‘A theory for the godless’: Is the bark of ‘Darwin’s bulldogs’ worse than their bite?

T.H. Huxley (public domain)

Editor’s note: This is the second part of an essay submitted by the author to godofevolution.com titled “Darwin’s doves, bulldogs and deniers.” Also see part 1, part 3 and part 4.

As a brief refresher, let me state again that it is the ultimate purpose of this four-part article to develop an understanding of how Darwin‘s theory of evolution came to be seen as a theory for nonbelievers. In order to pursue such a purpose, in part 1, I had to establish that historically, there were men of faith who supported Darwin when he published his “Origin Of Species.” I introduced you to B.B. Warfield and Charles Kingsley, and mainly, to Asa Gray.

Of course it isn’t as if only three Christian men supported evolution and no one else. Not at all — there were many more, and if you embark upon the journey to research the topic you will find them — but three examples for one-quarter of an article is sufficient. And yet, while it was proven to us at last, that indeed men of faith backed Darwin, and believed wholeheartedly that “contradictions” between scripture and science weren’t contradictions at all, but in fact merely spotlights that showed us it was our perception of biblical meaning that was in question — human pride, so often wanting to spare the dignity of mind and thus desiring to spare perception in order to save face — caused many to stick to their guns.

Bulldogs and deniers manned their ships for battle, and as cannons from both sides fired away, it was neither of them that foundered, but rather evolution itself — both sides paying so much attention to destroying one another, they heard not its cries for help. Sadly, evolution still finds itself at the bottom of the sea today, and the war between deniers and bulldogs rages on. We will examine the bulldogs in this second installment, beginning from the time of Darwin up until now.

First, we have a strange-looking hobbit man from the Shire Middlesex, by the name of Thomas Henry Huxley. While Huxley was not an atheist, he did see the idea of his colleague Mr. Darwin regarding the “transmutation of species” as nonetheless confirming his own agnosticism, thereby giving more credit to evolution than what it could actually take.

He had a reputation for being loud, in-your-face and quick at wit. During his famous debate with the English bishop Samuel Wilberforce (son of the abolitionist William Wilberforce), Huxley was asked if he was descended from an ape on his grandmother’s side or his grandfather’s, to which he shot back that he would rather be descended from apes than be a man of great intellect who used his talents to suffocate truth — causing the entire room to erupt with laughter.

While we, as theistic evolutionists, smile at Huxley’s moxie when used in the service of defeating the preachers and teachers who used such positions to spread pseudoscience and blatant untruths, there comes a point with Huxley where we must part ways. Regarding the laws of nature and a “higher power,” Huxley stated that life was like a game of chess: “The chess board is the world, the pieces the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us.”

When we consider Huxley’s boisterous reputation in addition to his being convinced that evolution somehow backed up the notion that we could not know there was a God — because he was “hidden from us — and thus, humankind is all alone, with only our telescopes and digging utensils to guide us, we can see how the misconception that evolution was for nonbelievers began.

Second, we have H.L. Mencken, a guy I really didn’t want to pick on. As a writer who mastered the art of polemics and was a passionate defender of free speech during the era of Woodrow Wilson, Mencken was able to make compelling cases for things that today we would deem common sense — everything from women’s rights to ending the disastrous alcohol prohibition of the 1920s and early 30s. His writings and his opinions achieved a lot more good than harm.

Yet, when it came to the issue of evolution, Mencken was a die-hard atheist: “The effort to reconcile science and religion is almost always made, not by theologians, but by scientists unable to shake off altogether the piety absorbed with their mothers’ milk. The theologians, with no such dualism addling their wits, are smart enough to see that the two things are implacably and eternally antagonistic …”

Last and most recent of the bulldogs, we have Richard Dawkins. An evolutionary biologist, former University of Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and author of “The God Delusion” (rebuttal to that book linked here), Dawkins remarked in an op-ed for the Huffington Post:

Scientists divide into two schools of thought over the best tactics with which to face the threat. The Neville Chamberlain ‘appeasement’ school focuses on the battle for evolution. Consequently, its members identify fundamentalism as the enemy, and they bend over backwards to appease ‘moderate’ or ‘sensible’ religion (not a difficult task, for bishops and theologians despise fundamentalists as much as scientists do). Scientists of the Winston Churchill school, by contrast, see the fight for evolution as only one battle in a larger war: a looming war between supernaturalism on the one side and rationality on the other. For them, bishops and theologians belong with creationists in the supernatural camp, and are not to be appeased.

Enough said.

Of course Huxley, Mencken and Dawkins were not the only men who helped prop up the misconception of “evolution for the godless.” There were many more people involved. But showing a snapshot of these three, who lived largely in different time periods, and who were all influential to the culture around them, it is easy to get a glimpse as to why people, particularly Americans and the British, began to think of evolution as being for atheists and agnostics.

But how does their rationale hold up? The idea that, “Because the origin of the universe didn’t happen the way ‘God’ said it did in the Bible, and since for a reason unknown, ‘God’ is unlike any author in that he is not permitted to tell a fictional story with a deeper truth, we are going to claim that God does not exist and evolution proves it”?

What if we were to say, “Well, ‘Moby Dick’ isn’t realistic. It didn’t actually happen that way, so therefore, there was no Herman Melville”? It’s absurd.

