The Cross: An embarrassment at the heart of Christianity

In a recent thread, I challenged Christians and other believers to explain why their supposedly loving God treats people so poorly. Toward the end of the thread, I commented:

We’re more than 1200 comments into this thread, and still none of the believers can explain why their “loving” God shits all over people, day after day.

If you loved someone, would you purposely trap them under the rubble of a collapsed building? Or drown them? Or drive them from their home and destroy their possessions? [Or stand by, doing nothing, while a maniac mowed them down using automatic weapons?]

Your supposedly loving God does that. Why?

As you’d expect, the Christians struggled to find a good answer. One of their failed attempts was to appeal to the Cross. Fifthmonarchyman, for instance, wrote this:

I just think that the way to understand God’s love is to look at the Cross and not at the latest natural disaster.

That’s fairly typical. Christians do see the Cross as a great symbol of love. Jesus was willing to lay down his life for us, after all. What could be more loving than that?

The problem is that they haven’t thought things through. When you do, the Cross becomes rather appalling. Here’s how I put it in response to FMM:

That’s right. God had the power to forgive Adam and Eve. A loving God would have forgiven them. The Christian God refused to forgive them, banished them from the Garden, made their lives miserable, and then blamed their descendants as if they had anything to do with it.

The Christian God is an unloving asshole. Thank God (so to speak) that he doesn’t exist.

And just to complete the picture, he decides that since Adam and Eve ate a particular fruit — something he knew would happen before he even created them — everyone must be tortured for eternity after they die. (Can’t you feel the love?)

But wait — there’s a way out! This psychotic God is willing to forgive us after all, because he tortured himself to death! He just needed a little more blood and gore in order to forgive us, that’s all. (Can’t you feel the love?)

So FMM comes along and says “ignore the natural disasters, ignore all the ways God torments people, and look to the Cross,” as if the cross were some great symbol of love. It isn’t. It’s the symbol of a creepy God who

a) creates people and sticks them in a Garden;

b) gets the bright idea of putting a tree in the Garden that he doesn’t want them to eat from;

c) blames them for eating from it, even though he knew that would happen before he even created them;

d) blames their descendants, as if they had anything to do with it;

e) decides that everyone must be tortured for eternity, because Adam and Eve ate from a tree that he was stupid enough to put in the Garden;

f) decides that he might be willing to forgive everyone in exchange for more blood and gore;

g) in the ultimate act of self-loathing, tortures himself to death; and

h) with his blood lust satisfied, finally agrees to forgive people;

i) except that even with his bloodlust temporarily satisfied, he’s still an asshole; so

j) he decides that he’s still going to torture for eternity the folks who don’t believe in him at the moment of death, and only forgive the ones who suck up to him.

Can’t you feel the love?

Christians, pause and ask yourselves: What happened to me? How did I end up believing something as stupid and ridiculous as Christianity? Why am I labeling this monstrous God as ‘loving’?

The Holy Spirit is a wondrous thing. It descends on people, making them incredibly stupid. It even makes them forget what love is.

Now, I’m fully aware that Christians don’t all agree on the historicity of the Adam and Eve story or on how atonement works. We can discuss some of those differences in the comments below. But I do think it’s striking that Christians have not come up with a story that makes sense, and that a large number of them unwittingly hold beliefs that paint God as monstrous, not loving, and the Cross as the symbol not of love, but of a petty and ungenerous refusal to forgive until blood is spilled.

The Cross truly is an embarrassment, right at the heart of Christianity.

620 thoughts on “The Cross: An embarrassment at the heart of Christianity

  1. Mung, phoodoo,

    The two of you are remarkably bad at defending your God. No wonder you keep avoiding my questions.

    Mung:

    How do I know that my cat is going to be harmed? I don’t.

    Exactly. You don’t know whether (or when) your cat is going to be harmed, but God does.

    Suppose you knew your cat was going to be hit by a car next Wednesday at exactly 1:13 PM, unless you did something ahead of time to prevent it. Would you just shrug and say “Let the damn cat die”? That ain’t love, yet your God does that sort of thing on a daily basis.

    Ponder that. Your God is far less loving than even you are, and still you worship him.

    Ditto for phoodoo’s goofy argument. He says that if I were correct, a loving father wouldn’t allow his daughter to go on dates, because she might get raped. Yet that isn’t true at all.

