Thursday, 17 December 2015

Think About Abortion!

This isn't a subject I think about that much. It seems pretty obvious to me that abortion is wrong.
That's nothing to do with any Biblical perspective or laws. It's the plain fact that killing a defenceless baby can not be defended.

Anyway, I had this short exchange recently with someone who clearly hasn't stopped to think for a moment about their pro-choice position.

They gave up replying, and my guess is that they couldn't think of a response to my last question.

Where is the line drawn? When does a foetus become a human being?
When the umbilical cord is cut? Ridiculous.
When the baby leaves the womb and comes out into the world? Just a matter of location? Ridiculous.
At some point during growth in the womb? Now here's the real problem!

As a Christian I can ask this question. I can say that perhaps in early weeks the baby might not be developed enough to have received a soul and truly be a human being. I have no way of knowing when that happens though, so to be on the safe side, I'd have to rule out abortion completely.
Atheists don't have that in their worldview. They can't draw a line between a soulless foetus and a soulful human baby. In which case, all atheists should be anti-abortion, because a foetus has everything it needs to potentially become a full human being at conception. As soon as mum's egg and dad's sperm join together, that's the full set of ingredients that make a person.
An atheist trying to draw the line anywhere else is getting into dangerous water where they can also be damning the disabled, the elderly, or anyone who needs any kind of assistance to live.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Reason For Prayer and Miracles

I stumbled across this exchange online and the lack of understanding from the atheist side pains me.
Although I wonder if maybe they actually understood what prayer and miracles were about, perhaps they might not be atheists? We can only hope.

Let's tear this apart.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Does God Allow Us To Keep Slaves? (New Testament)

The slavery debate has been settled in our society for a good while now. We know it's wrong to take a person and keep them as property that we can do whatever we want with. Thankfully slavery is now illegal after a lot of hard fighting by people including Christians like Abraham Lincoln and William Wilberforce.

But some people think that the Bible allows or even commands us to keep slaves. If that's the case that seems to mean that God of the Bible is less than perfect morally. Fortunately for us, God, Jesus, and the Bible do not allow keeping slaves. So there's your short answer.

How about a slightly longer answer? Try these:
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
In Jesus' ideal world, all people are equally important. If everyone is meant to be equal, then slaves are a complete no-no.
"For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body--whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." 1 Corinthians 12:13
Just to reiterate a point...
And finally, in case so far it sounds like the New Testament is OK with slavery because one day slaves won't exist any more, here's an Old Testament verse to put it all in perspective:
"Anyone who kidnaps and sells another person must be put to death. If they still have the person with them when they are caught, they must be put to death." Exodus 21:16
The trouble I think most people have with seeing passages in the Bible about slavery is that they read them through 21st century eyes. For most of us, our understanding of slavery is completely based on the image of black people being taken from their homes in Africa and forced into hard labour by rich white people. They were seen as property, no better than livestock, and had no respect or rights. They were considered sub-human. When we hear the word 'slave', we think of the worst type of slavery, because that's what we're familiar with. We can call this kind of slavery 'chattel slavery'. Sounds a bit like cattle, if it helps you remember. (The word 'chattel' is derived from 'cattle' anyway).
But the above verse from Exodus clearly says that taking someone and holding them as property to be sold is wrong. If that doesn't describe slavery as we know it, I don't know what does.

Monday, 16 November 2015

A Rough Guide To God's Plan

I would never suggest that I know the mind of God, and I'm wary that there could be mistakes in what I'm putting here, but I find that when discussing various issues, as a Christian I'm coming from a certain understanding that someone else might not have. I might be taking for granted some thing or another that they haven't even thought about. So while I think I'm talking about something obvious, the other person might not have a clue how I can square what I'm saying with anything. Like, I might be talking about the way Jesus suffered for us, while their image of God is the benevolent comfort blanket who makes sure everyone is happy all of the time. The two things don't make sense.

Things like the 'Problem of Evil' and 'Divine Hiddenness' are massive issues for sceptics, but for Christians, they are nothing. They are expected! Somehow, even though these things are necessary in Christianity, some people think they are reasons that Christianity isn't true. It's clearly a lack of understanding about who God is, what we wants, and his ultimate plan.

