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Stephen Fry, Job, and the Cross of Jesus

StephenFry

The British writer, actor, and comedian Stephen Fry is featured in a YouTube video which has gone viral: over 5 million views as of this moment.
 

 
As you may know, Fry is, like his British counterparts Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, a fairly ferocious atheist, who has made a name for himself in recent years as a very public debunker of all things religious. In the video in question, he articulates precisely what he would say to God if, upon arriving at the pearly gates, he discovered that he was mistaken in his atheism. Fry says that he would ask God why he made a universe in which children get bone cancer, a universe in which human beings suffer horrifically and without justification. If such a monstrous, self-absorbed, and stupid God exists, Fry insists, he would decidedly not want to spend eternity with him. Now there is much more to Fry’s rant—it goes on for several minutes—but you get the drift.

To those who feel that Stephen Fry has delivered a devastating blow to religious belief, let me say simply this: this objection is nothing new to Christians. St. Paul, Origen, Augustine, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and many, many other Christian theologians up and down the centuries have dealt with it. In fact, one of the pithiest expressions of the problem was formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. The great Catholic philosopher argued that if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. Yet God is called infinitely good. Therefore, if God exists, there should be no evil. But there is evil. Thus it certainly seems to follow that God does not exist. Thomas thereby conveys all of the power of Fry’s observations without the histrionics. And of course, all of this subtle theological wrestling with the problem of suffering is grounded, finally, in the most devastating rant ever uttered against God, a rant found not in an essay of some disgruntled atheist philosopher but rather in the pages of the Bible. I’m talking about the book of Job.

According to the familiar story, Job is an innocent man, but he is nevertheless compelled to endure every type of suffering. In one fell swoop, he loses his wealth, his livelihood, his family, and his health. A group of friends console him and then attempt to offer theological explanations for his pain. But Job dismisses them all and, with all the fury of Stephen Fry, calls out God, summoning him, as it were, into the dock to explain himself. Out of the desert whirlwind God then speaks—and it is the longest speech by God in the Scriptures: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know….Who shut within doors the sea…when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands? Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place” (Job 38: 4, 8-10)? God goes on, taking Job on a lengthy tour of the mysteries, conundrums, and wonders of the universe, introducing him to ever wider contexts, situating his suffering within frameworks of meaning that he had never before considered. In light of God’s speech, I would first suggest to Stephen Fry that the true God is the providential Lord of all of space and all of time.

Secondly, I would observe that none of us can see more than a tiny swatch of that immense canvas on which God works. And therefore I would urge him to reconsider his confident assertion that the suffering of the world—even the most horrific and seemingly unjustified—is necessarily without meaning. Imagine that one page of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was torn away and allowed to drift on the wind. Imagine further that that page became, in the course of several months, further ripped and tattered so that only one paragraph of it remained legible. And finally imagine that someone who had never heard of Tolkien’s rich and multi-layered story came, by chance, upon that single paragraph. Would it not be the height of arrogance and presumption for that person to declare that those words made not a lick of sense? Would it not be akin to someone, utterly ignorant of higher mathematics, declaring that a complex algebraic formula, coherent in itself but opaque to him, is nothing but gibberish? Given our impossibly narrow point of view, how could any of us ever presume to pronounce on the “meaninglessness” of what happens in the world?

A third basic observation I would make to Mr. Fry is this: once we grant that God exists, we hold to the very real possibility of a life beyond this one. But this implies that no evil in this world, even death itself, is of final significance. Is it terrible that innocent children die of wasting diseases? Well of course. But is it finally and irreversibly terrible? Is it nothing but terrible? By no means! It might in fact be construed as an avenue to something unsurpassably good.

In the last analysis, the best rejoinder to Fry’s objection is a distinctively Christian one, for Christians refer to the day on which Jesus was unjustly condemned, abandoned by his friends, brutally scourged, paraded like an animal through the streets, nailed to an instrument of torture and left to die as “Good Friday.” To understand that is to have the ultimate answer to Job—and to Stephen Fry.
 
 
(Image credit: Sneaky Mag)

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

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

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  • Monk

    I see an assumption by Mr. Fry that evil is caused by God, rather than a deprivation of God as Augustine and others maintained.

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      If I were to discover, driving out of a dealership, that my car had no brakes, would it be right to complain (and possibly sue) to the manufacturer? After all, the missing breaks was caused by deprivation of manufacturing, not by the manufacturing itself.

      • Archaeopteryx

        No, because the brakes were removed by the dealer, whereupon the manufacturer went to great deal of trouble and expense to provide replacement brakes only to get yelled at for designing a car with no brakes.

      • paul fitzgerald

        But what if the result of not having breaks causes an increase in the drivers ability in another way. its an interesting metaphor but your argument is still subjected to the narrow vision of the one who got the car. Could there be a purpose to not having breaks? Would the car be better with or without breaks? (in relation to the body and soul of a person and how one effects the other, with great suffering comes great depths of spirituality at least according to St John Paul the Great.) Argument still holds the narrow vision problem. Cheers

        • David

          (in relation to the body and soul of a person and how one effects the other, with great suffering comes great depths of spirituality at least according to St John Paul the Great.)

          So, is that why JPII allowed the child abuse in the church to continue despite knowing about it for decades? Did he think he was doing those kids a big spiritual favor?

          • paul fitzgerald

            whether or not JPII knew or didnt know the depths of the horrible abuse scandal within the Church. the statement still rings true in regards to suffering

      • Guest

        But who broke the car? The manufacturer, or the driver?

        In the Christian understanding, the situation is more like the driver near totaled the car a week after driving it off the lot.

        • George

          both the driver and car were created by the manufacturer. the driver was made to fail.

          "created sick and commanded to be well"

          • Guest

            The driver was allowed to do as he liked with the car, and even given some driving tips. He still broke the car.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          My analogy refers to Guest's (are you the same "Guest?) claim that evil is the absence of God. You are saying that evil is caused by humans. This is a different scenario, so, yes my analogy doesn't quite work the same for it.

      • fromlynn

        breaks?

      • Urbane_Gorilla

        I love how believers devolve into lengthy discussions of silly analogies. Hence the ironic "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?".

        • David Nickol

          Hence the ironic "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

          In fairness to Christian theology, this was never actually a topic of theological debate.

          • Urbane_Gorilla

            It was contrived as a form of ridicule.. That's why I used the term 'ironic'.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If your intention is to ridicule you should leave.

          • Urbane_Gorilla

            My intention wasn't to ridicule, just to point out how believers seem to spend so much time developing anaolgies and dissecting them into insignificant pieces instead of talking about the real matter at hand. You only have to read the responses on this page to understand that.

          • Fundamentally, God is weird. Analogies help bridge the weirdness of the sort of being required to be omniscient and omnipotent into something that we can understand.

            Can you actually see a tesseract? You can only see a three dimensional or more often a two dimensional projection which are a sort of analogy to the real thing.

            I think that omniscience requires playing around in at least four dimensions where one of the dimensions is time. Now go try explaining that to shepherds who haven't twigged onto any higher math at all. It is wall to wall analogies to get even in the same ballpark.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Nobody actually debated this question.

        • Hugger

          I love how unbelievers, with no biblical, historical, theological, or scientific support, feel so smugly superior to believers.
          If unbelievers had the confidence, and courage of their beliefs, they would not need to snipe at believers. But obviously, they are very unsure, and must engage in contemptuous comments to boost their insecurities.

          • Raymond

            Mr. Frye was asked this question during an interview, and he gave his sincere considered answer. He may have been emotional in his response, but it's not like he said these things on his own.

          • JDunneSC

            I love how believers, with nothing but the Bible and their theology books, feel sosmugly superior to nonbelievers.
            If believers had the confidence and courage of their beliefs they would not neet to snipe and nonbelievers. But obviously, they are very unsure and must engage in contemptuous comments to boos their insecurities.

            FIFY

          • Hugger

            Obviously, you have no valid basis, and must stoop to mimicking me, which is the sincerest form of flattery. Thank you! Glad we agree.
            Its unbelievers who started all this, desperate to prove their unbelief to themselves, by attacking believers.
            The Bible is a very well accepted historical document, corroborated by historical records of much older civilizations than the Hebrews.
            Jesus existence, life, miracles, death and resurrection have all been documented to the point that they can be accepted as proven fact by the established and accepted standards of historians, attorneys, mathematicians, archeologists and theologians. Anyone of intelligence, who did not have an axe to grind, and studied the subject from those disciplines, would admit it as true and proven.
            That's science. Not silly arguments saying Gods existence cannot be proven. Science cannot disprove it either, so that argument is ridiculous.
            Same with the hysterically gullible "beliefs" that the universe, life, consciousness and morality all "just happened dude!"
            Yeah, believers are gullible. Right!
            Science that needs unexplained "dark matter" which would have to compose 95% of the universe for their theories to work......except we cant find any! Who is gullible?
            You all can continue to quibble over my attitude. You can squeal and squirm about "polite discourse" since you have no better basis. But you know in your heart that I'm right.

          • JDunneSC

            Oh dear....sweetie, I'm Catholic. I just dislike it so when Christians/Catholics do the very thing they sneer at atheists/agnostics for.

          • Apparently you have a good sense of humor too.

            Peace.

          • Well, we have the Bible, theology books, 2000 years of applied experience in pastoral care spanning billions of people, and the world's oldest bureaucracy to handle the filing. It's a bit more complex than what most unbelievers claim.

            The strongest evidence that there's something of the divine about the Catholic Church is has always been its survival in the face of the death of so many better run organizations. By all evidence, God seems to have a sense of humor.

      • It would be very hard to see how that works, precisely, as the dealer would have a pretty hard job getting the cars off the trucks. The original deal, the deal of Eden, was that all was good and light and permitted except to eat of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. But we ate of the fruit and now Eden is barred to us. That's the moment when we metaphorically 'drove off the lot' and our new car turned into a used car that just lost half its value and became ineligible for all the deals that are available only for new cars. This is a sad moment that absolutely every person who has ever bought a new car goes through.

        If we are beings with free will and not just puppets dancing on a string, once we knew what evil was, we maintained the right to choose it and we have chosen evil often and with gusto. The nature of free will is that we must be able to choose what is bad for us. Thus even in Eden there was a tree, so that we could choose.

        We can't choose evil and have Eden. They are incompatible by nature. The consequences are abysmal. If God is at fault in anything, it is in working in free will into our nature. But if He hadn't, we'd just be one more set of puppets, incapable of freely choosing to love Him and he apparently ever so much wanted that that He was willing to accept all the problems that went with it. Coincidentally, we'd also be incapable of complaining about whatever happened to us.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          Right... but free will doesn't really do much with the problem of natural evil. Our choice* to choose evil creates hurricanes? Cancers? Drought? Children drowning in floods? I think its fair to say that God created a world in which, according to your view, choosing evil causes innocents to suffer. That's a pretty big defect in my book.

          * Or should I say, Adam and Eve's choice, since you and I never chose to eat any apple?

          • Though I hear that there's an operation to restore your virginity, how, exactly, do you restore your innocence?

            Yes, choosing evil causes innocents to suffer. Serial killers aren't all like Dexter on TV, just going after the guilty.

            The whole genesis story where God instructs Adam and Eve that now things are going to be different may or may not be literal but it certainly is educational and something that happens with kids every generation. They're young, they grow to a certain stage of development and things get more complicated. They are required to do more than smile, eat, and soil their diapers. Once they grow to the age where they can wipe their own butt, it turns into their job.

            I was born in Timisoara, Romania because my grand dad didn't see the need to spend $7 on reentry permits to the US in the late 1920s. I was able to move to the US 2 years later because Nicolae Ceausescu wanted a particular treaty with Richard Nixon really badly and our family was part of the price. Yes, I was sold to Richard Nixon and he set me free. That's nothing to do with religion, just a recognition that our circumstances are powerfully shaped by our ancestors and others. No religious faith necessary to recognize and accept this truth. If you only are bothered by it when it is used to help explain religion, it's not clear eyed rational inquiry you're dealing in.

            Clutching your pearls about Adam and Eve foreclosing choices for you personally is just silly if you're not at least as concerned about people you know personally doing the exact same thing throughout your life.

          • Rick Kasten

            You're right. It is silly. And it is foundational Christian doctrine. Throw out the original sin story and all of Christianity crumbles. Without original sin, there is no need for Christ to die in the first place. Can't very well be a Christian without believing in the death and resurrection of Christ being the bridge between God and sinful humans.

          • Since eliminating original sin to restore innocence is not actually foundational christian doctrine, perhaps you're really going after straw men?

          • Rick Kasten

            Other than the gnostics in the early centuries of Christianity, all traditions that I know of consider Christ the ultimate sacrifice that bridged the gap between God and sinful man, a gap first created by Adam and Eve and their original sin. So, to which tradition of Christianity are you referring when you say it is not foundational doctrine? I'll be happy to correct myself if you can clarify the strawman.

          • The sacrifice of Christ redeems. It does not restore innocence. Sins are forgiven. They are not erased from the history of the world. You are simply misstating Christian belief.

          • Rick Kasten

            Ok, well I never said anything about restoring innocence in the first place, but yes, Christian doctrine is forgiveness not erasure of sins from history. How does that change either my or OverlappingMagisteria's points? I would barely consider that minor point to be a strawman.

          • Actually, I made the first remark about it not being about restoring innocence, that this boat had sailed once Adam and Eve ate from the apple. You disagreed, which made me think you had some very peculiar ideas about christianity. I still do, but apparently this one is not on the list. Glad we actually settled one thing.

          • Rick Kasten

            In fairness, that's not really relevant, since Adam and Eve are fictional characters who never actually existed, never actually sinned and therefore never actually ushered "sin" into the human experience.

          • Setting about the task of proving a negative? That's bold!

            Good luck with that.

          • Rick Kasten

            True, I cannot prove that Adam and Eve positively did not exist. However, the biblical account is fundamentally opposed to reason and scientific evidence, so the case is very, very strong that they did not. Who were Adam and Eve? When did they live? Are all humans descendents of them? If so, then they must have lived at least 100,000 years ago (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_human_migrations). And since we have documented evidence that Neanderthals were already in Europe when early humans got there, we can prove that Neanderthals were not human. So, did they have free will as well? Were they sinful? If not, then they were perfect sinless beings living on the Earth, so why did God bother creating Adam and Eve. Or, if the Neanderthals were sinful, and sin came from Adam and Eve, then Adam and Eve were not actually "human" but an even earlier form of hominid: Australopithecus, or perhaps Homo habilis? If so, then they would have lived 2.3-4 million years ago. That's interesting, because writing was not invented until around 8,000 BC, and language did not develop until around 100,000 BC, so how exactly was the story of Adam and Eve preserved in such fine detail as found in the Bible? Are you suggesting this story was passed down through the generations in the oral tradition of gorilla proto-language for 2-4 million years?

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I'm still not seeing how this applies to natural evil.. how do evil choices result in tornadoes? This still makes no sense. But if you are not interested in defending that point, then that's fine.

            Yes, I agree that in our world, innocents do suffer because of the choices of other people. A child raised by drug addicted parents is affected by the parents decisions. However, this is an unfortunate reality that we try to work hard against. In a perfect world, innocents would not suffer because of other peoples choices: the child of drug addicts would have the same shot as anyone else. You wrote that I shouldn't clutch my pearls over Adam and Eve if I don't also worry about similar instances today. Well, I do think that both instances are terrible. Again - ideally, innocents should not suffer because of other people's choices. Do you agree that people today suffering because of Adam and Eve's choice is unjust? Or are you OK with the idea that we suffer because of others actions?

            Oftentimes, this unfortunate reality is used (and even embraced) as an excuse for the Problem of Evil. You used Adam and Eve as an explanation of why innocents suffer. When I point out that this system is awful and unjust, you just shrug and say - well that's just how the world is, sometimes innocents suffer. But that just returns us back to to the original Problem of Evil! The answer to "Why does God allow innocents to suffer?" cannot be "Because there was this system that God made that allowed innocents to suffer".

            I accept the fact of innocent suffering as an unfortunate reality that we should work against. You say that God specifically made a world in which innocents suffer - in which we suffer for the sin of Adam and Eve. Do you not see how this is an awful decision by God? Does this not cause a problem for your view of a good God?

          • The post eden world described in the Bible is explicitly not a perfect world.

            There are all sorts of speculative fiction stories about worlds where people do not suffer. They are universally considered dystopias, not perfect worlds. I wasn't there when God was making the universe's design decisions (see the book of Job) so I'm not going to second guess God. I do know enough general principles of chaos math to know that to truly understand what is going on and what will go on you had to have been there. Knowing the past will tell you the future but in chaotic systems (and all complex systems are chaotic) knowing the approximate past does not reliably predict the approximate future.

            In short, unless we know the precise initial conditions, God will always know more and be more qualified to judge. If the world today is creating the least aggregate amount of suffering, while individual circumstances may be unpleasant, trading a relatively small injustice for one with a larger injustice for another does not seem to be an improvement.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            "They are universally considered dystopias, not perfect worlds."

            Not quite. I know of one story (which I consider speculative fiction, you may disagree) in which people do not suffer, nor is it considered a dystopia. People tell me stories of this place called Heaven... a perfect world, no suffering. Some claim that there is even free will there.

            You are basically dodging the Problem of Evil by saying that maybe God has a good reason for allowing the innocent to suffer. Maybe there is a good reason that he set up the garden of Eden so that the choice of two people has long lasting and unjust effects on the rest of the world. Maybe there is a reason for the child who dies in a flood. Maybe the all powerful god was not able to do some things... Maybe...

            I agree that this is the strongest response to the Logical Problem of Evil, but I don't think it is very satisfying. Many people suspect that the answer to all those "maybe's" is "probably not."

          • I think that how Eden worked was a bit strange and difficult to grasp from the perspective of a world where sometimes it just sucks to be you. You didn't have to work to feed yourself. Shelter wasn't a problem, nothing was sin except for that one rule about one insignificant tree. And yet with all those advantages, the one rule got broken.

            I view Eden as a sort of toddler world where jumping off a cliff doesn't kill you, no matter the height. Everything is child proofed. Exiting Eden stripped the child proofing and gave us the neutral world where actions have consequences, some of them bad and we can choose and choose again to learn in that abundance of choice to grow up and form a more adult sort of relationship with God.

            Of all the possible choices for a neutral physics, an appallingly large number of them just kill us within seconds. I know of no choices which are better. Do you? It seems to be implicit in your complaint that God made the world in some inferior way.

            This is a remarkably hard task, and I think it exceeds the complexity that you can realistically get in a comment thread so I wouldn't blame you for not tackling it here. But if you don't have an actual better world, the uncomfortable reality that this is as good as it gets remains a possibility. Personally, I don't know of a better one.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I don't think it is at all difficult to create an actual better world. I'll do it in 2 steps:

            1. Take the world we have now.

            2. Remove Epidermolysis bullosa childhood disease that causes your skin to blister and peel off painfully.

            Unless you are willing to say that a world with Epidermolysis bullosa is better than one without, then I have just given you a better world. (And if you do think Epidermolysis bullosa is a good thing in the world, then do you oppose medical research to end it?)

            Step 2 can, of course, be replaced with a large number of horrible things we find in this world.

            Now, you may respond that in order to get rid of Epidermolysis bullosa, you would have to interfere with the laws of physics. But since when is God limited by the laws of physics? If you are describing a god who has no interaction with he world, then how is that different than a god who isn't there?

          • I see, you don't want physics, chemistry, or biology to work under their current rules. What rules, pray tell, are better ones?

            You don't just get to pull out a genetic miscoding that arises by random chance. You have to change the rules so that no such miscoding is possible. That would be a very different world and I'm not sure that it's a possible one given the laws of nature as they are. So in a world where God is hands on and intervening directly in a million ways a second to keep things just so (the world of Eden) it's possible to make all that stuff disappear. But you don't end up with a world that runs by consistent rules. Science, it wouldn't work because the physical laws of gravity, for instance, would have to vary in the world of Eden in order to prevent physical evil like fatal falls from happening.

            We're no longer ignorant shepherds sitting on a hillside and staring up at the sky. Assertions that "God could just make it so but doesn't" need to be just a little bit more sophisticated to figure out some sort of method to accomplish the asserted task that wouldn't actually make things worse.

            So, if you could pray to God to rid us of Epidermolysis bullosa but you'd have to trade the scientific method for that intervention, would you make the deal? Would that world be better?

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            The entirely passive god you describe is indistinguishable from one who does not exist. Not only that, you say he cares more about maintaining absolute consitent physical laws over the suffering of innocent people.

            Would I bend physics to prevent Epidermolysis bullosa? Sure! All it takes is little push on a molecule to prevent the mutation from happening. Not only would this tiny intervention prevent needless suffering, on the off chance that someone notices there would actually be evidence of miracles! It would take care of not only the Problem of Evil, but the Problem of Divine Hiddenness as well!

            But, if God's really hung up on having a universe with consistent physics, then there's the fact that he gets to create physics. Whatever rules he likes. You're telling me God wasn't clever enough to come up with a system in which innocents don't suffer?

            What are your thoughts on Heaven? This is a place that is supposed to be better than this world. Do you think Heaven is preferable to this world? If so, then there's your example of a way God could have made the universe better - make it like Heaven. (And don't say that Adam and Eve lost that for us. Neither of us are Adam - that would be bringing us back to punishing innocents of other peoples sins...)

          • What I'm saying is that when you add a constraint to a system, you forego possibilities, states that the system can ever have. I'm not smart enough to identify which possibilities have to be foregone. Your position seems to be that adding constraints does not forego any possibilities and that's actually more implausible than just about any modern major religion I know about, even the ones that I think are ultimately wrong.

            Heaven is a place for those who have already been formed, grow up, freely choose God and maintain that choice through the temptations of life. Heaven is like Eden in that you can have regular direct knowledge of God. There's no need for faith there. You have proof.

            Why this particular constraint of this world exists I don't really understand. I do get that God is working pretty hard to allow faith (which requires a certain amount of uncertainty of knowledge) to exist in our present world. It seems as if that's an important requirement.

            So, like a 10 year old for whom the ice cream for dessert seems like the most important and best part of the meal, but grown ups generally know better, Heaven looks better than Earth. It's still only dessert though.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Oh I agree that my constraints would forgo some possibilities. That's the point: my constraints would forgo the possibilities of gratuitous suffering.I think that's a good thing.

            You seem to recognize that these constraints against suffering would have to exist in Heaven and you don't seem to have a complaint them existing there. The constraints that are implausible here are not implausible there? Your only response so far has been that maaaybe God has a reason... maaaybe there some treason that faith is of utmost importance.

            Another thing I found interesting is that the Problem of Evil states that the world as we see it looks as if there were no god. Much of your defence has been to define God as one who does not intervene and bows before the laws of physics. Well that's what a non-exisitent god looks like. I found that bit interesting.

            Anyways.. thank you for the conversation! Unfortunately I'll probably have to bow out at this point as my real life is about to get pretty busy.

          • It is not so much bowing before physics as valuing our human autonomy to choose over the downside of temporary suffering but you are pretty close to getting my point right. By all accounts knowing for sure has real downsides and it is a one way door.

            I found the conversation interesting as well. Your resistance to the idea that big rock candy mountain world rules might not be possible was very illuminating.

    • Rick Kasten

      So evil is either caused by something that doesn't exist or by the deprivation of something that doesn't exist. Makes perfect sense.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        If you are not familiar with the idea of evil as privation you should look it up. It makes perfect sense. The missing digit on the hand is a physical evil. The missing justice in the bandit's character is a moral evil.

        • Rick Kasten

          Except that both the hand and the bandit actually exist. Defining evil as being the absence of an undefinable concept is to not define evil at all.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Who defines evil as the absence of an undefinable concept?

            What is the undefinable concept you are referring to?

          • Rick Kasten

            God

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Evil is the absence of good.

          • Rick Kasten

            That's a different conversation. OP(Guest) said it was God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Are you referring to this?

            I see an assumption by Mr. Fry that evil is caused by God, rather than a deprivation of God as Augustine and others maintained.

          • Hugger

            Evil is the knowing choice of bad over good. It is a quality within ourselves. Not some invisible phantasmic force, like gravity.

          • God is love. There, defined it for you. Well, *I* can't claim originality.

            Most recently it was Pope Benedict XVI who said so in his encyclical Deus Caritas est ("God is love"). It's a good read. Part of the problem for english speakers is we seem to lack a word for agape, or sacrificial love. Agape, in english, means something entirely different than the greek original.

          • Rick Kasten

            Fortunately, I studied koine Greek in college, so I do know the definition of agape love, and it doesn't help the conversation. It is a word with a definition. You might as well have said "God is red, in all its shades." Um...ok, what does that mean? If God is love, then what is love? If I care for my cat and seek its best interest and keep it in good health and good spirits, then what am I? God? Or practicing God? Or "being God" as least as far as my cat is concerned? And if the answer is yes to any of that, then all we've really done is replace one word with another. Even if we define God as "sacrificial love", then again, any military personnel who throws themselves on a grenade to save other troops must be God. I doubt that's what you are trying to say.

      • Hugger

        Evil is a quality. It is the result of bad intent/motive and self centeredness.
        It is, to some extent, self-perpetuating. The pleasure derived motivates repetition. An addict will pursue his addiction to the death, even knowing its killing him. Evil can also tempt from outside, as in the devil. He is real, as Jesus teaches. He can, and does, tempt people into evil, which they may never have committed without the external influence.
        Evil cannot exist without life, and consciousness. Matter cannot be evil. Nor can dumb animals.
        Thus, evil is always a choice.
        Also, things that cannot be evil, can still be good. God created things, "and saw that it was good"
        Good, as in the absence of evil, or good in and of itself? I would say, in and of itself.
        Interesting subject.

        • Raymond

          I believe that it is Mr. Fry's position that IF God existed, the way the world is now would exemplify the qualities of "bad intent/motive and self centeredness." Brain cancer in children, famine, and other horrible aspects of life become evil when created by a being that lives outside of space and time and demands we worship it. And arguments that humanity somehow has it coming because a mythical Adam fell into God's trap are evil in themselves.

      • Instead of deprivation, it might make more sense to you to view it as imperfection. God is Love, perfect love in all its forms. As you turn away, partially from love, your heart hardens, you start making poorer decisions. The more you turn away, the worse it gets as your instantiation of love becomes more flawed. At a certain point the flaws can be and generally are labeled evil and it just continues to go downhill from there to as bad as one can be.

        • Rick Kasten

          That's an awful definition. It is completely empty. I love my kids, so does that make me God? My mom loves her cats; does that make her God? The men who flew airliners in the World Trade Center towers loved their God and their families and their communities; did that make them God? Some people define loving their fellow LGBT Americans as holding up picket signs reading "GOD HATES FAGS!" at military funerals; does that make them God?

          Who are you to define what is "flawed" or "evil" or "turned away from love"?

          • Sorry, no, you're entirely barking up the wrong tree. What you are asserting is like saying that you followed the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking makes you Julia Child. It's ridiculous.

            God is external to me and thus when I get things wrong (and I'm certainly not perfect) that doesn't mean that I've changed what love is or God is. It just means I'm wrong. Ultimately, God either exists, he so loved the world that he sent down Jesus to be incarnate of the virgin Mary and went through crucifiction and resurrection or Christianity is just wrong. But however that is, I'm not the one defining it. I'm just trying to correctly perceive what a being external to me, God, has defined it as. Occasionally I try to help others along and hope I'm doing t right.

          • Rick Kasten

            I know it's ridiculous. I was only stating the implications of your original definition, according to which all of my examples are still valid. The fact that we recognize my examples as ridiculous shows that your definition is flawed.

            But now you're changing the definition. First, you said God is "Love, perfect love in all its forms". Now you're saying that God is "external" to you, a "he" who sent "down" Jesus. So now God is a male human who is "up" somewhere, as the term "down" implies that God is physically above us on the surface of the Earth, and who has the ability to procreate. That doesn't sound at all like love which is an emotion and to some extent an action; you've described a sentient being. So which is the correct definition, or is it some combination of the two? And if God is the one actually defining it, please explain how I can get the correct definition directly from God rather than having to go through you to get it.

          • Your mischaracterization of my position does not invalidate my actual position. You know that, right?

          • Rick Kasten

            I do. I fail to see yet how I am mischaracterizing your position, or at least your "God is Love" position.

    • krusta80

      Is the concept of "evil" something that applies only to mankind? If so, then does all of the universe's potential for evil get wiped out if the world explodes tomorrow?

      Do the concepts of right and wrong (as well as evil) apply to alien life? What if that alien life were to theoretically end all human life?

      Furthermore, at what point in evolution did mankind develop it's unique propensity for evil (assuming that is your viewpoint)?

    • Not at all, Fry is asking why God did nothing to lessen or eliminate suffering that seems to be independent of any human action. He and I consider it to be exceedingly immoral to not have prevented this suffering or to have significantly lessened it.

      He may have answers, no one can think of what these may be. Or he may be a myth.

      • Loved As If

        Has it ever occurred to you that God does lessen natural evil?

        • Of course. He could be doing this all the time. Nonstampcollector has a great video on this in which God keeps saving a plane from crashing but of course no one realizes or thanks him so next time he lets it crash.

          Anything is possible if it's possible. If a god exists and is lessening suffering, why not more? Why not tell us what he is doing and why? I think there's no escaping the conclusion that enormous amounts of suffering seems pointless to any moral plan a God could have.

          • Loved As If

            The god described in Nonstampcollector's story is capricious like Enlil, the Sumerian God who destroys humans with the flood because they are too noisy and disturb his sleep. A god, who allows a plane to crash because no one notices & thanks him, is not God, the Creator, Redeemer & Sanctifier.

            How often have you done something absolutely stupid & not suffered the consequences? I know I have many, many times. Not suffering the consequences of our foolish actions is an example of suffering lessened.

            Why isn't suffering evaded all the time? In a "fair" world, why is it ever invaded? In a world where the fittest survive, those who do stupid things ought to die. Yet frequently we don't. We drive drunk and make it home safely most of the time. We smoke in bed and usually don't set ourselves on fire. On New Years eve we stumble around NYC totally wasted without being mugged. Kids jump survive jumping off garage roofs and all sorts of other escapades. Often, we don't experience the suffering we bring onto ourselves.

            And sometimes we do. But given all the occasions when we create suffering for ourselves, the times when most of us suffer are significantly less than a reasonable person would expect. We might want there to be no suffering. We don't realize how often we are given a pass. Perhaps I'll make a statistical analysis some time but one can get a feel for the amount of suffering we expose ourselves to vs. the amount we actually suffer.

          • Non-stamp's god is obviously a satire, he is suggesting one reason a god might not intervene. It is not a moral reason. However, I do note that it is not so different than the character we find in Exodus who personally tortures and kills Egyptiians so that his own power and glory be known, or something to that effect.

            In a world without a God who is all good, all powerful, all knowing, I would expect us to suffer only when there are moral reasons for it. These could be due to our own malicious or immoral actions. I would not expect people to suffer due to things like their own stupidity which I would not hold them responsible for. I wouldn't expect massive and continuous suffering caused by seemingly random occurrences that no one could reasonably prevent. Such as earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, volcanoes.

            In a world with no such god, I would expect to see exactly what we observe. Stupid, ignorant and malicious people sometimes suffering for these reasons, other times getting lucky. A system of evolution that is favours survival of well-adapted genes and often results is horrific suffering from successful disease microbes, well-adapted predators and so on.

            What is absent from the world we observe is any significant indication that an all loving god exists. This is obvious from the pervasive and gratuitous suffering we constantly observe. If a God exists it is an enormous mystery why he would allow such suffering. No theologian has come up with anything like a plausible moral reason to allow this suffering, though it is easy to think of many immoral reasons as did non stamp. Even the book of Job and Exodus give us reasons we now think are immoral (though at the time people might of felt differently)

    • Garbanzo Bean

      Augustine said evil is the lack of an appropriate good, not a "deprivation of God".

  • James Wyss

    I have to go reread Job.

  • JBRodrigues

    Under atheism, there is nothing wrong with having bone cancer. It is just a different chemical reaction, as a mentos in Coca-cola is a chemical reaction. If God does not exist, there is no objective right and wrong. The concept of "evil" does not exist if there is no God. If you do really feel bone cancer is wrong, you tacitly assume the existence of God, whether or not you may have particular emotional troubles with God or not. That is the ultimate irony from Fry's remarks. I dislike how Fry's remarks are somehow seen as insightful by many, when they have been questioned and answered since at least the 12-13th century.

    To underscore the point, to quote Richard Dawkins, under atheism, there is no good or evil, but only "pitiless indifference". Why? Because humans, under atheism are just stardust, with no higher value than compost. When's the last time Fry mourned when two asteroids collided? Why would he (presumably) mourn when two school buses collide and children die? Asteroids and kids are both nothing but stardust if there is no God.

    Where do atheists get value for human life from? Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything, if God does not exist? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us?

    The argument against God from is an emotional argument, but has no intellectual weight whatsoever.

    • Laura Y.

      Very well stated, JB Rodrigues.

    • Mike

      "If God does not exist, there is no objective right and wrong"

      EXACTLY!

      Why is this so hard to see? Can chemicals care? Can a galaxy care? Can DNA care?

      Materials can NOT care by definition!

      • William Davis

        That's the fallacy of composition.
        Can aluminum and steel go from Washington D.C. to L.A? No, but a car can. A car has properties that are not possessed by any of the components of the car. The same is true of living organisms.

        • Mike

          So morality is an 'emergent property' of carbon?

          • William Davis

            It is an emergent property of organic life. Ants have a very communistic form of morality, dogs are anarchists. Apes have their own social structure, so do dolphins (dolphins are much more advanced than most people realize). Morality is a set of rules for defining social behaviors, natural selections works on morality with the rule "Selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, altruistic groups beat selfish groups." See why Christianity is dominant over selfish pagans? There could be altruistic pagans now, but that would be because Christianity selected out selfish morality and possibly many non-altruistic genes (plus figure in epigenetic forces from society).

          • Mike

            What is organic life in your example mean?

            Sorry the rest of the examples are non sense ants dogs DO NOT have morality they have organism and group function; no animal KNOWs right from wrong...none.

            Have you ever considered why other animals don't cry?

          • William Davis

            If ant's don't have morality, then why do ants behave "morally". Why do they do the best for their colony, even at the expense of their own life? What is morality if it isn't that?

          • Mike

            They don't; We think they're doing that bc we put value judgments on things, all things, actually this is a big clue as to our origins that we seem to judge literally everything seems strange if we're just a chemical accident.

            Ants don't sacrifice themselves they do as their plan tells them to do and nature and they don't mourn their dead or weep or have rituals to celebrate or anything NO animals do that.

            A young monkey will be eaten by its OWN MOTHER and the brothers will not demand justice.

          • William Davis

            Anything that evolved is not an "accident" any more than Christianity is an "accident". Natural selection is a very picky process, and Christianity has thus far survived the process of "idea selection". Human morality is much more evolved than those of lesser animals, and is proportional to our intelligence and mental flexibility.

            http://www.livescience.com/24800-animals-emotions-morality.html

            Dolphins are extremely intelligent, can communicate extremely well (enough to send out scouts who report back) and have a complex social structure

            http://www.dolphins-world.com/dolphin-social-structure/

          • Mike

            Ok if you think animals have morality best of luck.

          • James Stevens

            "Anything that evolved is not an 'accident' ..."

            If it is not an "accident", it means that its not following the natural laws which makes things present or permissible in the universe. This implies that it was intentional, and anything intentional has purpose. Although purpose may exist in the universe, there is no natural law deliberately promoting some type of agenda or intent. Natural law doesn't decide, "You know I'm going to make 5 more galaxies this weekend..."

            Natural selection is random. It's not sitting there thinking "Oh Penguins please make it to the next century!" Natural selection doesn't have favors either. Without life natural selection seizes to exist. A life form's capacity to adapt to the changing world, is what most people talk about when referring to natural selection. Some things like changing behavior are deliberate and purposeful as to improve survivability. Others are luck of the draw such as chance mutations. These chance mutations are indeed accidental, especially since DNA polymerase ACTIVELY looks for mutations and does its best to correct them. If this process was flawless mutation would be extremely difficult to take place.

          • William Davis

            Chance mutations are random. Natural selection itself is not random. These are two different things. Chance mutations and natural selection to create evolution. Do we know everything? Absolutely not. Evolution does not answer how life originated, we are still trying to figure that out. If there is a creator, could have made the universe for life to evolve? Sure thing, but this creator would be a very strange being, nothing like the Christian God. If the creator wanted anything, he wanted galaxies and supermassive black holes. We are such a small percentage of the matter of the universe we can't even put a number on it. I still want to find God, I just think we have a heck of a long way to go. Pretending like we have the answers now is silly to me, this is why Christianity has so many things it can't explain.

          • William Davis

            I'm not trying to beat a dead dog, it is all this pesky science stuff I know that conflicts with Christianity. Just putting it out there :)

          • Mike

            Science and Christianity are not in conflict anywhere, not one place.

          • aardi

            christianity is in conflict with 'the world'. science is a phenomenology, while faith IS life.

          • James Stevens

            You're imposing personification on the ant by the way you interpret the behavior as being "moral". You have defined that ants protecting the colony even if they risk their own life as being a moral attribute, without taking into consideration the reason why the ant does this. Since we humans are currently incapable of communicating with ants in deciphering why they do what they do it is impossible to state that this behavior is considered moral for the ant. If we could prove that ants have an ant bill of rights that declares such actions as good this would entirely be a different story.

            Also just b/c a behavior is popular doesn't mean its moral. Slavery, Rape, Murder, Theft, are all popular behaviors done by humans but most would say these are morally bad.

          • William Davis

            You're imposing personification on the ant by the way you interpret the behavior as being "moral".

            You call me out for personification of an ant when you continually personify God? Ridiculous. I have no problem with the concept of the necessary being, but making "God" into a person is ridiculous. Talk about hypocrisy.

          • James Stevens

            Not really, If one believes that God communicated who He is to man that isn't personification. If ants could establish proper lines of communication with humans and I told an ant who I was and the ant said "Hey this human admires ants and enjoys eating sweets!" Do tell me where the personification is?

          • DontBeATool

            You have a strange definition of ‘popular’.

            Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian are popular.

            “Slavery, rape, murder, theft” are not popular. They are so unpopular that most societies have strict prohibitions against them based on shared secular moral values.

            However, that’s not to say that Bieber and Kardashian shouldn't also be categorized as morally offensive.

          • James Stevens

            If we look at humanity for the past 2,000 years and beyond. Slavery certainly has been endorsed by many if not most civilizations and societies. Also human trafficking is one of the biggest industries in the world and there are more slaves now then ever before. Sure its not social popular as it was during the era of colonization but we're defining popularity based on European Ethnocentrism. In other places such as in the Mideast its still more common place.

            Rape is more subjective, some kinds such as husbands with wives in several societies was alright and several societies today remain acceptable. In fact Especially in eastern societies if a wife refused to pleasure her husband whenever he wanted it was considered a mark of shame on the woman. Lets also not talk about concubines, and the rape that happened amongst female slaves. In many societies such acts were considered enjoying the spoils of war, up until surprisingly recently.

            Murder, ritualistic killing of humans who committed no crime has been very common through many societies especially endorsed by societies that have pagan like religions, but it also occurred in other religious groups as well. What the Nazis and Soviets and Khmer Rouge did was this and it was endorsed by the government and the people. In the U.S. at one point the murder of blacks and native Americans was in fact popular. When people are celebrating the lynching of black people as if it's a parade or festival

            Theft, So when the United States of America took over the lands of the Natives this was popular. The fact that colonization occurred was another brazen acceptance and promotion of theft.

          • DontBeATool

            Okay. So accepting your assertion that murder, rape, etc. are popular worldwide, what do you see as the cause of this? Do you have a solution, or do you just like pointing out the foibles of the human condition?

            BTW, your god is responsible for all of this bad behavior. Either directly, by creating us to begin with, or indirectly, by allowing his imperfect creation to behave immorally without intervening on behalf of the weak.

          • James Stevens

            Ultimately the root cause is free will, or specifically man using their freewill to embrace evi. God gave man free will, as I believe He wanted man to chose to love Him instead of being forced to love Him like a slave or programmed to love Him like a robot. When I think about it love can only exist if there's free will, as its not really love if you're forced or programed to do it.

            Now if we look at the Genesis account God gives man free will. God puts them in a paradise, and gives them only 1 rule. That rule is that if they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they will die. Clearly God NEVER designed humans to have the capacity to handle dealing with evil. This is like how a wool shirt isn't designed to handle being immersed in a fire, or how fish are designed to handle the environment of water instead of dry land. Now as we can tell from the story both Adam and Eve understood that they were not designed to handle consuming this fruit b/c it would introduce death into their lives. Death can only take place if there's some type of corruption or decay.

            The serpent came and tempted Eve. It convinced her to eat the of the fruit b/c it claimed they wouldn't die, (which is a contradiction to what God said and basically is accusing God of being a liar) and it stated that the reason why God didn't tell them to eat of the fruit is b/c He was holding back on humanity and didn't want them to be like God, in regards to knowing good and evil.

            Humans were NEVER designed to handle evil/sin, nor its addictive and corruptive affect. It's no wonder really that death was the end result. Nonetheless, man became convinced that God was lying to them and holding back on them. Pride to hold of them, for how dare God do such a thing and so the fruit was consumed by them. Notice also that Adam wasn't deceived by the serpent, he was deceived by Eve. Eve was deceived by the serpent, so the capacity to resist against the temptation was completely possible and reasonable. It was the one rule they had to follow and it seems pretty logical and reasonable a command to follow.

            Now if you think God is responsible for man falling b/c he gave them the freewill and man decided to use it by not trusting God and embracing the corruption of death I wonder if you're in preference of slavery. After all with this institutions the concept of freewill is forbidden.

          • Susan

            Well morality may well be more than survival

          • William Davis

            Sure, with humans it is also about being happy.

          • Father-warrior

            Morality denotes foresight; the ability to know the rightness or wrongness of an action, and to foresee, albeit vaguely, the outcome of a choice. Non rational animals have no such ability, their actions stem from their very nature ; they're instinctive and aren't able to make rational decisions. Man, being a rational being, is able to foresee the outcome of his actions, and is able to choose freely, hence responsibility for choices taken.

          • Michael Murray

            So when my cat looks up at something high it hasn't jumped onto before and contemplates it for a long time and then walks away it's not foreseeing, even vaguely, the outcome of deciding to leap ?

            When it finds a small crinkly bit of plastic on the floor of a type I have in the past stopped it playing with and immediately picks it up and runs into the bedroom out of sight instead of playing with it in sight that's just all instinct ?

          • William Davis

            Study smokers and addiction. It just isn't that simple, I don't have time to elaborate right now, but look at my other posts :) Wake up one day and "choose" to not have a sex drive, "choose" not to be driven to eat food. There are many things we can't choose, we just think we can't. I'd argue you can't choose to get in your car and drive across the country today. You might THINK you can, but you won't, therefore you can't. Free will is mostly an illusion, you still do the same thing everyday even though you THINK you can choose otherwise. There might be some possibility for true free will in there somewhere, but you must be extremely intelligent and have a very high understanding and mastery of your instincts. This is something Christianity tries to do, but doesn't do very well. Buddhism does this MUCH better. Buddhism and non-religious countries like Germany and Japan (who are world leaders) prove we don't need superstition to do the right thing. It's built in us, but we can actively cultivate traits and habits that make us better people. Check this out

            http://www.businessinsider.com/how-scientists-figured-out-who-the-worlds-happiest-man-is-2012-11
            http://www.ted.com/talks/matthieu_ricard_on_the_habits_of_happiness?language=en

          • Monica Chagoya

            insticts

          • Roman

            Yore confusing morality with instinct and learned behavior

          • William Davis

            There are two sides to morality, internal and external. Many creatures exhibit moral behavior that is quite exemplary. Proverbs references ants as a role model for diligence. For an ant, behavior is simple, there is only one instinct (though a deep study of ants shows things are not always so simple) and the ant follows it. Humans have two conflicting instincts, one is to take care of self, the other is to take care of the "tribe". There has to be some kind of balance here, and striking this balance well is the one the primary places where morality is not "absolute". Modern political ethics still fights over the rights of the individual (self) verse the rights of the collective (community and social justice). Anarchists think we are to be lone wolves, communists think we are to be ants, I argue that we are neither, but some complex mix of the two. When it comes to abortion the church actually takes the side of the individual (the fetus, even though technically the fetus is not biologically individual until it can survive on it's own) verses the collective, the case is clear that having abortion legal reduces crime by removing unwanted children from the world. There are also the rights of the mother to consider. This and many other "moral" issues break down on these lines. The Catholic Church takes the side of the collective when it comes to social justice and taking from wealthy individuals and giving to the needy and poor. This is a clear case of subordinating the right of the individual to his/her property to the needs of the collective, but one can make the case that the individual is more important, and not be "wrong", though this argument lacks compassion for the poor. Compassion and reason work together to form morality, it is more of an art than it is a science.

          • William Davis
          • Marc Riehm

            You are wrong. Other animals can grieve. Dogs, elephants, and some apes are known to grieve. And apes have exhibited moral behaviour. Try googling for: chimp behavior and morality.

          • Mike

            All animals feel things they are not rocks but NO animal has EVER been found to have morality or seek anything even resembling a want for justice.

            A monkey will have its head bashed in by its own mother for no apparent reason and although its brothers or sisters or relatives will scurry NONE will organize to punish the mother or setup a ritual to mourn the victim these are strictly human things bc only we have intellect and "know" right from wrong.

            Why do you think that when a human child is mauled to death by a dog or a snake or shark NO ONE not even the extremist PETA types demand that the animal be jailed or have to go to therapy? Bc the animal doesn't know its wrong and so doesn't even feel guilty bc it can't not bc it's a psychopath.

          • Papalinton

            Wrong.

          • Mike

            WRONG! LOL!

          • Marc Riehm

            You must never have owned a dog.

          • Mike

            Does your dog live with its parents and siblings? Or did you cruelly rip him away from his family and community and culture to make him a slave in your own home? ;)

          • you need to read more about animal behaviour, this is simply not true

            http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/19/health/chimpanzee-fairness-morality/

          • Mike

            CNN is a very bad source for animal morality.

          • elliemaldonado

            Here's an excerpt from "Wild Justice
            The Moral Lives of Animals"
            by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce

            http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/041612.html

          • Mike

            I don't think that animals have any sense of right and wrong; this is why we put down dogs who kill kids not rehabilitate them and why animals who kill their own kids do not get sent to "animal jail".

          • elliemaldonado

            I think humans and nonhuman animals certainly have their differences, but several studies have shown that nonhumans have a sense of right and wrong, especially within their groups. Unfortunately for dogs, they get put down for a lot of reasons. If it were a question of justice, millions of innocent homeless dogs would not be killed every year. It's very rare for parent animals to kill their own offspring.

          • Mike

            I disagree but you know that; anyway this is really a dead end for me, but best of luck if you think animals have morality.

          • elliemaldonado

            I wish you the best if luck to you too, Mike :-)

          • elliemaldonado

            Mike, I replied to you, but for some reason my post is not showing (?). I don't know why, but I'll give it a chance to show up, rather than post it twice.

          • Simply not true, all social animals have some sense of morality, it's what allows them to live socially.

            They won't all have the same morality.

            This doesn't require personification. What is the self-awareness of an ant? Most likely little to none. It's simply a description of observed behaviour.

            The difference with humans is we are able to think rationally about our moral instincts and crucially we are able to contradict them - to go beyond the instincts and derive elaborate frameworks of higher morality... things like the universal declaration of human rights etc

          • Mike

            You're confusing morality with social dynamics which even the most basic animals have; morality is knowing right from wrong and notions of justice.

            All living things like animals have behavior patterns but these are totally determined by their physical env. not by any notions of right and wrong...animals have never rebelled against their leaders for ex.

          • Raymond

            Haven't you seen the You Tube videos of dogs showing guilt when scolded for misbehavior? Or the videos of dogs weeping at the graves of their deceased masters, or at the arrival of a master after a long absence?

          • Mike

            Or the dolphins who as a group refuse to swim with the dolphins who betrayed them to their enemies the sharks or the rituals that monkeys perform in remembrance of their leaders!

