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Do Religious People Really Believe in Their Religion?


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Needimprovement, when you rhetorically ask, "How can we determine what amounts to unnecessary suffering from the standpoint of eternity," you make the mistake of accepting as already proven exactly what is still in dispute, which is the existence of a Deity which permits us to treat the 'standpoint of eternity' as a real perspective able to create real problems for philosophical arguments. But until we have established that God exists, the 'standpoint of eternity' which could make it really impossible to determine whether any particular suffering was ultimately necessary or justified or not is simply not available as a context to impeach any reasoning based on ordinary, human-scale, empirical data.

 

So as far as we can understand the concepts of cause, effect, necessary suffering, and unnecessary suffering, the Haitian earthquake doesn't seem necessary, redeemed by other forces, or excused by some distant good it produces by any ordinary reasoning we can apply.

 

An example of an empirically testable instance in which an evil, say the pain of a vaccination, would be justified by the ultimate good caused by it, say immunity against some much worse infection, shows what could count as a real reason for excusing evil. But to posit that if we could somehow see all the intricate interconnections of the causal strands of the universe we would realize that the world would be a much worse place if Kennedy hadn't been assassinated on November 22, 1963 just amounts to supporting one fantasy, the existence of a magical being, God, by another fantasy, our ability to know that a causal network we cannot comprehend can somehow provide a sufficient support for a miraculous being like God.

That doesn't make any sense. You put forth an argument that the hypothetical entity in dispute is self-contradictory, hence non-existent. I rebutted that argument based on the agreed-upon attributes of the hypothetical entity. I'm not presenting a positive proof, I'm defending against your claim of self-contradiction.

 

You: If Superman were real, he wouldn't be able to fly because earthlings can't fly.

Me: But he's not an earthling, he's a Kryptonian.

You: But you're assuming he exists!

 

No. I'm discussing the entity in question, according to his proposed attributes. One of Superman's attributes is Kryptonian origin, which carries a plethory of benefits. One of God's attributes is his eternal nature, which allows him to judge the entirety of time instead of tiny snapshots.

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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

Oh, how deliciously rich. Double standards, much? The guy here arguing in favor of god is giving me a hard time for making an unsupported assumption with no teeth. Oh, the sweet sweet delicious irony... B)

What is the double standard exactly? I'm asking for conclusions which follow from a given set of premises. I apply the same standard to my own arguments.

 

So you don't take any pain medication correct? I guess you don't think women should have pain medication during childbirth, etc.

Thank you for engaging the argument. This is an interesting point. I'll think it over and try to respond later.

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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 accuracy of the storybook in describing him? So either we are discussing something real with real data, or something imaginary with imaginary data, it doesn't really matter.

 

Thank you for engaging the argument. This is an interesting point. I'll think it over and try to respond later.

 

What, how long does it take you to recall whether you've had pain medication?

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Yes, Epicurus has the same unsupported assumption that you do. Namely that the temporary existence of evil is malevolent. Without supporting that assertion, the argument has no teeth.

 

I will grant you that if evil were to be permanently ascendant, your argument would have something. But we haven't seen to forever yet, and according to Christian doctrine, evil loses.

This is why I have been sticking to looking at whether God can be considdered cruel rather than as evil, as according to doctrine God is Godd and he would have a greater knowledge of the ultimate Godd/Evil balance. When looking at cruelty, morality is not a necesary component.

 

It is posible to determine (in the imediate rather than ultimate cause) if a curelty is necesary or unnecesary. If there is more than one option that achieves the same result and that they differ in the amount of suffering that they give, then the act that produces the lesser suffering is the less cruel act. This means that an act that has greater suffering must therefore contain an element of unnecesary suffering. So by showing that there are acts that produce the same results and have less suffering than the ones that God has taken, then you can prove that God causes unnecesary suffering and is therefore cruel.

