Matt Flannagan on the Genocide of the Canaanites

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 3, 2010 in Bible

Yahweh slaughters the Amorites by throwing rocks from the sky (Joshua 10:10-11).

Matt Flannagan, an evangelical theologian/philosopher in New Zealand, has developed a particular apologetic concerning the Israelite genocide of the Canaanites recorded in the Jewish Bible: one, two.

Before we get to his apologetic, what does the atheist attack look like?

The atheist contends that the conservative Christian is committed to an inconsistent set of propositions:

  1. Any act that God commands is morally permissible.
  2. The scriptures are an authoritative revelation of God’s commands.
  3. It is morally impermissible for anyone to commit genocide.
  4. According to the book of Joshua, God commanded Israel to commit genocide.

If the Christian accepts (1) and (2), she must reject either (3) or (4). Matt gets strong support for (3) from his intuitions, but he offers some reasons why (4) is doubtful.

But how could it be? Joshua 10-11 clearly states that Joshua conquered all of Canaan, that he exterminated all its inhabitants, and that God commanded these actions.

The first reason to doubt (4) is that the first chapter of Judges says there were many Canaanites still living where Joshua supposedly “left no survivors.” The Israelites needed to fight the Canaanites all over again, and several tribes could not dislodge them. Such contradictions are found even with Joshua itself.

So perhaps instead the most genocidal phrases in Joshua were meant as hyperbole. Imagine a basketball team speaking of how they “totally slaughtered” their opponents like their coach told them to. In the same way, maybe the Israelites wrote in hyperbolic language about how they defeated their enemies.

Indeed, this kind of exaggeration and hagiography on a nation’s own behalf is common in ancient literature.

My Reaction

I like this apologetics for three reasons.

First, it is accurate. Anyone familiar with ancient history for more than narrow apologetic interests will have already accepted it. Obviously these stories are hagiography – a tribe of people telling fictional and exagerated tales about its glorious history and importance. Every ancient culture that wrote their own history did this. It would be rather shocking if the Israelites were the only ancient people to record a literal, accurate history of their own tribe.

Second, it agrees with the Biblical minimalism already espoused by most atheists, for it says that these events found in the Bible never happened, or never happened much like the Bible records them as happening.

Third, it makes the Christian apologist appear less morally evil to others. Compare Matt’s apologetic for the genocide of the Canaanites to William Lane Craig’s apologetic for those same events. Matt’s apologetic says that genocide is probably wrong (what a relief!), so it must be that these events never really happened as recorded in the Bible, if we read it literally. Craig’s apologetic says that genocide was morally good because (1) God gave the Israelites Canaan as a gift, (2) God can do whatever the fuck he wants, and (3) genocide is a fitting punishment for sin. I suspect those bound at the hip to Biblical literalism will follow Craig’s lead, and those with a shred of conscience will follow Matt’s.

Parting Thoughts

But I would be curious to know: If Matt did think these events happened literally as described in the Bible, would he then conclude that God was an evil monster to command them? Or would he, in the end, agree with Bill Craig that genocide is okay as long as God feels like it?

Finally, it’s worth reminding people that atheists who quote the genocide of the Canaanites as implicating the Biblical God in evil are not really “attacking a straw man” or “taking things out of context” as Matt sometimes says. They are responding to the way that millions of Christian fundamentalists interpret these verses. Fundamentalists like William Lane Craig interpret these verses literally, and still conclude that God is perfectly moral.

Atheists are not, as Matt claims, reading the Bible as fundamentalists. Atheists don’t believe the genocide ever took place! What we atheists are saying is this: If you think these events were literally commanded by God and carried out by the Israelites, then how can you call God “perfectly good”?

If you don’t take the Bible literally with regard to these stories, then the moral problem is not as great as it would otherwise be. And that is exactly the effect of Matt Flannagan’s apologetic. It is certainly an improvement over fundamentalist apologetics.

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{ 290 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Maher September 3, 2010 at 5:12 am

It doesn’t take a philosopher of religion to see how poor the excuses are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avAvswUxi6M

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 5:15 am

As a Christian, I do not believe that God can simply do whatever he wants and label it “good.” If that were the case, many aspects of Christian doctrine, like the atonement, would make no sense. If the objective moral law means anything, God is bound by it and even embodies it. And he can’t go against his nature.

However, neither do I think it makes sense to get around the problem with the Canaanites by just saying that it never happened. That has never been a satisfying answer to me, because I feel that the Bible itself has to give the answer to every perplexing theological problem.

I have recently arrived at a different conclusion: It is important to keep in mind that ancient Israel was a theocracy (as the word was originally coined by Josephus), with God as Head and Commander in Chief. That is, it was a political system, and like all political systems, it had to take into consideration culture, human nature, and practicality. If it had been too idealistic, it would have failed, like communism did.

However, the Law of Moses protected the rights of women, workers, animals, and the environment. So it was quite progressive for that culture, but it couldn’t be so radical that it would completely fail. Jesus explains this in Matthew 19:8, with respect to the Law of Moses permitting divorce. We can extrapolate that to the other laws.

This is why we get a different picture of God in the Gospels, through Christ. He did not allow for any violence (Matthew 26:52). However, YHWH also hated violence and only considered it a necessary evil. He didn’t want David, the warrior king, to build the temple (1 Chron. 28:3).

As far as the Canaanites were concerned, God had to make the Israelites drive them out because they would have corrupted the Israelites. The neighboring nations practiced human sacrifice and were in general very corrupt, so God wanted the Israelites to be separate and not learn their practices.

It would not have been practical to keep the children alive because the older children would already have learned some of the customs, and it would have been too difficult to keep alive those under two, for example. However, it is worth noting that the Bible often uses the words “drive them out,” and the Israelites did not conquer all the land at once. So the Canaanites could have left.

Again, like any political system, the theocracy of ancient Israel had to choose between lesser of evils. And the culture was very different from ours, so what we call abhorrent today was normal at the time.

In the book of Jonah, we find that God has compassion on the innocent even when a people is extremely corrupt. “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (Jonah 4:11).

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Duke York September 3, 2010 at 5:21 am

So Matt is also denying premise 2 (that the bible is authoritative)? He’s essentially saying that the bible is a human-written book?

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Rob September 3, 2010 at 5:28 am

“it would have been too difficult to keep alive those under two, for example”

So if a single parent is having difficulty raising her kids, it is OK to kill them? In order for you to be consistent Anette Acker, you must endorse infanticide.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 5:36 am

Rob,

No, this is equivalent to collateral damage in war. And you have to look at it in the cultural context, as I said before.

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Bill Snedden September 3, 2010 at 5:42 am

Annette Acker: “It would not have been practical to keep the children alive because the older children would already have learned some of the customs, and it would have been too difficult to keep alive those under two, for example.”

What appalling moral degeneracy! I’m sorry, but decent people simply would not advocate or condone such a nightmarish monstrosity.

Annette Acker: “No, this is equivalent to collateral damage in war. And you have to look at it in the cultural context, as I said before.”

Ah, so much for absolute or objective morality. God’s whim rules!

If this kind of disgusting perversion is the fruit of “Christian” morality, you can have it. I want no part of such putrid evil.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 5:48 am

Luke, you said:

“Obviously these stories are hagiography – a tribe of people telling fictional and exagerated tales about its glorious history and importance.”

How do you explain that the Israelites are always chastised for lack of faith and moral failure in the Old Testament? If this was merely written by humans, they did not do a very good job making themselves look good. They are all too human.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 5:51 am

Bill Snedden,

Try reading what I said in context. It is the more honest approach.

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Rob September 3, 2010 at 5:54 am

“How do you explain that the Israelites are always chastised for lack of faith and moral failure in the Old Testament? If this was merely written by humans, they did not do a very good job making themselves look good.”

So are the Homeric epics true? According to your “reasoning”, because the characters sometimes have moral failings then the stories must be true.

Anette Acker, can you really not see what is going on here? You have to make so many leaps of logic and twisted intellectual moves in order to maintain your belief system. The obvious fact is this: your belief system is false. And immoral.

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Lee Miller September 3, 2010 at 5:59 am

Annette, I think it’s amazing that you say “However, the Law of Moses protected the rights of women, workers, animals, and the environment”, because it was exactly this point that pushed me from evangelical Christian to atheist . . . It was actually devotional reading of the Bible that deconverted me. I was following a daily Bible reading book and all was well until I reached Numbers, chapter 5, with the description of a Mosaic test for an unfaithful wife that a jealous husband can apply. Read it for yourself if you don’t recall. I read it, and immediately thought “wait a minute, I can’t have read that right.” So I re-read it, and thought “I don’t believe a word of this–this is God’s law? This is something a witch doctor would do.” I read it a third time, and my whole “house of cards” of evangelical belief collapsed. I had a high view of scripture: totally without error. And when I acknowledged that I didn’t believe one part, the absurdity of the whole scripture system became obvious.

It’s nice to say that Old Testament law protected women, but the fact of the matter is that’s a lie.

If Christians would actually read the Bible and pay attention to what it says, they would fall away in droves.

My only regret is that it took me until I was in my 50s to figure all this out.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 6:14 am

Lee Miller,

“It’s nice to say that Old Testament law protected women, but the fact of the matter is that’s a lie.”

Again, you have to compare it to the culture. In New Testament times, a Greek woman was not even allowed to speak in public. She and the children were considered the property of her husband, and he could divorce her for no reason at all. Jesus, on the other hand, broke through cultural barriers by speaking to women and treating them with respect.

Even in the OT, Deuteronomy 24:5 says: “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.” The Law of Moses protected women in many ways. Of course those laws seem primitive to us, though.

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Bram van Dijk September 3, 2010 at 6:17 am

Anette,
Your point that we should see the OT laws as progressive for the time and cultural context has some implications.

1. Apparently there is no objective ethics. What is good changes with the cultural context.

2. All ethics from the bible are at least 2000 years old (allright, 1900 years) and in our current cultural context they cannot be applied without some evaluation process.

Point is: is you want to say that the genocide commandments in the bible are not applicable in our time, then you cannot claim that the other commandments (the ones you do like) are still applicable.

At least not without providing a specific reason why those are different from the genocide commandments.

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Reginald Selkirk September 3, 2010 at 6:27 am

Indeed, this kind of exaggeration and hagiography on a nation’s own behalf is common in ancient literature.

It is common in documents of human origin. It means acknowledging that the Bible is a work of man, not of God, or at least that parts of it were written or modified by men. This leads directly to questions of cherry-picking.

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Justfinethanks September 3, 2010 at 6:28 am

Again, you have to compare it to the culture.

Out of context!!!

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Bill Snedden September 3, 2010 at 6:29 am

Annette Acker: “Try reading what I said in context. It is the more honest approach.”

Quite simply, there is no context in which what you said could be understood as anything other than a perversion of morality. There is no context in which the willful murder of children is a “good” thing. Claiming “practical” exemption from moral rules is utterly depraved.

And a retreat into moral relativism from someone who ostensibly claims “god” as the source of all moral values is just logically and morally incoherent.

On the contrary, you might try re-reading what you wrote from the standpoint of a human being instead of an apologist for barbarism. At least Matt Flanagan’s approach has this virtue…

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Reginald Selkirk September 3, 2010 at 6:30 am

Anette Acker: How do you explain that the Israelites are always chastised for lack of faith and moral failure in the Old Testament? If this was merely written by humans, they did not do a very good job making themselves look good. They are all too human.

What is your point? There is no shortage of humans telling other humans that they are morally lacking, even today. And many of them are pushing beliefs and doctrines which even you consider to be false.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 6:31 am

Rob,

“So are the Homeric epics true? According to your “reasoning”, because the characters sometimes have moral failings then the stories must be true.”

The consensus is that the Homeric epics are largely historical, with some literary license.

My point was that the biblical authors certainly didn’t go out of their way to make the Israelites look good. Quite the contrary.

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Reginald Selkirk September 3, 2010 at 6:32 am

I have recently arrived at a different conclusion: It is important to keep in mind that ancient Israel was a theocracy (as the word was originally coined by Josephus), with God as Head and Commander in Chief. That is, it was a political system, and like all political systems, it had to take into consideration culture, human nature, and practicality. If it had been too idealistic, it would have failed, like communism did.

This “they had to cut corners due to practical considerations” angle just falls flat when your leader is allegedly omniscient and omnipotent.

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Rob September 3, 2010 at 6:41 am

Lee Miller,

Thanks for pointing to Numbers 5. That passage is so perfectly moral that it could only come from a morally perfect being. There is just no way that a superstitious jealous goat herder came up with that magical ritual in order to manipulate his wife. That’s just not possible.

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Leomar September 3, 2010 at 6:44 am

They’re a lot of things like this in the bible, the genocide of the canaanites is just one of them.

If all of them are not true, the bible is ‘special’ and not the word of God.
If one of them is true, God is morally flaw.

http://www.youtube.com/user/NonStampCollector#p/u/3/zOfjkl-3SNE

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 6:51 am

Bram van Dijk,

“1. Apparently there is no objective ethics. What is good changes with the cultural context.
2. All ethics from the bible are at least 2000 years old (allright, 1900 years) and in our current cultural context they cannot be applied without some evaluation process.
Point is: is you want to say that the genocide commandments in the bible are not applicable in our time, then you cannot claim that the other commandments (the ones you do like) are still applicable.
At least not without providing a specific reason why those are different from the genocide commandments.”

The objective moral law is embodied in Christ. So if you want to know what the Bible teaches about the moral law, look at the life of Christ. He is the Christian God. Everything in the OT has to be filtered through the lens of culture and human nature, but in Christ we find out what God is really like.

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Rob September 3, 2010 at 6:52 am

“The consensus is that the Homeric epics are largely historical, with some literary license.”

FTW!

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Peter Grice September 3, 2010 at 7:02 am

Argument from moral abhorrence is a species of argument from incredulity, in other words, fallacious.

The criticism cannot be sustained from outside a Theistic system (and the charge of whimsy is ironic), since no justification for the ought-proposition is supplied by atheistic presuppositions. The atheist here illegitimately takes as granted that their pronouncements are underwritten by a properly functioning conscience, exempting themselves from explaining how they legitimize use of what is ostensibly a teleological concept. A nonteleological/naturalistic account of function still disavows the notion of proper, since function-as-adaptedness has no normative purchase.

So spare me the moral outrage, until you provide an account of how moral outrage itself is justified in your “reality.” Charging Christians with a malfunctioning conscience does not establish your own, which will not occur unless and until you divulge an adequate, objective measure for what constitutes proper vs. mal-functioning.

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lukeprog September 3, 2010 at 7:08 am

“The consensus is that the Homeric epics are largely historical, with some literary license.”

AAAAAAAAHAHAHAHHHAHAAAHHAHahahahahahaahaahaha no.

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Justfinethanks September 3, 2010 at 7:11 am

Argument from moral abhorrence is a species of argument from incredulity, in other words, fallacious.

Except of course, Flannagan isn’t responding to “argument from moral abhorrence.” He’s responding to an the idea that, as Luke says, “the conservative Christian is committed to an inconsistent set of propositions.”

You seem to confusing “genocide is immoral, therefore the Christian God doesn’t exist,” and “considering God’s genocide to be moral forces the Christian into an incoherent position.” Flannagan is addressing the latter argument, which is not some sort of “argument from moral abhorrence.”

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Bill Snedden September 3, 2010 at 7:15 am

Peter Grice: Absolute and utter bollocks.

There are numerous non-theistic systems that provide objective accounts of morality. Any one of them could be used to condemn statements that willful infanticide on the scale advocated here is morally acceptable.

Aristotelian Natural Law is one such. Virtue ethics is another. Desirism is a third. And on and on. Please do some reading on meta-ethics before you post such risible nonsense.

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Brian_G September 3, 2010 at 7:16 am

Lee Miller,

“4 In an earthen vessel he shall meanwhile put some holy water, as well as some dust that he has taken from the floor of the Dwelling.”

It seems to me that the law of Numbers 5 is actually to the benefit of Women. It’s not like throwing a woman in the river and saying “if she survives, she’s a witch.” There’s no natural harm that is caused by drinking water with dust in it. So if she drank this water and nothing happened, it might calm down a jealous husband. That seems to be to the favor of the woman.

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Justfinethanks September 3, 2010 at 7:25 am

There’s no natural harm that is caused by drinking water with dust in it. So if she drank this water and nothing happened, it might calm down a jealous husband. That seems to be to the favor of the woman.

You know, I really thought I would never hear someone argue that forcing women to drink mud helps them.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 7:28 am

Lukeprog said:

“The consensus is that the Homeric epics are largely historical, with some literary license.”
AAAAAAAAHAHAHAHHHAHAAAHHAHahahahahahaahaahaha no.

The most recent archeological evidence indicates that the Trojan War took place, for example. But that’s just an aside–I don’t want to get off on a tangent.

My original point was that the OT is the story of the Israelite people, and they don’t look particularly good most of the time. You would expect more national pride from “God’s chosen people” if it was fabricated, rather than God constantly expressing disapproval. God made it very clear that he didn’t choose them because they were better than others.

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Justfinethanks September 3, 2010 at 7:39 am

God made it very clear that he didn’t choose them because they were better than others.

That’s a silly notion, because the Bible makes it clear that the Jews were better than others because God chose them.

“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” – Deuteronomy 14:2

You don’t think that the authors of the Torah understood that calling the Jews a nation that was “above all nations that are upon the earth” made them look super awesome?

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Brian_G September 3, 2010 at 7:59 am

“You know, I really thought I would never hear someone argue that forcing women to drink mud helps them.”

I find that implausible. Perhaps you meant:

“I really never thought I would hear someone argue that forcing women to drink mud helps them.”

I the first case you thought about it and decided it wouldn’t happen, in the second case you simply never thought it.

Either way, the text doesn’t say mud. It say water with some dust in it. Remember, these people didn’t have Brita Filters so it probably didn’t effect the water quality a significant amount.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

Justfinethanks,

“God made it very clear that he didn’t choose them because they were better than others.”

That’s a silly notion, because the Bible makes it clear that the Jews were better than others because God chose them.

“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” – Deuteronomy 14:2

You don’t think that the authors of the Torah understood that calling the Jews a nation that was “above all nations that are upon the earth” made them look super awesome?

Nevertheless, Deuteronomy 7:7-8 says, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

They were special to God, so you would expect them to feel “super awesome.” But the OT never says that they deserved God’s special treatment. It was a gift from God. And when they were faithful to God, he gave them victory.

But the prophetic books are full of God expressing disappointment with them and even comparing them unfavorably to other people (Jeremiah 35). If these books were not divinely inspired, one would expect such a special people to display more bravado.

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Patrick September 3, 2010 at 8:42 am

Anette- Seriously, you’re fighting the wrong battle. Historical evidence external to the Bible suggests that the Canaanite genocide definitely, definitely never, ever happened. The Israelites probably did do at least some rape-raiding, or else it wouldn’t be such a major theme in the old testament, but this particular genocide never occurred.

The whole issue is sort of a reverse straw man- something judeo christians made up to make themselves look stupid and evil. Just concede that the Bible isn’t always right (you’ve already done this in order to justify the Canaanite genocide by abjuring ancient middle eastern “morality”), and let this one go.

The only other way way this ends for you is for you to literally degrade yourself by devoting time and brain power to coming up with reasons why its ok to stab babies. I mean, the cultural pollution thing? I don’t even have to Godwin the thread. I can just point out that this argument actually implies that the sinful nature of the Canaanites was so horrible that even the infants had to be slaughtered to protect everyone else from their aura of evil. People will fill in the rest of the analogy on their own.

Just let it go. You don’t have to defend this. It didn’t happen.

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Reginald Selkirk September 3, 2010 at 8:46 am

My original point was that the OT is the story of the Israelite people, and they don’t look particularly good most of the time. You would expect more national pride from “God’s chosen people” if it was fabricated, rather than God constantly expressing disapproval. God made it very clear that he didn’t choose them because they were better than others.

Imagine a history of America written by Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell or any other modern holier-than-thou type. Imagine them writing how the nation had failed God over and over again. Somehow, I have no difficulty myself in imagining this. It does not seem in the least far-fetched.

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drj September 3, 2010 at 8:52 am

But the prophetic books are full of God expressing disappointment with them and even comparing them unfavorably to other people (Jeremiah 35). If these books were not divinely inspired, one would expect such a special people to display more bravado.

What would qualities of a story would falsify or make you doubt divine inspiration? If genocide won’t do it, what on earth can?

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Tony Hoffman September 3, 2010 at 8:59 am

“My original point was that the OT is the story of the Israelite people, and they don’t look particularly good most of the time. You would expect more national pride from “God’s chosen people” if it was fabricated, rather than God constantly expressing disapproval.”

So the Bible stories pass your truth-o-meter because the Bible is unflattering to the Jews? But what if the Bible was written by men who’s interests were tribal cohesion, power, and legitimization of their authority? But of course, none of the stories in the Bible could ever be seen in that light…

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drj September 3, 2010 at 9:02 am

The priests of ancient Athens, prideful of their great city though they were, would often blame their city’s misfortunes on their impiety or their failure to stir the entrails of goats properly, during rituals to appease the gods.

If that’s not evidence of divine intervention/inspiration I don’t know what is.

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John D September 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

I too would be interested to see how Matt reconciles 2 and 4. I’m sure there is some sufficiently nuanced understanding of “revelation” “inspiration” and “authoritative” that makes it seem okay for an evangelical to think that the Bible is false in several respects. Although I don’t know how that can lead to a biblical form of theism.

I can’t seem to follow the links to Matt’s blog. Their server must be overloaded or something.

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Duke York September 3, 2010 at 9:37 am

“And [my god] can’t go against his nature.”

I realize the conversation has gone a but past this, but I have to ask this.

Where did your god’s nature come from? Did he choose it, or was it forced on him by an outside force?

Duke

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 10:03 am

Patrick,

First, I don’t have time to respond to everyone, but I’ll reply to this one since it’s the first:

Anette- Seriously, you’re fighting the wrong battle. Historical evidence external to the Bible suggests that the Canaanite genocide definitely, definitely never, ever happened. The Israelites probably did do at least some rape-raiding, or else it wouldn’t be such a major theme in the old testament, but this particular genocide never occurred.

The argument from silence in history is like the God of the gaps argument in science. The mere fact that there is currently no evidence supporting the conquest of the Canaanites, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

Also, the Bible says that the Israelites were to drive them out over time (please note the words “drive them out”). So there was not a single, major conquest.

The whole issue is sort of a reverse straw man- something judeo christians made up to make themselves look stupid and evil. Just concede that the Bible isn’t always right (you’ve already done this in order to justify the Canaanite genocide by abjuring ancient middle eastern “morality”), and let this one go.

The Bible has to be interpreted, and as Christian we have to start with the New Testament, which interprets the Old. I did not concede that the Bible is wrong by talking about Ancient Near East morality. Jesus addresses this very point when he talks about the Law of Moses in the context of divorce. The Law of Moses takes into consideration human nature and culture.

No Christians believe that they have to follow the Law of Moses. And the reason why we don’t believe that is because Jesus explicitly fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-18) and also superseded it (Matthew 5:21-48).

He did this by meeting the moral law on our behalf, dying for our sins, and giving us his Spirit, so that we are able to follow him. In the OT, God’s people had to be led by the Law, whereas now we are led by God’s Spirit. So Jesus epitomized the objective moral law, and he offers us his Spirit to help us become more and more like him.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 10:24 am

Duke York,

“And [my god] can’t go against his nature.”

I realize the conversation has gone a but past this, but I have to ask this.
Where did your god’s nature come from? Did he choose it, or was it forced on him by an outside force?

If there is such a thing as an objective moral law, it is axiomatic like logic and mathematics. God cannot violate the rules of logic, because it is intrinsically impossible, like making 2 + 2 = 5. So if he is holy, or morally perfect, he has to encompass all moral perfection, including those qualities that are somewhat paradoxical, like mercy and justice. (I elaborate more on this on my blog, in the post “The Dying God,” in response to a comment.)

Since God is eternal, it makes no sense to ask where something came from. He always existed, so everything originated with him. If an outside force created him or gave him his nature, that outside force would be God. God’s nature is good, so he chooses what is good. And an objective standard of goodness is axiomatic, like logic.

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dh September 3, 2010 at 10:33 am

I like the Jewish Study Bible for this one. Take its commentary on the Joshua/ conquering of Jericho story. Right up front, in the comment on Joshua 2:2, you read, “2: Jericho, identified as Tel es–Sultan, is situated about 8 km (five miles) west of the Jordan. Extensive archeological investigations of the site indicate that it was uninhabited at the time of the Israelite settlement in the land; it had probably been destroyed several centuries earlier.”

At least in this instance, the modern reader gets the warning, right on the page along with the story, that it shouldn’t be read for that kind of literal, historical truth. (apologies if this is covered in the links Luke provided above, I couldn’t get those target pages to load) It definitely makes for a different reader experience when you get to the later passages about how “all the inhabitants of the land are quaking before us” etc.

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Patrick September 3, 2010 at 11:23 am

If you are at all a self reflective person, one day you will look back at this and wonder: How did you get from “Jesus is love” to “go door to door and hack to death sobbing, terrified children.”

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al friedlander September 3, 2010 at 11:39 am

“God’s nature is good, so he chooses what is good. And an objective standard of goodness is axiomatic, like logic. ”

I’m not trying to come off as snippy, but honestly, I’ve heard this argument -many- times, because it works fantastically as a kind of ‘last resort’.

God is good. Everything He does/wants/decides/creates is good. Thus, in this case, killing the babies was good and morally justified. Why? Because God is good.

Hell is justified. Why? Because God is good.

Not satisfying enough for you? Who are you to question God? God is good.

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Brandon September 3, 2010 at 11:42 am

When a Christian says something along the lines of “Old Testament laws don’t apply anymore” is it worthwhile to point out that they believe our past, present, and future are all “the present” to God since he is eternal?

Meaning, right now, right this instant, God is condoning everything in the Old Testament. If any of those rules were actually broken and the punishment followed, then, for example, God is constantly enjoying a good stoning. Right?

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lukeprog September 3, 2010 at 11:44 am

Yeah, the mandm.org.nz website seems to be down today. Hope I didn’t kill it…

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Duke York September 3, 2010 at 11:44 am

So your god is bound by the laws of logic? Those law must give him his nature (as your god is logical by nature, for example). Since by your own admission:

“If an outside force created him or gave him his nature, that outside force would be God. ”

…the laws of logic are your real god? Right?

Duke

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cl September 3, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Luke,

The first reason to doubt (4) is that the first chapter of Judges says there were many Canaanites still living where Joshua supposedly “left no survivors.”

Why doubt 4? 3 sounds like a declaration of intrinsic value, one that a desirist such as yourself ought to doubt:

3. It is morally impermissible for anyone to commit genocide.

You seem to accept 3, for example, when you say,

Matt’s apologetic says that genocide is probably wrong (what a relief!),

Yet, it seems to me that desirists should be agnostic concerning 3. Per desirism, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that genocide should be judged according to its net affect on the aggregate of all desires? Right now, it sounds like you’re listening to your intuition, which tells you “genocide is bad, period.” Yet, per desirism, genocide can be permissible or even good. In fact, we find an analog in the real-world: the genocide of a rodent population we deem a threat to “the majority,” for example. If this is justifiable with reference to other animals, it would seem justifiable with reference to humans, too – don’t you think? Else, why is it wrong to eliminate one species we deem a threat, but not another?

