Is the problem of evil really a problem?

DamnDirtyApe
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Is the problem of evil really a problem?

I've been skimming through John Loftus' new book and I read Bart Ehrman's book on theodicy this summer, so the problem of evil has been on my mind for a while.  It's occurred to me that Christians waste an inordinate amount of time on this issue.  While I've no desire to give you guys any ammunition, I also think it's a dead issue, especially where Christian beliefs are concerned.  I invite everybody to critique my logic here, because the odds are I got something wrong.  Still, I think this is pretty strong, so here goes.

I'll start by saying that Christians pay the riddle of Epicurus and its variants way too much attention.  When it comes down to it, there would be no concept of theodicy without it, but you fret over it needlessly.  For one thing, it's irrelevant to your conception of God, and for another, I'm an atheist and I've got no business defining how God should or should not behave.  There.  Bye-bye, Epicurus (don't worry.  I don't need him).

The thing is, the best reason for me or anyone else to believe in the Christian concept of salvation is that I am born doomed to an eternity of torment that I cannot begin to imagine in my Earthly life.  And I completely deserve every last microsecond of it.  I have no defense for my depraved behavior (I'll point out here that if you claim to be a Christian and you don't believe in Hell, you're a coward and a flake).  There is absolutely no way that I can keep the Ten Commandments perfectly like Jesus did.  Just feeling lust or rage in my heart is enough to qualify me for the Lake of Fire and I feel the former nearly constantly.

Given that sobering fact, any suffering I or any other creature might experience on this mortal coil is a joke.  It's a drop in the ocean.  It's less significant than a single lepton in the entirety of the universe, because Hell is forever.  And since I've earned the torments of Hell merely by being born, then I've definitely earned all of my stubbed toes and sore throats and early morning wettings of the bedclothes.  This is of course, nothing new.  A theodicy that suggests that "evil" is merely punishment is probably the most basic form, though woefully incomplete, because there is also the possibility of the suffering of the innocent.

Now, you don't actually have to believe in mortal innocence, but chances are you do, in some form or another.  If you believe that there's such a thing as an age of reason (the age at which a child becomes responsible for his own morality) as many Christians do, or that animals, not being partakers in the Sin of Adam, can be purely innocent, then it is surely a contravention of the goodness of God for a young child to be raped and murdered or for a squirrel to twitch for interminable minutes on the road with a broken spine until blood loss claims him.  What good God would allow such apparent injustice to occur?

Clearly, the very same God who understands the concept of Hell better than any living being.  He really does know how bad it is.  Aside from willing the place into being, He actually went there, following His own torture and crucifixion.  And that's the whole point, in fact.  When God showcases the suffering of the innocent to us, He's actually reminding us of the death of His son and the salvation that it brought; He's running a marketing campaign.  Right?  That's a perfectly good explanation.  He's even giving the pagan in his far away village a clue of what awaits in eternity if one does not accept His mercy.

You can say that no scripture specifically points this out, but why would you?  Every theodicy has to be teased and prodded out of scripture to some extent, so given enough time, a clever person or persons could easily create one based on this concept.  Furthermore, as the atheist in the debate, I'm the one who's supposed to demand the supremacy of reason over faith, and the above is a damn good reason for the suffering of the innocent, at least within the confines of your own mythology.  Even if it's cruel, it's infinitely less cruel than just sending me to Hell without every last possible scrap of warning, right?

While I'd like to snidely point out that two thousand years worth of Christians, supposedly guided by the Holy Spirit, have yet to find an answer this satisfying (if anyone of the old masters proposed exactly this, I yield embarrassed--I haven't encountered this explanation before and it's new to me), I think this is quite likely premature.  The real reason why I wrote this is start cutting theodicy out of our discussions (which I think we do pretty well, but those who would bring it up remain in our midst).  We atheists really don't need it.  We have perfectly good reasons for why suffering exists and the other guys have to fumble with it and I'd hate to waste their time with something silly. To put it simply, I don't care about the ultimate source of evil in the world.  I care about the fact that a conception of the universe can be arrived at based on a hearsay of a hearsay of a hearsay and upon personal experiences that I didn't have.  Seriously people, what kind of illiterate bumpkins do you consider us to be?  

Good night.

"The whole conception of God is a conception derived from ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men."
--Bertrand Russell


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Evil: It all boils down to

Evil: It all boils down to an explaination of why shit happens:

http://www.thejaywalker.com/pages/shit_happens.html

 

 

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DamnDirtyApe wrote:(I'll

DamnDirtyApe wrote:
(I'll point out here that if you claim to be a Christian and you don't believe in Hell, you're a coward and a flake)


I have done quite a bit of research on the subject of the doctrine of endless punishment, covering the meaning and uses of sheol, hades, tartarus, gehenna, aionios, and various other phrases and passages relevant to the subject. I have not completed my research on the matter, but I have done quite a bit and have yet to see anything in either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament that establishes the doctrine of endless punishment. It does appear solidly established when reading the popular English translations, but a lot of interpretational prejudices went into the production of those translations. When interpreting the material in their original languages, universalism and annihilationism seem quite plausible.

