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Voices of Theism — Drusilla of Heirs in Hope

November 15, 2006 | 124 Comments

The Raving Atheist welcomes frequent TRA commenter, devout Catholic and transplanted Brazilian Drusilla as TRA’s fourth Voice of Theism. Drusilla will also be sharing her thoughts at her new blog, Heirs in Hope.

I ask that my readers exercise tolerance when responding. Before commenting, please read the definition of “tolerance” set forth in Dawn Eden’s New York Daily News column regarding this site. Compliance will be strictly enforced.

Everybody’s Favorite Victim

“God was unjust to Job. His faithfulness and piety deserved better treatment,” proclaimed the professor of a course I was taking in literary depictions of justice. I was shocked and totally disagreed but at seventeen I had no words to help me express my dissent only the absolute conviction that God is never unjust and that the professor was missing something of vital importance. Of course most people would agree with my professor. Job suffered terribly. God gives Satan permission to harm Job and even admits that Satan “moved [God] against him, to destroy him without cause.” So it should all be very simple. On this occasion, God must be unjust.

I first read the book of Job when I was five and was chiefly struck by the image of a dirty old man, clothed in rags, smelly, probably drunk (I’d already read about Noah), perched atop a pile of ashes scraping giant boils. A gruesome image. Over the next ten or twelve years, I read Job again, two or three times, and while the gruesome image remained, by nine, I realized his “friends” were blaming him and wondered fearfully if they were right. By fourteen I was impressed but puzzled by God’s response — he never answers Job’s demands and accusations. Then there was the course when I was a sophomore in college which signaled the start of another eight years of pondering Job, of trying to understand God’s justice. On perhaps the twelfth reading I noticed for the first time a phrase I’d missed in the past. Sitting on his ashes after a seven day silent watch, Job curses his very existence in frustration and rage ending, “. . the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.” But what had Job feared? He had had everything? I went back to the beginning and paid very close attention. As I walked alongside Job in my imagination, I saw him making continual sacrifices just in case. His was the behaviour of a frightened man, of appeasement — Job seeks to avoid God. In his speeches, Job expresses his feelings about God in language that is at first reminiscent of Psalm 8 but quickly moves to a place of terror and darkness: “What is man, that thou dost make so much of him, and that thou dost set thy mind upon him, dost visit him every morning, and test him every moment? How long wilt thou not look away from me . . . thou watcher of men?”

For Job, God is cruel and exacting, lying in wait for him to err, lying in wait to punish him with His terrible glance. This had not been discussed in that course on justice. In fact, no one — not my foster-father (a Southern-Baptist minister), not the priests and nuns who had catechized me, and not even my old Testament professor — ever mentioned how Job feels about God. They focused on Job’s sufferings but failed to look at his actual relationship with God, a relationship in which he seeks to remain safely in one corner and to keep God safely in another. They did not see that Job’s sufferings begin long before Satan “move[s] [God] . . . to destroy him without cause.” To worship God in an attempt to keep him far away is to suffer horribly.

And it’s not that Job has done anything wrong.”There is none like him on the earth.” He is “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.” In the midst of his fear, Job has done something very right. We would reward him. God does. He takes Job from an existence of anxious watching and waiting and sets his path through true suffering.

Before Satan is allowed to touch him, Job’s sufferings are of his own devising, they are the product of his convictions about God. But true suffering, increasing suffering, and in particular, suffering through his friends’ “consoling” speeches, causes a gradual change in Job who at first speaks in platitudes about God, “the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Eventually though, he begins to speak to God: demanding that God look away, insisting he is right even though God prove him wrong, proclaiming his conviction that he has an Redeemer, an advocate, someone who will take his part and that no matter what, he himself will see God face to face. And finally, the man who intensely desired God to stop looking at him recalls the time before he lost everything: “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me” and demands: “let the Almighty answer me!” Suffering has stripped Job down to his intense need for God to respond, to hear God’s voice.

And God speaks saying, This is what I have done, Job, where were you? Without answering any of the demands and accusations on Job’s list, God answers everything. His presence, his voice, his attention, his self revelation — God himself is Job’s answer. I imagine the anxious man filled with awe and wonder, laughing at himself and capering for joy as he says, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee.” He must have flung the dust and ashes on which he had sat in the air for joy: how could he have known that God was really like this, that God would really answer him?

We are often like Job. We look on suffering as if it is the worse thing that can happen to us but fail to see that sometimes there is nothing else that will break down the stony walls we erect around our hearts, the adamant convictions that separate us from God. He made us to fit into and participate in the love that has always flowed between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But we are such terribly wounded people that we run from him as though he really is a hateful, cruel enemy. Yet we always run with hunger in our hearts, wanting him to see us, starving to know that he is watching. We will always be young children longing to call out, “Watch me! Watch me!” as we pedal our tricycles around the yard for the twentieth time in half an hour. God knows the hunger in our hearts whether or not we declare it. He sees us, not from high up in heaven, not from a far corner, not even through the kitchen window as he finishes the washing up, but right here, right now — we always have God’s undivided attention.

And sometimes that hurts — horribly. But the alternative is to have our way. And our way is filled with precise tallies of what we have lost and what we are owed, with minute detail of exactly how God is supposed to be. How tragic it would be if He gave in to us. Thank goodness God is not as we want him to be. Even when it means excruciating suffering, he knows how to give us the ability to relinquish our ash heaps and give up the bittersweet agony of being victims of his wrath; God always has far more for us than we can include on our lists. He has freedom and victory for each one of us — which is another thing that is so often missed, the end of the story, the victory.

Something radical happens to Job. He is given restoration and then some. His family and friends return: his community is restored. When Job prays for the three friends who came to “console” him he becomes the instrument of their restorations; sacrificing just in case another sinned becomes prayer for the real transgressions of his friends, prayer that acomplishes the mission God has given him. Job even becomes frivolous: at a time when daughters inherited only if there were no sons, Job shares his wealth among his sons and his beautiful daughters. Where once he was frightened and constrained, he is free to act outside the social boundaries, free to delight in the gifts God has given him.

Ultimately, we don’t understand God’s justice. It is not at all like ours. It doesn’t give us what we deserve. His justice gives extravagance, an abundance. And to call God unjust because he leads us through suffering is always to miss something vital. Often it is to miss that God has chosen to be not only a “watcher of men” but a participant in our lives so that real suffering will lead us to real joy.

Comments

124 Responses to “Voices of Theism — Drusilla of Heirs in Hope”

  1. mindless drone
    November 15th, 2006 @ 12:10 pm

    How can we pretend that this makes any sense?

  2. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 15th, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

    “Ultimately, we don’t understand God’s justice.”

    Then on what do you base your judgment that he is just?

  3. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 15th, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

    “Ultimately, we don’t understand God’s justice.”

    Then on what do you base your judgment that he is just?

  4. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    November 15th, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

    The suffering that we see in this world is exactly what we’d expect to see in a naturalistic world devoid of god.

    No convoluted thiestic pretzel logic needed to explain it.

    AS they say: “shit happens” – deal with it!

  5. SteveG
    November 15th, 2006 @ 1:41 pm

    Absolutley Brilliant!

  6. Awrang
    November 15th, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

    No Drusilla,

    you have missed the point. Inflicting suffering on someone is never justified by someone who is supposed to be “all love” and “all good”, and “all powerful” no less. God does not have to go through any process to prove, or achieve anything. He can achieve whatever he wants just by willing it. Stop making excuses for the asshole called “God” and understand that suffering is suffering and injustice is injustice no mather what type of mental gymnastics you perform.

  7. Canoga Dave
    November 15th, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

    So to help Job get over his fear of god, god has his family murdered and basically tortures him. But its OK since god’s ways aren’t our ways (thank Buddha!). If he did get over his fear of god it must be because this treatment drove him insane. Doesn’t this sound like an abusive parent saying to a child, “Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about!” That’s some god you’ve got there.

    Also, his family did not come back to him. He got a new family to replace the one god put a hit out on. Maybe to theists family members are fungible, but we atheists value unique human lives.

  8. JJ
    November 15th, 2006 @ 2:17 pm

    Q
    I think what she is saying is that God’s judgment is based on the totality of facts. We don’t understand God’s justice in the same way that a child doesn’t understand their parents’ justice aside from the degree of separation being a lot more between God and man. I think if God wasn’t just by nature, we wouldn’t be around to talk about it. Therefore, just but higher than our understanding of justice.

  9. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 15th, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

    “We don’t understand God’s justice in the same way that a child doesn’t understand their parents’ justice aside from the degree of separation being a lot more…”

    Right, so then you agree that a child is in a very poor position independently to judge whether his or her parents are “just.” And so, with respect to God, are we even less so (the degree of separation being even larger). Which leaves my original question standing: On what basis can a Christian judge that God is “just”?

    Side note: It would seem our “being here” is rather insufficient to dispose of the question. After all, and to extend the child-parent analogy, many a child is born to an unjust, undeserving father.

  10. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 15th, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

    “We don’t understand God’s justice in the same way that a child doesn’t understand their parents’ justice aside from the degree of separation being a lot more…”

    Right, so then you agree that a child is in a very poor position independently to judge whether his or her parents are “just.” And so, with respect to God, are we even less so (the degree of separation being even larger). Which leaves my original question standing: On what basis can a Christian judge that God is “just”?

    Side note: It would seem our “being here” is rather insufficient to dispose of the question. After all, and to extend the child-parent analogy, many a child is born to an unjust, undeserving father.

  11. Professor Chaos
    November 15th, 2006 @ 3:06 pm

    I once read a story about an infant who was raped and beaten by her father AND mother for the first year of her life before she was found dead.

    Clearly, that was just a path to God’s love.

    You people are abso-freaking-lutely amazing.

  12. The Power of Greyskull
    November 15th, 2006 @ 3:13 pm

    Wow, God works in mysterious ways eh? Funny how he works in a way that would seem to suggest that he doesn’t exist at all.

    So you can have the following explanations:

    1. Shit happens and this is God’s justice. We can’t even begin to know his will.

    2.Shit happens.

    If a country passes laws which seem outrageous we don’t shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, we can’t begin to explain what these laws are for, but I will accept them, no questions asked.”

    What a cop out. We don’t understand God? So how can we possibly make the judgement that he is just. How can we make the judgement that he is loving? We can’t. Open your eyes.

    GOD SAID IT
    I BELIEVE IT
    THAT SETTLES IT

  13. gordonliv
    November 15th, 2006 @ 5:37 pm

    I get fed up with being told by Christians that I am “not worthy”. Drusilla tells me I have erected a stony wall around my heart. No I haven’t. She tells me I am a terribly wounded person. No I’m not. She tells me I am separated from God. Well, even assuming that he exists, he gave me the free choice, didn’t he? And I personally feel no need to go out and find him even if he is there. What need to I have for God? What will he do for me if I do find him?

