be unbiased by emotions.

          • primenumbers

            As your definition notes, it's not just emotions that affect objectivity, but opinions. Emotions and opinions are properties of the mind, which is why mind independence works for a definition of objectivity. The definition I use is also a dictionary definition, see here for example: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/objective b) "b : of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind — compare subjective 3a" or even more clearly here: http://www.yourdictionary.com/objectively "being, or regarded as being, independent of the mind; real; actual"

            Your posited perfect being, if existed would have opinions would he not? And his biography gives him emotions including anger.

            Finally, you don't address the objectivity issue whereby using a anything for an objective measuring point means to place a measure on that point is meaningless due to self-referentiality. To be specific, you could say that I am good or bad using God as your moral measuring point, but you cannot say God is Good using God as your moral measuring point. Well, you can say it, but it resolves to tautology or nonsense.

          • epeeist

            You keep repeating this definition, but it seems arbitrary. Here's what the dictionary says:

            Which dictionary would that be? You might want to try a dictionary of philosophy when it comes to the meaning of objective being used by primenumbers.

          • primenumbers

            Thanks Epeeist, And as noted below used by "regular" dictionaries also. It's not "my" definition, but as far as I'm aware the appropriate definition for the context of the discussion we're having.

          • epeeist

            when by definition God is the ultimate *Objective*. He has Divine Personhood and therefore is also the ultimate *Subjective* in that sense

            I think you just exploded

          • Exploded? Well maybe I can fit back into my skinny clothes now.... :-)

          • But saying God is both the ultimate "objective" and "subjective" is not a "exploding" contradiction. It's an acknowledgment that the source of both concepts, objectivity and subjectivity, originates with God and that God's eternal Divine "subjectivity" does not preclude his total "objectivity" as One possessing the fullness of objective truth and the source of objective morality.

          • Andre Boillot

            Sounds like God is pretty cool. He's like the source of everything, basically.

          • primenumbers

            The source objective source of pure nothing for sure!

          • Coolamundo indeed... Does God as "source of everything" come as a surprise to you? I keep assuming that folks will understand the gist of the Christian definition of God "as" God....monotheism as such requires God to be the source of everything created (and everything created was created good)....

          • stanz2reason

            monotheism as such requires God to be the source of everything....

            ... accept the bad things of course.

          • Yes, the material universe is good in itself.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In regard to "bad things" . . . yes and no.

            If evil is the privation of a good that should be in a being, and God is the creator of all beings, then the evil could not be a defect in an otherwise good being unless God created and sustained that being in existence. So God could be said to be the "source" of "bad" [things].

            But since the evil is a privation--and so, non-being--it is not a thing, so God is not the "source" of "bad things."

          • Andre Boillot

            "Does God as "source of everything" come as a surprise to you? I keep assuming that folks will understand the gist of the Christian definition of God "as" God"

            Not a surprise, as much as a tiresome example of circular reasoning.

            "monotheism as such requires God to be the source of everything created"

            Indeed. In order for monotheism to hold, God is required to be defined in such a way. That's just, like, the label you're putting on God, man.

          • Dude, chill out, bro.

            For any intellectual system to hold true, isn't it required that the principle agents of the system need to be defined "just so"? I just don't see the circular reasoning. Maybe it's frustratingly simple (or frighteningly complicated), but it's consistent and not implausible that infinite being A created the known universe.

            Everything after that point, of course, is far more hotly contested.

          • Andre Boillot

            Dude, chill out, bro.

            :)

            For any intellectual system to hold true, isn't it required that the principle agents of the system need to be defined "just so"?

            Sure, I'm not really attacking the notion that god created the universe. In this case, I'm talking about the notion that: 'god is the source of all things, except the bad things, because we define god that way'.

          • Gotcha. We cool.

          • primenumbers

            It's nor circular until you use the definition to prove the existence of said being. Theists are free to define their God as they wish, but I also wish they'd accept the their definitions bring about contradictions and act accordingly.

          • josh

            Well, you can't define 'X is without contradictions' and then use it to prove X doesn't contradict itself. Contradictions can be implicit in a definition. You also can't define things into existence. Jim's problem is he wants to front load all his assumptions and then restate them as his conclusions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you think this definition of God is circular reasoning?

            >God is the uncaused being.

            It is a definition which is the conclusion to a philosophical argument explaining the existence of beings who need a cause to exist.

          • primenumbers

            I think it's a bad definition as you use "being" to mean something very different to what "being" means when applied to anything else.

            As for circularity, you'd have to look in the precise context of the argument.

          • Michael Murray

            I think it's a bad definition as you use "being" to mean something very different to what "being" means when applied to anything else.

            That's how the magic works. There is a reason for the definition

            Jes·u·it·i·cal : practicing casuistry or equivocation; using subtle or oversubtle reasoning; crafty;sly; intriguing.

          • primenumbers

            http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/jesuitical

            Wow. Never realized there was a word for it!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't see why the word "being" is a problem if it is qualified by words like "contingent" or "caused" or "non-contingent" or "uncaused."

            Being simply means something which exists.

          • primenumbers

            A being is something like us - a human being that exists in time and space and has thoughts, feels pain, is born, grows old and dies. Nothing of that applies to God hence God is not a being.

            If being just means exists, then use exists. But exists means exists as a physical thing in time and space. Same problem again. You cannot say "God exists" and be consistent. I can say "God does not exist" and be utterly consistent.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Anything that has being exists. Anything that exists has being.

            Your definition of being does not seem to include non-living things but I think you would agree they should be included. At the lowest level we know of, fields and particles "exist" and have "being."

            You define being as excluding God. Maybe there is something deficient in your definition of being and exists.

          • primenumbers

            If you're just using being to mean something that exists, use "exists". It seems to me that "being" applies more as a short form of sentient being or human being, in that there's some implied awareness that non-living things or simple organisms don't possess.

            Perhaps it's a confusion between "a being" and just plain "being"?

            Either way, using "exists" where appropriate would stem the confusion.

            Unfortunately exists does mean exists physically in time and space when it's applied to actual things that have the ability to act and do things.

            I don't exclude God from my definition. You exclude God by wrongly including existence as a property (it's not a property, it's that by which things can be said to have real properties) which makes the statement "God exists" either contradictory "that which exists doesn't exist" or tautological "that which exists, exists" and hence nonsensical. It's only by properly excluding existence from the definition of the thing that we're discussing that both "God exists" and "God doesn't exist" make sense enough that either one could be determined true or false. In other words, if you desire that the statement "God exists" to be able to be determined true, you must go with definitions of exists and God that allow the statement to make sense, which your definitions do not. So yes, there's demonstrably something wrong with your definitions of God and exists, and your definition of "being" is redundant - please just use "exists".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. Then . . .

            Two attributes of the being we call God are (1) he is uncaused and (2) he can cause things which need a cause to exist.

            A being must exist which accounts for the existence of beings who need a cause to exist.

          • primenumbers

            But by "being" you (from earlier) just mean exists. Then you say "A being", which means some sort of intelligence like us contained in a physical body that exists in time.

            Needing causes is only necessary if things need causes, and I don't see that everything needing a cause has been adequately demonstrated. Of course, by wanting your God to be an uncaused cause, you obviously have no objection in principle for existing things lacking a cause of their existence, so why the problem when it comes to everything else other than to construct an argument to demonstrate the existence of a deity that is not obviously existent and hence needs such level of argumentation?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The cosmological argument begins with the fact that certain things need causes. I can't think of anything in the physical universe that doesn't need a cause.

            Can you think of examples of things that exist that do not need a cause?

          • primenumbers

            You have suggested that Gods don't need causes, so in principle there's obviously no objection to things not having causes is there? The thing is you can't just infer a cause. You have to show and demonstrate a cause by showing the causer. The only way we know things are caused is if we find their causal agent. As much as theists would like it to, the argument doesn't work the other way around where you assume things have a cause therefore there must be a causer. The proper argument is here is a causer therefore this thing has a cause.

            Say we assume that things don't exist without a cause, therefore if we find something that exists then it has a cause. If we could do this, we need an arbitrary stopping point, which is what the theists want and call God. But the stopping point is utterly arbitrary as there is no way to know from the starting point of a caused thing if the next thing up the chain is caused or not. That is why the stopping point is arbitrary and why such fallacious reasoning suits theists.

            Now lets look at the arrow of causality in the proper direction, from the causal agent to the cause (not the other way around). Now there is no need for an arbitrary stopping point. But now the theist would have to start with a proven God and then demonstrate how he caused things. This is an altogether more tricky task, but at least it works with the arrow of causality in a direction that supports knowledge, in that we can only know if something is caused by finding the causer that caused it.

            Now we can see how the proper cosmological argument should work - from a proven God to a caused universe. It's not much use, but at least it's valid.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's a very poor argument, and not proven.

          • It is a bulletproof argument.

            It is proven, in that the assertion of its contrary leads to fatal self-contradiction.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Read what you wrote. It is a definition. A definition is not an argument.

          • BenS

            So.... how does patent law work? Do all the patents say 'god'?

          • Max Driffill

            No they aren't Jim, you are just asserting that.

          • Yes, yes I am asserting that. ...

          • Max Driffill

            Well who cares. Demonstrate your premises are sound with evidence.

          • Of course. Morality exists exclusively among *persons*. Yet, not all persons on the planet come to the same conclusions regarding what is moral and what is not. There can therefore be no moral "absolutes" among persons who disagree about what is moral and what is not. A moral absolute requires an "absolute" source.
            No such source of the moral absolute can be found in the material universe.
            The only "non-material" source for the moral absolute matches the description of God...
            Since moral absolutes are necessary in order to properly define what is good and what is not good, then without God, the terms good and evil are meaningless....
            Can you refute my claims here with sound evidence?

          • primenumbers

            "Morality exists exclusively among *persons*." -so morality doesn't apply to God, him not being a person.

            "Can you refute my claims here with sound evidence?" - yes - got any evidence for your God?

          • I'm sorry--where have you posted the "sound evidence"?

          • primenumbers

            I posted the very same kind of evidence you've been using in this discussion - pure assertion. Are you telling me now that just asserting things is not acceptable evidence?

          • josh

            Since two mortal people hold differing moral opinions, God can only agree with the opinion of one at most. Therefore God and another person disagree on morality. Therefore there can be no moral absolutes among God and mortals. By your own reasoning.

          • Max Driffill

            Jim,

            The short answer is this. There is no evidence here to refute. It is assertion built on supposition.

            Of course. Morality exists exclusively among *persons*.

            Does it? Is that fact that many people feel a moral obligation, duty to non-human animals who can suffer fit in this framework?

            Yet, not all persons on the planet come to the same conclusions regarding what is moral and what is not.
            This is almost certainly true.

            There can therefore be no moral "absolutes" among persons who disagree about what is moral and what is not. Yes, and this matters why?

            A moral absolute requires an "absolute" source. No such source of the moral absolute can be found in the material universe.
            You are skipping a step. There don't appear to be moral absolutes anywhere. Demonstrate their existence before you appeal to them. Or to the need for them.

            The only "non-material" source for the moral absolute matches the description of God...
            You haven't established that moral absolutes exist, or that they are necessary, and even if they were, as you say needed/necessary, it would not imply that they exist.

            Since moral absolutes are necessary in order to properly define what is good and what is not good, then without God, the terms good and evil are meaningless...

            There is no evidence that this is so. Please demonstrate this in a way that doesn't use your premise to justify your premise. The fact that many moral philosophers can and do use words like good and evil, or at least good and bad, and make no reference to gods indicates that ethical and moral reasoning can be accomplished, and in a profound way without this comparison to an absolute.

            Moral reasoning can be done with gods. The difference is with moral and ethical philosophy we cannot stand on authority to justify any moral claim. Questions and debate are permitted.

            Can you refute my claims here with sound evidence?

            As I said, above, you have presented no evidence for these premises. There is nothing to refute.

          • Andre Boillot

            "There can therefore be no moral "absolutes" among persons who disagree about what is moral and what is not. A moral absolute requires an "absolute" source."

            It's one thing to say that without god there can be no absolute morality (whatever that means), quite another to say that without god there are no grounds for objective morality. Among others, Sam Harris' 'Moral Landscape', at it's most basic, uses measures of the well-being of conscious creatures as the objective standard from which to base whether or not things are good or bad.

          • And yet I could respond "who cares what Sam Harris proposes as objective, since it's merely his own subjective view of what ought to be objective"....and then we're back to looking for an objective and absolute morality that allows us to make sense of good/bad or right/wrong...

          • Andre Boillot

            Except for the framework he proposes doesn't rest on his subjective view of well-being, rather of our growing scientific understanding of the experience of conscious creatures.

          • But he prefers "in other words", to what you actually said.

            The logical conclusion has been reached.

          • ZenDruid

            Meaningless without god? Even pre-verbal unindoctrinated children have a good grasp of good and evil.

            It's an indictment upon all clergy, that they have managed to confuddle a very simple concept of what works and what doesn't, and proclaim "Therefore, God."

          • Thank you ZenDruid--another evidence for God is this fact: that God has given each of us the sense of right and wrong "written on our hearts," as it were, if we listen to this God-given source of morality...this "subjective" source of morality, however, is subject to our disordered appetites and thus requires that we be attentive to its *objective* source--God Himself....

          • ZenDruid

            The god you have in mind, that is the god of Abraham, can stake absolutely no claim, because the elements of morality in the human species were in place long before he even showed up.

          • That's not so, since the God I "have in mind", the God of Abraham, is God the *Creator* of the human species, God the *Creator* of the morality written on our hearts.

          • ZenDruid

            That's odd. How does a fictional mythical character *Create* anything? I have to admit though, your favorite mythical character has always excelled at creating misunderstanding and confusion.

          • Ignorant Amos

            There are folk on this site that believe a first man and women called Adam and Eve were created by this god, given a set of rules, broke those rules and that is the reason for the need of the theodicy explanation.

            It's like being transported into a series of "Father Ted".

          • primenumbers

            Yes, the Christian notion of God is inherently contradictory. To call God "All Good" as Christians do is contradictory as you ably point out.

          • Was I not clear? "Doing so (that is, admitting an external source of morality by which we judge God) becomes inherently contradictory"...

          • primenumbers

            You were clear but ignored the obvious corollary.

          • Max Driffill

            Jim,
            This simply isn't true. Christians, all the time try to say god is good, for allegedly performing this action or that action. "God is good," some one might say, "for he cured my hemorrhoids." This flatly contradicts what you have said. I'm calling shenanigans.

            Simply because some being is more powerful than we are in no way implies we are unable to judge their actions as moral or evil. Either Abraham, or Moses (I can't remember off the top of my head) call god out and say he is in the wrong in the bible. And God changes course based on this correction. Zeus is vastly more powerful than you, but I bet you would have no trouble identifying his infidelities as a problem, or judging Hera's response to them imprecise at best.

          • No shenanigans here, just a more precise application of the Christian definition of who God is than you seem willing to acknowledge. The anthropomorphic descriptions in Bible episodes do not trump the fundamental understand of who God is (and *must* be) in order to really "be" God, nor do the polytheistic myths of the Greeks and Romans.

          • primenumbers

            "The anthropomorphic descriptions in Bible episodes do not trump the fundamental understanding of who God" - no they just flat out contradict them. Thanks for pointing out yet another contradiction for us.

          • Max Driffill

            I am fine with your definitions, but until you demonstrate they have a real referent I don't really care about them. You do not have a fundamental understanding of who the gods are. You cannot say who a god must be except in the narrow sense of what criteria would be consistent with your god. None this serves to demonstrate anything like the existence of gods.

            You have no evidence for gods. Until that is produced nothing you say, or claim to know about said beings really matters, or needs to be taken seriously.
            Nothing at all.
            A phrase from ornithology springs to mind here.
            IIT, interesting if true. We use this phrase when someone offers a particularly improbably sightings but with poor records.

            IIT.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It was the 99 year old Abraham..on the massacre of the righteous people of "Sodom & Gomorrah" debacle....so much for omniscience.

  • reader_gl

    Yes, one good live sermon is worth years of reading!
    I remember that my dear Jesuit teacher, late Mons. Octavio Vilches Landin, talked that the devil is rather a state or a condition when we turn away from the light. From that time I always describe it to myself as a shadow. We just try to find out something in the shadow, that's is.
    First, we enter into small and light shadow, then go ahead into the complete and total night.

  • Loreen Lee

    Been 'ruminating' on this 'problem of theodicy', hoping to come up with a worthwhile contribution, and not just speak off the top of my head. It came to me that there is perhaps a 'circularity' in the 'argument'. There are two beginning points. We can assume that God is real, and ask the question from his point of view. If you are so perfect how come the universe is not perfect'. There seems to be an emotional 'ha, ha' you're not so perfect, guy, in this approach. So let's assume the atheist/naturalist start off position, and posit that God is merely a Kantian idealization, a Marxian opiate for the fact that, let's face it, we have 'problems to deal with'. Alright. So I need to postulate God's existence because the going get's tough. But where did I get this idea from? There are two possibilities. Natural law has it's anomalies. Gee I would have to accept the reality even of homosexuality, and perhaps even some allowance of birth control. I would have to understand that tsunamies, hurricanes, and floods are a result of contingenies, but that's OK cause because I can possit the necessity of a necessary being. That helps a bit. It especially helps as I'm shoveling off the front walk, with my bad back, in the winter after an exceptionally heavy snow fall. Why don't things go the way I want them to go? OK. Say we've dealt with the imperfections in natural law. Then we've got the human 'ego' to contend with.

    It's called original sin. I attribute this to human nature and not to nature generally, because I think I am different from all the ants and bumble bees, and I have the proof, because even for a female, my reasoning is not that bad, and definitely superior to my 'neighbors'!!! So we go back to the prime archetype for this 'lack' and we run across the archetype. Satan. Is he real, or did I just make him up to explain, justify, turn the argument away from any possibility of a similarity between this offspring of my imagination, and 'myself'. Then I find out that he is the perfect model for my vanity, pride, and is an instantaneous vindication of the fact that in thinking about him I am using my 'freewill'. So I conclude, that if that is the case I can indeed love myself, as long as I don't narcistically forget the Other, -God, and all the others which would include the world within a universal application of the concept of 'neighbor'. So I am consoled when I remember that it was not God who rejected Satan, but Satan who rejected God. So I look into that narciscistic pond, see my image, and am atheistically, and completely satisfied when I see no need to reject myself. Indeed, I can think, God does not exist. There is no other. It was just an hallucination, something I 'made up'. The world in my own self-image is perfect. I no longer need God, or the possibility of an ultimate perfection. I think therefore I am does not entail the ontological argument. Then, a natural disaster occurs, and the waters in the pond dissolve, and I no longer have the 'other' of my self-reflective consiousness. My hallucinatory self image has vanished. There are indeed contingenies in the universe. I can no longer deny them. But I can't fix all of them. I have to live with them. Because the only necessity is in my logic, and this doesn't help with drawing up peace treaties. But I have resolved not to resort to the idea that perfectability, God, a better universe is possible. I am confident in the natural law that defines me. I will take things one step at a time, pay my taxes, and even the carbon tax because these other sources of 'power' and 'being' in the world, and their evil, are mere projections of my limitations. After all, if God were real, I wouldn't need these musings, in the first place, because I and Natural law would be 'enough'. But I shall allow myself, my conceit, and not imagine a possible ultimate perfection either, because such possibilities are superstitious rant, supernatural riddles, and are only a result of my psychotic rage, whenever I come to the realization that I am indeed, part of an imperfect universe.

    • Corylus

      I have the proof, because even for a female, my reasoning is not that bad, and definitely superior to 'most other people'. [Emphasis mine]

      No, no please don't go there. Your assessment of your reasoning skills should be independent of the locale of your gonads. Fun fact: ladies have them too :) I recommend this great - gender neutral - article as an aid to this assessment.

      Critical thinking. What it is and why it counts.

      I can understand that you are in a place where the territory of the reasoner is primarily male (this is one of my many problems with Catholicism) but please do not let this lead you into assuming that, as a female, you have a disadvantage to overcome.

      My advice: read widely, write cleanly (i.e. so as not to be misunderstood rather than merely to be understood) and hold yourself to the standards that you hold others.

      You will know when you have succeeded when you go online - without immediate gender identification - and people automatically assume that you are the default 'reasoning' male. I do know a little of what I am talking about here, for Corylus is actually my name.

      • Loreen Lee

        Thanks 'Hazel'. Have just come here after reading in the middle of the night the latest news regarding the Vatican 'banks scandal'. Yes, your comment was 'revelatory' regarding the reference to the 'fact' that not too many comments on this site are made from a 'feminist point of view'[. I thought actually that I was doing pretty good on the couple of debates I have been involved in over the last couple of blogs. I felt I was getting practice in developing the skills of debate, understanding arguments and personalities, and seeing my atheistic/theist 'epistemological difficulties within a context which demonstrtes that I am not the only one with 'questions'. I had meant my comment to be ironic though. The life incidents of the character I created were my attempt to shows that 'the fault dear Brutus is not within our stars that we are ......." : that there is something about the God couldn't exist because the world is not perfect, that neglects perhaps to ackowledge the 'waywardness ' of the 'human soul' , We are not capable of comprehending the goodness, love, etc. of a perfect Being, even though its lack with the 'created world' can be a facile argument for the denial of such existence. I purposely attempted to present pros and cons from an atheist 'and' 'theistic' perspective, merely showing that the reasoning of the protagonist, was at least not the hallmark of 'consistency', and that she was finding difficulty in acknowledging the 'lack within herself'. Whether atheist or theist she appealed for reasurrance and/or explanation to paramaters which were beyond the problematic of finding her own solutions for her own problems, and recognizing the 'lack' within. I wanted to clothe the argument in a 'life experience'. I knew it was not a 'perfect presentation, and found myself returning to 'edit' it several times, not secure in the 'judgment' that I 'had 'made my point'. So - my attempt at irony regarding lack of 'evidence' and 'why' people take the positions in argument that they do, turns around to the irony on a psychological need or 'lack' existing in both the 'persona' adopted for the story, and the motivation of the 'author' regarding my comment. Thank you for your insightful comment. I find that there is truth in the 'evidence' that my attempt to bring evidence to argument was not up to the standard of a Socratic satire !!!! I take comfort in thinking that not too many will read this comment!!!!

        • epeeist

          tl;dr

          If I may be so bold as to make one, gender-neutral, comment. It makes life so much easier for the reader if you break your posts into paragraphs.

          • Loreen Lee

            Done. I came back with two hypothesis. a summary perhaps for my 'ranting'.
            On the theodicy based on physical evil. I can either believe or reject God's argument in genesis that his creation was 'good'. Should I attack his argument with an ad hominem? (grin grin)
            And on moral argument, I hope my ranting shows the degree to which theodicy can be shown to boil down to 'complaint'....
            Thanks. I do accept the fact that I am 'female'. I 'was' attempting to be 'ironic'....

          • Loreen Lee

            Further clarification of my 'method'. It is/was an attempt to represent/illustrate the on-going dilemna of a 'fictional creature' coming to terms with the problem of theodicy through contradictory arguments in a context which is if anything, a mere demonstration of the lack of evidence that she is capable of 'manifesting', or has in any way come to realize in her arguments as the 'Truth'.....(i.e. an 'absolute' understanding.

      • Ignorant Amos

        My advice: read widely, write cleanly (i.e. so as not to be misunderstood rather than merely to be understood) and hold yourself to the standards that you hold others.

        I remember you gave similar advice a few years back, good advice.

