The Christian View

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 8, 2009 in Christian Theology,General Atheism,Problem of Evil

Jasmina, age 19, dreamed of being an economist. But in April 1992, the Serbs took over her home town and began to kill or torture everyone they found. They invaded Jasmina’s home, took her mother away, and beat her husband. She reports:

Then they started torturing me. I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was totally naked and covered in blood, and my sister-in-law was also naked and covered in blood. … I knew I had been raped, and my sister-in-law, too.

…That was the worst, the worst period of my whole life. That’s when it started.

jasmina

"Every day we were raped."

“It lasted for a year,” she says. “Every day we were raped. Not only in the house – they would also take us to the front line for the soldiers to torture us. Then again in the house, in front of the children… The only conversation we had was when I was begging them to kill me. That’s when they laughed.”

And supposedly, every day while Jasmina was being raped, God stood in heaven with folded arms. “This will all work out for the best in the end, according to my plan,” he said to himself.

The next day, as Jasmina was being raped again in front of her children, God said, “This suffering will build her character, and it gives others the chance to show heroism and compassion.”

And the next day, when she was being tortured and raped again, God said, “I know I intervene and interrupt people’s free will sometimes, but if I did that all the time, what would be left of free will? I’d better let this go on; I don’t want everyone to be robots.”

Weeks passed. Every day, Jasmina was raped and tortured, sometimes in front of her children. “This will all seem so trivial one day, when Jasmina can see it from the scope of eternity. Besides, her rapists will be punished one day – unless they confess and convert.”

And the next day, as Jasmina cried out for God’s help while being raped again, God said, “I’m very pleased this is the best of all possible worlds. Those humans don’t know how good they have it. It could be so much worse.”

This went on for over a year. A bit later, recovering the hospital, Jasmina learned she was 6 months pregnant – from one of her rapists.

But when Pastor Bill in America prayed for it not to rain for his daughter’s wedding, God saw fit to grant that request.

This is what I am asked to believe. Except, it’s millions of times worse. Tens of thousands of women were raped and tortured under the reign of Radovan Karadzic in Yugoslavia alone.

Christianity is either the most insane fiction you’ve ever heard, or the most horrifying reality you can imagine.

Also see: The Tale of Twelve Officers.

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Ajay July 8, 2009 at 4:50 am

God works in mysterious ways. Dont you know that :)
 
 

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Ajay July 8, 2009 at 5:00 am

The thing that frustrates me the most is the following scenario….
A flight crashes and only 1 or 2 survive. When they are interviewed they would say that they prayed to God and God listened and saved them. This to them proves the existence of God and tend to become more religious.
 
What they dont know or conveniently forget is that the thousands of other people who died in deadly plane crashes (about 99.9% of the total passengers assuming about 0.1% survive) have all prayed as well when they know they are about to die.  I am sure the person who prayed has seen all the others pray as well.
 
Ideally, this kind of experience should convince people that prayer doesnt work, but still since it worked for them, it means that prayer works and God exists.

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Ajay July 8, 2009 at 5:05 am

I find Hindus to be more insane. Most Hindus believe in the trueness of all religions. They never reject any other religion. They say every religion leads to the same God and that each are just different paths.
 
In fact i know many people who go to Temple, Church, Mosque to pray for something to happen and they feel very proud of doing that as they feel they are very open minded and modern and tolerant to all religions.
 
I just tear my hair out when i come across such things and nobody even understands my frustration at that.
 

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 6:31 am

On the Christian view, the injustices of this life will be rectified in the afterlife. Even the pain and suffering that this woman experienced will, in the retrospect of eternity in heaven, seem small. Her rapists and torturers will get what they deserve.
 
On the atheist view, shit happens and then you die. These horrific wrongs will never be made right; the greatest saints and the most egregious sinners all end up the same in the end. No justice, no peace. Now that to me sounds like “the most insane fiction you’ve ever heard, or the most horrifying reality you can imagine.”

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2009 at 6:34 am

cartesian: No justice, no peace. Now that to me sounds like “the most insane fiction you’ve ever heard, or the most horrifying reality you can imagine.”

Wish fulfilment and denial. Just because you want it to be that way doesn’t make it so.
 

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2009 at 6:36 am

cartesian: On the Christian view, the injustices of this life will be rectified in the afterlife.

You acknowledge the impotence of God the Almighty in this world. That does not sound like the standard Christian view. I guess omnipotence is not what it used to be. It’s only in some putative afterlife, beyond verification, that this rectification takes place.
 

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justfinethanks July 8, 2009 at 6:46 am

Even the pain and suffering that this woman experienced will, in the retrospect of eternity in heaven, seem small.

Unless of course she find resurrected God-Men a little tough to swallow, then it’s just a primer for the REAL horror that God has prepared for her.

Her rapists and torturers will get what they deserve.

Unless of course they find resurrected God-Men totally belivable, in that case all is forgiven. After all, raping a girl is just as much a sin as lying about your age, so they can both be washed away with a quick prayer a little sincerity, right?
You can argue that this horrific scenario is true, but please don’t insult us by trying to argue that it is actually preferrable to atheism.