So, here I want to attempt an outline of what God is trying to do according to Christianity.
It will be an attempt, and I don't for one second pretend to know every detail. The old phrase "God works in mysterious ways" is not helpful to anyone, but he has revealed to us what we need to know on a need-to-know basis. We don't have all of the information but that should be enough.

Anyway Lesson 1: God is not a comfort blanket who answers every prayer with the goal of making everyone on Earth as happy as possible.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Can't God Just Rearrange The Stars And Write His Name To Prove He Exists?

It's often heard from sceptics that they would change their minds and believe that God exists if he does something big and grand like that. He won't do it...
"The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side" -- Mark 8:11–13 
God doesn't just want you to know he exists. He wants a relationship. Showing off his power while demanding your obedience isn't the way to go about that and he knows it.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Is Christianity Based On Blind Faith?

Some people seem to have the impression that religious belief is always the same as 'belief without evidence'. They even seem to think that questioning a religious belief is supposed to be a sin, and the reason that so many people have faith is because they are scared that doing some research might send them to Hell.

It might be like that for some faiths... I don't know, I haven't checked them all... but Christianity is on very safe ground.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

What proof or evidence is there for the claim: 'God does not exist?' Round 2

Sometimes, just for fun, I will see what the atheists of the internet have to offer the discussion about the existence of God.

It's a simple challenge. I ask atheists to present any evidence or argument that supports the claim 'there is no god'.
It started out as a simple request, but over time I've had to add little notes to the question to try and stop heaps of irrelevant comments. Many still ignore the notes but that just goes to show me that they're not really engaging the simple question, and probably rarely do.

Here's a link to some previous responses.

Anyway, after a recent attempt, here are some of the lame answers I received.

This was the original post:

Notice how I make a point of saying this isn't about the definition of 'atheism' because I know that's a stumbling block for many. I make it clear that I'm asking about the statement 'there is no god'.

And here come the responses!

Zero evidence for a deity is there? Then what's all this stuff about cosmological arguments, indisputable facts about the life of Jesus, objective morality, and signs of design? Off to a bad start there with your completely wrong statement. They do say start every speech with a joke...

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Why Do We Have Faith?

Faith is so often misrepresented by non-believers. Richard Dawkins describes it this way:
"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."
As usual, Dawkins is spouting complete drivel. Here's a great quote from John Lennox, a professor of mathematics at Oxford, who has debated Dawkins a few times, and each time utterly torn his worldview to shreds.
"Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion."
That's the difference. We're all on Dawkins' side if he's talking about blind faith - believing without thinking. But actual faith is not that. The faith that most people talk about regularly is not that. As Lennox will tell you, the word 'faith' comes from the Latin 'fides', which means trust. You have faith in your family, faith in your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife, faith in your government (maybe). And you usually say that you have faith in them because they've never let you down before or you know them well enough that they will come through. You trust them. The phrase 'faith in humanity' gets thrown around a lot, although more often than not, it's mentioned as a 'loss of faith'. It's still talking about trust.
Pretty much the only time I hear faith being bundled up with blind faith as the same thing is when fundie atheists are using the word in reference to religious belief.

As John Lennox said, faith/trust is based on evidence and that is the Biblical definition too. The number of preachers and prophets throughout the book who ask questions and want a bit more evidence to keep their faith strong should be plenty enough to destroy this stupid definition of faith completely. Doubting Thomas is probably one of the most famous episodes of Jesus' story. He wanted evidence, Jesus gave it to him, his faith was strengthened.

So when Dawkins, Harris or the other New Atheists talk about faith, they're talking about 'blind faith'. And that is not something any Christian is into! So they're wasting everyone's time...
So what is the evidence that Christians have?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Was The Bible Written By Bronze Age Goat Herders?

