The Problem of Evil

So following on from yesterday, I’m going to do a piece on the problem of evil. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the argument that uneccesary and gratuitous evil exists, and therefore the idea of God held by theists cannot possibly exist, because if an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God did exist, then there would be no suffering, because he would want to, and would be able to, prevent it. Hopefully that makes sense.

Anyway there are various ways this is explained away by Christians (I say Christians only because that’s the religious group I’m most accustomed to, I daresay it applies equally well to many other religious groups), depending often on what kind of Christian they are.

Fairly traditional Christians may point to the Fall as an explanation. They say that God created the world perfectly without sin, without death and without suffering, but man turned away from God, and this brought sin into the world. The punishment for sin is death and suffering, so it’s all our fault (as usual in Christianity).

This Fall doesn’t make sense unless you’re a creationist, for a fairly simple reason. If someone uses this as an explanation, all you have to do is ask when the Fall supposedly happened. If they say it happened in the Garden of Eden about 6,000 years ago, you can point to geology and evolution to prove them wrong as usual. But if they’re a theistic evolutionist, it doesn’t fly, because animals were killing each other and eating each other and dying from the word go, there was no time when there was no death, certainly not right the way up until anything resembling humans came around within the last 200,000 years. That’s how natural selection works. When you’re in the middle of a debate it’s quite useful, as Stuart demonstrated once, to ask something like “so when did the Fall happen, before or after the Precambrian?”, because this divides the creationists from the theistic evolutionists. I also used this with a street preacher and he was left saying “erm erm erm” because if he’d said “in the Garden of Eden 6,000 years ago”, then everyone listening would have laughed and walked away.

I did once hear a curious answer which took me by surprise and stopped me using this argument for a while because I thought he’d put a hole in it. A geologist said that it didn’t matter when the Fall happened because whenever it happened, it had ripples of effect both forwards and backwards in time and space. Think about that, he means that it could happen in the future… weird eh? That sounds pretty solid but actually it isn’t, that’s impossible too. If humans did it, and then it had effects corrupting the creation throughout history as well, then that means in some other now-corrupted reality humans must have evolved without death and suffering, and as I’ve said, that’s impossible with natural selection. So the Fall only works if you’re a full-blown creationist.

Another way the problem of evil may be explained away is through Free Will. As you may have read in my last post, God’s Free Will is on shaky ground anyway but let’s carry on regardless. The argument is that God created the world perfectly, but he gave us Free Will and some people have chosen to cause suffering, and that’s the source of evil.

Well, first of all, not all suffering is caused by people choosing to cause evil. What about diseases? What about natural disasters? What about accidents? At this point they may try and cover the gap with the Fall argument, but then you can just go back up to the last argument. One person did try and come back to that with the argument “well, a natural disaster isn’t evil in itself, people being close to it causes the suffering”, which threw me off for a second, but then a bullet isn’t evil in itself, but if I shoot you with it then it is. If people aren’t causing it, then in Christian thinking that leaves God. God is killing people using natural disasters. Brilliant.

Other Christians may explain evil away by saying that evil is caused by Satan, and goodness is caused by God. Well it’s kind of wishful thinking really to attribute all the good things to God but all the bad things to either people or to Satan, fairly arbitrarily. But this argument (and both the above) is fairly easily knocked down by pointing out that God is supposedly omnipotent and whatever is causing this evil, be it people, the Fall or Satan, God should be able to overcome it and prevent suffering. That’s what a loving, perfect God would do.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone did something evil, say, shot someone, but then the suffering caused by that evil didn’t happen. Say the victim got shot but was still alive and felt no pain and had no adverse affects. That way the suffering is being prevented but God isn’t affecting Free Will. What if disease and natural disasters happened but didn’t harm people. Then suffering would have been prevented, but the Fall will still have happened. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t that be a good reason to believe in an all-loving God?

I think this is fairly solid but if you can put a hole in any of what I’ve written, or you can think of another way of explaining evil away, go ahead and leave a comment.