        I'm still a work in progress mind you, with still plenty to do on both issues, still, a stone takes a lot of polishing before it can be truly classed as a gem...thanks for your advice back then.

        • Corylus

          You are welcome both :)

  • Voltaire destroyed the best of all possible worlds argument for me with Pangloss in Candide. Also, I can imagine a better world without the suffering of children, or needless suffering more generally. As a parent, I stop my children if they try to harm themselves or others, even as I grant them free will in so many areas of their lives. I came to the conclusion that God was either: 1. A lousy parent to allow continuing needless suffering of His children; 2. A lazy/distant parent who only checked in a few times to perform miracles,but other than that has mostly checked-out since the closing of the cannon and maybe the occasional Lourdes or Fatima; 3. A all-loving, omniscient, and omnipresent God was just something of my imagination, like the possible world in which needless suffering is non-existant. Ultimately I decided on 3 because I had a hard time loving the gods of both 1 and 2. Distant parents are bad parents.

    • I suggest that Candide is about as reliable a guide to Liebniz, as The Onion is to the news.

    • Joe Ser

      Garden of Eden was there at the beginning. Man made choices that led us here.

  • Andre Boillot

    On the bright side, I can keep this page bookmarked for whenever I need a refutation of the 'finely-tuned' argument for the existence of god.

    • Christian Stillings

      Nonsense; the physical constants of observable reality ("The Anthropic Principle") may be construed as evidence that a Creator desired the development of life in the Created universe. Whether or not said Creator cares about the well-being/happiness/etcetera of said life is another matter entirely. A Creator could desire to see life arise and in turn not care about whether or not it suffers. The party who proposes the Creator as having such a disposition (cares about life) may be responsible for addressing objections to such a thesis, including the thesis that "the tendency of the universe, which seems to function according to these constants, is to cause suffering in the experience of said life." However, I think that "the fine-tuning argument" and "the problem of evil" address squarely different facets of the disposition of a hypothesized Creator and that it's silly to think that the latter is capable of "refuting" the former.

      • Andre Boillot

        "Nonsense; the physical constants of observable reality ("The Anthropic Principle") may be construed as evidence that a Creator desired the development of life in the Created universe. Whether or not said Creator cares about the well-being/happiness/etcetera of said life is another matter entirely."

        I would agree that the two can be viewed separately, but that's not how they were presented in this post. In addition to Fr. Barron lumping the two together, he admits that the universe doesn't appear that finely-tuned at all:

        ""If God exists, if God is all good, and if God is the governor and order of the universe, why is the universe such a mess? Why is there so much evil in the world?"

        • Christian Stillings

          My flash player is having issues, so I haven't been able to watch the video.

          Based on your particular assessment of Fr. Barron's points, I think it's a matter of carefully clarifying what's meant by the term "fine-tuned". The universe looks very fine-tuned for a number of things, including the eventual generation of life. As Fr. Barron observed, it doesn't appear fine-tuned as to give rise to life absent pain and suffering. Whether or not a particular "God hypothesis" is easily compatible with the specific fine-tuning of the observed universe is a matter for further deliberation, but I think it's a bit sloppy to say that it "doesn't appear finely tuned at all."

          • Andre Boillot

            So, like Donnie, you're stumbling into this conversation.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I think it's a bit sloppy to say that it "doesn't appear finely tuned at all.""

            Since we're talking about appearances, consider (paraphrasing Hitchens):

            -We live on a planet where the odds are high that you would die within an hour of being placed at any random location. A planet where +90% of all species are already dead. A planet which nearly wiped out our species.

            -This planet orbits (according to most, right Rick?) a star which will one day die, doing very bad things to this solar system, likely ending all life on the rock we know to foster it.

            -Our galaxy is on a collision course with our closest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda.

            -Our universe, is destined to suffer heat-death.

            You say look at how finely tuned this universe is for life, with us as an example. Which I find quite like saying, "look at how hemispherical the water in that bowl is".

          • Max Driffill

            I think it is sloppy to say "The universe looks very fine-tuned for a number of things, including the eventual generation of life."

            There is no reason to assume this. When we canvas the universe, we find that is mostly inhospitable to life. Life arises in spite of a fairly hostile universe, and then evolution conforms life to the particulars of local conditions. There is no indication that the universe is fine tuned for the evolution of intelligence, or indeed even multicellularity (which took a very long time to evolve indeed).

            And even if the universe did look fine tuned for the "eventual generation of life." You would be no nearer to connecting that designer to the Christian god, who wasted eons while people suffered and died (at least 250,000 yrs for Homo sapiens) before intervening with the good news (though not everywhere mind you, but in an intellectual back water of humanity, where the message could not possibly be transmitted well.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Actually, the universe doesn't look fine-tuned at all. You're falling prey to a post-hoc argument: the argument that something is here given that it's here is 1.

      • Corylus

        Nonsense; the physical constants of observable reality ("The Anthropic Principle") may be construed as evidence that a Creator desired the development of life in the Created universe.

        When I was a kid my older sister had a gerbil (called 'Speedy' bless its furry little butt). When her friend got bored with her gerbil my sister agreed to take him on also (forget the name). Gerbils need company and they were both currently alone.

        So she put them together in a Created cage. However, this action was not evidence that my sister desired the development of life in the Created cage (i.e. the baby meeces that resulted). This was just evidence that 'Speedy' wasn't actually that good at running.

        A frivolous tale (Geddit?!), but one with a point. We cannot assume ourselves as an end point. Yes, it is tempting, for we are marvelous. Not justified however.

        • Christian Stillings

          Your sister may not have done so intentionally, but she arranged circumstances with a certain likelihood of resulting gerbil procreation. I'm not a cosmologist/astrophysicist/biophysicist, and I don't know exactly what the probability was of the Big Bang-formed universe eventually generating a planet with a climate which was suitable to the development of life; however, given what little I do know, I intuit that the probability was high. (The presence of highly-esteemed scientists in programs like SETI seems to indicate this, given the scientists' apparent belief that complex and highly intelligent life may have come about more than once in the universe.)

          As to "assuming ourselves as an endpoint", I agree that there may be a degree of confirmation bias at work in assessing natural history. However, the evolutionary process does seem to benefit certain developments, and it seems that well-regarded paleontologist Simon Conway Morris has done some exploration in the direction of evolutionary "convergences", wherein the probabilities of highly-developed species having certain characteristics can potentially be calculated. I haven't read any pertinent material, but I'm eager to, and I might like to do a thesis exploring new ground in this area or trying to shore up some exploratory work that's already been done. http://www.amazon.com/Lifes-Solution-Inevitable-Humans-Universe/dp/0521603250

          • Corylus

            Your sister may not have done so intentionally, but she arranged circumstances with a certain likelihood of resulting gerbil procreation.

            Then she acted in a fashion that Hume would have described as the work of a 'stupid mechanic'. She has no legitimate claim to gerbil godhood, I am sure you agree.

            and I don't know exactly what the probability was of the Big Bang-formed universe eventually generating a planet with a climate which was suitable to the development of life; however, given what little I do
            know, I intuit that the probability was high.

            Where you think this intuition comes from? You have just (admirably) admitted that this is a field in which you have a significant amount still to learn, but yet you allow yourself this intuition. I wonder why?

            (The presence of highly-esteemed scientists in programs like SETI seems to indicate this, given the scientists' apparent belief that complex and highly intelligent life may have come about more than once in the universe.)

            It may well have done, however, it is important to bear in mind with this that:

            a) the universe is rather large, making the assessment of odds a bit skewed.

            b) SETI looks for anomalies as part of its search methodology, this is a classic scientific endeavour, and worthwhile whether or not other life is found as a result.

            As to "assuming ourselves as an endpoint", I agree that there may be a degree of confirmation bias at work in assessing natural history.

            Well done, I always give respect when I see someone considering something counter to their positions. I mean that.

            However, the evolutionary process does seem to benefit certain developments, and it seems that well-regarded paleontologist Simon Conway Morris has done some exploration in the direction of evolutionary
            "convergences",

            Yes, I have heard of him. I see no issue in noting that some things work better that others: we do not describe idiots as 'being as useful as chocolate teapots' for nothing.

            However, ...

            ... wherein the probabilities of highly-developed species having certain characteristics can potentially be calculated.

            Now here is where you need to be careful - don't let it slip form 'certain characteristics' to 'human characteristics'. For example, human level very high intelligence is a higher ape characteristic only (internet savvy dormice aside). It is therefore very tough to talk of convergence in relation to 'teh mega smarts'.Yes, dolphins and corvids are smart, but there is a large matter of degree in there. Do not let this teleology smuggling get past you unnoticed.

            I haven't read any pertinent material, but I'm eager to, and I might like to do a thesis exploring new ground in this area or trying to shore up some exploratory work that's already been done.

            Great news that you are interested in this subject - I can only wish you luck with your thesis. I am sure you will be sure including some dissenting views when compiling your bibliography - you have demonstrated that you can consider them :)

          • Christian Stillings

            You have just (admirably) admitted that this is a field in which you have a significant amount still to learn, but yet you allow yourself this intuition. I wonder why?

            Mostly because of the (implied) testament of SETI on the matter.

            SETI participants, if I'm correct, would agree with the following propositions:

            1. The natural physics of the universe are capable of forming and sustaining a physical environment which is suitable for the development of life.
            2. The universe has done so at least once, hence our planet and our own existence.
            3. There is a probability of the physical variables of the universe creating another such life-friendly atmosphere; this probability is somewhere above zero percent.
            4. The probability is high enough that it's a worthwhile endeavor to seek information about life which may have developed elsewhere in the universe.

            Can I personally explain why the natural physics of the universe have given rise to the development of life one or more times? No, but I'm certain that there are many scientists (such as those in SETI) who could do so.

            don't let it slip form 'certain characteristics' to 'human characteristics'.

            Sure. Conway Morris' study was focused on the relative likelihood of certain attributes being present in highly-developed organism. Some of these attributes, such as eyes, seem extremely probable. Some other humanoid attributes may be relatively less probable. The question with which I'm personally fascinated is "what is the probability that organisms which cross [x intelligence threshold] will have certain attributes?". I think Conway Morris' own forays into similar territory may be very interesting, and I'm curious to check out the reasoning behind his seeming perspective that the development of our own species was probable.

          • "Mostly because of the (implied) testament of SETI on the matter."

            >> The actual testimony to date of SETI on the matter is that we are the only intelligent life in the area.

            Fermi's paradox, when applied to the SETI observational data in hand, supplies us with evidence that there is something very special indeed about our home, since, as the noted atheist cosmologist Max Tegmark argues:

            "Our universe contains countless other solar systems, many of which are billions of years older than ours. Enrico Fermi pointed out that if advanced civilizations have evolved in many of them, then some have a vast head start on us — so where are they? I don't buy the explanation that they're all choosing to keep a low profile: natural selection operates on all scales, and as soon as one life form adopts expansionism (sending off rogue self-replicating interstellar nanoprobes, say), others can't afford to ignore it. My personal guess is that we're the only life form in our entire observable universe that has advanced to the point of building telescopes, so let's explore that hypothesis. It was the cosmic vastness that made me feel insignificant to start with. Yet those galaxies are visible and beautiful to us — and only us. It is only we who give them any meaning, making our small planet the most significant place in our observable universe."

            http://www.edge.org/q2007/q07_7.html#tegmark

          • Christian Stillings

            The actual testimony to date of SETI on the matter is that we are the only intelligent life in the area.

            Sure. I wasn't arguing that the SETI had settled on any conclusions or declared that "intelligent life" exists elsewhere in the universe. My point was that the members of SETI, who are accomplished scientists in areas of science where I am ill-educated (like astrophysics/cosmology/biophysics), seem to believe things like "the physics of the universe are patterned as to create physical environments wherein life may develop" and "it's feasible that the universe has generated such an environment more than once and that 'intelligent life' exists elsewhere in the universe." I'm trying to support my assertion that "the universe is fine-tuned in a way that supports the creation of life-friendly habitats and the development of life" by appeal to experts, which in this case is the implied testimony of the folks at SETI.

          • Corylus

            Interesting example in Rick's comment(s) for you to look at Christian.

            Both subtly above ...

            I don't buy the explanation that they're all choosing to keep a low profile:

            ... and blatantly below ...

            I predict the SETI program will be extraordinarily fruitful in its failures.

            I predict the universe will be shown to possess billions upon
            billions of planets perfectly adequate for intelligent life to have arisen, but no intelligent life will be found.

            I predict all of these things will lead- after a very difficult
            interregnum- to the restoration of Christian civilization, and the repudiation of phenomenology, empiricism, dialectical materialism, and the other poisonous fruits of the Endarkenment.

            ... is a demonstration of the immediate "Noooooo..." response that can occur when contemplating something that would conflict with cherished beliefs. That "I don't believe it" and "This seems wrong" response shows the emotional (as opposed to rational) defenses kicking in.

            The poor chap has a Morton's Demon sitting on his shoulder. (One with an unusual Copernican fixation I will admit, but a Morton's Demon nonetheless).

            The way to keep faith without getting all stressed is to be a bit more sensible; consider the future things that might conflict with your worldview and 'tweek' your worldview in anticipation.

            This Jesuit has the knack. It looks like he has written an book you may enjoy ;)

          • Christian Stillings

            Where are you drawing those block-quotations from? I don't think I've read that content before, though it seems feasible that it could be from Rick's writing. I agree that Rick has very strong hopes, perhaps unrealistic hopes, about the capacity of certain events/findings/etcetera to bring Western civilization to the Christian faith. I'm sympathetic to his desire, and I agree with you that his predictions seem... unlikely. I don't think that any finding or lack-of-finding from SETI or similar groups will alone lead large quantities of people to any particular spiritual/theological conclusion.

            In any event, I'm not sure why you're going on about Rick's perspective in response to my comments. Either you agree that my "appeal to the experts" is a legitimate reason to believe that "the universe is composed as to generate life-compatible habitats and allow for the development of life" or you disagree; if I recall correctly, that was what we were conversing about.

          • Corylus

            Where are you drawing those block-quotations from? I don't think I've read that content before, though it seems feasible that it could be from Rick's writing.

            Ack - Disqus and its caching! You will miss things if you go to a comment link only. The only solution I have found is to do lots of 'page downs' on a thread, loading all comments, and scroll for new ones - or do a search with minutes/hours in it for new posts.

            In any event, I'm not sure why you're going on about Rick's perspective in response to my comments.

            This is because people fascinate the hell out of me and when I see a prime example of a behaviour pattern I often cannot resist going 'look, look.'

            Either you agree that my "appeal to the experts" is a legitimate reason to believe that "the universe is composed as to generate life-compatible habitats and allow for the development of life" or you disagree; if I recall correctly, that was what we were conversing about.

            I am completely agnostic on the SETI question. With regard to giving credit for scientific expertise in relation to scientific questions I am happily on board - it is just that this all at the 'conjecture' stage rather than the 'theory' one at the moment.

            *Shrug*

          • Sorry. SETI tells us nothing at all about the creation of life-friendly habitats.

            Kepler tells us about that, and it tells us that there are, probably, billions of them in our galaxy alone

            SETI searches for ordered electromagnetic signals consistent with intelligence.

            SETI, ironically, is an Intelligent Design metaphysical research project :-)

            SETI tells us that there are no electromagnetic signals consistent with intelligence in those areas of the sky it has searched over the last forty or so years.

            Certain logical consequences begin to suggest themselves.....

      • primenumbers

        Fine tuned the universe may be, but the vast amount of cosmological evidence we have at our disposal suggests it's not fine tuned for life, but for stars and lots of empty space between them.

        • Michael Murray

          You could argue I think that it's fine-tuned also for suffering. You can't have evolution by natural selection without a lot of animals killed before they can reproduce.

          • primenumbers

            And that takes us back to the evil God solution that Stephen Law used.

          • You certainly could argue that. But then you would have to account for the observational realities of joy, happiness, meaning, purpose, fulfillment.......

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Well, a god who deliberately created suffering and evil, but was willing to tolerate a certain amount of happiness and joy just to make the suffering more intolerable would be a VASTLY better explanations of what facts we do have.

          • Unless, of course, God did not deliberately create suffering and evil, but instead permitted them as an unavoidable consequence of a greater good; that is, the gift of actually free will for His human and angelic creatures.

            Then a certain amount of suffering would be tolerable, given the outcome of eternal salvation of actually free creatures.

        • Except, of course, for the pesky fact that life exists..........

          • ZenDruid

            On the cosmic scale, the life that exists on this planet is about as significant as the various colonies of bacteria in/around/behind your toilet.

          • This is a metaphysical, not a scientific, argument.

            Here is an atheist who has come to the opposite conclusion, in what is admittedly another metaphysical argument, although one which is based on an examination of the scientific observations in hand:

            "I've come to believe that advanced evolved life is very rare, yet has huge growth potential, making our place in space and time remarkably significant......

            "Our universe contains countless other solar systems, many of which are billions of years older than ours. Enrico Fermi pointed out that if advanced civilizations have evolved in many of them, then some have a vast head start on us — so where are they? I don't buy the explanation that they're all choosing to keep a low profile: natural selection operates on all scales, and as soon as one life form adopts expansionism (sending off rogue self-replicating interstellar nanoprobes, say), others can't afford to ignore it. My personal guess is that we're the only life form in our entire observable universe that has advanced to the point of building telescopes, so let's explore that hypothesis. It was the cosmic vastness that made me feel insignificant to start with. Yet those galaxies are visible and beautiful to us — and only us. It is only we who give them any meaning, making our small planet the most significant place in our observable universe."

            Max Tegmark, Physicist, MIT

            http://edge.org/q2007/q07_7.html#tegmark

  • Ben

    Haven't had a chance to watch the video, just read the comments, so forgive me if the video does this: are the Christians here generally willing to agree that the Problem of Evil is in fact a problem to be dealt with? That it's an example of a way in which the world doesn't look the way we'd expect it to if there was an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent God running things? I'd hope that honesty would compel us all to share that starting point, even if Christians and atheists disagree as to whether there is a viable explanation as to why, if there is a triple-O God, the world could still look the way it is.

    Of course, from the outsider perspective the explanations of the problem of evil look at lot like bald rationalization attempts, without a lot of convincing or explanatory power. I think a fun way to show this is a satire I've seen that shows you can make the exact sort of arguments in reverse, if one happens to believe that God is Infinitiely Evil rather than Good. (http://www.csicop.org/si/show/god_of_eth/) It's amazing how well the same sorts of arguments used to explain away the problem of evil in a world ruled by a good God can equally explain the problem of good in a world with an evil God.

  • Jay

    There being evil in the world really has never been a stumbling block for me. In fact, experiencing evil has at times been one of the biggest things that has made me run towards God.

    During my freshman or sophomore year of college, I actually was one of a few people that evangelized an individual who worshiped the devil. Very creepy. We talked for an hour. Nothing accomplished. He frequently argued with what we were saying, but he often contradicted himself when he was speaking. Wish I had my journal in front of me so I could write down some of the stuff he said, but I'm in the midst of moving, and all of my stuff is already on the other side of the state. As he was speaking, I felt like all of my energy was being sucked right out of me. He was just kind of like a black hole... The morning afterwards, I remember waking up and questioning God's existence. That's only been once in a very few times in my life. After having the questions in my mind, I really did run to God. I do believe that I experienced something very evil coming from that individual and that it did spiritually affect me.

    Another experience from I believe it was my sophomore year in college... I decided to see a counselor, but I wanted to see a religious counselor instead of someone that was just offered at my university. One of the first things he asked me was if I had ever used a ouija board. He said that experiences with ouija boards can affect someone spiritually long after they used it (or something to that extent). I had used one during my senior year of high school, and it was a pretty intense experience. The spirit that came said that he was the spirit of a man I had killed in a previous life. He said that we had dueled over a woman, and I won the fight, and the reincarnated spirit of the woman was actually this girl at the party who I had a huge crush on. I had never told anyone that I had a crush on her... Anyway, the spirit kept on saying that it wanted to kill me. It was pretty crazy. I tried using the ouija board one more time a few weeks later with some friends and again we got some other spirit that said it wanted to kill me. We also did get this spirit that said it liked me and it actually held me hand (felt like something very cold was touching my hands). Anyway, while I experienced some evil things while using the ouija board, those experiences definitely made me run towards God and I believe actually strengthened my belief in God.

    Evil experiences actually make many people run towards God. Just look at this article: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scienceonreligion/2013/02/does-suffering-drive-us-to-religion-yep/

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Thanks, this is a dimension nobody has brought up yet in discussing the problem of evil. Plus, I had to make a comment to get past 666 total.

      • Jay

        :)

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    The basic flaw in this counter-argument remains: God, as all-good, would not choose unnecessary evil, and God, as all-powerful, needs not permit unnecessary evil.

    The idea that god is malicious and cruel, and that suffering is the GOAL rather than an unintended side-effect, has much greater plausibility.

    • Joe Ser

      Catholics know redemptive suffering can perfect one. However, it is not the goal. The goal is the beatific vision. Now God could put us right into heaven but would we be able to comprehend it without earthly life? Would our capacity to experience Him be maxed out?

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        And HOW do catholics know that redemptive suffering perfects? And your other points PRESUME a god who is not all-powerful. God is perfectly capable of creating a creature who comprehends heaven and god: after all, you claim they exist. That which exists is logically possible. And since god can create anything logically possible (according to many theologians), the pain and suffering that you undergo is unnecessary evil.

        • Joe Ser

          We have plenty of human examples. We call them saints.

          Indeed, Adam and Eve had those preternatural gifts. Their behavior lost them. They then became subject to corruption and evil.

          Your objection is too robotic. Sure God could create us as robots. That denies us free will. Everyone seeks love. Love is sacrificial and does entail suffering.

          • Michael Murray

            Sure God could create us as robots.

            That denies us free will.

            Everyone seeks love.

            Love is sacrificial and does entail suffering.

            It's just one unevidenced assertion after another.

          • Joe Ser

            Your claim is everyone does not seek love?

          • Michael Murray

            My claim is you have given no evidence that everyone seeks love.

            If you want my actual opinion I would have thought there are many people who actually seek control, or power, or admiration. My only evidence for this is I've met too many people like this in my life.

          • Joe Ser

            True, they think they will find love in those, but as we know real love won't be found there.

          • Michael Murray

            True, they think they will find love in those, but as we know real love won't be found there.

            How do you know they think they will find love in those ? How do you know that they don't actually seek control, power or admiration because they want control, power or admiration.

          • Joe Ser

            for what reason?

          • Michael Murray

            for what reason?

            Because that is what their psychology drives them to do.

          • Joe Ser

            the bag of chemicals drives them there? And some others don't? What chemical makeup drives them there?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And we are back to unsupported assertion. Please - how do you KNOW this?

          • Joe Ser

            That is the human experience.

          • Michael Murray

            It's not mine.

          • Joe Ser

            Please share.

          • Michael Murray

            I already have 23 minutes ago

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, it's not. It's your assertion. Can you demonstrate that it's true? And why do you avoid answering 90% of my questions?

          • Joe Ser

            Human experience. The last century is a great example of control and power and 100 million died at the hands of those looking for love but climbing the wrong ladder, the evil one.

            Without God it seems this is the default position which you subscribe to.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            He addresses many other points. And there are some who do not seek love.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You did not answer my question. How do catholics know that redemptive suffering perfects?

            And you admit that such individuals - those who freely choose the right and can perceive both heaven and god can exist, that is, they are logically possible.

            Therefore god could create beings who freely choose the right and can perceive both heaven and god. And he can do so directly, without the need for pain and suffering.