    Things in my existence are not so bad at the moment. Not brilliant, but not bad. There is no stony wall around my heart and no deep terrible wounds in me. I’m doing fine without God. I don’t need or want to have to suffer in order to come closer to him. I don’t need to get closer to him. If he wants to get closer to me, he knows where to find me. All he has to do is reveal himself to me in a clear and unambiguous way, and I’ll believe in him. So far he hasn’t done that, and to be honest I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

    But Drusilla, that wasn’t really a convincing or intriguing read. To be honest, it was like a dreary sermon dealing with some arcane part of the Bible which to an atheist is so far removed from his/her way of thinking as to be, frankly, a waste of time. You had a great opportunity there to engage the atheists here, and you chose to preach the Bible from the virtual pulpit. Missed opportunity.

    Next time you post on this blog, get into the nitty gritty of how you can prove God’s existence (if you can), or give real and persuasive arguments as to why God allows torture and starvation on his beloved Earth. And don’t quote the Bible, please. To an atheist, the Bible proves nothing. The Bible is just a dull, unintersting sideshow in a much larger arena of argument concerning logic, proof, commonsense and evidence.

    Much room for improvement, Drusilla.

  14. Jahrta
    November 15th, 2006 @ 5:42 pm

    What’s the point of all this mindless drivvel? TRA’s already driven out a vast majority of the atheists on his blog through unbridled wishy-washy psuedo-theist jackassery. A growing portion of his old audience now believes, as do I, that he has converted to some form of theism (and he’ll never tell us why he can never tell us what the fuck made him turn into such a mealy-mouthed dumbass).

    Is this just the final step in handing the keys to the asylum over to the lunatics?

    Enjoy, fuck-knob

  15. Doug Purdie
    November 15th, 2006 @ 6:06 pm

    Oh, OK, now I get it!

    Cruelty is mercy.

    If only I had read the Bible 12 times instead of only 4 times, I could have figured that out years ago.

  16. Lily
    November 15th, 2006 @ 6:55 pm

    This was wonderful. I have long noted that you are an amazing apologist but this is definitely a “wow”. A keeper, for sure. Thank you so much!

  17. MC5
    November 15th, 2006 @ 6:56 pm

    The Goon Bible Project – Book of Job

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHPg3kjKBRc&eurl=

    Amusing.

  18. Cthulance
    November 15th, 2006 @ 9:14 pm

    “Ultimately, we don’t understand God’s justice.”

    If we don’t understand it than why are we calling it justice? Is it on God’s say so? It isn’t even that–it’s on the say so of ancient superstitious sheepherders. It’s on faith, pure and simple, which means that we believe god is just (and for that matter, believe in god) because we want to.

    “And to call God unjust because he leads us through suffering is always to miss something vital.”

    In other words, we shouldn’t look a gift universe–sorry, that’s too mealy mouthed, a gift GOD–in the mouth. As has been said elsewhere by someone on this website regarding a mealy mouthed quote from Chesterton which seems to relate to the message of the Book of Job:

    “Don’t look a gift universe, or god, in the mouth. Just smile and be a happy part of the machinery. Be grateful that you get to be a cog in some part of the cosmic wheel, the divine plan… whatever. Don’t question, just turn blindly and passively like the grateful little gear you ought to be.”

    That’s the message of the Book of Job, and you so eloquently support and espouse that message in this post.

  19. Godthorn
    November 15th, 2006 @ 11:45 pm

    Oh, to be loved by God as he loved his servant Job! Could it be that Christians and Jews are masochistic branches of the species? Or sado-masochistic perhaps?

  20. Forrest Cavalier
    November 15th, 2006 @ 11:56 pm

    Jesus taught that the arrogant and proud separate themselves from God, while the meek and humble are close to Him.

    Secular psychology teaches that the arrogant and proud have difficulty maintaining close relationships. Love requires humility.

    Not so different.

    I liked the piece, but I am very uncomfortable with Drusilla’s phrasing “real suffering will lead us to real joy.” From her writing, I think she understands it differently, but it doesn’t come across well in that phrase.

    Joy doesn’t come from a passive response to life. In the face of suffering, I think the active response is called “sacrifice.”

    We are called to condemn and eliminate intentionally inflicted suffering and needless suffering. But some suffering is necessary. What is training, for example? Recovery from debilitating injury? There is truth in “No pain, no gain.”

    If your world-view/theism/atheism/agnosticism can’t help you approach the suffering that comes in your life, then you are dancing a delicate and unstable dance of pride and arrogance. The story of Job is the story of a man who realized the truth.

    I am honestly curious…if you are an atheist who experiences suffering or tragedy, what inspires you to overcome it, to bounce back? Can some atheists here respond?

  21. JJ
    November 16th, 2006 @ 2:02 am

    Jahrta said:
    …TRA’s already driven out a vast majority of the atheists on his blog through unbridled wishy-washy psuedo-theist jackassery. …he’ll never tell us why he can never tell us what the fuck made him turn into such a mealy-mouthed dumbass).
    ..Enjoy, fuck-knob

    Perhaps he’s getting tired of hanging around people like you. :)

    Q the Enchanter- that was an excellent response to my post. My statement was incomplete. Thanks for pointing that out.
    My clarification to my post then is: if, like Job, we are trying to figure out why we’re here, we inevitably come down to two conclusions – either we are fully natural beings who return to the ground or we are spiritual beings who return to God which leads to what I left out, that we have no choice but to trust that God is just. There aren’t any foster parents or DCF agents that can do anything for us. It’s either God or dust.
    Now if that choice were the end then we’d trust God out of fear alone. Once Job stopped trying to figure out God (and stopped trying to appease Him) and decided to talk to Him in a real and personal way, God’s intent (voice) became clear to Job and he began to chill out. Makes sense to me.

  22. The Power of Greyskull
    November 16th, 2006 @ 4:34 am

    If we can’t possibly begin to understand God, how can we understand your faith in him. It is just a blind faith in something because someone once said that it was the right thing to do. You can’t judge God by his heinous actions, so you make excuses for him but you keep telling yourself that it is all for the best in the end? But we can’t begin to understand this…. because his judgement is beyond our comprehension???

    Many theists say that they continually question their own faith which reinforces their beliefs. How can you question something if you can’t possibly begin to comprehend it?

  23. sam
    November 16th, 2006 @ 6:34 am

    What is amazing is how the Bible, the supposed word of God,
    has been used throughout history to justify a point of view,
    AND, its diametrically opposed one.

    This “word of God”, has been used to justify all sorts of atrocities
    from slavery, to the inquisition, and the crusades.

    It also justifies pacifism and charity.

    God must be an entire idiot to have written a book that can be
    used to justify murder and love at the same time.

    A book that can be interpreted in any manner that suits the
    reader is a TOTALLY USELESS book. No! it is AN EVIL book.

    And God is evil (if it exists, which it does not) for writing,
    or inspiring, such a book.

    Since it is all knowing then it should have known the result
    of its work and either:
    1- Written it so as not to be possible to interpret it
    except as it intended.
    or
    2- Made sure that any one making use of it to justify
    evil deeds is struck down

    Since God did neither, then we can assume that the Bible is not God’s
    Work, OR that God is an evil idiot.

    God must be the ultimate Reality Show Producer. The common
    denominator in all these reality shows is that the producers
    put the contestants in situations that produce conflict and
    contention.

    It must have been God’s intent to produce the ULTIMATE
    SURVIVOR SHOW, for its entertainment and perhaps other
    Idiot Gods that will pay to see the show while stuffing their
    faces with the latest junk food advertised on the show.

    God is sooooo human in its behavior precisely because
    It is A HUMAN INVENTION, just like Santa, Fairies, Hobbits,
    Etc..

    Some one said once: “If God did not exist we would have
    Had to invent him”, well, I say “God does not exist and we did invent it.”

    In Leviticus, God spends hundreds of lines telling Moses
    How to surely identify a person struck with leprosy, and then
    throw him out of the tribe and burn any trace of his existence.

    Could it not have spent a page telling Moses how to make
    Penicillin?????? (which is a fungus that can grow on certain
    sugar solutions)

    No, it could not, because the writer of the Bible
    was not A God, but a primitive priest, who wanted
    the people under control to keep bringing him
    savory sacrifices, so he does not have to work for
    his living, rather be a parasite on poor supersticious
    hard working folk.

    OR, the reality show would not be as intersting to
    the junk food guzzling idiotics other Gods.

  24. Professor Chaos
    November 16th, 2006 @ 8:33 am

    Oh, I see.

    1.) Not believing in God means not believing in an afterlife.
    2.) I don’t want to not believe in an afterlife.
    3.) Therefore, God exists.

    Good argument!

  25. Just_Another_Primate
    November 16th, 2006 @ 8:36 am

    It is interesting that Raving Antiabortionist provides a link to an article she wrote “Atheist’s site is all the rave” where she implies that the Raving Athiest loves a good debate ….

    When was the last time anyone actually witnessed RA actually debating a topic? Posting some commentary and letting other people discuss it is hardly a debate.

  26. Kate B.
    November 16th, 2006 @ 8:56 am

    Drusilla–

    Well done! I hadn’t considered Job like that before. Now I want to go back and reread it.

  27. MC5
    November 16th, 2006 @ 9:27 am

    After nine paragraphs explaining god’s justice we are told that:

    we don’t understand God’s justice

    What was the point of the proceeding prose then? And as mentioned early, since we can’t understand, how do we know he is just?

    Often it is to miss that God has chosen to be not only a “watcher of men” but a participant in our lives so that real suffering will lead us to real joy.

    Firstly, what happened to our free will? Surely god is playing favourites by making some people suffer and therefore leading them to ‘real joy’, while letting others continue along with little suffering. God is clearly favouring cancer victims and starving Africans.

    Secondly, how did the ‘real suffering’ of the 186,983 dead and 42,883 missing 2005 boxing day tsunami victims and the real and on going suffering of their families and (now even more) poverty stricken communities lead ANYONE to ‘real joy.’ If that’s ‘real joy’, my guess would be that the Asian and African populations affected could do without it.

  28. HappyNat
    November 16th, 2006 @ 9:47 am

    I could never praise a god that made a bet (isn’t gambling wrong?) with the Devil (100% evil). If taken literally the book of Job proves god is a twisted bastard, if it is a parable it is rubbish.

