Saturday, April 25, 2009

Scripture: The word of a demon, or just a Paine for sinners

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon rather than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest all that is cruel (Paine, 1974, p. 60).

25 comments:

Ilíon said...

VR (quoting Thomas Paine): "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, ..."

Really? "More than half?" And "filled? And I missed all this?

VR (quoting Thomas Paine): "... it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon rather than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest all that is cruel
"

What a fool the man was.

Crude said...

And still he had little patience for atheists.

I'd enjoy a thorough study of Paine's theology.

Jim Jordan said...

It's obvious that Paine was talking about Man's contribution to God's great experiment. After all, no one blames the damage done by a pothole to a Ferrari on the Ferrari makers. Do they?

Doctor Logic said...

Jim: It's obvious that Paine was talking about Man's contribution to God's great experiment. After all, no one blames the damage done by a pothole to a Ferrari on the Ferrari makers. Do they?But why not? Because Ferrari can neither control or predict potholes, and cannot build cars that are invulnerable to them. However, they can predict that Ferraris will be crashed by drivers. So they install seat belts and safety devices. If Ferrari doesn't put in seat belts or puts in dodgy brakes, then we hold Ferrari accountable.

The obvious difference with God is that he can predict everything, and do anything, and so he is accountable for the entire picture. He is like an absent parent, leaving us to our Lord of the Flies existence. And the only way out of this dilemma for Christians is to say that God actually wanted such things as slavery and the Holocaust because it served some greater good. So cheer up, O Holocaust victims! It was all in a good cause! Pshah! Talk about promissory notes.

Jason Pratt said...

Wait... the voluptuous debaucheries in the Bible have served to corrupt and brutalize mankind!?

Granted, there are voluptuous debaucheries in the Bible, but these are not typically promoted as being something we're supposed to emulate (much less as a reason to join up with the faith. Can you imagine how much less trouble Christian evangelism would have been and would be throughout history if we were actually promoting voluptuous debaucheries!? {lol!})


More seriously: we're having several discussions on the responsibility of God for evil and sin, at evangelicaluniversalist.com right now. (One thread here; another one here which is more focused on my own position. One of our local atheistic-ish agnostics contributed an interesting exegetical excerpt from Christian author Steven Jones yesterday, though possibly in the wrong thread by accident, here.)


My position is that God does in fact share in the responsibility of the sin and horror that occurs in the world, and even takes primary responsibility for it, paying for our sin on the cross (which event is also an example of God taking primary responsibility through cooperating with evil or misguided men in something that results in Bad Things Happening.) The Son, suffering voluntarily in solidarity with both sinners and victims (whether victims of sin or of natural suffering), shows us once in history what God is always willingly doing with and for us throughout our history.

He isn't an absent parent leaving us to our Lord of the Flies existence; but a parent voluntarily suffering our Lord of the Flies existence with us, and taking responsibility when we abuse one another with the freedoms He has given us, or when we fall prey to the neutral field of existence in which we have to exist in order to feasibly exist at all.

Do those temporary tragedies "serve some greater good"? Yes; while still being real tragedies. They occur by the grace of God at all (even if they occur by abusing the grace of God); and God even actively cooperates Himself in all of them to one degree or another: not with the intentions of those who do the evil (nor with the non-intentions of Nature just going about its reactions and counterreactions), but because God's active upkeep (at the very least) is why any of these events or persons can exist to happen at all.

But God, being good, acts in solidarity with wicked and ignorant men, to bring about something better than what the wicked and ignorant men have in mind: even something better for those men themselves.

Which is also very much the point to the incident of the cross. (Where God Himself is "reckoned with the transgressors".)

JRP

Walter said...

Thomas Paine is own of my personal heroes. He believed in God, but considered the sacred books of all religions to be the words of men, and not the Word of God.

Jeff Carter said...

If Ferrari doesn't put in seat belts or puts in dodgy brakes, then we hold Ferrari accountable.This is the kind of faulty reasoning that "rationalists" and lawyers are famous for. Our legal system - conjured up by the dubious morality of lawyers - may hold Ferrari accountable, but that doesn't mean they should. As a matter of fact, there's an intuitive backlash by common sense to this kind of thing. Plenty of us are sick and tired of hearing that juries - seduced by manipulative lawyers with convoluted, twisted reasoning and by a culture that wants to blame every thing on the higher powers and take no responsibility for themselves - award millions of dollars to a plaintive because they spilled hot McDonald's coffee on them and got scalded. It's hot coffee, you idiot. Watch what you're doing.