Another objection is that a loving God wouldn’t allow for the supposed “brutality” of natural selection. But such an objection shows ignorance concerning natural selection, which we’re learning might have more to do with compassion and cooperation, rather than simply “the strong survive.”

Whatever the arguments, we can see very clearly, that the bulldogs can bark and growl and froth, but their bite is found wanting. I wish the same could be said for Darwin’s deniers, whom we will discuss next.

Race Hochdorf

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  • ngotts

    Another objection is that a loving God wouldn’t allow for the supposed
    “brutality” of natural selection. But such an objection shows ignorance
    concerning natural selection

    No, it doesn’t. Yes, cooperation and compassion can be naturally selected; but that doesn’t in any way change the fact that vast numbers of animals have undergone hideous torments in the process of evolution. The immense suffering that has occurred during the process, and which cannot be in any way blamed on human wickedness as Biblical literalists like to do* is a part of the problem of evil, to which no remotely satisfactory response has ever been given. It is this that makes the notion of a benevolent creator implausible.

    Evolution by natural selection doesn’t disprove the existence of a creator of some kind, but it does knock away one of the main supports of that belief: the apparent design in organisms. Beyond that, it provides an example of how organized complexity can arise without any guiding hand, suggesting that the same may be true of the universe as a whole. So it is “a theory for the godless” in the sense that it greatly strengthens their case.

    “Because the origin of the universe didn’t happen the way ‘God’ said it
    did in the Bible, and since for a reason unknown, ‘God’ is unlike any
    author in that he is not permitted to tell a fictional story with a
    deeper truth, we are going to claim that God does not exist and
    evolution proves it”?

    What “deeper truth” is that supposed to be? As Dawkins says in TGD, “God” of the Old Testament is possibly the nastiest character in all fiction. And, I’d add, “God” of the New Testament isn’t much better, while the Jesus of the gospels goes around breaking up families, driving pigs off cliffs, and threatening both individuals and whole cities who do not accept his claims with divine vengeance.

    *Although the existence of such wickedness is itself evidence against a benevolent creator.

    • “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” – Exodus 20:5-6

      Ngotts, I think you and I might just have fundamentally different ways of seeing things. In the above passage, I imagine you might see God declaring that he will punish children for the sins of their parents as an example of him being “the nastiest character in all fiction.” But why ignore what comes after? Doesn’t that give a more complete picture of the character of God, a God who would much, much rather show love to those who love holiness and goodness than punish those who don’t?

      In the same way, of course I see suffering and pain and death all around us, both in nature and in humanity. I accept that suffering and death was in the world long before humans were. And in the end, I don’t know why God created the world the way he did and why he allowed so much badness in it. But suffering and death is not all I see. I also see much goodness and beauty. And I think that with my capacity to experience suffering and sorrow also came the capacity to experience joy and peace. Perhaps I would not be able to understand the latter without having experienced some part of the former.

      As to your description of Jesus, it is extremely cherry-picked. There is no textual indication in the story that says it was Jesus who drove the pigs into the lake. It was either the demons (which Jesus had just cast out of people, by the way) or the pigs themselves (maybe they don’t like demons — I don’t know). At any rate, the overall picture of Christ in the New Testament is one of justice, mercy, grace and truth, a man who hated hypocrisy but treasured small acts of faith, who spent most of his time with the people whom society had deemed to have little worth. He preached selflessness, trust, charity, love and holy living. I think most people, whether they’re Christian or not, would have no trouble agreeing that Jesus was a pretty darn good human being.

      • ngotts

        With regard to the God of the OT, I’m thinking about him practicing and ordering genocide and child murder (the bit where he “hardens Pharoah’s heart” so he can show off by slaughtering the firstborn is a particular highlight), fulminating against those worshipping rival gods and ordering their slaughter, treating Job and his family like dirt in pursuit of a wager, sending bears to tear children to pieces for dissing his prophet, etc. Then there’s the OT condonation of slavery and the rape of captive girls, and its vile misogyny and homophobia – continued in the NT.

        I don’t know why God created the world the way he did and why he allowed so much badness in it.

        The answer is obvious: either there is no god, or it’s not benevolent. Here we see the real incompatibility between science and religion: if the evidence in a scientific issue so plainly contradicted your beliefs, you’d abandon them. Religion depends absolutely on ignoring the evidence; you really have no right to scold the YECs since you behave in exactly the same way.

        Perhaps I would not be able to understand the latter without having experienced some part of the former.

        Well I’m sure all those who have suffered agonies over the eons will think it was all worthwhile if it’s contributed to your ability to understand peace and joy.

        At any rate, the overall picture of Christ in the New Testament is one of justice, mercy, grace and truth

        Here’s a link to a post listing all the places Jesus threatens people with Hell.

        • The answer is obvious: either there is no god, or it’s not benevolent. Here we see the real incompatibility between science and religion: if the evidence in a scientific issue so plainly contradicted your beliefs, you’d abandon them.

          If it really is this simple to you, then I think I should just as easily be able to say that the fact there is any goodness in the world at all is proof of both God’s existence and benevolence. Honestly, if there were no God at all, why would we expect to find the capacity in anyone for selflessness and love, and why would such things be almost universally valued and praised?

          Well I’m sure all those who have suffered agonies over the eons will think it was all worthwhile if it’s contributed to your ability to understand peace and joy.

