Monday, May 09, 2011

Hell

“The magnitude of the punishment matches the magnitude of the sin. Now a sin that is against God is infinite; the higher the person against whom it is committed, the graver the sin—it is more criminal to strike a head of state than a private citizen—and God is of infinite greatness. Therefore an infinite punishment is deserved for a sin committed against Him.”
--Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia2ae. 87, 4.

50 comments:

Jeffrey Shallit said...

How about an imaginary punishment for a sin against an imaginary being?

But seriously, I can't imagine a better recipe for totalitarianism than this quote. All a leader needs to do is label the opposition as sinning against his god, and then no retribution is too tame.

I much prefer Thomas Jefferson: "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear."

Douglas Groothuis said...

To Mr. Shallit:

1. There are a plethora of reasons to believe in a Creator, Designer God, uniquely revealed in Christ. See my forthcoming book, Christian Apologetics.

2. The doctrine of hell does not permit humans to persecute those considered to be headed there. On the contrary! The gospel must go out to all that people might escape hell, know God's love, and become agents of God's eternal kingdom. What Shallit says is a non sequiter.

3. The issue is not fear, but truth. If there is a hell (and good reasons to believe that there is), then fearing it is logical.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

And yet, Christian leaders throughout the ages have indeed advocated punishment against those who (they perceived) sinned against their god.

In Calvin's Geneva, people were imprisoned for dancing, drinking, and playing cards.

In modern Uganda, gays are persecuted at the urging of Christian fundamentalists.

So for at least some Christians, it is not a non sequitur.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Mr. Shallit:

Neither of your examples have anything to do with hell. They concern Christian social ethics.

Douglas Groothuis said...

You probably agree that those who murder should face a punishment of some sort. Christians understand murder as "a sin against God." The issue is the basis for morality and the state. Darwinism fairs very poorly here.

I do not, of course, advocate jailing people for dancing, etc., or persecuting homosexuals. I'd also like to see the source for your claim about Calvin. It is probably apocryphal such as the extreme claims made about the church persecuting Galileo, etc.

Ben said...

"Christians understand murder as a 'sin against God'."

I always understood murder as a sin against the victim. That it is objectively wrong, independent of the whim of any authority, whether human or divine. If murder is only a sin because of God's commands, then it seems that murder would be justified, even required, if God were to instead command it. Hence, the justification for terrorism, or the genocide present in the book of Joshua.

Bill Honsberger said...

Ah Aquinas - that evil modernist!
Oh I forgot - the enlightenment hadn't happened yet. How could Aquinas say such things with such certainty? Hadn't he got the Bell memo?
I am perplexed.

And Jeff - are you talking about the same TJ who appointed military chaplains and a chaplain for Congress?
just wondering...

Quintessential said...

Mr Shallit, do not atheists also demand some sort of justice? A question to ponder: Where do we derive our sense of justice? Even if evolution is able to account for such, then it becomes meaningless, a mere biproduct of survival. Apart from God it becomes arbitrary and completely subjective, unintelligable nonsense.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Christianity never claims that people cannot make moral decisions without the Bible or if they are not monotheists. Read Romans 1-2. Moral knowledge is part of our identity as humans, made in God's image--even if we don't know we are made in God's image. However, the best explanation for moral law, obligation, and virtue is given by Christian theism. I wrote a chapter on this in my upcoming book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith.

Quintessential said...

Mr. Shallit, should I take this to mean that you concede that justice is only an illusion?

Douglas Groothuis said...

From "Sirfab":

(I accidentally deleted this earlier.)

Quintessential, that is a question I hear a lot from Christians. In fact, I remember Dr. Groothuis making a similar point in a conversation I had with him several years ago. Does this mean that in your view all societies that formed prior to the Hebrew god revealing himself were incapable of making moral decisions or to have a system of law and order that was not defective? And in comparison to what? American society, as if it were a paragon of justice and morality? Are you saying that modern societies that do not conform to Christian teachings are by definition less moral and less just? And is this not a discussion that is doomed to end without victors, you certain of your convictions, with me equally certain of your delusion?

