Monday, September 28, 2009

Deliver Us From Evil

I have had many worthwhile discussions with Demian Farnworth of the Christian blog Fallen and Flawed. Our most recent exchange began with his description of writer A.N. Wilson's reconversion to religion.

I found several of the statements made in Farnworth's analysis to be provocative. Perhaps the most intriguing statement I found was this claim:
Materialism can not adequately explain our complex world. Christianity, on the other hand, as a working blueprint for life, can.
Since a substantial portion of my deconversion from Christianity has hinged upon the exact opposite argument - that while Christianity cannot adequately explain our complex world, naturalism can provide a working blueprint for life, to paraphrase the structure of Farnworth's claim - I was intrigued to see a discussion of this argument from a viewpoint distinct from my own.

I decided to enter the fray, and set my naturalistic beliefs side by side with Christianity, and attempt to compare which view could actually better explain the complexities of our existence.

I made a brief argument against Christian theism via the origin of suffering.

Traditionally, almost all Christians have interpreted the text in the Genesis creation stories to imply that their god originally created a paradise on Earth, and that only the disobedient sin of Adam and Eve introduced suffering into our world.
If suffering is inherent in the nature of the world, and not brought into the world by the transgressions of humanity – if the evil that happens in the world cannot possibly be the direct result of a Biblical Fall as depicted in Genesis, then traditional Christianity is falsified. Do you agree?

I have found that suffering persisted in our world for an incredibly long time before the first existence of humanity, therefore I believe it is impossible that humanity is the direct cause of evil and injustice in our world, and that therefore almost all types of Christianity are either absurd or implausible.
Here's an excerpt from Demian's reply, which he made shortly after my original comment:
Second, your argument for naturalism hinges on suffering existing before man. I don’t quite understand that. How could suffering exist before mankind? And how do you know? Furthermore, how do you define suffering in terms of naturalism? In other words, if the natural state of things is beast eat beast, how can you say “that’s suffering?” How are you defining suffering, that’s really what’s at stake.
Those are good questions. How should suffering be defined? How could suffering exist before humanity? Here's a hint to what I believe, courtesy of YouTube satirist Edward Current:

At the end of the video, Current's character states:

"You know, it's almost like, here on Earth, it's every species for itself.

Humans don't get any special treatment at all, do they?

It's because life evolves - through natural selection, not Intelligent Design."


Anonymous said...

"You know, it's almost like, here on Earth, it's every species for itself.

I said to myself, Gid, you can watch another one of those mocking, shit-headed, infidel videos, and I did... for about 10 seconds. Because, as is the case in 100% of these videos, they know NOTHING about God or truth.

As I have endlessly tried to explain to you simpletons, God didn't create imperfection. Imperfections arose after sin entered the world, and Satan, the guy that never gets mentioned because he dosesn't exist, (God doesn't exist, either, but, somehow gets the blame, anyway!) seems to never get any credit for causing all of this! Isn't that strange?

No, not at all! Because, Satan is a cowardly pussy-assed fuck that hides in his rat hole, and lets fools do his dirty work for him! Fools like... well, I don't want to name names, or anything... but...

Anyway, the video blows, big time, like every other I've seen posted by infidels. Bereft of knowledge and understanding, it simply reflects the stunted, immature mind of the producer and the poster.

There's no natural selection any more than there is a Santa Claus. What there is, though, is a never-ending supply of dupes ready to carry on the work of generation after generation of infidel that have passed into oblivion and been promptly forgotten. God, however, survives, and rules in the lives of thinking people.

You know... maybe there IS a form of evolution or natural selection going on. It's in the winnowing-out of retards and pussies from the church, making it stronger to do the work that needs to be done. Yeah, on that basis I can agree.

If that's the case, then let the evolution continue!

Teleprompter said...

I think it's hilarious that you're only willing to watch an extremely simplified piece of satire for maybe ten seconds, and then you bash someone else for being uninformed?

You make absolutely no effort to understand evolution, and then you lambaste others for failing to understand your views?

It's obvious that you have no idea what I just wrote, because you're pretending that I have never, ever answered this:

Imperfections arose after sin entered the world

which is an absolutely ludicrous charge, because that very question is answered by my objection from earlier in this post (which you would've seen if you had read it - why do you comment on posts that you don't even read?) that imperfection already existed before humanity entered the world, which you could have figured out if you had displayed even minimal effort (which you did not do).

I'm not putting more energy into arguing with you because I know you're not going to consistently behave with the antics of a spoiled ten year old child.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not putting more energy into arguing with you because I know you're not going to consistently behave with the antics of a spoiled ten year old child."


Oh... okay, I'll try to be more childish in future.

Anyway, I understand perfectly what evilution is, it's a pathetic attempt to nullify God and His sovereignty. Only a moron would believe that man evolved from apes and fish, and that sums up my elation at knowing that morons are definitely NOT an asset in God's service, and are better adversaries than allies.

Your amateurish comedy doesn't impress me, Teleporter, what fascinates me is how anyone that claims a history in Christianity can fall for this shit.