The idea that because God knew something was going to happen makes him responsible, then, is essentially the same argument brought to us by greedy lawyers (substitute rational atheists here)seeking big awards for their victim clients who can't accept responsibility.

It's a tough world. Be a man about it. Stop playing the victim, stop whining, and stop blaming it on God.

Gordon Knight said...

I assumed the quote from Paine refers to those troubleing passages in the OT in which God seems to advocate genocide.

legodesi said...

To be honest, despite his exaggerations of the problem, the violence of the O.T. is a challenge to me. I think apologists have been awfully quiet on the subject because it challenges them, too.

legodesi said...

"Stop playing the victim, stop whining, and stop blaming it on God."

even when God orders a raid into a village...?

Jeff Carter said...

legodesi,
What leads you to believe that the Old Testament should be taken literally?

Ilíon said...

Legodesi: "To be honest, despite his exaggerations of the problem, the violence of the O.T. is a challenge to me. I think apologists have been awfully quiet on the subject because it challenges them, too."

Actually, apologists have never been silent on this. The problem is that almost no one is paying attention -- people are demanding an emotionally satisfying solution to the "Problem of Evil," and there is none such, other than simply to trust in God's goodness.

---------
For instance, recently "KairosFocus" posted this:
KairosFocus: Is the God of the Bible (esp. the OT) a barbaric, genocidal "moral monster"?
and he references this older item in the above recent blog item: The Problem of Evil.


=== following is my response to him ===
I seems to me that you don't get around to explicitly answering the question you've posed -- note, I said "explicitly." Here's my attempt to draw out, and to a degree expand upon, the implicit argument you're presenting:

1) There exists that which is properly called 'morally evil' -- and the atheist cannot, upon pain of incoherence (and willful incoherence is itself a moral evil), simultaneously deny this reality while asserting that the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster.

1a) The fact that there is moral evil is proof that moral good exists; for, to say that "thus-and-such is a moral evil" is a meaningless assertion if there exists-not that against which the "thus-and-such" is a violation.

1b) BUT, neither good nor evil are compossible with any atheistic/materialistic/naturalistic worldview.

For, IF the world itself *just is* (i.e. the world was not intended-and-created, but rather exists in its own right) -- and, after all, this belief/assertion is a primary and non-negotiable commitment of atheism -- THEN there can exist only that which is grounded in, and reducible to, matter-energy moving in time-space.

AND, since 'good' and 'evil' are *not* grounded in, nor reducible to, matter-energy moving in time-space, then no such things can possibly exist were it indeed the case that the world is not created, but rather exists simply and without need of further explanation.

1b.1) THUS, in the very act of making the accusation that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster," the atheist has asserted that atheism -- the assertion that there exists no Creator-God whatsoever -- is an assertion from a false worldview. That is, the particular atheist admits that there is, and that he knows that there is, some being who may properly be called 'God.'

1b.2) THUS, if he will be logically consistent (which is itself, after all, a moral obligation), the atheist must give over his atheism and admit that the world was intended-and-created; which is to say, that there exists a Creator-God.

1b.2a) AND, if he will not be thus logically consistent, then we Christians have no logical (nor moral) obligation to take him -- or his "objections" to the God-of-the-Bible -- seriously. For, he proves himself to be intellectually dishonest (which is to say, to be worse than a mere liar); he proves by his very act of willfully embracing logical inconsistency that it is logically impossible for us to argue with him, for there are no rules to which any "argument" he presents will adhere. I, myself, would go further and argue that not only is it logically impossible to argue with such a person, but also that it is immoral to (pretend to) attempt to do so; that one has the moral obligation either: to ignore him; or, to attempt to help him admit and correct his underlying problem, which is hatred of the truth and the good.


So, on the assumption that we are now dealing with an erstwhile atheist, perhaps we can procede:

2) The assertion that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" is seen to contain the unstated (and doubtless unrecognized) assumption that, while there is indeed a God, the God-of-the-Bible is not the *real/ultimate* God.

