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.

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

  1. keiths: Why are you quoting KN? My argument is my argument.

    So if you’ve been paying attention why didn’t you correct him?

    Is it because he has you on Ignore?

  2. You believe that God is not loving because you want to believe that God is not loving.

    No, doofus. I look at the evidence instead of filtering it as Charlie does.

  3. keiths: No, doofus. I look at the evidence instead of filtering it as Charlie does.

    But you see what you want to see because you want to believe that God is not loving. See how utterly obvious that is?

  4. John,

    One could also argue that this verse…

    22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

    Genesis 3:22, NIV

    …could be interpreted as “he must not be allowed to continue eating from the tree and therefore live forever.” The downside there is that the trees would be asymmetric: the Tree of Knowledge would be ‘eat once’, while the Tree of Life would be ‘eat on an ongoing basis.’

    Too bad we don’t have the original text.

  5. keiths: Say something interesting or intelligent so that it’s worth my while to respond to you.

    Don’t be thick. You believe that I’m not saying something interesting or intelligent because you want to believe that that I’m not saying something interesting or intelligent. Isn’t it obvious?

    Do you see your mistake?

  6. Odd. I thought Christians believed in resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

    Perhaps that creed is just recited by fringe denominations.

  7. petrushka:
    Odd. I thought Christians believed in resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

    It is in the Nicene Creed

    Perhaps that creed is just recited by fringe denominations.

    It used to be in the Catholic Mass

  8. petrushka:

    Odd. I thought Christians believed in resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

    Someone is arguing that they don’t?

  9. Another Steiner quote, just for laughs:

    Evolution now advanced further, and little by little the human soul-spirits who had escaped to the planets began to return again. That went on well into the Atlantean epoch. What had crystallised out as man during the latter part of Lemuria and during Atlantis was gradually endowed with soul-spirits of differing characteristics, according to whether they came from Mars, or Mercury, or Jupiter and so on. This brought about a great variety in earthly incarnations. Those of you who are familiar with the lectures I gave recently in Christiania know that this division of men into Mars-men, Saturn-men and so on was the origin of what later became racial differentiation. It is still possible today for the seer to recognise whether a man’s soul has descended from this or that planet.

    And how did Steiner establish all these fascinating facts? Through “clairvoyant investigation”, of course.

    Again and again in these lectures we have been able to show how the Genesis account, rightly interpreted, has corroborated the findings of clairvoyant investigation.

    Otherwise known as “making shit up”.

  10. keiths:
    CharlieM:

    You could just as easily believe in a higher reality without thinking that God is loving.

    You believe that God is loving because you want to believe that God is loving.

    Steiner

    Creative forces unfold through love. We owe our existence to deeds of love wrought in the past. To pay off debts through deeds of love is therefore wisdom.
    As well as love there are two other powers: might and wisdom. To these two, the concepts of magnitude and enhancement are applicable, but not to love. The all-embracing attribute of the Godhead is therefore not omnipotence, not omniscience, but love. God is supreme love, not supreme might, not supreme wisdom. The Godhead has shared these two with Ahriman and Lucifer. Wisdom and might unfold in the world, but love is a unique, Divine Impulse. The Mystery of Golgotha was fulfilled as a counterweight to the impulses of might and of wisdom. Therefore anyone who knows the mystery of love can be a Christian. Spiritual Science must include this love — otherwise it leads to egoism.
    The Mystery of Golgotha is a Deed of the Gods and a concern of the Gods. This Deed cannot be understood out of wisdom but only out of love. Together with selfishness, evil came into the world. It had to be so, because without the evil, man could not lay hold of the good. But through man’s conquest of himself the unfolding of love has been made possible. The darkness has enabled the light to come into our ken.

    In anthroposophy the forces for good are opposed by two forces, the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic. These can be considered as forces of light and darkness. It is the Luciferic influence that we have gained freedom but we have acquired it before we have become mature enough to us it in the correct way. Ahrimanic influences blind us to true reality. We become trapped in materialism due to Ahrimanic influences.

    The true Christian path steers a middle course between these opposite tendencies.

    The event at Golgotha was the point from which our descent into darkness was turned around and through it we can ascend back to the true light.

  11. CharlieM:

    Well it wouldn’t make sense to you as you do not believe in any higher reality.

    keiths:

    You could just as easily believe in a higher reality without thinking that God is loving.