          That is not at all what I said. I did not say someone else’s suffering helped me to understand what joy and peace is, I said what little of my own suffering I have experienced did.

          Thanks for the link. I never said Jesus didn’t talk about hell and judgment. I said he preached about justice and holy living. I don’t think Jesus ever threatened anyone with hell, I think he was warning them. But again, different perspectives.

          • ngotts

            If it really is this simple to you, then I think I should just as easily
            be able to say that the fact there is any goodness in the world at all
            is proof of both God’s existence and benevolence.

            No, it isn’t, and you have given absolutely no grounds for thinking it is. All this shows is that you don’t have an answer to my point, and that you know it.

            Honestly, if there were no God at all, why would we expect to find the
            capacity in anyone for selflessness and love, and why would such things
            be almost universally valued and praised?

            Why would we expect not to? I quote from the OP:

            But such an objection shows ignorance concerning natural selection, which we’re learning might have more to do with compassion and cooperation, rather than simply “the strong survive.”

            We are social beings, and there are a number of mechanisms that can account for the existence of compassion and cooperation in such beings. As it happens, I wrote a long review article around 10 years ago, in large part on how altruism can be selected for, naturally or socially:

            Gotts, N.M., Polhill, J.G. and Law, A.N.R. (2003). Agent-based
            simulation in the study of social dilemmas.
            Artificial Intelligence Review 19, 3-92.

            It’s reprinted in:
            Gilbert, N. (ed) (2010) Computational Social Science. SAGE Benchmarks in Social Research Methods Series, Volume 3. Sage Publications.

            Key ideas: kin selection, group selection, reciprocal altruism, handicap principle, cultural transmission. The difficulty lies in determining what combination of these mechanisms accounts for altruism, not in finding ways it could arise and persist. Neither I nor the wide range of researchers whose work I described needed to rely on the idea of God.

            I did not say someone else’s suffering helped me to understand what joy and peace is, I said what little of my own suffering I have experienced
            did.

            I apologise; so you did. But this still won’t do at all as an answer to the problem of evil, since it is abundantly evident that untold numbers of sentient beings have suffered excruciating agonies far beyond what such an understanding could possibly justify, even if they were capable of it.

            I don’t think Jesus ever threatened anyone with hell, I think he was warning them.

            No difference at all, since he appears to think he will be the one sending them there. But can you really bring yourself to worship a being that you believe intends to torture people? Not only that, but to do so forever?

          • Alex Jones

            “I apologise; so you did. But this still won’t do at all as an answer to the problem of evil, since it is abundantly evident that untold numbers of sentient beings have suffered excruciating agonies far beyond what such an understanding could possibly justify, even if they were capable of it.”

            Free will is the unfortunate Catch-22 of God. Suffering exists because we are free to do as we will, and the will of many is to do wrong by others. Without God, we are nothing more than animals subject to all those base desires of sex and food and land and shelter. The only difference is that we have a somewhat higher IQ than that of the other fauna that walk this planet. We are inherently selfish creatures – and don’t even begin to deny it – and if you do, just look at the news. Sure, we’ve developed societies, have compassion on other people, and done generally well for ourselves – but we regularly screw that up. The suffering in the world isn’t the fault of God, it’s the fault of man.

            Tell me, if someone came to you and said “Hey, I can end all the suffering in this world, but you have to have this chip implanted in your brain that will remove your ability to think freely.” Can you honestly say you would do it? Because that is what God would have to do in order to end suffering completely.

            “No difference at all, since he appears to think he will be the one sending them there. But can you really bring yourself to worship a being that you believe intends to torture people? Not only that, but to do so forever?”

            Actually, there is a pretty big difference. Have you ever considered the notion that perhaps we do not understand the true nature of Evil. Surely you have heard of the Butterfly effect. If not, here it is in a nutshell: A small change in a nonlinear system can cause a massive change elsewhere in said system. Now, tell me. Have you ever done anything wrong – anything out of pure malice or even simple selfishness? What you did may seem small to you, but what ripples did it create? Maybe you passed up that pan-handler on the freeway – not even out of a sense of malice – while you had a few bucks to spare. If that guy starved to death, his blood is on your hands as well as anyone else who passed him up with the ability to help. Every one of us is easily guilty of murder. Ever have sex with a drunk girl you didn’t know at a party? She may have been a drug addict (or not) who is used to being used by men, your night of fun may have helped to impress upon her that she is only worth the sex she can give. The point is, you don’t know how deep your sins run, and how much damage your seemingly innocent actions cause to the world around you, so how can you honestly say that you are undeserving of hell?

            “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

            The question at this point is, is that “good man” who did nothing truly good?

            And before you turn that question right around on God, please consider that within every human is the capacity to change the world for the better. This is a capacity that, I believe, was given to us by God.

            You see, the thing is, anyone who believes that people are inherently good are fooling themselves. Yea, on the surface we may not be all together bad, but we all do selfish and even unforgivable things – many of which are becoming more and more accepted. We constantly talk ourselves out of guilt because “Oh, he should just get a job” or “Oh, she was all over me, so she clearly wanted it” or “Ah, Paramount is rolling in dough, it won’t be a problem if I pirate a movie or two” and some people talk them selves as high as murder or rape. In the end, when you look at the big picture – we are all petty beings who will do deplorable things to each other provided we can rationalize it. We are all unforgivable. The thing is, God decided to forgive us anyway… provided we are willing to accept it – and that sounds pretty benevolent to me.