2a) For, after all, the "ultimate" God is that being in whom all things ultimately are rooted and have their being -- else, one ends up with the infinite regress problem of positing an infinite series of "Gods," each of whom it becomes epistemologically necessary to assert, in never-ending sequence, is ontologically prior to the one currently under consideration.

3) Positing that "the Good" -- that by which one is justified even in asserting that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" -- exists in its own right (as per the false paradox of the Euthryphro dilemma) turns out to be as incoherent as asserting that the physical world exists in its own right. That is, "the Good" must also be rooted in, have its existence in, the "ultimate" God.

3a) For, not only is "the Good" semantically contained within the "all things" which are and must be ultimately rooted in the "ultimate" God, but also "the Good" is inter-personal and relational -- one cannot coherently speak of "the Good" and of the moral obligation to accord with it (nor of its violation, that is, of moral evil) without implying a plurality of persons: if there exist-not persons (emphasis on the plural), or should there exist a plurality of persons but with no relationship one to the other, then there exists nothing, nor can exist anything, properly called "good."

3a.1) Moral evil just is the violation of the interpersonal relationship amongst a plurality of persons. Even to use the word 'violation' assumes there is something which is proper and of which violation is possible.

3b) To reiterate: "the Good" -- that by which one is justified even in asserting that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" -- does not exist in its own right. Rather, its existence, as with that of all other existing things, is grounded in the reality and existence of "ultimate" God.

4) So, our erstwhile atheist, if wishing to maintain his assertion that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster," logically must adopt a position of gnosticism; that is, that there is, indeed, an *ultimate* God-who-is-Good, but that the God-of-the-Bible cannot this *real* God.

4a) BUT, this throws us right back into an infinite regress of an ever-receding, ontologically-prior, "real" God, by the Goodness of whom we are judging the so-called God currently under consideration to be morally deficient.

4a.1) For, after all, our erstwhile atheist's argument against the God-of-the-Bible rests upon the appeal to one's emotional response to the moral evil (and/or natural evil) which exists in the world and the existence of which the God-of-the-Bible, whom we Christians say *is* the real God, allows. Going further, our erstwhile atheist's argument is not only that God-of-the-Bible allows moral evil (and/or natural evil), but that he both commits and commands moral evil.

4a.2) BUT, if this argument is valid against the God-of-the-Bible, then it is equally valid against the God-Before-The-God-of-the-Bible. And, if it is valid against *that* God, then it is valid against the one before him, world without end (amen, amen).

4b) So, our erstwhile atheist logically must abandon gnosticism as fruitless and self-defeating, for it devours itself; the very percieved problem (real or imagined) on the basis of which one adapts gnosticism in the first place cannot be answered by it, and, in fact, if the percieved problem is real, then it apples as fully to gnosticism as to non-gnosticism.

4c) Or, our erstwhile atheist, if wishing to maintain his rejection of the God-of-the-Bible, must maintain that there exists some morally valid, even if unknown-to-us, reason that the "real" God allows the "evil" of the God-of-the-Bible.

4c.1) Which is to say that there exists some morally valid, even if unknown-to-us, reason that the God-of-the-Bible allows evil to exist in his Creation.

4c.2) Which is to say that there exists some morally valid, even if unknown-to-us, reason that the God-of-the-Bible does and/or commands that which we emotionally reject as being evil, or that which would indeed be evil when commanded by a mere human being.


5) To reiterate, the existence of "the Good," as with all things which exist, is and must rooted in the God-Who-Exists (and whom, as we Christians know, just happens to be the God-of-the-Bible).

5a) To assert that the God-Who-Exists is morally evil is to assert that Goodness is a self-contradiction, which seems to be absurd; or it is to assert that existence is a self-contradiction, is blatantly is absurd.


6) So, our erstwhile atheist is backed into the corner of realizing that the "problem" is vastly misstated and misunderstood.

Doctor Logic said...

Ilion,

You have a glaring error in step 1. So you wasted your time.

1) There exists that which is properly called 'morally evil' -- and the atheist cannot, upon pain of incoherence (and willful incoherence is itself a moral evil), simultaneously deny this reality while asserting that the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster.That there is something humans subjectively call evil does not mean that there is something objectively evil. I don't know why you find this so hard to understand. Maybe you're intellectually dishonest?