Another commonly heard catchphrase that fundie atheists love to bandy about is: "The Bible was written by illiterate Bronze Age goat herders!", which apparently is supposed to mean that it's full of outdated views from idiotic simple people. It's hardly a surprise that this first appeared in one of Richard Dawkins' books "The Greatest Show on Earth," although he did phrase it "Bronze Age desert tribesmen". Besides that being an unjustified, generalistic insult to goat herders or tribesmen, it's completely factually wrong, and raises the question of how illiterates could pen the best selling book in history. (A miracle?)

The Israeli Bronze Age may have lasted from around 3000BC til something like 1000BC, so it could cover a chunk of the Old Testament but hardly all of it, and it's nowhere near the New Testament at all (roughly between 30-95AD). Meanwhile, famous thinkers like Confucius, Lau Tzu, Aristotle, and Plato, lived after 600BC and were coming up with the kind of wisdom we feel is relevant today, but the Bible had included it centuries before.
So when it was written is pretty irrelevant if the content is timeless, and the idea that it was written by morons is clearly nonsense when it can be compared to the greatest philosophers of all time.

So goat herders?

Monday, 20 July 2015

What Is a Fundie Atheist?

Fundie Atheist, Militant Atheist, Village Atheist, Folk Atheist, Atheist Troll.

Unfortunately, I and many others sometimes fall into a trap of using the term 'atheist' as shorthand for any/all of the above. Mainly because these guys have the loudest voices, and the moderate, normal non-believers stay polite and respectable like the decent folk that they are.
It's always the minority who ruin it for the majority. But what is a fundie atheist anyway?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Can 'Good' Simply Exist? (Moral Platonism)

This subject was briefly covered in The Moral Argument post, but it might be worth giving it a closer look.

Moral Platonism holds that there is an object that exists that is good. As in, we have things like rocks, trees, mountains, and a good. So not something that is described as a good thing (like a cake is good), but a thing that is good ("look at that good roaming the countryside").

I think for most people, the initial reaction to this concept is that it's nonsense. How could it be that good is a thing? It makes no sense. Dr. William Lane Craig calls it unintelligible.
I'd agree that it seems completely crazy on the face of it, but my obligation to be as unbiased as possible reminds me that plenty of scientific discoveries have seemed to fly in the face of common sense. So even if this idea of a good thing seems to be nonsense, it doesn't mean that it actually is. We actually have to find out if it's nonsense. Is a good thing simply difficult to understand, or is it actually unintelligible like a square circle?

Monday, 1 June 2015

Right And Wrong Means God Exists - The Moral Argument

This here is the Moral Argument for God's Existence:

P1: If objective moral values exist, then God exists.
P2: Objective moral values exist.
C: Therefore God exists.

It's a nice straight forward one. It's easy to see that P1+P2=C if they're both true.
So the question is, are P1 and P2 true?

The short answer is yes. But let's look closer anyway.

How Do Philosophical Arguments Work?

For those who aren't philosophically trained, it might be a bit strange the first time you see a philosophical argument, but once you get the hang of them, they're really good tools. They help communicate ideas clearly in an easy way to grasp and make it simple to find problems (if there are any).

First off, an 'argument' isn't an argument in the same way as a shouting boyfriend and girlfriend disagreeing on who's turn it is to wash the dishes is. A philosophical argument is like a theory which is backed up by reasons to think that the theory is true.

Here's one that's a theist favourite: The Kalam Cosmological Argument, as made famous by William Lane Craig.
P1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
P2: The universe began to exist.
C: The universe has a cause.

The 'P's are called premises. The 'C' is the conclusion.

There are two things to think about when working with one of these arguments.
First we look at whether the argument is sound or valid. This means that we have to figure out if the C is what definitely follows if the Ps are true. It's a bit like maths. Does P1+P2=C in the same way that 2+2=4? That's not algebra, that's just figuring out the logic of the argument.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

What Do We Mean By 'Objective Moral Values'?

The Moral Argument for God's existence mentions these things called objective moral values. Sometimes (often) it seems as though people don't know what that phrase means (which is fair enough if you've never heard it before).

The difference between objective and subjective is the difference between facts and opinions.

If something is objective, then it is true no matter what anyone thinks or believes about it. If something is subjective then it's just based on a person's own preferences and doesn't hold any truth value.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

I Just Believe In One Less God Than You

And welcome to another round of Stupid Atheist Catchphrases!

