Seven Reasons to be Godless (part 1)

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 4, 2009 in General Atheism,Reviews

I’m blogging my way through Sense and Goodness Without God, Richard Carrier’s handy worldview-in-a-box for atheists. (See the post index for all sections.) Today we discuss Carrier’s Seven Reasons to be Godless.

Carrier begins:

The grandest paranormal claim, made by the most people, the most vehemently – so vehemently they routinely kill each other over it – is “Our God Exists.” But he doesn’t…

…I can imagine forms of Deism… which would be almost entirely consistent with the Metaphysical Naturalism I defend in this book, so much so that the combination could be made entirely consistent with the evidence we now have. There is just no reason to believe in such things. Yet they would fit the evidence far better than any actual God believed in today, with far less resort to ad hoc explanations. That right away should clue us in: if the gods people actually believe in are even more unbelievable than the most believable god we can come up with, and there is no reason to believe in even that god, how on earth can those popular gods be credible?

And I love what Carrier does next. He asks us to imagine the following story:

In the beginning was God. And He was alone. Lamenting that there were no others enjoy Being, no others to love and be loved, no others to think and create, He resolved to give His life so that beings like Him might be, and love, and enjoy life. So He exploded His body, and He was no more, but out of His body came the physical Universe, and out of His blood came the realm and possibility of mind. There was no other way, such were the limits even upon the all-powerful and all-knowing. And He so arranged His death that the embers would one day generate mindful beings such as us, who may be, and love, and know, and do.

Now Carrier just pulled that story out of his ass. And yet it explains so many things that popular theisms don’t: the silence and hiddenness of God, the brutality of the created world, and religious diversity. It can also claim in its defense nearly all the arguments for the existence of God: the cosmological and ontological arguments, the argument from morality, the transcendental argument, and the design argument. It could even claim the argument from religious experience, as religious experience could be seen as contact with the cosmic memory of God’s selfless death, and religious diversity would be the result of perceiving this cosmic memory in culturally-informed ways.

But now, popular religions like Christianity and Islam and Hinduism have even less going for them than this outrageous fiction. And that’s a serious problem for popular religions.

Carrier sets up his “seven reasons to be godless” very well:

These seven reasons consist of positive contrary evidence, which falls mainly into two categories: the lack of evidence that ought to be present if God exists, and the presence of evidence that shouldn’t exist if God exists. Attempts to explain away such evidence are all ad hoc, because they have no evidence whatever in support of them, except the sole fact that they “rescue” the theory that god exists. But since any god’s existence can be established by such a tactic, this leads either to hypocrisy or absurdity: the moment it is admitted as a valid argument, belief in every god becomes equally valid, which is impossible.

Carrier’s first argument is that metaphysical naturalism is true, therefore God doesn’t exist.

Of course this begs the question, but what Carrier means is that metaphysical naturalism offers a better explanation for the world as we observe it – for all the reasons we have surveyed throughout this series – than does theism.

Carrier’s second argument is that the religious landscape is confused and mundane.

If a compassionate god exists, he would not allow people to damn or kill or deceive themselves in [the way they do considering the confused religious landscape], but would nurture and guide them and steer them to the truth.

Contributing to this problem is the fact that “religions didn’t win by playing fair.” Carrier says religions succeeded as deadly but quickly multiplying memetic viruses, and “this is itself a good reason to dismiss them.”

Though this smells of a genetic fallacy, Carrier’s illustration of how religions are “viral” while Jefferson’s “rational religion” was “nonviral” is interesting. Compare:

If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods.” … Show them no pity. Do not spare them or protect them. You must surely put them to death… Stone hime to death who tries to turn you away from the Lord your God.

- Yahweh
(Deuteronomy 13:8-10)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” These people are corrupt, they have done vile deeds. None of them are good.

- King David
(Psalms 14:1)

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brother and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple… Whoever does not believe stands condemned because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son… [And] this is how it will be in the end: the angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and thrown them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

- Jesus
(Luke 14:26, John 3:18, Matthew 13:49-50)

Those who misbelieve and die while still in misbelief, on them is the curse of God, and of the angels, and of mankind together, and they shall dwell in Hell forever… for them are cut out garments of fire, boiling water shall be poured over their heads, which shall melt what is in their bellies and their skins as well, and for them are whips of iron, and whenever they want to leave, from grief, they shall be turned back, and taste the chastisement of burning.

- Allah
(Koran 2.85, 22.19-22)

… all those who preach false doctrines… wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!