            Can you address my point? I did not say that god would create robots. I said that god could create beings who always, and FREELY, chose the right.

          • Joe Ser

            Parents choose to suffer for their children or others. It takes them to a higher level.

          • Max Driffill

            What do yo mean by higher level?

          • Michael Murray

            I think it's like "levelling up" in WoW. You know like "have you seen his level 8 Paladin, it's like totally awesome dude"

            Paladins can withstand terrible blows in the thickest battles while healing their wounded allies and resurrecting the slain.

            So not unlike Jesus.

          • Michael Murray

            OK totally off-topic remark. My two boys first learnt about priests in "Age of Empires". I walked past their room and heard one saying "oh you've priested me". Being disturbed by this departure from family atheist discipline I raced in to seek an explanation. I discovered that in Age of Empires there are characters called priests whose trick is that they can convert your enemies soldiers to your side of the battle.

          • Max Driffill

            I forgot about that!

          • BenS

            The trick to dealing with those is the same as dealing with priests generally.

            Shoot 'em full of arrows.

          • Joe Ser

            How can one choose the right if they do not know the wrong?

          • primenumbers

            So God cannot choose right because he knows no wrong.

          • Max Driffill

            This is something I have never understood. If God knows all things perfectly, existence is utterly pointless. He knows in advance via perfect knowledge who will accept jesus, and who will not. Why did he not just adjudicate this at the beginning of time and send everyone who was going to hell to hell, and everyone who was going to heaven to heaven? It would have been more merciful than subjecting people, heaven and hell bound alike to the suffering they would have in this world.
            The Christian vision seems to offer much greater pointlessness and potential nihilism than its champions let on.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, remember that the christian vision bears all the hallmarks of being created by men. It shares their limits on understanding and logic.

          • Joe Ser

            That would not be love. Those who achieve heaven will look back at the worst suffering on this earth and it will feel like a little pinch on the skin. It will be similar to when the dentist gives you novacaine to reduce the pain of what he is about to do.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,
            You do like to assert things. A god as powerful as the Christian god could do this while letting people have their memories of what would have happened, what was absolutely going to happen (god of perfect knowledge remember?). There are no surprises for this god. But there would still be greater or lesser degrees of suffering for the humans who have to play out the show. How is letting us suffer an act of love? We are going to do what the Christian god knows we are going to do no matter what. Why prolong the pain? Why not demonstrate that love and brilliance by not wasting 13.7 billions years of time?

          • primenumbers

            The will look back at their loved ones who didn't make it to heaven, and be eternally reminded of their hellish pain and suffering that goes on without end.

          • hellish pain and suffering that goes on without end.

            Not everything Thomas Aquinas said (such as those who are saved will enjoy watching the suffering of the damned) is an official teaching of the Catholic Church. There is a legitimate debate within Catholicism as to whether anyone even goes to hell. Also, the "fire" of hell and the various other tortures can be interpreted as symbolic.

            As with a number of things, the "atheist" critique of the concept of hell in this forum is often a critique of the Biblical fundamentalist conception.

            That any human being could merit eternal punishment of any kind is a proposition I can't accept, but the doctrine of hell can be "prettied up" considerably so that most of the objections here are irrelevant. :-)

          • Michael Murray

            That any human being could merit eternal punishment of any kind is a proposition I can't accept, but the doctrine of hell can be "prettied up" considerably so that most of the objections here are irrelevant. :-)

            But can you justify the prettying up any more than the more fiendish (no pun intended) versions ? More justification that not liking the alternatives I mean.

          • Since there is a definitive separation between the just and the unjust at the Judgement, and since eternity would certainly be hell if there weren't, it is not at all implausible that the righteousness and holiness of this separation, and its consequences, should be an object of eternal contemplation and joy to the righteous.

            After all, here on Earth they were subjected to the depredations of the wicked, who rejoiced while watching the suffering of the righteous.

          • I am sure you know the old Catholic saying about hell—which dates from before Vatican II and so is not guaranteed to be wrong—that both heaven and hell are states, not places, and it would be quite possible to combine a hell for dogs with a heaven for fleas.

          • I am sure you know the dogmatic Catholic teaching about hell- which dates from before Vatican II, but which Vatican II also affirms, and so is guaranteed *not* to be wrong- that both heaven and hell are states of being which are reserved to rational souls, and hence it is quite impossible to combine a hell for dogs with a heaven for fleas.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Aquinas on hell is most illuminating. I think the quotes are elsewhere in the thread; and since Aquinas is trotted out quite frequently for catholic purposes, we might consider his view sophisticated hell, eh what?

          • . . . . since Aquinas is trotted out quite frequently for catholic purposes, we might consider his view sophisticated hell, eh what?

            Aquinas was a brilliant man and has been very influential. He also lived in the 13th century, and we live in the 21st. A lot of people here are high on science (and I am too, pretty much), so let's imagine how what might pass for the scientists of the 13th century would sound here, especially if selectively quoted. Aquinas held some positions that, if he insisted on them today, would get him excommunicated. So a lot has happened since the 13th century. Quoting Aquinas on hell does not really tell us what the Catholic Church in the 21st century teaches about hell.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, but there many catholics here who have done just that. As they have quoted Aquinas for the various 'arguments' for god.

          • primenumbers

            What they teach is rather revisionist though. It's certainly not what they have taught in the past.

          • The dogmas of the Catholic Faith have never, and will never change.

            There are many heretics in every era who delude themselves into thinking that they will succeed where others have failed.

            They won't.

          • severalspeciesof

            The dogmas of the Catholic Faith have never, and will never change.

            This is certainly true, otherwise it wouldn't be the perfect tautology that is a definition of dogma: 'divine revelation'

          • It is divinely revealed that Israel is to sacrifice at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

            This has changed.

            Therefore my statement is not a tautology, and your objection is answered.

          • severalspeciesof

            I never said that sacrifice at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was dogma. I was speaking of 'Catholic dogma'...

          • There is a concept called "development of doctrine." Catholics would argue that dogmas have core truths which don't change, but the way those truths are expressed may need to change. To make a rather poor analogy, "things fall when you drop them," were it a dogma, has had various explanations over the millennia, and those explanations were couched in the language and understanding of the times. Since Einstein, we have had a different understanding of why things fall, but "things fall when you drop them" is still as true as it ever was.

          • The difference between the two categories of knowledge is this:

            Scientific "dogmas" are by nature provisional; that is, we know in advance that every scientific dogma is false.

            It will certainly be replaced, by a subsequent dogma, which is adduced in order to explain the observation which shall inevitably come, which cannot be explained within the framework of existing scientific dogma.

            This is simply another way of saying that all scientific truth is provisional, and that there really *are no scientific dogmas*.

            Only scientific theories.

            All of them, as Popper so brilliantly and courageously showed, have exactly the same probability of being true.

            That probability is zero.

            This would not be controversial, save for the fact that science has of late been adopted by some as their religion.

            It is indeed a poor choice of religion.

            Dogmas of the Faith, on the other hand, are never subject to falsification by subsequent observation.

            They do not proceed from the investigations of human reason.

            They proceed from the Creator and Lord of the Universe.

            These dogmas can indeed be understood more deeply, and this process is in fact infinite, since our understanding of a dogma consists in the fruits of the investigations of the human mind.

            But the dogma itself can never change.

            One last crucial fact, which the heretics and modernists are frantically hoping Catholics will forget.

            I will do my best to see that they do not forget:

            "If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema."----Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Canons, IV, iii.

            Ex cathedra.

            Infallible.

            De fide definita.

          • primenumbers

            I'm sure they would argue like that. But without a clear expressing of the underlying core truth, how are we ever to know whether they're actually changing or not?

          • But without a clear expressing of the underlying core truth, how are we ever to know whether they're actually changing or not?

            I think you can only look at "undeveloped" doctrine and "developed" doctrine and decide if some essential truth has been present in each of the interpretations, or if the "developed" doctrine is just a clever way of (falsely) arguing, "We've been right all along."But nevertheless, it remains true in both religious doctrine and scientific explanation that often the old is not thrown out and replaced by something totally new.

            The book on the philosophy of science that I am reading points out that while there is real value in the concept of falsifiability, it is rare for a major theory to be junked at the first signs that something is wrong. When new data comes along that "falsifies" a reigning scientific theory, ways are usually sought to incorporate the new findings into the theory rather than abandon the old theory. Scientific revolutions are rare.

            So the "development of doctrine" is a reasonable concept, it seems to me. That does not mean I am agreeing with Rick DeLano's interpretation, in which the historical documents of the Catholic Church are chock full of infallible statements that must be accepted as literally true no matter under what circumstances they were written under, no matter how much time has passed, and no matter how much has been learned in the intervening centuries. He makes a very powerful argument that his interpretation is correct, but I really don't believe he is arguing the position of the Catholic Church, but rather his own interpretation of that position.

          • primenumbers

            "So the "development of doctrine" is a reasonable concept, it seems to me." - yes, the underlying idea of development is reasonable, but only if the method by which it's done so is reasonable.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's not entirely the method, though. Methods can be sound, but based on premises without basis. That's what much of christian developed doctrine is: complex rationalizations patched together, but based on highly suspect or completely unverifiable tenets.

          • primenumbers

            That's true enough in general - sound premises and sound methods. With this case I was thinking the premise of "development" is sound, but that the method was suspect.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I would add that development of doctrine also means a deeper understanding of them, not only restatements. I will venture to say that the Apostles had a certain understanding of God as a Trinity: After all they were baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

            This understanding was greatly developed by the fourth century due to the various (mis-) understandings Christians were proposing and the insights Christians were gaining from Greek philosophy. I think new insights are still coming today about the interior relations of the three persons in one God.

          • Max Driffill

            Also, it helped a great deal when one of those Christianities was able to seize some real political power and crush opposition. Its much easier to advance one's understanding when you can just write them off as heretics.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Max, it was the emperors who used political force on Christians and Arians variously.

          • Max Driffill

            And when Christians had political power they also used political force. Heresy became a real crime, with real punishments.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That's true.

          • Max Driffill

            The Christians began persecution of pagans and other heretics very shortly after Constantine.

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

          • I will venture to say that the Apostles had a certain understanding of God as a Trinity

            I disagree, but if so, it was an extraordinarily rudimentary notion. I think if someone had been able to travel in time from the 4th century to the 1st to describe the notion of the Trinity to the Apostles, they would have been utterly bewildered, not least because it was couched in terms of Greek thought, which would have been completely foreign to 1st-century Jews like the Apostles.

            I think it is all too easy to read certain phrases in the New Testament and take their meaning to be blindingly obvious, but I think the Apostles would have been utterly mystified by the idea that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit were three distinct person in a Triune God. I think there is a tendency to think that everything in the Catholic Church goes all the way back to Apostles, when it took hundreds of years for many concepts to develop. For example, I think some people no doubt believe that the Apostles and their immediate successors said Mass on Sunday, heard confessions (perhaps on Saturdays), and performed wedding ceremonies. That would be terribly anachronistic.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I was only trying to give an example of the development of doctrine as a deepening of the Church's understanding of it. Whether my particular example is valid is a question for scholars.

          • Max Driffill

            Can we say with any confidence that the development of church doctrine represents a deepening of the church's understanding of it? To take the trinity as an example, its not clear how anyone could advance knowledge of it. There is no way to check it against the reality of the trinity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Theology does not check its findings against the actual Trinity (unless there are theologians in heaven).

            Theologians use the tools of philosophy to examine the contents of Divine Revelation.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,
            Theologians of the Catholic variety don't use the tools of philosophy to examine the contents of Divine revelation. If they did, they would be a lot more tentative in their conclusions and less cocksure about imposing these conclusions on everyone else.

            For one thing premises are almost never questioned. Over and over again here at SN we have seen Catholics mere parrot assertions as if they represented facts that had to be respected as argument enders. And with divine revelation you are merely asserting that which much be proved (were it any other religious "revelation" you would call it what I call all divine revelation -making stuff up).

            There is no reason to take any theology of god seriously until it can demonstrated that that it refers to a real being. Up until that point does it leave the realm of possibly interesting hypothetical. That isn't to say that discussing characters like Yahweh, or Zeus, or Odin, isn't interesting or useful in the way all mythology is useful (it often tells us a great deal about the myth makers). However there is no reason to take divine revelation seriously and there is certainly no reason to suspect that the clerics who try to arrogate power on the basis of such revelation should be granted any authority in or over our lives.

          • In trying to explain the development of doctrine, I made an analogy to science. But theology is much more akin
            to philosophy than to science. You can't empirically verify philosophy, and yet you can't just chuck it as pointless and unfalsifiable. Otherwise, it would be pointless to have discussions like this, which are essentially philosophical.

            The reason morality keeps coming up is because ethical theories are not empirical either. It is a tactic of some atheists to attack theism here on the theory that the Judeo-Christian God is evil. But taking that take requires having some kind of meaningful way of deciding what is good and what is evil. Even if it is maintained that good and evil are knowable without a God, the discussion of ethics is still philosophical, not scientific, proving (it would seem) that not all knowledge can be discovered or tested using the scientific method.

          • Max Driffill

            David,

            I actually agree with you completely. And I engage in fascinating discussions (to me and my friends anyway) that entertain hypotheticals all the time. There are numerous hypotheticals that can make for useful philosophical reflection.

            I once spent way more time than necessary trying to craft a useful hypothesis of why so many mutants with more animal like abilities and healing factors seemed to originate in the Western Canadian rockies. A friend of mine and I spent a great deal of time hypothesizing about the evolution of the aliens from the Alien universe (of course the dreadful Prometheus has dashed a lot that). As two students of evolutionary biology both of these exercises were fruitful and fun ways to to think about concepts in evolutionary biology,

            The Last Temptation of Christ is one of my favorite points of discussion and really the only compelling way I've ever heard the Jesus story. Endless hours of discussion.

            In no way though am does it make sense to say that because deep thoughts and insights can be derived from these discussions that they refer to anything real.

            As to your point about ethics. There really are meaningful ways to make moral judgements without god and accurately call him an awful deity.

            BUt you also run into the following problem. If you cannot say god is bad, his motives are unfathomable, then you cannot say god is good.

          • "Aquinas held some positions that, if he insisted on them today, would get him excommunicated."

            >> But Aquinas would never insist on anything contrary to a defined dogma of the Faith.

            It is not heretical to hold a position which is later condemned.

            It is heretcial to continue to hold a position after it has been condemned.

            This Aquinas never did.

          • primenumbers

            From what I understand there's more than enough Catholic priests and nuns that have left children with the impression of a real hell with real fire. And although modern Catholics when discussing with atheists talk of a rather less hellish hell, quite frankly given the background of the subject I don't really believe that they believe their modern "nice" hell.

            You're also correct that eternal punishment is bad enough no matter how mild the punishment consists of. Hell is a pure evil made by God and thus the problem of evil begins all over again...

          • From what I understand there's more than enough Catholic priests and nuns that have left children with the impression of a real hell with real fire.

            No doubt about it.

            Hell is a pure evil made by God and thus the problem of evil begins all over again...

            The trend within Catholicism is to think of "hell" not as a place of eternal torture, but rather a place (or state) for people who choose to go their own way rather than the way God wants them to go. God doesn't send people to hell. People choose hell, perhaps in somewhat the same way that people choose to be pessimists, or loners, or nonconformists. Or perhaps in the way that some people choose suicide. (I think most people don't exactly choose suicide, but are driven to it by forces they can't control.) So if someone is a miser or a misanthrope in life, he'll have the option of being a miser or misanthrope when he dies, choosing not to join in the fun, the same way he did when he was alive. So his "punishment" would not be flames. It would be getting his own way, which to him wouldn't seem like a punishment, but to others would look very sad.

          • primenumbers

            Indeed I've had a similar explanation from Catholics. But such an explanation makes a mockery of previous explanations of hell from Catholics and the Biblical imagery. It seems to me that they want to have their cake and eat it.

          • " It seems to me that they want to have their cake and eat it."

            >> There is a certain degree of truth in this criticism, in the sense that there is an astonishing timidity on the part of many modern Catholics when it comes to defending the dogmas of the Faith.

            But the dogmas will stand until the end of the world, and the timidity will find itself consigned to the age which engendered it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ah, changing fashions are wonderful, aren't they?

          • Mikegalanx

            I think the term they're looking for is "retcon".

            From Wiki:

            "Retroactive continuity, or retcon for short,[1] is the alteration of previously established facts in the continuity of a fictional work."

          • Joe Ser

            Until they change against you.

          • "The trend within Catholicism is to think of "hell" not as a place of eternal torture, but rather a place (or state) for people who choose to go their own way rather than the way God wants them to go."

            >> Two points. First, there is nothing contradictory between the assertions:

            1. Hell is a place of torment
            2. People go to Hell by choosing their own way rather than the way God wants them to go.

            Second, "trends" within Catholicism are often reducible to projections of the person reporting them.

            Trends are not important, when they are advanced as if they could contradict defined dogmas.

            They cannot.

          • Trends are not important, when they are advanced as if they could contradict defined dogmas.

            First, I believe I am correct regarding the trend. Second, I don't believe I have contradicted any dogma. Third, some people claim that certain things are dogma when they are not.

          • The dogmas on hell are certainly dogmas, and they include the ex cathedra definition below, which defines as a dogma of the faith that the Catholic Church

            "firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that none of those outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but alsoJews, and heretics and schismatics, can become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life they have been added to the Church.” (Cantate Domino)

          • I challenge you to provide evidence that that is an ex cathedra statement or that it is dogma. I don't want to hear you make your case again. I want some indication that the Church in, say, the past 20 years, has affirmed the statement that Jews who don't convert to Christianity will go to hell. It is certainly not what Benedict XVI said. You are back to promoting Feeneyism, and it is false.

          • "I challenge you to provide evidence that that is an ex:cathedra statement or that it is dogma."

            >> I have already answered this challenge. I will be happy to answer it again.

            First, as to the form and matter of a dogmatic definition (Lumen Gentium, #25):

            "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful--who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk. 22:32)--he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.[42] For that reason his definitions are rightly said to be irreformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church, is as much as they were made with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in the person of blessed Peter himself; and as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal. For in such a case the Roman Pontiff does not utter a pronouncement as a private person, but rather does he expound and defend the teaching of the Catholic faith as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the Church's charism of infallibility is present in a singular way."

            So. The Pope speaks ex cathedra

            1. In the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,

            2. in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,

            3. he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church,

            Now let us look at the ex cathedra definition of "Cantate Domino" again:

            "(The Holy Catholic Church) firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that none of those outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but alsoJews, and heretics and schismatics, can become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life they have been added to the Church."

            It is noticed first that this bull is issued to the whole Church, as part of the acts of a solemn Ecumenical Council (Florence).

            Second, it is noticed that the bull represents an exercise of supreme magisterial authority; that is, it anathematizes heresy and defines dogma.

            Third, it is noticed that the definitions do apply to, and are intended to be held by, the whole Church.

            This definition is explicitly recognized as "ex cathedra" in the "Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum" of Denziger, the Source Book of Catholic Dogma.

            "I don't want to hear you makeyour case again."

            >> I can certainly understand why :-)

            "I want some indication that the Church in, say, the past 20 years, has affirmed the statement that Jews who don't convert to Christianity will go to hell. It is certainly not what Benedict XVI said. You are back to promoting Feeneyism, and it is false."

            >> Alas, there is no Church teaching which requires that a given dogma be repeated every 20, or 50, or 500 years.

            This suggestion is instead directly contradicted in the Lumen Gentium passage quoted above:

            "his definitions are rightly said to be irreformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church, is as much as they were made with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in the person of blessed Peter himself; and as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal."

            So while it is clear you would very much like the dogmas of the Church to be reformable, this desire on your part does not constitute anything more than that.

          • PS: I challenge you to provide any magisterial teaching of Pope Benedict that declares the Jews to be saved outside the Catholic Church.

            Over to you......

          • BREAKING, FANTASTIC NEWS!!!!!!

            FROM ANDY PUGNO AND PROTECT MARRIAGE:

            "Today our Prop 8 Legal Defense Team filed an emergency petition to U.S. Supreme Court to stop the Ninth Circuit's premature move requiring same-sex "marriage" licenses in California. The petition, prepared overnight by our good friends at Alliance Defending Freedom, was submitted Saturday to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the associate justice who decides such motions pertaining to the Ninth Circuit. On Wednesday, Justice Kennedy had agreed with our view that the voice of the voters must heard in a case like this challenging an initiative proposition.
            When the Ninth Circuit originally put in place its stay to prevent same-sex marriage pending Supreme Court action, it stated clearly that “the stay shall continue until final disposition by the Supreme Court.” Under Supreme Court procedural rules, "final disposition" comes when the Supreme Court issues a "mandate" to the Ninth Circuit, at least 25 days after announcing its opinion in the case. The 25-day waiting period is provided to allow parties like us to petition the Supreme Court for a re-hearing of the case.

            Today's petition asks the Supreme Court to find that the Ninth Circuit had no jurisdiction to order same-sex marriages on Friday, since the case had not yet come back down from the nation's highest court.

            Suspiciously, the Ninth Circuit's announcement late Friday ordering same-sex marriages came as a surprise, without any warning or notice to Proposition 8's official proponents. However, the same-sex couple plaintiffs in the case, their media teams, San Francisco City Hall, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the California Attorney General all happened to be in position to perform same-sex marriages just minutes after the Ninth Circuit's "unexpected" announcement.

            Coincidence?

            Our emergency petition also reminds the Supreme Court that just last year the Ninth Circuit itself, in stopping a lower court from unsealing illegal video tapes of the Prop 8 trial, said that the "integrity of our judicial system depends in no small part on the ability of litigants and members of the public to rely on a judge’s word." That same principle, we argue today, applies equally to assurances given by Ninth Circuit judges as well.

            People on both sides of this debate should at least agree that the courts must follow their own rules. This kind of lawlessness just further weakens the public's confidence in the legitimacy of our legal system. We hope the Supreme Court will step in and restore some order here.

            In fidelity to the more than seven million Californians who voted for Proposition 8, and the tens of thousands of friends like you who have worked so hard to enact and protect it, we remain committed to pursuing every responsible option available to us to vindicate the People's interest in seeing Proposition 8 upheld and enforced.

          • Corylus

            Rick, please look above you at the nature of the video posted and the nature of this thread. There is discussion of how we understand and deal with suffering.

            To say I disagree with Robert Barron's take on it is an understatement, but I will say one thing for him. He is not gloating about the possibility of people being denied the right to publicly commit to, and declare love for, each other.

            Not here. Not now.

          • Corylus:

            I appreciate that it was inappropriate to post here, and in light of that, I will answer as briefly and non-polemically as I can.

            There is nothing at stake in Prop 8 that will prevent any right to publicly commit to, or declare love for, each other.

          • Corylus

            I appreciate that it was inappropriate to post here, and in light of that, I will answer as briefly and non-polemically as I can.

            Then I appreciate this in turn.

            There is nothing at stake in Prop 8 that will prevent any right to publicly commit to, or declare love for, each other.

            Isn't this what happens at marriage ceremonies? Lest you accuse me of being a fluffy romantic that does not understand legal contracts, I would point out that the 'publicly' bit tends to be a spur to keeping one's promises, as does the making of one's mark.

            I don't want to overdo video posting as I do understand that this is a discussion site, but something nice in a thread on suffering cannot go amiss. Please:

            1) Listen to this song: it had even my infamously stiff upper lip trembling when I heard it.

            and then

            2) Imagine that this was written for someone of the same sex (you can do this with any of your favourite songs also). Now does this make it one bit less effecting? In fact, for me, considering that one often has me blinking even more furiously.