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MichaelPJ September 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm

@cl

This argument isn’t about which of those four points the atheist doubts, but which of those four the theist can doubt. The claim, explicitly stated by Luke, is that the theist accepts an inconsistent set of propositions. Luke is exploring the theist’s options for escaping this quandry. If you are WLC, then you will indeed escape by doubting 3, but Luke (reporting Flannagan) is merely pointing out that a theist might want to doubt 4 instead.

As Justfinethanks said earlier in this thread:

You seem to confusing “genocide is immoral, therefore the Christian God doesn’t exist,” and “considering God’s genocide to be moral forces the Christian into an incoherent position.” Flannagan is addressing the latter argument, which is not some sort of “argument from moral abhorrence.”

What you think Luke’s attitude to 3 or whatever should be, that’s completely irrelevant the question at hand. I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that it isn’t relevant, and people might appreciate it if you didn’t derail the topic.

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lukeprog September 3, 2010 at 12:51 pm

cl,

We’re talking about Matt’s apologetic. Matt is the one who accepts 3 and denies 4.

I tentatively accept 3, but not because of my intuition, like Matt does. Also, I do not recall giving an opinion on the morality of rat genocide.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm

al friendlander,

I’m not trying to come off as snippy, but honestly, I’ve heard this argument -many- times, because it works fantastically as a kind of ‘last resort’.

God is good. Everything He does/wants/decides/creates is good. Thus, in this case, killing the babies was good and morally justified. Why? Because God is good.

You haven’t heard it from me. I would never argue that something is good just because God did it, because I may have misinterpreted what the Bible says, or failed to understand the cultural or textual context. I’ve already said that the objective moral law according to Christianity is the life and teachings of Christ.

And in the OT, YHWH had the same compassion and concern for people, and even animals. However, there were times when the evil became so great that God had to destroy a people. We know that Sodom and Gomorrah were filled with violent gang rapists when God destroyed them, and even then he spared the righteous.

Likewise, according to Genesis 15:13-16, God waited 400 years to destroy the Canaanites (Amorites) because their iniquity was not yet complete. So God was not willing to give the Israelites their land until the evil of the Canaanites was intolerable.

When God destroyed a people in the OT, it was like cutting off a cancerous growth. They would have corrupted the Israelites, so it was a necessary evil. And God didn’t do it a moment too soon.

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cl September 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm

MichaelPJ,

This argument isn’t about which of those four points the atheist doubts, but which of those four the theist can doubt.

Thanks, but I got that.

Luke is exploring the theist’s options for escaping this quandry.

Thanks, but I got that, too.

What you think Luke’s attitude to 3 or whatever should be, that’s completely irrelevant the question at hand.

Who dost maketh thou the arbiter of relevance? The question I asked Luke is most certainly relevant, to me: I am questioning Luke’s [apparent] agreement with 3 because it [seemingly] implies an inconsistency in his stated positions elsewhere. I am not particularly concerned with exploring the theist’s options here, although, I enjoyed Luke’s treatment of the matter, especially the contrast between this apologetic and WLC’s.

I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that it isn’t relevant, and people might appreciate it if you didn’t derail the topic.

You say “the topic” as if there’s only one and “isn’t relevant” as there’s some imagined decorum about relevance, but I’ll tell you what: you let me ask what I feel to be relevant without judgment, and I’ll gladly extend the same to you.

Luke,

We’re talking about Matt’s apologetic. Matt is the one who accepts 3 and denies 4.

Yeah, I got that. I’m asking you why you seemingly accept 3. I understand if you don’t have the time or desire to explain why. No big deal.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Reginald Selkirk,

Imagine a history of America written by Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell or any other modern holier-than-thou type. Imagine them writing how the nation had failed God over and over again. Somehow, I have no difficulty myself in imagining this. It does not seem in the least far-fetched.

Of course freedom of speech is protected in the US, so I’m not sure that is such an apt comparison. The Bible says that the prophets who didn’t tell people what they wanted to hear were stoned, imprisoned, etc. I’m not sure that Glenn Beck et al would be quite so outspoken under those circumstances.

What I find interesting is that Israel had a lot of prophets who told them exactly what they wanted to hear, but their writings never made it into the canon. But the prophetic books that made it into the OT were very direct about the moral failures of the people, even though they were also inspirational. The theological message is very consistent.

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Duke York September 3, 2010 at 1:43 pm

“and even then he spared the righteous…”

In fact, Lot was so righteous he even offered his daughters to be gang raped…

Wait. Can we get a judgement call on that? Is offering your daughters to be gang raped to protect your guests righteous?

We know that the daughters themselves weren’t righteous, because they later raped their father… So they weren’t saved from Sodom, right?

But wait! Since Lot, the gang-rapists and the daughters (everyone except the two disguised angels who were somehow scouting for your omniscient god) were descendants of Adam and Eve, each was tainted by original sin, meaning they were all infinitely depraved and none of them were righteous, right?

Your morality confuses me even more than desirism, Annette.

Duke

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Duke,

Why does my morality confuse you? All I have said about my morality (and I’ve been very clear about this) is that I base it on the example and teachings of Christ. You shouldn’t be confused.

As far as Lot and his daughters are concerned, God obviously didn’t have very high standards for whom he would spare. And we got a glimpse into how awful everybody else was in comparison. So that should tell us something about the Canaanites, too.

And in my opinion, offering one’s daughters to be gang raped to protect guests is not a very righteous thing to do. But God protected Lot’s daughters.

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Tony Hoffman September 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Anete: “I would never argue that something is good just because God did it, because I may have misinterpreted what the Bible says, or failed to understand the cultural or textual context.”

I don’t understand what you mean here. It seems that you don’t feel that God defines good — “I would never argue that something is good just because God did it…” – but the gist of your comments seem based on the assumption that God is good. But then you seem to be a moral relativist, because of the request to understand God’s actions in a cultural or textual context. But if you’re a moral relativist, you wouldn’t write sentences like:

“I’ve already said that the objective moral law according to Christianity is the life and teachings of Christ.”

So which is it – God’s actions are to be judged in a context (moral actions are relative), or God’s actions (say, killing infants) should be judged on the WWJD standard and we should join Jesus in calling him a monster?

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Duke York September 3, 2010 at 2:30 pm

“Why does my morality confuse you? All I have said about my morality (and I’ve been very clear about this) is that I base it on the example and teachings of Christ. You shouldn’t be confused.”

Do you have a job? A savings account? A credit card? Then you’re not following Christ’s teachings, and I’m still confused.

In fact, if you own the computer you’re typing this on, you’re just a luke-warm follower, someone who picks and choose and will be spat out from his mouth.

Duke

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cl September 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Duke York,

Do you have a job? A savings account? A credit card? Then you’re not following Christ’s teachings, and I’m still confused.

You’re confused alright; nowhere in Christ’s teachings does it say any of those things.

In fact, if you own the computer you’re typing this on, you’re just a luke-warm follower, someone who picks and choose and will be spat out from his mouth.

Look at you, judging others.

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Kaelik September 3, 2010 at 3:23 pm

CL, people who don’t claim to be following Jesus teachings have no compunction to follow his teachings, so we get to judge you all day long.

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cl September 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm

..people who don’t claim to be following Jesus teachings have no compunction to follow his teachings, so we get to judge you all day long.

I didn’t say you couldn’t. I was just noting that Duke York apparently prefers judging others to supported claims. Aren’t supported claims the preferred claims of rationalists?

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Duke York September 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Duke York said:
Do you have a job? A savings account? A credit card? Then you’re not following Christ’s teachings, and I’m still confused.

cl said:
You’re confused alright; nowhere in Christ’s teachings does it say any of those things.

So this wasn’t Christ? (from the anonymous gospel Christian falsely called Matthew)

6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

And then we have

6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than clothing?

6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?

6:28 And why take you thought for clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

6:29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

6:30 Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, How shall we be clothed?

So, here we see Christ telling his followers not to have a savings account (“Lay up not treasure for yourself”) and not to work or plan for tomorrow (“Therefore take no thought [of] what shall we eat?”).

Now, this isn’t some hidden bit of apocrypha: This is the Sermon on the Freakin’ Mount!

Did you not know about these passage?

Were you trying to bluff your way past?

Did you figure that what you thought Christ said, what you wanted him to say, was what he actually said?

Annette’s god commanded her to not save, to be poor, to not think of tomorrow. He commanded his followers not to covet, not to divorce, and not to pray in public. He commanded them to surrender private property and live a communal life identical to the ideals of communism.

Somehow, though, the people who claim to follow Christ are the ones who scrimp and save, who take mortgages, who divorce, who covet, who weep and shake and babble for on TV station after TV station. Those “followers” of Christ will shoot an innocent man for being on their porch and rejoice in the death.

Now, of course, you have rationalizations. You will tell me that when Christ said:

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” ( Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:24-25 and Luke 18:24-25)

…he was actually telling us to breed smaller camels and forge bigger needles.

I think the rest of us can tell that you’re the one who’s confused.

Duke

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Tony Hoffman,

I don’t understand what you mean here. It seems that you don’t feel that God defines good — “I would never argue that something is good just because God did it…” – but the gist of your comments seem based on the assumption that God is good.

I realize that I did not express that clearly. What I meant is that I don’t give the OT a superficial look and decide that certain actions are good because God did them even if they seem wrong to me. That would mean quashing my moral compass. What I do instead is base my morality on the teachings of Christ (because he was God in the flesh), and try to understand the OT based on the historical and cultural context, as well as the context of the teachings of the whole Bible.

So which is it – God’s actions are to be judged in a context (moral actions are relative), or God’s actions (say, killing infants) should be judged on the WWJD standard and we should join Jesus in calling him a monster?

Let’s say you had a brain tumor and an oncologist performed surgery on you that saved your life, but left you without a part of your brain so that you’re having memory problems. Someone else then tells you that this oncologist gives seminars on brain health and improving memory. Would you consider her a hypocrite because she destroyed part of your brain and left you with memory problems?

The teachings of Jesus represent the moral ideal, and he also enables us to live according to his will by giving us his Spirit. However, in the OT some of the peoples were so corrupt that they had to be driven out or destroyed so that they would not corrupt the Israelites. Just like cancer spreads, evil spreads, so it has to be stopped. But since God is merciful, he waited until their corruption became intolerable, and if there had been a chance that they would have repented, like Nineveh, he would not have destroyed them.

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Tamar September 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm

“The consensus is that the Homeric epics are largely historical, with some literary license.”

Say WHAT?!?!

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Duke York September 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Look at you, judging others.

First of all, I’m not a Christian. It’s only Christians who are enjoined to “judge not”. This is nothing but a useful stricture to keep the ignorant under the sway of a corrupt clergy.

If you feel I’m mistaken, please judge me! Show me the error of my ways, that we may both grow out of ignorance. Doing nothing except pointing out that I’m “judging”, though just shows you don’t have a valid response.

I didn’t say you couldn’t. I was just noting that Duke York apparently prefers judging others to supported claims. Aren’t supported claims the preferred claims of rationalists?

My support’s in my previous post. I thought the texts were so well known as to not need sharing. My bad.

Duke

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Tamar,

“The consensus is that the Homeric epics are largely historical, with some literary license.”
Say WHAT?!?!

The archeological evidence indicates that the Trojan War actually happened, so at least the epics were based on historical events.

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Tony Hoffman September 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Anette: “Let’s say you had a brain tumor and an oncologist performed surgery on you that saved your life, but left you without a part of your brain so that you’re having memory problems. Someone else then tells you that this oncologist gives seminars on brain health and improving memory. Would you consider her a hypocrite because she destroyed part of your brain and left you with memory problems?”

Nope on hypocrite. Your analogy doesn’t seem to answer my question, though. If Jesus represents objective morality for you, how do you reconcile this with God ordering the killing of infants? And if killing infants isn’t objectively immoral for you and your God, what is?

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TaiChi September 3, 2010 at 5:37 pm

The archeological evidence indicates that the Trojan War actually happened, so at least the epics were based on historical events.” ~ Anette Acker

So they’re ‘largely historical’, like Inglourious Basterds is ‘largely historical’?

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Kaelik September 3, 2010 at 6:10 pm

“And if killing infants isn’t objectively immoral for you and your God, what is?”

Eating fruit that makes you smarter.

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Hermes September 3, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Anette Acker: The consensus is that the Homeric epics are largely historical, with some literary license.

As Messenger, I can attest that you are wildly mistaken. Zeus and Hades are thinking of you.

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Anette Acker September 3, 2010 at 7:27 pm

TaiChi,

So they’re ‘largely historical’, like Inglourious Basterds is ‘largely historical’?

The city of Troy existed and was destroyed at the same time that the Iliad said it was destroyed. Also, we know that educated Greeks in the fifth century believed the events and major players were historical, even though they didn’t believe in the gods. We don’t know one way or the other if the people were historical.

Nobody ever believed that Inglourious Basterds was historical.

“Largely historical” may have been an overstatement, though. But, as I said before, this is not a particularly relevant point, so if any of you have a brilliant rebuttal, you may have the final word. Go for it, Hermes! :)

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lukeprog September 3, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Kaelik slays me.

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Erp September 3, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Anette,

I suspect the fall of Troy is about as historically accurate as King Arthur. Both may have a kernel of truth, but, the accretion of myth is such as to make the story as given unrecognizable to anyone who had actually lived at the time and place in question.

Note that cities being sacked was not uncommon in the ancient world. The 12th century BCE in particular saw many such sackings.

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Wrath September 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Why is it the Canaanite genocide that is so often the subject of criticm? After all, we are informed that they engaged in acts as abominable as sacrificing their children to their gods, so it is no surprise that they ended up the way they did.

I am much more concerned about, say, God sending lions to kill people in 2 Kings because they did not “fear Him”.

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Anette Acker September 4, 2010 at 6:00 am

Tony Hoffman,

Nope on hypocrite. Your analogy doesn’t seem to answer my question, though. If Jesus represents objective morality for you, how do you reconcile this with God ordering the killing of infants? And if killing infants isn’t objectively immoral for you and your God, what is?

Deuteronomy 7 and 20 explain why God wanted the Israelites to leave nobody alive among the Canaanites: They were particularly corrupt, and God did not want the Israelite children intermarrying with their children and learning their practices. For example, they practiced human sacrifice.

This is why I used the analogy of cancer; the evil of these nations would have spread to the Israelites and corrupted them. So although God is compassionate and would have spared them if they had repented like Nineveh, they were beyond that point. As I said before, God waited 400 years before destroying them, and at that point it was the lesser of evils because they were as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah.

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Tony Hoffman September 4, 2010 at 6:06 am

Anette, you did not answer my question. Specifically, “if killing infants isn’t objectively immoral for you and your God, what is?”

Also, this does not explain the killing of infants: “[The Canaanites] were particularly corrupt, and God did not want the Israelite children intermarrying with their children and learning their practices.”

How would Canaanite infants teach the Israelites anything about the Canaanites practices?

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Patrick September 4, 2010 at 6:10 am

Wrath- I think its because the Canaanite genocide is so clearly commanded and ordered by God. Some of the other atrocities, like the rules on how to ceremonially cleanse the female victims of your raids before systematically raping them, are not as crystal clear. They’re still pretty clear, since the rules are included in a section of the Bible that’s pretty clearly supposed to be Moses giving out God’s law, but as you may have noticed, if you give the believer even the slightest bit of room to squirm, they’ll redefine their own beliefs temporarily for the purposes of the conversation in order to escape.

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Anette Acker September 4, 2010 at 6:28 am

Duke,

Do you have a job? A savings account? A credit card? Then you’re not following Christ’s teachings, and I’m still confused.

In fact, if you own the computer you’re typing this on, you’re just a luke-warm follower, someone who picks and choose and will be spat out from his mouth.

And,

6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
And then we have
6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than clothing?
6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?
6:28 And why take you thought for clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
6:29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
6:30 Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, How shall we be clothed?

Sorry for taking a while to get back to you.

Yes, I take the teachings of Jesus very seriously, but these passages are not telling us that it is wrong to own anything. They are telling us what our attitude should be toward our possessions.

It is very easy to worship money, either by loving it too much, fearing that we won’t have enough, or doing the wrong thing for money. This is a source of unhappiness and trouble, and Jesus is trying to disassociate our hearts from money.

So Jesus is saying that we should give generously and trust him to take care of us. I learned to live by faith in God’s provision about fifteen years ago, and I have not worried about finances since. That is, I have no qualms about giving freely, and the bad economy has caused me no anxiety. I know that God is faithful, because he always has been, even during times when our financial situation seemed uncertain.

The attitude that God wants us to have toward money is a gift of peace of mind, and it frees us to do his will without worries. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have college funds for the kids, but it does mean that we don’t agonize when the stock market takes a nosedive.

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ildi September 4, 2010 at 7:57 am

Deuteronomy 7 and 20 explain why God wanted the Israelites to leave nobody alive among the Canaanites: They were particularly corrupt, and God did not want the Israelite children intermarrying with their children and learning their practices. For example, they practiced human sacrifice.

Do I win the Godwin for bringing up how much this sounds like our friend Adolph’s thinking process?

Speaking of human sacrifice, didn’t God get his rocks off testing Abraham’s faith by getting him to agree to whack his son? Oh, and wasn’t JC the ultimate human sacrifice? Yeah, God is too corrupt to allow to live. It definitely is the lesser of two evils.

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Patrick September 4, 2010 at 8:04 am

ildi: From my post above,

“I mean, the cultural pollution thing? I don’t even have to Godwin the thread. I can just point out that this argument actually implies that the sinful nature of the Canaanites was so horrible that even the infants had to be slaughtered to protect everyone else from their aura of evil. People will fill in the rest of the analogy on their own.”

I’ll fight you for the Godwin merit badge.

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ildi September 4, 2010 at 8:18 am

Patrick: shoot, beat me to it. You were more subtle about it than I. Can we still split the cash prize?

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drj September 4, 2010 at 8:40 am

This is why I used the analogy of cancer; the evil of these nations would have spread to the Israelites and corrupted them. So although God is compassionate and would have spared them if they had repented like Nineveh, they were beyond that point. As I said before, God waited 400 years before destroying them, and at that point it was the lesser of evils because they were as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah.

All this just sounds so silly when you remember that we are supposedly talking about an all powerful god here. The same guy who is the author of the laws of physics, the creator of the universe, the designer of the human brain, and on and on.

How can one believe that this same being had to resort to such malfeasance in order to solve this alleged cultural pollution problem? Seriously?

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cl September 4, 2010 at 8:49 am

Duke York,

First of all, I’m not a Christian. It’s only Christians who are enjoined to “judge not”.

Why be redundant?

Did you figure that what you thought Christ said, what you wanted him to say, was what he actually said?

No. That’s exactly what you’re doing, for the most part. Though, I agree with some parts of your extended comment.

Show me the error of my ways, that we may both grow out of ignorance.

Well for one, you’re assuming that I’m in ignorance. Still, I tried to show you the error of your ways; you wouldn’t listen. What else do you want me to do?

I thought the texts were so well known as to not need sharing. My bad.

The texts are that well known, smarty-pants. The spurious conclusions you drew from them are the problem. For example, you asked if Anette “had a job,” then proceeded to tell her that she wasn’t following Christ’s teachings if she did. That’s a stupid argument, wholly unsupported by the long list of scripture you cited. For another example, you claimed that “owning a computer” = “lukewarm follower.” That’s another stupid argument, again wholly unsupported by the long list of scripture you cited.

Do you have any arguments that aren’t stupid, or that are supported by the long list of scripture you cited? Seriously, your exegesis makes Dawkins’ look bad.

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al friedlander September 4, 2010 at 10:23 am

“How can one believe that this same being had to resort to such malfeasance in order to solve this alleged cultural pollution problem? Seriously? ”

Anette, I agree with the others here. God is supposedly omnipotent/omniscient. I find it hard to believe that such violence was the best/optimal method of correcting such ‘issues’ (of which were also, ironically, a result of the way God chose to design the earth/universe).

Also, I may be misunderstanding you, but I’m still reading that you believe “everything that God does is good because He is good”. In short, you think these massacres were ‘morally just’ because God ‘had no other choice’.

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Anette Acker September 4, 2010 at 10:41 am

Tony Hoffman,

Anette, you did not answer my question. Specifically, “if killing infants isn’t objectively immoral for you and your God, what is?”

You do know that whether something is immoral has to do with the reasons and the context, right? Specifically, God is the one who gives life and he is allowed to take it away. That’s why we are said to “play God” when we decide who should live and who should die.

But the Bible also claims that he is a good Judge, and he is true to his nature. In order to determine whether it is true, I have to look to his nature as clearly revealed in Christ. I find that it lines up well with what I and most other people intuitively consider the objective moral law. Since Christ is God in the flesh, I am persuaded that the biblical God is good as the Bible claims.

So the question with respect to the Canaanite conquest is not whether God is good, but whether the Bible is inerrant. That is the only issue at stake here, and Matt Flannagan concluded that this event is not historically accurate.

But I don’t think we have to take that route, because the Bible explains why the Israelites had to destroy the Canaanites, and it also says that this should not be the typical approach by the Israelites. That is, they were never to take a barbaric “might makes right” approach, even though that was common at the time.

Deuteronomy 20:10 says that when the Israelites approach a city to fight it, they are first to offer it terms of peace. If they refuse, they are to to only kill the men, but not the women and children.

But 20:17-18 explains that they were to completely destroy the Canaanites and others that lived nearby because otherwise they would teach the Israelites their detestable practices, like human sacrifice. God did not want the Canaanite children growing up with the Israelite children and teaching them their ways. And where do you draw the line in terms of the ages of the children?

This is clearly a lesser of evils situation, when you look at in the context of the overall teachings of the Bible.

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Anette Acker September 4, 2010 at 11:37 am

ildi,

Do I win the Godwin for bringing up how much this sounds like our friend Adolph’s thinking process?

If your goal here is to score points rather than engage in respectful, rational debate, don’t expect a response from me in the future.

Speaking of human sacrifice, didn’t God get his rocks off testing Abraham’s faith by getting him to agree to whack his son? Oh, and wasn’t JC the ultimate human sacrifice? Yeah, God is too corrupt to allow to live. It definitely is the lesser of two evils.

Ditto for blasphemous statements.

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exapologist September 4, 2010 at 11:41 am

It’s probably because I’m being lazy in my reading here, or perhaps there are some crucial points left out of the post, but how, exactly, does God get off the hook on the hypothesis that the slaughter fell somewhat short of completely exterminating a people group? I’ll have to read the original paper, but unless he can get a plausible, natural interpretation of the relevant texts that doesn’t involve the intentional slaughter of (e.g.) innocent babies and mommies, the reply goes pretty much nowhere in mitigating the problem.

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Patrick September 4, 2010 at 11:57 am

Annette- Its not abuse to point out that you sound like Hitler if you sound like Hitler. You just literally argued that the Canaanite babies were so incredibly evil that even allowing them to live near the Israelite babies would culturally pollute the Israelite babies so much that the only solution was a Final Solution in which even the babies were murdered.

The only reason this doesn’t make you absolutely beneath human contempt is that I don’t think you really believe it in a real sense, like you believe that the sun comes up in the morning or that a particular political party is worth supporting. I think you believe it in a story book sense.

Maybe I understand the religious just a little bit, because I feel like I HAVE to believe that about you in order to not go out of my mind. People who say the things you do surround me. Do I really live amongst a pack of vile, murderous, hate filled monsters who think that wickedness is inherited in the blood, and death is the only cure? I don’t think I do. I don’t feel like I do. How do I reconcile this? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

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Anette Acker September 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm

al friedlander,

Anette, I agree with the others here. God is supposedly omnipotent/omniscient. I find it hard to believe that such violence was the best/optimal method of correcting such ‘issues’ (of which were also, ironically, a result of the way God chose to design the earth/universe).

Thank you for your respectful response. This is going to be my last reply on this thread.

Atheists often focus on God’s omnipotence, and say that God could have done things in any number of different ways. This goes along with them calling God a Magic Guy in the Sky.

But the Bible focuses more on the holiness of God. Because God is holy, he embodies and values qualities that are in some ways paradoxical. For example, he is both merciful and just. He has created a predictable universe that functions according to regular laws, but he can supersede those laws and will under certain circumstances. He loves people, but he hates the wrong things we do to each other and ourselves. And he values both virtue and freedom. God’s holiness is in some ways logically restricting. That is, free will implies the ability to choose the wrong thing.

This is a major subject that I don’t want to get into now, but suffice it to say that God had to either permit evil or create robots. The cross was God’s method of ensuring that his people will someday be free, sinless, and fully human forever. But none of those who resist him will experience that.

I realize that was a very cursory treatment of a major, complex subject, but that’s all I have time for.

Have a great weekend.

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ildi September 4, 2010 at 1:00 pm

If your goal here is to score points rather than engage in respectful, rational debate, don’t expect a response from me in the future.

You openly advocate mass genocide and expect respect? Mockery is my only defense. Hey, maybe Yahweh can hang out with Tláloc! They could chat about the utility of mass baby killings.

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ildi September 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm

The only reason this doesn’t make you absolutely beneath human contempt is that I don’t think you really believe it in a real sense, like you believe that the sun comes up in the morning or that a particular political party is worth supporting. I think you believe it in a story book sense.

In the sense that time puts the patina of romance on things? (Australia is now proud of its convict ancestors.) Or, maybe the Bronze Age seems as distant from reality as Middle Earth? (Orcs are evil and must be killed.)

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lukeprog September 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm

exapologist,

Yeah, that’s why I wrote that Matt’s apologetic makes it less problemmatic than it would otherwise be. But intentional slaughter of innocents is still pretty damn problematic, methinks.

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Duke York September 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Do you have any arguments that aren’t stupid, or that are supported by the long list of scripture you cited? Seriously, your exegesis makes Dawkins’ look bad.

Wow. And you accuse me of being judgmental? Let me turn the words back around on you:

Judge not, lest you be judged

But no. I’m being too harsh here, forgive me. I have to take a lesson from the Christians and be meeker, milder and more open to correction.

You said:

Still, I tried to show you the error of your ways; you wouldn’t listen.

I’m very sorry, but I don’t see where you actually did this. You came with a claim that I, in my ignorance, thought was unsupported, namely:

You’re confused alright; nowhere in Christ’s teachings does it say any of those things.

And then I showed you where, in Christ’s teachings, it said not to own property and not to take concern for tomorrow.

As far as I can see, you haven’t addressed that. A plain-text reading of the words of Christs condemns anyone who owns more than his shirt. What is your authority for adding to those commands? The Pope? Your own greed?

Duke

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Duke York September 4, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Yes, I take the teachings of Jesus very seriously, but these passages are not telling us that it is wrong to own anything. They are telling us what our attitude should be toward our possessions.

You see, this I why I’m no longer a Christian. Your Jesus could have very easily said this:

Go ahead and own property and trade in the market! I wish your life to be comfortable and easy. Just remember that I’m really the one that matters, m’kay? (Duke 4:37)

He most pointedly didn’t say that. You may read that, you may want to believe that, but what Jesus actually said, in real red-letter text was:

6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.

He told you

Take no thought for the morrow (Matthew 6:34)

and you made it

Get a college fund for your kids.

Do you see why I think you are at best an uncritical thinker and at worst a hypocrite?

Your talk about trusting your god and feeling no financial woes is quaint and charming, but unconvincing.

Your god did not command you to live a middle class life with Jesus as your comfort-blanket and pacifier.

