Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Benevolence and Happiness

My previous post has sparked some lively commentary (starting here and going forward) from one of our resident anonymous theists (Xians). Apparently writing a post about a specific theistic complaint and pointing out that it is a straw man is the same as being dishonest because somehow I'm claiming that happiness equates to what is best for us.

So, let's open up this thread for our anonymous thread hijacker to go ahead and defend his accusations and to defend his positions. For my part, I'll go ahead and open.

It's a rather complicated thing to talk about happiness, what is best for us, and omni-benevolence. So, I will try to keep the discussion from getting too deep and sum up my position.

First we have to think about what we mean by the terms and what conditions we are going to accept. We should conclude that happiness is that which makes people happy. Sometimes people are happy by getting ice cream or having a back rub, while others are made happy by getting handcuffed and whipped. What is "best for us" would be that which enriches or betters our lives. As for conditions, are we talking only about this world, this time, or are we talking long term and any possible world?

This is important, because what is best for us at this moment may not be what is best for us in the future. Also, delayed happiness now may lead to greater happiness in the future, so time is an important factor.

The final important factor is the supposed attributes of god, of which omni-benevolence is one. It's important that we don't leave out the rest, however, since many contradictions arise from trying to accommodate all of god's supposed qualities.

So, should god do what is "best for us," and is that the same as happiness? I think it's quite clear from the above that that question isn't very well answerable without setting the parameters that pertain to the question. It's far easier to talk about god's role in all this. Should he indeed do what is best for us? Let's consider the possibilities. Given the limitations of humans and this world, god may be justified at times in allowing us to learn lessons "the hard way." Of course, I would put limits on that. I wouldn't think that a child shooting himself in the face is a very justifiable way of "learning the hard way," that guns are dangerous. Innocuous things, however, we may be able to look past.

But, the problem with this is that is ignores the roles of the rest of god's attributes. If god has the power to eliminate evil, why create it at all? Would not it have been better to not create humans at all if it meant that evil would also not be created? Why would a perfect god need to create humans at all - god is already perfect and wants for nothing. god can't create more good by resorting to evil, since god was already perfectly good. This leaves us with the conundrum of the problem of evil, which theists have no answer for. A truly perfect and omni-max god would not have created us to begin with and therefore the ideas that happiness is what is best for us would not have ever been formulated. We would never have known about it because we would never have existed.

Now, I happen to enjoy existence, but it's simply incompatible with the idea of an omni-max god. Another way of looking at it would be that true happiness and what is best for us wouldn't even be considerations, because we'd never have to worry about either of them. So, in the end, I object to the theist's accusations and I object to the theist's straw man position.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Don't Want him?

How often have you heard or uttered the following phrase, or some variation of it:

The problem with atheists is that they don't want to believe in god.

It's a common complaint of theists. Us mean old nasty atheists don't want no god runnin' our lives. But, why should that be considered a problem?

Belief in god does not make one more moral.

Why would we want to have a god around if that god is the one described in the Bible. This god goes on murderous rampages and makes life horrible for many people. Then, not content to simply make our lives brutish and painful, this god decides that he should also sentence us to eternal torture for even the slightest transgression (moral or otherwise) which we have no choice but to commit at some point in our lives (since no one is perfect). Why should anyone want that sort of god?

Of course, the person here is saying that there is something wrong with us for not wanting any sort of god, but that's simply not true. If there truly were a benevolent god that could make us all happy, why would we not want that? IOW, the original statement is quite possibly a straw man for many atheist who would be quite happy to have an actual benevolent god looking over us. Unfortunately, the facts simply don't support it.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Can You Prove It?

Why believe in that which can't be shown?

The theist may assert that it makes more sense to believe in god than not because it can be shown that god exist while it can't be shown that god doesn't exist. IOW, the atheist is taking an unprovable position while the theist is taking one that can be confirmed. Therefore, the argument goes, the atheist is taking on a position that can never be confirmed, only disconfirmed, which is a losing bet. Therefore, it doesn't make any sense to be an atheist, since you can only be proven wrong, but never proven right.

This is a variation on the oft-heard argument from theists that, "You can't prove my god doesn't exist, so I'm gonna believe until you can." And, yes, I've heard both versions of this argument.

So, let's think about this idea for a bit. If we went by this "logic," we'd also have to decide that it's better to believe in unicorns, leprechauns, etc. Isn't it an unprovable position to take that unicorns/leprechauns/etc don't exist? Well, of course it is. It's just as unprovable as the idea that god does not exist. So, if the theist is justified in believing in god, then everyone is also justified in believing any other idea/creature/etc for which that non-existence is unprovable.

Of course, this is an untenable position to take for the theist. Claiming that their god belief is warranted while other beliefs are not would simply be a case of special pleading. This is why we should rightly recognize that the burden of proof lies on the one making the positive declaration - a position the theist holds by claiming that god exists. Without meeting this burden of proof, the rational position is to simply not accept the claim that god does exist, regardless of whether it can ultimately be proven or not.

Behold, here endeth the blaspheming!

Let us pray, and let us rejoice, for Jesus is Lord of all and saviour of the righteous! O, Jesus, how beautiful art thou! Here endeth the post.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Hellish Contradictions and Legalism

Well, Tracy has a post up about hell which Tink responded to and I went ahead and commented on (both posts actually). And, it got me to thinking about hell, the doctrine of faith alone leading to salvation, and the age of accountability. So, somewhat off-topic, but here goes - and I think this will just add to the mix...

So, Tracy was a bit upset at contemplating the idea that Anne Frank may right now be in hell, right alongside Hitler. While I may contend that Hitler had a better chance of getting into heaven, so Anne may not be beside the leader behind her being killed, that's not the point here. Even if they are both in hell, it's actually much, much worse than that.

John 14:6 says:
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

As I pointed out in the comments on those other threads, this means that Anne Frank (unless she was lying about being Jewish and secretly believed in Jesus) is in hell right now. But, as I said, it's worse than that. When a woman conceives, Xians believe the soul enters the fertilized egg, meaning that that soul now can go to heaven or hell. Since a fertilized egg is incapable of belief in Jesus (lacks the brain function) then if that egg dies due to abortion, miscarriage, etc. that soul goes to hell. That is the fallout of this Xian doctrine.

Ah, but some Xians may claim that there's an age of accountability that allows such unfortunate souls to get a free ride to heaven. Too bad this directly contradicts the stated Bible passage above. No one attains salvation, except through belief in Jesus. If some do attain salvation without belief in Jesus, then Jesus was at best wrong, and at worst lying, and the Bible is in error. At this point, the Xian must accept that the Bible may be wrong, or must accept that miscarried fetuses go to hell (or even young children that don't yet understand the idea of belief in Jesus). Is it any wonder that I find this sort of doctrine to be barbaric, abominable, and evil?