            No doubt animals have emotional states and feel obviously pain or confusion etc. but they have nil morality/sense of "right and wrong" not just sense of advantageous vs. non-advantageous but actually "Wrong".

          • James Stevens

            Its extremely powerful conjecture to declare that ants have morality.

            Morality is defined by principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

            Just b/c something is behaving a certain way or chooses to consistently behave a certain way is no indicator that the organism comprehends the concept of right or wrong.

            Some ant species have consistent behaviors of enslaving other ants. Just because these ants en masse subscribe to this behavior by no means justifies the concept of slavery as being right or wrong.

          • William Davis

            I never said we should map ant morality on humans. The fact that you just went there shows how powerful the similarity is. Ants have instinctive morality, so do humans. One of the "problems" with instinctive human morality is it only "cares" about the tribe, which is usually of one's own race. This concept is why we still struggle with racism, and will continue to struggle with it, we are naturally racist. Luckily we humans are flexible and can learn over instinct. Ants can't, they are only instinct, that's the difference, the plastic and beautifully complex human brain.

          • James Stevens

            Do ants know right from wrong? If we can confirm this then I'll agree with your assertion.

            As for the biblical passage I'm pretty sure the point was to admire the work of the ant. However, this by no means that ants understand morality. I admire the strength of a lion, the ingenuity of the Octopus, ant, and dolphin, but that doesn't mean that organisms displaying traits that we humans admire defines that these organisms understand the morality, and that morality drives there behavior. To do so is personifying the organism.

          • William Davis

            Isn't sloth a sin? If so, being diligent is moral. Solomon was referring to a place where the ant is an example of excellent morality when it comes to this particular trait. Of course our morality is more complex, but let me agree with Solomon here. He was supposed to the wisest man who lived after all...

          • James Stevens

            Yes its a good trait but for it to be truly moral as previously defined, the ants have to understand good and evil.

          • William Davis

            Sure, you get the point though :)

          • That's right, as well as the other ways you said it, above. Any subhuman behavior, even in the most intelligent primates, can only be considered proto-moral. Only in Homo sapiens, the symbolic species, is moral behavior possible. According to semiotic science, without the type of consciousness that arose from the coevolution of language and brain, the signs employed by other animals are merely iconic and indexical (crudely put, meaning conveying a factual idea of what, when and where re: a given actuality) but not symbolic (a learned social convention or otherwise arbitrary sign). Human consciousness has novel emergent properties that make it not just quantitatively but qualitatively distinct from subhumans, that foster a robust self-conception and a degree of behavioral autonomy that we experience as free will (without which talk of morality is silly anthropomorphic projection).

            God-talk only superficially comes across as anthropomorphic in everyday language but has always been sufficiently nuanced and disambiguated dating back before the early church fathers and ancient mystics, who qualified their terms via apophatic and equivocal predications. Philosophically, these God-concepts are eminently reasonable even though inescapably tautological and not empirically demonstrable and transcend any anthropocentric notions, unlike anthropomorphic projections of human morality onto subhuman behavior, which is bad philosophy because its was first bad science.

          • William Davis

            This is not an original idea, Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible, agrees, Proverbs 6:

            Go to the ant, you lazybones;
            consider its ways, and be wise.
            7 Without having any chief
            or officer or ruler,
            8 it prepares its food in summer,
            and gathers its sustenance in harvest.
            9 How long will you lie there, O lazybones?
            When will you rise from your sleep?
            10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
            a little folding of the hands to rest,
            11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
            and want, like an armed warrior.

            As an atheist, I still like it when I can find things in the Bible to back me up. There is a lot of wisdom in there, I'll give Christians that.

          • Mike

            Some atheists believe that molecules have morality since they respond to stimuli and decay or reproduce!

          • William Davis

            Proverbs 6:

            Go to the ant, you lazybones;
            consider its ways, and be wise.
            7 Without having any chief
            or officer or ruler,
            8 it prepares its food in summer,
            and gathers its sustenance in harvest.
            9 How long will you lie there, O lazybones?
            When will you rise from your sleep?
            10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
            a little folding of the hands to rest,
            11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
            and want, like an armed warrior.

          • Papalinton

            "Some atheists believe that molecules have morality ...."
            Source? Names?

          • Mike

            Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens.

          • Papalinton

            You've given the names. Now cite the source. I cannot recall at any stage, in any writing of Dawkins, Harris and Dennett to have claimed that molecules have morality.

            I will be very interested to find out from you where I have missed this information. Until and unless you can cite these instances I remain unconvinced of your claim. Indeed, failure to do so will be a testament of intellectual dishonesty and a demonstration of unethical conduct.

          • Mike

            Well if we are nothing more than chemicals yet morality clearly exists, either we are more than just chemicals or morality doesn't exist no?

          • aardi

            morality isnt bound to social scope. There will be and is a particular-universalist moral. A subjective moraliry. A dissident as an example. Jesus as a dissident as an example. But dissident from what? The nothing that the world-ly is. Vanity, vanity.

          • Phil

            Hey William,

            I don't think that an "emergent morality" makes any major difference. While you may be able to hold that some sort of "morality" emerged from matter/energy, you cannot hold that this is therefore some sort of objective morality.

            In other words, it may have emerged that rape is wrong from the matter/energy that has continued to evolve and has made up the human person, but to say that there is something actually intrinsically and objectively wrong with rape itself could not be said. Matter/energy evolved this way, but there is no reason it couldn't have evolved some other manner.

            In other words, there is a difference between intrinsic worth and value because of what an entity is, and "value" because the human person has survived with these qualities.

            Our conclusion then is that one cannot hold objective moral values or an objective value to anything without a transcendent source. So again, nothing is actually bad or evil from a naturalistic-atheistic position.

          • Barry Coleman

            You are committing the fallacy of equivocation.

            You equate "behavior" (like behavioral altruism) with "morality" (which implies intentionality).

            The difference is clear. That altruism is a behavior that can emerge in some species and that can be beneficial in an evolutionary sense it is clear, but the fact whether altruism is Morally Good is an entirely different question.

            Hence your assertion that morality is "an emergent property of organic life." is faulty.

            That is why most atheists even REFUTE any "objective morality" and fall back to moral relativism.

            hence there is usually a strong confusion, especially in evolutionary psychologym between behavior and morality and what they inherently imply.

            Of course this does not mean there is not a biological ground to morality (Natural Law basis itself on it, although it goes beyong mere physicality), but at the same time morality canNOT be reduced to a mere physical or behavioral process, since it requires intentionality and not mere "behavior".

            For example a person can be altruistic for purely selfish reasons (eg personal gain) and another can be altruistic from desire to see other people happy (eh not interested in any personal gain). Clearly even if their behavior is equal, their motivations are quite different, hence their morality.

            The reductionistic approach at morality (often proposed by Dennett and the like) is inherently flawed... and even several atheist thinkers have seen such flaws (eg Tallis, Nagel, Pigliucci, etc...).

          • William Davis

            Human objective morality is simply hardwired into most of us, there is no danger of it really disappearing. The problem is that the hardwiring includes racism, someone can truly believe they are good and be racist (only good to their "kind). This is further proof that morality "evolved". Some people, like serial killers, have defective moral hardware. I know exactly what I'm doing, and behavior and morality do amount to the same thing.

            There are all kinds of good books written about this, why don't you read some. I know the Bible inside and out, look at my comments. I know the Christian point of view, I accept a lot of Christian philosophy (like Kant) but reject the superstition. One book I recommend is God's Problem by Bart Ehrman. He explains theodicy and the various Biblical points of view extremely well.

            You see, I have an important person who does not think this is the fallacy of equivocation, the "wisest man who ever lived" Solomon. Sloth is a sin, so diligence is a moral behavior, Proverbs 6:

            Go to the ant, you lazybones;
            consider its ways, and be wise.
            7 Without having any chief
            or officer or ruler,
            8 it prepares its food in summer,
            and gathers its sustenance in harvest.
            9 How long will you lie there, O lazybones?
            When will you rise from your sleep?
            10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
            a little folding of the hands to rest,
            11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
            and want, like an armed warrior.

            So if I'm a fool for making this comparison, you are calling Solomon a fool. Calling Solomon a fool is an "oxymoron" for a Christian ;P

        • Mike

          Isn't that like insisting that yellow paint can be made using only red and white paint?

          http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2015/01/feynmans-painter-and-eliminative.html

        • Bil Carter

          A car cannot do anything, much less drive, without the impulse of human will. It needs a driver.

          • Michael Murray

            You might want to take that up with Google.

          • Bil Carter

            Do you really need it spelled out for you? The *human intelligence* of Google engineers is what is making their vehicle drive. I was responding to the implied inference that steel and aluminum would somehow be endowed with intelligence simply by putting them together. I work for a company that makes unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) I'm pretty familiar with the notion of driver-less vehicles. I'm also familiar with the work of many dedicated engineers. Our raw materials wouldn't fly unless someone was directing the flight.

          • William Davis

            Someone isn't driving the UAV, unless you are talking remote controlled. It makes it's own decisions based on a program. Humans make decision off their complex and self-adapting programming. We are driven by instincts, and those instincts can be complex. Unlike the animals, we can leave over instinct, but we can never be free of it. Natural selection has built some instincts, like sex drive, that create all kinds of problems, but without sex, your genes won't pass on, so nature sees it's worth the trouble. God isn't directly controlling things if he exists, if he is, we are on remote control. I think God's programs are much better than what we can make so far, and he made them through natural selection.

          • William Davis

            Do you really need it spelled out for you? The *human intelligence* of Google engineers is what is making their vehicle drive.

            I do software engineering myself. My field is building automation which is obviously a very different animal than self-driving cars, but it has it's own challenges. One big challenge for us has been developing a "universal language" that all manufacturer's use. We're at a pretty decent place now with things like BACnet and lonworks, but these things were half designed, half evolved through trial and error and natural selection of idea. I've never actually written a large program that did not have bugs, I don't think it's actually possible. We write what we will think will work, then we "debug" it and select out problem segments of the program, and add "patches."
            This is the way the human brain works. If there is a God, he made the eternal rules of the universe, such as gravity, but he DID NOT directly make morality, or he would have done it right the first time. You can even see in the Bible how morality has evolved through trial and error, it is very prevalent in history following the rule "selfish individuals beat altruistic (good) individuals but altruistic groups (like Christians) beat selfish groups (like pagans with no moral code)". If God exists, he made morality to be a continually evolving process that involves repeated "debugging".
            If you actually know anything about software, surely you can follow this line of reasoning ;) You idea about it being human intelligence driven cars is actually a bigger problem for intelligent design than anyone who isn't a software developer realizes. We are building human intelligence into machines, so obviously no soul is needed for intelligence and decision making, it's a program. Study neurology a bit and you see all the problems that show up it human "programming" especially when the hardware is damaged. Just like a smart car really.

          • William Davis

            There are already self-driving cars in California.

            http://www.google.com/about/careers/lifeatgoogle/self-driving-car-test-steve-mahan.html

            Your statement is now false, used to be true ;)

          • Bil Carter

            Read my reply to Michael Murray. Driver-less cars still have human intelligence making them go. That is the real issue here.

            My statement is still true. Always will be.

          • William Davis

            A car cannot do anything, much less drive, without the impulse of human will. It needs a driver.

            That's what you said, so we will go with it. It isn't human intelligence, it is intelligence humans created. By the same fashion, we are intelligence that God created. If self-driving cars are being driven by human intelligence, we are being driven by God's intelligence, free will is an illusion. If a car's will is human will, a man's will is not his own but God's. We are free to do what we want, but we aren't free to want what we want.

          • Michael Murray

            What do you mean by "making them go".

            Presumably you mean that human intelligence designs the car and the software running it. Not that some human drives the car remotely like a military drone. I thought UAV's are like the latter.

          • William Davis

            One more thought for you (I like driving this home because you seem so smug and confident with your opinion, I love taking on smugness and overconfidence, I like Solomon, both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are full of wisdom, so Proverbs 16:18 comes to mind "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. ;)"

            Keeping with Solomon's words:

            Proverbs 6

            Go to the ant, you lazybones;
            consider its ways, and be wise.
            7 Without having any chief
            or officer or ruler,
            8 it prepares its food in summer,
            and gathers its sustenance in harvest.
            9 How long will you lie there, O lazybones?
            When will you rise from your sleep?
            10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
            a little folding of the hands to rest,
            11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
            and want, like an armed warrior.

            Solomon clearly thinks ants are a good moral example, sloth is a sin, so the opposite of sloth, diligence, is a virtue displayed by ants. By your standard, God's will is driving the ant. But if God was driving the ant, why would Solomon point to it as an example of moral behavior. Ants have been around 130 million years, and were an excellent example of morality i.e. well oiled social structure long before humans started evolving their own morality.

        • Loved As If

          The car can only travel from DC to LA if there is a driver. Something that can intend & act is necessary to make the car & drive it.

          • William Davis

            Keep reading

      • George

        and immaterial souls cannot care by definition. gosh, this stuff is easy.

        • Mike

          HA! Who's an immaterial soul?

          You must be arguing with Descartes.

      • stlhdsal

        And so a Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, can kill with impunity, because there is no right or wrong except what these evil men decide is right or wrong. They do not hold themselves to a higher moral code such as 'love' (and God is love), so they become like gods, just as the tempter says in Genesis.
        Atheisism is an exceedingly dangerous philosophical view. Thank God (;-) many of them are just blind to the existence of God and are, in their hearts, good people.

        • Mike

          All those 'evil' ppl you mention were just following their views of what brings meaning to the world they were no more right nor wrong than dawkins or hitchens or fry or mother teresa; they were responding to their chemical brain functions and if anything were 'victims' of circumstances of brain chemistry and environment, maybe they should be pitied not vilified. This may sound absurd to a theist but to a standard atheist this is just a basic fact if there is no ultimate right or wrong or afterlife or judgement.

          • stlhdsal

            Pity Hitler, etc? Only God could pity him.
            So, tell me, Mike. Where is the role of conscience in your atheism? Because you completely excuse the very real and important role of conscience in our decision making as human beings. Hell, our entire legal system is based on the accepted truth that we humans know right from wrong within ourselves. You know, of course, sociopaths (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.) are people with no conscience. Your rather sterile diminishment of the human spirit's capacity to know good from evil is, in my opinion, terribly shallow and void of humanity. Go deeper.

          • Mike

            I am a catholic; i think i may have laid on the sarcasm alittle too thick, sorry about that but i am as orthodox as the church.

          • stlhdsal

            I am shocked, pleasantly, to learn you were being sarcastic, Mike! WTH! I'm a practising Roman Catholic, Magisterium-loving one, at that. :-)

          • Mike

            Yes i was just 'blowing off steam' i guess.

          • stlhdsal

            All good, brother. LOL. After my ranting reply, it's the most fun I've had on Disqus.

      • Rick Kasten

        Illogical. Here is a brief but not exclusive list of your assumptions: A) God exists; B) objective morality exists; C) you personally have such an intimate understanding of objective morality that you can reasonably conclude that it cannot exist without God. No-one in the history of civilization has ever proved any of those assumptions to be valid.

        First, objective morality is not a requirement. If God does not exist, then the morality of every individual culture in history resulted organically: the collective morality of all subjects within that culture. So, if God doesn't exist, we've already proven that we don't need objective morality to have morality.

        Second, we aren't talking about chemicals and galaxies, we're talking about humans. We are more than the sum of our chemicals. I don't need a philosophical justification to explain why I hurt when I see my child suffer any more than I need a philosophical justification to explain why the sky is "blue". I experience it, it moves me to act, and we all see billions upon billions of other humans responding the same exact way to their personal experiences.

        Third, and perhaps most important, what is the alternative? If we must have objective morality, and objective morality only stems from God, then you have a slew of issues to resolve before we can discuss objective morality further:
        - who/what is God?
        - how do we know God/Objective Morality?
        - how do we differentiate between God/Objective Morality and that which is not God/Objective Morality?
        - when we experience conflicts between our perception and God/Objective Morality, how do we resolve them?

        • Mike

          So morality is an emergent property of "intelligent life" which is an emergent property of inanimate life, which is an emergent property of carbon, which is an emergent property of protons and neutrons and electrons which is an emergent property of neutrinos which is an emergent property of the "laws of physics" and "matter" which is an emergent property of....Nothing or some kind of Mind or Intelligence?

          Which makes more sense to you even on your assumptions?

          • Rick Kasten

            Not only does your explanation of emergent properties make far more sense to me, you actually described it so beautifully you almost made me tear up.

            The Mind or Intelligence is an assumption. Emergent properties are observations. Therefore, technically, emergent properties are the only acceptable option of the two, regardless of whether or not our current understanding of them makes perfect sense.

          • The way I interpret Mike's account, it didn't present an option between "emergent properties" and "Mind or Intelligence" but between the latter and "Nothing."

            The reason we employ the emergentist account is precisely because certain realities remain open both epistemologically and ontologically. If the emergentist stance appropriately remains metaphysically agnostic regarding the origins of life and consciousness regarding our probes of proximate realities, how much more so it will remain undecided regarding the initial, boundary and limit conditions of the cosmos, much less putative primal and ultimate realities?

            True enough, many try to smuggle in their metaphysical presuppositions using distinctions like strong emergence-weak supervenience and weak emergence-strong supervenience, but the first distinction remains terribly question begging, the latter notion, trivial.

          • Mike

            Thanks!

            if you think it makes more sense to assume that "nothing" was responsible for all of that than that God a mind a super intelligence was, best of luck!

          • Rick Kasten

            It's not really much an assumption when that is precisely what modern cosmology, physics, chemistry and biology suggest.

          • Mike
    • William Davis

      Where do atheists get value for human life from? Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything, if God does not exist? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us?

      I impose it upon myself. When you CHOOSE to be a Christian, you are doing the same thing. I CHOOSE to embrace a philosophy, and this choice not only makes me a better person, IT MAKES ME HAPPIER. In many ways, being about something bigger than yourself (being selfish always leads to unhappiness) is selfish, but is the only path to real happiness. I am transient, I am dust. I hope the human race will eventually be much more than dust, and I put myself into that hope, and achieving that goal, if not for my own sake, then for the sake of my children.

      • James Stevens

        Could you scientifically define what this "better person" is? Or is this human subjectivism. Also is their a scientific formula stating a selfish person is more happy than a selfless person? Or is this once again human subjectivism.

        • Susan

          Could you scientifically define what this "better person" is?
          Yes I can, a better person remembers to breath and puts breathing before thinking.

          • James Stevens

            If only breathing also didn't serve as an involuntary action.

        • William Davis

          Looks like the Buddhists beat you to it, at least the whole happiness thing.

          http://www.businessinsider.com/how-scientists-figured-out-who-the-worlds-happiest-man-is-2012-11

          As far as the better person, that is more complicated and it does depend on your philosophy. Some philosophies are better than others, secular humanism is somewhat based on Christian values. Religion has a real place in setting the standard for values, science alone can't answer that. We don't need to believe in superstition to accomplish that goal though. Germany and Japan are mostly non-religious (34% buddhist, only 2% Christian in Japan) but are doing extremely well by any standard. Both are disillusioned with religion because it led to their atrocities, or was the excuse for the atrocities. Nazi's used Luther's book "On Jews and their Lies" which was mostly based on New Testament anti-Jewish sentiment. The Jews killed Christ after all, so everything bad that happened must have been because God was judging Europe for harboring the Jews. Makes perfect sense if you think God is controlling everything.

      • Hubristic-humility

        it is a mirage that you impose a choice on yourself. what is it that imposes it on you, a mind, a soul? what is either of those things? you are not free to choose. your thoughts and actions are determined by molecules bumping into each other, causing chemical reactions that force you to act or think one way or the other. you are the result of your evolutionary makeup and there is not getting away from it. It is imposed on you not the other way around. if you do subjective good or evil that is only in the eye of the beholder as there is no choice in the matter regardless of what illusion you perceive yourself as. Choice, morals, good, bad and the like under atheism is subjective and illusory. it is no more fair to subject the person who rapes to punishment and jail as it is the one who doesn’t. They were made that way, unless of course you think they were not, then of course you need to explain yourself and then of course maybe you think they should be culled from the herd to eliminate their genes. Do we punish the dog or cat for raping? to the point you’ve made perviously about protecting our race, since there is only a singular human race and our differences are merely the expression or suppression of certain genes or certain aspects of epigenetics I’m not sure how this trait of protecting our “race” evolved in us. Maybe we evolved a necessity to protect our coloring or lack thereof? Though Im not certain how either trait evolving helps us in the grand scheme of things.

        • William Davis

          it is no more fair to subject the person who rapes to punishment and jail as it is the one who doesn’t.

          It isn't about being fair, it is about protecting society from people with flawed moral wiring. Pretty simple really. Understanding causation in the mind is the key to making a better society. Christian has completely failed in this endeavor, look around you. We need to be truthful about what is really going on and not hide our heads in the sand. Just because you don't like something doesn't mean it isn't true. We are still free to imagine the world in all kinds of artful ways, even though we evolved. This freedom is actually a gift if you don't squander it with ridiculous nihilism. Nihilism is just one of a billion philosophies, the idea that atheism leads to nihilism is false and bogus. Nietzsche was simply lamenting the fact that "We have killed God." Look at all the Christians who do not behave like Christians, they behave like everyone else. Most Christians just "claim" to believe, their actions show they do not "really" believe it, if they did, it would affect their actions. Therefore most Christians are living a lie, and exist in a state of "cognitive dissonance" that is very bad for the mind. Wake up people, there are much better dreams to be had than Christianity, though we owe Christianity some debts for great philosophers like Kant, even St. Augustine. The fact that Christianity gets some things right doesn't mean the whole thing is true.

          I'm a software engineer, and I always have to "evolve" my programs through debugging, a process very similar to natural selection. We are witnessing the intelligence of machines evolve in front of our very eyes, trial and error even created orthodox Christianity, look at all the idea wars and idea selection against "heresy" in Church history. Watch God evolve from a man-like being in Genesis who walks the Garden of Eden, physically visits Abraham (Abraham feeds gods, and there are 3 of them) and wrestles with Jacob to the God of the three omnis which was developed from a marriage of Jewish Jesus and Paul with Greek philosophy. Evolution is fundamental to Christianity, open your eyes ;)

          • Hubristic-humility

            [It isn't about being fair. ]
            Precisely it is about fairness because you perceive that you have a higher evolved state of morality so you would suppress those that believe contrary to you that they are not bound by such morals, so you want them removed from society to keep you safe from their brand of morality or immorality if you will. Thus making life more fair for the lucky winners of evolutions moral lottery and less fair for the losers. Yet...

            [, it is about protecting society from people with flawed moral wiring.]
            On who's or what authority is it morally flawed? Why yours over theirs? Because society says so? What if society changes its mind will it still be wrong to rape?

            [Pretty simple really. Understanding causation in the mind is the key to making a better society. ]
            Why is there causation? What is the mind? how does one understand an infinite regression of causes? How does knowing how a chemical reacts on one part of the brain causing some thought or action specifically result in a better society? Because then we could monitor actions and force folks to conform to a societal norm?

            [Christian has completely failed in this endeavor, look around you. ]
            Because folks act immorally is not a failure of Christianity it is a failure of people. Because Christians know what causes moral failing but still morally fail does not mean Christianity has failed.

            [We need to be truthful about what is really going on and not hide our heads in the sand. ]
            So when are you going to pull your head up out of the sand? I am being truthful, you stop yourself short of the truth and posit causation without a cause.

            [Just because you don't like something doesn't mean it isn't true].
            Same to you.

            [ We are still free to imagine the world in all kinds of artful ways, even though we evolved.]

            Yes we are free based on our God given free will, "evolution only " provides us NO free will whether you wish it to or not. That should in itself give you pause as to where this idea of freedom to choose comes from on a chemical reaction basis.

            [ This freedom is actually a gift if you don't squander it with ridiculous nihilism.]

            Freedom is a gift from God, nihilism or not.

            [Nihilism is just one of a billion philosophies, the idea that atheism leads to nihilism is false and bogus.]

            I assert it thus it is so. This is only because you refuse to accept where atheism leads, which shows you are in conflict with atheism. Which should give you pause to wonder why that could be.

            [Nietzsche was simply lamenting the fact that "We have killed God." ]
            Nietzsche was saying we have reduced God to a number in a probability thus eliminated him.

            [Look at all the Christians who do not behave like Christians, they behave like everyone else. Most Christians just "claim" to believe, their actions show they do not "really" believe it, if they did, it would affect their actions.]

            Ahh you have talked to most Christians then, I see, yet ignore all the wonderful and amazing things they do and have done.

            [Therefore most Christians are living a lie, and exist in a state of "cognitive dissonance" that is very bad for the mind.]

            The cognitive dissonance is purely yours as shown above and below.

            [Wake up people, there are much better dreams to be had than Christianity, ]

            If we wake up how can we dream a better dream? But it is Interesting to wonder why do other dreams not appeal more to the masses than Christianity or religion in general?, I guess it's subjective on what is a better dream. We must have evolved this stronger affinity towards this religious dream.

            [though we owe Christianity some debts for great philosophers like Kant, even St. Augustine.

            Gee thanks for the sort of compliments. you forgot all the great things Christianity has done as well as reference to St Thomas Aquinas, whom if you'd actually read him you might alleviate your confusion as it relates to causes in the mind.

            [The fact that Christianity gets some things right doesn't mean the whole thing is true.]

            the fact that it's gets things right should be in its favor and though it's possible it gets some things wrong it does not mean it's wrong.

          • Hubristic-humility

            [I'm a software engineer, and I always have to "evolve" my programs through debugging, a process very similar to natural selection. ]

            Has software ever created itself? Has the debugging ever self corrected, without writing a self correcting software? Is there anything showing natural selection has ever added additional information that wasn't already there?

            [We are witnessing the intelligence of machines evolve in front of our very eyes]

            No we are witnessing software developers find better ways to write software.

            [, trial and error even created orthodox Christianity, look at all the idea wars and idea selection against "heresy" in Church history].

            no orthodox Christianity was always there it was an expression of lost orthodoxy or an attempt to alter it that created heresy.

            [Watch God evolve from a man-like being in Genesis who walks the Garden of Eden, physically visits Abraham (Abraham feeds gods, and there are 3 of them) and wrestles with Jacob to the God of the three omnis which was developed from a marriage of Jewish Jesus and Paul with Greek philosophy. ]

            Interesting God evolved from being a man walking in the Garden to being a Man who walked the streets of Jerusalem.

            [Evolution is fundamental to Christianity, open your eyes ;)]
            Oh they are especially after reading all this, lol.

    • James Bruce Excell

      I agree! People/scientists can always point out that the earth is warming. We are all going to die if we don't act soon. But. They never question themselves in that. Give me a scientific reason why I should care that the earth is warming? They don't ask those questions to themselves.

      • George

        the question goes back to you: do you WANT the world to be a nice place to live? if so, how do you think we should go about keeping it that way?

        • James Bruce Excell

          My point is...they don't question where that want comes from. That want of justice. Because materialistically it doesn't make sense. Helping the earth survive longer doesn't effect your life. It affects future lives. So why care at all?

          • George

            what does it matter that it doesn't "make sense" if it's what we value?

            "It affects future lives. So why care at all?"

            If one doesn't care about future lives, than they don't care. It's not complicated.

          • Rick Kasten

            "It affects future lives. So why care at all?"

            You answered your question before you asked it.

            Putting the ball in the basket scores points, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins. So why bother putting the ball in the basket at all?

            *facepalm*

          • James Bruce Excell

            What? I didn't answer my own question. I'm questioning the questions. Why do we care about future lives If It ultimately is not going to affect Us?

          • Rick Kasten

            Because it is an evolutionary advantage to protect ourselves, our offspring and the tribe as whole, because their prolonged existence increases the chance that our genes will continue propagating through the gene pool. Therefore, the genetic trait that caused "care" out-competed the alternatives, and we are left with "care" and its evolutionary advantage in the same way that we left with eyes and their evolutionary advantage. That is the answer to "why".

      • Rick Kasten

        Because it will cause the suffering and death of people and thousands of other lifeforms on this planet. If you don't recognize 'increased rates of death' as a scientific fact that should illicit sadness from all human beings, then you are either a moron or a psychopath.

        • James Bruce Excell

          No. Science doesn't explain why we care. That's my point. Sure it's warming. Scientifically why should I care?

          • Rick Kasten

            Yes, science does explain why we care. It is an evolutionary advantage to protect ourselves, our offspring and our tribe from death, because living longer causes greater dissemination of our gene pool. Therefore, the genetic trait that causes the emotion of "care" dominated our ancestors and exists now in us, because those who did not carry the "care" trait didn't care, and now they're all extinct.

            In terms of a more universal or the "grander reason" of "why", I see no point in asking the question at all. We care. That's it. That's the start and end of the discussion. I question people who deny their own emotional response to suffering, and I further question others who reject their own emotional response in favor of a disembodied concept whose existence has never been proven.

          • There's two things here:

            1. Science *does* explain why we care, as described by Rick below.

            2. "Why should I care?" is not a scientific question and science will not attempt to answer it. Science can provide information about likely consequences to help you decide if you should care.

      • "Why should I care that the earth is warming?" is not a scientific question, so you will never get a 'scientific reason' in response to it.

        You yourself have to examine the expected consequences of the Earth warming and decide if you care.

        There are plenty of scientific question that can and are being asked about the expected consequences of warming. The answers to some of them are the reason many other people do care.

    • See: From Biology To Consciousness To Morality - by Ursula Goodenough & Terry Deacon:

      https://www.missouriwestern.edu/orgs/polanyi/TAD%20WEB%20ARCHIVE/TAD30-3/TAD30-3-basic-pg.htm

      Human value-pursuits and value-realizations are givens. Our pursuits of truth, beauty, unity and freedom, while the "means" to that "end" we call goodness, also happen to be their own rewards. The experience of such means as rewarding, in and of themselves, imparts a great deal of value to social organisms in terms of survival and reproduction. What may have once been merely extrinsic becomes robustly intrinsic, gifting us with deeply felt aesthetic and moral sensibilities --- so deeply felt and terribly adaptive, they aren't easily shaken off .

      This emergentist account would not be inconsistent with what William Davis wrote below. Neither, however, need it be inconsistent with those accounts that interpret these existential orientations as divine imperatives, adding an explanatory layer.

      All that said, any who've paid attention will be aware that a variety of successful defenses have been formulated for any so-called logical problem of evil. And it's not a matter that can be decided evidentially either by trading intuitions and counterintuitions.

      When concepts of God are sufficiently disambiguated, nuanced and predicated, faith can be eminently reasonable, even given the so-called problem of evil.

      What sets Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris et al apart from Camus, Sartre, Nietzsche et al is that the former group primarily engages caricatures (as often articulated by fundamentalistic types) while the latter were much "brighter."

    • George

      "Under atheism, there is nothing wrong with having bone cancer." Unless you and everyone you care about don't like bone cancer.

      "If God does not exist, there is no objective right and wrong." If God does exist there certainly isn't such a thing as right or wrong. There's only what god orders you to do. Wait around here long enough and someone rationalizes away the war of extermination against tribes that were in the way of the chosen people. right in this very comment thread people are agreeing that god's might makes right. the great William Lane Craig calls the killing of children "the termination of their earthly phase of life" and that they received an infinite good. so tell me, what exactly is ever wrong under theism?

      "when they have been questioned and answered since at least the 12-13th century." yes, a time when it was illegal disbelieve those answers.

      "to quote Richard Dawkins, under atheism, there is no good or evil, but only "pitiless indifference"." what is really silly about this argument hurled at dawkins is that dawkins was not proscribing pitiless indifference. if all the evidence tells us that what is out there outside of us is pitiless indifference, then that just how it is. no point in whining about it, we either want to help each other out despite it or not.

      "under atheism are just stardust, with no higher value than compost."

      not if you care about people. do you actually think you're doing something with your list of made up arguments from consequence?

      "Where do atheists get value for human life from?" I don't know. Evolution maybe? Chemicals in my brain? But let's just say "Goditit" and stop worrying about it. That's the honest thing to do, right? that's the good thing to do?

      finding out that our value for other humans was a material process would not change the fact of what we value. whether programmed to care by chemicals or by god, we still care.

      "why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything, if God does not exist? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us?" wait, I assumed you valued human life and well being? why wouldn't you do what you thought was moral?

      "The argument against God from evil is an emotional argument, but has no intellectual weight whatsoever."

      It's filled you with doubt, so that's something.

    • Michael Murray

      Where do atheists get value for human life from? Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything, if God does not exist? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us?

      If you really wanted the answer to these questions they are not at all hard to find. They have been addressed here many times in the past. But it seems these are rhetorical questions. So much for

      StrangeNotions.com is the central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists. It's built around three things: reason, faith, and dialogue.

      • Susan

        Where do atheists get value for human life from? Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything,
        I think they get them of the telly like many people do.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        There are a lot of new commenters on SN. You will have to educate them if you have the patience.

        • Luke

          Should it not be the responsibility of the hosts of this website to maintain their own policies?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What policies are you talking about?

          • Luke

            How about this one for starters:

            "Strange Notions does not allow anonymous comments."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So, on your birth certificate does it only say "Luke"?

          • Luke

            Luke is my real name. I choose not to disclose my last name on public forums. I take issue with all of these Guest account posts is all.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree with you on that account. But what about Krakerjak? Is that a real name?

          • Luke

            As you requested, I pointed out an instance of the moderators not following their own policies. I don't claim to know about the accuracies of every person's Disqus name.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You should get an email inviting you to join the Love is Our Mission folder. How did your recording go today?

            Kevin Aldrich
            (310) 592-1329

            Subject: Re: Comment on Stephen Fry, Job, and the Cross of Jesus

          • Luke

            I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry. A slow-running internet connection and Hotmail are not a good combination.

          • Luke

            No problem. Thanks for clarifying.

          • Michael Murray

            You might want to delete your phone number.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I deleted the comment and then it popped up as from "Guest."

          • Michael Murray

            It's a nasty Disqus bug I've been caught by as well. Deleting just seems to remove your username and leave the post. Then you can't do anything because you don't seem to own the post anymore. I wish they would fix that. You have to edit the post to nothing and then delete.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is even worse. It happened by my inadvertently replying to the email notification of getting a comment, which should not have posted to the SB website at all!

    • Kevin Aldrich

      The argument that "the argument against God from evil . . . has no intellectual weight whatsoever" has no weight whatsoever.

    • GCBill

      P1 Omni-God would not permit evil
      P2 Evil exists
      C Therefore, God does not exist

      If evil doesn't exist, making P2 false, all forms of theism which entail some form of morality (including classical theism and its "being = goodness" axiom) still turn out to be false anyway.

      So no, I don't see how it's an "emotional argument." The theist's only option is to undercut P1 via theodicy of some kind. It's the route which all serious theistic thinkers take for good reason.

      If, in addition to a highly persuasive theodicy, you argue that evil requires God, you might be able to convince some people that God exists. But this approach is more likely to end in a stalemate unless your opponent is deeply convinced of P2. If they're not, they've probably been using the PoE as an internal critique of theism that disproves God through contradictions in theistic axioms, anf you'very at best neutralized the argument.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I don't know what your final paragraph means, but I think P1 is not a given.

        • GCBill

          It's a prima facie reason to doubt, but it's obviously not "given." That's where the aforementioned theodicy comes in.

          The final paragraph was in response to the "evil proves God" remark. I mean to show that the problem of evil is still a serious critique of theism regardless, because it provides reason to doubt God's existence given the existence of evil. If evil doesn't exist, then most interesting formulations of God are wrong anyway. Hence it is an "internal critique."

      • The so-called problem of evil has three aspects 1) logical 2) evidential and 3) existential.

        A "defense" responds to the logical aspect, while a "theodicy" applies to the evidential questions. The existential aspect involves our search for practical solutions to human pain and suffering.

        Your argument doesn't fail due to logical fallacies or inconsistencies or necessarily in your premises. It's conclusions, however, are embedded in its very definitions, which don't successfully refer to orthodoxic God-conceptions, which must be predicated apophatically and analogically vis a vis various attributes (omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipresence, omnipathy) applied, for example, to human persons.

        Successful defenses have variously been constructed ( including process theism, classical theism, free will defense, thehomic accounts, etc) including in several modal ontological arguments. They aren't terribly controversial and are recognized as coherent even by atheological critics, who recognize they must fallback to challenge these arguments, instead, on evidential grounds (the route serious atheists take, for good reason).

        All theodicies can aspire to accomplish is to begin to
        explore how the logical defenses might be true, but, in the end, any good theodicy necessarily retains an element of mystery and, while we might glimpse some meanings in and efficacies of suffering, which make it partly apprehensible, some human pain remains utterly absurd and wholly incomprehensible.
        Wrongly formulated, then, theodicies run the risk of blasphemy (arrogantly pretending to discern God's ways & means) toward God and callousness towards the immensity of human pain and the enormity of human suffering, which we can inadvertently trivialize.

        Belief in God seems to rely on a cumulative case like approach where many feel that the preponderance of the evidence makes faith eminently reasonable. A higher standard of proof seems to be in play when it comes to holding God morally culpable for evil, as most people don't feel this has been established beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, the question cannot be successfully adjudicated evidentially by trafficking solely in intuitions and counterintuitions because this way of arguing is way too weakly inferential.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Successful defenses have variously been constructed ( including process theism, classical theism, free will defense, thehomic accounts, etc) including in several modal ontological arguments. They aren't terribly controversial and are recognized as coherent even by atheological critics, who recognize they must fallback to challenge these arguments, instead, on evidential grounds (the route serious atheists take, for good reason).

          As I understand, process theists are usually willing to discard traditional notions of the attributes assigned to God, such as all-powerful, and are even willing to allow that God is not all-powerful. However, this sort of process theism is inconsistent with catholic teaching.

          Free will defense fails to take into account natural evils. I can have free will in a universe without the black plague. If one wishes to posit satanic beings whose free will causes natural evil, I would judge a God who allows principalities to interfere in the lower world as lacking benevolence.

          I am not sure what is mean by classical theism - I wasn't aware that it was even a term until Feser started bandying it about.

          I'm not at all sure what a thehomic account is.

          One can always define a God that is consistent with the problem of evil, but to do so, one needs to either abandon the tri-Omni's or redefine them. I could define God by saying that we are actually made in his image with all our faults and failings, our virtues, our joys, our sadness, and our capacity for both good and evil. This would be perfectly consistent with evil in the world.

          It does not seem to me that Barron makes use of any of the defenses that you mentioned, and his argument would do nothing to assail the problem of evil as formulated by Mackie. If we wanted to have a serious conversation, it would have been perhaps best for Barron to argue against serious atheist philosopher. This is nothing against Fry (I am not implying that he is an unserious atheist, as he is rather bright and a great comedian), but I do not think his interview is a great basis for fruitful philosophical dialogue.

          However, even if the God of Catholicism is consistent with creation (I suspect it is not) that does not change that the Orwellian and rather judgmental Catholicism that is found on these pages does not make the world a better place.

          I would point out that the thoughts of serious theists like Kierkegaard, Whitehead, and Wittgenstein would not make the basis of an article here, which seems devoted to a more conservative catholic perspective. Arguments against a theism rooted in a different perspective would have different content and tone than arguments advanced against a Barron or Feser.

          • >>> As I understand, process theists are usually willing to discard traditional notions of the attributes assigned to God, such as all-powerful <<>> and are even willing to allow that God is not all-powerful. However, this sort of process theism is inconsistent with catholic teaching.<<<

            That God's power would be that power not greater than which would otherwise be inconsistent with other divine prerogatives or eternal realities, a formulation by David Griffin, is not incompatible with the view of such Catholic process theologians as Joseph Bracken, SJ or John Haught.

            Process theology is not heterodox. Where in the world did you get that idea?

            It may be that the average layperson and/or Catholic fundamentalist often subscribes to a rather literal and superficial understanding of divine attributes but that doesn't reflect the authentic tradition.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I am not a philosopher, so I am only commenting on these things based on how I understand them from the reading and experience that I have. That being said, as I understand, process theists deny God's immutability. This is a fundamental tenet of process theism. It also seems that process theists are more likely to accept weakened definitions of the omnis. To me, process theism makes more sense than the theism of Aquinas or the theism that I was taught in catholic school.

            However, Catholic teaching does not allow for God to be changing. Vatican I:

            http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/ecum20.htm#Chapter 1 On God the creator of all things

          • Regarding tone, Ignatius, I understand.

            You and others may appreciate this
            from the Bodhisattva Way of Living: "Those who get upset when the Buddha is being insulted should not call themselves disciples of the Buddha.”

          • >>> Free will defense fails to take into account natural evils. I can have free will in a universe without the black plague. If one wishes to posit satanic beings whose free will causes natural evil, I would judge a God who allows principalities to interfere in the lower world as lacking benevolence.

            I am not sure what is mean by classical theism - I wasn't aware that it was even a term until Feser started bandying it about.

            I'm not at all sure what a thehomic account is.<<<<

            The classical theism would include such as St Augustine, I suppose, and his ontological approach to evil as privation.

            I'm sorry for the typo, as that should have been tehomic, which refers to primordial chaos or the "formless void," which, within a panentheist perspective, for example, can account for natural evil.

          • If we wanted to have a serious conversation <<<

            Catholicism's rather pluralistic, not just philosophically and metaphysically, but theologically.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There are certainly catholic theologians and philosophers who beat to their own drum, but I don't think Catholicism institutionally is very pluralistic.

            There is a history starting from Ancient times of condemning certain philosophies that deviate from core catholic teachings as heretical. Also, please correct me if I am wrong, it seems that official catholic documents (encyclicals, council documents, the catechism) takes on a much more conservative bend. Granted, the Catholicism that I was taught certainly looked upon Rahner or Merton with the utmost suspicion - reading them could cause the loss of one's soul. Furthermore, many catholic outlets support this view such as EWTN, Crisis Magazine, Relevant Radio, and I would argue this site.

          • As an institution, Catholicism is too often over-identified with the hierarchical teaching office. It also includes the sensus fidelium, the laity, clergy, religious and theologians.

            It includes both those with a gift of traditionalism, who, as settlers, conserve what's valuable and guard what's essential, as well as those with a gift of progressivism, who, as pioneers, explore new frontiers and foster change in accidentals (nonessentials).

            It also includes smaller traditionalistic and progressivistic cohorts --- those traditionalists who treat some accidentals as if they were essential and those progressives who treat some essentials as if they were accidentals.

            I have no idea of how these 1 billion people might breakout socio-demographically per the categories above, especially from country to country. I think that the largest demographic of the fastest growing Catholicism is from developing and developed countries in the southern hemisphere and that they are largely conservative, traditionalists, both theologically and morally, with the exception of Latin American liberation theologians and their followers. In the USA, Catholic voters, as a whole, are one of the largest cohorts of swing voters, for example, in presidential elections. On moral issues, they tend to mirror the population at large in their stances re: gender, sex and life issues.

            Rather than label folks, though, I prefer to deal with their ideas one issue at a time, attacking ideas but not persons.

            There is so much that I resonate with in small "c" catholicism as broadly inclusive of anglican, orthodox and roman traditions, I don't feel led to identify as one or the other. If I had to ... I suppose I'd
            choose Episcopalian.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            How do we know what is essential versus what is accidental?

            Doesn't the Roman Church consider Anglicans to have invalid sacraments, because of Cromwell's reforms? You view of Catholicism is certainly more inclusive than the view of the Roman hierarchy.

          • You should see how inclusive I am regarding Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, indigenous religions and even certain atheological cohorts, whose critiques I consider prophetic.

            Anglican-Roman dialogue has come a long way but, yes, obstacles remain in sacramental theology. Not insurmountable, I hope.

            That's the rub! Essentials vs Accidentals. Another topic for another day.

    • Papalinton

      Sorry, JBR, this is apologetical pablum and you know it. Stephen Fry makes a most intellectual and insightful observation of the callow nature of religious belief. And this is increasingly been borne out, study after study, survey after survey, as the trend away from theological explanation gathers momentum. Fry reflects that societal trend as religion continually falters to provide a substantive explanation about us, about our relationship with the environment, about the world, the universe, and dare I say it, even about the evolutionary origins of gods in our culture and our consciousness.

      As for Barron he casts a perspective through a Catholic prism. Unfortunately for him he is incapable of understanding that the Catholic perspective is a closed-loop sectarian view that simply does not broadly translate outside the Catholic world. Even when one factors in the size of the purported collated number of Catholics around the world, this is a significantly inflated figure, based as it predominantly on baptismal records, of which probably realistically reflects a highly distorted figure, well above the level of participating and/or active members. We know of the 6 billion to 6,5 billion non-catholics, so I don't think there is any comfort there to be had.

      No. There isn't much in Barron's piece that would resonate in the broader public domain.

    • Rick Kasten

      Questioned and answered with the same illogical bullshit since the 12th century.

      What you fail to recognize is that the emotional pleading is the affirmative argument - that God exists at all - and that Fry and others like him simply use the same reasoning against God. Any logical criticisms you offer against Fry shine equally on yourself. That is entirely the point. Children dying matters because the theists claim that they matter to God, but if they do matter to God, then why should they suffer so? You can't dismiss the latter portion of that question without also dismissing the former. Either God cares, or he does not care or doesn't exist in the first place.

    • Rick Kasten

      "Why would he (presumably) mourn when two school buses collide and children die? Asteroids and kids are both nothing but stardust if there is no God."

      Are you serious? Do you really not see how incredibly stupid that question is? Here, I'll lay it out for you. If my child is on that bus, and my child is dead, I would mourn because that child mattered to ME. If my friend's child died, I would mourn because I can sympathize with my friend, because losing my child would matter to ME. If all I know of that crash is some story I see on the news, I would mourn because I can sympathize with any adult losing their child, because losing my child would matter to ME. God doesn't factor in any more than Big Bird does.

      Furthermore, if you want to question where atheists get their value of human life from, that's fine, but don't go claiming that any actual value comes from God. God drowned the entire planet - humans, animals and plants - in a world-wide flood. God commanded armies to kill and rape children. God sent bears to maul children to death for mocking one man for being bald. God thinks people should die for picking up sticks on the wrong recognized pattern of the rotation of the planet. THAT'S the universal standard that you want to throw in the face of atheists!? You can find higher morals teachings in R-rated movies.

    • Davida Burns

      Excellent!

    • Well, under chemistry there is nothing "wrong" with bone cancer. But under skeptical humanism, there is everything wrong with it.

      Actually, there is nothing inconsistent with atheism and "objective morality", but I personally agree there is no absolute (objective) morality. But this does not mean I believe there is no right and wrong. It just means I am unaware of any absolute truth in moral questions, I believe they "ultimately" depend on subjective values placed on things like human life, suffering and freedom, rather than on a divine being.

      I do not think getting bone cancer is morally wrong I think getting cancer is morally neutral. I would say failing to cure someone of it is wrong, particularly if it would take no effort to do so and we can think of no negative consequences of doing so. I think an atheist and theist would have pretty much the same reasons for calling this immoral, the theist might just say that the atheist cannot say his values underlying his moral reasons are "objective", meaning absolutely true. But neither can the theist! The theist can say he believes that to be the case, but he is relying on his moral intuition that these values are consistent with what he thinks God's nature is.

      But he has some problems with this stance. First, he must acknowledge that he is a human, susceptible to mistake and being misdirected. So his belief in what is an objective moral truth may be mistaken, even if such truths "exist". Secondly, he has the issue of skeptical theism. He must accept that there are enormously important factors about the universe that prevents God from healing amputees, from stopping avalanches and some diseases from evolving. These things will make billions suffer and kill many millions. The reasons for not intervening must be incredibly important to what is actually moral in the big picture. While it might seem that there is no moral reason not to intervene to save someone with a terminal disease, if humans don't, God will not intervene either, so maybe this person's suffering and death is necessary for a greater good as was those who died in the avalanche? This state of affairs would seem to severely limit what we can say about the accuracy of our moral intuitions, even if objective morality exists.

      So at the end of the day, whether or not a God or objective moral truths exist, theists and atheists are in pretty much the same place.

      There is no tacit belief in a God required of atheists to act morally. We just have different ideas of what "moral" is.

