Jehovah’s Linguistic Land Grab

May 14, 2010 at 3:42 am 187 comments

Is your god patient?

Not if he’s the god of the bible. According to the theology of most Evangelicals, Jehovah’s wrath is so intense over the first offense of any human that he immediately deems the offender deserving of eternal torture. No joke. One offense by any offender is sufficient to incur a divine wrath so terrible that “there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth” for eternity awaiting that offender when they die.

“Can’t god do what he wants?” you may ask.

Sure. There is nothing illogical about a malicious god. God can be as mean-spirited as he wants to be. But in addition to being malicious, the god of the bible is then also a liar since he claims to love the very humans he damns to hell-fire over a single offense. This god of the bible unequivocally claims in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that love (agape) is patient. If god loses his temper over the first offense, and deems eternal torture the only thing that will appease his anger, just how much space is left over for patience?

Normally when we think about patience and impatience we think of 2 extremes with a soft delineation somewhere in the middle such as is shown in the following image.

Here patience and impatience fall on a normal continuum. Because words belong to human convention, the standard for the extremes ought to reflect human sentiments about patience and impatience. For example, you’re not likely to find any human willing to say that “patience” could be attributed to a person who is not only offended at the 1st offense, but so angered by the offense that he wants to eternally torture the offender. Clearly such an response to a single offense would conventionally be positioned towards the far right of the patience/impatience continuum. This response to a single offense is precisely the response of the god of the bible to a first offense. There is therefore no rational way we can claim that the god of the bible could ever be considered “patient”.

But wait! What if we simply redefine “patience”? What if we take the word away from human convention, and simply say anything that our “patient” god does is by our imposed definition “patient”. In this way, we are immune from the attack of non-believers since we have simply taken possession of the word, and have redefined it to match our scriptures. Isn’t this legitimate? Let’s just pretend that anything god does we can tag “patient”. How dare ordinary humans think they can define concepts as they experience them! If what seems like impatience to humans is seen in the character of god, it is merely an illusion, for we obviously must expand our definition of patience to include all of god’s actions, right?

Wrong. Calling an alligator fuzzy will not cover the alligator in fuzz. It will only pervert the conventional meaning of the word. Arguing that the word “fuzzy” is by definition what alligators are will not redeem the absurdity of a leathery alligator being tagged with a word that convention has determined means having fuzz of some sort. This is the absurdity of christian thinking, and is diagrammed below.

This Christian inversion and perversion of human definitions of terms is also applied to other dichotomies such as love/hate and just/unjust. They simply claim that whatever god does is patient, loving and just, then smugly claim god to be immune from any assessment of his character.

This dishonest tactic is applied by theists of all stripes with a straight face and apparently no shame. Can these theists actually believe what they are saying? Let me suggest that they do not. I would argue that were a theist to hear his neighbor claim that he was a loving, patient and just father, then proceeded to eternally torture his young child upon that child’s first offense, the theist would (justifiably) call that neighbor a liar. They have not actually given up the conventional human definitions of “love”, “patience” and “justice”. They only pervert these conventional definitions to something close to their inverse in a dishonest defense of their god’s malicious actions.

It appears clear to me that no christian can claim their god to be loving, patient and just without real cognitive dissonance. Only well-practiced self-deceivers can emphatically justify their god’s actions through the perversion of terms to close to their inverse. I used to be such a self-deceived apologist for this particular god…to my shame.

-phil


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187 Comments Add your own

  • 1. BigHouse  |  May 14, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Phil, I find your posts remarkably clear and spot-on with regards to hitting at the roots of the problems with Christianity. Please keep them coming.

  • 2. Stephen P  |  May 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Well put.

    I sometimes wonder whether theists are running a version of Searle’s Chinese Room in their heads: they apply words in the rote manner that has been drilled into them, without any connection to the real world. When talking about neighbours they come out into the real world, but the moment the talk gets around to anything religious they retreat back into their Chinese Room. Only this room is full of a score of Ming vases, and any scepticism is met with an alarmed rejection, fearing that any close inspection of the room may bring the vases crashing down.

  • 3. letjusticerolldown  |  May 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    “According to the theology of most Evangelicals, Jehovah’s wrath is so intense over the first offense of any human that he immediately decides the offender is deserving of eternal torture. No kidding. One offense by any offender is sufficient to incur a divine wrath so terrible that “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” for eternity awaiting that offender when they die.”

    Your apologetic proceeds from a false characterization–and hence fails.

  • 4. Phil Stilwell  |  May 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I was an Evangelical for 25 years. Elaborate.

  • 5. Blue  |  May 14, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Letjusticerolldown, how does it fail in light of the text of Romans 3:23? That seems pretty explicit that everyone loses the Christian God’s game just for playing.

  • 6. Jay  |  May 15, 2010 at 1:56 am

    God has a dark sadistic heart
    or somehow lost control
    or for now we see in part
    the distant gracious goal

  • 7. Phil Stilwell  |  May 15, 2010 at 2:40 am

    Can god be bad if bad is good
    and good is bad if understood
    inverted logic is and should
    be thus perverted, if you would,
    to salvage god misunderstood
    when all he does is good?

  • 8. Richard  |  May 15, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Phil, well put. I agree with Stephen above in that I think most evangelicals live in a state of psychological compartmentalization, employing one set if definitions for everyday use, and another for theological use.

    And they dont quite have a coherent answer when it is pointed out that if “love” or “patience” means something when applied to God something utterly different than in any other use, then the word becomes humanly meaningless when applied to God. But human meaning is all we have access to.

    The most coherent, and most horrific, rationalization they advance, I think, is that the reason god can torture you forever (oh, Im sorry, allow you to *choose* eternal torture) for even a single offence, and still be loving, whereas your neighbor cannot, is because your sin is that bad, you worm.  Youre so corrupt you dont even recognize how awful you are and how grievous your offence is against a holy  & perfect god.

    It doesnt exactly work, logically, but the purpose of Christian theology is mostly rhetorical – i.e., emotional persuasion – rather than rational coherence. The latter exists only to serve the former, and the primary M.O. is to convict you if your sin. If they can convince you of this “cosmic guilt”, and thus that you *deserve* unremitting punishment, you will overlook such dispensible niceities as linguistic coherence. 

  • 9. Lucian  |  May 16, 2010 at 7:01 am

    A lengthy question deserves an even longer [deleted link that did not address the absurdity of a god that is tagged “patient” yet damns to eternal torture every human upon their 1st offense].

  • 10. Phil Stilwell  |  May 16, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Lucian, there have been volumes of arguments made in favor of a coherent Jehovah. My position is that they are all illogical. My specific post made the claim that to attribute “patience” to a Jehovah that condemns to eternal torture every human upon their first offense is absurd. If you can extract an argument from all the literature in defense of Jehovah and present it point my point to counter my claim, then do that. If you cannot, don’t imagine that an HTML link to the verbosity of someone else’s opinion is an acceptable substitution.

  • 11. letjusticerolldown  |  May 16, 2010 at 8:42 am

    You could pose the question, “Is God a tree?” And then argue that Evangelical theologies are found wanting because they are incoherent on the point of God’s “treeness.”

    I agree with you that good theology ought have some coherence to it. Otherwise, what is the point?

    But I think you also agree that to the extent language (which is 100% symbolic) conveys a coherent representation of reality, it is a limited means.

    Maybe “God’s patience” is the central question we confront. I am not going to assess that. I don’t think it to be the question around which Evangelical theologies are constructed.

    Everyone lives. Everyone dies. Does this mean God, or life itself, is incoherent? Or is one rather impossible without the other?

    I am a very patient Daddy; and my judgments on certain behaviors are often swift. Does this make me incoherent or irrational?

    Frankly, I often feel incoherent. But the reality is that my parenting does not flow out of a passion to convey a coherent position on “how patient” a Daddy is. It isn’t the question.

    The “awful wrath” of God isn’t really anything more major than your frown when someone accidently steps on your toes. The breaking of relationship with God can only be conveyed in such awful and extreme language if relationship with God is actually a goodness beyond comprehension.

    Good theology, in my thinking, ought draw one’s mind and heart into a deeper, richer connection with a marvelous God. So I don’t write to defend a theological point of view.

    The main theological question for me is whether the Eternal Word of God became flesh–was crucified–and resurrected? Did “theology” live best, and come to us most clearly, in flesh??

    Is this not a question of the mind, and the heart, and our life journey? Rejecting Evangelical theology can be as dead as defending a dead theology. Are you finding life?

    We will turn a live God into dead theology every day of the week. Ultimately the point is not theology but if it is symbolic of something very real–real beyond the limits of our rationality. And when we think about it–we actually bump up against the boundaries of reason, existence, reality, and the universe real quick.

    If Jesus answered your questions would you receive them?

  • 12. Phil Stilwell  |  May 16, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Letjusticerolldown,

    The claim of my post was that to attribute “patience” to a Jehovah that condemns to eternal torture every human upon their first offense is absurd.

    Do you have a counter-argument you’d like to present?

    Perhaps you’d like to argue that I misrepresented the common belief of Evangelicals that Jehovah condemns to eternal torture every human upon their first offense.

    Perhaps you’d like to explain how this act of Jehovah is falls in line with the bible’s definition of “patience”.

    An argument that addresses my claim is what we’re looking for.

    Do you understand that, if you claim to have have a golden square triangle, and I demonstrate the absurdity of claiming to have a square triangle of any composition, that arguing that your square triangle is golden is not going to cut it?

    A single illogical absurdity provides sufficient warrant to dismiss all contingent claims about your square triangle.

    So also with your “patient” impatient god.

  • 13. letjusticerolldown  |  May 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

    “An argument that addresses my claim is what we’re looking for.”

    I am sorry if my comments do not meet your standard.

    I attempted to convey that I don’t think it fair to demand particular theologies answer questions they are not structured to address. That does not mean the question is not legitimate. But a theology needs to be understood inside-out—how it’s language and apologetic both asks the questions and answers them. And then it needs to be accepted as casting light on what is ultimately true–or not. If you find the question of God’s patience to be the central challenge, I would not point you to Evangelical theologies because I don’t think they are aimed at the question. It is legitimate to say, “That theology does not address my question.” I don’t find it reasoned to say, “Because that theology does not answer my question I ought reject the theology as legitimate.”

    I usually assume persons that blog who wish to dialogue are open to give and take. I apologize if making comments beyond the construction of your question offends. If the comments are of no interest please disregard them.

  • 14. Phil Stilwell  |  May 16, 2010 at 9:58 am

    “I attempted to convey that I don’t think it fair to demand particular theologies answer questions they are not structured to address.”

    It is entirely fair to expect a belief system to address any apparent incoherencies in its claims.

    Most Evangelicals claim the following.

    1. Jehovah “loves” humans.
    2. “Love” is patient (1 Corinthians 13).
    3. Jehovah becomes so impatiently wrathful over the 1st offense of all humans that he damns every one of them to eternal torture.

    If you don’t hold these premises, then it does not make sense for you to respond to my argument.

    However, if you do hold these premises, you’ll have to reconcile these claims if you want your god to be taken seriously.

    Anything other than addressing this apparent inconsistency (the topic of my post) falls below my standard for a response to my post. Is this standard unreasonably high?

  • 15. letjusticerolldown  |  May 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Evangelical systematic theologies simply do not construct an apologetic around “patience.” That is your construct.

    I see your argument as nothing more than the problem of whether an all-good God is logically consistent with eternal damnation.

    From a human-centric position it really isn’t. Nether end truly fits for us: A holy loving God nor an eternal, torturous separation/isolatiton from God. We usually think our difficulty is with Hell–but our real struggle is with a holy God–and the consequential love.

    In terms of your argument: One does not have to hold that God’s ‘Loveness’ is limited to characteristics of I Cor 13 nor that “wrath” equates to impatience; nor that sin is fully understood in terms of “offense of a legal standard” nor that ‘eternal torture’ is distinct from ‘sin’ (ie a ‘punishment’ separate from the ‘sin’)

  • 16. BigHouse  |  May 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    In terms of your argument: One does not have to hold that God’s ‘Loveness’ is limited to characteristics of I Cor 13 nor that “wrath” equates to impatience; nor that sin is fully understood in terms of “offense of a legal standard” nor that ‘eternal torture’ is distinct from ‘sin’ (ie a ‘punishment’ separate from the ‘sin’.

    In other words, when the actions of God don’t match the definitions he gives for himself, redefine the words so you can still defend the claims about him.

    Apparently, there’s nothing new to see here.

  • 17. Phil Stilwell  |  May 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Letjusticerolldown,

    Address the following inconsistency or don’t bother posting.

    1. Jehovah “loves” humans.
    2. “Love” is patient (1 Corinthians 13).
    3. Jehovah becomes so impatiently wrathful over the 1st offense of all humans that he damns every one of them to eternal torture.

    We don’t want to hear slippery affirmations about what logical space you think you can still claim. We want to know what you DO believe and why you believe it on this issue of a “patient” impatient god.

    I’m claiming that you are self-deceived in your belief in such an incoherent god. A “patient” impatient god is impossible. Unless you show how your god is NOT incoherent due to this “patient” impatience, I and the rest of the world are quite warranted in dismissing Jehovah as just as incoherent as Thor or any other god. Is this confusing to you?

    Clearly specify which of the 3 assumptions I’ve posted above you are rejecting and why.

    The evasion you’ve exhibited hitherto is not encouraging, and is taxing my patience. You know my argument. Address that argument alone with a focused rebuttal, or don’t respond at all.

  • 18. 4riozs  |  May 16, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I think it’s easy for Christians to dismiss any negative comments about their “beliefs” because they oftentimes come into their religion seeing it as the way to perfection. So they wouldn’t look for any inconsistencies or imperfections. That may be the problem with the arguments by Letjusticerolldown.

    Also I think Christians don’t hold God to the same standards that they claim we are held to because “God” is “perfect” and made the rules.

    Phil, I enjoyed your post, I always find your writing to be thought provoking and on point.

  • 19. letjusticerolldown  |  May 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    “when the actions of God don’t match the definitions he gives for himself, redefine the words”

    I only point out the definitions/assumptions given by Phil are not adequate to capture the concepts contained in a Biblical and many systematic theologies. Pointing that out is not a redefinition–it is a rejection of the faulty assumptions going into the definitions and argument.

