# Do Religious People Really Believe in Their Religion?

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Most cases in which people act against their ultimate best interest arise because they are tempted to enjoy some immediate pleasure rather than discipline themselves to pursue the long-term goal. But in mundane contexts, we all know that this sometimes turns out to be a reasonable bet. The person who spends his money today on immediate enjoyment and fails to save for retirement may also die young and never need his retirement nest egg, or he may win the lottery prior to retirement and not need his savings. There is always at least some possibility that polluting, stealing, sleeping late, being lazy, cheating, eating too much, or committing any one of the whole variety of 'sins' against our ultimate practical interests will not matter, and so the immediate pleasure will turn out to be just a pure gain.

But the Almighty is by definition able to regulate things so that everyone ultimately gets his just deserts, so it is always foolish, if you believe in God, ever to jeopardize the infinitely long fate of your soul after death by sinning now for the sake of some immediate pleasure. Yet 'believing' Christians sin all the time out of some incomprehensibly irrational 'weakness' of exactly the sort that almost every sane person manages scrupulously to avoid in mundane goal-directed behavior.

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There is something quite odd, and completely unique, with the whole epistemological attitude of believers towards their religion. Just as their everyday emotions and attitudes, such as the ease with

It is easier to die for your beliefs, than to actually live them day by day.

Marat, iNow: If we are arguing the morality of God, do we not need to assume the accuracy of the Bible in describing him? Much like we can discuss the morality of Robin Hood, but need to assume the ac

If I were to tell you that not all Christians or scholars of the Christian texts believed in complete spirituality, you would think I'm a fool.

If I were to tell you that the rules you follow in life are complete sin and destroy the 'eternal life' for everyone (humanity), you would think I'm a fool.

If I were to tell you that you're not an individual and by thinking that you are you admit that you are not human, you would think I'm a fool.

If I were to tell you that the current society is not 'reality' but a mere illusion, you would think I'm a fool.

I am pretty sure that calling you a fool would be inaccurate, making all those claims would insinuate you have some special knowledge no one else has and that needs to be backed up by evidence. So far you have made no effort to do that which makes me wonder if you think we are all fools...

Everything isn't as it seems -- the first step to being a true Christian is dividing the bible and interpreting it correctly; there are organisations that do this in secrecy, I'm one of the few that do it in public. To the government I would be considered a hate preacher, to science, a burden to advancement and to atheists I would be considered as as 'crazy schizophrenic'. It's not easy being a true Christian and it never has been since politics. What is life in these current times? I see none, I see death and destruction; and because I see that, I'm isolated as I hate it with all of my heart. I look around at my surroundings and I see nothing but profit for people who destroy the world, and nothing more than that -- so dark and dull, yet the only light I do see is Jesus.

Again I see no evidence of what you claim and until you offer some proof i see no reason not to assume you are not just another person who wants everyone to think he is special with out providing any proof other than your own claims, I think putting all your energy into such a flimsy meaningless cause is sad considering that if you have nothing better to do then you could at least be doing good works even if your premise is fatally flawed. Mother Teresa put her own need for acclaim aside and did powerfully good things in the name of her god, leading by example not by bragging about how special her take on reality was. she deserves respect for that not matter if she was right or wrong about god, what have you done other than brag about your special knowledge?

"that my present life were just a brief test prior to a possibly infinite afterlife of heavenly bliss"

-If you believe in afterlife for purly yourself, you are being ignorant. We live between heaven and earth, and the "after-your-life" is for humanity. You may pass on, but you have the oppurtunity to save and preserve life for humanity and the world. So the breif test is for you to recognise this and you're failing miserably.

This is just more meaningless prattle mean to glorify your self, it helps no one at all...

"So the fact that Christians wail in despair"

-Correct, I do wail in dispair, for humanity and not for myself. I dispise the current society and I hate the selfishness of individuals. A man went to the moon and it's an achievement for the whole of humanity -- I don't see it that way, I see it as an achievement for the individual who made it to the moon; it's doesn't relate to me in any way.

Men were sent to the moon by a huge group of people who through enormous acts of cooperation and self sacrifice achieved what had been thought to be impossible. The over all knowledge of mankind was advanced more than in all of humanities past, if that doesn't relate to you then you are not part of humanity but only a self centered narcissist who only wants to glorify himself.

"But since sane people are never tempted to bend down and touch the third rail of a subway because they are tempted by a piece of candy they spot lying there, I would assume that no sane Christian would ever be tempted to sin"

-What would you consider sane? Only a sheep needs a shepard and the government is your shepard; so your sanity is completely controlled by their views. Getting into a car and polluting the air, tempting isn't it? Going to war in Iran to gain a hefty paycheck, tempting isn't it? To siphon the earth of the earths blood to earn billions, tempting isn't it?

Glorifying yourself by denigrating others while taking no real action your self? To you it is evidently more temptation than you can handle, it's easy to claim greatness difficult to demonstrate it...

There's a whole lot of sin in the world, you just need to notice it.

There again it is easy to point it out, difficult to actually help the world, a Mother Teresa you are definitely not... Just another self centered narcissist trying to glorify himself in the easiest way possible, by doing nothing other than making noise... seagulls are more useful and less noisy....

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It is easier to die for your beliefs, than to actually live them day by day.

Clever, but no... Not really. We're all naturally predisposed to avoid situations which threaten death. It's FAR easier to live by ones beliefs than to make a conscious decision to die because of them, especially since we hold our beliefs by choice.

In short, evolution has prevented us from easily making decisions to die, but, despite my challenging of it's content, I like how your post was writ.

We're predisposed to avoid death, yes, but we're also predisposed to various sins (this pretty much regardless of the religion/moral code you follow*). For every person you can show me who can do even only the things Jesus preached on the Sermon on the Mount, I'll show you 1,000 martyrs. Given the right opportunity, you only need to suppress your instincts for a few seconds to be martyred. To live your beliefs you need to suppress your instincts for decades.

*Unless your moral code is to be a greedy pig that lives for the moment.

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I am pretty sure that calling you a fool would be inaccurate, making all those claims would insinuate you have some special knowledge no one else has and that needs to be backed up by evidence. So far you have made no effort to do that which makes me wonder if you think we are all fools...