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Jeremy Killian July 8, 2009 at 7:02 am

Interestingly enough, this woman’s experience has not led her to atheism. Despite tremendous bitterness toward her torturers, the article says that “she believes God kept her alive for a reason.”

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 7:25 am

Reginald,
I said:
>>No justice, no peace. Now that to me sounds like “the most insane fiction you’ve ever heard, or the most horrifying reality you can imagine.”>>
 
You replied:
>>Wish fulfilment and denial. Just because you want it to be that way doesn’t make it so.>>
 
I know Reginald, I know. I was not arguing for the truth of Christianity. I was responding to Luke’s charge that Christianity was either insane fiction or a horrifying reality (and that atheism isn’t either one). I tried to argue that the opposite is true: that atheism is either insane fiction or a horrifying reality, but that Christianity is neither one. This conclusion that I argued for does NOT entail that Christianity is true. Please read more carefully next time.
 
I said:
>>On the Christian view, the injustices of this life will be rectified in the afterlife.>>
 
You replied:
>>You acknowledge the impotence of God the Almighty in this world.>>
 
This would be funny if I weren’t sure that you are totally serious. No Reginald, what I said does NOT entail that God is impotent in this world. It just doesn’t. Please read more carefully next time.
 
If you ever wonder why I don’t respond to more of your comments, this is why: they’re just not well-aimed.

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 7:33 am

Justfinethanks,
I said:

>>Even the pain and suffering that this woman experienced will, in the retrospect of eternity in heaven, seem small.>>

You replied:
>>Unless of course she find resurrected God-Men a little tough to swallow, then it’s just a primer for the REAL horror that God has prepared for her.>>
 
You’re assuming here that a certain belief is necessary for entrance into heaven. The Bible never teaches that (though certainly many Christians do). I don’t think that entrance into heaven is awarded on the basis of belief, and I think Matthew 25 clearly demonstrates that. There, the sheep are welcomed into heaven on the basis of what they have done.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11)
 
>>Unless of course they find resurrected God-Men totally belivable, in that case all is forgiven.>>
 
Here you assume that a certain belief is sufficient for entrance into heaven. But I think that’s false as well, and not taught in the Bible. James points out that demons have all true beliefs about Jesus, and yet they won’t be saved. So no amount of true belief about Jesus is sufficient for salvation.
 
>>After all, raping a girl is just as much a sin as lying about your age>>
 
Well, they both qualify as sins, but that doesn’t for a moment suggest that they are of the same weight. Running a red light makes me a criminal. So does raping someone. But clearly rape is much worse of a crime than running a red light. The same goes with sin.

>>You can argue that this horrific scenario is true, but please don’t insult us by trying to argue that it is actually preferrable to atheism.>>
 
Well, you might actually want to deal with my argument itself, as well as my actual view. So far, I don’t see how you’ve engaged the argument or my actual view.

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2009 at 7:39 am

cartesian: No Reginald, what I said does NOT entail that God is impotent in this world. It just doesn’t.

What lukeprog posted implied that God is impotent – or unwilling – to act in this world. Your follow-up, which did not deny any of this, states that it is in the afterlife that justice is served.

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2009 at 7:47 am

cartesian: You’re assuming here that a certain belief is necessary for entrance into heaven. The Bible never teaches that (though certainly many Christians do). I don’t think that entrance into heaven is awarded on the basis of belief, and I think Matthew 25 clearly demonstrates that. There, the sheep are welcomed into heaven on the basis of what they have done. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11)

Here you assume that a certain belief is sufficient for entrance into heaven. But I think that’s false as well, and not taught in the Bible. James points out that demons have all true beliefs about Jesus, and yet they won’t be saved. So no amount of true belief about Jesus is sufficient for salvation.

Romans 3:27-28, Romans 5:1, Galatians 3:24, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc

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Taranu July 8, 2009 at 8:12 am

Cartesian, are you sure the examples you gave (from Matthew and 2 Corinthians) don’t refer to those whom already accepted Jesus?
 

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 9:06 am

Reginald,
Speaking of me, you said:
>>You acknowledge the impotence of God the Almighty in this world.>>
 
I denied that. You replied:
 
>>What lukeprog posted implied that God is impotent – or unwilling – to act in this world. Your follow-up, which did not deny any of this, states that it is in the afterlife that justice is served.>>
 
This is your argument, as I understand it:
(1) Luke said p
(2) p entails (i or u)
(3) In his reply to Luke, Cartesian didn’t deny p (or (i or u)?)
(4) Therefore, Cartesian believes i.
 
This is a very, very bad argument. First, failing to deny p in a reply does not entail believing that p. Second, believing that p, where p entails (i or u), does not entail believing that i.
 
I may not reply to your future comments.

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 9:12 am

Taranu: Cartesian, are you sure the examples you gave (from Matthew and 2 Corinthians) don’t refer to those whom already accepted Jesus?

In Matthew, Jesus sends the goats away from him, i.e. those people aren’t saved. Even if they have all already accepted Jesus (I don’t see any evidence of that in the verses), this still shows that merely accepting Jesus isn’t sufficient for salvation.
 
