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

by cofty 2596 Replies latest jw experiences

  • cofty

    SBF - Your trite comment dismisses all of the lengthy discussion that preceded it.

    Every attempt by theists to excuse god contradicts other assertions that are fundamental to christian theism.

    Everything is a game to you and you change the rules on a whim when it suits you. We are talking about the annihilation of a quarter of a million men women and children. Play your arrogant games elsewhere.

  • slimboyfat
    Every attempt by theists to excuse god contradicts other assertions that are fundamental to christian theism.

    What is contradictory about saying that you believe in a loving God and you don't know how that reconciles with suffering? It's the one answer which is not contradictory.

    Since you know David Bentley Hart is a theist and he says he can't explain suffering, in what possible sense is this "not an option". It clearly is an option. How are we supposed to make sense of your statement? Do you mean he doesn't exist? Or he only thinks he thinks that way but doesn't really? Or he may think that but he has no right to think that so you will talk as if he doesn't think that?

  • cofty

    SBF - You have said nothing that hasn't been covered at length earlier in the thread.

    It's late and I have no patience for your bullshit word games. Maybe tomorrow maybe not.

    I genuinely can't be bothered anymore.

  • slimboyfat
    Well I'm still curious what "not an option" means. But giving up hope for a straight answer.
  • Coded Logic
    Coded Logic


    I suppose I should start by asking you if you know the difference between analytic and synthetic distinctions? It's worth taking a moment to look up as it directly relates to the question you raise about why Theologians and Scientists are not in the same boat when it comes to their claims.

    Claims made by Theists about God fall into the former category. They make synthetic claims and then break their own definitions.

    For example, Christians say God can't intervene because doing so would violate our free will - but all their holy texts are about God's interventions. God doesn't like what man is doing to the planet - so he intervenes and causes a flood. God doesn't like them building a tower - so he confuses the language and scatters them across the surface of the earth. God doesn't like the fire Aaron's sons use to light their incense to offer him - so he burns them alive. God doesn't like what Paul is doing - so he gives him a roadside conversion on the way to Damascus. Etc. All of these are inconsistent with the excuse Christians make about free will and God not intervening.

    Another example is Christians claim God has perfect justice and they also say he is merciful. Well, which is it? These are diametrically opposed propositions. To go before a judge and ask for mercy is to literally ask for a suspension of justice. If the judge were to grant you mercy he would - by definition - not be exercising justice. The same is true of God. He cannot exercise mercy if he has perfect justice.

    Christians are making Analytic propositions about God (propositions that are true by virtue of their meaning). Whereas scientists are making Synthetic propositions about reality (propositions that are true by how their meaning relates to the world).

    Me saying "I know a bachelor who is married" is self refuting. However, a scientists saying, "I don't yet know how to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics" is not self refuting.


  • slimboyfat

    What I know about the analytic/synthetic distinction is that it's a problematic distinction and has been rejected by such prominent philosophers as Quine. It's like the reality/appearance distinction, or any number of other binary distinctions you care to mention. The outside infects the inside, the barrier falls down through deconstruction.

    You say that Christians say God can't intervene because of free will. Some Christians no doubt have said that, but not all, and not David Bentley Hart.

    Justice is a really interesting concept. Derrida said of justice that, "it is perhaps undeconstructable". For example justice often demands contradictory things. In particular justice demands that the same rules apply to everyone. Justice also demands that rules be flexible enough to deal with the uniqueness of individual cases. These two impulses ensure that we will never get to the bottom of justice, it must be continually grappled with.

    I guess a theist might argue that a statement like, "I believe in an all powerful and loving God who allows suffering" is analytically self-refuting, but that it need not be. It may be that we do not fully understand some of the terms in statement. You can say that seems stupid or immoral. What's not so easy to say is that it's definitely wrong.

  • Coded Logic
    Coded Logic

    Well I don't necessarily think that "love" and "suffering" are irreconcilable. However, I do think that someone who is capable of preventing unnecessary suffering but fails to do so cannot be called "loving" in any meaningful sense of the word.

    If a father can stop his son from drowning but instead chooses to sit on the shore and watch his boy die - I feel safe in saying that's not a very loving father.

    The problem is made even worse for Christians as the Bible often has God being the one who is performing the unloving actions. Not only is God not saving his kids - he's the one who flooded them in the first place with the express intention of drowning them.

    What can we really say about such "love"? Are we to believe that the best possible way for an all powerful being to effect positive change is to wipe out almost all of humanity along with most of the biosphere? Or that, later on, the best possible way to protect the Israelites was to kill ALL the Amalekites including the women and their children?

    Wouldn't an all powerful God be able to achieve his goals without killing a single person? Much less killing thousands/millions/billions of innocent women and children?

    If a creator doesn't care about the well being of its sentient creatures - then why worship it? Why call it God?

  • slimboyfat
    Well I don't necessarily think that "love" and "suffering" are irreconcilable. However, I do think that someone who is capable of preventing unnecessary suffering but fails to do so cannot be called "loving" in any meaningful sense of the word.
    I agree with this view. The only sense in which I differ is I think it is possible there may be something I have overlooked or have misunderstood. Theists presumably believe in God on other grounds and feel this is something they can't explain.
    If if a creator doesn't care about the wellbeing of its sentient creatures - then why worship it? Why call it God?