  29. Thorngod
    November 16th, 2006 @ 11:44 am

    FOREST C– answer to your rediculous question: All living things strive to “overcome” and “bounce back.” Only a fraction of a % (specifically the religious human animal) requires the additional assistance of a spiritual crutch.

    J.J.– If God is just, then he is surely as just and as merciful as you and I. Even if you are a Pol Pot or a Hitler, he must understand and forgive. Hell is antithetical to the concept of a just and merciful being. (This assessment exemplifies the difference between reason and “revelation.”)

    KATE B– When you re-read the Book of Job, notice this: Your attention is focused throughout on Job, but as the story unfolds, several hundred other victims are sacrificed–and their children and spouses and parents reduced to sorrow and poverty. If Job is a true story, Kate, then Yahweh and his son Lucifer have a hell of a lot more sins to account for from that adventure than just the mischief they perpetrated on faithful old Job!

  30. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 16th, 2006 @ 12:06 pm

    “either we are fully natural beings who return to the ground or we are spiritual beings who return to God which leads”

    I’m don’t see how this matters, JJ. Even if we were spiritual beings who eventually return to God, the question could (and I think should) still be asked: Is this God we return to just?

    The fact that God is supposedly the only game in town seems only more beside the point. Does one become “good” or “just” by dint of being the only alternative to annihilation?

  31. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 16th, 2006 @ 12:06 pm

    “either we are fully natural beings who return to the ground or we are spiritual beings who return to God which leads”

    I’m don’t see how this matters, JJ. Even if we were spiritual beings who eventually return to God, the question could (and I think should) still be asked: Is this God we return to just?

    The fact that God is supposedly the only game in town seems only more beside the point. Does one become “good” or “just” by dint of being the only alternative to annihilation?

  32. Kate B.
    November 16th, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

    Thank you, Thorngod, but having already read the book, I’d noticed that fact. And I’m still a theist. Puzzle over it all you want.

  33. maledictus
    November 16th, 2006 @ 12:21 pm

    “I am honestly curious…if you are an atheist who experiences suffering or tragedy, what inspires you to overcome it, to bounce back? Can some atheists here respond?”

    I lost a son two weeks ago. I loved him. I went throug something I have watched on TV: when the doctor asks you if you are going to disconnect the patien from de machines that sustain him. I decided to wait and see, basically because his mother is a believer, but I knew he was practically dead. He died naturally.

    Cavalier, I did not need God. Maybe it was good for me being an atheist. This way I was more able to confront the chores of death. Doctors, machines, burial, etc.. And I think that maybe being an atheist I saw the dead of my son as some natural and unavoidable. For the rest I suppose is the same that happen to believers, you feel your loss and some times your sadness makes you cry. Good if you have a family and frends. They support and help you. But believe me, never I thought about god as a helper or as the agent of my loss. That guy doesnot exists.

  34. Lily
    November 16th, 2006 @ 12:39 pm

    Thorn: When a narrative starts out with “Once upon a time” you can be sure that a story is coming. Job starts out that way, or, at least, so close as makes no nevermind. It is a story with a very serious theme. But don’t spend too much time worrying about the first Mrs. Job.

    Q You have asked the most important question of all! Is this God we return to just?

    I can imagine a god who was not just, who was not benevolent. While such a being could command my obedience, it could not command my love and gratitude. The God of Job does command my love and gratitude, i.e. we who believe in him feel able to answer your question affirmatively.

    So much of the spade work involved in coming to this decision rests on understanding the Old Testament correctly, as many of you (corporately speaking) point to the horrors in it to ground your problems with our beliefs.

    We have had numerous conversations in the last year or so about the literary genres of the OT and how one needs to be aware of them, in order to interpret it correctly. I will be glad to dig up the links, if the subject would be of interest to you.

    Perhaps it is enough to say here that we think we have answers that will satisfy…

  35. Thorngod
    November 16th, 2006 @ 1:25 pm

    No puzzle, Kate, just confirmation of the effectiveness of that specialized nerve complex in your frontal cortex.

  36. Choobus
    November 16th, 2006 @ 2:32 pm

    this is nothing more than a reacharound

  37. Drusilla
    November 16th, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

    Next time you post on this blog, get into the nitty gritty of how you can prove God’s existence (if you can), or give real and persuasive arguments as to why God allows torture and starvation on his beloved Earth.

    You are most amusing. I’m not trying to prove God’s existence to you or to anyone else. That would be like trying to prove my mother existed. She’s dead and since she was killed in political violence and much of the ‘evidence’ of her life was either destroyed or is unavailable, it would be perfectly reasonable if anyone said she never existed at all. Except, of course, I’m here but then there are so many possible explanations for that.

    I am writing about what Catholics believe. I’ll be writing much more about suffering. You might find it interesting. Then again, you might not. I do value all the comments here and invite you all to comment on my blog. You all help me to decide what I might write about mostly because so many of you seem to have created a sort of Theist soup which is amusing in its way but often has nothing to do with what I (and other Catholics) believe.

    And though work has been exceedingly busy for me these past few weeks, I’ll be posting on my blog and will comment here as I have time because this is such fun. Life is such fun and you all have become part of it.

  38. Drusilla
    November 16th, 2006 @ 2:45 pm

    am very uncomfortable with Drusilla’s phrasing “real suffering will lead us to real joy.”

    FC –

    Thanks for your comments. In this context I am saying that the suffering we impose on ourselves cannot lead us to joy. That we must enter into the reality of suffering in order to experience the reality of joy. That if the Cross, for instance, is a concept and not a reality, then Easter cannot be anything other than a concept too. Afterall, suffer comes from the Latin, sub (up, under) + ferre (to carry) and means, to bear, undergo, endure, etc. And unless something is real, there is nothing to bear, undergo or endure.

  39. Forrest Cavalier
    November 16th, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

    Drusilla (#30)

    How do you understand sacrifice? Does it have a meaning other than to suffer?

    Given a circumstance of suffering, what choice do we have? Does the joy come from the suffering or the positive choice we make in response?

    Is experiencing suffering necessary in order to recognize and appreciate joy? Joy is not defined as the opposite of suffering, is it?

  40. gordonliv
    November 16th, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

    It would not in the slightest be like trying to prove your mother existed.

    1. People knew and touched your mother. You for one. There have been no physical contacts with God.
    2. People saw your mother. No one has seen God (“No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18)).
    3. There is every good reason to believe that your mother existed, and to assert her existence without evidence is not contentious. There is no good reason whatsoever to believe that God exists or ever existed. To assert such existence without evidence is extremely contentious.

    To liken a debate about the existence of God to a debate about the existence of your mother is frankly a very weak and timid stance to adopt. Dodging the issue by calling me “amusing” does not make the issue go away. Are you scared of the arguments you’ll get here? Do you have to raise peripheral points about the Bible and its interpretation because you know only too well that you can’t answer the big ones?

    You called me “amusing”… I called you “dreary”. I know which of those two I’d rather be.

  41. Rich kraeuter
    November 16th, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

    Spoken like a true christian masochist The learned need to “suffer for her god/beliefs” foremost and to revel in that suffering.

  42. Thorngod
    November 16th, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

    Suffering is real? Agreed. Therefore….

  43. DCAtheist
    November 16th, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

    Drusilla,

    I’m sorry to hear about your mother. You’re using an apples-to-oranges analogy with God, however. There are billions of people on this earth who CAN prove that their mother exists, so it’s not a big leap to assume you must have had a mother at one point, even if we knew nothing of how life begets life, evolution, or genetics. Not one person can prove that God exists, however. When you hold the supernatural up to the same scrutiny that the natural world gets it simply doesn’t hold up.

    Also, it seems that what you are saying is, “To understand joy we must understand suffering.” Why is God required for suffering? Or does the kind of suffering God allegedly imposes somehow more intense?

    DCAtheist

  44. Crosius
    November 16th, 2006 @ 4:52 pm

    But momma, I know he loves me. He only beats me because he wants me to be a better person. It’s really my fault. I’m the weak one.

    Why do Christians always sound like victims of spousal abuse?

  45. Thorngod
    November 16th, 2006 @ 4:58 pm

    Inexplicably, my now #39 was originally #36 and was an immediate reply to Drusilla’s #35. Obviously I need to preface all answers with the appropriate addressee. Sorry for any confusion.

  46. Thorngod
    November 16th, 2006 @ 5:05 pm

    Lily, I knew you did not take Job literally, unlike the believing masses. Taken literally, the Book of Job is farcical. Taken metaphorically, it emphasises it’s God’s power and intolerance, not his justice or mercy.

  47. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 16th, 2006 @ 5:15 pm

    Lily,

    You say that “much of the spade work involved in coming to this decision rests on understanding the Old Testament correctly,” but Job isn’t difficult to understand. The narrative facts of the story are clear and not particularly contentious. What isn’t clear is how to reconcile those facts with the notion that this “God” that is spoken of is loving and benevolent. However you come out on that question, it is a matter of theodicy, not a matter of textual interpretation.

    Anyway, no doubt Christians who remain Christians in the face of the Book of Job have interpretations of that book that “satisfy” them. I was addressing my question, however, to a post directed at we atheists and sympathizers of Job, whose author presumably aimed to provide answers that would satisfy us.

  48. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 16th, 2006 @ 5:15 pm

    Lily,

    You say that “much of the spade work involved in coming to this decision rests on understanding the Old Testament correctly,” but Job isn’t difficult to understand. The narrative facts of the story are clear and not particularly contentious. What isn’t clear is how to reconcile those facts with the notion that this “God” that is spoken of is loving and benevolent. However you come out on that question, it is a matter of theodicy, not a matter of textual interpretation.

    Anyway, no doubt Christians who remain Christians in the face of the Book of Job have interpretations of that book that “satisfy” them. I was addressing my question, however, to a post directed at we atheists and sympathizers of Job, whose author presumably aimed to provide answers that would satisfy us.

  49. Lily
    November 16th, 2006 @ 6:54 pm

    Yes, theodicy is the stumbling block for non-believers and former non-believers. Nevertheless, I still hold that understanding what the Old Testament is and is not, is very helpful in weighing the evidence about what we believe. Y’all (not necessarily you personally) have some very odd notions about what actually happened in it and why that would be greatly clarified with some literary and cultural understanding of the events in the OT, along with some theology!

  50. Cthulance
    November 16th, 2006 @ 9:45 pm

    Drusilla,

    “So it should all be very simple. On this occasion, God must be unjust.”

    It certainly appears that way. Yet you have an admitted

    “absolute conviction that God is never unjust”

    and–as it’s an absolute conviction–you must support that conviction at all costs. (Given that the conviction is absolute, it seems you must also support it at the expense of all reason and physical evidence.)