    Loving fathers (in relatively safe Western societies — I’m not talking about the boondocks of Afghanistan here) allow their daughters to go on dates because they judge the rewards to outweigh the risks. They don’t think their daughters are going to be raped, although they know it’s a possibility. They could keep their daughters locked in the house all the time, but they know that if they did that, they’d be harming them.

    Which is more loving,

    a) allowing your daughter to date, despite some risk, or

    b) deliberately harming your daughter by keeping her locked away in your house all the time?

    The answer, of course, is (a). Loving fathers do the loving thing and allow their daughters to date.

    Now for your God, the situation is completely different. He knows ahead of time exactly what is going to happen. He knows whether a young woman will be safe on her date or whether she is going to be raped. And some women do get raped. It happens on a daily basis.

    How does your God handle these rapes? He lets them happen.

    A loving father, if he knew his daughter was about to be raped, would try to prevent it. God doesn’t bother.

    A father’s love for his daughter is far superior to God’s “love”.

    Believers, including the two of you, want God to be loving. When they worship him, most of them think they are worshiping a loving God. The sad reality is that if their God exists at all, he is clearly not the loving God they want him to be.

    They are worshiping an unloving asshole.

  2. keiths: The two of you are remarkably bad at defending your God.

    I have no intention of defending your Sky Daddy. You have yet to demonstrate that “my” God is the same as your Sky Daddy. In fact, you’ve failed miserably when asked to do so.

  3. keiths: Exactly. You don’t know whether (or when) your cat is going to be harmed, but God does.

    Not exactly. In your examples to phoodoo the father knew, in advance, exactly what was going to happen. They had god-like powers. So you were making unwarranted assumptions.

  4. keiths, to Mung and phoodoo:

    The two of you are remarkably bad at defending your God.

    Mung:

    I have no intention of defending your Sky Daddy.

    So? I asked you to defend your non-Sky-Daddy:

    A reminder for Mung:

    Don’t forget to answer my questions below in terms of your sophisticated, non-sky-daddy God.

    If you loved someone, would you purposely trap them under the rubble of a collapsed building? Or drown them? Or drive them from their home and destroy their possessions?

    Your supposedly sophisticated, powerful, loving, non-sky-daddy God does that. Why?

    You ran away from those questions, and you’re still running. You can’t defend your God. I’m not surprised, and I doubt that anyone else is, either.

    You’ve failed, Mung. Step aside and let Vincent attempt to do what you cannot.

  5. keiths: You’ve failed, Mung. Step aside and let Vincent attempt to do what you cannot.

    Lol.

    I’m still baffled at your response to love. It makes me wonder if you know what love is. Why are you avoiding it?

  6. From the OP

    a) creates people and sticks them in a Garden;

    keiths: A loving God would not have done this.

    Mung: Tough shit.

  7. Mung:

    In your examples to phoodoo the father knew, in advance, exactly what was going to happen. They had god-like powers. So you were making unwarranted assumptions.

    Mung,

    This is extremely easy to understand, so it is going to stretch your cognitive abilities to their limit. Please find a quiet place. Turn off Judge Judy. Put away any bright objects that might distract you. Concentrate as hard as you can.

    My point is that in order to judge whether an action is loving, you need to know something about the information available to the actor. (Keep concentrating! Don’t give up. You can do it!)

    Here’s a hypothetical scenario to make the point:

    Suppose that someone rewires the elevator in an apartment building. Normally, when you push the button for the seventh floor, the button lights up and the elevator takes you to that floor. Now, however, the seventh floor button has been rewired so that if pressed, it will fatally electrocute Mrs. Swenson, who is strapped into a chair, unable to move, in Apartment 217. Mrs. Swenson loves life and wants to continue living.

    Archibald and Beatrice both live on the seventh floor. Archibald knows that the elevator has been rewired, and he knows that if he presses the seventh-floor button, Mrs. Swenson will die. Beatrice has no idea that the elevator has been rewired.

    Now consider two alternative endings:

    1. Archibald, who has been out shopping, walks into the lobby and summons the elevator. He enters it, and with full knowledge of the consequences, he presses the button for the seventh floor — just for the sheer pleasure of causing a death. Mrs. Swenson is electrocuted and dies.

    2. Beatrice, who has been out shopping, walks into the lobby and summons the elevator. She enters it and innocently presses the button for the seventh floor. That’s where she lives, after all. As a result of Beatrice’s action Mrs. Swenson is electrocuted and dies.