    • "Under atheism, there is nothing wrong with having bone cancer"

      This comment doesn't make any sense, it is staggeringly feeble minded. To the Atheist, God did not cause the bone cancer, it happened for natural reasons. That (obviously) is not the same as saying there's nothing wrong with bone cancer. Since it is an illness that causes pain, suffering and premature death there are innumerable things 'wrong with bone cancer' and we should try to cure it.

      However this article seems to suggest that bone cancer is all part of God's great unknowable plan and, anyway, when you die you go to heaven. Under this repugnant philosophy one might conclude the best thing to do is welcome bone cancer and do nothing about it.

    • Marc Riehm

      This is posting is completely foolish. Atheist parents can love their kids as much as non-atheist parents, and therefore wish them to remain healthy. And the concept of evil _can_ exist without god - just look at common dictionary definitions.

      All humans get morals and value for human life from the same place: from ourselves. From notions like, "Do unto others." From love of our family members, and friends. The difference between atheists and theists is that theists believe - mistakenly - that va;ies comes from god, while atheists understand that is pure illusion, and that it comes from ourselves.

    • Newp Ort

      Aquinas thought the argument against God from evil is a pretty good one. He didn't believe it and offers a great refutation, but he thought it had enough intellectual weight to pay it great attention.

  • bruceinkansas

    Good reflection, Fr. Barron. As all of us grow up, we realize that much of what we perceive when we were young, although quite real from our child's point of view, was not quite what was truly going on. Many of us discard the faith of our childhood. I don't know if Mr. Frye has children, but being a parent has taught me that much of what I later perceived and believed as a grown-up, although quite real from my adult point of view, is not quite what is truly going on either. May we all continue to grow and discover truth.

  • William Davis

    Wow, has the author actually read Job? Let's start with the beginning:

    6 One day the heavenly beings[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan,[c] “Where have you come from?” Satan[d] answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 The Lord said to Satan,[e] “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” 9 Then Satan[f] answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan,[g] “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” So Satan[h] went out from the presence of the Lord.

    So Satan is a heavenly being, and he makes a bet of sorts with God. God says, ok, let's see what happens. It is clear why God brought suffering on Job, just to see if Satan is right. It was like using a magnifying glass on an ant to "see what happens". It actually reminds me of human experiments by the Nazi's and Soviets to "find out what makes people tick." The majority of the book is about Job's lament that he does not deserve his plight, and has done nothing wrong. God never disagrees, but just demonstrates the idea "Who is Job to question me?" Let's jump to the end, once Job has lost everything Job 38:

    “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
    3 Gird up your loins like a man,
    I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

    4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
    5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
    6 On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone
    7 when the morning stars sang together
    and all the heavenly beings[a] shouted for joy?

    40 And the Lord said to Job:

    2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?[a]
    Anyone who argues with God must respond.”

    Job’s Response to God

    3 Then Job answered the Lord:

    4 “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
    I lay my hand on my mouth.
    5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
    twice, but will proceed no further.”

    42 Then Job answered the Lord:

    2 “I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
    3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
    Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
    4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you declare to me.’
    5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
    6 therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

    What is Job repenting of? Questioning God for ruining his life. He is repenting for having the gall to question God when God was clearly being immoral. The book tells us why God did it, just because he can, he's a tyrant, something clearly immoral. With God, might makes right. Don't believe me, just read the book yourself.

    To make it worse, at the end, God give him more children, like they are VCRs you can just replace with knew ones.

    If this is the best Christianity can do, Christianity has a real problem.

    • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

      I am 68 years old...and am a Christian..and have read Job...William, have you ever had a life threatening illness? I did, when I was 35 years old...I was told I would not live to see my oldest daughter graduate from high school. I was devastated, angry at God, scared, etc. However, my faith was strong. I trusted God to know if it was His will that I die; it would be so...however, I prayed for healing. after, many bouts of illness, rounds of medications, and other illnesses added to the main one...I begged God to take something away. And the life-threatening one, he took away...the rest have stayed with me...Job gave me comfort...as it gave me hope that God can intervene in the ills of this world...I don't expect a perfect world ...I know what man is capable of because God gave man free will...and God respects us so much that He will not interfere with our choices or with that of others...so violence, evil, illnesses, etc. will exist...they are of our making...But I do believe, that God will see me through this life for as long as I live, and that he has done very well. As a result of the large doses of Prednisone that I had to take for about 5 years at that time, I have many side effects: bipolar illness; hair loss; light sensitive eyes among others...however, the main illness in which the white blood cells were killing my kidneys (they were at one point functioning at a 10% level)is no longer an issue as they are now and have been since the time of the healing functioning at a 100% level. So, for me, those who deny the existence of God are deluding themselves...and I am sure anyone else who experienced such a healing as I did, will tell you the same thing. We know what we know...It is as simple as that.

      • William Davis

        You just described modern medicine healing you. Do you think you would have survived 100 years ago before modern medicine? I haven't believed in a man-like God since I was around 10 or 12, but my wife did. Her mom got cancer at around 40 years of age, and died of it a couple of years later. My parents, my wife, tons of people were praying for her. Her dad got sick and died a few years later and the relatively young age of 55, again in spite of all the prayers. I apologize if it is insulting, but the power of prayer is in confirmation bias, not in anything that actually happens. Jesus pointed this out in Mark 11:

        23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received[c] it, and it will be yours.

        Clearly the key to having prayer answered is BELIEVING YOU RECEIVED IT. It is a product of your belief, not an affect on objective reality. The templeton studies of prayer demonstrated a NEGATIVE affect on outcomes. This study was paid for by Christians:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all

        That was only when you pray for other people. Emotional support is much more useful, being there and actually helping them. If you are sick, however, PRAYER CAN HELP YOU GET BETTER. Stress reduces the immune system, so anything that can reduce stress, like prayer, is helpful.

        I don't go around badgering people over the head with all of this stuff, but I'm pretty sure i'm not "deluding myself" as you say. My world view encompasses yours, and I believe the religious experience is very real, but it's all in the human mind.

        • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

          No, that is not true...the doctors told me I would be on prednisone for the rest of my life...and when I listened to the priest at a healing Mass, and to the whisperings of God, taking myself off slowing from the medicine, and returned to the kidney specialist as I was supposed to, she told me I should keep on doing what I had been doing...it was then, that I told her, what had happened...she ran a few more tests but had no explanation as to why I had been healed...however, I know how I was healed...and it was what was...I was teaching in an metropolitan inner city school, going to grad. school, had two high school students, etc. lots of stress, yes...to top it off, my bipolar illness had me bouncing...so I was in quite a precarious state...not exactly the kind situation you describe for being a candidate for a healing...however, that is what I had. As far as having others around me "praying" for me...no way at that time.
          I had no such support at that time...

          • William Davis

            I'm not trying to offend you, just don't call be "delusional" if I don't believe in a personal God controlling everything. Fair enough? Doctor's are human and make a guess at your outcome, it's called a prognosis. The idea that they get the prognosis wrong a lot isn't surprising in the least. I'm all for Christian compassion, and I think Jesus and Paul were great men, don't hold divergent theology and view of reality against me, and I won't hold it against you :)

          • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

            It is just funny to me that you don't want to be called "delusional", something I don't believe I said...for as person who suffers from bipolar, I have been called on numerous occasions, even at times when I am "under control"...And I would add, that in my family I have atheists, those who believe in God but don't go to church; and those that are church goers in many different religions...so I don't hold a "different view of reality" against others...however, I will always state my views, and if it strikes a nerve with others and gets them to thinking...then I have done my job...So all is good...all is good.

          • William Davis

            You said:

            So, for me, those who deny the existence of God are deluding themselves...

            I think those who believe in God are deluding themselves, like you, for instance. So to quote you again

            if it strikes a nerve with others and gets them to thinking...then I have done my job...So all is good...all is good.

            I agree with that statement, I just try not to insult people unnecessarily. In this case it seems to be necessary and deserved, since you won't relent. You clearly delusional but you have an excuse since you have so many health problems. You also failed to remember that you had just referred to me as someone "deluding myself" so that gives us an indicator of your mental capacity, which seems incredibly limited (to put it in plain English YOU ARE NOT SMART). I would say no offense, but I think we are past that now. You've made if very clear you don't care about offending me, so I'm responding in kind.

          • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

            Well, well, well...I said, "So, as for me,..." (my opinion)...from these comments, I gather yours is the only ones which count...and I might add, you don't know me or my mental capacity...I am sorry that you took such a personal offense to my comments.

          • William Davis

            And I am sorry for insulting you. I'm also sorry that it took me insulting you to get an apology. You had just got done saying you thought it was "funny" I didn't want to be called delusional. Hopefully you don't still think it's funny. I'm I going to lose any sleep at night over being insulted? Absolutely not, I've got thick skin. I hope I've made my point that insults are a two way street, and not conducive to a productive conversation. Best of luck to you, and I hope your health gets better, God or no.

          • Are you saying that you believe God intervened and saved your life? Indeed, if God does intervene to save the lives of the faithful, this would mean that some of the objections theists have to why God doesn't save anyone, fall apart.

            He couldn't be not saving us to preserve our free will if he has saved you and let you know that he saved you.

            We then have to consider the prayers of all those who god did not cure or help.

          • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

            Look, I believe in God and that He is able to anything, if He chooses to do so...here is exactly how it happened: I was going to the Univ. to take a test...I was very upset and stressed...I pulled off to the side of the road, and prayed to God saying: "God, you have to take something away...I don't care what...but I can't handle it all...please help me." The rest is history. I am sorry if this doesn't follow your way of thinking, but from many, many others who have experienced healings of various sorts, I know God can and does heal people. Now, does He heal all those who are asking for healing? No...If that were the case, it would be like we were telling God, "Okay, I will pray for this one or that one, and you heal them." Okay, what kind of God would that be? A puppet? God is not a puppet to be lead around by what we want or don't want...Could He have chosen not do heal me in any way...certainly!! That would have been a choice...but that is not what happened...and I stand by that...I have repeated this verbatim for 33 years...and will continue to say the same things...you don't forget such an event. Also, God and I have a relationship...He knows that when I pray or talk to Him, it is always with the understanding that everything is according to His Will, not mine. For He is certainly knowing much more than I know...and I am glad for that as well. I am sorry for those who have lost someone even though others prayed...that has happened to me as well on many occasions. I don't blame God for that. The life each of us has just is. God can and does sometimes intervene, but just cause He doesn't, doesn't make it God's fault or the fault of those who are praying. Life is what it is. For me, God is an awesome, faithful friend, who shows me His glory and beauty daily in many different ways. And I am blessed...

          • I was asking because I understood that Catholics would disagree with your interpretation of events. I had understood from other discussions on this site, that God would not intervene like this to reduce suffering because this would deprive us of our free will.

          • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

            This is the Catholic view...we know that God does and can intervene in the lives of people...we, in the Church have chronicled the lives of many saints...and we have many who have been the witnesses of many a miracle and many an intervention by God. We do not in any way, however, believe in a God that can be manipulated, conjoled, or bribed into doing what we want Him to do...God is God...we are part of His creation...He has shown us, through Scripture and through the life of Jesus, that He wishes us to live a life in conjunction with Him. (Matt. 11: 29 (Jesus said.) "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." In my opinion, God wants to work in kind of a partnership with men and women, for the betterment of all mankind. As far as free will goes: each of us have free will...how I have explained it to others is this: if you are in the sunshine facing the sun, your face is warmed...it is like this when you are facing toward God...but when you choose to turn your back to the sun, your face no longer is warmed by the sun...the sun is still shining...it never stops...but you have made the move to turn away...The same is true with free will...God stays the same now and forever, the ones who turn away are people...And when God and people are of one accord, miracles can happen.

          • But back to the issue at hand, if god wants us not to suffer, god is capable of intervening and does intervene to lessen suffering, why does he allow so much of it to occur with such apparent meaninglessness.

            Some suffering we can seem to understand and necessary to a greater good. For example we would not expect god to ensure we never suffer from bad grades in school, lazy job performance or cheating on our spouses. We can glean lessons from this that would support other more important things. But we can't think of any reason why he doesn't heal sick infants.. We would expect that if he does exist and love us, and does intervene to heal people, that he would heal all sick children. Why not? Or why not make us in such a way that parents of children who die young are not crippled by sadness for most of their lives, even though many of these parents have always believed their child was saved and with God. None of the suggested reasons for not interfering in these cases seem to make sense. Particularly when he seems perfectly willing to heal thousands but ignore the prayers of millions.

          • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

            I have thought about what you have said, Brian, and I am sure we could debate this issue at length, but it seems to me that that would not accomplish anything...as you have your views and I have mine...I am not the one you have an issue with...you seem to have an issue with God. And I have gone through such a time when I questioned God and why He did things the way He does as well. Since this is an issue between you and God, even to the point of questioning or even doubting whether He is real or not...I suggest that you ask Him...point blank. It has been my experience that He does not mind such questioning, or mind when one is angry at Him for one thing or another. I don't seem to have an answer that satisfies you, and that is okay. It is what it is. May God bless you, and may the Holy Spirit of God lead you in a direction that you need to go in....whatever, that needs to be. As for me, and I speak for me alone...I know that I have the illnesses that I have now, because having them benefit others with them in countless ways...as I can relate to their issues that they are dealing with. This is not a perfect world...so we make do with what we have, and go on from there...An example is a woman I met many years ago who was totally crippled up with MS...yet she was the most positive, cheerful, caring person I know. She lifted my spirits at the time more than anyone else could...Neither of us knew why we suffered as we did, but we knew what we did for others...and through what we suffered, we raised the human spirit of others. I hope you find what you are looking for....I am sure I can not give that to you.

          • I do not have an issue with any God, I believe in none. I have asked that any god that exists, to enter my life and into a relationship with me. I have had no response. I have asked this many times, because I think most people of faith are good honest people and I would not dispute your belief unless I genuinely tried.

            I wish you all the best. If you do end up questioning the existence of god and no longer able to believe, you would not be alone. Many, I would say most, people who lose their faith find themselves happy and live lives full of meaning, joy and fellowship. But it sounds like you have all of that now.

          • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

            And I wish you the best as well...

    • Noe

      Yes, let's start from the beginning;

      אִישׁ הָיָה בְאֶרֶץ-עוּץ, אִיּוֹב שְׁמוֹ; וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ הַהוּא, תָּם וְיָשָׁר וִירֵא אֱלֹהִים--וְסָר מֵרָע.
      וַיִּוָּלְדוּ לוֹ שִׁבְעָה בָנִים, וְשָׁלוֹשׁ בָּנוֹת.

      וַיְהִי מִקְנֵהוּ שִׁבְעַת אַלְפֵי-צֹאן וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אַלְפֵי גְמַלִּים,
      וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת צֶמֶד-בָּקָר וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת אֲתוֹנוֹת, וַעֲבֻדָּה,
      רַבָּה מְאֹד; וַיְהִי הָאִישׁ הַהוּא, גָּדוֹל מִכָּל-בְּנֵי-קֶדֶם.

      וְהָלְכוּ בָנָיו וְעָשׂוּ מִשְׁתֶּה, בֵּית אִישׁ יוֹמוֹ; וְשָׁלְחוּ,
      וְקָרְאוּ לִשְׁלֹשֶׁת אַחְיֹתֵיהֶם, לֶאֱכֹל וְלִשְׁתּוֹת, עִמָּהֶם.

      וַיְהִי כִּי הִקִּיפוּ יְמֵי הַמִּשְׁתֶּה וַיִּשְׁלַח אִיּוֹב
      וַיְקַדְּשֵׁם, וְהִשְׁכִּים בַּבֹּקֶר וְהֶעֱלָה עֹלוֹת מִסְפַּר
      כֻּלָּם--כִּי אָמַר אִיּוֹב, אוּלַי חָטְאוּ בָנַי וּבֵרְכוּ אֱלֹהִים
      בִּלְבָבָם: כָּכָה יַעֲשֶׂה אִיּוֹב, כָּל-הַיָּמִים. וַיְהִי
      הַיּוֹם--וַיָּבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים, לְהִתְיַצֵּב עַל-יְהוָה;
      וַיָּבוֹא גַם-הַשָּׂטָן, בְּתוֹכָם. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-הַשָּׂטָן,
      מֵאַיִן תָּבֹא; וַיַּעַן הַשָּׂטָן
      אֶת-יְהוָה, וַיֹּאמַר, מִשּׁוּט בָּאָרֶץ, וּמֵהִתְהַלֵּךְ בָּהּ.

      ...

      First thing, lets nix the nekudot (the vowel ticks/dashes
      around the letters that weren't indigenous to the read text as read in
      synagogues on Tisha b'Av), the punctuation and any incidental paragraph
      divisions - any maybe, just maybe also contemporary literary assumptions
      quasi-secular modern religious assumptions and cultural expectations.
      Then maybe we can take up the tools used by scholars of the texts, what
      can be gleaned of original communal exegesis (as they're want to do in
      Pontifical institutes of Bible...) and actually get something going.

      Here's a recentish, Hebrew-sensitive study that at least nods to what the text might actually say; http://azure.org.il/download/magazine/az32%20dorshav.pdf

      • William Davis

        I've read that the beginning of Job may have been forged by a different author, and perhaps the last few verses. That changes the premise that it was God "testing" job, but does not change the response that God dismissed Job as an ant, unworthy questioning him. I don't think God did any of this of course, I don't think God is like a man at all, this is "for the sake of conversation" and to debate those who take this stuff literally.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Interesting article. What is the import of the Hebrew and your first paragraph in English?

    • James Stevens

      "It is clear why God brought suffering on Job, just to see if Satan is right."

      Not really. There are 2 things that need to be clear. 1st God knew that Job was completely capable of proving Him right, b/c he knew Job's heart. God knew that Job would honor and follow Him even if all his materialism left him. Satan on the other hand did not. Satan thinks that people will follow God so long as good things are happening to them.

      "9 Then Satan[f] answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”

      2nd, God did not do anything to Job, he ALLOWED it. Satan was the one doing the deed.

      "12 The Lord said to Satan,[g] “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” So Satan[h] went out from the presence of the Lord."

      Some may interpret this as a bet, but I see it as God bragging on His servant, just like a proud father will brag on his son. If it is a bet though, it certainly is a loaded bet in favor of God, b/c God knew how noble and faithful Job was, Satan did not. Thus the advantage goes to God.

      8 The Lord said to Satan,[e] “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.”

      Other points to notice is that no one would have known how dedicated and noble Job was if no harm happened to him. As the common phrase goes, "A man's content and character is defined not when things are good but when things are bad." This also goes to show that God is not oblivious to the man in suffering and that no matter how harsh Satan and adversaries may be God will provide a way to turn the situation for His glory. Many Christians have taken this story and see it as that. Its an encouragement to those who may not have had the strength of Job, but through this tale they are emboldened and more likely to persevere. Not only does it generate hope but it reminds the believers that there are spiritual influences that may be at play when things seem unnaturally against us.

      I imagine that if Job was fully aware that Satan was the one causing him affliction his attitude would have been even more distinguished and held greater resolve. Christians however have that advantage in that we know the full tale. I also imagine that if Job knew that God would use this epic life experience to encourage millions if not billions for over thousands of years, he would have maintained such resolve. This was not a meaningless torture Job for kicks scenario as some would say.

      • Rick Kasten

        "2nd, God did not do anything to Job, he ALLOWED it. Satan was the one doing the deed."

        Yeah, that's called being an accomplice, and you can go to jail for life for being an accomplice, because it is recognized by rational people as being immoral.

        • James Stevens

          Does God have a moral obligation to interfere on the behalf of man?

          I'm convinced the answer is no. The wages of sin was death for man so really God has no moral obligation according to this rule to interfere on a group who decided to choose death over life.

          If God decides to go the extra mile and provide blessings and grant favor to a man b/c he is doing good, the blessings and favor and protection are NOT obligations, but gifts of charity. If God decides He doesn't want to grant blessings or favor to a man that's his right, not mans.

          If a wild bird comes into my backyard I am not obligated to feed it nor protect it. Now lets say I decide to grant favor to this bird b/c I find it admirable and using my own resources create a birdhouse, put up a bird bath, and place out a bird feeder as a form of charity to the bird. The bird takes advantage of this charity and eats the bird seed I provided. It takes the birdhouse I made and uses it as its home. It uses the bird bath I gave to it to bathe and clean it self.

          Despite these gifts enhancing the bird's life I have no moral obligation to give out this charity towards the bird. I can take my birdhouse, birdbath, and birdfeeder at any moment, and do what I want with it b/c these objects belong to me. If I yielded such charity the bird would now have to go back to the standard life of finding food on its own, making a nest on its own, and finding a bath on its own. In doing so the bird more than likely will have to find a home in area where there are various predators. where food may not be as plentiful, where resources are more scarce.

          Now is this withdrawal of charity a crime? If I am generous and provided a gift to this bird, does that mean that I must continue giving gifts to this bird for the rest of its life? If the withdrawal of MY gift giving leads to the bird having a more difficult life (Which actually would be a typical life of a wild bird) does this still mean I am obligated to take care of this wild bird?

          I believe the answer is no.

          • Rick Kasten

            "I'm convinced the answer is no."

            Fine, but then we're not discussing an all-loving, all-powerful God at least, and at worst we are discussing a powerful diabolical maniac.

            Unjustified assumption: "The wages of sin was death for man"
            Unjustified assumption: "blessings and favor and protection are NOT obligations, but gifts of charity"

            "Now is this withdrawal of charity a crime? ... I believe the answer is no."

            If you are willing to grant that God is just a human being, you made some excellent points. If God is not human, none of your points are relevant (see "powerful diabolical maniac").

    • Rick Kasten

      I love when Christians toss out the story of Job as a defense of God. It is possibly the single worst example in the entire Bible and undermines just about every concept of the Christian God. Satan disses Job by claiming that he is only blameless and upright because God has blessed his life so much, so God turns around and allows Satan to make Job suffer. So either the all-knowing God didn't actually know if Job would pull it off, or the all-loving God explicitly went out of His way to give Satan the opportunity to make Job suffer. There is no option in which the traditional Christian God is found in this story. The whole point of Job is "F-ed if you do, F-ed if you don't, cuz that's God."

  • Joan E

    And suffering is one of the outcomes of the original sin--pain in childbirth, having to work for a living, difficulty in relationships and a painful death. But our pain, when united with Jesus' pain is redemptive, and then pain can achieve incredible salvation for others.....

    • William Davis

      Genesis 3:

      16 To the woman he said,

      “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
      in pain you shall bring forth children,
      yet your desire shall be for your husband,
      and he shall rule over you.”

      INCREASE pain. To increase something, it must already exist, so there was already pain in childbirth before the fall. Therefore suffering existed before the fall, and the curse. We are alleviating original sin with epidurals now. My wife's last child was pretty painless.

      17 And to the man[b] he said,

      “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
      and have eaten of the tree
      about which I commanded you,
      ‘You shall not eat of it,’
      cursed is the ground because of you;
      in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
      18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
      and you shall eat the plants of the field.

      Man didn't get cursed, just the ground (so man's suffering and pain isn't part of the curse, just having to work the field). We are now using fertilizer, tractors and pesticides to undo this curse. Only a small part percentage of humans still has anything to do with making food. We have lifted the curse with technology, but the curse was never about ALL suffering and pain.

      • Rick Kasten

        Excellent analysis. By definition, Christians are in league with Satan when they accept an epidural for childbirth.

        But there is this too: "yet your desire shall be for your husband,
        and he shall rule over you.”

        Translation: you shall want your husband's penis inside you incessantly, repeatedly making you pregnant and suffering through the aforementioned painful childbirth, and he will be considered more valuable than you because he has said penis, and you don't.

    • And for some of us, we get really great suffering so that we can truly be united with Jesus. We get to have our children killed by untreatable disease, that is redemptive and therefore a good thing?

      Others, just have to deal with their kids playing too many video games and accumulating too much student debt. But they get the full benefit of Jesus' sacrifice too. Others still, in fact most of us, will suffer enormously, but not be saved.

  • pawiba

    Re-reading Job 38-40, I don't see what you see, that is - God "...situating (Job's) suffering within frameworks of meaning that he had never
    before considered." That seems to me to be a rather free and loose interpretation.

    • William Davis

      What God is really saying is: "Who are you to question me you pathetic ant?". With the God of Job, might makes right.

      • Guest

        Which is a correct answer, even though human beings might not like it.

        If God is the creator of all that is, including Space and Time, wouldn't his answer be correct no matter how painful for us to hear? That's our problem, not His— despite God's Old Testament stylings.

        It seems a bit shallow to portray the response as a boot stomping on an ant. "Might makes right" is only a tangential aspect.

        • William Davis

          The problem for God is MUCH bigger than this, this is one of a HOST of problems. At this point I could write a book.

          • Guest

            The problem FOR God?

            I'm assuming this is a line of thinking that has God afraid or jealous that mankind would pull himself up to His level?

          • William Davis

            The problem is that the Christian God is a hypocrite, he doesn't follow his own law. This is the definition of a tyrant.

          • Guest

            a.) God can, theoretically, do as he pleases. He is God, and any hypocrisy may only appear so to man. How can a finite mind possibly understand an infinite mind, much less label it hypocritical?

            b.) How can you specifically level your accusation at the "Christian" God, without interpreting it through the lens of the Incarnation and the New Testament? The Old Testament does lots of contradictory and crazy things, none of which can be brought into any kind of consistent understanding without Jesus. That's a long standing Christian point.

            c.) All Scripture, and all instances of God do not all carry equal intellectual weight. Nor do they even share the same genre. How do you account for the possibility that our understanding of God deepens and evolves alongside Scripture? Why would we expect mankind's knowledge of God to be fully formed from page 1 of Genesis?

          • William Davis

            If God were involved, he would have made sure it was right from the start. God is supposed to be omniscient after all. The fact that it is evolving with everything else means it is purely human phenomena, that or God get's things wrong. There are clearly forgeries in the New Testament. If God were involved, why the heck would he let that happen?

            http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Paul-Disputed.htm

            It's clear to me that the Bible is just a human book, full of all the errors we humans normally make. Pretty simple really.

          • Guest

            "God would have" is a lot of speculation. How do you know what God would have done? How does an omniscient mind work? Your answers don't seem like answers, just responses.

            God did make it right from the start. We screwed it up. That was the whole point of reconciling God to mankind in the New Testament. What Creation "looked like" prior to man's rebellion is pure speculation on our part; whether that included death, pain, etc.

            Moreover, how would you know what is a "right" creation from the start? A full proof one with no possibility for error? Wouldn't such a perfect world in which mankind is just another automaton in God's plan make him the tyrant you say he is? But in that scenario, you wouldn't even be permitted to think about what a tyrant is in the first place.

            Why would mankind's evolving understanding of God make Him a creation of mankind? We look at all sorts of things not of our own making and study them, increasing our understanding. Why wouldn't the same apply to our desire for knowledge of our own Creator?

            Of course the Bible is a human book. That doesn't mean it isn't divinely inspired. No claim has ever been made that Scripture is anything else. If it was so simple and clear, why would so many put so much time and effort giving it more than a passing thought?

          • George

            "We screwed it up."

            How?

          • Guest

            The whole point of Genesis was to describe man's current condition on Earth, suffering included, and how his disobedience disrupted what might be described as "God's plan."

            "How" mankind screwed it up, whether it was his attempt to obtain knowledge he shouldn't have, simple disobedience, or otherwise— is a conversation unto himself.

            The point is that when the Christian discusses or describes the world around us, it is in it's "fallen" state, not a state fully as God made.

          • George

            why did disobedience occur?

          • William Davis

            The Bible got it's start right out of Sumerian mythology. The seven days of creation are a summary of the tablets of Enuma Elish. The flood myth came from Eridu Genesis and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Heck, the serpent stole the flower from Gilgamesh to prevent him from being immortal. The Garden of Eden was based on Sumerian Dilmun, the Garden of the Gods. The serpent was a god with a serpent body and human head named Ningishzida, the name means "Guardian of the Good Tree" i.e. the tree of life. The tree of life is mentioned in Egyptian mythology way before Genesis. Sumeria is so old the writers of Genesis had forgotten about it. In Enuma Elish one diety, was jokingly named Ninti meaning either "Lady of Life" or Lady of the Rib was created to heal enki's rib. Enki, the creator deity, even confuses languages

            http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/sumerianmyth.htm

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

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

            I can keep going about how Abraham worshipped El Elyon, of King Melchizedek, a Canaanite deity.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_%28deity%29

            We found this in Ugarit, and the tablets their have helped us translate the Bible for God's sake

            http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/22_bible.html

            Gilgamesh was probably nimrod, Kish (nimrods dad was Cush) was the first Sumerian city founded after the flood, and Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk or Ereck, one of the cities Nimrod supposedly founded. Gilgamesh was a mighty hunter, 2/3 god, and defied the gods on many occasions. He was also a great builder.

            I'll make another post about the curse in Genesis.

          • Guest

            So what?

            It's interesting and illuminating to see how Scripture came to be amongst other religions and mythologies, but that doesn't render Scripture meaningless or as just another set of scribbles alongside others.

            I'll go even one step further: OF COURSE Scripture was influenced by other texts, pagan or otherwise. They're contemporaries constantly in either dialogue or competition with one another. It's to be expected that they would feed off each other.

            This is like when people compare Jesus to the myth of Hercules, and then expect that to render the Gospels moot.

          • William Davis

            Sumeria and Egypt were over 1000 years (as much as 2000 years) before the Torah. My point is the show the context of Genesis, Original Sin as an interpretation of Genesis is DEAD WRONG. The Sumerian creation myth has the gods created men out of clay to be slaves and work the fields for them. The idea that the state of the world is our fault is ridiculous. It is clearly the creator's fault, if such a being exists.

          • Guest

            I don't see how you can declare original sin as interpreted in Genesis as wrong, simply because other creation myths circulated before the Torah.

            For one, it's always been unclear precisely when the Genesis story first appeared. How long could it have been around orally before being set to writing? We aren't even totally certain of the age of Homer's epics.

            Secondly, that other myths rendered the state of the world as the fault of other gods' only serves to illustrate a possible major reason why the Jews were different and set apart from the rest of society. While the pantheistic religions held multiple gods as responsible for mankind's condition, the Jews held the reverse: a singular God that mankind disobeyed and rejected.

          • William Davis

            One thing I forgot to add, the first commandment is "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me". This implies other gods (including the gods of Egypt who moses competed against). Otherwise it would have been: I am the only God.

            Also notice the Torah does not say what Paul says about it. Check this out:

            https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/276-original-sin-and-a-misapplied-passage

          • William Davis

            Don't you see that without "Original Sin" all of Christianity just falls apart from it's foundation?

          • Guest

            I always felt that no Resurrection meant no Christianity, but I guess everyone has their personal card they'd like to remove from the deck.

            I think most well read, thoughtful Christians would confess to the fragility and improbability of the Faith. They may even think of that as a strength.

            Carpenters that rise from the dead are fairly improbably. Shocking!

          • William Davis

            I agree with that, and I think Jesus makes an excellent God. I admire him and want to following in his footsteps. This original sin stuff is Paul's idea anyway. I don't have a problem with Jesus, I have a problem with El, or Yahweh (they may not even be the same God. All those times God refers to us, and we, I don't think he's talking about the trinity. Look at this Psalm number 82:

            "God has taken his place in the divine council;
            in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
            2 “How long will you judge unjustly
            and show partiality to the wicked?Selah"

            My concerns about God are pretty common in the Hebrew Bible. Abraham too (Abram worshipped El Elyon, the judges later worshiped Yahweh, they are different gods. Yahweh order the genocide of the hittites I believe. El Elyon, the god of Abraham, was better Genesis 18:

            22 So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.[f] 23 Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?

            Apparently God thinks there is not even 10 righteous in Sodom. The problem here is that there are women, children and slave, all are innocent. Even in the worst society, there are innocent people. At least Abraham questions him.

            This is on henotheism in the hebrew Bible. You can dig up lots more

            "Rabbinical Judaism as it developed in Late Antiquity is emphatically monotheistic, but its predecessor, the various schools of Hellenistic Judaism and Second Temple Judaism, and especially the cult of Yahwe as it was practiced in ancient Israel and Judah during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, have been described as henotheistic.

            For example, the Moabites worshipped the god Chemosh, the Edomites, Qaus, both of whom were part of the greater Canaanite pantheon, headed by the chief god, El. The Canaanite pantheon consisted of El and Asherah as the chief deities, with 70 sons who were said to rule over each of the nations of the earth. These sons were each worshiped within a specific region. Kurt Noll states that "the Bible preserves a tradition that Yahweh used to 'live' in the south, in the land of Edom" and that the original god of Israel was El Shaddai.[9]

            Several Biblical stories allude to the belief that the Canaanite gods all existed and possessed the most power in the lands that worshiped them or in their sacred objects; their power was real and could be invoked by the people who patronised them. There are numerous accounts of surrounding nations of Israel showing fear or reverence for the Israelite God despite their continued polytheistic practices.[10] For instance, in 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines fret before the second battle of Aphek when they learn that the Israelites are bearing the Ark of the Covenant, and therefore Yahweh, into battle. In 2 Kings 5, the Aramean general Naaman insists on transporting Israelite soil back with him to Syria in the belief that only then will Yahweh have the power to heal him. The Israelites were forbidden to worship other deities, but according to some interpretations of the Bible, they were not fully monotheistic before the Babylonian captivity. Mark S. Smith refers to this stage as a form of monolatry.[11] Smith argues that Yahweh underwent a process of merging with El and that acceptance of cults of Asherah was common in the period of the Judges.[11] 2 Kings 3:27 has been interpreted as describing a human sacrifice in Moab that led the invading Israelite army to fear the power of Chemosh.[12]"

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

          • Dan Hernandez

            I've been reading a little of you comments and I must admit, although I don't agree with some of what you have said, I like your open mind. I would however add if I respect may that must people fail to see that everything written in the bible, OT and NT are there for our learning Rom 15:4. Also just because the bible mentions something it does not mean it exist. For example gods don't exist. There's only one true God according to the Bible Deu 6:4. Now people did create themselves this gods but it does not mean they were real or existed. Paul was very clear on this point 1 Cor 8:4. What the Bible teaches is that worship its always directed to something or someone but only God is worth is such. Like 11:23.

          • William Davis

            The issues in the New Testament are a whole different ball game than the problems in the Hebrew Bible. I don't have time to night though.

          • Dan Hernandez

            I would disagree with you here. The problem on both is the same, sin. Just like now, and if anything can be proved, is that man has always wanted to to live a life with freedom to do all kinds of things without being responsible for his actions. Here's where it gets tricky, the whole point of the bible is to show us what happened before so we don't make the same mistake. I'll give an example. We all know that smoking cigarettes is bad, God knows this, we know this but we are free to smoke if we choose to. Although God forgives ous if (and this a BIG IF) we repent l, we still have to live with the consequences of our actions. Are prone to the wrong thing? Absolutely, do we have to? Of course not. Both the OT and NT are consistent in showing that there's is a reward for our actions. Just like in our society today. Jesus said that who ever wanted follow him let that person deny himself, take the cross and follow Mark 8:34. No different than the OT where everything was about abstaining oneself from doing the wrong immoral things.

          • William Davis

            We all know that smoking cigarettes is bad, God knows this, we know this but we are free to smoke if we choose to.

            I was brought up fundamentalist Christian, it not only didn't work for me, I had anxiety issues from having hell beaten into me. I smoked until I found mindfulness, and psychology along with Buddhist philosophy helped me gain the ability to chose to quit. I had tried and tried, I was really unable to quit. A real addict comes to grips with the problem that free will is mostly an illusion. For example, you may think you are free to drive across the country today, but you won't do it. Since you won't do it, you aren't really free to do it, you just THINK you are free to do it. Habit has tremendous power over the mind. I think a big part of religion is about overcoming bad habit and establishing good habit. The powers of reason do have some ability to temper habit and emotion (I think this is called prudence) but it is very limited. There are many things I agree with Christianity on, but the true nature human beings is not one of them. It's a long story, but the idea that morality evolved over time is pretty clear in history. Thanks for taking your time to comment, you can probably tell I've "found" my religion. I'm here taking this site up on it's purpose, and telling Christians what I think they get wrong. I am, by no means, anti-christian, but I do find the Christian answer that "things are bad because it is our fault" unjust and repulsive. Personally, I don't things are bad now thanks to cultivating a positive outlook, but this doesn't justify trivializing people suffering (which Christians seem to do with their doctrines unintentionally).

          • Dan Hernandez

            I like you you. Lol. I agree with you about Christiantity having not a few, but lots of thing wrong but the problem is not with Christiantity rather with the people. The fact that you couldnt quit smoking is the reason why you have never done it. That is what I mean when I say that we are free to do what we want but we have to live with the consequences. I personally do believe that free will is real. Unfortunately there are limitations in what we can do just like in everything else. As far as the suffering, yes there's is a lot of suffering around but God is not at fault for it. And yes he is well aware of the problem. i see don't agree with the things are our fault but it is true. For example was it God who invented cigarettes? No. Did God force you to smoke? No. If you got addicted to doing so didn't you got there on your own. That's not Gods fault. Same as killing and all bad things. Some one at one point decided to do a selfish act without considering the consequences. And yes there are innocent victims but just like court today the person responsible will pay. The difference is that in here we are unjust and some times people don't rely get what they deserve but in Gods judgement everyone will get what they deserve not more, not less. Thank you for being such a respectful and open minded person. And by the way, you don't need religion to do good things or to be saved. You just need God. This is another part that Christianity, or better to say, some achristian people get wrong as well as the "hell punishment" and others.

          • William Davis

            Thanks for the compliments, I think the religious mission of self-improvement to be very important and something that shouldn't be abandoned whether or not God exists. I think we have whittled down to the problem, you are fine with giving God the credit for anything good, and blaming humans for anything bad. I don't blame you for that view, but it doesn't make sense to me. If God takes credit for the good, he must also take credit for the bad. If humans are to blame (which is my stance) we take credit for the good and the bad. I'm not against a creator deity, that is an entirely thing than a good who constantly meddles with his creation. I'm an software engineer, so this affects my perception. When I design something, I'm responsible for both it's success and failure. It would be completely hypocritical of me to design a program, and then blame the program for "bugs". The beauty of the human mind is that it is self debugging with help from the right software (philosophy and religion). Even if a creator deity made the universe (I think that is unlikely but not impossible) it seems pretty clear to me that it is up to us to figure out morality on our on. Through neurology we are beginning to understand some of the hardware involved, tons of psychological experiments have demonstrated a fairly consistent "moral hard wiring" in humans, serial killers are examples of where the hardware fails. This hard wiring can be "over written" by repeated exposure to violence, very much unlike ants and other social insects.
            In a nutshell I think the future of morality will involve understanding it's causation inside the brain, something we have already made much progress toward in psychology and neurology. I think religion is still relevant to provide theories of meaning (science by definition is only about causation). Therefore I some of Christianity's theories of meaning, and reject others, such as original sin. We are finding things like original sin to be very bad for the mental state of many, excessive guilt does not necessarily help to get people to do the right thing, and religion is all about right action. Beliefs only matter in as much as they achieve the goal of right action, and a healthy mind.

          • Dan Hernandez

            Thank again. I want to just follow up on a few of the things you mention.

            You said: "I think we have whittled down to the problem, you are fine with giving God the credit for anything good, and blaming humans for anything bad. I don't blame you for that view, but it doesn't make sense to me."

            Not exactly. I do give him credit for good things for He himself said that every good gift comes from him James 1:17. The blame part is a little complicated since everything we do has a consequence. I think the best way to put is that we should be responsible for our actions and not blame him for everything. Put it to you this way, a person kills (God forbid) my son, I forgive him but he still has to serve his time in jail for what he did. Even today people still have the wrong perspective of God that just cuz he is loving and merciful he is just going to wipe clean our actions but it doesn't work like that. He forgives us but we still have to live with the consequences.

            You said: "If God takes credit for the good, he must also take credit for the bad"

            No exactly. See this is the part I don't agree with science. We are not computers. We are not programed from birth to behave in any way but rather we chose to be whatever we become. Can we be influenced? absolutely but this would only prove my point. God made us from the beginning with the freedom of choice. I choose what to eat, what to wear, how to behave. I choose to be good or bad. A kid raised in a violent environment can become violent or even a killer but this does not mean he was born a killer. Take it with drinkers and addicts. They were not born that way but became that way thru a series of choices. God can't be blamed for these.

            You said:" I'm an software engineer, so this affects my perception. When I design something, I'm responsible for both it's success and failure. It would be completely hypocritical of me to design a program, and then blame the program for "bugs".

            I also work in the compiter field just not in the programing end. Again, a computer cannot make choices of its own, in the contrary we can without the need of religion or philosophy but you can choose religion or philosophy if you'd like.

            You said: "it seems pretty clear to me that it is up to us to figure out morality on our on. Through neurology we are beginning to understand some of the hardware involved, tons of psychological experiments have demonstrated a fairly consistent "moral hard wiring" in humans, serial killers are examples of where the hardware fails.

            What I have observed is that thru time we seem to have forgotten that things can be injected in to people's brain thru trauma, environment. In other words, we can cause the hardware to fail. TV industry and video games have done a great job influencing peoples choices (causing hardware to fail) or even reenforced them. We have now come to accept what was unacceptable just a decade ago. Case in point is all the sexuality and homosexual promotions (Not that I have anything against homosexual individuals as a disclaimer). Back in my days not too long ago, there was a commercial at 9PM telling kids it was time to go to sleep, there was no sexual content movies, videos shown before that time. Now we are bombarded everyday at any time and we see the effect of this in our kids. But again it is ok. Some people specially in college have an agenda to push the idea that there is no God and use all kinds of out of context scenarios to prove it and I have to say it has worked really well. Some even say that we have to get rid of religion, that religion is the ultimate enemy of mankind due to all the things that have happened in the name of religion, this has worked well as well. But do people really know that the biggest wars and monstrosities have been committed by people with no religion affiliation (I'm not saying atheist by the way, just regular people)? are we going to get rid of humanity? of course not. Religion is not the problem but people that called themselves religious but their actions say otherwise but of course we have to blame religion.

            You said: "Therefore I some of Christianity's theories of meaning, and reject others, such as original sin.

            I totally agree with you here. Gosh when started to read the bible I was amazed of all the false things people thought me, like original sin, hell (eternal punishment), death, baptism, purgatory, speaking in tongues, praying to saints, Fasting on Fridays and during Lent, celibacy of the priesthood, man I could go on. These are just to name a few. I don't know what your understanding of original sin is since is not a universal dogma meaning people have different opinion, but what I understand of it is completely false and unbiblical.

            Sorry for the long list but it is a lil hard to explain so much with just a few words

          • William Davis

            I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about the lack of original sin in Genesis. I usually get no response when I bring that one up. If you've got something, I'd like to hear it. If I'm getting something wrong, I always want to know it, that is the purpose of debate.

          • Guest

            Describe what you specifically mean by the "lack of original sin" in Genesis. Do you mean the phrase or the act?

          • William Davis

            The curses were INCREASED pain for women, and harder to farm ground. THAT'S IT. All the things you claim about it (like suffering is our fault) are NOT THERE. THE INCREASE IN PAIN DEMONSTRATES THERE WAS SUFFERING BEFORE THE FALL. Paul wasn't paying attention when he came up with that doctrine.

          • Guest

            Ouch. Watch the all-caps. I will, too.

            A few sketched out thoughts:

            · Are you sure the multiplication of sorrows are sorrows that existed before the fall? God's words come after Adam and Eve have felt shame for their nakedness, and passed the blame. By that order of events, God is multiplying the shame Eve is feeling as He is speaking.

            · I'd point out again that a totally painless world prior to the fall is purely theological speculation on our part. The text only indicates that God's Creation is as He intended. That could just as easily be a spiritual state of being, rather than the laws of physics.

            · If you are correct, then I'd like to explore the meaning of sorrows. There are pains and toils that we enjoy— the toil of a good days work, exercising, or study. We understand them as a lesser sort of suffering, but ones we are willing to undertake. So then did man's relationship with "suffering" change as a consequence of the fall?

          • William Davis

            I wasn't trying to yell, just emphasize words. Fair enough otherwise, as you can see this is a big problem for me when it comes to Christianity. Cheers, and thanks for discussing :)

          • William Davis

            One last note. As an atheist, I think we need religion. Science doesn't give us meaning, religion and philosophy do. I have a real problem with a philosophy that blames man for the state of things. A hands-off God who still loves us but can't act on our behalf because of the rules of nature makes much more sense to me. This way, God can be Good, but no omnipotent, or at least unable to act within certain periods of history. One of God's attributes has to give for it to make sense for me. Even if Adam made the choice, it was still a setup. I wasn't involved in the whole thing, so it is unfair to curse me because of Adam. The whole thing smacks of injustice, a big problem if God is the source of morality.

          • Guest

            But from the Christians point of view, that's only half the story. Everyone recognizes that people do bad things each other, to themselves, and to the world around them. All Genesis is attempting to do is help begin our understanding for why that is.

            If it were such a set up, why would God show us the way out of the conundrum via the Incarnation? If he was indifferent to mankind, why would he weep or even bother participating in events beyond Genesis?

            As far a hands-off God who doesn't act on our behalf... that doesn't seem to be the case at all, at least in Catholicism. The sacraments, most especially the Eucharist seem to be God/Jesus explicitly acting on our behalf in the present moment.

            As for whether God acts on mankind's behalf in more, say, Old Testament ways, I don't see how we would know, or how that would change anything. From the way people act in the OT, it seems to indicate that God could levitate a mountain, turn it upside down and transform it into chocolate, and mankind still wouldn't believe it.

          • William Davis

            Another question, why the heck would God make it so one mistake would ruin everything for billions of people. He made us, so he knew what we would do when he put us in the garden. If I did the same thing with my kids, I know what they would do because IT IS IN THEIR NATURE. It's like Christians think God is an idiot or something. By the Genesis standard I'm smarter than God. In reality I'm just smarter than the writer of Genesis, the whole information age thing.

          • Guest

            I've heard this one before, and it's not too different from those that get tripped up over things like "predestination."

            I'm only going offer my own personal take, rather than pretend to be a biblical scholar, which I am not:

            God made us the way he made us and "set things up" the way he did because to do it otherwise would render his relationship with mankind as valueless and no different that His relationship with rocks.

            If you loved someone, would you just say "love me" and then tie them up in your basement and force them to love you? You might get them to stick around, but you'd know that their "love" was forced up on them, and is thus falsely given. You'd be a monster for doing so.

            No. Instead, you'd love them as best you could and risk the possibility that you'd be rejected. That all your work would fall to nothing. But, when that person came back and said "I love you" back, it would be true and full of meaning.

            How many parents wish their children would do as their told, or always stay close to home? Plenty. But the best parents know that to force their children's hand runs a serious risk of backlash and resentment.

            So yes, God made things the way he did, and allowed things to happen the way they happened. But as pure Being outside of Space and Time, He knows that mankind's love must be freely given to have any value, in addition to knowing the full "story" of all Creation from beginning to end.

          • William Davis

            I could go on and on about Sumeria, Egypt, and Genesis, but let's get to the curse

            16 To the woman he said,

            “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
            in pain you shall bring forth children,
            yet your desire shall be for your husband,
            and he shall rule over you.”

            Pain was INCREASED so there was already pain before. This is consistent with humans evolving larger brains, making childbirth harder. We have "cured" this curse with epidurals and modern medicine.

            17 And to the man[b] he said,

            “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
            and have eaten of the tree
            about which I commanded you,
            ‘You shall not eat of it,’
            cursed is the ground because of you;
            in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
            18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
            and you shall eat the plants of the field.
            19 By the sweat of your face
            you shall eat bread
            until you return to the ground,
            for out of it you were taken;
            you are dust,
            and to dust you shall return.”

            Man wasn't cursed, just the ground. The curse ends at death. WE have removed this curse with agricultural technology, fertilizer, pesticide and tractors. The snakes are on their own with the whole leg thing ;)

            20 The man named his wife Eve,[c] because she was the mother of all living.21 And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man[d] and for his wife, and clothed them.

            22 Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

            Man was KICKED OUT to prevent him from getting eternal life. there is no evidence AT ALL that we WE EVER IMMORTAL. Besides, man wasn't cursed, the ground was.