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26 Responses to The Problem of Evil

  1. grammarking says:

    Oh, almost forgot. There is another way Christians tackle this argument. They sometimes say that saying gratuitous evil exists assumes an objective standard by which to differentiate between good and evil, and that this standard is God’s law, and so we’re actually arguing for an objective moral lawgiver which is God.

    This is a terrible argument. Yes, we are assuming that an objective evil exists but only to show that that assumption (made almost unanimously by theists) is incompatible with the kind of God believed in by Abrahamic theists. Once we’ve broken that down, we are not bound to continue with the assumption, but can instead propose our alternative to the broken theory, which is that morality is a human construct which has nothing to do with God.

  2. Stuart Ritchie says:

    Great post. I had almost forgotten about that crazy idea about the Fall rippling backwards and forwards in time.

    I know I never stop recommending Ehrman books now, but anyone interested in this subject should read ‘God’s Problem’, which shows that even the Bible contradicts itself over and over again on the answer to the problem of suffering. And if the very word of God can’t make its mind up…

  3. David says:

    RE: The time stuff, apart from anything evolutionary its not clear that it even makes sense to talk about an event in the future changing a whole past time line and making it different, IN THE PAST. I believe that the consensus amongst philosophers is ‘obviously not’, though if you ask me nothing about time is obvious (St. Augustine is supposed to have said ‘everyone knows what times is until they are asked 😉 ). Also, the second part of the of your attack on the free wil defence, I be;oeve people say. ‘well, yes, you could have free will but god could stop your evil acts actually hurting anyone, once they were freely done, but what value would free will have if you could never make a difference for good or bad with it-the value of free will is tied to responsibility.’ Which kinda, sort of makes sense i suppose. Though i heartily endorse everything else you’ve said about natural disasters, disease. A better defence might be that you need some experience of suffering to appreciate good stuff ‘properly’ and then combine that with saying that there’s too much suffering because of free will, though obviously, there’s still lots of problems with this.
    There’s a whole literature on the problem of evil in serious philosophy of religion (mostly by christians, since others mostly considered phil of religion a waste of time, but with the odd atheist as well), if your interested. (Not that I’ve really read any of it). Its probably of a rather higher standard than the sort of cheesy evangelical apologetics bullshit that we encounter in conversations with creationists and CU types.

  4. Tim Mills says:

    I’m not generally inclined to explicitly reject religious ideas. For the most part, I find it more useful to promote humanist ideas, which can be done without reference (positive or negative) to the alternatives.

    But when pushed, I am quite happy to put forth the problem of evil as a pretty sound argument against the triple-omni god hypothesis (omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent). I had a delightful exchange with a Christian blogger earlier this year on this general topic.

    It spilled over into a second blog post, where he suggested that atheist worldviews also face a “problem of evil” (albeit of a very different nature). I’d be curious to see your reaction to that post.

  5. tam carlsen says:

    I’d been taught that God allows Satan to roam free, tempting us at every turn. We then, of our own free will, are to resist temptation thereby pleasing God. But wait, what’s the point? All I have to do is “believe” this is God, Christ, and the grand design to be gifted everlasting life. I don’t actually have to make the right choice since it’s not by works of righteousness that get me through the gates.

    Although the source is questionable (the bible), it does say that in the garden “lions lie down with lambs” or some such nonsense. But even kindergartners questions “What about dinosaurs?” “What about cavemen?”. They’re told those were not our civilization. God was creating other things. It doesn’t apply to us. The bible is a handbook for our relationship with God. To which even a child can reply, “But if God is perfect why did he have to experiment with other things first? Wouldn’t he have gotten it right the first time?” And then the grand slam, the child will ask, “What did they (dinosaurs and cavemen) do that made God take them all away?” In other words God either killed them all or simply let them die. And there you have it, even a small child knows better! And what do we do? Take the cop out which is the word “faith”. Don’t question, just believe its true! God says so! My own kids asked these questions when I was trying to drag them to church every sunday to hammer my bullshit beliefs into their spongy little minds the way my parents did me.

