Recommended Athiest Reading

I am breaking my Friday-Only writing rule to answer what I think is an excellent question by a Mr Ruiz:

Who do you consider to be the most articulate and firmly-grounded spokesmen for atheism? Who did you read and admire prior to your conversion?

In not quite Chronological Order:

1. Lucretius (albeit technically a type of polytheistic deist)

2.The anonymous author of the TREATISE OF THE THREE IMPOSTORS (admittedly, this one I recommend more for its interest as a historical curio than for the rigor of its logic)

3. Thomas Paine  Age of Reason (again, technically a Deist rather than an atheist, but close enough).

4. Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll– Nearly anything by this author is worth reading for the committed and serious atheist.

5 Hume,  An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding  – Useful for erecting a naturalistic basis of ethics and epistemology.

6 Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding – Likewise.

For lighter reading, I recommend men who are lightweight thinkers, but less dry and more entertaining:

7 Stephen Jay Gould

8 Carl Sagan

9 Mark Twain

10 Ayn Rand. Despite the unbridled and  often unbalanced passion and vehemence of her rhetoric, she is careful enough to identify her axioms explicitly and draw out the steps of her arguments rationally.

11 Nearly anything published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal led by my one-time hero, the Amazing Randi — a group admirably limited in his goals and disciplined in its methods. Not atheist per se, but strongly naturalist and antisupernaturalist.

12 Thomas Hobbes. Anyone wishing to see how philosophy is done rigorously and done well should read his LEVIATHAN. Since the conclusion of the argument, a justification for totalitarianism, is one for which all modern readers ought feel no attraction, the naked and skeletal beauty of the process of logical reasoning is more easily opened to the gaze. Not an atheist per se, but an enlightenment style rationalist so naturalistic in his assumptions and conclusions as to be a must-read for anyone calling himself an infidel.

Authors I would recommend avoiding include Nietzsche,  who wrote not a single sentence that logically followed its next, and include Richard Dawkins, master of historical errors, who is to atheism what Paul Erlich is to Demographics, an embarrassment to the cause.

Atheist authors Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris I have not read, and so voice no opinion on the quality of their work.

As one can see from the shortness of this list, as an intellectual movement, it has neither deep roots nor any truly rigorous philosophical defense. There is no one of the stature of a Thomas Aquinas in its ranks, much less a Pascal or a Descartes or a Newton, or even a Saint Anselm. The idea that the universe, including man, is natural and has no supernatural component is difficult to articulate and difficult to defend, and runs counter to the common experience of mankind, as well as to instinctive sentiment and intuitive knowledge.

Hence, what is more useful to the would be atheist might be to read the Summa Theologica of Acquinas or the CITY OF GOD by Augustine or the popular apologetic writings of C.S. Lewis, and come up with arguments against these strongest of Christian arguments. Study the enemy. Do not walk up a blind canyon without flanking support.

 

 

 

194 Comments

  1. Comment by Fabio Paolo Barbieri:

    You neglected Thomas Huxley, whose charm and vigour were conceded by Chesterton himself. And Stephen Jay Gould is no hard-line atheist – in fact, on a few occasions he found himself arguing FOR Christianity as being compatible with science. He is a Jew whose attention wandered.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I neglected Huxley because I have neglected him, that is, I cannot recommend him because I never read him.

      As for Mr Gould, I was not asked to list ‘hard-line’ atheists, nor asked to judge the purity of any man his atheist credentials: I was asked who I recommended to read if one was and atheist and wished greater depth and rigor in one’s reasoning.

      Gould is an able defender of the pseudo-Darwinian line of attack against Christianity, and his arguments are useful for parrying the common sense Christian criticism of a universe lacking purpose, final cause, or entelechy, or any condition of self-fulfillment toward which evolution strives.

  2. Comment by Sean Michael:

    Dear Mr. Wright:

    Interesting list. Just have a few rather simplistic comments about some of these authors.

    Lucretius, never read his poem, even tho I should. Esp. because of what he says about “atoms.”

    David Hume, read his HISTORY OF ENGLAND, for which he is better known nowadays, not his philosophy. Some annoying anti Catholicism in it, but otherwise I enjoyed it and found it useful.

    Stephen Jay Gould, read some of his books, one of them being about the Cambrian Explosion (of life). But, the book which seems most pertinent here is his ROCKS OF AGES. Atheistic, but friendly and fair minded to religious believers as regards the debates about eveolution.