 

If you then what to label this cruelty as evil, that is up to your moral code (and the moral code described in the bible says that unnecesary suffering is evil, but I am not arguing for or against that).

 

Nonsense. That is not what "knowledge of good and evil" means at all. Adam and Eve were not created so retarded that they didn't know up from down or obedience from disobedience. Your arbitrary interpretation of the name of the tree flies in the face of all Jewish and Christian tradition. Unless you can support it beyond "this is the hunch I had when I read it" or "this is what I read on Internet Infidels," it's not even worth rebutting.

But, if they had no knowledge of what evil is, then how could they know that disobedience is a sin? Sure, then might know what the definition is, but they wouldn't know that it was wrong.

 

In light of the totality of scripture, the thorns and such are best understood not as God throwing a tantrum, but rather as a necessary step in the redemption of man.

 

Col 1:24: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ

Look at what I said about how if there is more than one option that achieves the same result, but that one involves less suffering than the others.

 

God created Adam and Eve, therefore He created the brain structures of them. This means He has the power to manipulate the structure of our brains as He wants. Therefor God has the power to place into us the understanding of what the suffering is ment to achieve and a method of redemption. Also as God is supposed to have an infinite patience and capacity for forgiveness. This means that there should be an infinite number of ways to achieve forgivness and redemption.

 

This also means that thorns and suffering are not necesary for the forgiveness of God, not for redemption. This means that there is another option for God to take that will lead us to redemption and His forgivness that does not involve suffering. But, God chose to take the path of us suffering, thus by His actions He has caused unnecesary suffering (remember if there is another option with less suffering the extra suffering is therefore unnecesary) and is thus cruel.

 

Again, suffering is better understood as a necessary surgery than a torturous punishment.

True, but doctors have to avoid unnecesary surgery (and thereofre suffering). This just re-enforces my position that if God causes unnecesary suffering He can be seen as a cruel God.

 

The problem is a cruel God can not be a God of inifnite love, as the christian beliefs requier that God be infinitely loving, then if christians believe in the bible, then they can not believe in an infinitly loving God, or that if they believe in an infinitly loving God they can not believe in the God as described in the bible (and a God that exists in reality either).

 

The bible (and reality) describes a cruel God and a curel God is not compatable with an infinitly loving God. You have to believ in one or the other, not both as they are incompatable.

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Needimprovement: When you say that "one of God's attributes is his eternal nature," it sounds as though you are trying to revive the old ontological argument for the existence of God, which is that since he is defined as perfect, and a non-existent thing would have an imperfection, he must exist, just by virtue of his definition. But Kant, among others, shot that down by insisting that the question of the existence of something always stands outside the definition of it, and refers to the status of the entire thing after it is defined. Otherwise you could define some X as a 'perfect island,' and since it would not be perfect unless it existed, a perfect island must exist.

 

Public reason, that is, the neutral form of argumentation which can be used between people who accept differing world views, has to be based on logical inference and positivism. Positivism is the principle of reasoning followed in natural science, which states that for something to be treated as real, it either has to be directly empirically testable through some specified operations which can be performed on things we can all see, feel, hear, and measure, or it has to be a necessary conceptual implication of what can be empirically tested.

 

But in your attempt to explain away the evil which God allows to exist in the world, you argue that the evil in the world is all necessary for some higher purposes or unavoidable reasons which we cannot understand. But since this assertion cannot itself be empirically demonstrated, it can only claim explanatory power under positivist principles of reasoning if it is a necessary conceptual implication of something else which can be empirically demonstrated. But since the only thing you offer in support of the assumption that all the evil in the world will turn out to have been no more than necessary is the existence of a good God, whose existence cannot be empirically demonstrated, then you can't prove that the evil in the world is no more or worse than necessary.

 

You can claim that you know some things by faith or revelation, but since these sources of knowledge are not available to all those with whom you are discussing the issue, they cannot claim to be part of public reason or public argument.