  • 20. letjusticerolldown  |  May 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    “I think it’s easy for Christians to dismiss any negative comments about their “beliefs” because they oftentimes come into their religion seeing it as the way to perfection. So they wouldn’t look for any inconsistencies or imperfections. That may be the problem with the arguments by Letjusticerolldown.” 4riozs

    Maybe–but probably not in this case. I think Phil raises what has always been a very serious and fundamental theological question. I don’t think raising a serious question is a negative comment about either my faith, beliefs, or person. I don’t see anything negative about Phil’s argument–just faulty.

  • 21. letjusticerolldown  |  May 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    “The claim of my post was that to attribute “patience” to a Jehovah that condemns to eternal torture every human upon their first offense is absurd.” Phil

    Take the Biblical account of angels visiting Sodom prior to a Divine destruction. God consults with Abraham and agrees to spare the city if enough righteous persons are found. I’m sure you know the story. Does this portray an impatient wrathful God or a ridiculously patient God who bothers to consult with one human who is his friend and confidant?? Or just a schizophrenic, delusional Biblical author??

    Is Jesus on the cross a portrayal of a vengeful God or a loving patient God?

    You want to take genuine, deep paradox and tension and conflate that with a linguistic argument about “patience.”

    You take my words as evading your argument. I take your words as an inability to note I am rejecting the assumptions behind your argument.

    You write with wonderful clarity and I do not.

  • 22. Phil Stilwell  |  May 16, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Is Jesus on the cross a portrayal of a vengeful God or a loving patient God?

    You want to take genuine, deep paradox and tension and conflate that with a linguistic argument about “patience.”

    You take my words as evading your argument. I take your words as an inability to note I am rejecting the assumptions behind your argument.

    Is a father who tortures a 2nd son to appease his wrath over the offense of a first son he has decided to torture a vengeful father or a loving patient father?

    Would you call the affirmations of the wife of such a father that her husband was “loving” and “patient” a paradox or a delusion?

    Your rejection of my assumptions is noted. Note that you need reasons to reject assumptions.

  • 23. BigHouse  |  May 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    it is a rejection of the faulty assumptions going into the definitions and argument.

    Just to echo Phil’s sentiment, this is an ASSERTION. Can you back it up with argument?

    And raising other parts of the Bible where God apparently shows patience does not refute Phil’s argument. In fact, they serve as further proof that the Bible is inconsistent, as well as incoherent.

  • 24. letjusticerolldown  |  May 16, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    “this is an ASSERTION. Can you back it up with argument?”

    I attempted to explain in several comments why I believe the argument he frames misses its target.

    I did not raise Biblical passages with intent to demonstrate God’s patience–but rather the ambiguity and paradox.

    He wants to construct and debate an ‘impatient-patient’ god–and structure the argument around a series of statements about patience. A story like Sodom or the Cross (or much of the Biblical narrative) conveys a God that evidences what Phil identifies as patient and impatient.

    But a fair rendering of the intended understanding of the Biblical authors and of Biblical theologies and of systematic theologies is to understand the breadth and depth of a God that has all of this. But these theologies do not symbolize and convey this by a discussion of patience. I am really not saying anything more than this.

    It is like saying:

    God is so big so as to contend that the existence of all things is sourced in the Divine Being.
    God is so small as to live in your heart.

    And then to argue that either I agree this to be incoherent, or that language is meaningless, or all things I might contend are proven false because of this incoherence–and particularly Evangelical theologies are proven incoherent and fallacious.

    When in reality the theologies are not constructed to argue God’s size; and to make size the issue ignores the intended meanings of the Biblical narrative and theologies.

    That concludes nothing about the veracity of scripture or particular theologies.

  • 25. letjusticerolldown  |  May 16, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Phil S — thanks for your dialogue — I hear you and appreciate the questions. Please don’t take the nature of my response as lack of appreciation for what you offer. It is evident many value your writing and all it reflects. Wish you the very best.

  • 26. portwes  |  May 16, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Phil, your article is EXACTLY at the core of why I de-converted after 46 years!

    For myself, there was no issue in christianity that so instantly and thoroughly defies reason as the concept of eternal punishment, for the even the smallest, tiniest infraction of perfection. It rises above the difficulty with miracles, the nature of the trinity, NT reliability, and everything else I can think of.

    Of course, the evangelical answer is that God’s ways are so different from ours, we cannot allow ourselves to question what he does and how he does it. Bullshit, I say, to any christians reading this.

    In fact, my challenge to any christians reading this, is: read Phil’s article, two or three times, including the posted comments, and “try” to be detached as you read, in fact, pretend you had never heard of christianity, and that this is all new to you. Then, still in your “neutral” frame of mind, ask yourself if hell makes any sense in terms of humanity as we know it. You don’t even have to say anything out loud, just think to yourself. Isn’t there the slightest bit of doubt in your rational mind??

    OK, you can go back to being a Christian now, and give us the arguments FOR hell that we ex-christians have heard (and said ourselves) a thousand times before!!

  • 27. portwes  |  May 17, 2010 at 1:01 am

    The awful wrath of God isn’t really anything more major than your frown when someone accidently steps on your toes. The breaking of relationship with God can only be conveyed in such awful and extreme language if relationship with God is actually a goodness beyond comprehension.”

    letjusticeroll, now THAT really is diluting the NT description of hell down to almost nothing. Frowning at my young son was something that lasted for a few minutes, and I wouldn’t even frown at him AT ALL if it were an accident! It certainly was not the “breaking of relationship” for eternity. Your analogy is laughable and ridiculous.

  • 28. letjusticerolldown  |  May 17, 2010 at 3:00 am

    “letjusticeroll, now THAT really is diluting the NT description of hell down to almost nothing” portwes

    I am writing on a Dell Inspiron computer. Last Fall it fell from my hands onto the asphalt and scraped up the plastic case. It works fine. It was nothing. The same damage inflicted on its microchip would render the computer and all my computing useless. In describing the damage to the case–I can minimize it as nothing. If I described microchip damage it would be in ultimate/devastating terms. The language of describing the damage inflicted flows from the value of what was damaged–not the nature of the actual damage.

    The extreme language of Hell flows out of the value of an incomprehensible God of unfathomable shalom.

    People often speak about the “problem of hell.” The real problem is how anything stands/survives the presence of God

    You are right

  • 29. Phil Stilwell  |  May 17, 2010 at 3:55 am

    Letjusticeroll,

    First tell your wife you’re patient and love your computer, then bust the vile and useless thing into heap of scrap with a baseball bat the first time it freezes, and you’ll have close to a proper analogy. Now go tell your wife with a straight face that there is no real contradiction in your words and actions since your words “flow from the value of what was damaged” and watch the understanding wash over her face as she credulously affirms your love for the smoldering pile of plastic and metal, and wonders at the patience evidenced in that fact that you restrained yourself from grabbing the bat until you had the wretched computer out of the box and plugged in.

    Consider the absurdity of an alleged “word of truth” that perverts its audience’s conventional meanings of words to make them appear their very inverse.

  • 30. portwes  |  May 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Phil nailed it.

    Letjusticeroll: If “the extreme language of hell” bears no relation to the actual experience of hell, then in your world, words have lost all relation to (your perceived) reality, and they have no power to describe. In your world, language obscures meanings, rather than clarifies.

  • 31. letjusticerolldown  |  May 17, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Appreciate your willingness to engage. I have posted more that I am comfortable with. I like contributing to conversation without attempting to shift it to my issues.

    I would be glad to dialogue–but won’t be presumptive about taking up space, time, energy of those who have been very hospitable but may prefer not to occupy themselves with my comments ( my email cityofrefuge@yahoo.com )

  • 32. DSimon  |  May 17, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Letjusticerolldown, I just wanted to say thanks for being civil.

    The Internet can be a rough place for arguments, so I’m always encouraged when I see people who hold very distinct viewpoints being respectful to each other even when their anonymity gives them no direct practical incentive to do so.

    Regarding your particular example of God’s size; that the theology isn’t “intended” to back up the assertions it makes is a weakness of the theology. It’s not reasonable to ask us only to question those parts of the theology that it’s best prepared to handle, and to assume all the other parts are solid without subjecting them to any critique.

  • 33. letjusticerolldown  |  May 17, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    “It’s not reasonable to ask us only to question those parts of the theology that it’s best prepared to handle, and to assume all the other parts are solid without subjecting them to any critique.”

    Thank you for being so kind with your words. I have traveled fifty-two years. The reality is I would probably feel pretty good if I had one or two rays of insight that would be a gift to at least a few folks around me. Of course I think that whatever point I am at after 52 years, other people ought to automatically be at the same point; and that I can understand their life journey and contribution after reading one paragraph on the internet.

    Having said that, I am not attempting to portray myself as an icon of sanity or reason.

    I do hope to live with the kindness you demonstrate.

  • 34. DSimon  |  May 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Letjusticerolldown, I appreciate your kind words… but I’m not sure what the relationship is between your response and the section of my comment you quoted. Did you mean to quote a different paragraph?

  • 35. letjusticerolldown  |  May 17, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Did you mean to quote a different paragraph?” D Simon

    I started responding to the portion I quoted. It got way to verbose. I thought I would spare you the agony :) and erased it–but forgot to delete the quote. Thanks.

  • 36. Joe  |  May 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    “In fact, my challenge to any christians reading this, is: read Phil’s article, two or three times, including the posted comments, and “try” to be detached as you read, in fact, pretend you had never heard of christianity, and that this is all new to you. Then, still in your “neutral” frame of mind, ask yourself if hell makes any sense in terms of humanity as we know it. You don’t even have to say anything out loud, just think to yourself. Isn’t there the slightest bit of doubt in your rational mind??”(#26)

    Though I understand where you are coming from I also have to give a rather lame example from another perspective. We KNOW the Universe IS. If we were flying in a rocket towards the sun we would KNOW we have to avoid it—-it wouldn’t matter WHY the sun is there, or ever how close we could come to it before we burned up—the important thing would be to AVOID IT.

    Spiritually, God is telling us there IS a hell. We may want to know WHY it exists, and WHY it seems so cruel and unusual. Sure—we would like to know. But the important thing is to AVOID it. And there is a salvation one CAN accept so that one never has to think about going to that place.

    Bad analogy, because we KNOW the sun exists, and cannot prove HELL does—-but same logic—-we wouldn’t fly headlong into the sun when we have all the information to warn us about getting to close to it–so why run headlong into hell when we can accept salvation and avoid it?

    Again, I realize I am coming from the perspective that hell (though I don’t understand it) DOES exist, when we KNOW for certain the sun does exist—-but the point is that both destinations lead to a fiery end if we don’t change direction.

    The point I’m making is that in both cases arguing about the existence or avoidance of the fiery place we are headed for is far less important than ACTUALLY changing direction.

  • 37. portwes  |  May 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Joe, I’m sure the deep thinkers on this blog will be along later to point out all that is wrong with your assumptions. And thanks for noticing my challenge think of the hell concept without your christian pre-suppositions. But in fact you did not do that, because your comment is based on believing that hell does exist. You were supposed to imagine yourself not having that belief.

    There are so many things wrong with your assumptions that I don’t have time to deal with all of them. But one of the most offensive of your assumptions is this: If God exists, and if he created the universe, then the default destination of ALL human beings is hell. If we do nothing, we go to hell. Really generous and loving of your god, eh?

    I hear you say, “you haven’t done ‘nothing’, you’ve sinned and offended god”. Well, again, if every single one of billions of human beings has sinned, then we were made that way. We do not have free will. We had no choice of not sinning, because it has been proved that not a single human being has ever not sinned, in the history of the world. (And don’t bring Jesus into this as a sinless human. He is/was a god to you, and incapable of sinning and betraying his own nature. “Tempted in every way as we are” doesn’t count, because if he had sinned, then he would no longer be god, and therefore no longer in a trinity. It never was a possibility that he could have sinned.)

    I walked past a street preacher yesterday talking to a passer-by. I heard him plead, “It’s a completely free gift, there for the taking . . . ” And I thought to myself, “yea, sure, and if you don’t take that “free” gift, then the loving god is going to fry you forever”. That’s the worst gift anyone ever offered . . .

  • 38. DSimon  |  May 18, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Joe, you seem to be saying “Well, we wouldn’t get into an argument about whether the Sun exists if we were flying toward it, and so we shouldn’t do the same about Hell. Although, we can’t prove Hell exists, so it’s not quite the same situation. However, that’s resolved by *mumble mumble assume Hell exists anyways*”.

    The major difference between the Sun and Hell is that, um, there’s no good evidence for the existence of Hell, and there’s an enormous amount of evidence for the existence of the Sun. That’s not a trivial difference!

    Imagine everyone on this forum were in a spaceship on an interstellar journey. One day, you tell us that we are flying towards an invisible star, which would kill us if we collided with it. When challenged on how you know something like that is even there, since the instruments can’t pick up anything, you respond by saying “There’s no time to get into an argument about whether the invisible star exists, we have to quickly get out of its way!”

    The reason we would be skeptical of you in that situation is the same as the reason we’re skeptical of your claim that Hell exists.

  • 39. Joe  |  May 18, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    #37 and #38—

    Well, I told you it was a “lame” example. :)

    You’re right portwes—-I didn’t stop and imagine I wasn’t a Christian. But I have to say you are using the same argument about hell I’ve heard so many make. You focus on how horrendous it is that hell might indeed exist, and what a horribly awful God God must be to have created it.

    Yet–we know so little about hell really–what has been revealed to us does not explain a lot about it. But God didn’t leave us there. Imagine if we were just told “you are going to hell” and there was no way out? No other choice—nothing. That would be truly horrible. But that isn’t the case. There is another choice. There is another direction.

    So, I hear your argument, but at the same time I know that there are MANY things I don’t understand. I believe there is a trinity but don’t understand it. i do not understand hell. But I do understand that there is no reason for me to go there—-and no reason for you to go there either—-unless you reject the way to avoid it.

    But to reject the Gospel message because one part of it, due to our own finite lack of understanding, seems repugnant to us, just isn’t wise. It’s like being told the bridge in front of us is about to collapse and driving anyway without heeding the warning. That I just don’t understand.

    But I hear you—–I see your point–I think. :)

  • 40. DSimon  |  May 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    But to reject the Gospel message because one part of it, due to our own finite lack of understanding, seems repugnant to us, just isn’t wise.

    This isn’t the point the OP is making. The argument isn’t that Hell is a repugnant concept (though it is), but that it’s a contradictory concept for an entity to be described as loving and patient, and for that same entity to send people to eternal torture after any offense.