- The Book of Mormon
(2nd Nephi 28:15)

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

- Thomas Jefferson
(letter to Peter Carr, August 10th 1787)

Can you spot the difference? Popular religions contain viral and selfish memes. They threaten death and torture on those who dare to doubt sacred doctrines about magical beings. Jefferson’s deistic religion encourages doubt and inquiry, even saying they are approved by God.

That’s all for now!

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

ayer December 4, 2009 at 6:35 am

“So He exploded His body…”

Hmm, a being that must exist outside of spacetime in order to create spacetime nevertheless has a physical body–wow, yeah that’s profound

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hoy December 4, 2009 at 7:04 am

“There is no God” (Psalm 14:1) could also be translated as “No God for me”.

Just because one denies the existence of God doesn’t mean that He isn’t real.

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Penneyworth December 4, 2009 at 7:12 am

The suicide of god idea came from Scott Adams’ book God’s Debris. It’s very entertaining, and I think, free as an ebook somewhere on the interweb.

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lukeprog December 4, 2009 at 7:36 am

ayer,

You’re talking about God/Jesus?

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Edson December 4, 2009 at 8:22 am

“And yet it explains so many things that popular theisms don’t: the silence and hiddenness of God, the brutality of the created world, and religious diversity.”

If there is one debating tactic that has proved to be successfull, or so an atheist thinks, when debating with Christians about is to pull out the word “theism”.

It is ok, on the surface, because it refers to belief in the existence of a god or gods, but when you notice that Osama bin Laden is a theist just as Mother Theresa was, you realize that a Christian is no more in good position to defend the faith in God in the contemporary world.

But if we refrain from using the phrase “popular theisms” and perhaps concetrate on one specific faith, say Christianity, to ask it objections pertaining to the silence and hiddeness of God, the brutality of created world or religious diversity, we realize that these are no longer serious objections.

Christianity has answers to these objections, and I believe that the answers are satisfying to any honest seeker of truth, at least to those who think that Christianity has provided them with the solution to their most troubling life questions.

For example, it is no longer a problem of divine hidennes when you read, as a matter of historical fact, that Jesus was God incarnated in human flesh. What now matters is that do you have the courage to believe this? You know, a faith problem.

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Ryan December 4, 2009 at 8:51 am

“Carrier’s first argument is that metaphysical naturalism is true, therefore God doesn’t exist.

“Of course this begs the question…”

I don’t think so. If you can provide positive arguments for metaphysical naturalism, then you can show that God does not exist because Naturalism entails God’s nonexistence by definition.

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Haukur December 4, 2009 at 9:32 am

Carrier’s myth isn’t entirely original to him. The idea that a living being had to die for the world to come into being is old (Purusha/Ymir/Tiamat etc.). Your idea that “religious experience could be seen as contact with the cosmic memory of God’s selfless death” is a good one – in fact you’ve taken one step further in rediscovering the Purusha myth.

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 10:32 am

Carrier is either insane, inane, or intoxicated. I don’t state that to be humorous; I state it is a matter of fact. The knife-edge narrowness of his self-serving paradigm is so transparent only a blustering fool or a man drunk with pride could miss it.

“If a compassionate god exists, he would not allow people to damn or kill or deceive themselves in [the way they do considering the confused religious landscape], but would nurture and guide them and steer them to the truth.”

Mercy. I surmise even Hitchinism, with all of its smoke and mirrors, wouldn’t spew such ignorant drivel.

In his vacuum-packed view of the Bible, Carrier’s philosophical droppings all depend on the premise that God is nothing more than a bleeding heart liberal who extends his compassion to every creature, no matter their behavior. What Carrier conveniently ignores in his cannibalistic portrayal of the Creator is the Creator’s JUST essence. That is, Carrier acknowledges the God of Compassion, yet he fails to acknowledge the God of JUSTICE and the Father of INFINITE WISDOM.

Exodus 33:19: “And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

Like many deluded atheists, Carrier obviously spends far too much time admiring his own reflection instead of actually trying to comprehend the subject matter he is criticizing (in this case the just character of the judge of judges).

Furthermore, but not of least importance by any means, given his distorted concept of love (which clearly holds the nature of true love is blindly unconditional and completely absent of discernment, justice, and truth), it is probably also safe to assert Carrier himself has likely not experienced the type of true, discipline-oriented love a father expresses and exercises in the healthy development of his child. For if he did, he would never have written a paragraph on God’s compassion without also discussing his supreme judiciousness.