Evil isn't defined to be an objective thing. Evil is defined by reference to our moral feelings, which are statistically similar from person to person (just like, say, taste in food). Starting from this definition of evil, we can ask questions about whether there is an objective right answer to "Is that evil?"

And, as you admit in (1b), there's nothing more to evil than our subjective opinion. (Of course, if stolen gasoline burns differently than fairly purchased gasoline, you would have a case of objectivity. But it doesn't, so you don't.)

So, getting back to the PoE...

1) There's something you subjectively call evil.

2a) If your subjective sense of evil is a substantially-accurate measurement of objective evil, then the world is seen to be objectively evil. God can prevent it, yada yada... PoE.

2b) If what you subjectively call evil is actually what is objectively good (i.e., your gauge of good and evil is broken), then why be good? There's no point in being objectively good if it is disconnected from what is subjectively good. Seriously, why are people good in the first place? Answer: because they believe the consequences will be better or because it satisfies a moral aesthetic. If it fails to do this, then it would be preferable to be evil. IOW, why obey an objectively evil God? Now, THAT would make a mockery of the definition of evil.

2b1) If what you subjectively call evil is actually what is objectively good, then the subjective good we see in the world is objectively evil, and God is permitting it. God can prevent it, yada yada... PoE.

2c) If all morality is subjective, then God's morality appears to me to be subjectively evil.

Doctor Logic said...

Jeff,

It's a tough world. Be a man about it. Stop playing the victim, stop whining, and stop blaming it on God.And stop taking action to make it a better, safer world?

That's a very interesting view of responsibility. So... you will never sue anyone for negligence, i take it?

And, let me guess... arbitrarily, we can't blame God for anything bad, but can always credit him for the "good" things?

J said...

DI features something reasonable for a change. Paine knew the score on the absurdity of scripture, and he hints a problem for the philosophaster: how does one prove the goodness/benevolence/Justice of the Almighty (putative Almighty, that izz)? The Old and New Testament do not in themselves establish that, whatsoever. G*d's justice merely a stipulation--not really provable, anymore than one can prove His existence.

Jeff Carter said...

Doctor Logic,

And stop taking action to make it a better, safer world? Since when is whining and casting blame "taking action"? What exactly does that change?

That's a very interesting view of responsibility. So... you will never sue anyone for negligence, i take it?Well, I never have, so it would depend on where I thought the responsibility lies. To assert that McDonald's is responsible for scalds or that RJReynolds is responsible for cancer is absurd. Place the responsibility where the responsibility lies and that is not merely on people who "could reasonably foresee" that something could happen. I'm 100% certain that there's going to be trouble in your life. Does that make me responsible for it?

And, let me guess... arbitrarily, we can't blame God for anything bad, but can always credit him for the "good" things?No, that very is so simple-minded as to be naive. The deeper question is, how do you know what is bad and what is good?

Ilíon said...

The Ironically Misnamed Personage: "You have a glaring error in step 1. So you wasted your time. ... That there is something humans subjectively call evil does not mean that there is something objectively evil. I don't know why you find this so hard to understand. Maybe you're intellectually dishonest?"

Actually, taking *anything* you ever say seriously would be indeed "wasting my time."

But on the other hand, you are intellectually dishonest -- that is, you're a hypocrite in regard to things of the mind, and of argumentation, and specifically when arguments begin to touch on the falsity of atheism -- so perhaps Gentle Reader can, even if you cannot, understand that one fully expects you to have "missed" the point ... and to have "missed" that I had already answered your "objection" even before you made it.

Hell! You even directly quoted the answer to your pseudo-objection. Just how great a fool and liar do you intend to be? Further, you surely ought by now to understand that it doesn't at all offend me to bluntly tell you (and everyone else) that you're a intellectually dishonest (which is worse than merely lying) even aside from being a run-of-the-mill liar.

What! Are you going to whine (as you do periodically) to Mr Reppert that in bluntly pointing out that you are a liar (intellectual dishonesty, like hypocricy, is a specialized form/sub-set of lying) I have somehow violoated some objectively real moral obligation ... and that, therefore, he ought to ban me from commenting on his blog? Once again, how great and blatant an intellectual hypocrite do you intend to be?


