News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 15, 2009 in News

Vox Day has published his 3rd letter to me.

Physics beats magic yet again.

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{ 94 comments… read them below or add one }

Noel October 15, 2009 at 9:21 am

I seriously question Vox Day’s biblical scholarship, as well as his knowledge of “conventional Christian theology” (by that I can only assume he means those perspectives which have been affirmed by the orthodox church as legitimate). To say that conventional Christian theology holds anyone other than God to be ultimately in control of this world is ludicrous. Perspectives may claim that Satan exercises considerable influence in this world, but God is ultimately behind the steering wheel in every “conventional” theological tradition I can think of.

Further, taking a handful of passages that mention the Devil/Satan as “the god of this age” or “the prince of this world” and claiming that these somehow outweigh the countless other passages which clearly claim YHWH (and no other) is in control is simple proof-texting. Vox misses the big picture with his focus on these tiniest details. The biblical message is quite clear: YHWH is in control of history, in this age and every age. One or two divergent voices may suggest otherwise, but “Satan is god of this world” is not the primary (or even tangential) biblical message.

Not that it matters. I’m all for reinventing religion when it ceases to work (we’ve been doing it for centuries anyway). But to malign Luke because he cannot anticipate Vox’s unconventional perspectives and suspect interpretive practices… well, that’s just poor form.

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Evan October 15, 2009 at 10:50 am

Noel,

I think you’re misunderstanding VD (Vox Day, not Venereal Disease). The Bible isn’t the scriptures for him. Sci fi and fantasy books are.

Once you can understand that, you will also understand that his theology comes from the Chronicles of Narnia and its deeper magic from before the dawn of time.

No wonder he’s a bit unorthodox. He thinks the true holy scriptures were written in the 20th century.

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James Chastek October 15, 2009 at 11:41 am

Luke,

I got an argument from your site from J.L. Mackie,

(1) If God exists, God is an omnipotent and wholly good being.
(2) A good being always eliminates evil as far as it can.
(3) There are no limits on what an omnipotent being can do.
(4) Evil exists.
God does not exist.

I want to put it in an article, and I need a citation or it.

1.) Are these Mackie’s actual words?
2.) If so, where are they from?

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MacGuy October 15, 2009 at 1:06 pm

The Bible isn’t the scriptures for him. Sci fi and fantasy books are.

Oh please, we all know that he only points to fantasy books (which reflect biblical truth) because atheists are ignorant doofuses. They need to have a children’s version in order for them to comprehend even a rudimentary form of theology.

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Lee A. P. October 15, 2009 at 1:11 pm

To save you guys a headache I’ll offer a summery of “Vox’s” letter.

He simply insists that a magical, evil supernatural being exists and then insists that Luke deal with that reality. Then he suggests Luke read C.S. Lewis’ childrens books and his Sci-fi book.

Vox is a huge tool.

Then he offers a football analogy comparing God to Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress! No shit!

Give Childress infinite coaching power and skill, a flawless supernatural gameplan and the analogy might be a little less retarded.

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Bill Maher October 15, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Jesus, that guy has quickly turned into Kent Hovind meets Tom Cruise.

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Infamous J October 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Luke I think your pissin up a rope.

While I’ve read the exchanges between you and VD, he’s not seriously debating you as much as he’s forcing you to play his game. Which doesn’t appear to be serious debate but selfgrandizing of Vox Day.

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Evan October 15, 2009 at 1:42 pm

“Oh please, we all know that he only points to fantasy books (which reflect biblical truth) because atheists are ignorant doofuses. They need to have a children’s version in order for them to comprehend even a rudimentary form of theology.”

MacGuy, what Biblical truth are we talking about here? I’m curious where in the Bible there’s deep magic from before the dawn of time that explains substitutionary atonement. Do you have a text?

What part of the Bible talks about life on other planets, with the earth being under the control of an oyarsa?

Perhaps Vox can use Star Trek: The Next Generation to explicate the next model for Christianity that he proposes, but to use the Chronicles of Narnia as a source of doctrine — in a DEBATE — is hilarious.

It’s as if Luke were to quote the Teletubbies as deep insight into the suchness of the universe and as part of an argument for materialism.

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Beelzebub October 15, 2009 at 1:54 pm

At least all his sentences appear to be grammatical this time, and he doesn’t seem to have been smoking opium — unlike his last letter. All in all, for VD, this is gold star material!

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one more clay figurine October 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Wow, ad hominems ahoy right now!

The way you guys confuse “analogy” with “doctrine” astounds me. If Star Trek were a good analogy of Christian teachings, then I don’t see a problem with using it. It just so happens, however, that C.S. Lewis was very knowledgeable in Christian doctrine, and his understandings of it frequently entered his fiction work. So, it is not at all ridiculous to use Lewis’ work to highlight a point regarding Christianity.