            And back to Jesus “threatening people with hell”, have you ever heard of the concept of “tough love”? Yea, Jesus says some pretty harsh things… but they are important things. As Tyler said, he’s not threatening, he’s warning… and the use of harsh language tends to make warnings stick better than trying to sugar-coat everything.

            And in regards to God as depicted in the Old Testament, all that can once again be narrowed down to the folly of Man. God works in a way that will not remove man’s free will. What that means is that things had to happen to pave the way for the entry of Christ. The primary common theme you see in the OT is preparation for Jesus – The raising of a nation in Isreal, the establishment of the strong bloodline of David, etc. etc. etc. all this leads directly to the true plan, the New Testament, and Jesus. A benevolent God working around the hubris of man. I think it’s rather incredible that there wasn’t more bloodshed in the Old Testament… It probably would have been easier that way.

          • Nick Gotts

            “Suffering exists because we are free to do as we will, and the will of many is to do wrong by others.”

            Utter tosh. Vast amounts of suffering occurred before there were any human being, vast amounts still have nothing whatsoever to do with human actions.

            “Tell me, if someone came to you and said “Hey, I can end all the suffering in this world, but you have to have this chip implanted in your brain that will remove your ability to think freely.” Can you honestly say you would do it?”

            Yes.

            “The point is, you don’t know how deep your sins run, and how much damage your seemingly innocent actions cause to the world around you, so how can you honestly say that you are undeserving of hell?”

            First, no finite evil could possibly deserve infinite suffering. Second, even if it did, inflicting that suffering would still be infinitely more evil. Why do you worship infinite evil, Alex Jones?

            “And before you turn that question right around on God, please consider that within every human is the capacity to change the world for the better. This is a capacity that, I believe, was given to us by God.”

            Supposedly, God is omnipotent. If that is true, he could have made us all perfectly good, but chose not to. An omnipotent being is necessarily responsible for everything that happens. Stop making feeble. dishonest excuses for him.

            “As Tyler said, he’s not threatening, he’s warning”

            Yeah, yeah: “Be a pity if you forced me to torture you for ever, wouldn’t it?”

            “And in regards to God as depicted in the Old Testament, all that can once again be narrowed down to the folly of Man.”

            That’s a transparent lie. No-one forces God to “harden Pharoah’s heart”. No-one forces him to drown everyone except eight people – including babies, of course – in the flood. No one forces him to torment Job and kill his family in pursuit of a bet with Satan. He is utterly, disgustingly vile, and those who make excuses for his vileness are not much better.

          • Hey Nick! Good to hear from you again. I realize your comments here weren’t really directed at me, and I don’t wish to derail the discussion. Alex is free to respond if he wishes. I would just like to interject a couple of my own views in the interest of clarifying the position of myself and this site.

            First of all, I don’t view hell as a place of eternal “torment” and torture. Jesus described it as eternal “punishment,” yes, which could be construed as some sort of everlasting torment, but I think it could just as easily mean a one-time act whose results are eternal and irrevocable. For example, Revelation uses the phrase “the second death,” which I think may convey the idea that the punished simply die — cease to exist — only, this time, the death is forever, with no hope of ever living again.

            I certainly view this as a terrible punishment as well, and you may see it as equally monstrous as a God torturing people forever, but I don’t. In basic terms, my view of Christianity is that God offers everyone the same two choices: life with him forever, or separation from him forever, which is death.

          • In fact, the only descriptions of “torture” in hell come from The Inferno. Jesus did depict Hell as a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth – but when he depicts the reality of hell, he depicts it as “separation from God”.

            Infact, Hell is used 54 times in the bible – and only 12 times does it mean what we think of as hell from “The Inferno”

            31 times in the Old Testament, it refers to “The Grave”
            10 times in the New Testament, it also refers to “The Grave”
            12 times does it refer to a “place of burning” (what we think of as hell thanks to Dante)
            and 1 time it means a place of total darkness.

            The only common denominator in all that is “Separation from God” which would, most likely, not be pleasant to any who is separated.

          • Nick Gotts

            So (and I’ll ask the same of Tyler), if God exists and Hell does actually mean eternal torment, would you agree that God is infinitely evil?

          • If Hell involves eternal torment in which God is directly involved, and in which he takes pleasure because he views it as people’s just desserts for the actions committed in their mortal lives, then yes, I think that would be monstrously evil. But again, this is not the view of hell or God that I see expressed in the Bible.

          • Nick Gotts

            No, I wouldn’t view non-existence as equivalently monstrous as eternal torment (as Mark Twain said – I don’t have the exact words handy – I was non-existent for millions of years and never suffered the slightest inconvenience from it); but there’s plenty in the gospels – words supposedly spoken by Jesus himself – that appears to threaten the latter for example:

            Matthew 18:8: “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it
            off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or
            lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire…”

            Mark 9:43-48: “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is
            better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell,
            to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it
            off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be
            thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is
            better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two
            eyes to be thrown into hell, where the worm does not die, and the fire
            is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire.”

            Luke 16:22-29: “The poor man died, and was carried by the angels to
            Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades,
            being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and
            Lazarus [the poor man] in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham,
            have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in
            water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham
            said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good
            things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted
            here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a
            great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from
            here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And
            he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I
            have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into
            this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the
            prophets; let them hear them.’”