            This is how we react to suffering in the real world, by being happy with the presence of each other and appreciating any joy that we find. Wherever we find it.

          • Joe Ser

            Who needs laws. We can and should do whatever makes us happy. Power wins.....

          • I note that you have provided no citation of any magisterial teaching by Pope Benedict to the effect that Jews are saved outside the Catholic Church, Mr. Nickols.

            That's because there isn't one.

          • Joe Ser

            I didn't say they weren't saved outside of the Church. I stated the Church was necessary.

          • Joe, the above comment was directed toward Mr. Nickols. Sorry for any confusion.

          • Here is an excerpt from a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding Fr. Feeney. I think it is crystal clear that the CDF is saying baptism (with water) as a formal induction into the Catholic Church is not always necessary for salvation. Those with an implicit desire, including those who don't even know the Church exists, can be saved. I have boldfaced key phrases and sentences.

            I don't see how you can reconcile your position and this letter, and I don't see how you can reconcile your position with the statements by Pope Pius XII reproduced or paraphrased in the letter. Either the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope Pius XII were wrong, or you are wrong.

            Letter to the Archbishop of Boston, 8 August 1949, concerning Fr. Feeney and the Doctrine of “No Salvation Outside the Church”

            THE SUPREME SACRED CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY OFFICE

            From the Headquarters of the Holy Office
            August 8, 1949
            Protocol Number 122/49.

            [Beginning omitted]

            In His infinite mercy God has willed that the effects, necessary for one to be saved, of those helps to salvation which are directed toward man's final end, not by intrinsic necessity, but only by divine institution, can also be obtained in certain circumstances when those helps are used only in desire and longing. This we see clearly stated in the Sacred Council of Trent, both in reference to the Sacrament of Regeneration and in reference to the Sacrament of Penance (Denzinger, nn. 797, 807).

            The same in its own degree must be asserted of the Church, in as far as she is the general help to salvation. Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.

            However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance, God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.

            These things are clearly taught in that dogmatic letter which was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, on June 29, 1943, On the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ (AAS, Vol. 35, an. 1943, p. 193 ff.). For in this letter the Sovereign Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who are actually incorporated into the Church as members, and those who are united to the Church only by desire.

            Discussing the members of which the Mystical Body is composed here on earth, the same August Pontiff says: Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.

            Toward the end of this same Encyclical Letter, when most affectionately inviting to unity those who do not belong to the body of the Catholic Church, he mentions those who are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire, and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states that they are in a condition in which they cannot be sure of their salvation since they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church (AAS, loc. cit., 243).

            With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion (cf. Pope Pius IX, Allocution Singulari quadam, in Denzinger, nn. 1641, ff. - also Pope Pius IX in the Encyclical Letter Quanto conficiamur moerore in Denzinger, n. 1677).

            But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith. For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews, 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): Faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children (Denzinger, n. 801).

            [Ending omitted]

            The complete text may be downloaded as a PDF.

          • Thanks for this responsive post- I assume you agree with me that there is no magisterial statement of Pope Benedict which affirms what you falsely allege him to have taught with his Apostolic Authority concerning the Jews, and since the Jews have certainly heard of Jesus Christ and His Church, nothing in this letter would apply even theoretically in their case.

            Now, to the letter.

            First, this is a letter of a Vatican dicastery addressed not to the Church, but to an Archbishop.

            It has not the slightest power to establish dogma, or overturn existing dogma.

            With these necessary observations in mind:

            "that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing."

            >> This is a perfectly orthodox restatement of the dogmatic statement of Trent:

            1. Salvation is available only to those united to the Church

            2. This salvation is available only by baptism or the desire for it.

            So far one hundred per cent dogmatic.

            "However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance, God accepts also an implicit desire"

            >> Not a dogmatic teaching. It is a permitted theological speculation, and it is theologically defensible. It might be true. I do not give the assent of Faith to this, nor am I required to do so.

            Baptism of implicit desire, I reiterate, is not a dogma of the Faith, is not infallible under the ordinary magisterium, and does not impose upon a Catholic the obligation of assent of Faith.

            One is not an heretic if one does not believe in baptism of implicit desire.

            However, there is an important point concerning this, which is the final point in the letter, so I will address it in sequence.

            "he mentions those who are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire, and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation"

            >> This is the really troubling part of the letter for me. Notice how reference is made to being "related to" the Church, and this is advanced as somehow being equivalent to being "joined to" Her.

            The actual quote from Mystici Corporis does not even remotely *suggest* that this "related to" the Church is sufficient for salvation.

            And in fact the letter does not say it is- instead it says they are by no means "excluded from salvation".

            Well, this is quite true, but it is also quite obvious.

            No one breathing is excluded from salvation.

            But this is the point where things get a little ambiguous.

            "With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire"

            >> Except He doesn't do that at all. There is no such rebuke in the actual text.

            It simply isn't there.

            Another troubling aspect of this letter to the Archbishop.

            Now let us add the part you didn't highlight :-)

            This passage covers all the ambiguities advanced above, sufficient to render the letter amenable to a perfectly orthodox interpretation....just as the passages above introduce sufficient ambiguity to render the question susceptible of widely-varying interpretations; this is the disastrous technique which would later be adopted in the language of the Vatican II texts themselves, with the resulting devastation of the vineyard.

            But all of the ambiguities can be resolved, in light of what concludes the letter, below:

            "But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. ******Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith. For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews, 11:6) The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): Faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children (Denzinger, n. 801)."*******

            The highlighted passage is from the exact Session of Trent I have quoted many times, against the terrifyingly prevalent modern Catholic disorientation that athests can somehow be saved without faith.

            OK.

            So, there is no salvation outside the Church.

            There is the possibility of being joined to the Church through baptism of desire.

            Both of these are dogmatic.

            It is proposed that desire need not be explicit.

            This is not dogmatic.

            Even if one supposes implicit baptism of desire, this cannot occur absent justification; that is, absent Faith in God.

            That's about the size of it.

          • So if I understand you correctly, you acknowledge that while you assert it is Catholic dogma that Jews go to hell "unless before the end of life they have been added to the Church," there is at least one way (implicit desire) they may conceivably be "added to the Church" that does not require baptism (with water) and formal induction into the Catholic Church. Therefore, you acknowledge that it is not Catholic dogma that Jews who die without being baptized go to hell (although apparently you personally believe the do).

            So you acknowledge that "outside the Church there is no salvation" does not mean that only baptized Catholics can be saved. Is that correct?

          • "So if I understand you correctly, you acknowledge that while you assert it is Catholic dogma that Jews go to hell "unless before the end of life they have been added to the Church,"

            >> *I* do not assert this. The *Church* explicitly *says* this.

            "there is at least one way (implicit desire) they mayconceivably be "added to the Church"

            >> Only the invincibly ignorant- those who do not know of Christ or His Church through no fault of their own- can *conceivably* be joined to the Church in this way, although it is equally possible that they are saved by a supernatural revelation which grants them explicit desire for baptism, or indeed the visitation of a missionary in order to receive sacramental baptism.

            All of these situations involve circumstances of which we can never possibly have any knowledge this side of heaven.

            Invincible ignorance does not apply to those, like the Jews, or like our atheist friends on this site, who are very familiar with Christ and His Church, and who have freely chosen to reject Her gospel of salvation.

            These cannot possibly be saved, absent conversion to the Faith by baptism or the desire for it, prior to death.

            "that does not require baptism (with water) and formal induction into the Catholic Church.

            >> All baptism is with water. Baptism of desire is not a sacrament, but merely suffices for justification; that is, the translation from the condition of child of Adam to child of God.

            Baptism of desire applies to catechumens, or to those who are inculpably prevented from receiving sacramental baptism.

            "Implicit baptism of desire" is a theologically permitted speculation, applicable *only* to those invincibly ignorant- inculpably ignorant- of the knowledge of Christ and His Church.

            It should be mentioned that of course we have no way of knowing whether any such actually invincibly ignorant persons exist.

            We never could know, this side of heaven.

            But the Church teaches that such persons can implicitly desire baptism, and does not prevent alternative theological solutions to the problem (supernatural infusion of grace so as to bring about explicit baptism of desire, etc).

            "Therefore, you acknowledge that it is not Catholic dogma that Jews who die without being baptized go to hell (although apparently you personally believe the do)."

            >> It is certainly Catholic dogma that all Jews who die without being joined to the Church go to hell.

            But so does everybody else who dies without being joined to the Church go to hell.

            If there were such a thing as an invincibly ignorant Jew- if there were even the possibility of being a Jew without being told about Jesus Christ and His Church- then of course God might intervene in some way to bring that person to Faith.

            We would never have any knowledge of any such thing occurring this side of heaven of course,

            But it is possible.

            "So you acknowledge that "outside the Church there is no salvation" does not mean that only baptized Catholics can be saved. Is that correct?"

            I acknowledge that the following dogma is completely preserved in all Catholic teaching subsequent to its infallible, ex cathedra definition at the Council of Florence in the 15th century:

            "Pope Eugene IV, Cantate Domino (1441): "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not onlypagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the "eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."

            I also believe the dogmatic definition of Trent:

            "A description is introduced of the Justification of the impious, and of the Manner thereof under the law of grace.

            By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."

          • Michael Murray

            Invincible ignorance does not apply to those, like the Jews, or like our atheist friends on this site, who are very familiar with Christ and His Church, and who have freely chosen to reject Her gospel of salvation.

            Whereas we horrible atheists wish nothing for you but a lack of internet connection.

          • Whereas we horrible Catholics wish for you to have not only an internet connection, but eternal salvation.

            Nothing quite says "hate speech" like:

            "I'm praying for you".

            Eh?

            ;-)

          • Michael Murray

            Actually I find it pretty bloody rude.

          • Michael Murray

            Whereas we horrible Catholics wish for you to have not only an internet connection, but eternal salvation.

            But only if I pay the price of conversion. Otherwise I'm going to burn in hell. Not that you wish that of course. Perish the thought. It's just what God wants. It's for my own good. Blah. Blah. I wonder how many thousands of my fellow heretics have heard these words down the centuries before some holy person lit the flames or turned the handle on the rack.

            Whereas I am quite happy for you to stay Catholic and have equal rights with everybody. Hell I'll even let you marry someone of your own gender.

            Tolerance. That's the difference between atheists and theists. We've got it. You just pretend you have it.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            Invincible ignorance does not apply to those, like the Jews, or like our atheist friends on this site, who are very familiar with Christ and His Church, and who have freely chosen to reject Her gospel of salvation.

            What is this business about freely choosing to reject Christ and His Church and her gospel of salvation?

            I have not chosen to reject Christ, or the Church teachings. I can't make myself believe something I think is false. I cannot choose what to believe. So lets not have any more of this accusation that we unbelievers are choosing to live in rebellion. We just sincerely aren't convinced by the case. So if your god does condemn us to hell, you need to start grappling with the fact that he will be doing it simply because we unbelievers made an honest mistake.

          • Michael Murray

            you need to start grappling with the fact that he will be doing it simply because we unbelievers made an honest mistake.

            Don't worry. I'm sure when we get to the pearly gates the Catholics will be standing by our sides pleading our case to be saved from eternal torture. Given the RCC's long history of opposing fascist tyrants ...

          • Max Driffill

            "An lo, Michael Murray tore across the land, and left in his wake, terror an scorched earth..."
            -From the History of Hercules, The Thirteenth Labor

          • primenumbers

            "he will be doing it simply because we unbelievers made an honest mistake." - or more likely because religious apologists engage in word play and equivocation rather than sound argument, that Christians throughout the ages have lied, forged passages in books including the Bible, and have used force to convert people to their religion.

          • "I have not chosen to reject Christ, or the Church teachings"

            >> I am pretty sure this will be the easiest assertion to falsify in the whole history of Strange Notions.

            As my first witness, I call Max Driffil :-)

            "I cannot choose what to believe"

            >> You can't?

            How strange, then, that you choose to believe that you cannot choose to believe.

            "I can't make myself believe something I think is false"

            >> Wait a minute- *you think* is *false*?

            Why do you think it is false?

            You have already told us that you cannot choose what to believe, and yet you believe the gospel is false.

            Max, may I say that there is still one last sliver of hope for you, and I am going to keep on praying for you even if you find it rude (pace, my friend, please choose to believe that I am unable to choose not to pray for you).

            Here is that sliver of hope.

            There is great wisdom in these words, no need to slice and dice and falsify them, they cut into all believers like a knife, especially me, and they are the reason even Max Dilfer might make it to heaven, and Rick DeLano might not.

            Ready?

            Here goes:

            "If, then, the uncircumcised keep the justices of the law, shall not this uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? [27] And shall not that which by nature is uncircumcision, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision art a transgressor of the law? [28] For it is not he is a Jew, who is so outwardly; nor is that circumcision which is outwardly in the flesh:[29] But he is a Jew, that is one inwardly; and the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."

            Now you have said you notice certain common desires seem to be very widely shared among human beings, Max, and in this you and Paul are in agreement.

            Paul just told us both that you do not need to agree with me or him on where those commonalities come from.

            You might think they are nothing than neurons which are, somehow, arranged the same way.

            A ridiculous and laughable falsehood as a matter of philosophy of course, but hey!

            You say the same thing about my religion, so that's a wash.

            The fact is we agree that these common desires exist, and that it is a *good thing* to try and do unto others, as we would have them do unto us.

            Paul just told both of us that it is quite possible that you will be judged, without the Gospel, to have done what the Gospel commands, better than I, who have the Gospel, have done what the Gospel commands.

            Paul explicitly- there really is no way to get around the astonishing power of these words- Paul has told us that God will judge me and you in exactly the same way.

            So here is the close of the matter:

            Let Max do his worst to destroy the Faith, Rick will do his best to defend it.

            If Max is right, there is no reason not to try and do unto others as we would have them do unto us- it seems to be a reasonably effective strategy for survival in this cold, meaningless, ultimately futile universe.

            If Rick is right, there is no reason not to try and do unto others as we would have them do unto us, since Max is completely cool with that, and it might result in an unexpected and merry meeting, hope beyond hope.

          • Max Driffill

            There is really nothing to respond to in this epically long screed.

            I didn't chose to think the notion of Christian faith was wrong either. I was compelled by the evidence. It just happened. with education, literature and life.
            Chill out, Have a beer.

          • Too early for a beer, Max, but I get the subtext, and understand completely.

            ;-)

            No need to respond, of course.

            There it sits.

            Cheers!

          • Michael Murray

            How does he know your are circumcised? Have you guys been at one of BenS' Welsh beer parties?

          • He has been baptized, Michael.

            We know this from his personal affirmation of the fact.

          • Max Driffill

            Look,
            I've been to some parties, gotten a little drunk, and, yes, there were some pictures, but I don't think that particular picture is out there....

          • Sage McCarey

            Circumcision! You brought it up. the very idea that an all knowing god would demand circumcision as a covenant between man and god is so incredible to me. This is the way humans make their covenant with god; cut off the end of your penis! Of course women have no penis so there can be no covenant between women and god.

          • Joe Ser

            The pope did add it back in to the Eucharistic prayer.

          • Are you talking about this current version?

            Let us pray also for the Jewish people, to whom the Lord our God spoke first, that he may grant them to advance in love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. (Prayer in silence. Then the Priest says:) Almighty ever-living God, who bestowed your promises on Abraham and his descendants, hear graciously the prayers of your Church, that the people you first made your own may attain the fullness of redemption. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

            As opposed to this old version?

            Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us pray. Let us kneel. [pause for silent prayer] Arise. Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

            There is a big difference.

          • Joe Ser

            They are getting at the same thing. no?

          • They are getting at the same thing. no?

            The old version is a prayer for the conversion of the (faithless) Jews. The new version is a prayer for the Jews to be faithful to the covenant God made with them, and for them to "attain the fullness of redemption." It does not say or imply that they need to convert to Christianity and be baptized.

          • Joe Ser

            I am not up on this. But, what does redemption mean in this context.

          • This is just my personal opinion, but I believe the prayer was made deliberately vague, or perhaps "deliberately less specific" would be a better way to say it. And I think that was not merely for the sake of "politically correctness" (although the prayer did offend the Jews) but because Benedict believed the Jews were in God's hands, and that it was not the job of the Catholic Church to try to convert them to Christianity.

          • "Benedict believed the Jews were in God's hands, and that it was not the job of the Catholic Church to try to convert them to Christianity."

            >> God help Him if he believes this.

            What is one hundred per cent certain is that Benedict never *taught* this, using his Apostolic authority.

            " I believe the prayer was made deliberately vague"

            There is some truth in this.

            The terrible scourge of modernism includes what Romano Amerio, in his stupendous work "Iota Unum", refers to under the heading "circiterism", a habit in writing and speaking (and therefore of thinking) which desires to endlessly circle around a thing, never arriving at it.

            Amerio, interestingly, identifies Giordano Bruno as the proximate originator of this well-known tactic of the heretic, but also, of the merely confused and/or excessively diplomatic.

            It is incredibly difficult for the orthodox to deal with, since the Holy Ghost did not promise to protect the Church from ambiguity.

            Only from binding the faithful to error in matters of Faith or morals.

          • >> God help Him if he believes this.

            Your concern for the pope emeritus and former prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is quite touching. If there were only something more you—who apparently see things with a clarity he lacks—could do to prevent him from falling into error.

          • It would seem, first of all, that it would be necessary for you to prove what you have alleged.

            We have already established that no magisterial act of Pope Benedict contains what you say He believes.

            I now challenge you to provide evidence that he actually believes it in any way at all.

          • The new prayer is also a prayer for the conversion of the Jews, since the covenant in view is the New Covenant, which they do not possess, since we are praying for them to come to the fullness of redemption which they presently lack.

            It is quite easy to see why the representatives of Judaism were so very unhappy with Pope Benedict for upholding the Catholic Faith which they do not accept, and which they would, understandably, be quite happy were the Pope to repudiate in an official exercise of His Apostolic Authority.

            Of course this is impossible.

            It will never happen until the end of the world.

          • Joe Ser

            If one finds themselves in heaven it will have been through the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church, Christ founder for that very reason. How if happens, we leave to God's mercy as He is the only one who knows our heart.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So according to you, 3/4 of the people alive on the planet today are damned to eternal torment?

            Good to know.

          • We have no idea what proportion of humanity will be saved, Ms. O'Brien.

            But we have a valid basis upon which to be wary of any presumption that the proportion is even so large as you suggest:

            "And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: [24] Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able. [25] But when the master of the house shall be gone in, and shall shut the door, you shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying: Lord, open to us. And he answering, shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are."

          • Joe, that isn't the whole truth. It is not, in itself, false, but it fails to provide the entire truth of the Catholic gospel on salvation, and hence, like so much of the bomfoggery that emanates these days from the formerly militant, confident, certain, and unambiguous Catholic Church, it just sort of sits there, effectuating no challenge, no call to conversion.

            Here is a very important part of the the whole truth, which is not present in your formulation above, and which every human being *must hear*:

            Council of Trent
            Session VI

            CHAPTER IV.
            A description is introduced of the Justification of the impious, and of the Manner thereof under the law of grace.

            By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And **************this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.***************

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I wish you would stop quoting, on a site devoted to dialogue with atheists, a statement you don't understand. that seems to say (but doesn't actually--if properly understood), "Bugger off, atheists, you're all going to hell!"

            Many different Catholic doctrines say "X" is necessary for salvation. All are true but all must be properly understood as the Church understands them.

            The Church is necessary for salvation. So is Jesus Christ. So is grace. So is baptism. So is faith.

            Nevertheless, persons can acquire salvation without being explicitly aware of the Church, or Jesus Christ, or grace, or baptism, or faith.

          • "Bugger off, atheists, you're all going to hell!"

            Astonishingly, this is Kevin Aldritch's allegation of what the sacred dogma of the Catholic Church means.

            Or seems to mean.

            Or something.

            What is certain, is that the Catholic Church has infallibly defined the following:

            "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not onlypagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the "eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."

            This is Catholic dogma.

            It does not so much as suggest, by way of meaning:

            "Bugger off, atheists, you're all going to hell!"

            This is a grotesque disfigurement of Catholic dogma.

            It is the kind of grotesque disfigurement of catholic dogma one might have expected to be blithely tossed off by an atheist.

            Instead it is tossed off by Kevin Aldritch, who apparently is not able to give this dogma the assent of Faith, and is wishing that Rick DeLano wouldn't either.

            Kevin, I decline to receive your rebuke here.

            I intend to defend all Catholic teaching to the utmost of my ability.

            If it's all the same to you.

            Or even if it isn't.

          • "The Church is necessary for salvation. So is Jesus Christ. So is grace. So is baptism. So is faith."

            >> Why you sound almost as if you are saying "bugger off atheists, you're all going to hell".

            Just kidding.

            "Nevertheless, persons can acquire salvation without being explicitly aware of the Church, or Jesus Christ, or grace, or baptism, or faith."

            >> False.

            It is impossible to acquire salvation apart from baptism, or the desire for it.

            This desire must include a *conscious and willful cooperation with supernatural grace*.

            Faith is not an unconscious, vague, fluffy kind of thing.

            Faith involves *necessarily* BELIEF IN GOD.

            From the letter of the Holy Office in the Feeney affair:

            "Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: "For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): "Faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children" (Denzinger, n. 801)."

            Your understanding of Catholic dogma is simply wrong, Kevin, and this is demonstrated again.

            God forbid that a Catholic website should lie to atheists about what is necessary for salvation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rick,

            You keep quoting that definition but you don't quote or discuss any of the other Magisterial writings which clarify what is necessary for salvation.

            I am not saying the Church is telling atheists to 'bugger off." I am saying that is how I imagine atheists will take it if you do not fully explain what the Magisterium of the Catholic Church teaches is necessary for salvation.

            I'm asking you to defend the whole teaching of *extra ecclesiam nulla salus*.

          • I have fully addressed what the magisterium teaches concerning salvation, Kevin, and I have crucially corrected your completely false assertion that the magisterium teaches that faith is not required, or can be unconscious, both of which assertions are false.

            Your allegation that I have not included the entirety of magisterial teaching on the question is dramatically false, since I have explicitly addressed:

            1. Dogmatic definitions
            2. Non-dogmatic developments of conciliar teaching at Vatican II
            3. Non-dogmatic developments of concliiar teaching in the Catechism
            4. Non-dogmatic developments of pre-conciliar teaching in the Holy Office letter to the Archbishop of Boston concerning the Feeney affair.

            I have shown that all such teaching is consistent with the original dogma.

            Which is what Catholics are supposed to do.

            You have proposed that Catholic dogma "might be taken to mean" some absurd thing such as "Bugger off atheists. You're all going to hell."

            I have demonstrated that such a grotesque mischaracterization of the sacred dogmas of our Faith is not only false and malicious, but should be expected from an atheist, not a Catholic.

            I have, lastly, definitively, and from authoritative documents, shown your understanding of the Catholic dogma "no salvation outside the Church" to be wrong; precisely, it denies the necessity of conscious FAITH on the part of the human person in order for that person to be justified.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you are saying "conscious FAITH" is necessary for salvation, I'll just quote two sentences from "Lumen Gentium" 16 to you:

            Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.

            In neither case do the persons described have conscious faith. They have "unconscious" or implicit faith. The Church is saying that if they really knew God and the Faith, they would have conscious Faith.

