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(Video) Interview with Atheist Blogger Bob Seidensticker

Bob Seidensticker Interview2

Bob Seidensticker is a popular atheist blogger at Patheos whose blog is titled "Cross Examined". There he critiques intellectual arguments for of Christianity from an atheist perspective. He wrote a guest post recently at Strange Notions titled 10 Reasons to Just Say Nay to the Naysayer Hypothesis.

After graduating from MIT in 1980, Bob designed digital hardware and worked at a number of technology companies from a 10-person startup to Microsoft and IBM. After that, he began to focus more on writing. His book Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change (Berrett-Koehler, 2006) explored how we see technology and how it really works.

His more recent book, a novel titled Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey, offers a fictional look at some of the important questions dividing believers and atheists.

Today, Bob sits down with me to discuss the reasons that led him to atheism, his recent 40-day prayer experiment, and what readers can expect to find in his novel.
 

Note: We had a shaky Skype connection so the quality is a bit grainy. It shouldn't be too unbearable, but if it is feel free to just download the audio. Also, despite much practice, I mispronounced Bob's last name at the beginning. Mea culpa!
 

Watch or download our interview below:

 

Video


Watch the video here (10 minutes)
 

Audio

[audio:http://brandonvogt.com/wp-content/uploads/InterviewSeidensticker.mp3]
Download the interview here (10 minutes)
 

Topics Discussed:

1:09 - What led you to becoming an atheist?
2:36 - What arguments against Christianity did you find most compelling?
3:37 - What were you hoping to discover during your 40-day prayer experiment?
6:28 - What will readers find in your novel, Cross Examined?

 
Bob Seidensticker Interview
 


 
Follow Bob's blog at Cross Examined and find him on Twitter at @CrossExamined.

If you liked this discussion, subscribe free to Strange Notions via feed reader or email to ensure sure you don't miss future interviews.
 

Brandon Vogt

Written by

Brandon Vogt is a bestselling author, blogger, and speaker. He's also the founder of StrangeNotions.com. Brandon has been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. He converted to Catholicism in 2008, and since then has released several books, including The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011), Saints and Social Justice (Our Sunday Visitor, 2014), and RETURN (Numinous Books, 2015). He works as the Content Director for Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Brandon lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their five children in Central Florida. Follow him at BrandonVogt.com or connect through Twitter at @BrandonVogt.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Jonathan Deundian

    Good interview, Brandon!

    I'd like to direct your reader's attention to two able responses addressing Bob's two reasons to be an atheist:

    1) Problem of Evil
    Go Here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-problem-of-evil

    2) Divine Hiddenness
    Go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyIvv616LtU

    Hope they help,

    Jonathan

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      We have read them. I don't see in what fashion they help.

      • M, thanks for the comment. First, you say "we have read them" but the second item is a video. I'll take this as a sign that you didn't watch it.

        Second, are you suggesting that the two resources are objectively unhelpful or just that you personally did not find either compelling?

        Third, if the latter, perhaps you can explain why each resource is flawed.

        Thanks!

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          I used 'read' in the generic sense; this is a blog, after all. I've looked at both - is that sufficiently precise for you?

          If you'd like a point-by-point analysis, I'll whip one up. But these are old arguments.

          • ZenDruid

            He's a masterdebater.

          • epeeist

            He's a master debater.

            Whose primary tactic is the Gish Gallop.

          • Chicagoish

            I've seen this assertion before in reference to WLC and I find it pretty ridiculous. He usually opens with 4-5 arguments for the existence of God, skillfully rebuts his opponent's opening statement, then defends his opponent's rebuttals. Pretty par for the course in debate.

          • Chicagoish

            As well as an accomplished philosopher, by any serious measurement.

          • Rationalist1

            I've never understood the free will "out". We could still have free will and live on a planet without earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornado, diseases, Natural evils have no relation to our moral evils.

            Plus if free will is so important, why doesn't it exist in heaven?

          • primenumbers

            If free will is so important, why does God have none?

          • Who says God has none?

            His Will is the only entirely Free Will, our freedom is proper to our status as creatures, His is proper to His perfection as Creator and Lord of All.

          • Who says it doesn't exist in heaven?

            It exists in both heaven and hell, as the eternal decision of the soul.

          • Ben

            To the extent that Christians claim God revealing his existence would remove humanity's free will, that Christian implies that free will doesn't exist in heaven, where people are presumably given certain proof of God's existence. I think it's certainly a bleak idea, that people only have free will for an insignificant speck of time, then spend eternity as puppets. Luckily, the entire premise seems absurd, as I have no idea how factual knowledge (like knowledge of God's existence) has anything to do with free will.

          • Sage McCarey

            My question is: If heaven is so great why did Lucifer not want to be there? If one is in a place that is perfect and where one is happy beyond belief why would anyone rebel? And that goes along with the other question: Why would Judas sell out Jesus?

          • "My question is: If heaven is so great why did Lucifer not want to be there?"

            Because of pride.

            "If one is in a place that is perfect and where one is happy beyond belief why would anyone rebel?"

            We only need to examine ourselves to see this play out. It's not unfamiliar (and if you disagree, I'd ask whether you *always* do exactly what you know will make you ultimately happy.) Most of us *know* what will make us ultimately happy, namely to live good, moderate, selfless lives. This holds for Catholics and atheists. Yet we don't do it. We allow pride, greed, and other vices to cloud our minds and weaken our wills.

            For example, we know that if we eat too much food we'll ultimately feel horrible. But in the moment, our disordered appetites cloud our intellect and we decided to indulge anyways.

            "Why would Judas sell out Jesus?"

            Catholics have a perfectly valid reason: sin.

          • Because of pride.

            When human beings do something wrong out of pride, there are three possible culprits that Christians can point to—nature, nurture, and original sin. But I can only presume angels were created "as is" directly by God. The Catechism says, "The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: 'The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.'" For an angel created directly by God, the equivalent of nature would be God. The equivalent of nurture would come from God. And there was no original sin. How could Satan, a good angel, be prideful to the point of rebellion if he was not created prideful? At least in the story of Adam and Eve, it can be claimed that the serpent led them astray. But what can lead an angel astray? Where did Satan get the idea to rebel against God or even get the idea that he could rebel against God.

            It is odd that Adam, Eve, and particularly Satan went bad "right out of the box." We explain our own failings by citing original sin. But Adam, Eve, and Satan were created to be good, and yet they went bad. It is very difficult to explain (particularly because Adam and Eve didn't even know the difference between right and wrong until after they did something wrong—raising the question of how people who don't know the difference between right and wrong can be held accountable for doing something they didn't know was wrong).

          • ListenTrue

            Why would i have pride if Lucifer, Satan and Darkness wont let me win against Jesus. Some Almighty teaches me Battle Realms And Warcraft(The Fake God, Jesus is the Hero). And My Father Bind me on Some Hospital, I keep crying,- I want to pee, but nobody let me. Then I live a miserable life

          • ListenTrue

            His name is odolfo C. Cross Cr. in Philippines.

          • Corylus

            Because of pride.

            That seems to imply that pride leads one to hideous actions. Sometimes the case*, yes, but not always the case.

            Ever blinked back tears so a bully could not get the satisfaction of seeing you cry?

            Pure pride does that.

            -=-=-

            * Particularly when taking pride in the possession of those 'monkish virtues' that 'sour the temper'. :P

            Who will get the reference first, I wonder?

          • TristanVick

            Lucifer returns to Heaven in the book of Job, and God casually asks him what's he a'boot? And he nonchallantly replies, "Oh nothin, just out and a'boot."

            Then Lucifer makes a wager that he can break God's serant. And being the moral God he is, he takes the damn wager. Then they give Job Hell.

          • Max Driffill

            Sage,
            If you have ever perused the bible for its descriptions of heaven, I think you will see immediately why Lucifer might have wanted to beat feet and skeddadle more tropical pastures. The tedium alone would be enough to cause any revolt.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            "To the extent that Christians claim God revealing his existence would remove humanity's free will"

            Ben, this isn't _necessarily_ the position of the Church. For instance, one might think (as a Molinist might) that the irrevocable status of those who enter heaven enjoy that status on the basis of what God knew free creatures would do once they entered God's presence.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            "Natural evils have no relation to our moral evils."

            Possibly, but there are, of course, a variety of responses to this one of which includes the possibility that the reality sin explains the curse God placed on creation viz. because man has sinned, the creation e.g. the earth and its inhabitants experience sorrow. This isn't necessarily my position.