Your god commanded to give away all your possessions (Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22).

On what basis do you disobey your god?

It seems to me you’ve already made an idol, one of your own comfort and peace of mind.

Duke

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cl September 4, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Duke York,

Judge not, lest you be judged

I didn’t judge you. I judged two of your arguments, as stupid. They are.

I’m being too harsh here, forgive me. I have to take a lesson from the Christians and be meeker, milder and more open to correction.

Believe me, I’m open to correction. Unfortunately, I’m under no obligation to simply accede to stupid arguments.

Do you see why I think you are at best an uncritical thinker and at worst a hypocrite? [to Anette]

Yes; because you are a judgmental type of person who seemingly can’t tolerate opinions other than your own. You are twisting scripture to say what you want it to say. Nothing in the Bible comes even remotely close to what you claim.

You have no regard whatsoever for context. You cite Matthew 19:21 and say that God commanded Anette to give away all her possessions. In reality, that verse cites Jesus responding to a rich man concerning the rich man’s question of what the rich man needed to do in order to attain the kingdom of heaven.

But, go ahead. See what you want to see. You’ve already convinced me of your inability to see otherwise.

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cl September 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Anyways, I’m still confused as to how any desirist can imply that genocide is intrinsically wrong [as it appears Luke is]. If desirism is true, it follows that genocide can be good, permissible or evil depending on the balance of other desires. We shouldn’t just shoot from our intuition which whispers, “Genocide is wrong.”

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drj September 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Anyways, I’m still confused as to how any desirist can imply that genocide is intrinsically wrong [as it appears Luke is]. If desirism is true, it follows that genocide can be good, permissible or evil depending on the balance of other desires. We shouldn’t just shoot from our intuition which whispers, “Genocide is wrong.”

I dunno, I’m not so sure why it would be difficult for a desirist to examine the genocides of history and the genocides currently taking place in many parts of the world and conclude that they are generally bad, desire thwarting things.

Maybe you ought to look at an actual genocide that has occurred, or is occurring and explain to us just how and why desirist reasoning would tell us that it is good.

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drj September 4, 2010 at 5:14 pm

It seems blatantly obvious to me that desirism would generally condemn genocides.

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Wrath September 4, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Cl,

Luke 14:33

You must give away all your property to be Jesus’ disciple.

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Tony Hoffman September 4, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Anette,

In your first comment here you wrote:

“If the objective moral law means anything, God is bound by it and even embodies it. And he can’t go against his nature.”

But later, regarding God’s orders to slay the Canaanite infants, you wrote:

“God did not want the Canaanite children growing up with the Israelite children and teaching them their ways. And where do you draw the line in terms of the ages of the children?

“This is clearly a lesser of evils situation, when you look at in the context of the overall teachings of the Bible.”

Among other things, if God cannot go against his nature, how can he be choose action when faced with a moral dilemma? This would mean that God must either deny his nature (which you say is not possible above), or he is not omnipotent. Something’s gotta give.

Also, if God knew for certain that the Canaanite infants (even those under 10 pounds, not weaned, or any of a limitless set of lines that I could easily draw that would allow infants to survive that could not possibly have knowledge of their parents’ practices) would corrupt the Israelis later if the infants were allowed to live, why did he have to wait 400 years to see how things would pan out before passing on his command to go slaughter infants? Either you know what’s going to happen, or you don’t know what’s going to happen. This story has both, and that doesn’t help your argument.

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Tony Hoffman September 4, 2010 at 6:40 pm

CL: “If desirism is true, it follows that genocide can be good, permissible or evil depending on the balance of other desires.”

Sorry, but what a piece of shit this is given “the conext” of the comment thread. The only person here arguing that slaughtering infants is good, given the context, are the theists.

Here is Anette, the theist, and fellow traveler of CL’s:

“God did not want the Canaanite children growing up with the Israelite children and teaching them their ways. And where do you draw the line in terms of the ages of the children?

“This is clearly a lesser of evils situation, when you look at in the context of the overall teachings of the Bible.”

CL, you are blind.

“If your Bible is true, it follows that genocide can be good, permissible, or evil, depending on the balance of other interests of what you imagine your god to be.”

That’s you, given a slightly different course in life. You have the rest of your life to use your mind to grow. You should use what you have to be become more than what you are. Think about it.

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Patrick September 4, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Tony- This isn’t the answer that Anette will give, since she’s committed to modern theology. But as far as I understand of what the story meant at the time it was written, there’s some context that makes it a little more clear. See, the God of that era’s mythology is kind of like the Satan of popular fiction. He’s evil, vengeful, and prone to fits of violent rage, but he can be bargained with. The Canaanites were sort of like his tenants in the land of Canaan, but God foresees that they’re going evil. But because he can be bound by contract, he can’t throw them out until they’ve actually “completed their iniquity,” ie, completely broken their lease. Once that happens he’s allowed to replace them with new, better tenants, ie, the Israelites.

Looking at it from a different historical perspective, these sorts of tales were probably just ways of creating an origin story for the Israelites as a people, and for instilling sufficient racism in the Israelites to keep them from mixing with their neighbors.

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cl September 5, 2010 at 1:13 am

drj,

Maybe you ought to look at an actual genocide that has occurred, or is occurring and explain to us just how and why desirist reasoning would tell us that it is good… It seems blatantly obvious to me that desirism would generally condemn genocides.

I understand and admire your hesitance, but at the same time it seems blatantly obvious that the sun revolves around the Earth, too. We have to be cautious.

In desirism we are to evaluate all desires that exist. By limiting my argument to a single real-world example, any evaluation would be unreliable because I cannot reliably estimate the aggregate of desires. Fortunately, I don’t need to in order to exercise the theory.

Desirism rejects intrinsic value and instead defines value based on the effect of desires on the aggregate. This means that any statement of the type “X must always be Y by default” where X = some desire or act and Y = some moral value, is false. This means that any [malleable] desire must retain the potential to be either good, permissible, or evil per its effect on the aggregate of desires. If the Canaanites’ continued existence would have tended to thwart other desires, overall, then obliterating the Canaanites was good on the whole, using the definition of good that Alonzo established. You might think I’m kidding when I say this is where I think desirism has great strength, but I’m not. Some people want to marginalize me as a “desirism hater” or whatever, but that’s simply false. Desirism is the answer to moral dilemmas precisely like this one with the Canaanites’. The desirist believes in a system wherein genocide can be a good thing in theory. I agree, and I am not going to bow down to social stigma. As I mentioned before, most humans seem to agree that genocide can be good. When certain species pose a threat to us, we eliminate promptly. What’s the difference between eliminating humans or squirrels? We’re all animals, right? Remember, it’s the theist that says humans are special.

Wrath,

You must give away all your property to be Jesus’ disciple.

Jesus speaks in parable in the verse you cite and it is by no means clear that the Greek word rendered everything in English translations was intended to refer literally to, “all one’s material possessions.” Such an interpretation would be seemingly inconsistent with other parts of scripture. For example, Jesus commands us to give to the poor. How can we give to the poor if we have nothing to give?

Tony Hoffman,

Sorry, but what a piece of shit this is given “the conext” of the comment thread.

Woohoo! I like your style. Points for bluntness.

The only person here arguing that slaughtering infants is good, given the context, are the theists.

That’s just the problem: Luke claims to be a desirist, yet, desirism rejects intrinsic value. This means that any [malleable] desire must retain the potental to be either good, permissible, or evil per its effect on the aggregate of desires. If the Canaanites’ continued existence would have tended to thwart other desires, then obliterating the Canaanites was good on the whole, using the definition of good that Alonzo established.

That’s you, given a slightly different course in life. You have the rest of your life to use your mind to grow. You should use what you have to be become more than what you are. Think about it.

That was inappropriate. You should apologize for being so pompous and arrogant IMHO, but, do as thou will. Just don’t say I didn’t try if in fact I turn out to be right and that dreaded day exists.

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Wrath September 5, 2010 at 3:37 am

Surefire hermeneutic tactic #51: when a biblical verse unsettles your assumptions, just label it as a “metaphor”.

Classic.

Even though the verse specifically says “all your possessions”, that can’t right, because it sounds too difficult.

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Duke York September 5, 2010 at 4:18 am

Yes; because you are a judgmental type of person who seemingly can’t tolerate opinions other than your own.

So you claim you’re only judging my arguments as “stupid”, but I’m a judgmental type of person? In the Christian ethos, is judging someone to be judgmental the only type of judging you can do?

(Wait. You’re allowed to judge arguments but not people? Where does it say that in the bible?)

In any case, why do you think you’re scoring points by calling me judgmental? For the rest of the world, the rational, non-Christian majority, having good judgement is actually praise.

Unfortunately, I’m under no obligation to simply accede to stupid arguments.

And, it seems, you think you’re under no obligation to simply explain why you think the arguments are stupid.

Seriously, your Christ commanded you not to hide your light under a basket, and your Paul commanded you to give reasons for your faith. Just lay out why you think my arguments are stupid.

You cite Matthew 19:21 and say that God commanded Anette to give away all her possessions. In reality, that verse cites Jesus responding to a rich man concerning the rich man’s question of what the rich man needed to do in order to attain the kingdom of heaven.

You’re the one who’s ignoring context and assuming that your invisible friend, Jesus, means what you want him to mean and nothing else.

First, Jesus was speaking to Anette (and to you, if you claim to be a Christian). That’s the point of the bible, at least as far as I can see. It is Jesus’ direct commands to you, and if you don’t do what he says, you’re either not a Christian (like me) or a hypocrite (like, possibly, you and Anette).

And the fact that Anette (Sorry! I’ve been spelling that with two “n”. Overactive finger!) owns a computer means she’s wealthy relative to the overall population of the earth. Or does context only matter in 1400-year-old novel like the gospels, and you can ignore the context of the modern world?

Hell, if you compare Anette to that particular rich man that you believe Jesus was actually talking to, she would be immensely wealthy! She’d have things he’d never dream of! She has more articles of clothing, eats a better diet, has trinkets and gewgaw galore! The only think that that fictional rich man has that Anette doesn’t is slaves, but since Paul commands slaves to stay with their masters, I suppose that’s the one sort of wealth Christians can keep. Maybe that’s why so many Christians supported the slave trade…

Now, I suppose, as a Christian, you’ve been trained to not read carefully, since, if one reads the bible carefully, one stops being a Christian. Let me lay out my argument more so that others can judge it for themselves and not take your judgement (Way to judge, cl!) that it’s “stupid”.

1) Jesus commanded everyone who would follow him to eschew material possessions. (The Sermon on the Mount)

2) Jesus especially commanded the rich to give away all the own (Matthew 19:21)

3) Anette and cl own more than the vast majority of people alive today.

4) Anette and cl are rich.

5) Anette and (possibly) cl claim to be followers of Christ.

6) Anette and cl haven’t given away their possessions.

Therefore

7) Anette and cl are hypocrites for claiming follow Christ while ignoring his commandments.

So tell me, which of my statements wrong? You claim not to be mistaken, you claim not to be ignorant (Wow! You even feel free to judge yourself!) so give me the benefit of your superior knowledge. Which of those steps is wrong?

Duke

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 6:01 am

Duke, it’s hard to read your replies. If you don’t want to use formatted quotes …

like this

… then do not use quotation marks around any of your new comments. For example, this is confusing;

“I can’t tell the difference between what you quote.”

“I can’t tell the difference between what you quote either.”

“Is the first person talking, or is the second person commenting on the first person’s comments?”

Just dropping the quotes for your own comments would make it clear who is saying what;

“I can now tell that this is a quote of the first person.”

I can tell that this is a response to the first person by the second person.

The second person can continue to comment as long as what they write is not in quotation marks. If the second person wants to quote themselves, they can say something like;

Remember what I wrote earlier: “This is what I wrote earlier.”

Alternatively, you can quote someone like this (without using the quote block like I’m doing)…

First Person: “I like the color red.”

… and follow what they write with your response on another line;

First Person: “I like the color red.”

Your comment goes here. You may say that you like the color blue, and that red is just OK.

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Anette Acker September 5, 2010 at 6:08 am

Luke 14:33
You must give away all your property to be Jesus’ disciple.

You must renounce all you have to be Jesus’ disciple. That is, you have to detach yourself from it, and be willing to walk away from it all at God’s command.

CL is right that Jesus specifically commanded the rich man to give everything away, because his wealth was his god. When Jesus went through the list of some commandments, he didn’t mention, “You shall have no gods beside me.” The rich man could not have honestly said that he had kept that one.

Here’s an example from the movie, A Man for All Seasons: Thomas More had wealth, a nice house, servants, etc. while he was still an important man, but he was never tempted by wealth, as demonstrated by his scene with Richard Rich and the silver cup that More received as a bribe. And when More was imprisoned, awaiting execution, he had lost all his worldly goods and he was soon to lose his life. But when his wife commented on the prison cell, More replied that it was remarkably like any other place. In other words, More was detached from his wealth–willing to use it when his station in life required it, but ready to walk away at God’s command.

A Christian has to live by faith, rather than do things in a legalistic way. That is, God’s Spirit within us changes our inclinations and governs our conduct. I know that God has not commanded us to sell the house and go live in a homeless shelter with the kids, and 1 Cor. 13:3 says that if we give everything away for the wrong reasons it profits us nothing.

God has, however, commanded us to give generously. But the Bible also says that when we give, God gives back to us, so it becomes difficult to outgive God. The verses about the lilies of the field say exactly that–give freely and trust that our needs will be met. This is even more true in this economy, where many are suffering. It is an opportunity to show the love of God and to exercise faith in his promises.

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Anette Acker September 5, 2010 at 6:55 am

Tony Hoffman,

Among other things, if God cannot go against his nature, how can he be choose action when faced with a moral dilemma? This would mean that God must either deny his nature (which you say is not possible above), or he is not omnipotent. Something’s gotta give.

First, God does not go against his nature when he takes a life. He takes every life eventually (except for the lives of the redeemed who are alive when he returns), and the Bible specifically says that the wages of sin is death. So it is his right to take the lives of people who are extremely corrupt and whose evil is like a cancer.

As for God being omnipotent, C. S. Lewis defines “omnipotence” as “the power to do all that is intrinsically possible.” So God has chosen to give us a will, which means that some people will use that will to do evil. It cannot be otherwise. Lewis says:

We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves that carry lies or insults. But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay if the principle were carried out to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted to frame them.

So you could say that God’s omnipotence is logically limited. That is, he cannot be holy and not holy at the same time.

However, in the cross, God accomplished certain things that were previously impossible, because he combined justice and mercy, for example. His work of re-creation on the cross will culminate in a new earth where free will and sinlessness will coexist and where suffering and death will no longer be necessary. But if he forces those who have rejected him to spend eternity with him, then free will would be impossible. Although free will is by no means absolute, there has to be some consent, even if we just give God the permission to change our wills.

Also, if God knew for certain that the Canaanite infants (even those under 10 pounds, not weaned, or any of a limitless set of lines that I could easily draw that would allow infants to survive that could not possibly have knowledge of their parents’ practices) would corrupt the Israelis later if the infants were allowed to live, why did he have to wait 400 years to see how things would pan out before passing on his command to go slaughter infants? Either you know what’s going to happen, or you don’t know what’s going to happen. This story has both, and that doesn’t help your argument.

He knew what would happen, but it still had to happen before he could judge the people. I see what you’re saying about the infants, but basically God decided that it was the best time to allow Israel to drive them out. As I mentioned before, the Bible often uses the expression “drive them out,” and they were to do so over time, so the mothers with children could have left. Indeed, there was no reason for them to stay. The land “vomited” them out, and it would “vomit” out the Israelites if they behaved the same way (Leviticus 18:24-28).

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Thom Stark September 5, 2010 at 7:02 am

The simplest way to respond to this increasingly popular argument, Luke, is to point to Numbers 31 and 1 Samuel 15, as just two examples of many others, where God clearly and unmetaphoriclally orders the slaughter of women and children (Num 31) or the genocide of an entire nation (1 Sam 15). Even if they could be successful in arguing that the Canaanite genocides weren’t really genocides (it’s ultimately an unsuccessful argument, even though they are largely fictionalized histories), this strategy does not and cannot exculpate Yahweh from the charge of ordering the mass executions of women and children. In Numbers 31 and 1 Samuel 15, there’s no way to get around it.

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Tony Hoffman September 5, 2010 at 7:03 am

CL: “That’s just the problem: Luke claims to be a desirist, yet, desirism rejects intrinsic value. This means that any [malleable] desire must retain the potental to be either good, permissible, or evil per its effect on the aggregate of desires. If the Canaanites’ continued existence would have tended to thwart other desires, then obliterating the Canaanites was good on the whole, using the definition of good that Alonzo established.”

This is odd. You have been on here hounding Luke and Alonzo for who knows how long, and yet you still don’t seem to understand Desirism. Doesn’t Desirism compare desires, not desires and entities? Above you are comparing the desire to slaughter the Canaanites not against other desires, but against the Canannites themselves. This seems like you lack an even fundamental grasp of the moral system you are criticizing, something that seems inexplicable given your supposed engagement on the topic.

And your comment above remains even odder for me because as I understand Desirism the genocide of the Canaanites would not be desirable, whereas under Christianity it was clearly objectively good. This is a moral problem that Christians must explain, whereas the Desirist can easily claim that under Desirism the wholesale slaughter of the Canaanites seems pretty obviously bad.

CL: “That was inappropriate. You should apologize for being so pompous and arrogant IMHO, but, do as thou will.

I don’t get it; do you deem that one should be judgmental in a blog comment, or not?

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Kaelik September 5, 2010 at 7:19 am

@Hermes:

How do you use quote tags like that. I keep asking, and no one tells me.

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ildi September 5, 2010 at 7:55 am

Kaelik: Here you go:
HTML blockquote Tag

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Kaelik September 5, 2010 at 7:58 am

See, I tried html for a link, and it just blew up my comment as if it never existed, so I assumed html wouldn’t work. But thanks.

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Duke York September 5, 2010 at 8:13 am

Duke, it’s hard to read your replies. If you don’t want to use formatted quotes …

Ah! My bad! I was searching for that tag and couldn’t find it.

My apologies for any confusion or reading difficulty.

Duke

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 8:24 am

Kaelik: How do you use quote tags like that. I keep asking, and no one tells me.

Like this;

[blockquote]text[/blockquote]

where [ is ;

text

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 8:25 am

Blog ate it.

The less than and greater than symbols are used in place of [ and ].

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Duke York September 5, 2010 at 8:43 am

I realize that I’ve been on the True-Christians-Must-Be-Poor half of this comment thread and not the YHWH-Is-A-Genocidal-Monster half, but I wanted to say something there too.

Why didn’t YHWH just render the Canaanite women barren and the Canaanite men impotent? Problem solved, no one’s free will is overwhelmed, and the holy land is empty without anyone dying.

The bible tells us that the Christians’ god loves to do the sort of miracles that result in millions — billions! — of deaths. But something small like that? Nah! Let the Israelites kill the bastards!

Duke

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lukeprog September 5, 2010 at 9:44 am

Thom,

Can you point me to any analyses of those cases from someone more knowledgeable than myself?

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Bill Snedden September 5, 2010 at 10:31 am

Annette Acker:

As for God being omnipotent, C. S. Lewis defines “omnipotence” as “the power to do all that is intrinsically possible.”

Given that definition, I am omnipotent as I’m certainly able to do all that is intrinsically possible (according to my nature). Apparently Lewis never read Ockham (who created an argument vitiating this definition of omnipotence).

cl: “Intrinsic value” is incoherent. “Value” requires a valuer and therefore there can be no value intrinsic to or inherent in objects. And Christianity certainly doesn’t require or include the necessity of “intrinsic” value: according to Christianity, humans qua humans don’t have value; they have value due to their creation by God. If they possessed intrinsic value, it wouldn’t be possible for God to invalidate it which, as both you and Annette are arguing, is clearly not the case.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 10:39 am

Bill, well said. You do a great job at de-cluttering so many cluttered thoughts that come through here.

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Tony Hoffman September 5, 2010 at 10:55 am

Anette: “He knew what would happen, but it still had to happen before he could judge the people. I see what you’re saying about the infants, but basically God decided that it was the best time to allow Israel to drive them out.”

Your position seems to be that it is okay to kill infants if God says so and you need the land. This puts you in some rough company – it’s seldom I see someone lay out a case for the Christian God’s actions that so closely resembles what the defense faced at Nuremburg. I also love the rationale that genocide was the only “intrinsically possible” option for God and his nature. It has the same, “ve vere just following orders” ring to it, with God as much a prisoner to all the high stepping as those whose fates he set in motion.

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ildi September 5, 2010 at 11:06 am

Ok, so I looked up the Canaanites.

According to history-world.org re. Canaanite culture and religion:

The Canaanites, with whom the Israelites came into contact during the conquest by Joshua and the period of the Judges, were a sophisticated agricultural and urban people. The name Canaan means “Land of Purple” (a purple dye was extracted from a murex shellfish found near the shores of Palestine). The Canaanites, a people who absorbed and assimilated the features of many cultures of the ancient Near East for at least 500 years before the Israelites entered their area of control, were the people who, as far as is known, invented the form of writing that became the alphabet, which, through the Greeks and Romans, was passed on to many cultures influenced by their successors–namely, the nations and peoples of Western civilization.

Further,

The Baalim and the Baalot, gods and goddesses of the Earth, were believed to be the revitalizes of the forces of nature upon which agriculture depended. The revitalization process involved a sacred marriage (hieros gamos), replete with sexual symbolic and actual activities between men, representing the Baalim, and the sacred temple prostitutes (qedeshot), representing the Baalot. Cultic ceremonies involving sexual acts between male members of the agricultural communities and sacred prostitutes dedicated to the Baalim were focused on the Canaanite concept of sympathetic magic.

And

The religion of the Canaanite agriculturalists proved to be a strong attraction to the less sophisticated and nomadic-oriented Israelite tribes. Many Israelites succumbed to the allurements of the fertility-laden rituals and practices of the Canaanite religion, partly because it was new and different from the Yahwistic religion and, possibly, because of a tendency of a rigorous faith and ethic to weaken under the influence of sexual attractions. As the Canaanites and the Israelites began to live in closer contact with each other, the faith of Israel tended to absorb some of the concepts and practices of the Canaanite religion.

Hmmm… a nomadic tribe comes across a sophisticated, advance culture, whose sex-based religion becomes much more attractive to the natives. Red-alert!

In newworldencyclopedia.org under the Canaanite religion:

Although the biblical writers cast Canaanite religion as the antithesis of Israelite monotheism, historians of religion tend to view the early Israelite religion as largely evolving out of Canaanite culture, of which it was once part. The Book of Genesis itself describes the patriarch Abraham as a worshiper of El—also called El Shaddai and El Elyon—building altars, offering sacrifices, and paying tithes to him. Exodus indicates that the Hebrews knew God only as El Shaddai until the time of Moses, who learned God’s true name, Yahweh (the Lord), at Mount Sinai: “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them” (Exodus 6:3).
Certain passages in the Bible imply that Israelite religion was once polytheistic. For example, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 indicates a moment when El Elyon assigned Israel to Yahweh:

When the Most High (Elyōn) divided to the nations their inheritance, he separated the sons of man… the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.

Similarly, Psalm 82:1-6 says that “God (Elohim) presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the gods… I said, ‘You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High (Elyon).’ But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.”

Also,

The Hebrew prophets not only denounced Canaanite religion for its polytheism and idolatry but also for its sexual immorality and practice of human sacrifice. That the Canaanites practiced the rite of hieros gamos, involving ritual sex between the king or priest, representing a god, and a woman or priestess, representing a goddess, seems well attested—even if it was not as common as the prophets claimed.

The practice of human sacrifice also seems to have occurred among the Canaanites, as it once did among the Israelites in the case of Jephthah’s daughter, for example (Judges 11). In the time of Jeremiah, Israelites still offered their children as sacrifices, a practice apparently intended to satisfy Yahweh Himself, who insists through the prophet that He never commanded such a thing, “nor did it ever enter my mind” (Jeremiah 7:31).

Whether one sees Israelite religion as growing out of Canaanite religion or being perverted by it, the reality seems to be that Israelite religion did not completely separate from its Canaanite counterpart until the return of the Jews from Babylon or later.

Sounds like a key difference between the two religions was not human sacrifice, but SEX!!!11!!!eleventy!!!

How many times has this played out in history: two cultures meet and clash; fight for territory ensues. The other side is demonized to justify battle and to facilitate in-group cohesion. Throw in direct orders from your deity for the ultimate justification. Victors write the history books.

To me, this is a good example of the potential toxic nature of religious belief based on ‘sacred’ texts. Almost four thousand years later war propaganda used by the Israelites to justify genocide is still being defended because “godorderedit”.

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Anette Acker September 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Hermes,

Bill, well said. You do a great job at de-cluttering so many cluttered thoughts that come through here.

There is a difference between cluttered thinking and nuanced thinking, Hermes. If you simplify something that is not simple, you are a simplistic thinker. On the other hand, if you overcomplicate what is simple, you have “cluttered thoughts.” The level of complexity of our thoughts on an issue has to correspond to the complexity of the subject. Christian theology is nuanced, so in order to understand it (even for the purpose of debunking it) you have to be able to connect as many dots as possible.

This is not to say that Christianity is an esoteric religion. All that is necessary to inherit the kingdom of God is to humbly receive the salvation offered through Christ. A triple digit IQ is not a prerequisite. We do not have to be able to conceptualize the Trinity and do a cogent analysis of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human free will.

Bill Snedden,

Given that definition, I am omnipotent as I’m certainly able to do all that is intrinsically possible (according to my nature).

If you tell me that you were a straight A student, then that is something about you that is either true or false. But if you got one grade that was less than an A, you were technically not a straight A student. Therefore, you cannot both have been a straight A student and a student who got a B.

God is holy, so he is like the straight A student who could not logically have gotten a B. So, although he is omnipotent, he is limited by his holiness in the same way that a straight A student cannot get B’s and remain a straight A student.

Although I don’t know you, I’m willing to bet that your nature is just like human nature in general, and that there is good and bad in you. So if you do something bad, that would still be according to your nature. However, if you break a law and go to prison, you are no longer a law abiding person.

If something violates the laws of logic it is intrinsically impossible. This means that God can’t make 2 + 2 = 5 and violate other axioms. That is not omnipotence–it is nonsense.

I’ll try to get to the other points tomorrow.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Anette, if I choose to apply my own sophisticated thinking to one of your comments, I will do so. Bill is quite sharp and deserves the complement even if you do show he was mistaken.

Personally, I have dealt with Christian theology for a few decades. It has so disappointed me as an intellectual discipline that I currently put it in the same category as other pseudo intellectual efforts such as political and alien conspiracy theories.

To be blunt: Christian theology is a waste of time in the same way that 9/11 truthers and alien abduction groups are a waste of time. The only difference is that the Christians have an established vested interest and the sheen of respectability to deflect normal criticisms and justified mockery.

Now, if you want me to directly address some of your comments I will do so. Don’t expect me to give you undue consideration for theological castles. If they don’t hold up to basic considerations that other disciplines work within, then they don’t deserve special considerations to allow them to not be criticized for what they are.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 1:22 pm

PS. I’ve read many texts of mythology including the Christian Bible (2x) plus commentary on many of those text including ones on various Christian texts, derived and derivative texts, and ideas. I don’t know where the idea comes from that atheists don’t know what Christianity is about and that they may not have heard of some important or fundamental bits.