In Matt 25:32 we learn that “All nations will be gathered before him,” and he’ll separate everyone into those two categories: sheep and goats. I take it that some of these people won’t have accepted Jesus, or even heard of Jesus. The basis on which they’re judged is what they’ve done. So I think this gives us pretty good reason to think that accepting Jesus isn’t necessary for salvation.

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Scooter July 8, 2009 at 9:48 am

Cartesian,

What’s the point of debating Christian doctrine?

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Scooter July 8, 2009 at 9:49 am

Never mind my question. 

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drj July 8, 2009 at 10:06 am

cartesian>>After all, raping a girl is just as much a sin as lying about your age>>

Well, they both qualify as sins, but that doesn’t for a moment suggest that they are of the same weight. Running a red light makes me a criminal. So does raping someone. But clearly rape is much worse of a crime than running a red light.

That’s the whole issue raised when bringing up scenarios like this… many “sins” are clearly worse than others, yet can result in the same punishment, at least depending on what Christian you talk to… no small number will declare that you have a seat reserved next to Pol Pot in hell for having sex with a person outside of marriage.   So this universal justice you speak of in the Christian worldview, rings shallow when considering many examples.

There is clearly a great disparity between many mortal sins, yet they all give you the same punishment.   This disparity is perhaps most striking when looking at Christian sexual morality.

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 10:33 am

drj: many “sins” are clearly worse than others, yet can result in the same punishment, … There is clearly a great disparity between many mortal sins, yet they all give you the same punishment.

Well, I for one don’t think that’s true. Neither did Dante. And I don’t think this is any part of orthodox Christianity. It’s an add-on, which I agree doesn’t make much sense.

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Taranu July 8, 2009 at 10:49 am

Cartesian, you say: “The basis on which they’re judged is what they’ve done. So I think this gives us pretty good reason to think that accepting Jesus isn’t necessary for salvation.”
But if you can be saved without accepting Jesus what is the point of Christianity? Would God be more merciful with someone whom accepts Jesus than with someone whom doesn’t?
And what about: 1 John 5:10-12 (New International Version)
 
10Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
It doesn’t seem to me that these verses enforce your claim that Jesus isn’t necessary for salvation. :(

 
 
 

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Penneyworth July 8, 2009 at 10:52 am

Cartesian,
In your view, can those rapists be redeemed if, on their deathbeds, they earnestly accept Jesus and repent? If so, how are their wrongs righted?

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Lorkas July 8, 2009 at 10:58 am

cartesian: Well, I for one don’t think that’s true. Neither did Dante. And I don’t think this is any part of orthodox Christianity. It’s an add-on, which I agree doesn’t make much sense.

Are you kidding? Dante’s position on hell isn’t supported by the Bible at all. His view is the add-on, not the view that all sinners are punished the same (whether that punishment is annihilation or eternal torture).
 
After all, the Bible teaches us that the smallest offense is still seen as breaking the whole law (James 2:10). It doesn’t seem to matter whether the “one point” referred to in the verse is a white lie or a brutal rape/murder. In either case, the offender has broken the whole law. It’s not as though Dante based his Inferno on anything found in the Bible.

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Taranu: Cartesian, you say: “The basis on which they’re judged is what they’ve done. So I think this gives us pretty good reason to think that accepting Jesus isn’t necessary for salvation.” But if you can be saved without accepting Jesus what is the point of Christianity?

I would say that the point is to spread the good news that God has provided a way for us to reconcile ourselves to him. And to tell people how to go about living a full, flourishing, happy life (by receiving the Holy Spirit, and undergoing the process of regeneration and sanctification).

>>Would God be more merciful with someone whom accepts Jesus than with someone whom doesn’t?>>

I don’t know. Matthew 25 doesn’t seem to suggest that at all. There it looks like our works alone are the basis on which Christ will judge us. But there may be a correlation between accepting Jesus and doing good works.

>>And what about: 1 John 5:10-12… “12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” It doesn’t seem to me that these verses enforce your claim that Jesus isn’t necessary for salvation. >>

I never claimed that Jesus isn’t necessary for salvation. I think he is. I only claimed that belief in/acceptance of Jesus isn’t necessary for salvation. A bridge may be necessary to cross a chasm even though someone may cross the bridge without believing/accepting that they’ve crossed a bridge. Jesus is the bridge.

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Penneyworth: Cartesian, In your view, can those rapists be redeemed if, on their deathbeds, they earnestly accept Jesus and repent?

Yes, their sins have already been paid for. But they still have a lot of work to do on their characters before they can enter/enjoy heaven. So they’ll have to spend a lot of time in Purgatory.

>>If so, how are their wrongs righted?>>

Their wicked characters are purged in the refining fires of Purgatory. The people they’ve harmed are compensated in heaven.

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Lorkas: Are you kidding? Dante’s position on hell isn’t supported by the Bible at all.

I know. I never said it was. I was just giving an example of an orthodox Christian who rejected the claim that all sinners are punished the same.