          • Rationalist1

            Yes and Gods cursing man hearkens back to the Gods of Olympus. I thought we'd gotten past that.

          • Sage McCarey

            But JD, it knew from the moment of creation that its "man" created in "our" image would sin did it not? Is it all knowing or is it not all knowing? It gave Adam a choice? It placed him in a garden and told him he would die if he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you put your child in a room and said you can eat everything except this one thing, what would you expect of your child? Esp if you also put in your room a fuzzy animal that would tell your child to go ahead and eat and he wouldn't die?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            what do you think follows from that analysis?

          • Susan

            what do you think follows from that analysis?

            I think she was asking you that question.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Susan, I know the question was directed to me. All I'm saying is that the question, regardless of how I respond to it doesn't entail much.

          • Susan

            All I'm saying is that the question, regardless of how I respond to it doesn't entail much.

            Explain how it doesn't.

            This is the story of a supposedly good and just deity entrapping the innocent.

            Why not just answer the question?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Sage wrote: But JD, it knew from the moment of creation that its "man" created in "our" image would sin did it not?

            ME:
            Yes.

            Sage continues: Is it all knowing or is it not all knowing?

            ME:
            All knowing.

            Sage continues: It gave Adam a choice?

            ME:
            Yes.

            Sage continues: It placed him in a garden and told him he would die if he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

            ME:
            Perhaps, yes.

            Sage continues: If you put your child in a room and said you can eat everything except this one thing, what would you expect of your child?

            ME:
            He might disobey. I'm not sure.

            Sage continues: Esp if you also put in your room a fuzzy animal that would tell your child to go ahead and eat and he wouldn't die?

            ME:
            Okay? So what follows? Is this supposed to show that God doesn't exist? See what I mean, Susan? I wasn't being evasive.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            More importantly, the story contains an internal problem: without knowledge of good and evil, adam did not know that eating the apple or disobeying god was wrong. God is punishing adam for disobeying, when adam did not know that disobeying was wrong.

            That's cruel.

          • Sage McCarey

            Absolutely M. S. O. That's another thing I've never understood. How could Adam and Eve be punished when they didn't even know right from wrong to begin with? It just doesn't make any sense.

          • Susan

            These are all excellent points. The story doesn't make sense and it IS cruel.

            There's also the problem that there never was an Adam and Eve.

            It's a story. Like Lucifer.

          • Max Driffill

            Jonathan,

            Possibly, but there are, of course, a variety of responses to this one of which includes the possibility that the reality sin explains the curse God placed on creation viz. because man has sinned, the creation e.g. the earth and its inhabitants experience sorrow. This isn't necessarily my position.

            When you say these kinds of things, do you ever ponder the morality of the actions of God? In what sense is it moral or just to curse the descendants of people who had no hand in the original sin? Punishing the group for the actions of a few is never a moral good and reliably leads to more trouble. How is it just? In what sense is it right to have cursed the fauna and flora, also not involved, into the nastiest Hobbesian existence one could imagine? I mean if punishment is required why not just focus it on the persons who messed up? Adam and Eve, (if you must, but maybe remember they were tricked by the father of lies). And certainly the snakey Lucifer. Doesn't God deserve some of the blame? He knew Adam and Ever were dumber that the sheep he had created. He also knew Lucifer frequented the garden (why should this silly situation exist) so a few safe guards for his stupid children might have been useful.

            How is moral for God to have put up a test which he knew his kids would fail and how is moral for him to punish the rest of us for a crime in which we had no part?

            This story just doesn't make any sense if God is a merciful and loving and just god. Of course it doesn't make any sense on any level but I do marvel that believers rarely seem to want reflect on this kind of thing.

          • Susan

            blockquote>In what sense is it right to have cursed the fauna and flora, also not involved, into the nastiest Hobbesian existence one could imagine?
            I have asked this question many times on this site and haven't heard an answer.
            The really confusing part is that nature was red in tooth and claw for hundreds of millions of years before anything that even resembles a human existed on this planet.
            Was Yahweh retroactively punishing the flora and fauna because he knew that Adam and Eve (who never existed and we KNOW that) would eat the damned fruit eventually when a hominid pair of Yahweh's choosing suddenly had souls stuck into them (no evidence for that, either)?
            These are stories. And to treat any of these stories as more significant than any of the other countless stories humans have told to one another is to pretend that the REAL story of this planet is less important than one story among countless stories that humans have invented.
            The fact that I have to type this into a box under an article explaining that Yahweh is hiding (i.e. there is not a speck of evidence for his existence) because he wants us to love him makes this even more frustrating.
            Would anyone like to explain why immense suffering is experienced by such an immense variety of sentient beings who significantly predate us and surround us and how this is any way consistent with the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity?

          • Susan

            In other words, got evidence?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Susan, those are actually very good points, which is why I (see above) noted that concerning the suffering of the natural world (not its moral agents) the position I alluded to wasn't necessarily my own. I shared it as one possible response to objections concerning evil (natural or moral). I do that out of habit. My point is simply that there are a variety of ways to think about these things. But I think your objection is arguably overpowering. Thanks for sharing it!

          • Susan

            Hi Jonathan,

            the position I alluded to wasn't necessarily my own. I shared it as one possible response to objections concerning evil

            Better you share your own position rather than one you don't support.

            My point is simply that there are a variety of ways to think about these things.

            And many of them make no sense at all. The one you alluded to doesn't. That's what Sage was trying to point out by asking you those questions. That's a way of getting bad arguments out of the way so they don't bury the good ones.

            Thanks for sharing it!

            Thank you for taking it into consideration.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            I'm not a young earth creationist (neither were the early Church Fathers). Of course I'm considerate of opinions such as the one you've just shared.

          • Susan

            I'm not a young earth creationist

            I'm glad to hear that and I wasn't suggesting you were. :-)

          • Jonathan Deundian

            This thread box is confusing. I don't even know where my posts are going. Seems some are missing arhhhhg

          • Susan

            This thread box is confusing. I don't even know where my posts are going. Seems some are missing arhhhhg

            Welcome to disqus. It's a bumpy ride. Your posts will probably show up soon. They often disappear when you first post them. They will also be scattered about the thread following the posts you're responding to.

            The only way to read the thread intact is if you click on the subject heading, not responses. Responses leave out non-responses..... it's very confusing but you'll get the hang of it.

            I wish I could be more helpful but I can barely figure the thing out myself. :-)

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Thanks! Not sure how long I'll last :-I

          • Susan

            I wonder the same thing all the time.

            But I'm still here. :-)

            You'll sort of get used to it like everyone else.

          • primenumbers

            "neither were the early Church Fathers" - do you have any references to early Church Fathers talking on the age of the earth?

          • primenumbers

            Unfortunately it seems that nothing is evil as even the most horrific acts of genocide can be seen to have a higher moral purpose. If even such acts can have a morally sufficient reason than ANY act could be said to have a morally sufficient reason thus rendering nothing at all evil.

          • Max Driffill

            I really love this post.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            I can't speak for the Catholic Church (I'm not yet Catholic--I'm actually a terrible Catholic apologist), but there's a phrase in Romans that seems to indicate our relationship to Adam's participation in sin. The way I read it, it may suggest that God's curse falls on us because we too participate in sin like Adam did. I may be wrong. If I'm right, then God's curse is clearly justified.

            12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because ALL sinned—

          • Susan

            Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because ALL sinned—

            That doesn't work. Death preceded humans. Death didn't suddenly just show up on the planet when our species did.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            The death of animal and plant life _possibly_
            preceded humans, but that doesn't mean human beings died as well, which was my point. But I admit, Romans is complicated and I may be out of my depths.

          • Susan

            Hi Jonathan,
            They did. Everything dies.

            Humans didn't pop out of nowhere. We live and die as our ancestors lived and died. Keep going back and back and back. There will be a point where you don't even recognize your ancestors any more.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            I'm not following you. I'm suggesting Romans could serve to explain the *just* reality of original sin. We know why Adam was cursed, but someone said that it's not fair that we inherit the consequences of Adam's sin. I'm trying to use Romans as a proof text to argue that we inherit the consequences of sin not bc Adam sinned, but because we participate in sin ourselves. I admit I may be wrong, however.

          • Susan

            We know why Adam was cursed, but someone said that it's not fair that we inherit the consequences of Adam's sin.

            How can suffering and death be the consequence of a human act if it was around long before humans? Why would suffering and death extend to so many other species and retroactively to boot?

            I'm trying to use Romans as a proof text to argue that we inherit the consequences of sin not bc Adam sinned, but because we participate in sin ourselves.