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Anette Acker September 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Hermes,

I was by no means questioning Bill’s intelligence–I was taking aim at your logic. In fact, I never underestimate the position of those who oppose me–to do so would be a straw man fallacy.

Feel free to address my arguments directly. I prefer that to the personal attacks by the jeering cheerleaders for the atheist team. I’m glad to know that some of you here are thinkers, but I have yet to place you–your own assessment of your “sophistical thinking” notwithstanding.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm

What did I offer? I complemented Bill. If you want to comment on my words, pick some.

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Anette Acker September 5, 2010 at 4:45 pm

You complimented him on “de-cluttering” cluttered thoughts (namely mine). In return, I de-cluttered your cluttered thoughts, by pointing out that thoughts are only cluttered if they complicate simple concepts. And we are not discussing simple concepts here.

If you had just complimented him on his incisive comment, I would have left it alone.

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Tony Hoffman September 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Anette: “God is holy, so he is like the straight A student who could not logically have gotten a B. So, although he is omnipotent, he is limited by his holiness in the same way that a straight A student cannot get B’s and remain a straight A student.”

If God is limited by his holiness then I imagine he would have the personality of a triangle, or gravity. But say what you want about the God of the Bible, that cat is not a triangle.

I understand that if you assume that God is holy and can only do what is in his nature then it follows that God only does what is good – including slaughtering babies because, in his omniscience and omnipotence he is suddenly stumped about any better way to clear some real estate for a superstitious tribe that he thinks doesn’t deserve him. The problem isn’t that you think it all makes sense in some “nuanced” way, but that it’s clearly idiotic and cruel to anyone who doesn’t set out with your premise. And the fact that it aligns with the kind of rationalization that is argued for in every other non-God-sanctioned genocide seems to not rattle your BS meter in the slightest. That’s not nuance – that’s aggressive gullibility.

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Thom Stark September 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Luke, I deal with those cases in my new book which should be out later this month. If you’d like, I can email you a few relevant pages. Just shoot me an email.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Anette Acker, whatever. When you want to get into something substantial, go for it. The focus is not on you, but on Bill’s good and clear comments.

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Bill Snedden September 5, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Annette Acker: I don’t disagree with anything you wrote. Unfortunately, nothing that you wrote contradicts the point I made. The definition of omnipotence as “the power to do all that is intrinsically possible.” renders any subject potentially omnipotent.

Several hundred years ago, an anonymous commenter wrote: “Nor is a being said to be omnipotent because he can do all things which are possible for him to do…since it would follow that a minimally powerful being is omnipotent. For suppose Socrates performs one action and is not capable of performing any others. Then one argues as follows ‘He is performing every action which it is possible for him to perform, therefore he is omnipotent.’” (quoted by Flint & Freddoso in Maximal Power). Although I misremembered that commenter as being Ockham himself, it still pretty much puts paid to Lewis’ definition.

That’s not to say there’s no way out of the mess; Flint & Freddoso suggest a better definition in their paper, but while Lewis excelled as a popularizer of theology, as a philosopher he lacked rigor.

And I don’t think any of this really bears on a crucial issue. Even if we were to agree, arguendo, that the wholesale slaughter of Canaanite adults, youths, and even young children was morally acceptable, we still have absolutely no excuse for the killing of infants. The only proffered reason, to prevent the Israelites from being seduced into their (Canaanites) evil ways does not apply as infants would have been unable to comprehend or absorb the “evil” of their culture and would thus have been no threat whatever to the Israelites.

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Hermes September 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Bill, at the risk of insulting others for some imagined slight, I have to say that what you wrote was once again well worth the time to carefully read and comprehend. I hope others see the benefit of spending a small amount of time and effort to thoughtfully do the same.

* * *

[ Anette Acker, now, if you wish, you can point to this as a reason to be insulted as I was actually referencing you and your jump-the-gun strident and insistent lack of reading comprehension. It's the best I can do since I'm not going to get an apology for your earlier mistake in thinking I was talking about you insultingly -- when I was talking about Bill with appreciation. ]

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Duke York September 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

If something violates the laws of logic it is intrinsically impossible. This means that God can’t make 2 + 2 = 5 and violate other axioms. That is not omnipotence–it is nonsense.

So you’re allowed to say the laws of logic simply exist without explanation, but atheists aren’t allowed to say that the universe simpy exists without explanation.

Gotcha.

Duke

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cl September 5, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Wrath,

Actually, I need to correct myself on something: I think I may have been imprecise to say that Luke 14:33 was a parable, just as you were imprecise to say I labeled it a metaphor. I’ll forgive you if you forgive me :)

Even though the verse specifically says “all your possessions”, that can’t right, because it sounds too difficult.

It’s unfortunate that you seem to prefer such an insinuation, but I can’t stop you. There’s really nowhere for our conversation to go unless you want to consider where I’m coming from. You are holding me to your standard of biblical literalism. There’s nothing I can do about that except challenge your interpretation and attempt to establish why mine is more plausible – which I believe I have. You state rigidly that one “must give away all your property to be Jesus’ disciple,” but an interpretation of the Bible on the whole directly confronts that idea. I’m trying to come at this logically, you seem to be coming at it dogmatically. I’m saying, “Okay, how does Luke 14:33 parse against the rest of scripture,” whereas you’re saying, “This one little piece of scripture must mean exactly what I say it means,” with no regard for other scriptures. I’m reading it like, “A disciple should put nothing before Christ’s calling, and be willing to give away whatever God has given at any moment.” You seem to be reading it like, “A disciple should give away everything they own and never possess anything again.”

Nothing in the Bible explicitly condemns being wealthy, per se, but there are verses that condemn ill-gotten wealth [Amos 4:11; 5:11; Micah 6:1], trusting in one’s wealth [Prov. 11:4; 11:28; Jer. 9:23; 1 Tim. 6:17; James 1:11; 5:2], and lusting after wealth [1 Tim. 6:10]. Christians are also called to tithe and redistribute wealth to the poor, and it’s hard to imagine how that would be possible in the complete absence of possessions.

I’m pretty familiar with the Bible but I just don’t see anything that would support your approach. I’m willing to respect it, but you’re going to have to give me some kind of reasoning to work with.

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cl September 5, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Duke York,

If you perceive that I have judged you, I apologize. I am simply noting that you are being judgmental of Anette and myself for no good reason. I’m not saying you’re a bad person, I’m saying let’s stick to the arguments and eschew personal attacks.

No offense, but your comments are difficult to parse, so I’ll keep the rest of my response brief.

…it seems, you think you’re under no obligation to simply explain why you think the arguments are stupid.

Not at all. You’re correct to claim that I have an obligation to meet. I’m keenly aware of the fact that objections to the positive claimant entail the burden of production. Thing is, I’ve already met the obligation to the best of my ability given the time span I have. I’ve explained myself twice, and you seemingly won’t listen, so I don’t know what else to do. I suppose I’ll try a third time.

So tell me, which of my statements wrong?

There are quite a few IMHO, but let’s start with just a couple:

Example #1: You asked if Anette “had a job,” then proceeded to tell her that she wasn’t following Christ’s teachings if she did;

Example #2: You state that a Christian owning a computer means they are lukewarm.

The problem is much like the problem I just tried to explain to Wrath above. You’re holding all Christians to your specific brand of biblical literalism, and I feel that’s inappropriate. When we do exegesis, we ought to consider any one verse against the whole. You can’t just cherrypick verses to prove your point and use that as “justification” to accuse other human beings of hypocrisy.

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Anette Acker September 5, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Hermes,

I was not insulted by anything you said. I just felt that your first comment needed correcting. Feel free to correct anything I say.

But even though you tried to be insulting to me in your second congratulatory comment to Bill, I will show you clemency because your first comment in this thread was funny (the one about being the Messenger). ;)

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cl September 5, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Bill Snedden,

Sorry there, while re-reading the thread I noticed you’d addressed me. You said,

“Value” requires a valuer and therefore there can be no value intrinsic to or inherent in objects.

Did I say something that made you believe I felt otherwise?

And Christianity certainly doesn’t require or include the necessity of “intrinsic” value:

I am not arguing that Christianity requires “intrinsic value” as you’ve defined it. That is, I am not arguing that Christianity requires “value intrinsic to or inherent in objects.”

…according to Christianity, humans qua humans don’t have value; they have value due to their creation by God. If they possessed intrinsic value, it wouldn’t be possible for God to invalidate it which, as both you and Annette are arguing, is clearly not the case.

You might want to re-read my comments from the beginning of this thread. I’m getting the feeling you think I’m saying something I’m not.

Here’s what I am saying, in fact, what I’ve already said: In desirism we are to evaluate all desires that exist. Desirism rejects intrinsic value and instead defines value based on the effect of desires on the aggregate. This means that any statement of the type “X must always be Y by default” where X = some desire or act and Y = some moral value, is false. This means that any [malleable] desire must retain the potential to be either good, permissible, or evil per its effect on the aggregate of desires. If the Canaanites’ continued existence would have tended to thwart other desires, overall, then obliterating the Canaanites was good on the whole, using the definition of good that Alonzo established.

Therefore, I find it potentially contradictory that Luke apparently endorses “genocide is bad” as a sort of categorical imperative – which desirists ought to reject.

Is that what you thought I was saying?

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cl September 5, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Tony Hoffman,

Above you are comparing the desire to slaughter the Canaanites not against other desires, but against the Canannites themselves.

I’m not. I am saying that if the desire to slaughter the Canaanites tended to fulfill other desires, overall, then it was good according to desirist principle. That’s orthodox desirism.

…as I understand Desirism the genocide of the Canaanites would not be desirable,

I see at least two ways of looking at it. I believe Alonzo would say something like, “people generally have reasons for action to promote an aversion to genocide.” That is the sense in which your statement is true. Turning up the knob on wanton genocide would thwart many and strong desires. But that’s a shallow approach to the issue, IMHO.

In the real world of applied ethics, it seems the only way to make useful evaluations in desirism is in the context of other desires fulfilled / thwarted, overall. Alonzo defines good as “tends to fulfill other desires.” Since desirists reject intrinsic value and categorical imperative, it doesn’t make sense for them to say, “genocide is bad.” If obliterating the Canaanites fulfilled other desires, overall, then their obliteration would seem good according to desirism. This is the same principle people use when, in response to the execution of a dangerous criminal, they say, “It’s good that guy is off the street.”

…do you deem that one should be judgmental in a blog comment, or not?

One should avoid judgment, generally, IMO. At the same time, I feel your comment was pompous and arrogant. It’s not a judgment call on you, but what you said. I can apologize for firing back harshly, but you have no good reason to demean otherwise intelligent commenters simply because they don’t conform with what you believe. I mean, let’s be adults here.

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Duke York September 6, 2010 at 4:44 am

Granted: I’m definitely doing that, quoting verses to show that the average Christian (even the exceptional Christian) isn’t at all concerned with following the teaching of the bible. I’m doing this because I agree with how those Christians are living, and disagree with how their fictional savior’s commands. The Christ’s message is a horrible thing, spread because it kept the poor, the ignorant and the slaves poor, ignorant slaves.

I want to live in a world where people can afford what they want, are well-informed about the world around them, and are free to pursue their ends as they wish. The Christians’ texts, used as they are written, prevented that for over a thousand years. This is why I’m asking these questions.

Now I’m assuming that you and Anette believe in Christ’s philosophy. I’m assuming that you think the bible’s words were written by the all-knowing, timeless creator of the universe. If you believe that, and you don’t live in accordance with them, then you’re being a hypocrite, saying one thing (“My bible is perfectly true”) and doing something else (“I’m not following my bible”).

I’ve also pointed out where your god specifically commands you to not own property, to not think of tomorrow (which means no job and no savings accounts and no college funds). He’s commanded you not to be rich (which means not computers and no cars and just one shirt).

The thing is, I’ve provided the texts here. I’ve gone to your bible and treated it with the respect you must say it deserves (if you’re a sincere Christian, that is). You’re right when you say Wrath and I act like a biblical literalists, but if you’re a Christian and you don’t treat the bible literally, you’re a hypocrite.

You started out by asserting

You’re confused alright; nowhere in Christ’s teachings does it say any of those things.

When we showed you that wasn’t true, that Christ’s teaching do say all of those things, you switched to something much more evasive:

You state rigidly that one “must give away all your property to be Jesus’ disciple,” but an interpretation of the Bible on the whole directly confronts that idea.

Do you see how you’ve backpedaled there? Do you see how you disregard the words of your savior?

Wealthy Americans, like you and Anette, are Pharisees. You speak empty words and reject your god. You want to social status Christianity brings, but not the work it entails.

Of course, I could be wrong. Perform an exegesis for me. Show me why your Christ would smile on your materialism. Give me chapter and verse supporting a lifestyle of consumerism, fore-thought and freedom.

If you can’t do that, they I feel I can correctly call you a hypocrite. Your Christ gave you very clear commands, and you rejected both them and Him.

Duke

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Anette Acker September 6, 2010 at 6:26 am

Bill Snedden,

Several hundred years ago, an anonymous commenter wrote: “Nor is a being said to be omnipotent because he can do all things which are possible for him to do…since it would follow that a minimally powerful being is omnipotent. For suppose Socrates performs one action and is not capable of performing any others. Then one argues as follows ‘He is performing every action which it is possible for him to perform, therefore he is omnipotent.’” (quoted by Flint & Freddoso in Maximal Power). Although I misremembered that commenter as being Ockham himself, it still pretty much puts paid to Lewis’ definition.

.

Perhaps a better word than “intrinsically” is “logically,” because neither I nor Lewis intended for the word “intrinsically” to pertain to the nature of the being whose omnipotence is in question. Lewis meant that the act itself is intrinsically impossible. And the example he used was the act of giving us free will, while making sure that we never choose wrong. He is saying that is intrinsically impossible.

I took it one step further and said that if God is holy, it is logically impossible for him to simultaneously not be holy, just like a straight A student cannot also have had a B. This is just a basic rule of logic. The nature of the person in question is secondary.

So omnipotence, then, is the power to do all acts that are intrinsically possible. It is not possible to make 2 + 2 = 5, so therefore omnipotence cannot do it.

Duke York,

So you’re allowed to say the laws of logic simply exist without explanation, but atheists aren’t allowed to say that the universe simpy exists without explanation.

Mathematics and the rules of logic are axiomatic, but nothing about science is axiomatic. That is, scientists will never discover that 2 + 2 = 5. However, they may discover that quantum physics is hard to conceptualize metaphysically and the universe is not what they expected. But they know that they can rely on mathematics and the scientific method (which are grounded in logic).

If logic and the scientific method is the search for truth, and God says that he is the truth, then one would expect that God no more violates the rules of logic than he violates the objective moral law.

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Tony Hoffman September 6, 2010 at 6:45 am

Anette:

Frankly, I think your argument sounds like that of an abused wife who explains that her husband only flies off the handle when she really deserves it.

Whether God’s powers are confined intrinsically or logically is a diversion; the real problem is that God is supposedly all about good and can do all these awesome things, but he freaking ordered the slaying of a bunch of babies as the foundation of his relocation strategy.

You can pull out the mysterious ways card (and thanks to you for not doing that), or you can try to fashion a plausible story as to how this all actually makes sense given your premises. So far, your argument is missing this plausible explanation, because I think we can rule out the notion that a 10 day old is going to infect the Israelites with her culture.

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Anette Acker September 6, 2010 at 6:48 am

Duke York,

The Christ’s message is a horrible thing, spread because it kept the poor, the ignorant and the slaves poor, ignorant slaves.

Deuteronomy 15:4: “However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.”

Acts 4:34: “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the salesand put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

How could the message of Christ have kept them poor when Acts 4:34 says that it did exactly the opposite? None of them were poor.

2 Corinthians 8:13: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.”

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Anette Acker September 6, 2010 at 7:24 am

Tony Hoffman,

Whether God’s powers are confined intrinsically or logically is a diversion; the real problem is that God is supposedly all about good and can do all these awesome things, but he freaking ordered the slaying of a bunch of babies as the foundation of his relocation strategy.

God is love, but he is also a judge. And he considers death fundamentally evil (John 11:35), but as long as there is sin in the world, it is a necessary evil. Our actions have to have consequences, otherwise we would end up like child stars who have been overindulged their entire lives and consequently self-destruct when they grow up.

It is not a diversion to say that God’s actions are confined logically, because it explains why he set the world up the way it did. It explains why there is evil in the world, and it explains why he had to die on the cross.

You said that God is like an abusive husband who only flies off the handle when the wife really deserves it, but that is not an accurate analogy. The husband has no right to beat his wife, but God is the only one who has the power of life and death. He has made human life sacred, but he is the one who has decided that a life will come to an end, and that only the redeemed can have eternal life. The cross is how he solved the problem of evil.

With respect to the Canaanites, he acted with patience and justice. As I said before, he waited 400 years, until their evil became unbearable, to drive them out. But the mothers with babies could have left (and probably did).

If they didn’t, this would have been like the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were innocent lives lost there. Are you saying that the US soldiers were clearly immoral for bombing those cities?

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Thom Stark September 6, 2010 at 7:27 am

Um, yes.

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Tony Hoffman September 6, 2010 at 7:27 am

Anette:

Deuteronomy 15:4 reads to me like a failed prophecy. And even it were fulfilled, it would be one more instance of contradictory information in the Bible. (You’ll be rich! Woe to those who are rich. Etc.) That your book is so filled with contradictions does not lend it greater credibility.

I would interpret Acts 4:34 to mean that, per Jesus’s injunction, the newly converted were giving away their possessions and offering the proceeds to the apostles. This would mean that at least the early Christians took Jesus’s words about possessions seriously (do you own a house?), even if I’d guess the whole enterprise sounds a tad Ponzi-scheme-like to me.

You quoted 2 Corinthians 8:13: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.”

I love the Marxism here. Marx was not a big fan of the rich, as I recall.

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Tony Hoffman September 6, 2010 at 7:46 am

Anette: “But the mothers with babies could have left (and probably did).”

If the hope is that all mothers with babies left, then I think you are proposing a different apologetic here. That is different than what you originally proposed, and if you shifted your explanation to that stance I’d have no compelling reason to call you out as a dangerous, moral monster. Because I have to be honest with you here, that earlier version of Anette was pretty scary.

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Thom Stark September 6, 2010 at 7:46 am

Tony,

She hasn’t shifted. She’s just covering her bases.

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Duke York September 6, 2010 at 9:51 am

Acts 4:34: “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the salesand put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

Wow. From each according to their ability? Check! To each according to their need? Check! Advocating communism. Check!

You still haven’t answered my question. Do you not see the needy around you? Why haven’t you sold your house and given the proceeds to them?

How could the message of Christ have kept them poor when Acts 4:34 says that it did exactly the opposite? None of them were poor.

Because the bible is a lie. We know that the leaders of churches become rich fleecing the people they have the honesty to call their flock. The only time the leaders of a church are poor is when their flock is too small. Once they recruit enough dupes, they become the richest person in the community.

Of course, I don’t really believe that Christ said any of the things attributed to him: they were all created by the priest and con-men exploiting his name. You do believe those swindlers, though. That’s why I’m challenging you.

Duke

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Duke York September 6, 2010 at 9:53 am

You said that God is like an abusive husband who only flies off the handle when the wife really deserves it, but that is not an accurate analogy. The husband has no right to beat his wife, but God is the only one who has the power of life and death. He has made human life sacred, but he is the one who has decided that a life will come to an end, and that only the redeemed can have eternal life. The cross is how he solved the problem of evil.

I feel for you, Anette. I really do. Don’t you see how this is the Stockholm syndrome?

“I really deserved what my husband/God does to me. Really, it’s all my fault. But he loves me! He showed it when he bought me this ring/cross!”

Duke

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Anette Acker September 6, 2010 at 10:09 am

Tony Hoffman,

If the hope is that all mothers with babies left, then I think you are proposing a different apologetic here. That is different than what you originally proposed, and if you shifted your explanation to that stance I’d have no compelling reason to call you out as a dangerous, moral monster. Because I have to be honest with you here, that earlier version of Anette was pretty scary.

No, I’ve said that all along. The Bible says that the Israelites were to drive them out over time. The language “drive them out” is used repeatedly.

I’m glad that you no longer feel you have a compelling reason to call me a scary monster, although that would have been my favorite ad hominem attack so far. Comparing one’s opponents to Hitler is so common, and the words “hypocrite” and “Pharisee” are ridiculously dull–those who use them as ammo have absolutely no flair whatsoever. ;)

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ildi September 6, 2010 at 10:12 am

But the mothers with babies could have left (and probably did).

No, Josh is pretty clear on this. This was a city under seige in the middle of a desert region, if you will recall:

Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in.

and

Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. They completely destroyed everything in it with their swords—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys.

Oh, Annette, Annette, Annette:

If they didn’t, this would have been like the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were innocent lives lost there. Are you saying that the US soldiers were clearly immoral for bombing those cities?

Now God is just a soldier following orders? More disturbingly, you don’t think it was immoral to bomb those cities, which were not even military targets? Sounds like you’re not limiting your support of the scorched-earth take-no-prisoners approach just to God – it’s moral as long as you’re on the right side!

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Hermes September 6, 2010 at 10:45 am

The slaughter of innocent babies and children from other tribes makes perfect sense for a tribal deity like Yahweh.

A bit of history: The Hebrews were Canaanites.

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cl September 6, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Duke York,

The Christ’s message is a horrible thing, spread because it kept the poor, the ignorant and the slaves poor, ignorant slaves.

That’s illogical. If Christians give of their possessions unflinchingly as Christ commands, this helps the poor. Christ preached redistribution of wealth from those who had excess to those in need, i.e., a world where more people can afford what they need.

I’ve also pointed out where your god specifically commands you to not own property, to not think of tomorrow (which means no job and no savings accounts and no college funds). He’s commanded you not to be rich (which means not computers and no cars and just one shirt). … I’ve gone to your bible and treated it with the respect you must say it deserves

You haven’t. You’re just cherrypicking verses that you think support your narrow interpretation while ignoring verses that directly confront your narrow interpretation.

if you’re a Christian and you don’t treat the bible literally, you’re a hypocrite.

Believe me, I’m plenty confident I’m not going to persuade you otherwise, even though you don’t know a thing about me, what I give, what I’ve given, and what I own.

Of course, I could be wrong. Perform an exegesis for me. Show me why your Christ would smile on your materialism. Give me chapter and verse supporting a lifestyle of consumerism, fore-thought and freedom.

I already performed a partial exegesis for you and you ignored it. I already stated that Christ explicitly condemns materialism, so why would you ask me to show why Christ would smile on it? It’s as if you’re not even listening. Now, you’re simply asserting that I’m “materialistic” and that I support a “lifestyle of consumerism,” when you don’t know anything about me. How am I supposed to reason with that?

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Tony Hoffman September 6, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Anette: “No, I’ve said [the babies were probably not murdered] all along. The Bible says that the Israelites were to drive them out over time. The language “drive them out” is used repeatedly.”

Well, originally you wrote in your first comment, “It would not have been practical to keep the children alive because the older children would already have learned some of the customs, and it would have been too difficult to keep alive those under two, for example.”

So you seemed to be entertaining a defense of killing babies. Like I said, if you’re withdrawing your defense of killing babies, then I have no reason to decry you. If (and I’m not sure) you still think this is a defensible thing for an all powerful God to be demanding, then I’ll go back to calling you a monster.

Anette: I’m glad that you no longer feel you have a compelling reason to call me a scary monster, although that would have been my favorite ad hominem attack so far. Comparing one’s opponents to Hitler is so common, and the words “hypocrite” and “Pharisee” are ridiculously dull–those who use them as ammo have absolutely no flair whatsoever. ;)”

Actually, I don’t think that calling you a monster for believing that it’s a good thing that an all powerful God would demand the killing of babies falls under the category of an ad hominem, although it is insulting. I think an ad hominem is when I deny your argument’s validity because of some unsavory activity that’s unrelated to your argument; in this case, your argument is the thing that makes you appear monstrous, and while I agree that the Hitler references are perhaps the Internet’s greatest discussion trope, you are the one here arguing for the moral imperative to conduct mass murder, and kill babies. The insult isn’t meant to derail your argument, but to call your attention to whose company you appear to be embracing.

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Thom Stark September 6, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Anette,

In Numbers 31, Yahweh ordered the slaughter of babies. He did the same thing in 1 Samuel 15. So even if this faddish new metaphorical reading of “let nothing that breathes remain alive” in Joshua is correct (which it isn’t), you still haven’t sidestepped the problem. The order to kill children is as clear as day in Numbers 31 and 1 Samuel 15. So, was your Yahweh a good guy for doing that or not?

Moreover, Yahweh killed babies himself in Genesis 6-8, and not just a few. Yahweh killed every baby on the planet, according to the Bible. Of course, killing just one would be enough to make Yahweh a moral monster. Or do you disagree?

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Anette Acker September 6, 2010 at 3:09 pm

ildi,

Now God is just a soldier following orders? More disturbingly, you don’t think it was immoral to bomb those cities, which were not even military targets? Sounds like you’re not limiting your support of the scorched-earth take-no-prisoners approach just to God – it’s moral as long as you’re on the right side!

Note that I did not actually take a position on whether or not the bombing was immoral. I used the words “clearly immoral.” If it was clearly immoral, then reasonable minds would not differ on the issue, and many, if not most, Americans consider the bombing to have been necessary.

War is always at best a necessary evil, and most people consider World War II to have been a necessary war because of Nazi Germany. However, many people died, and many who didn’t die were permanently disabled.

I’m not inclined to demonize people who disagree with me politically (or otherwise) because policy decisions are often a matter of practicality and a lesser of evils. We would all like to live in a perfect world, but because this world is not perfect, we have to make hard decisions.

Ancient Israel was a theocracy led by God, which means that it was a political system, and difficult decisions had to be made because people are flawed.

Tony Hoffman,

You quoted 2 Corinthians 8:13: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.”

I love the Marxism here. Marx was not a big fan of the rich, as I recall.

I started out in this thread by drawing a distinction between the theocracy of the OT (a political system) and the teachings of Christ, as lived out by the early Christians in the book of Acts. The theocracy had to take into account human nature and culture, but Christianity teaches that Christ changes our heart by his Spirit so that we want to do the right thing.

So the difference between the early Christians and Marxism is that the early Christians shared willingly because of their spiritual transformation. Marxism, on the other hand, forces people to share. It is a political system that fails to take into account the fundamental selfishness of human nature. In other words, it is too idealistic, and therefore causes more harm than good.

If the theocracy of the OT had been equally idealistic, the Israelites would have become completely corrupted by the neighboring nations. As it was, the Israelites failed to do everything God told them to do and they did learn the practices of those nations.

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Anette Acker September 6, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Thom Stark,

Moreover, Yahweh killed babies himself in Genesis 6-8, and not just a few. Yahweh killed every baby on the planet, according to the Bible. Of course, killing just one would be enough to make Yahweh a moral monster. Or do you disagree?

I have already answered this question many times with a great deal of detailed explanation.

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Thom Stark September 6, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Anette Acker,

Equivocation is not explanation.

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Thom Stark September 6, 2010 at 3:23 pm

When God destroyed a people in the OT, it was like cutting off a cancerous growth. They would have corrupted the Israelites, so it was a necessary evil. And God didn’t do it a moment too soon. (Anette Acker)

A person suffering from cancer, whose death is otherwise certain, need not first figure out fifty-one per cent [probability of success] in order to risk an operation. And if the latter promises a cure with only half a per cent probability, a courageous man will risk it. . . . The Jews are a cancer on the breast of Germany. (Adolf Hitler)

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Thom Stark September 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Anette said:

His work of re-creation on the cross will culminate in a new earth where free will and sinlessness will coexist and where suffering and death will no longer be necessary.