As for this whole business of theistic “magic,” the author here would do well to broaden his literary horizons. History will show the asylums of the world are filled with those who reasoned their way to complete insanity.

Good Friday to you and enjoy your weekend

Summa

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 10:50 am

I should refine my last sentence:

History will show the asylums of the world are filled with those who reasoned their way to complete insanity, NOT those who believe in magic.

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Robert Gressis December 4, 2009 at 11:02 am

Hi Luke,

You’ve certainly spent a lot of time thinking through Carrier’s book. Why is that, exactly? Is it your view that Carrier’s is the best articulation of contemporary atheism there is? Better, say, than Jordan Howard Sobel’s book? Or is there some other reason?

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Ryan December 4, 2009 at 11:14 am

Haukur: Carrier’s myth isn’t entirely original to him. The idea that a living being had to die for the world to come into being is old (Purusha/Ymir/Tiamat etc.). Your idea that “religious experience could be seen as contact with the cosmic memory of God’s selfless death” is a good one – in fact you’ve taken one step further in rediscovering the Purusha myth

The idea of a suicidal God that blew himself up is also in Scott Adams’ book God’s Debris.

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Fortuna December 4, 2009 at 11:20 am

Summa;

Furthermore, but not of least importance by any means, given his distorted concept of love (which clearly holds the nature of true love is blindly unconditional and completely absent of discernment, justice, and truth), it is probably also safe to assert Carrier himself has likely not experienced the type of true, discipline-oriented love a father expresses and exercises in the healthy development of his child. For if he did, he would never have written a paragraph on God’s compassion without also discussing his supreme judiciousness.

Are you saying the wars of religion have been, and are, an exercise in fatherly discipline?

Are you saying that the way in which most people are (according to Christianity) misled with respect to religious truth (and are presumably subsequently damned for all eternity) is an exercise in fatherly discipline?

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Sharkey December 4, 2009 at 11:28 am

Summa: That is, Carrier acknowledges the God of Compassion, yet he fails to acknowledge the God of JUSTICE and the Father of INFINITE WISDOM.

I think Carrier acknowledges the contradictions inherent in such a God. Such as the contradiction of an infinitely wise, supernatural creator allowing his justice to be subsumed by the whims of a lesser, flawed human, showing neither wisdom nor justice. Or does that Exodus verse have another meaning to you?

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drj December 4, 2009 at 11:35 am

In his vacuum-packed view of the Bible, Carrier’s philosophical droppings all depend on the premise that God is nothing more than a bleeding heart liberal who extends his compassion to every creature, no matter their behavior. What Carrier conveniently ignores in his cannibalistic portrayal of the Creator is the Creator’s JUST essence. That is, Carrier acknowledges the God of Compassion, yet he fails to acknowledge the God of JUSTICE and the Father of INFINITE WISDOM.
</blockquote.

This is suggestive of some possible empirically verifiable condition of the world. If God dispenses rewards and punishments in this world according to an unchanging sense of justice, we should see both evil being punished and good being rewarded in a consistent manner.

But this is obviously not the case.

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Fortuna December 4, 2009 at 11:50 am

In his vacuum-packed view of the Bible, Carrier’s philosophical droppings all depend on the premise that God is nothing more than a bleeding heart liberal who extends his compassion to every creature, no matter their behavior.

Because God so loved the world that he died on the cross for it. Well, except for all the baddies. Fuck those guys, amirite?.

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Paul December 4, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Summa -

Please make the case that the bible is reliable truth. Do so w/o referring to its own claims to such.

Thanks -

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Beelzebub December 4, 2009 at 2:25 pm

I like the T4 bacteriophage and the astronaut emerging onto a grassy surface. Any theories as to symbolism?

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Silver Bullet December 4, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Paul: Summa -Please make the case that the bible is reliable truth.Do so w/o referring to its own claims to such.Thanks -  

I think this is a good challenge for “Summa” as I have a hunch that “Summa” has a special affinity for circular reasoning and insults in place of well-reasoned argumentation.

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Fortuna said:

Are you saying the wars of religion have been, and are, an exercise in fatherly discipline?

This question is loaded with all sorts of traps and surprises because it piles all wars into a single silo and innocuously solicits an impetus for the lot. Tick, tick, tick. I won’t take that bait. Each war must be evaluated on its own merits—–which is an exercise I haven’t the time nor inclination to do for your theatrical amusement at this time. :)

That said, if the implicit argument I infer from your note is: all religious wars have been fought in God’s name, so therefore God must have commissioned all religious wars, then instead of engaging in debate, I would recommend you head over to Luke’s primer on logic, and from there learn all the various fallacies of argument on other web sites. Because prima facie you’ve got a stinker on your hands with that one, my friend.

