Theodicy

Jim Downey's picture

GOD Hates The World.

You know, this *almost* seems like a parody, but I recognize enough of the Westboro crowd in it to know that it is serious:


Jim Downey's picture

Why does God hate Mexico?

OK, so Mexico seems to be ground zero for the new and improved swine flu. And yesterday a couple of people were killed by an earthquake. Their air quality is atrocious. Poverty is endemic. And the drug cartels are busy killing each other and kidnapping anyone who has more than a few pesos in the bank.

I thought Mexico was a very religious country? Why does God punish them so?

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

I'm sure it was all part of God's plan.

4 dead, 48 injured as tornado hits Boy Scout camp

BLENCOE, Iowa - Frightened Boy Scouts huddled in a shelter as a tornado tore through their western Iowa campground, killing four people and injuring 48 others who had little warning of the approaching twister.

* * *

The tornado that struck a Boy Scout camp in western Iowa killed three 13-year-old scouts and one 14-year-old scout, said Lloyd Roitstein, an executive with the Mid America Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He did not release the names of the victims.

Too bad Pat Robertson doesn't have a regional headquarters there on the Iowa side, across from Omaha. He could have prayed the tornadoes away, like he does hurricanes. And it's a shame, really, that Jerry Falwell isn't with us any longer to explain why God was punishing those Scouts. But not to worry, I'm sure that ol' Fred Phelps will find time to do so.

*sigh*

Jim Downey's picture

Trolling for Jesus.

So, I popped over to PZ's place to check out what was happening, and in the latest thread found a perfect gem of someone trolling for Jesus:

And this blog confirms what I have found in almost every atheist blog I've visited: atheists lose their moral foundation, when they jetison God, and eventually end up foul-mouthed, pornographic, hate-filled, humorless individuals. It's because the mind can't actually cope with the implications of atheism. The personality begins to deteriortate. It's a mentally unhealthy state of mind. PZ Myers simple confirms it.

Yes, I'd definitely have to say that PZ Myers is the perfect example of how your mind deteriorates when you become an atheist. Definitely.

Anyway, out of a somewhat perverse curiosity I clicked over to the Troll's Home. And found out that:

Our specific mission is to fight the spread of atheism in society...

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Ray Comfort Blames Mall Shooting On "Secular World"

Interesting... It appears that Ray Comfort has a blog. Here's his take on the recent mall shooting in Omaha.

[link] If the secular world insists on saying that there is no God and that we are the products of evolutionary chance, they are saying that they have no idea where we came from, what we are doing here, or where we are going after death. Robert A. Hawkins is the tragic result of that meaningless existence.

This is in response to a line in Hawkin's suicide note which read:

[PDF] "I've just snapped I can't take this meaningless existence anymore I've been a constant disappointment and that trend would have only continued."

The tragedy at the mall in Omaha was terrible, but blaming it on the "secular world" is a mistake. There has been no indication that Hawkins' was an atheist, or a Christian, or anything at all so far. (It's a good bet that he was a Christian, though. His parents and step parents issued press releases through their churches.)

But here's the thing, Ray old chap. Even if the kid turns out to be an atheist, this says exactly nothing about whether or not your god exists. People have been killing people and themselves for as long as we've been "people". Human being are animals that kill - sometimes for what we think are good reasons, and sometimes for not-so-good reasons. Hawkins' brain was broken, obviously, and his reasons were very, very bad, but the existence or non-existence of a magical man in the sky does not have anything to do with them.

Dirk Diggler's picture

Christian Charity Raising Money To Feed Non-Gay Famine Victims

A Colorado-based Christian charity is providing aid for any and all heterosexual Africans in need.

Note to self: Check TheOnion.com more often!


Christian Charity Raising Money To Feed Non-Gay Famine Victims

I larfed and larfed.

It appears I have taken procrastination to the level of art form today.

Jim Downey's picture

The problem of evil.

Got a question from a friend this morning. Thought I would post it, and my quick response.

So, if atheists don't believe in religion, how do you deal with evil? I'm not talking about good v. bad stuff, I'm talking about things like genocide.