    You believe that God is loving because you want to believe that God is loving.

    CharlieM:

    [Steiner quote, with commentary by Charlie.]

    You’re making my point for me. Steiner wanted to believe that stuff, so he did. You want to believe Steiner, so you do. Both of you want to believe that God is loving, so you do.

    What’s missing is an actual argument based on the evidence.

  12. Mung: God could do everything to make it possible for humans to succeed and prosper and be happy and they would still muck it up.

    “God could do” rather than “God has done” suggests that you believe that God is withholding some of the means of human prosperity and happiness. Care to explain?

  13. phoodoo: A world entirely devoid of mortality and work. Beats you, you prefer not to say. Heaven for everyone?

    Would Heaven for everyone be a bad thing? I suspect that those souls scheduled for eternal torment would disagree with you on that particular point.

  14. Christians,

    There’s a question begging to be answered that no one but Sal has even attempted to address: Why didn’t God simply forgive our sins instead of demanding that we, or Jesus, suffer a penalty?

    As I put it in the OP:

    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?)

    And:

    f) [God] 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;

    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?

    Why wouldn’t a loving God simply forgive? If you’re demanding punishment, then you haven’t really forgiven at all.

    Sal at least attempted to answer the question, though his response didn’t make a lot of sense:

    Hypothetically, I suppose God could have just forgiven sins like writing off a debt rather than sacrifice his son…

    The cross shows how God can take an awful situation and redeem it. There is no great glory without some tragedy. Dramatists and novelists and story tellers and sportscasters understand truths that a lot of dismissive atheists don’t seem to appreciate.

    So in Sal’s view, God, instead of simply forgiving everyone, demanded that Jesus be tortured to death, and demanded that unbelievers be tortured eternally, all because “there is no great glory without some tragedy.” So people are suffering in hell because God likes a good story and wanted to glorify himself.

    As I remarked to Sal:

    You’re supposed to be defending the Christian God, Sal. Instead you’re just confirming that he’s an ass.

    So tell us, Christians: Why didn’t God just forgive our sins, without demanding punishment?

  15. The standard Christian answer to that question, and the one I was taught as a kid, is that God’s justice demands that sin be punished. Justice would not be served if God simply forgave. So Jesus took the punishment, justice is served, and God is able to forgive us.

    Two problems with that:

    1) It’s unloving to demand punishment, instead of simply forgiving; and

    2) it isn’t justice to torture an innocent person to death for sins he did not commit.

    The “justice demands it” defense is self-defeating.

  16. CharlieM: In anthroposophy the forces for good are opposed by two forces, the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic. These can be considered as forces of light and darkness. It is the Luciferic influence that we have gained freedom but we have acquired it before we have become mature enough to us it in the correct way. Ahrimanic influences blind us to true reality. We become trapped in materialism due to Ahrimanic influences.

    “Incident I is set four quadrillion years ago, wherein an unsuspecting thetan was subjected to a loud snapping noise, followed by a flood of luminescence, then saw a chariot followed by a trumpeting cherub. After a loud set of snaps, the thetan was overwhelmed by darkness. This is described as the implant opening the gateway to the present universe, separating thetans from their static (natural/godlike) state. The incident is described in Operating Thetan level III (OT III), written in 1967.”

    Each has precisely the same amount of objective supporting evidence and likelihood of being true.

  17. CharlieM: Life is often unfair and people do have to experience suffering through the actions of others but if it is realised that this one earthly life is but a small part of what we are in reality then we may also realise that we do not see the bigger picture.

    Does the ‘unfairness’ of life not reflect negatively on the being who is reputed to have created all life?

    And why do you lump yourself in with us heathens who don’t see the bigger picture when you can confidently assert at which level of reality individuals will receive just rewards for their suffering?

  18. RoyLT: Would Heaven for everyone be a bad thing?

    I guess that discussion could be had, once keiths is willing to have a position on which he stands on. But his mode of operation is to have no position, to totally refuse to say what a loving God would do, and so we are left to speculate about what he actually means.

    If he wants brains in a vat for eternity, then he should day so, so we can say if that’s how the world should be. But he is a shrinking violet when it comes to saying anything regarding that. We don’t even know how many heavens keiths wants and if he wants a separate one for bacteria, and one for goats.