Today's contender is a corker from Stephen Roberts that fundie atheists love to quote. It's the type of catchphrase that gets them out of actually having to think about anything. Their favourite kind! Along with 'atheism is the null hypothesis', and 'atheism and agnosticism are essentially the same thing'.

Anyway, let's look at this one:
"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." Stephen F. Roberts

The first bit: "we are both atheists". Simply put - no. Even granting the dumb 'lack of belief' definition of atheism that many fundies cling to, atheism is a non-belief in any gods. It's the belief that the world and universe exists and functions without a god involved. You're not an atheist one hundred times over for not believing in one hundred gods. You're an atheist if you rule them all out without exception.
A theist is someone who believes in at least one. You can't be a theist and an atheist. They're mutually exclusive positions.
But, yes, you can believe in one, and none of the others. Even though the phrasing is ridiculous, I guess that's the point that he was attempting to make.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

What Are The Established Facts About Jesus?

There are several facts about Jesus' life and ministry that the vast majority of New Testament scholars and historians accept as truth. Of course there are a couple of wildcards that don't accept them, but there are always gonna be those kind of guys who aren't willing to accept stuff even if it's indisputable.

Here's a rundown of the things we know for certain about Jesus:

1) Jesus lived. Born around 4BC and died around 33AD (give or take a few years).
2) Jesus was from Nazareth.
3) Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist.
4) Jesus was a great moral teacher.
5) Jesus preached radical new ideas.
6) Jesus had several disciples.
7) Jesus had a reputation as a healer and exorcist.
8) Jesus was beaten and crucified to death for blasphemy (claiming to be God/God's son) by the request of the Sanhedrin under the orders of Pontius Pilate.
9) Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimethea - a sympathetic member of the Sanhedrin.
10) Jesus' tomb was found empty by some female disciples.
11) Jesus' disciples claimed and truly believed to have seen him risen from the dead.
12) Creeds referring to Death, Deity, & Resurrection can be dated to within the same year as the crucifixion.
13) Christianity spread quickly.
14) Several of the first disciples/apostles were martyred for refusing to denounce Christ.

Considering all these taken together, there is no explanation that makes sense of it all except that the story of Jesus as presented in the New Testament is true.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Is The Shroud Of Turin The Ultimate Proof For Christianity?

Until recently I was among the crowd that would immediately think 'proven hoax' whenever the Shroud of Turin was mentioned.
However, New Testament scholar Gary Habermas has a sideline in studying the supposed burial linen of Jesus Christ. What he's discovered is actually quite incredible.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Word Salad

A phrase we often hear when speaking to fundie atheists is 'word salad'.

The usual routine is something like this:

Fundie atheist: **Question about scripture/faith/religion.**
Believer: **Reasoned but perhaps complicated response with examples and evidence.**
Fundie atheist: "Word Salad!"

What 'word salad' actually is is when somebody talks a lot, but doesn't really say anything. They might seem to be skirting around the issue and giving anecdotes in order to actually avoid answering a tricky question.
This is rarely what is happening when the fundie atheist calls "word salad" though. Usually, when they call it, it actually means that they don't understand what's being said, and because they don't understand, they think the question hasn't been answered.

Ironically, one of the masters of word salad was one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism: Christopher Hitchens. In pretty much every debate with a studied philosopher/theologian (e.g. William Lane Craig, John Lennox, or Frank Turek to name a few) you'll see him being asked a straight forward question (sometimes only needing a yes/no answer) and him heading off on an irrelevant tangent so that he could get in a jab about genital mutilation.

Monday, 27 April 2015

What Might Hell Be Like?

There are three most common views of what Hell is. I'm not going to go into which one I think is right here, but just going do a run down of the options.

Eternal Torture

This is probably the image that most people have. Fire and brimstone, demons with pitchforks, lava and torture devices.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

What Do Christians Have To Believe?

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that if you don't believe such and such then you're not a real Christian. Depending on what the 'such and such' is, they could be very wrong.