Sirfab said...

Quintessential, I am not responding on behalf of Prof. Shallit, but I will say this:
Whether justice is an illusion or not, it is fallible because it is in the hands of humans. I'll give you an example: Crooks who have gambled away the livelihood of millions of people spend less time in jail than someone who takes the life of one human being, however unintentionally.
So, yes, justice is an illusion. Whether we think its underlying authority descends from a divinity or from within us is, alas, immaterial.
I pity and envy Christians at the same time: they believe in divine retribution, which I think is infinitey unlikely, but at the same time they can hope that what goes unpunished in this life will meet its just punishment in the next. I don't have that solace, so injustice on this earth probably makes me infinitely more angry than a Christian. And I have to live with it.

Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

Sirfab said:Are you saying that modern societies that do not conform to Christian teachings are by definition less moral and less just?

Are you saying that they are? Just curious, by what standard do you propose that such judgments be measured by?

Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quintessential said...

I appreciate your openness and honesty Sirfab. I would however, have to wonder why you would "pity" anyone on account of their beliefs, assuming that you hold to naturalism/materialism. Certainly beliefs effect our lives, but if we are just animals after all, why emit such emotion? I know this is a loaded question, but the whole enterprise of justice, compassion, etc, seems incoherent within the framework of naturalism/materialism.

Sirfab said...

Quintessential:
I know pity is a strong word, but I used it to express my conviction that Christians, well-meaning as they may be, are misguided, and that they waste a whole lot of time and energy on supernatural pursuits, instead of directing their efforts to pursuing natural answers.
Additionally, your claim that "the whole enterprise of justice, compassion, etc, seems incoherent within the framework of naturalism/materialism" is simply inconsistent with human nature. Why incoherent? Would a non-believer feel less strongly than a Christian about the misfortune of others? Would I not jump into water to save a drowning human being, unless I was driven by religious superstition? My compassion for the plight of others, and my bond with other beings, be they human or other species, is no less strong than any religious believer. Nor is my sense of justice or injustice impaired by my lack of belief. Why, it might be more acute.
In sum, if you need Christian fellowship, reading scriptures, attending mass to feel the humanity that others feel without such needs, go ahead: I certainly won't stop you. But I will always strive to make Christians see that a different view of what gives the world meaning and order is not dependent on religious belief, of any kind.
Peace.

Sirfab said...

Dan ("Mr Shallit said:Are you saying that modern societies that do not conform to Christian teachings are by definition less moral and less just?")

Jeffrey Shallit did not write that, I did. And of course I am not saying that they are.

"By what standard do you propose that such judgments be measured by?" Secular. And here is a more specific standard: by the distance between founding principles and their actual application in real life.

Dan said...

Secular is not a standard. Sorry, but it isn't; it is only an adjective.

So, by what standard do you propose that such judgments be measured by?

Sirfab said...

Dan: secularism. Does a noun work better for you than an adjectives with a very clear meaning?

I am not gonna get into an argument with you, you know what I mean. If you don't, I can't help you.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Fab:

The question has to do with how you philosophically justify a moral standard as a secularist, which means atheist or agnostic.

Might you answer that?

Best,
Doug

Sirfab said...

Doug, you and Dan--and please correct me if I am wrong--are advocating the use Christianity (a type of religion) as a basis for the definition of what is moral and what is not.

This leads you to categorize certain behaviors, for example homosexuality or other types of sexual behavior, as sinful and immoral. Such behaviors can only be categorized as sinful and immoral in the context of religious beliefs. OK, maybe not only in the context of religious belief, but let's say predominantly.

A secular moral standard, the one I referred to in my previous reply, would not regard homosexuality as a sin and an act against morals.

I understand that your question was different, though. You ask what basis would there be for a universally accepted sense of morality if the Hebrew/Christian god is taken out of the equation. I would reply to that by saying that there are plenty of non-Christian societies around the world that have developed full-systems of morality and law. So I do not submit to the view that Christianity is a condicio-sine-qua-non for morality.