My reply:

First off, we don't "don't believe in religion". Religion is a fact - it exists in many forms all around the world. It is "god" that we don't believe in.

As for evil, that's easy - we don't make excuses for it. No blaming it on the devil, or demons, or even it being "part of God's plan." Evil is entirely a human agency, due to many different factors, but always because of the actions of a person. And I have more than a little sympathy with the Steven Weinberg quote: "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

Dirk Diggler's picture

Televangists Sowing Seeds of Corruption

From CBS news.

As entertaining as many Televangelists are, I am glad the Senate has decided to look into their financial matters. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Financial Committee is requesting the financial records of at least 6 televangelists and their ministries. Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn are the targets.

Creflo Dollar, are you shitting me? The good Reverand Creflo A. Dollar Jr. lives in a $2.5 million apartment, a multi-million dollar house, has a private jet and a bunch of Rolls Royces.

"Remember," said Mr. Dollar, a familiar figure across the country because of his "Changing Your World" television show and best-selling books, "if you sow a seed on a good ground, you can expect a harvest."

A striking Hollywood writer couldn't make this stuff up.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Basics For Non-Believers

Vox Day asks a question:

[Vox Day] If Al, Brent and anyone else feels like pitching in, I'd appreciate it if you'd refresh my memory of some of the more common reasons given not to believe in God or Christianity, other than the basic "there is no proof your sky deity doesn't exist". I just want to make sure I don't miss any of the usual ones. I've already got these six, what am I missing?

1. A loving God wouldn't send anyone to Hell.
2. Omnipotence-Omniscience conflict. (I thought knowledge WAS power.)
3. The problem of evil.
4. Euthyphro.
5. I don't like God / If God exists, I wouldn't approve of him anyhow.
6. I believe in one less god than you.

I'm sure I'm missing a few, so don't hesitate to chime in.

Well, I would not call this a basic reason for being an atheist. Proof only counts in mathematics and liquor. Plus, it is worded wrong. It should say:

"There is no evidence that your deity exists."

...not,

"There is no evidence that your deity doesn't exist."

Double negatives only confuse the issue.

Now, it is correct to say that there is no evidence that a god of any sort exists in any real sense.

(Sorry, all you folks who will almost certainly be visiting from Vox's site, but anecdotal "evidence" isn't evidence at all. No one cares about your amusingly touching personal triumph over adversity aided by your imaginary friend named Jesus. If you cannot measure it, it is not evidence. And no again, sorry, but we are not talking about legal, courtroom shenanigans as "evidence" either. Physical evidence is what I'm talking about.)

That is not to say that evidence won't turn up at some point in the future, but simply that, to date, there isn't any.

The six arguments Vox lists are great fun to discuss in philosophy class, or within blog comment sections, but ultimately nothing more than mental masturbation.

The bottom line for me is that there is no physical evidence that a god exists. All the rest of the arguments are merely refinements on that basic point, as far as I'm concerned.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Varghese And The Traitorous Bees

Roy Abraham Varghese, theistic apologist and god-bothering author from the "Institute of Metascientific Research", was recently interviewed by the Dallas Observer. Varghese is widely credited as "the man who won over Anthony Flew", and is now currently working on a book called "There Is A God" with Flew.

Varghese is an interesting character because his contention is that without a meta-intelligence, all science devolves into incoherence if you drill-down deep enough, or pull back far enough.

It's a lot of pseudo-scientific nonsense of course, a philosophically slick update to the theistic evolutionist's mantra.

More below the fold...

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Irrational Bigot Redux

I was all set to respond to Dinesh D'Souza latest wingnuttery - in increasingly harsh tones!

But that would have been a mistake. The reason why is twofold. Number one, D'Souza doesn't give a crap about atheist's responses - he's simply attempting to enhance his "Conservative Pundit" cred by piling-on to the only group of people left in the world that it's A-OK to be a bigot towards.

Atheists.