You're gonna be pissed at this Moon, but I try keeping abreast of the good book "just in case". Luke 12:27 - Oh ye of little faith!

Again I see no evidence of what you claim and until you offer some proof i see no reason not to assume you are not just another person who wants everyone to think he is special with out providing any proof other than your own claims, I think putting all your energy into such a flimsy meaningless cause is sad considering that if you have nothing better to do then you could at least be doing good works even if your premise is fatally flawed. Mother Teresa put her own need for acclaim aside and did powerfully good things in the name of her god, leading by example not by bragging about how special her take on reality was. she deserves respect for that not matter if she was right or wrong about god, what have you done other than brag about your special knowledge?

This is just more meaningless prattle mean to glorify your self, it helps no one at all...

Men were sent to the moon by a huge group of people who through enormous acts of cooperation and self sacrifice achieved what had been thought to be impossible. The over all knowledge of mankind was advanced more than in all of humanities past, if that doesn't relate to you then you are not part of humanity but only a self centered narcissist who only wants to glorify himself.

Glorifying yourself by denigrating others while taking no real action your self? To you it is evidently more temptation than you can handle, it's easy to claim greatness difficult to demonstrate it...

There again it is easy to point it out, difficult to actually help the world, a Mother Teresa you are definitely not... Just another self centered narcissist trying to glorify himself in the easiest way possible, by doing nothing other than making noise... seagulls are more useful and less noisy....

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Rigney you can bet your sweet bippie if i ever feel the need to have faith it won't be in this guy or his line of self serving bullshit....

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What does this have to do with the op? Define sin, to do so means you have to define both god and religion something no one can really do with any more assurance than anyone else....

Are you saying that "What is sin foryou, may not be sin for me, or what is true for you, may not be true for me. Everyone has their own truth."

The problem is that two truths cannot contradict each other and both be true. Either a.) one is true and the other is false; or, B.) neither are true because there is no such thing as objective, unalterable truth.

Solution B.) is contrary to human experience. If B.) were the correct solution, then we would have to conclude that Hitler, Stalin, Paedophiles, Rapists & Murderers are not necessarily authors of evil, but rather they were human beings like you and me pursuing "their truth" as they saw it, and who am I to tell them that they are wrong to do it. If we reject the existence of an objective truth, then we reject the existence of right & wrong and good & evil. Yet, everyone I have ever met has had a sense of right and wrong, and their has always been large areas of agreement between people about what is right, and what is wrong. In fact, even most criminals recognise that what they are did what wrong, it is simply that they chose to do it anyway.

The rejection of truth empties this life of all meaning, it reduces life to being a series of sensual experiences, after which one dies, and it is as if that person never existed, at least once s/he is forgotten within 50 yrs, or so.

Therefore, I would encourage you to hold position a) - there is an objective truth. However, for there to be an objective truth, there must have been an author of that truth. Humans couldn't have evolved into an objective truth, it must have come from outside humanity, from above, therefore, if you hold a), then it follows that there must be a God.

If God exists and has authored one truth, then presumably he has revealed this to us - there would be no point concealing the truth from us.

As a Catholic, I believe that God has revealed his truth to us in Jesus Christ (cf. John 14.6), and that to proclaim his message of truth with clarity throughout every age he established one Church (cf. Matt. 16.18), and that this Church continues to guard and proclaim the deposit of Faith revealed by Christ.

Edited by needimprovement
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I'll bet my sweet bippie we can have this conversation with fewer personal attacks. I understand that you may not value some people's contributions to the Religion forum, but there's no need to pollute it further with personal attacks and insults. Please try to remember the rules linked to on the top of every page in this forum.

Responding to comments you don't see as constructive with a comment that isn't constructive always leads you astray.

Anything you do for your own enjoyment, rather than the glorification of God, is sin.

Question: I've heard this argument made by a few religious groups over time. However, in my so far limited Bible study, I haven't seen this doctrine spelled out. Is there a particular Scriptural basis or theological reason for it?

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Given the right opportunity, you only need to suppress your instincts for a few seconds to be martyred. To live your beliefs you need to suppress your instincts for decades.

Sorry, but no, again. This is ONLY true if you should happen to CHOOSE beliefs which require the suppression of instinct. If you CHOOSE beliefs which don't require the suppression of instinct, then it's not exactly some profoundly difficult task to then live by them.

Dying, however? Yeah... That's a crazy hard choice for all lifeforms to make, not just humans. Those lifeforms which had no problems dying... did... Those lifeforms which actively chose to die tended to do less well in evolution than those who protected life and avoided situations which led to death... and those same lifeforms didn't reproduce as successfully and propagate to future generations as successfully as those who had a natural instinct to avoid death.

Like I said. I liked your post, and found it very clever... Well worded, and idiomatic. What I'm challenging is the content itself, and it's truth value. I think you're going to have VERY a hard time successfully arguing that it's easier to choose death than choose a belief system which does not require suppression of instinct. Maybe I'm wrong, though. Perhaps for some people it IS easier to choose to die rather than choose a belief system which does not require suppression of instinct. If that's the case, I say good riddance to them anyway. YMMV.

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People who profess to be religious believers, however, must realize that when they choose sin they are also choosing death by the very act of sinning, since their sin will alienate them from God's love, which will mean that they will live only ca. 80 years instead of ca. 80 years on Earth followed by infinite time in Heaven. So we are back to the originall point, which is that the ease with which religious believers sin demonstrates that they do not really believe in their religion, since if they did, they would avoid sin with the same meticulous care as they avoid touching the third rail of a subway line.

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I am pretty sure that calling you a fool would be inaccurate, making all those claims would insinuate you have some special knowledge no one else has and that needs to be backed up by evidence. So far you have made no effort to do that which makes me wonder if you think we are all fools...