    So you gloss over the actual evils committed by God in this story, gloss over the specifics of Job’s suffering, his anguish, and God’s boasting in response, praise God’s goodness for replacing irreplaceable family members (not to mention all those poor animals and slaves he allowed to be killed via conspiracy with the Lord of Hell), gloss over God’s complicity with Satan himself in this story, all by saying:

    “Ultimately, we don’t understand God’s justice.”

    This is how people with absolute convictions justify them in the face of so much that contradicts.

  51. R. Hoeppner
    November 16th, 2006 @ 10:37 pm

    Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. – Ronald Reagan

  52. Godthorn
    November 17th, 2006 @ 1:01 am

    R.HOEPPNER, “There will be peace on earth when the last priest is strangled in the guts of the last politician.” -H.L. Mencken

    “Religion is a disingenuous proposal to repeal natural law.” -Godthorn, under a different name.

  53. JJ
    November 17th, 2006 @ 1:19 am

    Q said-
    Even if we were spiritual beings who eventually return to God, the question could (and I think should) still be asked: Is this God we return to just?

    Great question. Justice tends to be subjective. One person might think that justice in a murder case is the execution of the murderer while another person may say no, life in prison, while still another says “hey, that guy killed Osama Bin Laden, let him go!” In the end the sentence and its fairness depends on who the judge is.

    Knowing who the judge is mandates a thought exercise on God. If God exists, then He is the judge by default. There is no one else, in fact nothing else. Bible aside, we can see that the universe exists and that we are able to write and breathe and contemplate our existence. We also have a great benefit in knowing that this universe began at some point in time. The totality of facts in this universe would include 125 billion galaxies but luckily the question does not require total knowledge of each datum of that incomprehensible inventory.

    The question is this: Was the creation of the universe a bad thing, an indifferent thing, or a good thing?

    From God’s perspective, these options could be explained by God as [A] “I hate you” (I created you to suffer for my pleasure) or [B] “I don’t care about you” (you are nothing more than a miniscule stain that appeared on my sleeve quite by accident) or [C] “I care about you that’s why I created you”.

    Job trusted that C was the correct answer even though he was tempted to think A or B was true because of his suffering. You might think it was illogical to choose C because he lost his children (they died) and his wealth in the blink of an eye. Either God piled on those hardships or He lifted His hand of protection away from Job. It was the latter, but from Job’s view there was no way to tell at first.

    The question here is where would Job’s wealth and children be today had this period of suffering not existed? Would his children still be alive, his wealth intact? No, of course not. So where is the argument?

    Our judgments of God are based on temporary sufferings but God cannot be a temporary being [if He exists]. The material reality of our lives passes away; matter only being significant should the spirit have attached itself to it.

    Suffering is the very decay of material things that wrests the spiritual mind from its addiction to the material. This is how Job found joy amidst his suffering. He saw his own liberation amidst his terrible circumstances.

    If we honestly seek the truth about God, will He deny us access? It would follow that a God that would create, nurture, hold His hand of protection over us, would also listen and speak to those who really want to hear Him. Even in the worst of times, when tsunamis kill hundreds of thousands, when our children die, when we lose our jobs, He is working in us toward something good, something that cannot be lost. That is a just God. Makes sense to me.

  54. HappyNat
    November 17th, 2006 @ 8:50 am

    Choobus said:
    “this is nothing more than a reacharound”

    You make that sound like a bad thing.

  55. Facehammer
    November 17th, 2006 @ 9:18 am

    I am writing about what Catholics believe.

    I think I speak for most atheists here when I say I don’t give a toss what catholics believe in regards to suffering. Unless you can provide hard scientific evidence that the world works the way you say it does (ie, with a god and an afterlife) nobody here will ever take any drivel you base on those principles even the slightest bit seriously. Give us evidence or fuck off.

    Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. – Ronald Reagan

    Work sets you free, don’t you know.

  56. Thorngod
    November 17th, 2006 @ 11:03 am

    JJ, in view of the terrors, the anguish, the extreme sufferings to which all living things, humans not excluded, are continually subjected, how to you suppose you acquired the droll and indefensible notion that “God” “hold(s) His hand of protection over us”? The silly claim that we must endure the journey through this “vale of tears” in order to earn some vague but well-rumored bliss called “Heaven” is quite absurd. If, as you contend, “He is working in us toward something good…,” it can only be his own vain “good,” not ours. The sufferings and tragedies that befall every living being may be nothing to “God,” but they are ne plus ultra to the experiencing individual. And though “God” could presumably cause us to forget them utterly in that fabled Heaven, even he cannot cause them to not have happened! They are not illusory; they happen–and they are unrecissible, even for “God.” So your question, “where would Job’s wealth and children be today…” is not meaningful in the least. If their account were real, it could no more be discounted than could be the totality of experiencing since life began.

    “Justice,” you say, “tends to be subjective.” Yes, for us humans it necessarily is. But for the supposed “God,” having total knowledge, justice would be utterly objective. As such, “justice” would be a superfluous concept for him, since, understanding all, he must forgive all. I will not attempt here to trace for you the roots and tubers of “righteousness;” it would require far too lengthy an exposition.

    And by the way: There is no valid reason to imagine that the universe must have had a “beginning,” or that it must have an “end.” Such a contention is necessary to religion, but logically, beginning and end are equally impossible.

  57. sam
    November 17th, 2006 @ 12:20 pm

    Is God Just???

    How can a just God prefer some people over others
    and order the former to kill the latter and take
    their land?

    Why would a just God be angry with Pharoe for
    screwing Sarah and not with Abraham the coward and
    pimp who did not tell Pharoe that she was his wife
    not his sister.

    How can God be just when the same Abraham repeats the
    the same pimping of his wife to another King, and God
    again is vengeful onto the king and not the leing cowardly pimp?

    There are hundreds of occasions in the Bible where
    God’s behaviour is nothing but
    Racist, Hateful, Chauvinistic, etc. etc.

    Why would a just God order someone to kill every last man woman and male child and take the female children as slaves
    for pleasure????????

    God in the Bible is nothing but an instument for the writers
    to justify their atrocities and feel good about themselves.

    Even if the Biblical God exists, it would not be a God worthy
    of adolation. on the contrary it would be every man’s
    duty to fight it just like we fought Hitler, Stalin, and every
    other genocidal maniac that ever existed.

  58. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 17th, 2006 @ 12:40 pm

    JJ, I think the nature of our universe should be a source of profound ambivalence, and so I would be wary of giving any single, simple valuation for the fact that the universe exists.

    In any case, the fact (if it is a fact) that the existence of the universe is (on balance) a “good thing” says nothing about whether it’s putative creator is perfectly, or even moderately, good: It certainly doesn’t take a lot of imagination to come up with examples of human creators of positively vicious character who were the authors or creators of “good things”; and even the devil (did he exist) could conjure “good things” to suit his purpose.

    In short, unless you assume a Divine Command theory of value (and that is merely assuming what is to be proved), the mere existence of a “good” universe is wholly immaterial to the question of the good of its putative creator, God.

  59. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 17th, 2006 @ 12:40 pm

    JJ, I think the nature of our universe should be a source of profound ambivalence, and so I would be wary of giving any single, simple valuation for the fact that the universe exists.

    In any case, the fact (if it is a fact) that the existence of the universe is (on balance) a “good thing” says nothing about whether it’s putative creator is perfectly, or even moderately, good: It certainly doesn’t take a lot of imagination to come up with examples of human creators of positively vicious character who were the authors or creators of “good things”; and even the devil (did he exist) could conjure “good things” to suit his purpose.

    In short, unless you assume a Divine Command theory of value (and that is merely assuming what is to be proved), the mere existence of a “good” universe is wholly immaterial to the question of the good of its putative creator, God.

  60. Trevor Blake
    November 17th, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

    You claim God visits (or allows) suffering to ‘teach us a lesson.’ But this fails to explain why God visits (or allows) suffering on infants who have done no hardening of hearts yet. This is a significant weakness in your arguement.

    You speak at length of God’s justice, then say we cannot understand God’s justice. This contradiction makes your argument fail.

    I thank you for contributing to TRA!

  61. Jody Tresidder
    November 17th, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

    Doesn’t Job’s story simply instruct Christians to accept that ALL suffering is meaningful because God says so?

    (I’ve always found this tale perfectly hideous. I do have some friends who are Christian, but I’d find it very difficult to like anyone who could read Job’s story with shining eyes. I’d really prefer they kept it to themselves.)

  62. allonym
    November 17th, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

    There’s something in Drusilla’s screed that sticks out to me like a sore thumb. It seems wierd to say that we always have god’s undivided attention. It seems that if everyone always had his attention, it would be divided—by definition, in fact. But that’s immaterial, given that god does not even exist.

  63. Cthulance
    November 17th, 2006 @ 10:30 pm

    “Ultimately, we don’t understand God’s justice.”

    Ultimately, Christians rely heavily on special pleading.

  64. Bighead
    November 17th, 2006 @ 11:02 pm

    Post # 19 by JJ:

    “There aren’t any foster parents or DCF agents that can do anything for us. It’s either God or dust.
    Now if that choice were the end then we’d trust God out of fear alone.”

    I can’t believe you said this, and I can’t believe no one has pounced on it yet.

    This whole thread is pretty pointless don’t you think? Why continue it? She won’t give in to reason, because she has her set response “we can’t understand gods (take your pick)” so why bother with debate?

  65. Godthorn
    November 18th, 2006 @ 3:57 am

    Drusilla learned early and well that “God is never unjust.” So did I. But re-read Drusilla’s ¶ 2. Even though she was a firm believer, she spent “another eight years of pondering Job, of trying to understand God’s justice.” She believed all along, but what she lacked was the ability to defend her beliefs–primarily to herself. This ability she eventually acquired, as demonstrated in her concluding paragraphs:
    “…the bittersweet agony of his wrath.”
    “…another thing that is so often missed, the end of the story, the victory.”
    “Ultimately, we don’t understand God’s justice. It is not at all like ours.”
    “(R)eal suffering will lead us to real joy.”

    What tortured “logic”! Try to imagine an attorney defending a client with such arguments. “He beat and flayed her, your honor, so she would understand and love him. Afterwards he kissed her and bandaged her and treated her to a movie. It really isn’t his fault, your honor, that she failed to get the message.”

    Such perverted logic looks like the most blatant possible prevarication. But it is not exactly that. It is a desparate defense against the believer’s own reason-tending mind. It is not you or I that the “believer” must convince; it is herself or himself. The fear-driven need to believe overwhelms and smothers the reasoning mind, and fantasy and tortuosity are brought forth to defend what fact and logic will not.