The fact that you guys are brushing aside Vox’s arguments because of his use of analogy is appalling. I thought atheists were reasonable, rational people. All I’m seeing is anger, mockery and emotion; and, quite frankly, that’s just not on. Soon we’ll be saying things like “emotion” and “spiritual experience” are real. How preposterous!

I truly hope you guys are joking. Hell, I know you are, but where are your points of rebuttal? We illogical theists not worthy of your opinion? How about cutting the crap, and enlightening us on Vox Day’s errors in a more mature manner.

(P.S. that priest…what a moron.)

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Evan October 15, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Clay figurine … once again, if it’s an analogy to something in the Bible, please show me where it is in the Bible. Vox had a chance to do that and he used an analogy between the gospels and fantasy and science fiction books but not a single Bible reference to the idea that Satan controls the world with no interference from God.

If this were true … how the hell did Satan mess up and let Jesus come into the world? Did he fall asleep? If God has the power to force Jesus into the world, does that not mean that he’s fully in control of the situation and responsible for it?

Again, I understand the Lewis references, I read the books as a kid when I was a Christian and I liked them. But they aren’t orthodox theology and they posit an unorthodox God who is NOT omnipotent.

For Luke to point this out and for VD to try to mock him for this by quoting Narnia is just hilarious.

The offer’s open. Where in the Bible does it say that Satan is in control of the earth to the exclusion of God? I know it’s in Narnia and Out of the Silent Planet … but what non-20th century source suggests this?

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ayer October 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Noel: “To say that conventional Christian theology holds anyone other than God to be ultimately in control of this world is ludicrous.”

I didn’t see any denial by Vox that God is ultimately in control; he denied that God is meticulously in control of every act at every moment. And indeed, this doctrine of “meticulous providence” is a fringe doctrine held by hyper-Calvinists, as he says. His view of omnipotence as sovereignty combined with free will is entirely mainstream.

Now, his embrace of “open theism” in terms of omniscience is a minority view; but it also is well within orthodox Christianity and is held by prominent evangelicals like Richard Swinburne, Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, etc. It should be noted that these open theist scholars don’t deny omniscience as such; they assert that God knows all that exists, but that free will decisions by free creatures do not exist until those decisions are made. God, on this view, knows all “might-counterfactuals”, i.e. what every free creature might or might not do under any conceivable circumstance. They see their view as most compatible with a libertarian (as opposed to compatibilist) version of free will.

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HHS October 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Noel says “To say that conventional Christian theology holds anyone other than God to be ultimately in control of this world is ludicrous.” The inclusion of the word “ultimately” is a revision not appearing in Vox’s letter and drastically changes the meaning. Vox rather clearly stated that YHWH is ultimately in command, but that this domain is currently held by another, lesser ruler.

You lot have to be incredibly stupid or outstandingly dishonest. Is Schwarzenegger not the governor of California because a higher authority exists in Washington, DC?

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HHS October 15, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Lee A.P. says “Then he offers a football analogy comparing God to Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress! No shit!

Give Childress infinite coaching power and skill, a flawless supernatural gameplan and the analogy might be a little less retarded.”

Yeah, totally. If an analogy is to be appropriate, the analogy should be the exact same thing as the original. The only appropriate analogy for God is God, and the only analogy for football is a football game.

Lee, you’re suitable for ridicule because your insufficient mental processes lead you to think you’re intelligent.

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Lee A. P. October 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm

“Lee, you’re suitable for ridicule because your insufficient mental processes lead you to think you’re intelligent.”

Nuh uh, you are.

Infinity.

(no double infinites allowed)

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Hermes October 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I looked over the review comments on VD’s blog. The attitude seems to be generally ones from the silk handkerchief and powdered wig set, as they discuss the little ones who are just not in the know.

Honestly, it seems overly defensive and out of touch, based largely on meta-knowledge of Christian culture, disregarding anything serious as if it were ‘droll’.

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lukeprog October 15, 2009 at 5:53 pm

James,

No, that’s my paraphrase. You can download Mackie’s original article from the blog post to which you refer.

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Jeff H October 15, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Damn, Hermes, you stole my line. I was totally picturing an old British guy reading this letter, sitting in front of the fireplace and smoking a pipe. And he said “How droll” a lot, with a smug little grin on his face.

Seriously, perhaps he’s a “genius” of some sort, but I get the feeling that hanging around with him for too long would make me want to smack him in the face for being a self-righteous prick. But maybe that’s just me…

Anyway, enough with the insults. I’ll give him credit for actually explaining things this time, which is good. Kudos for that. I really don’t understand how he can reasonably justify the idea that Satan is the “ruler of this world” – I mean, I know that there are passages that infer that, but at the same time….what about Job? Satan had to go to God’s throne room and ask him if he could pretty please hurt the guy. Doesn’t sound like much of a ruler to me if he’s gotta go ask his superior/arch-enemy every time he wants to go do something.