>>His view is the add-on, not the view that all sinners are punished the same (whether that punishment is annihilation or eternal torture).>>

I think they’re both add-ons. My point was just that the latter isn’t essential to Christianity. (I don’t think the former is either.)

>>After all, the Bible teaches us that the smallest offense is still seen as breaking the whole law (James 2:10).>>

I don’t see how that shows that all sinners will receive the same punishment. Do you think it shows that?

>>It’s not as though Dante based his Inferno on anything found in the Bible.>>

I agree. Why are you mentioning this?

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Lorkas July 8, 2009 at 12:27 pm

cartesian: I know. I never said it was. I was just giving an example of an orthodox Christian who rejected the claim that all sinners are punished the same.
[...]
I think they’re both add-ons. My point was just that the latter isn’t essential to Christianity. (I don’t think the former is either.)

My mistake, I guess. Your post just sounded a lot like you were contrasting Dante’s view with the equal punishment view when you said that the equal punishment view was an add-on. A lot of the misunderstanding between the two of us in this exchange seems to be due to that misunderstanding.

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Dave July 8, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Luke:
Weeks passed. Every day, Jasmina was raped and tortured, sometimes in front of her children. “This will all seem so trivial one day, when Jasmina can see it from the scope of eternity. Besides, her rapists will be punished one day – unless they confess and convert.”

Cartesian:
On the Christian view, the injustices of this life will be rectified in the afterlife. Even the pain and suffering that this woman experienced will, in the retrospect of eternity in heaven, seem small. Her rapists and torturers will get what they deserve.

We say it here, it comes out there . . .

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Lorkas July 8, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Dave: We say it here, it comes out there . . .

skadoosh

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Naug July 8, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Guys, I hate to rain on your christian theology parade. But if her rapists are serbs and her name is Jasmina (a bosnian name) she probably is a muslim. On Christian Theology, she’ll burn in hell anyway.
(and the rapists will go to heaven as long as they ask for forgiveness I guess).

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Naug July 8, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Addendum:
According to the article that Lukeprog linked to its implied that she is a muslim.

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cartesian July 8, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Dave: We say it here, it comes out there . . .

I’m having a hard time understanding this. What was your point, exactly?

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drj July 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm

cartesian: Well, I for one don’t think that’s true. Neither did Dante. And I don’t think this is any part of orthodox Christianity. It’s an add-on, which I agree doesn’t make much sense.

Fair enough.  Though in my experience growing up Roman Catholic, I encountered many people along the way with the sorts of views I mention, including nuns, deacons who were my teachers in school.  But I want to come back to this:

cartesian: On the Christian view, the injustices of this life will be rectified in the afterlife.[b] Even the pain and suffering that this woman experienced will, in the retrospect of eternity in heaven, seem small. Her rapists and torturers will get what they deserve.[/b]

What is your take on the problem of Hell?  By that very same rationale,  we should say that the pain and suffering that the rapists caused, in retrospect of the eternity of Hell, seems small… infinitely small.  In that sense, the rapists and torturers will experience the most infinite and lasting injustice possible.

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Jeff H July 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Cartesian, would you say that we retain our own consciousness (or “soul”, if you will) when we go to heaven? And does that not include our memories of this life? Or will we forget everything that happened during this life (in which case, what’s the point of building character here)?
 
Second question: If you accept that we will retain memories of this life, then don’t you think the obvious emotional scarring that comes from being repeatedly raped over and over might continue to be a punishment throughout the afterlife? Don’t you think that, even in the light of eternity, saying that it won’t matter in the end trivializes the nature of what happened?

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lukeprog July 8, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Guys, I added the line about it all seeming so trivial one day and rapists being punished AFTER cartesian wrote his response.

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Dave July 9, 2009 at 4:58 am

Oh . . .
 
**shuts up and slowly backs out of the room**

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Naug July 9, 2009 at 6:19 am

Is really no one interested in the implication that she is a muslim and will, on christianity, burn in hell anyway? I thought that was an even more gruesome state of affairs than she being a christian and her god forsaking her. Maybe that’s just me.

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 6:34 am

drj: What is your take on the problem of Hell? By that very same rationale, we should say that the pain and suffering that the rapists caused, in retrospect of the eternity of Hell, seems small… infinitely small. In that sense, the rapists and torturers will experience the most infinite and lasting injustice possible.

What do you take the Problem of Hell to be, exactly? Is there some sort of argument you could give me with clear premises that clearly entail a troubling conclusion?

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 6:35 am

Naug: Is really no one interested in the implication that she is a muslim and will, on christianity, burn in hell anyway?

What makes you think that this is entailed by Christianity?

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 6:51 am

Jeff H,
>>Cartesian, would you say that we retain our own consciousness (or “soul”, if you will) when we go to heaven?>>
 
Yes, I would say that.
 
>>And does that not include our memories of this life?>>
 
Yes, I think we’ll retain the memories of this life.
 