Also, I do not have the answer you asked for because I do not share your view that morality has absolute moorings. I would point out two things: if you accept that there is a need for a supernatural being as a giver of the basis for morality, that does not necessitate the god of the bible. Any other divinity would do. Secondly, as I said before, I do not share your view that morality can be defined in absolute terms. We, meaning modern western societies, view things as perfectly acceptable today, and certainly not immoral, that would have been regarded as sinful and immoral only 50-100 years ago. Divorce was viewed as immoral; anti-miscegenation laws were in effect; having children outside of marriage was stigmatized as immoral and sinful. We can argue about whether any or all of the above examples are proof that things are getting better or worse, but I bet you that we will not reach unanimous consent, ever.

Ciao

Fab

Quintessential said...

Why incoherent?

Thanks Sirfab.

It is important to note that there are two separate moral arguments, one being based on belief, while the other is based on the existence of God. While conversion plays a huge role in being sensitive and compassionate toward others, it does not mean that it is impossible to be humane in its absence. What I am arguing is that naturalism/materialism seems rather lost when it comes to explaining not only how these human attributes came to be, but in particular, why they are any better than selfish, unkind behavior. Kindness and compassion are not written in the laws of survival. It seems no different with our strong sense of justice. There is a compatiblity problem between human nature and naturalism/materialism. This is why it is an incoherent position.

Quintessential said...

Sorry for jumping in here, Fab, but you were saying, "if you accept that there is a need for a supernatural being as a giver of the basis for morality, that does not necessitate the god of the bible." While this is true in a very stripped down theism, it would however, require such divine attributes as a mind, personality and morality. This narrows down the options.

Furthermore, such situational ethics as set forth would mean that if Hitler would have conquered the world by completely annihilating all of those who opposed him, then in hindsight, it could be said that it was a perfectly moral thing to do, because there would be nobody left to disagree.

Sirfab said...

Quintessential:
Actually, much has been written on why empathy, kindness, and altruism are compatible with an evolutionary advantage. You may not find the naturalistic explanation convincing, which would be alright and would put you in a diametrical position to mine on religion.
So, no, I don't accept the idea that we need a supernatural moral compass handed over to us for us to know what to do in relation to others, nor the idea that we have a strong sense of justice that we inherited from a divine being. Besides, if we were designed to have such a strong sense of justice as you allege, why do we tolerate so much obvious and avoidable injustice? Because we are fallen, the Christian will say, and because we have free choice (at least as much of it as society's structure allows). So we always end up back where we started: the religious believer will always have an untestable answer for every question the skeptic poses. It comes down to faith, which is the crutch of the believer.

Quintessential said...

Unfortunately, one of my posts must have gotten lost. I know that there have been some attempts to explain the evolution of various distinct human attributes, but they are far from persuasive. I remember once when Dawkins was pressed on the matter of the rise of morality, he just said, it comes from the air. Although he is familiar with Dennett, I think his response is quite telling.

I'm not sure what you mean by the term, "crutch," but if you are implying, "meaning," then I would have to say, yes, as human beings, meaning is not something that we can just opt out of.

Sirfab said...

I'll try to be brief (I also created a longer reply that somehow blogger shredded.)

A believer observes a natural phenomena, for example that humans seem to possess empathy and kindness, and postulates: We get it from god. Then he goes out in the world to look for evidence in support of his original hypothesis. If he finds it, he hails it as confirmation of the original hypothesis. However, if he finds evidence to the contrary, or if he cannot find the evidence he is looking for, he conveniently reverts to the initial position (We get it from god) and may very well stop searching. Why? Because he has faith that his original assumption is irrefutable. That is a dead end from a scientific point of view.

Compare this with what science does: a hypothesis is formulated and is tested; if the test is succesful over several iterations, then the next step is taken and another hypothesis is tested. If not, a different initial hypothesis has to be formulated and tested. Science is an iterative process and a forward-looking one, at that. Everytime the process fails, you need to step back and reformulate or, in the worst analyis, you have to start from scratch.