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wat October 15, 2009 at 6:58 pm

i dont understand how you could NOT infer that satan is the ruler of this world in the christian worldview, given how much time they spend talking about man’s fallen nature

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Hermes October 15, 2009 at 7:25 pm

[ tips hat to Jeff H ]

As for the topic of Satan or any powerful evil entity, I just don’t get it.

On the one hand, their deity is supposedly the ultimate power anywhere. Their text even has sections that talk about how their deity ‘creates evil’ and that ‘not a bird will fall’ without it being keenly aware of that event. It supposedly created the universe and all life. I’m simplifying a bit, but not so much as to miss the general point of what the Christian texts claim.

Now, they have this other force that does bad things in the world. This demon.

Here’s what makes no friggen sense;

Why doesn’t their deity do something about their demon?

The only answers I can think of are;

* The demon does something that their deity wants to have happen; the demon and the deity are on the same team. (Looking at Job, and the earlier Jewish texts that makes sense because their demon serves a legal and punitive role for their deity.)

* Their deity wants to do something but can’t do anything about their demon, and thus their religious texts are incorrect about their deity being the only deity — that is unless you want to split hairs on what constitutes a deity and what doesn’t count as one.

Anything else comes up as some variation on those two.

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drj October 15, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Does anyone else ever feel astonished at the CS Lewis worship? Oh how countless times his works are trotted out by a believer with a smirk.. they are just so sure your disbelief cannot withstand his woo.

I’ve never felt his apologetics, or theology was anything special – in fact, its sloppy, unchallenging, simple-minded and extremely shallow… its stuff to laugh at. It is only propelled to such legendary, undeserved heights by his skill as a writer and his ability to weave pretty metaphors.

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Beelzebub October 15, 2009 at 7:40 pm

VD often speaks of Satan as a malign, intelligent entity. I’ll like to know, beyond what he has read in scripture, what reasons he has to think that evil has any structure or purpose, if there really is an intelligent agency behind it. “The banality of evil” has now become a cliché specifically because evil usually presents itself through omission, ineptitude, dementia, insanity or outright stupidity. Where, exactly, are the nefarious and deliberate threads of “purpose-driven” evil we’re supposed to see if Satan exists?

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Hylomorphic October 15, 2009 at 8:07 pm

I’m not sure why I keep returning to Vox’s comment threads. Vox himself is a sloppy enough thinker. His commenters are just awful.

EDIT: If you don’t want to wade through the 200+ comments so far, a couple of the commenters are now trying to argue that snakes are rational. One of them is apparently trying to claim that snakes are morally culpable for biting people. I can work with willful ignorance sometimes, but not to this degree.

drj, I have to agree with regard to C. S. Lewis. He was a fairly capable fiction writer, but I’d have expected someone with his academic credentials to be able to do better than Mere Christianity.

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Beelzebub October 16, 2009 at 12:00 am

It’s because you’re a Tardaholic like me, and there’s a place you must go right now and confess. If not for yourself, do it for your family.

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HHS October 16, 2009 at 4:32 am

Lee, epic fail. Par for the course from you, based on previous comment threads I’ve seen you in.

Hermes, other than trying to convict Vox via the perceived attitudes of his blog’s commenters, do you have any specific points of contention with his arguments?

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HHS October 16, 2009 at 4:43 am

Sorry, Hermes. Wrote the post last night but apparently it didn’t go through until this morning!

Concerning your contention that God must be either in league with Satan or unable to stop him, I would point to the obvious answer of free will, applying it not just to man but to the angelic beings as well, among whose number is Satan.

Similarly, free will is the obvious answer to Mackie’s argument.

drj says “Does anyone else ever feel astonished at the CS Lewis worship?”

Do you ever feel astonished at your Luke worship? After all, here you are on his blog, supporting his arguments against Vox. Referencing someone who wrote highly-accessible works that are applicable to the topic at hand is not worship. I’m guessing you’re probably a bigger Darwin worshipper than Vox is a Lewis worshipper.

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lukeprog October 16, 2009 at 6:51 am
Lee A. P. October 16, 2009 at 8:55 am

“Lee, epic fail. Par for the course from you, based on previous comment threads I’ve seen you in.”

Oooh. That one hurt. You trotted out a trite internet meme on me. “Epic fail”. You are not just more intelligent than I am, you are just too cool for me as well.

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 9:09 am

HHS: “Sorry, Hermes. Wrote the post last night but apparently it didn’t go through until this morning!

Concerning your contention that God must be either in league with Satan or unable to stop him, I would point to the obvious answer of free will, applying it not just to man but to the angelic beings as well, among whose number is Satan.”

So, you are saying that you agree with my first bullet point …

* The demon does something that their deity wants to have happen; the demon and the deity are on the same team. (Looking at Job, and the earlier Jewish texts that makes sense because their demon serves a legal and punitive role for their deity.)