After dividing by zero multiple times I have gained knowledge on some possible truths about the universe and existence. I'm aware that the road we're taking is sin however it's not enough sin to induce hell. Our human-given role is to protect the earth we live on and the nature that comforts us -- we shouldn't be the species that abolishes resource and makes animals extinct, we should be doing the opposite. We've gained enough knowledge to create technology that can help us with this cause, we have reached the pinacle almost and soon it's time to stop sinning and give a bit back. We all sin daily by killing the planet for us when we are meant to save the planet for nature. Humanity and nature can live forever if we abide by these rules, if we protect the necessities of life, the only means of destruction is through an occurance such as a meteor hitting the planet or other apocalypse type disasters. We can see the nihilistic effects our current society has; diseases, climate change, homosexuality, war, weapons of mass destruction and more. All should be controlled and stablized to protect existence. Homosexuals should not be removed, they are created by the education that teaches 'one' and the current sinful ways, and therefore 'one' should be removed and society should be changed to prevent it from eventually wiping our species, which for nature would be a good thing. Think of it as a nature defense mechanism, we are destroying it, and nature and time are doing all they can to prevent it. We have natural healing mechanisms in our body, and so does the universe.

Again I see no evidence of what you claim and until you offer some proof i see no reason not to assume you are not just another person who wants everyone to think he is special with out providing any proof other than your own claims, I think putting all your energy into such a flimsy meaningless cause is sad considering that if you have nothing better to do then you could at least be doing good works even if your premise is fatally flawed. Mother Teresa put her own need for acclaim aside and did powerfully good things in the name of her god, leading by example not by bragging about how special her take on reality was. she deserves respect for that not matter if she was right or wrong about god, what have you done other than brag about your special knowledge?

Until Steven Hawkins recently did it publically, I haven't divided by zero clearly in public. I'm guessing you take the bible as a fairy-tale and each of the words for their literal meaning; I don't and I interpret it correctly, I even spot the mistakes which appeared through translation. It explains opposite creation and the chain of events that occured through the chaos of creation -- it even predicts what will happen in the future, we are in the times of revelations, which is scary. I'm not posting this here, so you don't need to believe a word I say. I wasn't going to reply to you but I thought it would be rude.

This is just more meaningless prattle mean to glorify your self, it helps no one at all...

This is what you took from it.

Men were sent to the moon by a huge group of people who through enormous acts of cooperation and self sacrifice achieved what had been thought to be impossible. The over all knowledge of mankind was advanced more than in all of humanities past, if that doesn't relate to you then you are not part of humanity but only a self centered narcissist who only wants to glorify himself.

99% of the world had no choice in this 'sacrifice'. Going to the moon is unimportant compared to saving the planet and nature. If you believe different then that is entirely up to you, and therefore isn't an achievement for mankind, but rather an achievement for people who hold your beliefs. What exactly did we gain from it? I'm pretty sure that most of the knowledge we did gain is kept from us and studied within major science companies. Just like the LHC, we still haven't heard much of their findings and it cost billions, which could have just easilly have been spent on saving third world countries or improving the nature we destroyed to make previous products.

Glorifying yourself by denigrating others while taking no real action your self? To you it is evidently more temptation than you can handle, it's easy to claim greatness difficult to demonstrate it...

Over and over you spill this... drivel. It's getting annoying. I may speak with a different style than you, my aims might be different, but I am not glorifying myself. I'm a strong-believer, I guess.

There again it is easy to point it out, difficult to actually help the world, a Mother Teresa you are definitely not... Just another self centered narcissist trying to glorify himself in the easiest way possible, by doing nothing other than making noise... seagulls are more useful and less noisy....

And again. I try to spread peace. I look up to people like Ghandi, Buddah, Mother Teresa, Newton, Einstien -- all these influential people that I would like to be. I doesn't mean I'm faking now does it. Think about what you're doing for a second, you're trying to suppress someone for being influential, by showing how much of an evil cretin you are. Try being less offesnive, you seem extremely mad about something that had the opposite intentions. Just keep your views to yourself, I can't be bothered to talk to people like you.

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Anything you do for your own enjoyment, rather than the glorification of God, is sin.

I don't know if I would go so far as to say this, but I will say that If ones life is properly ordered, then the Glorification of God IS our greatest enjoyment.

We give Him the greatest Glory by conforming our Lives to the Two Great Commandments given by Christ:

Mt 22:36-40 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And He said to him, " YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38 "This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 "The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' 40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

John 13:34-35 "34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

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If some priests just made up a religion with an invented god, they would obviously be obsessed with ensuring that people believed in it and were committed to it, since that would be the weak spot in the entire charade. That is why I find it quite suspicious that religions are so often preoccupied with whether people have faith in what they posit, whether people obey what the doctrine asserts, or whether people praise what is stipulated by the mythology to be really praiseworthy. All these concerns boil down to a constant fretting over whether people are actually buying the deception and how clearly they are showing that they have fallen for it.

But if god were real, why would he, knowing himself to be the omniscient, eternal, divine creator, be so preoccupied with whether a collection of tiny minds on Earth believed in his existence, whether those people were praising and blessing him, or whether they were slipping away from his control by worshipping false gods? All these concerns are characteristic of earthly kings and governments which fear that their citizens will lose faith in their legitimacy, but the Bible never explains why the infinite god of the cosmos, who is in charge no matter what we think, is so perpetually nervous about whether he is still supported by the populace or not.

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If some priests just made up a religion with an invented god, they would obviously be obsessed with ensuring that people believed in it and were committed to it, since that would be the weak spot in the entire charade. That is why I find it quite suspicious that religions are so often preoccupied with whether people have faith in what they posit, whether people obey what the doctrine asserts, or whether people praise what is stipulated by the mythology to be really praiseworthy. All these concerns boil down to a constant fretting over whether people are actually buying the deception and how clearly they are showing that they have fallen for it.

And if these priests have made up this religion, why have they done so? Why would they require of themselves to take vows of "Povery, Chastity and Obedience"? Why would they reqiure celibacy among the Priesthood? Why would the supposed founders of this faith willingly suffer imprisonment, torture and even willingly go to their own execution? These things are counterintuitive of the type of thing you propose above.