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So you don't take any pain medication correct? I guess you don't think women should have pain medication during childbirth, etc.

By the way, a correction - looking back, I did have a shot of novocaine for a particularly nasty filling a year or so back. But usually I go au natural. Not for theological reasons, but because I dislike numbness too much to use it for small dental work.

 

As long as I'm setting the record, straight, I'd like to apologize for the level of snark in my earlier post re: Adam and Eve. I was grumpy and pressed for time, and I should've expressed myself better. Sorry.

 

OK, so enough of that. You seem to be implying that there is a contradiction between my belief that suffering is redemptive and the fact that I personally take steps to avoid suffering in my life. Maybe even more to it, I believe that small acts of sacrifice, such as skipping my coffee in the morning, can have redemptive value, and yet I rarely do it.

 

You got me. This is indeed something I should work on. This puts me shoulder-to-shouder with the people you mentioned waaaaay back in the original post who sin even though it's irrational. The fact is, in day to day life, people tend to pick short term gratification over superior delayed gratification. I'm one of 'em.

 

This, of course, says nothing about the theology, merely about my adherence to it.

 

Having said that, I don't believe there's a necessary contradiction between the theology of redemptive suffering and the act of sometimes taking steps to reduce particular incidents of suffering. In fact, we are explicitly called by Christ to reduce suffering when possible. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc.

 

There's sort of a push/pull dynamic going on here, in my opinion. But that doesn't indicate a conflict, because the pusher and the puller are coming from different directions. Think of barn-raisings. One team pushes, one team pulls, but they're not in opposition to each other. They're working together to achieve the same end. In this case, the end is redemption.

 

That's all I've got. I haven't explored the concept in depth before, and if you're interested in better answers, I encourage you to start a new thread for the topic.

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I am NOT trying to prove the existence of God.

I am NOT trying to prove that suffering has a benevolent end.

 

ALL I am doing is demonstrating that Poster proof fails. That is it. The only time Poster have even engaged with my refutation of his proof was when he pointed out my own personal failings, which I appreciate. But it leaves the refutation untouched.

 

Let me restate the argument thus far.

Catholic Church: There exists an entity which is omnibenevolent and omnipotent.

Poster: Such an entity cannot exist, because omnibenevolence and omnipotence are incompatible with the existence of suffering.

Me: On the contrary, if suffering has a beneficial end, as the Catholic Church teaches, there is no incompatibility.

 

Poster have not engaged that point at all. Unless he do, his proof of the nonexistence of God fails.

 

I have not offered any positive proof of the existence of God. I am simply refuting poster's proof of his nonexistence.

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But to show that suffering is beneficial or redemptive you have to show how links between such things as a child dying in an isolated forest by being torn apart by wolves shortly after birth from a dead mother -- even though no one sees this nor does the newborn learn any lessons from this -- and some good outcome are not only possible or likely, but even necessary, since the least unnecessary evil in the world is inconsistent with the God hypothesis. I can't conceive of any way that that links between the putative newborn's suffering and some benefitical or redemptive outcome could ever be demonstrated without making some equally unprovable assumptions about a magical sort of knowledge of how such disparate things in the universe are connected or how these can be shown to be necessary. If we start by assuming that God exists then it would also follow that the newborn's suffering must be beneficial, but we can't start there and convince an audience which does not already believe in God.

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But to show that suffering is beneficial or redemptive you have to show how links between such things as a child dying in an isolated forest by being torn apart by wolves shortly after birth from a dead mother -- even though no one sees this nor does the newborn learn any lessons from this -- and some good outcome are not only possible or likely, but even necessary, since the least unnecessary evil in the world is inconsistent with the God hypothesis. I can't conceive of any way that that links between the putative newborn's suffering and some benefitical or redemptive outcome could ever be demonstrated without making some equally unprovable assumptions about a magical sort of knowledge of how such disparate things in the universe are connected or how these can be shown to be necessary. If we start by assuming that God exists then it would also follow that the newborn's suffering must be beneficial, but we can't start there and convince an audience which does not already believe in God.

just to explicitly connect the dots: you're right, I have not proven a good outcome from the baby being eaten. I have not tried to do so. But it is possible that an overall good can come from it, which we cannot perceive, and so your proof fails.