… with the addition you just made? Sounds like negligence to me. Do you have any theological basis for that, or is that your own special add-on? After all, in Job your demon asks permission for every action it takes.

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ayer October 16, 2009 at 9:26 am

Hermes: “* The demon does something that their deity wants to have happen; the demon and the deity are on the same team.”

This is your understanding of free will? The whole point of free will is that a being has the ability to do something that God does NOT want to happen, yet he allows it because a world with free will is better than one with automatons (whether those automatons are human or angelic/demonic beings).

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 9:34 am

Ayer, I don’t think that free will has anything to do with it. The Christian deity and the Christian demon don’t make sense all by themselves. If the Christian deity is able to do something about the Christian demon, and doesn’t, then the Christian deity either can’t or won’t because it doesn’t want to. Period.

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

PS: Still looking for some theological and/or mythic basis for what HHS wrote.

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Salt October 16, 2009 at 10:26 am

Evan

Where in the Bible does it say that Satan is in control of the earth to the exclusion of God?

Evan, it is quite apparent that either you have not read what Vox wrote or did not comprehend. I’d hope for the former, distasteful as that would be.

Go here, Evan, and pay attention beginning @ 4th paragraph, beginning “Granted, it is not my custom to …”, and do note the biblical cites.

Remember, eyes to see, ears to hear. If you fail to comprehend, go look in a mirror and you will see why.

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Chuck October 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

To those who promote the devil theodicy, now so popular in evangelical circles, I would only ask this: Is it sincerely your position that something magical happened to the WHOLE FUCKING UNIVERSE at the precise moment the Fall occurred? That before Adam ate the apple, the laws of physics were completely different, and earthquakes, floods, and genetic disease did not occur? Did this happen when he took the first bite, the last, or when in his mind he made the decision?

Are you even aware how full of crap this sounds to the average, unadulterated mind?

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Lee A. P. October 16, 2009 at 11:43 am

“Free Will” is suppose to be a set of magical words that absolve God from responsibility for anything yet not only do Christians fail at defining this concept, they even disagree amongst themselves over its existence.

A sufficiently skilled designer could create creatures who would behave optimally even if given “free will”. This free will canard grows tiresome. Its like an undefinable red herring they throw in there. Free Will is this magical, undefinable, unexplainable attribute that means humans are at fault for all the bad stuff they do while God is ultimately at cause for all the good they happen to do.

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Josh October 16, 2009 at 12:49 pm

The problem with free will defenses is that they assume the concept is even coherent in the first place, which I don’t think it is…

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Note to Chuck – very good point.

Salt, so you are saying that Vox’s opinion is that the Christian deity is currently not the primary god, but the Christian demon is currently the primary deity?

Corrections/confirmations/… appreciated.

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ayer October 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Lee A.P.: “A sufficiently skilled designer could create creatures who would behave optimally even if given “free will”.”

That is nonsensical (at least until you provide us with a detailed account of how that would be done; we await your answer).

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ayer October 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Chuck: “Are you even aware how full of crap this sounds to the average, unadulterated mind?”

Are you aware of how full of crap it sounds to the average, unadulterated mind when atheists deny there is such a thing as free will?

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ayer October 16, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Hermes: “If the Christian deity is able to do something about the Christian demon, and doesn’t, then the Christian deity either can’t or won’t because it doesn’t want to.”

Yes, and he doesn’t want to because a world with free will is better than a world without free will. I’m not sure why your mind can’t grasp that, since major atheist philosophers like J.L. Mackie have affirmed its legitimacy as a philosophical concept (even if they disagree with its implications).

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Haukur October 16, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Now that we’ve established that Satan is the one who’s really in charge the time is ripe to head over to Diane Vera’s site and start memorizing the Prayer of acknowledgment of Satan’s rulership.

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Salt October 16, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Hermes,,, WHAT !?!?

In what context do you say this -

that the Christian deity is currently not the primary god, but the Christian demon is currently the primary deity? -

based on what Vox wrote?

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Jake de Backer October 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Is it me or ever since Luke initiated this thread of dialogue, it appears the ad hominems have risen commensurately with the expanding influx of Christian visitors?

Coincidence, I’m sure.

J. de Backer

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cogitans October 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm

“free will is the obvious answer to Mackie’s argument.”

To which Mackie replied that God could have created beings with both free will and moral perfection.

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cogitans October 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm

And by the way, if that is somehow impossible, what on earth happens in Heaven?

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Ayer, simple question. How is a life on Heaven different from a life on Earth?

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Salt, there were no Christian scripture references in the paragraph you mentioned, so I read ahead a bit. Maybe I misunderstood what you were talking about? Maybe you should be more explicit about what you’re referencing?

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ayer October 16, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Hermes: “Ayer, simple question. How is a life on Heaven different from a life on Earth?”