>>Second question: If you accept that we will retain memories of this life, then don’t you think the obvious emotional scarring that comes from being repeatedly raped over and over might continue to be a punishment throughout the afterlife?>>
 
No, I don’t think so. I think heaven will offer healing for even this sort of injury.
 
>>Don’t you think that, even in the light of eternity, saying that it won’t matter in the end trivializes the nature of what happened?>>
 
Well, there’s a difference between saying that it doesn’t presently matter, and that it didn’t matter in the past. 1,000,000 years hence in heaven, I don’t think that these events will matter much to this woman (who will have been completely healed), though it will still be true that they did matter.
 
It’s like the pain of childbirth, I suppose. When presently experienced, the pain of childbirth matters big time. It’s excruciating. But 1 year later, having completely healed, the mother is no longer bothered by the pain, and is instead consumed by the joy of being with her child. She still remembers that there was excruciating pain involved in the generation of this child — and indeed that pain may increase her love and appreciation for the child, and may have built her character. But none of that pain presently matters (in at least one important sense) as she hugs her 1 year old. Heaven is probably like that, with respect to our pain here on Earth.

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lukeprog July 9, 2009 at 7:31 am

Naug,

Yes, that’s another lovely piece of Christian doctrine.

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Lorkas July 9, 2009 at 7:38 am

cartesian: Yes, I think we’ll retain the memories of this life.

I wish I could understand the mechanism by which this is possible. I guess our memories are all downloaded from our brains to our souls, or something?

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 8:05 am

Lorkas: I wish I could understand the mechanism by which this is possible. I guess our memories are all downloaded from our brains to our souls, or something?

I don’t think our memories are in our brains. Here’s a cutesy question to help you see the worry: How much does your memory of your 18th birthday weigh? I don’t think that question makes any sense. But if memories are brain states, it makes perfect sense.
 
Probably you’ll just bite the bullet here, but I hope you can at least feel the pull of dualism.

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 8:41 am

 

lukeprog: Naug,Yes, that’s another lovely piece of Christian doctrine.

What makes you think that’s a piece of Christian doctrine? Did you mean essential Christian doctrine? Or just a doctrine that some Christians happen to hold?
 

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Haukur July 9, 2009 at 9:56 am

Cartesian, how much does this comment weigh on your computer at the time you read it? Or do you also have a dualistic view of how your computer stores information?

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Lorkas July 9, 2009 at 9:59 am

cartesian: I don’t think that question makes any sense. But if memories are brain states, it makes perfect sense. Probably you’ll just bite the bullet here, but I hope you can at least feel the pull of dualism.

We certainly know that memories can be tampered with by tampering with brain chemistry. They can be lost, modified, or even created from scratch by meddling with the chemicals. You have your work cut out for you if you want to argue that memories aren’t stored in brains. I can’t really see how this is supposed to exhibit any pull for dualism at all, considering what we know about brains.
 
However, I don’t really think that this is a silly question at all–just one we can’t answer yet. We can calculate how much storage space a file takes up on a computer hard drive, and use that to find out how much a file weighs (although I’m not sure that the question is useful for any reason, and it depends on the storage medium as well), and we know that our brain works remarkably like a computer. As we learn more about what memories are and how they’re stored, it’s entirely possible that the question could be answered.
 
Furthermore, you’ve conveniently evaded the heart of the question: what is the mechanism that stores memories, if not the brain? I’ve never heard of a theory for how spirits store information like memories and personality, but there must be one if spirits can do that. At least the monist view has potential for an explanation as we study more. What lines of study could lead us to discover how the soul stores memories?

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tdd July 9, 2009 at 10:00 am

Is John 14:6 not essential enough?

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 10:18 am

Haukur: Cartesian, how much does this comment weigh on your computer at the time you read it? Or do you also have a dualistic view of how your computer stores information?

Do you mean the symbols that conventionally express the propositional content of my comment? If so, those don’t weigh very much. I’m not sure how much they weigh. If that’s what you meant by “my comment,” then you’re right that my comment weighs something, but it’s not relevant to my claim about memories and brains.
 
Or do you mean the propositional content of my comment? Propositions don’t weigh anything. So if that’s what you meant by “my comment,” then my comment certainly isn’t “on” my computer, and it certainly doesn’t have a weight. This is what I was getting at with my comment about memories.
 
Here are examples to help grasp the distinction I’m making:
Symbols/words: “black,” “negro,” “schwarz”
Content: black, i.e. the color of this font.
 
Symbols/sentences: “It’s raining,” “Esta lloviendo,” “Es regnet”
Content: It is raining.
 
Computers shuffle symbols, not content. Same with brains.

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 10:33 am

 

Lorkas: We certainly know that memories can be tampered with by tampering with brain chemistry. They can be lost, modified, or even created from scratch by meddling with the chemicals. You have your work cut out for you if you want to argue that memories aren’t stored in brains.

What you point out is that, there are some Xs and Ys such that, if we do X to my brain, then Y happens in my memories. You then infer that memories are in my brain.

But if you sever my neck, I’ll lose all my memories. And yet we don’t believe that memories are in the neck. There’s a counterexample to the main inference in your argument. So that inference is bad. So your argument fails.