    Thomas Hobbes, I quite agree with what you said about his LEVIATHAN, it was certainly a most exhaustively reasoned work in defense of totalitarianism. I read it so long ago that I’m unable to say much more just now about it.

    And I also agree atheists would do well to read HONESTLY great philosophers and writers as diverse as St. Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, and CS Lewis, if only to wrestle honestly with their arguments in defense of belief in the existence of in God.

    Incidentally, I’ve been quoting from CS Lewis’ paper “Religion and Rocketry” for an essay Dr. Paul Shackley “published” at his “Poul Anderson Appreciation” blog, if anyone is interested.

    Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by Fabio Paolo Barbieri:

      Sean, David Hume was bad even among the pre-Lingard and pre-Cobbett breed of British “historians”. Cobbett counted 200 distortions and outright lies in his use of a single source. The man is fucking poison, and I can’t imagine – or rather, I can imagine it all too well – why his philosophy is not considered in the light of the fact that he was a consistent liar as a “historian”.

      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Dear Mr. Barbieri:

        Thank you for your comments about David Hume. Considering the favorble impression Hume’s skill as a writer left with me, it’s saddening later historians like Cobbett found so many distortions and outright lies perpetrated by him.

        Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        What are Cobbett’s historical credentials?

        • Comment by Fabio Paolo Barbieri:

          Cobbett was a maverick, self-taught and incredibly hard-working, and had all the faults of the maverick and the pioneer. When he was wrong, he was resoundingly and atrociously wrong, like when he tried to argue that mediaeval England was more densely populated than the country in his time, basing himself on misread items and on the existence of deserted villages; and he simply would not be corrected. But he had done his work with a ferocious thoroughness, and so he is right more often than he is wrong. Above all, he is right where everyone else before him had lied, and where it was desperately necessary for someone to be right. His reconstruction of the so-called English reformation (except for his mention of the Catholic slander that Anne Boleyn was Henry VIII’s own daughter) is document-based and unanswerable, and in general every historian since – including nationalist ranters such as Froude, Oman and Coulton – has been trying to answer points he raised. Lingard was a more moderate writer, judicious and hugely learned, but his impact was equally devastating. As a historian, I seriously think that the real tradition of English history begins with Lingard and Cobbett. Before, there was only party hackery in elegant clothing. (Discussing Gibbon would take us too far, but he did not write about modern history or about England.)

          • Comment by Sean Michael:

            Dear Mr. Barbieri:

            I actually have a copy or Cardinal Aidan Gasquet’s edition of William Cobbett’s A HISTORY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION IN ENGLAND AND IRELAND. And Gasquet uses Lingard and other writers to correct or confirm what Cobbett said. A HISTORY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION is one of those books I want to reread!

            Sean M. Brooks

            • Comment by Sean Michael:

              While Lingard and Cobbett may justly be considered the real founders of modern, honest writing of British history, neither they nor David Hume were the fathers of English history writing. That honor belongs to St. Bede the Venerable, whose HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH CHURCH AND PEOPLE was not only its beginning but set a high standard for honesty and accuracy.

              Sean M. Brooks

              • Comment by Fabio Paolo Barbieri:

                History as a discipline begins with Cesare Baronio. Before that, it was a part of the art of literature, having no proper way to investigate and establish facts. It developed on the Continent, England being cut off by the fact that its centres of learning – Oxford and Cambridge – were designed to be the training grounds of the very classes that had looted the Church under guise of religion, and therefore as open to real argument as, say, a Soviet party school in the forties. It is significant that both Cobbett, a self-taught working-class hero, and Lingard, a Catholic priest, were complete outsiders with respect to the Oxbridge tradition, whose success rested simply on their sales.

                • Comment by Sean Michael:

                  Dear Mr. Barbieri,

                  I’m certainly willing to accept that the study and writing of history as a discipline belongs with Cardinal Baronio. And that historical sources before his time was defective for one reason or another.

                  But your comments about how Lingard and Cobbett’s work was document based applies, at least to a degree, to earlier writers like St. Bede the Venerable and the yet earlier St. Gregory of Tours. One of the things which impressed me about their works being how they used documentary sources. St. Gregory, in his HISTORY OF FRANKS quoted from sources which are now lost, for example.