This issue was thoroughly discussed in a thread to the Oct. 7 post. See:
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=3721

I suggest you read that and then come back.

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Thanks for the link.

Any pointers besides read a full blog post plus over 100 comments?

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Ayer, FWIW, unless you can narrow it down a bit I’m going to have to reject your reply as inadequate and unreasonable as it puts 100% of the burden on me. A quick check shows over 15,000 words (about 33 pages).

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Jeff H October 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Let’s set up a simple analogy that is, as far as I can tell, as close to VD’s idea of what the dominion of God and Satan is on earth here.

So there’s a country, called Earthia. It has a government, with a president and police force, etc. Now, in Earthia, there is a school, with a particularly nasty principal that has been placed in charge (or taken charge, I suppose). Now, as the administrator of this school, he has control over what happens within its walls – and rightfully so. So one day, he decides to lock all the children in their classrooms and randomly goes to the different classes and tortures the children. He hangs some of them from the ceiling, and locks others in the closet. Some he refuses to give food to, and others he whips and beats repeatedly.

So, by using the idea of “free will”, the government of this country decides that it cannot do anything to rescue these children, because it would prevent the principal from exercising his free will. It, instead, makes plans to punish the principal at some later date – maybe at the end of the year….or maybe in a few years. After all, the police have other things to do, right? No sense in overloading them…

Now doesn’t the idea of “free will” as an excuse for allowing rampant evil on earth seem like a stupid, stupid excuse?

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ayer October 16, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Jeff H: “Now doesn’t the idea of “free will” as an excuse for allowing rampant evil on earth seem like a stupid, stupid excuse?”

Yes, much better to create a race of automatons who are incapable of committing evil; what a wonderful world that would be! That’s the ticket.

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Chuck October 16, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Ayer,

My comment had nothing at all to do with free will. I can only assume your weak attempt at a dodge means you don’t have an answer. Is it your position that the laws of physics for the ENTIRE UNIVERSE were completely different before the Fall so that such “evils” as earthquakes, floods, and genetic diseases did not occur?

Please limit your response to 5000 words or less. Have it on my desk by morning.

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Ayer, Jeff H’s analogy was not about free will of the children but of the insertion of the sadistic unmonitored principal. If anything, the result of having that principal in charge is obvious — kind of like moving a pedophile from one church to the next.

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Salt October 16, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Hermes, as I said in my original, beginning @ 4th paragraph, beginning “Granted, it is not my custom to …”, and do note the biblical cites.

Had you proceeded to paragraph 5, which naturally follows 4 in number and content, the cites are there. Now, whether you agree with the cites is irrelevant as they do support Vox’s contention.

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Noel October 16, 2009 at 5:21 pm

For anyone who is paying attention, the passage Vox references as Matthew 14:30 (“the prince of this world cometh”) is actually found in John 14:30. I’m sure it’s just a typo, which can happen to all of us. I thought it might be helpful, at the very least, to read the entire verse (though in actuality, real biblical scholarship would add some context to the passages which have been ripped from their books, prior to making formative theological conclusions). I have italicized the portions of the passages which actually, in some way, display the power or influence of the “god of this age.”

John 14:30, Jesus is recorded as saying:

“[30]I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; [31] but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father…”

As for the 2 Corinthians 4:4 passage, it seems that Paul is discussing the content of their gospel, and his reference to the “god of this age” is as follows:

“[3]And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4]In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

If these passages are supposed to help define the rulership of Satan in this age (rather than just mentioning him as the “prince” and “god” of this world and leaving the individual to interpret these vague concepts), then I would say that his rulership is rather limited. His power is negligible in John, at least in regard to Jesus, who most theologies affirm as being fully human even as he is fully divine (though I will give Vox the benefit of the doubt and admit that John may believe Satan exercises power over the rest of us), and in the Corinthians passage, he only exercises control or power over the unbelievers. So, in either case, to claim that these passage support the concept of Satan as a god whose power in this age entails anything other than influence and deception, is somewhat of a stretch. From these passages, Satan has the power to 1) do nothing, and 2) blind the unbelievers.

I have no doubt that there are other passages which give Satan more powerful descriptions, but Vox’s choice of these two passages seem almost completely based on the language “prince” and “god” with no reference whatsoever to the actual content or meaning of these passages.

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Salt October 16, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Noel, I’d say Vox found it be either unnecessary or irrelevant to go into greater depth. The simple fact, according to scripture, is that Satan made Jesus an offer Jesus did not dispute though he did decline.

As to Satan’s power,So, in either case, to claim that these passage support the concept of Satan as a god whose power in this age entails anything other than influence and deception, is somewhat of a stretch, I might find agreement with you. I would note, however, that the power to influence and deceive is not minimal.

