Christian love at its highest

In this post, Michelle writes about the founding of America on christian values of charity, love and you know, good neighborliness. And among the people who comments, there is one christian, I think, who has shown the love I describe above.

In Religion and Sex, CC quotes Dean Milman on the first capture of Jerusalem in 1099. Dean writes

No barbarian, no infidel, no Saracen, ever perpetrated incidents of such wanton and cold-blooded atrocities of  cruelty as the wearers of the Cross of Christ (who, it is said, had fallen on their knees and burst into a pious hymn at the first view of the Holy City), on the capture of that city. Murder was mercy, rape tenderness, simple plunder the mere assertion of the conqueror’s right. Children were seized by their legs, some of them plucked from their mothers’ breasts and dashed against the walls, or whirled from the battlements. Others were obliged to leap from the walls; some tortured, roasted by slow fires. They ripped up prisoners to see if they had swallowed gold. Of 70,000 Saracens there were not left enough to bury the dead; poor Christians were hired to perform the office. Every one surprised in the Temple was slaughtered, till the reek from the dead bodies drove away the slayers. The Jews were burned alive in their synagogue. Even the day after, all who had taken refuge on the roofs, notwithstanding Tancred’s resistance, were hewn to pieces. Still later the few Saracens who had escaped (not excepting babes of a year old) were put to death to avenge the insults to the dead, and lest they should swell the numbers of the advancing Egyptian army. The ghost of Bishop Adhemar de Puy, the Legate (he had died of the plague at Antioch) was seen in his sacerdotal habits partaking in the triumph, and it appears, not arresting the carnage.

where are the Christians when you need them?

I think it’s a problem that people are considered immoral if they’re not religious. That’s just not true…. If you do something for a religious reason, you do it because you’ll be rewarded in an afterlife or in this world. That’s not quite as good as something you do for purely generous reasons.

LISA RANDALL, Discover Magazine, July 2006

It has been argued, often, by the religious that, one who does not believe as they do, in an invisible overlord, has not the capacity to act morally. Many a religious apologist have filled the internet with this type of banter. Many sheeples seem to believe this as true and often ask the atheist how or on what ground does he claim to act morally.

The atheist in her defense has pointed the theist to the Euthyphro Dilemma[pdf] in the slim hope that the theist may spend a few minutes of their time to consider the challenge as presented by Plato. It appears to me, either that the theist does not read or if they do read, are incapable of understanding the problem of Socrates in the dialogue.

To help the theist therefore, a kind fellow, Max Maxwell, has developed several questions based on the Socratic method. In the Moral bankruptcy of faith, he explores the inadequacy of religious faith in adjudicating on morality. I would like any theist who visits this page to leave a comment on what they think Max has ignored or where they think his reasoning is fallacious.

I would also challenge the theist to convincingly tell me and other readers here why, if religion* has no say on morals, doesn’t answer why we suffer and has no evidence in its support among others, why they are still religious. Given that the religious person believes the atheist is lost, I think this will go along way into bringing them back to the fold.

*Whenever religion is used in this blog, it means belief in the supernatural.

Character building as an answer to the problem of suffering/ evil

The traditional arguments for the existence of God have been fairly thoroughly criticised by philosophers. But the theologian can, if he wishes, accept this criticism. He can admit that no rational proof of God’s existence is possible. And he can still retain all that is essential to his position, by holding that God’s existence is known in some other, non-rational way. I think, however, that a more telling criticism can be made by way of the traditional problem of evil. Here it can be shown, not that religious beliefs lack rational support, but that they are positively irrational, that the several parts of the essential theological doctrine are inconsistent with one another, so that the theologian can maintain his position as a whole only by a much more extreme rejection of reason than in the former case. He must now be prepared to believe, not merely what cannot be proved, but what can be disproved from other beliefs that he also holds.

John Leslie Mackie

In this post, we have a Christ lover telling us that maybe, just maybe, there is a theodicy we haven’t considered. She starts by making the outlandish claim that maybe people are responsible for the suffering they undergo. Having volunteered at a children’s hospital for several months, I must at this point ask why would those babes have cancer? Was it, as we have characters in the bible ask, their sins or those of their parents?

I sympathize with her friend. I sympathize with her loss. Most of all I pity her. Why would she, in the face of negative evidence of a loving and powerful god, would she continue to pay homage to such a god.