Here's a brief rundown of needs and don't needs to believe:

Need to Believe:
  • God exists.
  • God is transcendent.
  • God is the most powerful being that exists.
  • God is good.
  •  God created us.
  • Jesus was God incarnate on Earth.
  • Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected.
  • Jesus is our role model.
Don't Need to Believe:

  • Whether or not the Earth is thousands or millions of years old.
  • Whether or not Darwinian evolution is true.
  • Whether or not homosexuality is a sin.
  • Whether or not we have free will.
  •  Whether or not we have an immaterial soul.
  • Whether or not extra-terrestrials exist.
  • Whether or not there was a historical Adam and Eve.
  • Whether Hell is a fiery pit, an empty wasteland, a mental state, or complete destruction.
The 'need' list is what many would call 'Mere Christianity'. The basic stuff that's needed to call yourself a Christian. All this stuff in the 'don't need' list is stuff that is debated by Christians but doesn't have any bearing on the truth of Mere Christianity. You can take it or leave it. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

What Is Atheism?

You might think that to say "I am an atheist" is a stand alone statement. You might think that to say that draws a line where your stance on the existence of God is and that's it. You'd be wrong.

Firstly, let's be clear. Atheism is different to agnostic non-theism. Atheism is to believe that the statement 'there is no God' is true.

You might be one of those that sees agnosticism as a type of atheism, and all right whatever, stick with that if you like, but just for the sake of this article, let's go with the proper definition. Let's do that simply because this article has nothing to say about agnostic non-theism. It only speaks to atheism. If you're an agnostic non-theist who (mistakenly) calls themselves an atheist, then this isn't about you. Some of it might cross over, but generally it's about atheists.

Right so the start point is that atheism is the belief that there is no such thing as God.

A lot of people will stop there and say 'end of story'. That's not the case. If you believe that there is no God, who have to believe that the universe can get by without one. So you have to be a naturalist or a materialist.

A naturalist might be able to somehow believe in a spiritual or immaterial dimension, but it would have to have an explanation that came through physics, biology, and chemistry.
A materialist is someone who only believes in physics, biology, and chemistry with no possibility of spiritual stuff.

Which is why the above meme is pretty accurate. Atheists have to believe that the universe was somehow created from absolute nothing. Well, they don't have to, they could go against scientific and philosophical consensus and believe that the universe has always existed.
For atheists, as there is no divine intelligence to guide, create, and design, everything that has ever happened has to be the result of time plus random chance. No purpose, no meaning, no reasons. Just blind luck.

I'm not saying any of this is false (I don't believe it is for several reasons), I'm simply saying that atheists have to choose between these options.

So once an atheist has chosen to be either a naturalist or materialist, and decided if they think the universe created itself or is eternal (or is withholding judgement until one makes more sense than the other), there's one more thing that they have to accept.

To be an atheist, you have to be a moral nihilist.

Now this is one a lot of atheists hate hearing, but unfortunately not liking something doesn't make it untrue. Have a look over The Moral Argument to see why. Without God there is no possible perfect moral standard and so that would mean moral values are all subjective - down to individual opinions. Opinions don't actually have any truth value. So atheists can have the opinion that murder, theft, and rape are bad things, but it doesn't amount to much more than that they don't like them. To build a society atheists could come up with rules that they all agree on and maybe try to base them on the best way to survive and that might be practical and actually work out fine for them. But behind it all they have to admit that all the rules and laws are just things that they have chosen and there isn't any actual real thing that makes them really 'right' or 'good'.

So to sum up. An atheist must believe that the universe either created itself or it has existed forever. They have to believe that the elements and atoms randomly arranged and by pure luck formed into stars and planets. They have to believe that elements on those planets randomly arranged into something we call life. They have to believe that seeing as everything is run on time and chance, that nothing has any real meaning or purpose beyond opinions.

A materialist further has to believe that there is no such thing as intelligence and we are all just advanced robots that follow our natural programming that was randomly generated through evolution. A naturalist could be working under the assumption that immaterial intelligence could somehow arise from unintelligent matter.

It's all bleak, but that doesn't mean it's not true.