    Unless Christians revert back to their crusading days I don’t care to convert anyone away from God. Let them have their false hopes if it gives them comfort. It blows my mind to watch people pray for a dying loved one. I want to ask them if its ever worked before. You end up at the funeral and now they’re smiling saying, “It was God’s will”. Really? Well how bad was your husband that God wanted him dead? I want to ask, but of course don’t.

    There’s an interesting piece titled “Why God hates amputees”. The author sounds terribly bitter to me, probably lost a limb and now hates God for it. Nonetheless, he makes a good point. People have always attributed others recovering from an illness or surviving an accident as God having answered their prayers. Yet no where in recorded history, not even the bible where people were raised from the dead, has there been one case claiming someone re-grew a lost limb. So ask a christian, why does God hate amputees? That shuts them up right quick.

  6. grammarking says:

    Wow, quick responses.

    Stuart, eventually I’ll get some Ehrmann, but I’ll wait until I have a fixed address so as to not confuse Amazon. Actually, maybe I’ll just go to the shop, apparently Amazon treat their employees like crap.

    David, as always, very good points. Of course it’s stupid to say something can effect something that’s happened before it, but that was an assumption made by the statement. I was trying to show that even if that were possible, it still couldn’t have happened, so I suppose there’s two reasons why it’s bollocks.

    About “the value of free will is tied to responsibility”, I think you’re thinking like an atheist. To a Christian, the whole point of God giving us free will is so that we can choose to be with him or not, because he doesn’t want a load of mindless drones, he wants us to choose. It’s nothing to do with the intrinsic value of free will, AFAICT. You may say that we only know the difference between right and wrong because of the consequences of our actions, and therefore without those consequences we would be unable to choose one way or the other, and I would agree with you because morality is a social construct. But the Christian wouldn’t. According to Christianity, we know the difference between good and evil because of the fruit from the tree in the Garden, it’s just inherent, it’s marked onto our hearts, as Paul says. So for a Christian we could have no bad consequences for our actions and still not violate free will.

    Nice to hear from you Tam, you may be interested that why does God hate amputees is now something of a big internet community at http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/. I’ve just thought of other things that God doesn’t do but it really makes him an arsehole so I think I’ll put it in the comments of yesterday’s post instead of here.

  7. Andrew Jones says:

    Hi Mike,

    I think I met you at an ECG/Humanist meeting before. This is an issue that Christians think dont think about enough. Its not easy, and I’m not sure there is any answer that appeals to western values.

    Have you ever read Job? Satan asks God if he can test Job, and God agrees. Satan comes back again with the worst things he can think of, and God agrees again. The rest of the book is devoted to Job and his friends trying to work out what happened, which they never discover. In the end they just have to accept that they dont know. But God gives Job a new life ro replace his destroyed one in the end.
    Did God have the right to let Satan do that?
    Was God right to do that?

    In general, the Bible paints a picture of a God who sometimes directs punishment on specific individuals, and sometimes on whole nations, often to make a point to others, or as part of a broader story that makes several points (e.g. the genocide of the descendants of Canaan) but more often the punishment happens by God withdrawing himself from an individual or nation, and then letting nature take its course. whywontgodhealamputees could fall into that category. Then there is a kind of pain which is really discipline for those he has chosen to rescue. Sometimes the above punishments have positive results as well. Discipline is a sign of restorative interest, so it is not gratuitous or evil.

    According to the Bible, God can put everything right by resurrecting people, but why not here and now? I believe its because he is still busy making his case against people who choose the knowledge of good and evil (the apple in the garden of Eden) over the joy of the God’s presence (the tree of life in the garden of Eden).

    The worst pain of all is the pain of a conscience that wont let you enjoy life, or emotional pain of feeling worthless or that there is no hope, or condemning you for doing evil things, some of which you cant find a way not to do them.

    And that is precisely the pain that God seeks to free people from immediately. I believe he also regularly heals people from physical and mental illnesses. Other pains are much easier to bear when you conscience is free and you have hope.