            And you're not doing a bad job of arguing from the text.

            The trouble is that there is no evidence for that position and a vast amount of evidence against it.

            It doesn't make sense when you look at the evidence.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Susan, I'm pretty sure my interpretation isn't the Church's, so I should probably be careful. Anyway, you're still missing my point. I'm not denying that death (not the human kind) preceded the fall (Adam's or ours). But I digress because I'm not even sure where to go from here.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Susan, i don't think much rides on any of this anyway because I don't see any reason to think the reality of God and evil are logically inconsistent.

          • Susan

            How do you define evil then? What do you mean when you say evil?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            a privation of the good. not a thing in itself.

          • Susan

            All right. Then what is good?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            This is tricky to define, but I like the summary you'll find here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06640a.htm

          • Susan

            I like the summary you'll find here:

            What specifically do you like about it?

            What is good?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            the "good" is the way things ought to be. Does that help?

          • Susan

            the "good" is the way things ought to be. Does that help?

            Not really. We'd have to then ask why ought they to be that way and the answer would be because that would be good.

            Unless you have a better answer than I can come up with for why things "ought" to be some way.

            So, that doesn't get us very far.

            I'm not trying to be difficult.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            one can say that "duty" (ought-ness) flows from the very nature of God who is by definition "good."

          • Susan

            one can say that "duty" (ought-ness) flows from the very nature of God who is by definition "good."

            But then how would you know if that deity is good if you can't explain what you mean by good?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Susan, a few points:

            Are you under the impression that if one can’t explain what is meant by “good” then the term is meaningless? That would be to assume you can't recognize whether
            something possesses a property unless you can define what that property is. That's clearly false. Consider this helpful illustration: “most people with no training in philosophy of language cant "define" what meaning is. Most people can’t define what knowledge is, does it follow that we can’t recognize that "hjghdghd" is meaningless and "the fat cat sat on the mat" is meaningful. Or that we can’t tell that we know the world is round and don’t know its made of cream cheese?”

            What I think we can do to begin to establish the reality of the "good" is to get you involved. Can you define "evil" or "wrong-ness" or "bad-ness"? If not, perhaps you could provide examples or instances of good things. Your response, I think, could serve to reveal two things: 1) that it's difficult to define these terms lol 2) that from your examples or instances of good things we're in the
            right direction to define the term.

          • primenumbers

            Making God good by definition means God is not good or bad and cannot be moral, or make a moral decision and hence is not a moral being and therefore cannot be a source of morality. When Christians say God is good, do they therefore mean "good is good" or "God is God" neither of which helps much....

          • epeeist

            Making God good by definition means God is not good or bad and cannot be moral

            I seem to have heard that one before, "god not moral", who said that? Oh, yes. Aristotle, about his unmoved mover. Of course not only was the first cause not only not moral, it was also incapable of action.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Could you unpack this? It seems to entail a contradiction/

          • primenumbers

            Yes, the notion of God being good is contradictory.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            That doesn't make sense.

          • primenumbers

            One of the strongest criticism of theism is that the properties of God are contradictory.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Susan, I may have another comment or two. I'm exhausted and need to get to bed..

          • Susan

            Same here, Jonathan.

            I have an early morning and a seven hour drive tomorrow.

            Nice chatting. Get some rest.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Very good questions. Let's try and resume tomorrow. I'll see if I can come up with something :-)

          • primenumbers

            A&E couldn't have sinned by definition, because they lacked knowledge of good and evil before they ate the fruit. Those who lack such knowledge cannot be morally culpable for their acts.

          • epeeist

            The death of animal and plant life _possibly_ preceded humans,

            We are animals, descended from the same ape precursors as other Hominoidea.

          • Max Driffill

            Jonathan,
            (Note: I 'm going to argue here as if the story of Adam and Eve were true as a way to pull apart your ideas a bit.)

            We can only participate in sin because of a peculiarity in the way God has organized the universe. There is no reason why Adam and Eve's sin should transfer to their children. God had to allow that. But how is that moral? Why shouldn't God have kicked Adam and Eve out, collected their kids and brought them back to the Garden? And again, the fauna and flora didn't sin, cannot sin according to believers, why should the effects of sin be transferable to them? Again there were only three wrong doers in the Garden (four if you count God, and I think you probably ought to since he let all this nonsense occur). Why not direct punishment to they and they alone? In no way can this be considered just action.

            12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because ALL sinned—

            Well why was Eve kicked out then? I am not sure why Christians do this, ignore Eve in this way except when they want to justify bronze age ideas about a woman's place. Why should it only matter if Adam ate the fruit?

            And again, there is no reason that all should have sinned. That was an outcome that God permitted. There is no reason it had to be the case. God could have opted for a just punishment. Of course that was not to the taste of the Old Testament God, who, were he in any other mythology, you would rightly call a monster of the very worst sort.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            I'm afraid this is only a problem if original sin entails the conclusion "that all creatures after Adam are guilty of Adam's, rather than their own personal sin." I don't think this is the Church's understanding. But even if I were to grant that your analysis is problem (I do not), I'm failing to see how this constitutes a good argument against God's existence. Perhaps you'd be willing to unpack the hidden premises that call into question God's existence.

          • Max Driffill

            Jonathan,

            'm afraid this is only a problem if original sin entails the conclusion "that all creatures after Adam are guilty of Adam's, rather than their own personal sin."
            I'm sorry these are the implications of one of the biblical Genesis stories. There was no sin in the Garden of Eden, lion laid down with lamb yada yada. Sin enters the world through Adam, you say so yourself.

            Why should sin continue to affect Adam's descendants? There is no reason it should. WHy did God organize the universe in this way? It is deeply unjust. Why should the rest of the creation be affected by this sin? Why can't lions and lambs still be best buds? God could have just judged Adam and Eve, or started over.

            I don't think this is the Church's understanding. But even if I were to grant that your analysis is problem (I do not), I'm failing to see how this constitutes a good argument against God's existence. Perhaps you'd be willing to unpack the hidden premises that call into question God's existence.

            I was not arguing against the existence of gods. I was noting the moral failings of one particular god evident in one particular story. Adam and Eve did not exist so this exegesis really is not terribly important. But I thought it might be useful to explore. The creation mythology favored by Christians implies some fairly monstrous things about the god at the heart of them. Indeed all of Genesis does this.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            But even there, when we isolate that story (setting aside if it actually obtained or not) we see Adam and Eve doing wrong (rejecting God) and thus suffering the obvious consequence of that wrong - alienation from God. But that's clearly not the end of the story. Look, the Bible is fundamentally a collection of books about God creating man for Himself. He wanted His creation to be in communion with Him. This is because God want's us to have perfect happiness. Well, in Genesis we have a picture of humanity rejecting God. So, the rest of scripture is really the story of God attempting to rescue humanity from Himself. That doesn't strike me as being problematic.

          • Max Driffill

            Jonathan,
            Why should a god alienate the rest of his creation because of the actions of two people? Why should god create a thing, sin, in this world that can be transferred from parents to offspring and so run the risk of damning people who had no part in the initial crimes.

            For a god that wants humanity to have perfect happiness it seems that said god has rather jury-rigged the system to maximize the opposite of happiness. Why is the god of this story such an utter imbecile?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Max, the sense to which humanity is alienated (yes, I'm thinking about original sin) isn't as bleak as one might expect. The reason is God is graciously reaching out to humanity anyway. Study the Church's documents and stop taking potshots. For a clearer orthodox explanation, consult the Church's actual teachings on original sin rather than armchair theologians such as us

          • Max Driffill

            Jonathan
            This alienation is evil if it punishes people for crimes they didn't commit.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Re. Original Sin (OS): We aren't "literally" punished. But as I said, I'm not an authority on Catholic teaching. So again, consult the Church documents because hardly anyone here including myself understands OS. However, here's how one Catholic blogger summarizes the situation:

            Original sin is not our inheritance of the first couple's guilt for "the Fall," i.e. the fall from grace that the first sin consisted in. None of us, their descendants, had any personal responsibility for the first sin; hence, we are not being punished "as if" we did have such responsibility. Rather, original sin is the inherited loss of graced fellowship with God, which he intended and still intends for our entire race. For three reasons, it is not unjust of God to have permitted that loss which took place as a result of free action by our first parents.

            First, that "graced fellowship" bestowed on our first parents was gratuitous. As such, it was not owed to them or indeed to any human person. So its inherited loss is not a deprivation of something we had a right to. For that reason, our inheriting original sin is not unjust. It is merely the absence of something that God had no moral obligation to bestow in the first place.

