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Christianity, Atheism, and the Problem of Evil

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  • Christianity, Atheism, and the Problem of Evil

    Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
    If you ask a liberal, he'd say it looks like President Trump.
    In terms of "totalitarian overlord" the Christian God would seem hard to beat - making some large percentage of humanity suffer in hell for eternity seems rather totalitarian and overlordish. Seems a bit of a paradox to worship an all-powerful God while denouncing totalitarian rule and lauding individual freedom.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Starlight View Post
    In terms of "totalitarian overlord" the Christian God would seem hard to beat - making some large percentage of humanity suffer in hell for eternity seems rather totalitarian and overlordish. Seems a bit of a paradox to worship an all-powerful God while denouncing totalitarian rule and lauding individual freedom.
    No more paradoxical than the atheist complaints that God is a "totalitarian overlord" whilst complaining that God permits evil instead of preventing it. Not even as paradoxical as the atheist complaints.
    sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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    • #3
      Originally posted by tabibito View Post
      No more paradoxical than the atheist complaints that God is a "totalitarian overlord" whilst complaining that God permits evil instead of preventing it. Not even as paradoxical as the atheist complaints.
      Commonly the Problem of Suffering is formulated in such a way to focus on environmentally-caused suffering that God doesn't mitigate, rather than on the direct actions of free-willed beings, in order that 'free will' not provide any obvious logical defense.

      Nonetheless, one could logically hold that if a God existed who held great power, then it would be moral of him to use that power positively for the preservation and wellbeing of conscious entities, such that preventing harm to them was moral whilst sending them to hell for eternity was not.

      Regardless, since the atheist does not actually believe God exists, an apparent paradox in one of their many possible arguments against God's existence, that a given atheist may or may not happen to endorse, is not remotely as important as a paradox in the active beliefs of someone who does believe God exists and who does emphasize the horror of dictatorships / the importance of freedom. The former is a mere intellectual exercise, a hypothetical that can be correct or incorrect without affecting the person's life, the latter is something that someone has to live with, being a fairly direct conflict in the beliefs they are acting upon potentially daily.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Dimbulb View Post
        In terms of "totalitarian overlord" the Christian God would seem hard to beat - making some large percentage of humanity suffer in hell for eternity seems rather totalitarian and overlordish. Seems a bit of a paradox to worship an all-powerful God while denouncing totalitarian rule and lauding individual freedom.
        There's a theory that we will all spend eternity in God's presence. For the repentant, it will be heaven. For the unrepentant, it will be hell.
        Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
        But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
        Than a fool in the eyes of God


        From "Fools Gold" by Petra

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Starlight View Post
          Commonly the Problem of Suffering is formulated in such a way to focus on environmentally-caused suffering that God doesn't mitigate, rather than on the direct actions of free-willed beings, in order that 'free will' not provide any obvious logical defense.
          Commonly? You present an argument that I have seldom encountered.

          Nonetheless, one could logically hold that if a God existed who held great power, then it would be moral of him to use that power positively for the preservation and wellbeing of conscious entities, such that preventing harm to them was moral whilst sending them to hell for eternity was not.
          Can you present a logical argument that heaven should have open borders; allowing unrestricted entry to anyone, and on their own terms?

          Regardless, since the atheist does not actually believe God exists, an apparent paradox in one of their many possible arguments against God's existence, that a given atheist may or may not happen to endorse, is not remotely as important as a paradox in the active beliefs of someone who does believe God exists and who does emphasize the horror of dictatorships
          A benevolent dictatorship free of corruption is no cause for concern.