If an earth where free will and sinlessness could coexist were possible, why did God not create such a world the first time ’round?

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Anette Acker September 6, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Thom Stark,

How am I equivocating? I’m trying to address your points directly.

I have explained that God alone has the absolute right to take a life, but he does not do so capriciously. Death itself is called an “enemy” in the Bible, but it comes to us all.

In fact, the whole Bible is about God’s willingness to sacrifice his own life so that we may live eternally.

A person suffering from cancer, whose death is otherwise certain, need not first figure out fifty-one per cent [probability of success] in order to risk an operation. And if the latter promises a cure with only half a per cent probability, a courageous man will risk it. . . . The Jews are a cancer on the breast of Germany. (Adolf Hitler)

Two points: First, the Jews were law abiding people who did not sacrifice their children and they did not seek to kill everyone else. Second, Hitler was not God.

BTW, I am done with this thread. If nobody here is willing to discuss this in a mature way, I’m wasting my time.

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Thom Stark September 6, 2010 at 3:36 pm

You are equivocating because you have failed to explain how Yahweh killing babies is not capricious. You ignored my examples of Numbers 31 and 1 Samuel 15, also.

The Canaanites did not kill their children either, but the Israelites did, according to Yahweh’s command (Ezek 20:25-26). The Israelites claimed that Canaanites killed their children, just like Nazis claimed that Jews were immoral and demonic.

You said, “Hitler was not God.”

Neither was God.

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Tony Hoffman September 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Anette: BTW, I am done with this thread. If nobody here is willing to discuss this in a mature way, I’m wasting my time.

I didn’t think any of us were being immature.

The Interweb is a big place, and there’s lots of cool stuff on just this blog pretty much ever day. I think we’ll be able to get by without you, at least for now.

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Anette Acker September 6, 2010 at 5:57 pm

I’m going to wrap up my part in this discussion with this comment.

Tony Hoffman, I think it’s a little immature to compare people to Hitler, even if that is not technically an ad hominem attack. It’s the equivalent of Christians accusing atheists of not having morals because they don’t believe in God–something I’ve never done. I don’t feel that I need to attack the person even if I strongly disagree, and when someone attacks me personally I know for sure that the conversation is not going anywhere. If you think I’m a moral monster who reminds you of Hitler, you’re not likely to take anything I say very seriously, are you?

But you are right that Luke has a cool blog, and he particularly did a good job presenting the fine-tuning argument in an even-handed way.

Thom Stark, forgive me if I did not respond to all your comments. There are about twenty of you on this thread (I’ve lost count) and one of me, so I know that I have missed some.

If an earth where free will and sinlessness could coexist were possible, why did God not create such a world the first time ’round?

I have been asked this question numerous times, and I have answered it in the blog post “Will we have free will in heaven?” if you’re interested. I don’t want to open up another can of worms here and now.

I thought it would be fun to jump into the fray with the Canaanite conquest question, which is probably the most challenging one in the Bible. And it has been fun. Thanks, everyone!

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piero September 6, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Anette:

Tony Hoffman, I think it’s a little immature to compare people to Hitler, even if that is not technically an ad hominem attack. It’s the equivalent of Christians accusing atheists of not having morals because they don’t believe in God–something I’ve never done.

Accusing atheists of having no morals because they don’t believe in God is stupid. Accusing you of being like Hitler because you support genocide is not.

Have a good day.

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cl September 7, 2010 at 2:17 am

Most humans seem supportive of genocide, so long as it’s not against other humans. I often wonder why so many atheists – people who generally believe humans have no more intrinsic value than other animals – seem to feel human genocide is intrinsically evil. I don’t see that that claim has been justified.

Anette,

If nobody here is willing to discuss this in a mature way, I’m wasting my time.

I was thinking the same thing.

piero,

Accusing atheists of having no morals because they don’t believe in God is stupid. Accusing you of being like Hitler because you support genocide is not.

Actually, those are both stupid. Anette is not “like Hitler” because she believes God can have a morally sufficient reason for the Canaanite genocide.

Thom Stark,

The Canaanites did not kill their children either,

What’s the basis for that claim?

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 2:33 am

cl,

Scholars of the ANE are well aware that the claims made about the Canaanites and human sacrifice in the biblical texts are dubious. No Canaanite material or literary evidence exists to substantiate the biblical claims. On the other hand, enemies tend frequently to paint one another as morally monstrous in order to justify violent campaigns in the name of whatever version of decency happens to be in vogue. The truth is, there is an abundance of evidence that Israelites practiced child sacrifice, and no evidence that the Canaanites did.

For an intro, see the discussion by Avalos, here: http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Genocide.cfm#arch

Also, see Susan Nidtich’s book War in the Hebrew Bible, for evidence that the accusations of moral malignancy leveled against the Canaanites were late inventions, concocted hundreds of years after the fact, whereas the earliest layers of tradition have Israel slaughtering the Canaanite noncombatants not as punishment for sin but as a human sacrificial offering to satiate Yahweh out of gratitude for his granting them victory over the Canaanite combatants.

Unlike Israelites, Canaanites most likely did not sacrifice their children to their gods. But you would think they did if your only source was the tendentious accounts in Deuteronomy and Joshua. In the same way, early Christians weren’t really cannibals, but you would think they were if your only source was the tendentious records of Roman historians.

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 2:42 am

Actually, those are both stupid. Anette is not “like Hitler” because she believes God can have a morally sufficient reason for the Canaanite genocide.

Um, yes she is. She is like Hitler in precisely that respect, because Hitler claimed the same thing about his God. She may be unlike Hitler in a number of ways, but she is quite like Hitler in precisely that respect.

And this is still an equivocation. Anette never provided any morally sufficient reason for the slaughter of children. Nor could she. The only justifications for the slaughter of children she was able to provide were utilitarian, not moral, but she attempted to avoid that unsavory route by wishfully suggesting that the women and children got away. I provided clear examples where women and children were killed, upon Yahweh’s orders, and not only did Anette not respond, she left the conversation entirely.

We are still waiting for this much touted but frustratingly elusive “morally sufficient reason” for baby-killing.

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cl September 7, 2010 at 2:57 am

Thom Stark,

I’ll take a look at your Canaanite reading suggestions. As far as,

…Hitler claimed the same thing about his God.

While I have an idea as to what you might be alluding to, in the interest of clarity, can you elaborate?

We are still waiting for this much touted but frustratingly elusive “morally sufficient reason” for baby-killing.

As I said, desirism: though “people generally” have reasons to promote an aversion to genocide, since there is no intrinsic value, if the extermination of all the Canaanites tended to fulfill other desires, overall, then it was good. That is, if eliminating them prevented greater evil than it entailed, it would be morally sufficient.

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 3:00 am

Well, since small children and infants are not evil, their elimination would therefore entail a greater evil than no evil at all.

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 3:08 am

“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” —Adolf Hitler

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cl September 7, 2010 at 3:29 am

Thom Stark,

Well, since small children and infants are not evil, their elimination would therefore entail a greater evil than no evil at all.

You took my statement out of its intended context. If leaving them alive would have led to greater evil, overall, eliminating them could be morally justified. There’s really not much to argue about. One of us is going to say, “no possible morally sufficient reason exists,” and the other is going to say, “I believe a morally sufficient reason could exist.” We might as well talk movies.

“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” —Adolf Hitler

Your comparison is inaccurate. In Hitler’s case, we have a person using God to justify his actions. In Anette’s case, we have a person saying God is capable of justifying His actions.

The “Anette is like Hitler” snipe was out-of-place.

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 3:39 am

You took my statement out of its intended context.

I did no such thing.

If leaving them alive would have led to greater evil, overall, eliminating them could be morally justified.

Adoption.

One of us is going to say, “no possible morally sufficient reason exists,” and the other is going to say, “I believe a morally sufficient reason could exist.” We might as well talk movies.

I’m not interested in talking movies with you. The only thing I’m interested in is hearing from you what precisely this much touted yet elusive “morally sufficient reason” is. To claim that one “could” exist is not enough. Yahweh is on trial, and unless evidence surfaces providing a morally sufficient reason for baby-killing, we are going to condemn him. Are you here to actually defend him, or merely to suggest that he might possibly have a defense, you just don’t know what it is. If the former, then actually defend. If the latter, then you’re wasting everybody’s time.

Your comparison is inaccurate. In Hitler’s case, we have a person using God to justify his actions. In Anette’s case, we have a person saying God is capable of justifying His actions.

Wrong. In Anette’s case, we have a person who has adopted the logic of ancient Hitler’s. She is a Hitler flunkie. She has accepted his logic; it just came from another source. Both Hitler and the authors of the conquest narratives justified their actions in the name of their gods, both arguing that their gods revealed that there is a morally sufficient reason for the extermination of a race of people. Both were wrong. By accepting and touting the logic of the one, she accepts and touts the logic of the other.

Therefore, the “‘Anette is like Hitler’ snipe” was not “out-of-place.”

I find it hard to believe that you can’t think that many steps ahead. Perhaps you were just hoping I couldn’t.

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 3:41 am

Correction: ancient Hitlers.

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Tony Hoffman September 7, 2010 at 7:10 am

Thomas Stark: “We are still waiting for this much touted but frustratingly elusive “morally sufficient reason” for baby-killing.

CL: “As I said, desirism: though “people generally” have reasons to promote an aversion to genocide, since there is no intrinsic value, if the extermination of all the Canaanites tended to fulfill other desires, overall, then it was good.”

So your God is a subscriber to Desirism? Who would have thought.

Anette: “Tony Hoffman, I think it’s a little immature to compare people to Hitler, even if that is not technically an ad hominem attack. It’s the equivalent of Christians accusing atheists of not having morals because they don’t believe in God–something I’ve never done. I don’t feel that I need to attack the person even if I strongly disagree, and when someone attacks me personally I know for sure that the conversation is not going anywhere. If you think I’m a moral monster who reminds you of Hitler, you’re not likely to take anything I say very seriously, are you?”

If you think it’s a personal attack to have someone point out that your thoughts regarding genocide parallel Hitler’s, you might want to consider that the messenger is not your problem.

I do take what you say seriously. I think that thoughts like yours, left uncorrected, are dangerous, because in the past they have led to and justified the inflicting of great misery. If you don’t like taking criticism for the arguments you extend, then you should stay away from blog discussions.

Anette: “Ancient Israel was a theocracy led by God, which means that it was a political system, and difficult decisions had to be made because people are flawed..”

von Clausewitz: “War is the continuation of politics by other means.”

Adolf Hitler: “In this hour I would ask of the Lord God only this: that, as in the past, so in the years to come He would give His blessing to our work and our action, to our judgement and our resolution, that He will safeguard us from all false pride and from all cowardly servility, that He may grant us to find the straight path which His Providence has ordained for the German people, and that He may ever give us the courage to do the right, never to falter, never to yield before any violence, before any danger. …no man can fashion world-history or the history of peoples unless upon his purpose and his powers there rests the blessings of this Providence.” (Sourced, Speeches, speech at Wurzburg, 27 June 1937)

Anette: “We would all like to live in a perfect world, but because this world is not perfect, we have to make hard decisions.”

My point is not that you, Anette, are Hitler. My point is that the rationalizations you use for genocide in the Bible are very similar to the rationalizations found in Nazi Germany. If you are not comfortable with that comparison, you need to show where the comparison is unfair, or to rethink your justification for God’s ordering the killing of babies.

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Reidish September 7, 2010 at 8:35 am

Thom Stark: The only thing I’m interested in is hearing from you [cl] what precisely this much touted yet elusive “morally sufficient reason” is. To claim that one “could” exist is not enough.

Why? Aren’t you claiming that one “could not” exist? Indeed there are possible reasons, such as was already mentioned:

cl: If leaving them alive would have led to greater evil, overall, eliminating them could be morally justified.

Your one-word rejoinder of “Adoption” presumes knowledge that such a counterfactual would not overall increase other evils. How do you know this to be true? Would you care to give an argument?

Yahweh is on trial, and unless evidence surfaces providing a morally sufficient reason for baby-killing, we are going to condemn him. Are you here to actually defend him, or merely to suggest that he might possibly have a defense, you just don’t know what it is. If the former, then actually defend. If the latter, then you’re wasting everybody’s time.

This is what I don’t understand. As near as I can tell, you are claiming that there is no possible morally sufficient reason for committing these acts. It’s not a waste of time to give a direct response saying that there is a possible reason, and saying what it could be (ie, the prevention of other, greater evils).

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 8:41 am

I’m sorry that you’re having trouble understanding how my dubiousness about a morally sufficient reason is perfectly compatible with my appeal for a viable one to be proffered.

All that has been proffered so far is the possibility of one. Do you believe that allowing infants to live would lead to a greater evil? Name the evil. And show how the evil could not be evaded by adopting said infants, rather than slaughtering them. Your specific suggestion will be considered.

Don’t mistake my doubt that you have a viable one for an indication that I am being disingenuous when I ask you to cough one up. As in any courtroom, all viable evidence will be considered. So far, however, all the evidence we’ve seen points to “Yahweh’s” moral culpability.

So enough with the (intentional?) obtuseness, and get to the specifics of your case.

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Duke York September 7, 2010 at 8:45 am

It’s not a waste of time to give a direct response saying that there is a possible reason, and saying what it could be (ie, the prevention of other, greater evils).  

Are you at least consistent in this? Do you say the Holocaust might have been morally correct because we do know what evils it prevented?

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 8:48 am

You mean, “do NOT know.” :)

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 8:52 am

But let’s get this clear: the claim that it is moral to kill in order to prevent a greater evil is an interesting, indeed a highly controversial claim in its own right. But let’s grant it.

That is separate, however, from the claim that it is moral to kill in order to prevent possible greater evils. In order for such preemptive executions to be considered moral, the threat of the greater evil would have to be identifiable (at the very least), as well as viable. Otherwise, there would not be sufficient moral justification for any such preemptive executions. Even the Bush administration tacitly acknowledge that fact, as evinced in the fact that they felt they had to lie about an identifiable and viable greater evil before they could commence executions.

So, the question stands: what greater evil did slaughtering babies prevent?

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Tony Hoffman September 7, 2010 at 9:00 am

Reidish: ” Indeed there are possible reasons [for God ordering the murder of babies], such as was already mentioned:”

Possible reasons are not a defense. And the only possible reason I’ve heard here is that God didn’t want the newborns infecting the Israelis with their culture. That’s simply not a credible defense.

cl: If leaving them alive would have led to greater evil, overall, eliminating them could be morally justified.

Translation: God works in mysterious ways.

Reidish: Your one-word rejoinder of “Adoption” presumes knowledge that such a counterfactual would not overall increase other evils. How do you know this to be true? Would you care to give an argument?

Congratulations, Reidish, for joining those of the ranks making monstrous arguments. Not only are you defending the killing of babies, but now you seem to be raising the question that adoption rather than death needs to be morally justified. Do you really need an argument for that?

Reidish: As near as I can tell, you are claiming that there is no possible morally sufficient reason for committing these acts. It’s not a waste of time to give a direct response saying that there is a possible reason, and saying what it could be (ie, the prevention of other, greater evils).

The discussion really began when Anette eschewed Flannagan’s argument in favor of one where God’s killing babies was, in fact, morally good. This is a claim, and as such it needs an argument.

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Anette Acker September 7, 2010 at 9:01 am

I know I said that my previous comment was my last one, but I just want to let you know how fascinating it was to wake up in the morning and read the arguments for and against me being like Hitler! I have had a lot of discussions with atheists over the past ten months, but nothing even remotely like this.

Thom Stark,

Yahweh is on trial, and unless evidence surfaces providing a morally sufficient reason for baby-killing, we are going to condemn him.

If the God of Christianity exists, he gave you life, keeps you alive, and will someday take your life away. You know and have presumably accepted that you will die.

And if he exists, he is not on trial–but you will be someday. And you will be judged by the teachings and example of Jesus (John 12:48).

If he doesn’t exist, then we have three questions to ask: Is the fictional God of Christianity evil? Am I evil? Were the ancient Israelites evil?

In order to answer the first question, you have to read the Gospels, because the Bible tells us that the nature of Jesus is exactly like the nature of God (Hebrews 1:3). According to Christianity, Christ is God in human form, so if you are going to attack our “fictional” God, you have to take aim at Jesus, who is our God.

You also have to assume for the sake of argument that God really did tell the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. That is, you can’t assume that they were mistaken like Hitler, who was a madman who believed that God had spoken to him.

If you do assume for the sake of argument that God really told them to kill the Canaanites, the question becomes why this appears to conflict with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus answered this question in Matthew 19:8, by saying that he allowed certain things (and presumably commanded certain things) because of the hardness of human hearts.

The second question is whether I’m evil. I may well be, as far as you’re concerned, since you don’t know me at all. In fact, I could be just like Hitler and plotting your extermination as we speak, so you should be nicer to me. ;)

However, if I am in fact a murderous madwoman, it’s not because of my moral standards. It would only be because I’m a hypocrite. I have already said several times that I base my morality on the teachings of Jesus, which means that I believe that the most important rule of conduct is to love my neighbor as myself. I hate religious hypocrisy, I believe in peaceful resistance, and I reject bigotry of any kind.

I find Nazi Germany to have been abhorrent, and for that reason I consider World War II to have been a just and necessary war in spite of the fact that innocent lives were lost.

The third question is whether the ancient Israelites were evil for killing the Canaanites. Since they lived in a culture where they would either have to exterminate or be exterminated, they were clearly not evil. Hitler, on the other hand, lived in a civilized era. Also, the OT gives very specific accusations against the Canaanites (human sacrifice–something Christopher Hitchens has called “revolting”), while Hitler resorted to vague, bigoted accusations against a law-abiding people.

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 9:07 am

It’s like talking to Christian graffiti on a brick wall.

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Anette Acker September 7, 2010 at 9:20 am

Tony Hoffman,

For the record, I think that Flannagan made some excellent points and did good exegesis, but as others have pointed out, it doesn’t fully solve the moral problem. So I decided to take different approach. However, his interpretation may be the correct one; especially since the words “drive them out” are frequently used with respect to the corrupt people of Canaan.

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Tony Hoffman September 7, 2010 at 9:25 am

Yes, Thom, I guess we have failed to adequately consider the premise that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, and that everything makes sense if you dare to imagine that there is some way that you can’t understand that it makes sense. Whatever.

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 9:30 am

We’re not reading “in the Spirit.” If we were reading “in the Spirit,” then it would be clear to us how profoundly mysterious God is in his merciful baby-killing.

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Tony Hoffman September 7, 2010 at 9:48 am

Anette,

If you are only playing Devil’s Advocate for an argument, I think there’s even less reason for you to take personally the similarity the argument bears to those employed by the Nazis (and other committers of genocide).

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Anette Acker September 7, 2010 at 9:49 am

You don’t have to read anything “in the Spirit.” All you have to do is assume, for the sake of argument, that the claims of the Bible are true. That is the only way to honestly assess whether or not something in the Bible is moral.

You also have to take into consideration the cultural context.

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Tony Hoffman September 7, 2010 at 9:52 am

Anette,

You are not asking us to accept something for the sake of argument; you are asking us to accept a tautology in lieu of an argument. There’s a difference and, frankly, the second one just wastes everybody’s time.

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Reidish September 7, 2010 at 9:54 am

Hi Thom Stark,
You wrote:

All that has been proffered so far is the possibility of one. Do you believe that allowing infants to live would lead to a greater evil?

Only one with perfect knowledge of all counterfactuals of creaturely freedom could make that determination. But, I can conceive of the possibility of the world being better off were Hitler and Ghengis Khan killed before they could perform their slaughter – all else considered and being equal. This observation doesn’t warrant any human-direct preventative infanticide, due to (at least!) our epistemological finitude and corrupted sinful nature.

But let’s get this clear: the claim that it is moral to kill in order to prevent a greater evil is an interesting, indeed a highly controversial claim in its own right. But let’s grant it.

Alright, perhaps you assent to the defense (not theodicy) offered.

That is separate, however, from the claim that it is moral to kill in order to prevent possible greater evils. In order for such preemptive executions to be considered moral, the threat of the greater evil would have to be identifiable (at the very least), as well as viable.

Yes, and one who knows all counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (ie, God) would know this information.

So, the question stands: what greater evil did slaughtering babies prevent?

Specifically? I do not know. I have no theodicy here, just a defense that is compatible with God’s nature.

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Anette Acker September 7, 2010 at 9:58 am

Tony,

I have not taken anything you or anyone else here has said personally. I was just hoping that we could get to the point where we could discuss things without calling each other hypocrites, Pharisees, and moral monsters.

As I said, I have had a lot of discussions with atheists in the past year, and I have never accused them of immorality nor have they ever accused me of immorality. And that made for an easier exchange of ideas. I think that comparing a person to Hitler, even if it’s not strictly an ad hominem attack, creates a barrier to discussion.

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 10:14 am

So you are saying that Yahweh may be defended by the claim that he foreknew that every single one of thousands of Midianite, Canaanite, Amorite, Perrizite, and Amalekite, babies would have grown up to become moral monsters, even if they had been adopted by Israelites and brought up to worship Yahweh.

This defense borders on hysterical.

It is also undermined by the fact that Yahweh supposedly waited until the wickedness of the Canaanites had been ripe enough before he slaughtered them (some 500 years’ time). In what sense had the wickedness of the infants grown ripe enough to merit their deaths?

No matter how you slice it, the Yahweh depicted in the Bible is guilty of the crime of infanticide, without moral justification. You will believe the absurd before you will admit that the Yahweh depicted in these texts is the figment of xenophobic imaginations.

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Reidish September 7, 2010 at 10:18 am

Hi Tony,
You wrote:

Possible reasons are not a defense.

No, that is precisely what a defense is.

Reidish: Your one-word rejoinder of “Adoption” presumes knowledge that such a counterfactual would not overall increase other evils. How do you know this to be true? Would you care to give an argument?
Tony Hoffman: Congratulations, Reidish, for joining those of the ranks making monstrous arguments. Not only are you defending the killing of babies, but now you seem to be raising the question that adoption rather than death needs to be morally justified. Do you really need an argument for that?

That isn’t remotely close to what I’m arguing, please read it again. Thom Stark (and you, I presume?) are arguing that there is no possible reason for permitting such evils. Thom offered adoption as a counterexample to the defense that by allowing certain evils, other, greater evils may be eliminated. But his is an incredibly strong claim, for as I said, it presumes knowledge of all contingent states of affairs that would result from the adoption of perpetrators of unspeakable horrors while they were still young. That kind of claim requires some argumentation. I don’t have the intuition to accept it – do you?
Adoption rather than death is of course morally justified, all else being equal. It’s important to remember that the “all else being equal” part is an assumption, and it’s not at all clear to me that it is a necessarily true assumption. We are warranted in making it for our everyday purposes, because it is I think true in many, many circumstances. But that doesn’t mean it is necessarily true.

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Thom Stark September 7, 2010 at 10:37 am

I am unfortunately unsubscribing from this thread due to a marked lack of any position meriting sustained engagement.

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cl September 7, 2010 at 11:03 am

Tony Hoffman,

Lest I be accused of evasion, I just want you to know that I’m reading your comments. If I see a question that seems honest and not intended as a roast, I’ll reply.

Anette,

I was just hoping that we could get to the point where we could discuss things without calling each other hypocrites, Pharisees, and moral monsters.

Ha! Yes, I concur, maturity is needed if any real progress is to ensue. Thom Stark had remarked about you leaving the conversation. I was going to reply something along the lines of, “Why would she want to stay?” Then again, there are people who believe that insults have a place in rational discussion.

Thom Stark,

I’m not interested in talking movies with you.

That was an attempt at a light-hearted chuckle. I take that it failed.

The only thing I’m interested in is hearing from you what precisely this much touted yet elusive “morally sufficient reason” is.

You’ve already heard it. You took it out of context and formulated a strawman counterargument. Overall was the key word, and Reidish followed up with the salient question.

To claim that one “could” exist is not enough.

Is it enough to claim that one couldn’t, as you are? If so, why the special pleading?

In Anette’s case, we have a person who has adopted the logic of ancient Hitler’s.

No, we do not. Hitler’s logic was, “God is on my side as I exterminate the Jews.” Anette’s logic is, “If God is really good, God must have some morally sufficient reason for exterminating the Canaanites.” The former is a proactive agent to genocide, the latter is not. Besides, what do you have to gain from saying Anette is “like Hitler” anyways? This seemingly undermines your claim that your sole interest is hearing the morally sufficient reason. If you desire cogency, eschew emotional trigger words in favor of accurate comparisons.

…the claim that it is moral to kill in order to prevent a greater evil is an interesting, indeed a highly controversial claim in its own right. But let’s grant it.

Most humans do, I think. If Joe is about to kill 20 people, we call the person that kills Joe a hero.

Both were wrong.

Why? Because you adhere to some imaginary rule that says, “Genocide is always bad, bad, bad all the time?” Justify that rule if you wish to persuade me. Don’t simply assert they “were wrong.”

I find it hard to believe that you can’t think that many steps ahead.

Do you wish to persuade me of your point[s]? If so, justify your assumed premises. Lack of cordiality is rarely persuasive.

Reidish,

[Thom Stark's] one-word rejoinder of “Adoption” presumes knowledge that such a counterfactual would not overall increase other evils. How do you know this to be true? Would you care to give an argument?

I’m getting the feeling Thom Stark believes only theists need to justify their claims. It’s apparently okay for him to assert things like, “genocide is always wrong” and “it is impossible that a morally sufficient reason could exist,” without the slightest hint of argument or evidence whatsoever.

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 11:11 am

Thom, agreed.

It’s amazing what tripe passes for a valid argument. I think that you will find that not engaged the nonsense being offered will ease your nerves and allow you to laugh at the slimy dishonest or insane ramblings on offer.

I half suspect that there is some sockpuppeting going on to bolster the idea that there is more support for the shameless ‘and, so’ arguments being offered. I would be interested if Luke tracks this find of thing or not. If I were him, I would, but keep silent about it; an ace in the pocket.

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piero September 7, 2010 at 11:11 am

Anette:

I have not taken anything you or anyone else here has said personally. I was just hoping that we could get to the point where we could discuss things without calling each other hypocrites, Pharisees, and moral monsters.

As I said, I have had a lot of discussions with atheists in the past year, and I have never accused them of immorality nor have they ever accused me of immorality. And that made for an easier exchange of ideas. I think that comparing a person to Hitler, even if it’s not strictly an ad hominem attack, creates a barrier to discussion.

We are not accusing you of immorality. We have proved to you that you are immoral. You seem to have a pretty high opinion of yourself, but let me tell you this: you are not like Hitler because almost certainly you have killed no-one, but all the same you are not to be trusted. I would not like to be your friend, because I cannot tell when your interpretation of God’s commands would turn you against me. Anyone who entertains for a second the possibility of justifying the massacre of children is, in my book, fully despicable and less than fully human. That’s not an ad hominem, by the way: it is my honest appraisal of your character.

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Tony Hoffman September 7, 2010 at 11:14 am

CL: Lest I be accused of evasion, I just want you to know that I’m reading your comments. If I see a question that seems honest and not intended as a roast, I’ll reply.