    Regarding this “finite lack of understanding” stuff, that just seems like a dodge to me. If God is mysterious and incomprehensible, then how is it you can claim to comprehend the parts about, say, the existence of Hell and the appropriate ways of avoiding it?

    It seems like the only parts that are mysterious are the ones that are hard to defend or internally illogical.

    Again to reinterpret your analogy: what would you do if you came to a bridge and, just as you’re about to cross, a man runs up to you and tells you that you shouldn’t go across the bridge because he’s got a gut feeling that it’s about to turn into a giant dragonfly and lift off! Would you believe them?

  • 41. Joe  |  May 18, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    DSimon—-

    Again, I understand your point. But say there is only a Universe—no God. How much do we really know about it? And infinitely small amount. Sure—we are learning more and more, but just 80 years ago astronomers thought the MIlky way was all there is.

    To require an Infinite God (assuming there is one) who created this Universe we know so very little about to explain it “all” to us is ludicrous. Again, how much do I know about God, and evil, and hell? Extrememely little—because very little has been revealed.

    In many ways we are like the 4 year old little kid getting a swat for trying to cross the street. He doesn’t realize that he might get hit by cars, or be picked up by a pervert—he questions the swat and cries. He doesn’t realize an extremely loving parent is giving him the small swat to warn him about things he doesn’t yet understand.

    God has provided a way to escape the place we are discussing. To us it is repugnant, illogical, etc. etc.—but God understands far more than we do. If you don’t want to see it that way I understand though.

  • 42. Joe  |  May 18, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    By the way, I am not inferring an eternal hell is a “small swat”—what I’m trying to say is that our understanding is so finite and so limited when compared to an infinite God, that to expect to understand concepts that He has limited Himself in revealing to us is like being angry because one cannot understand the workings of the whole Universe.

  • 43. Outsider  |  May 18, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    “God has provided a way to escape the place we are discussing. To us it is repugnant, illogical, etc. etc.—but God understands far more than we do. If you don’t want to see it that way I understand though.”

    How do you verify such things? Yes, we don’t want to see this repugnant place, but moreover, we really CAN’T SEE or prove such a place.

    So you say god understands far more than we do…but by trying to explain hell, you are claiming to know more about god and what hell is about more than we do. The truth is you don’t know. You are making assumptions based on book you read. There is no evidence or logical reason for this belief in hell created by god.

  • 44. Joe  |  May 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Outsider (#43)—

    You’re right—there is no logical reason for this belief in hell. I haven’t posted for a while, and always need to pound it back into my head when I visit here that the people here really do not believe any more. So, I am coming from a perspective that hell does exist which you of course do not believe at all. Just bear with me–I need to grab a cup of coffee and get my bearings and I’lll be fine. :)

  • 45. DSimon  |  May 18, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    To require an Infinite God (assuming there is one) who created this Universe we know so very little about to explain it “all” to us is ludicrous.

    I’m not asking for an explanation of the entire universe, I’m asking for logical consistency within the specific things the religion is claiming.

    You cannot solve contradictions in your argument by saying that the problem has an perfectly valid resolution, but that you don’t know what that resolution is, or anything about it at all, only that you’re sure that it’s there. At the very least, some solid reason for thinking that a resolution actually is there is needed for this to make any sense.

    If you don’t want to see it that way I understand though.

    I’m a little annoyed at this implication that I only disagree with you because I don’t “want to” see things your way. Please only respond to the things I say, rather than trying to psychoanalyze why I say them.

  • 46. Joe  |  May 18, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    DSimon(#45)–

    My apologies. I worded that incorrectly. I meant that you are entitled to another view as much as I am entitled to my own—not inferring you have to disagree wtih ME.

    But as I mentioned in #44 I have a tendency to come from a ground that the topic is “believed” (which of course it isn’t by many here) instead of from a viewpoint that comes from “logical” grounds.

    Thanks for not getting too annoyed. I’ll just listen as I had been doing before so I don’t get myself into trouble. :)

  • 47. DSimon  |  May 18, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    No problem, thanks for the explanation. :-) However, I don’t want to discourage you from participating, I just want to stick to the OP topic.

  • 48. Joe  |  May 18, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    DSimon—-

    Fully understood. I have a tendency to ramble in several different directions so thanks for the reminder. :)

  • 49. Richard  |  May 19, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Joe, allow me to offer a counterexample.

    Suppose a man bursts into your house one night and captures you and your family. He then threatens to torture you sadistically, mercilessly, unless you do x, y, and z…. and love him. If you do, though, he will let you go and in fact reward you lavishly.

    Would you do x, y, and z? Yeah, of course. And you would also say verbally you love him, if thats his demand. Who wouldnt?

    But would your love be genuine, or merely a terrified verbal compliance? Would you really love this man, or hate and despise him as evil?

    Moreover, and this is an interesting philosophical question: is it really fair to say you had a “free” choice? Between high reward and excruciating, agonizing suffering?

    But suppose I said to you: Joe, listen to me. this guy really is good. Trust me on this. He very, very smart, you see. He can see the big picture in a way that you cant. He has his reasons for doing this.

    To which you reply: Okay, I’ll hear you out. What are his reasons?

    And I say: I dont know. I have no idea what his reasons are. He’s so much smarter than me. But Im sure he has them. Trust him.

    Why are you sure he has them? Why should I trust him?

    Because he told me how good he is and how much he loves us all. See, he wrote it down right here….

    So, are you convince? Would you be persuaded to genuinely love this guy now?

  • 50. portwes  |  May 20, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Richard’s analogy seems to be a very good characterization of the biblical scenario. I await anxiously Joe’s reply and his explanation how this is not a good analogy.

  • 51. BigHouse  |  May 20, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Richard, as usual, nails it on the head. We are allowed to characterize God’s nature as loving for providing us a way out of hell but we’re not allowed to even try to put God on the hook for setting up this eternal life or torture decision in the first place. More daming evidence of the pick and choose Christian exercise of apologetics.

  • 52. Joe  |  May 20, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Good analogy—-but it’s the wrong one in my opinion. God does not threaten to torture sadistically unless you do x,y and z.

    A better analogy would be a civil engineer pleading with you to change direction because you are headed towards a precipice you are not aware of–the bridge is out. If you continue in that direction you will most assuredly fall to your death.

    The man then tells you he and his men have constructed an alternate bridge and to please use it. You can cross it for free—he has built it for your escape. He does not explain why there is a precipice in the first place—-no need to—the important thing to him is that you are safe—all you need to do is heed his word.

    Do you hesitate and ask why there is a precipice and refuse the offer to cross the bridge because you think that the falling, and the precipice are so horrendous in themselves that you simply will not do it—-or do you use the bridge and make the crossing?

    Again, we do not know very much about hell except that it was created for “the devil and his angels”. Since the Bible says that God is not wanting anyone to perish we can conclude he did not create hell to throw men into. There MUST be more to the story that we simply do not understand.

    I for one choose to listen, and take the alternate bridge, knowing that someone who loved me tremendously made the ultimate sacrifice so I would have that free way out.

  • 53. Phil Stilwell  |  May 20, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Joe. Stop introducing non-parallel analogies in which the “loving” person is not identical to the “wrathful” person who, in this case, destroyed the original bridge. It is dishonest.

    You might say that the engineer decided to destroy the original bridge to damn those not wearing seat-belts to a watery doom, but even this analogy falls short of the absurdity of a “loving” Jehovah so “impatient” that he eternally damns to hellfire every human upon their first infraction.

  • 54. portwes  |  May 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    (I think “anonymous” sounds a lot like “letjusticeroll”: same arguments!)

    Your fallacy is that this divine “engineer” built the super-highway that heads towards the precipice. It was that way from the time Adam was first created. Never was a bridge. Even though it was in the plans, Adam screwed it up by sinning, and the engineer had to build a bridge somewhere else. This is a plan that only works for a very small percentage of humanity. Not what I call a very well thought out plan. It’s a really flimsy and shabby plan for someone who is omniscient and omnipotent.

    And billions upon billions of people are headed towards the precipice through no fault of their own. That’s the road they were born on. No one has told them they have to take a different road/bridge in order to survive. There aren’t enough missionaries to tell more than a small percentage of the folks, and the warning leaflets and signs haven’t been distributed to more than a small percentage.

    And the bullshit about “not understanding” all the deep mysteries: that’s the typical escape hatch evangelicals use to get out of any intellectually indefensible corner. How can this creator hold us responsible for things we don’t understand or that he doesn’t want to tell us? If “God” created us with these amazing brains, did he not think we were going to use them to make sense of the world we live in?

  • 55. Joe  |  May 20, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Phil/Portwes—-

    You are both coming from a position that God is hateful and “wants” to “torture” people for eternity. What I read is that God does not want any to perish—and it says that the only reason they do perish is because “they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved”. Note: They perish because they REFUSE to RECEIVE something.

    You can go on and on with your arguments about how cruel a God who created hell must be, etc,, but again, I read that that same God made a way through a painful sacrifice so that I never have to go there. To me it is ludicrous to refuse a message of such redemption because you don’t understand (in your finite understanding) the alternate.

    It is like refusing a life-preserver someone throws to you when you are drowning because you don’t understand why there is an ocean for you to drown in in the first place.

    I suppose this discussion has been repeated over and over again ad nauseum with same arguments and responses though. It was fun rambling through it all again though. Have a great day!!! :)

  • 56. Siva  |  May 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    My little piece of mind. Love , patience, wrath, anger, repent , sad … these were the attributes found in the bible in relation to God’s characters. don’t we realize we are trying to instill human characters into God’s personality ? If He can get angry, well , he can also get sleepy ! And since He ‘spoke’ to many humans in the bible, I am sure He has teeth, and perhaps may have to brush His teeth before sleeping. PLease , let God be as God and try to be accomidative with our limited imagination. have a nice day guys ….

  • 57. DSimon  |  May 20, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Joe, to make your analogy complete, the engineer would also have to be responsible for the precipice being there in the first place.

    Even ignoring that crucial aspect, in your analogy the engineer is still the one responsible for making it trivially easy to drive off the precipice. If driving off the bridge by accident is so easy to do that it’s a significant safety concern, why didn’t someone put up some enormous concrete barriers that can’t be driven around? At the very least, some big flashing warning signs that are impossible to ignore would’ve been a nice start.

    Instead, the engineer has chosen to go with giving vague (and significantly differing) explanations to a several specially and/or randomly people, and telling them to spread the warning around via word of mouth. What a slipshod safety measure!

    If it is claimed that this engineer is competent and has the necessary materials to get the job done (to match the claim that God is omnipotent or nearly so), and also a responsible and reliable person who takes their job seriously, especially the #1 engineering concern of protecting the public safety (to match the claim that God loves and is concerned about humanity), then those claims seriously contradict the fact that the engineer has clearly done a terrible job.

    Such a terrible job, in fact, that the engineer might as well not exist (especially considering that nobody knows the engineer’s contact information), and the supposed “warning message” just an urban legend.

  • 58. Phil Stilwell  |  May 20, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Joe, the bible makes it clear. God calls himself loving, defines loving as patient, then goes on to become so impatiently wrathful over a single infraction that he damns the offender to eternal torture. If you want to introduce analogies, you’ll have to include all of these elements in their full incoherency.

    Saying we damn ourselves to eternal torture by not choosing to accept the torture of Jesus is like a father absurdly telling the son he is torturing that the torture is the son’s choice since the son will not accept the substitutionary torture of another (alleged) son.

    Let’s keep our analogies parallel to the claims of the bible.

  • 59. Anonymous  |  May 20, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Siva said…

    “My little piece of mind. Love , patience, wrath, anger, repent , sad … these were the attributes found in the bible in relation to God’s characters. don’t we realize we are trying to instill human characters into God’s personality ? If He can get angry, well , he can also get sleepy ! And since He ‘spoke’ to many humans in the bible, I am sure He has teeth, and perhaps may have to brush His teeth before sleeping. PLease , let God be as God and try to be accomidative with our limited imagination. have a nice day guys ….”

    This is the ultimate argument invoked by every one of the world’s religions when having their god scrutinized.

    Could it be possible that a god wrote a “book of truth” in human language, and now does not want us to take our language seriously when assessing the veracity of this proposed “book of truth”? Can this god simply dissipate into meaninglessness whenever an honest assessor walks by?

  • 60. Joe  |  May 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    DSimon—

    Again—you are focusing on the precipice and refusing to cross the new bridge because you can’t understand why the precipice is there in the first place. Seriously, are you going to stop and argue with the engineer about why he hadn’t put up warning signs when he is pointing to a bridge that is clearly safe to cross? The smart thing to do is cross the bridge and ask questions later.

    The Bible says we “see through a glass darkly, but then (in eternity) face to face”. It will all be explained to us then. Why would a perfect, infinite God create a place he then needs to come and die to rescue us from? “Sounds” completely illogical-but the fact is, we were only given a tiny bit of insight into hell, and heaven also for that matter.

    I know we could argue the point for hours–you centering on hell and how horrendous it is, and why would God create it—and me centering on the one who died to save us from it—I just choose to heed the warning, knowing one day I will fully understand things that don’t make a lot of sense right now. I see through a glass darkly—-one day face to face.

  • 61. Joe  |  May 20, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    By the way guys, I really appreciate the exchange. I know we disagree, but I truly appreciate the cordial manner of your debate. It’s great not to be called a F^%^$% piece of %$%^ after a few posts as has happened on the board in the past. You are obviously good thinkers and it is refreshing to hear your analogies and postulations, though I completely disagree with them. :)

  • 62. Phil Stilwell  |  May 20, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Joe, we are being asked to invest in the belief that there are bridges. The only way to do this is to both assess any evidence for the claim, and also assess the credibility of the person making the claim. In this case, there appears to be no evidence that there are or ever were bridges. In this case we are being asked to believe a source that claims to be both “loving” and so impatient that he damns any offender to eternal torment upon their first offense.

    There is no justification to place confidence in the biblical claims of hell, heaven, redemption, or the incoherent god who is said to be the “engineer” behind it all..

    Do you think focusing on the beautiful image of the new bridge negates the absurdity of a “loving engineer” so wrathful that he condemns us to a watery death unless we accept the claim of his new bridge?

    Your god is like a snake-oil salesman who comes to the door with a blood transfusion he took from his son, and claims that we have leukemia and need the transfusion. When we tell him there is no evidence that we have leukemia, the salesman then tells us that he himself infected us with the disease while we were sleeping since we rejected his services in the past. But he says all this this “lovingly” and keeps diverting the attention to “cure” whenever we question the diagnosis.