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ayer October 16, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Hermes: “Ayer, Jeff H’s analogy was not about free will of the children but of the insertion of the sadistic unmonitored principal.”

Free will applies to those who make evil choices, as well; that’s the point–you have the right to choose good or evil. But since atheists don’t believe in free will (instead believing that all decisions are determined by brain chemistry) then where does your outrage at a sadistic principal come from? After all, his evil choices were determined by brain chemistry and he can’t be considered responsible.

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Noel October 16, 2009 at 5:36 pm

By the way, and just for the record:

I’m not here to engage in name-calling and bullshit slander. I simply think that biblical interpretation for the sake of theological development should be, at the very least, responsible and critical. The “plain-meaning” argument only works if you know nothing about linguistics, sociology, hermeneutics or translation.

Real understanding–of the Bible or any other subject–takes work (research), involves examination of context, and ultimately regards any conclusions with humility.

And Salt:

I agree with you. Temptation and deception are not innocuous. However, I do not find them to be enough to claim that Satan’s “godship” is anything more than a figurative concept. I.e. He’s not actually a “god” in this world.

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ayer October 16, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Chuck: “before the Fall”

Are you referring to the Fall of Satan or the Fall of Man?

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ayer October 16, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Noel: “By the way, and just for the record:

I’m not here to engage in name-calling and bullshit slander. I simply think that biblical interpretation for the sake of theological development should be, at the very least, responsible and critical. The “plain-meaning” argument only works if you know nothing about linguistics, sociology, hermeneutics or translation.

Real understanding–of the Bible or any other subject–takes work (research), involves examination of context, and ultimately regards any conclusions with humility.”

I agree; the atheists here seem to employ all the hermeneutical skill of a middle school dropout.

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Salt October 16, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Noel
I agree with you. Temptation and deception are not innocuous. However, I do not find them to be enough to claim that Satan’s “godship” is anything more than a figurative concept. I.e. He’s not actually a “god” in this world.

“[30]I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me;

Satan is not God’s equivalent, but Satan is a “god”, small “g”. There are many gods. But there is only one Creator God. This is a distinction many do not comprehend, and is beyond the topic of this discussion.

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Salt October 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm

I think it best to clarify the biblical existence of other gods, small “g” -

Ex 20:3
Ex 22:32
Deut 7:4
1 Kings 18:24
1 Cor 8:5

these are but a few examples

Noel, perhaps you’d be more comfortable with the idea that Satan is a Fallen Angelic Being currently the ruler of this world.

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Hermes October 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Salt & Ayer, I’ll bow out on this one. Consider it lack of interest as my focus is mainly on the WWGHA forum for these topics. Sorry to waste your time. Maybe I’ll be motivated to go the whole distance some other day, and give you something of higher quality to contemplate?

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Salt October 16, 2009 at 6:01 pm

No problem, Hermes. Be well.

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Noel October 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm

ayer: “I agree; the atheists here seem to employ all the hermeneutical skill of a middle school dropout.”

As do many of the theists here. The biblical illiterates are not exclusively the non-religious, as you seem to suggest. There are more than enough “Bible believers” who use pathetically juvenile interpretive methods.

And Salt:

I do not actually believe in Satan at all. I think he is a construct used to explain a seemingly cruel and indifferent universe, or at times a scapegoat to shove one’s moral guilt on. In any case, I do not regard the Bible as the “Word of God” or even a divine revelation. It is a human document, and it reflects the experiences of individuals and people groups with the transcendent or the unexplainable. As such, much of what it says must be taken with a grain of salt, as it is decidedly pre-scientific and pre-critical.

I simply recognize that others do believe the Bible to be words from the mouth of God, so to speak; I think such individuals should use responsible interpretive methods. It is, after all, the book they base their lives on, supposedly; thus, it should be understood as clearly and accurately as is possible.

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Chuck October 16, 2009 at 8:33 pm

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Jake de Backer October 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Good people of Luke’s website,

I have a favor to ask. While uninstalling and reinstalling Mozilla Firefox, I lost all of my precious bookmarks. I frequented several sites per month in search of articles, journals which produce their materials in pdf formats and make them available online, debate transcripts, etc. ALL. GONE. Jake need help. I only remembered about 20 of the 150 or so of the sites which were bookmarked. If all of you could perhaps, list a few of your favorite sites/blogs on atheism, agnosticism, evolutionary theory, evolution vs. creationism, philosophy, general science, etc., I would very much appreciate it.

Lucas,

I realize this is egregiously off topic and if want to delete it, or move it somewhere else, I completely understand, but after about a week of deliberating, this is the only way I could think to get any of these sites back. (For our mutual benefit, as I’m sure you’re aware.)

J. de Backer

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Jeff H October 17, 2009 at 6:18 am

ayer: “Yes, much better to create a race of automatons who are incapable of committing evil; what a wonderful world that would be! That’s the ticket.

