The REAL “Problem of Evil”

[moderator’s note: Nonlin.org produced this at about the same time as his “Miracles” post. I delayed this, so that they could be discussed one at a time. I’m now publishing this one.]

[a note to nonlin – if all of your post is one block, it is hard to add a “more” break. Maybe a short introductory sentence as a first block would make that easier]

  1. “Problem of evil” is supposed to disprove God because,
    • a) A God that is all powerful would be able to prevent evil.
    • b) A God that is all knowing would know that evil happens.
    • c) A God that is all loving wouldn’t want evil to happen and would take needed action to stop it.
    • d) Evil happens.
    • e) Since evil happens, these statements are contradictory.
    • f) An all powerful, all knowing and all loving god cannot exist while evil continues.
    Although short, this argument fails repeatedly:
    • c) A God that is all loving wouldn’t want evil to happen, but would not necessarily take needed action to stop it due to other, higher reasons.
    • d) Evil happens only in a theist universe. The true materialist would not believe in evil, hence this whole argument proposed by him/her would be meaningless and self defeating.
    • e) There is no contradiction given the c. and d. counterarguments.
    • f) Because there is no contradiction per e. counterargument, f. does not follow.
    • g) And f. would not follow even if a. to e. were true, because the conclusion may miss some unspecified additional evidence, such as the fact that the human brain is not good enough to judge God, rendering this and many other such arguments false throughout.
  2. How would we know ‘the good’ without ‘the evil’? We wouldn’t! Therefore Evil is inescapable as experiences are continuously normalized to include good and bad. There’s always a ‘too cold/too hot’, ‘too loud/too quiet’, ‘too much/too little death (who wished historical tyrants lived longer?)’, and so on. Whatever the range, there’s always an extreme good/bad. Cut the range in half and, what was moderate before, becomes extreme. Therefore, God tolerates the [necessary] evil to a certain extent and for a good reason, also as part of the free will deal He offered mankind. For those that say “there’s no need for this much evil”, the question is: “ok, then how much evil should there be?” In addition, the Book of Job clearly explains that it is not up to the lowly humans to second guess God. Those that did not understand this (Nazis, Communists, Eugenists, and many more) have tried to do better than God. But their dreams of evil-free societies invariably turn into nightmares full of evil.
  3. Evil should mean nothing to the materialist because of the determinism belief (despite the clearest experimental evidence that determinism is dead). And this is the REAL Problem of Evil. A problem only materialists should face since, according to any coherent materialist, not only were Stalin, Mao, Hitler not evil, but they also had no choice due to determinism. Yet mankind insists on calling those individuals evil and with good reasons. Seeing this dilemma, some argue for word substitution – suffering to evil – not noticing that the argument would thus go from bad to ridiculous. After all, God let Adam and Eve know ‘suffering’ will happen after the Original Sin transgression, and most people accept “no pain no gain”, hence suffering for a good reward. Others claim evil makes sense in “humanist morality”, clearly forgetting that, as determinists, they shouldn’t have the free will to do anything morally or immorally, just as stones and animals do not abide by any moral standards. Hume got this one thing right: you can’t derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’, therefore good and evil are incompatible with materialism.
  4. Is the concept of Evil just a human “evolutionary” adaptation? That doesn’t work because ‘ought’ was derived from ‘is’. The “original ought-is sin” is when materialists imagine the first RNA randomly happening and then, hocus-pocus, “evolution” with its ‘oughts’ takes over. The second is when we see no evil in the lion eating the gazelle alive, or the wasp turning the cockroach into a zombie food supply, the weasel killing all the chickens, peer violence, or even cannibalism, and infanticide. Yet we see evil in the human behaving like these (although infanticide against the unborn is OK – go figure). We do not need the concept of evil to avoid harm. But, aside from the mentally impaired, psychopaths, and a few hypothetical primitive cultures that supposedly do not know evil, all modern humans including the materialists know and oppose evil. Even communists are for “social justice” and fascists for the improvement of society, eugenists for the betterment of mankind and abortionists for “choice”. Not one of these stands for evil despite killing and persecution of the innocent. All these go to great length to hide, and minimize their evil deeds and often argue that – in fact – their opponents are the evil ones. “Sure, you have to break a few eggs to make omelet, right”? “But that’s not evil” is their argument.
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480 thoughts on “The REAL “Problem of Evil”

  1. Kantian Naturalist: Again, I’m doing a lot of work here for you because you’re not making the effort to be clear in your thinking or writing.

    Which will probably earn you the accusation that you are answering “your own lame and fake questions”.

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  2. Nonlin.org: Then you better never say “man just another animal”.