          • I find both the Matthew passage and the Mark passage to be in line with my view, that the punishment for rejecting Christ is not eternal, conscious punishment. In the Bible, both Old and New Testament, fire is used as a symbol of total and complete destruction. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire, which the author of Jude (verse 7) alludes to, saying, “They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” Obviously, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning in their cities somewhere; they were utterly consumed, and this is said to serve as “an example” of the fate that awaits those who do not enter the kingdom of heaven.

            Jesus, I believe, is compouding this lesson in Mark 9:43-48, by way of comparison with Gehanna (the word translated “Hell” in this passage, but also the name of a garbage dump outside the city of Jerusalem). The dump would be regularly set ablaze to destroy the trash and animal carcasses that were left there, and anything that remained would be consumed by insects (“worms”) until there was nothing left. It is a symbol of total, complete and utter destruction. You may disagree with my interpretation; that’s your prerogative of course. But I think it makes at least as much sense as the idea that Jesus is actually teaching about immortal worms in Hell, forever feasting on the flesh of conscious souls.

            I have never been inclined to believe that Luke 16:22-29 is really meant to convey an unambiguous picture of what the afterlife will be like. Perhaps it is, but I find it more likely that it is a cautionary tale and moral teaching, couched within the terms of the prevailing Greek and Hebrew views of the day of what life after death would be like.

            Even if it is meant to be a straightforward description of heaven and hell, there is no indication that the rich man’s punishment is infinite and eternal. The takeaway is that the rich man had wronged others and caused pain in life, so he suffered anguish for it in death. I do not wholly reject the idea that some punishment awaits evildoers in the next life. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” is one of the most common and consistent themes in the Bible, from the Torah to Revelation. What I do not see clearly illustrated is the idea that, to borrow your words, finite sin will be punished by infinite torture and torment.

          • “Utter tosh. Vast amounts of suffering occurred before there were any human being, vast amounts still have nothing whatsoever to do with human actions.”

            True, I was specifically referring to suffering of human-on-human. God created a natural order, part of that natural order is suffering. To remove suffering would, once again, remove choice. And as Tyler said in an earlier post, Suffering allows you to better appreciate the good in life.

            Think about it this way, some of the unhappiest people in the world are wealthy, have everything they could possibly want, and almost never have to face suffering. Some of the happiest people in the world are those with far less. If you are starving, you are going to appreciate an apple a little bit more than a man who is 200lbs overweight.

            “Yes.”

            I find that VERY hard to believe. And if that is the case, you are one in a million… but I suspect that you are actually just a bad liar. People die for the right to their own freedom. “Give me liberty or give me death”. It is one of mankind’s most sought-after things. Wars have been fought over freedom, but apparently you are a paragon of selflessness that the entire human race should aspire to.

            “First, no finite evil could possibly deserve infinite suffering. Second, even if it did, inflicting that suffering would still be infinitely more evil. Why do you worship infinite evil, Alex Jones?”

            What is finite evil? Stealing a candy bar from a gas station seems pretty finite, so we will go with that. This is what is typically looked at as a “small sin”, something that will have no lasting repercussions. However, let’s add your “small sin” on a stack of other “small sins” committed by other otherwise good people. Suddenly your “small sin” isn’t so small anymore. Given enough of these “small sins” the gas station could go out of business – completely changing the lives of the owner and the owner’s family. That change will radiate throughout the owner’s family for generations to come. Suddenly, that finite sin is beginning to have fairly infinite repercussions. Granted, all YOU did was steal a candy bar, but that act aided in the drastic change to the owner’s life and livelihood. The point is that Newton’s Third Law of motion does not refer to human actions, as many people seem to think it does. In fact, in most cases, an action can cause a far larger reaction than anyone would expect.

            “Supposedly, God is omnipotent. If that is true, he could have made us all perfectly good, but chose not to. An omnipotent being is necessarily responsible for everything that happens. Stop making feeble. dishonest excuses for him.”

            Yes he could, but then what is the point of creation? I’m not gonna sugar-coat things: We were not made for ourselves, we were made for God. We were made to be companions, but companions without a choice is no kind of companion. To make us perfect would be tantamount to rape – he would give us no choice but to follow him. Honestly, I believe that not making us perfect is a greater expression of love than to make us perfect. But, as I said, that also comes with an unfortunate Catch-22: By making us imperfect beings, but still in his own image he allowed us to completely reject him (as you clearly have), he allows us to make our own decisions which, in turn allows us to be a Ghandi or a Hitler. With the base line of allowing us to make our own choices in life.

            “Yeah, yeah: “Be a pity if you forced me to torture you for ever, wouldn’t it?”

            I think this one is handled fairly well below.

            “That’s a transparent lie. No-one forces God to “harden Pharoah’s heart”. No-one forces him to drown everyone except eight people – including babies, of course – in the flood. No one forces him to torment Job and kill his family in pursuit of a bet with Satan. He is utterly, disgustingly vile, and those who make excuses for his vileness are not much better.”

            The thing is that you take the assumption that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” to mean that God did something to Pharaoh. The fun thing about the Bible is that there is a lot of symbolism (infact, that’s what this site claims on the front page. Genesis 1-3 is not literal, but symbolic) the phraze “God hardened Pharaoh’s Heart.” is not an accurate translation (Something I came to the conclusion of several years ago is that you can’t take any english translation of the bible as word-for-word) If you break down the original text and translated it from there it would more likely read “God allowed (or suffered) Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened” which, once again, points to the common denominator in God’s interactions with humanity: He preserved Pharaoh’s free will.