    Could such a malicious god exist? Sure. But he would, at best, be a liar and not deserve our confidence in his claims.

    Let’s make sure we include all the elements the bible includes when we construct analogies.

  • 63. Anonymous  |  May 20, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    A little late to the party, but the comment by letjusticerolldown

    God consults with Abraham and agrees to spare the city if enough righteous persons are found.

    is so fitting. An omniscient god has to ask a mere human? I suppose that logical thinking was not a priority to the writers of biblical fiction.

    Joe, it is time to leave the darkness behind and come out into the light. Abandon the lies and embrace rationality.

  • 64. Richard  |  May 20, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Joe – DSimon beat me to the punch, but I agree with his/her (sorry, cant tell by the name) analysis: to make your analogy apt, you would also have to stipulate, not that the chasm just “happened” to be there, but that the engineer deliberately had it dug in the path of your car. He didnt have to — he is a smart and capable engineer, and could dig anywhere or build anything he wished.

    Then, he cut your brake cable, so you cant stop yourself. He didnt have to do that, either.

    And if you really want to push it, you could further add that he did provide some safety instructions in the form of the Owners Manual, in the glovebox. But its 1500 pages long, and contains vague, confusing and contradictory directions on how to avoid the chasm. In story form. And no two of your other passengers can agree on what it says you have to do, but each of them is absolutely, unyieldingly convinced he is right and you will die horribly if you do not listen to him. And there are also one or two who think there is no chasm at all. And the manual is written in an inexact translation from the Chinese — e.g.,

    “IN AN HAPPENING OF GREAT CRISIS: for the saving of the humans is first!! Turn and turn – but not for the ceasing of the auto. The good lever!!”

    Oh, and finally, some people think they can hear the engineer talking on the CB; but all you hear is static.

    Two comments, Joe: I just dont buy that you can get God off the hook by claiming we choose hell. That just changes his sin from one of commission to one of omission. he is, after all, God. He could obliterate hell if he wished, or just allow earthly life to continue forever in its current form. Or allow nonexistence. Anything– hes God!

    Secondly, do you think God is satisfied with fire insurance?

  • 65. Phil Stilwell  |  May 20, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    A good and consistent extension of the analogy, Richard.

    A related incoherency is found in the question why this Jehovah who asks humans to forgive without bloodshed, cannot himself do the same. I hear christians claim that Jehovah’s “justice” demands this, but would a father who chose to forgive his son for lying rather than eternally torturing him be considered “unjust”? This is just another egregious perversion of terms. I have yet to hear of a coherent reason why Jehovah could not simply forgive the creatures he claims to love as he expects of loving human fathers. Imagine a human father justifying the torture of his child by repeating over and over again “can sin go unpunished?”. This Jehovah is a monstrous invention that has, through the fear of his wrath, paralyzed much of the world into the acceptance of a world view that is debilitating both for the individual and for society as a whole. The successes of rationality make it clear that only when we dispense with “faith” will we be able to approximate the objective truth that provides our subjective lives with a firm objective foundation. Suggesting that a vague book and the accompanying ineffable/inscrutable/incoherent Jehovah can provide such a foundation is nonsense.

  • 66. DSimon  |  May 21, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Joe, if God exists and is omnipotent, there’s no possible justification for the creation of a zone of eternal torment. To say that there’s a good explanation that we just don’t know about yet is to admit that whatever problem God wanted to solve, he was incapable of solving in a way that doesn’t involve eternal torture.

    You accuse me of focusing on the negative and ignoring the positive, but I think to do the opposite is actually somewhat selfish; sure, you might get across the detour bridge just fine, but what about all the people who didn’t make it? Is it really fair to lay the blame on their shoulders for falling prey to a safety hazard that the engineer both could and should have corrected?

  • 67. DSimon  |  May 21, 2010 at 10:11 am

    (Sorry, my previous comment has a rather confrontational tone, which I did not intend. My apologies, Joe, I sometimes get carried away in discussions like this.)

  • 68. Joe  |  May 21, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Anonymous— (#63)

    You actually need to go and read the account in Genesis 18. God does not “consult” with Abraham—he tells Abraham what he is going to do. Abraham asks God how many righteous need to be there for him to spare the city. And Abraham continues to question God concerning the amount of righteous in the city. It is not a “consultation” at all.

  • 69. Joe  |  May 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    DSimon— (#67)

    No problem at all. I realize you and others posting are quite passionate about your explanations.

    (#66) Again, you are stating “there is no possible justification….” but you are only a finite being with an extremely limited understanding (as everyone else) and are looking at it from your own limited understanding.

    I admit I do not understand it. BUT, I am not going to refuse and reject a path of salvation because my understanding is so limited. I know I have argued this point ad nauseum in above posts, but that is truly my stand. In the book of Hebrews it speaks of amazingly glorious things, and encourages to continue on for their is amazing outcome if we do. But it also stops to warn in almost every chapter “See you refuse not Him that speaks”—-and it does that in a most loving way—why draw “back onto perdition” when you can “receive” salvation?

    I appreciate your arguments though. But I don’t want to waste any more of your time on a discussion that obviously has hit a standstill. All the best to you.

  • 70. Lucian  |  May 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    deleted link that did not address the absurdity of a god that is tagged “patient” yet damns to eternal torture every human upon their 1st offense

    I’m afraid it did. (Did you at least read it? Or did you simply delete it because it was “too long”?)

  • 71. Phil Stilwell  |  May 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Lucian, I deleted your link since it did not contain any relevant content coherent enough for you to extract a concise argument and post it.

  • 72. Lucian  |  May 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I.

    But why do men hate God? They hate Him not only because their deeds are dark while God is light, but also because they consider Him as a menace, as an imminent and eternal danger, as an adversary in court, as an opponent at law, as a public prosecutor and an eternal persecutor. To them, God is no more the almighty physician who came to save them from illness and death, but rather a cruel judge and a vengeful inquisitor.

    You see, the devil managed to make men believe that God does not really love us, that He really only loves Himself, and that He accepts us only if we behave as He wants us to behave; that He hates us if we do not behave as He ordered us to behave, and is offended by our insubordination to such a degree that we must pay for it by eternal tortures, created by Him for that purpose.

    Who can love a torturer? Even those who try hard to save themselves from the wrath of God cannot really love Him. They love only themselves, trying to escape God’s vengeance and to achieve eternal bliss by managing to please this fearsome and extremely dangerous Creator.

  • 73. Lucian  |  May 21, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    II.

    Did you ever try to pinpoint what is the principal characteristic of Western theology?

    The “God” of the West is an offended and angry God, full of wrath for the disobedience of men, who desires in His destructive passion to torment all humanity unto eternity for their sins, unless He receives an infinite satisfaction for His offended pride.

    What is the Western dogma of salvation? Did not God kill God in order to satisfy His pride, which the Westerners euphemistically call justice? And is it not by this infinite satisfaction that He deigns to accept the salvation of some of us?

    What is salvation for Western theology? Is it not salvation from the wrath of God?

    Do you see, then, that Western theology teaches that our real danger and our real enemy is our Creator and God? Salvation, for Westerners, is to be saved from the hands of God!

    How can one love such a God? How can we have faith in someone we detest? Faith in its deeper essence is a product of love, therefore, it would be our desire that one who threatens us not even exist, especially when this threat is eternal.

    Even if there exists a means of escaping the eternal wrath of this omnipotent but wicked Being (the death of His Son in our stead), it would be much better if this Being did not exist. This was the most logical conclusion of the mind and of the heart of the Western peoples, because even eternal Paradise would be abhorrent with such a cruel God. Thus was atheisrn born, and this is why the West was its birthplace.

  • 74. portwes  |  May 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Lucian: ??????

  • 75. DSimon  |  May 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I admit I do not understand it. BUT, I am not going to refuse and reject a path of salvation because my understanding is so limited.

    Joe, I don’t think this is relevant. Sure, if we assume that God exists and sends people to a zone of eternal torture unless they do thing X, then it certainly makes practical sense to do thing X!

    However, the point of the OP was not about that practical decision, but about inconsistency and incoherence in the language and logic of theism. You continue to argue that there is a good explanation behind something that seems so obviously to contradict itself and/or misuse language: that a highly moral omnipotent being would create a zone of eternal torture and send people there, to suffer for eternity, for any reason whatsoever.

    […] I just choose to heed the warning, knowing one day I will fully understand things that don’t make a lot of sense right now.

    From an atheist’s perspective, it seems as though the “God’s ways are mysterious and beyond our mortal comprehension” argument is just a way not having to confront the parts of the theology that don’t make sense. I don’t doubt that you personally believe it, but you speak as though you would expect a non-theist (or a theist of a different belief system than yours) to treat it as a statement of substance, which to all appearances it is not.

    If you expect to make any impact on us with that trope, you’ll have to convince us it’s more than what it appears to be: a memetic defense mechanism designed to derail criticism without addressing it. From a memetic perspective, such mechanisms make sense, as ideas with these kind of self-preservation hooks are more likely to spread. However, that popularity says nothing about whether or not the idea is true.

  • 76. Joe  |  May 21, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    DSimon (#75)–

    We all know that when scientists look at the Universe they are forced to say “they are beyond our comprehension”. There are some things we many never know about the Universe as it is so vast and incomprehensible in many ways. So, on a physical plain we are forced to admit we cannot understand it, or “we will one day”.

    All of us can also remember as children not understanding decisions our parents made that seemed vastly unfair. I mentioned earlier the little child being swatted on the behind as he tries to cross the street. He feels the swat—only knows that it stings, and asks himself why such a loving parent would swat them like that? He doesn’t realize that he is actually being “protected” by that parent from things he doesn’t understand.

    I realize you will most likely come back and say “But God created the place he is trying to protect us from—-that is highly illogical”. And again, I state that we are as little children before an infinite creator—He knows WHY certain things exist.
    There was most definitely something we do not understand (whch the Bible hints at) regarding this world, the angel who became the devil, and God. This angel has inherent “rights” to this planet—-why we do not know—but he does. He proved that when he OFFERED all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus–this shows they ARE HIS to give to whom he wants.

    Hell was made for him. But men will go there of their own volition. It is a mystery–I cannot even try to explain it—but I know that there are many eternal things I do not understand now that I eventually will understand—–even as that little child one day could look back and THANK their Mom for swatting their little behind when they tried to cross the street.

  • 77. Joe  |  May 21, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    #76—-meant to say “things beyond our comprehension”

  • 78. DSimon  |  May 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Joe, that analogy with the way science works doesn’t fly. Good scientists first make sure they have all the supporting blocks of their conclusions in place before they announce their conclusion. If they don’t have the necessary evidence to support making any statements, then they’ll shrug and say “I don’t know (yet)”.

    However, you seem to be jumping straight to the conclusion, even though you honestly admit that you don’t have any of the information necessary to support that conclusion. Your conclusion’s apparent logical contradiction has to be addressed before accepting it as fact, not after!

    If and when this supposed explanation comes to light, then we can discuss it. In the mean time, I think I’m reasonable in wondering why anyone should assume that an explanation exists at all?

  • 79. DSimon  |  May 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Lucian, you’re correct in that a God which acts like a judge, jury, and executioner with arbitrary and pernicious rules would not be a moral God. But, that’s the beside the point of whether or not that God exists, which is the question that atheism addresses. Atheism is about the lack of evidence for any sort of God, moral or immoral.

    The reason the OP brings up the topic of God’s morality or immorality is to point out the way that theologies tends to deal with contradiction by redefining words in meaningless ways, instead of actually changing the ideas.

  • 80. Joe  |  May 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    DSimon—

    (#78) Thanks. You’re right. But I’ll tell you why I come from the perspective I am in my argument. I will quote a verse (hope this doesn’t offend—but it explains a bit):

    “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5,6)

    Now—this verse isn’t telling us not to use our brains, or never make any decisions for ourselves. it isn’t saying not to use our means of intelligence and wisdom, or to shun higher learning and science. In it’s context in Proverbs it is referring to the things that God has revealed to us, and things that are happening in our lives.

    It is basically saying that there are some things that have only been revealed to us minutely, that we need to leave in God’s hands, knowing one day we will know the answers—but FOR NOW God has not given us a full explanation. And that is where “faith” comes in.

    So, when I discuss “hell” I understand that it is taught, but I have no clue as to why it exists, or what it really is either. God has chosen not to reveal much about it. All I know is that there is a savior who came and made a way for salvation.

    I can use my intelligence and ponder such things. I can use my brain and TRY to understand as much as I can. But with some things I have to “lean not to my own understanding” and simply obey ( acknowledge God’s way is the right way) rather than questioning and stagnating.

    I know that that is not acceptable to you in the argument you are making. But that is the way of faith. And it is at odds with pure logic—because heaven and hell are not logical—and I admit that. So it is very hard to discuss when we are at different ends of a spectrum. I do enjoy it though–I guess that’s why I like to read Ingersoll and Dawkins sometimes–I like to hear the other side of the argument. :)

  • 81. Frreal  |  May 21, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    God obviously loves Joe more than the rest of us as he gave him the ability to defy logic with faith. I used to have that ability too. Why did God take it away? Why doesn’t he love me as much as he loves Joe?

  • 82. The de-Convert  |  May 23, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Copy of a comment from our facebook page ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/deconversion/117482521625092 ):

    BY Jennifer:

    Yes, I agree. There are certainly a lot of contradictions in that “in-errant” book. Doesn’t make much sense, does it. Man has really manipulated it to serve his purpose. Many good concepts too, though. It’s a shame to throw out the baby with the bath water. One can find wisdom everywhere if we choose to be discerning and actually think instead of just believing something because we are told to.

  • 83. letjusticerolldown  |  May 23, 2010 at 9:11 am

    “Why doesn’t he love me as much as he loves Joe?” Frreal

    Maybe God does–if you have now been graced with the ability to defy faith with logic.

    Somehow, it seems to me, God might be large enough to allow for both.

    Do those of us who ‘believe’ really believe in God–or do we believe in our belief?? Do those who reason their way to ‘god’ (that in which they ultimately place their trust) truly trust in reason–or in their own reasoning?

    Along the way a pursuit of Truth might demand some of us give up our belief and might demand some give up our reasoning.

    Or would this threaten God?

    I think I have to de-convert everyday in my conversion to Jesus. Otherwise Jesus becomes a toy in my pocket to take out and play with when I am bored or in trouble.

    I can easily embrace why persons wake up on any given day and look at the Bible or belief in Jesus–shake their head and disbelief–and reject it.