Religion cannot admit failure of its foundational hypothesis or the whole castle of cards comes crashing down. Hence faith. Hence faith as a crutch.

On Dawkins, he is often misquoted or quoted out of context. Even his sarcastic or provocative statements have been offered as literal proof against his reasoning. (Example: "Dawkins says we were created by aliens." That's not what he said. He said that if we admit the hypothesis that we were created by a divinity, we should also necessarily admit that we were created by such a highly superior intelligence that it would be practically indistinguishable from a divinity. Look it up.) So I find it hard to believe that he seriously stated that morality comes "from the air." I'd like to see a quote, in context, without ellipses.

Peace.

Quintessential said...

It would seem that according to your explanation, you are confusing the Christian's object of faith and his lack of comprehensive understanding of a given subject (theology). Science cannot explain everything and yet you would feel right about thinking that one day it will uncover the hidden mysteries. How then is a gap in knowledge a crutch for the Christian and not for the scientist? Scientism as a worldview lacks the self-sustaining structure to make such declaratives.

Dawkins most certainly was not taken out of context. I will grant that he most likely has a much more thoughtful approach somewhere else, but in this discussion that was all he brought to the table.

Looks like my prior post that I thought was lost is now up, maybe yours will miraculously appear as well. :)

Quintessential said...

While I'm waiting for my last comment to be posted, I thought I would go ahead and look up the debate I referred to, between Dawkins and Quinn.

YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7SfEXAQTkA

MP3 Download:
http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/richard-dawkins-versus-david-quinn/

Transcript:
http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0086.htm

Quintessential said...

After reading through the transcript, it looks like the debate that I posted above was the wrong one. I listen to an enormous amount of audio and at the moment, I cannot recall exactly which debate it was.

thehurricane said...

Hello Dr. Groothius,
I enjoy your blog. A question about St. Thomas quote...

By that same logic couldn't I argue?
"It is less criminal to strike a strong man than it is a defenseless child
Now God is of infinite strength, therefore a sin committed against Him will deserve less punishment than a sin committed against a child."

Douglas Groothuis said...

The issue is holiness, not strength.

Mark Sittner said...

Dr. Groothius, respectfully,
Yes, the punishment fits the crime, but the stature or greatness or holiness of the “person against whom it is committed” is not the only factor in deciding the gravity of the crime. There are other factors involved in measuring the magnitude of the sin and therefore the magnitude of the punishment. What about the sin itself? For lack of a better example, to throw a shoe at a political leader is surely a greater crime than to throw a shoe at your neighbor, but to murder your neighbor is surely a greater crime than throwing a shoe at a political leader.
- m. sittner

Sirfab said...

Mark: "For lack of a better example, to throw a shoe at a political leader is surely a greater crime than to throw a shoe at your neighbor, but to murder your neighbor is surely a greater crime than throwing a shoe at a political leader."
Interesting example, but I have to wonder if it is really true (as far as the "throwing a shoe" part of your example is concerned).
It is obvious that the act of killing your neighbor is graver than throwing a show at a president, but I am not sure that throwing a show at a president is graver than throwing a show at your neighbor. It is certainly so in the sense that it has a more serious symbolic value. But the greater the grievance, the more understandable the reaction (understandable does not mean it should be condoned). Your grievance with your neighbor will doubtfully be as egregious as that which you hold against a foreign president who has caused the reduction of your entire country to rubble. A dispute over garbage strewn on your lawn or loud music can certainly not be as grave. Hence the reaction in the second case is harder to justify. Is it therefore "graver"? What do you think?

thehurricane said...