          In sum, the arguments you present here point to difficulties with traditional concepts:
          of the nature of hell,
          that all who do not accept God's rule suffer the same fate in hell.
          that God is the god of this Earth.
          Those issues are not satisfactorily resolved by scripture and, to date, no prophet with the requisite credentials has provided clarification.




          sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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          • #6
            Originally posted by tabibito View Post
            Commonly? You present an argument that I have seldom encountered.
            The Problem of Evil / Suffering is one of the more common arguments against Christianity, with the commonest Christian response being 'but Free Will', with the commonest response to that being "what about the suffering that exists that is not obviously caused by free will, e.g. disease, illness, accidental injury, starvation etc?". Since the 'but Free Will' response is so well-known, usually atheists will jump straight to discussion of non-free-willed suffering. e.g. a few years ago when I was asked for the best argument for atheism I included it in the list; C.S. Lewis titled his book defending Christianity from this critique The Problem of Pain.

            Can you present a logical argument that heaven should have open borders; allowing unrestricted entry to anyone, and on their own terms?
            Some Christians do try to advocate for such a less-morally-offensive version of the afterlife. e.g. C.S. Lewis' book The Great Divorce explores the idea of heaven and hell having open borders and freedom of movement and people eventually settling in whichever one is preferable to them. It is also reasonably common in the Eastern Orthodox church to try and present a version of hell which is more a self-inflicted state of mind rather than a punishment inflicted by God.

            Although I would say such laudable attempts at making the doctrine of hell a bit more morally defensible, still struggle to address why God can't make for the 'damned' a world equally as good as earth is now, and why hell for them need be any worse than their present lives.

            A benevolent dictatorship free of corruption is no cause for concern.
            Perhaps, though the Christian God's benevolence seems hard to defend in light of Hell and of the apparently unnecessary suffering that people worldwide experience in their lives.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Starlight View Post
              The Problem of Evil / Suffering is one of the more common arguments against Christianity, with the commonest Christian response being 'but Free Will', with the commonest response to that being "what about the suffering that exists that is not obviously caused by free will, e.g. disease, illness, accidental injury, starvation etc?". Since the 'but Free Will' response is so well-known, usually atheists will jump straight to discussion of non-free-willed suffering. e.g. a few years ago when I was asked for the best argument for atheism I included it in the list; C.S. Lewis titled his book defending Christianity from this critique The Problem of Pain.

              Some Christians do try to advocate for such a less-morally-offensive version of the afterlife. e.g. C.S. Lewis' book The Great Divorce explores the idea of heaven and hell having open borders and freedom of movement and people eventually settling in whichever one is preferable to them. It is also reasonably common in the Eastern Orthodox church to try and present a version of hell which is more a self-inflicted state of mind rather than a punishment inflicted by God.
              C S Lewis books that I haven't encountered. I'll have a dekko when time permits. As to the blog - validity would depend on whether it calls on pre nineteenth century sources to substantiate its argument. Time I should do some reading on that one.


              Although I would say such laudable attempts at making the doctrine of hell a bit more morally defensible, still struggle to address why God can't make for the 'damned' a world equally as good as earth is now, and why hell for them need be any worse than their present lives.
              Interesting concept. What would some of the people excluded from heaven make of such a world? How long would it take for the Stalins, Hitlers, and Pol Pots to turn it into a sewer?

              Perhaps, though the Christian God's benevolence seems hard to defend in light of Hell and of the apparently unnecessary suffering that people worldwide experience in their lives.
              Again, it would need demonstrating that God actually is the god of this world. The concept that he is not: it is scripturally defensible, though not demonstrable in absolute terms.

              sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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              • #8
                It is also reasonably common in the Eastern Orthodox church to try and present a version of hell which is more a self-inflicted state of mind rather than a punishment inflicted by God.
                No...

                just...

                NO.

                It isn't an apologetic work - it's a polemic against the Western Churches.