            Second, we are not being punished for original sin. Why? Original sin does not destroy our human nature; rather, it renders us unable to consistently prevent our appetites from overruling reason and love. If you like, we have partially reverted to the animal nature we inherited by evolution. The "guilt" of original sin is accordingly not *culpa*--personal fault--but rather *reatus*--liability to punishment. We are born liable to punishment because it is statistically inevitable that anybody who inherits original sin and reaches the age of reason is going to commit an actual sin at *some-or-other* time. But granted as much, it is not inevitable that any of us will actually sin at any *particular* time. If that were inevitable, then the sin in question would not be culpable, because it would not be within the sinner's power to avoid sinning at that time. And an objectively wrong action which is not culpable is not sin, but merely unfortunate. We are "punished" only for our actual sins, not for original sin.

            Finally, God did not abandon the human race. Although it's true we did nothing to "deserve" inheriting our liability to punishment, we also did nothing to deserve being redeemed from sin and its consequences. By the merits of Jesus' passion, we each of us have the opportunity to be restored to grace and thus become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). The Fathers and Doctors of the Church teach that such a destiny is greater than that which Adam and Eve would have had in this life had they not fallen. As things are, then, life is not primarily about justice but about love and mercy. Justice is satisfied primarily by how we choose to react to divine mercy.

            But as I said, I'm the wrong guy to discuss this. I'm still studying these documents.

            Take care, Max!

          • Max Driffill

            Well,

            I appreciate the time you took to say all that, but I will be honest, it all seemed like white noise to me.

            Why should the god of Christianity have organized a system where the descendants of Adam and Eve should be subject to this fallen state?

            I am not sure you can use the word curse then if you want to frame our state in this way. God apparently has no control over his own creation and actions by two incredibly naive humans can bring about the ruin of many a life in the process.

            Nor can you say that god isn't punishing people now living for the actions of Adam and Eve. If you take this story seriously at all, you have to note that the god of this story did drop the hammer of punishment most especially on women, but also on men. Women he curses with the pain of childbirth (and one has to presume all its attendant dangers and risks) he also seems to limit a woman's autonomy in a huge way. Men he curses with a life of toil. Even the serpent can't escape, it now has to slither on the ground and, apparently, eat dust. So there are clear punishments from god, curses that are visited upon people who had no part in the original crime.

            If Adam and Eve, prior to the consumption of the fruit had no knowledge of good and evil, how is that the god in the story can hold them responsible for any action they take in the garden.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            The language of "curse" and "punishment" probably wasn't appropriate. But I already pointed out that I'm not an authority on these things (I'm a terrible Catholic apologist). What I'm suggesting, however, is that there is more to OS than the popular understanding you continue to elucidate. More, when you ask, "Why should the god of Christianity have organized a system where the descendants of Adam and Eve should be subject to this fallen state?" This is evidence you're not paying close attention to points I've clarified (see my recent entry). I've pointed out that according to some Catholic scholars, Adam, Eve, and their descendants experience loss of grace (gratuitous), but this is 1) do to their actions and 2) the grace wasn't owed in the first place. Methinks the loss of grace is a reminder to humanity that we are in desperate need of a savior. So what you call immoral it seems to me is actually continued grace since it's the loss of grace which keeps us in pursuit of God, our ultimate source of happiness. That's the best I can do given my busy schedule.

          • Max Driffill

            Jonathan I've read your clarifications, but they don't answer my question. They are deflections and explain nothing.

            The language of the bible uses the word curse. Genesis 3:14-17. God is doling out curses left and right. Though he blames Adam for the curse of the land. "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life."

          • Jonathan Deundian

            My previously stated views are consistent with that language. Again, given the nature of language and its limitations to communicate (you can make the scriptures mean all sorts of things) you would do good to consult the Church for meaning. We're both doing armchair theology. My suggestion is simply a plee for charity. Best wishes!

          • Rationalist, I think your confusion arises because you've created a straw man (though likely unintentionally.) Catholics (and William Lane Craig) do not explain natural disasters in terms of free will. We agree that natural disasters have no relation to moral evils and, as I've explained to you before, have no moral component at all--they are not "evil" in the moral sense, but neutral.

            Finally, your last sentences suggests Catholics believe there is no free will in heaven. This is a straw man since this is not what the Catholic Church teaches.

          • Rationalist1

            My point with free will was that while some might claim it justifies moral evil, it doesn't justify natural "evil".

            And secondly if free will does exit in heaven, then there could be evil but is God managed some trick where free will can exits but no moral evil, then he's been deaf to generation of faithful praying "on earth as it is in heaven".

          • primenumbers

            "This is a straw man since this is not what the Catholic Church teaches." - that is why we need the article on how your Catholic epistemology actually works - the theory and the practise.

          • Primenumbers, you're asking about a different question than the one I sought to answer. I'm not talking about epistemology here but *theology.* It's interesting to examine how Catholics know and believe (epistemology) what they do, but *what* Catholics believe about God (theology) is a different topic.

            By noting Rationalist's straw men I'm merely pointing out that he's misrepresenting what Catholics believe, not how they believe it.

            (And in case your're wondering what Catholics believe, the Catechism of the Catholic Church lays it out clearly and fully.)

          • primenumbers

            I'm not always too interested in what Catholics believe as a set of facts, but I am very interested in historically how they have come to believe things and the epistemology of how they know what they claim to know.

            So yes, I know I'm asking a different question. I'm sorry if I sound like a broken wheel as I don't think this is the first time I've asked about the epistemological aspect.....

            FYI R1 was Catholic, so I'm sure he knows what the theoretically correct Catholic belief is, but as we know practise doesn't always follow theory.... In other words, are we dealing here with a "perfect" Catholic in terms of orthodox beliefs or practical instances of real-world Catholics who may not fully follow orthodox beliefs?

          • Primenumbers, when I say "what Catholics believe" I don't mean "what the majority of people who identify as Catholic believe." I mean "what the Catholic Church, and anyone who aligns with her, believes and teaches."

            Does that clarify things?

            This means that "what Catholics believe" is not dependent on what individuals like Rationalist hold or held. To the extent that they veer from Catholic teaching is the extent to which they do not "believe what Catholics believe."

          • primenumbers

            Ok, that clarifies on that. That

            BTW -"Catechism of the Catholic Church" - I hope that's not like Apple develop rules for "i" devices that have mutually contradictory rules to follow to be allowed to develop for the devices. :-)

          • Rationalist1

            Yes, because theologically a lot of trouble can arise with an apple. :->

            (I know apple was never mentioned in Genesis but popular culture maintains it was a apple).

          • primenumbers

            A friend of mine went through the procedure to develop for Apple "i" devices and I can't remember the details but there were obviously contradictory requirements upon power draw among others. There was NO way to actually follow all the rules. R1, do you know if there's such an analysis of Catechism online?

          • Rationalist1

            I don't know of one, but it would be interesting for someone to compare various versions of the Catholic Cathecism and see what changes were made.

          • josh

            Brandon, Rationalist is not strawmanning Catholics. S/he is pointing out an internal contradiction in what they profess to believe. If you want to resolve that contradiction you have to address it in detail, you can't just say 'we don't believe there is a problem.' And to justify your resolution you have to present an epistemology that we can agree on.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Admirable. Then god could have created beings who freely choose the right. No need for evil, no interference with free will. Simple.

          • stanz2reason

            Is the suffering of someone stricken with disease any less than someone who has been shot? Naturally disasters are perhaps morally neutral from a human perspective, but that's not really what we're talking about. The problem of evil isn't confined to actions of people, but to any and all 'bad things to good people' situations. I think you know this Brandon, or at least you should. If anyone's creating a strawman here it's you, by suggesting the problem of evil is limited to the results of mans actions.

          • Finally, your last sentences suggest Catholics believe there is no free will in heaven.

            No, it is not stated explicitly. But it is a Catholic teaching that what a person has done up to the moment of his or her death is what the person is judged on.

            1051 Every man receives his eternal recompense in his immortal soul from the moment of his death in a particular judgment by Christ, the judge of the living and the dead.

            So it would seem to necessarily follow that the person won't (if not can't) make a moral decision to turn away from God (if he or she has been saved) or to repent and turn to God (if he or she has been damned). The same is taught about the fallen angels.

            393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels' sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death."

