The Pastor of my Old Church Tried to Re-Convert Me Yesterday

by cofty 2596 Replies latest jw experiences

  • humbled

    I appreciate the poetry and the universality of your sentiments, kassad84.

    It may be pleasant to frame God in this way and feel certain that He will certainly include every suffering soul in the great after-show party, but you have to step out of the orthodoxy of scriptural readings to do it. Many other lofty-minded Christians make remarks such as yours that blythely include the unsaved in eventual happy here-afters. But Classic Christianity does not place the unfaithful/unbelievers in the same heavenly healing station as you describe.

    But I am far from complaining-- I am glad to find you so ready to resolve the clear problems in the bible's story of God's power and love.

    You see, I too am hopefully inventive. I similarly subscribe to the possibility of a generous spirit or force who promotes love and patches us up from time to time -- but my invisible force is vastly underpowered compared to the need we face on earth. But see here, I don't at all believe a great powerful God had to wrap himself in a man's hide to play at suffering to save us. This is a part of the story you kept, but i don't understand why.

    Rather my thoughts run thus:

    I believe there was a man, who really was just a man. Just a man wrapped in a man's skin. He was a born-in Jew and he was as sad at God's poor showing as I am. He thought about it as he worked hard making rough furniture and farm implements. He tried hard to fit a kinder version of that God into his religion--much as you and I are doing. He also felt sad for others of the working folk who trafficked around his place. He could see that religion didn't lighten their load either . So he taught simple lessons of how to be loving and enjoy life without religious rules choking your every thought and every action. His betters didn't like the stir he caused. They put a stop to his talk.

    So he suffered and died but left a good example of kindness such as: Share with strangers; women needn't fuss too much about kitchen chores and that fish fries are a good thing for a fellow to do for his friends. As well as other more trenchant teachings....

    Thus, we too can follow a spirit of love and enjoy life without holding to un-proven stories that would in turn choke our every action. It works very well for the here-and-now, by the way.

    But you think it is fine that all-powerful and all-loving God will show his love later on.

    Sorry to say that it is a thin story for me to tell the ones whose pain and loss never find a boundary.

    Not to sound flippant, but I really think that my story is as good as yours. And I have as much ground to say it has value equal to yours. Because think, kassad84, once you violate the stream of scripture (rejecting unpleasant parts) and promote personal variations--as you did with your idea of universal salvation--then you haven't a leg to stand on for saying you have faith and I do not. And we can equally be fools--only I have a story I not only find more credible than yours but it cann't disappoint me. And it's value is possibly more practical than yours.

    The God of the bible is a no-show at present--and you are teetering on a thin edge regarding orthodoxy.

  • jgnat

    People make all sorts of decisions not based on reason. There's tradition, habit, familial influence, romance, chemistry, and gut instinct. To name a few.

  • cofty

    People make all sorts of decisions not based on reason

    Yes of course. But that is different from planning our lives around beliefs that are directly contradicted by reason and evidence.

  • jgnat
    jgnat ordering our apartments around based on Feng Shui?

  • Auntfancy


  • MissFit

    Hi Cofty,

    May I humbly suggest you start another thread with the updated reasons and rebuttal points?  You could link this thread to the new one or visa versa if someone wants to read the entire discussion.

    This thread is so long now that new posters might be too intimidated to wade through all the pages.  And I am afraid they will miss out on the summary.

    This thread has really helped me look at things in a different way.  I hope others will have an opportunity to benifet from it, if only to give them a different perspective. 

    Thank you for your consideration. 


  • obfuscate

    Thank you Cofty for initiating this conversation and keeping it on topic. While it may seem intimidating to wade through all the pages, I am very glad that I did.

    To all who participated - Thank You! (I was going to attempt to reply to at least the main contributors but that was going to be another 100 pages I think!)

    Special mention to those who had the intellectual honesty to examine their arguments and engage constructively.

  • prologos
    cofty, reading some excerpts, I liked you mentioning temporary deism. what if it is permanent?
  • sunny23

    Update of summary for easier reference:

    230,000 People died in the tsunami of 2005. Why would the loving and just Christian God allow such a thing to happen? Why create a defective earth with unnecessary natural evil knowing in advance it would cause death and suffering for millions?

    Natural Evil: is evil for which “no non-divine agent can be held morally responsible for its occurrence.” By contrast, moral evil is “caused by human activity.”