I am at a loss to what words mean to the theist. She writes

The most reasonable inference from all the evidence we have is that God is perfectly good and loving and nothing is impossible for him.

and I wonder what do the theist mean when they say their god is perfectly good and perfectly loving? I am not perfectly good or all-powerful but I have always tried to ease the pain of my fellows. To conclude that suffering, gratuitous suffering, points to a perfectly good and loving god is positively irrational and a suspension of reason.

She tells us

Were there no one to feel “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of,” so the definition of compassion, we would all be lacking this superlative virtue.

and I must ask what stopped a powerful god from creating us with these qualities if it thought they were important? What stopped their god from creating a world where these qualities wouldn’t be necessary? A world devoid of suffering. And it is not true that all suffering has led to building of character. There are several instances of people being disillusioned by their own suffering or those of others. For every person who learns a thing from suffering tens of others learn nothing.

Inquiring minds would want to know, to what end is this learning? Who benefits? Is she willing to suffer endlessly for a reason she doesn’t know just because others may learn from her suffering? If she isn’t willing, what makes her think others should be used as test cases for a god? Does an omniscient god want to learn something it doesn’t already know? And what happens to those who don’t learn from their suffering; like the 10 year old girl repeatedly raped in Paraguay by her step dad? Whose fault was it she was raped? What lesson are we to learn from her suffering? That a perfectly loving and good god stood by and watched helplessly as she was violated?

I think anyone who believes and can voice

If God’s purpose in afflicting the undeserving is to move those around them to action and character development, then it seems to me the sooner we act and develop the sooner the affliction will be removed.

needs to spend time with a counselor. There is a part of their humanity that has gone to the dogs. I mean no disrespect for the dogs.

She writes in conclusion

I am firmly convinced that God has good reasons for allowing suffering in the world.

I say in retort that I am firmly convinced this world is not under divine governance. That suffering is part of life. Further, that the universe is indifferent to our suffering. If anything is to be done about suffering, it is up to us to find a solution to it. No amount of prayers have solved the malaria epidemic in Sub Saharan Africa. Sleeping under mosquito nets, clearing breeding grounds for mosquitoes, development and availability of antimalarial drugs have done all the work. I will not stop anyone from praying. No. I will only remind them it is a waste of time.

I will close by reminding the good christian that the character building argument is not new. It is wanting as a theodicy and it leaves the problem of evil where it found it, unchallenged, that is.

I will say with Ingersoll

“Injustice upon earth renders the justice of heaven impossible.

God, the universe and us

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.

Carl Sagan
In his post god…, John, has attempted to respond to a comment, I am assuming by an atheist, and tells us nothing really. The comment

The idea that is some super powerful entity created the universe 13.8 billion years ago, then waited about 9 billion years before creating our solar system, then waited another 4 billion years before creating humans, then waited until about a few thousand years ago to reveal himself. He did all of this, created a universe with billions and billions of galaxies, each containing billions and billions of stars, most of which we cannot see, all for the benefit of a species of carbon based organisms on a small planet orbiting a small to medium sized sun. And this species has only inhabited its planet for less than 1/100 of 1 percent of the life of the planet. And this super powerful being in this gigantic universe watches what people do and listens to their wishes and cares whether someone gets a job, or recovers from an illness or wins a football game. This idea is so ridiculous, so outlandish that it should be considered effectively impossible.

So that’s why people don’t believe in your mythological deity…. because it’s stupid.

A comment I agree with. It is not of interest to us. I copy it here for those uninterested in going to check John’s post.

John attempts to turn the comment on its head to argue the probabilities of our existing are close to nil but forgets the little detail that regardless of what possibilities/ probabilities say, we are. This is one fact you can’t assail. And our being, does not shine a light on the existence of a god.

John writes

This notwithstanding, what interested me most about this reply was the portrait of God presupposed in the description. The argument only really works if you presuppose that God does not conform to a concept of God, but to the realities of what it’s like to be a human being.

I hope he intends to tell us about his conception of god is.

He tells us the above portrayal of god is inaccurate. He says

These are no doubt interesting questions but they presuppose a rather anthropomorphic understanding of God.

But one must ask, isn’t a god who suffers, who dies, who hears prayers, loves and hates anthropomorphic? How else would one describe the god of the Abrahamic religions? Isn’t it anything but anthropomorphic?