            In light of Genesis, which is clearly based on older mythology, THE FALL IS NO EXPLANATION FOR ANYTHING CHRISTIANS CLAIM IT IS. The whole thing is ridiculous actually.

          • Hipshot

            We have "cured" this curse with epidurals and modern medicine.

            Clearly the inventors of epidural anesthesia are contravening the will of God per Gen.16. Are their motives Satanic, I wonder...

          • William Davis

            We can keep going, and I can keep showing how Christian doctrines are non-sense and even unbiblical if you'd like. Out of time right this minute though :)

          • Rick Kasten

            "How can a finite mind possibly understand an infinite mind, much less label it hypocritical?"

            How can a finite mind possibly understand an infinite mind, much less label it as not being hypocritical?

            "The Old Testament does lots of contradictory and crazy things, none of which can be brought into any kind of consistent understanding without Jesus."

            Oh, good, some answers! Please explain the understanding consistent with Jesus where it is ok to kill people for picking up sticks on the wrong rotational period of the planet. Please explain the understanding consistent with Jesus where it is ok to have bears maul children to death for making fun of a bald guy. Please explain the understanding consistent with Jesus where it is ok to shove women into a crowd to be raped to death.

            "All Scripture, and all instances of God do not all carry equal intellectual weight."

            You are wrong.
            Matthew 5:17-18: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."
            You either accept ALL of the law or you accept NONE of it. That is what your holy book says. To state otherwise is not only incorrect, it is unbiblical.
            Deuteronomy 4:2 You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.

          • William Davis

            Think about it for a second. If the God of Job existed, wouldn't he have struck me down for blaspheming? The fact is, I've had a blessed life, make excellent money and have wonderful friends and family. Why? Because I do the right thing. If God exists, he is looking out for me, a blaspheming atheist. What if God does exist and you are wrong...you are the one who is blaspheming God with this nonsense, making him into a monster.
            I don't believe any of what I just said, but the fact remains, whatever is "controlling" the universe, doesn't care at all about human good or evil. Good and evil are human concepts that have effects on society and ourselves, that is what good and evil are about.

          • Guest

            If good and evil are solely human constructs, then they are ultimately irrelevant. Good is a relative term, and to be frank, the people who would live best in this this life are the ones who do what they want and get away with it. "Good" creeps it's way to being a synonym for "my advantage."

            As far the logic you employ above— none of that is fully knowable. I do not know why God permits me to exist despite my errors, any more than I know why bad things happen to good people. It's a childish thing to rend a garment over, because we are incapable of seeing all ends despite our best efforts, and we routinely neglect to account for our own free participation in how history unfolds.

          • William Davis

            Sure, there is a lot we don't know, we have to use what we do know to construct a worldview and take stabs at things we don't know.

            The most miserable people I've met are selfish, being selfish makes you miserable, not happy. People that put the "self" into something bigger than themselves (like Christianity for instance) are much, much happier and actually leave something behind we they die. This is a natural law of the human mind almost all religions agree on, and they are correct. There is a rule in social organisms (like humans). Selfish individuals beat altruistic (good) individuals, but altruistic groups (Christians) beat selfish groups (pagans). You can see this play out over and over again in history. As an intelligence individual, I recognize that being altruistic is key to my own happiness, and survival. In other words I am good/altruistic because I am both wise and selfish. Only fools think selfishness will make them happy, and they always end up miserable in the end. Pleasure is fleeting, true happiness is something else.

          • Guest

            In short, you are good for selfish reasons, which proves nothing.

            Your description is aligned with my point: people will be "good" according to what is best for their survival or prosperity. The "selfish" who are miserable can only be offered up as a narrow example of what it means to be selfish.

            None of this proves or disproves the existence of an objective good. All it does is illustrate how the various understandings of "good" possibly operate in practical terms.

          • William Davis

            None of this proves or disproves the existence of an objective good. All it does is illustrate how the various understandings of "good" possibly operate in practical terms.

            Exactly right. It is a massive combination of arguments that all lead to the same conclusion. I like Jesus and Paul, and agree they changed the world and helped shape western morality and conscience. I just think they were men :)

  • Steve Horten

    Very good read, Fr. Barron. I have often thought about problems in our life and then contemplated what Jesus had to endure. Who are we that we should have greater favor, or less problems than God's own Son.

  • Mike

    Atheists: Is morality is an 'emergent property' of carbon?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think you have to go back farther, to the singularity.

      • Mike

        Was that tongue in cheek? I don't know alot of new age atheist ideas...do they really think that morality was built in into the original matter of the universe? Bc if so they may be partly Thomists no?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It was and was not tongue-in-cheek. I think morality is real. If morality is an emergent property of matter (rather than a consequence of having an infused rational soul), it has to be a potentiality at the very beginning, since everything since the Big Bang has just been an unfolding of the singularity, and the singularity comes before carbon.

          • Mike

            Yes i agree with that; and if that's true if somehow carbon atoms have a set of properties and a trillion of them another set called me and you and a billion trillion something called morality then those properties have been them from the beginning...which just means that either we start believing in magic or a super intelligence.

      • Caravelle

        No, you have to go farther in the other direction. As in, a property of sentient social beings.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          But is materialism is correct, sentience is a potentiality of carbon, and carbon is a potentiality of the singularity.

          • Caravelle

            If materialism is correct we don't talk about "potentiality", or for that matter reduce all organic matter to "carbon".

            But semantics aside, even insofar as it's true that "carbon" has the "potential" for sentience, the phrase "sentience is a potentiality of carbon" suggests an exclusiveness, that carbon is the only substance that has the potential for sentience, and we don't have enough information to know that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think to speak of the potentiality of matter is perfectly legitimate--it is how metaphysics underlies physics, specifically how something can change.

            But true. Who knows yet what potentiality everything has? Iron has the potential to fly if it is arranged properly by the Wright Brothers.

          • Doug Shaver

            it is how metaphysics underlies physics

            Your metaphysics, maybe. Not mine.

          • Doug Shaver

            But is materialism is correct, sentience is a potentiality of carbon, and carbon is a potentiality of the singularity.

            No, it isn't. Potentiality is something in Aristotelianism, not materialism.

    • Doug Shaver

      Atheists: Is morality an 'emergent property' of carbon?

      No. It's way more complicated than that.

  • avnrulz

    Mr. Fry 'married' his male companion, 'nuff said.

    • Luke

      How is that, "'nuff said"? What does that imply about Mr. Fry's character?

      • avnrulz

        Read through the Bible and you will see that his actions go against the teachings of Judea-Christian values. The fact that that is his 'lifestyle' and then to read he is an atheist tells me that his opinion will run counter to my faith, and it will not sway my thoughts, actions or deeds.

        • Luke

          Why should I believe the Bible? Unless you're also in support of genocide and slavery, I suggest that we not take the Bible's version of "morality" seriously.

          • avnrulz

            Again, placing today's definitions on the actions of the past shows the modern errors.

          • Luke

            So we in the "modern" era are the ones who are immoral? We should be enslaving others and committing genocide, too?

          • Krakerjak

            Perhaps avnrulz should read this.
            http://primalillusion.blogspot.ca/

          • avnrulz

            Man and his hubris has not changed in thousands of years, only his technology. Right and Wrong hasn't changed, it is simply that 'modern man' has decided to construct a new paradigm of right and wrong ("Just do it", "If you're not hurting anyone, it's okay.")
            BTW, speaking of definitions and context, can you tell me who the early Atheists were?

          • Luke

            So you are condoning slavery and genocide? If "Right and Wrong" hasn't changed, then you think that these things are "Right." The "early Atheists"? I don't know who you're referring to.

          • avnrulz

            If you think all the Bible condones is slavery and genocide, you have glossed over God's request for his people to act properly (You know, 'The Golden Rule', those pesky Ten Commandments, and 'Love your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself), and the result when they don't whether in the OT or the NT. Easy question. You call yourself an atheist. I asked you if you know who the atheists were considered to be in the first century? (Again, this relates to my statement earlier about context.)

          • Luke

            The Bible both condones slavery and genocide, and teaches otherwise. It's yet another contradiction in scripture. Thankfully, most Christians place emphasis on Jesus' positive messages.

            Why should I care about who was an atheist 2,000 years ago?

          • avnrulz

            "Why should I care about who was an atheist 2,000 years ago?"
            Because you completely missed my comment on context.

          • Luke

            Please fill me in.

          • avnrulz

            The "early Atheists"? I don't know who you're referring to.
            Study some history; the irony is that the Catholics of the first Century were called atheists. Welcome to the club.

          • Luke

            So what? I don't see how this relates to anything.

    • William Davis

      I've never had sex with anyone except my wife, I make a point to help people, I live a perfectly Christian life, but I'm an atheist and I agree with Fry. What do you have to say now? Your attempts to "poison the well" (a common logical fallacy) are actually pretty pathetic and un-Christian. Jesus would be ashamed I think. Jesus never indicated that "being gay" was a reason to not be compassionate toward a person.

      • avnrulz

        Reading into my comments, aren't you? All I said was, I don't take his comments to heart because his POV is fashioned form a POV that goes against mine. His opinion is just that, his opinion. I threw no bricks, burned no crosses, painted no graffiti; to quote Adam Savage's T-shirt, if you don't want any Judeo-Christian theology, "I reject your reality, and substitute my own." He rejects mine, and I reject his. Shall we continue to beat the dead horse?

      • avnrulz

        BTW, I actually 'liked' a couple of your comments below, because you were thoughtful in your explanation, in case you hadn't read that far.

        • William Davis

          I agree I read more into your comment that what you meant. Try to spell it out better next time if you don't mind. The atheist moral police are out in force :P. Thanks for being fair enough to agree with someone of a different point of view. I try to do the same thing.

    • zhera

      No, he married his male companion. No scare quotes.

      They are husbands. You're a bigot.

      • avnrulz

        "They are husbands.' I am not a bigot, I am a person with a moral code that does not accept males marrying each other. As he is an atheist, his way is not my way.

        • Luke

          his way is not my way.

          Are you claiming to be the moral authority? Everything that you don't do or agree with is immoral and everything that you do or agree with is moral?

          • avnrulz

            NO. I am stating what I said. Here in the U.S. we have the First Amendment, which allows for Free Speech. I am expressing MY OPINION in a Public Forum, in response to his expressing HIS OPINION. You don't like MY OPINION, that's on you, not on me.

          • Luke

            Opinions are perfectly acceptable, as long as they are treated as such.

          • avnrulz

            It seems to me it was you who tried to treat my opinion as dogma.

          • Rick Kasten

            If you live your life by your opinions, then they ARE your dogma. Just because you don't force everyone else to live by your opinions doesn't mean it is not dogma as far as you are concerned.

          • avnrulz

            Put the cart before the horse much? My opinion is formed by the dogmas, teachings, disciplines and experiences I was formed by through my life. (Dogma: 1: something held as an established opinion; esp: a definite authoritative tenet; 2: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals laid down by a church.) I am not a church, I am a product of a church and its teachings. Mr. Fry's opinion is a product of the dogmas and disciplines of his up bringing, why is not his opinion a dogma? It is amazing that my opinions are the critical ones, while Mr. Fry is free to have his without perturbance.

          • Rick Kasten

            I don't think I can answer your question better than how you answered it yourself. Dogma is purely an opinion, which you admit, and your conclusion is the "product of a church and its teachings". That's....dogma. The difference between your opinion and Fry's is you are making a claim based on dogma, and Fry is rebutting that claim, responding to the logical conclusion of that dogma. He is NOT making a claim based on his dogma.

          • avnrulz

            Of course he is; his dogma is atheism and anti-Christian belief. To not have a 'dogma' is to believe all else is a vacuum, and you know, even nature abhors a vacuum. You are allowing him to have his belief, without criticizing it, but criticizing mine.

          • Luke

            Please do not misrepresent me. My atheism is not a dogma, but a lack of belief in God/gods. If I had evidence of God/gods, I would not be an atheist. I am not anti-Christian.

          • avnrulz

            I am not referring to you, I am referring to him.

          • Luke

            Sorry--I can now see that you were referring to Mr. Fry, not me or Rick. I have edited my comment to reflect this. My apologies.

          • avnrulz

            No problem; I took no offense. This is, after all, a discussion, not a shouting match, n'est pas?

          • Rick Kasten

            First, atheism is the null position, so by definition it cannot be a dogma, because it does not espouse an opinion. In fact, it withholds opinion. If you want to call "lack of an opinion" a vacuum, I'm ok with that. Second, Fry is not expressing a belief. He believes in neither God nor heaven, but he was asked to comment on what would happen if he found both were true, so he answered. That is not a belief; that is a response to a hypothetical. If you were asked how you would respond if you found that Dumbledore and Hogwarts were real, I'm sure you could formulate an answer to the question, but that wouldn't mean you actually believe either are real.

          • avnrulz

            atheism: the belief that there is no God; denial of the existence of a supreme being. You cannot say you have O dogma, because to not have a dogma means you have no guiding principles at all, and you're 'floating along, rudderless.' Mr. Fry is expressing HIS belief.

          • Rick Kasten

            That is not the definition of atheism. The prefix "a" means absent of or without, therefore atheism means lack of a belief in God. The term you are describing is antitheist: a positive statement of the non-existence of God. They are not synonymous. Fry did not express any belief until the very end when he said that life without God is cleaner and happier. Everything he said before that was commenting on the logical absurdities of the claims of theists. Again, not synonymous.

          • avnrulz

            If that's not the definition, you can take it up with Merriam-Webster's New Ideal Dictionary.

          • Rick Kasten

            a·the·ism
            noun
            noun: atheism
            disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.
            http://atheists.org/activism/resources/what-is-atheism
            Atheism is usually defined incorrectly as a belief system. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

          • avnrulz

            FOr it to be an 'ism', or one to an 'ist', there still has to be some 'dogma' or line of 'reasoning' agreed to by a group or collective. And, as I said, the definition I presented was not mine, but Merriam-Webster's.

          • Rick Kasten

            No, there doesn't, but that is a valid issue. Neil deGrasse Tyson has addressed this several times. The logic behind the concept of the word "atheist" implies that words must exist to define things that people are not, like agolfist for those who do not play golf. That would mean we would need to have a dictionary of infinite words, because there are an infinite number of things that any person could not be, and that's nonsensical.

            But to your point, you are correct that for an 'ism' or an 'ist' to exist, there must be a dogma attached. Again, I point you to the fact that atheism is the default position, the null position. It is the theists who make the claim that God(s) exists, therefore they are genesis of the 'ism'. 'Atheism' is merely an unfortunately-named term to define those who lack belief. This is the very reason why Tyson refers to himself only as an agnostic, because he sees a difference between knowledge and lack of knowledge. Belief (theism) can have a term, but lack of belief just.... is. Just being alive makes people a-"an infinite number of beliefs", so we shouldn't have to name those terms. Only those who hold those beliefs need to name themselves something.

          • avnrulz
          • avnrulz

            Yes, he proclaimed his opinion and I replied with mine. I called for no boycott, threw no bombs, etc. Apparently, his opinion is more acceptable because he is a celebrity?

          • Luke

            No, his opinions are not more acceptable because he is a celebrity. I hope I never implied that.

          • avnrulz

            "Opinions are perfectly acceptable, as long as they are treated as such" However, you are not treating my opinion as my opinion, you are weighing it down with dogma, while accepting his opinion; if you were accepting my opinion as simply that, you wouldn't be arguing with me time and again.

          • Luke

            You made a (now deleted) ad hominem criticism of Fry. I challenged you on it. I would have challenged you even if you said it was just your opinion, because I think that your morality on the issue of gay marriage is discriminatory.

          • avnrulz

            If it was deleted, it was not by me.

        • Rick Kasten

          "I am not a bigot, I am a person with a moral code that does not accept males marrying each other."

          That's just as logical as saying "I am not a racist, I am a person with a moral code that does not accept people of different skin color having equal value to me."

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Fr. Barron is right when he says the problem of evil is nothing new. But the reason it keeps returning is because the answers to it are not particularly satisfying.

    In Job, God responds by essentially saying that might makes right. As Fr. Barron put it, "the true God is the providential Lord of all of space and all of time." Does this give him the right to cause/allow suffering? Similarly, does a dictator have the right to torture simply be cause he is in charge? This line on defense should not be convincing.

    Fr. Barron's second point is that God might, hypothetically have a good reason to allow suffering. I'll grant that this is a hypothetical possibility, but you have to admit that this answer is not particularly satisfying. "We don't know why God allows insects to burrow into children's eyeballs, but maybe there might be a good reason!" Imagine this type of defense used in a court room. "Your honor, for all we know, my client might've had good reasons to commit his crimes. I don't know what they are, but there just might be some!"

    Thirdly, the possibility on a positive afterlife does not justify suffering in this one. Future compensation does not justify misdeeds. If I were to punch you in the face, but then compensate you with a million dollars, that does not make it OK for me to have punched you in the first place.

    Lastly, although I agree that Jesus suffered immensely on the cross, this still does not justify human suffering. Just because I have felt pain in my life, does not mean that I can allow my children to feel pain as well.

    • Guest

      · but the suffering we are discussing is happening in the context of a broken, or fallen, world. Christians don't understand day-to-day life as occurring in a reality as God intended.

      · it seems mistaken to assume that an afterlife is purely "compensation" rather just another event in the arc of a person's existence, some enjoyable, others less so.

      · I don't know if Jesus' suffering "justifies" all human suffering, but I do think it's an indication that to approach the divine, the Good, or whatever is excellent has an indispensable connection to suffering. No one obtains health, or fitness, or wealth, or friends, or any of the goods of living with out some kind of inconvenience, pain, or suffering.

      · why do we insist on imposing human understanding on the divine mind? God, in both Old and New Testament, doesn't strike me as sort of being that thinks as humans do. Which makes sense for a being who is pure Being.

      God doesn't have any particular obligation to explain or reveal Himself, which is part of what makes the Incarnation such a big deal— God isn't just sharing in our circumstances on Earth, He's also showing us how to live through them; a way totally contrary to the best of human thinking.

  • OldWorldSwine

    I've noticed an odd inconsistency in the way atheists talk about the universe;

    On
    the one hand, when they talk about how belief in God is not necessary
    to be happy and fulfilled, they will wax rhapsodic about why we should
    be satisfied just with the awesome beauty and mystery of the cosmos, the
    breathtaking variety of life on earth, and how human beings, after
    steady evolutionary progress, are doing fine with their science and new
    humanistic morality, and have no need of religion. The universe is a wonderful place. Who needs God?

    On the other hand, when postulating the existence of God for the sake of argument (as I guess Fry
    does here), suddenly the cosmos becomes incalculably hostile, a vast,
    cold forbidding place full of death and destruction - animals have to
    kill each other to stay alive! - and the immorality of human history
    becomes an outrageous affront. God is incalculably wicked for *allowing*
    the scale of human suffering and evil we see before us. Life is "nasty,
    brutish and short", and The Creator should be ashamed and embarrassed
    to have made such an absurd hell-hole.

    Which is it? Is life on the whole good, or bad?

    • Luke

      Atheists can understand the universe and our existence best when there is no God involved. We start having trouble when theists claim that a personal God designed the universe to be this way. In the no God scenario, there's nothing to "blame."

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      I'd say that life, the universe, and everything is a mix of both breathtaking beauty and horrible hostilities, perhaps with a greater proportion of the former. It's just when someone claims that there is an all powerful being in control, the horrible stuff becomes harder to explain, and so it tends to get more attention in those discussions. It's easy to explain why a loving omnipotent god would create beauty. It's much harder to explain why he would create/allow suffering.

      • OldWorldSwine

        Of course the universe comprises great good and great evil, but taking it as it is, God or no God, and not compared to some imaginary other kind of universe... thumbs up or thumbs down? Assuming for the sake of discussion that God did create the world... worthwhile, or not?

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          Well, I can't really compare this universe to some imaginary other universe... I don't know what type of imaginary universe you're talking about. But on the the whole, this universe seems pretty good (athough in many ways we had to work hard to make it that way - see smallpox vaccination). But there is certainly areas that could use a lot of improvement. Assuming that God did create the world, we should wonder why there are so many defecits along with the good in the world. Are you really content saying that an all perfect god created a universe that is just "worthwhile?"

          • OldWorldSwine

            Well, that is the question, I think. If the universe is God's ongoing project, with some grand aim we can't yet fully understand, and we have been invited to participate and freely make our own creative contributions to it, then the possibility of evil and suffering may be an intrinsic corollary to our genuine free will. Evil itself is never necessary, but the *possibility* of evil may be necessary. If God's creation of free creatures necessarily entails the radical possibility of evil, then the question is whether Free Will is worth the risk, even with all the suffering and evil. I vote yes.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Yes, I'm familiar with the free will defense. I think this is why Fry brought up natural evils such as bone cancer and insects burrowing in people's eyes. It is difficult to understand how human free will causes these, or why innocents have to suffer because of them. There's plenty discussion about this in the comments above.

            But in any case, you had originally noted an "odd inconsistency in the way atheists talk about the universe." I hope that I have demonstrated that it is not inconsistent to both see the universe as a beautiful place as a whole, but still focus on the bad when talking about the problem of evil.

    • Rick Kasten

      It's not inconsistent at all. A universe without God just is what it is, and it is a wonderful place. A universe with an all-powerful, all-loving, disembodied Mind shoved into it is a different place with different rules and assumptions. The inconsistency you perceive is one of reality vs one of make-believe. The Mind in the make-believe universe can be "blamed" (as Luke said) for everything helpful and hurtful in that universe. Or, if you want to define that Mind in such a way that it ends up "unable to be blamed", then you've described a universe that is functionally equivalent to a universe without God, so you're still in the same boat.

      • OldWorldSwine

        The universe is a wonderful place, unless it was created by God, in which case it's a horrendous failure. Got it.

        • Rick Kasten

          Well, yes.

          A universe without a conscious, disembodied Mind evolved organically into what we see today: beautiful sunsets, love and the Giants beating the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl, along with bone cancer, mass murder and planet-destroying natural disasters, all occurring from natural causes. A beautiful place albeit with legitimately sucky aspects.

          A universe WITH a conscious, disembodied Mind evolved PURPOSEFULLY into that same universe. The difference is entirely related to that Mind. Purposefully giving us sunsets, love, etc., is certainly nice, but why the bone cancer, mass murder, etc.? A universe created explicitly for conscious beings to suffer is NOT a wonderful place. I wouldn't call the universe "horrendous", but the Mind would be horrendous, certainly.

          • OldWorldSwine

            The suffering is not the *point* of the world, but it may very well be a necessary element of a world of neutral matter in which free, rational beings can coexist and manipulate their environment. We don't know that any other arrangement is even *possible* while retaining free will and free action. When we assume God could have "done better" we (consciously or not) compare the real world to some imaginary world we don't know could ever exist. So, the question becomes, is living as a free creature in the universe as it is *worth* the suffering? If God exists, I expect he knows the answer to that question, and other things we don't.

          • Rick Kasten

            "The suffering is not the *point* of the world"

            Until you can definitively state the actual *point* of the world, this claim is unjustified. The truth is we don't know for certain, assuming God exists, whether or not suffering is the point.

            True, we don't know that any other arrangement is possible. However, your response to that is to "assume God" (assumption #1) and compare the real world to some "imaginary world" (assumption #2). My response is to make no assumptions at all and allow the universe to be nothing more than what it is. Your assumptions are what caused Fry's response in the first place.

            "is living as a free creature in the universe as it is *worth* the suffering?"

            Worth it to whom? Who defines the worth? God never asked me for my opinion, or if he did like before I was born, I demand a second opinion, because I was certainly not informed enough to have a sound decision. Is my freedom to buy wheat bread over white bread worth watching my daughter get gang-raped in order to provide me that freedom? No. Based on what I know now, having lived in this universe, I would have asked God that neither of us ever be born in the first place.

          • OldWorldSwine

            Okay, your preference for non-existence is noted and will be added to my tally of responses.

          • Rick Kasten

            I'll ask you the same question: is living as a free creature in the universe as it is worth the suffering? Is having the freedom to choose between wheat and white bread worth having your daughter/wife/mother/sister gang-raped to provide you that freedom?

          • OldWorldSwine

            What does gang rape of anyone have to do with bread? That doesn't make sense. At least compare apples to apples; The overwhelming majority of insects are beneficial. Is that worth tolerating the ones that are parasites or are deadly? Does sexual abuse & violence nullify the benefits of the whole history of human sexuality, intimacy and romance? Most people I've met online are interesting and pretty nice. Is that worth putting up with the trolls? Sure.

          • Rick Kasten

            "is living as a free creature in the universe as it is *worth* the suffering? "

            Is living with the freedom to choose wheat vs. white bread worth the physical and psychological suffering your daughter will go through being gang-raped? Is living with the freedom to choose Crest vs. Colgate worth the Holocaust? These are completely relevant questions under the assumption that God could not have "done better" with the design of the universe. If God could not have provided a universe where free will existed without such atrocities, then it would have more moral to have not created the universe at all than to have created it and allow sentient beings to suffer.

            These ridiculous comparisons only exist when God is part of the equation. Remove God, and free will and both its benefits and its atrocities are easily explained.

    • Doug Shaver

      Which is it? Is life on the whole good, or bad?

      Good for some, bad for others. On the whole, I have no idea. We could make it a lot better for a lot of people if we tried harder, but if you think they'll be compensated in the next life for their suffering in this life, why bother?

  • Robert Bozzomo

    Sir -- I pray that God the Father/ Son and Holy Spirit comfort you -- and opens your eyes as to the love and goodness they have for all things great and small. I ask God to turn his continence toward you.

  • Susan

    Fry says that he would ask God why he made a universe in which children
    get bone cancer, a universe in which human beings suffer horrifically
    and without justification. If such a monstrous, self-absorbed, and
    stupid God exists,

    I have heard many people say stuff like this and I think these blame and shame God sentiments only go to show a shallow or dismayed perception of God, also often used as a get out of jail free card by people who lack the determination to comprehend an understanding and waver in risking a leap of faith.

    • Guest

      Actually I think they say it simply to appear as a moral crusader deeply concerned for others. That may be true for some, but I suspect for most it's just vanity and PR.

      To be fair, I suppose I'd have not dissimilar questions, though I'd like think I'd be so thrilled at being at the "pearly gates" I wouldn't bother asking, or even need the answer.

      • Susan

        My simple Interpretation of God, is that when God created the Universe, God made the Universe perfect in the context of we would be here and we can`t deal with perfect yet for obvious reasons.
        So how we see creation is from a limited view point and not Gods view point.

  • Paddy S

    There are many ignorant things that Mr Fry stated in his end rant that any honest believer or atheist should have been appalled. Not only did he display a serious lack of basic historical or religious knowledge but for someone who prides himself on his knowledge of religions and culture, he demonstrated a deep ignorance of Christian theology.

    His most obvious one and which can be seen straight away is that while he shares with us his disgust at God, he proclaims a deep affection for the Greek gods. Now many English people proclaim such affection, not as a means of genuine appreciation but rather as a means of showing off that they have had a classical education. As Fry loves to show off I assume this was it because no one in their right mind would wish these gods existed. The Greek gods were not simply despicable; they were murderers, rapists, fiends who laughed at or were at best indifferent to human suffering. Fry's longing for these things existance over God who stands with oppressed speaks volumes too about his supposed anger at God for suffering.

    Secondly he makes the basic mistake of confusing not only suffering and evil but the whole notions of such things. He proclaims his wonder and disgust at the horrors of nature, and I would agree there are many things there that appear awful in it, but these things are not evil. They are horrible, but they are not evil. Cancer is natural, a gazelle being eaten by a lion is natural, a bear killing a dog in defence is natural, none of these are by definition evil acts. Perhaps also in an universe for conditions of all life to exist such things have to or are necessary to occur. A necessary evil if you will. Look what happens to ecosystems once you take out the top alpha predators for example and see what happens to the rest. For evil too, for it to really occur or the consequences of it requires a deliberate act of consciousness and free will, it is an act made in the absence of God which the Christian story has an answer for (or provides one regardless of what you make of it) as seen in next paragraph.

    Thirdly and I defer to Vox Popoli outstanding review of what Fry wrote where he argued or pointed out that Fry seemed "to have ignored that basic Christian theology points out that while God's Creation was initially perfect, it was His choice to give both Man and Angel free will that permitted Lucifer's initial fall from Heaven, and Man's subsequent fall from Grace. From these two failures entered in every form of sin, death, and evil. Furthermore, Jesus Christ himself made it very clear that it is not the Creator God who rules the Earth. Hence his command to Christians to be IN the world rather than OF it. He specifically refers to Evil One. Fry is clearly blaming the wrong party. The utter maniac, the totally selfish and utterly monstrous being he castigates is not the Creator God. God is not "utterly evil". God is good, and loving, and thank God, merciful. It is the ruler of this world, the prince of the powers of the air, who is utterly and irredeemably evil."

    Fourthly Fry seems to think and other ignorant new atheists too that they were the first to argue such a way. They are wrong, wrong absolutely. For thousands of years the finest Christian theologians and priests and Jewish rabbis and ancient writers have wondered about this problem. One of the finest ancient expressions of it is found in that wonderful but daringly provacative biblical book - the book of Job. Chapter 38-39 are some of the finest verses in all scripture, I'll spare you the details but go read it. Its answer is not simple, nor is it satisfying to human emotion which in all likelihood will never understand it, but it does make one think about evil from God's POV.

    Number five is also something that many honest atheists may agree with. The great atheist and some say greatest atheist Nietzsche would have been appalled with Fry's tract. While Nietzsche hated Christianity and believed God to be dead or non existant he detested the dishonesty of liberal atheists in particular who use the very morality of the Christian moral system to pass objective judgements' on the Christian God. He found this not only deeply dishonest but also hypocritical.

    Finally there is the biggest and most laughable claim that Fry makes which few detractors but me have seen with his response. There is a big presumption with Stephen Fry, (who indirectly borrows from Bertrand Russell) the idea that he can standing - before the guy who made heaven and earth of all that is visible and invisible - can fob him off with denunciations of outrage. Really Stephen really

  • Vanessa Cowart

    I think, at least, he is compassionate towards the suffering. He is clearly angry about the suffering of children, which is at least hopefully the beginning of something. His argument is blurred, that if there IS a God...he doesn't seem to know, really. He is just upset about the suffering. He should read Lewis.

    • Mike

      I agree; an unquenchable thirst for justice can be a starting point for faith and he also implicitly implies that God is the only hope for these innocent victims it seems to me.

  • Mike

    Fry shouldn't worry himself about suffering as he offers no solution to it and no hope as for him death and eternal nothingness is the final destination for all of us.

    • Luke

      Fry isn't worried about an afterlife. He's worried making the only life we have better.

      • Mike

        By telling millions of poor ppl who believe in an afterlife that they're silly? That the most important thing in their lives is a lie? Dude.

        • Luke

          Do you think that Hinduism and reincarnation are silly? Do you think that they're living a lie by worshipping false gods?

          • Mike

            NO! are you nuts? excuse me for using those words but of course not. If i were born in india i would definitely be a hindu as it makes way more sense than saying well all of this rich tapestry of life is a result of and destined for Nothing, an absolute nothingness for ever...that's really the crazy pov.

            I think hindus are correct about there being more to reality than meets the eye; they are like pagans in that they identify efficient causes with gods the way everyone used to bc that made sense of the natural world. some ppl in asia and africa and elsewhere still do that they think that demons are behind fires or diseases; in the west those ppl believe in astrology or herbology or kale ;) but you get the point.

            Of course hindus are wrong about their system of divinity and their gods don't exist except in their imagination but i don't think that MOST hindu leaders would claim they do exist; i think many of them would say they only apply to other hindus as hinduism is more of a culture not a religion per se.

            India's real name is HINDUSTAN but bc they are little capitalists like us they use india swhich sounds more cool to the western ear but look it up if you don't believe me.

          • Luke

            You don't think that Hinduism and reincarnation are silly, just that they're "wrong about their system of divinity and their gods don't exist except in their imagination." If you are so sure that their gods don't exist, how can you be sure that yours does? Aren't Muslims just as sure as you are that their conception of God exists and yours does not? You just happened to be born into the right society that worships the right God?

          • Mike

            Their own claims about their gods is a good place to start comparing; no hindu will claim that any of their gods created existence itself plus they have more than 1 god which runs into trouble plus i suspect that they don't honestly believe these gods exist; like i said it's more of a cultural myth that keeps "hindus" together than a real metaphysical religion that applies to all reality.

            Muslims are more sure than western christians but we believe in the same god; islam is nothing but a Christian heresy.

            No if i thought the buddhist conception of reality fit the facts better i'd be a buddhist, my belief that christ is correct is not however un influenced by my background as that's impossible but there are now more catholics in africa and asia than in america and europe so it has little to do with culture in particular.

          • Luke

            no hindu will claim that any of their gods created existence itself plus they have more than 1 god which runs into trouble plus i suspect that they don't honestly believe these gods exist; like i said it's more of a cultural myth that keeps "hindus" together than a real metaphysical religion that applies to all reality.

            Mike, as far as I can tell, you're completely incorrect about Hinduism. From http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/god/hinduismrev1.shtml :

            Hindus believe in one true god, Brahman, but Brahman has many forms.

            Hindus believe that there is one true god, the supreme spirit, called Brahman. Brahman has many forms, pervades the whole universe, and is symbolised by the sacred syllable Om (or Aum).

            Most Hindus believe that Brahman is present in every person as the eternal spirit or soul, called the atman. Brahman contains everything: creation and destruction, male and female, good and evil, movement and stillness.

            There are three main aspects of Brahman. These are expressed in the trimurti and are:

            Brahma, the creator
            Vishnu, the preserver
            Shiva, the destroyer

          • Mike

            Ok thanks for this.

          • Mike

            Sorry forgot to point this out:

            "has many forms, pervades the whole universe"

            See my point? they believe that their god is just very very "big" and "is" everywhere; he PERVADES the whole universe kind of like a cosmic "life force" but did not CREATE the universe it and plus the believe in reincarnation not in direct contact with this god but in a rat or a monkey or a cow which is why they don't eat cows.

          • Mike

            SORRY just 1 more thing: i am like columbo! ;)

            Anyway DO NOT EVER rely on the BBC for religion info but go to the source ask hindus what they believe ask jews ask the curia etc. bc the BBC belies that ALL religions are essentially a delusion some kind of supersitition that is just s weird human thing but is not true or at least is so speculative it isn't worth thinking about.

          • Luke

            I quoted from the BBC, but checked Hindu sources as well. I don't think that anything I quoted misrepresents Hindu beliefs, but will defer if you find cogent evidence that it does.

            I find it a little ironic that many here on Strange Notions do not take your advice by going "to the source" and asking atheists what atheists believe.

          • Mike

            Touche.

            But in fairness this is a catholic site so "to us" anything that denies some higher intelligence, purpose or after life gets grouped into atheism bc for these convo purposes it really is all the same but if we were on an atheist site i agree more fleshing out of the various positions would need to take place.

          • Luke

            I understand. However, Strange Notions aspires to be more than just a "Catholic site," as it was created with the expressed purpose of engaging atheists in dialogue.

          • Mike

            I know but let's face it if you're on here you're not looking for philosophical review quarterly type of technical analysis of positions but more an exchange of views and quick back and forths.

            Anyway i am just a schmuck who's on here bc it breaks the monotony of my day job in finance and i have zero academic background in philosophy or religion but find these issues fascinating and since i can't find any one to debate at work or in my person life i come on here and engage in some rhetorical flourishes and have a bit of fun....yeah so don't take anything i say too literally.

          • Luke

            I can't speak for every nonbeliever here, but I actually do visit SN for more "technical" and philosophical arguments for God. If God exists, I really want to know. Whether I'd worship it is a different story.

            Thanks for sharing. It helps me understand the context in which I should interpret your comments. I can appreciate the desire to have some fun (I like fun, too!), but the influence that the Catholic church and other religions have on the world (much of it negative, in my opinion) leads me to take the implications of these discussions pretty seriously.

          • Mike

            No problem. I think if you're looking for more technical stuff i'd check out Ed Feser's books or Chesterton or John Lennox at Veritas Forum or Alasdair Mcintyre.

            Of course i think the catholic church is the greatest force for good in the world today bc of course that's where we differ.

            Anyway good luck on your journey.

          • Luke

            Thanks, Mike.

          • Luke Mike • 3 hours ago

            You don't think that Hinduism and reincarnation are silly, just that they're "wrong about their system of divinity and their gods don't exist except in their imagination." If you are so sure that their gods don't exist, how can you be sure that yours does?

            Of one thing I'm certain. God exists.

            Whether the gods of the Hindus exist as well, is a different story. In Catholic Doctrine, the existence of other gods (angelic beings) is not excluded:

            414 Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God.

            I am also certain that there is one God who is over all things natural and supernatural. This is the God which I adore:

            Acts 17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

            Aren't Muslims just as sure as you are that their conception of God exists and yours does not? You just happened to be born into the right society that worships the right God?

            Nope. I was born into a Catholic family and became an atheist at a very young age. I came back to faith in God when I became convinced that He exists and atheism was wrong. At that point, I started searching for God. I studied Lutheranism and Calvinism and discarded them like hot potatoes. I had no interest in Catholicism at the time. So I searched Islam and Hinduism and others. I also discarded them. At that point, I didn't know what to do, so I gave Catholicism a second chance. I was caught totally off guard by the depths of wisdom which I found. So, I came back to the Catholic Church.

            I know that many people, do, remain with the religion of their birth. The Church teaches that God is absolutely just and does not hold that against them.

            CCC#843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."332

          • Luke

            Thanks for sharing, but this is all anecdotal. Quotes from the Bible or Catholic catechism are not cogent arguments for me.

          • David Nickol

            India's real name is HINDUSTAN but bc they are little capitalists like us they use india swhich sounds more cool to the western ear but look it up if you don't believe me.

            I looked it up, and I don't believe you. Why would a Persian word be the "real" name of India?

          • Mike

            No you're correct sorry i actually thought the official name was hindustan like pakistan; my co-worker who's from pakistan said it was hindustan in hindi but it's apparently:

            Bhārat Gaṇarājya

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Most apologetics and counter-apologetics in regard to the mystery of suffering I've seen on SN focus on other people's sufferings, or suffering in the abstract, or suffering of innocent animals, either trying to reconcile them with God's goodness or using them as a weapon against belief in God.

    It would be good to hear testimony from suffering persons. What do they have to say about their own suffering and its meaning, especially vis-a-vis God?

    I think I have experiences a good deal of it in my own life--innocent suffering, deserved suffering, self-inflicted suffering. In my own interior, subjective experience it has never seemed an obstacle to faith in God's goodness. That does not mean it is not for others.

    • Mike

      The more that ppl suffer the more religious they are generally; that's a big clue.

      In my life it was my suffering that brought me closer to faith in God that and the moments of pure joy in life - both extremes seem to point beyond this world.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        > The more that ppl suffer the more religious they are generally; that's a big clue.

        I don't know if that is a valid generalization. Why do you think it is the case?

        • Mike

          Look at Scandinavia; they all put a Cross on their flag but now are among the most atheist for ex.

  • Stephen Sparrow

    Stephen Fry is living proof that two Supreme Beings cannot co-exist ;-)

  • Krakerjak

    God indeed may exist, I am open to the possibility,
    but apart from the scriptures and church teaching we have no reason to believe
    that this entity, if he exists,is kind and benevolent, at least not according
    to history and the human condition regards suffering. The evidence would seem to
    indicate that this entity if he exists, if not callous or malevolent seems
    at best to be indifferent. I sincerely hope I am wrong about
    this.

    • Mike

      "He's" been both kind and harsh to me...i hope you're wrong too: in the final accounting all we've got is hope.

    • Paul Petrides

      For God to eliminate pain and suffering would be Him removing free will. It may seem malevolent to allow suffering, but can it be worse than not having free will? How can we love without the freedom to choose to love?

      • Mike

        Some ppl would rather NOT LOVE AT ALL than to have LOVED and LOST.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think it is kinda absurd to claim that atheists don't love other persons and things.

          • Mike

            I was being poetic; of course they love; they claim they love MORE as you know...my point was that it seems to me that hope doesn't enter into atheism as a real "thing"; so to me it seems like they're just playing it safe more.

      • George

        Are the lives of murder victims less important than the freedom to murder?

      • David Nickol

        For God to eliminate pain and suffering would be Him removing free will.

        If pain and suffering is a necessary concomitant to free will, then either there will be pain and suffering in "heaven," or there will be no free will there.

        • Paul Petrides

          Yes, there will be free will in Heaven, but Heaven is a much different place than earth. We will naturally choose God in Heaven.

          Pain and suffering are the result of sin which is a choice against God. In Heaven, basking in the glory of God and being with Him who satisfies all of our needs, we will see God as He is and will not choose to sin thus no pain and suffering in Heaven.

          • David Nickol

            Pain and suffering are the result of sin which is a choice against God. In Heaven, basking in the glory of God and being with Him who satisfies all of our needs, we will see God as He is and will not choose to sin thus no pain and suffering in Heaven.

            Why doesn't God show himself "as he is" to us now? The usual argument is that if God were to show himself, the effect would be so overwhelming as to be coercive. If you were to see God in all his glory, you could not help but choose him. And it is argued that that would violate human free will. If that is the case, I don't see why it would make a difference whether it is on earth or in heaven.

            Let's also not forget that heaven, according to Christian belief that is for some strange reason largely underplayed, is not our final destination. It is a temporary place of waiting for the resurrection of the body.

      • Michael Murray

        For God to eliminate pain and suffering would be Him removing free will.

        Could you explain why God eliminating disease, or even just a couple of diseases, would remove free will ? Human's have eliminated smallpox without apparently removing free will.

        • Paul Petrides

          Yes, God could intervene and remove measles from the world. That would be miraculous and wouldn’t inhibit free will by itself. Reverting to the principle idea though, pain and suffering, being removed would eliminate all negative consequences. This means that anytime something bad is about to happen a miracle will prevent it. How can God create us as rational humans and, at the same time, remove any sort of rationality from our lives by preventing any and all bad things from happening? We would have no ability to fail or misstep and thus our ability to choose is effectively eliminated. A miracle to remove measles would be wonderful, but miracles to remove every bad thing from ever happening would create an irrational world without choice.

          Humans have eliminated smallpox and that is a good thing. I don’t see how this has anything to do with eliminating free will. I’m not saying that all pain and suffering is good and the more the better. I’m saying that pain and suffering are
          necessary given the fact that we are in a rational world and Adam and Eve sinned. We are left with wondering why God acts the way he does, and why there is a miracle here and not there. Without knowledge of the big picture we won’t know.

          • Michael Murray

            I don’t see how this has anything to do with eliminating free will.

            Because you said

            For God to eliminate pain and suffering would be Him removing free will.

            I am pointing out that some pain and suffering can be removed by man without any impact on free will.

            I’m saying that pain and suffering arenecessary given the fact that we are in a rational world and Adam and Eve sinned.

            How does that work ? Pain and suffering have been around long before Adam and Eve sinned. They are essential to the operation of natural selection.

            In any case why harlequin babies ? Is this heaping suffering on "their children's, children".

      • Doug Shaver

        For God to eliminate pain and suffering would be Him removing free will.

        I keep hearing that from apologists. What I've never heard is a reason why we should believe it.

      • Marc Riehm

        And so, given that there was no pain and suffering for "ensouled" humans prior to the fall, did they also lack free will?

        • Paul Petrides

          Can you please elaborate on this? I am unaware of "ensouled" humans prior to Adam and Eve.

          • Marc Riehm

            The thinking around here seems to be that humans evolved and at a point of sufficient development some number of them were "ensouled" by god. That might have been two people, Adam and Eve, or it might have been more than two - we don't know.

            My question stands.

          • Paul Petrides

            I think I misread "prior to the fall" to mean something different hence my comment for clarification wasn't necessary. The Catholic belief is that there was a singular first man (Adam), and a singular first woman (Eve). Thus the ensouled humans prior to the fall would be those two individuals.

            Adam and Eve most definitely had a free will. They had the choice to trust God and obey Him or not. They chose to disobey God and thus suffered the consequences of that choice.

          • Marc Riehm

            So pre-ensoulment humans (i.e. Adam and Eve's ancestors) lived natural lives, with all of the usual suffering: disease, accident, predators, war, etc. They suffered. Then Adam and Eve came along, and god "ensouled" them, and gave them a life free of suffering and with free will.

            My question is, why cannot god do the same thing now - relieve us of our suffering, and yet leave us with our free will?

          • Paul Petrides

            Pre-ensoulment humans I don't consider humans in the context of what I am referring. I am referring to humans as only those with unique souls created by God.

            The sin of Adam and Eve brought us suffering. God could remove suffering in one of two ways. First, he could zap out negative consequences, disease, etc miraculously but that limits our freedom to make choices. This is what I'm saying will remove free will. The second way is for Him to create a new Earth in which we are in full union with God. We see Him as He is and no longer are tempted to sin thus do not sin. We are promised this new Earth (Revelation). The question, then, is when will this happen. That I cannot answer because I am not God, and do not know His plan.

          • Marc Riehm

            But this is _exactly_ what god did with Adam and Eve! Surely they saw the suffering in the animal world around them, and in their (unensouled) forebears. He lifted them completely out of suffering, and yet left them with free will.

            Why can he not do the same again?

          • Paul Petrides

            Genesis is not a story about God perfecting the human by adding a soul and removing suffering. It is about creation. It's not about being lifted out of suffering, but rather it is about being created perfectly. Now is the story of redemption. We have fallen and are in need of saving.

            Now, what Adam and Eve saw with regards to animal suffering is something I do not know. Perhaps the suffering and death they may have seen was seen differently by them and that changed after the Fall.

          • Marc Riehm

            That is not the position held by the core Catholics on this website. Nor, as I understand it, is it the position held by the Catcholic Church. The Church accepts evolution - it accepts that human beings evolved from prior life forms. What I've read here is that the belief is that at some point god "ensouled" our ancestors who, some time later, rejected god and so caused the Fall.

          • Paul Petrides

            I'm not rejecting evolution by saying that Genesis is a historic account of the creation of our bodies and souls. The belief is that God created Adam and Eve as humans with souls. Whether or not our bodies were created then vs evolving over time is not important. I tend to hold the view that some sort of evolution occurred.

          • Paul Petrides

            I don't see my recent comment...
            I'm not rejecting evolution, in fact, it makes sense to me. The belief is that God created Adam and Eve's souls. These were put into bodies (evolved perhaps).

      • Marc Riehm

        What does the "freedom to choose to love" have to do with pain and suffering?

        And many young people are largely without pain and suffering, for a while. Do they lack free will at that time?

        This linkage between free will and suffering is without merit.

        • Paul Petrides

          Maybe I have worded things incorrectly, but the idea is that in order to be free, actions must have consequences. One does not need to suffer to be free. That simply doesn't make sense.

          The link between free will and suffering is simply that suffering is a consequence for an action. Before jumping to the conclusion that I think people who get cancer are somehow at fault, understand that I mean that sin, brought into the world at the Fall, is ultimately the cause. Thus the world we live in has evil in it and the consequence of that evil is that sometimes we suffer.

          • Marc Riehm

            Suffering has existed in the living world since the first neurological systems evolved. Microbial disease, cancer, accident - all have been around since long before humans were on the scene. Suffering is still around, unchanged, and it affects us humans. There is no reason to believe that that this was not always the case, and will not always remain the case.

    • Stephen Sparrow

      Krakerjak. The existence of time is proof that we live in a finite world / universe - a corruptible world aka a Fallen World. 'Somebody' constructed time out of eternity - the finite cannot bring itself into existence. God is love and only love is constructive. The world is a zone of response to God's love. To eliminate suffering would require the elimination of love. To even contemplate a 'loveless' world is impossible. How we respond to that world provides a key to the mystery - the next step is belief and as St Augustine stated many centuries ago, "understanding follows belief" not vice versa. The comparison between believers and unbelievers is like comparing sober folk to drunks. The unbeliever is unaware of what it is he does not believe. Believers can see his problem in the same way that those sober can spot a drunk a mile off. Pax

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I'm a Catholic and I disagree with a lot of your claims.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Why do you suppose the Deists were convinced that God was benevolent and a rewarder of virtue, even though he was not generally involved in earthly life? They thought their reasons were entirely based on reason (although they may not have been).