          • There is nothing in LG 16 which contradicts the catechism, and the letter of the Holy Office, both of which in turn reference the infallible dogmatic definition of Trent concerning justification, which in turn references the absolutely inerrant Word of God.

            Citations are provided, yet again, in hopes that at some point you will address them:

            Catechism #155 : "In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: "Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace."27

            Catechism # 161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore ****without faith no one has ever attained justification*****, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"43

            Notice, please, that faith involves an ACT OF THE INTELLECT, and that no one has ever attained justification without faith.

            Your contrary proposition is conclusively refuted.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rick, the passages you quote from the Catechism are describing the nature of the act of explicit faith that the Christian makes.

            I would suggest you read the entire section in the Catechism under "Outside the Church there is no salvation (846 ff.) but I already have and it had no effect on you.

            I would only suggest you approach a real theologian with the same question since you are utterly certain you are right.

          • Joe Ser

            Sure - these are human descriptors of something we cannot fathom -life without God. Actually, Jesus spoke about hell just about more than anything else. I suggest we listen. We can agree hell is not something we wish to experience in this life or any other.

            That is why we seek love.

          • primenumbers

            "something we cannot fathom -life without God" - actually we can and it's just fine. Indeed, getting back to the point of the article we cannot imagine a loving God with all the evil under his responsibility, including the eternity of torture and punishment that is hell, where a so-called loving God makes humans unable to believe in him, then punishes them for refusing to provide good evidence for his existence.

          • Joe Ser

            No you can't. You weren't born in a vacuum. Even though you don't believe in Him He is present. Our limited intellect cannot process it. It is irrational not to be open to the possibility of God.

            Because of my personal experience I fear life without God. Yes fear. It is terrifying.

            Are you making a distinction between empirical proof and evidence?

            If God created conditions and laws He would be unjust for you being able to negotiate a better outcome, but I couldn't? In a court of law when you see this happen most people are outraged they didn't receive equal treatment.

            You are unable to believe in Him? You have a genetic defect of some sort?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No you can't.

            Yes, I can. Joe, calling other people liars isn't good form.

            You weren't born in a vacuum.

            RIght. I was born in an airplane.

            Even though you don't believe in Him He is present.

            Without evidence, that's just an assertion, and therefore can be ignored. How do you know he exists?

            Our limited intellect cannot process it. It is irrational not to be open to the possibility of God.

            How good it is that I am not irrational.

            Because of my personal experience I fear life without God. Yes fear. It is terrifying.

            Fear seems to drive most of your life. How sad.

            Are you making a distinction between empirical proof and evidence?

            Since they are not the same, yes.

            If God created conditions and laws He would be unjust for you being able to negotiate a better outcome, but I couldn't? In a court of law when you see this happen most people are outraged they didn't receive equal treatment.

            This is simply too incoherent to reply to.

            You are unable to believe in Him? You have a genetic defect of some sort?

            I have no genetic defects that I'm aware of. But you do - you believe in god.

            See how easy it is to throw around claims without evidence?

            Prove that atheism is caused by a genetic defect. Put up or shut up.

          • Joe Ser

            You think you can. An evo mind though cannot be sure of anything. Or are you admitting absolute truth exists?

            I know He exists through reason and personal experience.

            Copout.

            You have 200 or so more mutations than your parents, and 400 or so more than your grandparents. And as you well know 99.9999% of mutations are deleterious.

            Prove that you are rational.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            A theist mind cannot be sure of anything, either, Joe. I'm sorry that's a hard truth to learn, but it's truth, nonetheless.

            And your personal experience is not evidence. Unless you're willing to acknowledge that a Muslim's personal experience and reason is proof of Allah.

            And a Hindu's personal experience and reason is proof of Trimurti.

            And....

            Joe, Joe, Joe. You have 300+ more mutations than the prior generation. That's all. No defects; just differences.

            I know I'm rational by personal experience and reason. :-)

            According to you, that's all I need to show that I'm completely right.

          • primenumbers

            Come now.... Your in-abilty to accept an honest answer is fatal to the openness of the discussions we have here. We can and do live and think with the practical certainty that there is no Christian God. Accept this and then we can continue our discussion, but to dismiss it means we can't go on.

            I can accept that you've had very real personal experiences that cause you to think differently to me. I don't deny your experience, but I can question what it means. You can certainly question what my experiences, thoughts and feelings mean, but you can't dismiss them. Got it?

            As for not able to believe - I have a very high epistemological threshold, I'm highly skeptical. That's the way I am. Some people will believe on very little, others it takes a lot. Think of doubting Thomas needing to poke in his finger.

          • Joe Ser

            I have no doubt you believe what you declare. Perhaps rewording would be better - you do not have the capability to really fathom a godless world because you live in a universe that has a God.

            I am a skeptic too. In fact St Paul advises us to test everything and retain what is true.

          • primenumbers

            "you do not have the capability to really fathom a godless world because you live in a universe that has a God." - well that's just it, isn't it. You think there's a God, but you seem oblivious to the fact that there is none, and the very concept of a God your religion proposes makes little or no sense and is full of contradictions that preclude it actually existing.

            I'm pleased your skeptical. I just don't see how that works with religious belief.

          • Joe Ser

            There are enough philosophical and theological reasons for me to cast my skepticism behind. In addition, personal experience. I really like the love of God and my belief in Him. I have great hope and joy. What are you hopeful for? Not much since you just wink out.

          • primenumbers

            So you're only skeptical of other religions, not Christianity because you're pre-disposed to it? Yes, I know you say there are philosophical reasons, but most people don't believe because of them, and most professional philosophers must find the arguments flawed because they're mostly non-believers. Certainly all the philosophical arguments I've looked at have flaws in them of the kind that wouldn't exist if God did. If God existed, he'd be self-evident, make complete sense and there would not have been a period in time when we all didn't believe in the one correct religion that would be utterly unambiguously revealed to us. I'm not sure there are theological reasons, as theology pre-supposes a belief in God before it begins. If you were being skeptical, you'd look at the philosophical arguments in more detail. I think you would also see that the problem of evil causes your God belief such serious issues as to really doubt your conclusion.

            Life only has meaning because it's short. Can you even begin to imagine eternity? What motivation would there be to do anything?

          • Joe Ser

            There are plenty of professional philosophers who defend God. It seems Dawkins wants to steer clear.

            Been there done that.

            It boils down to the three great religions. The others don't even have God. You know that to be true otherwise you would be in the buddhist forum.

            Atheists know full well. Catholicism or atheism are the only choices.

          • primenumbers

            "There are plenty of professional philosophers who defend God" - sure there are - but there are vastly more that don't. Doesn't that make you think the arguments are not as cut and dried as you purport them to be? If you were skeptical, you'd think again.

            "It seems Dawkins wants to steer clear" - red herring!

            "The others don't even have God" - oh how you dismiss them.

            "You know that to be true otherwise you would be in the buddhist forum" - I was raised CofE.

            "Catholicism or atheism are the only choices". - so why are you not an atheist if those are the only choices? You've claimed skepticism but demonstrated otherwise. If you were honestly skeptical you'd be an agnostic. You think Catholicism is a valid choice when all the philosophical arguments you think are so great if valid show deism, not Catholicism.

          • Joe Ser

            I am skeptical of atheist rationality.

            Partial truths are good in and of themselves. But a serious search for the truth will take you where the "fullness of truth" exists.

            Move beyond philosophy and into theology. Then you get to the God of Abraham.

          • primenumbers

            So as I thought, you're only skeptical of those you're predisposed to disagree with. That's not being skeptical, but engaging in confirmation bias.

          • Joe Ser

            Life's journey takes us on different paths. I still am skeptical and try to test everything that comes my way. My experience now makes me skeptical of atheist rationality. Speaking of confirmation bias - how do a priori beliefs influence the human reasoning of science?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which a priori beliefs are you offering, Joe?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            A serious search for the truth doesn't lead to god.

          • Joe Ser

            That is your faith.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't have faith, Joe. That's your problem.

          • Joe Ser

            you have faith in the god of BUC

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            BUC?

          • Joe Ser

            You know him. the god of blind unguided chance.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There is no such god, and I have no faith in gods that do not exist.

            A mite confused here, aren't you?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I see that evolution is complicated for you, Joe, so let's try to simplify.

            Imperfect replication, heritable, and coupled with a non-optimal environment must inevitably produce winners and losers. Reproductive winners and losers, you understand (which is the whole problem behind that ridiculous survival of the fittest nonsense).

            We have no evidence of any factors involved in selection save variable reproductive success in an environment.

            If you want god to have skin in the game, you're going to have to produce evidence. No one has found any to date.

            Ball's in your court, child.

          • Oh, no, Ms. O'Brien.

            That is not in any way at all Joe's problem.

            It is your problem :-)

          • primenumbers

            "I am skeptical of atheist rationality." - or of rationality at all it would seem, being reliant on faith for your knowledge.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,

            I assume you think you have said something profound here.
            Let me disabuse of that notion right now.

            I am skeptical of atheist rationality.
            Not profound, and already something we guessed.

            Partial truths are good in and of themselves. But a serious search for the truth will take you where the "fullness of truth" exists.
            We don't have truth, we have approximations of truth, if by truth we mean a picture of reality as it really is. You also seem to be assuming that atheists are not engaged in a serious pursuit of the truth. Unfounded and untrue. Do you think Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, Jerry Coyne, Natalie Angier, Carolyn Porco, John Loftus, the late Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and countless others are not engaged in a serious pursuit of the truth?

            Also fullness of truth is a meaningless phrase that merely sounds profound. Its sloppy language.

            Move beyond philosophy and into theology. Then you get to the God of Abraham.

            What you mean to say, is move to where one's assumptions and premises are never questioned, and you are free to imagine things, unconstrained by the evidence, and that will get you to the god of Abraham.

          • "Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not."

            Every scientist who has ever made an original discovery of principle knows exactly what the above words mean.

            Ask Einstein:

            "All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. I believe in intuition and inspiration.... At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason."

            So Joe and Einstein sit on one side of the epistemological table, and you sit on the other, Max.

            Guess what?

            Your side is sterile, barren, fruitless, and hopeless.

            It provides us nothing at all.

            The atheists constitute no threat to the Church, or to the scientific discoverers.

            Atheists cannot live in the world they create for themselves.

            This is because the world they create for themselves outlaws faith, and it is by faith that we obtain all actually new knowledge.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            One of these days you really ought to consult a dictionary prior to firing off a post wherein you assert the meaning of words.

            "Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not."

            Every scientist who has ever made an original discovery of principle knows exactly what the above words mean.

            Ask Einstein:

            "All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. I believe in intuition and inspiration.... At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason."

            So Joe and Einstein sit on one side of the epistemological table, and you sit on the other, Max.

            Actually Rick, Einstein sits with me, if he can be said to sit with anyone. The reason for this is pretty simple. Inspiration and intuition are not synonyms for faith. Which you would know if if you adopted a more precise, possibly more sterile , and barren use of language.

            Actually if this really is a quote from Einstein, I am kind of in disagreement. All great achievements in science begin with a sound grasp of one's subject matter, its fundamentals. Bill Hamilton could not have vaulted us forward in evolutionary biology with out his sound grasp of his discipline. Sound intuition can only be built upon robust knowledge. To make an analogy. I am a very intuitive Brazilian Jiu Jitsu player. I sorta know what most of my opponents are going to do and can feel by their action what would be the best next move for me. This only comes from having a very robust knowledge and skill in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. People who don't have this, newbies, also have intuition about what to do on the mat, but they are all wrong because only knowledge can fuel good, productive intuition.

            Inspiration isn't faith either. It is also a product of knowledge, coupled with enthusiasm, and insight (and if it is good insight and inspiration, it will be produced by a robust knowledge of whatever craft or knowledge is possessed the inspired). Ed Wood was a deeply inspired filmmaker. Deeply intuitive too. He produced crap because he lacked the knowledge to produce decent films.

            Guess what?
            I'm sure you will tell me....

            Your side is sterile, barren, fruitless, and hopeless.
            It doesn't seem that way to me. Are you sure about this? Nothing barren here.

            It provides us nothing at all.
            Also not true. If atheists are right, our view provides a very necessary focus on the here and now, on the only life we get. It can free up Sundays. Or Saturdays, Or Fridays. Allowing one to pursue real and concrete pleasures, love, and truth and beauty and, of course, A pint of Guinness and a nip of Jameson.

            The atheists constitute no threat to the Church, or to the scientific discoverers.

            We certainly constitute no threat to the latter, atheists tend to dominate the demographics of the latter. But we are a threat to the Church as the growth of the "nones" indicates.

            Atheists cannot live in the world they create for themselves.

            This is because the world they create for themselves outlaws faith, and it is by faith that we obtain all actually new knowledge.

            Not true as I think I demonstrated above. Faith, I don't think this word means what you think it means. Certainly that is the case for intuition and inspiration.

          • Michael Murray

            It boils down to the three great religions. The others don't even have God. You know that to be true otherwise you would be in the buddhist forum.

            Oh be serious. How do you know he or she isn't in the buddhist forum as well as this Strange place ?

            Atheists know full well. Catholicism or atheism are the only choices.

            You owe me a new delusionometer. You just broke mine and I've had it on the least sensitive setting for this site.

          • Sage McCarey

            Ah, this is what it all comes down to isn't it? The egoist belief that there is an eternal life for my little ego. The impossible idea that "I" will cease to exist. What was there before "I" existed? As an atheist/Buddhist I am not terrified about what happens after I die. It will be fine. It was fine before I was born into this world of mystery; it will be fine after I die.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We fathom life without god all the time, Joe. I'm an atheist, remember? I lack all belief in god.

            And are you really trying to tell me that you seek love solely from fear?

          • Joe Ser

            You cannot because you exist in a God frame.

            No. But, the thought of eternity without any love is terrifying.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Joe, I am an atheist. I lack all belief in god. I live in a godless frame all the time.

            Every day. 24/7.

            And I'm not afraid. But you are. Why is that, Joe?

          • Joe Ser

            Something you cannot prove.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            the "atheist" critique of the concept of hell in this forum is often a critique of the Biblical fundamentalist conception.

            There was a time not so long ago when I thought that Catholicism was a more mature, more intellectually rigorous Christianity because it did not require me to accept nearly as many impossible things as does Protestant literalism.

            I'm increasingly coming to doubt that. More and more it appears to me that Catholic doctrine just papers over the absurdities and cruelties in the Bible, in order to sugar-coat the message it wants to deliver to skeptics.

            Deep down, I think the Catholic Church would love to return to the time when the Bible was only readable in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. A time when most of us - believers and unbelievers both - would know of "God's word" only what was delivered in the priest's weekly homily.

          • But this is of course an unevidenced belief, Vicq.

            ;-)

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Oh, quite so!

            ;-)

          • Deep down, I think the Catholic Church would love to return to the time when the Bible was only readable in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.

            Why do you say that? Could you give an example or two of things that cause you to believe that?

            There were always readings from the Bible at Mass, and the number was increased by Vatican II.

            Here's a chart!

            I think it is true, in general, that Catholics are a lot less inclined to read the Bible or belong to Bible study groups than Protestants. Certainly the Catholic Church reserves to itself the right to be the ultimate authority on what the Bible means. But it certainly doesn't discourage anyone from reading and studying the Bible. In the earlier part of the 20th century (and before), Catholic biblical scholars were so limited in what they were permitted to do that Catholic biblical scholarship was a vast wasteland. But that has changed dramatically, to the point where Catholic conservatives consider the New American Bible, authorized by the Catholic Bishops as the official American Bible and available on the web site of both the Vatican and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, to be full of heresy! Why would the Vatican and the USCCB make the Bible available on the web if they didn't want people to read it?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Why do you say that? Could you give an example or two of things that cause you to believe that?

            I don't think it would be difficult to cite every time a Catholic bloggers has said, "Never mind what the Bible explicitly says. Pay attention to what the church fathers and learned theologians have, over the millenia, explained to us about what it really means."

            It would not be difficult. But it would be time consuming.....

          • I don't think it would be difficult to cite every time a Catholic
            bloggers has said, "Never mind what the Bible explicitly says.

            But it is self-evident to all but the most "fundamental fundamentalists" that the Bible is not to be taken literally. I have never encountered a Catholic arguing, "Never mind what the Bible says." The Bible doesn't "say" anything. It must be read and interpreted. You seem to be disappointed that Catholics aren't fundamentalists. I think it is something to be celebrated that they are not.

            As I have said a number of times, some atheists here insist on reading the Bible like fundamentalist Christians and basing their critique of Christianity on that. While that may be perfectly legitimate when dealing with fundamentalists, it won't do when dealing with Catholics, because the contemporary Catholic Church is not made up of fundamentalists.

          • ZenDruid

            As I have said just once so far, but it bears repeating, is that Catholics follow the bible except when they don't.

            Corollary to that, my impression is that every dismissal of scripture is an ad-hoc reflex when beliefs are threatened.

          • Corollary to that, my impression is that every dismissal of scripture is an ad-hoc reflex when beliefs are threatened.

            It is not difficult to point out that some passages of the Bible are disregarded—we don't execute sorceresses any more—while other very nearby passages are cited as authoritative, such as the ones on homosexuality. I personally don't like to hear people claim "the Bible says" this or that (unless a direct quote is being given) because the Bible doesn't say anything. It has to be interpreted. But there are naive interpretations and sophisticated interpretations, and generally the arguments here from atheists are based on naive interpretations.

            I don't think the Bible, taken as a whole, gives a basis for morality. However, I do think parts of the Bible, for example, many of the sayings of Jesus, are worth studying and quoting.

            Even for atheists, the Bible has been an integral part of our culture. You don't have to believe it is the inspired word of God to recognize its importance.

          • ZenDruid

            I agree with Jefferson's treatment of the bible, and to paraphrase him, there are indeed diamonds of wisdom hidden in that dunghill.

            There is clearly a subset of Christians who take scripture literally, and wish to apply their literal interpretations to the world around them. As long as those wights have political influence, it behooves the humanists and freethinkers among us to line up with New Atheism in order to engage with them in the political realm.

          • Joe Ser

            A just God will respect free will choices.

          • Michael Murray

            What if God is not just ...

          • Then He would not permit free choices.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There is no actual evidence that god is just.

          • Joe Ser

            You will claim there is no evidence God even exists - unless you changed your mind of course. LOL You are trusting your evolutionary mind to inform you. Given the claim is the god of BUC is responsible how can you even know you are a rational thinker?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No one has ever presented me with a god concept that is both semantically and logically coherent. When someone does, I will entertain the idea and any supporting evidence.

            And evolution is exactly the reason the mind can be trusted: evolution would weed out minds that don't have an ability to grasp reality.

          • Joe Ser

            How can you know this? Perhaps it is a weakness of evo, a non rational mind.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That doesn't even make sense. A non-rational mind has little or no reproductive or survival advantage. It would be selected against.

            Are you quite sure you understand how evolution works, Joe?

          • Joe Ser

            No it wouldn't. All that is necessary is a mind that can survive. No rationality is required.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And how can a mind that doesn't notice the tiger sneaking up on it survive? Sure, the mind can tolerate some oddball fantasies - so long as they don't affect day to day living.

            Religion, for example.

          • Joe Ser

            Same as a mindless bird.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Mindless birds have religion?

            And I got news for you, Joe. Birds have minds. Some of them are smarter than people.

          • I think some of us are still waiting to be educated in the glory of basic neurology, Ms. O'Brien.

            I am still not certain whether your challenges in this regard are to be understood as polemical flourishes, or actual promises to address the science you wave your hands in the general direction of.

            I certainly know, as a matter of personal experience, that you have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to cosmology.

          • Seems to be a remarkably good argument for religious faith.

          • Joe Ser

            He has to be prefect just.

            Here are some things God cannot do:

            He cannot lie

            He cannot deceive

            He cannot be unjust

          • Michael Murray

            He doesn't exist.

          • Joe Ser

            You know this how?

          • Michael Murray

            It's just a wild assertion. You do hundreds so you have to let me have at least one. That would only be fair and your god likes fairness.

          • Joe Ser

            LOL

          • primenumbers

            But he can't be just because he is compassionate, which would mean he'd have to deliver a lesser sentence than perfect justice would demand. Perfect justice and perfect compassion are utterly incompatible - pick one - you can't have both.

            He does lie and deceive, and his biography shows a number of examples: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/god_lie.html and he deceives, like he tricked Abraham with demanding the sacrifice of Isaac.

          • Joe Ser

            refuted in the skeptics bible annotated refuted. The old athiest playbook was better, The new atheist playbook cannot compare.

            He is merciful. One only has to ask. But if one remains obstinate in their refusal He will grant them what they want.

            The Divine Mercy - good stuff there.

          • primenumbers

            God telling lies and deceiving as written in his biography is refuted is it? Bring it on.... Demonstrate it clearly and unequivocally.

            Perfect justice and perfect compassion are a well known contradiction. You can't just dismiss it. Remember, you're the skeptic.

          • Joe Ser

            A good Catholic commentary that dates to the understanding of the time might cure you. You do the work.

            God will not have perfect compassion on those who refuse it.

          • primenumbers

            And you completely fail to address the issue at hand. You know God lies and deceives because it says so in very plain language. You know that perfect justice and perfect compassion are incompatible, yet you insist your God has both. You put no cogent argument forwards to address the issue.

          • Joe Ser

            dig deeper.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            He did.

          • primenumbers

            If you can't defend your religious beliefs Joe, why hold them? The problem of evil and suffering has no good answers other than "God does not exist". Digging deeper I'd suggest that your modern, nuanced God is completely at odds with the anthropomorphic descriptions of him in the Bible and that there is no reconciling them. The God of the Bible lies and cheats, gets angry, changes his mind, cannot withstand the awesome power of iron chariots, meddles with people's minds to get his own way, is genocidal, is a child-killer, condones slavery and the beating of slaves. Your nuanced God does none of this and would laugh at your attempts to reconcile bronze age beliefs and stories with him (well he would if he existed).

          • Joe Ser

            God is perfect love. His creation is less than Him. Evil has to exist otherwise it would all be God.

            Bottom-line: I choose God no matter tyour diatribe. I choose Him over the god of BUC anyday.

            "Jacques Monod, who rejects as unscientific every kind of faith in God and who thinks that the world originated out of an interplay of chance and necessity, tells in the very work in which he attempts summarily to portray and justify his view of the world that, after attending the lectures which afterward appeared in book form, François Mauriac is supposed to have said: "What this professor wants to afflict on us is far more unbelievable than what we poor Christians were ever expected to believe."

          • primenumbers

            "God is perfect love" - equivocation and un-evidenced assumption.

            "His creation is less than Him." - contradicts notion of God's perfection and omnipotence.

            " Evil has to exist otherwise it would all be God." - therefore by creating, God has created evil, which couldn't be the act of a loving God. Good argument you have going here!

            "I choose God no matter tyour diatribe" - so you have faith. Faith is a poor epistemology. You are going to believe not just because of lack of evidence but in-spite of confounding evidence. That is hardly rational, is it?

            " far more unbelievable than what we poor Christians " - actually, what François Mauriac is doing here is called special pleading, in that the ridiculous claims of Christianity are somehow less believable than reality because he has a pre-supposed belief in his religion.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            God doesn't exist, Joe. That's the most likely thing. And god has no compassion anyway, or he wouldn't allow harlequin babies.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Any proof for those assertions, Joe? You're batting pretty low as regards evolution, can you do better with theology?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Apparently you've never read the bible.... God lies, deceives, and is unjust a great deal of the time.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,

            He has to be prefectly just.