Sifrab: “but I am not sure that throwing a show (shoe) at a president is graver than throwing a show (shoe) at your neighbor.”
Then you would disagree with St. Thomas when he writes “it is more criminal to strike a head of state than a private citizen”
In any case, I am trying to show that the gravity of the sin is not solely dependant on the greatness or holiness of “the person against whom it is committed.” There is also the question of the sin itself, right?! What was it that the sinner actually did? When we go to court for a crime the judge doesn’t hand down a jail sentence simply based on who the victim was, he takes into account what was actually done to the victim in the first place. Now one may ask how I can use examples from human courts when we are talking about a sin against God? But this is just what St. Thomas does when he says, “Now a sin that is against God is infinite; the higher the person against whom it is committed, the graver the sin—it is more criminal to strike a head of state than a private citizen”
True! But “the person against whom it is committed” is not the only factor in the gravity (seriousness) of the sin and therefore not the only factor in the punishment.
--- m. sittner

Sirfab said...

Mark/Hurricane:
Thanks for correcting my typo in your reply (show/shoe).
While I would argue with the use of the words sin, since it is a religious and not a legal construct, I think we fundamentally agree on the fact that the hierarchical position of the victim cannot be the paramount consideration in the gravity of the crime/sin.
I am an atheist now, but I used to be a Catholic. It's funny: by Aquinas's standards, I deserved a higher punishment when I "sinned" against God (in my current opinion an imaginary entity) as a fallible Catholic, than I would deserve now if I committed a material crime against a human being. Which is why ultimately I believe that Aquinas's maxim makes no sense at all, in this world at least.
And there certainly must be a degree in the gravity of different sins. It is not clear from the context of Prof. Groothuis's quote whether Aquinas believes in such a distinction (and I am not knowledgeable enough about the Summa Theologica to know).

Mark Sittner said...

Hi Sirfab,
I absolutely believe in God and do believe in a judgement too. I just don't agree with the logic in the quote. In any case an infinite punishment doesn't mean "hell" it could just mean the loss of something that could have been ours for all eternity. I certainly don't believe that there could exist a place without hope.
I am currently reading the book "Empires of the Sea" by Roger Crowley. After reading about the pirate raids and slavery that existed in the 16th century I certainly believe if society refuses to follow Christ's teaching we can create a perfect hell on earth very fast.
- M. Sittner

Sirfab said...

Mark: "After reading about the pirate raids and slavery that existed in the 16th century I certainly believe if society refuses to follow Christ's teaching we can create a perfect hell on earth very fast."

Unfortunately, hell on earth already exists for many people, even 5 centuries later. You and I are just lucky that we were born in a place that does not seem like a hell hole.

You can always find those who say that Christianity is responsible for some of the worst suffering on earth, only to be rebutted by those who say that atheism is the cause of most suffering. It's human beings, no matter their belief or lack thereof, who are capable of inflicting unimaginable suffering on others. Sometimes they do so with full awareness of what they are doing, sometimes blinded by the application (or misapplication) of the ideology they subscribe to.

Of course, I don't share your view that following Christ's teaching can keep the world from degenerating into hell on earth. There have always been, and there will be for a long time, people who will cause a great deal of unnecessary suffering while under the conviction that they are following Christ's teaching (or the Christian God's), while other Christians will dispute their interpretation of the same teachings. (You can substitute any religious belief for Christianity and get similar results and conflicts.) Just the same, there are atheists who will cause pain and suffering to others.

I believe that it's very hard to change any person's mind and convince him or her to stop hurting others in the name of adherence to an ideology, but it may be particularly harder to convince religious people to change their behavior because of their fear that they would be going against God's will if they did.

Please don't take my words to mean that Christians do more good than harm, any more than it is true that Buddhists or atheists do. I am aware that there is a great deal of good done by believers, just as the same is true for unbelievers.

I consider others my brothers and sisters not because I share their beliefs (I more often don't than I do) but because we are all in the same boat. The good ones and the bad ones alike.

Peace, and a good memorial weekend to you and all the Curmudgeon's readers (and the Curmudgeon himself.)

Quintessential said...