    But I feel on the verge of silliness to toss out God/Jesus. I can when it is a toy in my pocket or a dogma in my head–but look at an eternal, infinite God, whose shadow could consume the sun, and say “I have considered you and found you wanting” –uh-uh. Much too interesting for me to walk away.

    I don’t know if the regulars on this blog are de-converting from the pocket toys and dogmas others preached–or from something larger. I personally suspect I would find as much/more in common with many here than some whom I will be next to in church this morning.

  • 84. Phil Stilwell  |  May 23, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Letjusticerolldown,

    Most of us have converted due to the stark lack of evidence for a god whose shadow can allegedly consume the sun, plus clear logical incoherencies in the description of such a god.

    And the verbose yet specious emotional defenses of this god are also hints of what this god actually is; a fictional entity to plug emotional demands of the default less-than-rational human composition.

    If you find such a god “interesting”, consider the propensity of humans to allow themselves the indulgence of feel-good credulity when it comes to all manner of “interesting” falsehoods such as fairies, big foot, green aliens, ESP, spoon-bending, and astrology.

    A commitment to truth reels in this credulity and the subsequent bloated ontology, and requires us to constrain our epistemic confidence to the degree to which we have evidence. This requires enough humility to say “I don’t know” when we don’t know. But don’t suppose that this means the logical possibility of a self-proclaimed “loving” yet pragmatically “vengeful” god such as Jehovah cannot be dismissed as logically incoherent as a square triangle.

    So review your comments and note you are starting with the illegitimate assumption of this logically incoherent Jehovah. You can’t trump the logic with an emotional appeal.

  • 85. BigHouse  |  May 23, 2010 at 11:27 am

    It’s disappointing when the theists come and refuse to address the argument at hand, yet continue to post their emotional pleas and justifications. This does not elicit conversations, but just people posting past each other.

    We understand that you believe the Bible is the word of God. We don’t.

    If you can only quote Bible verses for suport then you’ve provided evidence that we’ve rejected with reasons provided ad nauseum on this site. Read them.

    If you tell us about your personal conversion experience in your heart, then you’ve provided evidence that we cannot access and substantiate. Ergo, not convincing in the slightest.

    So why are you posting?

  • 86. CheezChoc  |  May 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Joe,
    First, I want to say that I appreciate your level-headed and articulate posts.

    Second, I think that the place where some of us are diverging re: this subject has to do with the whole “big picture” concept that you are conveying, as in post #76, among others. You say that there is an ultimate reason for everything that happens and that we can’t comprehend it. Fair enough.
    The other side of the coin, though, is the face that we mortal humans cannot “see the forest for the trees,” to use a cliche. All we know is what is happening to us right now in our lives. Imagine the person suffering in a refugee camp in Africa, or the troubled adult who had suffered the advances of a pedophile priest in his youth, for just two examples. It’s very difficult if not impossible for such individuals to see any kind of purpose or reason that will someday be revealed to them.

    Just my 2 Cents.

  • 87. Phil Stilwell  |  May 23, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    CheezChoc,

    I’m not comfortable with, what seems to be, an agnosticism that permits hope as a legitimate device in epistemology. The logical possibility of something does not justify a belief in that something.

    So if someone argues for the logical for the logical possibility of a divine purpose, that’s fine. But if someone is arguing that the divinity behind that logically possible purpose is Jehovah, then they’re wrong due to the logical incoherency of that deity. If someone is arguing for the probability of a divine purpose or for a deity, they’ll need to make that argument. And if they are suggest that we are justified in believing something before it is revealed to us, they are wrong, and especially belief in a deity when the track record of methodological naturalism justifies only an expectation of material causal explanations.

  • 88. Dale  |  May 24, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Hi Phil,
    Presupposing there is a God, would you say that he has been impatient with you?

  • 89. Phil Stilwell  |  May 24, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Hi Dale,

    Supposing that the god you’re presupposing damns to eternal torture every human upon their first offense, yes.

    If your human father had done this, would you be calling him “patient”?

  • 90. DSimon  |  May 24, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Dale, I realize that your question isn’t addressed to me, but if it were, I would respond thus: No, I wouldn’t say that, because I couldn’t say much of anything at all about that God.

    Even presupposing that there is a God, I still wouldn’t have any evidence that said God had interacted with me in any way. Say, a God who hasn’t paid attention to the universe since its creation couldn’t really be described as impatient (though possibly “neglectful”).

    Perhaps you mean to ask, “Presupposing there is a God who behaves as described in the Bible…”?

  • 91. Prakash  |  May 24, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Once upon a time , there was a small black frog which lived all his life in a small but deep well. Then one day , a brown frog from the sea accidently fell into this small well. The black frog asked “Where are you from ?” The Brown frog said “I’am from the sea”. “Sea ? what is that ? Is that bigger than my well ?” asked the black frog. ” My friend”,said the brown frog, ” its so much bigger and beautiful than this tiny well. ” . The big black frog became very upset and angry . ‘NO ! THERE CAN’T BE A BIGGER PLACE THAN MY WELL ! YOU ARE SPREADING LIES AND i SHALL PUNISH YOU” said the black frog and killed the poor brown frog. Now , narrow minded Christians are like this black frog , sitting in their own small well and claiming to know the absolute truth and all other beliefs are wrong. Please wake up from your tiny well, come out and study the beauty of other religions and philosophies my friends. With love – Judas

  • 92. DSimon  |  May 24, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Prakash, to alter a quote: I may agree with what you say, but I would defend to the death the right of the moderators to ban your stinky rear from this blog for spamming.

  • 93. Prakash  |  May 25, 2010 at 3:24 am

    DSimon: My apologies if my message unintentionally disturbed you . But spamming ? What spamming ?

  • 94. Dale  |  May 25, 2010 at 4:13 am

    With an answer of ‘yes’, Phil, you are consistent with the case you make in your article. I appreciate your honesty.

    Your statement that God has been impatient with you hinges on the adjectives you use to describe his impatience. The offense is a single offense, and the torture is an eternal torture.

    If one offense is too few, and/or eternal is too long to be considered patient, what number of offenses or length of time would allow you to drop your charge of impatience?

    I do not wish to ignore the question you posed back to me, but am unsure if you wanted me to address it. It seems to me that it parallels the logic you present in your article. Or is it a separate case?

  • 95. Phil Stilwell  |  May 25, 2010 at 5:01 am

    Since the human language in which god allegedly wrote the bible is a product of human convention, I’m content to let human convention decide what is “patient” and impatient.

    It is claimed that god loves us more than human fathers love their own children, so we are safe in using this human father/child relationship as the standard.

    Simply poll 100 people from across several cultures and sub-cultures. Present the blue/red continuum between patient/impatient, and ask these 100 people where they would place the patience of a father who eternally tortures a child after that child’s 1st offense.

    If you come up with more than 20% who claim such an action falls more on the “patient” half of the continuum, I’ll have to reconsider my position. If you come up with more than 50%, I’ve definitely made a blunder somewhere.

    Just out of curiosity, if a father told you he planned to torture his son in the basement for the rest of that son’s life for telling his 1st lie, how would you assess that father’s “patience”?

  • 96. Dale  |  May 25, 2010 at 5:41 am

    Hello DSimon

    Yes.
    I had hoped that your wording suggestion was implied in my question, but you have shown me through your thoughtful explanation that it was not clear enough.

    To be precise, I probably would have referred to the *nature* of God and not the *behavior* of God “as described in the Bible”, but at the moment, I see no reason to quibble. Yet the problem always exists in discussion over texts that not all people agree in their interpretation of the texts.

  • 97. Phil Stilwell  |  May 25, 2010 at 6:37 am

    The disagreement among bible believers over the way the bible should be interpreted is yet another absurdity. Are we to believe a god has provided us with a “word of truth” that is so vague and ambiguous that it has generated thousands of strains of doctrinal “truths” among those who believe it most? I have yet to discover a coherent standard of hermeneutics by which the bible can be interpreted consistently. But this additional absurdity has no bearing on my initial argument.

    I only extract from evangelicals the standard doctrines they claim to believe. I don’t tell them what they must believe. They tell me, then I assess their claims for coherency. Mainstream Evangelicals believe that a single sin evokes such ire from a “patient” god that he deems it deserving of eternal torture. They are a bit squeamish to phrase it that way, but that is the essence of their belief. And they should be squeamish. It is an horrendous absurdity.

  • 98. DSimon  |  May 25, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Prakash, I said you were spamming because you (apparently) just cut & pasted a vaguely relevant story into the comment box and hit send, without engaging with either the original post or any of the existing comments.

    I don’t have any problem with what you said (I agree that it would be nice if Christians would investigate other philosophies and religions more often), but I do have a problem with fire-and-forget conversational tactics.

  • 99. DSimon  |  May 25, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Dale, in that case, I would agree with Phil: yes, I would describe such a God as impatient.

    And to provide my own answer your follow-up question to Phil, in order for me to consider such a God to not be impatient, I’d require:

    * That the form and extent of the punishment would, at most, match the harm caused by the crime.

    * That the rules for such punishment be made much much clearer than they already are (i.e. to avoid all the confusion about which parts of Leviticus still apply, and does “Thou shalt not murder” include abortions, or capital punishment, or killing soldiers during a war, or etc. etc.).

    * That fairly minor offenses (ones that don’t cause a lot of harm and that might conceivably be done out of ignorance) would be met at first by a warning or a very minor punishment.

    * Finally, and most importantly, that the punishments have a distinct, reasonable purpose. Punishing people just out of a sense of vengeance isn’t good enough; the punishments need to be about providing a disincentive to do wrong, and also motivating people who have done wrong not to do so again.

    All of these aspects would help to demonstrate a God who is patient with people who are, after all, imperfect.

  • 100. BigHouse  |  May 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    All of these aspects would help to demonstrate a God who is patient with people who are, after all, imperfect.

    And not only are we imperfect, but God made us this way!

    You don’t train a dog to piss on the floor then punish him with such awful wrath when he does it.

  • 101. Dale  |  May 28, 2010 at 2:25 am

    Phil:

    I noticed that you did not answer my question:
    “If one offense is too few, and/or eternal is too long to be considered patient, what number of offenses or length of time would allow you to drop your charge of impatience?”

    In bringing this up, I am not being critical. There is no good answer to it. For instance, if it is suggested that God can be considered patient if he allows you N offenses, there remains the impossible problem to prove that N+1 or N-1 should not be the correct point.

    This upshot of the inability to answer this question presents grave consequences for the logic behind your formulation, for it means that God must always be defined as impatient.

    And by your “formulation” I am referring to your position that God is impatient towards you because after (N =1) offenses, you are subject to (T = eternity) time of torment. Unless an N or T can be posited that shows God is patient, then he must always be considered impatient. This proves that your formulation can never be used to show if God is patient or impatient (unless perhaps you are willing to suggest an edge case where N = infinity and T = None).

    Does this mean that God is now proved to be patient? Not at all and that is not my intent. My claim is simply that the previously described formulation fails logically and cannot be used to accuse God of being impatient.

    So then, although my question was not answered directly, I would like to turn to the answer that was provided. Essentially, the proposal is that the defining of God’s patience (or his impatience) could be established by presenting the previously defined formulation (N offenses, T time) as a poll to a group of diverse people. Responses could be counted and if they passed certain thresholds, one could make certain conclusions about God being patient or impatient.

    The immediate problem with this approach is that it merely passes on to a group of 100 the same formulation discussed above. If the N offenses, T Time formulation does not work when we ask one, asking 100 will not help, even if the group is diverse.

    The idea that a poll might be useful throws me off balance a bit. I occasionally dabble in logic and theology, but public opinion is an area where I hesitate to venture. Allow me to turn it around and offer you a different public opinion poll and, if you want, you can tell me how valid it is…

    A farmer owned an orchard of apple trees. He worked hard to keep the orchard healthy and in good shape. As a result, all his trees produced abundantly. All the trees, that is, except for one. The farmer’s neighbors advised him to cut it down. The farmer said, “No – I will not cut it down, at least yet. I will give it a careful administered regimen of fertilizer and water for another next year and see if it produces fruit next season.”

    The poll question becomes, “Was the farmer patient with the apple tree?”

    I suspect that you will not like the idea of this poll being helpful to decide if God is patient or impatient, for the reason that the analogy that is contained it in does not measure up to your view of Biblical teaching. If that is true, then you can sympathize with how I feel about the idea of the poll you suggested.

    Does this become a matter of which analogy better matches what we see in the Bible? I will let you decide if you would to go in that direction.

    Meanwhile, I would like to say that I found DSimon’s idea in #99 to be intriguing: “That the form and extent of the punishment would, at most, match the harm caused by the crime.” I am curious – do you agree with it?

  • 102. Phil Stilwell  |  May 28, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Dale,

    Imagine your wife claimed that your ability to quantify your love invalidated your professions of love. Imagine her claiming that your promise to be kind and your innumerable actions dedicated to backing that promise were all invalidated logically with her pointing to the possibility of an infinite (acts of kindness + n).

    This is what you are doing.

    I’ve made it clear that patience & impatience fall on a continuum. The fact that these concepts fall on a continuum does not render claims of either meaningless. The continuum that patience & impatience fall on is conventionally determined, and therefore any actions that are measured against the claim of patience will need to be positioned on that continuum through convention. An unjust, impatient and hateful king cannot claim to be just or patient or loving by simply claiming his actions are the measure of such terms, thereby inverting conventional definitions. Neither can your god.

    Imagine that your wife claimed to be patient, then divorced you the first time you left a sock on the floor.

    Now imagine that, in addition to divorcing you, she hired a hit-man to kill you out of anger over that stray sock.

    Now imagine yourself with such credulity and such a willingness to pervert conventional definitions that, as you lay dying with a bullet in your chest, you affirm the fact that she was actually a “patient” woman.

    If you don’t believe that your loving and patient god damns a person to eternal torment over a single sin, then my article is not for you; it is for the millions who do believe this absurdity.

    Here is what you ought to do to clarify what you believe. First give me your own definition of “patience” and an example of a “patient” father. I’ll then compare it to the conventional definition of “patience”. Then let me know where I can read about the actions of your “patient” god. I will simply assess those actions, and decide whether they match the conventional definition of “patient”. This should be a fairly easy exercise. But you’ll have to clearly state what you believe. Sound fair enough?

    However, if you are a typical Evangelical who is incoherently suggesting that your “patient” god becomes so impatiently wrathful over the 1st offense of each of the billions of offenders that were unwittingly born with the nature to offend, then you have so perverted the conventional meanings of words to defend your absurd god that I am quite disinclined to continue to dialog with you.