  19. phoodoo:

    A world entirely devoid of mortality and work. Beats you, you prefer not to say. Heaven for everyone?

    RoyLT:

    Would Heaven for everyone be a bad thing?

    phoodoo:

    I guess that discussion could be had, once keiths is willing to have a position on which he stands on.

    He’s asking what you think, phoodoo. Are you too confused to answer without help from me?

    Meanwhile, I can see that you’re frustrated. You can’t defeat my actual argument, so you want me to make a different one. But I’m not following your script. So you whine about how I’m not making the argument you want me to make.

    That’s known as “failure”.

    I, on the other hand, have made an argument demonstrating that your God, if he exists, is an asshole — an argument you cannot refute.

    That’s known as “success”.

    You’ve been challenged to defend your God, and you’ve failed.

  20. An earlier comment worth repeating:

    phoodoo,

    Timothy’s question awaits you:

    If your children were in a school that you knew was going to collapse and kill most of the children in it, and you knew exactly what time that was going to happen, would you leave your children in the school?

    Why would you hesitate to answer “no” to that question?

    Readers, ponder the fact that phoodoo is actually afraid of that question, and consider what that says about his God. Phoodoo knows that if he answers “no”, as any decent, loving parent would, that he makes his God look pitiful by comparison.

    So he dodges the question.

    Why worship a God of whom you are so deeply ashamed, phoodoo?

  21. RoyLT, comparing a goofy Steiner quote to a goofy L. Ron Hubbard quote:

    Each has precisely the same amount of objective supporting evidence and likelihood of being true.

    Charlie gets upset when people compare Steiner to Hubbard, but the parallels are striking.

    Both have cultish followings despite being obvious crackpots.

    Steiner conducted “clairvoyant investigations”, in which he pulled material from his rectum for later deposition into the ears of his credulous followers. Hubbard followed a similar procedure, often pharmaceutically assisted, that he referred to as “research”.

    They were both fixated on outer space and on the idea of human souls hopscotching around the solar system. We saw that in Steiner’s quote above, and we see it in L. Ron Hubbard’s concept of “implant stations” on Mars and Venus, where human souls (aka “thetans”) go after death to have their memories erased and to be reprogrammed for their next bout of reincarnation on Earth.

    Oh, and each of them had a thing for tomatoes.

  22. keiths,

    Don’t be afraid keiths. Your Missouri Lutheran upbringing frightened you, I get it. But you are safe now, its only ideas.

    If you are too scared to come to grips with the fact that your can’t even speak what it is you believe, just take a deep breath and try to relax. There is no devil under your bed, and people aren’t going to laugh at you for admitting you don’t know what you want to say.

    Much.

    An occasional chuckle, perhaps, sure. That’s unavoidable.

    Maybe think about whip cream. Its soft and white. It can’t hurt you.

  23. Poor phoodoo thinks (or hopes) he can bluff his way out of this by projecting his fear onto me.

    phoodoo,

    What’s it like to be so ashamed of your God that you are afraid to answer Timothy’s simple question?

  24. keiths:
    Any believers out there who can step in and help phoodoo out?

    Maybe it’s you who need to understand the difference between biological father and heavenly Father. Here is the question yet again:

    If your children were in a school that you knew was going to collapse and kill most of the children in it, and you knew exactly what time that was going to happen, would you leave your children in the school?

    For the biological parent the death of a child would mean the heartache of separation. But for the Heavenly Father the death of one of His children would be the equivalent of them waking up from a dream into a condition that was more real. They would be closer to him.

    If for the sake of argument you are assuming that the Heavenly Father is real then you must see that the comparison with a biological father does not hold. As Socrates said on dying, why should he not look forward to something to which he has been working towards and aiming for through his philosophy.

  25. RoyLT: Does the ‘unfairness’ of life not reflect negatively on the being who is reputed to have created all life?

    Not if you want to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. You cannot hope to be a free thinking, rational being with free will and have God dictate every single thing that happens. You must take the responsibility for the freedom that God has given you.

    And why do you lump yourself in with us heathens who don’t see the bigger picture when you can confidently assert at which level of reality individuals will receive just rewards for their suffering?

    Do you think that there are those who are blind to reality and those who perceive the full reality and there is nothing in between? None of us can say that we perceive reality in its fullness. As St Paul says, we see as through a glass darkly.