 

I am not trying to convince you to believe in God. I am refuting your proof of his nonexistence.

 

I think I should make that last paragraph my signature. Save precious keystrokes!

 

*****

By the way, the reason I tend to drop the word "unnecessary" is that it really doesn't add anything to the argument, because it is simply impossible for us to know if suffering is necessary or unnecessary. At best, you can claim "apparently unnecessary", but I trust it's obvious how useless that is to disprove God.

Edited by needimprovement
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Let me restate the argument thus far.

Catholic Church: There exists an entity which is omnibenevolent and omnipotent.

Poster: Such an entity cannot exist, because omnibenevolence and omnipotence are incompatible with the existence of suffering.

Me: On the contrary, if suffering has a beneficial end, as the Catholic Church teaches, there is no incompatibility.

 

Poster have not engaged that point at all. Unless he do, his proof of the nonexistence of God fails.

 

I have not offered any positive proof of the existence of God. I am simply refuting poster's proof of his nonexistence.

My arguments is that Yes, there might be some suffering that has benificial ends, but just because some are benificial this does not mean that all are benificial, or, that even though some suffering is benificial, the degree of suffering does not have to be as great as it is.

 

If either of these arguments are true, then there is unnecesary suffering and this is what is incompatable with an omnibenevolent and omnipotent God.

 

So if there is just one case where suffering is unnecesary (in whole or in part), then this acts as disproof of an omnibenevolent omnipotent God. Sure, the God might be omnipotent but not omnibenevolent, or He might be omnibenevolent but not omnipotent, but as the Christian God has to be both, then if either of these argument are true, then the Christian God will have been disproved.

 

As my arguments says: If the same outcome can be produced from multiple actions, but one produces less suffering, then the Omnibenevloent omnipotent God wold choose to take that action over the others (this is not to say that He had to take the action, only that if He is Omnibenevolent/potent then that is the one He would take).

 

As God has demonstrated the power to directly affect the minds (and therefore the brains) of people in the bible, then we know that God could "rewire" our brains to give us any knowledge He wants. This would not interfere with our free will as all we are given is the knowledge and not made to act on it.

 

God could, therefore, provide us with the knowledge that suffering is supposed to give us, or give us the knowledge of how to redeam ourselves in other ways (omnibenevolent and omnicient so He would know these things) wihtout suffering. And, even then, as we are supposed to be infinite beings (eternal life), then any suffering we do have is of a finite size and virtually meaningless in terms of infinity which means it's redemptive powers are also infintesimal (so there has to be better ways of redemption, or redemption means practically nothing).

 

So even if suffering is used as redemption, suffering is not the best way to achieve it. This means that suffering for redemption is unnecesary and that any act of suffeirng for knowledge (including the knowledge of "redemption without suffering") is also unnecesary.

 

Once you introduce infinities (eg: God or life), then any suffering is unnecesary and unnecesary suffering is not compatable with the Christian God.

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Wittgenstein's theory of language, or the whole philosophical movement of positivism, are important aids to the discussion here. The basic idea is that we cannot establish the REAL possibility of anything just by imagining it and then expecting it to do any work in settling public debates, which have to operate on empirical data we can all access and logical reasoning from that data which we can all understand. I can imagine that my computer operates by being powered by invisible ghosts which no empirical test can ever detect, but this act of imagination does nothing establish the real possibility that that is how my computer operates. Before we can establish the real possibility of anything, such that it has weight against empirical data or logical reasoning, it must also have the support of tangible empirical data or be implied by some necessary conceptual consequence of such empirical data.