But if god were real, why would he, knowing himself to be the omniscient, eternal, divine creator, be so preoccupied with whether a collection of tiny minds on Earth believed in his existence, whether those people were praising and blessing him, or whether they were slipping away from his control by worshipping false gods? All these concerns are characteristic of earthly kings and governments which fear that their citizens will lose faith in their legitimacy, but the Bible never explains why the infinite god of the cosmos, who is in charge no matter what we think, is so perpetually nervous about whether he is still supported by the populace or not.

First I know of nothing in any religious context that indicates God is "nervous", let alone, "perpetually nervous" about his support among we His children. This view on your part places limits on God, like there must be larger things for Him to be concerned with in the Cosmos and why would He waste His (presumably) limited time worrying about us. Why should we assume that an all powerful God cannot handle all things in the Cosmos with equal attention to detail?

As to the other matters, my answer is that there is much we do not know about God and that the descriptions you provide above have more to do with our limited understanding than with the reality of God. We read, write and process things in ways that we understand; in structures that we can grasp. That is why God is called king, and why our relationship to Him is described in "King - Servant" ways. That is the structure that those doing the writing understood.

As to why would God be, "so preoccupied with whether a collection of tiny minds on Earth believed in his existence, whether those people were praising and blessing him, or whether they were slipping away from his control by worshipping false gods....", the answer can be found in the great commandments and in the Life of Christ. Love...

For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son....

I give you a new command, that you Love one another as I have Loved you...

****

Marat,

That position is actually a bit silly. It assumes that people always act rationally. It also makes broad sweeping generalizations that are not warrented with respect to evaluating the philosophy itself. For example, it assumes that all Christians think alike or have the same degree of faith. There's a huge difference between someone like Mother Theresa and a twice-a-year christian. The latter is very likely to "wail in despair" when some "serious but mundate tragedy ruins only this life for them." The former would rejoice in that she could unite her suffering to the cross of Jesus for the salvation of souls.

It is true that a weak faith can be destroyed. Jesus Himself told us this in the parable of the sower (which specifically addresses those who have shallow faith that is destroyed when trouble comes their way). And, yes, too many Christians 1) do not really know their faith, and 2) do not deeply inculcate it into their souls. Those that do are extraordiarly powerful, even if weak by the standards of this world, because God acts through them to do great things. Mother Theresa is a good example of this, as well.

You must judge a philosophy on its merits, not on those who fail to live up to it.

Edited by needimprovement
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And if these priests have made up this religion, why have they done so? Why would they require of themselves to take vows of "Povery, Chastity and Obedience"? Why would they reqiure celibacy among the Priesthood? Why would the supposed founders of this faith willingly suffer imprisonment, torture and even willingly go to their own execution? These things are counterintuitive of the type of thing you propose above.

Actually they aren't, they are exactly what is needed to achieve the things that Marat was talking about.

In a society that is authoritarian (that is it controls by using authority), you need to have ways to control the members of that society. Rituals and enforced vows are vary good ways to do so. Look at ant conutry's military forces, look at how much emphasis they put on rituals and vows. Military's around the world rely on such vows and rituals to keep the people in that society (military units and such) together and allow the people in them to sacrifice themselves for the benifit of that unit.

And, when you look at the miltary the officers and generals all still subcribe and put a lot of worth into these self same rituals and vows (probably more so than the new recruits do).

Humans are a social species, and such socially bonding rituals, and the giving up somehting to prove your devotion to the group are vary powerful psychological motivations to keep the individuals working as a group. This is why religions requier people to give up things (vows of poverty or chastity) and they have elaborate rituals: It exploits the human social bonding behaviours (and yes I do mean exploit as in how a drug exploits the reward behaviours of the brain).

First I know of nothing in any religious context that indicates God is "nervous", let alone, "perpetually nervous" about his support among we His children. This view on your part places limits on God, like there must be larger things for Him to be concerned with in the Cosmos and why would He waste His (presumably) limited time worrying about us. Why should we assume that an all powerful God cannot handle all things in the Cosmos with equal attention to detail?

On of the fundamental tenets of christianity is that God is infinite. So he does not have "limited" anything, let along attention time. God is supposed to be all powerful and all knowing. What this really means is that nothing is beyond Gods powers (and attention time is a power). Also, if God created the universe, then He must exist outside of Time as Time is part of this universe (and thus was created with it). If God exist out side of time, then any "time" (in reference to God) is meaningless, so there would be no problem with much attention any thing would take up.

What you are doing here is redefining God to fill in the Gaps of what you know to be real. This "God of the Gaps" is an extremely weak religious position because it means that God is only limited to the unknown, and when the unknown becomes known, then God looses power. But, if as christianity says, God is all poweful, then there can be nothing that can reduce Gods power. In other words, to take the position of the God of the Gaps as you have, and still claim to be a christian is to say that you don't believe in the Christian God (you are essentially worshiping a false idol - somthing which is very much against christian beliefs).

From your responses, we can conclude that you really don't believe in God, just that you think you do.

As to the other matters, my answer is that there is much we do not know about God and that the descriptions you provide above have more to do with our limited understanding than with the reality of God. We read, write and process things in ways that we understand; in structures that we can grasp. That is why God is called king, and why our relationship to Him is described in "King - Servant" ways. That is the structure that those doing the writing understood.

This is called "Shifting the Goalposts". By taking this position, you can argue that nomatter what anybody says, the requierments for a good argument against you is imposible, not because the arguments are wrong, but because you can change your position whenever you like for any reason.

To put this in a very simple analogy:

It is like if I was trying to argue that the ocean is red, but then when you show me the ocean is blue, I just turn around and say " But I was argueing that the ocean was blue." It makes no sense and is an intelectual dishonesty (as well as being a logical falacy too).

As to why would God be, "so preoccupied with whether a collection of tiny minds on Earth believed in his existence, whether those people were praising and blessing him, or whether they were slipping away from his control by worshipping false gods....", the answer can be found in the great commandments and in the Life of Christ. Love...

For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son....

I give you a new command, that you Love one another as I have Loved you...

Your arguemnt is only true if two conditions are met:

1) God Exists as stated in the bible

2) God loves us

If either of these are false, then your argument is false.

As I (and others) have shown in this and other thread you have started, God does not really act as if He loves us, also ther eis no proof that God exists.