    These are interesting questions. Did you see Narkissos's thread on this topic I posted above? He made the interesting point that the ancients and many other cultures had capricious gods. Our notion of God as purely good is culturally specific. Other reasons for worshipping God(s) have included fear and seeking personal advantage.

    I don't know if I can believe in God exactly but there is something mysterious about reality that purely materialistic explanations don't do justice. I came across this review of Nagel by a random guy. I feel similar to how he feels.

  • cofty

    Since this epic has been resurrected I want to summarise what it is about. It's not reasonable to expect anybody to read the whole thing before they post on it but if you read just this post there is a better chance of staying on topic.

    What is the Topic Exactly?
    The OP was inspired by my personal response to the Asian tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 in which more than a quarter of a million men, women and children were annihilated.

    The topic is not about the problem of suffering in general, it is specifically about suffering caused by natural disasters - sometimes referred to as "natural evil".

    It is not a challenge to those who believe in a deist god or who have only a vague notion of a higher power. It is not a challenge to the gods of philosophers or gnostics. This is a challenge to the god of Jesus, the god who is believed in by millions of ordinary Catholic and Protestant Christians. The one who is immanent, who hears prayers and who acts in the world. If you would like to talk about other versions of god or about how Judaism deals with suffering or about a mysterious god then this is not the thread to do that.

    The events of 2004 were the final straw in my loss of faith. I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to reconcile the disaster with the god of Jesus. I am still of that settled opinion for the following reasons.

    The Anatomy of a Tsunami
    For hundreds or even thousands of years under the Indian Ocean the
    Indo-Australian tectonic plate had been sliding below the Eurasian plate, however the slide was not smooth. The lower plate snagged the upper one creating a "locked fault zone". Unimaginable pressure built up as the upper plate was dragged down until at 07:58 local time on 26th December 2004 it broke free lifting up billions of tons of water in a few seconds in a magnitude 9 earthquake.

    As the wave rose to the surface it was less than a metre high. As it sped towards the coasts of the Pacific Rim at speeds of 800Km/h the waves grew to over 15 metres. Within hours a quarter of a million people were dead and a further two million were homeless.

    God Did It
    The god of Jesus created the world complete with moving and sticking tectonic plates. We know that continents have been on the move for millions of years. The omniscient god of Jesus knew about the growing pressures under the Indian Ocean during the centuries prior to the disaster. On the morning of the event he observed the Indo-Australian break free and begin to rebound. The omnipotent god of Jesus could have effortlessly dampened the rebound - he chose not to. He watched the wave of less than a metre rise to the surface. The god of Jesus who calmed the storm on Galilee could have quelled the wave and nobody would have known anything about it. No free will would have been infringed in any way. He failed to do so.

    The god of Jesus knew that the wave would kill a quarter of a million people and cause suffering and harm millions more. He did nothing.

    The god of Jesus did not permit the suffering of the Asian Tsunami - he caused it. He murdered them wilfully, deliberately and with malice aforethought. He made a world that was perfectly designed to kill its inhabitants and passively observed the consequences.

    If a man lays landmines around a village and watches children walk across the minefield he is guilty not only of a crime of omission for failing to call a warning but of a deliberate crime of commission.

    The Hypocrisy of God
    My argument is not that suffering is incompatible with the existence of god. It is rather that events such as the Asian tsunami are incompatible with other things that christians claim to know about god. All attempts to explain god's actions result in a story that is internally contradictory.

    Jesus claimed to have been sent to reveal the nature of his god and father. Not only does christianity claim that god is love, it defines the meaning of love, and explains the importance of love expressed as positive action in the interests of others.

    I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous... Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. - Matt.5

    Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matt.6

    But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. - Luke 6

    Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. - Luke 12

    Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. - Jas.1

    "Love ... always protects" - 1 Cor.13

    The god of Jesus is also a god who is active in the world. Millions of christians demonstrate their belief in an immanent god every day. When they thank god for their food or pray for protection for a loved one or for a new job or help with any one of a million concerns they confirm that they worship a god who acts in the real world. This is not the god of deism and yet this thread is full of examples of christians taking refuge in deism to excuse god.

    The many responses of christians to the challenge and my responses are summarised on this page... and helpfully updated by Sunny23 on the previous page to this post.

    I have no real desire to do this debate again but if anybody wishes to add any new ideas I hope this post helps to define the topic. Having considered all of the responses carefully the challenge remains unanswered.

    It is fashionable to assert that nobody can prove god doesn't exist. This is only true as long as we leave the word god undefined. It is my opinion that natural evil proves beyond all reasonable doubt that the god of christians, the god of Jesus does not exist.

  • slimboyfat

    Cofty there are parts of the Bible that express the idea that God is ultimately unintelligible to humans. So from that point of view the idea that there may be a reconciliation between God's goodness and his almightiness (as humanly conceived) that is beyond the grasp of human rationality is already there in the tradition. Where Paul says that God's ways are "past searching out" and where Isaiah says that God's perspective is as different from humans as the heavens are high above the earth.

    The New Living Translation says quite plainly

    Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

    If that is literally true then we should not actually expect to understand how complete power and perfect goodness in God can be reconciled (ambiguity intended) with the world we inhabit.

    So in a sense drawing attention to this tension does not refute the Christian conception of God it affirms him.

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