            There are two ways to look at the book of Job. One is the literal look (Which you are speaking from) and one is symbolic. I can not say with 100% certainty that Job is either or, however, I lean toward symbolic because of it’s uniqueness. Nowhere else in the Bible does God and Satan have a pow-wow about faith, and nowhere else in the bible does God just allow Satan to pour suffering down upon someone faithful to God (A somewhat important note, it’s Satan who torments Job, not God. But, I will admit that God simply allowing it does not help his case). The Book of Job (Like Genesis 1-3) is not meant to be taken literally, but instead is an allegory that shows that even the faithful have to deal with the crap that life likes to throw at us once in a while.

            And if God is so “utterly, disgustingly vile” as you (And Richard Dawkins) claim, then why would he create an out for us? Why would he prop up those who follow him? Why would he do anything other than materialize a bag of popcorn and watch the world burn? My answer is that it all led to fulfillment of his plan of salvation for mankind. A plan that does not remove our ability to choose, but opens the door to eternity for all of mankind. What is yours?

          • Nick Gotts

            Well, you’ve admitted that suffering as such is God’s responsibility, if God exists, not ours, so at least we’re getting somewhere.

            “To remove suffering would, once again, remove choice.”

            No, it wouldn’t. There is no necessity for suffering in order for there to be choice. Is there suffering in heaven, according to you? If so, clearly either suffering is not necessary for choice, or choice isn’t really that important.

            “And as Tyler said in an earlier post, Suffering allows you to better appreciate the good in life.”

            As I pointed out and as Tyler agreed, that claim (highly dubious in itself) does absolutely nothing to justify the vast amounts of suffering that preceded human existence. Nor could it possibly justify the suffering of (for example) someone being tortured, or seeing someone they love being tortured, or suffering the agonies of bone cancer or a strangulated hernia, or declining into dementia. The fact that you can even try to justify suffering in these terms marks you as a moral imbecile.

            “I find that VERY hard to believe. And if that is the case, you are one in a million… but I suspect that you are actually just a bad liar.”

            If you ask a question about what I would do in a hypothetical case, and get an answer you don’t like, calling me a liar because my answer didn’t suit you says a lot more about you than it does about me.

            “Suddenly, that finite sin is beginning to have fairly infinite repercussions.”

            “Fairly infinite” is just drivel. Even setting that aside, punishment that is not justified in terms of reparation, deterrence or rehabilitation is evil, and infinite punishment cannot possibly be justified in any of those terms, and so is infinitely evil. Why do you worship infinite evil, Alex Jones?

            “We were not made for ourselves, we were made for God. We were made to be companions, but companions without a choice is no kind of companion. To make us perfect would be tantamount to rape – he would give us no choice but to follow him.”

            Do you actually read what you write? What kind of monster makes possible companions, gives them a “choice” about whether to be companions, then tortures them if they make a choice that doesn’t suit him? Vile as rape is, it pales into insignificance next to infinitely prolonged torture. Why do you worship infinite evil, Alex Jones?

            Let’s suppose you’re right about the hardening of Pharoah’s heart (naturally, you haven’t actually provided any evidence that you are). How could Pharoah’s deeds possibly justify slaughtering all the firstborn? What had those firstborn, and their parents, done to deserve that? As you admit, God allows Satan to torment Job and kill his family, and you don’t even mention the flood. And of course these are only a few of the vile deeds attributed to God in the OT: the genocide he commands Joshua and the Israelites to commit, the tormenting of Abraham by commanding him to kill his son, the repeated infliction of plagues and invasions on the Israelites for worshipping other gods, or for failing to carry out his orders to commit genocide with sufficient thoroughness…

            “even the faithful have to deal with the crap that life likes to throw at us once in a while.”

            No, if there’s an omnipotent god, as you believe, it is that god who likes to throw crap at us, not “life”.

            “Why would he prop up those who follow him?”

            Because he wants sycophants like you to tell him how wonderful he is for all eternity, presumably. But of course, there’s zero actual evidence that any gods exist, let alone any “plan of salvation for mankind”. The supposed “plan” makes no sense whatever: God makes us imperfect, then gets into a frightful bate because we behave imperfectly, decides he wants to forgive some of us while torturing the rest for ever, but for some unexplained reason can’t do so without first having his son (who is also in some unexplained fashion himself) tortured and executed! If you were trying to make up a stupid, senseless, morally disgusting fiction, I doubt whether you could produce anything worse.

          • “No, it wouldn’t. There is no necessity for suffering in order for there to be choice. Is there suffering in heaven, according to you? If so, clearly either suffering is not necessary for choice, or choice isn’t really that important.”

            If we lived a perfect life here on earth, where is the choice? If God revealed himself in all his glory, where is the choice?

            “If you ask a question about what I would do in a hypothetical case, and get an answer you don’t like, calling me a liar because my answer didn’t suit you says a lot more about you than it does about me.”

            All I am doing is pointing out that by your own admission, you would do something that is constantly fought against by any person who has any notion of freedom.