            If a choice is "irrevocable," it seems there is no freedom to change after that choice is made. One can only assume that—if there is a God and an afterlife—after the moment of death, there will be a wealth of information that is not available in earthly life. Atheists, for example, will find out they were wrong. If they had known there was a God during their lifetime, they might have done things quite differently.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Rationalist, freewill isn't the only response to the problem of evil (which version, by the way). There are several! But before we entertain further considerations, has anyone provided a single piece of evidence to think God and evil (moral or natural evils) are logically incompatible? I think not. So it seems the burden of proof is on the accuser to marshal such an argument.

          • Rationalist1

            Actually many people think the concept of God and moral evil are synonymous. After all no one should thinks highly of a God who can judge you deserving of eternal hell for a thought crime.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Rationalist, keep in mind that on Christian theism, no one goes to hell because God throws them there. Individuals go to hell because God gives them what they want viz. themselves. Hell is locked from the inside.

          • josh

            "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning
            sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will
            be tormented day and night for ever and ever." Rev. 20:10

            "And if thy right eye
            offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for
            thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body
            should be cast into hell.” Matthew 5:28

            c.f. Many more. The bible repeatedly describes people being thrown, cast and forcibly confined in hell.

            The modern gloss that people 'put themselves there' simply makes no sense. I don't believe in Jesus Christ, much less accept him as my lord and savior. I am not in hell. There is no reason for my position to change. Ergo, God would have to actively put me in hell if he existed.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            If you want to know how to interpret the Biblical data consult the Church who's basically responsible for creating it.

          • Max Driffill

            Biblical data?
            What constitutes this biblical data?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Again, consult the Church (Catholic or Orthodox). They are the ones who were commissioned by Christ. They get to make the rules. I'm out of here, guys.. Thanks for chatting. Sorry I'm basically the only Christian theist responding. Unfortunately, you guys are covering a lot of ground and I'm not an expert in all fields. Many of your questions are good, but I feel as if my arm chair abilities are insufficient to properly respond. Appreciate the chat though. Take care

          • Yes, there do seem to be a preponderance of atheist commenters. I appreciate your polite contribution.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            You're welcome. Btw, I enjoyed your video chat. Best wishes!

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Plus, I hate the thread format.

          • josh

            Sorry, this is ignorant. The Catholic Church didn't create the 'Biblical data'. The old testament is a collection of rather disparate writings from several Jewish and pre-Jewish sources. The new is a surviving (and selected) sample of 1st and 2nd century (maybe some 3rd and 4th too, I don't know all the books) cult literature from a period of many diverging beliefs. The Catholic Church is essentially the central hierarchy that emerged as a dominant power over a few centuries, taking pains to eliminate 'unorthodox' teachings and heresies. It's doctrines are a product of social and historical factors and they have changed over time. The current Catholic structure is no more qualified to arbitrate on meaning than the Tea Party is to settle constitutional disputes or Soviet propaganda is to tell you the 'true' Russian history.

          • Max Driffill

            Whew,
            I am totally not going to hell then. I don't want to go there, and luckily God gives individuals what they want. Which for me is not hell.
            Glad that got sorted out.

          • I'm not a Christian, but I've always assumed that free will does exist in heaven. The reason that heaven isn't as messed up as the earth is that the inhabitants there has the wisdom to use it correctly. But of course if wisdom is the instruction manual that goes along with free will, why didn't God give us that? Perhaps the Bible is a just-so story ...

            (Of course, arguing about what heaven is like is a bit like debating what makes sense in the Harry Potter world.)

          • Jonathan Deundian

            M writes: "Does that give you a start?"

            No!
            1) which one of your assertions constituted an actual argument against Craig's two responses? 2) I didn't provide the links so they would be mocked by you or others 3) I also didn't provide the links to be dismissive of atheism. I'm well aware of the legitimacy and power of those two arguments 4) The links simply served as possible defeaters to deal with those types of arguments. You're obviously within your epistemic rights to reject Craig's arguments. I'm simply hoping you'll administer some charity along the way.

            Best

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I wasn't mocking either of the links. I was pointing out why they are utterly unconvincing to an atheist. The arguments contained in either of your links are neither legitimate nor powerful. The one by WLC is particularly heinous, since he fails to addresses the actual problem of evil.

            Are you familiar with the actual POE?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            I'm familiar with the logical and probabilistic problem of evil. Is there another?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            WLC, as usual, frames the problem incorrectly. And what on earth is the logical problem of evil? In your terminology, of course.

          • David Egan

            FYI - if you don't want to be mocked, don't present WLC as a serious thinker.

          • GreatSilence

            That is very much an internet attitude. Even the great Hitch regarded WLC as a formidable opponent. See Youtube.

          • Susan

            Even the great Hitch regarded WLC as a formidable opponent.

            As a thinker or as a performer?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Susan, Google John Loftus' report on that debate. That guy hates Craig and even he favored Craig. C'mon, be real guys.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            For a reasonably thorough atheist commentary on WLC's book "Reasonable Faith" try this:

            http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3E7E9155B5404B79

            Does a good job of addressing the main points of the book, which are the same points WLC trots out in his opening remarks in debate after debate after debate.

            Warning, some language NSFW, and those Christians who verge on aneurysm when their faith is subjected to devastating slurs like "silly" should probably steer clear.

          • "To begin with the first: it's WLC."

            So your rebuttal begins with a textbook case of ad hominem. Note that this is a clear violation of our Commenting Policy. Please dead with his arguments, not his person.

            "WLC lies when he claims no philosopher has ever found a reason why god and evil are incompatible."

            Accusing him of such a serious charge demands you produce evidence. Please show us which philosopher has found an irrefutable explanation of how God and evil are incompatible.

            "Generally, bringing WLC into a conversation with an atheist is a sign that you have no actual argument to offer."

            What evidence do you have to support this claim, which again falls prey to the ad hominem fallacy.

            The rest of your comment is a litany of unsubstantiated critiques. I can't detect one real argument in any of them other than unsupported critiques that WLG is "ignorant", "sloppy", "obsessed with strawman", and "theologically useless."

            When a critic resorts to such a litany of ad hominem attacks and fails to make a serious argument, it's usually a sign there is no real objection. Instead, the commenter targets the person's reputation.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's not in any way an ad hom. You should be a bit slower off the trigger finger of offense. I'm not dismissing the argument because it's WLC; his arguments fall on their own.

            WLC is well known in the atheist/theist debates. He is a debater, not a logician, philosopher, or theologian. By pointing out who the 'argument' is by, it helps identify the classes of errors we will see demonstrated.

          • But pointing out who the argument is by in no way says anything about the merits of the arguments. That was the point I was trying to make. You seemed to have categorically dismissed all of WLC's arguments on the basis of who offered them, which is indeed fallacious.

            Also, you claim: "[WLC] is a debater, not a logician, philosopher, or theologian."

            I'm honestly flabbergasted by this. I think he wears all four of those hats, though I'll admit I'm not sure how you're qualifying someone as a "logician" (Does that mean they use or reference logic? If so, WLC certainly fits the bill.)

            Your last two critiques, though, that WLC is not a philosopher or theologian, are simply indefensible. He has a doctorate in philosophy, a doctorate in theology, *and* has taught both courses for several years at the university level (along with "Philosophy of Religion"--a double validation.)

            Please explain to me how he is not a philosopher or theologian, and how that has anything to do with the validity of his arguments.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Pointing out that it's WLC gives some sense of what KIND of arguments he will make. And as I said earlier, WLC has no actual credibility in the atheist community. Now, had the poster responded with Tillich or Swinburne, I might have been more inclined to give a detailed analysis.

          • Ben

            Look: no one is disputing that an argument is good or bad, right or wrong, independent of who happens to be speaking. Fine. But I've watched WLC debate on youtube, I've read some things he's wrote, and I came to the same conclusion as O'Brien: the man is a rhetorician, who makes a decent impression on some in debates through his impressive Gish Gallop, but is full of it. His arguments are laughable, save in those places where they make one want to cry (see above discussion of genocide). So how long should I sift through a pit of coal in the hopes that somewhere there's a diamond in there? And how seriously should I take someone who thinks a coal pit is a rewarding place for me to roll around in?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Precisely.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Hmm, yet on analysis, no fair minded atheist will say Craig wins on rhetoric. Did Chris Hitchens beat Craig on rhetoric. No. But he's a world class rhetorician. So why? How about Sam Harris or Dan Dennett? There pretty good on rhetoric, but yea, they got squashed too. Listen, "winning on rhetoric" isn't winning. No one would admit Craig won anything if his winning lacked reasons and evidence. His reputation is exceptional among the atheist elite, believe me. Or believe Q. Smith, Jeffrey Jay Lowder. It's those infidel type atheists who drag his name in the mud.