    Was Archibald’s action an unloving act? What about Beatrice’s?

    Now, I realize that you are probably confused at this point. Does Mrs. Swenson have an uncle? Was the sky cloudy that day? How on earth can a Mung answer the questions without this additional information?

    Take some deep breaths. Think, Mung. Don’t give up! Keep concentrating.

    Now, ask yourself again: Was Archibald’s action an unloving act? What about Beatrice’s?

    A competent person should be able to figure out that Archibald’s action was unloving, while Beatrice’s was not. Why? Because Archibald knew that his action meant death for Mrs. Swenson, while Beatrice had no idea. She was just trying to go home.

    Same action, same consequences, but different states of knowledge in the two actors. As a result, we judge one action to be horrifyingly unloving, while the other is not.

    Are you with me so far?

  8. Continuing with the hypothetical scenario.

    Consider a third alternative ending:

    3. Beatrice runs into Archibald on the street. Archibald tells Beatrice about the elevator rewiring, and Beatrice believes him. She enters the lobby, summons the elevator, and presses the seventh-floor button, fully intending to kill Mrs. Swenson. Mrs. Swenson is electrocuted and dies.

    When Beatrice pushes the button, is that a loving act?

    A normal, competent person can recognize that in this case Beatrice’s act is not loving. What’s the difference? The difference is that in this case she knew that her action would cause Mrs. Swenson’s death, while in the previous scenario she didn’t. Knowledge can make a huge difference in how we judge an action.

    How does this relate to phoodoo’s scenarios involving the loving father? It’s obvious (and therefore likely to baffle you).

    Take the scenario in which the daughter goes on a date and is raped. Phoodoo was trying to draw a false equivalence between God and the loving father, since they both allowed the girl to go on the date. But there’s a glaring difference: God knew she was going to be raped, and the father didn’t.

    God knew that the daughter would be raped; the father didn’t. Archibald knew that Mrs. Swenson would be killed when the button was pressed; Beatrice (in alternate ending #2) didn’t.

    God and Archibald are assholes; the loving father and Beatrice (in alternate ending #2) are not.

    Your God is constantly allowing rapes and other horrors to occur, despite knowing ahead of time that they’re coming, and despite being able to prevent them.

    Your God is an inferior God. He’s an unloving asshole, unworthy of worship.

  9. keiths,

    Like all the inferior assholes who have babies when they know they will die? That know they will experience sickness. That know they will experience heartaches. They know they will experience pain. And yet they still have them.

    Are they all assholes keiths?

    They could prevent it so easy, just don’t have babies.

  10. phoodoo,
    Some parents abort their children when they find out they have a condition that will result in zero quality of life.

    Those parents are superior to your god. They make a decision, unlike your god.

  11. The point phoodoo et al seem to want to avoid is quite simple. If evolution is impotent and requires god’s help then god is ensuring that diseases continue to resist our treatments.

    Therefore the more apt analogy is of a father sending his daughter out and calling up the rapist and telling him where his daughter will be.

    phoodoo: They could prevent it so easy, just don’t have babies.

    Likewise your god could prevent endless misery just by stopping it’s interference in antibiotic resistance.

    So which is it phoodoo, your god is a shit or evolution is potent?

  12. So do you agree with keiths, people are assholes for having babies that one day will die?

    phoodoo,

    When your only remaining defense is to misrepresent your opponent’s position, it’s time to accept that you’ve lost the debate.

    The evidence shows that God, if he exists at all, is an unloving prick. You can stamp your little feet, whine that you want to believe in a loving God, and tell the evidence to go fuck itself. And if you do that you will lose, because the truth is what it is, and phoodooesque tantrums are not going to change that.

  13. keiths: Your God is an inferior God. He’s an unloving asshole, unworthy of worship.

    Gods are worshipped because they are Gods and Gods are powerful.

    Seems to me a God who is capable of both good and evil is superior to one that is not in its range of actions.

  14. keiths,

    Don’t blame me that refuse to stand by your arguments.

    If God is an asshole for making people that can die, then so are people assholes for making people who can die.

    Maybe you don’t know what you believe.

  15. newton,

    Gods are worshipped because they are Gods.They are mostly worshipped because they are powerful.

    There’s no question that some people suck up to the powerful. But is a powerful asshole worthy of worship? I think not.

    Seems to me a God who is capable of both good and evil to is superior to one that is not in its range of actions.