Anette,

I was just hoping that we could get to the point where we could discuss things without calling each other hypocrites, Pharisees, and moral monsters.

Ha! Yes, I concur, maturity is needed if any real progress is to ensue. Thom Stark had remarked about you leaving the conversation. I was going to reply something along the lines of, “Why would she want to stay?” Then again, there are people who believe that insults have a place in rational discussion.

CL, you start out above by insulting me (my comments are not honest), then in your next paragraph you decry those “,,,who believe that insults have a place in rational discussion.”

Your act grows tiresome. And that is why I respond less and less to the things you write.

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 11:29 am

She wanted and still wants war. Not to troll, but for a more ideological reason. She is enlightened, you are ignorant, and the facts do not matter. You will submit if she wears you down. She got her wish for quite awhile. She got war. She deserves so much less.

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cl September 7, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Tony Hoffman,

you start out above by insulting me (my comments are not honest),

By honest I mean something like, “extended in good faith and in honest pursuit of truth.” I’m not trying to insult you. I am noting that you gravitate towards insults and are not treating your interlocutors professionally. If that bothers you, I don’t know what to say.

Your act grows tiresome.

So does yours. What does either one of us gain from opining thus?

Let me rephrase: if you have a question that doesn’t come across as denigration, I’ll acknowledge it. Else, I’m content to leave things where they’re at. I don’t want war; I want a simple, cordial discussion with people of differing ideology. I like to believe that’s not too much to ask.

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Tony Hoffman September 7, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Me: “Possible reasons are not a defense.”
Reidish: “No, that is precisely what a defense is.”

Okay. Then if Yawheh were to exist, it’s possible that he’s a monster. Case closed. Phew, that was easier than I thought.

Thom Stark (and you, I presume?) are arguing that there is no possible reason for permitting such evils.

No. I think you misunderstand (surprise) the burden of proof here. Thom and I and the others here were asking for a good explanation (per Anette’s original argument here). Go ahead and look for Thom and I making the claim that there could be no possible reason for demanding the execution of infants in the Canaanite genocide; I don’t think you’ll find them.

Thom offered adoption as a counterexample to the defense that by allowing certain evils, other, greater evils may be eliminated. But his is an incredibly strong claim, for as I said, it presumes knowledge of all contingent states of affairs that would result from the adoption of perpetrators of unspeakable horrors while they were still young. That kind of claim requires some argumentation. I don’t have the intuition to accept it – do you?

Yikes. Monster monster monster. I am truly stunned that you just wrote this. When confronted with the claim that, in any instance, the life of an infant will result in greater evil than my killing her, it is the claim that I must kill her that needs some argumentation, and that’s in large part BECAUSE my intuition screams that this child needs protection.

You have pretty much exactly misunderstood the burden of proof and the problem with the argument that God has a good explanation for the Canaanite genocide (like, you need to provide the explanation). And that is why I, like several others here, am going to have to say I’m bowing out of further discussion here unless I find myself dragged back in.

If nothing else, this discussion seems to show that the Canaanite discussion will make some theists willingly take the side of monsters, and I found that surprising.

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Tony Hoffman September 7, 2010 at 1:00 pm

CL,

You’re a steady stream of insults and sanctimony who asks that others refrain from the same. That makes you a hypocrite. If you were funnier I probably wouldn’t notice; funny covers a lot of that stuff up.

CL: “I’m not trying to insult you. I am noting that you gravitate towards insults and are not treating your interlocutors professionally.”

Still with the same packaging of insults covered in a veneer of condescension and feigned patience. I don’t really mind the style, per se, it’s just the hypocritical insistence that everybody else follow some other set of rules that demands some remark.

PS. Professionally? Really? Professionally?

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Anette Acker September 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Tony Hoffman,

Yikes. Monster monster monster. I am truly stunned that you just wrote this. When confronted with the claim that, in any instance, the life of an infant will result in greater evil than my killing her, it is the claim that I must kill her that needs some argumentation, and that’s in large part BECAUSE my intuition screams that this child needs protection.

So, I take it you’re pro-life then?

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Reidish September 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Hi Tony,
You challenged:

Go ahead and look for Thom and I making the claim that there could be no possible reason for demanding the execution of infants in the Canaanite genocide; I don’t think you’ll find them.

Here you are, upthread:

Tony [to Anette]: So you seemed to be entertaining a defense of killing babies. Like I said, if you’re withdrawing your defense of killing babies, then I have no reason to decry you. If (and I’m not sure) you still think this is a defensible thing for an all powerful God to be demanding, then I’ll go back to calling you a monster.

You don’t think it’s defensible. This is equivalent to thinking there’s no possible reason to allow it.

When confronted with the claim that, in any instance, the life of an infant will result in greater evil than my killing her, it is the claim that I must kill her that needs some argumentation, and that’s in large part BECAUSE my intuition screams that this child needs protection.

Question for you then. All else being equal and presuming complete foreknowledge: is it better to kill Jeffrey Dahmer young or adopt him such that he murders and cannibalizes others later in life?

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Tony Hoffman: If nothing else, this discussion seems to show that the Canaanite discussion will make some theists willingly take the side of monsters, and I found that surprising.

It hasn’t surprised me for quite a few years. Christianity does not provide a moral framework, but an immoral one wrapped in a layer of obvious moral goods. Rape children, abuse funds, promote death on a grand scale, and eliminate rights and freedoms. Religions, unexamined and sheltered from even obvious criticisms such as the probable fiction of Canaanite genocide, excel at all these things.

Yet, people are moral even if religions push immoral results. All things being equal …

* If someone is given a normal situation, most will choose the moral path.

* If someone is religious and is given a religious situation, there is a lower chance that they will take the moral path.

* If someone is defending their religion, they are detached from morality and are only looking at the defense of their religion.

The last one is what we see here. If we did not bring up this specific Christian story, and instead brought up a generic or modern equivalent, I would be surprised if they would take the same stance because few people are psychopaths, and the psychopaths are usually silent about their deviant thoughts while they plot brutality.

The question that is most crushing is the one that has not been raised, but is explicit in the actions of the theists here;

Why does a deity — any deity — require a mortal to defend them?

If a deity existed, it would not of course need anything, especially a defender in the form of such a feeble, Earth bound, soon to rot flesh bag. It would only need a defense if the deity itself was feeble and easy to damage. That is why they are reacting so vigorously; their god can be hurt, since it doesn’t actually exist outside their imaginations. I give them the benefit of knowing this on some level even if they do not want to admit it to the person or character that they think they are.

* * *

Along those lines, almost trite but no less true the thousandth or billionth time it has been said;

“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil — but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”

–Steven Weinberg

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piero September 7, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Reidish:

Question for you then. All else being equal and presuming complete foreknowledge: is it better to kill Jeffrey Dahmer young or adopt him such that he murders and cannibalizes others later in life?

And a question for you, Reidish: can you prove beyond reasonable doubt that God has complete foreknowledge? If you can, then can you explain why he chose to create us, knowing beforehand what suffering that would entail? Can you explain how complete foreknowledge is compatible with omnipotence? Can you explain why he chose not to kill Hitler as a baby? Can you prove to me you are not an idiot?

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puntnf September 7, 2010 at 2:22 pm

The one thing that’s increasingly clear is that, despite whatever we’re supposed to think, Christians are, as a whole, no more ‘moral’ than unbelievers.

And I know this is something we’re supposed to take for granted anyway, because humans are ‘sinners’. But I’m going via a different avenue. What I’m asking, in this case, are the examples right in front of our noses.

God’s ‘chosen’ people are suspected of practicing intellectual dishonesty, active/obvious evasion, blatant hypocrisy, and/or sock-puppetry. Perhaps God really does ‘judge us’ based of ‘faith/belief’ alone. But honestly, imagine, given that this God actually exists, what this ‘heaven’ will be like. It will be a hell for atheists and many agnostics: a morally-grey arena controlled by a cosmic dictator, where anything He says goes. Period.

Many intellectually honest agnostics/atheists will be punished in the stead of scheming/dishonest theists, simply because they were on the losing team.

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Reidish September 7, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Hi piero,
You asked:

And a question for you, Reidish: can you prove beyond reasonable doubt that God has complete foreknowledge?

No, I don’t think I could do that. Although, it would follow that He would have to have such knowledge if He indeed is omniscient. Since I take it that the Bible accords knowledge of all things to God, and am close to being persuaded by the ontological argument, then I am of the position that He has complete foreknowledge.

If you can, then can you explain why he chose to create us, knowing beforehand what suffering that would entail?

For a greater good.

Can you explain how complete foreknowledge is compatible with omnipotence?

Since no inconsistent set can be formed that includes the two propositions “God has complete foreknowledge” and “God is omnipotent”, they are compatible. Similarly, I cannot “explain” how an apple being both red and round are compatible.

Can you explain why he chose not to kill Hitler as a baby?

For a greater good. Again, since I do not have complete knowledge of all counterfactuals of human freedom, I am not simply not in the position to know what these goods are. Are you? Or do you think it is necessarily false that greater goods could obtain were Hitler to survive than be killed young?

Can you prove to me you are not an idiot?

I like proving negatives as much as the next commenter, but that effort seems positively herculean. Besides, my spidey-senses tell me you may have already made up your mind.

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Agreed.

Plug: Scott Clifton has replied to a Christian with a new video;

Scott’s reply: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RqkskhzRCc

CSA post pn Scott’s morality video: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11161

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cl September 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Tony Hoffman,

Still with the same packaging of insults covered in a veneer of condescension and feigned patience.

Hear what you wish, but answer me one last question if you will: how can I explain that I think you’re “being a jerk” without offending you or making you think I’m a hypocrite? This seems to be an instance of, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” You seem to be offering me two options: either accept your objectionable behavior, or be called a hypocrite for calling it – both of which seem objectionable to me.

I don’t really mind the style, per se, it’s just the hypocritical insistence that everybody else follow some other set of rules that demands some remark.

There is no hypocritical insistence. It’s that I don’t want to be called “hypocrite” or “lukewarm” or “retarded creationist” or “fucking stupid” in ostensibly rational discussions. When people do make those accusations, it’s not hypocritical for me to fire back with something like, “you’re being judgmental, pompous or arrogant.” Though I’ll try to choose my words more carefully, calling people on their bullish insults isn’t hypocrisy.

As I’ve said before, I’ve had conversations with you where I felt there was a mutual respect and something actually learned. I haven’t felt that in the last few we’ve had. We can start anew at any time.

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Note: I was agreeing with puntnf and posted a few moments after Reidish.

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piero September 7, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Reidish:

For a greater good.

And that would be? Ooops, sorry, I forgot about God’s inscrutability. Funny how you have no problem believing that God is good, even though he is inscrutable.

Since no inconsistent set can be formed that includes the two propositions “God has complete foreknowledge” and “God is omnipotent”, they are compatible. Similarly, I cannot “explain” how an apple being both red and round are compatible.

Of course they are incompatible. Complete foreknowledge implies that God has made up his mind for all eternity, and that he is unable to change it. If he had complete foreknowledge of the Flood, say, in what sense could he have decided to bring it forth? If I had complete foreknowledge of my future, in what sense could I be free?

Omnipotence, by the same token, entails that no foreknowledge can be complete.

Or do you think it is necessarily false that greater goods could obtain were Hitler to survive than be killed young?

That’s precisely the problem. You seem to think that counterfactuals make sense. By positing a counterfactual, you are actually asking “what would the world be like if it wasn’t the way it is?”, which is nonsense. What possible answer can you give to that?

my spidey-senses tell me you may have already made up your mind.

No, I have not… yet.

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ildi September 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm

So, let me get this straight: Yahwah has unlimited power and complete foreknowledge, and the best solution he could come up with to avoid a theoretical greater evil was to put his chosen people through the trauma of requiring them to slaughter every living person in the besieged city, including teeny-tiny wailing infants? That’s just incompetent. Our elected officials do a better job than that. He is an incompetent deity in general, isn’t he? How many times did he throw a hissy fit and threaten to wipe out his creations because he didn’t like how they turned out?

While we’re on the topic of incompetence, in what fever dream did he come with his plan for where to put his tree of knowledge of good and evil; I mean, really! He sticks the tree in the middle of the garden, tells the poor sods (who don’t have the knowledge of good and evil yet) that they can have anything in the garden but the fruit of that one tree, then damns them and their descendants for eternity for eating it! It’s like leaving food in reach of your dog, telling him ‘no’, leaving the room, then beating the living daylights out of him and the cat for going for it.

Yahwah is a sadist; there’s no way around it. The whole bit about “I gave you life, I can take it away whenever I want to, I own your sorry ass,” yeah, I can feel the love!

No wonder the Israelites were ready to chuck him for the Baalim and the Baalot.

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Reidish September 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Hi piero,
Here’s my last comment on this:

Of course they are incompatible. Complete foreknowledge implies that God has made up his mind for all eternity, and that he is unable to change it.

Right, and omnipotence doesn’t imply the ability to perform that which is logically impossible. God cannot bring it about that the following 3 propositions are true:
(1) There is a possible world X where piero and Reidish engage in a discussion on CSA in September 2010.
(2) God actualizes possible world X.
(3) God knows that piero and Reidish do not engage in a discussion on CSA in September 2010.

Indeed, God has made up his mind from all eternity, will not discover anything new, nor reflect on new facts and come to different conclusions about any propositions. But, were the facts of the matter different regarding what free creatures would do for instance, then the content of God’s knowledge would be different, and presumably He would act accordingly with power limited only by what is logically possible.

If he had complete foreknowledge of the Flood, say, in what sense could he have decided to bring it forth?

I’m not sure I follow your intent here. The knowledge of all possible worlds informs His decision to bring it forth.

If I had complete foreknowledge of my future, in what sense could I be free?

By observing that were you to act differently, the content of your foreknowledge would be different.

You seem to think that counterfactuals make sense. By positing a counterfactual, you are actually asking “what would the world be like if it wasn’t the way it is?”, which is nonsense. What possible answer can you give to that?

Quelle challenge! Right, I do think counterfactuals make sense, mostly because I don’t think the actual world is necessary. For example, it “makes sense” to talk about what would your best friend prefer if you offered them a plate of cookies versus a glass of formaldehyde. We use counterfactuals all the time, even if they’re difficult to know with much certainty. To clarify things: a counterfactual does not posit what would the world be like if it wasn’t the way it is (which is absurd, as you noted). Rather, a counterfactual supposes what would be the case if the actual world did not obtain.

Reidish: my spidey-senses tell me you may have already made up your mind. [regarding my potential idiocy]
piero: No, I have not… yet.

Borderline idiocy, then? I’ll take it…

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Duke York September 7, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I already performed a partial exegesis for you and you ignored it.

You mean this?

Nothing in the Bible explicitly condemns being wealthy, per se, but there are verses that condemn ill-gotten wealth [Amos 4:11; 5:11; Micah 6:1], trusting in one’s wealth [Prov. 11:4; 11:28; Jer. 9:23; 1 Tim. 6:17; James 1:11; 5:2], and lusting after wealth [1 Tim. 6:10]. Christians are also called to tithe and redistribute wealth to the poor, and it’s hard to imagine how that would be possible in the complete absence of possessions.

Let me ask then…

Do you keep Kosher?

As I see it, this is an exactly analagous subject, something that is either required (dietary restrictions) or encouraged (getting wealthy) in the Hebrew Scriptures that is changed in the Christian scriptures.

But I shouldn’t judge. You’re right. With your years — nay! Decades! — of study, of reading the works in the original languages, with your research, your meditations, your prayer, you have come to know exactly what Christ Jesus wants you to do, and miracle of miracles…

It’s exactly what you wanted to do anyway

So no, cl. You’re not a hypocrite. I’d never accuse you of that, with your obvious study, with your patient, saintly attitude.

All those other Christians? Those cafeteria Christians who do the exact same thing you do, on the basis of what feels easy, because their preacher-man told them to. The people who haven’t done the work like you obviously have?

They’re hypocrites. Not you. Never you.

Better? Hurt feelings all gone?

Duke

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piero September 7, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Reidish:

Hi piero,
Here’s my last comment on this:

Thank God for that! For a moment I thought I would have to reply to your powerful, cogent arguments! Saved by the bell, as it were.

Idiot.

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drj September 8, 2010 at 4:39 am

Well, even though the thread has fizzled out a little bit, I’ll throw in some additional 2 cents. There is a lot of talking past each other here – the theists and atheists are having two different arguments.

The theists are taking it as a given that God exists, is all powerful, all knowing and all good, and that when the Bible authors name Him as their “inspired by” credit – that they are correct. So with all that, whoopdeedoo… why do they even need to mount an argument here at all? If all of the above is a given, its trivially obvious that God had a mysterious but morally sufficient reason for doing what he did in the Bible. So the argument the theists are offering here can be distilled down to this: God has a morally sufficient reason for everything he does (given), therefore he had a morally sufficient reason for those things he did that one time that seemed really bad.

And of course, the theist is taking it as victory when the atheist fails to produce a logical contradiction in that tautology.

Way to go… way to go…

The thought behind the atheists arguments here, is the simple question: What is the best explanation for the story of the Canaanites? And its pretty easy to see why the theist doesn’t want to go here – that omni* God would act in the manner that story portrays is about as plausible sounding as a teenager telling his teacher he couldn’t finish his homework because he was abducted by aliens.

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Hermes September 8, 2010 at 5:03 am

Yep.

* If the Christian deity acts in a way that is inscrutable, then nothing reliable can be said about it by the Christians.

* Everyone — Christians included — are left with their own abilities to discern what is what. There are no standards that a Christian can point to that a non-Christian does not have available to them as well.

* More importantly: The omnimax deity concept itself is incoherent for any claimant, not just the Christians, though it would be good that the Christian theists would admit that is the case; their deity isn’t and can not logically be an omnimax.

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drj September 8, 2010 at 5:08 am

I really also do get a kick out of it when Christians suddenly become such extreme consequentialists. Funny how the OT does that.

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Hermes September 8, 2010 at 5:24 am

Yes, the ends of their claimed deity — no matter how incoherent — justify the means to get there. All evils are not evil, all morals are perfected somehow, all particulars unimportant. An unyielding and unquestionable replacement for a conscience leading them, invisibly, but only when their religion is threatened.

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lukeprog September 8, 2010 at 6:16 am

drj,

Yeah, if they’re really divine command theorists, then the only justification they would need to offer is “God wanted Israel to slaughter the other Canaanites.” Other kinds of arguments may just be a way of trying to satisfy their own consequentialist intuitions.

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Tony Hoffman September 8, 2010 at 6:28 am

Yes, my chief problem with the DCT approach (the tautological reply) comes from its being packaged as a rational argument, as in, “… and thus it all makes perfect sense.” No, it shocks the mind and sensibilities. It requires that the theist throw away attempts at rationally understanding God.

If I were a theist I would trade away my embrace of moral monstrosity at the expense of literalism any day. The literalism ship sailed a long time ago, anyway — not much to lose there, methinks.

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Tony Hoffman September 8, 2010 at 9:01 am

Reidish: “You don’t think [an all powerful God demanding the killing of infants] is defensible. This is equivalent to thinking there’s no possible reason to allow it.”

Um, no. I think you’re confusing what we’re talking about here in terms of creating a defense. You seem to think that logical possibility is good enough, but that would get your client indicted every time; the position appears indefensible, as in you can’t win your case with it.

Imagine you were Jeffery Dahmer’s defense attorney. It’s possible that Jeffrey Dahmer killed and ate his victims to save them from a worse fate (we can’t rule it out that Jeffrey Dahmer was God in the flesh, acting in the only option available to him to do the greatest good), but you aren’t going to win over a jury with that defense. You can take your “it’s not logically impossible” defense to the jury, but you’ll lose it every time. Hence, indefensible.

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Tony Hoffman September 8, 2010 at 9:07 am

Anette: “So, I take it you’re pro-life then? ”

Evidently more than many theists.

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Tony Hoffman September 8, 2010 at 9:29 am

CL: “There is no hypocritical insistence. It’s that I don’t want to be called “hypocrite” or “lukewarm” or “retarded creationist” or “fucking stupid” in ostensibly rational discussions.”

You should be less thin-skinned. I think that other readers are capable of discerning when you are being unfairly labeled or attacked. When someone does this in an online discussion, and it’s unjustified, I think less of the accuser and better of the accused.

But when you ask that others refrain from activities you practice, you are a hypocrite. Sorry, no free passes.

CL: “When people do make those accusations, it’s not hypocritical for me to fire back with something like, “you’re being judgmental, pompous or arrogant.” Though I’ll try to choose my words more carefully, calling people on their bullish insults isn’t hypocrisy.”

Hence, my comments to you.

It’s a blog discussion. Passions are part of intellectual discourse. We’re all here partly because we know something about these issues, but also because we care a lot about them, and that passion is going to fuel the debate. If I thought I wasn’t going to be corrected (however harshly) or learn something, I wouldn’t participate. And sometimes, the only way to get someone’s attention and get them to really dig deep and question something is to hit them on the head with the internet equivalent of a two by four. It raises the stakes (for both parties), because nobody wants to look like a fool.

If somebody insults me with a false accusation, I usually get to expose their thinking habits for what they are, and most times their argument is exposed as the result of poor (emotional) critical thinking. If they’re right and I am acting or thinking like an ass, I learn something. Either it’s fun, or it’s productive.

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Anette Acker September 8, 2010 at 9:44 am

Tony Hoffman,

Anette: “So, I take it you’re pro-life then? ”

Evidently more than many theists.

Is that a yes? You’re pro-life on the issue of abortion?

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Anette Acker September 8, 2010 at 10:08 am

Hermes,

She wanted and still wants war. Not to troll, but for a more ideological reason. She is enlightened, you are ignorant, and the facts do not matter. You will submit if she wears you down. She got her wish for quite awhile. She got war. She deserves so much less.

I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean, although that has a great ring to it! It almost made me want to put on my Terminator sunglasses.

But I will tell you where I’m coming from. I have zero patience for insulting drive-by comments. Not because they hurt my feelings or make me angry, but because they are distracting. So that is why I dealt with them as directly as I did. I have every intention of treating you with respect (if we are going to continue to communicate) and I expect the same in return.

However, I will never try to wear you down or manipulate you in order to get you to accept my ideology. My goal is to present Christianity in a rational way and try to answer theological questions, and either you accept my arguments or you reject them. I have no desire to cram my religion down your throat.

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Tony Hoffman September 8, 2010 at 10:09 am

Anette, I think I have the same stance on abortion as the Christian God does. We’re both pretty complicated about it.

Here’s my question to you: if I told you that I was a doctor who only performed abortions when God instructed me to, how would you respond?

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ildi September 8, 2010 at 10:24 am

Good point, Anette, God is not done with the baby killing! Oh, no, not by a long shot! Every year in the U.S. alone he sends a million babies to hell by causing them to be miscarried before they are able to accept the Lord Jesus Christ into their hearts as their personal savior. Hell is teeming with billions and billions of zygotes! Do you think they float around like huge clouds of gnats that the other damned have to wade through?

OTOH, maybe abortions are another of God’s ways of making sure no demon seed enters the world…

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Hermes September 8, 2010 at 10:45 am

Anette, the comment was not to you unless you are using a sockpuppet and are the person who it was directed towards.

As for ‘drive by’ posting, the person who I was directing my comments towards is quite stubborn in the face of many verifiable facts. As such, why should I give them patient consideration? They did not do that for others.

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drj September 8, 2010 at 10:45 am

Is that a yes? You’re pro-life on the issue of abortion?

Slight threadjack…

Most pro-choice thinkers, I believe, would typically say that the nature of a fetus is such that terms like “murder” are inapplicable – just like you can’t really murder a rock, you can’t murder a fetus.

And before Christians object, just think of how you view God – If I call God a murderer for all the people he’s killed, most of you will simply object that the nature of His being renders the term inapplicable. So you should be able to understand this point on some level.

So it really misses the mark, in most cases, to try and make a pro-choice atheist feel hypocritical for condemning the ancient Israelites’ baby slaughtering.

Destroying a fetus is not murder – at least that’s not something I, nor most other pro-choice people are convinced of. But destroying a healthy, living, and sentient baby is murder, in my book – so I can condemn the Israelites for it, be pro-choice, while being perfectly self-consistent.

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Hermes September 8, 2010 at 10:53 am

Ildi, a valid conclusion is that the Christian deity, as promoted by the faithful, must be attempting to maximize the number of spontaneous abortions while spreading misery and death for those outside the womb.

After all, why would it’s followers be the largest proponents of abstinence only programs and restrictions on birth control products that deal with preventing conception in the first place? Why protest vaccines that can block HPV? Why discourage frank discussions about sex?

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Anette Acker September 8, 2010 at 11:02 am

Tony Hoffman,

Anette, I think I have the same stance on abortion as the Christian God does. We’re both pretty complicated about it.

If you’re “complicated about it,” why did you write what you did to Reidish? It appears that you accept the fact that moral questions can be complicated. In fact, you seem to accept “inconvenience” as a reason to kill a baby, which goes far beyond what the OT says about the Canaanites. Still, although I’m pro-life, I’m by means prepared to call you a monster.

The Christian God says very little about politics, because politics has to take into consideration human nature and culture. In the theocracy of ancient Israel, God did exactly that. But Christianity is all about salvation.

A central teaching of Christianity is that Christ changes our hearts when we receive him in faith. This is why the early Christians could share everything in common without corruption. Nobody forced them to share–they did so willingly. So this community of believers combined freedom and equality. Political systems, on the other hand, have to find a balance, and have to take into consideration the selfishness and potential for corruption in human nature.

Here’s my question to you: if I told you that I was a doctor who only performed abortions when God instructed me to, how would you respond?

The same way that I would respond to anyone who uses God as a justification for killing. Am I to assume that you are a Christian in this hypothetical situation? If so, I would tell you to follow the teachings of Christ.

I think I made it very clear that the behavior of the ancient Israelites was unique to that culture. It was a warrior culture where they had to either exterminate or be exterminated. And we see in 1 Chronicles 22:8 that Yahweh hated violence, but considered it a necessary evil.

Is it possible that God could tell a Christian to kill? Dietrich Bonhoeffer was part of a plot to assassinate Hitler. Was that morally justified? If it was, it was certainly an extreme example.

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Tony Hoffman September 8, 2010 at 11:53 am

Anette: “If you’re “complicated about it,” why did you write what you did to Reidish?“

Because the destruction of a one celled embryo is not the killing of an infant. I do not have the same emotional response to a one-celled embryo that I do have to an infant. You’d have to be indoctrinated by a religious order to think that destroying a one celled embryo and killing an infant are equivalent.

Anette: “It appears that you accept the fact that moral questions can be complicated. In fact, you seem to accept “inconvenience” as a reason to kill a baby, which goes far beyond what the OT says about the Canaanites.”

What? I said have the same stance on abortion as the Christian God, and by that I mean that I agree that the issue is complex. But where did I say that I accept “inconvenience” as a reason to kill a baby? Nice straw man there.

But it gets better. Earlier you wrote regarding the reason why God demanded the killing of infants that, “it would have been too difficult to keep alive those under two, for example.”

So actually, according to you, the explanation for why God instructed the killing of infants is because keeping them alive would have been… too inconvenient.

You then go on to explain some of your theology. Do me a favor and please spare me the lectures on Christian doctrine. I was raised a Lutheran, I have studied Christianity in high school and college, and I have had to sit through an interminable number of bad sermons from at least a dozen denominations. And from the looks of things you have some serious problems straightening out the coherence of your Christian beliefs.