  26. CharlieM: You cannot hope to be a free thinking, rational being with free will and have God dictate every single thing that happens.

    And yet Keiths still hopes.

  27. CharlieM: Not if you want to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. You cannot hope to be a free thinking, rational being with free will and have God dictate every single thing that happens. You must take the responsibility for the freedom that God has given you.

    How much can God dictate without losing free will and rationality and freedom? Seems like killing everyone in a Flood would put a damper on the exercise free will.

  28. CharlieM: If for the sake of argument you are assuming that the Heavenly Father is real then you must see that the comparison with a biological father does not hold.

    This is an important point: Christians and other mystically inclined theists would reject the analogy that the non-theists are insisting upon here. The non-theists are simply not engaging with the views that the theists actually hold. The theists have no reason to accept the analogies.

    As Socrates said on dying, why should he not look forward to something to which he has been working towards and aiming for through his philosophy.

    Well, yes and no. Socrates did say that a philosopher has no reason to fear death because we do not know what happens when one dies, but there are arguments for the belief that the soul persists after death. But those arguments ultimately turn on the deeper assumption that the body and the senses are a distraction from genuine knowledge. On the Platonic epistemology (as typically understood), genuine knowledge involves turning the soul around from its preoccupation with things seen with the senses toward things that are only ‘perceived’ with the intellect alone.

  29. CharlieM, to RoyLT:

    Do you think that there are those who are blind to reality and those who perceive the full reality and there is nothing in between? None of us can say that we perceive reality in its fullness. As St Paul says, we see as through a glass darkly.

    Right. So rational folks go by the evidence available to us, while you ignore it and believe that God is loving simply because you want to believe that. It’s the “Me like. Me believe!” philosophy, and it’s why you are so susceptible to horseshit of the kind deposited by guys like Steiner.

  30. keiths,

    Right. So rational folks go by the evidence available to us, while you ignore it and believe that God is loving simply because you want to believe that.

    Do you honestly believe you are not cherry picking evidence?

  31. CharlieM:

    For the biological parent the death of a child would mean the heartache of separation. But for the Heavenly Father the death of one of His children would be the equivalent of them waking up from a dream into a condition that was more real. They would be closer to him.

    Then why does he proscribe murder, which brings the victims closer to him? Could it be that there’s something undesirable about death? You think?

    And if he just wanted to bring the Jordanian pilot “closer to him”, you think God is too weak to have done it in a way that didn’t involve excruciating pain?

    Come on, Charlie. You’re just making (lame) excuses for God.

    If for the sake of argument you are assuming that the Heavenly Father is real then you must see that the comparison with a biological father does not hold.

    Then go ahead and explain to us why it’s so loving of the Heavenly Father to let al-Kasasbeh burn to death in a cage, or to let children die lingering deaths while trapped under the rubble of a collapsed school.

  32. colewd,

    Do you honestly believe you are not cherry picking evidence?

    There are vast amounts of evil and suffering in the world. Haven’t you noticed?

  33. KN,

    This is an important point: Christians and other mystically inclined theists would reject the analogy that the non-theists are insisting upon here. The non-theists are simply not engaging with the views that the theists actually hold. The theists have no reason to accept the analogies.

    Theists can employ whatever concept of God they like, but if they want to rationally claim that God is loving, they need to show that without sweeping the evidence under the rug.

    I’ve asked Mung many times to answer my questions in terms of his supposedly sophisticated, non-sky-daddy notion of God. He never does.

    It isn’t hard to see why. You have to twist and debase the concept of love to make it fit with a God who watches passively as a dog eats the head of a living baby or as a man in a cage, engulfed in flames, writhes and screams in agony.

  34. newton:

    Seems like killing everyone in a Flood would put a damper on the exercise free will.

    And of course brave phoodoo, who buys into the “choice” defense, still hasn’t answered my related questions. An earlier comment:

    phoodoo, to Rumraket:

    I can easily just suggest that the amount of suffering that exists right now, is the amount of suffering that free choice and struggle requires.

    I addressed that goofy idea in a set of comments on the FMM/bus thread:

    October 4, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Will Mung and phoodoo ever summon the courage to answer the questions? It’s doubtful. They’re clearly spooked.