Your attitude is consistent with those that have claimed abuse by church members/authority. It's the old wounded-soul argument: "You hurt me, so I'm taking my ball and going home!" Your pride or ego was hurt, somehow, and so you're pouting... like a ten year-old child, no less.

Well, making sport of someone's beliefs, to me, isn't any proof of evolution in any positive sense. If we're constantly evolving into something higher, I'd have never guessed it by this.

No, I think that atheism primarily provides low-brows and mental deficients with an excuse to be exactly what they are.

uzza said...

"I understand perfectly what evilution is"...
"man evolved from apes"
"we're constantly evolving into something higher"

Aren't they just so CUTE?

Anonymous said...

Oh, crap... someone left the door at the nuthouse open again!

Uzzi... what are you doing up? Here's a drink of water and a cookie, now, go back to bed and dream sweet dreams of Richard Dawkins boning Pat Condell in a teddy.

The adults are talking, please!

uzza said...

Unfortunately I can't play the video, but Demian's notion of suffering is disingenuous. The Buddhist explanation of suffering can't be faulted, in my view, and is far more profound than anything offered by Christians.

The 'problem of suffering' only exists if one assumes an omnibenelovent god, yet if one inverts this to posit an omni-malevolent god and accompanying 'problem of good', the same arguments are at least equally plausible. It's telling for me that Christians always choose the one option that is most ego-building and requires the least humility.

Demian Farnworth said...

Gid. You're either 12 years old or drunk. You're certainly not a Christian. Unless you're having a REALLY, REALLY bad day.

Whatever it is, stop it. You're being ridiculous.

Tele, I'm certainly not a fan of the argument from design since you have to assume the order we do see in the universe was created by something like man. I do believe that God created the universe, but not because of what I see in the universe.

Anyway, you didn't answer my question. You didn't define suffering. You simply said it's like every species for himself. How's that suffering? More importantly, why is that suffering? It's simply the small pox microbe v. humanity. In this case humanity won and small pox no longer sees the light of day.

That's competition.

But how do you account for a father who sexually abuses his daughter? That's not competition, is it?

Uzza: Sorry, your example doesn't make a bit of sense to me. You want me to pretend like evil is good and...what? I'm confused.

But you are right: a omni-benevolent God supposes a standard of good. Which then allows someone to say that something is good or bad.

Remember, though, it's not the theists who are saying there's a suffering problem. It's the atheist. The argument is that if an all good God exists, why does he allow evil? Or an all powerful God exists, yet does nothing about evil. That's the arguments that push people away from God.

Tough stuff, no doubt.

But one thing we can't say is that God doesn't know suffering cause on the cross at Calvary, Christ endured the onslaught of God's wrath for man's sin [a pain, by the way, he feared so much he even at one point asked if he could be excused...and even felt at one point while enduring the pain that God had abandoned him].

Again, not a topic that's terribly easy to swallow. Suffering sucks. I've lost two fathers [my biological and a step father] to a climbing accident and cancer, so I know what it means to lose a loved one.

But it doesn't compare to the devestating suffering that child soldiers in Uganda, for example, experience, often having their own families murdered so they won't return to their homes.

Tim Keller's got a great sermon on Suffering and God [warning: MP3] that's helped a lot.

If you're interested, I'd suggest you give it a listen.

I will say this in closing: If Christ's resurrection was disproved I'd bail on Christianity. That's the historical fact that we put our hope in. Remove that, and yes, the way evolution explains "suffering" [via natural selection] makes sense.

But as it stands, we've got a good record that Jesus in fact did rise from the dead and prove that he was who he said he was--God. And if he was God, what he said about sin and the world and suffering is the truth.

Thanks for carrying on the discussion, Tele.

uzza said...

Hi Demian, nice to see you here.

"a omni-benevolent God supposes a standard of good. Which then allows someone to say that something is good or bad."
It doesn't. Either it's the other way around, or, if you claim [good is the identity of god], it only allows you to say something is godlike or not, not whether it's good or bad.

My example's not so hard.First, assume there is a god. Second, assume it is either evil or good. If you claim it's good, you must explain why bad things happen, and if you claim it's evil you must explain why good things happen. Either possibility is equally plausible.

The only real difference is that one makes you feel puny and insignificant, as science repeatedly confirms to be the actual state of affairs: the other gives you warm fuzzies.

Re suffering, anyone will tell you it's the experience of pain, but you seem to be using the word to mean something else, and I'm baffled as to what that might be. If you create novel definition for a common term, the burden is on you to explain, not on tele.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Tele! I just stopped by to tell you that I've missed you over at UF. :)


Teleprompter said...


You're absolutely right. I have not answered your question. This was intentional.

I will try to do answer your questions in the future, right now I may not have time...


As I just told Demian, my studies are consuming me at the moment. However, thanks to my study of philosophy, I can now lend you confirmation that John C is definitively a neo-Platonist. :P

Anonymous said...

"I can now lend you confirmation that John C is definitively a neo-Platonist."

Haha! I knew it!!!!1!1!!!11!!!eleventyone!!!

M. Tully said...

"God didn't create imperfection. Imperfections arose after sin entered the world"

So things can come into existence without god? Interesting...

So why can't everything come into existence without god? I mean doesn't that kind of wreck the whole "first cause" argument?