Umm…so where in my analogy was there anything about fundamentally changing the abilities of the children? If the principal is removed, does that automatically make it impossible for the children to make choices? Apparently you have a strange notion of free will…

Or perhaps you’re arguing that it would hamper the free will of the deranged principal. But I don’t think that’s the case either. He made the choice to torture the children, and so he deserves punishment. The swifter the punishment, however, the better – so why does God sit around waiting?

ayer: “But since atheists don’t believe in free will (instead believing that all decisions are determined by brain chemistry) then where does your outrage at a sadistic principal come from? After all, his evil choices were determined by brain chemistry and he can’t be considered responsible.

I don’t think there’s any dogmatic statement from The Reformed Church of Atheism that states that atheists must believe in determinism. Certainly many do…I am not sure entirely where I stand on that issue, but I don’t think it is incompatible with the notion that God does not exist. The two have no bearing on one another. Anyway, even in a deterministic world, the choice to do evil can be influenced by the punishments one would receive upon doing said deed; it’s a variable that must be put into the equation. So having an enforced punishment is still definitely an important structure to have, even in a purely deterministic world, and holding people responsible for their actions is part of that.

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lukeprog October 17, 2009 at 6:19 am

Jake, regarding lost bookmarks, see here. Also, check the folder:

C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[some weird folder name]\bookmarkbackups\

And check:

C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[some weird folder name]\bookmarks.html.sbsd.bak

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Lee A. P. October 17, 2009 at 10:37 am

I am an atheist and I think the existences or non existence of free will is an even more important question than the existence of God. I think that it is preferable to have a form of free will exist and have no God exist than to have a God exist and not have “free will” exist.

However, while simultaneously “rooting” for some sort of free will concept to exist, I also acknowledge that a definition of free will is exceedingly difficult to come by.

If God exists and his creatures listened to a talking fucking snake as soon as they were tempted, this bodes horribly for the design skills of the creator more than anything else, free will or no free will. We can have free moral agents whom, based on their exquisite design, only make free choices between good things. Every choice is not between good and evil.

Also, when you unwind the chain of creation, it is difficult to see how God is not ultimately responsible. In the act of designing his creatures, only built-in design flaws could allow those creatures to behave in a sub-optimal manner. In such an invent God would know exactly how and when these built in design flaws would react with the environment that he also created. Given God, the agent of causation, I do not see how the whole thing is not jury rigged by God from the start.

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mikespeir October 17, 2009 at 11:02 am

My own feeling is that God could have created truly rational creatures with the perceptions needed to correctly ascertain the circumstances and come infallibly to the right decision about which course to take. (In fact, I don’t see how any lesser creature could conceivably have truly free will.) Note that these need not be anything close to the Christian or Islamic conceptions of God himself. In other words, God wouldn’t have to duplicate himself to create such creatures. They would simply be a whole heck of a lot superior to us. And, no, Adam and Eve don’t qualify. Like Lee said, they purportedly chose the wrong thing the first chance they got.

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cogitans October 17, 2009 at 1:57 pm

“automatons who are incapable of committing evil”

Created by an omnipotent and perfectly good being who is incapable of creating beings with free will and moral perfection.

Yeah, makes perfect sense.

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cogitans October 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Mackie’s paper is useful for purposes of reference:

http://www.ditext.com/mackie/evil.html

See also the relevant chapter in “The Miracle of Theism”.

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ayer October 17, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Lee A.P: “We can have free moral agents whom, based on their exquisite design, only make free choices between good things. Every choice is not between good and evil.”

Please explain in detail how God could guarantee through the design you have in mind that a truly free creature would always choose good and not evil.

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lukeprog October 17, 2009 at 5:37 pm

cogitans,

Also see my series on the problem of evil.

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Lee A. P. October 17, 2009 at 7:28 pm

“Please explain in detail how God could guarantee through the design you have in mind that a truly free creature would always choose good and not evil.”

I suppose the same way he suppposedly designed sharks who never choose to commit suicide.

The same way a perfect mechanic would never design a car that would blow up if started.

If he is unable to do so, then he is not perfect and there are limits to his design.

The whole thing smacks of pathetic post hoc reasoning. You want a perfect God and you need an origin for evil that absolves God so you pull some incoherant, ill defined “free will” concept out of your asses to explain it. Free will in the theistic sense seemingly defined as “that which puts man at fault for his evils but never, ever his good.”

I find it a rather silly question coming from the theistic position since you guys lack coherant definitions for virtually everything you believe in (you can’t define free will, hell you can’t define “God”.)

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Jake de Backer October 17, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Luke

I am running Vista and so far as I understand “Documents & Settings” has been replaced with Users. After accessing “Users”, I don’t find anything similar to any of the files/folders you’ve suggested would contain the relevant information.

Not going to lie people, a little disconcerted with the conspicuous lack of cooperation. Help a fellow God-hater out.