    God does not judge for lack of belief (which is trust), but a lack of trust prevents a person from receiving healing. This is most obviously true when it comes to conscience, but the way God does things is to heal in the context of personal relationship. That is what existed in Eden, it is what you dont experience now, and it is what God wants to restore. If an individual simply wants healing as a magic trick, what’s the point of allowing sickness in the first place. Romans 8:19 says “for Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own will, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that it might be freed from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
    The context is also interesting.

    I believe in a historical fall, although I’m not sure I can take the story literally, but the more important thing is the significance of the symbols (the 2 trees, the snake’s argument and the flaming sword), because they are played out in every human life since.

    There thats my Christian answer. Its rough, but at least there is hope. Interested to know what you think.

  8. grammarking says:

    Hello Andrew,

    I certainly have read Job, that book is one of the reasons I’d like to think I wouldn’t worship God, even if he did exist. Interestingly it’s the first time Satan is mentioned, IIRC. You’d think something as important as that would be included in the story of the origin of evil. To answer your questions, of course if God exists he has the right to do anything, and I suppose you could argue that if God does it then by definition it was the right thing to do. But I don’t think torturing a guy and ruining his life just to win a wager is the right thing to do, no. Neither do I think you believe that. The chances are, you are more moral than God.

    Phil Holden once gave a talk about how God goes about punishment and he said a similar thing to what you have here. He said that God often doesn’t direct a punishment at individuals, but instead at nations or at other people. He also often just lets the bad thing be the punishment itself and lets things run their course. My question then, as it is now, is what kind of a judicial system is that? AFAICT the punishment doesn’t fit the seriousness of the crime, it’s laid upon people who didn’t even commit the crime (another reason why I have a problem with the whole messianic sacrifice thing), and the way God does it is exactly what it would be if he did nothing! These characteristics lead me to believe that there is no God, since it’s exactly the same as if he did not. It’s certainly no judicial system that I would like to live under.

    How can you believe in the historical fall if you don’t take it literally? As I’ve stated in my post, death and suffering existed from the very beginning. Certainly it could not have been humans who caused the fall, it must have happened within the lifetime of the first organism. And your point about the symbolism totally evades the problem of evil. You’re basically saying that the details don’t matter, what’s important is that evil exists. But we know that, that’s what we’re trying to explain, and the Fall isn’t a good explanation.

    Here’s another little quibble I have with the fall story. Supposedly nothing died before the Fall, since the wages of sin are death. But the animals must have eaten something, they were all vegetarians according to many creationists. So do the deaths of plants not count?

    There’s a problem with lots of religious thinking, in that religious people think it’s enough for their theories to be internally consistent (which often under scrutiny they don’t anyway). It’s a type of woolly thinking that would benefit from a scientific perspective, IMO. In everything but religion and faith, it is not enough for a theory to be consistent, it also has to be supported by evidence. You should draw your conclusions from the evidence, not vice versa.

    All the best,
    Mike

  9. I believe that we have overlooked the ultimate evil. The concept of hell is clearly expressed in the gospels. It is described as the agony of eternal hellfire. Consider the agony of burning in hell for eternity. The never ending suffering! I get upset when I burn my finger!

    Now the gospels, in John particularly, state that you go to hell if you are not baptized and if you do not believe. Therefore people go to hell if they have never been exposed to Jesus because if never exposed, say you lived in America in the 8th century, you were not baptized and you do not believe. Millions of folks, throughout history, are suffering in hell through no fault of your own.

    I cannot think of one crime, one evil committed on this earth that would be worse than spending eternity being burned alive through no fault of your own. Murder, rape and even the holocaust cannot compare to the horror of millions of innocent people burning eternally in such agony.

    If god created all things, he created hell. So, god is the worst evil doer in existence or he doesn’t exist. But certainly, a “good” Christian god does not exist because such a god created hell.

  10. grammarking says:

    Absolutely. There’s a better discussion of that over on the previous thread, God: arsehole, which you might be interested in.

  11. Marc Surtees says:

    Hi Mike and David,

    I was going to stop, but really have to respond to this.