    “We don’t understand God’s justice,” Drusilla says. “It is not at all like ours.” Why, then, do we call it by that name? Does it not come closer to the meaning of a different word? Is it not more like “injustice”? Is the divine “mercy” not more accurately called “sadism”?

    What is so damned sad about this interminable contest between reason and religion is that so many of the believers who are compelled to resort to these contorted defences are among the best people in the world. I truly hate having to attack them. But as in any war, one cannot hope to defeat a tyranny while sparing the gullible troops that blindly serve it. And the Great Lie is a formidable foe.

  66. Drusilla
    November 18th, 2006 @ 12:30 pm

    gordonliv (#37) –

    I do not debate about the existence of God. It would be foolish for me to do so. I can’t convince you or anyone else but only speak of what I and many, many others believe and have experienced. That you have not experienced the same in your own life means only that you have not done so.

    And trying to prove to you that my mother existed would be comparable to trying to prove to you that God exists – certainly in this day and age of documentation. But instead, you believe in her existence because of me. That quote from John continues: No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. If it is logical that I can make my mother known then it must be logical that Christ can make God the Father known. That is the experience many of us have and still, I understand it is not yours.

    Finally, Petit – if the big issues are truly big, they can’t be examined in nine paragraphs and an odd number of comments. This was my first post, it won’t be my last. And mine is only one of many voices. Do feel free to read and comment on my blog. But know, I can’t promise to respond to the big issues with acceptable answers. It isn’t my job to be acceptable. It’s only my job to share what I’ve been given.

  67. Drusilla
    November 18th, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

    Unless you can provide hard scientific evidence that the world works the way you say it does (ie, with a god and an afterlife) nobody here will ever take any drivel you base on those principles even the slightest bit seriously. Give us evidence or fuck off.

    When you ask for hard scientific evidence you ask for empirical evidence. That the experience of God has been and is repeated in many, many lives throughout many, many generations and through sheer numbers alone is more than just statistically significant doesn’t matter. So if repeatability isn’t the issue, what is? Control? But if God is really God, then God cannot be controlled.

    This insistence that I must prove God’s existence to you or fuck off is just silly, a most tedious kind of silly. If anyone could provide such proof it would be evidence that God is not God at all. Perhaps you really mean prove to me God does exist so that I can know that he doesn’t.

  68. Drusilla
    November 18th, 2006 @ 1:26 pm

    Trevor Blake (#54) –

    I don’t claim that God visits suffering on us to ‘teach us a lesson.’ I claim that more is going on in Job than any of my professors or teachers ever pointed out to me and that his relationship with God is central. Suffering is a much bigger issue – much bigger. One post cannot hope to cover it and I’ve already posted a second and am working on a third. And even when I complete my current posts on suffering, the issue will not be exhausted.

    There is such a joy in mathematics here. I understand that joy and considered pursuing physics when I was at university. Mathematics can be beautiful, elegant. Even lower level calculus shows glimpses of an immense world, of possibilities that 2+2 doesn’t begin to hint at.

    I choose to stick with theology because it is even more demanding than mathematics. I will never fully master it or any part of it. God is truly so big I can spend my lifetime learning about him and will still have only seen glimpses of his totality. But we can speak and write of those glimpses. We can know about God’s justice while knowing that we don’t understand it. It’s not contradiction, it’s just the way relationships are: to know God and realize we don’t really know him as well as we thought we did.

    Please come to my blog and comment. Not because I’m trying to convert you but because of your thoughtful responses. Thanks.

  69. Facehammer
    November 18th, 2006 @ 6:58 pm

    When you ask for hard scientific evidence you ask for empirical evidence. That the experience of God has been and is repeated in many, many lives throughout many, many generations and through sheer numbers alone is more than just statistically significant doesn’t matter. So if repeatability isn’t the issue, what is? Control? But if God is really God, then God cannot be controlled.

    You say it like personal testimony is reliable, or that there is no rational explanation for apparently religious experiences, or that popular opinion makes something true.

    Dirty christian.

    This insistence that I must prove God’s existence to you or fuck off is just silly, a most tedious kind of silly. If anyone could provide such proof it would be evidence that God is not God at all. Perhaps you really mean prove to me God does exist so that I can know that he doesn’t.

    First, I’m not asking for proof – I’m asking for evidence. Second, even if I were asking for proof, the burden of proof is on you, and you must prove your god exists before we should accept anything you base on that. Third, why exactly would god hide himself from those attempting to learn more about him? So that he has to save fewer of them from his own wrath? Did you come to the conclusion that he exists without any evidence whatsoever?

    Provide the evidence you based your arguments on or fuck off.

  70. Oz
    November 18th, 2006 @ 9:09 pm

    I believe it was Robert Heinlein who wrote (paraphrased) that theology may be likened to a blind man searching in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there.

  71. gordonliv
    November 18th, 2006 @ 9:19 pm

    No, no, NO!

    You completely ignore my point about contention – so nakedly I think you might be doing it DELIBERATELY. It is NOT a contentious argument to say that you had a mother. There are billions of people on this planet and they all have or had a mother. Everybody has seen, touched, heard a mother. It would actually be a more contentious thing for you to say that you DIDN’T have a mother. The lack of documentary evidence for her existence is a mere inconvenience in assessing the likelihood of whether or not she lived. Personally, I think it HIGHLY LIKELY that she did exist – whatever documentation I may or may not see about her.

    But in the case of God, it is a HIGHLY contentious thing to say or assume that he exists or ever did exist. This makes the standard of proof or evidence required vastly different to the standard required in asserting that your mother existed. Why? Because it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY (in fact, not possible at all!) that God exists. God cannot exist. He is a contradiction in terms; an impossibility. But… given that you claim he does exist, you’re the one who’s going to have to show that. Because if you ASSERT something without any evidence, then I can equally DISMISS it without any evidence. The ball is in your court.

    Your mother was not an unlikely person. And it’s not simply because you exist that I will believe she did. Other people would have known, seen, touched and heard her, and I do not find it contentious that you say she did in fact exist.

    God, on the other hand, is an EXTREMELY unlikely person (in fact, an impossible person – in whatever guise you choose to present him). So it is very contentious for you assert – without evidence – that he exists. Very contentious indeed, and very likely to attract uncomfortable questions and analyses for you.

    You say you do not debate the existence of God. Why not? You say it would be “foolish of you to do so”. Why foolish? What are you scared of? Being proved wrong? Having your faith fatally undermined? Losing in the first ten seconds? Come on…you make all the assertions. Let’s hold them up to scrutiny, shall we?

    And by the way, when Facehammer says “give us evidence or fuck off” it’s not tedious or silly. It’s vulgar, I’ll grant you, but it’s neither tedious nor silly. To assert the existence of something without evidence (or at least, without any evidence that you are prepared to provide – “It would be foolish of me to do so” (YOUR words, not mine)) is simply to invite questions. YOU may find these questions tedious and silly; I don’t. I find them important and pivotal. And those questions are what you’re getting (sometimes in a rhetorical and coarse way!). Do you actually have any answers?

    If you reply to this, I’ll happily withdraw my accusation of your being “dreary”. Do you still find me “amusing”?

  72. beepbeepitsme
    November 18th, 2006 @ 10:42 pm

    Some theists admire the concept of “tough love”. The sort of thing that some people still use in order to make people compliant, obedient and subservient.

    It always smacks of, to me, “but I am only caning you with this huge piece of wood for your own good.”

    That is, “tough love” is less about correction, than it is about punishment through the use of sado-masochistic processes.

  73. beepbeepitsme
    November 18th, 2006 @ 10:50 pm

    Perhaps those who find value in “spare the rod and spoil the child” are those who embrace the concept of dictatorship.

    Afterall, what is the reverance of an all-powerful entity who can do whatever he/she deems just, other than a dictatorship which is perpetuated through the use of “tough love.”

  74. R. Hoeppner
    November 19th, 2006 @ 4:15 am

    When I see a post written on a blog, that is sufficient proof to me that a blogger exists. When I see the wonders and intricacies in creation, that is sufficient proof to me that a creator exists. Or perhaps it was better stated by Sir Isaac Newton who said, “Atheism is so senseless. When I look at the solar system. I see the earth at the right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and light. This did not happen by chance.”
    It’s interesting to me that in our different world views we can each observe the exact same evidence and come to completely different conclusions. Take for example the movement of our planet earth through space:
    The earth revolves once every twenty four hours. The speed at the equator of this rotation is about 1,040 mph or roughly half a kilometer per second and goes to practically zero at the poles. As the earth rotates, it’s moon also rotates with such absolute perfect timing that man has only observed one side of it’s surface from any point on earth. We see the same side of the moon as Moses and the ancient Pharoahs of Egypt.
    Our earth orbits the star in our solar system, our sun, once a year at an average speed of 18.5 miles per second (or 30km/ second).

    Our solar system, which is about 26,000 light years from the center of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, makes one revolution of the Galaxy about every 200-250 million years at an average speed of 155 miles per second (250 km/sec.)

    The Milky way Galaxy is just one galaxy in a group of galaxies called the Local Group. Within the Local Group, the Milky Way Galaxy is moving about 185 miles/sec (300 km/sec).

    An atheist would look at that and say, it’s all coincidence! As a believer I look at it and say with King David of old, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
    What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

    When I see universal law, I see the fingerprint of a universal law giver.

    So you see, in my world view, God exists and I see His love and plan working continually. An unbeliever sees in their world view dumb luck and blind chance without a cause to account for the existence of everything.

    You may not believe in a god but we all believe something.

    And on Job, it is in that book, one of the oldest books in the Bible, that says God “hangs the earth on nothing;” – Job 26:7. A truly insightful statement for the time.

    And to clear one thing up, God didn’t kill Jobs family, Satan did. As a nice touch he left Job’s wife alive who advised Job to “curse God and die.” Here’s what Jesus said about it: The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10 – NLT) After Satan did his part, God did His and gave Job a “rich and satisfying life.”

    Atheists and Christians are alike in that we all have our troubles. We all go through life and face crises. We are all going to die. I believe in a merciful God who paved the way for my helpless self to salvation. Atheists don’t believe in God. It really does come down to ‘Paschal’s Wager.’

  75. Oz
    November 19th, 2006 @ 7:48 am

    R. Hoeppner, you are falling prey to what is called the anthropic principle. If conditions had not been right for our kind of life to rise up, we would not be around to wonder at it. The argument from design is much like a chameleon being in awe that his surroundings are the same color he is. Would you argue that a loving creator made his environment to match his skin? Like that chameleon, our species is adapted to the environment that preceeded us, not the other way around.