                  Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

                  • Comment by Fabio Paolo Barbieri:

                    That is what writers of history have done since Herodotus and the Books of Kings. However, let me quote from my essay on knowledge: “…the appearance of a properly historical method of investigation… made history into a research pursuit rather than a branch of literature. And although that has a prehistory stretching back to the age of Petrarch, it has one definite father, a great man whose name ought to be known to every child: Cesare Baronio, a friar in St.Philip Neri’s order (the same that later welcomed another great historian, John Henry Newman). Under orders from St.Philip, Baronio took up the polemical struggle against Protestant writers on history such as Flaccus Hilliricus, who claimed to prove that the early Church looked exactly like their own “reformed” one, and spent the rest of his life delivering a devastating response. His tool was the publication of dateable documents and the analysis of the evolution of texts and ideas from document to document.

                    At the centre of it is the diplomatic edition: a textually exact (or as exact as possible) printing, not just of a text as such, but of the specific text preserved on manuscript X, written in the year YYYY at place Z by scribe A. This became the first tool of modern history, and, while others (archaeology, statistics, etc.) have since been taken up, I am here to tell you that it remains the absolute backbone of historical investigation. To know the content and condition of texts at any given time is to have the beginnings of history. The publication of hitherto unpublished texts is the beginning of research. It will be seen that it was no chance that history arose when it did: without the ability to produce large numbers of exact copies – that is, to print them – the very idea of the diplomatic edition would not be conceivable. Printing, not Herodotus, is the father of history.

                    It is a piece of divine irony that the Roman printers on whom Baronio had to rely for the publication of his epoch-making collections of documents were among the worst in Europe. Nonetheless, it wa immediately clear to everyone that an enormous step forward had been taken: Baronio’s History of the Church had not only crushed the Protestants, it had taken the whole discussion to a wholly new level of scholarship and professional integrity. Not that the Protestants felt crushed, of course. They soon found that they had a thing or two to say, and so the debate went on, from university to university and from printing press to printing press – while, as a by-product, chairs and faculties of history became established across Europe. And so was born the race of historians – born quarrelling, and never stopped quarrelling since, and does not seem likely to.”

                  • Comment by Fabio Paolo Barbieri:

                    From an essay of mine on knowledge: “…the appearance of a properly historical method of investigation… made history into a research pursuit rather than a branch of literature. And although that has a prehistory stretching back to the age of Petrarch, it has one definite father, a great man whose name ought to be known to every child: Cesare Baronio, a friar in St.Philip Neri’s order (the same that later welcomed another great historian, John Henry Newman). Under orders from St.Philip, Baronio took up the polemical struggle against Protestant writers on history such as Flaccus Hilliricus, who claimed to prove that the early Church looked exactly like their own “reformed” one, and spent the rest of his life delivering a devastating response. His tool was the publication of dateable documents and the analysis of the evolution of texts and ideas from document to document.

                    At the centre of it is the diplomatic edition: a textually exact (or as exact as possible) printing, not just of a text as such, but of the specific text preserved on manuscript X, written in the year YYYY at place Z by scribe A. This became the first tool of modern history, and, while others (archaeology, statistics, etc.) have since been taken up, I am here to tell you that it remains the absolute backbone of historical investigation. To know the content and condition of texts at any given time is to have the beginnings of history. The publication of hitherto unpublished texts is the beginning of research. It will be seen that it was no chance that history arose when it did: without the ability to produce large numbers of exact copies – that is, to print them – the very idea of the diplomatic edition would not be conceivable. Printing, not Herodotus, is the father of history.

                    It is a piece of divine irony that the Roman printers on whom Baronio had to rely for the publication of his epoch-making collections of documents were among the worst in Europe. Nonetheless, it wa immediately clear to everyone that an enormous step forward had been taken: Baronio’s History of the Church had not only crushed the Protestants, it had taken the whole discussion to a wholly new level of scholarship and professional integrity. Not that the Protestants felt crushed, of course. They soon found that they had a thing or two to say, and so the debate went on, from university to university and from printing press to printing press – while, as a by-product, chairs and faculties of history became established across Europe. And so was born the race of historians – born quarrelling, and never stopped quarrelling since, and does not seem likely to.

                    • Comment by Sean Michael:

                      Dear Mr. Barbieri:

                      Many thanks for your brief explanation of the rise of history as a branch of scholarship, rather than of literature. Yes, I did have Cardinal Baronio’s work as a historian refuting the attacks of the Protestants on the Church in mind.

                      Modern Church historians some of whose works I’ve read were: Philip Hughes, Henri Daniel-Rops, JND Kelly, Eamon Duffy. Any thoughts about them?