    Typical theist justifications for natural evil and critical responses to them:

    1. God does good things, Satan does bad things.

    Response - If Satan caused the tsunami and god did nothing that makes god look weak as well as wicked.

    2. Calamities can be prevented by intersessionary prayer.

    Response - So god would have saved 230,000 lives if only a Christian had remembered to pray?

    3. There are lots of stories of Christians who were saved from death in the tsunami. This is a way of saying those who died basically had themselves to blame, a form of prosperity teaching.

    Response - I'm sure there are lots of stories of atheists and Muslims who were saved from death in the tsunami. There were also many thousands of Christians who died. If god picked a few favorites that only makes him look even more nasty and capricious.

    4. Humans cause suffering.

    Response- The tsunami was caused by an earthquake under the Indian Ocean. There was absolutely nothing any human could do to cause it or prevent it.

    5. Free will.

    Response- We are not talking about human actions, only about "natural evil" - bad things that are not caused by other humans. If god had prevented the tsunami no free will would have been involved.

    6. All creation including the planet was harmed by the "fall".

    Response- It was caused by the movement of tectonic plates. Earthquakes are an intrinsic part of how the earth was made. They have been happening for billions of years. It would have been trivially easy for him to quell the beginning of the tsunami wave long before anybody even knew it had happened. He chose to do nothing except watch the wave wipe out a quarter of a million lives.

    7. Yes it’s a pity that 230,000 lives were wiped out needlessly but humans do bad things too.

    Response- Measuring the morality of god against that of a human tyrant is setting the bar rather low for god. This is an example of the tu quoque fallacy.

    8. It wasn't god's time to act.

    Response- Is there a better time for a loving god to act than before the tsunami kills a quarter of a million innocent people?

    9. God was seen in the actions of Christians who worked to relieve the suffering of survivors.

    Response- Human efforts to clear up god's mess does not excuse his passivity

    10. God caused the tsunami because he is judging people for sin.

    Response- The problem for theism is that god cannot be powerful, knowing and loving if he passively observes the violent death of a quarter of a million people. You have chosen to resolve the dilemma by ditching the claim that god is love. In doing so you are in harmony with pre-exile worshippers of Yahweh but you are left with a god who is all-powerful, all-knowing and a total tyrant. You still have theism but as far as ethics go your god is on a par with Zeus or Thor. Surely the whole point of being god is being worthy?

    11. Who are we to judge god?

    Response- You have unhitched the word "love" from any meaningful definition. We may think we know what love means but god demonstrates that we have not the slightest idea. Love could just as easily mean the capricious annihilation of a quarter of a million innocent people. You destroy our ability to make moral judgements. "Good" is whatever pleases god from moment to moment. Mass destruction is just as morally good as altruism and self-sacrifice. Ethics are a matter of divine fiat. The value of human life is trivialized. In defending god you have reduced him to a celestial Pol Pot who may choose on a whim to eradicate our lives in the manner of the killing fields of Cambodia.

    If Gods morality can not be understood by our notions of morality then how can we be assured He is worthy of Worship?

    If Gods morality allows for occasions where it is morally ok to torture someone for eternity, murder babies, and condone abusive slavery, then I want nothing to do with this God and would never worship Him. If we can't understand him in terms that are relative to us then we cant possibly deem him worthy of worship until we can fully understand His morality.

    12. Suffering is good for us

    Response- Let’s try that out with a real tsunami victim. Please take a few moments to get down out your ivory tower and try to imagine what suffering really feels like for this woman. Perhaps this dead child is the only body she managed to recover from the aftermath. Let’s imagine she has lost everything. Every family member, every possession every hope and dream and ambition she ever had. She is now condemned to months of living among devastation without adequate food or water or shelter. Now go and tell her that your god sent the tsunami because she needed to learn empathy and compassion. You need to show in what way the tsunami was a benefit to the victims.

    13. Suffering provides us - the observer of suffering - with the opportunity to learn compassion and empathy.

    Response- Please refer to the answer to number 12 above. Try telling the victim that your god sent the tsunami so that you could learn to be a better Christian. What astonishing hubris that diminishes the lives of a quarter of million people into a commodity to be used for your benefit.

    14. It’s a mystery.

    Response- This is a non-answer, the intellectual dishonesty of faith is self-evident.