    Capability and choice are two different things.

  16. Getting back to the topic of the OP:

    While we wait for Vincent’s next move, is there anyone else out there — Christian or otherwise — who can defend the Cross against the argument I make in the OP?

  17. keiths:
    newton,

    There’s no question that some people suck up to the powerful.But is a powerful asshole worthy of worship?

    If He is your asshole, many say yes. The OT is sends that message over and over.

    I think not.

    If God does not exist, then the assholism is in the believers not the God. If the assholish God exists and if morality comes from God and one is commanded to worship , not to worship is immoral.

    What is basis for your moral judgement?

    Capability and choice are two different things.

    True but someone who chooses to fly but can’t is inferior to some who chooses and can

  18. phoodoo: If God is an asshole for making people that can die, then so are people assholes for making people who can die.

    No one said people are capable only of good.

  19. keiths.

    Suppose you knew your cat was going to be hit by a car next Wednesday at exactly 1:13 PM, unless you did something ahead of time to prevent it. Would you just shrug and say “Let the damn cat die”? That ain’t love, yet your God does that sort of thing on a daily basis.

    Ponder that. Your God is far less loving than even you are, and still you worship him.

    Three quick comments:

    1. You’re making an assumption here. You’re assuming that God possesses universal counterfactual knowledge (knowledge of what would happen to each and every individual under all possible circumstances). Without this assumption, you can’t be sure that God actually knows that the cat will be hit by a car at 1:13 PM, unless you do something to prevent it. On a Boethian account of Divine foreknowledge, God’s knowledge of a cat’s being hit by a car is logically subsequent to the cat’s being hit, not prior to it.

    2. The case would be different if God overhears two cruel sadists plotting at 1:03 p.m. to kill your cat at 1:13 p.m. In that case, God knows that there’s an evil plan in motion, and even if he’s a Boethian God (rather than a Calvinist or a Molinist God), He could still use this knowledge to avert the cat’s untimely death at 1:13 p.m. Yet He doesn’t. It’s fair to ask why God does nothing, in this case. I’m inclined to say, “Because as our Creator, He respects our freedom, including the freedom to do bad things,” although I don’t think the cat would agree. Another answer that suggests itself is that He reluctantly granted the human race a certain measure of independence following the Fall – including the freedom to be left alone, even when plotting nefarious activities. On this account, God is waiting until the end of time until He steps in and announces that the drama of human history is finally over.

    3. Another case you might bring up is one where God knows of some natural disaster which is going to befall the cat at 1:13 p.m. (e.g. death in a bushfire), and yet does nothing to prevent it. Here, I would refer you to John Garvey’s book, God’s Good Earth. Most natural deaths are relatively free of pain – see here.

    God and Archibald are assholes; the loving father and Beatrice (in alternate ending #2) are not.

    Archibald is (morally speaking) my neighbor. So is the loving father, and so is Beatrice. God is not my neighbor, but my Creator. The duties of a creator are different: greater in some ways, less in others. The creator of an individual’s very being is responsible for enabling the individual to attain their ultimate destiny, while my neighbor is not. On the other hand, an individual’s neighbor is responsible for assisting them in times of need, whereas their creator is not.

    My two cents.

  20. keiths,

    The Christian God is an unloving asshole. Thank God (so to speak) that he doesn’t exist.

    I don’t think you have gotten beyond your opinion here. You state your opinion forcefully but thats about it.

    There are counter arguments on why God did not prevent Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit that would justify his behavior so declaring him an Asshole is just your opinion. An opinion from data collected from the bottom of the well.

  21. colewd: There are counter arguments on why God did not prevent Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit

    One is that it never really happened.

  22. keiths:
    Byers:

    Where does it say that?Quote a passage, please.

    So you think God is a liar?

    Didn’t notice till now these posts.
    I made the case.
    god takes responsibility and so a control on what happens YET de didn’t actually do it. Its an option.
    Just like in the book of Job he takes responsibility for Jobs problems but it was Satan who did it.

    I beliebe Revelation talks about the flood and that it was done to kill the wom,an from whom the destroyer of the serpent/Satan was to come.
    Satan was trying to stop this.
    Its informed speculation but it makes sense.
    God never kills anyone or destroys his creation.
    However being God and able to intervene HIS LACK of intervention , in his mind, makes him responsible.
    its an equation.