          • Ben

            Not sure I'm understanding your response properly, but I don't think any atheist DOES think Craig "wins." He doesn't provide compelling points or convincing arguments. He just Gish Gallops. He's "exceptional" only in his ability to smoothly fire off bad arguments like a machine gun, sending out more bullets than can properly be dealt with in a debate and then declaring victory when his opponent doesn't have the time or inclination to try.

          • josh

            Craig's reputation among atheists, 'elite' or otherwise, is mud. Some consider him a successful demagogue.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Ahem..

          • Max Driffill

            Jonathan,

            Hmm, yet on analysis, no fair minded atheist will say Craig wins on rhetoric. Did Chris Hitchens beat Craig on rhetoric? No. But he's a world class rhetorician. So why? How about Sam Harris or Dan Dennett? They're pretty good on rhetoric. But yea, they got squashed too. Listen, "winning on rhetoric" isn't winning. No one would admit Craig won anything if his winning lacked reason and evidence. His reputation is exceptional among the atheist elite, believe me. Or believe Q. Smith or Jeffrey Jay Lowder. It's those infidel type atheists who drag his name in the mud.

            I wouldn't say he wins ever. He generally only debates in audiences packed with supporters of his side. He generally makes demands to go first, never engages the points made by his opponents. His reputation isn't actually exceptional among elite atheists. Most of them who are scientists consider it a huge waste of time to debate him, because who the hell wants to talk about the emperor's clothes?
            His performances do lack reason and evidence.

          • Jonathan Deundian
          • Jonathan Deundian

            Consider this analysis of Craig from a respected Atheist blogger: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=392

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Brandon, I pointed out that I was giving a quick summary. If you want detail, I can do that. Do you? I admit I don't get that impression.

          • M. Solange, you continue to make unfounded assumptions. First you assume WLC's arguments are flawed because of his character. Second, you assume I'm uninterested in the merits of his arguments when just the opposite is true: between us, I'm the *only* one who has seriously engaged them.

            I'd certainly be interested in your attempt to refute WLC's case against the "problem of evil".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I do not assume that his arguments are flawed because of his character. Where did I say that? And I did not say that you were uninterested in WLC's arguments. I did say that you did not give the impression that you were interested in MY arguments.

    • Rationalist1

      I refuse to have anything to do with William Lane Craig. He's an apologist for genocide. Here's a quote that demostrates this.

      "So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgment. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli [sic] soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalising effect on these Israeli [sic] soldiers is disturbing."

      Atheists and Believers can have fruitful discussions as this interview (and my personal favourite, the interview with Fr. George Coyne, S.J. and Richard Dawkins) can attest. But we must not abandon our ethical principles for that our most important stance.

      • Jonathan Deundian

        I keep hearing this parroting of Richard Dawkins, yet I fail to see how any of what Craig actually asserts entails the conclusion "Craig is an apologist for genocide."

        • Rationalist1

          He justified the killing of the all the Canaanite men, women and children because he believed God commanded it. To me the prohibition against genocide is a moral imperative, a moral absolute that may no be transgressed under any, even religious, circumstances.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            What ontological grounds do you have to justify the assertion that "prohibitions against the killing of people is wrong in any given circumstance"? It seems to be that if God or things much like Him do not exist, then your objection that God is a moral monster looses all force. In a weird way, your objection constitutes an argument in favor of God's existence.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Or in other words, insofar as God has morally sufficient reasons to take life, then your objection is undercut and defeated.

          • Rationalist1

            But I would refuse to worship such a God. I have principles even if that God doesn't.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Rationalist, you may be interested in the work of Paul Copan (see: Is Yahweh a Moral Monster) or Matthew Flannagan (from here: http://www.mandm.org.nz/) on this point. Many Ancient Near East (ANE) scholars actually have a different take on whether or not those conquests actually obtained in the way the prima facia text suggests. I'm one who actually believes those genocide accounts didn't occur. Methinks we're reading that ancient text poorly. I can pass you a variety of interesting resources if you want it. Shoot me a private email.

          • Rationalist1

            I believe that they, like the flood and the killing of the first born in Egypt didn't occur as recounted in the Bible as well but that's less important, in this context, than someone justifying it who believes they did occur.

            It's like violent video games, it's only CPU cycles and pixels, but one should not seek to justify the actions portrayed in the game.

          • Jonathan: I agree that the Canaanite conquest probably didn't happen as the Bible describes. This does call into question the Bible's accuracy, however: if you can't trust it to get even the coarsest historical facts correct in every case, what are we to make of its supernatural claims?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Bob, lots of things "call into question" lots of things viz. There are always arguments - all the way around - some better than others, of course. But I don't agree that a failure of those events to obtain constitutes a defeater to the trustworthiness of other Biblical claims, supernatural or not. The reason is ANE scholars deny the reality of, say, a total conquest of Canaanites (men, women, and children) because the text itself (not extra-biblical evidence) reveals that not all Canaanites were totally defeated. Scholars realize that what was common in the ANE stories was a sort of 'war rhetoric' language. A contemporary example of this is the phrase we use to describe how the Miami Heat went on to *slaughter* the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA finals. Apparently hyperbolic language was common in those days. I seriously have to run..

          • If the Bible were scarily accurate about the easy stuff, that might cause us to move it to a different category, away from the other holy books from long ago. Your analysis (something like: stories told around the campfire that grew with the retelling) sounds good to me. So then perhaps the Bible isn't unlike all the other books of mythology.

          • "But I would refuse to worship such a God."

            This is a really important and very telling admission. Thank you for being so open.

            I hope it's clear that it is not a real objection to God's *existence*, only his character. God may exist even if you find his character unattractive.

            I hope you also see, then, that Jonathan (and Craig) have given an intellectually satisfying answer to the "OT genocide question", namely that God has the authority, and also the morally sufficient reason, to take life, even if we, in our limited knowledge of the situation, disagree with his actions.

            (Note: As a Catholic I read that story through several different lenses and don't arrive at the same conclusions as WLC. This is primarily because I don't hold his Divine Command Theory. However, I don't find his interpretation to necessarily be problematic.)

          • Rationalist1

            No, don't read more into that comment than I intended. I don't accept the existence of God and in the likelihood that such a genocidal God existed I would refuse to worship that God, even if it meant eternal damnation.

            If God has the authority to take life, working through his chosen people, what's stopping his Church from making that claim now? The Catholic Church can't now, because it doesn't have the temporal power, but when it did.

          • "If God has the authority to take life, working through his chosen people, what's stopping his Church from making that claim now? The Catholic Church can't now, because it doesn't have the temporal power, but when it did."

            This is a loaded question that demands a much fuller treatment. But I'll say a couple things:

            1) Your last sentence is flawed because God *has* given certain people the authority to take life. See the Catholic Church's teaching on just wars and proper applications of the death penalty, both of which state that in certain situations it is not only allowable but morally necessary to take someone's life.

            2) The OT Canan episodes involved direct revelation from God. Catholics hold that direct divine revelation has ceased with Jesus' Resurrection (and the coming of the Holy Spirit.) In other words, God does not speak to people now the same way he did with the Israelites in the desert.

          • See the Catholic Church's teaching on just wars and proper applications of the death penalty, both of which state that in certain situations it is not only allowable but morally necessary to take someone's life.

            The Catholic teaching on just wars and the death penalty in no way imply that it would ever be permissible—in Old Testament times or today—to deliberately slaughter innocent men, women, and children. The atheists or agnostics or whoever else makes the point that it would be unthinkable for an all-good God to command men to slaughter babies are perfectly correct. I would certainly consider there are reasonably arguments why God himself could take human lives as he so chooses, but it can never be accepted that God would order a king or a commander of troops to order the troops to slaughter innocent people. Just in practical terms, even if God could legitimately give such a command, how in the world would the troops know their commanders were giving them an order from God? An order to kill innocent people is an order that any soldier would be required by conscience to disobey, no matter how adamantly their superiors claimed it came from God.

            Rationalst1 and Vicq_Ruiz are correct to say they would refuse to worship a genocidal God. The only way out of this one is to acknowledge that God never did and never would order men to kill the innocent.

          • Susan

            Your last sentence is flawed because God *has* given certain people the authority to take life

            Do you have any evidence for that?

            The OT Canan episodes involved direct revelation from God.

            Or for that?

          • staircaseghost

            So it's OK to murder Canaanite babies, but heaven forfend any of them should have to read a "snarky" internet comment before they go. Just imagine all the suffering that might cause!