>>Furthermore, you’ve conveniently evaded the heart of the question: what is the mechanism that stores memories, if not the brain?>>

I don’t know if there is any mechanism. Who says there must be such a mechanism? I think that thinking is a basic activity of minds; there’s no “how” about it. And the same goes with remembering. Minds think, and minds remember, and they don’t think or remember by doing something else. It’s like an electron having a -1 charge. There’s no “how” about it. Electrons just have a -1 charge, and they don’t do that by doing something else. It’s a basic fact about them.

If you’re depressed about the lack of a research program here, let me be clear that we can still study how the brain stores various representations, how it shuffles syntax and symbols, etc. I’m as interested in neuroscience as the next guy. I think we just have to be clear about what neuroscience is telling us. I don’t think learning about the brain per se teaches us anything about thought, sensation, memory, etc. It just teaches us about neural states that causally covary with thoughts, sensations, memories, etc. That’s still pretty interesting, and worth looking into.

Similarly, just studying cars per se doesn’t teach us anything about drivers. We’ll just learn about some stuff that causally interacts with drivers, but we won’t be studying drivers themselves.

 

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 10:37 am

tdd: Is John 14:6 not essential enough?

John 14:6 says:
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
 
I’ve already said that I believe that Jesus is essential for salvation. I wholeheartedly agree with John 14:6. What I disagree with is the claim that belief in Jesus is necessary for salvation.
 
Remember the bridge analogy: Suppose there’s just one bridge to some island. It will then be true that no one drives to the island except by this bridge. Yet it won’t be true that no one drives to the island except by believing anything in particular about this bridge. Someone could drive over the bridge to the island without even realizing that they had driven over a bridge. I think that’s how it works with Jesus.

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Lorkas July 9, 2009 at 11:18 am

cartesian: But if you sever my neck, I’ll lose all my memories. And yet we don’t believe that memories are in the neck. There’s a counterexample to the main inference in your argument. So that inference is bad. So your argument fails.

Er… no, because we know that the reason why we lose all of our memories when we sever the neck is because it prevents oxygen from being delivered to the brain, thereby killing all brain cells. The important thing here is still the effect on the brain, not the effect on the neck.

cartesian: I think that thinking is a basic activity of minds; there’s no “how” about it.

Translation: pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

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Haukur July 9, 2009 at 11:33 am

Thank you for responding, I’m trying to follow but not sure I have – so you do have a dualistic view of how a computer stores information? Are you some sort of Platonist?

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Fortuna July 9, 2009 at 12:08 pm

>>It (neuroscience) just teaches us about neural states that causally covary with thoughts, sensations, memories, etc. That’s still pretty interesting, and worth looking into.>>
My understanding was that neural states don’t co-vary with thoughts, they precede them. Neural state -> thought.

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Lorkas: Er… no, because we know that the reason why we lose all of our memories when we sever the neck is because it prevents oxygen from being delivered to the brain, thereby killing all brain cells. The important thing here is still the effect on the brain, not the effect on the neck.

I think you’ve missed my point. I thought you presented this argument (if this isn’t your argument, please correct me):

(1) There are some Xs and Ys such that, if we do X to my brain, then Y happens in my memories.
(2) Therefore, memories are in my brain.
 
I responded by pointing out that your inference here entails the more general inference:
(1′) There are some Xs, Ys, and Zs such that, if we do X to my Z, then Y happens to my memories.
(2′) Therefore, memories are in my Z.
 
I gave you a counterexample to this inference:
(CoEx) If you sever my neck, I’ll lose all my memories. Yet it’s not the case that memories are in the neck.
 
Your move from (1) to (2) is valid only if the move from (1′) to (2′) is valid. But the move from (1′) to (2′) is NOT valid. Therefore, your move from (1) to (2) is not valid. Your reply didn’t address this argument at all.
 
It’s a pretty straightforward point, which I’m sorry to make so tedious. The fact that X and Y are causally related doesn’t entail that X=Y (witness smoke and fire, drivers and cars, severed necks and memory loss, etc.). So the fact that certain brain states and my memories are causally related doesn’t entail that my memories just are those brain states.
 
——————————
I said:
>>I think that thinking is a basic activity of minds; there’s no “how” about it.>>
 
You replied:
>>Translation: pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.>>
 
Physicist: Having a -1 charge is a basic fact about electrons. There’s no “how” about it.
 
Lorkas’ reply?: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Fortuna: My understanding was that neural states don’t co-vary with thoughts, they precede them. Neural state -> thought.

What are thoughts, on your view? If neural states, then thoughts co-vary with neural states. If not neural states, then welcome to dualism.

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cartesian July 9, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Haukur: Thank you for responding, I’m trying to follow but not sure I have – so you do have a dualistic view of how a computer stores information? Are you some sort of Platonist?

It depends on what you mean by “information.” If you mean the 1s and 0s that computers push around, i.e. if you mean those symbols, then no, I’m not a dualist about information. But if you mean the propositional content expressed by these 1s and 0s, if you mean that which the symbols symbolize, then I don’t think that information is “in” or “on” computers. I think that sort of information is abstract, not concrete.