Are you saying that the way in which most people are (according to Christianity) misled with respect to religious truth (and are presumably subsequently damned for all eternity) is an exercise in fatherly discipline?

Forgive me, but I must restate your position to fully understand it. I take it you are asking why a God of fatherly love would eternally damn those who chose to reject his love? Assuming that is what you intended to ask, my answer is:

First, many Christians, including myself, do not believe hell is consistent with Dante’s version. Many of us believe it is more like the “What Dreams May Come” film version: cold, dark, aimless, colorless, and dreadfully lonely. While that is certainly MY idea of damnation, it may not be such for others–particularly those who already live in such a world here on earth.

In other words, my hell might not be your hell, so one can’t say with certainty hell would be as miserable as we tend to envision it. It might be like Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic tale “The Road” for all we know. In that case those who desire love and warmth and light and joy (all those Godly things) suffer endlessly, but those who don’t? Well, they get along just kosher barbecuing babies, drinking ash water, and toting a shotgun across the wasteland a la Mad Max.

Second, God’s fatherly love has zero to do with eternal damnation. Your question is–like Carrier’s position–totally incomplete because it totally ignores FREE WILL. Example: If you are my son, and I teach you not to run red lights because you could cause an accident and end up maimed or dead (or worse, maim or kill someone else), and then you go out and on your own free will run a red light and crash and end up paralyzed for the rest of your life, who’s to blame? Me? My fatherly love? Or YOU, the FREE man who made a CHOICE to reject my advice and do things your way? If you are to remain consistent with the nature of your original question above, then you would say “You, your fatherly love failed me.” And to that I would say, “You are a free to do whatever you want with your life, you can either choose to do things your way or God’s way, but don’t blame ME for YOUR choices.”

At its heart LOVE is a choice. Truth is also a choice. Hence God is also a choice for he IS truth and he IS love. There is no separation between God, truth, and love. They are one. And when you reject one, you reject them all.

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Todd White December 4, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Thomas Jefferson wasn’t an atheist; he was a Unitarian.

Indeed, he once said, “The God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm

I think Carrier acknowledges the contradictions inherent in such a God. Such as the contradiction of an infinitely wise, supernatural creator allowing his justice to be subsumed by the whims of a lesser, flawed human, showing neither wisdom nor justice. Or does that Exodus verse have another meaning to you?

This is confusing.

First of all I think your use of the word subsume is incorrect. In fact upon second reading, I think your statement actually cancels itself out. To subsume something is to generalize it under a broader heading. Mercy, forgiveness, justice, love, truth, grace, et al are subsumed under the heading “GOD,” but they are NOT subsumed under the heading “human.”

If I might, I will replace your “subsumes” with “CONsumes” and raise you a few bucks for good measure. That would flow much more logically with respect to the Exodus verse since the believing human, with all her flawed but splendorous POTENTIAL, (“potential” being a word that should not be left out of a conversation like this), is a CONSUMER of God’s mercy, justice, love, truth, et al, and GOD alone is the supplier. According to the Exodus verse He, and only He, in his INFINITE WISDOM, dispenses compassion and mercy as He alone sees provident.

Then what of the flawed human who is neither just or merciful? What of him? Do you find it surprising he should not exhibit these qualities if he has rejected the source of them? If a new form of Vitamin C was discovered to safeguard us from a new influenza virus, but I never bothered to consume the vitamin, should I be shocked when I contract the new influenza?

As for God’s so-called contradictory character traits, are they really contradictions, or might the Lord God of INFINITE WISDOM have a more refined defined and divine standard for love and justice and truth than you in your finite wisdom possess?

Look, when you reject God you don’t just reject religion, you reject the POSSIBILITY that there is something more to the universe than what can be proven in textbooks, and what you can perceive with your five senses.

I ask you: who is the more rational twenty five year old? The one who chooses to entertain the very plausible POSSIBILITY that something more intellectually spectacular than himself MIGHT exist, or the one who prematurely declares it impossible? I submit the former’s life shall at least be rife with mystery, boundless discovery, perpetual self renewal, and at least the CHANCE that it should continue in such a way after its earthly departure; while the latter’s shall be tied up in court, hopelessly arguing in circles to merely preserve his own sanity.