Sirfab, I agree that it is an issue of being human. Christians would call it the fallen nature. Often times, man will read into his ideology whatever he wants it to say. This would sort of merge with your belief that ideology doesn't change a man, but that does not mean that the teachings of Jesus are elastic and subjective in meaning. His impact is subjective, but his teachings are not. It would be impossibly for me to deny the very real effects of Jesus as a whole (his life, teachings, character, death, resurrection, etc.).

More people's lives have been altered and completely trasformed by this one man, than anyone or anything else that this world has ever had to offer. Even for an atheist, setting aside people around the world such as the terrorists who have come to know Christ, drug addicts who have been delivered, etc., a glimpse of such wonders as Denny Nissley (disaster relief work), Mark Buntain (served in Calcutta), Amy Charmichael (rescued young girls forced to be temple prostitutes) and many other world changers should be enough to recognize the power that follows the Gospel.

For the naturalist/materialist, such self-sacrificing exemplary service can only be considered a psychological malfunction. Again, atheism is discovered to be incoherent and bankrupt. It must borrow from the Christian, again and again.

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."
"If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own."
John 3:19-20, 7:17

Sirfab said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sirfab said...

[This is a repost of something submitted a while ago. I fixed a few typos. Apologies for the duplication]

Quintessential:

You say you agree with me at the top of your post, but you either completely missed my point, or you disagree.

I won't bore you with a list of atheists who have done as much good as the Christians you produce as evidence. (Even if it weren't as much, even if it were a lot more or a lot less, that would not prove your point, or mine).

When you present me your list of good Christians (who might have been good Muslims had they been born in a different area of the world--or are you going to tell me that Muslims are incapable of self-transcending charity?), I can produce a list of bad (or good) Christians who had witches burnt at the stake, caused tens of thousands of death by bringing arbitrary war to foreign lands, persecuted gays and lesbians for living godless lives, and so on. Or I could produce a list of exceptionally good Muslims, Buddhists, and--by golly--atheists. So? The question isn't even "Does the good done by religion outweigh the bad?" What if it does? Would good people have stopped doing good things had they been told: "Hey, it was all a hoax, we made god up?" Also, how good is a person whose primary reason for doing good is religious belief or some other superstition?

Actually I think that, on balance, religion does more harm than good in this sense: Good people could and probably would still do good without believing in celestial creatures and their earthly offspring, but it takes religious belief to make good people do bad things.

Besides, how does the power of something you follow makes what you follow real? I can believe that I will be rewarded by pink unicorns in the afterlife if I feed all the starving animals that come by my house, and while that will help save some starving animals, it won't make the pink unicorns real.

Also, that "[A]theism is discovered to be incoherent and bankrupt" is a matter of opinion, not of fact.

Finally: "For the naturalist/materialist, such self-sacrificing exemplary service can only be considered a psychological malfunction." This is a not too thinly-veiled way of saying that atheists (and all human beings, I suppose) are selfish and incapable of doing good, unless they have external motivation (god); or, worse, that unless their natural instincts are beset by a malfunction they are incapable of altruism. That is a profoundly untrue and uncharitable view of humanity in general and of atheists in particular. That's exactly what I meant when I said that it takes religion to make good people do (and say) bad things.

Peace.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Sirfab writes:

"Whether justice is an illusion or not, it is fallible because it is in the hands of humans. I'll give you an example: Crooks who have gambled away the livelihood of millions of people spend less time in jail than someone who takes the life of one human being, however unintentionally.
So, yes, justice is an illusion. Whether we think its underlying authority descends from a divinity or from within us is, alas, immaterial."

Oddly, your comment depends on justice not being an illusion. For you cite an injustice. But in order to do that, and do so accurately, you must know what justice is. But you cannot know that which is not real, e.g., one cannot know that there are married-bachelors. If I judge a piece of currency as counterfeit, I must know what the true currency is.

Now, you may mean that true justice cannot be (or has not been) served. But that means that its implementation has not been actualized, not that it doesn't exist. If no one makes a correct equation, that does not mean that math is an illusion. It just means that the implementation of that reality has not been actualized. One can know justice and not practice it. But that judgment means that justice is a reality known by the person who makes that judgment.