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Lorkas July 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm

 

cartesian: Your move from (1) to (2) is valid only if the move from (1′) to (2′) is valid. But the move from (1′) to (2′) is NOT valid. Therefore, your move from (1) to (2) is not valid. Your reply didn’t address this argument at all.

I understand this perfectly well, and I’m arguing that you’re just equivocating. When you sever the neck, the relevance of that action is its effect on the brain, i.e. killing brain cells.
 
Here’s the parallel: we agree that brain chemistry can affect memories, so having propanalol in my brain affects my memories. The step that is analogous to this is having an oxygen deficit in my brain, not the severing of the neck.
 
You might as well say “taking propanalol orally affects memory, therefore memories are stored in the digestive tract”. Both of us know that propanalol in the digestive tract isn’t what causes the memory alteration–it’s the presence of propanalol in the brain (as caused by its absorption in the digestive tract).
 
In the same way, the severing of the neck is not what causes the memory loss, but the lack of oxygen and nutrients in the brain (as caused by the severing of the neck).
 
So, the steps:
1) Neck is severed.
2) Oxygen and nutrient concentration in the brain fall.
3) Memory is affected.
is just as valid as the steps:
1′) Propanalol is ingested.
2′) Propanalol concentration in the brain increases.
3′) Memory is affected.
 
Your argument is a failure, because you are comparing two different steps, 1) and 2′). If you want to refute the argument in this way, you need to make sure to compare the correct steps.

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drj July 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm

The conclusion that memory is stored in the brain comes from inductive reasoning… mounds and mounds of empirical evidence that suggest specific locales in the brain deal with, and store memory.   Perhaps the original claim was dressed up deductively, but its really not a deductive position… therefor, it can’t be invalid.

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lukeprog July 9, 2009 at 4:06 pm

cartesian: How much does your memory of your 18th birthday weigh?

I think the question makes sense, and may be answerable one day, except that a memory of my 18th birthday is probably not one neuron or tiny brain region or anything. It’s moving and changing all the time – every time I recall it, in fact. Also, there are certain parts of my brain states that will be partially related to the memory of my 18th birthday, and indeed a continuum of memories that are more and more or less and less related to that memory, so it would be hard to decide which ones to include in the weighing.

So it’s not like a file on a computer hard drive represented by a certain number of disk sectors, which could be (relatively easily) weighed.

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lukeprog July 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm

cartesian: What makes you think that’s a piece of Christian doctrine? Did you mean essential Christian doctrine? Or just a doctrine that some Christians happen to hold?

A doctrine that tens of millions of Christians hold. I don’t know what essential Christian doctrine would be, especially since there are people who call themselves Christian atheists, or Christian pantheists.

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Naug July 9, 2009 at 4:45 pm

cartesian: What makes you think that this is entailed by Christianity?

I didn’t know that Christianity had opened the doors of heaven for all faiths? When did this happen? I thought professing faith in another god but yahweh was a sin and the failure to repent for those sins earned you a spot next to the warm cozy fire downstairs. Also, if that is not required to get to heaven, why be a christian instead of any other religion?
And likewise, why proselytize as a christian if there are no souls to be saved? (Since they presumably don’t need to be saved if everyone can get to heaven without being a christian)

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drj July 9, 2009 at 5:06 pm

 

Naug: I didn’t know that Christianity had opened the doors of heaven for all faiths? When did this happen? I thought professing faith in another god but yahweh was a sin and the failure to repent for those sins earned you a spot next to the warm cozy fire downstairs. Also, if that is not required to get to heaven, why be a christian instead of any other religion? And likewise, why proselytize as a christian if there are no souls to be saved? (Since they presumably don’t need to be saved if everyone can get to heaven without being a christian)

There are actually plenty of Christians who do not believe that.   I was always taught as a former Catholic, that one who never heard the message of Christ but lived according to his/her conscience, can achieve salvation.
 
 
What you are touching upon is called exclusivism.  Not all Christians are exclusivists.

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Fortuna July 9, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Cartesian;
>>What are thoughts, on your view?>>
I don’t know, to be perfectly honest.
>>If neural states, then thoughts co-vary with neural states. >>
My point was that (as far as I’m aware), every time we’ve been in a position to observe the temporal correlation between neural states and thoughts, neural states always come first. Neurons fire, and then ever so slightly later you taste ice cream, or lift your arm, or get angry. Never the reverse. Thoughts and neural states don’t covary in that they don’t happen at the same time, and the temporal order always goes from physical brain state to thought, whatever “thought” is.
>>If not neural states, then welcome to dualism.>>
Not necessarily, unless you consider epiphenomenalism to be a flavour of dualism. If you do, then you can call me a dualist if it really floats your bloat, just be aware that I doubt very much that minds can exist independently of brains, or some kind of physical structure that could produce a mind.
 
 

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akakiwibear July 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Very smart observation:

Jeremy Killian: Interestingly enough, this woman’s experience has not led her to atheism.Despite tremendous bitterness toward her torturers, the article says that “she believes God kept her alive for a reason.”