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Eneasz December 4, 2009 at 4:07 pm

What the…????

I take it you are asking why a God of fatherly love would eternally damn those who chose to reject his love?

No no no no no, a thousand times no. This is NOTHING like what he asked. This is almost the opposite of what he asked. As such your long-winded reply can be ignored, since it didn’t even come close to understanding the question.

A more accurate re-phrasing would be “Why would a God of fatherly love eternally damn those who accepted his love and loved him back with all their hearts. With the caveat that – unbeknown to them – they’d been misled into loving the wrong God.”

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Fortuna December 4, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Summa;

This question is loaded with all sorts of traps and surprises because it piles all wars into a single silo and innocuously solicits an impetus for the lot.

Uh, no, it only addresses religious wars. Remember the quotation you were responding to:

If a compassionate god exists, he would not allow people to damn or kill or deceive themselves in [the way they do considering the confused religious landscape], but would nurture and guide them and steer them to the truth.”

To which part of your response was, bizarrely, that Carrier just doesn’t understand the need for fatherly discipline. I don’t know what to take away from that other than that allowing people to kill one another as a result of the confused religious landscape has something to do with fatherly discipline.

That said, if the implicit argument I infer from your note is: all religious wars have been fought in God’s name, so therefore God must have commissioned all religious wars

That is not my argument.

I would recommend you head over to Luke’s primer on logic, and from there learn all the various fallacies of argument on other web sites. Because prima facie you’ve got a stinker on your hands with that one, my friend.

I would recommend that you read for comprehension.

Forgive me, but I must restate your position to fully understand it. I take it you are asking why a God of fatherly love would eternally damn those who chose to reject his love? Assuming that is what you intended to ask, my answer is:

Having butchered my question, no, that is not what I intended to ask. Thanks for the colourful answer to my mangled question, I guess.

Speaking of which, I feel obligated to point out that, if there exists an omniscient God, you are not, in fact, free to do things in any way other than “God’s way”. You must do things precisely as an omniscient God would know in advance that you were going to do.

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Fortuna December 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Hi Todd, nice to see you back. Sorry I never got around to finishing off that series of comments regarding evolution on your blog.

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Fortuna said “Hi Todd, nice to see you back. Sorry I never god around to finishing off that series of comments regarding evolution on your blog.”

So Fortuna is Luke. What other personas here are Luke? ;) Please list them for our sanity.

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Fortuna December 4, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Whutchu talking ’bout, Willis? How does the fact that I’ve left comments on Todd’s blog turn me into Luke?

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 4:23 pm

“If a compassionate god exists, he would not allow people to damn or kill or deceive themselves in [the way they do considering the confused religious landscape], but would nurture and guide them and steer them to the truth.”

To which part of your response was, bizarrely, that Carrier just doesn’t understand the need for fatherly discipline. I don’t know what to take away from that other than that allowing people to kill one another as a result of the confused religious landscape has something to do with fatherly discipline.

ALLOWING? That word is nonsensical in a discussion about the God of FREE WILL. I ALLOW my son to drive too, but that doesn’t mean he can’t drive his car off a cliff if he decides to. In yours and Carrier’s illogical way of thinking I, my son’s father, should be riding shotgun with him for the rest of his life with a steering wheel and brakes on my side, too like his whole life was driver’s ed class.

You see, it’s EASY to argue against God when you remove free will from the equation. As long as God is the dopey puppetmaster Carrier paints him to be, it is simple to disprove him. Not so easy when you recognize the primordial essence of the Creator, and thus his creatures, is FREEDOM, you won’t be able to sum up your theories in single paragraphs.

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Fortuna December 4, 2009 at 4:31 pm

ALLOWING? That word is nonsensical in a discussion about the God of FREE WILL.

Beg to differ.

I ALLOW my son to drive too, but that doesn’t mean he can’t drive his car off a cliff if he decides to. In yours and Carrier’s illogical way of thinking I, my son’s father, should be riding shotgun with him for the rest of his life with a steering wheel and brakes on my side, too like his whole life was driver’s ed class.

That is precisely what an omniscient, omnipotent God would do, if there were such. He’d be perfectly aware of everything you do throughout your life, and could intervene at any time, in any way whatsoever.

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Speaking of which, I feel obligated to point out that, if there exists an omniscient God, you are not, in fact, free to do things in any way other than “God’s way”. You must do things precisely as an omniscient God would know in advance that you were going to do.