Stultior stulto fuisti, qui tabellis crederes!


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 Quote:I have done quite a

 

Quote:
I have done quite a bit of research on the subject of the doctrine of endless punishment, covering the meaning and uses of sheol, hades, tartarus, gehenna, aionios, and various other phrases and passages relevant to the subject. I have not completed my research on the matter, but I have done quite a bit and have yet to see anything in either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament that establishes the doctrine of endless punishment. It does appear solidly established when reading the popular English translations, but a lot of interpretational prejudices went into the production of those translations. When interpreting the material in their original languages, universalism and annihilationism seem quite plausible.

With the disclaimer that I am most certainly NOT a biblical expert, I should say that a lot of Christian doctrines do seem to be later additions/interpretations.  I still, for instance, have not heard a Christian offer a satisfying answer for why God condoned and even commanded polygamy in the Old Testament, and then only instructed his children to change their ways when enforced permanent monogamy also happened to be of great benefit to the church coffers.

As for the problem of evil, it's something I trot out every once in a while just to see if it's still amusing as a conversation starter, but as far as a valuable tool for de-conversion, I just don't see it as very worthwhile.  Then again, I tend not to attempt to convert people stupid enough to be a fundamentalist/literalist.  Loftus' treatment of the problem of evil was, I think, perfectly suited to those people, although I haven't talked to any fundamentalists who've read it to get their reactions.

Personally, if I have to argue against a deity, I prefer to do it without cracking a Bible.  It's much simpler that way.  The Bible just convolutes everything and gives a theist virtually endless wiggle room for re-interpretation of re-interpretation.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Quote:Personally, if I have

Quote:

Personally, if I have to argue against a deity, I prefer to do it without cracking a Bible.  It's much simpler that way.  The Bible just convolutes everything and gives a theist virtually endless wiggle room for re-interpretation of re-interpretation.

Yeah, I never understood why people pick such ridiculous starting points for discussing (or eviscerating) this concept. Why would you go around endlessly discussing the errancy or lack thereof of scripture, or discuss the problem or lack thereof of "evil", when you help your opponent out immensely by implictly assuming the coherency of notions like a supernatural God and so forth? Just crack straight into the philosophical nuts and bolts: The problems associated with introducing a seperate ontology (i.e the notion of supernatural) the epistemological problems that come from asserting in a reality which is supposedly beyond our faculties for a posteriori knowledge and the invariable stolen concept fallacies that result in making assertions about this supposed facet of reality. You shouldn't need to go any farther than that.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Quote:Clearly, the very same

Quote:
Clearly, the very same God who understands the concept of Hell better than any living being.  He really does know how bad it is.  Aside from willing the place into being, He actually went there, following His own torture and crucifixion.  And that's the whole point, in fact.  When God showcases the suffering of the innocent to us, He's actually reminding us of the death of His son and the salvation that it brought; He's running a marketing campaign.  Right?  That's a perfectly good explanation.  He's even giving the pagan in his far away village a clue of what awaits in eternity if one does not accept His mercy.

This explanation still makes no sense to me, as it still doesn't deal with a rather core issue:

 

Is God a good guy or not? The popular modern notion that, in fact, God is the good guy invalidates the entire above argument; there is no rational, ethical reason for a benign supreme being with the ability to magically speak energy into existence to either A) create Hell in the first place or B) decide to 'warn me' about Hell with cryptic threats in the form of tormenting various proxies.

If God is not a good guy, then the whole excercize of religion just crumbles. A psychotic deity could hardly be trusted to play by the rules and reward his followers / punish the unbelievers as promised.

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


Brian37
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Quote:When God showcases the

Quote:
When God showcases the suffering of the innocent to us, He's actually reminding us of the death of His son and the salvation that it brought; He's running a marketing campaign.  Right?  That's a perfectly good explanation.  He's even giving the pagan in his far away village a clue of what awaits in eternity if one does not accept His mercy.

So God's marketing tactic is to "showcase" the butchering of Molly Klass, and Kalye Anthony(sp) to market his warning that we need to kiss his ass so that we can avoid being tortured forever?

Abusive spouse, "I am beating my child in front of my wife to warn her not to leave me. If she stays, I wont beat her too". That is "Mercy"?

No thank you, I would rather staple my nuts to the wall with a nail gun.

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