                The word DIKAIWSUNH, “justice”, is a translation of the Hebraic word tsedaka. This word means “the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation”. It is parallel and almost synonymous to the other Hebraic word, hesed which means “mercy”, “compassion”, “love”, and to the word, emeth which means “fidelity”, “truth”
                And that bit is arrant nonsense. Even in the places where it is not wholly incorrect, it is not wholly correct.
                sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by tabibito View Post
                  Interesting concept. What would some of the people excluded from heaven make of such a world? How long would it take for the Stalins, Hitlers, and Pol Pots to turn it into a sewer?
                  Myself, living in New Zealand (a country that's had atheist Prime Ministers for 19 of the last 20 years, has a majority non-religious population, yet ranks in international indices as the world's freest and least corrupt country and in the top-10 for self-reported happiness of the population)... I struggle to take too seriously the idea that if you just had a world inhabited by non-Christian people that it would be terrible.

                  If your theology doesn't center on Christians going to heaven and instead you think it's nice people who go to heaven and nasty ones who go to hell, that might be a different story in terms of whether you could have a decent world with only nasty people in it.

                  No...

                  just...

                  NO.
                  I'm not sure what you're objecting to here... are you saying you don't personally share the theology of the linked work? or that my one-line summary of it wasn't sufficiently accurate as to its contents? or that the observation I was making about people holding such a theological view was incorrect?

                  The word DIKAIWSUNH, “justice”, is a translation of the Hebraic word tsedaka. This word means “the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation”. It is parallel and almost synonymous to the other Hebraic word, hesed which means “mercy”, “compassion”, “love”, and to the word, emeth which means “fidelity”, “truth”
                  And that bit is arrant nonsense. Even in the places where it is not wholly incorrect, it is not wholly correct.
                  Well I agree with you in your critique of his definition. Having done reasonably extensive study of this topic myself, my conclusion was that the best English translation for 'dikaiosune' is 'moral virtue', and second best is 'morality'. 'Dikaisoune theou' in Paul's writings should be translated something like "moral virtue according to God" or "behavior God considers morally virtuous". I agree with the above linked writer that misunderstanding / mistranslation of this term is probably the most major underlying error in Western Christianity that has a major flow-on effect to other misinterpretations of Paul's writings and resultant theology. Of course I think almost all theology in Western Christianity is an inaccurate understanding of the bible fueled by mistranslations of key terms in Paul's writings. People always underestimate how crucial the translation step is in understanding the meaning of the biblical authors.
                  Last edited by Starlight; 07-25-2021, 02:27 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                    Myself, living in New Zealand (a country that's had atheist Prime Ministers for 19 of the last 20 years, has a majority non-religious population, yet ranks in international indices as the world's freest and least corrupt country and in the top-10 for self-reported happiness of the population)... I struggle to take too seriously the idea that if you just had a world inhabited by non-Christian people that it would be terrible.
                    It would depend on whether there was a rule of law, and who formed and regulated those laws.

                    If your theology doesn't center on Christians going to heaven and instead you think it's nice people who go to heaven and nasty ones who go to hell, that might be a different story in terms of whether you could have a decent world with only nasty people in it.
                    The theology I accept as valid has only committed Christians going to heaven. Whether there is only one alternative "not heaven" or a number, is at issue. If as I believe, hell can be likened to a prison, there may be different degrees of incarceration, perhaps with a separation between each.

                    I'm not sure what you're objecting to here... are you saying you don't personally share the theology of the linked work? or that my one-line summary of it wasn't sufficiently accurate as to its contents? or that the observation I was making about people holding such a theological view was incorrect?
                    I was objecting to the "theology" expressed in the article, but you have yourself noted some of the difficulties anyway.

                    Well I agree with you in your critique of his definition. Having done reasonably extensive study of this topic myself, my conclusion was that the best English translation for 'dikaiosune' is 'moral virtue', and second best is 'morality'. 'Dikaisoune theou' in Paul's writings should be translated something like "moral virtue according to God" or "behavior God considers morally virtuous". I agree with the above linked writer that misunderstanding / mistranslation of this term is probably the most major underlying error in Western Christianity that has a major flow-on effect to other misinterpretations of Paul's writings and resultant theology. Of course I think almost all theology in Western Christianity is an inaccurate understanding of the bible fueled by mistranslations of key terms in Paul's writings. People always underestimate how crucial the translation step is in understanding the meaning of the biblical authors.
                    It is easy to avoid having one's theology contaminated by scripture.Translation, or interpretation rather, is all to often based on pre-existent concepts. Their influence is all the worse when it goes unrecognised.