    I did appreciate your analogy of a farmer who cuts down a tree that does not produce. Imagine a farmer planting apple trees expecting to harvest oranges, then angrily burning the apple trees when they produce only apples. Imagine a man named Jesus throwing a fit and cursing a mere tree when that type of tree, by nature, does not produce fruit in the season in which Jesus happened by. Imagine a god who, knowing that not one of the billions of humans that have been born have had it in their nature to be perfect, damned to eternal torment each of those humans upon their very first imperfection. You’ll tag this farmer, this Jesus and this god “patient” only by trading in all credibility as you demonstrate a commitment to the perversion of conventionally defined words that have hitherto served us well.

  • […] Newest Article: Jehovah’s Linguistic Land Grab […]

  • 104. notabarbie  |  June 4, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Imagine a god who gives us rational thinking minds and then condemns us for using them…
    Great post and great comments.

  • 105. Quester  |  June 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    He didn’t mean to give us rational minds, notabarbie. It was that damned serpent’s fault! :P

    Clicked on your name, BTW. Like the blog!

  • 106. Lyra's Alias  |  June 5, 2010 at 2:34 am

    I just found this site today, and have been reading articles and comments. I’m somewhere between non-fundamentalist Christianity and atheism.

    It’s probably worthy to note for my own sake that the arguments of non-theists have been consistently more direct and reasonable. And enjoyable to read. I look forward to reading and commenting further.

  • 107. Quester  |  June 5, 2010 at 5:48 am

    Good day, Lyra, and welcome! Whether you stay between non-fundamentalist Christianity and atheism, choose one or the other, or go in a different way entirely, I hope some of the articles we have on this site help you on your journey. Let us know if you have any questions, or are looking for anything in particular.

  • 108. Lyra's Alias  |  June 6, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks Quester. =) I’m glad to have found a safe place to bring my thoughts and feelings.

  • 109. Quester  |  June 6, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Well, it’s *mostly* safe. There’s no real moderation, so we get a lot of everything around here. It’s been fairly quiet lately, though.

  • 110. Lyra's Alias  |  June 7, 2010 at 1:41 am

    I know from looking around here that the most danger probably comes from wanting to bash my head against a wall after reading posts from Christians. ;) I’ll do my best to not cause myself any of the brain damage that must have inspired some of those posts.

  • 111. BigHouse  |  June 7, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Lyra, I struggled with that for a while as well. But someone very wise posted that not every post here deserves a response, nor carries the same critical and logical rigor. That helped me a lot.

  • 112. Lyra's Alias  |  June 7, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Solid advice, thank you.

  • 113. Zoe  |  June 7, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Someone very wise?

    Must have been me.
    ;-)

  • 114. DSimon  |  June 9, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Dale, I don’t know if you’re still around, but your entire last comment seems hinged upon the idea that words are meaningless unless they have a 100% precise definition. Natural languages just don’t work that way. The fuzziness of word definition boundaries doesn’t mean the boundaries aren’t there.

    Or, as explained by dinosaurs:

  • 115. DSimon  |  June 9, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    What the fork? My link disappeared. Here it is again: http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=1541

  • 116. Lyra's Alias  |  June 12, 2010 at 1:04 am

    ^Somehow, that the text from whoever is talking to the t-rex is in all caps and bold makes that especially funny to me.

  • 117. Lyra's Alias  |  June 12, 2010 at 1:06 am

    ^which, I was guessing it was supposed to be God but wasn’t entirely sure.

  • 118. Lyra's Alias  |  June 12, 2010 at 2:16 am

    ^and now I know it is indeed God and am addicted to said comic strip.

  • 119. DSimon  |  June 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Lyra’s Alias, isn’t it great? I love the “Secrets of the Medical Profession” series.

  • 120. Sarah  |  June 13, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    hey,
    it seems to me (lack of sleep, newborn and abcessed tooth- don’t expect too much coherance from me)
    that god’s impatience hinges on hell as eternal punishment.

    Is it possible to have god and eternal life without hell? i don’t find too much compelling evidence for hell in the bible, at least, it doesn’t seem to be consistently defined.

    and IF there is eternal life of sorts, then perhaps this life isn’t so important? Perhaps the god of the OT ordering the genocide of certain peoples was merciful in that their cultures were too messed up to become better? and that it was the best thing for them? this presupposes eternal life, but not necessarily eternal punishment.

    (these are my husbands thoughts, not mine, and i’m not sure i’m portraying them acurately, but i’d love to hear your thoughts)

  • 121. Phil Stilwell  |  June 13, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    I know different christians interpret the bible in different ways, and I don’t want to misrepresent your own interpretation. So in your mind, how many sins must the sinner commit before Jehovah damns them? And what are they damned to? In your mind, what is the threshold of action for a human father in the treatment of his children at which you would no longer call him “loving” and “patient”? Your answers will inform my response.

  • 122. jonfeatherstone  |  June 14, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Looking back at my years as a Christian, I noticed that that 90% of the time we quoted 10% of the Bible. As long as you do that, God is indeed loving and patient and all of those lovely warm things that we all sing about with major 7th chords and slim blond worship leaders.
    It’s only when you read all of the bible (and a bit of church history) that you realise it just doesn’t work!

  • 123. DSimon  |  June 14, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Is it possible to have god and eternal life without hell? i don’t find too much compelling evidence for hell in the bible, at least, it doesn’t seem to be consistently defined.

    Well, in the NT Jesus is generally pretty insistent that the choice is either to follow and believe in him or end up in eternal punishment. A detailed list of Jesus’ references to hell is available here.

    Hell isn’t all that consistently defined, especially if you try and compare OT and NT definitions of it… but the two aspects that seem pretty steady are (a) it lasts forever, and (b) you really really really don’t want to be there.

    and IF there is eternal life of sorts, then perhaps this life isn’t so important?

    That would be the case. However, since there’s no good evidence for eternal life, this meme is very problematic. It can encourage people to throw away or mistreat the only life they have, in expectation of a new and better replacement life that (based on what we know) almost certainly will not arrive.

  • 124. Sarah  |  June 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Phil:

    in my mind? thats what i’m trying to figure out…
    this is the theology that i’ve been working with thus far.

    God is some sort of perfect existance. He (of course predominately male?) wants companionship (in which He is still clearly the superior figure) and therefore started matter with the Big Bang and universal laws applicable to this universe which we can describe with laws and theories.

    God, being good, can only be around ‘good’ because he loves us. Evil is what causes harm.

    Because God is merciful, he is also judgemental. Because he has mercy on small children, there is no tolerance for child abuse.

    The reason for giving us free will is to ensure that we really love him by choice instead of command.

    The reason our world is so full of despair and tragedy is so we learn to hate ‘sin’ or harm in order to appreciate the afterlife more.

    So, when we hurt ourselves or others (sin) that one offense is intolerable for the next life if it is to be perfect. This life we’ll hurt ourselves and others lots, but hell is part of the process of learning to hate what causes suffering so we can choose to become part of god and be part of a new creation where we’d love life and hate causing harm to ourselves and others so much that existance will be perfect.

    Then, God is patient because the time dimensions are different. merciful, because no harm will be allowed in heaven. and the choice isn’t so much now as after death when we can understand things better.

    and a human parent is patient in understanding where her child is at and giving them enough feeback so that it will be beneficial for them child. (Not allowing a child to bite her little sister- there is no, you can bite her 70 times 7 but after that, you are homeless; rather, biting is never acceptable and if you try it you will recieve an appropriate consequence)

  • 125. Sarah  |  June 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    i realize that last post was very long and incoherant. i’m not even sure where all those thoughts came from, beside’s Lewis’ Great Divorce. I’ve just started this process of questioning things for real instead of only asking church leaders.

  • 126. portwes  |  June 14, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    With Sarah’s last two words, “appropriate consequence”, the comments seem to have come full circle back to the main premise of Phil’s “patient/impatient” post: is torture for eternity an “appropriate consequence” for one offense (or whatever number can be committed in a mortal lifetime)? Reading through the comments of christians in response, there is still a point-blank refusal to meet the dilemma head-on. If christians want respect they need to stop dodging the question.

  • 127. Sarah  |  June 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    i doubt anyone would think torture for eternity is appropriate for one offense, or even any number of offenses.

    the assumption of the article was that ALL christians believe that any offense (such as being born from human parents) would condemn a person to eternal torment. this is not true.

    i know christians who read the bible as a form of mythology that reveals God in part while distorted by the writers and their culture at the time.

    the point of “appropriate consequences” is to produce character (not just behaviour) that is beneficial. If a child only learns “don’t bite or else”, that is sad. You want them to care about whether someone is hurt. In the case of a biting child, an appropriate consequence might be that they don’t get to play with the other child.
    some people view hell that way- a temporary consquence designed to improve character.

    and some people designed hell to be a behaviour controlling tool.

    Phil is very right- there is no way to reconcile patient diety with everlasting hellfire for unclear reasons.

  • 128. Phil Stilwell  |  June 14, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Sarah, you said…

    The assumption of the article was that ALL christians believe that any offense (such as being born from human parents) would condemn a person to eternal torment. this is not true.

    I grew up in mainstream Evangelicalism. The belief is that EVERY sin is worthy of hellfire. (Note that Evangelicals do not believe that being born from human parents is itself worthy of hellfire, nor is an “offense”.)

    The argument of the article is this; god claims to love humans, defines love as patient, then demonstrates extreme impatience. If you don’t think a single sin makes a “patient” god wrathful enough to send the sinner to eternal hellfire, then good on you. You’re not my intended audience for this particular argument.

  • 129. Meg  |  June 14, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    It is entirely logical to hate the God that you have described. I would also hate a God who tortures indiscriminately and lies with impunity. You are clearly a man who loves justice and mercy.

    I wonder if you have put these accusations to God personally, or do you prefer to debate these things with a third party. This may sound a little facetious, but please believe I am sincere in this question.

    If you do not believe God exists, then this sort of debate would seem a little redundant. If you do believe God exists then I would be interested to hear what he replied when you asked him.

  • 130. Phil Stilwell  |  June 14, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    It would be very dangerous to hate the god most christians extract from the bible. He damns to hell all those who disbelieve.

    But, interestingly enough, such a god is logically incoherent, so we can’t rationally reach the point of hatred for this mythical Jehovah. Reason requires that we simply disbelieve in this absurdity of a patient impatient god in the same way we dismiss claims of a square triangle.

    I also don’t want to seem facetious, but have you consulted Santa for his reasons why you should believe he exists? Do you understand the silliness of such a suggestion?

  • 131. Eve's Apple  |  June 14, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Actually, the situation is even worse than what the original poster stated. If I understand Catholic and evangelical Protestant theology correctly, we enter this world already damned. It’s not a matter of a person committing one sin and being damned for all eternity; we are all damned because one man and one woman allegedly committed a sin several thousand years ago. The game is rigged right from the start!

    That is why Catholicism makes (or used to make) such a big deal about baptizing infants and even miscarried fetuses, because they are infected with Original Sin. We are being punished, all of us, for something we did not personally do; and the only way we can avoid the rap is apparently let someone else (Jesus) take the rap for something he didn’t do either. No one has ever satisfactorily explained to me why God couldn’t have dealt with Adam and Eve and let the matter stop there.

  • 132. CheezChoc  |  June 14, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Eve, you took all the words right out of my mouth!

  • 133. portwes  |  June 14, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Just to digress a little on Meg’s comment:
    “If you do believe God exists then I would be interested to hear what he replied when you asked him.”

    Phil answered that, but here is my reply: In 46 years of believing I was born-again child of a loving heavenly father, I never once heard god audibly answer any question I asked of him, or saw a ghostly hand writing an answer in front of me, nor have any of the hundreds of christians who were close friends of mine. Many times my psyche presented answers, but these were clearly not supernatural, even though I was taught that those “voices” were god speaking to me. No doubt you will continue to believe that god answers your prayers and questions, but you have no hard evidence for that, just wishful thinking.

  • 134. Meg  |  June 15, 2010 at 3:24 am

    Ok then.

  • 135. Thomas / Tomas S  |  June 15, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Sara wrote:
    The reason our world is so full of despair and tragedy is so we learn to hate ‘sin’ or harm in order to appreciate the afterlife more.

    This calls to mind something which has come to mind recently. I was watching a video called “Skeptics visit the Creationist Museum” (or similar) and in it, a Christian woman was running down the traditional explanation of where death, pain, and suffering come from. The skeptic asked why God didn’t create a world where sin doesn’t cause suffering. We could still have free will. God could still know that we “really” love him. Indeed, our choice to love him would be even more meaningful because it wouldn’t be made from fear of suffering.

    The Christian’s nice-sounding answer was “If you had children, would you let them misbehave without consequences?”. As a parent, I emphathize with this line of thinking – but I’m struck that the reason I give my kids consequences is that I know that in God’s natural world, bad things will happen whether I want them to or not. I give my children consequences because I’d rather them face my consequences than God’s.

    But why does God do it? It can’t be to help us love him (as I just explained.) It can’t be because the world couldn’t be otherwise. (Not for nothing do they call him God.) You hint at an explantion in the line I quoted, but even that doesn’t make sense because so much suffering is not clearly traceable to any specific sin. Indeed, most people fail to see this as related to sin at all, so if the purpose is for us to see it, it’s failing terribly.

    I can only conclude that God is either a cruel bastard or non-existant.

  • 136. Thomas / Tomas S  |  June 15, 2010 at 6:12 am

    This calls to mind something which has come to mind recently.

    Read: This calls to mind something which has “been on my mind” recently.

  • 137. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Christian theology holds God to have many characteristics typically considered “good.” God is love. God is just. God is merciful. You could wage the same argument, replacing “patience” with any of these characteristics.

    Most often the problem is stated in terms of god’s wrath versus love. I think the injection of the “love=patience” dilutes the issue.

    You seem to pick the “patience” characteristic to hammer the “single sin” argument.

    But at this point (and others) your representation of Christian orthodoxy becomes strained.

    You posit esentially that eternal wrath in response to a single sin is either ridiculously impatient; or that such theology is linguistically meaningless. Accepting for a moment that your characterization of Evangelical theology is fair–then there is a gap that spans from the beginning of human history to the end of human history, and a second gap called “time and space,” in which the wrathful consequence of the single sin is not rendered.

    You do not argue eternal damnation to not be just. You argue it to be impatient.