The word “must” isn’t compatible with the concept of freedom.

Anyway, I am a devout follower of God, and I am as free as a bird to do everything I want. The only difference between me and you is that I have moral boundaries and you don’t. Since I TRUST God is smarter than me and knows what’s best for me since he IS after all my Creator and superior, I am perfectly fine avoiding the things he tells me to stay away from. In fact the more I avoid those things, the more peace and joy I experience and the more free I become to simply ENJOY this life and love the people I have been blessed to have in it. Funny how that works precisely how God said it would.

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 4:42 pm

I take it you are asking why a God of fatherly love would eternally damn those who chose to reject his love?

No no no no no, a thousand times no. This is NOTHING like what he asked. This is almost the opposite of what he asked. As such your long-winded reply can be ignored, since it didn’t even come close to understanding the question.

Wait a second, how do YOU know *exactly* what he meant? You omniscient??

A more accurate re-phrasing would be “Why would a God of fatherly love eternally damn those who accepted his love and loved him back with all their hearts. With the caveat that – unbeknown to them – they’d been misled into loving the wrong God.”

If you accept his love, and you love him back, and you TRUST him with all your heart, and you are a DOER of His word and not just a hearer of it, you needn’t worry about being eternally damned.

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Fortuna December 4, 2009 at 4:43 pm

The word “must” isn’t compatible with the concept of freedom.

Yep.

Anyway, I am a devout follower of God, and I am as free as a bird to do everything I want.

If you believe that there exists a God who knows everything, you cannot do anything other than what He knows you will do.

The only difference between me and you is that I have moral boundaries and you don’t.

Wrong.

Since I TRUST God is smarter than me and knows what’s best for me since he IS after all my Creator and superior, I am perfectly fine avoiding the things he tells me to stay away from. In fact the more I avoid those things, the more peace and joy I experience and the more free I become to simply ENJOY this life and love the people I have been blessed to have in it. Funny how that works precisely how God said it would.

Yeah, confirmation bias is grand.

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Todd White December 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Hi Fortuna. It’s good to see you too. And there’s no need to apologize. I’m sure we’ll have a chance to continue that discussion in the near-future.

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Thomas Reid December 4, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Fortuna:

Speaking of which, I feel obligated to point out that, if there exists an omniscient God, you are not, in fact, free to do things in any way other than “God’s way”. You must do things precisely as an omniscient God would know in advance that you were going to do.  

Although you addressed this to Summa, I’d like to make a point.

God’s knowledge of what you will do does not entail that you are not free to do otherwise.
(P) If God knows you will do something, then you will necessarily do it.
(Q) If God knows you will do something, then you will do it, necessarily.

(P) and (Q) are not equivalent. The Christian theist need not commit to (P), but could instead commit to (Q).

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lukeprog December 4, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Robert,

No, Carrier’s book is certainly not the best articulation of contemporary atheism! The reason I chose it is because it is so extensive. It covers almost every subject imaginable from a naturalist’s perspective, which will be useful to people who are new to naturalism – all those freshly deconverted by the New Atheists.

For one thing, Carrier’s book covers so many subjects in such a short space that he doesn’t have space to make a thorough defense of anything he asserts at all.

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Robert Gressis December 4, 2009 at 8:40 pm

I read only the section on politics, and discovered that he thinks the income tax is unconstitutional. I also read his section on Kant, and found it inaccurate, to be kind.

I’m not sure why he felt the need to cover every topic in the world, though; if you try that, you’re bound to make mistakes, even if you are extremely smart and prodigious, as Carrier seems to be.

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 10:26 pm

If God dispenses rewards and punishments in this world according to an unchanging sense of justice, we should see both evil being punished and good being rewarded in a consistent manner.But this is obviously not the case.

“IN THIS WORLD” is the problem with your rebuttal. Who says ALL JUSTICE will be dispensed in THIS world? Not God. Not the Bible. Only you.

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Fortuna December 4, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Thomas Reid;

Although you addressed this to Summa, I’d like to make a point.

By all means.

God’s knowledge of what you will do does not entail that you are not free to do otherwise.
(P) If God knows you will do something, then you will necessarily do it.
(Q) If God knows you will do something, then you will do it, necessarily.

(P) and (Q) are not equivalent. The Christian theist need not commit to (P), but could instead commit to (Q).

I honestly don’t see how the distinction would free Summa from his or her dilemma. If an omniscient being knows what you will do, then you cannot do otherwise. To say that you could do otherwise would mean that said being did not actually know what you would do. Ergo, if an omniscient being exists you do not have free will, in the sense of being able to choose any option physically available to you.