            “Fairly infinite” is just drivel. Even setting that aside, punishment that is not justified in terms of reparation, deterrence or rehabilitation is evil, and infinite punishment cannot possibly be justified in any of those terms, and so is infinitely evil. Why do you worship infinite evil, Alex Jones?”

            Yes, “Fairly infinite” is drivel, but calling it out is also semantics.

            Where, precisely, do you get your definition of evil? Being Anti-theistic, I am guessing it is societal, correct?

            Also, who is to say that God’s brand of punishment isn’t justified in terms of deterrence. We Christians believe in an infinity – an infinity that is free of the influence of evil (With our free will intact, which I will get to later.) The threat of eternal punishment has deterred many religious people from doing wrongs in life.

            “Do you actually read what you write? What kind of monster makes possible companions, gives them a “choice” about whether to be companions, then tortures them if they make a choice that doesn’t suit him? Vile as rape is, it pales into insignificance next to infinitely prolonged torture. Why do you worship infinite evil, Alex Jones?”

            Do YOU actually read what I write, or do you like writing the same nonsense sentence over and over again? Tyler and I have both proffered points in which God does not torture people, it’s as simple as this: If you chose not to be his companion, you will not be his companion. However, that separation – when you come to truly realize what it means – will be torturous. There is no 9 circles of Hell in which all infidels will be put on the rack for all eternity, the Bible doesn’t even infer that, all that is solid about the reality of hell is that it is separation from God, a separation that the person chose in life.

            “Let’s suppose you’re right about the hardening of Pharoah’s heart (naturally, you haven’t actually provided any evidence that you are).”

            Figures of speeh, you may wanna look them up at some point. (another one is 40 days and 40 nights) It’s kinda like when we say we’re going to hit the road.

            “How could Pharoah’s deeds possibly justify slaughtering all the firstborn? What had those firstborn, and their parents, done to deserve that? As you admit, God allows Satan to torment Job and kill his family, and you don’t even mention the flood. And of course these are only a few of the vile deeds attributed to God in the OT: the genocide he commands Joshua and the Israelites to commit, the tormenting of Abraham by commanding him to kill his son, the repeated infliction of plagues and invasions on the Israelites for worshipping other gods, or for failing to carry out his orders to commit genocide with sufficient thoroughness…”

            Sometimes, when push comes to shove, you have to shove hard. According to the story, the world had become irredeemably vile leading to the flood. And as far as we know, God may have put a stopper in fertility for a while in order to keep innocents from being killed. Though the bible does mention an age of accountability, maybe that comes into play. The story of Noah is very short and sparse on details in order to come to any solid moral conclusion about God.

            The thing people like to forget about the Abraham and Isaac story is that God stopped him, and provided for them. The key isn’t in the command, it’s in what the act of faith led to.

            The Israelites had a covenant (contract) with God, all that you mentioned was actually things they agreed to.

            ” But of course, there’s zero actual evidence that any gods exist.”

            I’d argue the opposite. Until someone can rationally explain how existence happened, I find the most logical progression leads directly to the feet of God.

          • Nick Gotts

            “If we lived a perfect life here on earth, where is the choice? If God revealed himself in all his glory, where is the choice?”

            You haven’t answered my question: does choice exist in heaven? If it does, it’s clearly compatible with the absence of suffering. If it doesn’t, it clearly isn’t that important. Wriggle as much as you like, you clearly have no adequate answer to that.

            “All I am doing is pointing out that by your own admission, you would do something that is constantly fought against by any person who has any notion of freedom.”

            No, that’s not all you’re doing: you’re claiming, without the slightest evidence, that my answer was a lie. Yes, I value my freedom, but not so much that I would not sacrifice it to end all suffering.

            “Yes, “Fairly infinite” is drivel, but calling it out is also semantics.”

            So? What’s supposed to be wrong with pointing out that you’re spouting drivel?

            “Where, precisely, do you get your definition of evil? Being Anti-theistic, I am guessing it is societal, correct?”

            No. I don’t need a “definition of evil”: I know it when I see it. Any person with a spark of decency and without the moral blindness religion causes would recognise that your psychopathic, pathologically jealous, tyrannical, sadistic, misogynist god is evil.

            “Also, who is to say that God’s brand of punishment isn’t justified in terms of deterrence.”

            Anyone with a spark of sense or decency: it’s grossly (indeed, infinitely) excessive, and if you want to deter, you ensure that the potential malefactor has no doubt about the punishment – you don’t hide it away where it can’t be seen, and just issue threats.

            “We Christians believe in an infinity – an infinity that is free of the influence of evil (With our free will intact, which I will get to later.)”

            Ah, so you’ve come down on the side of choice being compatible with the absence of suffering. But that means your argument that there had to be suffering in order for there to be choice collapses.

            “The threat of eternal punishment has deterred many religious people from doing wrongs in life.”

            I see no evidence whatever that when and where this belief is more widespread, people behave better.

            “However, that separation – when you come to truly realize what it means – will be torturous.”

            So according to you God does torture people, since it would be within his power, as an omnipotent being, to end that torturousness.

            “There is no 9 circles of Hell in which all infidels will be put on the rack for all eternity, the Bible doesn’t even infer that, all that is solid about the reality of hell is that it is separation from God, a separation that the person chose in life.”

            So you’re saying Jesus was lying when he spoke, according to the gospels, of eternal fire, of the fire that is not quenched and the worm that dies not.