            No he doesn't. How would you justify this claim with evidence? WHere do you get your information about this being?

            Here are some things God cannot do

            He cannot lie

            He cannot deceive

            He cannot be unjust

            I would argue that the god in the book of Exodus is deeply unjust, and deceitful (which is a species of lying).

            Exodus 12:29 demonstrates the maximum of unjust behavior (which had been built upon a deceit).

            12:29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.

            (In the NIV the captive in the dungeon is rendered female slave with her hand on the mill.
            In what way is this just? God visits murder and sadness not Pharaoh (who only denied Moses' request because God hardened his heart denying him free will in the matter.

            Again how is this just?

          • Joe Ser

            These are the Catholic dogmas:

            The Natural Knowability of the Existence of God

            God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty, by the natural light of reason from
            created things. (De fide.)

            The Existence of God can be proved by means of causality. (Sent. fidei proxima.)

            The Supernatural Knowability of the Existence of God

            God's existence is not merely an object of natural rational knowledge, but also an object of
            supernatural faith. (De fide.)

            The Nature of God

            The Knowledge of the Nature of God

            Our natural knowledge of God in this world is not as immediate, intuitive cognition, but a
            mediate, abstractive knowledge, because it is attained through the knowledge of creatures. (Sent. certa.)

            Our knowledge of God here below is not proper (cognitio propia) but analogical (cognitio
            analoga or analogica). (Sent. certa.)

            God's Nature is incomprehensible to men. (De fide.)

            The blessed in Heaven posses an immediate intuitive knowledge of the Divine Essence. (De fide.)

            The Immediate Vision of God transcends the natural power of cognition of the human soul, and
            is therefore supernatural. (De fide.)

            The soul, for the Immediate Vision of God, requires the light of glory. (De fide. D 475.)

            God's Essence is also incomprehensible to the blessed in Heaven. (De fide.)

            The Attributes or Qualities of God

            The Attributes of God in General

            The Divine Attributes are really identical among themselves and with the Divine Essence. (De fide.)

            The Attributes of the Divine Being

            God is absolutely perfect. (De fide.)

            God is actually infinite in every perfection. (De fide.)

            God is absolutely simple. (De fide.)

            There is only One God. (De fide.)

            The One God is, in the ontological sense, The True God. (De fide.)

            God possesses an infinite power of cognition. (De fide.)

            God is absolute Veracity. (De fide.)

            God is absolutely faithful. (De fide.)

            God is absolute ontological Goodness in Himself and in relation to others. (De fide.)

            God is absolute Moral Goodness or Holiness. (De fide.) D 1782.

            God is absolute Benignity. (De fide.) D1782.

            God is absolute Beauty. D1782.

            God is absolutely immutable. (De fide.)

            God is eternal. (De fide.)

            God is immense or absolutely immeasurable. (De fide.)

            God is everywhere present in created space. (De fide.)

            The Attributes of the Divine Life

            God's knowledge is infinite. (De fide.)

            God's knowledge is purely and simply actual.

            God's knowledge is subsistent

            God's knowledge is comprehensive

            God's knowledge is independent of extra-divine things

            The primary and formal object of the Divine Cognition is God Himself. (Scientia contemplationis)

            God knows all that is merely possible by the knowledge of simple intelligence (scientia
            simplicis intelligentiae). (De fide.)

            God knows all real things in the past, the present and the future (Scientia visionis). (De fide.)

            By knowledge of vision (scientia visionis) God also foresees the free acts of the rational
            creatures with infallible certainty. (De fide.)

            God also knows the conditioned future free actions with infallible certainty (Scientia futuribilium). (Sent. communis.)

            God's Divine will is infinite. (De fide.)

            God loves Himself of necessity, but loves and wills the creation of extra-Divine things, on the
            other hand, with freedom. (De fide.)

            God is almighty. (De fide.)

            God is the Lord of the heavens and of the earth. (De fide.) D 1782.

            God is infinitely just. (De fide.)

            God is infinitely merciful. (De fide.)

          • Max Driffill

            That copy and paste job fails in every single way to address any point I made.

          • Joe Ser

            You asked where we get our information about God. I posted the dogmas. These come from Revelation and experience. These are Catholic dogmas.

          • Max Driffill

            Well its nice to see all your thinking has been done for you.

          • Joe Ser

            Sure - I am certainly not the first one to come up with these questions. You neither. The same questions have come up over and over.

            Unless you have performed every science experiment, it has been served up to you. Seems we all are dependent on prior accumulated knowledge. Unless you of course are a special case. I would like to hear about it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Science can be verified. Revelation cannot.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,
            Again you don't have prior accumulated knowledge that can be tested by skeptical peers. You have a body of unjustified premises, and assertions. There is no indication that your knowledge has any objective merit. No more so than the reams of theology from Jewish and Muslim scholars.

            My reliance on the scientific method and the community of scientists is not faith, and nor am I particularly attached to any ideas produced by science. I do understand how the error correcting machinery of science works (hint not by heresy hunts and witch burning or arguments from authority). I read about things outside my area of knowledge, try my best to understand what the general scientific consensus is on a various subject (it is good that I have many friends in various disciplines to help me gauge this) and leave it at that. I am not bound to defend any particular hypothesis. Some of our ideas are bound to change with new evidence. I am not accepting anything on faith, but rather I am accepting the consensus provisionally. WHich seems much more reasonable than the approach you adopt.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And why should we accept them over Muslim revelation and experience. Or over Hindu revelation and experience. Or Taoist revelation and experience.

            Why should we accept that they are not the ravings of madmen?

          • Max Driffill

            Also, what you offered isn't information about god. It theology and that has never been demonstrated to have a real referent. By that I mean it is an imaginative, recursive discourse about a hypothetical being. There are however many such discussions about many such hypothetical beings and no recourse to external evidence to distinguish if any of the is a hypothetical being that actually exists in the real world (or is it outside the real world..). Your copy paste list doesn't establish any knowledge about even the particular god of your hypothesis until you can demonstrate the following.
            1. God like beings exist
            2. That this god like being conforms to Catholic predictions about said being.

            Until such time, that entire list can be safely and utterly discarded.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not in the least. God condemns to eternal damnation those who make choices he disagrees with. In what possible way is that 'respecting' choices.

            And you continue to avoid answering my questions.

            Why did god not create beings who freely, of their own volition, choose the right?

          • Linda

            I think he did. It's us. We just don't do it all the time. But we could.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, he didn't because we don't. But he could have.

          • Linda

            Are you saying that because I don't always choose the good I am incapable of making that choice? It seems like that would negate my free will.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not at all. You are perfectly capable of making the choice - within biological limits, of course.

            I am merely pointing out that god could have created beings who always and freely choose the right.

            You are not such an agent (well, you could be a saint, in which case I apologize.)

          • Linda

            I think I'm struggling with the always *and* freely. If you are designed to *always* do something, are you still doing it freely? Was this the definition of the angels? Or Mary perhaps? My understanding has always been that that's what gives our love of God its beauty: the fact that it isn't forced but freely chosen. The same reason it is always so overwhelming and fabulous to feel loved by someone else.

            And no apology necessary. I'm quite far from sainthood, as I'm sure my husband and children will attest (using most of yesterday as evidence). And I am now saying a prayer of thanks that they choose to love *me* still since I gave them very little to work with yesterday. :)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Please reread what I wrote. God could create moral agents who freely and always choose the right. God does not do so - this creates evil.

          • Linda

            Yes, God could create those beings (and I think they are the angels). But that leaves no room for failure or success really.

            God created us and gives us the free will to choose our actions. We create the evil through poor choices. We also create a lot of love and beauty through our good choices.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Actually, they are clearly NOT the angels. Satan was an angel, as I recall.

            None of the rest of what you posted addressed my point. I agree that as moral agents, we create evil. The point is that god need not have created us as moral agents who choose evil.

          • Linda

            I agree: God need not have created us the way He did. He need not have done anything at all.

          • Joe Ser

            God must find it useful in ways only He can know. But as for me my human experience of evil makes me run from it and toward good.

          • Joe Ser

            Evil exist like the 2nd law. The universe is deteriorating and we are in it. If there is light, there is darkness. If there is truth, there are lies.

            Those "moral agents" would be in a perfect place we know as heaven. Those who get there only choose right, aka God.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which has nothing to do with my point. Evil is unnecessary, given an omnimax god; therefore no such god exists. A simple problem of logic.

          • Max Driffill

            Linda,
            They are not choosing to love you. They admire your character, they appreciate your qualities and the joy that brings them in their life. Love, like hate and indifference are not choices one can make. I don't choose to love my kids it is not an act of will.

          • Linda

            Hey Max,
            I guess I disagree. I think we do choose to love or hate or be indifferent. At least with children I think we surrender to that love, give ourselves over to that overwhelming and wonderful experience.

          • Max Driffill

            Linda,

            Think whatever you like. It doesn't really jibe with human psychology. Indeed love has always been a sore spot and a threat in social systems where parents tightly control the sexual lives of (at least) their daughters. A trope in fiction over the centuries has been that of a young couple falling in love in violation of the wishes of their parents. Its an old problem. Love, while certainly a tricky concept, doesn't seem to be the kind of thing over which we, its victims have much control. You can chose whether or not to act on love, or whatever feeling you may be feeling, but the feeling of a thing is less under our control it seems.

            Our kids don't chose to love us. Our actions encourage or discourage love and affection. Most of us, at least initially don't choose to love our kids, our emotions and affections are high jacked by ancient drives, and we feel love for the kids pretty much from the get go (if we are parents of average emotional development). This is a more or less pleasant thing, but it also is full of stress and annoyance and worry. The love of parent for a child is not a universally awesome experience. There is a reason why research seems to demonstrate that couples without kids tend to be much happier than couples with kids. Kids are damn stressful. Anyway I digress, our loves seem less under our control than you care to realize.

            I think the experience of love may be one of our more over-rated emotional high water marks. It can and does cause massive amounts of pain. But it also brings joy and sex and companionship too. Are the bumps worth it? I don't know. In any event I am not wired in such a way as to be able to avoid falling in love and feeling love. Apparently neither are you.

          • Joe Ser

            Do you seek love?

          • Max Driffill

            Joe
            I can not say that I do. I have been lucky, and unlucky enough to happen in to love.

          • Joe Ser

            Well yes, to further clarify my prior post when I posted I chose to love my wife. Upon meeting her I fell in love. After that came the decision for love, for better for worse, in sickness and in health until death do us part.

            Being in love and deciding to love - deciding to love is sacrificial and unselfish. The greatest act of love is to lay down your life for another.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,

            When you use words it really helps if you use them in the way everyone else who doesn't have access to your brain understands those words. Having a conversation works only in that way.

            Well yes, to further clarify my prior post when I posted I chose to love my wife. Upon meeting her I fell in love.
            Not a choice this falling, it is a product of jibing well with another person, connection, and proximity. Thanks for agreeing.

            After that came the decision for love, for better for worse, in sickness and in health until death do us part.

            This is not choosing love in the way you earlier asserted. It is two people feeling that they want to be together for the rest of their lives and making this agreement official.

            Being in love and deciding to love - deciding to love is sacrificial and unselfish. The greatest act of love is to lay down your life for another.

            Non sequitur much?
            Being in love and deciding to make that love an attempt at life long commitment are not the same things. And they are not wholly unselfish, or sacrificial.

            Your last line doesn't really fit with the rest of our conversation and I take as a way to reference Jesus when it wasn't really called for.

          • Linda

            Good thoughts and much to mull over. Thanks!
            And to tie it back to the topic at hand: if God is love, and love causes pain, does this at all correlate with the idea that God permits evil? Is it part of love? (But then we just get back to the earlier criticisms of why He'd be so cruel, right?)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Exactly. If god is all-powerful, then god does not need to be cruel. Nor does god need to permit evil.

          • God is not cruel. God does indeed need to permit evil, so that human creatures can be saved in their freedom.

            It is all very simple, and no amount of replays are going to change how it ends.

          • Linda, if any of this stuff has you in any way at all bamboozled, let me suggest that you always examine the assumptions which underlie the assertions.

            "God does not need to permit evil".

            That is of course heresy.

            Why?

            Since God *does* permit evil.

            Why?

            Because God permits freedom.

            If we are not free, then we cannot sin.

            If we are free, then sin is a real possibility, until that time when we are definitively joined to God in the Beatific Vision itself, or in the purgatorial preparation for it.

            Now one can type over and over again:

            "God could make free beings who would not choose evil".

            But the assertion is self-contradictory.

            It refutes itself.

          • Linda

            Thanks, Rick. I'm fine with God permitting evil. Freedom to love, freedom to fail, freedom to forgive and try again.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Then you admit that god is cruel and evil. That's the first step towards understanding.

          • Linda

            No, God is love. He permits *me* to be cruel and evil. Fortunately He permits others to forgive me my failings (as I forgive theirs), and for all of us to love.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            If god is love, why does he permit evil? Why does he permit harlequin babies, and rape, and murder, and Justin Bieber? He does not need to do this.

          • In order to bring about a greater good, of course.

            "O felix culpa", remember?

            We are able to be saved, to go to heaven, because of Adam's sin.

            The greatest evil in all of history creates the greatest good in all of eternity.

            Imagine how furious this makes the devil.

          • Linda

            I had to look up harlequin babies -- oh my goodness! How heartbreakingly tragic! My heart is aching for those poor sweet babies! I don't know how things like that happen. I'm sure someone on this site has the scientific background to explain what has happened. But we can respond with love and compassion (as you obviously do).

            Murder and rape are cruel, and evil of our own making. Because we have free will we can choose to do terrible things. But there must be choices the rest of us can make to protect each other and prevent these things from happening.

            As to Justin Bieber, he is obviously the work of the devil. ;)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But why should they happen at all? God need not allow it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So god values free will more than good?

          • primenumbers

            "I'm sure someone on this site has the scientific background to explain what has happened" - no scientific explanation necessary as it's a direct God act, inflicting suffering on an innocent baby so that the parents can learn to be caring and compassionate.

            Your real heartache at learning of such babies is your basic human empathy at work. You know how you'd react and if you had a magic button to stop such a condition occurring you would press it every time.

            And the heartache is also the dissonance you feel with the concept you've been taught of about God being totally loving, and you cannot square the two - suffering of innocent babies and a loving God. You can't square it because it can't be squared. You can embrace either side. You can go with God and rationalize away the babies' pain and suffering, you can invent a higher good that God is investing in to make you feel better, just as Richard Swinburne suggested that the Holocaust gave Jews an opportunity to be noble and courageous. But such a route leads to more dissonance as for every new evil you read about you need a new rationalization of why. It's a never ending task....

            Or you could take the other side, and not have to lie awake at night worrying if you've somehow offended God and won't get into heaven, or what rationalization you'll have to come up with next to deal with more evil you've found.

          • Linda

            You are right about the empathy. I hope that those babies - and all babies - are protected and cared for, and know that people love them. I hope that their families also receive all the love and support that they need to deal with such a difficult situation. We must bring all compassion to them.

            As to the rest, you are mistaken. God did not inflict suffering on an innocent baby so its parents can learn to be caring. If you were taught this about God, I can see why you might have dissonance, or be losing sleep, or having to come up with a lot of rationalizations. I was not taught this, not am I having these problems and am unclear as to why you would assume I am.

          • primenumbers

            "God did not inflict suffering on an innocent baby so its parents can learn to be caring" - your God has the "magic button" mentioned that would remove their suffering, yet never presses it.

            "If you were taught this about God" - I was taught that God is meant to be all-powerful and loving. The suffering of babies is completely at odds with God.

          • Linda

            God is all-powerful and all-loving. All suffering should be at odds with God. But he sent His Son - fully human and fully divine - and allowed Him (and therefore Himself) to be crucified. He had the "magic button" and the soldiers pointed this out, taunting Christ as He died, to prove He was God and come down from the cross. Christ even cries out fromthe cross, "My God, my God! why have You forsaken me?" which sounds a lot like what everyone here is saying. God could have saved his Son as well. Instead, Christ suffered and died, and in this way joined in our suffering. God did not abandon Jesus on the cross; He was with Him in love the whole time. He is with us in love as well.

          • primenumbers

            Your answer doesn't address the issue. Your God, if he exists lets babies suffer now. He lets them suffer in pain and agony and stands by, not lifting a finger to help them. He must want them to suffer.

          • Max Driffill

            LInda,
            Murder and rape can be premeditated certainly. I think though that they are options open to certain people generally, but perhaps in contingent circumstances open to a greater number of people. But i'm not sure A. what you mean by free will, or B. that is implied in these heinous courses of action.

            Consider your own experience, (I imagine you are person of more or less average moral integrity) what would it take for you to commit an act of premeditated murder? If you are the more or less decent person I suspect you are, I am going to guess that the situation, that is the behavioral context of your act, would have to be pretty dire, and coupled with a belief that you had no other options. If a behavior requires a certain set of external factors how free is it? I cannot easily imagine myself committing cold blooded murder just out of the blue. Only if I frame it in some unlikely scenarios does it even seem possible (and these we might chalk to up to pre-emptive self-defense). Do you choose every single day not to murder and rape? I doubt these notions ever cross your mind.

            But there is another problem with any god's gift of free will. It seems morally unacceptable that the deity should allow one being's free will to horribly affect another person. WHy should the free will of a child murdering serial killer be allowed to end, and often horribly tortuously the lives of little kids? With an all powerful deity it seems like a better way could have been imagined.

          • primenumbers

            Good point, in the universe this proposed God has set up, the free-will of the evil and mighty vastly outweighs the free-will of the weak and innocent and moral. It's basically set up to give evil people all the advantages.

          • Linda

            Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt on being homicidal. :) You are right about me and I am having a hard time imaging the circumstances in which I could I could murder anyone. And I agree that it is horrible that serial killers target and torture children. I also believe there is a better way and that God has been trying to teach it to us for a while now. It starts and ends in love. We are free to choose it every moment of every day.

          • epeeist

            I had to look up harlequin babies

            You might also want to look up loiasis and its effects, then you might ask yourself could a perfectly loving god have created the Loa-Loa worm.

          • Max Driffill

            And this passes for reasoning?

          • severalspeciesof

            Because God permits freedom.

            is as much an assertion as "God does not need to permit evil".

          • Michael Murray

            Do you really think we choose to love people ? I don't think that at all. At least not the initial love. There has to be a basic psychological compatibility and interest. After that you choose to build a relationship I think. I couldn't imagine picking a person at random and choosing to love them.

          • Joe Ser

            I chose to love my wife. It was a conscious act.

          • Corylus

            Don't ever tell her that.

            Just sayin'

          • Joe Ser

            Why not? - I have.

          • Corylus

            Sometimes Joe we like to think (as well as intellectually realise) that our actions can effect others and lead them to performing actions / having reactions that they did not otherwise expect to do/have.

            If you do indeed love your wife it might be an idea to acknowledge her power. If she had no power earlier, and has power now, then that is fine, but there is no need to dwell on the difference.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,
            I doubt that but even if so, I suspect you would be an outlier.

          • Joe Ser

            Maybe it was her magnetic attraction that captured me and I cannot get loose.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,
            Having just read Mere Christianity, I have no desire to read another book by C. S. Lewis in my life.
            I am fairly certain you weren't choosing to fall for you wife. I think that just happened

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The work of a romantic medievalist. Long on rhetoric, short on theology.

          • Michael Murray

            And no apology necessary. I'm quite far from sainthood, as I'm sure my husband and children will attest (using most of yesterday as evidence). And I am now saying a prayer of thanks that they choose to love *me* still since I gave them very little to work with yesterday. :)

            One of the many great things I found about leaving the Catholic Church is that you get to leave behind a view of humans that is centred around "sin", "perfection", "sainthood" and start to be able to think about people as they are. We are complicated, messy, we have good days and bad days, we hurt people, we apologise, we pick ourselves up again, we love, we hate. It doesn't have to all have a thick of Catholic, "guilt" topping poured over it. Plus you get to stop going to confessional and you can take your problems to someone whose actually qualified to help.

            I just wish I could find something to wash the baptismal stain our of my soul. Nothing I use seems to work on it.

          • Joe Ser

            It seems there are some Catholic roots still there though.

            The confessional is a great tool and it is free. There is no one better at understanding human nature than the one who created it. Human reasoning is faulty and a good skeptic would see that.

            Once baptized always baptized. sorry...

          • Michael Murray

            There is no one better at understanding human nature than the one who created it.

            Let's accept for a moment that there was one who created it even though there isn't. It doesn't follow he understands it. If he set evolution going and let if run for a few billion years the result might well be beyond his understanding.

            Once baptized always baptized. sorry…

            There is a place down the road that does laser soul removal I'm going to try them.

          • Joe Ser

            The price is very expensive - your soul.

            Evolution by its nature is dependent on defects.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Absolutely false. Evolution is dependent on imperfect replication. Or variation, for those who like smaller words.

          • Joe Ser

            That is a defect.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            As I said, you don't understand evolution. Variant replication doesn't necessarily produce defects. It produces variations, some small portion of which are defective enough to prevent you from breeding. But most of which are neutral.

          • Joe Ser

            As I said they are defects. NS and mutations. Current science is showing that NS is a conservative process not a creative one. We now know DNA actively fights any mutations through several iterations. What does this mean? You are out of time.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            How are you defining 'defect', Joe?

            And current science never claimed that NS was a creative process. Mutation+NS is creative.

            And sure, there are built-in repair mechanisms in DNA. So what? You've got 300+ of those defects in you right now.

            Do you feel defective?

          • Joe Ser

            Oh yes it did, continuously.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Where? Cites? My guess is that you're misunderstanding your sources.

          • Joe Ser

            My guess is that you may have been. But we know that science is very provisional so what you are banking on today may not be so tomorrow.

          • Joe Ser

            Got more than 300. 2-300 per generation.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Um, Joe? You're one generation removed from the previous one. 300+ new mutations in you. Not much more - you're not that special.

          • Joe Ser

            reread your own post.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I did.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I've got plenty of time, Joe. You're easy. You need to get a bit more up to snuff on the science, but you're at least trying to think.

          • Joe Ser

            Trillions trillions of years? You may be not as current as you think.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            About 3.5 billion by last count, Joe. Where'd you get trillions of years?

          • Michael Murray

            The price is very expensive - your soul.

            As I'm a p-zombie I don't have a soul. So no cost to me.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Nonsense. You've got the best battery powered soul that money can buy. The leads usually attach to the Corpus callosum. Maybe you got your wires crossed

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Show me that a soul exists, Joe, then we'll talk.

          • Joe Ser

            You have been talking right along. lol The soul is the animating principle of life.

            It makes me wonder though if there are soulless people around us. Perhaps that accounts for the small number of atheists. Perhaps they are evolutionary left overs. Hmmmm - I will have to think about this a little deeper....

          • Laser Soul Removal............If they actually let Jeffery Skilling out of jail like they're saying, I would look for that one on the pink sheets pretty quick.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Such a pity that the 'one who created it' isn't the one in the booth.

          • Joe Ser

            He is there acting through the Priest. Try it someday.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            God isn't the one in the booth, Joe.

            And you're really fond of unsupported assertions, aren't you.

            Got any proof that god is acting through the priest?

            Didn't think so.

          • Joe Ser

            Got any proof He isn't. Or are you trying to prove a negative?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You made the assertion, child. You support it.

            You make a lot of assertions you can't back up, can't support, and can't even explain.

            You made the claim, you prove it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Try reading the bible straight through a few times and meditating over it. It certainly will clear your mind of religion.

