"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Thursday, June 17, 2004

A Dialogue With Darkstar218 - Continued (in response to Tim's posts here and here)

Hi Tim

The article I quoted was written by Anne Krueger, the former editor-in-chief of Parenting magazine. I think its safe to assume that she knows a little bit about what experts say about child-rearing. She does not say that lying is not wrong. She says that exaggeration and lying amongst preschoolers is a normal part of their development and socialisation. They have to learn that it is wrong. The only opinion you've offered in response is your own.

Most People
You say that you can reject the opinion of "most people" - and even most experts in their respective fields - because you know that you are right anyway. How can I tell the difference between your position and one of simple, willful ignorance about what others believe? You say that you support your beliefs by logic and truth - but it's clear that you reject any possibility of these things challenging your preconceived ideas. The Bible warns you to "...prove all things: hold that which is good. From all appearances of evil, refrain yourselves..." [1 Thess 5:19-22]... Your absolutist theology precludes you from doing that. Worse, it leads you to justify evil acts by attempting to re-define what "evil" means to absolve your notion of "God" from any vestige of blame for "his" own actions.

2 Samuel 12:11
In this verse, God clearly says that *he* will organise for David's wives to sleep with his neighbours in broad daylight as a punishment for David's acts. But you say that God cannot be held responsible, because (a) the rapists are sinners anyway; and (b) it's all part of a greater good. That's like saying that Stalin shouldn't be held accountable for the deaths of millions in the Soviet purges, because people carried out his orders and he meant well. It's like saying that Hitler wasn't responsible for the holocaust for the same reasons. The only way you can call these acts "all loving" and "moral" is to re-define what "love" and "moral" means. The God described in 2 Samuel 12:11 cannot be all-loving in any reasonable sense of those words because he causes threatens pain to David's wives to cajole him into repentance. The alternative is to suggest that it is moral for mankind to punish crimes with the rape of relatives (and it happens in some cultures) if it is done in the name of God's "absolute" authority. If that's your position, how can you say that the actions of the 911 hijackers were not moral? They used the same justification that you do.

The Bible - completely true or completely false
Here you present a classic false dichotomy. Your argument has no force in logic. There are any number of possible "truths" as regards the Bible, other than it being completely true or completely false. As I've already established, most scholars - Christians and Jews amongst them - do not believe that the Bible is wholly inerrant. How can you be sure that they are "false teachers" and that you are not? You give no basis in logic or reason for doing so. (And, if you want to make the attempt, you'll have to actually *deal* with the evidence of archeologists, historians, scientists and theologians who say otherwise).

If God doesn't exist and I don't believe He does either
Your arguments here present the standard fundamentalist straw-man of atheism. Atheists are every bit as moral as theists - arguably more so, because their good acts are not based upon a belief in either the afterlife or eternal damnation. (I live in a largely secular country. Yet crime and teenage pregnancy rates here are lower than in the US Bible Belt.) We live our lives, raise families marvel at the wonder of the Universe and seek meaning for our existence very much as you do. The difference is that we're not beholden to some preconceived notions of "absolute" morality or truth. And we can also tell our children that in all circumstances its wrong to directly punish a man's family for that man's transgressions. You can't - because your left justifying the actions of "God" whatever those actions are.

If God does exist, but I don't believe it
Here you present Pascal's Wager. You have given no basis in logic or reason to support your assertion that God exists. The fact is that there *is* no basis in logic or reason for such a belief - unless you want to discount any arguments that conflict with your preconceived notions to begin with. My disbelief in the Christian God is as rational as my disbelief in the Gods of Islam, Hinduism or of those of the ancient Greeks or Romans. You quoted C.S. Lewis in an earlier post. No offence, but you should read more widely. You should consider the words of Immanuel Kant, a rather more important figure in the history of philosophy: "Apart from moral conduct, all that man thinks himself able to do in order to become acceptable to God is mere superstition and religious folly.".

If God doesn't exist, but I believe He does exist
The problem with *your* theology, Tim, is that it leads you to close your eyes to the rest of the world beyond your preconceived notions of "truth". If you believe that God exists, but cannot be sure of it, how can you possibly justify anything other than exploring the world and what people have to say to be sure that your beliefs are based on the real evidence of the world around you? You can't.

If God does exist and I believe He does
If God does exist, Tim, you do him a disservice by insisting that your interpretation of the Bible is the only "truth" in the face of all the wonders of the Universe that God has left us to explore and discover.

Aldous Huxley
I'd be interested to see your quote from Huxley about depravity. Just a warning - I think you'll find that it comes from the words of a character in a novel...

Let me close with two questions.

Let's say that one of your children comes to you in future years and says that they have converted to Islam. They tell you that they don't care what anyone else says - they are convinced in their hearts that the Koran is the only absolute truth, and that you will be damned to hell for your lack of belief. How could you use logic and reason to challenge their beliefs in a way which would not also destroy yours?

Second. You say that you can use logic and reason to defend the creation account in Genesis. Scientists - Christians and Jews amongst them - overwhelmingly say that the evidence is clear that the Earth is billions of years old, and that the fossil record and other evidence shows that fruit trees did not appear on earth until millions of years after the first animal life. Your interpretation of the Bible says that fruit trees appeared on earth before any animal life. Can you justify your interpretation using logic and reason which does not simply discount any possibility of the Bible being wrong in the first place?

Best wishes


Read Tim's reponse here.

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