  76. Facehammer
    November 19th, 2006 @ 9:21 am

    Right, I only read the beginning and end of that, Hoeppner. So I only have two questions:

    One. Have you ever heard of a spambot?
    Two. If it all comes down to “Paschal’s” wager, why aren’t you a Buddhist?

  77. JJ
    November 19th, 2006 @ 2:33 pm

    Thorngod #52
    You take Monday morning quarterbacking to a new level. I will not try to resolve your second-guessing of God, that’s between you guys. You seem to miss the point that heaven is another experience. So what is the product of eternal life minus 40 years of struggle minus a painful death? The answer would be eternal life. The struggle amounts to less than a drop in an ocean. You won’t believe that if you’re whole argument is grounded in materialism. Last, I don’t see where you could state that the universe did not have a beginning nor will it have an end. Is this a religious belief of yours or something based on some new scientific evidence?

    Q #54
    Interesting point you make, the existence of the universe does not directly point to the goodness of a creator God. A cruel dictator can create a good economic growth program (Hitler, Pinochet) and still not be good. True. But my point focused on the act of creating the universe not on the universe itself. If the creator God exists, His creation is indeed an act of giving because His well-being could not have depended on it.

    My point about evidence for a good creator God begins and ends with that decision to create a universe and enable it to nurture life. He didn’t have to do it. All logical propositions on God’s character would have to begin there. Fair enough?

  78. Mog
    November 19th, 2006 @ 2:47 pm

    Hoeppner, is it actually possible to have no universal laws? It seems to me that that would in fact be a universal law: “There are no universal laws.” I contend that it is in fact an impossiblity to have no universal laws, therefore such a lawgiver is in fact obeying those laws before he even created them.

    Furthermore, your long tedious argument about how odd it is that we are in a planet so conductive to life, is ignorant of the sample size. We have a whole universe with billions of galaxies and trillions of stars. Out of that sample size, what are the possiblities that our situation or some other situation conductive to life would show up? Suddenly, all those improbable events seem a lot more probable, maybe even certain, does it not?

  79. Tony
    November 19th, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

    There’s something in Drusilla’s screed that sticks out to me like a sore thumb. It seems wierd to say that we always have god’s undivided attention. It seems that if everyone always had his attention, it would be divided—by definition, in fact. But that’s immaterial, given that god does not even exist.

    Silly scientist. God doesn’t have to follow the rules he created for you. The concept of God isn’t faulty. Your misunderstanding of him is.

  80. gordonliv
    November 19th, 2006 @ 6:41 pm

    If one’s “misunderstanding” is “faulty”, it then represents understanding.

    Clearly God doesn’t teach his followers logic.

    Let’s face it… if he did, he’d be in BIG, BIG trouble!

    Trivial and peripheral I know, but a) it’s factual and b) it’s late, I’m bored and I want TRA to put up another entry on the blog.

    Hey, TRA… I’ll put up an entry if you like! I’ll be your guest British atheist! What with us Brits being so demure, polite, respectful and so on… I’ll shatter a few myths! Beware… scary British heathen on the loose! :-)

  81. Thorngod
    November 19th, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

    JJ, you make a point that I have long used to flogged theists. If “believers” understand the vanishing moment of mortal existence. and the foreverness of their celebrated Heaven, how could they strive toward Earthly wealth, adorning themselves and their houses, and ignoring the starving millions? With Heaven to lose, would not a true believer be constantly intent on obeying his Savior’s demands? If I believed, my every thought and action would be predicated on my best judgement of the will of God. Does more than one Christian in a thousand truly believe Jesus? It appears not.

    The truth is, of course, that they have nothing to fear. All hopes and fears will cease with their final breaths, just as they do every night when we sink into unconsciouss sleep. “You” are the servant of a body, JJ. It can live a lifetime without “you” being in residence. But when the body dies, bye-bye JJ.

    In regard to the beginning/end, I was assuming that by “universe” you meant all the stuffness that is. And I suppose you would say, as most do, “Well, it had to come from somewhere.” And where was it before it was at that other “somewhere” it must have come from? The notion of a “nothingness” from which everything suddenly materialized is logically untenable. Your version (I suppose) is that God conjured it from nothing. But since “God” would have occupied infinity, he could only have created from himself, which means that you and I, and all else, are part of the body of God, and that what you and I refer to as “evil” is merely an expression of one of the attributes of God. Chew on that awhile.

  82. Godthorn
    November 19th, 2006 @ 11:12 pm

    JJ, I also meant to address your “point about evidence for a good creator God….” Your “reasoning” there is conspicuous in its absence. You are saying that “God” created a world to benefit creatures that were nonexistent! Had he not created them, there would have been no one to care. Try to grasp that. If “God” created sentient beings, he did it to please himself, not to please nonexistent beings! Had you not been born, JJ, there would be no “you” to care! It would make no difference whatever to anyone, and least of all the the “you” that never existed!

  83. Kreme
    November 20th, 2006 @ 7:22 am

    Summary of Drusilla’s Favorite Victim:

    I’ve devoted myself to setting up fiction I define as an authority something too mysterious be understood, but you must still follow. Yet notice how I still hold the hypocritical audacity to keep such a thing not mysterious enough to ignore altogether, after having acknowledged it as a big garbled bunch of made up nothing. Why? Because it’s my favorite story is why. Now watch how I smugly use my fiction to pretend I haven’t just said something incredibly unintelligible.

    Really, if you’re going to try being so incredibly irresponsibly smug for the sake of trying to portend grossly undeserved value on your favorite fiction, then say so.

  84. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 20th, 2006 @ 10:29 am

    “All logical propositions on God’s character would have to begin there [i.e., at the decision to create a universe and enable it to nurture life]” (JJ, comment 72)

    But my point (at comment 54) was that that doesn’t get you anywhere because (1) the value of the created universe is not all that clear and in any case (2) the creation of an unambiguously “good” universe would not entail a “good” creator. I don’t think you’ve addressed these points at all in your response.

    Of course, it’s even worse than all that! Because (3) there is no reason to assume constancy of the divine character. We’ve all met people who were good at one time and later lost their goodness. There’s no reason to suppose a priori that a good God could not turn evil–even Satan is supposed once to have been the highest of all angels.

    The upshot here, of course, is that even if it were the case that God must have been good to have created this universe, we would still have to judge his character now based on what he does (or fails to do) now.

  85. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 20th, 2006 @ 10:29 am

    “All logical propositions on God’s character would have to begin there [i.e., at the decision to create a universe and enable it to nurture life]” (JJ, comment 72)

    But my point (at comment 54) was that that doesn’t get you anywhere because (1) the value of the created universe is not all that clear and in any case (2) the creation of an unambiguously “good” universe would not entail a “good” creator. I don’t think you’ve addressed these points at all in your response.

    Of course, it’s even worse than all that! Because (3) there is no reason to assume constancy of the divine character. We’ve all met people who were good at one time and later lost their goodness. There’s no reason to suppose a priori that a good God could not turn evil–even Satan is supposed once to have been the highest of all angels.

    The upshot here, of course, is that even if it were the case that God must have been good to have created this universe, we would still have to judge his character now based on what he does (or fails to do) now.

  86. Thorngod
    November 20th, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

    “God,” presumably omniscient and having been “God” through eternity, waited until just moments ago to create the universe! What!!! Did he not know his own mind from the “beginning”?!!!

  87. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 20th, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

    I like comment 80 very much, Thorngod. If that is your real name.

  88. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 20th, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

    I like comment 80 very much, Thorngod. If that is your real name.

  89. Drusilla
    November 20th, 2006 @ 10:25 pm

    gordonliv (#66) –

    We have been coming at this from different perspectives. I was not saying that trying to convince you of God’s existence would be as foolish as trying to convince you that I had a mother but rather that it would be as foolish as trying to convince you that a particular woman was my mother given the lack of documentation and not having access to her body to provide DNA testing, etc. The evidence I might provide would be limited to what you could learn by knowing me.

    You could go in search for evidence and might be more succesful than I have been just as you could go in search for evidence of God’s existence and be more successful too. Of course the issue then becomes, in both cases, what do you accept as evidence.

    Ultimately I’m saying I can’t give you evidence because you do not acknowledge that what I have to offer is evidence, that it proves anything.

  90. Drusilla
    November 20th, 2006 @ 11:07 pm

    Thorngod –

    You have commented that I spent eight additional years pondering Job because I couldn’t let go of my conviction that God is just as though my prior conviction negates my findings. That is silly.

    Scientists are usually convinced that research in a particular direction will get them to a specific answer which they define early on in their research or even before research begins. Without such convictions they could not write proposals. (There is little funding for speculative research these days. It’s a shame, but true.) My rheumatologist, one of the top researchers in the world, would not be able to treat me (or any other patients) if she did not hold pre-existing convictions, based in knowledge and experience, that particular treatments will work.

    And perhaps that’s what you fail to consider, that I might have had knowledge and experience in this area that led me to the absolute conviction that God is never unjust. I had both and relied on them in forming my conviction.

  91. Cthulance
    November 21st, 2006 @ 12:14 am

    “And perhaps that’s what you fail to consider, that I might have had knowledge and experience in this area that led me to the absolute conviction that God is never unjust.”

    At the age of seventeen!

  92. JJ
    November 21st, 2006 @ 1:26 am

    OK, Thorngod and Godthorn, yeah right…
    Thorngod #76 – You flog theists? Shame on you! You make an excellent case for Jesus Christ. Were we to pick up our Savior’s cross and follow Him, we would end up with nothing – at least for now. True. Actually, I think it’s one in 10 million who “believe in Jesus” by your standard. Your “one in a thousand” caca is much too kind to us sinners – I’m not nearly that good. Your assertion that evil is just another attribute of God – did that have an argument attached to it?

    Godthorn #77
    You continue where Thorngod left off. You are the same dude, aren’t you? Are you Thorngod or Godthorn or are you like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde?

    JJ, I also meant to address your “point about evidence for a good creator God….” Your “reasoning” there is conspicuous in its absence. You are saying that “God” created a world to benefit creatures that were nonexistent! Had he not created them, there would have been no one to care. Try to grasp that.

    OoooK. Now, if God thought of “non-existent beings” would that not make them existent beings?

    If “God” created sentient beings, he did it to please himself, not to please nonexistent beings!

    You need a beer.

    Hi Q
    (1) the value of the created universe is not all that clear and in any case (2) the creation of an unambiguously “good” universe would not entail a “good” creator. I don’t think you’ve addressed these points at all in your response.