I think it's not true because of a few absurdities, but if a materialist or naturalist can find a way to fill those gaps I'm happy to hear them. To me atheism comes from the assumption that everything in the universe has to be explained bottom up. Theism lets you explain some things, if not everything, from the top down. Atheistic science is limited to breaking everything down to smaller, more basic parts until you get to nothing. Theistic science can start with everything being there that was needed to get it all going. It leaves more doors open. Methodologically it's better.
So as a final thing to think about, I'd love to know how atheists even begin to explain these things:
  • Existence from Non-existence
  • Life from Non-life
  • Intelligence from non-intelligence
Saying "science will figure it out" is not answer. That's called 'naturalism of the gaps' or 'scientism' and we're not interested in fallacies.

Finally, I'll restate that this doesn't apply to non-theists. If you're undecided about your answer to the question 'is there a God?' then you don't have to commit to naturalism or materialism. However, it might be worth considering the absurdities atheism offers that you have to face if you were to reject God.

Cos you know, Christians have to believe that God incarnated himself as a man and proved it by walking on water, healing the sick, and raising himself from the dead, but atheists have to believe that a mud puddle got struck by lightning and came to life.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Reading The Bible With A Study Guide

It's surprising how often some atheists make this suggestion. (Or is it? A lot of them are trolls. I doubt a reasonable atheist would ever do this).

They tell you it's a good idea to just read the Bible from front to back, without any study aids, with the condition that you can put it down when you're sick of it and announce yourself an atheist.

They'll tell you it's so full of immorality and prejudice that you'd have to be crazy to think it deserves the nickname 'the good book'.

What they don't realise is that they're simply showing how weak their intellectual hand is.

Sure you could read the Bible without a study aid. That would be fine. You'd just have to figure out the bits you didn't quite understand for yourself, which might be fairly difficult without any knowledge of things like ancient Hebrew cultural history, or how to recognise literary differences between poetry, prose, and historical texts, or to take notice of contexts and references.

Before diving any further into this, I'd also simply have to question whether or not the atheist making this suggestion had read the Bible themselves. My initial suspicion would be that they had been visiting an atheist-infidel type website who enjoyed taking Biblical quotes, pointing, and saying "Haha, look how bad and stupid this stuff is". Precisely the kind of people that study guides are for! Not that I'm exempt from that. There's been plenty of passages I haven't understood and needed someone with more training and expertise to explain for me.

Belief Based On Faith

Another commonly heard thing from atheists is that 'faith is an irrational reason to believe in anything'.

What they mean is that it's mad to believe something when there is no evidence for it.

Right. That's what a Christian calls 'blind faith'. 'Faith' is a completely different thing altogether. The word 'faith' comes from the Latin word 'fides' which means 'trust' or 'confidence'.

So when a Christian says that they have faith, it means that they trust God and Jesus. Trust and confidence is something that is earned, which means it requires some amount of evidence. Christian faith is based on evidence. It's the complete opposite of what Dawkins and his followers think it is.

Everyone has faith in something as Christians use the word. Faith in your family, faith in your spouse, faith in your leaders, faith in yourself.
We agree that blind faith is irrational, which is why we don't have it.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Auschwitz and God

I'm so far removed from this. My parents generation were born well after the wars were over. I'm in the UK. I'm a Christian. So it's hard to really get to grips with an understanding of what happened at Auschwitz. The best I can do is watch the movies, the documentaries, hear the testimonies. Even then I doubt I can fully grasp the horror of the death camps. I wonder if even those who were there to suffer in them had a full picture of the terrible place they were in.

I've been a little flippant dealing with the Problem of Evil. My only defence there is that generally I treat it as a logical problem. A philosophical argument that gets a thorough debunking. What I (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) often forget is that the strength of the Problem of Evil and Suffering is not in its philosophy, but in its emotional weight.

When you see, or worse, suffer hurt, sadness, loneliness, let alone the horror of being reduced to whatever subhuman category the Nazis treated people as, it's very understandably difficult to keep a level, logical, philosophical head about it all. It's no surprise whatsoever that a person who has gone through a bad time is going to struggle with looking at their situation with the passionless outlook of Mr Spock.
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? - Matthew 6:27
It's so easy to ask "Where was God when I needed him?", "Where was my guardian angel?".
It's so easy to think that the answer to the question is that he was never there to start with. And it's very understandable to not be comforted at all the by the answer "God has a sufficient reason to allow this".