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Summa December 4, 2009 at 11:29 pm

I honestly don’t see how the distinction would free Summa from his or her dilemma. If an omniscient being knows what you will do, then you cannot do otherwise.

HUH? Fortuna this makes no sense whatsoever. So WHAT if he knows what you’re going to do? How does his foreknowledge of your decision take away your ability to make the decision? Fortuna let’s say we are roommates and you get up every day at 7am without fail. I now KNOW you are going to get up at 7am tomorrow. At 7:00am tomorrow morning, sure enough you get up at 7am again. How did my foreknowledge affect your ability to decide NOT to wake up at 7am? Who CARES if I knew you were going to wake up at 7am. By your own free will you could have chosen not to. The difference between me and God though is that had you NOT, he would have known in advance you were NOT going to wake up at 7am tomorrow, while I would not have. But still, it is YOUR decision as to whether you wake up or not and God’s omniscience does not hinder you from being able to choose.He just knows how you will choose. I have to admit it took me a while to get my mind around that one until I heard Pastor Rick Warren explain it to Larry King one night.

Larry King said, “What about freewill? Are we free to choose?” Warren said, “Picture all of us in this life on a cruise to Mexico. Between here and Mexico you and I are free to do whatever we want on the ship.. play basketball.. swim.. etc. But no matter what we do [including jump off] the ship is still going to Mexico whether we like it or not.”

Of COURSE this is not a definitive example to prove the point, but it provides some bas relief for one to grasp the concept of free will and how we still have it regardless of the master plan and God’s omniscience.

To say that you could do otherwise would mean that said being did not actually know what you would do. Ergo, if an omniscient being exists you do not have free will, in the sense of being able to choose any option physically available to you.

Again his omniscience has ZERO to do with your ability to choose any option you are impelled to choose. Just because he KNOWS how you will choose does not mean he has taken away your ability to choose. I think the far more important question is: Can your freewill choices CHANGE your own personal outcome? Calvin would say no. Chesterton would say yes. I side with Chesterton because of what Jesus said about Capernaum in Matt 11: “…If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.”

It *WOULD* have, which means it *COULD* have had different choices been made.

It all comes down to freewill and God’s omniscience has ZERO to do with our ability to choose freely. God is LOVE and LOVE is a CHOICE, not a mandate. God’s essence is love and thus CHOICE is the centrality of his nature.

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Ben December 5, 2009 at 2:58 am

Summa: That is, Carrier acknowledges the God of Compassion, yet he fails to acknowledge the God of JUSTICE and the Father of INFINITE WISDOM.

Interestingly enough, if Carrier only acknowledged the reverse, he’d have the same case since obviously God doesn’t dish out the justice either in a world filled with injustice. What good is justice in the afterlife when it could have been administered in the earthly life to some real effect?

It’s amazing that you are able to use the father/son analogy and fail to realize that this is exactly the situation Carrier uses to note no such thing is going on for humanity at large. We’re in the amoral grind of whateverhappenstohappen. Does that sound anything like a proper upbringing for every human soul to have ever lived? If real fathers treated their kids like God treats humanity, we’d call child services on him. If they could be found (since, you know, they’d be invisible).

Even your drivers’ ed analogy fails because we could easily imagine God making sure to tend to humanity until say the age of 18 (or even for just a few years). But even that doesn’t discernibly happen for each and every one of us. Infinite wisdom appears to be synonymous with infinite negligence.

So, not to be rude, but your case for Carrier’s deludedness appears to backfire.

Ben

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lukeprog December 5, 2009 at 6:19 am

Robert,

Agreed.

Unfortunately, that’s kind of the track I’m on with this blog. Luckily, commenters will point out my mistakes and I can just edit my posts to correct them. I’ve done that many times already. But I’m sure some mistakes still slip through!

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Sharkey December 5, 2009 at 6:53 am

Summa, your logic is tortured; possibly the reason you chose Christianity, since torture is such a central facet of that religion.

Your free will examples are flawed for the exact same reason that you accuse Carrier: you ignore God’s infinite knowledge of the future. A roommate may know my waking times for a finite number of days in the future, but you’re implying God knows the waking time arbitrarily far into the future. Your definition of free will implies that one can diverge from that knowledge, but in the case of God it is impossible to do so.