    Why not? Humans are animals (in the biological sense). There is even some humility to be gained here.

    Nonlin.org: Now will you answer the other 4 questions from that set?

    I don’t think so: they are too confused. First think about what you want to know. Do you want to know the evolutionary explanation for why humans have morality, or do you want to know how I personally justify my moral choices without grounding them in the bedrock of God’s objective morality?

    Nonlin.org: I am ‘No’ on all 1 to 7.

    Surprise! Can’t you see that the only thing that unites medical-ethical issues (abortion) with socio-political affiliation (socialism) is your distaste of them, because of your religious conservative agenda?

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  3. Corneel: Do you want to know the evolutionary explanation for why humans have morality

    You would be hard pressed to think of anything that someone couldn’t make up some evolutionary explanation for.

    Thus, how is one to know which explanations to take seriously? Its a bit like Alan claiming there is an evolutionary explanation for why people believe in Gods. Then how does he explain his lack of belief? He doesn’t seem to have much to say about his own genes causing him to not believe.

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  4. Corneel: Why not? Humans are animals (in the biological sense). There is even some humility to be gained here.

    True, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that humans are also unique in a lot of ways. Language has features that no other animal communication system has; we transmit cultural information through teaching, which other animals don’t do; humans are extremely skilled at imitation, which is difficult for other primates; etc. There’s a lot of really interesting research being done by comparative psychologists and others on how humans have cognitive and affective abilities that other animals lack.

    And, needless to say, no other animal has the kind of culture that we do: art, religion, music, dance, science, philosophy, etc.

    So while it is true that humans are animals (and primates, and apes) that shouldn’t prevent us from acknowledging all the ways in which humans really are quite unique — and from trying to understand that uniqueness.

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  5. Kantian Naturalist: But my belief that my car is in good running order doesn’t depend on my beliefs about milk. So while all beliefs depend on some background of beliefs, expectations, assumptions, etc. they don’t all do so in the same way or to the same extent.

    Then you agree. “Background of beliefs” is ‘belief system’. Of course the end branches will be more or less independent of each other.

    Kantian Naturalist: 6. Let’s compare just a few beliefs. Are you personally ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on: 1. atheist, but also 2. materialist, 3. evolutionist, 4. determinist (free will denier), 5. socialist, 6. climate alarmist, 7. abortionist, etc. with minor variations on the theme? I am ‘No’ on all 1 to 7. Your turn.

    1. Yes.
    2. No.
    3. Yes
    4. false dichotomy — one can deny both free will and determinism. 5
    5. no, but only because my political ideal is far more radical than any democratic socialism: fully automated luxury communism
    6. pejorative term — suggests that someone who thinks that climate change is real and happening is just overreacting to the situation
    7. pejorative term

    Do understand that the questions must be general and not perfectly suited to your sensibilities. And you did understand them quite well. Only you don’t want to commit because “pejorative”?

    Let’s review:
    On 2 are you dualist, physicalist, or like me believe that matter is itself immaterial? Something else??? You’re probably physicalist so Yes (just a modern materialist).
    On 4 state your position – are you truly denying both? Then what?
    On 5 you’re Yes only more extreme
    On 6 Everybody knows the climate is changing. Question is: “is it alarming enough to do something drastic?” You’re Yes.
    On 7 You’re Yes again. Meaning you think it’s OK the kill the unborn at will (“under some or all conditions”).

    Then you’re either 6 or at least 5 out of 7 with 2 to clarify. Pretty close to “a packaged deal” then?
    QED.

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  6. Corneel: Humans are animals (in the biological sense).

    Kantian Naturalist: True, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that humans are also unique in a lot of ways.

    Kantian is right. The keywords here are “just” (another animal) and “unique”.

    Corneel: Do you want to know the evolutionary explanation for why humans have morality

    Yes. Your explanation. Don’t you write here to dispute “the REAL problem of evil”?

    Corneel: Can’t you see that the only thing that unites medical-ethical issues (abortion) with socio-political affiliation (socialism) is your distaste of them, because of your religious conservative agenda?

    Absolutely. And that’s exactly why you embrace them instead. Because your belief system is somewhat antithetical to mine. You’re just proving my point about beliefs systems. And you prove the essay claim that materialism, atheism, determinism and evolutionism go together in a coherent view.

    Not to go off on a tangent, but many Christians actually favor socialism because they misinterpret Christ on poverty. Probably 90% also accept some sort of theistic “evolution” because of school indoctrination. So yes, the overlap is not perfect and some incoherence is to be expected.

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  7. Unique is a big word. I would say humans have skills and behaviors that extend beyond those of other animals, but which are not categorically different.