    You argue that the full scope of what Evangelicals to consider to be redemptive history (from beginning to end of a historical time and space) to represent no patience on the part of a god whose justice you have no problem with.

    The essence of sin is separation from god. The essence of hell is separation from god. The surprise to me is not that I would distance myself from god–but that god would come close to me (or even think about it).

    The essence of Christianity is the eternal truth coming to us in person. This is the proposition which must be considered to be true or false. Jesus.

    I think there to be many problems with how many of us who take Jesus’ name think about, and live out, our theologies. I like to take my beliefs and own them. I wager them in wars to win. I want something to hold onto that makes me right; that makes me look good; that makes me OK. We can take ‘truth’ as something to control and use as a weapon. We can submit to truth and learn/change.

    Neither skeptics, Christians, nor anyone else has a corner on seeking truth and submitting to it. I offer my comments not to win an argument–but to dialogue with any who seek.

  • 138. DSimon  |  June 15, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Letjusticerolldown, it’s not reasonable to assume that just because a particular post doesn’t mention a particular argument (i.e. that eternal damnation is an unjust punishment) that therefore the poster disagrees with that argument.

    Also, more to the point, the original article does describe eternal punishment as unjust and “malicious”.

    The essence of Christianity is the eternal truth coming to us in person. This is the proposition which must be considered to be true or false.

    Yes, and the original article is an argument that this proposition is false on the grounds that the proposition includes internal contradictions.

  • 139. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 9:14 am

    “it’s not reasonable to assume that just because a particular post doesn’t mention a particular argument (i.e. that eternal damnation is an unjust punishment) that therefore the poster disagrees with that argument.” DSimon

    Agree.

    I am responding to Phil’s construction that he insists persons respond to directly:

    ie
    1. Jehovah “loves” humans.
    2. “Love” is patient (1 Corinthians 13).
    3. Jehovah becomes so impatiently wrathful over the 1st offense of all humans that he damns every one of them to eternal torture.

  • 140. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Letjusticerolldown,

    This is not a game where everyone can go home a winner. The fact that anyone can be wrong prior to an examination of the arguments does not legitimize ignoring the arguments.

    Jehovah clearly claims to love humans. (John 3:16)
    Jehovah clearly defined love as patient. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
    Jehovah, out of wrath, damns to eternal torment (an omnipotent god could have created a more appropriate place if such a god considered eternal torment inappropriate for a single sin) every human upon their very 1st offense.

    This is the argument. I’m claiming Jehovah is either a liar or non-existent based on these premises. If this is not what you consider to be christian orthodoxy, then my argument is not for you. However, if you agree with the premises, you can rigorously address the argument, but don’t talk around it.

    Your flowery introduction of Jesus as some sort of solution to an absurd Jehovah is like claiming your square triangle is gilded. Sure, it makes you feel good to sacrifice your rational mind to warm fuzzies associated with an imaginary relationship, but you won’t find much sympathy here where too many of us know full well the loss of years of reality-based life due to belief in such myths. But to answer clearly, since the biblical notion of Christ is based on the absurdity of Jehovah, Jesus is false.

  • 141. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 9:19 am

    “Yes, and the original article is an argument that this proposition is false on the grounds that the proposition includes internal contradictions.” DSimon

    I’m not sure that was the argument being made. Jesus obviously was something a bit distinct from a proposition. The proposition that the Truth became Person is not solely an apologetic about what is true but also about how we encounter what is true.

  • 142. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 9:24 am

    “3. Jehovah becomes so impatiently wrathful over the 1st offense of all humans that he damns every one of them to eternal torture.”

    How is the full scope of human history and all of time and space during which the judgment is not rendered–during which God’s activity towards humanity is to reconcile–impatient???

  • 143. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Letjusticerolldown, the proposition that a person became truth has no coherent content. If you feel it does, rigorously substantiate that proposition. As is, it is incoherent mumbo-jumbo.

  • 144. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Letjusticerolldown said…

    “3. Jehovah becomes so impatiently wrathful over the 1st offense of all humans that he damns every one of them to eternal torture.”
    How is the full scope of human history and all of time and space during which the judgment is not rendered–during which God’s activity towards humanity is to reconcile–impatient???

    Jehovah claims to love each person personally. He damns each person personally to eternal torment upon their very 1st sin.

    What is this “human history” nonsense you’re interjecting to respond to an argument about Jehovah’s personal response to each human?

    God claims to love each person, claims that love is patient, then treats each and every human as impatiently as you can possibly imagine. Imagine a loving father acting the way Jehovah acts towards those he claims to love with a perfect love. Absurd.

  • 145. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 9:42 am

    “Jehovah’s personal response to each human?”

    The dogma is we are born into a state of separation. At eternal separation occurs after time and space.

    Your argument turns on seeing sin as an individual violation of a standard that immediately yields an eternal condemnation–and that immediacy of extreme judgment constitutes impatience.

    You are not arguing it to be an unjust judgment–just impatient. It is the impatience that makes it unloving. And it is the unloving nature that contradicts the existence of a loving god.

    In your construction the problem is impatience.

    How much more time, and how much more reality, would you have a god to give to avoid separation that all of history and all of time and space (ie hell occurs outside of both) to demonstrate patience??

  • 146. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Phil

    If there were a god with some kind of ‘personhood’ able to relate in love to humanity–a god that existed in and beyond the dimensions of human experience–and wished to reveal something of that personhood to humanity–

    what form of information and way of knowing might best communicate? Do you want a piece of paper that says: God is big. Or music flowing out of the atmosphere? Or a bolt lightening through your mind? Or a three-point argument proving God? Or a person?

    You wouldn’t be the first to find Jesus “mumbo-jumbo.” His disciples responded to him that may much of the time; as did those who came and went; Pilate; Nicodemus; and most everyone else. You might accept or reject.

    You might prefer a different way of encountering a god if one existed.

    But that doesn’t make the dogma that Jesus was in the beginnning as Truth and that the truth of god was most fully revealed in his person. You might reject the dogma. I don’t think it to be incoherent.

  • 147. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Let’s do this, Letjusticerolldown.

    You tell me what you consider the closest Jehovah ever comes to an action that could be considered impatient.

    For example, a young girl in India is raped by her father, sold by her mother into slavery, then upon stealing a loaf of bread for her younger brother, she is killed by a shop-keeper. Does Jehovah damn the thieving girl in this quite possible scenario to hell? If not, give me another biblically possible scenario that would position your Jehovah as close as possible to what is conventionally considered to be impatient. You tell me what you believe.

  • 148. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Letjusticerolldown wrote…

    How much more time, and how much more reality, would you have a god to give to avoid separation that all of history and all of time and space (ie hell occurs outside of both) to demonstrate patience??

    This appears ingenuous. Do you believe that there has ever been a human that died immediately after their 1st sin and therefore went to the hell they “deserved”? This is the measure of god’s (im)patience. You don’t measure a person’s honesty only after removing their dishonest history from scrutiny.

  • 149. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Letjusticerolldown, keep patting that gold square triangle you imagine you have in your pocket. It seems its comfort is more important to you than truth.

    I’m quite weary of all the bold yet unsubstantiated affirmations from christians. But I do remember when I did the same…

    Now note that your entire last comment addressed nothing in my argument. If my argument stands, then the son of god is just as incoherent as is his father, and both of them can be dismissed out of hand. You seem not to have a response to my argument, and are therefore attempting to head in the direction of mystical jesus-speak. Do you realize how this appears?

  • 150. DSimon  |  June 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Letjusticerolldown, if you want to know what would convince atheists that god exists, check out this page.

  • 151. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 11:55 am

    “Do you realize how this appears?”

    Because something goes “Boo” does not mean it is the boogyman you may have rightfully rejected.

    It is coherent to assert God revealed self in Jesus; or to assert I live in a spaceship. You conclude it not so. That does not make the assertion incomprehensible or inconsistent.

    I reject some of your assumptions and conclusions. That doesn’t lead me to conclude your argument to be incoherent.

  • 152. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    “For example, a young girl in India is raped by her father, sold by her mother into slavery, then upon stealing a loaf of bread for her younger brother, she is killed by a shop-keeper. Does Jehovah damn the thieving girl in this quite possible scenario to hell? If not, give me another biblically possible scenario that would position your Jehovah as close as possible to what is conventionally considered to be impatient. You tell me what you believe.”

    I believe a gracious god grieves to the depths of all reality for the slavery, hunger, brokenness, homicide, rape, incest, child-selling and theft described by your scenario. I believe there to be a shalom made universally available–a wholeness, well-being, justice, peace, healing, unity and love. I believe that to be eternally available and that I am morally responsible and empowered to express that shalom in this time and space.

    I find no guidance for me to speculate whether God brings all humanity and all reality into an eternal shalom or whether some persons continue in an eternal separation. I believe God desires an eternal separation anymore than the death of the girl.

    I probably have every question you have tried to look at squarely. I think we are obligated to reason. I don’t think we are confined to it–nor that we ever confine ourselves to it in our existential journey.

    I don’t believe I have any unquestionable answers. I don’t believe I have any certain arguments. But then I also don’t find my reasoning to carry me very far the boundaries of our knowledge; and those boundaries I find I reach very quickly.

    I may misread you 100%–but what I hear is a person fighting against something that likely needed to be rejected. I am not sure exactly what the “something” was–but sometimes I feel it in your arguments. Do you think your current stance is in reaction to what you rejected–or that you have found a way that transcends??

    I accept your ‘gold square triangle’ comment as a useful warning.

    My statements of Christian belief and dogma are intended as either explaining or clarifying what I am talking about; not as an assertion that is not questionable.

    And a friendly criticism: I think you demonstrate as much capacity to duck questions as those you criticize for doing so. Which is fine. But maybe we could allow that in dialogue we sometimes just want to make another point; or don’t have space or time (especially in this format).

  • 153. Mer  |  June 15, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Thomas,
    I find the question you raise fascinating: “Why didn’t God create a world where sin doesn’t cause suffering?”
    I read this – and correct me if I’m wrong – as asking either “Why does God punish us with suffering for sinning?” (at the heart of the original post, I believe) or “Why didn’t God create a world in which we could live without Him?”
    For the first question, my take as a Christian is that it’s not so simple as the formulas given by many believers and non-believers alike (clean up your life and God will love you/good things will happen; or hate God and he’ll hate you/bad things will happen). Rather, blessings and sufferings seem shine and rain down on all of us in this world, and then this Christ character comes along offering new life to sinners: murderers, prostitutes, and – worst of all – religious hypocrites (wink wink).
    As for the afterlife, I’m surprised more believers don’t stand by Jesus’s teaching: “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.” We mustn’t presume to know another person’s fate; we can only share the love that has been shown to us and work out our individual salvation.
    For the second question, in my mind it is absurd (to borrow Phil’s phrase) to say that God should create a world in which people could live (yay merrily) without Him/in sin and separation. To borrow from C.S. Lewis: “There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made.” I’m afraid I’ll be accused of emotional appeal, but I’d argue that logic alone is insufficient to explain the sort of intense subjective experience on DSimon’s list.
    If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prizes which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone.

    I look forward to further conversation.

  • 154. DSimon  |  June 15, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Mer, letjusticerolldown, I think you’re confusing two different axes:

    Axis A: Suffering vs. happiness
    Axis B: Near to God vs. Far from God

    You seem to be insisting that Hell and punishment for sin is all about Axis B, and that there’s an unavoidable relationship between B and A which necessarily causes punishment (suffering) to result from sin (being far from God). However, if that’s what you’re saying, then it is (a) unjustified and (b) totally doesn’t solve the problem.

    It’s unjustified because God is supposed to be omnipotent, or at least nearly so. It ought to be entirely possible for an omnipotent God to arrange things so that people don’t enter a realm of endless torture merely from not being “close” enough to God.

    And it doesn’t solve the problem because the issue is whether or not God is impatient; it’s up to God whether or not people are “pushed farther away” by sin; if that system in turn causes people to get punished, then God is still morally responsible for that punishment even if it’s caused indirectly.

    Remember the omnipotence rule: nothing is inevitable or unavoidable if you have total control over the rules of the game. Therefore, saying “But God has to do it such and such way” is nonsensical for omnipotent Gods.

  • 155. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    DSimon–

    OK. And God can create stones big enough he can’t move them.

    I imagine different Christian theologies address what you raise in different ways. I believe Axis A and B are not distinct. So you are correct in concluding I put the two (ie “confuse”) together.

    The torturous language of hell captures what separation from God is. You apparently believe we experience goodness and happiness apart from god’s blessing; that if god exited the scene we would have exactly what we have now. That somewhere else there is likely a universe being born giving rise to spontaneous forms of intelligent life with a sense of right and wrong and creating goodness out of nothingness.

    The “problem” of evil essentially becomes another “can-god-create-a-stone-so-big” question. Could not an all-powerful god create a world of choice in which everyone chooses good?

    Yes. But in such a conception of omnipotence–contradictions can also be made true. If contradictions can be made true–there is no contradiction that could prove such a god to be false.

    In a narrower conception of omnipotence, god has the power to do what is possible. Any stone that is–God can move. Any stone that can be made–God can make. Omnipotence is most often not taken to mean that every impossible contradiction can be made possible.

  • 156. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Letjusticerolldown,

    A truthful god that claims to love, defines love as patient, then impatiently damns to hellfire every human after their 1st offense is as impossible as a square triangle. This is not a “warning”. This is an argument. I note you’ve finally descended into speculation about my motivations behind my argument. What will it take for you to respond to my argument? You say you reject some of my assumptions. Clearly spell these out. Review how many words you’ve wasted on everything but a focused response. Do you understand my declining patience?

  • 157. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    “Do you understand my declining patience?”

    Yes. No words have value, no person’s contributions can be a gift,unless they conform.

    I know some Christians who operate like that.

  • 158. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I posed a question to you about God’s patience. You could not render an answer. Only a question. A legitimate question–but you still largely ducked the issue as to whether the Christian god does or does not display patience by spending the entire reality in which patience can be demonstrated (ie historical time and space) attempting to seek a unity with created humanity; suspending just judgment until eternity.

    You wished I speculate, and asked what I believed about, a scenario of evil-trajedy; to which I made a direct response.

    I think that conversation awaited your response.

  • 159. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    “I also don’t want to seem facetious, but have you consulted Santa for his reasons why you should believe he exists? Do you understand the silliness of such a suggestion?” Phil in response to Meg

    I haven’t consulted Santa. But then you don’t have a blog up trying to refute belief in Santa nor square triangles. Apparently you find an absurd god to be a more significant issue. Come to think of it–most of humanity has thought so.