Interesting that none of the atheists have yet found grounds to attack your observation!
The greatest error is lukeprog drawing the conclusion Christianity is either the most insane fiction you’ve ever heard, or the most horrifying reality you can imagine from this story. There is absolutely no grounds for it!
Certainly the spin luke applied to the story seems to justify his position but luke has simply embellished the story to create  a straw man and establish his case … but does that represent common sense atheism?
What is his point?
That only good people should have freewill? That there should be no suffering?
Perhaps fire should not burn us, nor should beng struck hurt, nor should we be able learn compassion from stories such as this, nor should we see the fruits of evil in case we learned something!
sala kahle – peace

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Naug July 10, 2009 at 2:30 am

 

drj:   There are actually plenty of Christians who do not believe that.   I was always taught as a former Catholic, that one who never heard the message of Christ but lived according to his/her conscience, can achieve salvation.     What you are touching upon is called exclusivism.  Not all Christians are exclusivists.

How many christians are not exclusivists? (I’m not trying to make an argumentum ad populum here, I’m just interested.)
 

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drj July 10, 2009 at 6:21 am

 

cartesian: What do you take the Problem of Hell to be, exactly? Is there some sort of argument you could give me with clear premises that clearly entail a troubling conclusion?

 
 
Well, some have probably done it much better than this, but maybe this will give you an idea.
 
1. Hell is eternal and described as a place of suffering and torment.
2. Any sins committed in a human life will eventually be small compared to suffering and torment a being will experience in Hell (just as any suffering one may experience in life, will seem small compared to the eternal paradise of heaven).
3. Therefore, Hell seems unjust.
 
There are implied ideas about justice in this reasoning.  But you also do the same, when you claim we live in a just universe; you imply there is some sort of comprehensible and comforting idea of justice that we can understand.  Maybe I should have simply asked this first:  How do you define justice?
 
The discord I see is that once Hell starts being examined, common ideals of justice to which you appeal – the ones that are supposed to bring a Christian comfort or make Christianity seem appealing over other worldviews -  simply don’t mesh with God’s justice.   Our western ideals regarding crime,  punishment, and rehabilitation make God’s “justice” rather inexplicable and incomprehensible… and quite frightening, I might add (though I think that’s rather the point in some cases).
 

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drj July 10, 2009 at 6:25 am

Naug:   How many christians are not exclusivists? (I’m not trying to make an argumentum ad populum here, I’m just interested.)

No… I think outside Catholicism, most Christians are likely to be exclusivists.  But I do know inclusivism is the official position of the Catholic church these days.

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lukeprog July 10, 2009 at 7:17 am

I chronicled a recent philosophical attempt to lessen the problem of hell, in four parts, here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

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Fortuna July 10, 2009 at 11:39 am

akakiwibear
 
>>Perhaps fire should not burn us, nor should beng struck hurt, nor should we be able learn compassion from stories such as this, nor should we see the fruits of evil in case we learned something!
sala kahle – peace
>>
 
 
I invite you to go down to the local burn ward, and explain to the patients there how their horrendous, excruciating, disfiguring, lifelong injuries have taught you compassion. I’m sure it’ll be ever so comforting.
 

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akakiwibear July 13, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Fortuna:
akakiwibear
 
>>Perhaps fire should not burn us, nor should beng struck hurt, nor should we be able learn compassion from stories such as this, nor should we see the fruits of evil in case we learned something!
sala kahle – peace
>>
 
 
I invite you to go down to the local burn ward, and explain to the patients there how their horrendous, excruciating, disfiguring, lifelong injuries have taught you compassion. I’m sure it’ll be ever so comforting.
 

Fortuna – and your point is? We should have a world without fire or consequencese? Maybe no gravity in case you fall and hurt yourself? …

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Fortuna July 13, 2009 at 3:54 pm

I’m not making a point about how I think the world should be. The world simply is, according to my view. The point I am making relates back to the article; theists sometimes say that stories like this are indicative of their god’s intent to teach people compassion through the suffering of others. I am saying that that is a viscerally horrifying view of the world.
 
If you still have difficulty understanding this, then I once again invite you to demonstrate the courage of your convictions. Explain to someone with third-degree burns over most of their body how their (probably lifelong) suffering is necessary to teach other people compassion. If you experience not a jot of horror at this prospect, and if it doesn’t strike you as cheapening their experience somehow, then I’ll lay off bugging you about it.

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Neo September 14, 2011 at 5:14 am

The Preferred View?

The world is perfect, just like in the beginning in the garden.
No sin, no murder, no rape, no religion, everything is perfect.
But you decide, today’s the day, today I eat that apple.
God sees you walking towards the tree, he says, “Don’t do it my son.”

But you don’t want to live your life bound by God’s rules,
you want freedom, you want power, you want to decide right and wrong for yourself.
You go to grab the apple and a tear runs down God’s face as he says,
“Goodbye my son.”
The man you once were walks away, never tempted by the apple,
never tempted by atheism ever again….
Ever to remain, Christian.

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