You can’t escape by pointing out God’s ignorance of other areas allow free will, as Warren attempted. You picked “waking time”, Warren picked “boat arrival”, but those are arbitrary elements of knowledge. Logically, if a property holds for an arbitrarily chosen element, it holds over all elements.

If you’ve tied your faith to God’s omniscience, you have abandoned free will. You just don’t have the logic to acknowledge that fact.

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Fortuna December 5, 2009 at 10:52 am

Summa;

HUH? Fortuna this makes no sense whatsoever. So WHAT if he knows what you’re going to do? How does his foreknowledge of your decision take away your ability to make the decision?

It doesn’t. What it means is simply this:

You cannot do anything other than what an omniscient God knows you will do. When you say that you can choose to do anything at all, that would be factually false, if an omniscient being exists. Because you simply could not. You will do as He knows, period. It’s all written in advance, as it were. You can still make decisions, indeed you must, you simply don’t have free will, at least not in the sense of having un-constrained will that allows you to choose anything physically available to you.

That’s my only point.

Fortuna let’s say we are roommates and you get up every day at 7am without fail. I now KNOW you are going to get up at 7am tomorrow.

Are you familiar with Hume’s problem of induction? If I’m to take this as a real-world example, then arguably you do not, in fact, know that I will get up at 7am, you’re just pretty accustomed to it.

But hey, just for kicks, let’s assume that you do Know, with a capital K, what time I will rise, having been given a flash of insight by the Almighty.

Who CARES if I knew you were going to wake up at 7am. By your own free will you could have chosen not to.

No, see, that’s just the thing. If you KNEW what time I was going to wake, then I could not have chosen to rise at a different time. If I could have, then you didn’t actually know what time I was going to rise. That’s the crucial point; you can either have perfect certainty about my actions, or I can have free will, but both of those cannot be true at the same time.

But still, it is YOUR decision as to whether you wake up or not and God’s omniscience does not hinder you from being able to choose. He just knows how you will choose.

Yes, it’s my decision, sure. In the sense that it will be me that makes it. I just can’t make it any other way than what God has in mind. I do not have free will, in this scenario.

Of COURSE this is not a definitive example to prove the point, but it provides some bas relief for one to grasp the concept of free will and how we still have it regardless of the master plan and God’s omniscience.

My apologies, but I do not see how your example saves free will from God’s omniscience.

Again his omniscience has ZERO to do with your ability to choose any option you are impelled to choose. Just because he KNOWS how you will choose does not mean he has taken away your ability to choose.

His omniscience has rather a lot to do with the option I am impelled to choose. If we assume omniscience, then I can only choose one option. My will simply cannot be free; it is not possible for me to make choices that diverge from the plan. I am not charging that an omniscient God would take away my ability to choose, but that said ability would not be free.

I think the far more important question is: Can your freewill choices CHANGE your own personal outcome? Calvin would say no. Chesterton would say yes. I side with Chesterton because of what Jesus said about Capernaum in Matt 11: “…If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.”

It *WOULD* have, which means it *COULD* have had different choices been made.

Yes, I see what you’re saying, but I don’t see how it helps you. Sure, if things had been different, they would have been different. However, omniscience, therefore they couldn’t have been different, they aren’t different, and they will never be different.

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Ben December 17, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Summa:

Summa: Look, when you reject God you don’t just reject religion, you reject the POSSIBILITY that there is something more to the universe than what can be proven in textbooks, and what you can perceive with your five senses.

This is on the surface the correct statement of atheism.
However, I think it would be more accurate to state that atheists believe that anything that occurs in this universe can be described by natural laws, and it is not possible for a supernatural entity to have any influence.
The supernatural entity may have created the universe, but would bound by natural laws outside the universe, which we have no hope of comprehending.
Your statement above is engineered to make the atheist stance sound unreasonable, by implying that atheists reject unconditionally a reasonable possibility.
It remains to be argued that it is a reasonable possibility.

or the one who prematurely declares it impossible?

In what way is it premature?
Many atheists examine as much evidence as they can for and against the existence of God, and come to a conclusion based on reason.
On the contrary, most religious people unconditionally adhere to their faith without allowing reason to interfere.
In fact, it is they who reject the POSSIBILITY of there not being a God.

while the latter’s shall be tied up in court, hopelessly arguing in circles to merely preserve his own sanity. 

You are assserting that the atheist desire to reason carefully through the issue of God’s existence is necessarily a threat to their sanity.
This is not the case for myself or any other atheists that I know.
Do you have any evidence to support this assertion?

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