          • Linda

            Interesting. I agree with you that people are messy and we should each other as we are and be forgiving with each other. But one of the things I like about being Catholic is the self-reflection required in the Confiteor and Confession, "in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and what I have failed to do." Confession is one of my favorite Sacraments (though of course it should not be a substitute for proper counseling). It always feels like a good cleansing and I feel unburdened when I go. I'm sorry to hear your experience was not as positive.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's religion for you. YMMV.

          • Joe Ser

            He respects your choice to not love Him. He is always facing you, but when you turn your back to Him why be upset that you are separated from Him.

            It sounds like making sure that a coin lands head by using a two headed coin.

            A little child sooner or later says to his parent "let me try it, then let me do it myself".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            He respects your choice to not love Him. He is always facing you, but when you turn your back to Him why be upset that you are separated from Him.

            A god who does not show himself, offers no evidence any different from the evidence of a dozen competing god, will condemn to eternal torment and horror anyone who fails to grovel at his feet - all the while insisting that your free will is more important than suffering, cruelty, pain, and evil.

            Right.

            It sounds like making sure that a coin lands head by using a two headed coin.

            Sounds more like a magician offering you to take a "card, any card" and if you draw the wrong one, he shoots you dead.

            A little child sooner or later says to his parent "let me try it, then let me do it myself".

            Any parent except a psychopath is more moral than god.

          • primenumbers

            What free will? An all knowing God completely decimates any concept of free will. Neither God can have free will (because he must be perfect and given his power and knowledge there can only ever be one optimum course of action at any point) and we can't have free will as God knows all that is going to happen.

          • Joe Ser

            I think you are referring to predestination? So I can get some basis - what do you believe the Catholic view of predestination is?

          • primenumbers

            I know you don't believe in the Lutheran God, who, quite frankly would be evil, but I don't see how you can dismiss their point of view either....

          • CrismusCactus

            "preternatural, love, pefection, wisdom, grace, sacrifice, etc, etc, etc..." until a rational person loses all interest.

            This is theist word salad. None of this nonsense means anything, and the "concepts" change meaning every time they're used.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which solves nothing in the POS/POE. God is not a human dentist; god could fix your teeth directly without pain or Novocain.

          • Michael Murray

            Sure God could create us as robots. That denies us free will.

            False dichotomy. Your god had options. The way human psychology works we are already to some extent robots. A lot of what we do is based on underlying instinct. We can override these but that can be quite difficult depending on how strong the instinct is. You can see this for example in Cardinal O'Brien in Scotland's failed attempts to not be an active homosexual. As our creator your god obviously chose the instincts and set the level of difficulty we would have over coming them.

            Why didn't she just turn down the aggression one a bit ?

  • Sanity_Inspector

    Fr Barron is not the first theologian to tie himself in knots in the
    effort to reconcile the existence of evil with that of an omniscient,
    omnipotent, and loving God. His solution, which implies that for
    example, a newborn baby should be afflicted with an agonising
    disease, in order to lend colour and contrast to the existence of
    the rest of us, is not one that I find satisfying.

    Once you jettison the idea of God, much of the difficulty vanishes. That
    kind of evil exists because the universe is what it is. It hardly
    needs any explanation. The other, very different kind of evil is
    human bad behaviour. Throughout human history there have been moral
    philosophers, prophets, augurs, who have spotted that there is a
    living to be made from conflating these two kinds of evil in the
    public mind.

    What exactly constitutes bad behaviour is another philosopher-knotting
    question. Catholics tend to believe in the existence of an absolute
    morality, rather as a mathematician might believe in the existence of
    a multidimensional space. But there are as many codes of morality as
    there are human societies, many of which, though wildly different,
    may be internally self-consistent and provide a set of rules which
    permit people to live in varying degrees of peace and comfort. That a
    particular code could be absolute and unimprovable seems to me
    absurd. To a Muslim it may seem perfectly moral to stone an
    adulterous woman to death. To a Catholic it may seem moral to allow a
    mother to die rather than abort a foetus. To me, both these
    attitudes appear immoral- but no doubt I hold principles which would
    appal them both

    The point is that moral codes are no more than local agreements, which
    emerge from primitive societies because man has a low tolerance for
    chaos. He generally prefers life under a tyrant to anarchy. Morever,
    they are not only local, but transient. What was immoral yesterday
    may be moral today.

    A difficulty for the societal architect is - enforcement. The
    individual in most societies has a choice in the degree to which he
    will, for personal advantage, inflict cost on his fellow-citizens.
    Will he drop litter? Will he murder? Societies develop systems of
    sanctions to influence this choice. Police and legal sanctions are
    one solution, but predicted damnation is nearly as effective, and
    much cheaper, though it demands a support structure of belief which
    is easier to achieve and maintain before science interferes. These
    systems tend to coalesce in societies with state religions, and both
    provide livings for professionals. It appears to me that these
    factors account pretty well for the existence of organised religion.

    It seems to me that to explain the existence of evil, (particularly the
    tabloid idea of evil, which seems to be some kind of viscous slime,
    oozing from bad people), is really not that difficult, if you shine
    the light of Game Theory on it.

    I am sorry that these musings have turned into an essay. I will now
    retire and await the hail of brickbats.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      I think that's very well phrased. Thanks.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It must feel good to have the answer to every question, so you can silence those who you claim have the answer to every question.

    • Joe Ser

      Or that God lifted the suspension of the 2nd law.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        No evidence.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    It seems to me that the one and only topic of Strange Notions should be whether God exists. "God does not exist" is the only thing atheists and agnostics hold in common.

    It seems pointless to me to discuss with atheists "suffering in light of God's existence" when suffering is a problem only *if* God exists.

    If Catholic apologists could demonstrate that the existence of physical and moral suffering is compatible with the notion of God's power, knowledge and love, I think atheists would just say, "So what? That does nothing to prove God exists."

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      The irony is that many - probably most - atheists don't hold that god exists. They simply don't believe he exists. An important difference.

      But I do agree that most of the 'discussion' taking place on here is of little value in helping atheists and theists understand each other or even lay the groundwork for serious discussion.

      And a resolution to the POE/POS is possible without demonstrating god's existence.

    • Joe Ser

      Agnostics will say they are not convinced, but open. Atheists are more militant.

      The flatlander is I think a good example. If you were a 2d guy living in a 2d world and a sphere passed through your plane you would first see a point but then it would get bigger and bigger and then shrink down again. What are we to make of this?

      But say after the circle phenomena came and went your were told from outside the frame what it is that happened. Now science and skeptics would be saying there is no third dimension, so it is impossible. They would demand the sphere present itself for lab table experiments. If it didn't they would conclude it did not exist, it couldn't exist.

      Theologians would say it happened and it was a real event they experienced and we were told something about it. From this data they would draw some conclusions.

      Trying to understand God is similar. Trying to understand His ways from a 2d perspective is hard.

      • josh

        If you were aware that physicists are currently searching for evidence of extra dimensions and that one can treat these things correctly with mathematics, you might realize that this is a bad argument. Atheists aren't bothered by 'hard', we are bothered by 'clearly wrong' and 'not at all supported by the available evidence'.

        • Joe Ser

          You would accept a mathematical construct without any empirical proof? How is that faith any different? Multi-verses (the escape clause for fine tuning) isn't ever going to be proved. Why not ask of the multiverse the same thing you ask of God? Prove yourself to me.

          • primenumbers

            What fine tuning? The vast majority of the universe by such an almost unbelievable margin is utterly hostile to life. If that's fine tuning for life then I'm a banana.

          • Joe Ser

            There are almost 30 fine tuned parameters. More are discovered as we go along. Physicists are not denying fine tuning why are you? I am curious.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There is no fine tuning. The fact that certain parameters exist is not a sign they were set to produce us.

            Mathematical failure.

          • Joe Ser

            I think you should make this declaration to the physics community.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Since you admit you know nothing of science, you might want to stop relying on popular articles and turns of phrase.

            You'll deceive yourself that way.

            Scientists are interested in why certain values in the universe are what they are. The fact that we exist, given those values, is 1.

          • ZenDruid

            We have been fine-tuned (by hundreds of millions of years of trial and error) to fit a ridiculously small speck of dust in the universe, not the other way around.

          • VelikaBuna

            That is a statement of faith.

          • ZenDruid

            It is a statement of converging lines of evidence from the cosmological, geological and biological disciplines. A statement of high confidence, in other words.

          • VelikaBuna

            The interpretation of evidence would be more accurate statement. Evidence does not interpret itself, but people give meaning to it.

          • ZenDruid

            Name them.

          • Joe Ser

            You are kidding right? I will glady help out with theology and Catholic teaching where I can, but you guys should know this science stuff. RIght?

          • ZenDruid

            I call shenanigans. Don't use numbers unless you're willing to support them.

          • primenumbers

            I see no evidence that the universe if fine tuned for life by such orders of magnitude that your argument is laughable. Fact is though, that a super-naturally created universe created by an all powerful God wouldn't need fine tuning. So you're stuck - if the universe is in need of fine tuning that denies an all powerful supernatural creator as it's source, and if there's no fine tuning, what need for God?

          • epeeist

            Physicists are not denying fine tuning why are you?

            Physicists hate having to introduce parameters with arbitrary values, they are examples of what Marc Lange refers to as "unexplained explainers".

            But I am at a loss as to why you should call the introduction of such parameters "fine tuning", are you really saying that these cosmic dials were set specifically to produce us? This sounds like a significant piece of hubris to me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is what good old Wikipedia says about fine tuning:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe

            Fine tuning is one of the reasons the multiverse is being proposed.

          • primenumbers

            Think of it as a multi-pronged belt & braces attack on the problem. We can demonstrate there is no fine tuning for life while simultaneously attacking theists on the lack of need for God should they believe such fine-tuning occurs. Similarly I don't think there's any fine tuning, but do think, from a philosophical point of view that evidence of fine tuning would be evidence against an all-powerful supernatural entity having created the universe as what would be the need for them to fine-tune when they could have just make it right with no need for tuning at all?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "We" as in "atheists"?

            Whether or not the universe is fine-tuned for life is purely a scientific question.

            The second part of the argument, that God would not need to fine tune a universe if he created it, begs the question. Why not?

          • primenumbers

            We as in those people who wish to argue that there's no fine tuning. That's not necessarily atheists as some theists may take my point of view that a creator God would not need to use fine tuning, and hence they'd see fine tuning as representing evidence against their God.

            Because a system that needs fine tuning is not perfect. A perfect system stays in tune and needs no controls to alter the pitches to achieve a consistent tune scale that doesn't drift. Any evidence of actual fine tuning would therefore represent a system that needs fine tuning, a system that has some inherent imperfections necessitating need for fine tuning.

            I see the question as a statistical one whereby we can look at the volume of the universe capable of sustaining life (a small percentage of the volume of this one planet), human life being restricted to a small percentage of the surface area. Compare that to the volume of the known universe. That's why it's not fine tuned by vast orders of magnitude.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            >"A perfect system stays in tune and needs no controls to alter the pitches to achieve a consistent tune scale that doesn't drift."

            Are we talking about the same thing? Fine tuning is not a claim that God steps in from time to time and adjusts the tuning pegs of the guitar universe.

            It has to do with the actual, constant parameters of all kinds of physical forces.

          • primenumbers

            Fine tuning applies that there's an ability for the thing being tuned to be differently tuned than it is, or optimized for a different outcome. So fine tuning doesn't necessarily imply that the tuning is updated over time, but it does imply that the tuning is a variable that at has been set to particular values for a particular reason. Fine tuning does imply the ability to re-tune even if that ability is not used.

            SO my argument is that a perfect system doesn't need to be fine tuned, hence lacks the ability to be fine tuned - there are no variables, no contents, nothing to set to particular values to make it function as intended and hence no ability for those values to be any different than they are.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry, I don't follow you.

          • primenumbers

            That something is fine tuned implies that it's possible to fine tune the thing. Let's take an example you're familiar with - your God, who is perfect in every way. There's no way for him to be any different than he is, so there's no way to fine tune your God. It's nonsense to talk of a fine tuned God, because God lacks any fine tuning controls. If you build a God there's only one way for it to go together and it goes together perfectly.

            My record player is very well built, but it's not perfect. It has various controls built into it to allow you to fine tune many aspects of performance. That's how us less-than-perfect engineers build things, with controls to allow for fine tuning. Now unlike some record players, once tuned, my player doesn't drift and it stays tuned, but that doesn't stop the need for tuning controls.

            Now look at the universe. The theist suggests that the universe is fine tuned for human life. We don't see giant tuning knobs in the sky, but we do see some physical constants in the math of physics. For the universe to have been fine tuned for life, that must imply there's a method by which different physical constants could have been set, even if that method is beyond our reach or control. But even to consider a designer putting in those controls to allow for fine tuning is a very human practical engineering type thing, not a Godly supernatural perfect designer type thing. Fine tuning may be seen as a mark of design, but it's not the mark of a perfect all-knowing, all-powerful designer, but a practical engineer who is competent but not perfect, who has to deal with actual real-world circumstances.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I follow you. Thanks for rephrasing it.

            I disagree that the idea of fine-tuning comes from theists, but it's true that Christians see it as an argument for God. [Why do we keep calling them theists? Are there that many pure theists around?]

            I don't think we know enough about the universe and God to pass judgments of God's competence as designer.

          • primenumbers

            Why theists - because it's not an argument specific to Christians, but neither is it entirely deistic.

            "I don't think we know enough about the universe and God to pass judgments of God's competence as designer." - good answer. I can live with agnosticism.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't think we know enough about the universe and God to pass judgments of God's competence as designer.

            Why can't we just look at the design and notice all the things that are wrong ? Start with the human body.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why is it a scientific question? Fine-tuning implies that the current 'life' is an intended goal. This is primarily an artifact of perception, rather than fact.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My unscientific understanding of fine turning is that a whole lot of physical laws happen to be "set" in such a way that the life we enjoy could possibly arise.

            However, the mathematical probability that they would be set that way and that all of them would be set that way is so low statistically as to wonder how it could be possible.

            It seems to be so impossible that some cosmologists theorize there must be a mindboggling number of universes and this just happens to be the one in which the numbers worked out.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            As was said earlier, this may be a problem of terminology, more than anything.

          • Why is it a scientific question? Fine-tuning implies that the current 'life' is an intended goal.

            "Fine tuning" may not be the best term to describe what scientists discuss when they discuss the whether or not the fundamental physical constants are, by coincidence or design or whatever, all very close to what they need to be for life to exist, but it is the term that has stuck, and I don't think that it is necessarily the case that scientists who think the universe is fine tuned think the universe has been "intelligently designed" for life.

            If there really is a multiverse, it would make sense to say our universe was "fine tuned" for life, even though the reason would be our universe was just one of an untold number, and it would be no coincidence or miracle for at least one universe to be like ours. So as the term is used, a fine tuned universe does not require a "Fine Tuner."

            So it is a scientific question, in my opinion, as long as one doesn't read too much into the term "fine tuning."

          • epeeist

            What fine tuning?

            Of course the universe is fine turned.

            Just not for us. If anything it is tuned for black holes, there are more of them than us, they have been around longer and will still be here when we are long gone.

          • Michael Murray

            Does anyone when shortwave radios had a tuning dial and a fine tuning dial? Does anyone remember radios ? I must be getting old.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's not what he said. You gain nothing by misrepresenting his position. We do not accept mathematical constructs with empirical evidence. We demand evidence.

            You don't.

          • Joe Ser

            Then the multiverse is out?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Of course not. But the theorizing about the multiverse is based on evidence we have.

            Not revelation from someone who might be mad or lying.

          • primenumbers

            As pointed out above, I don't see fine tuning, so the multiverse is not necessarily an argument I'd use. If you want to learn more from someone who would use it, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew_cNONhhKI is a good video by Sean Carroll.

          • josh

            I just said scientists are looking for evidence. The mathematics is a model for understanding the evidence or lack thereof. Extra-dimensions are not considered demonstrated without evidence. Would that believers adopted the same standards for their religious assertions.

            Incidentally, multiverse ideas were not invented to deal with anthropic fine tuning and are not necessary to dismiss the argument.

          • Michael Murray

            Might be a bit awkward as the multiverse isn't a being so can't really be expected to answer back. The multiverse is a possible prediction of some cosmological theories. Physicists regard it as speculative. Not so Catholics apparently.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe Ser,

            You would accept a mathematical construct without any empirical proof? How is that faith any different?

            No one is accepting the model without evidence. What it remains is an interesting hypothesis. There is no faith involved here, just the appreciation of a sound hypothesis, that doesn't violate known laws of physics and seems promising.

            Multi-verses (the escape clause for fine tuning) isn't ever going to be proved. Why not ask of the multiverse the same thing you ask of God? Prove yourself to me.

            1. Multiverses are not the escape clause for fine tuning. That fact that we cannot demonstrate fine tuning is the refutation of fine tuning. It is a supposition and also unproven. What it is a few people who think the universe was fine tuned for life. I would argue, indeed have argued that this is simple solipsism. The people who make this case have not thought it through.

            2. Research on the multiverse and clever ways to test the multiverse hypothesis are being worked out by researchers. But no one holds that multiverse is true, or yet a valid explanation of anything. It remains a tantalizing idea. There are ways in principle that we could find the hypothesis confirmed, but we may never know what happened before our universe formed. But ignorance of that event and time period (if time can be said to mean anything there) does not justify a single ounce of religious certainty about the universe.

      • primenumbers

        "Agnostics will say they are not convinced, but open. Atheists are more militant" - No. Agnostics will say that we cannot, even in principle know about Gods or the supernatural and in general they'd be right. Atheists are not militant and your pejorative does your argument no good.

        • Joe Ser

          Theistic agnostics believe in God but do not believe that their understanding of God is knowable by natural means.

          • primenumbers

            Agnosticism to say that even in principle something cannot be known. Agnosticism is necessarily agnostic to the way of knowing used.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Uncommon claims require uncommon evidence. Otherwise, how do we distinguish you from a madman or liar?

    • primenumbers

      You're mostly right. I lack a belief in a deistic God (and you could probably say I'm agnostic), because there's not a good enough definition for one (not that many deists around it seems) to be shown to be logically contradictory in it's attributes. As for the Christian God as proposed here - he definitely does not exist as he's logically contradictory in many of his properties. I don't think agnostics believe that God doesn't exist - that'd be an atheist. An agnostic would say there's no way to know, and they'd be right. In general for deities and the super-natural there is no way to know. It's only when a theist proposes a deity with specific properties can we move beyond pure agnosticism.

      It's only pointless as the argument from evil and suffering is an argument to show that your Christian God doesn't exist as evil is contradictory to the various proposed properties of your God. You can reject the existence of evil and suffering, or you can reject those properties, but they can't be reconciled no matter how hard you try.

      "So what? That does nothing to prove God exists." - exactly. And for as long as there's been religion, the proof of deities has eluded us.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        In keeping with my own claim, above, I guess I should not try to show that the reality of evil does not rule out the Christian conception of God.

        One problem at a time.

        Catholic thinkers discovered the problem of evil and reasoned about it long before modern atheists arrived on the scene.

        • primenumbers

          "Catholic thinkers discovered the problem of evil and reasoned about it long before modern atheists arrived on the scene." - true enough - nearly 2000yrs and no real solution as of yet. The problem is this though:

          The theist can propose any rationalization they want to the problem of evil and suffering. They can invent any reason they want why their God would allow such evil and suffering, but they have no way of knowing if such a reason is actually true. They can take such reasons as they invent on faith if it allows them to sleep at night, but still there's that gnawing that all they've done is rationalize, and that their rationalization is ad-hoc and un-evidenced.

          So unless they can present a method by which the precise divine reason for any particular evil, evil in general, any particular suffering or suffering in general is a true reason, they're stuck. Knowledge of the mind of God is epistemological, resting on an ontological issue (the existence of God) which rests on our knowledge whether God exists - taking us back to epistemology. You lack a sound and reasonable epistemology, so you're rather stuck just taking everything to do with God on faith, both existence and reasoning, so let's discuss epistemology....

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You're basically saying Catholic philosophy and theology is BS.

            We needs some real philosophers and theologians to weigh in on that one.

          • primenumbers

            You said that, not me, but the evidence is that after all this time the only rationally acceptable solution to the problem of evil and suffering is the non-existence of an all-powerful good God. As for professional philosophers, most are atheist so I don't think you'll get the answer you're looking for from them.

            Either way, unless you just want an answer from authority, you need to address the issue of evil and suffering yourself. No amount of "what other people think" will help you.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            For myself, I don't see a big problem. To me it's only a problem because it is a stumbling block for others.

          • primenumbers

            It's a rather common big problem among Christians, or so I'm lead to believe. It's not really a stumbling block to belief, but a crack in the wall of faith that often leads to atheism.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          And have yet to resolve it successfully.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think they would say, many questions can be answered, but it is ultimately unresolvable by reason.

            Why does it have to be resolved in this life?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We have no evidence that there is another life. And according to the rules of the game set up by the church, the problem MUST be resolvable.

          • We have no evidence that there is another life.

            I wouldn't say we have no evidence. I'd say we have no proof. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander is evidence, though not proof, as the title claims. That, in my opinion, is what makes these questions so frustrating. There is a lot of evidence, but a lot of it is questionable, and none of it adds up to proof.

            How many of us haven't had some experience, or at least known someone who had an experience, that was inexplicable. I remember when I was a teenager still living at home, I had a dream that I walked into the living room of of the elderly woman we had lived next door to prior to our last move. In the dream, I saw her lying in a casket with candles all around her. I got up that morning and told my family she was going to die. A few days later, she did. Yes, it was probably a coincidence, but it was not the usual kind of thing I dreamed about, and I had no way of knowing anything about the former neighbor, since my family barely kept in touch with her.

            So I would say there is a lot of evidence that "supernatural" things happen, but putting it all together, it doesn't quite add up to proof.

            On the other hand, as I grow older and have lost a number of people to whom I was close, I have absolutely no "sense" of their continued existence. I am surprised I don't, if only as some kind of emotional feeling or even superstition. I asked my older sister, and she says the same thing. Now, I know that some people who lose loved ones have a distinct feeling that lost loved ones continue on somewhere, and some claim to feel their presence at certain times, or even see them and converse with them. I believe that is rather common actually, and I certainly wouldn't scoff at someone who told me they felt that way. But again, I have no such feeling. My "sense" is that once people die, they utterly cease to exist. But feelings one way or the other don't prove anything at all. Now, if a long lost uncle would come back from the great beyond and give me this week's winning PowerBall numbers and I won $60 million, I think that would be pretty convincing.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The problem is that we can't guarantee what these experiences are; it's whether they can be legitimately considered evidence. As it stands, we can classify them as data looking for an explanation - of which there are several far more probable than an afterlife.

          • severalspeciesof

            I wouldn't say we have no evidence. I'd say we have no proof. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander is evidence, though not proof, as the title claims.

            First a NDE is not even evidence, it is only a personal experience. Second, this book has been fairly criticized: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-near-death-experience-isnt-proof-heaven

            From the article: "[Oliver] Sacks concludes that “the one most plausible hypothesis in Dr.
            Alexander's case, then, is that his NDE occurred not during his coma,
            but as he was surfacing from the coma and his cortex was returning to
            full function. It is curious that he does not allow this obvious and
            natural explanation, but instead insists on a supernatural one.” "

            Glen

          • Max Driffill

            DavidN,
            I've had the experience of seeing my body from an impossible angle accompanied by the telescoping darkness that created the familiar light at the end of the tunnel. I was in no danger of dying. I failed to tap to a blood choke on the mats. There were a suite of weird sensory images as I came to. The experience is quite common and people who have experienced it have many of the same kinds of sensory experiences described in Proof of Heaven. The clear correlate here though is the disrupted activity of brains.