                    I have developed procedures to minimise the effect in my own translations, but still find it difficult to adopt the probable mindset of author and audience to read the Bible according to the understandings that probably prevailed at the time of writing.

                    One of my "favourite" commentary excerpts (paraphrased): "We know that Paul did not really mean what he said, because God couldn't possibly do that," with no explanation of why Paul couldn't have meant what Paul said, nor why it would be impossible for God to do that. (beyond: if God could do that, he wouldn't be God.)
                    sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tabibito View Post

                      Commonly? You present an argument that I have seldom encountered.


                      I generally see the problem of suffering as a calling out the paradox of the three omni-s of God, while suffering still exists in the world.

                      I.e. God is supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good.

                      The fact that suffering exists in the world (natural or man made) is proof that one of the three characteristics must be wrong..

                      An All knowing God would know how to stop the suffering without violating free will..
                      An all powerful God would be able to stop the suffering (likely without it ever starting)
                      An all good God would want to stop suffering in the world.

                      Suffering exists. This means God either cannot stop it, does not know how, or does not want to.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CivilDiscourse View Post

                        I generally see the problem of suffering as a calling out the paradox of the three omni-s of God, while suffering still exists in the world.

                        I.e. God is supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good.

                        The fact that suffering exists in the world (natural or man made) is proof that one of the three characteristics must be wrong..

                        An All knowing God would know how to stop the suffering without violating free will..
                        An all powerful God would be able to stop the suffering (likely without it ever starting)
                        An all good God would want to stop suffering in the world.

                        Suffering exists. This means God either cannot stop it, does not know how, or does not want to.
                        But according to scripture God does in fact stop it, merely a matter of timing. And God has justifiable reasons for allowing temporal suffering. As for premise one, I'm not sure how God allows free will while somehow violating it - like squaring a circle.
                        Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CivilDiscourse View Post

                          I generally see the problem of suffering as a calling out the paradox of the three omni-s of God, while suffering still exists in the world.

                          I.e. God is supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good.

                          The fact that suffering exists in the world (natural or man made) is proof that one of the three characteristics must be wrong..

                          An All knowing God would know how to stop the suffering without violating free will..
                          An all powerful God would be able to stop the suffering (likely without it ever starting)
                          An all good God would want to stop suffering in the world.

                          Suffering exists. This means God either cannot stop it, does not know how, or does not want to.
                          Your assessment does have a semblance of insurmountability, and I am NOT disparaging that assessment - it is compelling enough.

                          but the objections are answered with one word: Jurisdiction

                          sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Gondwanaland View Post

                            Okay..... as interesting as morality of Christianity vs atheism, problem of evil, etc., is to discuss, I not sure how things got there from my OP, which is about none of those things.....
                            I was wondering the same thing. It seems that it started with post #2, and took a left turn from there.
                            sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by seer View Post

                              But according to scripture God does in fact stop it, merely a matter of timing. And God has justifiable reasons for allowing temporal suffering. As for premise one, I'm not sure how God allows free will while somehow violating it - like squaring a circle.
                              Simple example:

                              Well, lets say a mugging and murder would happen in 15 minutes. It could be stopped by merely delaying the victim. So, their car has a dead battery, delaying them.

                              Or, perhaps it's that the mugger and murderer would have decided to not do the mugging if only the streetlights in the area were brighter or working. That would be a simple thing for God to fix, without violating the mugger's free will.

                              That's the thing as an all-knowing God, he knows the exact sequence of "natural" events that would lead someone to freely choose (or not to choose) X. He has the power to enact that exact sequence of events.

                              He's like that scene in endgame where Dr. Strange looks at over 14,000,000 possible futures, and sees one winning outcome, then takes the one action he needs to do to set that timeline in motion.

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