                      Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

            • Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

              Thanks so much for mentioning Cobbett! He was one of those vague names, and now I have started reading him! Fun! Devastatingly blunt! And yes, I can now see what Chesterton learned from him, even though he’s not a Cobbett clone.

              • Comment by Sean Michael:

                Hi, Suburbanshee,

                I agree! William Cobbett has a very vigorous, pugnacious, aggressive, and fast paced writing style. My copy of his HISTORY is the one edited by Cardinal Gasquet. In the preface, he mentions how he felt compelled to remove some of Cobbett’s “coarser” language.

                Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

                • Comment by Fabio Paolo Barbieri:

                  I wonder whether he removed the passage that shocked even Chesterton, where he said something like Cramer was such a villain as to make one doubt the justice of God, were it not that he was burned alive in the end. The man certainly suffered from no mealy-mouthedness.

                  • Comment by Sean Michael:

                    Dear Mr. Barbieri:

                    Considering all the books I plan to read, I don’t know when I’ll feel able to reread Cobbett, but I’ll look out for that bit in the Gasquet edition. I would certainly sympathize with why the Cardinal removed it, if I don’t find it. Because I would have to disagree with Cobbett on this point.

                    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  3. Comment by Malcolm Smith:

    Ingersoll? I have a collection of his essays at home and, seriously, he struck me as the sort of atheist who stands on a soap box on street corners. His shallow arguments might be useful to parry the sort of preacher who stands on a soap box on street corners, but they wouldn’t pass muster with any serious theologian.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Unfortunately, there is no atheist whose arguments would pass muster with a serious theologian. The most intellectual and scholarly of atheists have so far only reached the same intellectual level as Christian apologists and soap box preachers. Now, some Christian apologists, such as CS Lewis or GK Chesterton are intelligent and articulate men, but while they are high on the slope when it comes to philosophical issues, they are not above the snowline where only the seasoned experts venture. There are no atheists above the snowline, at least, none I have ever read nor heard tell of.

      • Comment by Tom Simon:

        Of course there are atheists above the snowline. They wear camouflage, and call themselves liberal theologians. This is a grave disservice to those liberal theologians who are genuine believers; but I am no longer sure how much that matters. The more I find out about liberal theology, the more it reminds me of the supreme anarchist council in The Man Who Was Thursday. Chestertonites will know whereof I speak.

        • Comment by John Hutchins:

          “atheists” “liberal theologians”
          I am pretty sure that you are failing to “appreciate the context in which the statements were made and their particular nuance of meaning” in terms of any liberal theologian that you think is an atheist because they have made statements to that effect. In their own “rich contextualized setting” all liberal theologians are deeply committed to their own “faith traditions” and “faith community”, and the only way one could say otherwise is if one “strips the statements of all nuance” and places it into a “logical setting”. Liberal theologians are just “non-dogmatic”, except for the “dogma that there is no dogma”.

          I have yet to figure out what all of that means, precisely. It appears as though they are not only claiming an illogical and self-contradictory set of beliefs but are doing it with some awareness that they are doing so which allows them to believe in both everything and nothing, depending on the context in which they find themselves. That is my experience at least.

  4. Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

    Thanks.

    I’ve read 3 – 9 on your list, and “Leviathan” a long time ago. Will have to investigate the others. In my opinion, Hume is the cream of the crop.

    Regarding Bob Ingersoll, I would not want to back him in a match against an Aquinas or a Descartes. But I’d put a pay packet on him against any of the modern lightweights like William Craig or Lee Strobel, without hesitation.

  5. Comment by robertjwizard:

    Hume? I don’t get it.

  6. Comment by Stephen J.:

    I’m intrigued to learn Paine’s Deism can be lumped in with atheism — I thought Deism did incorporate belief in a Supreme Being?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In the same way that all the same accusations that were used by the Protestants to denigrate the Catholics during the Elizabethian days could turn in the hand and be used by Enlightenment freethinkers to denigrate the Protestants during the Enlightenment, so too can all Thomas Paine’s arguments against the authenticity and divinity of the Bible and Christian practice turn in the hand and be used against the Deists after the Christians fall.

      This is why “New Age” and “Spiritualists” and “Unitarians” tend to cluster on the Left. Anything which is antichristian is naturally allied with anything else, whatever their differences might be.

      When I was an atheist, I was delighted with Thomas Paine. No matter what a philosopher might say, the God of Philosophers, that cold and bloodless being that fails to interfere in human affairs, is of one mind with the Devil, and is his natural ally.