    Intellectual Dishonesty: When one avoids an honest, deliberate and comprehensive approach to a matter because it may introduce an adverse effect on personally held views and beliefs. A failure to apply standards of rational evaluation that one is aware of, usually in a self-serving fashion. If one deflects criticism of a friend or ally simply because they are a friend or ally, this is also intellectual dishonesty.

    Saying "its a mystery" is avoiding deliberation and avoiding to apply standards of rational evaluation that one is already aware of. When a person evaluates God's character and evaluates His actions in very particular ways as exemplifying Love, goodness and infact being the source of goodness, and then avoids evaluating His actions or inactions that would exemplify otherwise, this is intellectual dishonesty.

    This is different from scientists, scientists will say they "dont know yet" or "its a mystery" because they are still working out all the details. Theists tend to take the position that Gods characteristics are already known to be a certain way for sure without doubt. When presented with evidence to the contrary scientists reevaluate theories and apply evidence to formulate new theories. Theists who claim "mystery" are being dishonest because it doesnt fit with their theory of how God is and they arent willing to change or deny their theory, or explain why this evidence still fits with their theory of God.

    15. Suffering will be unimportant compared to eternal rewards.

    Response- This is ethically repugnant. It is an extreme example of "the end justifies the means" defense, so beloved of tyrants. Like other theodicies it is dehumanizing by reducing humans to pawns in god's game. Imagine that a scientist developed a pill that would eradicate all unwelcome memories and create a feeling of bliss. How would you judge a scientist who imposed the most horrific suffering on millions of people, as unwilling subjects of his experiment, but who gave some of his favorite people one of the magic pills when it was over? Is the suffering imposed by God and allowed by God through his non-interference, offset and justified by a reward of paradise or heaven? Is it ethical? Would you worship a God whose character allows for such things with an expectation of non-questioning obedience?

    16. We just need to trust that god always does what is for the best.

    Response- If god's lack of willingness to save the 230,000 victims of the Asian Tsunami doesn't give you pause to reflect on that trust, what would?

    17. He chose not to. Why? He is a free agent just as we are.

    Response- So if you could prevent a great evil at no cost to yourself but chose not to, and your only defense was "I chose not to; I am a free agent", what would that say about your ethics?

    18. God intervening in that tsunami may have been the cause of another’s' death...from a human reaction to God having stopped that tsunami?

    Response- An all-knowing god would be aware on the earthquake under the Indian Ocean before it happened and could have quelled the wave at its source without any human ever being aware. Not in order to impose his presence any anybody but purely as an act of love. That's what I would have done which makes me far more moral than your god.

    19. Suffering is necessary in the short term. It's a bit more like allowing your child to suffer a painful operation... and then give comfort and gifts afterwards.

    Response- There is a direct benefit from a painful operation to the person who endures the pain. You need to explain what the benefit was to the victims of the Asian tsunami

    20. Retreat towards Deism - This can take various forms that tend to back away from any of the elements of an all-knowing, all-powerful god.

    Response- How does a world with an ignorant or weak god look any different from a world with no god? What makes a god of this sort worthy of our attention?

    21. Blame the victims. They should have known not to live so near the coast or how to read the signs of a tsunami etc.

    Response- Apart from the staggering callousness of these sorts of assertions they also make no sense. The god of theism created a world of earthquakes and knew in advance when it would happen. To blame the victims is like throwing rocks at a crowd and blaming them for failing to duck.

    22. The prodigal son defense. Since the fall God gave humans what they wanted; to act as the God of their own world? This is effectively the JW position.

    Response- This is an example of the retreat towards deism defense, number 20 above. It is hypocritical for a theist to use this excuse. Every time a believer thanks god for their food or prays for health or protection or a new job they demonstrate their belief that god is very much active in the world.(Cofty2014)

  • cofty

    Thank you for the update Sunny. I haven't looked over this thread for a long time.

    The last summary that I did was on p74 (20 posts per page). The only one I don't entirely recognise in your updated summary is #14. I will have to look back over the thread.

    I still think that "natural evil" is a fatal blow to christian theism.

    My argument throughout was that all possible defenses contradict other things that christians claim about god. Therefore christian theism is internally contradictory.

    I would be happy to engage with the topic again if anybody wants to but would hope they take an hour or so to review some of the exchanges that we worked through 2 years ago.

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