    The Bible also teaches degrees of suffering in hell, depending on the amount of knowledge people have. (I can cite chapter and verse if you wish). Also we need to bear in mind that there is not a literal fire. The state of being eternally banished from God’s presence is like a fire that never goes out, or a worm that never dies, or thirst that is never quenched, because the sense of loss never ever goes away. It’s like life now but with every bit of pleasure and comfort removed.

    Anyway to get back to the topic of this thread and to agree with Andy (Hi Andy) there are some very robust responses possible to this argument. All the argument can hope to prove is that God is evil not that God does not exist. (In fact it cannot even do that, because God is evidently not evil if he exists, because good exists. If God was evil he would be perfectly evil.)
    The first problem with this line of argument is that it’s rather difficult to define evil and good without God as the absolute moral standard setter. Without a good God, good and evil become relative and subjective, so the argument never really gets off the ground.

    Well that’s enough from me today. I need to do some work on my next creation / evolution talk 😉

  12. Marc,

    Thanks for responding, but I miss the relevance of the argument that hell isn’t actually fire. Obviously the biblical point of comparing hell to fire is that the agony is comparable. But, the issue is that god created humans who, if they are informed they are more likely to go to hell (“many are called but few are chosen”) and if they are uninformed and/or un- baptized are guaranteed hell. That’s billions of god’s creations suffering for all eternity in various levels of agony. I say that is an evil god, he made man insufficiently strong to meet his standards and made others unaware of his standards, and the punishment for the majority is eternal damnation.

    You also state that “God is evidently not evil if he exists, because good exists”. Doesn’t the same logic apply in the reverse “God is evidently not good if he exists, because evil exists?” Since both good and evil exist the only valid conclusion from your argument is neither a good nor an evil god exists.

    Finally, I wonder about your assumption that “If God was evil he would be perfectly evil.” If my understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition is correct, man cannot really know god so I would be interested why there cannot a god be both good and evil if both good and evil exists in his creations? Besides, how do you know that god isn’t perfectly evil, sufficient evil exists, including hell, to make one wonder if the good that exists is only god working in mysterious ways?

    • Marc Surtees says:

      Hi David,

      As promised here are some responses:

      “but I miss the relevance of the argument that hell isn’t actually fire. Obviously the biblical point of comparing hell to fire is that the agony is comparable.”

      Yes I would agree that the agony is similar but the cause is different. Fire is external but I beleive the worst thing about hell is the realisation that it is one’s own fault.

      “I say that is an evil god, he made man insufficiently strong to meet his standards and made others unaware of his standards ”

      Both of these are errors. God made man “very good” with free will to chose. Also God has revealed Himself in creation and in the human conscience.

      “Since both good and evil exist the only valid conclusion from your argument is neither a good nor an evil god exists.”

      I would disagree because, everything has a cause (except for the un-caused cause) so good and evil come from somewhere. Assuming, as I do that good and evil could not exist if there is no absolute moral standard of goodness then, either God is the source of both good and evil or there is another person at work who is the source of evil. As God is loving and kind, he cannot be the immediate cause of evil. This is what the Bible teaches, He allows evil because of the good that will come from it. See, for example Genesis 50:20 – As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,

      I think that covers your point about “sufficient evil”.

      I know that you will be unconvinced by these arguments because in the end of the day we cannot get around these concepts with our puny brains (I include myself here). The only answer is in the cross of Christ. There I stop trying to figure it all out and worship the God who did this to save me, a lost sinner.

  13. grammarking says:

    David’s done a pretty goos job but there’s another thing I should mention.

    “The first problem with this line of argument is that it’s rather difficult to define evil and good without God as the absolute moral standard setter. Without a good God, good and evil become relative and subjective, so the argument never really gets off the ground.”

    I’ve already dealt with this argument in the first comment on this post.

    • Marc Surtees says:

      But Mike,

      If you start with a false assumption, it seems likely that any ourcome you achieve is also false. It seems to me that you are making a logical error here.