      • Comment by Stephen J.:

        “[T]he God of Philosophers, that cold and bloodless being that fails to interfere in human affairs, is of one mind with the Devil, and is his natural ally.”

        Thinking about this, it struck me that this may be one of those logical conundrums that all philosophies have difficulty addressing to a human listener’s emotional satisfaction.

        If one assumes a God who does not intervene at all in human events (as the Deists did), He may as well, as you say, be the Devil’s ally; if one assumes a God who intervenes in every human event to ensure His preferred outcome, we must be consigned as irrelevant to our own fate (as the Calvinists do); and if one assumes a God who intervenes in some human events but not others, we will perpetually be condemned to argue, often to the point of bloodshed, over distinguishing which is which, and why. I can understand the mindset which finds all of these too frustrating to want to accept.

        I wonder if there is a philosophical term for this reaction — the stance that neither of two logically opposite poles is acceptable, but no position between them can be universally satisfactory.

  7. Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

    “Deism can be lumped in with atheism” as I see it…….

    Because I am open to the idea that the universe may not be a random event, I am not an “a-deist”

    Because I am not open to the idea that the universe was created specifically for the human race, and that the creator takes a personal interest in Homo sapiens, I am an “a-theist”

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Can you enunciate any possible standard which renders the latter incredible to you and not the former? I am frankly puzzled. What makes the one any more or less hard to believe than the other?

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        As it has become clear beyond doubt that the universe had a specific origin in space and time, the possibility that that origin itself had a cause which was outside space and time is one that all unbelievers must needs consider. I have found no basis upon which to reject that .

        As to whether that first cause has a particular interest/plan for the Earth and its denizens, selectively as opposed to the other trillions of planets (whose existence is also becoming clear beyond doubt), there seem to me to be several possibilities, based upon human history and the thousands of belief systems which have attempted to explain the creator’s motives and desires.

        (1) The creator has no such interest or plan.
        (2) The creator’s relationship to Earth is that of an experimenter to a test subject.
        (2a) The creator is a disinterested observer who has wound up the machine and is letting it run its course unattended.
        (2b) The creator has particular desires and plans for the inhabitants of the Earth, but has chosen to reveal them in selective and ambiguous ways, to some and not to others, at some times and not others, as part of the experimental design. In addition, he has chosen to inflict punishment on those who misinterpret his ambiguous revelations.
        (3) The creator has particular designs and plans for the inhabitants of the Earth, but through incompetence has failed to communicate them or to properly equip the desired recipients to interpret them.

        I don’t presume to be able to prove or disprove any of these selections. To me they are all “possible”, but (3) seems internally inconsistent and (2b) indicates a creator who is either ethically indifferent or in fact malicious. This leaves (1) and (2a) which, from the standpoint of human life, are effectively the same thing and equivalent to deism.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          So you don’t listen to the voice of the Creator in your heart, and you blame Him for YOUR failure? What kind of logic is that?

          And why do you deliberately exclude the one option of which you cannot possibly be unaware, because it has been believed by the Western World for two thousand years, and before that by the Jews since the dawn of written history? Why do you list an absurd option, believed by no one, that the Creator’s relationship to Man is that of experimenter to subject, and do not list the obvious option, believed by everyone but a few crackpot atheists, that the relationship of a Father-Son relationship? You do not even list this as an option.

          You exclude without even bothering to mention the possibility that Man was created in intimate relationship with God, and, through the disobedience of Man, Man has marred his own nature, rendering him unable to see and follow God, so that God, of His own initiative, had to take extraordinary steps to re-establish the relation. And yet this — the Fall of Man — is THE CENTRAL MYTH OF WESTERN CULTURE. You cannot possibly be unaware of it.

          Did I not just yesterday warn you to attack the enemies strongest arguments? Instead you merely pretend those arguments do not exist, as if they will go away if you close your eyes to them. The subject matter we are discussing is serious, and requires serious thought.

          • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

            Indeed it is the central myth of Western culture. It is not, however, the central myth of -human- culture. (I disagree with both C.S. Lewis and Sir J.G. Frazer have said in this regard from opposite sides of the podium). This is precisely what I meant by stating that the creator’s revelation is selective and ambiguous.

            Even within Western culture, the revelation of the creator’s relationship to the creature is neither universal nor clear. Could we sit in upon a round table discussion between (for example) Augustine, Maimonides, and Wesley, I imagine this would soon become apparent.