 

Now the possibility which you imagine can reconcile God's goodness with the fact of evil is that even in cases where we cannot detect by empirical evidence or by logical inference from the available empirical evidence that some particular evil has an ultimately benevolent or redemptive quality, there is still some secret, hidden connection which we cannot detect by empirical evidence or reasoning from that evidence between that apparent evil and the good consequences which excuse it. But such an imaginary possibility is unsupported by the type of reasons which are required to give it weight in an argument conducted within the sphere of public reason, where things count as real reasons, real doubts, and real possibilities only if they are based in tangible empirical evidence or logical inference from that evidence. When you say it is still possible that the apparent evil we see may be redeemed by some subterranean connection of events, I can just as easily counter that by saying that it is also possible that the evil we see won't be redeemed by some subterranean connection of events. So the only concrete thing we are left with which has some real, empirical weight is the fact of evil which has no apparent excuse we can discern.

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If I were trying to prove the redemptive value of suffering, then I would need to substantiate the claim that suffering has a higher purpose. But in order to refute Poster's proof that suffering and benevolence are logically incompatible, only the existence of a possible counterexample is needed.

 

It's like this. He's saying, "It is mathematically impossible to solve the equation 2x + y = 9." And I say, "No, one solution would be if x = 4 and y = 1." Now you're saying "But you haven't proven that x = 4 and y = 1." I know I haven't. I haven't even tried to, because it's not necessary in order to refute his claim. The existence of a solution proves that he is wrong when he says that no solution is possible.

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Actually, it's more like you saying, "you all aren't clever enough to find it, but I'm sure there really is an answer". That would be fair enough if it was just a general accusation of unnecessary suffering, but for a specific example like the newborn eaten by wolves, one would expect a specific counterexample.

 

Anyhow, the very best example of unnecessary suffering would be Hell. All the more so because the people who would be sent there are not necessarily good or bad, but simply that God did not choose them for salvation. Also, hell cannot even serve as a deterrent, because the people who would be sent there for the most part wouldn't even believe it exists. In any case, I don't think there could be any justification of eternal suffering as necessary.

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Needimprovement: The problem in your reasoning turns on your notion of 'possible.' If we were walking together at night down a street in a slum section of a major city in July, and a man wearing a mask and carrying a gun came towards us, I would say that from the tangible, empirical evidence and from logical inferences based on that evidence, the man is a robber about to attack us, so we had better run. But if you then said, "No, it is possible that he is a devotee of Hallowe'en who is still wearing his holiday costume even in July," I would say that that was crazy, since your assertion was based on a bare, theoretical notion of 'possibility' which did not arise from any tangible empirical evidence (such as it's being October 31st) or from any logical inference from such tangible empirical evidence. If we ever actually used such purely ungrounded notions of 'possibility' in our reasoning, all our thinking and action would be paralyzed, since we would always have to entertain all the vast array of theoretical possibilities that everything was actually different from what the empirical evidence or logical inference from the empirical evidence suggested it was. Since we don't ever grant such purely notional views of possibility any weight in our reasoning, then we shouldn't do so in our philosophical reasoning either.

 

Thus, returning to the case at hand, based on the empirical data in the situation of the newborn being eaten by wolves, we can discern and logically infer no real possibility of this event having a benevolent or redemptive value. To say that it might possibly have such a value even though the data provide us with no grounds for inferring such a value, and we cannot develop any logical train of thought that would tie such a value to the available data, is to use an empty and unreal notion of possibility which does not have any weight in a rational argument. You can't throw an empty notion of theoretical possibility into the scales against a clear empirical case where the evidence suggests that there is no possibility of suffering being redeemed and pretend that the evidence-backed and the empty possibilities balance each other out. First you have to show why it is just as reasonable to think that the newborn being eaten by wolves is as consistent with a benevolent purpose as it is to think it is inconsistent with a benevolent purpose.