Moral Argument From Evil

To the philosophical Christian it's as obvious as a bright red smacked arse wobbling two feet from your face that the Problem of Evil is a non-starter. However, some atheists won't let it go. They try to rework it so that it makes sense and can avoid the hurdles that it falls at (if you think it even gets out the gate).

Here's one complicated attempt that I found recently. It's set up a little differently that I'm used to, but it's not a big deal. It's 'The Moral Argument from Evil' from Dean Stretton:
  1. A1. The most rational theists know (i.e., have a justified, true belief) that God exists.
  2. A2a. For any possible world W, if God exists in W, then every instance of evil in W is objectively justified.
  3. A2b. If God exists, then there is objective justification for any actual instance of evil, including those evils for which there is a human onlooker
  4. A2. If God exists, then there is objective justification for every actual instance of evil, justification that will occur even if no onlooker intervenes to stop or prevent that evil.
  5. A3. Some members of the class of most rational theists (as I have defined that class) are theists who know A2.
  6. A4. Some of the most rational theists (namely, those who know A2) know that there is objective justification for any actual instance of evil, justification that will occur even if no onlooker intervenes to stop or prevent that evil.
  7. A5. If human person P knows that there is objective justification for evil E, and that this justification will occur even if P does not intervene to stop or prevent E, then P is morally justified in allowing E to occur.
  8. A6. Some of the most rational theists (namely, those who know A2) are morally justified in allowing any actual evil to occur.
  9. A7. If the most rational theists know that God exists, then some of those theists (namely, those who know A2) are morally justified in allowing any evil to occur.
  10. A8. Even the most rational theists (including those who know A2) are not morally justified in allowing just any evil to occur.
  11. A9. Even the most rational theists do not know that God exists.
  12. A10. If the most rational theists do not know that God exists, then no theist knows that God exists.
  13. A11. No theist knows that God exists.
  14. A12. For any given theist, that theist’s belief that God exists is either false or unjustified.
  15. A13. If God exists, then some theists are justified in believing that God exists.
  16. A14. If God exists, then no theist has a false belief that God exists.
  17. A15. If God exists, then some theists know (i.e., have a justified, true belief) that God exists.
  18. A16. It is not the case that some theists know (i.e., have a justified and true belief) that God exists.
  19. A17. God does not exist.
Look how long winded it is. These are the lengths that have to be gone to to try and salvage the wreckage of The Problem of Evil. Oh boy.
Let's check it out.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

If Bad Things Happen To Good People Then God Does Not Exist

You might have heard something like this being said by non-believers. Something like it, I haven't actually heard it put the way it is in the title, but it amounts to about the same.

I'll sketch out the basics here as to why 'the problem of evil' is one of the worst objections to believing in God. (Aside from it having been covered to death by loads of philosophers all through the ages, starting with debate in the Book of Job).

The classic Problem of Evil goes a little like this:
P1) If an all-loving, all powerful being exists, it would destroy evil.
P2) Evil exists.
C) Therefore an all-loving, all powerful being doesn't exist.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence

Some atheists seem to love the following phrase:

Carl Sagan said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"

I'm going to ignore the "Carl Sagan said" bit. Let's not bother with the obvious appeal to authority there and pretend it didn't happen.
The bit I really want to look at is the catchphrasy sound bite.

This appears on the list of Atheist Clichés That Need To Stop Being Said. Anything on that list is something we hear a lot, and tells us that the person saying it hasn't really thought it through.

Not saying Carl Sagan is a moron. Just that when he came up with this particular often-shared phrase, he was having a lax day. Probably watching some daytime TV and was a bit hungry but couldn't be bothered to get up.

Now, if you can figure out for yourself why the phrase "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is nonsense, good on you! You have no need to read on.
If you can't see the problem, go ahead with the next bit. We won't tell anyone and you can kick yourself later.