    But while we wait, let’s talk about the Las Vegas shooting. Here’s a question for those, like phoodoo, who think that evil is the price we pay for choice, in God’s great plan:

    How did God determine that 58 dead and 515 injured (or whatever the latest toll is) was exactly the right amount of “choice” to offer the gunman, who clearly would have chosen to kill more if he’d been given the opportunity? It clearly must have been exactly the right amount of choice.

    Praise be to your wise and benevolent God, who so precisely tunes the amount of choice available to us all, giving us the best of all possible worlds.

    October 4, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    And what about all those people who lived before the invention of high-rise hotels and automatic weapons? How does God justify having deprived them of the choices he offered to Stephen Paddock?

    Will phoodoo be protesting on their behalf, since choice is so important?

    The whole “choice” defense is stupid.

    October 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

    More questions for proponents of the “choice” defense:

    1. If choice is so important, why does God deprive children of a lifetime of future choices when he kills them with childhood cancer or in a natural disaster such as a tsunami?

    2. How did God decide that six million Jews needed to die in the Holocaust? Wouldn’t, say, three million have been a sufficient amount of “choice” to grant to Hitler?

    3. Why do leaders like Hitler get so much “choice” when the rest of us are so limited? Why did Stephen Paddock get the short end of the stick? He clearly wanted to kill more, but God deprived him of that choice.

  35. RoyLT,

    So Roy, Keiths is too paralyzed with fear to answer any questions (something happened at Missouri Lutheran I guess) , so maybe you would like to take a stab. If giving everyone Heaven is what a loving God should do, how many souls should be there? If its just brains in a vat, with no prior experience of what good and bad is, wouldn’t one be exactly the same as an infinite number?

  36. newton: How much can God dictate without losing free will and rationality and freedom? Seems like killing everyone in a Flood would put a damper on the exercise free will.

    It all depends on how flood myths are interpreted. The message in these stories is not about whether or not catastrophic flooding happened in the ancient past. So what do I think the message is that can be taken from them?

    To take a few examples of flood myths. Utnapishtim, Atrahasis, Manu, Deucalion all built vessels and all journeyed with vessels full of animals. This is a pictorial representation of life and the relationship between humans and animals. The vessel represents the human which contains all animals within it. The human is a concentration of the animal kingdom within a single being.

    The concept of this relationship has been held by many thinkers. In Understanding Purpose, Kant and the Philosophy of Biology Phillipe Huneman write this:

    According to Oken, the human being is the “most vital” creature, who combines all senses, all functions, and all organs, as harmoniously as possible. Thus the human being summarizes the whole animal kingdom. Or, in other words, the animal kingdom is nothing but the dissociation of man.

    Just as the ark contains all animals, the human being is the archetype of the animal kingdom. The various animals are expressions of the human in a restricted one-sided way.

    I believe that this is a more sensible reading of theses myths than believing that the stories are to be taken literally and are about a physical vessel with actual animals.

  37. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: As Socrates said on dying, why should he not look forward to something to which he has been working towards and aiming for through his philosophy.

    Well, yes and no. Socrates did say that a philosopher has no reason to fear death because we do not know what happens when one dies, but there are arguments for the belief that the soul persists after death. But those arguments ultimately turn on the deeper assumption that the body and the senses are a distraction from genuine knowledge. On the Platonic epistemology (as typically understood), genuine knowledge involves turning the soul around from its preoccupation with things seen with the senses toward things that are only ‘perceived’ with the intellect alone.

    Socrates did have a belief about what would happen after death.
    From Phaedo:

    “But now I wish to render an account to you, my judges, of the reason why a man who has really devoted his life to philosophy, when he is about to die, appears to me, on good grounds, to have confidence, and to entertain a firm hope that the greatest good will befall him in the other world when he has departed this life. How, then, this comes to pass, Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavor to explain.”

    “For as many as rightly apply themselves to philosophy seem to have left all others in ignorance, that they aim at nothing else than to die and be dead. If this, then, is true, it would surely be absurd to be anxious about nothing else than this during their whole life, but, when it arrives, to be grieved at what they have been long anxious about and aimed at.”