    And Meg did not even argue you ought consult god. She simply asked if you had.

    No response–but to field the question as an absurdity.

    But of course, everyone else ducks your questions and tests your patience.

    Would you exhaust your patience on refuting square triangles?

  • 160. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Letjusticerolldown said…

    “I posed a question to you about God’s patience. You could not render an answer. Only a question. A legitimate question–but you still largely ducked the issue as to whether the Christian god does or does not display patience by spending the entire reality in which patience can be demonstrated (ie historical time and space) attempting to seek a unity with created humanity; suspending just judgment until eternity.”

    Yes. Strangely enough, an omnipotent and omniscient god now “patiently” is trying to clean up his mess, while at the same time torturing the children he claims to love. Ever have that problem with your computer that makes you patiently work on it all night, then when your child asks you for something, you slap them across the face?

    Let’s make this clear. If Jehovah would have been patient in the 1st place, and had not rashly deemed even the 1st sin worthy of hellfire, he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in now. Fortunately for us, his actions measured against his definition renders him impossible. And that’s good for you, for now you don’t need to skirt around absurdities such as my poor indian girl scenario in which Jehovah would have damned to hellfire an abused girl simply trying feed her family. The only step that remains is for you to acknowledge the incoherency of such a god, and come to reason. If enough people do, my blogging against Jehovah will go the way of blogs against Santa.

  • 161. DSimon  |  June 15, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Letjusticerolldown, changing the relationship between those two axes is not contradictory. The stone metaphor isn’t relevant.

    If God exists and is omnipotent, then God can, without entailing a contradiction, do either or both of the following:

    1. Make it so that doing things that God doesn’t like wouldn’t entail “a separation from God’s presence”.

    2. Make it so that such separation does not entail torturous infinite suffering.

    If God exists, but refuses to do either of those things, then God is impatient and needlessly cruel.

    Apparently you find an absurd god to be a more significant issue [than Santa].

    Yes, because lots of people believe in God, and we’re merely offering our counter-argument.

  • 162. Thomas / Tomas S  |  June 15, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I thought I already replied to Meg, but I don’t see it here…

    Meg: I read this – and correct me if I’m wrong – as asking either “Why does God punish us with suffering for sinning?”

    Not quite, because I usually understood suffering to be a natural consequence of sin, not the result of deliberate punishment by God. With that in mind, the question would be – if God is responsible for making the natural laws, why does a desire for “free will” excuse him from causing suffering?

    At the very least, if God had created a world where there was less random and unpredictable suffering, and where suffering was always clearly the result of a specific sin, then it’d be easier to believe in God.

    There are people who really believe that there were no parasites in the Garden of Eden and the pain and suffering caused by them is the result of sin.

  • 163. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    “Yes.” Phil

    So if god is patient–the construction of your 3-point argument fails.

    Which does nothing to prove my apologetic. I just think the construction around ‘patience’ doesn’t hold.

    I think your representation of sin and it’s ‘consequence’ misrepresents a Biblical and systematic Christian theology to the point of being of being a ‘comic strip’ representation (not that Christians don’t sometimes hold to this view). You present a fickle, nonsensical, cosmic sheriff who spurts out laws and sets traps at the edge of town to nab the first violator and then becomes judge and executioner shunting people off into eternal oblivion as punishment.

    The point of the law, in Christian theology, is to serve as teacher–not as judge.The law is impossible. I think you have that part down real well. The law, however, illuminates a good and evil that is far more complex than ‘breaking the speeding law.’ The law isn’t the point–except for those who wish to submit to it versus the grace of god.

    You are arguing hard against the impatient law and finding it incomprehensibly malicious. Yea it is. But even though you argue that you reject it and its capricious storybook author–to me you look quite submitted to it.

    Or maybe your explicit and complete rejection of it actually finds you much closer to a gracious god than you could imagine.

    Or maybe, my embrace of a gracious god puts me one step from rejecting all of Christian theology. I don’t have an issue with that possibility. If Jesus was nothing but another religious guy from Nazareth my beliefs go out the window tonight.

    You and I may be journeying down the street on opposites sides. In the end I think we engage truth most deeply as we turn the corner and bump into ……………………………

  • 164. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Letjusticerolldown,

    Your illogic is noted in…

    “So if god is patient–the construction of your 3-point argument fails.”

    The fact that Hitler was kind to his mistress does not mean he was kind to the Jews, and if he had claimed to love the very Jews he was exterminating, he would have approximated the actions of Jehovah (ignoring the fact that Jehovah’s torture is eternal).

    Your Jehovah is impossible. Deflecting focus on his incoherence with specious verbiage does not dissipate the argument. You still have a god who claims to love humans, defines love as patient, then becomes so impatiently wrathful that he damns every human to eternal torment based on their 1st offense. This version of a god might deserve a “comic strip” were it not for the sad fact that many people place their lives in the non-existent hands of this absurd and impossible god.

  • 165. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    “Yes, because lots of people believe in God, and we’re merely offering our counter-argument.” D Simon

    Accept. And I receive the counter-argument as gift. I know it seems to be endless posting to folks not interested in receiving.

    I’m not sure I entirely grasp your distinctions. But to the extent I do I disagree. I think you are asking for god’s omnipotence to include the capacity to make contradictions noncontradictory. I don’t see a way to divorce what God doesn’t like –from separation– from eternal wrath.

    To whatever degree my mind was functioning today–my body and mind are shutting down for the night. I will consider more carefully your response.

    thanks

  • 166. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Letjusticerolldown,

    The argument I have provided is that your patient impatient Jehovah is a square triangle.

    Your counter-arguments consist of saying, “but my square triangle is made of gold”.

    We don’t have to assess the composition of your square triangle. You are positing a square triangle.

  • 167. letjusticerolldown  |  June 15, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Phil

    So is the problem at the ‘first offense’ with the judgment rendered (ie justice) or with impatience? Please specify.

  • 168. Phil Stilwell  |  June 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Letjusticerolldown,

    In human experience we measure patience by how many offenses we endure before becoming angry. Jehovah gets to one before he goes bonkers.

  • 169. letjusticerolldown  |  June 16, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Phil

    So I read your answer to be that your issue is with patience.

    Jehovah gets to one decision for separation and spends all history appealing for and seeking fellowship. And then allows the choice to stand.

  • 170. Phil Stilwell  |  June 16, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Letjusticerolldown,

    The analogy then would be a father who set down rules for the house so strict that not one of his billions of children can follow them, then the very 1st time that they break even one of those rules, he becomes so wrathful (John 3:36) that he at minimum disowns and abandons his child (if you deny a burning hell) and at worst consciously sends them to eternal torment. You are now shamelessly attempting to defend such a father as being “patient”.

    Shame on you.

  • 171. Frreal  |  June 16, 2010 at 9:49 am

    I would like to posit that God is neither patient or impatient. He is purposeful. Can an Omnipotent God “not know” something that He “knows” ? There is no outcome Omnipotent God cannot “know” therefore Omnipotent God must intend every outcome.

    Omnipotent God created Lucifer “knowing” and therefore intending he would fall. “Knowing” and therefore intending the eventual seduction of Adam & Eve. “Knowing” and therefore intending to curse them and all of humanity. “Knowing” and therefore intending to create a place of eternal suffering to put everyone henceforth who didn’t qualify. Of course already “knowing” who wouldn’t qualify before they were even disqualified.

    Since nothing happens that Omnipotent God cannot “know” the outcome one can only assume everything happens because Omnipotent God intends it.

    If Omnipotent God knows a man with free will will choose not to believe (and how can He not?) and creates the place to put the man He knew would not believe before the man even came into existence, then God is intending for that man to be born, to eventually disqualify himself and to suffer eternally as a consequence. It is His Purpose.

    If any patience of God is revealed it is only in rereading the same book He Himself wrote over and over and over and over. Always knowing the outcome because that is the way …………. He wrote it.

  • 172. letjusticerolldown  |  June 16, 2010 at 9:57 am

    “You are now shamelessly attempting to defend such a father as being “patient”. Phil

    Is the judgment just? Is the ‘judgment’ distinct from the choice of humanity? Is it just if a god created a world in which when people tripped, that gravity yanked them to the ground, cruelly bashing their heads and sending even innocent infants into oblivion? God could have created a world with no gravity–or have given humans inflatable bags where upon being pulled by gravity, all the fat in their body rushed to the impending point of a blow and cushioned the fall.

    It seems to me you need an impatient god as much as you think I need a patient one. You need the impatience to prove god’s absurdity.

    You make zero acknowledgement that the entire scope of a Christian theology of human history is focused on god’s pursuit of shalom. Your interpretation is such love is proof of god’s absurd stupidity.

    Your expression of Christian theology is very much law driven; leading me to believe you lived and thought a brand of Christianity very driven by law and judgment; and in turn your rejection is quite controlled by that which you reject. And both miscast a Christian understanding of god’s love in Jesus.

    Your critique of some Christian theology and praxis may be spot on. I don’t think it engages Jesus.

    But then, the construction of your argument is a more important access to truth than the person of Jesus.

    Do you notice what you are placing on the throne over all.

  • 173. letjusticerolldown  |  June 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Phil–

    Thank you for taking the time to write. I always find persons who take the time to walk alongside me on this journey (if even for a moment) to contribute more to me than those with whom I ardently agree with but do not wish to seek together.

    You demonstrate lots of love. Hope this day is a good one for you. My family is hustling to cover a bunch of bases before an extended trip this summer–so my computer needs to turn off.

    “HELP! My keyboard won’t let me go!”

  • 174. Phil Stilwell  |  June 16, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Frreal, you’re on the right track. You’re right in abandoning biblical claims that Jehovah is long-suffering (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 103:8 & 145:8, and 1 Corinthians 13:4) based on claims within the same bible that he damns in wrath all humans upon their first sin to eternal torment. Now that you have rejected the bible as authoritative, the next step is to assess whether there is any remaining foundation of your faith.

  • 175. Phil Stilwell  |  June 16, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Letjusticerolldown, you said…

    “It seems to me you need an impatient god as much as you think I need a patient one. You need the impatience to prove god’s absurdity. “

    Note how you are attempting to interject speculation about motivations into the argument as if that mitigates the argument. Let’s not do that, okay?

    God’s impatience is demonstrated by the actions attributed to god in the very same bible that claims on several occasions that he is slow to wrath. He damns every human to hell upon their very 1st sin. Saying one thing about yourself and doing the opposite is lying. You might call Jehovah a liar, but don’t you think the more probable answer is that he is imaginary?

  • 176. DSimon  |  June 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    “I’m not sure I entirely grasp your distinctions. But to the extent I do I disagree. I think you are asking for god’s omnipotence to include the capacity to make contradictions noncontradictory. I don’t see a way to divorce what God doesn’t like –from separation– from eternal wrath.”

    Are you saying you believe that it is literally impossible for God to not become wrathful when people do things he doesn’t like?

    Seeing someone do something you don’t like, and subsequently deciding to react calmly even though you’re angry, is something even us humans can pull off sometimes. Why shouldn’t a deity be similarly capable?

  • 177. Frreal  |  June 16, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Phil,

    My foundations crumbled a few years ago. Thankfully.

    My train of thought was only for the point of discussion to say patience is not an attibutable characteristic to an omnipotent being who is purposing the story. How can the God of the Bible who is believed to be omnipotent, be impatient or patient with his own intention.

    I can surely agree that when using the source BibleGod provided humanity with which to dicipher his character and ensure our eternal existence God is indeed impatient. .

    It was meant to go above and beyond the biblical flaw of an “all-knowing” entity being patient or not and into the greater realm of the actual absurdity of omnipotence.

    Now if only I could remember where I left that Ritalin.

  • 178. BigHouse  |  June 16, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    If I may interject here, it looks like letjusticerolldown’s gripe with Phil’s argument is that it is but one proverbial tree in the Christian theological forest. He thinks it is too narrow of a focus and even if shown to be true and damning of Jehovah’s credibility, it would not outweigh the much broader larger and body of work attributed to Jehovah.

    If I have this right, my question to letjusticerolldown would be: How do you know that you have accurately determined what’s important in the forest? How do you know Jesus is important at all? Because the Bible says so? Phil has already demonstrated that what the Bible says isn’t necessarily even coherent, let alone true.

    Once you go down the path of ignoring parts of the Bible that you can’t explain or square with logic and reason, the entirety of the text is called into question,

  • 179. Phil Stilwell  |  June 16, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Frreal,

    Now I understand. Sorry for not picking up on that.

    Cheers.

  • 180. marco  |  August 18, 2010 at 6:26 am

    This is ridiculous. Don’t be misled. One word: purgatory.

  • 181. Ubi Dubium  |  August 18, 2010 at 9:13 am

    No, no, you got the quote wrong! It’s supposed to be: “plastics“.

  • 182. Phil Stilwell  |  August 18, 2010 at 10:52 am

    It’s nice that the catholic church recognized that the notion of hell was hemorrhaging what little coherency christianity had to offer, but the the ad hoc conjuring up of the “purgatory” band-aid was too little too late as it failed to address the absurdity that we are deemed worthy of hell-fire after a single offense by a “long-suffering” god.

  • 183. withheld  |  August 18, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Ok, I was Catholic, and I never understood where Purgatory came from. You weren’t bad enough to go to Hell, but not good enough for Heaven, so we’ll throw you in the fire for a little purification. Your living relatives can help you get out faster by praying, receiving Eucharest and giving to the church. The Protestants reject the idea, because there is no clear scripture on it. Most of the justification is from the long (including pre-Christian) tradition of praying for the dead, with the commentary “why would they do this if it wouldn’t help?”

  • 184. Dee  |  September 22, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    I just found your blog and find it fascinating! I have one thing to say, “God is the ultimate narcissist.”

  • 185. cag  |  September 23, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Dee #184 Is existence not a prerequisite for narcissism? God has a major issue with this requirement. Perhaps “god is the ultimate in fictional narcissists”?

  • 186. Dee  |  September 24, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Yes , I stand corrected!

  • 187. Joe  |  September 24, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Witheld (#183)—

    I saw Marilu Henner on TV once being interviewed, and she said when she was a kid the nuns asked the kids to pick someone to pray for in Purgatory so they could get out quicker. She said she and a friend picked Curly from the Three Stooges. She said they were serious about it at the time—but it was pretty funny to hear her tell the story.

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Attention Christian Readers

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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