The god of the bible, is said to have given man dominion over all things on land and in water. Essentially, to this god, man is at the apex of creation. John, by denying this should at least tell us which god he serves.

In Genesis god rested on the seventh day. I don’t know whether it was out of tiredness or lack of ideas. Whatever linguists want to take the rest to mean, it is there in the bible. So when John says

when one doesn’t have to rest

he at least should tell us why the author of that part of Genesis had god resting. And the claim that is metaphorical will not wash for everywhere, Christians justify resting on their chosen days of worship by referring to god’s rest.

While I don’t know what god is, I would be interested in knowing how John purports to know the mind of god. I would like to know how he knows

God can at any single time have before him with full attention every single piece of existence, as it were, as if it were the only thing that exists. In other words, there is nothing exceptional from God’s perspective in his ability to be interested in prayers, ponies, water-polo, and the Polish all at the same time—intimately and immediately.

this about god. The only perspective I can claim knowledge of is mine. I can from my own experience make inductive judgments on other humans, but how John can make such statements about god waits to be demonstrated.

I don’t know about you, but at the end when John writes

In fact, to construe God any other way, is, I proffer, to misunderstand what the concept of God is.

I am left unconvinced that he has shown his conception of god to be not anthropomorphic. What he has done is to increase the abilities of god infinitely but still, it is, as far as I can tell, a man with superpowers.

I don’t think John has answered to the critique raised in the comment above. Neither has he demonstrated how his god isn’t anthropomorphic.

what is it with believers?

Here we are, having a conversation on freewill and I get asked

And how do you decide what behavior is “good”, and thus ought to be pushed on everyone? I know that the Bible makes it pretty easy – good is probably best defined as that which is consistent with God’s nature, evil is that which is inconsistent with it. But you probably reject that. So what do you put in its place, and by what authority?

And I am left wondering why do believers shortchange themselves this much? Are they incapable of reason? Why would you defer to a book written by superstitious herders on how to relate with your neighbour? Is it that bad? Are Christians so handicapped?

I am not trying to have a certain mode of acting forced on anyone. I don’t posses that much influence. Beyond the people who read this blog and my social circle, I am not known anywhere else. However, I believe human reason and nature is a sufficient guide. We may falter, but with new knowledge, we correct the mistakes of the past so that every generation improves on the knowledge it inherits.

In his Categorical imperative, Kant wrote,

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law

He believed, and I agree, reason is sufficient to guide human behaviour.

Anyone who needs a bible or a religious book to behave, is handicapped and in need of sympathy.

I do not want to accept it that believers suffer this inadequacy. I want to believe they have the same mental capacities as the rest of us godless. And I want to believe they are better than their religious books. That, by virtue of their living in the present age, with the accumulated knowledge we have, they can do better than the 2000+ old books. But if they can’t, the more the pity.

Further reflections

A while back when I wrote an atheist’s extraordinary evidence, the blog author to whose post I had responded to, did write a 2000 word rebuttal which I saw no need of responding to then, given he had not responded to the argument I had raised in my initial post.

I am not responding to his post but I want to add further insights to my original post.

The entire gamut of evidence the theist has for his belief is; he/she said that god said. When the theist reads the bible, they find written, thus says the lord and believe it to be so. No theist ever says the lord has told me this or that.

And this reminds me of the several times I have seen people gathered at a spot looking into the skies at something someone said they saw. Every person who comes later will swear on the graves of their grandmother that they, too, saw it. This is analogous to how the religious idea spreads.

Lastly, there are no religious/ supernatural experiences just natural/ non religious experiences but given a supernatural explanation. Just the same way, at some point, epilepsy was treated as a possession, so is similar experience given a religious/ supernatural explanation.

Have a pleasant Sunday, you all.

Observations and insights

A public service announcement to help theists mainly.

1. There is no part in the theory of evolution that says we evolved from monkeys. We have a common ancestor. That isn’t the same thing as evolving from monkey.

2. That the chances of life occurring naturally are slim doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

3. There is no evidence for your Jesus. Stop behaving like you have evidence

4. Muslims, the Koran is not evidence for Allah or Mo[Piss be upon him].

5. And please, please, before you expect us to take your books seriously, demonstrate they are divinely inspired