It makes a twisted kind of sense, when you think about it. He can't be an irrational bigot towards "foreigners", obviously. And being a racist, while a great way to gain cred in the Conservative Pundit universe, is also just a great way to get yourself fired, as Imus found out. So, atheists it is. They're intelligent, and get quite riled up when you stay stupid, untrue things about them, but there not very many of them, so they are safe to mis-characterize, ignore, discriminate against, and blame things on. Publish stupid, simple-minded, untrue op-ed pieces about vile, evil atheist strawmen. Couch it in the most inflammatory language you can, then give each one a headline designed to stir up people's emotions.

That's Conservative Pundit gold right there!

Reason Number Two is a a commenter on D'Souza's second "atheists are stinky" op-ed piece. His name is Sean Goff - and he wrote the response that I wish I would have. He has crafted the most reasoned, persuasive atheist response to D'Souza's tasteless, bigoted inanity out of the hundreds of comments and responses left in the last two days. Seriously. It's brilliant.

More below the fold...

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Dinesh D'Souza Is An Irrational Bigot

In these days after the horrible tragedy at Virginia Tech, most folks, theist and atheist alike, are offering their heartfelt sympathy and support for the family and friends of the innocents who were killed.

But not D'Souza. He decided that it would be a great idea to write an op-ed piece and call atheists a bunch of evil nihilists - for not being more visible during the aftermath.

[link] Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found.

What complete and utter horseshit. Atheists are to be found in about the same numbers as reflected in their percentage of the population. Atheists have suffered exactly the same as everyone else, there are just less of us.

D'Souza's a delusional bigot, but he aptly demonstrates the fundamental misconception that most theists have about atheism. That misconception is that they think that atheism is a religion.

It's not. It is a description. It describes a person in which god-belief - of any kind - is absent.

Atheism does not have a rulebook, a set of instructions, relief organizations, a hierarchy, a meeting hall, or scriptures.

Individual people are atheists individually. The only thing they share is a lack of god-belief.

D'Souza is a tool with an irrational fear of an atheist strawman that does not exist. Of course, he also believes in a magical man in the sky who does not exist, so this is not too surprising.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Here Comes Jesus Cottontail

This is a repost from 2005. Happy Easter, folks! -Brent


Happy Easter! May the big, fluffy divine Easter Bunny deliver unto you colored eggs from His own body saying, "Eat of these tasty hard-boiled treats, for this is My flesh."

*shudder*

That was definitely a visual I didn't need.

Easter weekend always seems to be the time when Christians all over the planet lose what's left of their collective minds in an orgy of religiosity where they commemorate the torture, death, and resurrection of one of their gods, Jesus Christ.

Nominal, "Jack-Christians" -- who never, ever go to church, or read the Bible, or pray, or think about their religion at all during the rest of the year -- strap on their God-Gear™ and troop off to the nearest church with their families in tow to show off how very pious they are to their neighbors - and if they play their cards right, maybe get them a little Jesus Juice. They attend local Passion Plays and weep and pray fervently, asking the bloody zombie god up there on the cross to please, please please forgive them for not praying during the whole last year so that he won't, uh, eat their brains or something. I dunno. It's very complicated, apparently.

Stodgy, uninteresting Christian Philosophers in particular shine during Easter weekend. I mean, the news agencies need to to find some "expert" to quote. They are writing these incredible, unbelievably silly stories about the wacky Filipinos nailing themselves to crosses and the the confluence of torture, blood, colored eggs, bunny rabbits, and resurrection. It's a tough weekend to be a reporter, let me tell you! So, they go and talk with the Respected Christian Philosophers™ like Alvin Plantinga to get a juicy quote or two and attempt to legitimize these weird, wacky stories that are popping up all over the place like banner ads at a porn site.

Alvin Plantinga delivers, of course. He's a brilliant, brainiac philosopher, after all. Alvin says sexy, quotable things like,

[link] [movie star Raquel Welch] "enjoys very little greatness in those worlds in which she does not exist."

That's gold, baby!

However, Brilliant Philosopher™ Plantinga - and his embarrassing, not-so-bright cousin, Pretend Philosopher™ D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, Ft. Lauderdale Florida - also have quite a bit to say about the "evidence" and the possibility of the physical resurrection of their incarnated god-man, Jesus Christ.