  14. grammarking says:

    I’m not making a false assumption, I’m demonstrating that theists make a false assumption by showing that it’s incompatible with what we see around us.

    Then I can propose a better theory which is that morality is a human construct. This fits in very well not only with what we see around us but with findings in sociobiology and animal culture.

    • Marc Surtees says:

      OK Mike,

      But as you know I think that theologians down through the ages have provided perfectly adequate explanations for the paradox. Which I find more convincing than the humanists attempts to construct a theory of morality from nothing. In fact I have seen it argued that the only reason that humanists have had a measure of success in this area is because the smuggle in a whole load of assumptions from religion!

      Well that should start off another debate!!

  15. Marc,

    That you “have seen it argued that the only reason that humanists have had a measure of success in this area is because they smuggle in a whole load of assumptions from religion!” hardly makes a point. I have seen it argued that black is white. The mere presentation of an argument doesn’t prove that argument.

    I do not find it convincing that religion can construct a god and a universe out of nothing but a human being cannot construct a system of morality out of nothing?

    But I will take issue with what I see as your basic assumption. Humanists do not create moral systems out of nothing. We were born members of the human race, endowed by nature with compassion and empathy for our fellow humans. We were born with an intellect and the ability to reason. We studied, thought and concluded religion to be contradictory and deficient. We found faith in ourselves, our reason, and in humanity in its purest form, not sullied by supernatural beings. We did accept ourselves as we are, put faith in our reason and abilities. We understand that all other humans have the same spirit and therefore must respect each of them regardless of their circumstances of birth or the dictates of society. From that we built our moral systems. These things are not “nothing” they are the true definition of the human spirit.

  16. grammarking says:

    There are several different theories on exactly how moral systems came about but what seems clear from the evidence is that it develops. It doesn’t seem to appear from nowhere or be imposed from above.

    But what, really, do humanists take from religion? I’ve heard this argument before, that morality is based on religious values. On the contrary, religious values are based on human morality! Morality has been around a lot longer than religion.

    And the only assumption secular morality makes is that the moral action is the one that is most beneficial. It’s good for it’s own sake. This also fits in with the evolution of morality since a population compelled to do the most beneficial thing for its own kin will survive better than one that doesn’t.

  17. Neither religion nor society are the creators or measure of true moral morality.

    First, to address measures of morality. Is Bill Gates more moral than I am because he donates 1% of his wealth to the poor while I only donate 10% because his 1% is 100 times larger than my 10%? Is the man raised, surrounded and supported by devout Christians, never challenged morally or economically, believes, prays and worships more moral than the guy from the African ghetto who has to struggle to live and is surrounded by crime as a way of life? Is the brilliant scientist who cures cancer a more moral person the retarded indigent because he contributes more to society? NO, the strength of a person’s character is not measured by comparison to others or contributions to society or religion but by the personal effort of the individual to maximize their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.

    As to creating morality, both religion and society establish “moral” systems primary to promote their own preservation rather than the optimization of the individual. Christian churches reject major provisions of Jesus’ philosophy because they do not contribute to the church hierarchy or its accumulation of wealth. They promote belief alone and salvation through repentance which simply are not systems of morality as they do not require morality or promote strength of character. Most substitute ritual and rhetoric for morality. Society is no better. History is awash with examples of systems established for the preservation of society at the expense of individuals. Slavery, the Holocaust, and war come to mind. The preservation of a society is not the definition of morality.

    The individual establishes his own moral system and is the sole measure of morality. Sure, the individual may be lazy and simply obey society’s laws or choose a religion, such as “belief alone”, instead of working out their own morality. Most folks do, they have free will, but those who do, are less moral, have less strength of character than those who find it within themselves to challenge themselves to define their own character, exceed their talent and overcome their challenges.

    Morality can only be defined at the individual level. Only you have the potential knowledge of yourself to determine how best to live your life and how to make it a success. Only you, at the end of your life, when you are alone on your deathbed, can look at your life and make the determination that you lived well. If at that point you can live with yourself, if you are not afraid to be alone with yourself, if you can be honest with yourself, then you have accomplished something. If your only resort is to beg some supernatural being to overlook your worthlessness you are a dismal failure.