J.

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Salt October 18, 2009 at 2:01 am

Jake de Backer
Help a fellow God-hater out.

A most conspicuous statement.

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lukeprog October 18, 2009 at 6:45 am

Jake,

“Lack of cooperation?” Jake, my readers do not come here to give you technical support.

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mikespeir October 18, 2009 at 8:53 am

Jake,

When I first saw your inquiry my thought was, Why not suggest Mojoey’s Atheist Blogroll? But I figured you already knew about that and it doesn’t give you everything you want, anyway. Still, here it is, just in case: http://atheistblogroll.blogspot.com/

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ayer October 18, 2009 at 10:04 am

Lee A.P.: “If he is unable to do so, then he is not perfect and there are limits to his design.”

God can no more design a creature who is truly free but is guaranteed to never choose evil than he can design a square circle or a married bachelor; the “demand” that he do so is oxymoronic.

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Lee A. P October 18, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Not true. Creatures can only behave according to their design. God could have designed creatures so that they would never choose evil even given “free will”.

You must define “free will” as “choices that will always eventually lead to evil.” Again, a putrid, contrived, post hoc rationalization concoted to obsolve God from any responsibility for evil in order to redeem Christian theism.

I’ll tell you what is an oxymoron. Evil coming from an all good God.

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ayer October 18, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Lee A.P.: “I’ll tell you what is an oxymoron. Evil coming from an all good God.”

Obviously, since there is free will, evil is the responsibility of the choosing creature, and does not come from God (now, the ability to choose comes from God, and you can be upset with God for providing us with free will, but that is a different matter)

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Jake de Backer October 18, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Suggest atheist website = “technical support” Yikes.

Thanks for your “technical support”, Mikespeir.

And on a site concerning, and often promoting, the ethical treatment of others. Particularly when the help is at zero cost to yourself and of inestimable value to the person receiving it. I don’t “go to” work to save people who were recently shot in the chest, but if upon my arrival I find one in the parking lot, I sincerely doubt I’d relay that message with smug satisfaction while I walked by him to my desk.

I’d plea for the “Love” of “thy neighbor”, but I know who’s side I’m on.

All the same.

Best,
J.

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cogitans October 19, 2009 at 1:00 am

“God can no more design a creature who is truly free but is guaranteed to never choose evil than he can design a square circle or a married bachelor”

This mantra is rather powerless in the absence of a demonstration of where the contradiction lies.

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ayer October 19, 2009 at 4:30 am

cogitans: “This mantra is rather powerless in the absence of a demonstration of where the contradiction lies.”

“Guarantee” vs. “truly free”

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lukeprog October 19, 2009 at 7:56 am

Jake,

You’re right, I didn’t say this in the kindest way. Sorry. What I should have said goes more like this:

I was holding out hope that you could still recover your original bookmarks list if you, for example, made a technical support request on the Firefox forums or researched the technical articles I linked to. That would be better that partially rebuilding your list from suggestions. In any case, best of luck rebuilding your list.

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cogitans October 19, 2009 at 12:19 pm

The relevant portion from Mackie:

“If it is replied that this objection is absurd, that the making of some wrong choices is logically necessary for freedom, it would seem that ‘freedom’ must here mean complete randomness or indeterminacy, including randomness with regard to the alternatives good and evil, in other words that men’s choices and consequent actions can be “free” only if they are not determined by their characters. Only on this assumption can God escape the responsibility for men’s actions; for if he made them as they are, but did not determine their wrong choices, this can only be because the wrong choices are not determined by men as they are. But then if freedom is randomness, how can it be a characteristic of will? And, still more, how can it be the most important good? What value or merit would there be in free choices if these were random actions which were not determined by the nature of the agent?

I conclude that to make this solution plausible two different senses of ‘freedom’ must be confused, one sense which will justify the view that freedom is a third order good, more valuable than other goods would be without it, and another sense, sheer randomness, to prevent us from ascribing to God a decision to make men such that they sometimes go wrong when he might have made them such that they would always freely go right.”

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ayer October 19, 2009 at 7:05 pm

cogitans,

Yes, but you’ve left out the fact that Plantinga went on to rebut Mackie. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:BM/Theodicy#The_free_will_theodicy

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cogitans October 20, 2009 at 4:01 am

If we’re going to play that game, you’ve left out the subsequent responses to Plantinga.

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 4:37 am

“If we’re going to play that game, you’ve left out the subsequent responses to Plantinga.”

No, my link has all of that, we can let the readers who go there decide.

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cogitans October 20, 2009 at 12:01 pm

“my link has all of that”

*All* of it? Tread carefully.

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 1:19 pm

cogitans: “*All* of it? Tread carefully.”

Good point; I should say that it has responses given to Plantinga’s rebuttal of Mackie. If you have other responses, feel free to link to them.

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