            When I contemplate the possibility of a Father-Son relationship, I am sooner or later drawn to compare the way I treat my own children with the way the heavenly father has treated his. I really think we’ll wind up shouting at each other to no effect if we go down that road.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              You did not answer, nor even address, my question.

              That there may have been some pagans in the Fifteenth Century who never heard the Gospel message does not mean that you can not be bothered to give the central story of Western civilization, namely, the Fall of Man, even the courtesy of a dismissal.

              That there are in the East other answers to this central human conundrum does not excuse you from not listing the mainstream common answer given in the West. Even if it did, I note you did not list the Oriental answers to the question, much less give a reason for denying their answers.

              You list four options, and include such possibilities as Deism (an extraordinarily minority view) and the view of God-as-Experimenter (a view no one, not even Olaf Stapledon believes) but the list is not only NOT exhaustive, it does not even address any serious attempts at an answer.

              It is as if you are pretending you never heard of the West, nor of the Jews, nor of the Middle-East, nor of the Orient, and have never thought about the answers proposed by anyone since the dawn of time. At least, I hope this is a pretense, because if you have not thought about the issue, you have no right to an opinion.

              Let me suggest a few other options aside from Deism:

              1. The Creator made the world and was overthrown by the younger and more powerful beings that he created. This is the Greek view. The confusion of the world is due to this Uranomachy.

              2. The Creator made the world and withdrew from Creation, and waits for the destruction of this world to create again. This is the Hindu view. The confusion of the world is due to indifference or inattention of the creator, who is asleep and dreaming the gods.

              3. The Creator made the world and it is our task to live as he directs, which is to our benefit, and all the tools and knowledge we need to do so has been given us. This both the view of the Stoics and the Taoists. The confusion of the world is due to a lack of intelligent self-discipline.

              4. The Creator made the world but an equal and opposite evil power opposes him, and the confusion in the world is a byproduct of that cosmic struggle. This is the view of the Manicheans and the Zoroastrians.

              5. The Creator made the world, and, not being limited by human limits, can love all the countless trillions of planets and stars and angels of many orders on other levels of reality without favoring one over the other, but pays attention to Earth in the particular way that Earth needs care, much as a mother cares for her one child who is sickly, while not neglecting the others. The confusion is due to this sickness, or, rather, it is not confusion at all, but the generosity of heaven, which allows for each individual man to find a different form of spirituality to cure his particular spiritual lack. This is the view of those in the tradition that is variously called Theosophists and Esoteric and New Age.

              6. The Creator made the world out of malice, to trap and befuddle the free and godlike spirits of mankind, who rejoiced in a greater life before incarnation here. The confusion is due to the Demiurge. This is both the Platonic and the Gnostic view.

              I have not even gotten to the mainstream view of Jewish and Christian tradition yet, but have offered six views from traditions all of which are more numerous than the monstrous straw-man you enunciated, which was that the Creator lacks the power to abolish the confusion.

              My question, again, is why did you not list these options and give your reasons for rejecting them? Do you know enough to reject them, despite not knowing enough to reject the possibility of Deism, that is, that possibility that there is a creator?

              Do said you don’t know for sure whether there is a creator or not; but you then said if there was a creator of unknown power and providence and purpose, that you know surely that he cares nothing for you, nor for Earth.

              It is like saying you do not know whether reports of UFO means that we are or are not being visited by intelligence life from outer space, but that if we are being visited by intelligent life from outer space, they are definitely and absolutely not the gray-skinned and big-eyed aliens allegedly seen by Whitley Strieber.

              It is like saying anything could be in the treasure chest except the treasure everyone who looked in the chest says is there.

              • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                You have now presented a brief catalog of contradictory answers which various cultures and schools of thought have given to the question, “What is our Father really like, and what does he intend for us?” And as you say, it would not be hard to add many more to the catalog.

                A human father who puts a true image of himself and his standards in the heart of daughter Sally, but allows a false image of himself and his standards to fester in the heart of son Tom, and then punishes Tom for the result, is either playing a rather nasty little game, or is unaware of what he is doing.

                I would never intentionally do such with my own children, and of course neither would you.

                .

                • Comment by Mary:

                  Allows? So you are saying that the Thought Police are too wimpy, only punishing thought crime — you should eradicate the very possibility of it from your children?

                • Comment by Darrell:

                  A human father who puts a true image of himself and his standards in the heart of daughter Sally, but allows a false image of himself and his standards to fester in the heart of son Tom, and then punishes Tom for the result, is either playing a rather nasty little game, or is unaware of what he is doing.