I hope that offers some clarity.

Andrew said...

The Aquinas quote is actually an objection, which indicates that it either doesn't represent Aquinas's view, or only does so with qualification. In this case its the latter (see: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2087.htm#article4). Also, fyi, the quote seems to leave out a reference to Deuteronomy 25:2, and doesn't contain an ellipse to indicate this ommission.

Quintessential said...

Sirfab,

//"It's human beings, no matter their belief or lack thereof, who are capable of inflicting unimaginable suffering on others. Sometimes they do so with full awareness of what they are doing, sometimes blinded by the application (or misapplication) of the ideology they subscribe to."//

Agreed!

//"...it's very hard to change any person's mind and convince him or her to stop hurting others in the name of adherence to an ideology..."//

Agreed!

Now you can go back and read my post with more comprehension.

It is important for you to understand that I am not demonizing atheists. I have made no claim that atheists are incapable of empathy or acts of kindness. My point is that while the Gospel is not subjective, the effects are subjective and personal in nature. It is the person of Christ that makes the difference, theology (and/or ideology) merely follows suite.

There is no end to the volumes of testimonies that have been offered in relation to those who have encountered Christ. But for those who have went well beyond the call of duty (as mentioned in my prior post), if naturalism/materialism is reality, then it can only be said that they were in fact deficient in proper self-preservation as defined in the neo-Darwinian evolutionary paradigm. In other words, there is a malfunction. For the atheist who holds this view, to argue against it, would be a contradiction and thereby incoherent. This is not an emtional appeal or some religious sentiment, it is simply a brazen fact. If natural evolution is true, then Mother Terresa and Mark Buntain had genetic disorders and they were no heroes at all.

Now then, my chief aim here, is to expose atheism as a systematic ideology that can be likened to the emperor with no clothes. It lacks any basis by which to argue against religion (of any kind), except, perhaps, for the preservation of its own ideology. Ultimately, if natural evolution is true, then atheism is no different than the religions and beliefs that its adherents so detest. It becomes just another ideological drip in the bucket of human experience. Indeed, it is no different than preferring one flavor of ice cream over another.

If naturalism/materialism is ultimate reality, then belief is one of its many bi-products. In this way, it is incoherent to attack religious belief. Ahhh, but Christianity is evil and atheism is a morally superior justified position, so you assume. A bogus argument, based on emotions and little facts, and involving special pleading at that. For you to say, "I think that, on balance, religion does more harm than good," not only presupposes objective morality, but more ironically, you seem to be suggesting that you posses some sort of special knowledge about the intricate processes of human evolution, which in the end, sounds more like religion than science. Maybe we could call it, Evo-Gnosis (short for evolutionary gnosticism)?

Rather than making the argument personal and emotional, I think that there are enough contradictions within atheism to objectively recognize that it is a house of cards, inconsistent and incoherent. It assumes that which it sets out to prove and then claims it isn't trying to prove anything. I'm sorry, its just too much circular reasoning involved to make any sense out of it.

Sirfab said...

Quintessential:
I have to say that there is delicious irony in being lectured about circular reasoning by a believer.

But let me correct you on at least one point. You quote me as having said: "Actually I think that, on balance, religion does more harm than good." The full quote? "Actually I think that, on balance, religion does more harm than good in this sense: Good people could and probably would still do good without believing in celestial creatures and their earthly offspring, but it takes religious belief to make good people do bad things." I was very careful to word that paragraph as I did because I am not implying that it is possible to measure in absolute terms the good vs. the bad done by religion. If it is possible, it would be an overwhelming exercise, to be sure.

What you did is called cherry-picking. You picked the part of my quote that served to further your point, and omitted the part that should have made mine clearer.
I won't assume dishonesty on your part, but please be careful to assume meaning that I did not intend.

You also say: "It is important for you to understand that I am not demonizing atheists. I have made no claim that atheists are incapable of empathy or acts of kindness." No, but you did say this: "For the naturalist/materialist, such self-sacrificing exemplary service can only be considered a psychological malfunction. Again, atheism is discovered to be incoherent and bankrupt. It must borrow from the Christian, again and again." [Emphases added.]