    Of course not, Q, your points are irrelevant. You talk of “the value” of the created universe and the “creation” of a good universe. I spoke of the DECISION to make a universe in the first place. Is that not the starting point??

    (3) there is no reason to assume constancy of the divine character. We’ve all met people who were good at one time and later lost their goodness.

    Surely, you are kidding. Using your experiences with people to make statements of truth about the creator of the universe is worse than asking a worm on a bait-hook which fish he’s going to catch today. Worse, I say!

    I’m glad that RA posted a theistic essay on his site. I don’t feel as if I’m intruding by my comments – I feel invited! If we learn nothing more than the truth that neither theism nor atheism leads ineluctably to insanity, we will have learned something valuable. Cheers.

  93. severalspeciesof
    November 21st, 2006 @ 10:04 am

    Drusilla, et.al.

    This all reminds me of the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
    You have a belief (the “justness” of god/the emperor has new clothes), look at the situation to see that it doesn’t quite jive with the stated beliefs (no justness/no clothes), so, because your belief cannot be shaken (whether by choice or not, doesn’t matter), you ‘redefine’ justness/clothes to fit that belief.

    I realize that this analogy is very awkward, comparing an adjective with a noun, but then so is your re-interpretation of the story. Nowhere, but nowhere do I see in the story the idea that it is one of Job placing God in one area, while Job remains safely in another. God’s first statements to Satan regarding Job throws that notion out the window. Since your notion that keeping God at a distance is somehow not right, and that THAT idea is actually what brings the maladies onto Job, in other words, Job brought this upon himself (he is to blame, not God) God would have mentioned that fact to Satan, since God cannot lie. But God says that Job is “a BLAMELESS and upright man” correct?

    RE-interpretation is the only answer one has in order to make this story somehow ‘right’. And I find your re-interpretation lacking for all the above reasons.

    This constant necessity of having to re-interpret the Bible is one of the reasons I have finally figured out (for myself) that the Bible is just a collection of man-made books not at all inspired by a God omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

  94. Jahrta
    November 21st, 2006 @ 10:10 am

    Until you raving theists provide us with even the tiniest scrap of proof for the existence of your deity, a historical jesus, or anything even remotely approaching intellectual integrity and honesty, you’re all just pissing in the wind. When all is said and done you believe because you want to believe in total absence of any corroborating evidence. Some of you are so proud of your illogical faith that you turn it around and rail against those of us who live in the real world and are able to understand it through the careful application of the scientific method.

    I posit that if you never had the notion of god crammed down your throat at childhood by people you trusted, you never would have developed this ridiculous notion. Truly it is a form of child abuse of the highest order to rob someone of their intellect and critical reasoning skills. I mourn the loss of the people you may have been if raised to be more skeptical and inquisitive.

  95. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 21st, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

    “Is that not the starting point??”

    Yes–but it’s a starting point to nowhere, for the reasons I stated (and restated).

    “Using your experiences with people to make statements of truth about the creator of the universe is worse than asking a worm on a bait-hook which fish he’s going to catch today.”

    Well, I didn’t do that. But I’m puzzled. You are suggesting that it’s legit to draw inferences about God from the existence of the universe, but somehow not legit to draw inferences about God from our personal experience with the very beings who are supposedly made in God’s image?

  96. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 21st, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

    “Is that not the starting point??”

    Yes–but it’s a starting point to nowhere, for the reasons I stated (and restated).

    “Using your experiences with people to make statements of truth about the creator of the universe is worse than asking a worm on a bait-hook which fish he’s going to catch today.”

    Well, I didn’t do that. But I’m puzzled. You are suggesting that it’s legit to draw inferences about God from the existence of the universe, but somehow not legit to draw inferences about God from our personal experience with the very beings who are supposedly made in God’s image?

  97. jahrta
    November 21st, 2006 @ 1:46 pm

    hmm….maybe if i pretend to be a theist my post will get through THIS time?

  98. Thorngod
    November 21st, 2006 @ 2:08 pm

    DRUSILLA, all animals, humans not excluded, are ruled primarily by emotion. Even scientists occasionally pursue a fruitless course as a result of wishful thinking. It is not easy to disentangle one’s brains from one’s intestines, and for anyone who has an emotional fixation on a personalized “god” it’s impossible. But things are as they are, and the universe does not bend or rescind it’s laws to accomodate human desire. The 900-foot-tall Jesus that appeared before Oral Roberts in his 9-foot-ceilinged bedroom was just as real and just as credible as all the similar occurances reported by all the writers of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. We have no more warrant to believe Elisha’s claims than to believe those of Oral Roberts. You may believe that Elisha was more a “man of God” than Roberts, but your belief is supportable by nothing more than biased hearsay. Any claim that is illogical and that violates laws of nature is nonsensical…. Of course, that’s just one dummy’s opinion.

    JJ, the “Godthorn” and “Thorngod” pseudonyms are not intended as separate personas. The “Godthorn” came about when I attempted to use the original name at a different computer site and the protocol would not allow it. So I simply reversed the name.

    Re “evil” as an aspect of the Absolute. Read Spinoza’s “Ethics.” Spinoza, in my judgement, is the only god-seeker who ever got it right. Einstein, by the way, agrees.

    And in ref to your comment to “Q” regarding “statements of truth about the Creator of the u…,” in addition to the points made by “Q” in his reply, do you not understand that “experiences with people…” are the sole source of your own beliefs and notions concerning “God”? Or will you assure us that you have been personally visited, as Oral Roberts was, by a 900-foot-tall Jesus and so gotten the whole story right from the fountainhead?

  99. Thorngod
    November 21st, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

    JJ, I neglected to address(or re-address) the “non-existent beings” idea. You, “God,” and certainly I, can conceive of beings in general without causing any materializations. In fact, I have created many “beings” that were quite “real” to me, though I’ve never succumbed to the illusion that any of them were actually substantial. But my point was that “God’s love” of his creatures could not have preceded his creation of them, and therefore your notion that he created the universe “for us” is absurd. If you have a child, you did not “give it ‘the gift of life.'” You first had to create the child, which then was alive, after which point “the gift of life” is an absurd proposal. The “gift” was to yourself and your partner in crime, not to some unensouled little shade that was floating around in limbo yearning for existence!

  100. beepbeepitsme
    November 21st, 2006 @ 9:34 pm

    The world makes sense with the realization, that the gods, none of them, exist.

  101. Jahrta
    November 22nd, 2006 @ 9:07 am

    So has anyone else had their posts eaten three times in a row or am I just the lucky one?

  102. JJ
    November 23rd, 2006 @ 12:20 am

    Thorngod #87 – But my point was that “God’s love” of his creatures could not have preceded his creation of them,
    Why not? Does a novelist not “love” his story before he spends 2,000 hours on creating it?

    and therefore your notion that he created the universe “for us” is absurd.
    I don’t see where I used the words “for us”. I had said “a universe that nurtured life”. If the universe was completely hostile to life, we wouldn’t exist. Example:
    Four decades ago, scientists began to notice the “fine-tuning” of the laws of physics, thus revealing the vast odds against a life-sustaining universe. As just one example, if gravity were one part in 100 billion greater or smaller, life would not be possible. Our universe would have kept expanding without forming galaxies, or matter in our universe would have stuck together without forming stars and planets.

    You said -If you have a child, you did not “give it ‘the gift of life.'” You first had to create the child, which then was alive, after which point “the gift of life” is an absurd proposal.

    My ten minutes of work did not create the child! The development of a baby is more complex than we understand, and logically too complex for us to create from scratch. Something wove that child together in record time, and it wasn’t me.

    The “gift” was to yourself and your partner in crime, not to some unensouled little shade that was floating around in limbo yearning for existence!

    This was funny, but does it mean anything? “Unensouled little shade yearning for existence” is an oxymoron. Perhaps you had something more profound hidden in that, please enlighten me.

    Last, you said, do you not understand that “experiences with people…” are the sole source of your own beliefs and notions concerning “God”?

    No, I did not understand that because it’s false. Many of my beliefs about God come from studying nature. Maybe I’m just not as much as a people person as you…
    May we all have a blessed search.

  103. Godthorn
    November 23rd, 2006 @ 2:28 am

    JJ, it seems I have still not gotten across to you the impossibility of anything at all applying to an entity that has not yet even been conceived.

    And if you have a child, JJ, and deny that you are one of the two primary agents in its creation, then you are dissembling. The paint and the canvas are not the creators of the painting.

    And do not be enthralled by the anthropic presumption. There are many billions of planetary systems in our universe. (And “our” universe may be only one in countless billions of “universes.”) Every planetary system is unique, and the fact that this planet Earth may be the only planet in our galaxy, or even (unlikely but conceivably) in our universe, does not make Earth, or our planetary system, any more unique than any other. It is merely the case that one of the unique things about Earth is that it happens to have all the ingredients and all the necessary conditions to allow carbon-based life to arise. That fact not only is not evidence of a “Creator,” but is evidence against, since, if there were a creator, it seems exceedingly unlikely that he would have cultured a slime mold on just one planet when he had a zillion other of those petri rocks on which he could have conducted other experiments! And why all those other stars and solar systems and galaxies? All we needed was what the writers of your Bible believed was the whole works: an Earth, a sun, a moon, and a “firmament” overhead with the light of Heaven streaming through its windows.

    Another interesting fact, JJ: At the same time that the monotheistic Hebrews were describing the glories of their god’s simplistic Heaven and Earth, a polytheistic culture a few hundred miles to the northwest was calculating the distance to the sun and the circumference of the Earth, formulating a basic atomic theory and proving a Pythagorean Theorem! Who got it right, JJ, the Hebrews or the Athenians? Just whose side was “God” on, anyway!!!

  104. sam
    November 23rd, 2006 @ 2:32 am

    Believing that the Earth has been put by God at
    exactly the right place so that humans can live on it
    is sooooooo ignorant.

    Imagine the comment made by the King of England
    that God made England so that he can be the King of it.

    Or by a salver that God made the black people so that
    he can have slaves.

    But also consider this:
    Is God not able to make humans who can live on
    Mars or Venus?

    If God made earth exactly right for man, who made
    God to be exactly right so as to make man?????

    Life Exists on Earth that happens to have been
    at the distance it is from sun that is the size it is and
    and not the other way round.

    The biggest argument against the existence of
    God is the fact that people come out with such
    stupid arguments for the Existence of God.

    If God were such an impressive powerful thing
    Would the Hebrews have melted their gold and made
    a statue of a bull and started worshiping it, a few
    days after they have just witnessed by first hand
    experience this same God kill half the population
    of Egypt on their behalf, drown the army of Pharoe,
    part the red sea, rain down food on them, make
    rocks sprout water in the middle of the desert,
    guide them with pillars of fire and smoke form the
    sky?