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me that God's message to Job is, "Who are you to judge Me?" Unlike Stephen Fry, I would have to say, "Point taken." I would not be so bold as to judge God. But Job doesn't answer any questions. As I understand it, the message is simply, "Don't try to comprehend what is beyond human understanding." This is a message that I think any religion, or all religions could take to heart. So much of Catholicism, it seems to me, is an attempt to explain what cannot be explained.

    A third basic observation I would make to Mr. Fry is this: once we grant that God exists, we hold to the very real possibility of a life beyond this one. But this implies that no evil in this world, even death itself, is of final significance.

    I always find it interesting to keep in mind that the idea of an afterlife—where everything is set right, where the good are rewarded eternally and the evil are punished—is not part of Old Testament Judaism. I think that makes a great difference in the way we ought to read Job and the way its original authors understood it.

    Given our impossibly narrow point of view, how could any of us ever presume to pronounce on the “meaninglessness” of what happens in the world?

    It seems to me there is a flip side to that coin. How could any of us ever presume to pronounce on the "meaningfulness"? C. S. Lewis said the following in A Grief Observed:

    Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions "on the further shore," pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There's not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn't be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! "Things on the other side are not so different after all." There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored. . . .. . . Why should the separation (if nothing else) which so agonizes the lover who is left behind be painless to the lover who departs? "Because she is in God's hands." But if so, she was in God's hands all the time, and I have seen what they did to her here. Do they suddenly become gentler to us the moment we are out of the body? And if so, why? If God's goodness is inconsistent with hurting us, then either God is not good or there is no God: for in the only life we know He hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine. If it is consistent with hurting us, then he may hurt us after death as unendurably as before it.

    • Susan

      I read a book by C.S. Lewis where the player goes to another world with a fiendish materialist.

      • David Nickol

        Of the three books in C. S. Lewis's "Space Trilogy," I barely remember Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, but I have vivid memories of the final book, That Hideous Strength. I have read it at least twice and recommend it highly.

        • Susan

          Thanks for sharing David.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Perelandra is the one in which Ransom goes to Venus with the fiendish materialist. I like that book, but I really relished THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH also!

    • It seems to me that God's message to Job is, "Who are you to judge Me?" Unlike Stephen Fry, I would have to say, "Point taken." I would not be so bold as to judge God. But Job doesn't answer any questions. As I understand it, the message is simply, "Don't try to comprehend what is beyond human understanding." This is a message that I think any religion, or all religions could take to heart. <<<<

      Well said.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Why can't we judge God? What if God was just an all-powerful version of Zeus?
      It seems like a common theme in Christianity that God is not to be judged, but I don't see how that is much more than an assertion.

  • David Nickol

    I wonder if Fr. Barron's arguments don't basically trivialize virtually everything, no matter how good or how bad, by saying, "This may very well be trivial seen in the context of a vastly bigger picture than you could possibly imagine." We'll all look back on the Holocaust one day and laugh. The death of six million people (who went to heaven anyway, if they were good people) and a decade or so of unthinkable misery for a few million others will certainly fade into insignificance when looked at from the perspective of eternity.

  • David Nickol

    Out of the desert whirlwind God then speaks—and it is the longest speech by God in the Scriptures . . . .

    Are we to understand Fr. Barron to mean that God actually spoke the words attributed to Him in Job? Is Job in any way historical? What does Fr. Barron take to be the significance of the observation that this is the longest speech attributed to God in the Scriptures?

    • Susan

      If the president of America spoke (and he is very important in the scream of human affairs) , Who would here him directly ? even so when hearing him through an intermediary and media format, we would in general not doubt that what we heard were in fact his words.
      So it is reasonable to think that Gods word will arrive to us in a form and medium precisely for our ears only.

  • carol susinno

    I enjoyed it immensely! God made us and gave us free will.How can anyone blame Him for their misfortunes!

  • Mike

    The Christian and the Atheist perspective on suffering:

    Christian: I'd rather Love and Lose than not to have Love At All.

    Atheist: I'd rather not have Loved At All than to have Loved and Lost.

    • Luke

      Mike, I'd appreciate it you would stop making strawman arguments about atheists. You're either being dishonest or you've made no attempt to understand atheism.

      • Mike

        I think you're taking my comment too personally.

        • Luke

          Now you're tone policing me? You're allowed to make false claims about atheists, but I'm not allowed to call you out on them?

          • Mike

            No you are but i was trying to be poetic about the differences bt atheism and christianity and i don't think that there can be variation among atheism as you folks now insist as i believe that unless you are an eliminativist atheist you are cheating but that's another discussion.

          • Luke

            The only differences between atheism and Christianity revolve around the belief in God. Everything else is too variable between and within the groups.

            I'm very surprised to hear that you think atheism doesn't allow for variability. Haven't you noticed any differences in approach and personality, if only between the atheists who post here? It makes me think that you don't understand atheism as much as you claim to.

            Could you define "eliminativist atheist" and how I'd be cheating if I were one?

          • Mike

            I don't want to get into this subject but suffice to say that when i was a 'cultural atheist' i took atheism seriously enough one day, like the great atheists did, and realized that it's true that w/o god there can be no 'real' morality, beyond good and evil and all that.

            If there is a form of atheism that believes life after death is true then i will consider that one at least plausible/acceptable but as far as i know all deny life after death.

            Check out this if you want:

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2015/01/feynmans-painter-and-eliminative.html

          • Luke

            I don't see how this post, which is about morality and an afterlife, is relevant to the thread we had going after my reply to your initial comment.

          • Mike

            Ok, sorry i am having multiple convos.

  • Fred Shaw

    With all due respect to Fr. Barron, to quote Job to a "ferocious atheist" is ludicrous. Why would someone believe the word of someone who does not exist?

    • Ian G

      As ludicrous as asking Stephen Fry what he would say to God?

  • Mike

    Check this out:

    "Who or what dreamt up symmetry principles, Lagrangians, specific symmetry groups, gauge theories, and so on? He does not begin to answer these questions."

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2014/07/22/physicist-george-ellis-knocks-physicists-for-knocking-philosophy-free-will/

    • Susan

      I think it was Bows son

      • Mike

        Who's Bow?

        • Susan

          He is the hunter and shoots arrows of time.
          And he knows Gauge Boson.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      That is a great interview!

  • aardi

    "seemingly unjustified", but you miss the point of Job. God rebukes the three friends, who's position was exactly that Kob must have done something to deserve this. God says all three are in error regarding to why Job must suffer. Instead. As christ opened the eyes of a blind man, he was asked: Is this man blind because of his or his parent's sin. Christ said: not because of his or his parent's sin, bat so that the glory of God might be revealed - and opened the man's eyes.... Why did Job suffer? The Book of Job claims it plainy "completely unjustified". I believe Job suffered to prepare the ground for "completely unjustified" suffering of Christ. Indeed. In the bible all things have a context and a pretext. Job is a pretext for insight to the real question "why must have Christ suffered?". And the answer to this is granted by the Holy Spirit, to those who seek it.

    • There was a time when I thought very much like Fry. It was only after I learned to trust God that I saw that suffering is not His plan for us. It is Satan's plan (See the book of Job). Do you not know that when Adam and Eve committed the Original Sin, they gave themselves to Satan? This is why God had to purchase us back with His own blood.

      1 Corinthians 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

      But, although it is Satan's plan to make us suffer, God turns evil into good. Therefore,

      Suffering is redemptive.

      1 Peter 4:4 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

      Suffering is purifying:

      1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

      Hebrews 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

      And suffering unites us to His Son:

      Romans 8:17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

      • Luke

        Care to tell starving children that suffering is "redemptive" and "purifying"? How about to someone who is about to jump off a bridge to escape their anguish?

        • I have no problem telling anyone that suffering is redemptive. At least they will know that their suffering isn't for nothing. If they are willing to accept it. And I have found, that people who have faith in God, will accept it.

          What atheists don't see, won't see and can't see, is that God died upon the Cross in order to bring an end to our suffering.

          • Luke

            So you wouldn't mind if someone told that to you while you were suffering?

            Like most atheists, I was once a Christian, so you cannot argue that I "don't see, won't see and can't see" what you believe to be true. Like most atheists, I care about evidence, which is why I no longer believe what you believe to be true.

          • Luke • a few seconds ago

            So you wouldn't mind if someone told that to you while you were suffering?

            When I was an atheist, I did. But now that I am a Catholic, I offer my suffering willingly.

            Like most atheists, I was once a Christian, so you cannot argue that I "don't see, won't see and can't see" what you believe to be true.

            Since you don't see, won't see and can't see, that is prima facie evidence that you can't see, won't see and don't see.

            Like most atheists, I care about evidence, which is why I no longer believe what you believe to be true.

            On the contrary, there is evidence all around. You simply deny that which is evident to all believers.

            Simple example. Look at yourself. Just look at one hand. Tell me which human being can reproduce it. No human being or group of human beings can make even the smallest portion of your hand.

            Your own body is evidence of God's existence. But you can't, won't and don't see.

            1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

          • Luke

            But now that I am a Catholic, I offer my suffering willingly.

            Are you allowing yourself to suffer now?

            No human being or group of human beings can make even the smallest portion of your hand.

            Therefore God? You expect humans to be able to perfectly replicate the same biological human hand that took millions of years of evolution? Give us some time.

            But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him

            So now I'm foolish? You're not helping me want to believe.

          • Luke De Maria • an hour ago

            Are you allowing yourself to suffer now?

            When I suffer, I offer my suffering to God. In fact, I pray the morning offering, which says, "I offer to you all my suffering of this day."

            Therefore God?

            Do you have a better explanation?

            You expect humans to be able to perfectly replicate the same biological human hand that took millions of years of evolution?

            Do you believe that evolution is sentient? Or have you believed the hype that unintelligent random processes could produce order and design without sentient guidance?

            Give us some time.

            For what?

            I quoted Scripture, which says:

            But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him

            You asked:

            So now I'm foolish?

            You said that. I didn't. You might want to read more carefully. The verse says that natural men regard God's teachings as foolish.

            That is a far cry from calling you a fool. If I'd wanted to do that, there are plenty of other verses I could have chosen.

            You're not helping me want to believe.

            Not to be mean or anything, but whether you come to believe is between you and God. I'm just here explaining what I believe and why.

          • Luke

            If suffering is redemptive and purifying, why aren't you seeking it out? If it helps one draw closer to Jesus as you claim, shouldn't all believers be praying to experience suffering at all times?

            No, I don't believe that evolution is sentient. I worded my sentence poorly. I thought about editing it, but I didn't expect that anyone would interpret it that way. I apologize. Yes, I accept "the hype" that they theory of evolution via natural selection is the leading scientific explanation. I thought that Catholics did, too (except for the "unintelligent" part).

            I apparently haven't received the "Spirit of God" things. Does that make the "things" foolish, then?

            That is a far cry from calling you a fool. If I'd wanted to do that, there are plenty of other verses I could have chosen.

            Thanks?

            I'm just here explaining what I believe and why.

            Me too :)

          • Luke De Maria • 13 hours ago

            If suffering is redemptive and purifying, why aren't you seeking it out?

            I do. But it must be balanced. Nothing in excess.

            1 Corinthians 9:23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. 24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

            If it helps one draw closer to Jesus as you claim, shouldn't all believers be praying to experience suffering at all times?

            No. We all have our callings. Some of us are called exclusively to suffer, some to preach, some to work, and some have a diversity of gifts.

            1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

            No, I don't believe that evolution is sentient. I worded my sentence poorly. I thought about editing it, but I didn't expect that anyone would interpret it that way. I apologize. Yes, I accept "the hype" that they theory of evolution via natural selection is the leading scientific explanation. I thought that Catholics did, too (except for the "unintelligent" part).

            Correct.

            I apparently haven't received the "Spirit of God" things. Does that make the "things" foolish, then?

            That is for you to decide. Do you believe that the doctrines of God are foolish? I suspect you do. Therefore, you reject them. I don't. Therefore I believe them.

            Thanks?

            Lol

            Me too :)

            That's good. I believe it is good that we can share our personal perspectives. Thanks for sharing.

          • Luke

            Nothing in excess.

            Not even being closer to Jesus?

            Some of us are called exclusively to suffer

            Wow. And you're okay with this arrangement? Are the ones who suffer okay with this arrangement?

            I believe it is good that we can share our personal perspectives. Thanks for sharing.

            Likewise :)

          • Luke De Maria • 10 hours ago
            Not even being closer to Jesus?

            Philippians 1:21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

            Wow. And you're okay with this arrangement?

            Are you? What if you weren't? Does it alleviate the suffering of those who suffer one whit?

            Are the ones who suffer okay with this arrangement?

            Some are. Have you ever heard of Victim Souls?

          • Luke

            No, I'm not okay with an arrangement in which a supposedly omnibenevolent and omnipotent God creates beings for the sole purpose of them to suffer, and I'm disturbed that you seem fine with the idea.

          • Luke De Maria • 2 hours ago

            No, I'm not okay with an arrangement in which a supposedly omnibenevolent and omnipotent God creates beings for the sole purpose of them to suffer,

            You're twisting my words. I said, "called to suffer". You said, "created to suffer".

            Suffering was created by Satan. And he wants man to suffer alone and without purpose.

            God turned the evil of suffering which is inflicted upon humanity by Satan into a consolation and hope of eternal life with Him in heaven.

            and I'm disturbed that you seem fine with the idea.

            Again, I'm not concerned about anything that you claim disturbs you. Your being disturbed does nothing to alleviate anybody's suffering. All you're really doing is posturing.

            You're not even paying attention to what I'm saying. You're proclaiming your outrage at the straw man you created.

          • Luke

            Your original phrase was "Some of us are called exclusively to suffer." To me, being called exclusively to suffer might as well mean that some are created to suffer, as I take "exclusively" to mean that suffering is the purpose of their existence.

            I am not attempting to misrepresent you or to "posture" outrage. I am trying to understand your point of view.

          • Jesus, for example, was called exclusively to suffer at a certain point in His life.

            God did not bring about the suffering. Satan brought it about. God, turned that evil, into the greatest good for mankind.

            Christ's suffering is the illustration of all suffering. If we suffer with Christ, we will be glorified with Him.

            I hope that has clarified the point satisfactorily.

          • Luke

            No, it has not clarified the point. You've muddied the waters by invoking Satan. Now that Satan is in the mix, you're going to have to explain why God didn't just stop Satan. Surely we would suffer enough without God allowing Satan to pile it on heavier. Why doesn't God allow Satan to make us suffer even more if it's such a good thing? Or is the human suffering balance just perfect how it is now?

          • Luke De Maria • an hour ago

            No, it has not clarified the point. You've muddied the waters by invoking Satan. Now that Satan is in the mix, you're going to have to explain why....

            Settle down Luke.

            1st. I didn't sign up to give you Catechism lessons. Nor to convince you of anything. I'm here to explain what and why I believe.

            2nd. Are you really interested in learning Catholicism?

            3rd. I suspect you're not. I suspect you're really interested in rejecting Catholicism. I've been an atheist before. And that is the atheistic mindset. Reject everything which you can't understand.

            4th. And the fact is, that atheism has no answer for the problem of suffering except to say, "it happens". That I know. In fact, when I was an atheist, I assumed that suffering and death was a way to be rid of the weak. Survival of the fittest, remember? That is the doctrine in which you believe. E-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n.

            So, don't pretend to be outraged because you don't agree with the Catholic explanation for suffering when your doctrine promotes the killing of the young and aged for the survival of the species.

            5th. If you want to learn more about Catholicism, I suggest you sign up for a theology class at a seminary.

            As for me, when I learned that God took flesh and willingly suffered and died for our salvation, this was poetic justice for me. God was willing to lay Himself down and permit Satan to punish and kill Him in order to turn that evil around and make the greatest good for mankind.

            1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still "enemies." The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.

            The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: "charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

          • Luke

            You didn't answer my question.

          • And your point?

          • Luke

            De Maria, I don't appreciate the way you've cast me as being "outraged" on two occasions and are now telling me to "settle down." I hope that my comments are not conveying that I'm outraged or out of control, because I don't think that I am. I think it would be best for me to move on to discussing the new article at this time. Thanks for offering your point of view.

            Edit: Slight wording change for clarity.

          • Luke • 2 minutes ago

            De Maria, I don't appreciate the way you've cast me as being "outraged" on two occasions now and telling me to "settle down."

            1st, you claimed to be outraged. You said:

            Luke De Maria • 17 hours ago

            No, I'm not okay...and I'm disturbed ....

            I interpret that as outrage. How do you interpret it?

            Then, in your next response, you claimed that you weren't outraged. But you followed that up with a response that indeed, sounds outraged and demanding:

            Luke De Maria • 2 hours ago

            No, it has not clarified the point. You've muddied the waters by invoking Satan. Now that Satan is in the mix, you're going to have to explain....

            Take a poll. I think the average reasonable person would interpret that as outrage. And that's not my interpretation of dialogue. If you want to dialogue, we can exchange ideas and explain to each other what we believe. But I'm not here to be interrogated.

          • Michael Murray

            I didn't sign up to give you Catechism lessons.

            The purpose of this website is dialogue between Catholics and atheists.

          • Dialogue. Not interogation. I'm under no obligation to answer every question asked. Especially when I know that the individual asking the question is not really interested in the answer.

            What's the outrage anyway. Both you and Luke are atheists. Both of you believe in evolution. Evolution is a doctrine which exalts suffering and death as necessary for the survival of the fittest. But you're all outraged because God turns the evil of suffering into redemption? Really?

          • Luke

            Especially when I know that the individual asking the question is not really interested in the answer.

            De Maria, I am interested in the answer, otherwise I would not be asking. If God exists, I want to know, and I'd change my position if I saw evidence or reasoning that was convincing to me.

            Evolution is a doctrine which exalts suffering and death as necessary for the survival of the fittest.

            No atheists I know of consider evolution a doctrine, nor do we wish that suffering and death had to be part of it. But wishing things were different does not change the evidence we see.

            And again, please stop insinuating that we're "outraged." I don't think that Michael and I are conveying that emotion with our words. I do admit that I am getting a little frustrated, though.

          • Thanks for the irenic tone of your explanation. Sorry if I over reacted.

            I was an atheist, Luke. And I certainly did consider Evolution to be true and something which should be spread and taught. Therefore a doctrine. In fact, many people believe that evolution should be taught (the definition of doctrine) and that religion should be silenced.

            In addition, Evolution neither resolves nor answers the question of suffering. If anything, it glorifies and perpetuates it.

          • Michael Murray

            when your doctrine promotes the killing of the young and aged for the survival of the species.

            We don't have a doctrine. It's a theory about how species evolve. Believing that theory is not promoting the killing of the young and the aged anymore than believing in gravity is promoting people falling over.

          • Yeah, it is. Remember the Nazis? "Remember social Darwinism"? Guess where they got their ideas?

            Now you have to answer my questions. Otherwise you lose all credibility for insinuating that I must answer Luke's.

          • Michael Murray

            You said it was a doctrine for atheists. So you think all atheists are Nazis?

          • Lol! C'mon Michael You're stretching. You actually want to interpret the words, "remember the Nazis" to mean that all atheists are nazis?

            See, that's why I don't answer everyone's questions. I discern who is dialoguing in good faith and who is knocking down straw men.

          • Michael Murray

            Not a stretch at all. You say it is "your" doctrine meaning an atheist doctrine. I say it isn't and point out why. You say it is a Nazi doctrine. Hence the your, ie the atheist must have meant Nazis.

            You've still explained why believing a scientific explanation is the same as "promoting" it's consequences.

          • As I said, you're stretching.

            It sounds like you're trying to start a rabbit trail to lead away from the very real fact that evolution has no answer for suffering except to glorify and perpetuate it. And to lead away from the fact that Nazis and Social Darwinists adopted it as a justification for eliminating the weak, the young and aged.

          • Michael Murray

            No the rabbit trail is all yours with this digression into Nazism. This is my last reply until you tell me why believing in gravity is the same as promoting people falling down.

          • ROFL! Really? Then I guess this is the end of the discussion. Bye.

          • Doug Shaver

            Don't make things up and then attribute them to me. I want to see the quotes with time and date stamp.

            evolution has no answer for suffering except to glorify and perpetuate it.

            Show me a quote from anything written by a scientist in which the author explains how evolution glorifies and perpetuates suffering.

          • That's strange. I answered this message already. Yeah, I did, because I said that you were stretching and your rejoinder was that it was no stretch at all.

            So, I won't repeat myself. If you claim that I said that all atheists are Nazis, then it is your burden to prove. And this time, use quotes. Don't make things up and then attribute them to me. I want to see the quotes with time and date stamp.

          • Doug Shaver

            "Remember social Darwinism"? Guess where they got their ideas?

            Not from Darwin. Herbert Spencer invented social Darwinism -- though obviously without calling it that -- before Darwin discovered biological evolution.

          • Doug Shaver

            Do you believe that evolution is sentient? Or have you believed the hype that unintelligent random processes could produce order and design without sentient guidance?

            What hype? I can't believe what I haven't heard, and I have read no scientific account of evolution that claims it was all about random processes, intelligent or unintelligent.

          • Hipshot

            What atheists don't see, won't see and can't see, is that God died upon the Cross in order to bring an end to our suffering.

            Well, I don't see, won't see, and can't see that suffering has been brought to an end, so I guess I agree with you.

          • David Nickol

            What atheists don't see, won't see and can't see, is that God died upon the Cross in order to bring an end to our suffering.

            I don't think that is what the Catholic Church teaches. Can you support this assertion?

          • From the Catechism:

            793 Christ unites us with his Passover: all his members must strive to resemble him, "until Christ be formed" in them. "For this reason we . . . are taken up into the mysteries of his life, . . . associated with his sufferings as the body with its head, suffering with him, that with him we may be glorified."

            1044 In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."

      • Doug Shaver

        Do you not know that when Adam and Eve committed the Original Sin, they gave themselves to Satan?

        I most certainly do not know that. I cannot know what I don't believe, and I'm not going to believe it just on your say-so.

  • Woody Ridenour

    Ultimately, if God doesn't exist, one cannot blame God for the bad things that happen in the world. It seems Fry blames God for everything terrible while simultaneously declaring to be an atheist.

    • aardi

      Ultimately. Yes.

    • Susan

      Yes mate, top stuff.

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      Fry was answering a hypothetical question - "IF God exists and you meet Him in heaven, what would you say?" Fry believes that IF God exists, then He deserves blame. There is nothing inconsistent with examining hypothetical scenarios. I assume Fry only blames God in the hypothetical scenario, not in his everyday living.

      • Woody Ridenour

        You assume. I would personally assume otherwise.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          Why would you assume otherwise? Fry claims not to believe in God, therefore it would make no sense to blame a being that he doesn't think exists. Entertaining a hypothetical scenario is not the same thing.

          Do you assume that Fry secretly believes in God? And also that he is incapable of understanding what a hypothetical is? You are free to make these assumptions, but I think that between the two of us, you are making the much larger ones.

        • Doug Shaver

          I would personally assume otherwise.

          So, when people disagree with you, do you always assume the worst about them? Or just if they're atheists?

          • Woody Ridenour

            Shure

        • Marc Riehm

          No rational atheist blames god for "evil". And I'm sure that Fry is rational.

  • Krakerjak

    Wound it up and forgot about it?

  • Susan

    Just remember that Stephen Fry wrote a book called "Liar".
    and if you read this book you will see much more.

  • ZMWT

    Steven Fry very much reminds of General Melchett he was playing once. For I am not sure whether these modern atheists inform themselves in any depth about some subjects they speak with assumed authority? But they to pretend they have it. Like general Melchett, a totally incompetent man to understand war, least to lead people into it. But still, very amusing yet naive. So when reading Mr Fry’s “argumentation”, it reminds me of this:
    General Melchett: Ah, tally-ho, yippety-dip and zing zang spillip! Looking forward to bullying off for the final chukka?
    [Baldrick is silent]
    Captain Blackadder: Answer the General, Baldrick.
    Private Baldrick: [whispers] I can't answer him, sir, I don't know what he's talking about.

    • Luke

      Please read the comment policy for this website. Personal (edit: ad hominem) attacks and "straw man" arguments are against policy.

  • ZMWT

    I do not understand what is then Stephen’s argument pro or contra God?

    A. If there is God, and Stephen would ask God why he made a universe in which children get terrible diseases and humans suffer without justification, with what kind of answer he would be satisfied? His presumption is, with no answer. Because any God cannot exist.

    B. So he already skips to God-less universe. All right. In that universe, nothing really matters — it just happens. There is no greater importance or value in one thing over the other.

    Under such assumption, why anyone should listen to his arguments as valid, or why would he have a bigger bank account than a poor man if there are no real values, no justice, and all is same? Then his opinion, and social position, are equally unimportant. But he, obviously, won't give them away. He repeats the same problem as under A: he cannot wait for the answer, and he won’t accept any responsibility in case the answer is really possible.

    Therefore he values his life, his opinion, of course. But if he was true to his atheist vocation, he would live naked in a barrel, and be same as the other man — same speck of space-dust. But he does not. There is a gradation of values he holds onto, finds thing which are good or bad for him, which only points to the conclusion that in an atheist universe, man is the God. And the more powerful a man, mightier God he becomes.

  • Kate

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Te862VIUBo

    I would like to hear Fr. Barron's response to this clip, both to Russell Brand and the other guy . . .

  • Mary-Louise Scott

    I don't see how Fr. Barron's answers would satisfy an Atheist. It seems to take a modicum of faith to follow them in the first place. Suffering makes no sense, evil makes no sense, even permissive will versus creative will makes no sense unless you first believe.

    • David Nickol

      I agree. It seems to me, and I could be totally wrong, that Fr. Barron is not particularly interested in addressing himself to atheists. His audience is, I suppose, fellow Christians who run across people like Stephen Fry or the "new atheists," are offended, and say to themselves, "Somebody should talk back to those jerks." So Fr. Barron is mostly preaching to the choir.

      If you are trying to convince an atheist you have the solution to the problem of the suffering of children, you don't quote Job or argue, "Of course there's some suffering here on earth, but it will be more than made up for in heaven!"

      • Marc Riehm

        Of course this is true - this website is, I suspect, targeted primarily at doubting young Catholics. At times I feel used when I contribute to it.

      • Hipshot

        In my experience, Christian apologetic seems to be overwhelmingly directed to reassurance of the wavering believer, rather than to the winning over of skeptics. This is clear in the writings of Bill Craig, as well as the even weaker efforts of the Lee Strobels and Josh McDowells. Most of the authors here at SN fit this mold.

        There are a few who break this mold and seem to be willing to engage atheists directly and candidly. C.S. Lewis was one such author, Randal Rauser and Leah Libresco are bloggers who I think do so as well.....but they are few and far between!

  • Loreen Lee

    Leibniz proposed: "This is the best of all possible worlds". Even this thesis was contested by Voltaire in his satirical 'Candide'.

  • David Nickol

    In fact, one of the pithiest expressions of the problem was formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. The great Catholic philosopher argued that if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. Yet God is called infinitely good. Therefore, if God exists, there should be no evil. But there is evil. Thus it certainly seems to follow that God does not exist. Thomas thereby conveys all of the power of Fry’s observations without the histrionics.

    The power of Fry's observations, it seems to me, lies in the fact that he seems to care about the suffering of children with bone cancer. Fr. Barron makes this one concession to Fry:

    Is it terrible that innocent children die of wasting diseases? Well of course.

    Yeah, sure there's terrible stuff in the world. So what?

    Then he says,

    But is it finally and irreversibly terrible? Is it nothing but terrible? By no means! It might in fact be construed as an avenue to something unsurpassably good.

    No problem! If you're upset because your kid is dying from bone cancer, we have the answers for you! It's all for the best! C'mon and smile! Rejoice! Why, in the long run, dying of cancer is the best thing that can happen to your child!

    I think it is very telling that Fr. Barron says, "Thomas thereby conveys all of the power of Fry’s observations without the histrionics." But the "histrionics"—the kids dying of cancer, or being blinded by worms eating their eyes—are pretty much the point. I don't think that people who genuinely feel their hearts breaking or their guts wrenching at the sight of suffering children are going to be convinced that Aquinas made the better argument by omitting any mention of suffering.

    What bothers me about Fr. Barron's argument here, and a lot of the comments from supporters, is that these are the kind of things one would certainly never say to someone who was actually facing the death of their child from bone cancer. At least I hope not! That is why I appreciate the C. S. Lewis passage I quoted at length earlier that begins: "Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand."

    • Sean Maddigan

      I think you are very right. The problem of evil is primarily an emotional objection. Emotions are a key part of the human experience but philosophy is guided by reason, and reason can lead us to conclusions which may not immediately satisfy our emotional needs.

      • David Nickol

        There is a Chesterton quote often cited in blog discussions like this one. He said, "The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason." Perhaps it is a bit mad to try to arrive at solution to the problem of evil based on reason alone. That is why I object to Fr. Barron wanting to eliminate the "histrionics" from the issue.

  • Sean Maddigan

    At the root of this discussion is a deeper debate. Mr Fry is essentially claiming that certain conditions of existence are beyond gratitude. Is it always better to exist than to not existence? If the answer is no, where do you draw the line? Should assisted suicide be offered to the man with a common cold? Surely, this is a degree of suffering. If the answer is yes, we should give thanks to our creator in all situations. The Lord gives and He takes away. We hold fast to the hope that in the end He will take away every tear and give us the eternal joy we faintly taste in the love of a spouse, the sight of the sea, and the laughter of friends.

  • Marc Riehm

    It's interesting that the apologetics for evil hasn't improved a whit in some 2500 years, since the time that Job was first inked.

    "Oh, we humans are just too pathetically small to fathom the good behind dying babies."

    That is just the worst punt on the problem I could imagine. The suffering of children is bad, end of bloody story. To invent narratives that try to rationalize it in any other way is deeply, deeply offensive to me.

    An the dichotomy between, "there is a hidden good behind this death which we in our ignorance cannot recognize", and, "we must do everything we can to save the children" - how can that acceptably be explained? It's good if we save them, but it's good if they die, too. It's just all good. Good, good, good. Tra la la la.

    And so many times I see atheists accused of having no objective sense of right or wrong.

    • First of all, you have no solution to the problem. So, you can be offended with yourself as well.

      Second, atheism offers no solution to the problem at all. They merely and irrationally, I might add, rail against a God in whom they don't believe.

      Third, yet they don't rail against the random forces which they claim brought about the situation.

      Fourth, you have put your own spin on the explanation of the mystery of suffering.

      a. We don't believe that God causes the suffering of the children.
      b. It is Satan who does so.
      c. If mankind had obeyed God, there would be no suffering.
      d. But mankind sold themselves to Satan for a tasty meal.
      e. In the interim, God has been trying to save mankind from their own selfishness and evil ways.
      f. God went so far as to take flesh and die upon the Cross in order to purchase us back from the Foe who makes us suffer.
      g. Those of us who accept His suffering and turn to Him can hope in a redemption and eternal rest free of suffering.

  • Colt Babcock

    Is it possible that the suffering that Fry mentioned, is at least partially, there to test our faith? It caused his unbelief, or helped to.

  • Rick Kasten

    Job 1:15 - the Sabeans killed all of Job's oxen and donkeys and all of the PEOPLE tending to them except one.
    Job 1:16 - the fire of God killed all of Job's sheep and all of the PEOPLE tending to them except one.
    Job 1:17 - the Chaldeans killed all of Job's camels and all of the PEOPLE tending to them except one.
    Job 1:18 - a great wind killed all of the PEOPLE in Job's eldest son's house, including ALL OF JOB'S CHILDREN, except one.

    But remember, it was Job who suffered.

  • ianmackay

    Nothing about God and our suffering world makes sense without the cross.

    • Marc Riehm

      Then there were some 4000-odd years which made no sense.

      (I suppose that does explain a lot about the OT.)

      • Michael Murray

        Personally I think it's worse than that but that's because I think animals can suffer. So it goes back through natural selection to the earliest point that an animal had something approximating a nervous system. Perhaps 500 million years ago for the first vertebrates ? All those years of nature red in tooth and claw. I'm so pleased it was just an accident and not by design. To think someone designed that would just be horrific.

        • Peter

          You are a member of a race which kills off animal species a thousand times faster than the natural rate of extinction and thousands of times faster than it took nature to create them.

          How horrific is that and, worse still, how hypocritical to blame God? What excuses do we make for humans without going mad?

          • Michael Murray

            Come on Peter we have been over this before. I'm not claiming to be the grand ruler of the whole universe who designed natural selection.

            But if I was I would have created my human pets to have conscious control of fertility, eliminated childhood diseases, made them all vegetarian, lowered the sex drive a little and the aggression levels. They'd still have had free will but would have turned out to be a peaceful species that didn't trash the planet.

            Why didn't He do that ?

          • Peter

            You may not claim to be the grand ruler of the universe but you certainly claim to be the supreme judge of the universe.

            How can humans both have free will and be constrained to be peaceful. How can they enjoy free will and at the same time be forced to restrain their aggression and libido.

            Humans are not God's pets but God's children, members of God's family. We neuter our pets to control them, not our children, and so neither does God.

          • Michael Murray

            Our aggression and libido are already constrained by design to lie in a certain range. Does that constrain free will? So just change the range.

            God made lots of design choices but supposedly we still have free will. I would just change a few. How would that remove free will?

          • Peter

            "Our aggression and libido are already constrained by design to lie in a certain range"

            False. Try telling that to the great mass murderers and mutilators of history.

            Just as slightly tweaking the parameters of the universe would cause it either to not exist or not create life at all, so too would slightly modifying the way humans are designed nullify free will.

            The onus is on you to demonstrate how changes in the way we are designed would not remove free will.

          • Marc Riehm

            I don't excuse mankind for its current plundering of the world (and I shudder to think about where it will lead us). But as far as god keeping species alive, what about previous extinction events, e.g. the Cretaceous extinction event? And, as others have pointed out, nature has been red in tooth and claw for hundreds of millions of years. Suffering, death, pain. What's up with God basing His creation on that?

          • Peter

            Previous extinction events spanned many millennia, so that animals did not suffer within their individual lifetimes but their numbers gradually declined. The current man-made extinction event is so rapid that it has affected individual animals within their lifetimes, making them suffer.

          • Marc Riehm

            No suffering when the meteor hit, at the KT boundary. Okay, then.

          • Marc Riehm

            The KT extinction event was caused by the strike of a large asteroid. Billions of creatures possessing central nervous systems died within days.

            But your position is flawed on another level, too: what ethical difference does it make whether creatures suffer and die as part of an extinction event or as part of less momentous events? Suffering is at the level of the individual. Meaningless natural disasters cause perpetual suffering of all animals, mankind included.

          • Doug Shaver

            He kept species alive for millions of years while humans destroyed them in less than a century.

            About 99 percent of those species went extinct before we got here. We have a whole big bunch of catching up to do before we can compete with nature for cruelty.

          • Peter

            It is estimated that the mass extinction of 252 million years ago spanned a period of 60,000 years, which means a gradual decline in numbers rather than an intense cruel event.

            Compare that with the rapid decline in numbers caused by human activity in the last century alone. So rapid is the decline that it has brought much suffering on individual animals. Compared with the natural decline of 252 million years ago, the extinction event caused by humans is intensely cruel.

          • Doug Shaver

            You have an odd notion of cruelty if you think there is always less suffering in a slow death than in a fast death.

    • Rick Kasten

      Nothing about something that doesn't exist and our suffering world makes sense without an event that never occurred to justify it.

    • Doug Shaver

      Nothing about God and our suffering world makes sense without the cross.

      It makes no sense with the cross, either.

  • I think he makes a great argument for hell. What is hell? The choice to not live in communion with God. The choice to be self interested, to be able to tell God, "Thanks, but no thanks!" Fry says he will do that. That means he chooses hell over heaven. God allows us to do that. So what is the issue? If Fry sees nothing good in this world and sees no reason to believe his own creator is anything but evil then God shows huge live in letting him live that out.

    • David Nickol

      And why couldn't God answer Fry by saying, "If I was the kind of God you think I am, I'd hate me, too!" instead of saying, "Go to hell."

      If Fry sees nothing good in this world and sees no reason to believe his own creator is anything but evil then God shows huge live [love?] in letting him live that out.

      I don't see any love in God punishing someone for coming to a wrong conclusion based on bad information. And it is Catholic doctrine that hell includes punishment.

      • Bad information? The data of all the beauty and goodness in the world is available to him. He blames God when children die. He gives him no credit that children are so wonderful in the first place. Forcing someone into heaven who has so little interest in intimacy with God or even being civil to Him. That would be the punishment.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        > And why couldn't God answer Fry by saying, "If I was the kind of God you think I am, I'd hate me, too!" instead of saying, "Go to hell."

        I think that is exactly what God is saying right now.

    • Rick Kasten

      I think hell would be the decision to commune with a God who has bears maul children to death because they called a guy "baldy" or who considers a man who throws his daughters into a crowd to be raped "the most holy man" in the city or who creates all of humanity only to drown millions of us in a world-wide flood. Just picture it: standing next to God in heaven, watching several men pin my daughter to the ground while others rape her while she screams for help, while God has his hand on my shoulder saying "Well done, my good and faithful servant." It's beautiful, isn't it?

      • That is the point. The voice is yours. If you prefer to stand with the rapists rather than those willing to be victimized then you may do that. God's road is not easy. The fact that it leads to amazing love and abundant life is not obvious. It takes faith to believe it.

        • Rick Kasten

          And that's why I reject it. Because faith in things unseen is the dictionary definition of stupidity.

          • Really? So if you have never seen a person or a place then believing they exist is the definition of stupidity? So anyone who believes there are billions of people in the world is stupid because nobody has seen billions of people?

          • Rick Kasten

            In a world in which billions of people exist, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that Random Person A exists in Australia or Asia, someplace I've never been, and we will very likely never meet. It is very much a different story when discussing a being that noone can define, whose existence is illogical, improbable, untestable, unverifiable. By unseen I didn't mean seen by my eyes, I meant unrealized and irrational.

          • Do you have children, Rick?

            The reason I'm asking is because I also considered belief in God to be illogical, improbable, untestable, unverifiable, until my wife conceived our first child.

            At that point, faith in God became thoroughly logical because it was now obvious that God existed. It was conclusive. Who else could have created the life in my wife's womb?

          • Doug Shaver

            I also considered belief in God to be illogical, improbable, untestable, unverifiable, until my wife conceived our first child.

            Why did that change your mind?

          • Rick Kasten

            Who else? Man if you don't know the answer to that question, not only did you miss out on the fun part of making your child, you may not be able to trust your wife's fidelity.
            In a nutshell, you have sperm, a cell with half of the human 46 chromosomes, and you (allegedly) put in your wife's body where it met up an egg containing her half of the 46 chromosomes, nature took its course, and a new human being developed. I won't deny the wonder of that experience; I love my kids so much it can cause me physical pain. But my wonder and gratitude for them does not make God become real.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    A third basic observation I would make to Mr. Fry is this: once we grant that God exists, we hold to the very real possibility of a life beyond this one. But this implies that no evil in this world, even death itself, is of final significance. Is it terrible that innocent children die of wasting diseases? Well of course. But is it finally and irreversibly terrible? Is it nothing but terrible? By no means! It might in fact be construed as an avenue to something unsurpassably good.

    Because the god under consideration is all-good he would want to achieve the something that is unsurpassably good without the ancillary evil. This god being all-powerful would be able to achieve that good without the evil. Therefore, either God does not exist or he is not both all-good and all-powerful.

  • I can't deny God, even through my own suffering. Suffering in life, given the stresses of living OUR ways places on us all in humanity, is inevitable, given the choices we make. Some of the suffering he speaks to, is far more about human interference or with lack of human care for one another than it is about God's handiwork. Were we to adopt the message of love, in it's fullest expression as suggested in this commentary, I MUST trust that on the whole, human suffering would diminish, and Mr. Fry's position is then moot. On the other hand, I did not hear any reference to man in this short snippet of conversation. Mr. Fry, may well speak to our human will, and to human choice later in the monologue-I will take a look for the entire clip. As it was for Christ, it's very easy for man to find a scapegoat for our sin. When we wish not to answer these greatest questions of ourselves, we need someone to hang the blame upon. IN this argument, God is the culprit. I find it funny how even an 'atheist' still must reckon with the concept of God, or of 'Gods'? I wonder often, if only through humanism and ideas of ethics we can resolve to be anything but our own darkness on this earth? As Paul himself wrote, this is my paraphrase of his words: "No matter how hard i try, I just can't seem to get even close to the perfection I seek; which is to align my very thoughts with the thoughts of a God I cannot understand." But we can understand. The image is clear-Christ is God in human perfection-but it is still, human perfection. We still must contend, within ourselves, with the other side of our own humanity, that is the Scribes and Pharisees: that is Pilot and the people of the church in Christ's day, struck with the lure of human, animal power to wrought their will into tatters and blood; thorns and the scourge. It isn't so much trouble really, that Mr. Fry calls down God with the same questions we've all come to, at one time or another if we are sincere in our quest to find our soul reunited with God. I've asked, "How could you?" Many, many times. This is the beauty of reconciliation. We are able to ask, without reservations, the tough human questions. Like you suggest, however. Like Job: we'd better be prepared to hear the truth of ourselves when the answer calls out to us. It is, an inside Job-wrestling with such questions. God grant us the courage, to accept the answers to such query.

    • Rick Kasten

      I stopped reading after "I can't". If you don't have the strength to question the obvious dilemma, then you are weak.

      • You're right. Bad choice of words. Thank you. "Can't" means "Won't". I human nature-your right, it's an excuse.

        • Rick Kasten

          If you're saying that you meant to say "won't" rather than "can't", then you are worse than weak: you are a monster.

      • Better? Less-weak? ;)

    • Hipshot

      like Job, we'd better be prepared to hear the truth

      The truth that Job should have been told was "Job, it's like this. Me and Old Scratch had a bar bet goin...."

  • Maciek

    To be honest if Fry meet God the first thing he would do is wet his pants from fear ;)

    • Rick Kasten

      That's exactly what everyone should do upon meeting an all-loving, all-powerful being right? Urinate from fear? Sounds perfectly loving.

  • Peter

    In the final analysis, one cannot reason one's way out of the dilemma of why an all-loving, all-powerful God would allow innocent suffering. One must accept it as a matter of faith. Those with no faith who rely purely on reason will always be frustrated by this dilemma and will continue to use it as a means to convince themselves and others of God's incoherence.

    Reason has its place in recognising the handiwork of the Creator, in the apparent fine-tuning and design of the cosmos, in the inevitability and indispensability of complexity, life and consciousness. However, where the problem of suffering is concerned, reason alone has little place. Unless it is bolstered by faith, reinforced by trust, it will end up causing life-long frustration and resentment at a Creator who allows the innocent to suffer.

    • Rick Kasten

      No, there is nothing to be frustrated with. God either exists and explicitly causes the existence of evil or causes the evil Himself, or God doesn't exist and evil is just a synonym for "natural stuff I don't like". I do not accept faith as an option.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        To cause the existence of beings that can do evil is not the same thing as to cause the evil they do.

        We don't know how to reconcile the goodness of God (if he exists) with the existence of suffering (of which there is no doubt), but it is reasonable to believe that if God exists he permits evil because he can bring a greater good out of it.

        • Rick Kasten

          "it is reasonable to believe that if God exists he permits evil because he can bring a greater good out of it."

          Interesting theory. Now justify it. Explain the "greater good" that came from the Holocaust which could not have been achieved in any other way than by the deaths of 6 millions Jews and millions of others. Explain the "greater good" that came from the Crusades which could not
          have been achieved in any other way than by the deaths of millions
          of people. Explain the "greater good" that came from September 11 which could not
          have been achieved in any other way than by flying airliners into skyscrapers.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Don't think about millions of abstract persons. Think of one actual innocent person who suffered in one of your three examples and ask yourself how God could bring a good out of his or her innocent suffering greater than that suffering.

            Of just look at your own innocent suffering. Is it possible that a good could come out of it greater than the evil of the suffering?

          • Rick Kasten

            "Don't think about millions of abstract persons."

            Uh, ok. Better yet, why don't I just ignore this entire conversation? Because "millions of abstract persons" who suffer = "millions of suffering persons", and I don't see how we can escape dealing with that, even if it isn't the first thing we discuss. Besides the fact that those "persons" were, in fact, NOT abstract. They were real people: one of my high school classmates, one of my brother's friends from high school, my uncle's co-worker for 20+ years.

            I can certainly conceive of one innocent person who suffered whom God helped through that suffering. I can conceive of even hundreds or thousands of people who could have been helped. But when compared to the millions of others who suffered who were NOT helped, I fail to see how their suffering was justified by my eventual benefit. And if that is actually the case, I would rather reject the help entirely!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Who said their suffering is for your eventual benefit? My point is that each person is his or her own entity--not part of a collective.

            What do you mean by millions who are NOT helped?

            > Or just look at your own innocent suffering. Is it possible that a good could come out of it greater than the evil of the suffering?

            What about this question?

          • Rick Kasten

            "Who said their suffering is for your eventual benefit?"

            "Think of one actual innocent person who suffered..." Or just look at your own innocent suffering. Is it possible that a good could come out of it greater than the evil of the suffering?

            1) Is it possible? Yes.
            2) Is it possible that no good could come out of it and that all those other people suffered for no good reason? Yes.
            3) Is it possible that the same "good" that came out of it could have come out of some other scenario in which fewer people suffered, maybe even zero people suffered? Yes.
            If 2) or 3) can be Yes, then an all-loving, all-powerful God chose the worst option possible, and that is illogical.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            At minimum, the person who receives a greater good than the suffering of the person who suffered is the person who suffered.

            This assumes there is life after death.

          • Rick Kasten

            Meaning like how Job suffered after all his children were murdered by Satan? Because Job being sad is worse than several people being dead?

            Life after death is an unproven conjecture, so it does not factor into this conversation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Meaning like how Job suffered after all his children were murdered by Satan? Because Job being sad is worse than several people being dead?

            .

            No. Assuming Job was a real person (I don't think he was, I think this is a kind of primitive novel) the persons murdered would receive the reward.

            Why exactly is life after death out of bounds in this conversation?

          • Rick Kasten

            Murder is a reward? Who are you, Charles Manson? I hope I'm misunderstanding you, because you're sounding more psychopathic as this conversation goes on.

            Life after death is out of bounds because it is unjustified conjecture; there is no reason to think it exists. It has no place in a conversation about reality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I hope I'm misunderstanding you.

            Yes, you are misunderstanding me.

            If both God and life after death are "unjustified" conjectures, and so out of bounds, then what is there to discuss?

          • Roman

            Explain the "greater good" that came from the Holocaust which could not have been achieved in any other way than by the deaths of 6 millions Jews and millions of others

            You're asking a fair question, but I think you know its not possible to know the answer because that would require that we can read the mind of God. We could imagine any number of reasonable scenarios where a greater good was achieved. For example, perhaps the Holocaust heightened the conscience of the world to see the ugly nature of ethnic hatred and eugenics and a dozen other Holocausts were prevented. Who knows. Point is you cannot say that permitting evil because God can bring a greater good out of it is not a plausible explanation for evil in the world.

            Explain the "greater good" that came from the Crusades which could not have been achieved in any other way than by the deaths of millions of people.

            Now, I mean this with all the charity in the world....you really embarrass yourself when you repeat urban legends like this. You would really benefit from reading a good book on the Crusades written by a credible historian. For example, read the books of Thomas Madden (Chair of History at Saint Louis University) who is considered to be the pre-eminent expert on the Crusades in the US. Dr. Madden estimates approximately 88,000 people died during the 4 crusades to the Middle East in the 11th and 12th centuries.

          • Rick Kasten

            No, I think it's a perfectly fair question, because we haven't established God's existence, therefore what he may or may not be able to do is irrelevant. Second, if God could just appear before the entirety of humanity and say Don't hate each other, why doesn't he do that? Why add the suffering of millions? You assume God and then have to perform all sorts of philosophical circus tricks to explain the gaping contradictions in your belief. It is perfectly reasonable to reject your argument when it is based on two unsubstantiated assumptions: God and what he might be able to do with suffering in the world. Claims asserted without evidence can be rejected without evidence. Occum's razor

      • Peter

        Faith is necessary to avoid despair in a world full of suffering. Faith that such suffering is only temporary, hope that it will lead to something better and trust that God will guide us through it.