  23. Byers:

    god takes responsibility and so a control on what happens YET de didn’t actually do it…
    God never kills anyone or destroys his creation.

    The Bible says he does. Is the Bible wrong, or is God lying, or both?

  24. Robert,

    However being God and able to intervene HIS LACK of intervention , in his mind, makes him responsible.

    No, Robert. Read this comment again.

    In the verses I quote, God doesn’t merely decide to allow the Flood — he he plans it and carries it out himself.

    These are God’s words, according to Genesis:
    “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

    “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”

    “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.”

    “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

    And after it was over:
    “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

    If you are correct, then either God is lying, or the Bible is. Which is it?

  25. colewd,

    I don’t think you have gotten beyond your opinion here. You state your opinion forcefully but thats about it.

    I’m sure it’s comforting to tell yourself that, but it isn’t true. I can support my position, and I have already done so. Where are your counterarguments?

    There are counter arguments on why God did not prevent Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit that would justify his behavior so declaring him an Asshole is just your opinion.

    If you think that you know of a successful counterargument, then be brave and present it.

    An opinion from data collected from the bottom of the well.

    You never learn, do you? Your “bottom of the well” argument fails every time, but still you keep trotting it out.

    You are attempting to discredit my position because it is based on “data collected from the bottom of the well”. What you keep forgetting is that such an attack is fatal to your own beliefs, because you’re a “frog at the bottom of a well” just like me.

    Is God an asshole? We can’t say, according to you, because we’re frogs at the bottom of a well. Is God loving? We can’t say. We’re just bottom-dwelling frogs. Is Christianity true? Who knows? Who could possibly say, based on the little we can see way down here?

    So the next time someone asks if you are a Christian, you’ll reply “Definitely not. I’m just a frog at the bottom of a well, and I have no idea whether Christianity is true.” Right?

    Of course you won’t. So stop using that dumb argument. It’s hypocritical.

  26. Hi Vincent,

    You write:

    1. You’re making an assumption here. You’re assuming that God possesses universal counterfactual knowledge (knowledge of what would happen to each and every individual under all possible circumstances).

    It’s true that if you dramatically weaken God’s foreknowledge in this way, you can get him off the hook for events he could not have anticipated. The problem is, you also make him much less Godlike.

    Most Christians are reluctant to do that, firstly because such a God falls short of the ideal, and also because the notion is unbiblical.

    Consider:

    10 David said, “Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.”

    And the Lord said, “He will.”

    12 Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?”

    And the Lord said, “They will.”

    13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.

    1 Samuel 23:10-13, NIV

    Without knowledge of the counterfactuals, how was God able to tell David what Saul and the people of Keilah would have done had David stayed in the town?

    Or do you reject that biblical story? (I’m encouraged by how much of the Bible you are rejecting as false these days.)

    On a Boethian account of Divine foreknowledge, God’s knowledge of a cat’s being hit by a car is logically subsequent to the cat’s being hit, not prior to it.

    You’re making a couple of mistakes here, the first more subtle than the second.

    1. You’re positing that God is timeless, but then you’re smuggling a kind of temporality back into the picture, thinly disguised in terms such as “logically prior” and “logically subsequent”. In so doing, you effectively make God temporal again rather than timeless.

    2. Even if God’s knowledge of the fact of the cat’s fatal encounter were logically subsequent to it, that wouldn’t prevent him from logically anticipating it with near certainty.

    To argue otherwise is to make God epistemically inferior to humans. A human standing there could observe the cat and the car and think “that cat is about to be hit!” Do you really want to deny God’s ability to make that same observation, and to intervene on that basis?

  27. Vincent,

    Referring to the rape and elevator scenarios, I wrote:

    God and Archibald are assholes; the loving father and Beatrice (in alternate ending #2) are not.

    You replied:

    Archibald is (morally speaking) my neighbor. So is the loving father, and so is Beatrice. God is not my neighbor, but my Creator. The duties of a creator are different: greater in some ways, less in others. The creator of an individual’s very being is responsible for enabling the individual to attain their ultimate destiny, while my neighbor is not. On the other hand, an individual’s neighbor is responsible for assisting them in times of need, whereas their creator is not.

    That argument doesn’t work. We are talking about love here, not duties, responsibilities, and obligations.

    It isn’t loving to say to someone in need, “Fuck off. I have no obligation to help you.”

  28. vjtorley:

    Most natural deaths are relatively free of pain – see here.