            Don't worry, Strange Notions. I won't be darkening your door again. Good luck with your "serious and respectful dialogue" with whatever people haven't already headed for the exits when they heard the war crimes apologetics cranking up.

          • DAVID

            Brandon,

            The OT Canan episodes involved direct revelation from God.

            There's no doubt that the Canan episodes involved a direct revelation from God. But this is also true of the Law that Moses received on the mountain. We know that there are certain parts of the Law which Moses added because of the "hardness of [the Israelites'] hearts" such as the right to divorce.

            I bring this up because I'm pretty certain that the Church holds both divorce (for the purpose of remarrying) and genocide to be grave material which risks the possibility of mortal sin. Couldn't it be the case that the ban perpetrated on the Canaanites was more a reflection of the "hardness of hearts" of the Israelites instead of a commandment in keeping with the eternal Law of God?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Brandon,

            Like Rationalist, I too decline to worship a God who indulges in behaviors that would be heinous if indulged in by a mortal man.

            it is not a real objection to God's *existence*, only his character. God may exist even if you find his character unattractive.

            I think that's correct. There is nothing about the universe as I observe it and read of its history that would rule out the possibility of an indifferent or malicious God.

          • primenumbers

            "namely that God has the authority" - is his authority granted or assumed?

            I find that "morally sufficient reason" for God's actions will justify any action of God at all, and hence is not reason for any. And because you posit that God is the source of morality, for God a "morally sufficient reason" resolves to just being a "reason", and hence is not a fulfilling answer either.

          • primenumbers

            Which leaves you without a morality based discriminator between a voice from God and voices in your head. Is that not rather a dangerous position to hold?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            I wrote: "Insofar as God has morally sufficient reasons to take life, then your objection is undercut and defeated."

            To which you respond: "Which leaves you without a morality based discriminator between a voice from God and voices in your head. Is that not rather a dangerous position to hold?"

            ME:
            That conclusion was entirely unrelated to what I wrote.

          • Luke Meyer

            I believe that primenumbers was speaking under the assumption that God's voice and human thought are indistinguishable to the mind.

          • Rationalist1

            For at least most religions and denominations that's true.

          • But thankfully, not for Catholicism, through which God speaks clearly and unambiguously.

          • Rationalist1

            Brandon - You realize that there are good, sincere, educated, intelligent, prayerful people in every other denomination and religion who say the same about their beliefs. Does that not give you a moment of pause?

          • josh

            Which is why it only took them a few hundred years to admit that imprisoning and threatening Galileo was wrong. And burning Giordano Bruno. Oh, and the historically unambiguous stance on slavery. And Nazis. And treatment of Jews generally. And the crusades. And the Thirty Years war. And...

          • robtish

            So you've decided -- in other words, so the voice of your human thought has told you. So even for Catholics God's voice and human thought are indistinguishable to the mind.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But god has no such morally sufficient reasons. After all, if god is all-good and all-powerful, taking life is never necessary. And remember: this is genocide; god ordering SOMEONE ELSE to take life. Innocent life.

          • josh

            God can't have morally sufficient reasons. That's the point. The 'insofar as' is 'not at all' in this case. I might have morally sufficient reason to take a life in some circumstance, but that would only be because I didn't set up the conditions that would allow one person's life to be in conflict with another's (or some sufficiently pressing other right), and I have very limited options for resolving such conflicts. God, if he existed, would have to be responsible for causing such conflicts in the first place. So no dice, God is still on the hook.

          • Rationalist1

            If you have to ask why a prohibition against genocide could only exist when one believes in God, then I strongly encourage you to maintain your faith.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ten commandments. Something about don't murder.

          • epeeist

            What ontological grounds do you have to justify the assertion that "prohibitions against the killing of people is wrong in any given circumstance"?

            It isn't an ontological issue, it is an ethical one.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Another thing that strikes me as suspect is that Richard Dawkins generated this expression only after Craig challenged Dawkins to a debate. It's fascinating, I think, that Dawkins debates Christians who often lack philosophical and theological precision. It would seem though that if Dawkins really believes Craig is reprehensible that he's in a weird way morally responsible to dispense with Craig's philosophical arguments. It would be a service of pollution control. Alas, that will never happen. Did you see the Hitchens/Craig debate? How about Harris/Craig? Thoughts?

          • Rationalist1

            If he had generated this expression before he was asked to debate William Lane Craig one might have a case of Dawkins possessing supernatural prescience.

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Probably, Dawkins was well aware of Craig. What Atheist ins't? Craig has annihilated just about every atheist he's come in contact with!

          • Rationalist1

            Who else should Dawkins be announcing he will or will not debate?

          • Jonathan Deundian

            Plantinga ;-)

          • Rationalist1

            Shouldn't the pope be announcing a-priori whether he will or will not debate Richard Dawkins otherwise if Dawkins challenges him to a debate and the pope turns it down Catholics could be taunted with the accusation that the pope is afraid to debate Richard Dawkins. I think not.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            He's a good debater. Whether his arguments are sound is an entirely different problem.

          • A moral absolute? What possibly could be the origin for a "moral absolute", apart from the Divine?
            What about natural selection and genocide? If our ancestors, homo sapiens, were proven to have systematically wiped out the Neanderthal population, would this be viewed as "genocide" or a form of "natural selection"?
            I'm honestly hoping to learn how an atheist might view a prohibition against genocide as a "moral absolute".
            Part of the problem of trying to isolate "God" *apart* from one's moral framework and then "judging" God to have failed according *to* one's moral framework is that, by definition, if God is God, then it's *His* "moral framework" (His Will) that determines what is good and evil, not ours.
            Denying God's existence is one thing--but "judging" God according to an external standard is an immediately absurd proposition, unless one wishes to re-define God as "a divine being who must measure up to *my* moral standards".
            So, how do atheists formulate "moral absolutes" apart from the Divine?

          • Rationalist1

            We are the source of a moral absolutes. We use reason, common empathy, experience, science, discussion, debate, etc to extablish the rights and wrongs of the society we wish to build.

            If you worry that there is no divine moral law, then that's fine, because we have no consensus over whether it exists or not and what that moral law is. We have various groups saying God says do this, and the others, using the same Holy Books say, God said do the opposite. Isn't it much better to discuss and reason out the moral position rather than relying on one ancient book, written by a few individuals 2000 to 3000 years ago.

            And by the way, why did God never include genocide, child abuse, racism, torture in his 10 commandments. All of those would make the top 10 of any secular ethics. And also secular ethics would not devote the first 4 commandments to praise the person who wrote the commandments.

            And does God need to measure up to my moral standard. Yes, if he wants my worship and praise. Otherwise I refuse, on principle

          • Rationalist, you say: "We are the source of a moral absolutes."

            But if we are the source of morality, what would make those morals absolutely binding on everyone? How could they be absolutely true, for all people, in all places, regardless of personal opinion?

            Also, when you say "we" are the source, how do you define "we"? Does it just include people who agree with you about specific morals? Is it a majority opinion?

          • Rationalist1

            Society has the right, indeed obligation to enact laws to prevent certain actions, everything from parking restrictions to murder. I do not have the right to impose my morality on others. If a person wants to cheat on his or her spouse, I would object morally but not seek to impose my morality on them.

            Who is we? It's the society/country/jurisdiction one lives in. You saw an example of it today when the SCOTUS decided that gays have the right to be married (on the 10th anniversary of their decision that gay sex can't be a criminal offence). Who decided in that case. A majority of the supreme court and possibly the majority of Americans but that's irrelevant. The court decided that the US's constitution's guarantee of freedom does not permit restrictions on gay marriage. We have that way or we have the way of turning it over to either a majority vote to determine minority rights or turning it over to a religious denomination to determine the country's morality.

          • And if the "society" that homo sapiens wished to build included the "genocide" of Neanderthals, was that immoral or was that "natural selection"?

          • Rationalist1

            Two points - We don't know what happened to the Neanderthals and secondly, evolution is not normative anymore than the theory of gravity makes pushing people off great heights ethically okay. But a knowledge of evolution informs our knowledge of ourselves and allows us to counter, as much as possible, its negative attributes.

          • Okay, I'm not sure what the "its" references in the above--evolution or self-knowledge--in "its negative attributes"?
            But more to the point--agreed, we don't know for sure what happened to the Neanderthals, hence I posed my question as a hypothetical, because I'm trying to understand your view on the "moral absolute" of genocide. It seems a useful hypothetical, since it raises questions about what constitutes the mechanism of "natural selection" and what constitutes the socially-originating absolute prohibition against genocide that you have proposed.
            Based on your understanding of this moral absolute, if homo sapiens had managed to eradicate the Neanderthal population via deliberate extermination, is that an example of "natural selection" or would that be an example of genocide?
            Or both?