        Just as you do not accept faith as an option, I do not accept that God does not exist. The universe is so precisely fine-tuned for the emergence of life and consciousness, and human beings are so precisely fine-tuned to practise freedom of choice, that they must be the product of design.

        It is the perfect freedom of humans to choose between good and evil which has brought suffering into the world, since humans chose evil from the very start.

        • Rick Kasten

          No, faith is not necessary. I have no faith, and I don't despair. However, I also do not trust God to guide me through it, because I don't believe in God.

          The universe is not finely-tuned for human life. The fine-tuning argument is so weak, it is embarrassing to address it. It rests entirely on the assumption that no other values or combinations of values could result in life, and there is simply no scientific justification for that assumption. But even if we do grant that assumption, so what? There may be infinite regions of space where those numbers are different. There may be infinite universes where those numbers are different. In either case, we just happen to exist in a universe where the numbers are what they are, because such a universe would produce us to see it. It's not a big deal at all.

          Humans did not bring suffering into the world. Animals have been eating each other for hundreds of millions of years. It's called evolution, and we are no different from any other animal.

          I reject faith because it rests on assumptions and conjecture rather than seeking out actual truth. Faith is the most dishonest position it is possible to have on any subject.

          • Peter

            For a start, complexity from which life emerges is a necessary factor in the evolution of the universe from low to high entropy. You have no evidence of other universes, but I have evidence that life is necessary to increase entropy. Not only is life inevitable, it is indispensable.

            We are very different from other creatures. Other creatures did not cause extinctions of species, whereas humans have caused the extinction rate of other species to increase to a thousand times faster than the natural rate.

            It is interesting that atheists mainly come from relatively comfortable first world countries. The bulk of humanity which resides in the third world faces a daily battle merely to survive. Without faith in God their lives would be hopeless.

          • Rick Kasten

            "I have evidence that life is necessary to increase entropy"

            No you don't. If you had, you would win the Nobel Prize in Physics, maybe Chemistry. Life being indispensable is a lovely thought, but there are people far more intelligent than either of us looking for that evidence.

            Good point on third-world countries. People with high stress and low education are far more likely to believe in God, because they will grasp at any straw they can to provide themselves comfort in a world they neither understand nor can control.

          • Michael Murray

            Of course there is a confusion here between belief in God being beneficial and being true. That aside I'm not sure about this claim of third world faith in God. Particularly the capital G Christian God. Hindus don't believe in God and Buddhists don't believe in God. Do Muslim's count as people believing in God? Interesting map here

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions_by_country#mediaviewer/File:Prevailing_world_religions_map.png

          • Rick Kasten

            I'm not limited to the Christian God either. From a philosophical perspective, Allah is even worse.

            Belief in God is beneficial in the same way that a BandAid is beneficial when applied to an open chest cavity: it is certainly better than nothing, but belief in anything that isn't real can't possibly be any more beneficial than that.

          • Peter

            If you stick your head in the sand, nothing is real.

          • Rick Kasten

            I would argue that if you stick your head in the sand, you can make anything become real to you, because you won't know how to determine how any could be real or not.

          • Peter

            On the contrary, regarding the necessity for life to increase entropy, it is not unknown that life exists to hydrogenate carbon dioxide. Life represents the necessary complex chemical processes which alter a low entropy carbon dioxide atmosphere to a high entropy atmosphere which includes methane.

            Those in third world countries may have little formal education but what they lack in that they make up in wisdom which they gain from suffering. It is condescending to write them off as desperate simpletons.

          • Marc Riehm

            "Life exists to hydrogenate carbon dioxide".

            Well, it's nice to know there's a purpose behind all of this!

            You do not understand entropy, and you do not understand the second law of thermodynamics. The atmosphere is hardly a closed system.

          • Peter

            But the universe is, and stars and planets represent local complexity which contributes an overall net entropy to the universe.

          • Marc Riehm

            True enough, but so what? Your eariler statement (about the necessity of life for the increase of entropy) remains false.

          • Peter

            If planets are necessary to contribute net entropy to the universe, one stage of this process is the transformation of the atmosphere from low to high entropy.

            On those planets such as earth with a original carbon dioxide atmosphere and other conditions suitable for life, the only natural chemical process which makes the change from low to high entropy possible is not a simple or direct one, but a long complex drawn-out process represented by the creation and development of life.

          • Marc Riehm

            Life is absolutely unnecessary for the second law of therodynamics to hold true. Talk to any physicist or chemist.

          • Peter

            Not as far as the universe is concerned.

          • Marc Riehm

            My statement holds true.

          • Peter

            Maybe so, but not in the context of this thread.

          • Marc Riehm

            The second law of thermodynamics holds true everywhere and always, so far as we know. Including in this thread.

          • Peter

            The creation of complexity in the form of low entropy stars and planets which contribute an overall net entropy to the universe, is essential for driving the evolution of the universe from low to high entropy in accordance with the second law.

          • Roman

            The universe is not finely-tuned for human life.The fine-tuning argument is so weak, it is embarrassing to address it

            Rick, you're simply not going to get away with too many whoppers like this on this forum. Let me just quote Dr. Stephen Hawking from his book "The Grand Design"......"“Most of the fundamental constants in our theories appear fine-tuned in the sense that if they were altered by only modest amounts, the universe would be qualitatively different, and in many cases unsuitable for the development of life. … The emergence of the complex structures capable of supporting intelligent observers seems to be very fragile. The laws of nature form a system that is extremely fine-tuned, and very little in physical law can be altered without destroying the possibility of the development of life as we know it.”

            There may be infinite regions of space where those numbers are different. There may be infinite universes where those numbers are different.

            Even if we are part of a multiverse that has a very large number of universe domains, these domains are believed to be independent of each other. This means that the probability that the laws of physics and other conditions are conducive for forming complex life is the same for any domain in the multiverse, i.e. it does not depend on the presence or conditions on any other domain. Its like tossing a coin. Even if you get heads 1000 times in the row, the probability of getting tails on the 1001th toss is still 50:50 because every toss is an independent event. So, if the probability of finding complex life on a particular planet in our universe is less than 1 in 10 to the 1020th power, that the probability would be the same in other universes. But lets say that there is some interdependency between the various domains of a multiverse. That still suggest a specially designed universe because 1) it requires a large, i.e., infinite number of domains or universes in order to produce one or more domains that support life and 2) coincidentally there happen to be am infinite number of domains in existence. In other words, there is no reason why there has to be an infinite number of domains in the multiverse. There could be 4 or 40 or 200, etc. As physicist Dr. Stephen Barr says in his book "Modern Physics, Ancient Faith",
            "There seems to be no escape (i.e., from the appearance of fine-tuning). Every way of explaining anthropic coincidences scientifically involves assuming that the universe has some sort of very special characteristics that can be thought of as constituting in themselves another set of anthropic coincidences."

          • Luke

            Sean Carrol's recent response to the "fine tuning" argument:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R97IHcuyWI0

          • Peter

            Carroll's first four arguments against fine-tuning are weak and not worth responding to. His fifth argument which he admits is the most important is that the universe is far more fine-tuned than necessary simply to produce life. If God had wanted to design the universe to produce life, the argument goes, he would not have made it so excessively and unnecessarily fine-tuned.

            However, although Carroll claims that the entropy of the early universe is far lower than it would need to be to allow for life, he provides no evidence for this. So why should anyone believe him? All in all, it's a pretty shoddy attempt at debunking fine-tuning.

          • Doug Shaver

            Carroll's first four arguments against fine-tuning are weak and not worth responding to.

            Not just because you say so, they aren't. They look strong to me. I can explain why I think so, but as long as you think they're not worth responding to, it'll have to be just your word against mine.

          • Peter

            If Caroll's strongest (by his own admission) argument is debunked, what does that say for the rest?

          • Doug Shaver

            You're assuming your conclusion. I don't agree that his strongest argument has been debunked.

          • Peter

            The early universe may have been excessively-fine tuned for the mere emergence of the solar system and life on earth, but there is no excessive fine-tuning if one considers a universe potentially teeming with life.

            In other words, the extreme low entropy conditions of the early universe place the universe on such a strong trajectory towards high entropy, that a widespread emergence of life would be necessary to drive the evolution of the universe towards that goal.

            Instead of the low entropy conditions being excessive for life, as Carroll claims, these conditions actually dictate the scale of life which would be needed to drive the universe's evolution.

          • Doug Shaver

            "If A, then B" does nothing to support B if we have no idea whether A is true.

          • Rick Kasten

            "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

            ~ Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design

            Odds are irrelevant when dealing with infinity. Something that has odds of 1 in 10 to the 1020th power occurring in an infinite number of universes has not only already occurred, it has occurred an infinite number of times. And Stephen Barr is a Christian, so he has already presumed that a Designer exists, so of course he is going to conclude that one does.

        • Doug Shaver

          Faith is necessary to avoid despair in a world full of suffering.

          Speak for yourself, please. I'm doing just fine without it.

          • Peter

            Of course, the lucky few on the pampered fringes of humanity, where material, medical and security needs are largely catered for, and for whom life is not a daily toil for survival, may not find themselves in the kind of despair that only belief and trust in a good and powerful God can alleviate.

          • Doug Shaver

            If you're admitting that religion has more appeal to poor people than to rich people, and that the poorer they are, the more appeal it has, then I won't argue with that.

          • Peter

            So you agree that the presence of suffering, instead of driving people away from God as Stephen Fry tries to imply, actually draws them closer to God?

          • Doug Shaver

            Putting it in those terms presumes the existence of something to get close to.

            A person with a sufficiently intense desire to believe can use just about anything the happens to reinforce that belief. This is especially so if they are continually reminded, by people they regard as authoritative, that disbelief will, sooner or later, be severely punished.

          • Peter

            What drives the suffering bulk of humanity to have faith in a good and powerful deity is not fear of damnation, but trust that they and their families will survive another day, gratitude that they have done, and hope for a better future.

          • Marc Riehm

            The Catholic church has always been willing to wield the stick alongside the carrot. Perhaps less so in these modern days, but the catechism is clear on this matter and, if one embraces Christian doctrine, hellfire cannot be ignored.

          • Doug Shaver

            What drives the suffering bulk of humanity to have faith in a good and powerful deity is not fear of damnation

            That could be true, for all I know. Still, it would be really interesting to see how many would continue to believe if they were convinced that unbelief carried zero consequences in the afterlife.

    • Of course for atheists, there simply is nothing to be reasoned out of. The whole problem only exists for those who believe there is a omnibenovolent, omnipotent god. It can easily be reasoned out of by concluding that no such god exists.

      Of course we can deal with your other reasons for beleif, but none of these require a good or moral creator.

      • Peter

        A good powerful God must exist, otherwise a world full of suffering leads to despair.

        I'm not so much talking about the lucky few on the fringes of humanity whose basic material, medical and security needs are largely supplied by the state, but about the bulk of humanity which cannot rely on any of these and faces a daily toil for survival.

        The simple fact is that the world cannot afford to give every human the life of the lucky few, so a few benefit while the majority suffer. This is an unavoidable reality unless the few give up their privileged position which they will not.

        So we are left with a world where the inevitable reality is suffering for the majority of its inhabitants. In such a world, without a God of goodness and power to rely on, there would be general despair. The irony is that humanity through its own greed has created a widespread need for God.

        • Doug Shaver

          The simple fact is that the world cannot afford to give every human the life of the lucky few, so a few benefit while the majority suffer.

          There would be plenty to go around if there were a lot fewer of us. Poverty persists because certain institutions are committed to convincing them that their primary purpose in life is to have children.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree with your disagreement with Peter's point.

            I disagree that poverty is due to over population and that less people would mean more prosperity. I have never seen any evidence for that.

            I would also like to know what institution is telling people that their primary purpose in life is to have children.

          • Doug Shaver

            I disagree that poverty is due to over population and that less people would mean more prosperity. I have never seen any evidence for that.

            Maybe we have different ideas about what constitutes overpopulation. In my lexicon, a world is overpopulated if it cannot produce enough food to adequately nourish all of them.

            I would also like to know what institution is telling people that their primary purpose in life is to have children.

            Nobody says it in so many words, so far as I am aware. But when the pope accuses childless people of being selfish, without any mention of what else they might be accomplishing in their lives, it seems like a reasonable inference to me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The world is producing plenty of food for everyone. If large groups of people don't have enough to eat today it is for political reasons (basically criminal reasons).

          • Doug Shaver

            The world is producing plenty of food for everyone.

            According to whom?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Just google "has food production increased" and see what you find.

          • Doug Shaver

            You made the claim. You produce the evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If the pope accused childless people of selfishness (which he did not do), the fact that they are childless shows telling people their primary purpose in life is to have children (which, again, he never did) is not effective.

          • Doug Shaver

            If the pope accused childless people of selfishness (which he did not do) . . . .

            His words, according to an article published in The Guardian not quite a week ago, were: “The choice to not have children is selfish." Are you saying he was misquoted?

            the fact that they are childless shows telling people their primary purpose in life is to have children (which, again, he never did) is not effective.

            What it shows is that not everybody does what the pope tells them to do. He also tells people not to commit murder, and I agree with him on that. Nevertheless, people still murder.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He is also quoted as saying people should not breed like rabbits. Some people who want kids can't have them. Some people do refuse to have children out of selfishness. But recall, you claim was that the pope words imply he thinks the primary purpose of life is to have children and consequently there are too many of them.

          • I don't think the Pope was privy to you and Doug's "discussion.

            Doug, you said:

            In my lexicon, a world is overpopulated if it cannot produce enough food to adequately nourish all of them.

            The World hunger report says:

            "Does the world produce enough food to feed everyone?

            The world produces enough food to feed everyone...."

            Oxfam says:

            "There is enough food to feed the world | Oxfam Canada

            http://www.oxfam.ca/there-enough-food-feed-world

            Oxfam Canada

            The world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. But close to a billion people go to sleep hungry every night."

            Do you disagree with these stats? Or would you like to reconsider your lexicon?

          • Doug Shaver

            He is also quoted as saying people should not breed like rabbits.

            Right, meaning they should not breed excessively. But, in the pope's opinion, they should breed. The fact that some people overeat does not mean people should not eat.

            Some people do refuse to have children out of selfishness.

            No doubt. But the pope did say, "The choice of some people to not have children is selfish."

    • Doug Shaver

      A world full of suffering and devoid of faith is indeed a bleak place.

      What if it really is that way? Should we prefer a comforting illusion to a bleak truth?

      • Peter

        It depends on how bleak the truth of our lives is. For much of humanity it is very bleak, and so faith in God is both a trust that God will not abandon them and a hope that better things lie ahead.

        • Doug Shaver

          Interesting. You seem to think that truth is important for people who are well situated, but as their situation worsens, truth loses importance. Am I understanding you correctly?

          • But what if it isn't that way, Doug?

            What if everything the Catholic Church teaches is true? Should we abandon the faith and hope of an eternal life simply because we don't see it now? Should we live in your bleak and faithless world of suffering without hope, simply because we don't see God with our physical eyes?

          • Doug Shaver

            Should we abandon the faith and hope of an eternal life simply because we don't see it now?

            No, not simply for that reason. But the notion that a naturalistic worldview is reducible to "you should only believe what you can see right now" is a gross misrepresentation of naturalism.

          • Peter

            No, by bleak truth I mean the harsh reality that most humans have to face every day. This is the truth of their lives which they deal with by trusting in God.

          • Doug Shaver

            You may equate harshness with bleakness. I don't.

  • Barry Coleman

    Although the "Problem
    of Evil" is something one cannot just "wave away simplistically"
    (and that is why there are also many replies to it by many thinkers) it poses
    no real logical problem for (Classical) Theism (Brian Davies, has elaborated on
    this in several books and I recommend you read them if you are unfamiliar with
    the subject).

    it
    remains mainly an "emotional problem", since suffering has a strong
    emotional impact, and a "dry logical explanation" usually cannot
    console those who suffer emotionally.

    Stephen
    Fry is basically committing the fallacy of appealing to emotion.

    I would
    also add that if he (like most atheists) even refutes objective morality and
    supports moral relativism... then is argument is also self-refuting (if you
    deny evil exists, then you cannot build an argument on it, obviously!).

    --

    That
    said, Fry's philistinism and ignorance are well known, and he has spoken out of
    ignorance (or perhaps lied) several times (eg in several debates he
    claimed Galileo was tortured and burned at the stake, while it is well-known
    that he was neither tortured nor killed, but merely put under house-arrest,
    which either shows he is strongly ignorant or a pathetic liar).

    • Doug Shaver

      if you deny evil exists, then you cannot build an argument on it, obviously!

      True. But one who denies that evil exists can still argue that those who affirm evil exists are being inconsistent if they also affirm the existence of an omnipotent omnibenevolent god.

      • Barry Coleman

        True, but usually they still do so fallaciously as Classical Theism denies "evil exists" ontologically (rather it is a "lack of something") and they often assume good and evil a are two things '"on par with each other".

        So they just assume things and build up straw men to knock down.

        Hence since people like Fry are wholly ignorant of what they are talking about (and there is abundant proof of that!)

        Of course there might be people who do believe what they attack, but it is still like attacking evolution basing the attack on some misguided perception of it.

        ---

        Not only that: even those who might assume evil "exists" might have (and do) good counter-arguments to people who just flaunt around the "problem of evil" as if it was the new thing of the block.

        The question has been around since forever (or at least 2 millennia), hence many have indeed thought about it... and no "armchair arguments" are going to cut it, since armchair arguments have also been around since forever and theists certainly have not ignored them (at best they keep wandering why some people keep flinging the same stale poo over and over again).

        ---

        Some people (not saying you are among them, mind you) just assume theists are just morons who never examined what they believed critically... well those people maybe should read a bit more.

        • Doug Shaver

          well those people maybe should read a bit more.

          But of course. Lots of fools do say there is no god.

  • This issue deals with the evidential problem of suffering and I have heard no good rejoinder from theists other than the position of skeptical theism. The argument is that the Christian God would not allow any of his beloved creation to suffer unless it is absolutely necessary. Unnecessary suffering seems to be prevalent for all life, it would seem likely that at least one instance is not necessary. Therefore it is unlikely that a the Christian God exists.

    The skeptical theist points out that there could be morally good reasons that this suffering we observe and endure from things like natural disasters and disease, we are just ignorant of these reasons, and indeed we cannot even guess what they might be. (e.g. what possible good reason could there be for God not slightly and invisibly changing the trajectory of this statue of the pope that crushed a devotee to death? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27145931)

    You can accept skeptical theism, I think you have no choice if you believe in the Christian god, but it has consequences. It means you are not only ignorant of some of the most important moral reasons, eg. the reasons for all deaths and injury from most natural disasters and most disease, but you cannot even hazard a guess.

    Preserving one's free will does not make sense when the suffering is a result of something in which human free will did not play a role, such as getting a genetic disease or mental disability. Creating contrast between joy and sadness falls flat to the ears of a mourning parent or even a migraine sufferer.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I guess as a theist I don't think I subscribe to the premise that suffering is only morally justifiable if it is "absolutely necessary."

      It may be that God thinks it is good for material creatures to be vulnerable and interdependent. I don't have a lot of difficulty in seeing how these two conditions can be good for human beings. Maybe this is good for the whole universe. I don't want to say "necessary" because that would limit God's freedom.

      • "I guess as a theist I don't think I subscribe to the premise that
        suffering is only morally justifiable if it is "absolutely necessary.""

        If that is the case, you cannot believe in a maximally good deity. Would you not agree that it is an objective moral obligation to prevent all suffering that is unnecessary?

        Why would creating a world in which AIDS did not evolve be one in which humans are not vulnerable and interdependent? Everything else is the same, just that that disease never migrated to humans. Or say that it evolved in a way that mothers cannot pass it on to their babies.

        In this argument, no one is saying God needs to eliminate evil or suffering, just lessen it.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You can't just eliminate one form of natural evil and God is off the hook. If that were the case, we could posit that God has prevented umpteen evils and we just don't know about them because they never happened. Like, I would have died yesterday except that God prevented X. Under your logic, no evil can exist at all for us to say that God is good.

          I think that a better formulation is that God does not allow any evil to occur that he does not have an adequate reason for allowing it to occur.

          • Hipshot

            And in that case, aren't we are in Candide's "best of all possible worlds?"

            In no way could events occur in such a manner as to be more within God's will than they actually do.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not at all. Permitting something is not the same as directly willing it.

            God permits me to blow my top. He would prefer for me to be patient. The world is better if I am patient than if I blow my top.

          • No, under my logic no suffering that seems utterly gratuitous would exist. We would be able to think of reasons why certain kinds of suffering happened. For example, suffering caused by human actions might still exist.

            But, if pressed, I might defend the problem of evil generally, indeed, there is an argument that God is entirely capable of either, not creating humans, thus eliminating the possibility of evil and suffering, or creating humans in such a way as we are capable of deciding to sin or not, but incapable of acting these out. For example, in any understanding of heaven, it is populated with human and angelic souls, is it not? These souls possess free will and the ability to sin, but never would. If there are angels, these would never have sinned or been through some form of earthly process to weed out their souls. God just knows they will never lie in heaven and so on. God also knows that the souls who don't make it to heaven are irredeemable. One wonders why this whole earthly realm of with the option of suffering and evil is allowed in the first place. I can't think of a reason. God knows? Right?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think whether or not one believes in God, suffering is still a mystery.

            We always act to be happy or happier. Pleasure attracts us. Pain deters us. Values entice us to act even if pain results.

            I would alike to ask--although it sounds odd to put these in words--why is pleasure pleasurable and why is pain painful? Why did God through nature or nature on its own select one kind of state to attract and another to repel?

          • Doug Shaver

            I think whether or not one believes in God, suffering is still a mystery.

            Most of us naturalists beg to differ. We don't see anything the least bit mysterious about it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. Why does pleasure exist? Is it a fiction or an arbitrary state that animals experience to get them to do things?

          • Doug Shaver

            It is not a fiction. Neither is it arbitrary. Animals do experience it. The experience is real, and since it happens for a good reason, there is nothing arbitrary about it.

          • Doug Shaver Kevin Aldrich • 6 hours ago

            I think whether or not one believes in God, suffering is still a mystery.

            Most of us naturalists beg to differ. We don't see anything the least bit mysterious about it.

            I agree Doug. Nor, in my opinion, can your explanation do anything to alleviate it nor console the person who is suffering.

            If you don't mind, please clear up the mystery for those who don't understand.

          • Doug Shaver

            Nor, in my opinion, can your explanation do anything to alleviate it nor console the person who is suffering.

            It isn't supposed to. An explanation is not an excuse. There is no reason to assume that knowing why something happens should make us feel better about it.

            If you don't mind, please clear up the mystery for those who don't understand.

            Can you be more specific about what you consider mysterious about suffering?

          • Doug Shaver De Maria • 2 hours ago

            It isn't supposed to. An explanation is not an excuse.

            Excellent answer, Doug! Yet, it seems that the majority of atheists on this blog, think that we are making an excuse for God when we explain the Catholic view of suffering.

            There is no reason to assume that knowing why something happens should make us feel better about it.

            Thank you.

            Can you be more specific about what you consider mysterious about suffering?

            Why is it necessary? Since evolution was wise enough to create all these wonderful creatures that we see in the world, why didn't evolution leave out suffering?

          • Doug Shaver

            Yet, it seems that the majority of atheists on this blog, think that we are making an excuse for God when we explain the Catholic view of suffering.

            That is because the majority of us atheists are under the impression that God's benevolence is supposed to a source of consolation.

            Since evolution was wise enough to create all these wonderful creatures that we see in the world, why didn't evolution leave out suffering?

            We naturalists don't really attribute any wisdom to evolution. Sometimes we do it metaphorically, but in any context where a naturalist refers to the wisdom of evolution, it ought to be patently obvious that the reference is strictly metaphorical. And even metaphorically, it is understood that evolution's wisdom is absolutely void of ethical wisdom. Wisdom personified would be a pure psychopath.

          • Doug Shaver De Maria • 30 minutes ago

            That is because the majority of us atheists are under the impression that God's benevolence is supposed to a source of consolation.

            It is. For those who trust Him.

            We naturalists don't really attribute any wisdom to evolution. Sometimes we do it metaphorically, but in any context where a naturalist refers to the wisdom of evolution, it ought to be patently obvious that the reference is strictly metaphorical. And even metaphorically, it is understood that evolution's wisdom is absolutely void of ethical wisdom. Evolution personified would be a pure psychopath.

            But that leaves the question of the existence of suffering, from your naturalistic point of view, unanswered.

          • Doug Shaver

            But that leaves the question of the existence of suffering, from your naturalistic point of view, unanswered.

            I still don't know what the question is. Is it "Why should suffering exist in a universe without God?"

          • Why must anyone suffer?

          • Doug Shaver

            Why must anyone suffer?

            Are you asking about people, or living things in general?

          • Both.

          • Doug Shaver

            Are you asking about people, or living things in general?

            Both.

            Why that specification? Are you unsure whether the latter would include the former?

          • Well I do not believe in any gods, and I don't find pain or pleasure, or joy, or fear or shame or anger particularly mysterious.

            I think we do know quite well that pain is a neurological response, one that we can quite easily remove with chemicals. Pain and suffering make perfect sense as evolved reactions to things that generally bad for us or our genes. They are not calibrated so that we only feel as much pain or pleasure so that we learn from it. Sometimes the pain is so much that we kill ourselves rather than avoid it in the future. When something is good we might gorge ourselves to death on food or drugs. This is not unexpected in a system that bluntly and blindly evolved. It is confusing as a system designed by a God.

            We would expect that our sorrow would hurt, but never so much as to throw us into a suicidal depression or get addicted to drugs.

          • Marc Riehm

            That which is pleasant furthers continuation of the genes. That which is not, does not. It's as simple as that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You mean like overeating which leads to an epidemic of obesity?

          • Marc Riehm

            Yes, actually. It's rare for overeaters to die before they reproduce. And a fondness for high-energy (aka high-calorie) foods is perfectly explainable by evolution. We are programmed by our genes to value carbs and fat.

          • Michael Murray

            Why did ... nature on its own select one kind of state to attract and another to repel?

            Surely if acts that caused us physical damage were pleasurable or acts that led to reproduction were painful our genes would be unlikely to propagate. So the species would not last very long and we would not be here having this conversation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm trying to figure this out.

            If God or Platonic forms do not exist, both good and evil and pleasure and pain had to be invented (by accident) and then promulgated to all forms of life that act by attraction and repulsion. Pleasure had to be associated with this 'good" and pain with the "bad."

            So I think my line of thinking is not as moronic as I initially thought.

          • Michael Murray

            But I think you have to go back to single-cell organisms and some tendency to be attracted to food or just a light source or something. They benefit from that tendency and pass on those genes when they replicate. It builds up from there until you get to us with our big brains. We try to rationalise our pleasure/pain drives using words like "good" and "bad" and to deal with the complexities of social living where "good" for me might be "bad" for you etc.

      • Marc Riehm

        And so did The Fall happen, or did it not?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't know what you mean by the Fall but I would say that nothing is more self-evident than that we experience the consequences of original sin.

          • Marc Riehm

            Of course you know what I mean by "The Fall".

            I was being overly obscure. The point I was trying to make is: if suffering and vulnerability are Good for human beings, and for the entire universe, why did God supposedly elevate us from this Goodness for a brief while? Only then to dash us back down to the hardscrabble world of survival?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I did not say that suffering is good for human beings. I said that maybe God thinks that vulnerability and interdependence are good for material creatures.

          • Marc Riehm

            You are wiggling out of your own words. What are we vulnerable to, if it's not suffering?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We are vulnerable to suffering. We suffer due to our vulnerability. I can see that it is good to be vulnerable but not to suffer. Awareness of our own vulnerability tells us we are not self-sufficient and need others. Awareness of others' vulnerability calls for solidarity.

          • Marc Riehm

            And, as you said, it's good that that is the case.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So the potential to suffer is a necessary condition for vulnerability.

          • Marc Riehm

            And actual suffering is a necessary condition for potential suffering. Ergo, suffering is good, because it causes vulnerability, which is good.

          • Marc Riehm

            Original sin is not "self evident" at all. Billions of people do not believe in it.

            What is obvious is that all creatures "suffer" - all animals experience discomfort, pain, and death. Humans among them. It is self-evident that suffering is inherently part of the world we live in. There is no need to invoke the supernatural to explain it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I did not say that original sin is self-evident. I said the consequences are. They accurately describe our condition.

  • If Father Barron thinks Stephen Fry is ignorant of the story and his interpretation of Job, he is not familiar with Stephen Fry.

    Barron's answer to Fry is apparently that, like Job, we lack the ability to understand how all this suffering and god doing nothing to stop it, really is perfectly good and consistent with a benevolent omnipotent deity.

    I do not buy this. I do not accept that a God would create us in his image, with some moral acumen, but not enough to understand why he does not intervene to at least lessen our suffering. Suffering that is entirely independent of anything humans do. I think if he exists and there are good reasons, he should be able to communicate them. He does not.

    Indeed the author of the book of Job provides the answers to the reader, just not to Job. The story tells us quite clearly that there was a dispute over whether Job's faith was dependent on his good fortune. Why is Job not given these reasons? Even telling him his suffering was required as a lesson to the millions of Bible readers about what should ground faith.

    But no such answers are provided to Job, he is just presented with a tirade about how much more powerful God is than Job. I suppose we are meant to glean from this that Job just wouldn't understand the answers.

    Again I do not accept that we could not have some understanding of the reasons for seemingly gratuitous suffering. If we have been created as moral creatures with a moral compass and ability to tell right from wrong, we should be able to have some understanding of the reasons why millions of us suffer through torturous lives of misfortune and death, which God could easily lessen or eliminate.

  • Peter Atkinson

    I have one question for Fr. Barron: I think Stephen Fry's argument was that there are organisms which don't serve another purpose besides inflicting pain and suffering. And that's a troublesome prospect - that something would come into existence which is parasitical by all of its nature.

    • Mike

      Like humans? we're parasite on mother earth are we not?

      • Doug Shaver

        we're parasite on mother earth are we not?

        That is a possible viewpoint, but to me it reeks of misanthropy.

  • raindog308

    I've long felt the "Problem of Evil" is nonexistent. With the promise of eternity and paradise, God can balance out ANY suffering or injustice in this world.

    • David Nickol

      With the promise of eternity and paradise, God can balance out ANY suffering or injustice in this world.

      If earthly suffering is so trivial, why should we go out of our way to alleviate it?

      The Corporal Works of Mercy:

      • Feed the hungry
      • Give drink to the thirsty
      • Clothe the naked
      • Shelter the homeless
      • Visit the sick
      • Visit the imprisoned
      • Bury the dead

      Why?

      • raindog308

        I never said Earthly suffering was trivial. You assume I implied it, but I did not.

        • David Nickol

          You assume I implied it, but I did not.

          Of course you (or your position) implied it. You have long felt the problem of evil is "nonexistent." It is simply not a problem that the innocent suffer. In the long run (eternity) it doesn't matter. Why should we worry about suffering, even the most horrible suffering, if God can "balance out ANY suffering"? Why feed the hungry or give drink to the thirsty? If they die, they will go to heaven and enjoy eternal bliss. One might even hypothesize the more earthly suffering, the better. The greater the suffering on earth, the more God will balance it out later.

          • raindog308

            I did not imply it. You assume that because God can remediate any injustice or suffering, that makes this life insignificant, or that because there is an eternity, this finite life is insignificant. I disagree. This life is not simply a numerator divided by the denominator of infinity. Obviously this life is highly significant because God has placed us here for this finite existence, so what we do here is very important. Rather than thinking of it as "compared to infinity it's immaterial," think of it as "how important must this life be if it stands alongside eternity".

          • David Nickol

            Rather than thinking of it as "compared to infinity it's immaterial," think of it as "how important must this life be if it stands alongside eternity".

            It seems that for human beings (according to Christianity), it is all-important. One's eternal fate is decided here. Consequently, the conditions under which we gain or lose eternal reward have huge significance. Suffering in this life could easily result in eternal punishment (and, of course, even more suffering).

            It seems to me that there is an enormous imbalance that human beings should have to deal with suffering in this life that affects them for all eternity. If you suffer in this life, God has all eternity to balance it out. On the other hand, if you make a wrong choice in this life (according to the Christian view), you don't have all eternity to make up for it. You have until your death, and if you're hit by a bus before you figure things out properly, you suffer for all eternity.

          • Marc Riehm

            That's the Mother Theresa approach.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Mother Teresa approach was to ease the suffering of the poorest of the poor.

          • Doug Shaver

            She got them off the streets. What else did she do for them?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            She taught them Scholastic metaphysics, naturally.

            What else would you do for lepers, for the dying and abandoned, for the malnourished, for the uneducated, for the handicapped, or for orphans?

          • Doug Shaver

            What I would do would depend on how much money I had available. If I had as much as Mother Teresa reputedly had, I would provide doctors for the sick ones along with whatever medications the doctors said they needed.

    • But why does it need a balance in the first place? And I don't know what could balance the death of an infant child.

  • Krakerjak

    The Perimeter Institute founder Lee Smolin says:

    “One possibility is: God is nothing but the power of the universe to organize itself.”

    This interview should be of interest to both theists and atheists. One may disagree with him on some things....but he certainly brings up interesting points.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3y5IQ3kqMt8

    • Mike

      Aquinas said as much in that all the "emergent properties" or "powers" he called them were put there "into the stars from the beginning" by God.

    • Loreen Lee

      Thanks so much for posting these. Although I'm not going to go through the whole video again, I am left with the 'sense' that he identified both time and space with the image/idea of geometrical forms. He must have really like Buckminister Fuller. But this may also speak of some kind of confusion between space and time. And it does not account for motion: which in one interpretation I would side with Newton, he believed, I understand that space was indeed motionless, without 'time'. Interesting 'speculations'. !!

  • John Taylor Qld Australia

    When you buy a new car, the manufacturer gives you a book of instructions on how to maintain the car to ensure it will run efficiently. One of those instruction is to use petrol to fuel the car. after a while you decide that petrol is too expensive and you start to use kerosene instead. the car cease to function properly, in fact you'll wreck it. So don't bother going back to the manufacturer to complain about the faulty product. God gave us a book of instruction which we have got so far away from that we don't even recognise them any more and then we complain that either their is no God or that he is an unloving monster. GET REAL let US start taking some of the responsibility for the mess we are in. If you don't follow the manufacturers instructions, you get a dysfunctional product. If you throw out the creators laws you get a disastrous world. So quit blaming God and look closely at the mess we have made of the planet

    • David Nickol

      God gave us a book of instruction which we have got so far away from that we don't even recognise them any more and then we complain that either their is no God or that he is an unloving monster.

      Is the book of instruction the Bible?

      As has been noted, the Book of Job in the Bible itself does not actually answer the problem of suffering. It just says, "Who are you to question God?"

      In any case, it is simply not true that all suffering is the result of people not following God's rules.

    • Are you suggesting that God childhood disease, deaths and injuries from natural disaster are human caused suffering?

      • John Taylor Qld Australia

        I am not *suggesting *anything of the kind, I am simply stating that if the rules or the law of the manufacturer are not adhered to, things go wrong sometimes with disastrous consequences. I am not suggesting it, I am merely stating fact.
        If you believe the Bible is the word of God. go to Romans 1:18-32 read it carefully.
        If you don't believe that the Bible is the word of God, look at some of the amazing prophecies that were written, between 4000 and 700 years before Jesus was born and were fulfilled with amazing accuracy.
        The point is that truth is not a matter of opinion, It can't be, because there are thousands of different opinions out there.
        In the end there is only one of them that is the truth. If you can't accept that then you have every right in the world to reject it but no matter how loudly you object. It doesn't change the truth.
        Because of the evidence provided in the Bible I will accept it as truth. What you do is entirely up to you.

        John Taylor.
        Commissioner of Declarations
        0412 163 723
        jt4402@gmail.com

        If you would like a copy of my book "Evolution" The Naked Emperor" send me an email and I will email you a free no obligation copy.

        • I find the system you describe to be one of the most immoral and disgusting possible. Do you really believe a God is good, if he strikes a newborn with and painful and debilitating disease, for what, because his ancestor ate a fruit that was off limits?

          Do you really consider God good if he looks at all the persons suffering injury,my he death of loved ones, hears these millions of prayers by good devout Catholics and his response is "your baby should have thought about getting leukaemia when its ancestors diverged from my nature!" And we say, ok, what a great god!

          If you had a child that you repeatedly told not to go near the knives and he did and cut a finger off. Would you tell the child, sorry, there are consequences to your misbehaviour, your on your own to get relief from that injury. I won't take you to the hospital. That would be abominable. You would not ignore the cries for help. You would care for the child, help heal them as much as possible, and above all, explain why this happened and how to avoid it in the future.

          • John Taylor Qld Australia

            WHY did God allow this to happen?

            Would you agree that in order to prevent a problem from occurring we need to take away the cause of the problem?

            Are you prepared to identify the cause of the problem?
            This question needs to be answered.

            To start with God made it very clear that if humanity (there
            were only two of them at the time) disobeyed His instructions, there would be major problems, Humanity, as it was at the time, ignored these instructions and decided “we will do it our way” and that decision was given a name. It’s called sin. (See genesis 3:17-19)

            Do you think that humanity (that’s us) have improved since?.
            The answer is we have got worse. Look at the mess we have made. God warned us about this. He told us it would happen, but we know better, so we just keep on doing the things He told us not to do and we expect to live in a perfect world.

            So how does God cure all the problems we have today? How does He get rid of the wars, the hatred, the greed, the suffering?

            He gets rid of the cause.

            If He got rid of that cause today and wiped away all the
            pain and suffering, we would be back doing exactly the same thing tomorrow and we would have the same problem all over again.

            But at the end of the day God has a plan to get rid of
            this mess.

            Revelation 21:4
            And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

            Whether you are prepared to accept this solution or not is your decision, but until you come up with a better one Faith in God is the only hope we’ve got.

            Take it or leave it, it’s your choice

          • No I do not agree that you need to take away the cause of a problem to prevent it from occurring. You just need to prevent the problem. For example, god need not prevent an earthquake to prevent the suffering it causes. He just needs to save the people.

            God did not tell Adam and Eve "there would be problems" he certainly did not clarify that if they ate the fruit they would spawn billions of descendants all of who would experience pain and suffering through no fault of their own. He told them that they would die that day. They didn't and god clarified what the punishment was, pain in childbirth for women, toil for men. I guess that wasn't clear either. What did god really mean? Disobey me and you will spiritually die today, but physically live for hundreds more years. Your disobedience will cause a thing called evil to occur which plague billions of descendants and include things like childhood cancers, hurricanes and so on? I do not think that is clear at all. In fact, those passages appear to be lies or at least wilful misleading.

            Do I think humanity has improved since? Not sure when you mean but since the species first evolved, I absolutely think we have improved. We have definitely improved since the Middle Ages when Christianity held the most power it ever has.

            I see no evidence that any god exists or has done anything to reduce war or disease. He could certainly have saved millions of lives had he given us a hint about antibiotics 2000 years ago, but his advice then was to sell everything we have and follow him, take no heed of the future and so on.

            Presumably you believe that the cause of all suffering is human nature, presumably you also believe that the only solution to our sin is Jesus' sacrifice. Most Christians seem to accept that salvation comes through accepting Jesus' sacrifice and repenting of sins. I don't see why this means that people who do accept him and truly repent must watch in horror as thier babies die of genetic disease. Sounds to me like Christians believe that the price of sin has been paid, or maybe you think it wasn't enough but little children also needed to suffer and die for thousands of years too.

          • John Taylor Qld Australia

            As I said Brian It's your choice You are every bit as entitled to make whatever choice you wish as I am.
            God gave us that gift in the garden of Eden.
            He did not tell Adam that he would die that day He told him he would die.
            In my many years of experience, one thing I have learned is that with every choice we make, there is a consequence that consequence can be good or it can be horrible. I know because I've made a lot of wrong decisions.. It's called cause and effect.
            Once again you can believe what you like, but turning people against God and against the promise and the hope He has given us might just prove to be one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
            Just in finishing I can tell you that one of the reasons I sincerely believe and trust in God is because of some of the incredible answers I have had to prayer and many of them were not exactly as I expected

          • Genesis 2:17 "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

            Well, all I can tell you is if I could I would believe in any god, is choose to be what I think is good, but I cannot choose to believe something.

            Whenever I have prayed to God I get not answers or any indication I am doing anything other than talking to myself.

          • John Taylor Qld Australia

            Believe me I know exactly how you feel. I have had the same problem. I have had quite a lot of almost immediate answers to prayer but sometimes when I prayed, nothing happened and I cannot give you an explanation for that. But then I cannot claim to know the mind of God.
            There was however one time when I was in deep trouble I wont go into detail but things were pretty bad and I had no idea how to solve the problem In fact in the situation I was in there was no way out. I prayed and I prayed and nothing happened. I remember one day driving into Brisbane and literally screaming at God to help me and nothing happened. I must tell you that this this problem was a financial one. I was resigned to the possibility of losing my house and everything else I had. 11 years later I was cleaning out a old garden shed to replace it with a new garage I had ordered to pay for my new car which I had paid cash for. in the past 11 years some really strange things happened. I got calls from companies I had never even heard of offering me work that I had never even thought of. Over the 11 years I had paid off all my debts landscaped my garden and bought a new car and had a healthy bank balance. and I hardly even noticed it happening. as I said before Brian what you believe is your choice
            But please and I say again please do not attempt to destroy my faith in the God that I have had good reason to trust for the past 74 years, please do not try to destroy the hope that my faith has sustained me for those years. If you ever do that to anybody you will have achieved nothing and will surely have rendered no service to man

          • John Taylor Qld Australia

            The sentence that reads 11 years later I was cleaning out a old garden shed to replace it with a new garage I had ordered to "pay for my new car"
            which I had paid cash for.
            Should read to "garage my new car " Not to pay for my new car

          • John Taylor Qld Australia

            Believe me I know
            exactly how you feel. I have had the same problem. I have had quite a lot of almost immediate answers to prayer but sometimes when I prayed, nothing happened and I cannot give you an explanation for that. But then I cannot claim
            to know the mind of God.

            There was however, one time when I was in deep trouble I wont go into detail but things were pretty bad and I had no idea how to solve the problem In fact in the situation I was in there was no way out. I prayed and I prayed and nothing happened.
            I remember one day driving into Brisbane and literally screaming at God to help me, and nothing happened.
            I must tell you that this this problem was a financial one. I was resigned to the possibility of losing my house and everything else I had.
            11 years later I was cleaning out a old garden shed to replace it with a new garage I had ordered to garage my new car which I had paid cash for when I suddenly realised that in the past 11 years some really strange things had happened.
            During that time I got calls from companies I had never heard of offering me work that I had never even thought I could do. Two of the jobs were with major finance companies, I had never been involved with finance in my life Over that 11 years I had paid off all my debts landscaped my garden and bought a new car a new garage and had a healthy bank balance. and I hardly even noticed it happening. as I said before Brian what you believe is your choice
            But please and I say again please, do not attempt to destroy my faith in the God that I have had good reason to have trusted for the past 74 years, please do not try
            to destroy the hope that my faith has sustained me for those years.
            If you ever do that to anybody you will have achieved nothing and will surely have rendered no service to man.

          • Doug Shaver

            He did not tell Adam that he would die that day

            According to many translations, that is exactly what he told Adam. http://biblehub.com/parallel/genesis/2-17.htm

          • Doug Shaver

            God warned us about this.

            Some people say so.

        • Doug Shaver

          If you would like a copy of my book "Evolution" The Naked Emperor" send me an email and I will email you a free no obligation copy.

          According to Amazon, the author's name is Antony Latham. Is that you?

          • John Taylor Qld Australia

            No the original title of my book was "The Emperors no clothes" but since writong ot I have added some more information and changed the title. I was not aware that there was another book of that name.Thanks for pointing that out

  • Krakerjak

    Correct me if I am wrong....but the number of comments on this one particular article in this short a time frame, may be at an all time high. If so,,,,why is this so? I find it interesting that there seems to be an unusually high preponderance of theist commenters....though I have not counted them...but that is just an impression I have, after having read through most of them. I find this interesting statistically speaking. As I say...I have not counted the comments...yet....so I am just expressing a fallible impression. Am I the only one with this impression?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I've noticed a bunch of new commenters.

      I want to know why one guy got 100+ up votes. How did that happen?

      • David Nickol

        I want to know why one guy got 100+ up votes. How did that happen?

        I am curious about that one myself. And for such a wrongheaded message, too! :P

        Who counts as a "guest"? Someone without a Disqus account? Of the 105 up votes for the message in question, 85 were guest votes.

    • Marc Riehm

      Theodicy _will_ draw the crowd, no doubt. But maybe some are ringers.

  • MKDAWUSS

    The funny thing is, he's essentially said those exact same things in a BigThink interview a couple of years before (with some other thoughts).

    There are some points that I think have some level of validity - in the clip, he's essentially making (or at least referring to) the point that... You can't have it both ways - if God is responsible for everything good, he's also got to be responsible for everything bad. Thank God that you won, but don't blame him if you lost.

    He can certainly make things convenient one way or the other.

  • Rosita Den

    We live in a world in which diversity prevails. People of faith need to be willing and able to dialogue with a whole variety of beliefs both religious and secular. Dismissing any one particular view, especially an atheistic one, as a "rant" does not promote dialogue. Instead it fosters a them-and-us separation which arises from superior self-perception. Nothing is less likely to engender conversion of the other than such an approach and attitude. After all, don't we follow the man who entered into a dialogue, nay debate, with a Syrophoenican woman (Mathew 15:21-28)? Interestingly enough, not only did she win the debate, Jesus is undoubtedly portrayed as NOT making ANY attempt to convert her....

  • Hugger

    I see no reason to reply to childish sensationalists. Fry wants attention, so he throws a tantrum, saying controversial stuff. It is not done out of "belief" It is done to garner butt kissees from the leftist media, and as a deliberate provocation of believers. Its done out of hate, a need to lash out, and a childish, overweening need for attention.
    Why give it to him?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Aren't you in the wrong place, then? Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue.

      • David Nickol

        I think Hugger has at least half a point. Why is Fr. Barron so frequently targeting the "New Atheists" and others with extreme points of view? It would be like the atheists here always insisting on attacking religion by denouncing Voodoo, Islamic extremists, and the Westboro Baptist Church. It's not that hard to look good if you attack your weakest and most extreme opponents.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Why do atheists here constantly attack Catholics due to things in the OT and ignore the NT entirely (when Catholics don't approve of any of those bad things in the OT)?

          • David Nickol

            As far as I know, there is no definitive Catholic answer to questions about the "dark passages" in the Old Testament such as whether or not God commanded genocide.

          • Marc Riehm

            "Catholics don't approve of any of those bad things in the OT". Like God toying with Job's family, I guess.

          • We don't see how you can't approve of them when they are clearly described as God's actions. If you believe that God killed all the first born in Egypt, we cry foul. This action is one that we cannot conclude can be justified by any purpose.

            If you do not accept that God killed these people, we do not accept that you can consider any of the OT to be true when it comes to the actions of the deity. If you can explain away the Exodus massacre, you have given such a wide margin for interpretation that you cannot then insist on such a narrow interpretation of Genesis, original sin and things like prophecies of Jesus. Christianity loses its foundation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know how to interpret the dark passages of the OT in terms of literal history, including a literal history of God's actions.

            I do know that from the beginning, the Church interpreted OT passages in the light of Christ. The Church looks at the third chapter of Genesis and sees in it her doctrine of original sin. She looks at the Flood and sees Baptism. She looks at the Passover and sees the Eucharist and the Passion of Christ. And so on.

          • So you would not rely on anything in the OT to support a belief in Jesus, rather only the other way round?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Part of what the Church sees in the OT are prophesies and promises that are fulfilled in Christ and his Church. Isaiah 53 is an example of a prophesy. The "protoevangelium" in Genesis 3 is an example of a promise.