    Even if that were true, “most” doesn’t cut it. What about the excruciating deaths?

    Also, consider this thought experiment: You are kidnapped by a group of terrorists. They tell you, “We are going to kill you. But don’t worry — it will be painless. We’re going to give you a general anesthetic, and then we’re going to obliterate your brainstem. You’ll die, but you won’t feel a thing.”

    Would you be grateful for the loving gift they were giving you?

  29. keiths:

    There’s no question that some people suck up to the powerful. But is a powerful asshole worthy of worship? I think not.

    newton:

    If He is your asshole, many say yes. The OT is sends that message over and over.

    True, but for a modern-day Christian to acknowledge that is to admit that their God is an asshole, not the loving God of Christian doctrine.

    If God does not exist, then the assholism is in the believers not the God.

    No, the assholism is still in God. It’s just imaginary assholism in an imaginary God. (Much preferable to real assholism in a real God.)

    If the assholish God exists and if morality comes from God and one is commanded to worship , not to worship is immoral.

    Sure. That’s basically Divine Command Theory. Under DCT, anything that God does or commands is moral by virtue of the fact that he does it or commands it, no matter how horrifying it is to us. The problem with that is that it runs afoul of people’s consciences. Decent people aren’t swayed when you try to justify a genocide, for example, by arguing that God commanded it.

    What is basis for your moral judgement?

    It isn’t about my moral judgment, but rather the theist’s. It’s just that my moral judgment overlaps considerably with most theists’, so (for example) we agree that it’s wrong and unloving to let someone starve to death if we can easily prevent it. The difference is that theists try to make excuses for God when he does things like that — things that would earn their condemnation if done by a human.

    newton:

    Seems to me a God who is capable of both good and evil to is superior to one that is not in its range of actions.

    keiths:

    Capability and choice are two different things.

    newton:

    True but someone who chooses to fly but can’t is inferior to some who chooses and can

    A God who is capable of both good and evil but consistently chooses the good is superior to one with the same capabilities who indulges in evil.

  30. newton: No one said people are capable only of good.

    So, you agree with keiths, that its people who are the assholes for having kids?

  31. Hi keiths,

    Your original scenario was as follows:

    Suppose you knew your cat was going to be hit by a car next Wednesday at exactly 1:13 PM, unless you did something ahead of time to prevent it. Would you just shrug and say “Let the damn cat die”? That ain’t love, yet your God does that sort of thing on a daily basis.

    That’s several days from now. To know that in advance, either you’d need to have a very detailed kind of counterfactual knowledge (Molinism) – namely, precisely how and when each and every potential driver on that road would drive, under all possible circumstances – or you’d need to predestine the collision, right down to the last detail (Calvinism, Bannezianism).

    In an attempt to show that the Bible imputes detailed counterfactual knowledge to God, you cite 1 Samuel 23:10-13, where David asks God: “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” Notice that David says “Will,” not “Would.” That suggests that the citizens had already formed a plan to surrender David if Saul attacked the town. In that case, God was simply reporting to David what was already in their minds. Naturally, I believe that God can read minds.

    You also write:

    To argue otherwise is to make God epistemically inferior to humans. A human standing there could observe the cat and the car and think “that cat is about to be hit!” Do you really want to deny God’s ability to make that same observation, and to intervene on that basis?

    A human being could indeed say that, immediately before the collision, but not several days in advance. Do you really want God to boom down warnings from On High to all sentient beings which are about to be killed in a particularly revolting way? And where do you draw the line between revolting and non-revolting deaths?

    We are talking about love here, not duties, responsibilities, and obligations.

    True. But we’re talking about a finite planet here, with limited resources. On such a planet, all animals have to die, sooner or later.

    Also, consider this thought experiment: You are kidnapped by a group of terrorists. They tell you, “We are going to kill you. But don’t worry — it will be painless. We’re going to give you a general anesthetic, and then we’re going to obliterate your brainstem. You’ll die, but you won’t feel a thing.”

    Would you be grateful for the loving gift they were giving you?

    Does a cat have any sense of what it is missing out on, if it dies prematurely? Probably not. Does a human? Certainly. The two cases are not parallel.

    In any case, you should be aware that for the past 500 years, at least some Christians have been willing to argue that animals enjoy an afterlife of sorts.

  32. vjtorley,

    vjtorley: In an attempt to show that the Bible imputes detailed counterfactual knowledge to God, you cite 1 Samuel 23:10-13, where David asks God: “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” Notice that David says “Will,” not “Would.”