    It is completely irresponsible for you to turn your life and its success over to either society or religion

  18. Marc Surtees says:

    David & Mike,

    It has been illuminating debating with you guys.

    But at the end of the day I have found that it is impossible to live a moral life based on my own efforts.

    Personally, I have found that following Jesus is the only way to live (which is neither following society nor religion).

  19. Marc,

    As you have switched to the personal, I congratulate you on your finding a way to live a moral life, as each of lives our own life and none can truly grasp another’s essence, only you can know what you need to survive.

    The only thing I would ask of you is since you follow Jesus, do as he said. He is the only teacher, do not call anyone else father or rabbi. Follow him alone with his gospels only as your guide. Throw away all the other crap that distracts and devalues his teachings. Possibly the greatest tragedy of western civilization is the insistence of Christians that they must change, adjust, interpret, improve, explain Jesus. His philosophy is clearly written in the first three gospels, it is a good philosophy exactly as written. If Christians must believe in their deity, the least they could do is believe what that deity has to say instead of rushing to convert it to a hodge podge of nonsense emasculated of its value.

    While I am an atheist I am a great admirer of the values of Jesus’ philosophy and an ardent foe of all those Christians who think themselves better than their god, and qualified to rape and pillage that which is so valuable in his teachings.

  20. grammarking says:

    I’m actually not a great admirer of Jesus’ philosophy. I once made the mistake of answering on a questionnaire that I was interested in learning more about Jesus, since although I don’t believe he was God, that’s not to say he didn’t have some good teachings. I spent a few weeks going through the moral teachings of Jesus and found them rather lacking. The majority if his teachings are actually just about him fulfilling the prophecy, and that’s it. The rest is pretty poor.

    I can’t agree with turning the other cheek. If someone came and shot my dad there’s no way I’m letting them shoot my mum too. There also seems to be a big thing in Christianity about taking as much punishment as you can because you’ll be rewarded in heaven. Since as humanists we acknowledge that we only know of one life and that we should be making the most of it, then we should be concentrating on justice in this life, not leaving it to the next.

  21. Marc Surtees says:

    Hi Guys,

    I find I agree with most of what both of you say in yur last posts.

    David, yes I do try to follow Jesus and only Jesus I don’t have any rabbis or priests, but (and this may be where we part company) I do take the whole Bible as God’s word, to be understood and followed.

    And Mike I think you have misunderstood the turning the other cheek bit. If I insult you you turn the other cheek. If you insult my wife you had better duck fast! (Well it would have be more than an insult.) I would do the same as you if someone was attacking anyone else. I am absolutely all for justice now as well as in the future.

  22. Mike says:

    Well how do you know when to turn the other cheek and when not to? I don´t remember that being in the Bible, although I could be wrong.

    How about giving to Caesar what is Caesar´s? I don´t think the Palestianians should be doing any favours for the Israelis, for example. Really it´s just a bit dodgy for me, there are rules but in certain situations they don´t count, what´s the point in having a rule? I prefer an evolving humanist ethic which changes not only with the situation but with the times too.

  23. Mike, I am definitely with you on the humanist ethic, although I believe it is an individual responsibility. Everyone has different strength and weaknesses and so a “one size fits all” system of morality doesn’t really make sense. Those with greater abilities should have higher standards.

    As for Jesus, you are right in two ways. There are lots in his gospels that leave a great deal to be desired, although I take the parts of caring for the unfortunate and no judgment or condemnation but worry about your own sins as a good advice. However, he doesn’t make a sufficiently strong differentiation for excluding the plain lazy. The talented and successful should help those with mental diseases or deficiencies, for example, but the lazy should fend for themselves. Secondly, Christians make so many exceptions and adjustments, the religion can hardly be said to have any solid standards.

    My real gripe against the philosophy though isn’t its basics as explained in the gospels. It’s the Christian churches which hunt and pick what is convenient for them, especially the worthless “belief alone” crowd.

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