                  I would never intentionally do such with my own children, and of course neither would you.

                  Vicq

                  Your response really only answers a certain heretical Protestant/Reformation understanding of God and not an Orthodox Christian or Roman Catholic view. God is apophatic but, as has been argued on the post that spawned this one, has written morality into reality such that anyone (Sally and Tom both) at anytime can heed it. People simply choose not to and so walk away from the full expression of humanity.

                  God does not then punish those who have sinned (missed the mark of full humanity). We have been told that some who sin may interpret the experience of the uncreated energies of God as an unpleasant experience. But their experience is precisely the same as those who we are told enjoy the uncreated energies of God. Because God is unknowable and the afterlife is beyond our earthly experience both are described in terms of metaphor and analogy.

                  The very fact that we continually think of heaven and hell as reward and punishment speaks to our fallen nature. Not only are they not rewards or punishments, they are not even the point. The point is to reach our fullest expression of humanity and become like God. Instead of focusing on theosis we instead keep asking, “what am I getting out of this?”

                  As to what you do with your children, it is very similar. You try to develop their sense of right and wrong as well as their self-discipline so that they can enjoy goods such as books or art or service to others. You do this not because you will punish them if they do not enjoy reading Nabakov’s PALE FIRE or because you will punish them if they cheat on their spouse with the neighbor. Those things are “punishments” in and of themselves and reveling in them deforms the person even though when approached correctly the very same experiences could be “rewards” and bring the person closer to theosis.

                • Comment by DaveSomething:

                  Are you returning to the idea from a couple threads back where people are punished for honest mistakes? I think it has been made clear that this is not the teaching of the Catholic church.

                  • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                    “Are you returning to the idea from a couple threads back”

                    I really did not intend to go there, but our host insisted that I need to consider the model of God as loving father to his children.

                    Fair enough, but once you posit that, the question of whether or not God’s behavior toward his children comes up to the standard of my behavior towards my own children becomes a topic for discussion.

                    BTW, this is exactly a point which Bob Ingersoll, admittedly not a philosopher for the ages, made frequently and with eloquence.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  And yet again, you do not answer my question or even acknowledge that I asked it.

                  No, sir. I did not present a catalog of contradictory answers. I presented a list of possible options that you did not address when I asked you why you did not address them.

                  Then I asked my question a second and third time, and for a third time was stonewalled.

                  Then you spin out an absurd version which no one proposes, another strawman to knock over, but you have yet to explain your central conceit, which is, that there is no explanation for the confusion of men about the nature of the Creator which is possible, given a benevolent or competent creator.

                  You did not list the possible reasons and say why each was wrong, all you did was list one stupid reason, something no one believes (namely, that the Creator is incompetent to explain himself to you) and summarily say that could not be right. (And I do not see why, as a matter of logic, belief in an incompetent Creator is necessarily impossible. Or an indifferent one.)

                  Have you no shame? Even when someone asks you a direct question three times, and you flinch away each time, does this not cause you at least some realization of what it makes you look like?

                  You look like someone who is craven on the intellectual level, an squid alarmed by some thought you dare not approach or answer, you shoots out an cloud of ink to avoid it, and then answers some other, smaller, safer question.

                  I will say it again: the Creator is standing by to explain Himself to you, and He does to all man who ask. He is nearer to you than your own heart. You are not listening to me, you are not listening to reason, you are not listening to Him. And you blame Him for your pigheadedness, and not you? That is illogical and imprudent. You are being emotional.

                  • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                    craven

                    cloud of ink

                    pigheadedness

                    Sorry. I’ll try to be less emotional in future.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      Sir, when you act the coward, the emotion is not on my side for pointing it out. I do suffer the emotion of mounting frustration with you wasting my time with your wee little games. You would prefer to exchange witty barbs rather than serious thought on serious topics? I am at your service. May you prove more adroit at the latter than at the former.

                • Comment by Patrick:

                  “A human father who puts a true image of himself and his standards in the heart of daughter Sally, but allows a false image of himself and his standards to fester in the heart of son Tom, and then punishes Tom for the result, is either playing a rather nasty little game, or is unaware of what he is doing.”

                  Man. You nailed it. Jesus Christ himself most definitely did not anticipate so trenchant a critique to his anthropology as this. He really fell down on the job.

                  Have I read Luke 15:11-32? No, why? Is that relevant?