    And only a tiny percentage of humans contribute to culture. Most people contribute net disorder. Energy consumption without net benefit to any species.

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  8. phoodoo:
    You would be hard pressed to think of anything that someone couldn’t make up some evolutionary explanation for.

    This is true, which is why we ask for proposals that can be tested. I know of some hypotheses and tests, some failed ones, some successful ones. Anyway, still lots of work to do, from my standpoint at least. But let’s assume there’s no research, and thus that any hypothesis is still to be tested. OK then. In the meantime, what should we assume, if anything, and why?

    phoodoo:
    Thus, how is one to know which explanations to take seriously?

    By whether they make sense given what we know about evolution, and whether they’re posed as testable hypothesis. Again, in the meantime, what should we assume, if anything, and why?

    phoodoo:
    Its a bit like Alan claiming there is an evolutionary explanation for why people believe in Gods. Then how does he explain his lack of belief?

    Let’s suppose that there’s some advantage to believing in gods. The answer is simple: because evolution is not black and white. It doesn’t make every individual identical. It consists of a lot of natural processes, none of which is all-powerful. Take a look around. We’re not identical to each other physically, why would you expect us to be identical in other ways?

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  9. Nonlin.org: 6. Let’s compare just a few beliefs. Are you personally ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on: 1. atheist, but also 2. materialist, 3. evolutionist, 4. determinist (free will denier), 5. socialist, 6. climate alarmist, 7. abortionist, etc. with minor variations on the theme? I am ‘No’ on all 1 to 7. Your turn.

    I wanna play!!!

    1. An atheist
    2. Not a materialist
    3. An evolutionist
    4. Not a free will denier
    5. Not a socialist
    6. Worried about climate change
    7. Not an “abortionist”

    Also,
    8. Not a liberal
    9. Not a conservative
    10. Not a communitarian
    11. Not a libertarian
    and
    12. Don’t have much use for the U.S. Constitution

    That was FUN!

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  10. Nonlin.org: Do understand that the questions must be general and not perfectly suited to your sensibilities. And you did understand them quite well. Only you don’t want to commit because “pejorative”?

    Then requiring a yes or no answer seems inappropriate.

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  11. Entropy: Let’s suppose that there’s some advantage to believing in gods.

    Yea, let’s do suppose that. Because that is not a ridiculous supposition at all. In fact this is a typical evolutionist supposition. Take any idea, and then say it has an evolutionary advantage. And voila, you can’t dispute it. People will actually believe such nonsense.

    Then, to extrapolate, there is an evolutionary disadvantage to not believing in God. Somewhere in yours and Alan’s genes, there is a defective gene, which is a fitness disadvantage for you. All we have to do is one day find the gene responsible for this disadvantage. Then couples who want kids can have this gene sequence cut out from any baby they want to conceive, so it doesn’t have this defective gene.

    I wonder how long it will take science to find out this culprit? But I know, its complicated and all. But at least we can boil the issue down to its essence, which is what you and Alan believe-due to your mutations of course.

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  12. phoodoo:
    Yea, let’s do suppose that. Because that is not a ridiculous supposition at all.

    You seem unable to try and have a conversation. Had you read carefully, you would have noticed that I was taking that assumption just to try and answer your question about how would we explain Alan’s disbelief if it was true that believing in gods was explained by evolution (of course, since I don’t know the context I took the assumption that better approximated what you seemed to think was Alan’s proposal). I wasn’t saying that such supposition was right. I actually, and very seriously, doubt that it is right.

    phoodoo:
    In fact this is a typical evolutionist supposition.

    I seriously doubt this as well. If by evolutionist you mean someone who works in evolutionary biology. If you mean something else, I’ll have to take your word for it. But not too seriously, since you seem unable to try and have a conversation and very inclined to resist correction.

    phoodoo:
    Take any idea, and then say it has an evolutionary advantage. And voila, you can’t dispute it. People will actually believe such nonsense.

    I agree that some people will actually believe many inane “evolutionary” explanations. I’d rather remain skeptical of most of those gratuitous, and often tortuous, ones. Did you try and read the rest of my comment, or did you think I wrote that for no reason?

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  13. phoodoo: You would be hard pressed to think of anything that someone couldn’t make up some evolutionary explanation for.

    True. A very similar sentiment was famously expressed by Gould and Lewontin in their Spandrels paper.

    phoodoo: Thus, how is one to know which explanations to take seriously? Its a bit like Alan claiming there is an evolutionary explanation for why people believe in Gods. Then how does he explain his lack of belief? He doesn’t seem to have much to say about his own genes causing him to not believe.