So (1) is in doubt as no evidence support it and (2) is disproven. As both need to be true for your argument to be true, this line of arguemnt from you is a really shaky argument to take.

The disproof of (2) goes like this:

God as described in the bible is both All Powerful and All Knowing. Therefore God knows of our suffering and has the power to prevent it without that prevention impacting on anything else. If God loved us, then He would not wish us unnecesary suffering. As suffering is not necesary (God can still achieve whatever suffering is meant to achieve without us having to suffer because He is al powerful), then if suffering exists, the only reason for it to exist is if (a) God wants us to suffer (not the actions of someone who loves us), or (B) God does not exist.

As the only two conclusions disprove either (1) or (2) from above, your argument can not be true. As your argument is not true, it can not be used as proof of anyhting.

****

Marat,

That position is actually a bit silly. It assumes that people always act rationally. It also makes broad sweeping generalizations that are not warrented with respect to evaluating the philosophy itself. For example, it assumes that all Christians think alike or have the same degree of faith. There's a huge difference between someone like Mother Theresa and a twice-a-year christian. The latter is very likely to "wail in despair" when some "serious but mundate tragedy ruins only this life for them." The former would rejoice in that she could unite her suffering to the cross of Jesus for the salvation of souls.

It is true that a weak faith can be destroyed. Jesus Himself told us this in the parable of the sower (which specifically addresses those who have shallow faith that is destroyed when trouble comes their way). And, yes, too many Christians 1) do not really know their faith, and 2) do not deeply inculcate it into their souls. Those that do are extraordiarly powerful, even if weak by the standards of this world, because God acts through them to do great things. Mother Theresa is a good example of this, as well.

You must judge a philosophy on its merits, not on those who fail to live up to it.

However, God is supposed to be all powerfull. This means He could eliminate all Sin wihtout it causing any detrimental effect to His other plans, or violating our free will. This is what being all powerful means.

So why does God not do this, but instead leaves us able to sin and fall from His grace. It could be otherwise if God willed it, but He dosn't. The only conclusions are that God does not exist, or He wants us to be tortured in Hell (not the act of a loveing God at all).

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The usual Christian answer is that god permits sin to preserve our free will to choose sin, since by having this capacity, we become morally significant beings, such as we would not be if we were robotically programmed to be incapable of sin.

But then the question becomes, why would a merciful god punish sin with such maniacal cruelty as the Christian god purportedly does? Even according to the human mercy of ordinary law, if a person punished people for 'sinning' against his property rights by erecting an electrified fence around his property, he would be guilty of negligent homicide. Yet the infinitely loving god punishes those trespassing against his rules by consigning sinners to infinite torture, even though god could perfectly well preserve our moral significance and free will by permitting us just to commit some tiny range of minor sins, for which we would only deserve and receive equally minor punishments.

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The usual Christian answer is that god permits sin to preserve our free will to choose sin, since by having this capacity, we become morally significant beings, such as we would not be if we were robotically programmed to be incapable of sin.

But then the question becomes, why would a merciful god punish sin with such maniacal cruelty as the Christian god purportedly does? Even according to the human mercy of ordinary law, if a person punished people for 'sinning' against his property rights by erecting an electrified fence around his property, he would be guilty of negligent homicide. Yet the infinitely loving god punishes those trespassing against his rules by consigning sinners to infinite torture, even though god could perfectly well preserve our moral significance and free will by permitting us just to commit some tiny range of minor sins, for which we would only deserve and receive equally minor punishments.

I dunno. The Old Testament law as set down in the Torah gives specific direction in the case of sin: one makes appropriate sacrifices to God, performs various rites at the temple, and so on. Following the Law and not sinning doesn't mean never breaking the rules, necessarily; it means making the right sacrifices if you screw up. There's a mechanism to right your transgressions.

The New Testament, of course, introduces Jesus to suffer for the sins of all mankind, so your individual transgressions are not important.

Now, I'd agree that the theology of "any sin = infinite time in Satan's deep-fryer" brings conflict with the concept of a merciful God. But don't Judaism and Christianity provide ways to atone for, or be forgiven for, your sins?

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However, God is supposed to be all powerfull. This means He could eliminate all Sin wihtout it causing any detrimental effect to His other plans, or violating our free will. This is what being all powerful means.

So why does God not do this, but instead leaves us able to sin and fall from His grace. It could be otherwise if God willed it, but He dosn't. The only conclusions are that God does not exist, or He wants us to be tortured in Hell (not the act of a loveing God at all).

This sounds like you want God to be a parent who plays tennis with their child but lets the child win every game until they're 21, lest their fragile self-esteem be hurt by losing.

That child won't in any way grow or develop as a tennis player, much less as a person able to cope with both good and bad things happening, unless they learn

a.) that they CAN lose and

B.) that inevitably they sometimes WILL lose a game or two, but that it's not the end of the world because they can use it constructively to learn and develop greater skills, and can become a good player in spite of occasionally losing.

See God, like any good parent, wants His children to learn and grow and develop their potential, and excel as human beings. In other words to become great as saints and people.

Which involves a learning process, and also involves the risk of hurt and failure.

He doesn't want them to be mediocre - not doing anything wrong, but being only moderately good and obedient, and that only by default rather than by choice.

The often-used metaphor of gold or silver being refined to it utmost purity by being put through fire is apt here - the fire in our case being the trials and tribulations and risks attached to the possibility and reality of sin.

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This sounds like you want God to be a parent who plays tennis with their child but lets the child win every game until they're 21, lest their fragile self-esteem be hurt by losing.

Nope.

That child won't in any way grow or develop as a tennis player, much less as a person able to cope with both good and bad things happening, unless they learn

a.) that they CAN lose and

B.) that inevitably they sometimes WILL lose a game or two, but that it's not the end of the world because they can use it constructively to learn and develop greater skills, and can become a good player in spite of occasionally losing.

God has the ability (because he has infinite power) to do both. He could let "the child win every game until they're 21", and the child would still grow and develop as a tennis player (hey, I did it with my neice and nephew and board games, and God is supposed to be more powerful than me - the trick is to let them win, but challenge them at every stage).