Anette: “Still, although I’m pro-life, I’m by means prepared to call you a monster.”

I think this is a typo; I think you meant to write “…I’m by no means…”?

Anette: “I think I made it very clear that the behavior of the ancient Israelites was unique to that culture. It was a warrior culture where they had to either exterminate or be exterminated. And we see in 1 Chronicles 22:8 that Yahweh hated violence, but considered it a necessary evil.”

Okay, except killing infants isn’t self-defense. If you God hates killing so much, please try and explain to me why he instructed the Israelites to kill infants.

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Anette Acker September 8, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Tony Hoffman,

Because the destruction of a one celled embryo is not the killing of an infant. I do not have the same emotional response to a one-celled embryo that I do have to an infant. You’d have to be indoctrinated by a religious order to think that destroying a one celled embryo and killing an infant are equivalent.

So you think abortion should be illegal after the one cell stage?

What? I said have the same stance on abortion as the Christian God, and by that I mean that I agree that the issue is complex. But where did I say that I accept “inconvenience” as a reason to kill a baby? Nice straw man there.

I apologize for putting words into your mouth. So you do agree that some moral issues are complex, and that all factors have to be weighed carefully?

But it gets better. Earlier you wrote regarding the reason why God demanded the killing of infants that, “it would have been too difficult to keep alive those under two, for example.”

I admit that I chose my words carelessly. What I meant was that it was a question of choosing the lesser of evils.

You then go on to explain some of your theology. Do me a favor and please spare me the lectures on Christian doctrine. I was raised a Lutheran, I have studied Christianity in high school and college, and I have had to sit through an interminable number of bad sermons from at least a dozen denominations. And from the looks of things you have some serious problems straightening out the coherence of your Christian beliefs.

I explained that to give you a context for what I was talking about when I said that the OT is different from the NT. Christians are not bound by the Law of Moses, for example.

Anette: “Still, although I’m pro-life, I’m by means prepared to call you a monster.”

I think this is a typo; I think you meant to write “…I’m by no means…”?

Yes, that was a typo.

BTW, I’m prepared to agree to disagree.

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ildi September 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm

A central teaching of Christianity is that Christ changes our hearts when we receive him in faith. This is why the early Christians could share everything in common without corruption. Nobody forced them to share–they did so willingly. So this community of believers combined freedom and equality.

It seems to be a bit more than “sharing everything in common, Anette. The next sentence in Acts goes on to say:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

and

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

[emphasis mine]

That’s more than a homeowners’ association; that’s a commune.

Earlier, your interpretation of the message of the Sermon on the Mount was:

Yes, I take the teachings of Jesus very seriously, but these passages are not telling us that it is wrong to own anything. They are telling us what our attitude should be toward our possessions.

and

So Jesus is saying that we should give generously and trust him to take care of us.

You seem to be forgetting Mark and the parable of the rich man. Every Christian knows that one!

As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.”

“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”

Seems pretty clear that if you really want to follow Jesus’ teachings and inherit eternal life, you need to give up your worldly goods and join a commune, like the early Christians. Interestingly enough, there is a lot more in the NT about giving up worldly goods than about abortion.

Interesting, also, that JC got so worked up about being called good, as only God is truly good… maybe he didn’t get the memo about the Trinity?

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Tony Hoffman September 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Anette: “So you think abortion should be illegal after the one cell stage?”

Why are you quizzing me on abortion? You understand that even if I was Genghis Khan that has nothing to do with how you should feel about God ordering the Israelites to kill infants, right?

Anette: “So you do agree that some moral issues are complex, and that all factors have to be weighed carefully?”

Yes.

Anette: “I admit that I chose my words carelessly. What I meant was that it was a question of choosing the lesser of evils.”

Right. Then please provide me with the evil that was avoided by God ordering the Israelites to kill infants.

Anette: “BTW, I’m prepared to agree to disagree.”

I believe that this is a discussion that is unpleasant for Christians. You can walk away from this discussion if it makes you uncomfortable, but you’ve given me nothing that rises to a reasonable explanation for God to have ordered the killing of infants, and that was what I thought you set out to do here. So I can’t even say that I disagree with your explanation; you’ve provided none that rises above a tautology.

On the plus side, if you now think that yes, indeed, God does work in super mysterious ways then I’ll agree with that. Crazy, whacked-out mysterious.

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Anette Acker September 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm

ildi,

That’s more than a homeowners’ association; that’s a commune.

I have no problem calling it a commune. But it was a voluntary commune, and that is key. Freedom is central to Christianity. And an effective political system has to find a good balance between freedom, justice, and equality.

You are absolutely right, though, that Jesus had a lot to say about greed, materialism, and concern for the poor.

But since I already discussed the story of the rich young ruler with Duke York earlier, I’ll leave it at that.

Interesting, also, that JC got so worked up about being called good, as only God is truly good… maybe he didn’t get the memo about the Trinity?

Jesus did not claim that he was not God; he just emphasized that only God is good. In both Luke and Mark this incident was preceded by Jesus saying that the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven is to receive it like a little child. The rich young ruler then asked what good deed he had to do to enter the kingdom of heaven. In other words, he trusted in his own goodness. But his wealth kept him from the kind of humility that would have it possible for him to receive the grace of God.

Jesus clearly claimed to be God in Luke 22:70, Matthew 26:63-64, and Mark 14:61-62, right before he was sentenced to death. But before that, he did not speak openly about it because he would have given the religious authorities the evidence they needed to charge him with blasphemy before his time had come.

Good point, Anette, God is not done with the baby killing! Oh, no, not by a long shot! Every year in the U.S. alone he sends a million babies to hell by causing them to be miscarried before they are able to accept the Lord Jesus Christ into their hearts as their personal savior. Hell is teeming with billions and billions of zygotes! Do you think they float around like huge clouds of gnats that the other damned have to wade through?

No, he doesn’t send them to hell.

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Anette Acker September 8, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Tony Hoffman,

I believe that this is a discussion that is unpleasant for Christians. You can walk away from this discussion if it makes you uncomfortable, but you’ve given me nothing that rises to a reasonable explanation for God to have ordered the killing of infants, and that was what I thought you set out to do here. So I can’t even say that I disagree with your explanation; you’ve provided none that rises above a tautology.

It is certainly the most challenging question in the Bible to explain, at least as an historical event. However, these stories contain a lot of typology (symbolic foreshadowing) of Christ, his redemption, spiritual warfare, and the kingdom of God. So they make a lot of sense to me from that standpoint.

I did not use a tautology. I said, 1) the Bible said that they were to drive them out, 2) God alone has the absolute right to take away a life, but he was merciful and patient with the Canaanites for 400 years, and 3) this was probably an inherently complicated moral issue at the time, where this solution was the lesser of evils, and 4) the Israelites lived in a culture where warfare and conquest was very common.

I understand that you don’t find that explanation persuasive, but that’s the best I can do. Since I know that Christianity teaches a high level of morality (the teachings of Christ), I am not greatly troubled by it. I also know that every book of the OT is full of clear typology and prophecy of Christ, so I am persuaded that it is inspired.

And yes, I would like to agree to disagree, because I have the feeling we could be quagmired here forever. :)

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Hermes September 9, 2010 at 3:48 am

I have no problem calling it a commune. But it was a voluntary commune, and that is key. Freedom is central to Christianity. And an effective political system has to find a good balance between freedom, justice, and equality.

So, would you would condemn any force used to establish such a commune?

Would you do that now, or make excuses for it?

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Tony Hoffman September 9, 2010 at 5:14 am

Anette: “I understand that you don’t find that explanation persuasive, but that’s the best I can do.”

Understood.

Anette: “Since I know that Christianity teaches a high level of morality (the teachings of Christ), I am not greatly troubled by it.”

And that is the tautology in your argument — since you “know” that God is all good, killing infants must have been good.

Anette: “I also know that every book of the OT is full of clear typology and prophecy of Christ, so I am persuaded that it is inspired.”

This is, of course, pure delusion.

I’ll agree to end this here. I do have to point out that through all of this you have never provided a reasonable explanation for why God would order the killing of infants beyond the tautologically useless “he must have had his reasons.” (My paraphrase in quotes.)

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ildi September 9, 2010 at 6:33 am

But since I already discussed the story of the rich young ruler with Duke York earlier, I’ll leave it at that.

Missed that exchange…

Luke 14:33
You must give away all your property to be Jesus’ disciple.

You must renounce all you have to be Jesus’ disciple. That is, you have to detach yourself from it, and be willing to walk away from it all at God’s command.
CL is right that Jesus specifically commanded the rich man to give everything away, because his wealth was his god. When Jesus went through the list of some commandments, he didn’t mention, “You shall have no gods beside me.” The rich man could not have honestly said that he had kept that one.

So many mental gymnastics in just two little paragraphs!
renounce doesn’t mean detach yourself from it; renounce means to formally give up, like, right away. What is confusing about that?

Since the new definition of renounce is on shaky ground, you also redefine the message of the parable from “give up all your worldly possessions” to “do not worship your worldly possessions.”

Then, to really cover your bases, you define yourself out of the rich category! Brilliant! This from someone who has stocks…

Fun facts:

Less than 20 percent of Americans own stocks outside an employee sponsored plan.
A net worth of $1 million (including home equity) will put you in the top 8% of Americans.
The minimum income required to be in the top 1% of American tax-filers is $300,000.
In 2003, when a Gallup poll asked Americans to define “rich,” the median figure among all of those surveyed was a household income of $122,000.
When people are asked how much it takes to be rich, they always give a number that’s twice their current net worth or income. Those with $100,000 in incomes say $200,000, while those worth $5 million say $10 million.

You go on to say:

But it was a voluntary commune, and that is key. Freedom is central to Christianity.

Well and good. However, you also stated:

A central teaching of Christianity is that Christ changes our hearts when we receive him in faith. This is why the early Christians could share everything in common without corruption.

So, what happened? Does Christ no longer change your heart so that you are able to sell all your possessions and give to anyone as they have need? I suspect that you are indeed attached to your worldly possessions and the security it gives you. You don’t trust Christ enough to follow his command and have faith that all your needs will be met without the security blanket of your possessions?

Babies going to hell: Why do you balk at the idea that God sends baby souls to hell? It seems pretty straightforward: they have souls, they are not saved, they go to hell. God sends a lot of people to hell; what’s a few more billion more or less?

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ildi September 9, 2010 at 6:49 am

story of the rich young ruler

How could I have missed this? Now he’s morphed into a ruler? Exegesis is fun when you can just make stuff up!

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Anette Acker September 9, 2010 at 9:30 am

I am going to give brief answers to each of you, and then I’m done, for the reason I gave before (the quagmire thing).

Hermes,

So, would you would condemn any force used to establish such a commune?

Yes, I would condemn force used to establish a commune. And furthermore, I would consider a political system that doesn’t take human nature into consideration to be foolish (but that’s not to say that capitalism is perfect either). And I oppose the fact that communism restricts freedom–as well as the corruption of communist regimes, the lack of the concern for human rights, and the poverty of the people. However, if people lived voluntarily in communes and had none of those problem, of course I would have no problem with that.

Tony Hoffman,

And that is the tautology in your argument — since you “know” that God is all good, killing infants must have been good.

I have gone way beyond saying just that. However, I have admitted that I find this issue the most challenging. I have been challenged by atheists on just about every theological question in the past year, and this is the only one that I feel doesn’t have a satisfying explanation. But since everything else in the Bible makes a great deal of sense (and makes more sense the more I am challenged) it is rational of me to still accept God’s goodness and the veracity of the Bible. At most the question is about the factual inerrancy of the Bible, and I will tell you right now that I am not the kind of person who gets bent out of shape over minor factual discrepancies in the Gospels, for example. To me, they are a sign of authenticity. This is particularly not a concern to me since I have found the Bible to be completely consistent theologically.

Also, keep in mind that the reason why we are so troubled by the Canaanite conquest is because it goes against the Judeo-Christian values of our culture. The parts of the world that have traditionally been predominantly Christian or Jewish have the best record of human rights.

Anette: “I also know that every book of the OT is full of clear typology and prophecy of Christ, so I am persuaded that it is inspired.”

This is, of course, pure delusion.

You are begging the question here. But since you have obviously made up your mind, that is another reason why we should agree to disagree.

ildi,

So, what happened? Does Christ no longer change your heart so that you are able to sell all your possessions and give to anyone as they have need? I suspect that you are indeed attached to your worldly possessions and the security it gives you. You don’t trust Christ enough to follow his command and have faith that all your needs will be met without the security blanket of your possessions?

Since I’ve already had this discussion with Duke York, I will focus on one issue that was raised in that conversation that we did not address, and that is about judging other people. The reason why it is often unwise to do so is because we almost never have sufficient information to make an accurate judgment. I have frequently been proven wrong when I prejudge. You don’t know how much I give and you don’t know anything about my attitude toward wealth. Just like I am in no position to make an accurate judgment of your character, you are in no position to make an accurate judgment of mine.

But when Jesus said to renounce everything, he did not just mean wealth. He meant that we have to be willing to walk away from public approval and everything else as well. Jesus did exactly that–first the crowd loved him and then they yelled for him to be crucified. But whether they loved him or hated him, he had integrity.

Philippians 4:12 says: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” That is the attitude the Bible teaches.

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Hermes September 9, 2010 at 9:59 am

Anette Acker: Yes, I would condemn force used to establish a commune.

Thank you for your direct response. We have similar attitudes towards the failed and brutal experiment of state communism. For what it’s worth, many kibbutzes in Israel (small co-operative communes) are undergoing a quasi-capitalist transformation. While they may survive, I don’t think they will thrive.

For reference;

Acts 5 – Ananias and Sapphira – ( NIV )

1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9 Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

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ildi September 9, 2010 at 10:28 am

Well, it’s been interesting, Anette. You’ve proven to me what mental contortions Bibilical literalists have to go through to a) make God moral, and b) interpret the Bible such that what God wants them to do is what they wanted to do all along.

You’ve managed to convince yourself that genocide can serve a better good because there have been races in the history of human civilization who deserved, nay, HAD, to be annihilated, down to their very genes.

Also:

A Christian has to live by faith, rather than do things in a legalistic way. That is, God’s Spirit within us changes our inclinations and governs our conduct. I know that God has not commanded us to sell the house and go live in a homeless shelter with the kids, and 1 Cor. 13:3 says that if we give everything away for the wrong reasons it profits us nothing.

Great strawman there! God has not commanded you to live in a homeless shelter; who will think of the children?

You are right in that I don’t know you, but I am making a “Watsonian” guess from your college fund comment and that you have a law degree from a good university that by most objective standards you are wealthy. You know what? I really admire the rich man in the story. At least he had the courage to admit that he didn’t want to give up his possessions, and he had the integrity to not pretend that Jesus was asking something totally different from him, like an attitude adjustment.

I know someone already said this way up in the thread, but let go of the literalism, Anette! Embrace that your personal revelation of the meaning of Christ’s teachings have evolved from the original intent due to God’s gradual revelation of his intent over time. The sophistry will go right away.

Meanwhile, here’s another guy I respect who puts his money where his mouth is; from Herber Brown’s blog Faith in Action The Early Christians were Socialists, Why Aren’t We?:

The Kingdom of God is obviously not of this world, but it is the only sermon that Jesus preached and when his earliest adherents lived it; they experienced remarkable miracles and blessings from God. There was joy, unity, food, and no lack among them. They were the Beloved Community.

I’m striving now to experience God’s Kingdom in my personal life and I’m starting with my stuff. I have too much. I’m not rich by the world’s determination, but in another sense I am. I had nearly 8 pairs of shoes, more clothes than I can wear, more “things” than I can classify and I drive past people in downtown Baltimore who are barefoot, half naked, and hungry. God created enough for everybody. Why are there people with nothing living alongside people with more than enough?

I took four pairs of my shoes out of my closet and to the Baltimore Free Store last Saturday. I watched with great joy as those who needed my brown loafers walked off with them without paying a dime. I thought I was going to tear up while giving up my Durango boots, but nope. I’m good. I have enough. And I have more that I’ll be turning over this Saturday.

This is the type of Christian communalism that my soul longs to see! I’ve had enough of Christian commercialism. I’m hungry now for the Kingdom of God.

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Anette Acker September 9, 2010 at 10:41 am

I like that last quote, ildi. Thank you for that.

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drj September 9, 2010 at 10:42 am

Has anyone made any serious rebuttals to free-will theodicies by arguing that the Biblical God doesn’t actually value freedom?

Because quite frankly, it doesnt seem like you’d ever get that impression by reading the Bible at all. Jesus never even says the word.

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Hermes September 9, 2010 at 11:19 am

drj: Has anyone made any serious rebuttals to free-will theodicies by arguing that the Biblical God doesn’t actually value freedom?

Good point!

Conversely, there’s plenty about obedience and following even to the point of referring to followers as sheep.

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Matt September 13, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Hermes. I note this passage states

“3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Here it states, the property belonged to Ananias before he sold it. It also states the property was at Ananias disposal after he sold it. So there is no “forced commune” here.

The text goes on to say the issue was lying to God, not failure to give that was the issue.

So what is your point?

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Duke York September 14, 2010 at 4:02 am

The text goes on to say the issue was lying to God, not failure to give that was the issue.

This is the reason I dislike Christianity the most. It’s not the complicity in slavery. It’s not the derailment scientific progress between the years 400 and 1500 and the destruction of the culture and science of the ancient world. It’s not the rampant child-rape and hypocritical materialism.

It destroys people’s reading comprehension

Duke

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piero September 15, 2010 at 9:13 am

Duke:

Let’s help Matt a bit, shall we?

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.

I should have highlighted it red too, but didn’t remember the html code.

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Matt September 16, 2010 at 4:59 am

Duke, actually the historical claims you make about science and slavery are false.

But that aside there is no lack of reading comprehension here at all, nor is asserting that there is and insulting people really an argument. To turn to piero. There is is this thing called context, normally good reading comprehension involves taking it into account, note what is said

“Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

The passage you highlight in v 3b comes after v 3a. V 3a explains the sin as lying. V 4 notes how this took place he lied by holding back the money he received. if you read earlier in the passage you’ll see he was asked if he had held any back and he said he had not. Hence claiming he held back the money in context is synonymous with lying. The use of and in this way as a reinforcement of the previous point is common in Koine.

Of course you could read v 3b as claiming that the sin was failure to hand over the cash. Apart from the fact this does not cohere as well with v 3a as what I content. The real problem is that v 3b comes before v 4 and v 4 rules this reading out by saying the land belonged to him before it was sold and it was at his disposal ( some translations have under his authority) after it was sold. Hence, in context it cannot sensibly mean the sin was failure to hand it over. So reading “in context” gives a different picture.

Sorry but asserting, insulting and reading out of context is not really a compelling arguments.

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piero September 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

Matt:

Your imagination is a force to be reckoned with, I admit.
Can you use it to explain what context would make Ananias lie about holding back the money, if he was not expected to surrender the whole of it, or even any of it, since it was “at his disposal” all the time? Can you explain why Peter would ask the question in the first place? I’m sure you would find it strange if I asked you what you did with last month’s salary, unless you knew I had reasons to expect to receive some or all of it.

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Duke York September 17, 2010 at 6:03 am

Duke, actually the historical claims you make about science and slavery are false.

Really? Look at the facts: Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire around 400 CE. For the next 1,300 years — when Christianity was the ultimate authority for morality, that could overthrow kings! — all the Church did was garner wealth for itself and commit or attempt to commit genocide against heretics. (“God will know his own!”)

Now, look at the world in the 500 or so years since the invention of the printing press and the rise of secularism. We’ve gone a long way to eliminating slavery and we’ve advanced science to the point that even Christian hypocrites try to claim it for your invisible friend Jesus.

But that aside there is no lack of reading comprehension here at all, nor is asserting that there is and insulting people really an argument.

Grow up a little! I didn’t insult you: I merely pointed out for the other people who might read this thread that they shouldn’t fall for your equivocation and prevarication.

I invite any readers to look at the story of Ananias and Sapphira. If it weren’t for Matt’s febrile tap-dancing, would you ever think that the moral or this story was “Don’t lie to god”?

Picture an peasant hearing this story between the years 400 and 1500. Such a person would be necessarily poor and illiterate. He has been taught, by the church, to fear God, fear the civil authorities, fear hell, fear demons that infest the would around him.

Would that peasant, oppressed by the Church, ever be able to hear “Don’t lie to god” from this story rather than “Give all the money to the Church or we’ll kill you”?

Of course not. Just because a prevaricator like Matt can some up with some facile interpretation of this text doesn’t mean that’s how the text was intended or how it was used. Matt is just re-interpreting the text for his own ends.

Why is Matt doing this? He has two priorities. First, he doesn’t want to give up his computer, his house, his car, his shoes. He loves physical comfort far more than he loves Christ, who commanded him to give up those comforts and preach the truth.

Second, and more important, he wants to keep the social authority that adhering to the bible still grants in some regressive social circles. He will keep interpreting the text, over and over again, until he finds a way that lets him keep his authority and his iPod.

I have news for you, Matt. Christianity isn’t true. Even if it were, at the end time, both you and I will be going to Hell. I will be going there because I reject Jesus as a mythological figure whose only achievement was holding back human dreams and advancement for a thousand years.

You will be going to hell for hypocrisy.

Duke

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Jeremy September 17, 2010 at 6:47 am

I am failing to understand the problem here.
If there is a creator God then surely he is absolutely entitled to do as he pleases with his creation. Last time i made a bookcase i didnt expect any backchat about what kind of books i put on it or complaint if i used it for a tool shelf instead. As far as i can tell my bookshelf has no rights of any kind whatsoever unless i impart it some. If i want to change my mind and use the wood to patch my barn or start a fire that is my will and i will not be entertaining objections.
If there is a God capable of creating this universe and us in it and who cares for some reason to involve himself with us then he is so much more powerful and capable than we are that comparison is impossible. All this argument about the morality of genocide is like a small bacterial colony daring to complain when i wash the kitchen bench. I decide what is an acceptably clean bench not some bacterium.
If on the other hand there is no God and we are evolutionary accidents then whatever worked for the propagation of the ancient Israelite gene pool was fine and apparently successful. Whichever way you look at it seems pointless. The creature has no basis for questioning the Creator, the uncreated has no Creator to question.

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Jeremy September 17, 2010 at 7:07 am

Duke
I have just gone and read the Ananias story for myself and i cannot see your interpretation, it is completely clear from the text that the issue was the dishonesty involved in pretending to be sharing all the money they had received, rather than just a part [or even none] as Ananias and his wife were perfectly entitled to do.
I dont think calling other people liars and venting your obvious anger helps to strengthen whatever points you are trying to make, rather you are demeaning yourself.

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piero September 17, 2010 at 8:55 am

Jeremy:

What kind of moral cripple would compare sentient beings to a bookshelf? Oh, of course: a Christian!

Also, your reading comprehension is on a par with Matt’s. If I were you, I’d do something about it. Start with something easy, like capitalizing your “i’s”. Once you get the hang of grammar, comprehension will follow.

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Tony Hoffman September 17, 2010 at 9:01 am

Piero,

I have to say that I often wonder if those with a sociopathic lack of empathy are drawn to Christianity, or if the religion breeds that kind of thinking. Either way, the lack of moral empathy concerning fellow creatures (especially animals) seems to be a peculiarly Christian mindset. At least among those Christians who comment on these kinds of blogs.

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Anette Acker September 17, 2010 at 9:33 am

I invite any readers to look at the story of Ananias and Sapphira. If it weren’t for Matt’s febrile tap-dancing, would you ever think that the moral or this story was “Don’t lie to god”?

I know Jeremy already seconded Matt’s interpretation of the passage, but I also agree. And about a month ago, this subject came up on another atheist blog, and an atheist responded with Acts 5:4 and pointed out that the issue was lying to the Holy Spirit. The text is very clear so the tap dancing may be on your part.

You will be going to hell for hypocrisy.

Are you God? “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand,” (Romans 14:4)

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piero September 17, 2010 at 9:43 am

Anette:

Welcome to the reading-comprehension-challenged club, aka Christianity. Oh, and don’t forget to invite the atheist you referred to; he might be awarded honrary membership.

Since Matt has failed to respond to my question, maybe you could help me: can you explain to me why Ananias felt the need to lie about what he did with his money? You see, people don’t usually lie about having done things they have a right to do. For instance, if you asked me whether I had breakfast today, what possible reason could I have to lie about it? If you give me a reasonable explanation I promise I’ll apologize to you, Matt and Jeremy.

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piero September 17, 2010 at 10:00 am

Tony:

At least among those Christians who comment on these kinds of blogs.

I think you hit the nail on the head. Most Christians I know don’t really care that much about their religion. If you challenge their beliefs, they usually shrug the objections off and give them no further thought. Committed Christians like Anette, Jeremy, cl, Matt and others cannot do that. On the other hand, I find their commitment endearing: after all, they are trying their hardest to give rational arguments for an irrational belief. It’s a lost cause, but they pursue it with relentless effort. If only they could put their reasoning skills to good use…

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Anette Acker September 17, 2010 at 10:27 am

piero,

Welcome to the reading-comprehension-challenged club, aka Christianity. Oh, and don’t forget to invite the atheist you referred to; he might be awarded honrary membership.

Actually, this atheist is without doubt one of the smartest one I have encountered, and he is capable of good exegesis–something that I can honestly say about few–if any–other atheists. He is also very well informed about science and philosophy. But he’s definitely not on our side. He has been instrumental in at least one deconversion in the past few months. So I’d be happy to award him membership to our “club,” but unfortunately I probably need his consent.

Since Matt has failed to respond to my question, maybe you could help me: can you explain to me why Ananias felt the need to lie about what he did with his money? You see, people don’t usually lie about having done things they have a right to do. For instance, if you asked me whether I had breakfast today, what possible reason could I have to lie about it? If you give me a reasonable explanation I promise I’ll apologize to you, Matt and Jeremy.

They did it for public approval, and because everyone else was doing it (Acts 4:32). They probably felt a lot of pressure, but nevertheless Peter made it clear that the property and the proceeds of its sale belonged to them. Their pressure was internal, not external.

Christians are not to be motivated by the desire for public approval. In fact, Peter himself allowed the story of his cowardly denial of Jesus to circulate among the early Christians. And Paul said of himself: “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” (1 Cor. 15:9-10). They were both open about their human weaknesses so that Christ, who had transformed them both, would be glorified.

Getting back to A & S, Matt already pointed out the importance of looking at the textual context, and it is also helpful to look at the theological context. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” If you combine this verse with Peter’s words to Ananias, good exegesis will tell you that A & S were not forced to give up their property. To conclude otherwise you have to read into the text something that is not there.

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Duke York September 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I’ve looked back over my last post, and I’d like to apologize for my tone. It came out rougher than I wanted. I’m sorry if I hurt any feelings.

Re-reading Acts 5:4, I can’t see any honest way to interpret it other than the sin being A&S withholding the money from the sale of their property. That’s not definite, though; I’m willing to admit I might be wrong.

That said, for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right. St. Peter used your god’s holy magic to kill two of his own parishioners not because they withheld money but because they lied about it. Do you see that you have accomplished nothing?

I know that y’all think you know better than Jesus what it takes to be a Christian. That’s why you feel free to change and equivocate Jesus’ plain commandments against ownership, against work, against thinking of tomorrow.