            “Figures of speeh, you may wanna look them up at some point. (another one is 40 days and 40 nights) It’s kinda like when we say we’re going to hit the road.”

            Before you said it was a mistranslation, now you’re saying it’s a figure of speech. Make up your mind what story you’re telling, then provide some evidence for it.

            “Sometimes, when push comes to shove, you have to shove hard.”

            Not if you’re omnipotent you don’t. You could just make people good in the first place, or set them right without hurting them.

            “as far as we know, God may have put a stopper in fertility for a while in order to keep innocents from being killed.”

            There’s nothing whatever in the Bible to hint at anything like a “stop on fertility” before the flood – you’re just making stuff up. You haven’t even attempted to justify the slaughter of the firstborn so I’ll ask again – what had they and their parents done to deserve that? I don’t think anyone who knows the story forgets that God stops Abraham at the last moment – but it was still a vile act of cruelty, and so you would judge it if any human being had done it. Again, you haven’t even tried to justify the genocides God orders the Israelites to carry out, nor can any contract justify the killing of one of the contracting parties by the other.

            And of course positing a god does absolutely nothing to explain “How existence happened”, since it just moves the question back to “How did God happen?”

          • “You haven’t answered my question: does choice exist in heaven? If it does, it’s clearly compatible with the absence of suffering. If it doesn’t, it clearly isn’t that important. Wriggle as much as you like, you clearly have no adequate answer to that.”

            Look at it this way. We live in a natural world, a world that presents us with possibilities other than that of God for us to follow. We live in a universe that is self-regulating and to all surface examination does not require the existence of God. As part of the package of nature comes the unavoidable reality of suffering. Partially from the self-regulation of this natural universe, and partially from human free will. I will admit that suffering in this world is part of God’s design, however, along with that comes the unavoidable conclusion that if the suffering in this world is part of God’s design so to is the Joy. To accuse God of being a sadistic being because of suffering ignores the good that is also present in the world. A good – I might add – that is not inherent to humans, or any other being in all honesty.

            “And of course positing a god does absolutely nothing to explain “How existence happened”, since it just moves the question back to “How did God happen?”

            Actually, not really. You see, the law of causality applies only to things of nature – things that have a beginning. We know that the Universe and all of the reality that we know (Time, Space, etc) all originates with the Big Bang. However, with nothing to cause the Big Bang, the Big Bang couldn’t have happened naturally due to the law of causality. Furthermore, when you look at the intricacies of our universe and how everything seems to work perfectly a razor’s edge… well, frankly, it takes a larger leap of faith for me to believe that all of this is just random.

            God, however, is not subject to these laws of nature including the law of causality having been the one who created the laws. He is above and outside the laws of nature much as someone who creates a computer program is not bound to the rules of his program.

            In fact, before Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, is was scientifically accepted that the universe itself was pre-existing and eternal. Relativity proved that wrong and that ultimately led to the theory of the Big Bang, which has gained nothing but support through later findings. Science once had the idea of something preexisting right, people just don’t want to accept the idea of a preexisting creator.

            In regards to the Genocides. The Bible depicts – not a cruel God, as you say – but a just and long-suffering God. Lets look at the conquest of Canaan: The first mention of it is in Genesis when God tells Moses that the Israelites will find themselves in a land that is not theirs, but will return one day to their land in 400 years as judgment for the Canaanites. God gave the Canaanites 400 years of mercy before finally bringing back the Israelites. By that point, Canaanite society was about as depraved as it gets (Including, but not limited to human sacrifice (including children), ritual rape, ritual murder, ritual suicide, etc.) Their society as a whole was conformed to these ideals, and as such leaving any alive would allow the ideals to spread.

            And let’s look at the Plagues of Egypt.

            Water to blood (hurts no one), Frogs (Hurts no one), gnats/lice (Still hurts no one), Diseased Livestalk (only hurts the livestalk to any real degree, can cause problems to the humans), Boils (Kinda suck, but still nothing disastrous), Thunder and Hail (May or may not have caused a few deaths, potentially some property damage), Locusts (The worst so far, this would have caused a famine for the Egyptians, but none of these plagues touched Isrealite lands meaning that the Egyptians still had a way to get food after the Exodus), Darkness (Most likely a couple stubbed toes are the worst that caused)

            So, there you have 9 times where God gave the Egyptians a chance to let the Israelites go with little to no permanent repercussions and nothing. Time #10 was the “Alright guys, enough is enough” time. Which, once again was given adequate warning and the Egyptians were welcome to take part in marking their doorways so the Angel would not enter.

            In regards to the Mistranslation/figure of speech, in this case they mean the same thing. Take the Star Trek episode Darmok as an example. In that episode, the Enterprise came across a race of beings that spoke only in references. Even though the Enterprise was equipped with a translator, there was no way for the two species to communicate with each other because they didn’t understand each other’s figures of speech. That is present in this instance here too. “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” means nothing to western people except the sum of the words. However, to the writers it had a different meaning and as such a proper translation would have shown that. So yes. It is both a mistranslation as well as a figure of speech.

            Here’s the thing, you have free will and with that free will you have decided that God is infinitely evil thanks to a fairly generalized view of the Bible, and other factors which probably include “The God Delusion”, the little chart of Bible Contradictions, and other things. And these are all honest ways to come about your views. Here’s the thing, though. How would you propose that God convince you that your are wrong without defeating your free will?