    22. Upon this, Simmias, smiling, said, “By Jupiter! Socrates, though I am not now at all inclined to smile, you have made me do so; for I think that the multitude, if they heard this, would think it was very well said in reference to philosophers, and that our countrymen particularly would agree with you, that true philosophers do desire death, and that they are by no means ignorant that they deserve to suffer it.”

  38. keiths:
    CharlieM, to RoyLT:

    Right.So rational folks go by the evidence available to us, while you ignore it and believe that God is loving simply because you want to believe that.It’s the “Me like.Me believe!” philosophy, and it’s why you are so susceptible to horseshit of the kind deposited by guys like Steiner.

    Evidence available to who? In your opinion if someone has experiences that differ from the experiences of keiths then they cannot be counted as evidence. Any experience that a person may have of higher reality cannot be counted as evidence because keiths does not have that experience.

    The best thing you can do is admit you have no experience of God or any higher reality and so other than speculation you cannot comment on these things. And if you are speculating about different levels of reality it is obvious that a higher reality cannot be judged from a position within a lower reality.

  39. CharlieM,

    Plato’s views are not entirely consistent across texts. In Phaedo the immortality of the soul is presented as a justified or reasonable belief (as you point out), but justification is not truth. Elsewhere in the same dialogue Socrates expresses doubt as whether true beliefs about the nature of reality is possible for us, precisely because the senses are always going to get in the way of the pursuit of knowledge as long as we are alive. As far as Phaedo is concerned, the best we can hope for is justified beliefs, not justified true beliefs. And in Republic the immortality of the soul is explicitly presented as a myth and not as justified on the basis of argument.

    I don’t see what the point is of quoting about an obscure 19th-century Naturphilosopher, Lorenz Oken. (I had never even heard of Oken until now, which suggests something about how obscure he is — and I studied the transition from Kant to Hegel in grad school.) Why isn’t Oken just another confused crank, best deposited in the dustbin of history?

  40. I have strong reservations about theodicy in general, but I found this article earlier that seems quite interesting: “If Everything Happens For a Reason, Then We Don’t Know What Reasons Are” by Sharon Street.

    Street gives us a new version of the problem of evil, which I find compelling: if every horrific incident happens for some good reason, then we are not competent judges of what a good reason is. The result is if theism is true, then we don’t have the competence to guide our moral lives. Here’s the central move:

    ————————————————————-
    The idea that there was a good moral reason to permit this scene of unimaginable horror [as described above — KN] to take place defies every last shred of moral common sense. This is so in the sense that if there was such a reason, then the moral reality of the world is very different from what our everyday moral and factual capacities are capable of discerning. I assume that no one among the likely readership of this essay would seriously entertain the thought that any of the parties involved deserved this. What, then? When we examine the world as we might have thought we knew it, we can find no circumstance—moral, empirical, or otherwise—that would seem to supply any good reason to permit such an event to occur. Importantly, for our purposes, this is not to say that there couldn’t be a morally good reason to permit such an event to occur. Of course there could be. There could be a morally good reason to permit anything. But it is to suggest that cleaving to the view that there was a morally good reason to permit this crash to happen — which, as I will argue, belief in God entails — might come at a very high price. It might come, in particular, at the price of our ability to trust our own faculty of moral judgment going forward. If there was a morally good reason to permit this to happen, in other words, then we are hopeless judges of moral reasons.

  41. keiths:
    CharlieM:

    Then why does he proscribe murder, which brings the victims closer to him?Could it be that there’s something undesirable about death?You think?

    There is definitely something undesirable about murder. It is undesirable that a person interferes in any way with the free will of another person. And murder is the ultimate interference.

    And if he just wanted to bring the Jordanian pilot “closer to him”, you think God is too weak to have done it in a way that didn’t involve excruciating pain?

    God is always close. Think of someone who has been put into an induced coma. Their loved ones may be close to them but they are unaware of it. No matter how much their loved ones wished them to regain their awareness those involved would prefer circumstances to be such that they will benefit the comatose person in the long run.

    Come on, Charlie.You’re just making (lame) excuses for God.

    Then go ahead and explain to us why it’s so loving of the Heavenly Father to let al-Kasasbeh burn to death in a cage, or to let children die lingering deaths while trapped under the rubble of a collapsed school.

    Because if you allow others to exercise free will you have no choice but to follow through unless you want your word to mean nothing. And IMO no one suffers in this life in any way that are not prepared to suffer in their higher nature.

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