A close run game and advice will allow you to show how some thing will work and some will not. Usually what I do is say why the move I am doing will not work and why the move they do will.

See God, like any good parent, wants His children to learn and grow and develop their potential, and excel as human beings. In other words to become great as saints and people.

Which involves a learning process, and also involves the risk of hurt and failure.

God has the power and knowledge to be able to just instill us with this knowledge and not have it affect our free will or anything.

In the face of an all powerful God, your arguemnts are not valid.

The only way you can make your arguments valid is if you put limits on God, but then He would not be the christian God if you did that. God is more than just a "parent", He is a parent that can do anyhting He knows, and He knows everything.

Job 42:2: " know that You can do all things,

And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. "

"No purpose of Yours can be thwarted": This means that no matter what else occurs, the purpose that God sets out can not be changed unless He wants it to be changed. So if God wanted there to be no sin, but still allow free will to choose it, He can do that!

This means that the only reason that anything occurs is because God wills it to be that way. Thus, if there is suffering in the world, the ONLY reason it is there is because God wants us to suffer, and for no other reason.

A loving God would not want us to suffer if He could prevent it. As the only reason for suffering is because God wants us to suffer, then we can conclude that either God does not exist (and suffering has some other cause/reason), or God is a monster who wants us, mere mortals completely under his dominance (Job 42:2 remember), to suffer.

He doesn't want them to be mediocre - not doing anything wrong, but being only moderately good and obedient, and that only by default rather than by choice.

Again, only if you limit God ability to do things. If God is all powerful then God can make us do what He wants, and still have free will.

The often-used metaphor of gold or silver being refined to it utmost purity by being put through fire is apt here - the fire in our case being the trials and tribulations and risks attached to the possibility and reality of sin.

However, God being all powerful could sort the Gold or Silver atom by atom (the technology to do this actually exists now, made by finite humans - or are we more powerful than God), or even just create it pure form the start and prevent any contamination from occuring at all.

The reason that people have a problem with this is because we humans are not very good at understading infinity.

As an example:

Can God create a rock so heavy He could not lift it?

If God has infinite power, then He must be able to make a rock that is too heavy for Him to lift, but also if He has infinite power He can lift any rock no matter how heavy it is.

For us, this seems like a contradiction, but to a being of unlimited ability it is not. God can create a rock thatis too heavy for Him to lift, but then He just lifts it.

So can God eliminate our ability to sin, but still allow us to choose to sin?

Yes, even finite power beings can solve this.

How I would do it is allow people to choose to sin, but not have thier actions effect anyone else. IF I had the power, just create a temporary reality to put them in with "faked" entities that they sin against. In computer games this could be done by creating an instanced area as the user tries tocommit one of the sins.

If a mere mortal can think up a solution to the problem of being allowed to sin but not allowing them to sin, then a being with infinite power and infinite knowledge could do the same.

Only if you let God not be infinite in power or knowledge (but then could He be called a God then, certainbly not the christian God at any rate), can you impose such limits on Him (remember any limit imposed means that God is no longer infinite).

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Also, there are many cases of human suffering which cannot possibly teach their sufferers anything, such as when infants are born with cancer and die before the end of their first year of life, or when profoundly mentally challenged people become gravely ill but are incapable of deriving any meaning from this experience. The most the believer could say to rescue faith from these challenges is that when other, sentient people see this suffering in others, they learn some important moral lesson and experience further development.

But then a story comes to mind from the end of the Second World War, when the German population of East Prussia was trekking westwards to escape the advancing Russians. The Russian troops advancing through a deserted forest found a dead woman who had delivered a child and apparently died in childbirth, after which the child had been eaten alive by wolves. Now no doubt things like this have happened countless times in the history of humanity when no one has ever even had to the chance to learn a moral lesson from seeing the dead child after the wolves had killed it. In these cases, a human, the innocent child, would have suffered horribly with no possible compensatory benefit of anyone learning a moral lesson from witnessing evidence of that suffering afterwards, nor with any moral benefit of a lesson to the child with its primitive brain.

In such a case we have an infinitely good God permitting terrible suffering for a human who does not deserve it and when it serves absolutely no instructive purpose. Since this act is evil, God is evil, and since he is evil, he is not perfect, which is an essential aspect of his definition, so he does not exist.

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Also, there are many cases of human suffering which cannot possibly teach their sufferers anything, such as when infants are born with cancer and die before the end of their first year of life, or when profoundly mentally challenged people become gravely ill but are incapable of deriving any meaning from this experience. The most the believer could say to rescue faith from these challenges is that when other, sentient people see this suffering in others, they learn some important moral lesson and experience further development.

But then a story comes to mind from the end of the Second World War, when the German population of East Prussia was trekking westwards to escape the advancing Russians. The Russian troops advancing through a deserted forest found a dead woman who had delivered a child and apparently died in childbirth, after which the child had been eaten alive by wolves. Now no doubt things like this have happened countless times in the history of humanity when no one has ever even had to the chance to learn a moral lesson from seeing the dead child after the wolves had killed it. In these cases, a human, the innocent child, would have suffered horribly with no possible compensatory benefit of anyone learning a moral lesson from witnessing evidence of that suffering afterwards, nor with any moral benefit of a lesson to the child with its primitive brain.

In such a case we have an infinitely good God permitting terrible suffering for a human who does not deserve it and when it serves absolutely no instructive purpose. Since this act is evil, God is evil, and since he is evil, he is not perfect, which is an essential aspect of his definition, so he does not exist.

Your assertions are incorrect because 1) they do not take into account the greater context of the mystery of suffering and 2) presume that you (a limited being) are in a position to judge God.

The latter reason is self-evident. The former reason involves the greater context, which is about more than simply the victim. There is also the free choice of the perpetrator - even if only indirectly involved by creating circumstances for evil to be done. The evil choices of some can be inflicted upon those who have no choice - abortion is a good example.

Additionally, you have limited yourself to the "instructional" nature of suffering while ignoring its redemptive value. Suffering, when united to the cross of Jesus, has redemptive, salvific value - and not only for the person who suffers, but possibly for others as well. I say "possibly" only because the person to receive the benefit must accept it in some way, at least at the moment of death.