          • Right, I interpret the Bible as a whole. I would say it is wrong to interpret the old only through the new and vice versa.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There are many correct ways to interpret the Bible. For example, each book can be looked at individually according to itinerary genre; in relationship to every other book in the Bible; in relation to the rest of Divine Revelation. Then, the OT can be read on its own; so can the NT. The NT can be read in light of the OT and the OT in light of the NT. There are also the three "spiritual" senses in which any book of the Bible can be read.

          • Marc Riehm

            What is to be seen by looking at the flood and the passover is the slaughter of innocent children. Our cultural fondness for these stories is very telling of human nature - we focus on the protagonists, and are blind to the horror of God's pawns. It is so ironic that these are two of the most classic children's stories of the bible.

            It is also ironic that this SN article falls into the same trap: rather than examining theodicy through the story of Job, look at it from the perspective of his wife.

          • Marc Riehm

            It's not enough to punt on the "literal history". The stories of the deluge and the passover are morally reprehensible, in an absolute sense. They're nasty as history, they're nasty as fable, they're nasty as allegory. If a king used his power in similar manners, he would rightly be viewed as a monster. Why do we excuse (and laud, and worship!) Yahweh? These are immoral stories. End of story,.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            They are nasty as history for many people today but not then.

            I don't see why they are nasty as fables or allegories.

          • Marc Riehm

            The slaughter of innocents is immoral, no matter who does it. If you really think about those stories, you cannot derive positive meaning from them.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So when you read Aesop's fable of the ant and the grasshopper do you get all upset at the ant because the grasshopper is hungry in winter?

            A hundred generations of Jews have found a positive meaning in the Passover story. I think they think it illustrates God's justice toward the Chosen People.

          • Marc Riehm

            No, Aesop is okay because the story has a valuable moral behind it. The passover story is an immoral story of the abuse of power and the collective punishment of innocent children.

            Yes, many Jews (and Christians) treasure the story, which is just one among many stories of atrocity - God's atrocity - in the bible. Morality is not determined by a head count.

          • Green Adams Kevin Aldrich • an hour ago

            We don't see how you can't approve of them when they are clearly described as God's actions. If you believe that God killed all the first born in Egypt, we cry foul. This action is one that we cannot conclude can be justified by any purpose.

            Out of curiousity, what is your stance on abortion?

            As for God's actions, God is omnipotent. He gives life and He takes it away.

            With which part of that do you have the most trouble?

            If you do not accept that God killed these people, we do not accept that you can consider any of the OT to be true when it comes to the actions of the deity.

            All the lives of every person who ever lived were taken by God. Every single one. God is the author of life.

            If you can explain away the Exodus massacre, you have given such a wide margin for interpretation that you cannot then insist on such a narrow interpretation of Genesis, original sin and things like prophecies of Jesus. Christianity loses its foundation.

            The foundation of Christianity is the omnipotence and love of God.

            For you, an atheist, you see only this life and you think it grievous that anyone should lose their life. But, I am no longer an atheist. I understand that everything which God does and permits is ultimately for our eternal good.

            Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

          • On abortion? I am against criminalizing it or making it difficult for women to have. I think it is unfortunate when some have abortions, but I make no moral judgement against them.

            I have the problem with the taking away. In the context of exodus I think it is immoral to kill the children of Egypt, as well as every first born man and old person, for any of the reasons advanced as justifying that massacre.

            Sure you believe there is a god and that he can take away life and no matter what. I disagree I think that some killing is immoral irrespective of whether or not one is the author of it.

            I just think that killing babies to a) allow one group of people to go pray, b) take some people out of slavery, or c) show how powerful you are, is immoral and unjustified. You obviously think otherwise. That since God created life it is not immoral for him to kill babies. Do you really think that?

          • Brian Green Adams De Maria • 8 hours ago

            On abortion? I am against criminalizing it or making it difficult for women to have. I think it is unfortunate when some have abortions, but I make no moral judgement against them.

            Lol! But you're making a moral judgment against God when He decides to take life back?

            I have the problem with the taking away.

            No, no. You're not allowed to have a problem with thee taking away anymore. You want to allow women to take away the life of their children whenever they want. Uh, uh. You're not allowed to have any problem with the taking away.

            Besides, if you're atheist, you probably believe in survival of the fittest. The aborted unborn didn't survive. Therefore, you simply chalk it up to the elimination of the weak and helpless who hamper the progress of humankind.

            In the context of exodus I think it is immoral to kill the children of Egypt, as well as every first born man and old person, for any of the reasons advanced as justifying that massacre.

            I could see it as immoral if you did it. You didn't give them life. But God is taking back that which He gave.

            Now, I assume you're an atheist. But you've voluntarily entered the "what-if" scenario. What if God exists? If God exists...Is He subject to the same moral code to which we are subject? If He creates something, is it His? And since He created it, can He take it back whenever He wants?

            Sure you believe there is a god and that he can take away life and no matter what. I disagree I think that some killing is immoral irrespective of whether or not one is the author of it.

            Based upon what? You agree that women can kill their unborn? What do you base that upon?

            I just think that killing babies to a) allow one group of people to go pray, b) take some people out of slavery, or c) show how powerful you are, is immoral and unjustified.

            But killing babies in the womb in order that a woman may look more attractive and go fornicate with someone else is justified?

            You obviously think otherwise.

            Yes.

            That since God created life it is not immoral for him to kill babies. Do you really think that?

            God does it all the time, Brian. You either accept it and trust that God knows what He is doing.

            Or you object to it knowing that you can't do anything about it.

            As for me, I have come to believe that God is good and loving. I trust God. And believe that all which He does is for the greater good of humanity.

            And women do it all the time also, when they abort their children.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Lol! But you're making a moral judgment against God when He decides to take life back?

            It does not follow that the creator of autonomous beings has the authority to dispose of them as he sees fit, because he is the creator. You would have to demonstrate that.

            If I built a robot that was essentially human, it would not be moral for me to arbitrarily take the robot's life just because I authored it.

            No, no. You're not allowed to have a problem with thee taking away anymore. You want to allow women to take away the life of their children whenever they want. Uh, uh. You're not allowed to have any problem with the taking away.

            Fetuses are not children. Abortion is a very complex issue; the mother also has rights. Even the Roman Church allows abortion in certain cases. One can have a problem with taking life in general, and yet realize that there are cases when taking life is necessary (say war), but only necessary because we are not all-powerful.

            Besides, if you're atheist, you probably believe in survival of the fittest. The aborted unborn didn't survive. Therefore, you simply chalk it up to the elimination of the weak and helpless who hamper the progress of humankind.

            That is not a consequence of atheism nor is it a consequence of evolution. Nor is that how anyone justifies abortion.

            If God exists...Is He subject to the same moral code to which we are subject? If He creates something, is it His? And since He created it, can He take it back whenever He wants?

            Perhaps. No. No.

            Based upon what? You agree that women can kill their unborn? What do you base that upon?

            Utilitarianism. Rights of the women which conflict with the rights of the fetus.

            But killing babies in the womb in order that a woman may look more attractive and go fornicate with someone else is justified?

            Seriously?!? Are you trying to drive people away from Catholicism, because that is all statements like these can accomplish.

          • Ignatius Reilly De Maria • 4 minutes ago

            It does not follow that the creator of autonomous beings has the authority to dispose of them as he sees fit, because he is the creator. You would have to demonstrate that.

            On the contrary, it does follow and you would have to demonstrate that it doesn't.

            If and when I create something, I dispose of it, at will. So does everyone else. You need to prove that, for some strange reason, this is somehow wrong for the One Omnipotent Being in the universe.

            If I built a robot that was essentially human, it would not be moral for me to arbitrarily take the robot's life just because I authored it.

            ROFL! A fetus is essentially human. Yet you are arguing for the right to destroy a fetus at will.

            If you built a robot, it wouldn't be human and it would be right for you to do whatever you wanted to do to it.

            It would not be right for anyone else to do anything to it unless you gave that person permission, whether it was essentially human or not.

            Fetuses are not children.

            ROFLMAO!!!!

            Robots aren't children!!!!! Fetuses are children. Human children.

            Abortion is a very complex issue;

            More's the reason to err on the side of caution and legislate against it.

            the mother also has rights.

            Not the right to kill someone who is human. She can kill any robots that she wants. As many as she wants. But not human beings.

            Even the Roman Church allows abortion in certain cases.

            Nope. Abortion is a grave sin in every and any case.

            Abortion

            2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

            Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73

            My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74

            2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

            You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75

            God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

            One can have a problem with taking life in general, and yet realize that there are cases when taking life is necessary (say war), but only necessary because we are not all-powerful.

            Only when necessary to protect innocent life.

            That is not a consequence of atheism nor is it a consequence of evolution. Nor is that how anyone justifies abortion.

            How do you justify abortion?

            Perhaps. No. No.

            Why not?

            Utilitarianism.

            As I said, therefore, you simply chalk it up to the elimination of the weak and helpless who hamper the progress of humankind.

            Rights of the women which conflict with the rights of the fetus.

            Why do women have more rights than the fetus?

            Seriously?!?

            Seriously. Women are having abortions at will.

            Are you trying to drive people away from Catholicism, because that is all statements like these can accomplish.

            Are you saying that abortionists and pro-choice people won't want to become Catholic? I wish that were so. Unfortunately, we have too many of those already. They don't realize that in supporting abortion, they condemn themselves to hell and that being a Catholic does them no good. In fact, their condemnation will be worse. Because Catholics should know better.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            On the contrary, it does follow and you would have to demonstrate that it doesn't.

            That is not how logic works. You clam that If God is the omnipotent author of autonomous life then he can dispose of the life he created. You have to show that what is italics follows from the antecedent.

            That is basic logic. Perhaps you should read a book on philosophical logic.

            A fetus is essentially human. Yet you are arguing for the right to destroy a fetus at will.

            This is a red herring and a mischaracterization. The question at hand is: can one arbitrarily destroy sentient and autonomous life, if one created said life.

            If you built a robot, it wouldn't be human and it would be right for you to do whatever you wanted to do to it.

            Being human isn't the criteria. It is some of the properties that humans have like free will, autonomy, and sentience that call into question the morality of arbitrarily disposing of them.

            Robots aren't children!!!!! Fetuses are children. Human children.

            There is a difference between a 9 week old fetus and a newborn child. 9 week old fetuses don't have free will, autonomy, sentience, or viability. Are embryos human children?

            Not the right to kill someone who is human. She can kill any robots that she wants. As many as she wants. But not human beings.

            She has the right to determine what happens to her body. This is why there are conflicting rights.

            Again these robots are essentially human - it is impossible to tell the difference between the robot and a human. She does not have the right to kill as many of these robots as she wants.

            Nope. Abortion is a grave sin in every and any case.

            Except to save the life of the mother. Principle of double effect. I believe it originates with Aquinas.

            Only when necessary to protect innocent life.

            This is why abortion is permissible to save the life of the mother. But god cannot have that necessity because he is all-powerful.

            How do you justify abortion?

            I told you. Utilitarianism and the mother's rights.

            As I said, therefore, you simply chalk it up to the elimination of the weak and helpless who hamper the progress of humankind.

            That is not what Utilitarianism is all about. John Stuart Mill would not favor elimination of the weak and helpless for the progress of humankind.

            Why do women have more rights than the fetus?

            Because the fetus lacks autonomy, viability, sentience, and free will. There is a moral difference between early abortions and late term abortions.

            Are you saying that abortionists and pro-choice people won't want to become Catholic?

            No, I am saying that people who are wavering in their faith will be off put by the judgmental tone of that particular comment/

          • Ignatius Reilly De Maria • an hour ago

            That is not how logic works.

            Yes, it is.

            You clam that If God is the omnipotent author of autonomous life then he can dispose of the life he created. You have to show that what is italics follows from the antecedent.

            On the contrary, you have voluntarily entered into a scenario admitting that God is omnipotent. That means He has all power and authority. Therefore, you need to show, as I stated before,

            If and when I create something, I dispose of it, at will. So does everyone else. You need to prove that, for some strange reason, this is somehow wrong for the One Omnipotent Being in the universe.

            That is basic logic. Perhaps you should read a book on philosophical logic.

            Lol! On the contrary, that is basic, "let me con my way out of this situation", logic. You're basically making things up as you go along.

            Now, if you claim that this is the logic to follow, then provide the proof from some authoritative source. Otherwise, you're basically making an argument from your own baseless authority.

            This is a red herring and a mischaracterization.

            No, no. You're still trying to con your way out of the hole you dug for yourself.

            You just admitted that you believe that women can kill children. At the same time you deny that God can take the life of the very same children.

            The question at hand is: can one arbitrarily destroy sentient and autonomous life, if one created said life.

            God created humans. You created a robot. God took and to this day, takes the life of the humans. You also have the right to take the life of your robot. Your robot is not a human. If he were, he would be God's property.

            If you built a robot, it wouldn't be human and it would be right for you to do whatever you wanted to do to it.

            That's what I said.

            Being human isn't the criteria. It is some of the properties that humans have like free will, autonomy, and sentience that call into question the morality of arbitrarily disposing of them.

            Being human is the criteria. Human beings are endowed with souls by their Creator. These souls endow us with free will, autonomy and sentience. God has every right to call us back.

            But I think I see your problem. When you create the robot, you see yourself creating someone equal to you.

            That is not equivalent to God creating man. God did not create anything equal to Himself. God is omnipotent. God is more valuable than any human being and than all human beings put together.

            There is a difference between a 9 week old fetus and a newborn child. 9 week old fetuses don't have free will, autonomy, sentience, or viability. Are embryos human children?

            Yes sir.

            She has the right to determine what happens to her body.

            Who says its her body? The body grows and changes and does things which she has no control over. She didn't bring it into being and does not keep it alive. She doesn't make it age and when her time comes, God will also take her spirit back. And that body which she was occupying will return to dust.

            This is why there are conflicting rights.

            Nope. They both have the right to live. The rights aren't in conflict until one decides to take the life of the other.

            Again these robots are essentially human - it is impossible to tell the difference between the robot and a human.

            If you create a robot. And you don't want the robot. Kill it.

            She does not have the right to kill as many of these robots as she wants.

            She does if she created them or if you gave her permission to do so.

            Except to save the life of the mother. Principle of double effect. I believe it originates with Aquinas.

            Lol! I provided the official Catholic Catechism. You're arguing with guesses and suspicions.

            This is why abortion is permissible to save the life of the mother.

            The child is not attempting to take the life of the mother.

            In a case, where the mother is at risk of death, the Catholic Church does not put a higher value on the mother than upon the child. And women who love their children generally put a higher value upon the child's life than their own.

            But god cannot have that necessity because he is all-powerful.

            Not in question.

            I told you. Utilitarianism

            You denied that before. I said abortion was justified as a means to advance humanity, you rejected that idea.

            Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing total benefit and reducing suffering or the negatives.

            The benefit which is being maximized is the benefit to mankind, is it not?

            and the mother's rights.

            The mother has no right to kill another human being.

            Or are you also a proponent of euthanasia in the name of utilitarianism?

            That is not what Utilitarianism is all about. John Stuart Mill would not favor elimination of the weak and helpless for the progress of humankind.

            Hm? Who is John Stuart Mill? Are you arguing from his authority? Are you saying, "this is what he believes, therefore I believe it"?

            I mean, I'm a follower of Christ. Are you a follower of John Stuart Mill?

            Because the fetus lacks autonomy, viability, sentience, and free will.

            But the fetus, has a soul. And with that soul, he will have autonomy, viability, sentience and free will. Who are you or any other human being to deny those to him?

            There is a moral difference between early abortions and late term abortions.

            No, there aren't. The spirit of God is already coursing through God's robot. Only He has the right to shut it off.

            No, I am saying that people who are wavering in their faith will be off put by the judgmental tone of that particular

            1. Its judgmental to deny that anyone has the right to kill a child for their convenience?

            2. And am I supposed to lie about the Catholic faith in order to induce them to become Catholic? How long do you think they would be Catholic once they found out the truth?

            In the Gospel of St. John, chapter 6, Jesus explained that He was going to establish the Eucharist. Wherein, He would give us His flesh and blood to consume. All his disciples, numbering in the thousands, left. Only 12 were left and Jesus invited them to leave rather than compromising the truth.

            I don't think Jesus will care if people who have little faith do not choose His Church:

            Matthew 13:12 To anyone who has, more will be given[a]and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm going to respond to your first few parts in one quote.

            On the contrary, you have voluntarily entered into a scenario admitting that God is omnipotent. That means He has all power and authority. Therefore, you need to show, as I stated before,

            .......

            Lol! On the contrary, that is basic, "let me con my way out of this situation", logic. You're basically making things up as you go along.

            Now, if you claim that this is the logic to follow, then provide the proof from some authoritative source. Otherwise, you're basically making an argument from your own baseless authority.

            You think that the conditional: If God is the omnipotent creator if autonomous life then it is moral for God to dispose of said life however he sees fit is true. A conditional is true or false irrespective of whether or not the antecedent is true. My allowing for an Omnipotent God to exist says nothing about whether or not we can conclude that God can dispose of human life how he sees fit. That has to be demonstrated.

            Let's start with some definitions.

            Omnipotence : Having unlimited power. Or perhaps the property of being able to do bring about all things that are not logically impossible.

            Omniscience All-knowing

            Omnibevolence Always acting so the most moral outcome happens.

            Ethics answers the ought question. Beings are good by doing what they ought to do. For instance that "one ought to love thy neighbor" is moral statement.

            You claim that God has the authority to dispose of humans however he likes. Firstly, I do not see how this follows from Omnipotence, unless you are simply meaning authority to mean ability. Obviously, an all-powerful being as the ability to do anything, but that does not mean that he has the moral right, which is what I assume you mean by authority. Saying that God has the ability to kill humans does not justify the principle that God ought to kill humans.

            God cannot arbitrarily dispose of autonomous beings and remain all-good. Usually, catholics argue that God only allows evil for the greater good - saying that God just has the right to do whatever He wants, and that's it does nothing to answer the problem of evil. Your theodicy needs to account for both God's supposed goodness and power.

            Being human is the criteria. Human beings are endowed with souls by their Creator. These souls endow us with free will, autonomy and sentience. God has every right to call us back.

            He doesn't just call us back. He orders genocide. These are two different moral propositions.

            That is not equivalent to God creating man. God did not create anything equal to Himself. God is omnipotent. God is more valuable than any human being and than all human beings put together.

            It's not about being equal to God. It is about the rights of beings who have free will and sentience.

            Who says its her body? The body grows and changes and does things which she has no control over. She didn't bring it into being and does not keep it alive. She doesn't make it age and when her time comes, God will also take her spirit back. And that body which she was occupying will return to dust

            So we don't have a right to self-determination? So much for liberal democracy....

            The point is that the mother has a right of self-determination, while the child also has a right to life. These rights can conflict. However, one can morally argue that the right of the child supersedes the right of the mother, and one can also argue the other side.

            Lol! I provided the official Catholic Catechism. You're arguing with guesses and suspicions.

            I know that Aquinas argued it and that the Church allows for it. I just wasn't sure if Aquinas was the first philosopher to articulate it.

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/double-effect/

            You denied that before. I said abortion was justified as a means to advance humanity, you rejected that idea.

            Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing total benefit and reducing suffering or the negatives.

            The benefit which is being maximized is the benefit to mankind, is it not?

            If you read Utilitarian thinkers, you would know that your characterizations are straw men.

            Hm? Who is John Stuart Mill? Are you arguing from his authority? Are you saying, "this is what he believes, therefore I believe it"?

            I mean, I'm a follower of Christ. Are you a follower of John Stuart Mill?

            John Stuart Mill is the most influential advocate of Utilitarianism. My point is that if you read what your opponents had to say about these subjects, you would not so horribly mischaracterize what they think.

            http://www.amazon.com/Utilitarianism-John-Stuart-Mill/dp/147514623X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423863403&sr=1-2&keywords=utilitarianism

            But the fetus, has a soul. And with that soul, he will have autonomy, viability, sentience and free will. Who are you or any other human being to deny those to him?

            While I do not believe that the fetus has a soul, I do believe that a fetus has rights. I have pro-life tendencies and do not believe that abortion is always moral. However, I object to your straw man characterizations of a very complex issue.

            Its judgmental and off-putting to think that people get abortions so they can look good and fornicate. That is what you said.

          • Your darn right I make a moral judgement against any being who would kill children for no reason. I see nothing morally wrong with abortion and I would be happy to explain why, and why I am being morally consistent. But this topic is not about me or my morality it is about the character you worship as all good.

            I don't know how morality would work out if God exists and want moral means is consistent with his nature. Are there two standards of morality, depending on your power and what you created? I understood theists to believe in a single objective moral standard, not a sliding scale.

            I personally disagree with the moral value that whatever one creates, one is entitled to destroy. I would say anyone is entitled to destroy whatever they want unless it harms or significantly abridges the rights of others. Usually this means not killing any humans, though there are exceptions. For me I created that human does not render the killing moral.

            This is based on my moral analysis which has to do with harm, freedom, and considerations of the interests of others. Again, I would be happy to explain it to you, but this would be quite a tangent.

            With respect to the unborn, I simply do not consider them to be entities with any interest in whether they live or die and accordingly is not a moral question, or of little significance than the mothers ability to choose whether she wants to allow this part of her body to grow and potentially harm her. If I am wrong and the unborn are entities with an interest in their survival, I would join you in considering it immoral to end a pregnancy.

            But you don't answer the fundamental question I put to you: rather than just trust that it was somehow moral for god to kill thousands of Egyptians, can you think do any reason that could justify the slaughter?

          • Doug Shaver

            But you're making a moral judgment against God when He decides to take life back?

            I don't judge beings that I think are nonexistent. But I am OK with judging people who think something is moral if a sufficiently powerful being says it's moral.

          • David Nickol

            I could see it as immoral if you did it. You didn't give them life. But God is taking back that which He gave.

            What about 1 Samuel 15:

            Samuel said to Saul: “It was I the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel. Now, therefore, listen to the message of the LORD.

            Thus says the LORD of hosts: I will punish what Amalek did to the Israelites when he barred their way as they came up from Egypt.

            Go, now, attack Amalek, and put under the ban everything he has. Do not spare him; kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

            It is certainly arguable that God has the power of life and death over human beings, but can he delegate it? And if he can delegate it, would it be sufficient for him to delegate the power to Saul, who would then order he generals to kill innocent women, who would in turn tell the men serving under them to kill innocent women and children?

            If God can suspend "You shall not murder" because it is a rule he made, then how do we know any particular act that looks like a murder is wrong. What if after much prayer and searching of conscience, I feel God wants me to kill someone? It would be my duty to obey God's will, so if God can delegate his power of life and death to a human being, how can a human being ever be sure he or she can't murder someone?

          • Well, I'm a former atheist and now a devout Catholic. I had to wrestle with those things in the OT in order to understand the nature of God whom, today, I am convinced exists and is a loving God.

            The reason why they attack the things in the OT is because they seem inconsistent with the Christian idea of a loving God.

        • Roman

          Bad example. The "New Atheists" enjoy wide spread support in the atheist community (if all those best selling books and sold out talks on college campuses are any indication). In contrast, how many Catholics do you suppose support the Westboro Baptist church or Islamic extremists?

          • David Nickol

            I don't think there really is anything that might meaningfully be called the "atheist community."

            In contrast, how many Catholics do you suppose support the Westboro Baptist church or Islamic extremists?

            I did not say or imply Catholics supported Islamic extremists or the Westboro Baptist Church. I said atheists could attack religion by focusing on Islamic extremists or the Westboro Baptist Church. In the theist-atheist debate, the theists often appeal to the total number of believers, as if the numerical total of people who believe in some kind of god proved anything.

            I think Rowan Williams made a good response to Stephen Fry, saying, in part, "It would be a very stupid and very insensitive person who never felt that"—that is, the feelings Stephen Fry expressed.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't think there really is anything that might meaningfully be called the "atheist community."

            I don't see why not, unless you think a community needs some kind of institutional structure in order to exist.

      • Hugger

        So, because you do not like how I say it, you imply I am not "serious and respectful?"
        But all the awful things Fry said are, right? Its Ok to stoop to the gutter attacking believers, but if you call them on it, you are not "serious and respectful"?
        Sorry, that tactic wont work. Not anymore. Not with me. Prove me wrong, or at least come up with something more adult than ad hominem attacks.
        Are you defending him by attacking me? Why the hypocrisy of treating his childish attacks seriously, but objecting to my questioning his motives?
        Why is it believers are not allowed to defend themselves and their faith, and people like you attempt to shame them, but we are supposed to endure any vile attack without objection? It is a mystery to me how many can live with this hypocritical double standard.
        Maybe you should look in the mirror and ask some honest questions, eh?
        It is my experience, with atheists and those who attack God and believers, is that they do not really disbelieve in God. They hate Him too much, and you cannot hate what does not exist. But since God is out of reach, they lash out at believers instead.
        They are also, as stated in my previous post, in need of attention.
        I see no reason to give them a pass. Jesus didn't give one to the high priests and Pharisees.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

          • Hugger

            You have no rational reply, so again, contempt.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I suggest you read this and then apply it to your two comments before you draw any more conclusions.

            https://strangenotions.com/commenting/

          • Doug Shaver

            I know what my verdict is.

        • Marc Riehm

          But, but... Sputter, sputter...
          (Spontaneous human combustion)

          • Hugger

            C'mon Marc, a couple cups of coffee and some hangover pills and you can spew out something. Try "Woof woof!" Its simple and uses short, easy to say words!

    • I don't know how familiar you are with Stephen Fry, but the suggestion that he is doing this to garner media attention is rather silly. He is an acclaimed author, actor and TV presenter. He is widely accepted as one of the most intelligent and wittiest people in the United Kingdom. He is dead in the limelight of the United Kingdom, I don't see how he could get more attention already.

      But there is nothing sensational or attention seeking about his comment, it is one you would expect to hear from pretty much any atheist who has thought about the issue.

      Now you can come forward with some reasons why an all powerful omnibenovolent god would allow millions of children to die before they hear the gospel, but I have never heard one. Your ad hominem attack suggests you have no answer to the problem of suffering either.

      Fry was being interviewed on someone else's show. He gets enough attention from the many tv shows he himself stars in, and certainly from his recent wedding to a man decades younger than him.

      • Hugger

        It proves my point. He is the Dawkins of the UK. Maintains his fame by provoking those who disagree, and making them look ignorant. Whenever he needs more attention, he comes up with some outrageous statement, such as Dawkins justification for retroactive "abortions" murder actually, of the retarded. Its outrageous and vile, but because he is touted as "witty" and "intelligent" and believers are always characterized as brain-washed and gullible, its Ok to poke them with sticks.
        I notice that believers are never "acclaimed" "intelligent" or "witty" If they use his tactics, as I did, they are attacked, even by their fellow believers. Why the double standard? The personal blindness to Truth?
        Fry has made a rep, exactly as I described, by pushing an agenda the leftist media approves of, and throwing out the occasional bone of provocation to maintain the limelight on himself. Just like Dawkins.
        It is my experience that atheists have the worst motives. I have never, ever yet, run across one who was an atheist because he had made a reasoned, rational, unbiased examination of the issue. You will always find petty and self-centered motives.
        Possibly, there are some genuine atheists, who are invisible because of it. Unlike the hostile ones, they are not fool enough to betray themselves by hostility towards something they claim does not exist. But with Fry, Dawkins and their ilk, its a deliberate scheme.

        • Doug Shaver

          I have never, ever yet, run across one who was an atheist because he had made a reasoned, rational, unbiased examination of the issue.

          You have now.

          • Peter

            How can ignoring or failing to recognise the signs of design in the cosmos be rational? Even though these signs provide only indirect evidence of design, it is not rational to rule them out as though they don't exist.

            Surely a reasoned, rational and unbiased examination would conclude that design is possible and, if so, so is a designer.

          • Doug Shaver

            How can ignoring or failing to recognise the signs of design in the cosmos be rational?

            I'm not ignoring them or faling to recognize them. I'm accepting an alternative explanation for those signs.

            Surely a reasoned, rational and unbiased examination would conclude that design is possible and, if so, so is a designer.

            I don't deny the possibility of design. I even accept that there is design in a sense. What I am denying is the necessity of design by an intelligent agent. I believe that the signs of apparent design are more parsimoniously explained by the workings of natural forces.

          • Peter

            At this stage let's not necessarily posit a God, just an intelligent designer, perhaps a super-alien from another universe. In that case, the appearance of design would be far more parsimoniously explained by an alien designer than by hypothetical natural forces.

            For example, there is no natural explanation for the extremely refined low entropy conditions of the early universe putting the universe on an inevitable course towards high entropy, a course driven by the necessary creation of complexity from which life and consciousness emerge.

            A universe where life and consciousness, representing the pinnacle of complexity, are indispensable to its existence smacks inevitably of design. I cannot see any rational way to avoid it.

          • Doug Shaver

            In that case, the appearance of design would be far more parsimoniously explained by an alien designer than by hypothetical natural forces.

            Right. Until somebody asked how those aliens came to exist. Or is that something nobody is supposed to ask?

          • Peter

            Does it matter for the sake of the argument? The universe has an overwhelming appearance of design, and each new scientific discovery supports it. Past attempts to debunk the appearance of design have failed.

            Darwinists have claimed that evolution by natural selection is the answer to the appearance that life on earth is designed, so that the appearance of design is merely an illusion.

            However, we now know that life of ever increasing complexity is a necessary factor driving the course of the universe from lesser to greater entropy. Darwinism has been turned on its head. Evolution by natural selection, as an integral part of the wider evolution of the universe towards high entropy, itself has the appearance of design.

            Faced with the overwhelming appearance of design at all levels, it is not rational to rule it out on the grounds that we are unable to conceive a designer. The rational thing to do is keep an open mind.

          • Doug Shaver

            Does it matter for the sake of the argument?

            Yes, it does. If the aliens show no evidence of design, then the argument fails.

            The universe has an overwhelming appearance of design, and each new scientific discovery supports it.

            You say so.

            The rational thing to do is keep an open mind.

            And if I had an open mind, I wouldn't be disagreeing with you?

          • Peter

            I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean by your first sentence.

            Regarding scientific discoveries, there are no discoveries I know of which do not support the notion of design. I would welcome any suggestions, though.

            Finally, your complete lack of credence in a Creator, despite the appearance of design, suggests that your mind is closed to any likelihood of such a Creator being an explanation for reality.

          • Doug Shaver

            I would welcome any suggestions, though.

            Would you, really?

            I used to believe in design. I was a creationist. I saw design in everything I looked at. But the more learned about what science had to say about the what makes the universe tick, the less design I saw, until eventually I realized that I didn't need any supernatural intelligence to explain any of it.

            Finally, your complete lack of credence in a Creator, despite the appearance of design, suggests that your mind is closed to any likelihood of such a Creator being an explanation for reality.

            If you think no one with an open mind can fail to agree with you, then I do not know of any counterargument that would make you think otherwise.

          • Peter

            I am not and never have been a creationist, for the very reason why you ceased to be one. I have always believed that creation unfolds naturally in scientific ways already discovered and yet to be discovered. Even the beginning of the universe itself may have a naturalistic cause in a time-reversal sort of way.

            However, none of this in my opinion precludes the presence of design. We we look at the big picture, and the more we learn about the cosmos, everything appears to fit into place as though belonging to some vast cosmic blueprint.

            In fact, given the overwhelming appearance of design on a grand cosmic scale, and if I were being totally honest, I would be hard-pressed to adopt an atheist viewpoint even if I wanted to. Of course, if scientific discoveries contradicted the idea of a grand design I would rethink my position, but they do not. They support it and that's the rub.

          • Doug Shaver

            However, none of this in my opinion precludes the presence of design.

            So, you think God designed the universe but didn't create it?

          • Peter

            As I am not a creationist, I do not believe that God necessarily lit the blue touch paper or kick-started the universe into existence or conjured it up as if by magic. It is quite possible that the universe created itself in a naturalistic fashion yet to be discovered, although there are already several models which involve time dilation or time reversal.

            Just as the presence of suffering does not preclude the existence of God, nor does the likelihood that the universe physically created itself. If God had designed the universe with precise laws to be vast and fertile, why not design it to create itself with those same laws? There is no contradiction here. The laws driving the growth of the universe would have also driven its creation.

            Creationism is a tricky thing. It presumes that God magicked something up out of nothing or physically intervened to bring something into existence. All God did was call the universe with all its attributes into being and it responded by doing so naturally.

          • Doug Shaver

            So, God's willing the universe into existence was not an act of creation?

            Maybe I'm missing something, but that looks just incoherent to me.

          • Peter

            Yes it is an act of creation, but not in the sense that is understood by creationists and rebutted by atheists. God did not physically create the universe or magically conjure it up because models show how it could have come about naturalistically.

            The creation of the universe through as yet unknown natural means is perceived as creation by God in the same way as the ongoing creation by known natural means within the universe is perceived as creation by God.

            Creationism causes problems because it implies supernaturalism and has allowed observers to make a distinction between natural and supernatural means. By observing what they perceive as natural means, observers have concluded that supernatural means are not needed.

            However, there should be no distinction. What we observe or hypothesize as natural means of creation are nothing more than the means intended by God to create, and that would include the universe too.

            Most frustratingly, creationism and its ID offshoots have caused a lot of confusion. They have given and continue crucial oxygen to an atheist movement which could not exist without them.

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes it is an act of creation, but not in the sense that is understood by creationists and rebutted by atheists.

            The usual sense is the one understood by creationists and most other Christian apologists. Your idiosyncratic sense of the word makes no sense to me. At this point of our conversation, I can discern no difference between a universe created in your sense and an uncreated universe.

          • Peter

            It may be idiosyncratic to you as a former Protestant creationist and current atheist, but it is the Catholic understanding of creation. Only last year Pope Francis stated that God is not a "magician with a magic wand".

            The creationist understanding of creation, and that of other Christians, has fanned the flames of atheism since such an understanding can be falsified by theory and observation.

            The Catholic position, on the other hand, is that God creates through nature. The efforts of atheists to rebut creationist claims by demonstrating how nature creates have only served to strengthen the Catholic position.

          • Doug Shaver

            It is the overwhelming appearance of design, bolstered by scientific discovery, which supports the notion that the universe is designed and therefore created, as opposed to being uncreated.

            That's what I've always understood creationists to be saying. You can sneer all you want at the ways in which they say it, but it boils down to the same thing.

          • Peter

            First, I'm not sneering and second, it's not what creationists are saying. What creationists are saying is that creation is supernatural as opposed to natural, leaving themselves open to falsification when creation is observed or hypothesised to be natural.

            Instead of being bolstered by science, the creationist position is debunked by it. the Catholic position, on the other hand, is strengthened by it.

          • Doug Shaver

            What creationists are saying is that creation is supernatural as opposed to natural

            Yes. They say that (a) the universe must have been created and (b) nature alone does not have the necessary creative power. From those two propositions, they infer that God must have done the creating. Are you denying premise (b)?

          • Peter

            Premise (b) is false. Creationists say that nature has no creative power. They infer nothing but positively claim that only God has creative power which is supernatural.

            That aside, your premise (b) makes no sense from a mainstream Christian perspective either. God creates through nature, so that nature creating is God creating, and inasmuch as it is God creating, nature does have the necessary creative power.

          • Doug Shaver

            That aside, your premise (b) makes no sense from a mainstream Christian perspective either.

            Why should I believe that your perspective is mainstream? I've been reading Christian literature for almost my entire life. I've also gotten somewhat familiar with pantheism, and what you're saying sounds more like pantheism than mainstream Christianity.

          • Peter

            Pantheism is where God is nature. I did not say that. God is not nature but creates through nature.

            However, now that you've mentioned it, the overwhelming appearance of design in the cosmos, bolstered regularly by new findings and hypotheses, would not be inconsistent with the notion of a pantheistic God, except for one crucial point.

            The space-time of the cosmos has a beginning (and thanks to the higgs boson most likely and end) while God is deemed to be eternal. If the cosmos were synonymous with God, God would have a beginning (and an end) and would therefore not be God.

          • Doug Shaver

            Pantheism is . . . .

            I once had an opportunity to talk to a pantheist. He told me what pantheism is. Why should I take your word over his?

          • Peter

            What is pantheism, then? And what science has to say may not be the last word, but it's the best evidence we've got.

          • Doug Shaver

            To state my understanding as simply as possible, it is the claim that the universe is identical with God. My pantheist friend used to taunt conventional theists with the claim: "You can't prove that your God exists, but I can prove that mine exists." And he was right. I just couldn't see any point in sticking the God label onto the universe, and I still don't.

            And what science has to say may not be the last word, but it's the best evidence we've got.

            Theories are not evidence. They are explanations of evidence. That is why scientists revise them to accommodate new evidence when that new evidence is inconsistent with current theory.

          • Peter

            I'm afraid your friend cannot prove that his pantheistic God exists because he cannot prove that the universe is eternal, especially in the light of observations which are consistent with the hypothesis that the universe has a beginning and probably an end.

          • Doug Shaver

            he cannot prove that the universe is eternal,

            He doesn't need to. The universe is all that exists, which includes time. It follows that there was no time when the universe did not exist.

          • Peter

            Your premise that the universe represents the totality of existence appears as a statement of fact, yet you have no proof to present it as such.

            You have no proof that the beginning of time and its likely end represent the totality of existence. The absence of time does not necessarily mean the absence of existence.

            Pure existence may be eternal, with no beginning and no end and, when identified as God, it is deemed to be so. Time, however, is not eternal. It has a beginning and most likely an end. Therefore time, or more precisely the universe, cannot be God.

          • William Davis

            We have no idea if time is eternal. We speculate there was a beginning because the universe is expanding, extrapolating back we assume that it started as a singularity, but this is definitely an assumption. We used to thing the universe was static (Einstein called this his greatest blunder, he added a cosmological constant to "make" the universe static even though his theory predicted expansion). With Hubble's redshift discover, we thought the universe was expanding, but at a slowing pace, thanks to gravity. Newer evidence suggests the rate of expansion is ACCELERATING. How? Dark Energy? Fact is we have no idea what's really going on with the universes expansion. It could as easily expand and contract in cycles as many ancient religions theorized. Time could be a wheel not a line. I don't think you realize how many assumptions you are making, and how your assumptions are based on assumptions. Our knowledge is truly agnostic, and whatever anyone believes about the nature of the cosmic, it is almost certainly incorrect (including atheist views). I'm an atheist as a matter of protest against presenting imaginative stories as fact. To find the truth, it is important to not presuppose you have the truth, because if you think you have the truth, you stop looking.

          • Peter

            I defined eternal as being independent of time. How can time be independent of itself?

          • William Davis

            That definition of eternal is not correct. Let's go to the dictionary: "lasting or existing forever; without end or beginning". I time never ends, it is, by definition eternal. We have no knowledge of anything outside of time. I can make up any story, put it outside time, and it is just as good as any story you make up.

          • Peter

            Eternal also means timeless which is independent of time. This is the eternal which applies to God.

          • William Davis

            I haven't found that in the dictionary, perhaps it is a specific definition for Catholic metaphysics. Do you have a source for that definition and you understanding of life being crucial, it's an interesting concept? I'm familiar with arguments about life violating the laws of thermodynamics and the entropy being used to explain how it does not violate the law if the whole planet is considered as a system, but that's it.

          • William Davis

            Here is an example of why we can't just make up our own definitions. I define the universe as "all that exists." If you suppose anything that is outside the universe, it can't exist, because of the definition i just made up. You just can't debate that way and be respected ;)

          • Doug Shaver

            Your premise that the universe represents the totality of existence appears as a statement of fact, yet you have no proof to present it as such.

            "Everything that exists" is what people normally mean when they use the word "universe." There is no other fact relevant to its meaning.

            You have no proof that the beginning of time and its likely end represent the totality of existence.

            "Totality of existence" is your expression, not mine. I'm talking about the universe. If you're talking about anything else, then we're both wasting our time on this conversation.

            The absence of time does not necessarily mean the absence of existence.

            I didn't say it did. I said that if nothing exists, then time does not exist.

            the universe is dependent on time

            No, it isn't. Time is dependent on the universe.

            It does not rule out existence which is independent of time.

            I don't have to rule it out. You have to rule it in.

            Don't confuse eternal with an infinitely long period of time.

            Why not? In ordinary discourse, infinite time is what eternity means. If that happens to create a problem for your theology, that isn't my problem.

            We identify pure existence as God who is eternal.

            You go right ahead and do that. I don't accept the existence of pure existence, either.

            Therefore time or, more generally, the universe cannot be God.

            I'm not saying it is. I'm not a pantheist.

          • Peter

            The argument that the universe does not have a beginning because there was no time when the universe did not exist is a linchpin of atheist apologetics.

            However, the argument is flawed because the universe is space-time and space-time is time. The universe is time and to claim that time does not have a beginning is false when all the observations support the hypothesis that time began around 13.8 billion years ago.

          • Doug Shaver

            to claim that time does not have a beginning is false

            Of course it is, but nobody is making that claim.

          • Peter

            Good, which means that the space-time of the universe is finite and therefore, contrary to the claims of pantheists, cannot be the same as God. Nor can the universe have the attributes of God minus the God label as you believe.

          • Doug Shaver

            contrary to the claims of pantheists, cannot be the same as God.

            It can't be the same as the god you believe in. They don't claim to believe in that god. They believe in a different god.

            And I have no reason to take your word for it that your god is not just the only god that does exist but is the only god that even could exist.

          • Peter

            The God pantheists believe in cannot be any kind of God since the universe with which their God is synonymous, is not a brute fact. Therefore, their God is not a brute fact and cannot be God.

          • Doug Shaver

            their God is not a brute fact and cannot be God.

            You say so. But as far as I know, the universe's existence actually is a brute fact.

          • Peter

            (I will repeat my response to you yesterday which seems to have disappeared from the thread)

            If the universe you believe in as a brute fact is finite, then it cannot be a brute fact. It requires an explanation. This is what Antony Flew argued in his conversion to deism:

            "As long as the universe could be comfortably thought to be not only without end but also without beginning, it remained easy to see its existence (and its most fundamental features) as brute facts....
            ....If the universe had a beginning, it became entirely sensible, almost inevitable, to ask what produced this beginning. This radically altered the situation". (P.136, There is a God)

          • Doug Shaver

            This is what Antony Flew argued in his conversion to deism:

            Flew was channeling Aristotle. A philosopher of his stature should have known better.

          • Peter

            If a philosopher of his stature denies that the universe is a brute fact, it cannot be valid to proclaim it as unassailable truth that the universe is a brute fact.

          • Doug Shaver

            I made no such proclamation.

          • Doug Shaver

            which means that the space-time of the universe is finite

            No, it only means that the universe has a finite past. An infinite set can have a lower bound.

          • Peter

            The mass of the higgs boson renders the universe fundamentally unstable suggesting that it could eventually come to an end, so an infinite future is far from secure. It is no longer valid to presuppose that the universe will last forever.

          • Doug Shaver

            so an infinite future is far from secure.

            OK. In that case, the pantheists' god might not be eternal. And in that case, I would have even less reason than I already do to stick the god label on the universe.

          • Peter

            If the universe you believe in as a brute fact is finite, then it cannot be a brute fact. It requires an explanation. This is what Antony Flew argued in his conversion to deism:

            "As long as the universe could be comfortably thought to be not only without end but also without beginning, it remained easy to see its existence (and its most fundamental features) as brute facts....
            ....If the universe had a beginning, it became entirely sensible, almost inevitable, to ask what produced this beginning. This radically altered the situation". (P.136, There is a God)

          • Doug Shaver

            If the universe you believe in as a brute fact is finite, then it cannot be a brute fact.

            Why not? What is it about finitude that implies it cannot be a brute fact?

          • Peter

            The features of the universe were considered by atheists to have always been as such and therefore not require an explanation. However, the beginning of space-time means that the particular features of the universe have not always been as such. Hence the traditional excuse of atheists for features of the universe not requiring an explanation no longer exists.

          • Doug Shaver

            The features of the universe were considered by atheists to have always been as such and therefore not require an explanation.

            "Always" means "for all time."

            However, the beginning of space-time means that the particular features of the universe have not always been as such.

            The beginning of space-time was also the beginning of the universe. This means there was no time when the universe did not exist. Therefore, the universe has always had whatever features it has had since it began to exist.

          • Peter

            By "always as such" I mean "eternally so", without beginning or end. I do not mean "for all time" since time is finite, with space-time having a beginning and most likely an end.

          • Peter

            The features of the universe were considered by atheists to have always been as such and therefore not require an explanation. However, the beginning of space-time means that the particular features of the universe have not always been as such. Hence the traditional excuse of atheists for features of the universe not requiring an explanation no longer exists.

          • Doug Shaver

            Hence the traditional excuse of atheists for features of the universe not requiring an explanation no longer exists.

            I have no good reason to believe in God. It's the only excuse I need for not believing, if I need any.

        • Galorgan

          Isn't Dawkins the Dawkins of the UK?

        • The UK already has a Dawkins. Richard Dawkins. I'm sorry you have such a poor vision of atheists. I hope we can change that.

          I guess it is pretty clear that you are offended by Fry's comments. But I share them. I would say the same thing if god exists and I met him.

          If he had a good reason for not interfering to reduce the tragic suffering he seems to do nothing to prevent, so be it. But if he does not, if his answer is the same he gave to Job, namely, how dare you even ask, do you see how powerful I am? You wouldn't understand. the hell with him.

        • Marc Riehm

          I thought Dawkins was the Dawkins of the UK. Guess I was wrong!

    • Doug Shaver

      Fry wants attention, so he throws a tantrum, saying controversial stuff. It is not done out of "belief" It is done to garner butt kissees from the leftist media, and as a deliberate provocation of believers. Its done out of hate, a need to lash out, and a childish, overweening need for attention.

      You can address what he says, or you can impugn his motives for saying it. Your choice is noted.

      • Hugger

        Motive is everything. Actions spring from motive. Lots of people are atheists, and the various issues have been discussed into the ground. God won.
        But this man simply throws out outrageous statements, designed to provoke and garner attention. Why reward that? Why defend it? Why dignify it by giving it far more respect than it deserves? Its like a scientist insisting that E=MC cubed instead of MC squared. He garners attention by "challenging" Einstein in an obviously fraudulent ploy. Same goes here.
        You think you're slick, attempting to dismiss my argument by implying its not fact based, but his motives are at the heart of everything he says, and claims to believe.
        Exposing his motive also serves to undermine his supposed logical basis. True logic is immune to motive. 2+2=4, regardless. His statements spring from a need for attention, not from a carefully crafted, logical basis, or any deeply held belief.
        I say the emperor has no clothes, and you all just soil your shorts at being called on it. Just buy glasses.

        • Doug Shaver

          Motive is everything.

          OK. Religion is motivated by the desire of its leaders to control people without incurring the costs of equipping and supporting armed forces. If your say-so is sufficient to prove your point, my say-so is sufficient to prove mine.

          • Hugger

            But there is a huge difference. I'm right!
            Jesus is a real, historical figure. Using the accepted rules of evidence, Jesus's existence, miracles, and divinity meet the criteria to be considered proven by historian standards, legal standards, mathematical standards and theological standards. Probably archeological too. No other religion can. Especially not the religion of atheism. A veneer to cover hate. Funny how atheists claim to believe in no God, but the Christian God is the one they don't believe in the most. Uh-huh.
            Of course, atheists have nothing but opinion. They deny God, creation, etc. But have no rational explanation. Creation, life, consciousness and morality all "just happened dude!" And this is what they call science? Then they have the gall to call Christians gullible? What else can you conclude about them except that they have ulterior, hostile motives when they deny reality to that degree?
            Fry is like gaga. Just outrageous gimmicks. No substance. He knows theology is not a hard science, and that Christians are polite to a fault. So he says extremely provocative stuff that he cannot prove either. And the weak minded and hostile defend him. Phew!

          • Doug Shaver

            Christians are polite to a fault.

            So I've noticed.

          • Hugger

            Ah, a shot at me! So subtle! What I wrote is true. Your hostility, your focus on Christianity, your cherry picking of facts, and ignoring of anything that falsifies your pet theory. Your dismissal of any disagreement, and use of insult when you cannot intelligently reply. Worst of all, your unending claim of "science" when science simply does not support you, and ignoring any scientific discipline that does not support you.

          • Doug Shaver

            and use of insult when you cannot intelligently reply

            If you are suggesting that insults are a poor substitute for intelligent discourse, I could not agree more.