Perhaps, if I can work up the interest to do the work of writing it out, I'll use your behavior in this thread as subject matter.

Doctor Logic said...

Ilion,

You're a great spokesperson for Christianity! Keep up the good work!

BTW, you still don't get it at all. Here you go again... Are you going to whine (as you do periodically) to Mr Reppert that in bluntly pointing out that you are a liar (intellectual dishonesty, like hypocricy, is a specialized form/sub-set of lying) I have somehow violoated some objectively real moral obligation ... and that, therefore, he ought to ban me from commenting on his blog? Er, what if you commit an act that violates what Victor subjectively regards as a moral obligation? Are subjective decisions prohibited?

Here's the usual fallacy that you dishonestly pretend not to notice...

1) Assume, moral views are subjective.

2) Then DL's views have no more objective standing than Ilion's.

3) Assume one absolutely cannot stand up for a moral position when that position has no more objective merit than its competitors.

4) Conclusion: DL cannot stand up for his views over Ilion's.

5) Fact: DL believes DL can and ought to stand up for DL's views over Ilion's.

6) Because (4) contradicts (5), DL must reject (1).

Gee, can you figure out what's wrong with the argument?

Could it be that (3) is a claim that belongs to moral realism and not moral subjectivism? Yeah, I think so. Whatever. Go ahead and pretend you haven't noticed this argument.

Oh, Ilion, are you gonna write about me?!! That would be cool! Demonize me, baby!

legodesi said...

"What leads you to believe that the Old Testament should be taken literally?"

In cases of writings intended to record history, we presume it literal unless we're directed otherwise.

What would lead you to take it figuratively? What does figurative mean? Doesn't it mean to signify some deeper truth, perhaps symbolically or through an implied image? If that's the case, what would God possibly be conveying to us figuratively through an order to kill a specific village with a specific name?

Secondly, did the original hearers take the history literally or figuratively? It's an important question to ask to consider.

Ilion,
The effect of your response may indicate that the use of morals presuppose some transcendental reality. But what does it do with the apparent inconsistency with theism and love?

Ilíon said...

Legodesi: "The effect of your response may indicate that the use of morals presuppose some transcendental reality. But what does it do with the apparent inconsistency with theism and love?
"

I have no idea what you're talking about. Usually, I can figure out at least the context to which a confusing question/statement applies. But I'm really stumped here.

Ilíon said...

DIshonest Fool: (the redundancy is intentional) "You're a great spokesperson for Christianity! Keep up the good work!"

Apparently, you've mistaken me for a member of the religion of Nice-ianity. Or, perhaps, you've incorrectly conflated Nice-ianity for Christianity. You are mistaken, in any event.

Ilíon said...

J: "... G*d's justice merely a stipulation--not really provable, anymore than one can prove His existence."

This statement just never gets stale, not matter how frequently it's asserted. Likewise with its truth-value: it just never gets there, even with repetition.

The fact is, Mr Reppert's work on the Argument From Reason (you know, a major point of this blog's existence) proves that God exists. Mr Reppert is just to "nice" to really push the truth-claim that the denial that God exists is absurd. I, however, am not so constrained (Fancy that! Right here on DI -- which finally "features something reasonable for a change" -- and a mere week ago, there was something reasonable. Had you been willing to consider it.)

Gordon Knight said...

No one thinks Theism is incompatible with love, but you can argue that the actions the Biblical God encouraged-wholesale slaughter of village including children, not to mention farm animals, is not consistent with love.

I see scripture and indeed all of history as a partnership between God and human beings, sometimes human beings get it wrong and attribute their wronghood to God.

Ilíon said...

The Little-Godist: "I see scripture and indeed all of history as a partnership between God and human beings, sometimes human beings get it wrong and attribute their wronghood to God."

The God of the Bible -- you know, The God, the Living One -- quite refuses to be small enough to satisfy you. And he declines your generous offer to "let him off the hook" in this manner (you could look it up, try 'Job').

legodesi said...

"But I'm really stumped here."

Let me try again. Your rebuttal of the argument is in showing an inconsistency in the atheist's argument, because the atheist is presupposing objective morals by trying to say that God has broken them. But that, if anything, is an ad hominem critcism. It may discredit the person's credibility. It says nothing of his argument, that God cannot be morally good if he has commanded people to do things that were morally evil.