 

If we admitted that type of empty, theoretical, empirically and rationally unsupported possibility as a valid move in our reasoning and arguments, then we could justify not getting up for work in the morning because it is possible that what seems to be reality is just a dream or an elaborate optical illusion. But while that is just as theoretically 'possible' as that the evil in the world has an ultimately benevolent purpose, neither is a sufficiently empirically or logically supported possibility for us ever to take either one seriously.

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Yeah, except Christianity takes the view, in opposition to Paganism, that animals were put here for human use and have no value in themselves apart from that.

 

Absolutely not. Jesus frequently points out that God cares for the wild animals, even the plants:

26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? ... See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
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What was Abraham doing with that goat then after he let Isaac go? How dare Christ send the mental illness of the insane person into a herd of animals such that they were driven by it to drown themselves? I seem also to remember the Bible saying somewhere that the world was provided by God for man to use to his purposes.

 

Theologians usually interpret Christianity, with its central image of man becoming immortal by rising into heaven after death, and God becoming man by incarnating as Christ, as a religion which sets humans at the apex of value. This was in great contrast to other religions of the era, such as Hinduism with its thousands of animal gods, Ancient Egypt with its animal-headed gods, Grecian Egypt with its city, Krokodilopolis, dedicated to the sacred crocodile, and Mithraism with its sacred bull, which gave animals a more prominent role as divinities. In fact modern Pagans now try to dress up their religion by pointing out how they always gave nature a higher role compared to humans than did Christianity, which gives the Pagans greater credence by their closer link to the modern environmentalist movement.

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What was Abraham doing with that goat then after he let Isaac go? How dare Christ send the mental illness of the insane person into a herd of animals such that they were driven by it to drown themselves?

 

Perfectly consistent with the quote I shared, animals have value to God but humans far more.

 

I seem also to remember the Bible saying somewhere that the world was provided by God for man to use to his purposes.

 

Well please feel free to match my quote with your quote that you think you read somewhere. Please do remember there are searchable bibles nowadays, so it doesn't matter if you don't remember where it was if you can remember close enough to what it was.

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But, returning to the original point behind this subsidiary discussion: If, as you say, animals are less valuable to God than humans are, then His allowing an animal just to gain a bit of nourishment by eating a newborn human at the cost of terrible human suffering and the death of a human was evil. God would even regard a human killing another human for just one meal, in a situation where it did not save the life of the cannibalizing human, to be evil, never mind an animal doing so. And since this evil by the construction of the hypothetical example had no possible causal link to any ultimately beneficial or redemptive outcome, God has allowed evil having no beneficial or redemptive purpose to come into the world.

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It's like this. He's saying, "It is mathematically impossible to solve the equation 2x + y = 9." And I say, "No, one solution would be if x = 4 and y = 1." Now you're saying "But you haven't proven that x = 4 and y = 1." I know I haven't. I haven't even tried to, because it's not necessary in order to refute his claim. The existence of a solution proves that he is wrong when he says that no solution is possible.

I am certanly not saying that kind of thing. To deny that "2x + y = 9" has a mathematical solution you have to abandon all logic, which I have not done.

 

But I will continue this analogy as you have brought it up.

 

Sure, if Y equals 1 then X has to equal 4, but there is an infinite number of posible solutions to that equation, so stating that it definitly is X=4 and Y = 1 is logically and mathemtaiclly incorrect.

 

However, if we can establish that Y can not equal 1 by looking at Y in other contexts where it is supposed to ahve the same value, then we can rule out that X = 4 by the fact that Y does not = 1.

 

This is what I ahve set out to do. If God is infintly good and infinitly powerful and knowledgable, then it would be imposible for unnecesary suffering to exist in the universe if God is not cruel.

 

In this case, Y = 1 is the same as the non existance of unnecesary suffering and X = 4 is the same as God not being cruel. So to show that there exists unnecesary suffering (Y is not equal to 1), then it rules out the God is not cruel (X then can not equal 4).