          • Marc Riehm

            What really motivates atheists to stake their claim strongly is frustration at the irrationality of religion (*). Case in point: your claim to all of these various "proofs". Were that the case, the discussion would have been over long ago.

            (*) And additionally perhaps love of a good argument. ;)

          • Hugger

            Marc, Judas is the prime example of that not being true. The biggest hurdle to faith is self-delusion.
            There was proof the earth was round long before Galileo. Even now, there is a Flat Earth Society. I notice no one attacks them for "irrationality" do they? Motive.
            Nor do many atheists go after Islam. I daresay it has nothing to do with rationality, and everything to do with fear. Atheists attack Christians because they know how safe it is.
            Man has a nearly infinite capacity to delude himself. Look at "keep your doctor" as a small but excellent example.
            I am not making things up. There was a convention of lawyers that examined Jesus and His life thru the lens of accepted standards of witness and evidence. They were forced to admit that His life and miracles, etc, met all the criteria to be considered proven based on modern law.
            Same thing with historians. One gave a speech on it, and went over it fact by fact, using standard, accepted historian criteria for establishing something as historical fact, and showed how any honest historian HAD to conclude it was fact.
            As for "irrationality" I am sorry, but even though atheists never hesitate to hide behind "science" and "rationality' Its a completely bogus claim.
            "Science cannot prove the existence of God"
            Nice try Sherlock, but it cannot disprove Gods existence either. That's not an argument that holds water.
            Nor can your science explain creation of the universe, or of life. Nor can it explain consciousness or morality.
            I don't know about you, but I think believing that God created them is a hell of a lot more rational than believing they "just happened dude!" Sorry, but in my book, that's the definition of gullible. Wow!
            Not sure I love a good argument, or exactly what my motive is. I do not brag about being Christian. I think even the best of us reflects little glory on our Creator. If anything, I am an attack Christian. I am probably attempting to empty the ocean with a teacup, but better to fight and fail than just drown.
            There have been uncounted miracles over thousands of years. Good people by the millions have died for Christ. Some of the greatest minds of history have believed and dedicated their lives to Him. Yet, atheists ignore it all, and claim these are gullible? Wow! That's arrogant!
            To me, to seriously jeopardize your soul, just so you can feel smug and superior over those you hold in contempt is a fools game. The very least you owe yourself is a serious, and unbiased examination of the issue. Not just cocktail party snickerings and bumper sticker "logic"

          • Marc Riehm

            Well, Hugger, I'm glad that you understand my motives and my mind so much better than I do.

            Regarding flat earthers: there are two kinds: kooks and thosee with a funnybone. The latter, I admire. The former, we can discard immediately, of course. And the reason why no-one pays flat earthers any attention is because 99.99% of society agrees that they are kooks. Whereas with religion, 90%+ of society believes in it. Not much point in railing against the 0.01%.

            Regarding Muslims, of course there are some very high-profile skeptics who point out the flaws in Islam. Perhaps not with equal weight, but we live in a largely Christian society, and come from Christian heritage, and so it is natural that we argue internally.

            And I have no doubt that some lawyers and some historians went over Jesus's life in what, in their minds, was complete objectivity, and declared it all legit, proven, no more to talk about. So what?

            The reasons I am an atheist are simple: science works, and people who are nonscientific can - and do - believe just about anything (flat earthers being a great example.

          • Marc Riehm

            The reason I don't feel the need to call Pascal on his wager is simple: I do not believe that an infinite being would be so petty as to make the rules of the game, "Believe in my son or suffer infinitely." Who would do that? Fuedal warlords, psychopaths, and perhaps some five-year-olds. Not an infinite being.

          • Hugger

            God does not punish. People reject one option, they wind up with the other.
            Pascal had it right. You lose nothing by accepting Jesus.
            To me, even if I did not believe, even if the odds were astronomically against it, I would still choose God.
            Regardless of the odds, there are times when losing is simply unacceptable. I would not bet the lives of my children, nor will I bet my immortal soul.
            So tell me, given the possibilities, what exactly do you think is worth the chance you will lose? What do you think you will lose by accepting Jesus? I presume, maybe too far, that you are not an axe murderer, etc. So just how would Christianity cramp your style? Maybe your cocktail party crowd will hoot at you?
            I notice you did not try to break down my retort of your "irrationality" claim. I have never researched this, I just pick things up. Everything I wrote is true, and there is tons more positive evidence for those who will seek it. Theology is a soft discipline, with much arguing of the theoretical, and unprovable. But, Christianity is quite able to stand up to intellectual scrutiny. Many men more learned than I can defend it better. If you are able to listen fairly.

          • Hugger

            Simply your opinion, motivated by a need to feel intellectually superior.

        • Marc Riehm

          Lots of people are atheists, and the various issues have been discussed into the ground. God won.

          Whups, there goes my free will!

    • Marc Riehm

      Indeed, why post here?

  • Jacob

    Barron's use of the story of Job cleverly includes his second point, because in Job's divine audience God appeals to Job's ignorance of the entire plan of God and renders Job speechless and humbled. I would take Barron's argument a step further however. The atheist argument that uses evil to discredit God's existence doesn't take into account that if there is no God, then we cannot speak of "evil" only pain, inconvenience, or bad luck. "Evil" can only be spoken of if there exists an over-arching goal that a particular instance contradicts. Only a belief in God allows for the tragedy of evil to lift to the forefront. Atheism, in my mind, can only speak of an ill-function or disorder, but "evil" involves a theistic perspective that takes into account a transcendant goal towards which all of reality is tending.

    • Marc Riehm

      "Evil" is definitely an overused term. But I, for one, think Hitler qualifies.

      • Jacob

        We can say what Hitler did was evil only if we insist that there is an inherent dignity and meaning of the human person that resists redefinition. It is because of this good of the person that we can declare those acts evil. The value of the person is a truth to which every act must bow in reverence. Can an atheistic perspective that portrays people as mere products of accidental mutations over time claim that the person contains an immutable good to which the state must bow (Aside: I'm not arguing against evolution here, simply that evolution doesn't have the last word with regards to the human person)? Don't such claims devolve into a "might makes right situation"? From my limited vantage point, the atheist perspective of the human person and her relation to the State too often claims that the person can be redefined, and that the power of popular opinion can sway what the good of a human person is, and/or even what it means to be human. I think that the problem of evil, with regards to Hitler, offers a viscerally intuitive objection to such an atheistic outlook on the person and the State. But, I'm not sure if I'm getting my point across clearly with this post...

        • Marc Riehm

          The Oxford Dictionary entry for the word "evil" does not rely exclusively on theistic implications. It certainly would allow an atheist to call Hitler evil. You are choosing a definition of "evil" which suits your needs.

          Many times on this website I hear that there cannot be morals without god. Or in this case that human rights will be trampled without god. These notions are simply false. The foundation of morals and law and human rights is simply the adage, "Do unto others".

          It is abundantly clear in history that religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, is neither necessary nor sufficient to avoid evil. I do believe that most modern forms of Christianity provides an excellent moral foundation overall. But that was not always the case, and there are still areas of want. And, again, it is not necessary.

          And an atheist would also argue, "Well, there is no god, and yet we have morals and laws and human rights." The Christian moral foundations were developed by people who were contemplating an illusion of god.

          • Jacob

            Morality can be ascertained through reason, this is true. One does not need a private revelation in order to concede that murder is an evil act. My first post discussed evil in a broader sense, e.g. when people say that Ebola is an evil. It's evil in that broader sense that framed by statement about atheism. Can atheism truly speak of the painful events that befall people - e.g. plagues - in terms other than as unfortunate, unplanned events? These can be described as evils if there is an over-arching transcendent plan against which these events are not measuring up. And, that necessitates a transcendent Being (non-corporeal, non-temporal, non-spatial, unlimited, omniscient, etc.) which created an intended order that's intelligible to rational animals, i.e. human persons. These aren't questions of moral agency. Killer plagues don't factor in moral agency (people didn't create Ebola), but I would call the suffering they create an evil. I'm positing that, at best, atheism can only describe these as unfortunate occurrences, bad luck, and the like, but not as evils. Atheist can only assert that as an argument against God if they want to create a deistic straw man, a "god with a magnifying glass" burning people up; but, then, this ascribes a type of "agency" to those natural disasters. I can call those events evil not because a moral agent made them, but because I posit that there exists a proper - and good - order to creation against which they aren't measuring up.

    • But I see no transcendent issues with pain and suffering. I see pain and suffering, you need to establish what this transcendent or mystic aspect is, if you want to critique us for failing tot address it.

      • Jacob

        I told my doctor about my transcendent issues, she prescribed a valerian root scrub and scented candle therapy. If your transcendent issue last for more than four hours, make sure to see your local metaphysician.

        It would help me if you let me in on a few things first. (1) do you believe in immaterial realities that exist? (2) What do you think my definition of transcendence is and what is your definition of transcendence? and (3) Do you believe that events or actions can be called "evil" and how would you define the word "evil" for yourself?

        • 1) no, but I can't be entirely sure what you mean by immaterial or reality.

          2) I assume you consider transcendent to mean similar to what I do, something that crosses over boundaries of scale. Something that is capable of interacting on various levels or dimensions. E.g. I would say humans can transcend space in a sense that we can travel around in it in 3 dimensions, but we cannot, at present tanscend time, we are within that level.

          3) yes, I use it as a superlative adjective for events I find to be exceedingly sad or harmful and/or malicious. I do not use it as a noun.

  • Fr Barron's response to Fry offers neither a defense to the logical problem of evil nor a theodicy regarding the evidential problem of evil. Instead, he's pressing a narrower point, that, ultimately, neither the intuitions of our theodicies nor the counterintuitions of our atheological critiques will settle such arguments evidentially, no matter how coherent our God-concepts or consistent our logics. I doubt that Fry and Barron even use the same definitions of God or even of evil in the logical approaches that they have presupposed.

    And Fr Barron is spot on. Not only is there insufficient evidence to hold God morally culpable for evil (however one conceives it) beyond a reasonable doubt, Fry and his ilk haven't even established the probable cause necessary to indict God.

    Philosophically, it can't be done, in principle, because we are only dealing with abductive inferences and plausibilities, arguing back and forth counter/intuitively, and not in a robustly probabilistic manner.

    Evaluatively, then, no one has taken away a believer's license to hope. Interpretively, no one has towed away the existential vehicle of faith.
    Epistemically, though, other interpretive stances
    can compete and reasonably so.

    Normatively, however, all must urge their moral cases in a manner wholly transparent to human reason and without recourse to special revelations or question begging naturalisms (vis a vis putative primal or ultimate realities).

    • David Nickol

      Not only is there insufficient evidence to hold God morally culpable for evil (however one conceives it) beyond a reasonable doubt, Fry and his ilk haven't even established the probable cause necessary to indict God.

      In the story of Job itself, isn't it quite clear that God is ultimately responsible for Job's suffering? He authorizes the Adversary to inflict any suffering he can devise on Job and his family, drawing the line only at killing Job.

      • Neither the Book of Job, in particular, nor the Bible, in general, provides answers to our philosophic questions. The primary takeaway, in my view, is that, for Job, evil's not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived. His love of God remains unconditional, mirroring how he perceives God's love for Him. To Job, God's an intimate relationship not merely a philosophic syllogism. Finally, Job realizes that not all evil is retributive; but this realization doesn't extend to a full explanation.

        At any rate, I'm not interested in Biblical proof texting. Exegesis and interpretations can be all over the map within any given denomination and still not be heterodox.

        • David Nickol

          At any rate, I'm not interested in Biblical proof texting.

          It has nothing to do with proof texting. What God does in Job is quite clear. He doesn't merely refrain from intervening to prevent Job suffering. He authorizes the Adversary to torment Job. There are any number of times in which the God of the Old Testament permits or directly inflicts suffering on innocent people. Stories in the Old Testament about God are revelation. It really is up to those claim there is no problem of evil to explain why revelation itself so clearly depicts God commanding the slaughter of women and children or inflicting suffering on all of Egypt (after he has hardened Pharaoh's heart).

          This is not an issue invented out of whole cloth by atheists inventing trumped-up charges against the God of the Old Testament. This has been the subject of two or three posts by theists here on Strange Notions acknowledging that there is, indeed, a problem.

          • Did you ignore my point that Biblical exegesis is a LOT more problematical than, as you suggest, "revelation itself so clearly depicts God ..."? That's proof texting par excellence!

            Furthermore, that even within denominations there are alternate interpretations that aren't necessarily heterodox because no matter of essential dogma's at issue. Some see no theodicy in Job. Some see theodicy. Still others see, instead, anti-theodicy.

            Now, as to whether or not there's a matter of dispute, I have already established that there are logical and evidential aspects AND, further, that, 1) logically, there can be competing stances that are not unreasonable and 2) evidentially, there are competing
            intuitions and counterintuitions, but that they are way too weakly inferential to settle the matter.

            That's the nature of the problem. And that's why it's not an insurmountable problem for Job or most believers.

          • Marc Riehm

            Prevaricating about the bush, are we?

  • Perfect response by Mr. Fry. Three thousand years and as many gods and not a single good answer to the argument from evil. God is an idea we've tried. It failed. Let's all move on. It just didn't pan out. And that's OK.

    I did find this statement worth underlining, if only to giggle at it:

    "In light of God’s speech, I would first suggest to Stephen Fry that the true God is the providential Lord of all of space and all of time."

    LOL. Oh? And what evidence do you have for that, dear sir? That's quite an extraordinary claim you drop in there at the end of that paragraph, one that would seem to require equally extraordinary evidence to take seriously.

    As for the suggestion that we are limited in our scope of knowledge and so we should withhold judgment, and that children with bone-wasting disease are "an avenue to something unsurpassably good", I'll give the nod to Michael Ruse, who responded appropriately to this kind of last-ditch objection:

    “Although in some philosophy of religion circles it is now thought that we can counter the argument from evil, I don’t think this is so. More than that, I don’t want it to be so. I don’t want an argument that convinces me that the death under the guillotine of Sophie Scholl (one of the leaders of the White Rose group opposed to the Nazis) or of Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen ultimately contributes to the greater good. If my eternal salvation depends on the deaths of these two young women, then forget it.”

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/does-evolution-explain-religious-beliefs/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Who ever claimed that the death of Sophie Scholl or Anne Frank is necessary to Michael Ruse's eternal salvation?

    • Peter

      The problem of evil does not preclude the existence of God if that is what you are trying to say. It merely casts doubt in the minds of a few observers whether a God who permits suffering can be both all good and all powerful at the same time. Yet, paradoxically, it is the very fact that they suffer which draws the majority of people on this planet towards a good and powerful deity for support.

      • I personally think that it is irrational and self-deprecating to worship a deity who allows such suffering to go on. I'm OK with someone who wants to say they believe in a God who is all-powerful but not omnibenevolent. I have a problem with those who say their God is both.

        • That's just an opinion. I have my own.

          I believe it is irrational to believe that God does not exist and that the universe was created by random forces.

          And I believe that God is both omnipotent and all-loving.

          So, now we know where we stand. Have you got anything further to contribute?

          • "And I believe that God is both omnipotent and all-loving."

            Do you also believe that this God answers prayers and intervenes in human affairs? Or are you OK with stopping at 'God created the universe'?

          • Yes. I know that God answers prayers from experience.

            Now, its your turn. Do you believe that your being is the result of random forces?

          • "Do you believe that your being is the result of random forces?"

            You would need to clarify the question. By "being", do you mean me, and life in general? If so, you have misunderstood evolutionary theory. Evolution is not random. It is the non-random differential survival of genes.

            If you're asking about where the universe came from, the answer is I don't know. No one does. The jury is still out. What we don't do is latch onto any fanciful notion that comes our way. The idea is to withhold judgment until justifying reasons are found.

          • Nah. I just don't believe the hype. Let me give you an example.

            Evolution is based on randon mutations. Without random mutation, there would be no evolution.

            Let me give you an example. Three mutations occur. By definition, they are all random. Then the environment changes, also randomly. But the random change in the environment favors the survival of random mutation #1.

            Everything that affects it is random. But evolution is not? If you don't believe it is, I've got some property to sell you in Florida swamps.

          • De Maria,

            You are misunderstanding how natural selection works. The raw material of natural selection--mutations--is random. Mutations are the random variation which allows natural selection to operate. Natural selection, however, is not random; it winnows out the randomly emerging variation that is deleterious, leaving the non-deleterious variation in the gene pool.

            You may find my piece below helpful:

            http://www.waivingentropy.com/2012/11/30/evolution-theism-and-the-dissonance-which-lies-between/

            For example, the architecture of the human eye, the toxic acid produced by vultures, and the camouflage physiology of the squid, octopus, cuttlefish and chameleon were the result of a stepwise sequence of random mutations which survived in response to specific evolutionary pressures. If the associated mutations hadn’t emerged, these species may have died out or been pushed down an entirely different genetic track. Hence, the appearance of mutations are spontaneous and chance-derived, but the reasons for their staying power are anything but.

            "Because you don't know where the universe came from doesn't mean that I and others who believe in God don't. The Jury is not out to us and to us"

            Oh? Can you share with us your evidence, please? I'd love to know. Hint: The evidence you provide must be explainable by and only by the specific God you believe in. If it can be applied to any 'God' we might as well name it 'Xygfichgt', because your imagination is as good as mine ;)

          • Doug Shaver

            I believe it is irrational to believe that . . . the universe was created by random forces.

            So do I, but I've never known anybody who does believe it.

        • Peter

          If it is rational to believe in an omnipotent yet not necessarily omnibenevolent Creator (as opposed to believing in a Creator who is both), do you consider atheists to be irrational in that they do not believe in such a Creator?

          • Good question. We need to distinguish here between something we can conceive and something that actually exists. For example, I can conceive of an all-powerful being who may or may not have his or her creation's best interests in mind. Just as I can conceive of superheroes and men clothed in capes. But I don't pretend these are anything but fantasies and fictions.

            The dividing line between fiction and reality, for me, is having sufficient warrant to justify belief in a god or gods. I don't think we have good reasons to believe, and so I reserve my right of nonbelief until such time either good arguments or good evidence are proffered. What I would *not* do is latch onto any fanciful or compelling notion that comes my way. The idea is to withhold judgment until justifying reasons are found.

          • Peter

            The difference between a Creator and a superhero is that the former is an explanation for the existence of reality while the latter is not. Since reality exists and demands an explanation, a Creator must be considered as a candidate.

          • Peter,

            I never said it isn't a candidate. I just think it a rather poor candidate especially one who is all-powerful and all-good, given what we observe in the world past and present.

          • Peter

            But we were talking about a Creator who is all-powerful and not necessarily all-good. Such a Creator would be a far stronger candidate given what we observe in the world, a candidacy which is strengthened even further by the appearance of design in the cosmos.

            So why don't atheists accept the likelihood of this Creator as an explanation for reality, among other possible explanations, instead of having no credence whatsoever that such a Creator exists? Given the presence of suffering and the appearance of design, it is irrational to completely ignore the likely existence of such as Creator.

          • Peter,

            Again, a creator which is all-powerful but not all-good is a candidate explanation, but it is a candidate explanation in the same way that unicorns are a candidate explanation. Until there are good reasons or evidence for such entities, however, the atheist position is the most rational and intellectually honest position. You keep mentioning "likelihood" and "likely existence", yet you've proffered no evidence to support these statements. Again, atheists don't "ignore" the possibility, they just don't think it likely and so give it low epistemic credence.

            Moreover, given what we know about the world at this point in history, supernatural entities have an extraordinarily low prior probability. The more extraordinary the claim (that is, the lower its prior probability, given our background evidence and knowledge of how the world operates), the greater the burden of proof on the claimant to provide evidence of sufficient strength and quality to overcome the initially low probability of that claim being true. The paper below explains this wonderfully:

            "...if evidence is entirely irrelevant to the justification of beliefs about reality, then (barring emotional motivations) the foundation of those beliefs becomes completely arbitrary. If a belief is thought to be immune to the standards of science because it refers to an entity or phenomenon for which no evidence is possible, then one is not only permitted to believe in a countless number of absurdities, but one is logically compelled to do so.”

            - Fishman, Y.I. 2009. Can science test supernatural worldviews? Science & Education 18: pg. 825.

            http://www.naturalism.org/Can%20Science%20Test%20Supernatural%20Worldviews-%20Final%20Author's%20Copy%20(Fishman%202007).pdf

          • Peter

            Given that reality exists and has the appearance of design, the likelihood that it is created by a Creator who creates is infinitely greater than the likelihood that it is created by something which does not create such as a unicorn.

            The likelihood that reality is created by a unicorn which does not create is zero and therefore a unicorn cannot be considered a candidate explanation for reality.

            With a likelihood of zero, a unicorn has a non-existent prior probability, while a Creator with a likelihood greater than zero has a positive prior probability. Given the existence of reality, the prior probability of a Creator is infinitely greater than that of a unicorn or any other mythical creature you wish to name.

          • You have misunderstood the paper I posted. Badly, in fact.

            Have you ever observed this so-called "Creator" creating? No, you haven't. And neither has anyone else. The prior probability is based on the absence of evidence of any and all supernatural entities throughout human history. This encompasses unicorns, gods, "creators" and [insert conceptualized entity here]. You missed the point because both unicorns and creator gods are entities which have not been observed and for which there is precisely zero evidence. One could just as easily assert that unicorns create and gods do not. Both thus have the same background probability.

            I suggest you go back and read the paper I posted.

          • Peter

            "Have you ever observed this so-called "Creator" creating? No, you haven't. And neither has anyone else."

            But we observe a universe which has the overwhelming appearance of having been designed. Based on that evidence alone, the existence of something which designed it has a prior probability greater than zero. It has a greater prior probability than the existence of something which did not design it.

            If you deem God to have designed the universe and a unicorn not to have, then the prior probability of God as designer is greater. Of course, if you want to call that designer which I call God a unicorn, then they both have equal prior probability because they are different names for the same designer.

            But I'm sure that by unicorn you don't mean designer of the universe, but some random mythical creature which did not design anything. In that case it's prior probability is less than that of a designer which I call God.

          • "But we observe a universe which has the overwhelming appearance of having been designed."

            Peter, you're trying to pass off your opinions as though they are widely held fact. I've been around the block enough to know that this statement is not even close to being considered a fact in academic circles. And must we remind ourselves that we used to think life itself was designed. And look how that turned out! Darwin, et al. upended our intuition forevermore. Perhaps the patterns our brains interpret at face value aren't the most reliable after all?

            "If you deem God to have designed the universe and a unicorn not to have, then the prior probability of God as designer is greater."

            LOL! This is called defining God into existence. I would again encourage you to read through the paper I posted. You're misunderstanding it badly.

          • Peter

            "And must we remind ourselves that we used to think life itself was designed. And look how that turned out! Darwin, et al. upended our intuition forevermore"

            This is a good sound bite but a fundamental misconception. The observed fact - which wasn't so obvious in Darwin's time - is that the galaxy is brimming with the building blocks of life and teeming with planets on which it could settle. It appears that the universe is designed for the widespread creation of life. But there's more.

            The extreme low entropy of the early universe has put the universe on a strong trajectory towards high entropy. This has necessitated the creation of complexity in the form of low entropy stars and planets in order to achieve a greater net entropy. Planets themselves must evolve greater complexity in order to contribute greater net entropy to the universe and will do so as far as the laws of nature permit.

            In the case of planets like earth which lie in the habitable zone, the laws of nature would permit the creation of complexity to extend as far as the creation and evolution of life itself. It therefore looks like life is indispensable as a factor driving the universe to higher entropy. Life, so it appears, is an inevitable and necessary component in the evolution of the universe. Our intuition wasn't wrong after all.

          • ^Where does one even begin with that? Either with your misunderstanding of entropy or how you linked life in with it. Doesn't matter. Your speculation is not even wrong, as they say. I don't know of any professional cosmologist or physicist who would sign off on what you've asserted here. It's nonsense.

          • Peter

            It is false to claim that Darwin upended our intuition that life is designed. In fact he did the complete opposite. His discovery of natural selection has highlighted the complex process a planet like earth goes through in order to add net entropy to the universe.

            Evolution by natural selection is an integral part of the universe's journey towards high entropy. Life and its increasing complexity are both inevitable and indispensable. This realisation has strengthened, not weakened, our intuition that it is designed.

          • "The old argument from design in Nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows."

            - Charles Darwin, 1876

            Once again, no physicist I know of agrees with the things you are saying. They are *nonsense*.

          • Peter

            What strikes me as nonsense is the stale 19th century argument against design, which claims that nature and not God fashioned organisms such as a bivalve shell, and therefore God does not exist.

            This argument may serve atheists well against creationists and fundamentalists, but against mainstream Christianity it is worthless. For mainstream Christians, God's design is achieved through nature and so it is no surprise that the variability of organic beings is attained through natural selection.

            The discovery of the mechanism of how nature creates diversity only serves to underscore the ingenuity of a Creator who employs natural means in order to realise his designs. In that respect, Darwin has done Christianity a great favour.

          • Once again, Darwin's explanation for the diversity of life doesn't exclude the possibility of God, it just makes God, as an explanation for the diversity of life in particular, superfluous. This is a key distinction I think you're overlooking. I would never say e.g. that "Darwin disproved God" or any variation thereof. What he did do, rather, is disprove the idea of special creation of a single (human) species by a god and expose these ancient myths for what they have always been.

            But it doesn't disprove God in the same sense that it doesn't disprove the existence of unicorns or fairies at the bottom of the well. And this argument will continue to hold flame until the god-believers can proffer some real evidence that can *only be explained* by a specific God. Anyone can run in after the fact and come up with ad hoc explanations for how their idea of God can fit in with this new scientific information. But, of course, one can do that with any entity or being their imagination can come up with. What we would need is real evidence. And on that, we are all still patiently waiting, as I suspect we will always be.

          • Peter

            As for your disbelief that life is necessary, and terming it as nonsense, please see Dawkins' site which features Jeremy England at MIT, who claims that the natural creation of life was not accidental but necessary.

            Basically he is arguing that matter will naturally complexify itself even further, even to the point of achieving life, in order to dissipate more heat, which is another way of saying produce greater entropy. The universal drive towards high entropy makes life inevitable.

            Of course, this will fly in the face of creationists who hold that God supernaturally created life from non-life. However, for mainstream Christianity it underscores even further the ingenuity of a God who creates through nature.

          • Lol! Jeremy England's thesis, if true, goes a long way toward explaining how life got its start! Thus if true, not only would we have a scientific (natural) explanation for the diversity of life, but for the origin of life as well. Christians and other god-believers have been attacking England's thesis in full measure! It puts the kibosh on the god-explanation for abiogenesis!

            FACEPALM

          • Peter

            If you are implying that mainstream Christians are attacking the thesis, that is false. As I said, it is opposed only by creationists who hold that God supernaturally created life from non-life. For the rest it is an endorsement of how God creates through nature and of how the universe is designed to produce life.

          • Peter, all I'm seeing from you is a no true scotsman + god-of-the-gaps argument. You're arguing from a god-of-the-gaps dialectic. You do realize most sophisticated theologians have given up on this altogether, right?

            If you wish to cast off this charge, then answer the following question: what evidence revealed by science would you count as evidence *against* your God? If you cannot answer this question you have failed the defeasibility test and there is no sense in furthering this exchange.

          • Peter

            Since God uses nature to create, I cannot imagine anything in nature and revealable by science which would disprove him. However, if scientific discoveries begin to point to an absence of design, to chaos instead of order, to accident instead of necessity, I would certain rethink my intellectual position as a theist.

          • "Since God uses nature to create, I cannot imagine anything in nature and revealable by science which would disprove him."

            Again, we're not talking about "proof" and "disproof". Those are red herring terms which obscure the essence of the question. The question is whether you would ever count any scientific evidence as evidence against your God. And you have just answered to the contrary, removing yourself as a rational participant from this discussion.

            Moreover, you have inserted your belief right into your argument! By saying, "since God uses nature to create", you are effectively defining your God into existence by writing him into your argument.

            And Christians wonder why they are being taken less and less seriously in intellectual circles...

          • Peter

            You have sidestepped my response to your question of what would make me rethink my position as a theist, which is that I would rethink my position if scientific discovery revealed an absence of design which so far it has not done.

          • And I've already told you ad nauseum that I don't know of any biologist or physicist who would agree that we have indeed revealed design in nature. Apparent design, yes, but natural selection resolved this at the biological level.

            And secondly, you would still need to explain how any such evidence in the future is evidence for YOUR god, and not the other 4,200 of them.

          • Peter

            I have been claiming appearance of design all along, so you agree with me.

            And no, natural selection did not resolve the appearance of design at the biological level. All it did was rebut the creationist claim that individual creatures were fashioned supernaturally by demonstrating that nature did the fashioning.

            In fact, natural selection is being increasingly revealed as an integral process in the continuing complexification of matter as it strives to produce greater net entropy. Its foundations were laid down in the low entropy conditions of the early universe so that it would be an eventual driver of the evolution of the cosmos.

            Natural selection is no accident. It is necessary and unavoidable, just as its consequences - complex living creatures - are necessary and unavoidable in order to drive the universe towards high entropy.

          • No, I do not agree with you. You continue to misunderstand how natural selection works. It was Darwin's idea which dispatched with the notion of divine tinkering in life forms. Molded by natural selection DOES NOT EQUAL molded by God. If you disagree, provide a citation. For this entire exchange, you've provided nothing but your naked opinion, worth nothing.

            "Its existence was preconfigured from the beginning of time and therefore so too was the arrival of complex life preconfigured from the beginning of time."

            LOL OK if that's what you have to tell yourself to sleep at night. Such absolute nonsense.

          • Peter

            Darwin demonstrated that creatures were fashioned by nature instead of being individually fashioned in a supernatural way. But your claim that it excludes design is plain wrong. The signs are that nature itself is designed to do the fashioning. Darwin did not eliminate design; he did the complete opposite. He illuminated the way in which nature is designed to fashion life.

          • "Darwin did not eliminate design; he did the complete opposite. He illuminated the way in which nature is designed to fashion life."

            What I've tried to explain above is that Darwin dispatched antiquated notions that the diversity of life could only be explained with recourse to divinity and supernatural explanation. He showed that nature, given certain initial conditions, can function entirely on its own in fashioning diverse life forms. Evolution by natural selection does not exclude God tout court, it simply renders God as an explanation for the diversity of life on earth unnecessary, superfluous, as have countless scientific advances before it.

            I hope that's clear now. If you wish to argue that God did something, somewhere, at some point in history for some reason, you'll need to present evidence. So far, I'm still waiting.

          • Peter

            "Evolution by natural selection does not exclude God tout court, it simply renders God as an explanation for the diversity of life on earth unnecessary, superfluous, as have countless scientific advances before it."

            Absolutely untrue. Evolution by natural selection is a design feature of the universe, as is the creation of life itself. Both are inevitable processes built into the early universe which create increasing complexity in order to produce greater net entropy.

            The evolution of the universe towards high entropy is the explanation for the diversity of life on earth, and this trajectory was determined by the precise low entropy conditions of the early universe. Inasmuch as we deem God to be responsible for setting those conditions, we deem him responsible for the diversity of life on earth.

            Evolution by natural selection has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is simply a tool. The responsibility for diverse life on earth lies with whoever or whatever set down those early conditions, and we deem that to be God.

          • I'm probably sounding like a broken record at this point, but I'll ask once more for a citation for your claims about the connection between entropy and life. Something tells me that nowhere will it mention God...

            If you continue to dodge this request, please don't bother responding.

          • Peter

            I've already given you a citation between entropy and life, on Dawkins' site no less. Here it is in greater detail:
            https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/

            Of course it doesn't mention God but, if life is necessary, the universe has a purpose. Who or what has given it that purpose and designed it to achieve that purpose?

          • We've already discussed England's thesis, haven't we? Christians have been up in arms over this as it appears (to many of them, anyway) to remove the need for God as an explanation for the origin of life.

            Also, I would recheck your argument in your most recent comment: It's an enthymeme. "if life is necessary, the universe has a purpose." It doesn't take a graduate philosophy student to notice you have a dropped premise (or three) in there. Might want to work that out before commenting next time ;)

          • Peter

            Obviously if life is necessary, it must be necessary for a reason. In this case life is necessary for the universe to fulfil its purpose of achieving high entropy. Who or what designed the universe to achieve that purpose, so that the creation of life and ultimately consciousness would be an inevitable necessity?

          • These two statements are not equivalent:

            1. Life is inevitable.
            2. Life is necessary.

            England's thesis supports the first statement, but has nothing to do with the second. You are taking a theological presupposition and shoehorning it into an entirely different argument.

          • Peter

            Yes they are equivalent. Life is a necessary outcome of the universe's journey towards high entropy, which makes it inevitable.

          • Peter, we could argue over semantics all day, but you continue to miss the point. And I feel at this point you're simply being willfully obtuse. Even if we grant that England's thesis is correct and that organic life is an inevitable byproduct of the physical laws of the universe, there is no way you get from there to your cherished Christian god-man-deity without several intermediate premises.

            My guess is that you know this and you're simply grasping at straws because it's the best argument in your inventory.

          • Peter

            No. Organic life is not a by-product. It is not incidental. It is an integral part of the universe's drive from low to high entropy.

            Life represents a chain of highly complex chemical processes necessary to alter the atmosphere from a low entropy carbon dioxide atmosphere to a high entropy atmosphere which includes methane. It is a natural means by which a planet capable of supporting it produces greater net entropy.

          • Still not answering my question. Still grasping at straws. How does one get from there to your chosen Christian deity? If you continue to dodge, you're just wasting both of our time. (And please provide a peer-reviewed scientific reference.)

          • Peter

            No straws, just solid science which shows that life of increasing complexity is necessary. Increasing complexity leads to consciousness which means that consciousness, as a feature of highly complex life, must also be necessary.

            A universe where consciousness is not an incidental by-product but a necessary outcome smacks of design. If the Creator wanted to design a universe which gave rise naturally to consciousness and self awareness, this is precisely how he would go about it.

          • "smacks of design" Well if those aren't weasel words...

            "If the Creator wanted to design a universe which gave rise naturally to consciousness and self awareness, this is precisely how he would go about it."

            Oh and you know the mind of God, do you?

            Still waiting on that citation...

          • Da Jamma

            "Still waiting on that citation..."

            Still waiting for you to grow a pair and admit your lack of integrity on other threads. This is fun for me. Is it fun for you?

          • Peter

            One doesn't need a scientific reference to state the obvious which you continue to intentionally deny. By the way, what specific reference to do you require since your intentions appear vague?

            Science is about knowing the mind of God; the more we learn about nature, the more we learn of its Creator. So, yes, the more science reveals, the more we know the mind of God.

            There is nothing misleading about pointing to the overwhelming appearance of design in the cosmos. In fact, those who mislead are those who wilfully refuse to acknowledge it.

            How many more decades of scientific discovery will it take, discovery which does not contradict but supports the notion of design, before atheists are forced to admit the presence of intelligence behind creation?

          • Those are presuppositions you are trying to pass off as fact.

            "Science is about knowing the mind of God"

            Presupposition, one most scientists the world over would disagree with.

            "the more we learn about nature, the more we learn of its Creator"

            Presupposition, one most scientists the world over would disagree with.

            "the more science reveals, the more we know the mind of God."

            Presupposition, one most scientists the world over would disagree with.

            "There is nothing misleading about pointing to the overwhelming appearance of design in the cosmos"

            Still waiting on a peer-reviewed citation supporting this claim. If it's so "overwhelming", this should be an easy request!

            "How many more decades of scientific discovery will it take, discovery which does not contradict but supports the notion of design, before atheists are forced to admit the presence of intelligence behind creation?"

            I have not identified as an atheist. How I identify is irrelevant to this discussion. I'm simply an impartial observer asking for evidence to support the extraordinary claims you are making. Perhaps I am waiting to make up my mind? Going by this conversation, you've not put up a very strong effort. All I've asked for is evidence in the form of peer-reviewed science making the explicit claim that God's design is found in nature. One might conclude that since you've been shooting blanks for two weeks that your argument is based on nothing more than what you desperately wish to be true. Thanks for helping me make my mind up.

          • Luke Cooper

            I've been following your comments here, and you bring up excellent points. IIRC, I agree with almost everything you've written in this thread. I would go back through and upvote them all, but I have other matters to attend to, unfortunately. You have a supporter in spirit :)

          • Thanks :)

          • Peter

            You miss the point. God's design is NOT found in nature as though nature were something else. Your request for such indicates that you have not quite grasped it after all this time.

            God's design IS nature. Nature IS God's design. Each and every scientific paper, regardless of it's intention, is describing God's design.

            Get away from this dualistic mentality which separates nature from God design. It arose thanks to the creationist claim, now debunked, that God only creates supernaturally, and has been embedded in the atheist mindset ever since.

          • "God's design IS nature. Nature IS God's design. Each and every scientific paper, regardless of it's intention, is describing God's design."

            So you're a pantheist? How do you identify? Saying 'God is nature' strikes is Spinozian and Einsteinian, a view I have no problem with whatsoever. Your previous comments have indicated a different view altogether from the pantheistic view, which is why I've continued this exchange.

          • Peter

            Please reread what I wrote. God's design is nature, not God himself. I did not say that God is nature.

          • And I've already explained to you dozens of times now that this statement tells us nothing. I could just as easily make up a fictional character and say that that character's design is nature. It gets us nowhere. What is your evidence that could distinguish between your claim that *your* God's design is nature and my claim that the design of the character I have in my head is nature?

            Until you can answer this question, your assertion is a vacuous as the space between the stars.

          • Da Jamma

            "If you continue to dodge, you're just wasting both of our time. "

            Oh the irony, Mr. Can't-Answer-a-Direct-Question. You wasted everyone's before, and didn't seem to feel you were doing anything wrong. I'm here to remind you of it, coward-boy!

          • Da Jamma

            Just like you and your attempts to besmirch Sam Harris. Did you think we were done, coward?

      • Doug Shaver

        Yet, paradoxically, it is the very fact that they suffer which draws the majority of people on this planet towards a good and powerful deity for support.

        You're saying "We suffer, therefore we believe in God." That might work. But, "We believe in God, therefore God exists" doesn't work.

        • Peter

          That's not the point. The point is that, according to Stephen Fry, the presence of suffering ought to drive humanity away from God, but it doesn't; it does the reverse.

    • Perfect response by Mr. Fry. Three thousand years and as many gods and not a single good answer to the argument from evil. God is an idea we've tried. It failed. Let's all move on. It just didn't pan out. And that's OK.

      I think that's a matter of opinion. I tried the atheist answer, I think that failed. I very much like the Catholic answer.

      I did find this statement worth underlining, if only to giggle at it:

      "In light of God’s speech, I would first suggest to Stephen Fry that the true God is the providential Lord of all of space and all of time."

      LOL. Oh? And what evidence do you have for that, dear sir?

      I can look out my window and see a marvelous universe which is inconsistent with the idea that random forces put it together.

      Its an old metaphor but it bears repeating. If I find a swiss watch in the forest, I don't assume that natural random forces put it together. I look at the intelligence of the design and I assume a human being put it together.

      Now, when I look at the universe, even small aspects of it, like a leaf on a tree or one of my hands, why would I assume that it came together by accident?

      I wouldn't. Experience shows me that it takes intelligence to create intricate and elaborate things. Creating the universe took an intelligence and power far beyond the capacity of any human.

      Yeah, I look at the universe and say, "therefore, God exists."

      That's quite an extraordinary claim you drop in there at the end of that paragraph, one that would seem to require equally extraordinary evidence to take seriously.

      The universe is extra-ordinary.

      As for the suggestion that we are limited in our scope of knowledge and so we should withhold judgment, and that children with bone-wasting disease are "an avenue to something unsurpassably good", I'll give the nod to Michael Ruse, who responded appropriately to this kind of ghastly, last-ditch proposition:

      “Although in some philosophy of religion circles it is now thought that we can counter the argument from evil, I don’t think this is so. More than that, I don’t want it to be so. I don’t want an argument that convinces me that the death under the guillotine of Sophie Scholl (one of the leaders of the White Rose group opposed to the Nazis) or of Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen ultimately contributes to the greater good. If my eternal salvation depends on the deaths of these two young women, then forget it.”

      Again, a matter of opinion. The only problem is that atheists automatically ignore supernatural revelation. With their unaided minds, they can't resolve the problem. But with the aid of the Word of God as taught by the Catholic Church, it is resolved.

      God created all which is good. But He gave some of His creatures free will in order that they might choose to love Him in return. Some of His creatures decided to hold their own selves as worthy of love and did not return God's love. These creatures have wreaked havoc on God's creation since that time.

      God, however, in His infinite love, turns their evil into good for the salvation of those who love Him.

      • You seem to be resurrecting William Paley's argument from the 18th century. Do you not believe in evolution? Did you not know that that argument was settled more than a century ago?

        Secondly, I'd prefer if you didn't preach to me. I've heard all of this before; I grew up in the Church. Bad answers are bad.

        • Daniel Bastian De Maria • 18 hours ago

          You seem to be resurrecting William Paley's argument from the 18th century. Do you not believe in evolution?

          I believe in Theistic Evolution. Evolution guided by God's providence.

          Did you not know that that argument was settled more than a century ago?

          Evolution could not work, if God did not guide the process. Random forces can't, without guidance, produce complex organization. If I find a swiss watch in the forest, I don't assume it came together on its own. I assume it was built by and intelligent person. The universe is much more complex than a swiss watch.

          Secondly, I'd prefer if you didn't preach to me. I've heard all of this before; I grew up in the Church. Bad answers are bad.

          You gave your opinion, I gave mine. If I'm preaching to you. If an expression of opinion is preaching, then, by definition, you are preaching to me, as well.

          • Oh look, another Christian who doesn't understand evolution. How daft. Evolution is the non-random differential survival of genes. No gods required.

            “Theistic evolution” is a misnomer: There’s no such thing as “Christian” science, “Mormon” biology, “Buddhist” physics, or the “Hindu germ theory”, only science, physics and biology. In what way do you mean that evolution was “guided by God's providence"? Did he personally install each mutation into every organism’s DNA? Do you also
            believe that objects fall because God pushes them down (theistic gravity)? That
            bumblebees and butterflies fly because God "levitates" them (theistic wing propulsion)?

            These are not propositions to take seriously.

          • Doug Shaver

            Evolution could not work, if God did not guide the process.

            You say so.

          • Guest

            Oh look, another Christian who doesn't understand evolution. How daft. Evolution is the non-random differential survival of genes. No gods required.

            “Theistic evolution” is a misnomer: There’s no such thing as “Christian” science, “Mormon” biology, “Buddhist” physics, or the “Hindu germ theory”, only science, physics and biology. In what way do you mean that evolution was “guided by God's providence"? Did he personally install each mutation into every organism’s DNA? Do you also believe that objects fall because God pushes them down (theistic gravity)? That bumblebees and butterflies fly because God "levitates" them (theistic wing propulsion)?

            These are not propositions to take seriously.

      • Doug Shaver

        I can look out my window and see a marvelous universe which is inconsistent with the idea that random forces put it together.

        I've never met anyone who thinks the forces that put it together were random.

        • Is the university of Berkeley a reputable institution?

          Here's what they say:

          Mutations are random - Understanding Evolution

          evolution.berkeley.edu/.../IIIC1aRando...

          The mechanisms of evolution—like natural selection and genetic drift—work with the random variation generated by mutation.

          Genetic Drift
          Imagine that in one generation, two brown beetles happened to have four offspring survive to reproduce. Several green beetles were killed when someone stepped on them and had no offspring. The next generation would have a few more brown beetles than the previous generation—but just by chance. These chance changes from generation to generation are known as genetic drift.

          How about Indiana U.

          If Mutation is Random, Why Does Evolution Occur at All?

          http://www.indiana.edu/~oso/evolution/selection.htm

          Indiana University

          Jan 15, 2009 - Natural Selection – If Mutation is Random, Why Does Evolution Occur at All? ... the answer seems to be that mutation is essentially random.

          Factors in the environment are thought to influence the rate of mutationbut are not generally thought to influence the direction of mutation. For example, exposure to harmful chemicals may increase the mutation rate, but will not cause more mutations that make the organism resistant to those chemicals. In this respect, mutations are random—whether a particular mutation happens or not is generally unrelated to how useful that mutation would be.

          • David Nickol

            Mutation is random. Natural selection is not. Consequently, evolution is not a matter of random forces forming something. If you read the material you yourself provide a link to from Indiana University, it says in the second-last paragraph:

            From these examples, it should be evident that the random nature of mutation does not cause evolution to be random.

          • Without random mutation, would there be any natural selection?

            Let me give you an example. Three mutations occur. By definition, they are all random. Then the environment changes, also randomly. But the random change in the environment favors the survival of random mutation #1.

            Everything that affects it is random. But natural selection is not?

          • David Nickol

            Everything that affects it is random. But natural selection is not?

            No, natural selection is not random. If you think of natural selection as an "agent," it is choosing the organisms with mutation #1 as the ones that will flourish.

            If I am following you, and you are moving randomly in an attempt to evade me, you can flip a coin every time you reach a fork in the road to choose whether to go to the right or the left. But if I follow you by using a dog that is following your scent, even though your movements are random, the the dog following you will not be following a random path. He will be following your trail.

          • No, natural selection is not random. If you think of natural selection as an "agent," it is choosing the organisms with mutation #1 as the ones that will flourish.

            It is choosing? Is it intelligent? Or did they just happen to fit the circumstances? Just a matter of chance.

          • Doug Shaver

            Without random mutation, would there be any natural selection?

            Without mutations, random or otherwise, evolution could not happen. Whether selection was natural or supernatural, there would be nothing from which to do any selecting.

            Three mutations occur. By definition, they are all random.

            Mutations are not random by definition.

            Then the environment changes, also randomly.

            Not really, but we can assume so for the sake of discussion.

            But the random change in the environment favors the survival of random mutation #1.

            Everything that affects it is random. But natural selection is not?

            Right, it's not. Whatever a genetic mutation does to its host organism either will or will not improve the organism's likelihood of surviving and reproducing. They call it survival of the fittest. They don't call it survival of the luckiest, and there's a reason they don't.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not disputing that mutations occur randomly. Evolution is not just about mutations.

    • Peter

      Perhaps God is all-powerful but not all-good, so that to believe in such a God would be to fear God, leading many to withhold belief because they don't want to live in fear.

      As for those who do believe in God, they have faith that God is all-good, so that to believe in God is not to live in fear of God but to place all one's trust in God.

      • Your comment doesn't make sense. If we had good evidence for an all-powerful but not all-good God, it would not make sense to "withhold belief". Evidence doesn't bend to the emotions of ineffectual humans. By that logic, I wouldn't believe in evolution either because it casts a rather dark shade on the history of how we got here.

        Rather, what we *can* say is that were we presented with good reasons for believing in a God with such attributes, we would believe in it. But this is not the case, so we do not.

  • Terry

    The whole discussion is pointless. There is no evidence that god exits. One hundred years ago we knew enough about the cosmos to say there is no place where god could be -: we knew how life started; - we were reasonably sure when it started. Since then our knowledge, although still pitifully small, has increased by an enormous amount. We still haven't found the evidence. The real problem is that men need the mental crutch of a concept of god.

  • MarylandBill

    It is a shame that so often people come to ridicule rather than to argue. Note, I am not targeting this at the atheists, since their are Christians that do it as well, even in this very forum. The problem of evil is perhaps the strongest argument on the side of atheists... and while we (Christians) have what we believe to be responses to the argument, as Father Barron presented here. But while I find them persuasive, I can understand why many, both believers and non-believers do not.

  • andrewmartin

    Why would people assume that bone cancer in children is part of God's plans? Couldn't the devil be responsible for disease? Human beings are capable of warping creation to create new diseases. Do any of us believe that the devil is incapable of the same vile ingenuity that humans have already demonstrated? When you see evil, don't assume it is part of God's will. Evil exists because God tolerates freedom and the consequences of the same not because He needs it to paint a picture.

  • Scott Harrison

    "unsurpassably good" ... Really? You'd use that crass explanation to women and children in a queue to the Auschwitz gas chambers? There is something disgusting in Christian theodicy, and I'm not sure Jesus would have bothered with it at all.