    Holy cow, I don’t think VJ is aware that the bible wasn’t written in English.

  33. vjtorley: And where do you draw the line between revolting and non-revolting deaths?

    He doesn’t, he has already said so. Like Rumarket, he thinks a loving God would allow no deaths.

    And no mosquito bites.

  34. phoodoo, to newton:

    So, you agree with keiths, that its people who are the assholes for having kids?

    This is worth repeating:

    phoodoo,

    When your only remaining defense is to misrepresent your opponent’s position, it’s time to accept that you’ve lost the debate.

    The evidence shows that God, if he exists at all, is an unloving prick. You can stamp your little feet, whine that you want to believe in a loving God, and tell the evidence to go fuck itself. And if you do that you will lose, because the truth is what it is, and phoodooesque tantrums are not going to change that.

  35. keiths,

    You never learn, do you? Your “bottom of the well” argument fails every time, but still you keep trotting it out.

    You don’t realize you are at the bottom of the well but you are. Your rain fairy analogy is another example of you not realizing your blind spots.

  36. colewd,

    You don’t realize you are at the bottom of the well but you are.

    If I am, then so are you. So the next time someone asks if you are a Christian, you’ll reply “Definitely not. I’m just a frog at the bottom of a well, and I have no idea whether Christianity is true.” Right?

    Your rain fairy analogy is another example of you not realizing your blind spots.

    Please elaborate.

  37. keiths,

    Is God an asshole? We can’t say, according to you, because we’re frogs at the bottom of a well. Is God loving? We can’t say. We’re just bottom-dwelling frogs. Is Christianity true? Who knows? Who could possibly say, based on the little we can see way down here?

    So the next time someone asks if you are a Christian, you’ll reply “Definitely not. I’m just a frog at the bottom of a well, and I have no idea whether Christianity is true.” Right?

    There is a book in the well that tells us something about the world outside the well. Some people call a fairy tale, but is it?

  38. keiths,

    Your rain fairy analogy is another example of you not realizing your blind spots.

    Please elaborate.

    Is weather something we can understand inside the well?

    Is life’s diversity something we can understand inside the well?

    If the answer is different have you made a logical fallacy error of false analogy?

  39. colewd:

    There is a book in the well that tells us something about the world outside the well. Some people call a fairy tale, but is it?

    Dude, think for a second.

    If you’re just a frog at the bottom of the well, then how do you know that the book is correct? If being at the bottom of the well prevents me from inferring that God is an asshole, then it prevents you from inferring the truth of the Bible.

    On the other hand, if you argue that despite being at the bottom of the well, you have enough information to infer the truth of the Bible, then I can point out the obvious:

    1) You don’t; and
    2) Scientists do have enough information to formulate detailed theories in biology and meteorology, despite living “in the well”.

    Come on, Bill. Are you a meteorology denier too?

    The lesson is simple. If you want to deploy your “bottom of the well” argument, then be consistent and apply it to yourself as well as to your opponent.

  40. keiths,

    On the other hand, if you argue that despite being at the bottom of the well, you have enough information to infer the truth of the Bible, then I can point out the obvious:

    1) You don’t; and
    2) Scientists do have enough information to formulate detailed theories in biology and meteorology, despite living “in the well”.

    Your default here is assertion.

    You are claiming the biology and meteorology are the same yet one claim can be modeled and the model tested while the other cannot. You have spent days arguing with a false analogy.

    Evaluating the bible like meteorology can be done inside the well.

  41. colewd: There is a book in the well that tells us something about the world outside the well. Some people call a fairy tale, but is it?

    We have no way of verifying whether it is a fairy tale or not. In order to determine whether the book is a reliable source of information about transcendent reality (meaning, roughly, realities that cannot be experienced through the senses), one would need to have some independent form of access to transcendent reality.

    Only if there were some access to transcendent reality independent of the book about transcendent reality could we then determine if the book is a reliable source of information about transcendent reality.

    Without that access, there’s no way to determine if the book is reliable, a fairy tale, or anything else.

  42. colewd: Evaluating the bible like meteorology can be done inside the well.

    Yes and no. We can evaluate the Old and New Testaments through various empirical lenses, such as philology and archeology. That’s not going to tell us whether the Bible contains any true claims about divine reward or punishment for moral, sexual, or dietary transgressions.

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