            The brain under stress or under a wash of psychedelics produces a lot of neat things. But again there is no need to add any additional steps. The haywire brain fits the evidence we don't need to posit anything else.

            Also while we are on the subject why are NDE culturally specific?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Really? I've been a pretty serious and studious Catholic for about thirty-five years and I've never seen that rulebook.

          • Michael Murray

            When I finish doing a proof by contradiction in class the conclusion is that the initial premise was false. The conclusion is not "ok class we'll see how this all works out in the afterlife".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Please, show us again your proof by contradiction? Disqus seems to be hiding it.

          • Michael Murray

            Epicurus presentation of the problem of evil is essential a proof by contradiction. Assume God exists and has these properties. Deduce a contradiction, i.e. God is no omnipotent and omnibenevolent. Hence God does not exist. But instead of that last sentence you saw an to say "Why does it have to be resolved in this life?" Just saying that's a very non-standard approach to proof by contradiction.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've reviewed the Epicurean Paradox and I don't find the premise convincing (If an all-powerful and perfectly good god exists, then evil does not).

            Various theodicies provide good reasons why God would permit human beings to suffer physical and moral evils.

            Thus, there is no necessary logical conclusion that God does not exist.

            My own opinion is that it is a "mystery" in the sense that we don't have the resources to reconcile two sets of truths: (1) human beings suffer (and commit) physical and moral evils and (2) God exists and is omni-benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent.

        • Mikegalanx

          Plato was Catholic?

        • josh

          Epicurus is cited as an early expression of the problem of evil, although our source on his comments is one Lactantius, a Christian according to Wikipedia. So I wouldn't claim Catholics discovered it. There are of course many earlier works that can be seen as a forerunner of the problem of evil, including the book of Job, but you really need the the Catholic omnis to see the full logical faceplant.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I said "modern atheists." Catholic thinkers were thinking about the problem of evil when there was little competition, so to speak. You might say they were thinking about it when there was no outside demand that they account for it. They were simply following reason wherever it took them.

          • hiernonymous

            You mean back when they burned the outside competition?

            Sorry, couldn't resist...

          • josh

            Except when it challenged their dogma. It doesn't take a genius to see the flaws in Catholic (and other) notions of morality and god. Ancient catholics, as also their modern heirs, weren't following reason wherever it lead, they were looking for a rationalization for their beliefs.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is an unsubstantiated claim that I've never seen any historical evidence for.

            If you look, for example, at the basic method of scholasticism, say in Thomas Aquinas' "Summa," in every single question considered, the first step was to present every argument one could find against one's thesis before stating one's own view. Then one's thesis was explained. They every objection was answered.

          • josh

            Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century priest following Aristotelian philosophy, came up with and successfully answered every argument one could find. And I'm making unsubstantiated claims...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > "And I'm making unsubstantiated claims..."

            Are you talking about the Scholastics or me? Either way, I don't understand what you mean, except that it is a "beef" of some kind.

          • josh

            Apologies if the inflection was unclear. I was contesting your outrageous claim with sarcasm. Aquinas didn't answer every argument one could find, and his answers were steeped in his own poorly supported assumptions. If you read them, a lot of his question/answer format is frankly bizarre because the questions are so involved in equally inane religious and metaphysical frameworks.

          • In other words, poor Old Dumb Ox Aquinas was not fortunate enough to be smart like josh here.

          • josh

            And poor old Euclid didn't know what I know about curved spaces. And dumb ol' Galileo didn't understand the tides. But at least these men are respected for their contributions to human knowledge. Aquinas only persists as an opportunity for Catholics to make a fallacious appeal to authority.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Aquinas only persists as an opportunity for Catholics to make a fallacious appeal to authority."

            Even if everything Aquinas ever wrote was wrong (which I wouldn't agree with), he still contributed much more than this. Advances in science and philosophy owe just as much to errors as they do breakthroughs.

          • josh

            I'll settle for 'basically wrong about everything he is famous for'. If you want to argue for 'a cautionary tale we learned not to emulate' I'd concede the field in the absence of modern apologists.

            Honestly, I've known scientists to refer to Euclid, Plato, Aristotle, Aristarchus, Eratosthenes, Pythagoras, Democritus, Bacon, Occam, al-Khwarizmi, etc. etc. for early important thinkers. (Of course none of them would make the ludicrous remark, 'so you think your smarter than X' for pointing out the ways in which they were wrong.) But off the top of my head Aquinas almost never comes up because he is only known for an attempted organization of his religious thought and is not regarded as successful. His influence on history isn't in dispute, his contributions, in the positive sense, very much are.

          • May I suggest, josh, that the contributions of Thomas Aquinas are inestimably greater than you give him credit for.

            And monumentally greater than those of josh, his erstwhile critic.

          • josh

            May I suggest you look up the word erstwhile before you use it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He raised every seemingly valid argument that was available to him (I'm sure he tossed out some arguments he assumed everyone would think were ludicrous, and of course he couldn't raise arguments that might not be "raisable" for hundreds of years).

            If you think Aquinas' work is based on poorly supported assumptions and inane, then the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that, as well as your original assertion, which if I grasped it correctly, was that Catholics are intellectually dishonest or whatever it was that was summoning forth your sarcasm.

    • Corylus

      It seems pointless to me to discuss with atheists "suffering in light of God's existence" when suffering is a problem only *if* God exists.

      I understand what you are saying, Kevin, but there is an ontic (existence) element to this question in that you can find yourself concluding that god has contradictory properties and it thus logically impossible. Brief article on this below.

      "Anything is possible". No not really.

      I doubt you will agree with it, but you may find it helpful in seeing where some of this is coming from.

      N.B. Now, for anyone familiar with this issue, yes, I know that Plantinga has written in rebuttal to this argument. However, whether or not you think this rebuttal works has no impact on this being an ontic consideration.

      If Catholic apologists could demonstrate that the existence of physical and moral suffering is compatible with the notion of God's power,
      knowledge and love, I think atheists would just say, "So what? That does
      nothing to prove God exists."

      And they would be correct to do so. In the first instance however, it is about disproof of existence, rather than proof for it.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I read the OP you linked to and to me it was just sophistry. Omnipotence means able to do everything that can be done.

        It's like saying, God prove you are omnipotent by committing suicide.

        • severalspeciesof

          God prove you are omnipotent by committing suicide.

          He tried that... it only lasted three days... ;-) ( I am sorry if that offended anyone, but I just couldn't resist)

          Glen

          • Corylus

            Heh! You can obviously resist anything but temptation ;)

        • Corylus

          I read the OP you linked to...

          Thank you - nice to know that I am not wasting my time posting links.>

          ... and to me it was just sophistry.

          Well I know that you would not agree,but 'sophistry' is a very, very strong term. I would have a care with it.

          It's like saying, God prove you are omnipotent by committing suicide.

          Kevin, that is the very point! It is a paradox. If you find this ludicrous and not worth bothering with then this is completely your prerogative. Hell, life is short :)

          However, it is something that other people have been banging their heads againstfor some considerable time.

          N.B. Posting the link for others - no need to reply if you do not wish to.

  • Joe Ser

    Since God is perfect love, and He created the universe, it is less perfect than He is. Evil is simply the degree of being less perfect.

    • primenumbers

      Now explain how a perfect God that has no limits on knowledge or ability could create something that is less than perfect.

      • Joe Ser

        Catholics know God as Almighty.

        If He created something as perfect as HImself He would re-create Himself.

        • primenumbers

          We're you're stuck then are you not? You've argued successfully that your God could not create something perfect and I've argued successfully that being perfect he couldn't create anything less than perfect. The solution is obvious - if we posit your God it leads directly to contradiction with the known fact of the universe, therefore your God can not exist.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            PN, maybe Disqus is hiding earlier comments, but what I see here is a bald assertion on your part that "if God is perfect he must create only perfect things."

            I wouldn't be surprised that cursed Disqus was hiding them.

          • primenumbers

            Perhaps - Disqus seems to have difficulties with these long thread topics. See my response to you above on this issue however.

            The other problem is that arguments get fragmented rather quickly, and as I'm commenting a lot I may be referencing (either by mistake or through wish not to repeat myself) prior conversations.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I don't follow Joe Ser's argument or yours, PN. Why cannot God create something imperfect if he wants to and has a good reason?

        Perfect means "complete" or "completely made." The physical universe is constantly moving from one state to another so it is not perfect. In fact, it seems to be moving up the scale from subatomic particles to atoms, to chemistry, to biology, to self-conscious intelligent forms of life. Again not perfect. Entropy also seems to say it will run down to virtually nothing going on.

        Human beings develop from one cell to physically mature adults (I suppose you could say an individual is physically perfect during the early adult years), and intellectually and morally they can keep improving their entire lives.

        Are you claiming that some kind of logic about God's perfection demands every human being suddenly appear on earth as a superman?

        • primenumbers

          "Why cannot God create something imperfect if he wants to and has a good reason?" - well, he may or may not have a good reason, but having a good reason to create something less than perfect doesn't make the thing you create any more or any less perfect than it is - the two things are separate in that regard. Why he cannot create less than perfectly is inherent in him being perfect. A perfect being cannot just be perfect, they must act in all actions perfectly, and he has no excuse due to practical considerations as in creating a universe via supernatural means means there are no practical considerations to take into account. Or think that the universe as a creation reflects on the creator, and if the universe is less than perfect, the creator cannot be perfect.

          The other problem is that of reason-to-create. The decision to create needs a sufficient motive and a self-contained perfect being lacks sufficient motivation. Without sufficient motivation there can be no sufficient reason, and without sufficient reason in a perfectly rational being, there can be no act of creation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let me confess that lots of atheist arguments affect me because I feel they contain good points, but your two reasons here don't affect me at all.

            As I said above to Solange, God has created a living, dynamic work of art, the universe, and a living thing is much more impressive than a static one. Anything dynamic must by definition be imperfect, that is, not done.

            On the question of motivation, I think you are being anthropomorphic, requiring God to be just like human beings in terms of motivation, that is, needy.

            However, if you want motivation, I see no problem with God's goodness and love being the "cause" of the universe. God thought it would be cool for there to exist creatures who could share in his happiness.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But it's already done, from god's point of view.

            Think about the time dimension and the fact that god doesn't live within it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In that case, the "done" also includes the time from this moment until the end of time, which we cannot see.

          • primenumbers

            Motivation can just be thought of as a sufficient reason. It's not anthropomorphic any more than the notions of omnipotence and omniscience are maximal versions of our human concepts of abilities and knowledge.

            "God thought it would be cool" - if I'm not allowed to anthropomorphize, neither are you. Thinking something cool is related to a sensor of wonder or curiosity, two emotions that a perfect all-knowing God cannot possess. Of course, your ideas that "it would be cool" or the "cause is love" are just un-evidenced ad-hoc rationalizations.

            "who could share in his happiness" - by living in a most inhospitable world, surrounded by a deadly universe, suffering in pain and agony. Yup, we're straight back to the problem of evil and suffering.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You really can't think of any reason God would create?

            As for, "living in a most inhospitable world, surrounded by a deadly universe, suffering in pain and agony," I know.

            I'm sitting at my computer thinking about ultimate truth, my beautiful wife is downstairs putting the finishing touches on a fragrant roasted chicken, I hear one of my kids laughing about something, it's summer . . . God, please make it stop!

          • primenumbers

            "You really can't think of any reason God would create?" - no, not at all. It's because you conceive of your God as perfect, and having all knowledge and all power available to him. Both lack of knowledge and lack of power are driving forces for man, but those forces don't exist for God. Similarly, there's no external force to give him any necessity to do anything, and being eternal there's no time constraints either. As theists tell us that nothing comes into being without sufficient reason, I can see no possible sufficient reason for a self-contained perfect being to do anything at all.

            Kevin, it's been really good to talk to you on these forums. I think you're giving the kind of discussion these forums were envisaged for and it's fun to think about such questions. I've been thinking on these things since being a teenager, so I guess you could think of it as a hobby of mine. I enjoy the discussion, especially when it's well intentioned. Thanks!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            primenumbers, I'm recommending this website to everyone I recall discussing the problem of evil with.

            I think you could get a lot out of it (website and facebook page). I certainly have.

            http://newapologetics.com/
            https://www.facebook.com/NewApologetics

          • Michael Murray

            As for, "living in a most inhospitable world, surrounded by a deadly universe, suffering in pain and agony," I know.

            I'm sitting at my computer thinking about ultimate truth, my beautiful wife is downstairs putting the finishing touches on a fragrant roasted chicken, I hear one of my kids laughing about something, it's summer . . . God, please make it stop!

            "I'm all right Jack stuff everybody else". Nice. Good to see being a Christian actually makes no difference to your empathy for others suffering.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Judgmental!

            Every one of us suffers a little or a lot every day of our lives, but let's not exaggerate. There is still so much good, so much to be grateful for, and so few give up.

            You even get to drink coffee eternally in your avatar.

          • Michael Murray

            Every one of us suffers a little or a lot every day of our lives, but let's not exaggerate. There is still so much good, so much to be grateful for, and so few give up.

            Where is the exaggeration? The point for me is that suffering is completely intrinsic to the universe we live in. You can't have natural selection without a lot of living things dying before they can breed. That's how it works. Then there are all the natural phenomena earthquakes, tsunami, asteroid impacts … If you apply moral judgement to the universe it's creator is a monster. Of course I don't because there is no creator, the universe is just the universe and morality is a human construct.

            There is a certain irony for me in the fact that the problem of suffering seems less persuasive these days for healthy middle-class westerners because science has done such a great job of eliminating so much suffering.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,
            Do you know how many kids under the age of 5 will day before your day ends? In 2011 the number was around 20,000. That is a lot of suffering and misery every day, every hour, every week. But by all means dismiss it because Murray has a coffee cup in his avatar.
            Also though, while you are scoffing at the indifference of the universe, consider the inordinate amount of suffering our animal neighbors endure every day. What a cruel show that is. Clearly they feel suffering, and pain, and some of the more intelligent among them grief. If your god is at the heart of that, it really isn't a friendly god.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not making light of any suffering. I'm making light of people like us.

          • Max Driffill

            No you are avoiding the problem of suffering, and trying to gloss over the problem by pointing out that the people making the points about suffering (affluent Westerners) aren't really suffering.

            This is presumptuous at best and neglects the fact that we are not generally talking about our own lives but the aggregate of human and animal suffering. Your technique appears to be a deflection, an attempt to distract from the fact that there really isn't a way to square an omnibenevolent god with our universe.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you read my other comments here (no reason you should and it's quite possible that Disqus, the inscrutable god of this website, will not let you) you'll see that I have not shied away from the real problem.

          • Aren't you attempting to insinuate that those who believe in God are less compassionate than atheists because they have an inadequate explanation for how an all-good God can allow the suffering of children? The atheist explanation of the suffering of children is that it is meaningless, and that when those who have suffered die, their lifetime of suffering is all they experienced. Those who believe in God may have an inadequate explanation of why God allows suffering, but they also believe that children suffer for a reason, difficult as it may be to explain, and also that when people who have suffered die, the then (if worthy) spend all eternity in a state of bliss, after a few thousand or million years of which their suffering will have become a distant memory, trivial in comparison to their eternal happiness.

            I think it is fair to say that one reason people believe in God and believe in heaven is that they know full well that there is no justice to be had in this world, so they want to believe (correctly or incorrectly) there is a next world in which all the injustices of this world will be remedied.

            While it has no bearing on what is true or not, if I were dealing with suffering children—say, in a pediatric cancer ward—I'd rather be a theist and tell them there was reason for hope in this world, and if things did not go well, there would be heaven rather than tell them it's all meaningless, and if they die, it's oblivion.

          • Max Driffill

            DavidN,

            Aren't you attempting to insinuate that those who believe in God are less compassionate than atheists because they have an inadequate explanation for how an all-good God can allow the suffering of children?

            Actually no I am not suggesting any such thing. Many believers are quite compassionate. I am saying that it is massively difficult to square the 3-O god (omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent) with the amount of suffering that we see in the natural world.

            I will say that sometimes I think religious rational for charity damages the integrity of kind acts. But a kind act is a kind act I suppose, however rationales aren't unimportant.

            The atheist explanation of the suffering of children is that it is meaningless, and that when those who have suffered die, their lifetime of suffering is all they experienced. Those who believe in God may have an inadequate explanation of why God allows suffering, but they also believe that children suffer for a reason, difficult as it may be to explain, and also that when people who have suffered die, the then (if worthy) spend all eternity in a state of bliss, after a few thousand or million years of which their suffering will have become a distant memory, trivial in comparison to their eternal happiness."

            And this is an utterly terrible thing if atheists are right (and I think the evidence indicates that we are). People might do more to ameliorate the suffering of their fellows if they reflected on how fleeting life is, and how tragic it is when it must be endured rather than lived in some full and fruitful way. Instead of donating to organizations that dispense bibles they might divert their money to UNICEF or WHO, or the Red Cross, or Doctors WIthout Borders. These places don't waste time or funds proselytizing. They are in the business of helping people.

            Consider what many Catholics in the US get outraged about: gay marriage, contraception and abortion and other reproductive issues. These are not moral issues. And yet Catholic churches all over the country are preparing for a fortnight for freedom. There are real people in the world suffering and dying daily and yet the RCC spent millions in Maine alone fighting the legalization of gay marriage. This kind of thing isn't done maliciously of course, I'm sure many of the people think they are doing right, but think of what 2 million dollars could have looked like for thousands of families in Maine who are having trouble making ends meet. Think of the difference that money could have made in the fight to help vaccinate kids in India.
            I digress.

            I think it is fair to say that one reason people believe in God and believe in heaven is that they know full well that there is no justice to be had in this world, so they want to believe (correctly or incorrectly) there is a next world in which all the injustices of this world will be remedied.
            What a defeatist attitude. There are people who are fighting to make the world a more just place, and a better place for all. Instead of taking comfort in what looks like a fantasy, it might be better to try affect the world in a positive way that leads to greater justice. If Jesus comes to fix it all then he comes to fix it all, but in the mean time get busy.

            While it has no bearing on what is true or not, if I were dealing with suffering children—say, in a pediatric cancer ward—I'd rather be a theist and tell them there was reason for hope in this world, and if things did not go well, there would be heaven rather than tell them it's all meaningless, and if they die, it's oblivion.

            If you worked in a pediatric center you would be better off not foisting any beliefs you had on the patients there. Answer the questions patients have honestly, advocate for them as best you can and be comfort to them, but be an honest comfort.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Max, it's been three months, but here is a great resource I've discovered on these questions:

            http://newapologetics.com/

            With a facebook page on which you attack with your most devastating arguments:

            https://www.facebook.com/NewApologetics

          • Sid_Collins

            That fragrant roasted chicken . . . what kind of life did it have? Why did God create a universe where sentient creatures prey on one another?

            It is hard to step back far enough to see the view from outside of our species, our geographical location, our economic bracket, our gender, our race. But I think it's worth trying to do it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why did God create a universe where sentient creatures could step back and see beyond themselves and ask questions like should we eat chickens?

          • Sage McCarey

            And who he could then burn for all eternity if they happened to like another god better than him. Or if they didn't fall down and worship and beg him to give them what they want!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What a distortion.

            What if you freely and knowingly reject the true good in this life and definitively reject goodness itself in the next?

            That is hell.

          • Susan

            God thought it would be cool for there to exist creatures who could share in his happiness.

            And he must have thought it would be just as cool to create many more creatures who couldn't but would suffer just as much.

            It's amazing how quickly you can press the reset button on the Problem of Suffering.

          • Max Driffill

            Think of all the creatures that are said to have been sharing in his happiness when this god lamented he had ever created humans, and instead of exacting a precise punishment at the object of his ire, he decided to wipe out the whole world with water. It was after that, this god earned the nick-name, "The Happy Maker."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I wrote that a month ago, Alice.

          • Susan

            I wrote that a month ago, Alice.

            My apologies, Kevin. That's twice that happened to me today.

            Sometimes, Disqus feels like Wonderland.

            I followed the conversation from a link that showed up on the right hand column of the main page.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No problem. Disqus is a joker.

          • Susan

            No problem. Disqus is a joker

            :-)

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          A perfect artist would not create an imperfect artwork. Otherwise the artist would not be perfect.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If God has created the universe, he has not created a static work of art but something dynamic and alive. It is a work of art that is not done, which is what imperfect means.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's not static and alive from God's point of view, though, right? God outside of time and all that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How does seeing something from outside of time make the things inside time static and dead?

          • Michael Murray

            Because space-time is everything that has happened and ever will happen. From this point of view time is an illusion. Another example of reality not being what we think it is. Think of it like a movie (thanks Quine) where everything is already decided and the dynamics only appear to occur because you view it one frame at a time. Of course how god is outside this changing is a problem because god has no time.

          • primenumbers

            They claim God is outside time to avoid the issues of causality and eternity, yet don't realize that thinking and acting and hence all the properties of God that make him God require time to act in.

          • primenumbers

            If dynamic and alive things cannot be perfect, what then for God? Is he static and dead?

          • Max Driffill

            Also wasn't everything perfect in the Garden? I thought all this worldly imperfection came from the actions of two people didn't know any better, could in fact not know better.

          • primenumbers

            A perfect setup indeed, with no protection for the innocent inhabitants from snakes and Satan. And as you note, before they ate the apple they could not have known better.... The whole thing was indeed a setup, by the devious God if you believe the story true, or as a bronze age creation myth if you accept the text for what it is.

          • Linda

            Amish quilters leave an intentional mistake in their quilts in deference to God's perfection.

          • Max Driffill

            Um. does this address MSOB's point?

          • Linda

            Nope. Because when I double checked my information I found it may be a myth. My apologies M. Solange O'Brien!

          • A perfect artist would not create an imperfect artwork. Otherwise the artist would not be perfect.

            How, exactly, do you know this?

            What would a perfect work—in this case a perfect universe—be like?

            Of course Fr. Barron's comparison of God to an artist was a metaphor. God is not an artist, and the universe is not a work of art. But in any case, it seems to me a perfect artist could create any work of art he or she wanted to create.

          • severalspeciesof

            But in any case, it seems to me a perfect artist could create any work of art he or she wanted to create.

            This may be true, but then the artist would be deemed crazy if he/she went ballistic over the artwork's imperfection...

            Glen

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Evidence, please.

  • severalspeciesof

    'God is not causing evil, god permits evil, so as to bring about a greater good'

    First this is a post hoc assertion, but if it isn't this creates another problem... an elephant in the room as large as god itself. It means that evil existed outside of/alongside of god too, else how could god 'permit it'?

    Glen

    • severalspeciesof

      I've also wondered about this whole 'greater good' business and how it might operate. Would a very despicable act warrant an even greater good than say a little white lie? Is this greater good inversely proportional to the bad or not?

  • TristanVick

    "Why Is There So Much Disorder In The Universe?"

    Entropy.

  • Goetz Kluge

    The problem of theodicy just may be caused by an anthropocentric view. Our life on this planet may be a mess (for us), but its just a very, very small part of the universe. Perhaps there are different degrees of hellishness. And how can we say that the whole universe is a mess? Finally, what kind of order are we talking about? Is order necessarily a good thing? To which degree and for whom? Ask a pig during its last minutes in a well managed slaughterhouse.