        • Max Driffill

          Craig rather blithely excuses the genocides committed by Israelites, easily the most awful tribe in the bible, on numerous occasions.

        • Jonathan: I discuss Craig's support for godly genocide here if you want more.

      • "I refuse to have anything to do with William Lane Craig. He's an apologist for genocide."

        I disagree with your last sentecne, but even supposing it was true, how is this not an example of the ad hominem reasoning? You're refusing to take seriously Craig's arguments on cosmology, ontology, morality, and theology because of his Biblical hermeneutic.

        You're openly admitting to ignoring his arguments in light of his perceived character.

        • Rationalist1

          Yes. And don't you see why? He's the religious equivalent of Peter Singer, an intelligent, educated, extensively published academic. Would you entertain his other ideas knowing he also advocates humans and animals having sex? Or is merely mentioning that fact another ad hominem attack?

          And it's not a perceived character. He opening admits accepting genocide under certain conditions. I just happen to find that unacceptable and I don't care what his other merits are.

          It's like when Pope Benedict refused to allow Bishop Richardson back into the Catholic Church because he held the view that the Holocaust was fiction. The Pope didn't care what other admirable traits he had, he said he could not be a bishop until he recanted. Isn't this similar?

          • "Would you entertain his ideas knowing he advocates humans and animals having sex?"

            Sure. I'd gladly engage his ideas in my vigorous attempt to refute them. But also, and this would be a good analogy, even though I disagree with Singer's ethics that wouldn't prevent me from ignoring his views on history.

            I guess the difference between us is that you refuse to engage serious ideas because of the person who said them, even if those ideas are unrelated to the reason you lament the person.

            I don't take that approach.

            "It's like when Pope Benedict refused to allow Bishop Richardson back into the Catholic Church because he held the view that the Holocaust was fiction."

            It's not like that at all. Refusing someone into communion with the Catholic Church is not the same as engaging serious arguments. The two are categorically different and I'm honestly surprised to see you make this analogy.

          • Rationalist1

            All analogies limp, but the comparison does hold. Imagine if the Pope continued to dialogue with Bishop Richard Williamson (I got his name wrong in the previous post), perhaps meeting once a month to discuss other topics. Would that have been acceptable? No.

          • Rationalist, I don't see why not. Is talking to someone you disagree with a problem? If so, perhaps you should flee this website.

            In the situation you propose, talking with Bishops Williamson may be the *only* way to help correct his strange beliefs.

          • Rationalist1

            On a separate article here a poster here effectively said I was full of sh@t. I see no further reason to discuss with him and have told him I will be ignoring his posts.

            It's not the disagreement that bothers me, it's the morality of the person making the argument and I refuse to sink to their level. And yes no one is perfect and there are many transgressions I am willing to reluctantly accept but justifying genocide is not one of them. Atheists are often accused of having no moral principles. But we do, and this is one of mine.

          • primenumbers

            As I mentioned in an earlier discussion, invoking WLC in a theology/philosophy discussion with atheists is like invoking Ken Ham in an evolution discussion. He is not a highly thought of figure for many reasons, some of which you've read here. This is not to dismiss his arguments out of hand, as his arguments have been dismissed with reason elsewhere (they generally rely on logical slight of hand, equivocation and word-play). It is the nature of the flaws in his arguments (hidden by excellent rhetoric - I wish I was that good at speaking), coupled with his dismissal of the contrary point of view in deference to the self-authenticating nature of the holy spirit that leads to his lack of worth among atheists. So when you hear the ad hominem attack, please be aware it's short-hand for why there is WLC is not thought of highly.

          • Rationalist1

            Or debating banana man? ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z-OLG0KyR4 )

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Amazin' fellow.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            WLC engages in presuppositionalism a great deal. Why should this be convincing to an atheist?

          • Max Driffill

            WLC also never engages with the ideas of others. He just plods on with his (flawed) talking points. He has fared far less well in hostile environments (hostile in the sense of being in a place with people who do share his views and will call him out on them). Consider his poor showing when the internets exploded over his dreadful grasp of non-human suffering.

          • primenumbers

            Why should he engage? He knows he's right through the self-authenticating nature of the holy spirit. At least a lot of people here do seem to actually engage.

        • epeeist

          I disagree with your last sentence, but even supposing it was true, how is this not an example of the ad hominem reasoning?

          Just because someone makes an ad hominem does not mean they are committing a fallacy. Pointing out that somebody is biased, not disinterested, has no authority on a particular topic, has deliberately committed falsehoods is a perfectly valid thing to do.

      • epeeist

        But it isn't just WLC is it, let's bring it up to date with Richard Swinburne attempting to justify the Holocaust on the grounds that it gave the Jews "A wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble."

        Here also is his justification for Hiroshima:

        Suppose that one less person had been burnt by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Then there would have been less opportunity for courage and sympathy; one less piece of information about the effects of atomic radiation, less people (relatives of the person burnt) who would have had a strong desire to campaign for nuclear disarmament and against imperialist expansion.

        • BenS

          So.... if someone were to tie him up and torture him for a couple of weeks and then drop him off, horribly disfigured and mangled but still alive, at a hospital, he would consider this a good thing?

          This would be great because the world would have one more example of courage and sympathy, one more piece of information about the effects of torture on the human form and more people with a strong desire to campaign against torture.

          That's some mighty broken thinking, it has to be said.

          • epeeist

            That's some mighty broken thinking, it has to be said.

            I know of philosophy and theology students who have got up and walked out of his lectures and tutorials when he has presented this kind of argument.

        • Rationalist1

          That's very sad and rather pathetic. I wonder if he ever tried to justify 9/11 as a good thing.

        • primenumbers

          If even the worst of events can be justified with some higher good, then the theist has no rational grounds to say anything is ultimately bad.

    • robtish

      From the first piece, I stumble over this: "In order to achieve His ends, God may have to put up with certain evils along the way."

      This vision of a limited, heavily constrained God is quite different from the version Christians usually want us to accept.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Correct. Hence the POE as actually formulated demonstrates that the concept of an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing god is incoherent. If god is actually all-powerful, then he need put up with no evils along the way.

  • Thanks for the interview, Bob and Brandon!

  • Rationalist1

    God interview, nice tone and good questions. I'm glad he discussed his 40 day prayer experience. He seemed open about it, but like me, found prayer ultimately empty. Thanks

    • Thanks for the comment, Rationalist! Among your hundreds of comments here, this is the first time I've seen you compliment a Catholic. I'll take it!

      • Rationalist1

        I actually have up voted several believers in the past and made positive comments on occasions when believers departed from a more dogmatic position and engaged the issue at hand.

        • Are you suggesting that all Catholic comments here fall under one of two categories:

          1) Dogmatic positions

          or

          2) Engagement of the issues at hand.

          • Rationalist1

            False dichotomy. I can throw out the logical fallacies too.

          • Leila Miller

            He asked a question, he did not set up a false dichotomy. You seemed to set up a dichotomy of sorts and he was asking you about that.

          • Rationalist1

            No, there are some who change the topic and don't engage the issue at hand, there are some who don't know their position or don't know the position the Catholic Church requires them to take. My comment was that I found those posters who, on both sides, are willing to discuss, not stand firm no matter what, more engaging.

          • Leila Miller

            Okay, thanks. That is the clarification I think Brandon was seeking. There are many Catholics who are completely faithful to Church teaching and yes, Church dogma (Brandon is one, obviously) but who also are quite willing to discuss the issues at hand.

  • Jay

    I've commented two or three times on his blog. He writes and posts articles almost as much as articles are put onto this website (or at least from what I've seen so far), but he seems to do it all by himself. When you reply to him, especially if you have a dissenting opinion, he often replies back with an answer that is often a few paragraphs in length. A very skilled and intellectual debater.

  • Sage McCarey

    I just have to ask, how old are you Brandon? You look like you're 15! You got good genes my boy.

  • Corylus

    I have to admit that there are some magnificent surnames on here.

  • Linda

    What a lovely interview. Very interesting. I enjoyed the collegial tone. Thank you both for setting such a kind standard of conversation. On a different note entirely, (and I hope I do not cause any offense to anyone), I read the three leaves as a nice wink at Mr. Seidensticker (though I am fine with you seeing it as just a fun coincidence). God plays with me this way sometimes, too; I think He likes my sense of humor.