 

If you treat suffering in an egaineering "Black Box" approach (it doesn't matter what gores on inside it, just what the inputs and outputs are), it allows you to asses if an act of suffering is necesary or not.

 

See, with two black boxes that have different internals, but produce identical outpus form the same input, you can say that the two systems are equivelent. So if two acts produce the same outcome from the same inputs, then they can also be said to be equivelent.

 

Now we look inside the black boxes to see how much suffering each "box" produces. If one "box" produces less suffering, then that box is less cruel.

 

As God has infinite power and knowledge, then He would be able to understand a system and create a system that is identical to another so that it produces the same outputs. If I can come up with a way to produce the same outcome for an act but has less suffering than the same act that occurs in the real world, then God could also come up with that and impliment it.

 

This means that if it is posible for a human to rteduce suffering at all, then God could do so as well.

 

But, if it is posible for a Huamn to reduce suffering, then this means that the act has an equivelent that has less suffering tha then one allowed to occur by God.

 

This means that God has not minimised suffering and is therefore cruel. In the case where suffering can be reduced, in terms of your analogy, Y can not = 1 and therefore X can not = 4.

 

So if there is a single case where huamns have reduced suffering in the world, then God can must be cruel (or non existant).

 

ANd, here is an example:

1) Illnesses exist in the world.

2) If God exists, then He created these illnesses.

3) If humans can cure or prevent illnesses this is proof that humans can reduce suffering that would have otherwise occurred.

 

This means that God is cruel as He caused unnecesary suffering (as the amount of suffering can be reduced by entities other than God).

 

One counter argument that you will probably think of is that illnesses were put there by God for a higher purpose. But, we have free will and can act against the will of God (other wise Adam and Eve were acting exactly as God wanted them to and thus any punishment was not necesary), so the fact that we can cure innesses is not automatically in line with God's will.

 

If God's will was that we develop the ability to cure illnesses, this might be at first glance a valid reason for illnesses, but our development of the knowledge to make the cure involves the suffering of these people. However there is evidence (the bible itself) that God can directly communicate or even implant knowledge into the brians of humans, so it would be possible for God to have reduced the amount of suffering by directly giving people the knowledge to develop the cures for illnesses.

 

But, if God's purpose for illness was not for us to develop a cure, but for some other reason, then God could ahve prevented us from finding any cures for illnesses (or directly affected the individual without the need for illnesses to be created in the first place).

 

What this means is that if God exists and illnesses exist and can be cured by humans, then they are an unnecesary suffering . The fact that illnesses do exist and they can be cured by huamns means that there is unnecesary suffering, and as unnecesary suffering exists, God must be cruel (or non existant).

 

To simplify this, I have shown that Y can not equal 1 and so X can not equal 4 (in terms of your analaogy). Sure there are an infinite number of other posibilities, but they are limited so that X can not equal 4 or Y can not equal 1. This means that you can any posibility as long as God is cruel or the christian God is non existant. As I have said, it could be that God(s) is cruel and there are an infinite number of ways this could be, or it could be that there are no Gods and that suffering has no spiritual purpose. There are sill an infinite number of posibilities, (as there are for that equation), but I have reuled out God as omnibenevolent (Y does not = 1).

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To take another approach to this question: Do you think that if any random human were selected and made God, with all the imperfections of character and morals that humans have, that person would have designed the universe to be so cruel as it now is? On a really bad day I might have designed the world so that very bad people would get a mild electric shock every time they chose evil over good, but I would never have sent cancer into the world as some subterranean causal consequence of apparently entirely unrelated evil choices by humans!