We'll start with D. James Kennedy. In a recent article, Mr. Kennedy, citing exhausted, retired, possibly senile new deist Anthony Flew, and a 19th-century law professor, concludes,

[link] After more than 40 years of inquiry, it is my firm conviction that the scope and strength of the evidence for the resurrection is such that one cannot both reject the resurrection and, at the same time, believe in any ancient event.

Huh.

In the same vein, Alvin Plantinga has this to say about a specific miracle like Jesus' Resurrection,

[link] According to Mr. Plantinga, the initial probability of any such claim is low, though it would obviously rise if Christians are right that Jesus "is the incarnate second person of the Trinity."

Alvin Plantinga. Brilliant Philosopher™, Master Of The Obvious.

Two can play at that game, Plantinga! *shakes fist*

"The initial probability that I am an alien from Planet Zebulon IV is low, though it would obviously rise if my followers are right about me being an actual alien from Planet Zebulon IV."

[link] The external evidence, assessed by Oxford's Richard Swinburne and others, includes the Apostles' Easter testimonies and the dramatic spread of their belief. Mr. Plantinga finds this convincing: "Maybe it's not knockdown, drag-out 100 percent conclusive evidence, but it's pretty strong evidence."

How is this strong evidence of anything that they claim? What the heck happened to the "Keep It Simple, Stupid" rule of thumb? Parsimony demands that we look for simpler solutions first, Alvin, and that we do not immediately jump to the most ludicrously complex and convoluted explanation of the facts. Christ on a pogo stick. Sir Ockham must be spinning in his grave.

Okay, let's look at the "evidence" that Christians claim as evidence of the bodily resurrection of their incarnate god-man.

  • The "dramatic spread" of the Christian belief.

The Christian faith didn't start spreading significantly away from it's starting point until a few score years after Christ's alleged death. This is perfectly consistent with the way a new meme or idea would spread without mass communication. The religion of Mithraism spread in much the same way - through person-to-person communication.

  • The Easter Testimonies of the disciples.

Dan Barker's Easter Challenge has conclusively shown that the contradictory mish-mash of accounts of the Easter story given in the Bible are not evidence of anything at all, except confusion - and maybe and ancient version of the "Telephone Game".

  • The empty tomb.

*sigh* What's the more likely scenario? You make the call!

  1. The human person named Jesus who accidentally became a religious figurehead in the early first century (Follow the shoe!) was executed by the ruling government and the dominant religion's leaders for sowing sedition and discord among the populace. After he was executed, his followers removed his body from the tomb (for whatever reason) by perfectly non-supernatural means. Then, they tacked on the title "Christ" to his name, played up the martyr angle, and told each other increasingly fantastic stories about their savior's magical powers. It was great fun. After a while, they even deceived themselves into thinking that it was true! Centuries of telling and re-telling of the story, combined with human's incredible propensity to exaggerate and elaborate on a sensational, attention-getting tale, plus our species' noted interest in the religious, created a myth that eventually became the centerpiece of the Christian religion.
  2. God exists. He incarnates Himself by making a human virgin pregnant, then having her deliver Himself in a barn on Christmas Day. He wanders the Middle East and preaches common platitudes and morality stories in mysterious parables, doing miracles and talking to Himself. Then, in a fit of pique at the stupid dunderheaded nonsense that His creations believe in and do to each other and themselves, he sees that they are all a bunch of evil sinners (even though He created them that way), and sacrifices Himself to Himself to break the rules that He Himself wrote. He dies in agony and torment on the cross to make His sacrifice to Himself more poignant and thrilling for 21st-century Movie watching Christians, and also to reward His faithful servant Mel Gibson with hundreds of millions of dollars. He is dead, placed in a tomb, then is physically and bodily resurrected by Himself to full life using his special God magic. Two thousand years later, Filipinos repeat His courageous act without any God magic and get infections from the rusty nails. God thinks that they're pretty god damned stupid to be doing that without any God magic, so he heals their infections, but lets them bleed all over each other because, let's face it, blood's pretty cool. Mel agrees with him. He looks down approvingly at the tormented Terri Schiavo, comforting her silently as she is starved and thirsted to death because She will be the New Messiah, His Only Begotten Daughter. He lovingly answers every one of President George Bush's sincere Christian prayers to Him because America is Under God, dammit, regardless of whether or not some cranky atheist doctor/lawyer or a few dozen idiot atheist bloggers agree. To Hell with them! Literally!