    Why would people who have just viewed all
    this awsome power and might (and cruelty)
    make a bull of gold to worship in disregard to this
    mighty God????????????

    This God must be an extremely unimpressive
    idiot, to take second place in adolation to
    a casted cow.

    Why would God continue to PREFER these same
    people over the entire human race? Even after
    numerous REPEATED attempts by him to convince these
    people that he is more worthy of worship than a cow or
    some other animal statue.

    The fact that God is such a pathetic racist killer is good
    enough for any thinking human to reject him as nothing more
    than the invention of pathetic racist killer humans.

    Of course people who are no better than sheep on a farm
    destined for the slaughter house, and with no bigger a brain,
    would think that their farmer is better than the farmer on the
    neighboring farm.

    Wake up people!!!!!!

  105. Godthorn
    November 23rd, 2006 @ 3:01 am

    “Many of my beliefs about God come from studying nature.” -JJ.
    Ah, you’re a florist, then. Well, if you ever have the time, take a close look at God’s ants, mantises, sharks, tigers, lions, hyenas, dingos, crocodiles, vampire bats, mosquitoes, etc. And if you have access to a microscope, check out those voracious protozoa. Oh my God! Help! Everything is trying to eat me!

  106. Drusilla
    November 23rd, 2006 @ 7:46 am

    Thorngod/Godthorn –

    FYI – I am using a portion of your comment in #52 for my next post.

  107. R and All
    November 23rd, 2006 @ 10:29 am

    Everybody’s Favorite Reindeer

    “Santa was unjust to Rudolph. His personal dignity deserved respect,” proclaimed the professor. I was shocked–Santa is never unjust! But most people would agree that Santa gave permission for the other reindeer to belittle and exclude Rudolph, so on this occasion, Santa must have been unjust.

    Is it fair to blame Santa for the actions of the reindeer? I suppose it is, because Santa is omniscient (he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, etc.). So He certainly knew that Dasher and Dancer et al were torturing Rudolph, and yet He allowed it to continue.

    But I am absolutely convinced that Santa cannot be unjust, ergo He cannot be–QED. So there must be some other explanation. After eight long years of study, I have found it!

    Rudolph was suffering long before the other Reindeer made fun of him. He worshiped Santa only to keep Santa from making fun of Rudolph’s red nose. So Santa used the other reindeer to turn Rudolph to Santa in desperation, not in fear. Then, once Rudolph got his mind right, Santa let him lead His sleigh. So it’s all good, and I can go on worshiping Santa without any cognitive dissonance whatsoever. Yay!

  108. Trevor Blake
    November 24th, 2006 @ 11:35 am

    You write the suffering visited by God “causes a gradual change in Job,” that it “stripped Job down,” that the suffering “breaks down the stony walls we erect in our hearts,” and in other ways you say Job (and our) suffering exists to teach us something. Then you say you “don’t claim that God visits suffering on us to ‘teach us a lesson.'” Which is it?

    You continue to claim we know both nothing and more than nothing about God’s justice. You’re trained in math, you should know 0 doesn’t equal 1. It appears that you are saying when God acts in ways you agree with, you understand it; when God acts in ways you don’t agree with, it’s a mystery. And it appears you are saying God is just without any part or whole of what being just is. When God causes or allows a newborn child to be infected with a painful disease – where is the justice?

    Another problem for you… if God is infinitely just, God will give out exactly what people earn and no more and no less with no exceptions. If God is infinitely merciful, God will give out less punishment than people earn. So God is either infinitely just or infinitely merciful and cannot, cannot be both. Which is it?

    Thank you again for your contribution to TRA. I will look at your blog. I also invite you to view the most recent issue of my zine at the URL above.

  109. JJ
    November 24th, 2006 @ 3:32 pm

    Godthorn #95 – you are one of the two primary agents in its creation
    Three agents. Who provided the software. You’re not really going to continue arguing that we are the architects of a child? There’s nothing more to say, really.

    Your worldview is weighted down by materialism. From GT #96Everything is trying to eat me! Is life so awful that it could only have come about by accident? You say yes, I say no. And I understand that if someone has grown attached to the material aspects of life, then they could never understand how the Christian believer sees life.

    Re: the Greeks, they had several key revelations on the nature of deity and the soul. They also had many tenets that were later proved false although you will be more acquainted with their achievements. Last, I don’t see how people making bad choices has anything to say about God. That dog won’t hunt.

  110. R and All
    November 24th, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

    Poor Godthorn. So weighed down by materialism. So weighed down by logic. So wighed down by truth. So weighed down by reality.

  111. Thorngod
    November 24th, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

    JJ, with typical theistic sidestepping, you have trotted farther and farther from my original statement regarding creation and my point about the so-called “gift of life.” Either you are dense or you are intellectually dishonest. Of course, if there is an “excluded middle” there, then I apologize in advance and eagerly await your or someone’s explanation.

    You have performed similar maneuvers in your ¶¶ 2 and 3. When I rebut your claim that you find a loving god in nature, you reply
    that my evidence is “materialistic.” If you were studying a non-materialistic “nature,” you should have said so–and I would be very interested in hearing just what “nature” you’re looking at!

  112. JJ
    November 25th, 2006 @ 12:11 am

    Thorngod (in my side?) – excluded middle? That would be God, but you don’t believe in Him, therefore my “similar maneuvres” could go on forever.

    I hope you recognize a disagreement when you see one.

    When I look at nature I see an intelligence at work that amazes me. And yes, I don’t get “weighted down” by the injustice of an ant who devours a flower or another bug to survive.

    There is intellectual dishonesty and then there is disagreement. I am still a theist and you are still an atheist. No harm done?

  113. Godthorn
    November 25th, 2006 @ 12:32 am

    I see Darwinian evolution at work, JJ, no “Intelligence” required. By the principles of sufficient reason and Occam’s Razor, the “Designer” is excluded. Theology, of course, ignores such inconveniences.

  114. against brutality
    November 25th, 2006 @ 2:45 am

    This is the second most terrifying justification for cruelty that I have ever seen. Excusing such willfull infliction of misery (not to mention butchering someone’s entire family) in order to break them so they won’t have the strength to fear or avoid you, simply submit themselves passively to the very being that causes all their suffering, is torturer’s logic.

    This is exactly what a torturer does. Professional ones, employed by developed countries. The ones that have refined it into a skill. Take over a person’s life, and inflicts pain and suffering to deprive them of all control. Teach them that they aren’t the master of their own lives. Make it clear that they are helpless at your mercy, and even outward obedience won’t spare them the pain. So they break, and submit themselves completely, hoping only that you will choose to spare them pain, and believing that you have the absolute right to hurt them. They do it the exact same way you have God doing it here, and they justify it as teaching the victim to truly submit and love their master, just like God.

    Human torturers can’t do this with their will. They use whips and burning and nails through the flesh and electricty and knives and leave people bloody and broken and burnt. And when they kill someone’s family, it’s a bullet in the head and bodies in the pit. So there’s one difference between them and the God described here.

    But it’s not the most terrifying justification for this kind of brutality I’ve heard passed off as theodicy. That’s the tyrant’s argument. The slaveholder’s argument. The argument of a man who beats his kid: I own you, I control you, I provide everything for you, I made you. That makes you my property, and gives me the right to use you anyway I want.

    So you haven’t produced the most terrifying piece of theodicy that I’ve ever seen, but close.

  115. Facehammer
    November 25th, 2006 @ 9:07 am

    Where exactly do you see this intelligence at work? Why do you see this intelligence at work rather than the naturalistic explanations that are equally, if not more consistent with these observations? Is it because you’re not sufficiently familiar with the naturalistic explanation, or just because you want there to be some higher power looking after you?

  116. gordonliv
    November 25th, 2006 @ 8:20 pm

    Has anyone noticed how TRA seems content (or indifferent) in letting this more and more arcane debate continue? No doubt he’ll say, “Well. wasn’t it amazing how I allowed a religious commentator to post on an atheist website, and how that really ignited the debate? See…? My last post only generated thirty-seven comments and this one has generated over one hundred! Wow! Religious people must really have something to say! Let’s get more and more religious people to preach on an atheist blog! Makes sense, no…?”

    No, TRA…

    We’re just bored… and people are tossing round theological premises because you haven’t bothered to put anything else up.

  117. Godthorn
    November 26th, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

    Very well said, ‘against b.’

  118. Cthulance
    November 26th, 2006 @ 10:27 pm

    “Has anyone noticed how TRA seems content (or indifferent) in letting this more and more arcane debate continue?”

    Yes. I’ve also noticed that just prior to this most recent entry, he mysteriously rolled back the ‘Quote of the Day’ to one which was related to the story of Job (check the 11 comments and you’ll find Drusilla protesting vehemently and so forth).

  119. Aaron Kinney
    November 27th, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

    Oh my God my previous comment got deleted! What a shame. It had such good refutations to the whole “God is in the universe” stuff that was posted earlier. Bummer.

  120. Jim
    November 27th, 2006 @ 9:32 pm

    If suffering leads us to real joy, will we be without real joy in heaven where we are promised an eternity without suffering?

    Jim

  121. sam
    November 28th, 2006 @ 2:38 am

    Comment #106 WELL DONE, bravo, perfectly done.

    Very good comment, thanks!

  122. Maria
    November 28th, 2006 @ 8:32 am

    Drusilla,

    The point of Job is not God’s “justice,” nor Job’s supposed fear of God, but that God allowed “the adversary” to test Job’s faith. It was about God’s ego and his perverse need to prove to “the adversary” his errors in thinking about Job. And this is as evident in the story as it is in real life. The truth is that, when someone loses everything life, they very rarely if ever get back what was taken, even and especially if they are faithful Christians. I know a Christian woman who was 17 years old when she was in a horrible car accident. She is now permanently disabled because of severe brain damage, unable to live alone, and has no hope for the future. Now, I want you to take this little fable to her house and tell her that God is “just” and that he will “reward” her faith when in reality it’s all about God’s gargantuan ego.

    So you think Job feared God? Well, he had reason. God was wantonly cruel and dangerously egotistical. Unlike the story of the woman I just told, at least Job came out better in the end. Too bad it isn’t like that in real life.

  123. Steven
    November 30th, 2006 @ 8:36 am

    Utter nonsense. Trying to make gods justice into some kind of higher morality that somehow us lowly. humble and stupid humans wouldn’t understand is pointless and cowardly. You would have to for go all your common sense to believe this crap.

    That is me being tolerant.

  124. Professor Chaos
    November 30th, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

    I can’t wait until next month’s post!

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