 

Most religious people would say that if God ceased to exist, the universe would cease along with him, so he must actively sustain the universe by some continuing creative or generative force. But if you were God and could experience, through your omniscience, every intimate detail of a single family's desperation as they watched helplessly as their child was dying of cancer, perhaps in horrendous pain because of the attending physician's reluctance to court the dangers of giving adequate morphine doses to young children, would you have the sadistic capacity to continue to will that horror to persist, second by second, for perhaps weeks on end until the child's eventual death? Now multiply this times the hundreds of millions of horrible deaths in the world! Is it conceivable that any even moderately good, to say nothing of an infinitely good, God, would allow this to persist, or would create a universe where this could happen rather than just prefer to sit by himself in an empty universe which at least had no such hideousness?

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Needimprovement: The problem in your reasoning turns on your notion of 'possible.' If we were walking together at night down a street in a slum section of a major city in July, and a man wearing a mask and carrying a gun came towards us, I would say that from the tangible, empirical evidence and from logical inferences based on that evidence, the man is a robber about to attack us, so we had better run. But if you then said, "No, it is possible that he is a devotee of Hallowe'en who is still wearing his holiday costume even in July," I would say that that was crazy, since your assertion was based on a bare, theoretical notion of 'possibility' which did not arise from any tangible empirical evidence (such as it's being October 31st) or from any logical inference from such tangible empirical evidence. If we ever actually used such purely ungrounded notions of 'possibility' in our reasoning, all our thinking and action would be paralyzed, since we would always have to entertain all the vast array of theoretical possibilities that everything was actually different from what the empirical evidence or logical inference from the empirical evidence suggested it was. Since we don't ever grant such purely notional views of possibility any weight in our reasoning, then we shouldn't do so in our philosophical reasoning either.

 

Thus, returning to the case at hand, based on the empirical data in the situation of the newborn being eaten by wolves, we can discern and logically infer no real possibility of this event having a benevolent or redemptive value. To say that it might possibly have such a value even though the data provide us with no grounds for inferring such a value, and we cannot develop any logical train of thought that would tie such a value to the available data, is to use an empty and unreal notion of possibility which does not have any weight in a rational argument. You can't throw an empty notion of theoretical possibility into the scales against a clear empirical case where the evidence suggests that there is no possibility of suffering being redeemed and pretend that the evidence-backed and the empty possibilities balance each other out. First you have to show why it is just as reasonable to think that the newborn being eaten by wolves is as consistent with a benevolent purpose as it is to think it is inconsistent with a benevolent purpose.

 

If we admitted that type of empty, theoretical, empirically and rationally unsupported possibility as a valid move in our reasoning and arguments, then we could justify not getting up for work in the morning because it is possible that what seems to be reality is just a dream or an elaborate optical illusion. But while that is just as theoretically 'possible' as that the evil in the world has an ultimately benevolent purpose, neither is a sufficiently empirically or logically supported possibility for us ever to take either one seriously.

No. Different scenarios require different levels of confidence. For prudential decisions in day to day life, such as running away from armed thugs, you don't need more than a gut feel. For conviction in a criminal court, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Which is an ambiguous term, but maybe 90%? 95%? 99%?

 

But for logical proofs, like you're trying to make, nothing less than 100% will do. And you're not there. If you want a logical proof that two triangles are congruent, you can't just eyeball them and point out your vast experience judging triangle congruence. You need to prove it, step by step, or you don't have proof. You might be right, you might not.

 

That's where you're at with your proof from unnecessary suffering. Really, calling for empirical proof of a heavenly claim is just plain off-base. The two domains don't normally overlap. It's like if we were discussing kangaroos and you insisted on using data from China. You're saying, "Based on my earthly observations, I have concluded that there is no heavenly benefit to suffering." That's analagous to saying "Based on my observations in the steppes of China, I have concluded that there kangaroos don't exist."

 

If you want to say "Earthly suffering causes me to conclude that a benevolent deity does not exist," fine. That's a personal aesthetic judgment, and I've got no problem with that. But you went further - you didn't say that you don't believe, you said that he must not exist, and there you're writing checks your logic can't cash.

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