You also say: "[F]or those who have went [sic] well beyond the call of duty (as mentioned in my prior post), if naturalism/materialism is reality, then it can only be said that they were in fact deficient in proper self-preservation as defined in the neo-Darwinian evolutionary paradigm." [Again, emphasis added.] The proper reading of that sentence requires replacing "as defined in the neo-Darwinian evolutionary paradigm" with "as determined in Quintessential's opinion."

There are scientists who are, at this very moment, working to find an explanation to why human beings are capable of altruism, of distinguishing right from wrong, of acts that we would agree to call moral. They are likely to find incremental answers sooner than you will give up on the notion that your god is the source of moral order, and sooner that you are can offer me any evidence of the existence of the Christian heaven and hell.

My point was simply that you have not given any reasonable explanation as to why an atheist is capable of altruism. You just assume that altruism is given to us by your god. That is not a reasonable explanation, because there is no relationship of causality between the existence of one or many god, and the existence of a sense of right or wrong and altruism in human beings. You just assume that it is so because you believe in your god, and that--to me--is the ultimate in circular reasoning.

This debate, as all debates between atheists and religious believers, is becoming increasingly quixotic. And I think I am going to call it a day on this thread.

Peace.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Fab:

I am not following all of this interchange, but there is nothing ironic about a Christian telling you are using circular reasoning. Biblical faith is not based on circular reasoning or begging the question. Nor is the good apologetics. If you told me that I did either in my 750 page book, I'd immediately investigate the matter. It the charge stood, I would either drop the argument (because it would not be a logical argument) or revise it.

Douglas Groothuis said...

None of the classic arguments for God's existence:

cosmological
design
ontological
religious experience
moral

beg the question.

Quintessential said...

Sirfab, I don't think I took you out of context at all. However, if you found it to change the meaning of your comment and thereby insulting you, it was unintentional and I apologize.

You seem to want to an emotionally based response to the gentic malfunction that I mentioned. Again, I'm simply examining how naturalism/materialism plays out. It is important for the atheist to examine how atheism translates into real life. Of course this offers a conflict for the atheist, because it would be difficult to think of such heroic self-sacrifice to be the result of a malfunction.

And, yes, science may very well offer more information regarding altruism, but that is just a gap argument at best. Science may give us information, but we must use our intelligence to interpret the data.

My argument was very simple. Atheism is incoherent and ladened with self-contradictions in the arena of human experience. I didn't expect you to be able to answer the questions, but I appreciate the attempt.

Have a great Memorial Day.

Edward said...

As always, I am both amused and puzzled by the dogmatic pronouncements of Xian theists. In what way is atheism "incoherent"? How - precisely - is it laden with self-contradiction?

Quintessential said...

Edward, you came in on the tale end of the conversation. I recommend reading the prior posts for a better understanding of the context.

Although I am referring to Christians, it may not necessarily be limited to, for the point I made. Of those who have sacrificed their life, time, riches, prestige, pleasure, marriage, health, comfort, etc., I observed that "for the naturalist/materialist, such self-sacrificing exemplary service can only be considered a psychological malfunction." In such a case, Mark Buntain, Mother Teresa and the like, rather than being exemplary to us, have a disorder.

This is not something that I have pulled out of my own imagination. Atheists such as Dawkins, for example, have offered similar sentiment. Yet, why do we baulk at such ideals? Why do we look at self-sacrifice as heroic? It is in this that there lays a contradiction for the naturalist/materialist and it becomes incoherent.

While we may observe the rare occurance of specific instances of altruism among animals, it does not help explain a thing. If anything, it only complicates things. How do we seperate the will from instinct? Do humans even have a will or do we operate, exclusively under the direction of our physiological genetic program? Again, everything that we understand about atheism, as played out in naturalism/materialism begins to crumble as we take a good look at what it means to be human.