    As Entropy stated, such claims need to be supported by evidence. You are correct that any evolutionary explanation for religiosity is also required to explain the fact that there is variation in this trait. My guess would be that this is not under complete genetic control (duh!). I don’t know enough about this topic to comment any further on it.

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  14. Kantian Naturalist: So while it is true that humans are animals (and primates, and apes) that shouldn’t prevent us from acknowledging all the ways in which humans really are quite unique — and from trying to understand that uniqueness.

    While I agree completely with the thrust of your comment, I’d like to emphasize that there is no objective reason to set humans apart from (other) animals. Or rather: every species is unique, which is how we recognize them as distinct species.

    Our deep admiration for the fruits of our intellect is more than a little informed by our anthropocentrism. And our prioritizing the interests of humans above that of other species is the product of our greater capacity for empathy with fellow humans. I fully endorse both, but it is because of my choice to do so.

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  15. Nonlin.org: Yes. Your explanation. Don’t you write here to dispute “the REAL problem of evil”?

    Very well. I’ll get back to this.

    Nonlin.org: Not to go off on a tangent, but many Christians actually favor socialism because they misinterpret Christ on poverty. Probably 90% also accept some sort of theistic “evolution” because of school indoctrination. So yes, the overlap is not perfect and some incoherence is to be expected.

    No true scotsman, eh?

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  16. Corneel: You are correct that any evolutionary explanation for religiosity is also required to explain the fact that there is variation in this trait.

    Likewise if it is designed, an explanation might be helpful why is there such variation in the object of the religiosity.

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  17. Corneel: While I agree completely with the thrust of your comment, I’d like to emphasize that there is no objective reason to set humans apart from (other) animals. Or rather: every species is unique, which is how we recognize them as distinct species.

    Our deep admiration for the fruits of our intellect is more than a little informed by our anthropocentrism. And our prioritizing the interests of humans above that of other species is the product of our greater capacity for empathy with fellow humans. I fully endorse both, but it is because of my choice to do so.

    https://www.sciencealert.com/this-single-celled-animal-can-make-complex-decisions-even-without-a-nervous-system

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  18. Nonlin.org: On 2 are you dualist, physicalist, or like me believe that matter is itself immaterial? Something else??? You’re probably physicalist so Yes (just a modern materialist).

    By “naturalism” I understand a metaphysics of pure immanence, without transcendence — and one in which to be is to be in relation. So there’s nothing that is not entangled in complex dynamic relations with other things; everything that is, is a dynamic process entangled with other dynamic processes. (To use the terms of traditional metaphysics, what I am denying is that there are any substances.) But I do not think that any of the sciences has a privileged position relative to the others for describing dynamical processes, so I deny that physics is privileged over biology, psychology, or sociology. That is why I am not a physicalist or a materialist.

    On 4 state your position – are you truly denying both? Then what?

    I think that determinism rests on a mistaken understanding of what scientific laws are and that free will rests on a mistaken understanding of moral agency. So yeah, put me down for a “neither”.

    On 5 you’re Yes only more extreme

    Oh honey you have no idea.

    On 6 Everybody knows the climate is changing. Question is: “is it alarming enough to do something drastic?” You’re Yes.

    I don’t regard “preventing hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees” as drastic but YMMV.

    On 7 You’re Yes again. Meaning you think it’s OK the kill the unborn at will (“under some or all conditions”).

    Nope, no poisoning the well here, just God’s honest truth.
    \

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  19. walto: I wanna play!!!

    Cool. You’re 3 for 3 with 4 not clear.

    Corneel: No true scotsman, eh?

    Wrong. They are true Christians. only somewhat incoherent. Why do you have to see everything ONLY in black and white? 😉

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  20. 1. Not an atheist
    2. Yes, a materialist
    3. Yes, an “evolutionist”
    4. Not a determinist (free will denier)
    5. Not a socialist
    6. Alarmed about climate change
    7. Not an “abortionist”
    Score me, please!
    This is fun…

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  21. phoodoo: You are a theist?

    Problem of definition. I’ve decided that people fall into different flavors of atheist. There is the “strong atheist” who makes the positive claim that there are no gods. There is the “weak atheist” who doubts there are any gods, but who might be open to solid evidence. There is the agnostic, who I understand as someone who doesn’t know the nature of god and doesn’t think you do either. And then there is what might be called the “default atheist” for whom gods never cross his mind, and whose life never happens to intersect with any particular religious doctrine.

    I’m not sure there are any contributors to this forum who fall into the strong atheist camp, since such a claim (that no gods exist) rests on proving a negative. But is someone an atheist if their position rests on the idea that IF there were gods and IF those gods were more or less similar to what the theists worship, the evidence would be flat overpowering in every respect?