It's more than likely that the Jesus myth contains a seed of truth somewhere at it's core. There was probably a 1st-century teacher or religious figure named Jesus. He was probably executed by the local Roman government. Even this is not really certain, but it's at least believable and probable.

However, just because he might have existed does not mean that god exists, that Jesus was the literal physical human manifestation of this god, that he died and rose from the dead, or any of the rest of it. People want to believe in something greater than themselves. They always have, and sadly, they probably always will. The Jesus myth simply happens to be one of the most common and widely-practiced versions of "believing in something greater then themselves", for the last two thousand years. To us short-lived humans, this seems like an eternity, so this particular magic god-man myth seems eternal.

It's not.

If we had lived in Sumeria five thousand years ago, the god Enki would seem like an eternal truth to us. We seem to be wired for it.

Ah, well. Happy Easter anyway, folks. I hope you and your families get together and spend time with each other. Because that's the real important thing about holidays. Sharing your time and yourself with the people you love. I do it every chance I get, regardless of the origin of the holiday.

Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail. . . Yes. Much better than buckets of blood and torture. Let's go with that.

Jim Downey's picture

Defining God.

The other night my good lady wife returned from meeting with friends to say that one of our mutual friends wanted to get together with me "to debate religion." She went on to say further that he was going to "brush up" on some things, because he was sure that he "could prove that God exists to me."

*Sigh*

This is a friend, so when the time comes and he feels properly girded for battle, I'll have him over. We'll grill some steaks, open some beers, and talk. And the first thing I am going to ask him is to "Define: God."

Because I will want to establish just which of the many battles we are going to have - it's been my experience that getting this one issue out of the way up front simplifies all that follows. Is it the God of little children, the simple Sky Daddy who lives up above us and makes the ponies run? Is it the background 'Prime Mover' of theologians, who is only found in the deep and abiding love we feel but cannot prove? Is it the vengeful God who hates fags and wants women to be subservient to men, and men subservient to their local Shaman?

*******************

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Gods And Mobsters

The responses to John Bice's column keep getting funnier. This one from political science sophomore Joe O'Connell cracks me up!

Oh, my! Proof, omnipotence, omniscience, the supernatural, Paley's Watchmaker Analogy, a call to "prove there is no god", Pascal's Wager, and The Design Argument all shoved into less than 300 words!

The best line ever from his letter for unintentional hilarity:

[link] Wouldn't you rather be on the safe side?

Is he trying to threaten Bice or something? What is inherently "unsafe" about not believing in his particular Magic Man In The Sky? Retribution from his wacky believers?

I swear it's like an old mobster movie about Gangland Chicago, and the mob enforcers going around collecting "insurance" on the local shopkeepers saying, "you wouldn't want something bad to happen, now would you? Something like, maybe accidentally tripping down two flights of stairs and breaking both of your kneecaps?" Hehehe...

Wow. Keep up the great work, John. It's really a pleasure to watch you stir the pot out there at MSU!

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Other Seed Magazine

Rev. Hal Seed is Pastor of the New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. Seed has self-published a book entitled "The God Questions: Exploring Life's Great Questions About God".

[link] For Seed, faith in God is not found with blind surrender but upon evidence found in the Scriptures. "If you understood every Scripture in context, there are no contradictions," he said adding that he uses the Scriptures to explain the questions posed in his book. "It takes more faith to be atheist than a theist."

Ah. Circular logic and a misunderstanding of what the word "evidence" means. Typical. There is no "evidence" in the Bible - just anecdotes. "Anecdotal evidence" is not really evidence at all - and should not be treated as such.