Do you really want to say you know more than St. Peter about how to be a Christian? Peter obviously thought the only way to be a Christian was to give up all private ownership. Who are you to say you know more?

Looking at this, I realize I might have been too free with my accusation of hypocrisy. It might actually be hubris.

Duke

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piero September 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Anette:

Thank you for your explanation. It is indeed plausible; unfortunately, it consists mainly of what Duke has been arguing all along, namely that Christians were supposed to give up their belongings. Otherwise, why would Ananias have felt pressured? Would you feel pressured to do what nobody else in your community does? If Ananias lied in order to obtain public approval, it means that the “public” (i.e. his fellow Christians) would have approved of his action. In other words, for Christians at the time giving your property away was a good thing.

So you see, whichever way you turn it there is no way out. If you don’t live as Jesus commanded, then you are not a Christian.

It would also be interesting to know your reply to Duke’s objection: is death the appropriate punishment for lying? If so, why isn’t everybody on Earth dead yet?

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Anette Acker September 17, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Duke York,

It was nice of you to apologize to Matt for calling him a hypocrite, and if you have called me a hypocrite upthread (I was called a lot of names but don’t remember the details) I fully accept your apology.

That said, for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right. St. Peter used your god’s holy magic to kill two of his own parishioners not because they withheld money but because they lied about it. Do you see that you have accomplished nothing?

This is one of those questions where it is not enough to look at the textual context. In order to fully understand it we have to look at it in the context of the theological teachings of the whole Bible. The theology in the Bible is like a puzzle where all the pieces fit together perfectly into a cohesive whole.

A & S died because they had committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, and as an example for the other Christians, so that they would not become hardened in the same way. The sin against the Holy Spirit can seem like a very unjust and confusing doctrine unless we understand it in the context of everything the Bible teaches on the subject.

A person is said to have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit when he or she willfully and knowingly rejects Christ. This is also called the unforgivable sin because it shuts out the Light completely so that repentance is not possible. Jesus talked to the Pharisees about the sin against the Holy Spirit when they said that he cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub. They had seen Jesus do miracles, they had seen him love people, and they had heard him preach, and yet they were capable of calling him evil. In other words, they were so far gone that there was no longer any hope for them.

A & S were in a similar situation in that they had seen the power of God, and yet they did not fear him. This was evidenced by the fact that they were willing to blatantly lie to Peter. So even though they lived among the Christians, they were spiritually hardened, and nothing would change that.

Contrast that to Paul, who said of himself, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13). The difference between Paul and A & S is that the former acted in ignorance and unbelief and the latter knowingly treated God with disdain. They had lived among Peter and would have seen him do miracles. They might have seen the resurrected Christ themselves and they certainly would have known people who had.

So what A & S did doesn’t seem like a big deal but it was indicative of their spiritual condition. And that is a central teaching of Christianity–our spiritual condition matters more than our actual deeds. And God is the only one who really knows our spiritual condition.

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piero September 18, 2010 at 1:13 am

Anette:

If you were playing chess, your last post would be akin to giving up your queen, a rook and a bishop in order to win a pawn. Are you sure that’s a wise move?

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Jeremy September 18, 2010 at 5:25 am

I would like to know what in either of my posts leads anyone to believe i am a christian.

In the 1st i simply outlined what must be the necessarily vast gulf between a Creator God and any of his creatures hence making any questioning of the Creator by the creature meaningless and irrelevant. The difference between me and any bookcase i make must surely be infinitely less than the difference between me and a Creator God who made the universe.

In the 2nd i pointed out that upon accepting Duke York’s invitation to go and read the Ananias and Sapphira story for myself i found the text to give a simple and straightforward meaning that matched what Matt had said especially the bit when Peter the Apostle said to Sapphira “is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”, and then she lied about it. That was a bit of a giveaway.

piero and Tony seem to have gone directly to personal insult to me or invective against christians without addressing any of the points made.
piero who doesnt capitalise his own name feels the need to comment on my use of the lower case i…. what is the relevance? Who has a “sociopathic lack of empathy” and on what basis is it diagnosed?

At this point in the discussion i am embarrassed by the rudeness and arrogance of some of the atheists involved and by their reading comprehension and also by their unwillingness or inability to offer reasoned response.

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Duke York September 18, 2010 at 6:02 am

In order to fully understand it we have to look at it in the context of the theological teachings of the whole Bible.

Granted. But how do you know when you’ve reached the right conclusion?

Let me make two assumptions. First, you own the computer you’re typing this on right now, and second, that you eat pork.

Now, you might be using someone else’s computer, sure, and you might keep all the ridiculous dietary laws in the old testament. That doesn’t matter because the overwhelming majority of Christian America owns computers and eats unclean food; if the case doesn’t apply to you, just assume I’m talking about those other people.

Look at this (admittedly grossly) oversimplified list of biblical commands

Hebrew Scriptures:

Command 1: Don’t Eat Pork
Command 2: Own Property

Christian Scriptures:

Command 1: Eat Whatever You Want
Command 2: Don’t Own Property

Do you see how you (or that hypothetical American Christian) pick and choose? You take Commandment 2 from the old testament while ignoring Commandment 1, and you take Commandment 1 from the New Testament while ignoring Commandment 2.

I know the arguments that let you do that. I know that Jesus said it is what comes out of a man that makes him impure, not what goes in. Since you live in a culture that’s perfected bacon, that’s a fine command for you to live by.

Jesus also told you to sell everything you own (let’s go with Matthew 19:21, but you can find others). Since you live in a culture that’s also perfected consumerism, all of a sudden you analyze until you find a way out of a plain command, a command as simple and straight-forward as the end to kosher laws.

It seems to me that your search for “the context of the theological teachings” is just searching until you stop at your desired conclusion.

Do you ever entertain the thought you might be wrong?

Do you see why I said these actions seemed hypocritical?

Duke

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Tony Hoffman September 18, 2010 at 6:32 am

Your argument is telltale – it seems to me peculiarly Christian to argue that a creator has no moral duties to the thing he creates, given that the thing can suffer, etc.

So, are you denying that you’re a Christian. Because you still seem like one to me.

Your reading comprehension, again, aligns you with the apologist:

Jeremy: “In the 2nd i pointed out that upon accepting Duke York’s invitation to go and read the Ananias and Sapphira story for myself i found the text to give a simple and straightforward meaning that matched what Matt had said especially the bit when Peter the Apostle said to Sapphira “is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”, and then she lied about it. That was a bit of a giveaway.”

Is it possible you read the Ananias passage to be only about lying to God and that you’re not a Christian? Sure. But more likely is that you, like all of us, are affected by a cognitive bias.

Jeremy: “Who has a “sociopathic lack of empathy” and on what basis is it diagnosed?”

Yup, I insulted you. I tend to do that when one’s comments offend my sensibilities. It doesn’t mean I have any real insight into you as a person, but, it’s a blog discussion; acting rudely here, in a way I wouldn’t if we were talking face to face, is just more efficient. I chalk it up to the format.

Jeremy: “At this point in the discussion i am embarrassed by the rudeness and arrogance of some of the atheists involved and by their reading comprehension and also by their unwillingness or inability to offer reasoned response.”

I’ll give you rudness and arrogance, but I don’t see the unwillingness or inability here by the atheists to offer reasoned response. What, specifically, are you thinking of?

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drj September 18, 2010 at 6:36 am

This is one of those questions where it is not enough to look at the textual context. In order to fully understand it we have to look at it in the context of the theological teachings of the whole Bible. The theology in the Bible is like a puzzle where all the pieces fit together perfectly into a cohesive whole.

How and far fetched do these scenarios and explanations have to become before one begins to question the premise that the Bible fits together into a cohesive whole with a consistent message?

It seems to me that your search for “the context of the theological teachings” is just searching until you stop at your desired conclusion.

Perhaps they are, but there is no doubt that this is exactly what occurs when a person “interprets” the Bible, with the presumption that everything in it is a cohesive theology.

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Jeremy September 18, 2010 at 7:41 am

@ Tony
Well Tony you are quite right i am Christian, but still see you and piero assuming that as prejudice rather than fairly derived by the content of my comments ie you appear to dislike my position rather than question the logic of it.
wrt to rudeness, personal attack usually conceals an inability to respond adequately. The “efficiency” things a cop out, it would be more efficient to answer the questions. As an atheist who presumably believes in life via evolutionary blind chance how can any comment on the insignificance of the individual possibly offend your sensibilities? Again you seem to have reacted rather than responded.
wrt to responding, i didnt say a creator has no moral duties to the thing he creates rather i asked why anyone would believe that this was so given the necessary gulf between the Creator and the created, using myself and my bookcase as an example of a much smaller gulf.
So what neither piero nor yourself has answered is why would this moral responsibility exist and what would it look like. Why should not God remove some creatures from amongst his creation if he so chooses?
Neither have you answered the evolutionary based whatever worked to promote the survival/dominance of the Israeli gene pool point i made as an alternative. On what basis do you find moral offence in the Israeli conquest of Canaan?
The point has been repeatedly raised that humans dont seem to have any trouble with genocide against competing species ( eg rat/mice infestations ) why the special treatment for humans. Without a Creator any individual is just a gene carrier into the next generation and it is the best adapted who survive to breed.

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piero September 18, 2010 at 7:42 am

Jeremy:

Yes, my remark about capitalization was a silly joke. I apologize. Yes, I assumed you were a Christian, but it doesn’t really matter. The point was your failure to understand the difference between an inanimate object and a sentient being. Surely you must realize that sentience is a requisite for ethics.

The difference between me and any bookcase i make must surely be infinitely less than the difference between me and a Creator God who made the universe.

Now that’s a remarkable statement. What unit of measurement would you use to assess the difference between a bookshelf, you and the creator? You don’t seem to understand that our behaviour towards bookshelves can never be subjected to moral judgements because bookshelves do not suffer. Hence your argument relies on an equivocation that stems ultimately from the ambiguity of “right”: I certainly have the legal right to do what I want with my bookshelf; that doesn’t imply the creator has the moral right to make me suffer. Try to invert legal and moral in the preceding sentence and you’ll see clearly why your comparison is rubbish. As to your “sociopathic lack of empathy”, it was diagnosed on the basis of your argument. Amply justified, I believe.

At this point in the discussion i am embarrassed by the rudeness and arrogance of some of the atheists involved and by their reading comprehension and also by their unwillingness or inability to offer reasoned response.

Wrong. We have offered reasoned response. We are rude and arrogant sometimes, but that’s only when our reasoned arguments are met with inane counterarguments, whinings and appeals to manners. Do you have a reasoned argument in defence of your bookshelf blunder? If so, let’s have it. If not, shut up. And grow a thicker skin.

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Tony Hoffman September 18, 2010 at 8:37 am

Jeremy: “Well Tony you are quite right i am Christian, but still see you and piero assuming that as prejudice rather than fairly derived by the content of my comments ie you appear to dislike my position rather than question the logic of it.”

You are very confused. I concluded that you are probably a Christian based on your comments. That is the opposite of prejudice.

Jeremy: “wrt to rudeness, personal attack usually conceals an inability to respond adequately. The “efficiency” things a cop out, it would be more efficient to answer the questions. As an atheist who presumably believes in life via evolutionary blind chance how can any comment on the insignificance of the individual possibly offend your sensibilities? Again you seem to have reacted rather than responded.”

I don’t think your comments deserve much attention. Your statement above about blind chance is another tellatale giveaway that you have gotten your understanding of Evolution from Christian apologists. That makes you appear ignorant. I suggest you read “The Blind Watchmaker” if you want to learn how to not appear so foolish regarding statements about Evolution.

Jeremy: “So what neither piero nor yourself has answered is why would this moral responsibility exist and what would it look like. Why should not God remove some creatures from amongst his creation if he so chooses?

“Neither have you answered the evolutionary based whatever worked to promote the survival/dominance of the Israeli gene pool point i made as an alternative. On what basis do you find moral offence in the Israeli conquest of Canaan?”

You are speaking gibberish. I have to go camping. If I have time later (in a couple of days) I might respond to some of this. But right not I just really don’t have time.

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Anette Acker September 18, 2010 at 9:27 am

piero,

Anette:
If you were playing chess, your last post would be akin to giving up your queen, a rook and a bishop in order to win a pawn. Are you sure that’s a wise move?

Well, since you have no response to my last post, I’ve apparently beaten you without a queen, rook, and a bishop!

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piero September 18, 2010 at 9:58 am

Anette:

The post I referred to is so convolutedly wrong it would take me a couple of hours to unravel it and explain all its logical deficiencies. I have better things to do. I’ll just mention a couple of points:

They had seen Jesus do miracles, they had seen him love people, and they had heard him preach, and yet they were capable of calling him evil. In other words, they were so far gone that there was no longer any hope for them.

In other words, ever since Jesus died nobody could commit a sin against the Spirit, because nobody could see him do a miracle or hear him preach.

A & S were in a similar situation in that they had seen the power of God, and yet they did not fear him.

Anette, let’s be serious for a moment. Imagine that you see a man die and be buried. Imagine further that this happens at a time when science and technology are virtually nonexistent. After a few days, when the corpse is already a bit rotten, another man comes along and returns the corpse to life. Would you really be so stupid as to antagonize this man?

And God is the only one who really knows our spiritual condition.

Then what right had Peter to accuse A&S? How can anyone say anything about anybody else?

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Jeremy September 18, 2010 at 11:54 pm

I will reply to Tony first,
More false assumptions there my friend. I have a University science degree that included biological evolution and am familiar with Dawkins’ Blind Watchmaker [not terribly impressed]. However since you mention Dawkins let me suggest “The Selfish Gene” before you accuse me of gibberish or misunderstanding evolution and the non-importance of the individual. Actually on the subject of Dawkins read “Climbing Mount Improbability” for a stunningly total misunderstanding of chance and probability.
Happy camping

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Jeremy September 19, 2010 at 12:58 am

@ piero
Of course i understand the difference between myself and a bookshelf. The point is [acknowledging you are an atheist] to try and get you to see how immeasurably vast the gulf between a human being and a Creator god [theoretical or real] capable of making the universe would necessarily be.

In objecting you are making assumptions that being sentient and having ethical awareness confers worth but you wont explain why.
You are also assuming suffering confers something special on the sufferer and some kind of moral obligation on whoever may potentially inflict suffering. But why? I am sure antelopes dont “enjoy” being hunted killed and eaten by lions.
Perhaps its the combination of being sentient and suffering, but again ..so what? Evolutionarily, being sentient is just one more adaptation, but is it particularly special? Sentient species are by no means the most successful on this planet, not the best adapted and certainly not the most numerous. In fact a Gaiaist may say they are the most dangerous to the planet, humans are the only species who have truly damaged the planet or come near to destroying the place.

So all the way back to the original but still unanswered questions
1, if there is a creator god, on what basis do you believe you can impose moral duty / demand moral obligation from Him?
2, if there is no creator god, then the Israeli gene pool survived/reproduced at the expense of the Canaanites using violence as a successful adaptive mechanism for competing and there is no moral question involved. What is the problem?

It seems to me that you are making assumptions that are logically inconsistent with your atheist position. I invite you to correct my impression by answering the questions including reasons for your answers.
I dont need a thicker skin, i am neither offended nor impressed buy the insults, they demean the maker not the target. Answers though would be impressive.

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Matt September 19, 2010 at 4:40 am

piero,

First let me respond agains to your comment last time you stated.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.

Actually here is a literal translation from the Koine greek

2and did keep back of the price — his wife also knowing — and having brought a certain part, at the feet of the apostles he laid [it]. 3And Peter said, `Ananias, wherefore did the Adversary fill thy heart, for thee to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back of the price of the place? 4while it rFemained, did it not remain thine? and having been sold, in thy authority was it not? why [is] it that thou didst put in thy heart this thing? thou didst not lie to men, but to God;’

So contrary to your highlight, its not clear that the text refers to holding back the money, it was “keeping back” the price. In otherwords v 3 highlights that he “lied to God” and “kept back the price” of the land he had sold. So the text refers to lying not failure to give.

Now your response here is apparently to call this “imagination” unfortunately you don’t refute another person by simply asserting they have an “imagination” If it were I could refute you by saying you have a vivid imagination.

You ask

“Can you use it to explain what context would make Ananias lie about holding back the money, if he was not expected to surrender the whole of it”
or even any of it, since it was “at his disposal” all the time? “

Well as I noted the text does not say he “held back the money” it says he held “back the price” moreover the first commentary I picked up suggested a context where one could do this “to gain a reputation for greater generousity than he deserved”. People pretend to give more than the really do for reasons like this all the time, it does not follow they live in a forced collectivist system.

“Can you explain why Peter would ask the question in the first place? I’m sure you would find it strange if I asked you what you did with last month’s salary, unless you knew I had reasons to expect to receive some or all of it.”

Actually if you read the text Peter doesn’t ask it in “the first place” there is no reference to Peter asking at all. Of course after Annias lie has been revealed he asks

“Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” here he asks not what she did with the salary or even for the money he asks if she has accurately presented the price and its after Annias has been discovered to have lied about this.

So again, misrepresenting the text does not really help you.

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Tony Hoffman September 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Matt: “More false assumptions there my friend.”

How so?

Matt: “I have a University science degree that included biological evolution and am familiar with Dawkins’ Blind Watchmaker [not terribly impressed].”

So you’ve taken (and passed) a college-level course on Evolutionary Biology? From a secular university? And still you write things like,

“As an atheist who presumably believes in life via evolutionary blind chance how can any comment on the insignificance of the individual possibly offend your sensibilities?”

This is largely inscrutable to me, but evolution is not understood to mean “blind chance.” Have you heard of natural selection? Do you understand that natural selection is the opposite of blind chance? Do you really think that Evolution = Random Mutation? If you understand these things, why would you write the phrase “evolutionary blind chance?”

“Neither have you answered the evolutionary based whatever worked to promote the survival/dominance of the Israeli gene pool point i made as an alternative.”

I honestly think this is incoherent. I can’t make sense of what it is you’re trying to say.

However since you mention Dawkins let me suggest “The Selfish Gene” before you accuse me of gibberish or misunderstanding evolution and the non-importance of the individual.

I accuse you of gibberish because many of your sentences don’t make any sense to me. I have read the Selfish Gene, btw. What does the Selfish Gene have to do with your argument.

And so now I have to ask, since you say that you are “familiar with” Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, and you bring up The Selfish Gene, have you actually read either of these books, or are you just “familiar with” them?

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piero September 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Jeremy:

In objecting you are making assumptions that being sentient and having ethical awareness confers worth but you wont explain why.

When did I ever mention worth? That’s a word I hardly ever use, mainly because in most contexts it is meaningless. All I have claimed is that being sentient and capable of experiencing suffering enables us to speak meaningfully about ethics.

Evolutionarily, being sentient is just one more adaptation, but is it particularly special? Sentient species are by no means the most successful on this planet, not the best adapted and certainly not the most numerous.

So? Who cares? Should I be concerned with the welfare of flies because they outnumber humans? Should ethics be founded on the degree of adaptation? You seem to be saying that the theory of evolution somehow implies an ethical theory, which is clearly the mark of a fundamentalist. If it is true you’ve studied science, I must say your teachers failed you in the worst possible way. Ask for your money back.

In fact a Gaiaist may say they are the most dangerous to the planet, humans are the only species who have truly damaged the planet or come near to destroying the place.

I am not a Gaiaist. So your point was…?

1, if there is a creator god, on what basis do you believe you can impose moral duty / demand moral obligation from Him?

If there is a creator and he/she/it does not care about my wellbeing, then I’d regard that entity as my enemy, just as children of abusive parents have the right to defend themselves. Might does not make right, as you surely know but seem to have forgotten.

2, if there is no creator god, then the Israeli gene pool…

Again, you seem to be drawing ethical conclusions from your own distorted version of natural selection. Again, this is the mark of either a fundamentalist or an ignoramus. Can you please tell me exactly what science degree course you followed and at what university? Just to be fair, I’ll tell you that I’ve got an MSc Mathematics degree from Essex University, UK.

It seems to me that you are making assumptions that are logically inconsistent with your atheist position. I invite you to correct my impression by answering the questions including reasons for your answers.

Well, as you can see, you are making assumptions for me and then charging me with inconsistency. I’ve also given you plenty of reasons for my answers, but somehow I feel you won’t be convinced. Your brain appears to be irremediably lost to the forces of irrationality.

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piero September 19, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Matt:

I find it quite ironic for someone who pretends not to understand the meaning of “in the first place” to try to argue by referring to the original Koiné.

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Tony Hoffman September 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm

My apologies to Matt; in my last comment I mis-attributed Jeremy’s comments to Matt.

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The Atheist Missionary September 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm

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lukeprog September 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

And I have just posted a reply to Matt. :)

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11750

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Anette Acker October 7, 2010 at 10:43 am

In the event that someone is still reading this old thread, I’m going to finally reply to the last two comments addressed to me.

But first I want to apologize to Luke and Matt for accidentally hijacking this thread by commenting so soon. I didn’t know that Matt was a regular commenter and that the plan was to discuss his article with him, but I’m glad that you have had a chance to do so in another thread.

“In order to fully understand it we have to look at it in the context of the theological teachings of the whole Bible.”

Granted. But how do you know when you’ve reached the right conclusion?

We know that we have reached the right conclusion when nothing in the Bible contradicts our interpretation. If we ignore inconvenient contrary evidence, we are most likely wrong in our interpretation.

Look at this (admittedly grossly) oversimplified list of biblical commands
Hebrew Scriptures:
Command 1: Don’t Eat Pork
Command 2: Own Property
Christian Scriptures:
Command 1: Eat Whatever You Want
Command 2: Don’t Own Property
Do you see how you (or that hypothetical American Christian) pick and choose? You take Commandment 2 from the old testament while ignoring Commandment 1, and you take Commandment 1 from the New Testament while ignoring Commandment 2.

I realize that these appear to be contradictions, but they are explained in Matthew 5, Galatians 3-4, and Colossians 2:16-17, among other places.

Matthew 5:17 says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” The “Law and the Prophets” is the OT, and Jesus fulfilled it in two ways: First, he fulfilled all righteousness. That is, he lived a morally perfect human life and fulfilled the requirements of the transcendent moral law on behalf of those who would belong to him. Second, he fulfilled all the prophecy and typology that point to him in the OT. In case you’re not familiar with it, typology is symbolism or foreshadowing, and every book of the OT is packed with it.

Here is an example of the way typology works: In John 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman by a well, and he clearly explains the Gospel to her, comparing salvation to “living water.”

This encounter is foreshadowed in the OT. There are only six examples in the OT of two parties meeting at a well, and each one communicates some aspect of salvation:

In Genesis 16, Sarah’s Egyptian maid Hagar has run away because Sarah mistreated her. The angel of the Lord met her by a spring of water in the wilderness (16:7). Hagar went back to Sarah, but in 21:19 Sarah has driven her and her son Ishmael away permanently. The boy is about to die of thirst and Hagar sits weeping. The angel of God meets her again and opens her eyes so she sees a well.

In Genesis 21:30-31, Abraham and King Abimelech made a covenant by a well called Beersheba.

In Genesis 24, Abraham’s servant seeks a wife for Isaac and meets Rebekah at a well. In Genesis 29:9, Jacob meets Rachel at a well. And in Exodus 2:15-17, Moses meets his future wife Zipporah at a well.

So the following elements of the doctrine of salvation are inconspicuously buried in the OT: God seeking the lost (Hagar), a covenant (Abraham and Abimelech), and the union (often compared to a marriage) of Christ and the church (the patriarchs and their wives).

Revelation 22:17 ties together the imagery of living water by stating: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”

But getting back to what it means that Jesus has fulfilled the law on our behalf–it means that on the one hand we are not subject to the legalistic rules found in the Law of Moses. Instead, Jesus offers us his Spirit who will change our hearts so that we will love him with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). So in Matthew 5, Jesus says that he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, but in so doing, he also raises the standard because he empowers us to meet it.

The key thing is that we are under grace, not under the law, and what that means is that the state of our hearts is more important than our actions. Let’s take the example of someone who has taken a vow of poverty, but who feels proud and morally superior. 1 Corinthians 13:3 says that the sacrifice was in vain because he or she did it without love. So giving (as well as everything else) is to be an expression of sincere love.

We are to be like branches attached to a vine, that bear good fruit (good works) because the vine is good. And of course in John 15 Jesus uses this as an analogy for the only way to live a life that glorifies God.

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Anette Acker October 7, 2010 at 12:03 pm

piero,

In other words, ever since Jesus died nobody could commit a sin against the Spirit, because nobody could see him do a miracle or hear him preach.

That is not what I said or implied. It is still possible for people to commit the sin against the Holy Spirit. However, it involves suppressing the truth, so it would be very difficult for someone who doesn’t know the truth to commit it. Paul said of himself that he acted in ignorance and unbelief, and that is why he was shown mercy.

The more we have understood and experienced, the more serious a rejection of Christ is. Again, the key is whether we are suppressing what we know or suspect to be true. Everybody does that to some degree, but the sin against the Holy Spirit has taken place when repentance is no longer possible because the person has permanently hardened his or her heart and shut out the Light. Proverbs 29:1 says: “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.”

However, the teachings about the sin against the Holy Spirit have to be balanced against the parable of the prodigal son, where God demonstrates his willingness to forgive everything if a person comes back to him. The sin against the Holy Spirit is not about God holding a grudge but about a person being “broken beyond remedy.”

Anette, let’s be serious for a moment. Imagine that you see a man die and be buried. Imagine further that this happens at a time when science and technology are virtually nonexistent. After a few days, when the corpse is already a bit rotten, another man comes along and returns the corpse to life. Would you really be so stupid as to antagonize this man?

I don’t find that at all unbelievable. The Pharisees viewed Jesus as a religious and political threat, and that is why they wanted to stop him. After Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead, they sought to kill Lazarus. Their agenda mattered more to them than the truth, and that is not an atypical human attitude.

Also, they probably realized that Jesus was not violent based on his teaching and his behavior.

“And God is the only one who really knows our spiritual condition.”

Then what right had Peter to accuse A&S? How can anyone say anything about anybody else?

Peter knew it because the Holy Spirit had revealed it to him and he was given the authority to make a judgment.

Judging is unwise unless we have all the facts. And most of the time we don’t–we just look at some superficial behavior and condemn the person. The more we know and the more fair we’re willing to be, the more qualified we are to make a judgment.

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Tony Hoffman October 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Anette,

I’ll go out on a limb and say that theological musings are of no practical consequence to virtually all of those who visit this site; the reasoning you provide is meaningless without establishing that your god exists. And the story of the Canaanites is good evidence that the God purported by Christians does not exist.

The ultimate lesson of the Canaanite massacre, I think, is that your God is inconsistent and that he behaves in a way that appears monstrous, and because he appears to contradict himself and does not appear to be morally grounded the theist must come up with a plausible explanation for both in order for her belief to be justified.

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Anette Acker October 7, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Tony,

I’ll go out on a limb and say that theological musings are of no practical consequence to virtually all of those who visit this site

That may well be true, but I figured I’d answer the questions anyway.

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Tyler May 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

You don’t have to be an atheist to believe large parts of the bible are complete nonsense. Especially when you consider how often it has been rewritten. I don’t believe God condones genocide. But sometimes people believe God condones their genocides and they may very well write down in a book I talked to God and he said kill them all. I recall Bush mentioning he talked to God before invading Babylon, I mean Iraq. There can be a God and there can be a book full of nonsense claimed to be from God.

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