Suffering and evil result as the consequence of free will (even if it can be traced only to our fallen nature through original sin, such as the wolf example you gave above). We are given true free will in order that we my have an actual loving relationship with God (without free will, there is no real relationship). Thus, because the choice is genuine, the real consequences of choice for evil can be extraordinarily atrocious - even upon the innocent, and even indirectly.

The infinite justice and mercy of God meet at the cross of Jesus, who is God. The sufferings of the innocent are joined with Jesus' suffering, and have redemptive value for others. Not only that, but by participating in Jesus' suffering, the innocent may actually enter into a deeper relationship with Him upon death, and thus experience reward greater than any suffering experienced here on Earth.

In other words, God gave us free will that we may really come to know and love him, and thereby achieve the most profound state of happiness forever. Because our free will is genuine, we can choose evil. The consequences of evil choices affects the innocent and can even reverborate and affect others for ages. God's answer is to come down from Heaven, become one of us, and suffer with us in order to redeem us.

Thus, when the full context of both the here and now as well as eternity are considered, God is all good.

On the other hand, to the atheist, such evil is insurmountable - because the atheist limits himself to see only the physical world around him. Which, ironically, is itself an evil choice because it violates the first commandment.

Your arguemnt is only true if two conditions are met:

1) God Exists as stated in the bible

2) God loves us

If either of these are false, then your argument is false.

As I (and others) have shown in this and other thread you have started, God does not really act as if He loves us, also ther eis no proof that God exists.

So (1) is in doubt as no evidence support it and (2) is disproven. As both need to be true for your argument to be true, this line of arguemnt from you is a really shaky argument to take.

The disproof of (2) goes like this:

God as described in the bible is both All Powerful and All Knowing. Therefore God knows of our suffering and has the power to prevent it without that prevention impacting on anything else. If God loved us, then He would not wish us unnecesary suffering. As suffering is not necesary (God can still achieve whatever suffering is meant to achieve without us having to suffer because He is al powerful), then if suffering exists, the only reason for it to exist is if (a) God wants us to suffer (not the actions of someone who loves us), or (B) God does not exist.

As the only two conclusions disprove either (1) or (2) from above, your argument can not be true. As your argument is not true, it can not be used as proof of anyhting.

Yes, this is pretty much how Aquinas formulated it eight hundred years ago. He thrashed it very soundly. Peter Kreeft's "Making Sense out of Suffering" is a great book on the subject. As is CS Lewis's "The Problem of Pain". Really, this argument has been beaten so hard that it's kind of astonishing to me that it keeps coming back.

The thing is, it doesn't have intellectual teeth, but it has emotional teeth. When we hear stories of terrible, pointless suffering, such as your woman giving birth in the forest, our hearts rend. "It shouldn't be like this!" we cry. And our tears cloud our thoughts.

The thing is, despite our tears, you can't do anything but assert is that suffering is inherently evil. It is at least possible that our suffering, and the suffering of the woman in the forest, and even the suffering of children, is somehow a necessary part of a greater good.

We can't know. Our lives are the lives of amoebas in a microscope slide; only the scientist on the other side of the microscope can truly see the big picture. And apparently, the scientist thinks that suffering is not inherently evil, because he voluntarily endured the worst suffering that our world has to offer. He suffered as much as the woman in the woods. He suffered every bit as much as the baby that was devoured, and he came out glorified on the other side and told us, "Be not afraid."

I don't deny the emotional punch of suffering. But using it to tear down the belief structure which allows suffering to be redemptive rather than just bad luck is tragically misguided.

Again, only if you limit God ability to do things. If God is all powerful then God can make us do what He wants, and still have free will.

You misunderstand the doctrine of omnipotence. What it means is that God can do anything which can be done, not that God can do anything which Edtharan can say. Asserting that he can control our every move and leave us with free will is like saying he can draw a four-sided figure and it will be a triangle.

Jimmy Akin does an excellent job explaining this point here:

So can God eliminate our ability to sin, but still allow us to choose to sin?

Yes, even finite power beings can solve this.

How I would do it is allow people to choose to sin, but not have thier actions effect anyone else. IF I had the power, just create a temporary reality to put them in with "faked" entities that they sin against. In computer games this could be done by creating an instanced area as the user tries tocommit one of the sins.

If a mere mortal can think up a solution to the problem of being allowed to sin but not allowing them to sin, then a being with infinite power and infinite knowledge could do the same.

So Cain swings his club at Abel, and is instantly transported to an alternate reality where Abel is some kind of simulacrum? In this new reality, Cain clobbers Abel; in the first reality, robot Cain gives Abel a big hug?

So every sin results in the creation of a brand new reality populated with homonculi that exist only to do the sinner's bidding. It won't be long until every human on earth is isolated in their own little pocket realities, interacting only with these faked instances.

You think this would actually be superior to the Christian view that God actually respects our choices? That our acts have some sort of impact on the world, beyond our private personal sandboxes? Suit yourself, I guess. But you're not presenting any sort of logical argument against God here, you're simply pouting that he doesn't do things the way you like.

Only if you let God not be infinite in power or knowledge (but then could He be called a God then, certainbly not the christian God at any rate), can you impose such limits on Him (remember any limit imposed means that God is no longer infinite).

The set of all even numbers is limited, but infinite.

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The thing is, despite our tears, you can't do anything but assert is that suffering is inherently evil. It is at least possible that our suffering, and the suffering of the woman in the forest, and even the suffering of children, is somehow a necessary part of a greater good.

Discarding the free will arguments for a moment -- they're irrelevant, as you'll soon see -- let's examine a specific scenario.

Consider the numerous children who die within a short time of childbirth, at an age of only a few months or less. They are not yet capable of thinking about their suffering, its meaning, or religion in any way. Their free will, or that of any other person, is not relevant to the scenario.

Perhaps their suffering is an instrument for a greater good, in some sense. Perhaps it teaches a message to the rest of the world, for example.

Now, suppose one less child suffers and dies.

Has that message to the rest of the world been diminished? Has that greater good been significantly harmed? Probably not.