Seed asks what he considers to be the "biggies":

  1. Is God real?
  2. Is the Bible true?
  3. Do all roads lead to heaven?
  4. How could a good God allow suffering?

The first three seem like good questions at first blush - but are they really?

More below the fold...

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Toddler Survives, Therefore, God Exists?

I just read the story from the AP about the toddler lost in the wilderness who was found alive after three days.

When my daughter was three years old we lived in a small suburban neighborhood that we loved. Our neighbors were great, and there were lots of kids. It was a family neighborhood, friendly, and it felt safe. We held barbeque's and neighborhood get-togethers, and sat on the porch in the evenings.

One Saturday we were working around the house doing yard and housework - typical Saturday activities - when we noticed that our daughter wasn't in direct eyesight. She was a toddler, inquisitive and curious, but we weren't worried. She never wandered far, usually into the backyard, or into another room. She had always been the type of child to amuse herself. Very independent.

A quick search of the house failed to turn her up. We expanded our search to the front and backyards, but no little girl. The worry set in and grabbed hold of us with a nagging fear.

Where the hell was she?

More below the fold...

Seth's picture

My Hajj…

So we're studying Islam in History class, and I had to write this paper about "My Hajj to Mecca". It's due on Wednesday, so feel free to comment on this draft (cross-posted at Kingdom of Heathen):



Dear Mom,

Hi! Guess where I'm writing from! Yeah! Saudi Arabia! Man, what a crazy two weeks this has been! It seems like just a few nights ago when you were disowning me for converting!

But seriously, Mom, this has been awesome! Now that I've gone on the Hajj, I've successfully completed one of the Five Pillars of Islam. I even got a bumper sticker! Also deep spiritual fulfillment derived from connectedness to God, but I can't put that on my car.

Ha! Ha! Anyways, you know, Muhammed was the first person to do a Hajj. We call him "The Big M" around here. Yeah, so, ever since he came back to Mecca and conquered it for Islam, Muslims have been making the pilgrimage here. Millions of people, Mom! You know how Dad always told me to become part of something? It's not the Army, Dad (wherever you are), but it's still responsible for lots and lots of wars and dead people!

You know, Mom, Muhammed was kinda like me. He was banished from his home (Mecca!) for practicing "paganism." Sound familiar? Haha! And so when he had enough followers, he went back to Mecca and took it away from the actual pagans! It's awesome!

Brent Rasmussen's picture

'Round And 'Round We Go

Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. In an op-ed piece in the WorldNetDaily, he claims to be a skeptic who doesn't believe something just because someone tells him it's true.

Then, he descends into insane irrationality when he takes on the Problem Of Evil articulated by Epicurus more than 2200 years ago:

"Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. ... If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. ... If, as they say, God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?"

The Good Pastor (heh) tells us that old Epicurus is dead wrong because "good" is what his god says it is. How do we know? Because god said so.

So there. Nyah.

[link] What is "good"? Good is what God approves. We may ask, "Why is what God approves good?" Answer: Because He approves it! That is to say, there is no higher standard of goodness than God's own character and His approval of whatever is consistent with that character. So God is good. Period.

I see! It all makes perfect, circular sense now! That Epicurus was an idiot.

Wow, Pastor Laurie! You're so skeptical! A real rebel!

Or maybe you're just believing in something because someone told you it was true.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Basic Training

Alister E. McGrath is a Christian theologian born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, currently serving as Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford. He's the author who wrote the recent book called "The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World" (amazon). This is a smart guy. He holds degrees in mathematics, chemistry, physics, and theology. He started out his academic life as an atheist, but then converted to Christianity in 1971 after arriving at Oxford University.

Why you ask?

[link] In the midst of this growing delight in the natural sciences, which exceeded anything I could have hoped for, I found myself rethinking my atheism. It is not easy for anyone to subject his core beliefs to criticism; my reason for doing so was the growing realization that things were not quite as straightforward as I had once thought. A number of factors had converged to bring about what I suppose I can reasonably describe as a crisis of faith—or lack thereof.

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