    I have no idea if ANY gods exist, but I’m comfortable with the conviction that YOUR god probably doesn’t.

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  22. Nonlin.org: Are you personally ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on: 1. atheist, but also 2. materialist, 3. evolutionist, 4. determinist (free will denier), 5. socialist, 6. climate alarmist, 7. abortionist, etc. with minor variations on the theme? I am ‘No’ on all 1 to 7.

    Since others are playing this game:

    (1) Not an atheist. Also not a theist.
    (2) Not a materialist. Also not an immaterialist.
    (3) Yes, I’m an evolutionist.
    (4) Not a determinist.
    (5) Not a socialist. Also not a capitalist.
    (6) Not a climate alarmist. I’m concerned about climate change, but not alarmed.
    (7) Not an abortionist. Also not an anti-abortionist.

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  23. Actually, my goal was to have nonlin score my responses in the manner that he scored Walto’s, a process that I found very revealing.
    But to help nonlin along, nice chap that I am, I will note that I am not any of the flavors of atheist that Flint described.

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  24. Corneel: I’d like to emphasize that there is no objective reason to set humans apart from (other) animals.

    Not this topic, but… Really? No objective reason? How about the fact that human is the ONLY outlier and by FAR in a lot of comparative measures? Measures that MATTER, not the “longest schlong to body size” type.

    Kantian Naturalist: By “naturalism” I understand a metaphysics of pure immanence, without transcendence — and one in which to be is to be in relation. So there’s nothing that is not entangled in complex dynamic relations with other things; everything that is, is a dynamic process entangled with other dynamic processes. (To use the terms of traditional metaphysics, what I am denying is that there are any substances.) But I do not think that any of the sciences has a privileged position relative to the others for describing dynamical processes, so I deny that physics is privileged over biology, psychology, or sociology. That is why I am not a physicalist or a materialist.

    No offense, but this is pure gibberish. I’ll categorize you with the crazies: Crazy Nietzsche, Dr Fraud, Crazy Camus, Crazy Sartre, etc. And look who’s talking about “plane of immanence”, another Crazy Frechy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plane_of_immanence

    Kantian Naturalist: I think that determinism rests on a mistaken understanding of what scientific laws are and that free will rests on a mistaken understanding of moral agency.

    Doesn’t make sense, but whatever.

    Kantian Naturalist: Nope, no poisoning the well here, just God’s honest truth.

    Another one: “Nope” + “under some or all conditions”. Whatever.

    Point is:
    “Belief systems” – Yes.
    “Atheism goes with materialism and determinism” (only suddenly no one admits anything anymore – you’d swear there never was materialism and or determinism).
    Hence “the REAL problem of evil”.

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  25. DNA_Jock: Score me, please!
    This is fun…

    Score yourself.

    Neil Rickert: Since others are playing this game:

    Both of you: cute… if true statements (very doubtful). And very nebulous “neither-nor”

    Flint: I have no idea if ANY gods exist, but I’m comfortable with the conviction that YOUR god probably doesn’t.

    Not “YOUR” of “MINE”. We’re not talking about a pencil. But your wording is quite revealing. Despite the attempts to be cute.

    All of a sudden, everyone’s an interesting and unique case. You wish.

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  26. Nonlin.org: Score yourself.

    Okay, if you are so unsure of your position: it’s a 4:3 split, so nonlin is obviously wrong.
    [Cue No True Scotsman argument, whilst denying that it is No True Scotsman].
    Your scoring of walto’s response appeared dishonest and self-serving.
    Chew toys are predictable, I guess.

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  27. DNA_Jock: Actually, my goal was to have nonlin score my responses

    It might be helpful for Gregory to adopt a scoring system when deconstructing the worldviews of other posters.

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  28. Nonlin.org:

    Not “YOUR” of “MINE”. We’re not talking about a pencil. But your wording is quite revealing. Despite the attempts to be cute.

    What my wording was attempting to reveal is that, gods being figments of the imagination, no two imaginations are alike and so too no two gods are alike. I’m sure there are things I believe which live only in my imagination, but I ask nobody to accept my delusions as their own. They have enough already. My imagination is no less real than yours, and my figments are no less conjured by imagination than yours our. But the first step in admitting to the imaginary is to recognize that your god IS imaginary. It’s like the first of the 12 step program. Unlike you, I am not terrified of taking that step.

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  29. 1-7: not an ist.

    Always a problem in discussions. Can’t take a position and hold it. Don’t care about being consistent.

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