Furthermore, regarding the point that we have a limited perspective. That is, again, irrelevant. Consider the following logic:

1. If God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, then no blameless person suffers.
2. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.
3. Babies are blameless.
4. Babies suffer.
5. Therefore, from 1,2, and 3, no babies suffer.

This is inconsistent. Furthermore, the addition of any additional propositions -- e.g. (6) God has a plan for the world -- does not change the fact that propositions 1-4 are still consistent. No matter how many propositions you add, the set will still be inconsistent. No amount of additional information or perspective will solve the inconsistency. You must instead find a problem with one of the original four propositions.

Now, you could replace proposition 1 with this: If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent and has a plan for the universe, then it is possible that a blameless person suffers.

However, one must explain why this is true. Being omnibenevolent, God can only allow a blameless person to suffer if the plan that requires it is much greater than the individual's suffering; holding to the plan, which will bring great good, is more important than the individual good of the person. I'll let my philosophy of religion professor take it from here:

At least two objections can be raised against the “God has a plan” solution. One is that the idea of a valuable or good or justifiable plan is relative to a person or persons. So, competitor A’s effective plan to win a race is not valuable to or good for competitor B. (It may be valuable for B to know what A’s plan is; but then what is valuable is not the plan itself but knowing it or being able to come up with a better plan as a result of knowing it.) So God’s plan may be valuable to God or even other people, but it may not be valuable to everyone. It would be easy to imagine a Job who said, “All things considered, I’d like to be exactly as I was before I began to suffer, even if the suffering ultimately made me better off.” It is even easier to imagine the young children who suffer severely and then die or their parents holding this attitude. The second objection is related to the first. In order for some plan to be valuable or good to a person who is part of the plan, the person has to accept his or her role in it. In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, The Sirens of Titan, a man is kidnapped by some intergalactic aliens. After suffering immensely, he discovers that all of his sufferings and the bizarre occurrences in the history of earth were all part of the alaiens’ plan to get earthlings to build a part to repair the spaceship that would return the aliens to their home planet. The protagonist of The Sirens of Titan, does not buy into his role in their plan. Job might have had the same attitude if he knew that his suffering was the result of the casual conversation between God and Satan. God’s plan was not a very good one. These issues are not discussed in Job.

Furthermore, an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God can certainly achieve his goals without allowing any suffering. Even if he allows free will, there is much suffering that does not result from free will. Why would God choose pain and suffering to achieve his plans rather than any other possible method, being omnipotent? If he does so, he is not omnibenevolent.

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I also note that all the imagistic, mythological, dogmatic rather than logical 'explanations' offered for suffering, such as original sin, the salvation-promoting power of human suffering, our inability to know the purposes of an infinite God, etc., all depend on the presupposition of the existence of this miraculous being and his associated mythology, which was what was first put into question by the problem of evil. Since this is exactly what is in question, its existence cannot be presumed in order to solve the logical problems of how it could exist. But further, these 'explanations' are just dogmatic imagery which purports to 'solve' the puzzle by a fable, rather than conceptual accounts which reconcile infinite goodness and omnipotence with evil.

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Discarding the free will arguments for a moment -- they're irrelevant, as you'll soon see -- let's examine a specific scenario.

Consider the numerous children who die within a short time of childbirth, at an age of only a few months or less. They are not yet capable of thinking about their suffering, its meaning, or religion in any way. Their free will, or that of any other person, is not relevant to the scenario.

Perhaps their suffering is an instrument for a greater good, in some sense. Perhaps it teaches a message to the rest of the world, for example.

Now, suppose one less child suffers and dies.

Has that message to the rest of the world been diminished? Has that greater good been significantly harmed? Probably not.

Who knows? Again, we lack the perspective to possibly answer this question.

Furthermore, regarding the point that we have a limited perspective. That is, again, irrelevant. Consider the following logic:

1. [*]If God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, then no blameless person suffers

That is the very premise that I called you on. You are presupposing that suffering is inherently evil, without proving it. All you really have is that we don't like it, and that's not the same thing at all.

I also note that all the imagistic, mythological, dogmatic rather than logical 'explanations' offered for suffering, such as original sin, the salvation-promoting power of human suffering, our inability to know the purposes of an infinite God, etc., all depend on the presupposition of the existence of this miraculous being and his associated mythology, which was what was first put into question by the problem of evil. Since this is exactly what is in question, its existence cannot be presumed in order to solve the logical problems of how it could exist. But further, these 'explanations' are just dogmatic imagery which purports to 'solve' the puzzle by a fable, rather than conceptual accounts which reconcile infinite goodness and omnipotence with evil.

You seem to be unaware that the very concepts of good, evil, benevolence etc that you seem to rely on presuppose a God. Without a God they are meaningless uncountable nouns in a world blind to such concepts.

One of the intellectual challenges facing atheism is an acceptance of this and other difficult cold and unattractive realities of life without God. If God - be He good or bad - does not exist then good evil etc have no meaning beyond subjective experience and that as de Sade with his adult and insightful understanding of the atheist conception rightly pointed out is irrelevant to all but the being doing the suffering. In short if a baby dies in agony so what?

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No, there is something more objective than personal subjectivity and less mythological than God in which to ground morality, and that is in society and our social love of humanity, which together provide the foundation for the same ethics that religion attempts to establish pictorially rather than conceptually, by positing a dogmatic mythology.

It would be a real pity if the only reason we had for being good to each other were our mutual belief in a mythologial being who told us to do this and who would punish us later if we didn't! In that case, our belief would lack all moral significance, and would express only our recognition of the utilitarian benefit of avoiding punishment.

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I think it goes something like this. Even if one sins, but sincerely repents, the results are merciful. This is analogous to a criminal who changes his ways to become a good citizen. The past is no longer treated the same way, since he is starts a new page. He may continue to regret his old ways, but he is given a fresh start to make up for it. But if he never repents or never tries to change his criminal ways, the judge will lock him up.

For example, Paul persecuted the Christians at the very beginning; shed innocent blood. But he had a change of heart to become one of their chief spokesmen. At the crossroads, he made another free moral choice and chose the path that led to his salvation. The born again criminal starts fresh.

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