    • Comment by lotdw:

      “Because I am not open to the idea that the universe was created specifically for the human race … I am an “a-theist””

      I know of literally no orthodox theology which holds this, including Christianity. I’m still not exactly sure where the started or why it’s so popular among certain Christians and all atheists,* but you will not find this idea in the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Kojiki, Greek or Roman mythology, or any major text of any religion I know much about.

      * Though I would theorize it’s because it fits their personal obsessions with human exceptionalism which have no basis in orthodox Christianity, but so it goes. Who created what, &c.

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        From the Douay version as a courtesy to Catholics, Genesis 1, 14:15

        And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: To shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth. And it was so done.

        Now it would be easy to say that no true Christian interprets this to mean the universe was created just to illumine Earth’s night sky, just as one could say that no true Scotsman adds water to his whisky. But a lot of sincere Christian apologists believe just that, and have not hesitated to tell me so.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Why are you telling Christians what the Christian Church think our Holy Book means instead of asking us?

          If you were approaching a group of savage aborigines who said the universe had popped out of the egg of an Emu, you would treat them with more respect, and at least find out where they thought the Emu came from.

          You would not assert that the stupidest, tin-eared, flat-footed, literal and most childish imaginable interpretation of their lore was the only valid one, and hold it as invalid for them to interpret the lore in the light of their own understanding.

          In this case, you seem unaware that even a critter far less potent than a God can do something for a reason, without that being the only reason the action serves. The words “Let them be to give light to the Earth” in no way means they were NOT meant to give light to any other part of the cosmos. (And whether the word “Earth” refers to the globe or to the cosmos is ambiguous here.)

          I would not comment on your astonishing arrogance and ignorance if you seemed to be aware of it, if you were doing it on purpose. I am trying to draw your attention to he assumptions and emotions behind your words. The emotions are clouding your reason. Be objective. Look at the evidence. Think.

          • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

            And yet those who take a stupid, tin-eared, flat-footed, literal and most childish imaginable interpretation of Christian lore are Christians nonetheless, and heirs to Christ’s kingdom, are they not??

            Unless you are saying – “Don’t pay any attention to what those Christians over there tell you. Pay attention to what us Christians, over here tell you” – and I hold you in high enough esteem to doubt you would intend any such thing.

            Has there ever been a thread on your blog in which you have gotten into a real give-and-take not with an atheist, but with a hard core, six 24-hour days, inerrancy fundamentalist? Please bear in mind that over 40+ years of getting slammed for my atheism, 98% of the time it’s from one of the like. So it’s still a matter of shifting gears in my arguments…….

            • Comment by The OFloinn:

              Of course, over two-thirds of all Christians are either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. Members of do-it-yourself religions constitute a small fraction and are hardly authoritative.

              However, one understands from modern physics that were the universe any larger or smaller than it is, stars and planets could not exist, or would have vanished long ago. That is, you need a universe to make a world. Thus, given our present state of knowledge, it is not an unreasonable outlook, the Argument from Incredulity notwithstanding.

              • Comment by robertjwizard:

                Worldwide, yes. But if we are talking about the good old US of A, those numbers are quite different. Over half of those that consider themselves Christian are Protestant – and more than half of those are Evangelicals (God, I love those guys…)

                The Catholics and Orthodox in this country account for less than a third of Christians – 23.9% & 0.6% respectively according to the PewForum.

                So personal exposure here is more likely to be something other than Catholic and rarely Orthodox.

                It should go without saying that merely being a member of a religion (or a denomination within a religion) affords one no authority. Let me not focus merely on religion – being a member of anything does not, by that fact, afford one authority.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              And yet those who take a stupid, tin-eared, flat-footed, literal and most childish imaginable interpretation of Christian lore are Christians nonetheless, and heirs to Christ’s kingdom, are they not??

              I don’t understand the question. Obviously you take a tin-eared literal approach to the Bible, and you are not a Christian, so why ask such a question?

              A Christian is one who is baptized and has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. A good Christian, that creature rarer than a unicorn, is one who lives up to the teachings of Christ. Neither qualification necessitate Biblical literalism.

              And, in this case, you are not even being a Biblical literalist. You are being a Biblical Illiterallist, merely reading the words in a meaning other than that which they convey. “He made the stars to light the world” simply does not mean “He made the stars not to light any other worlds.” It does not mean that. You are wrong. When asked to re-examine the meaning, you again reacted with emotion, and did not address the counterargument.

              Nor do I know any Biblical literalists personally: while I am willing to believe such creatures exist, I am beginning to suspect they are an invention, as absurd a caricature as the International Jew is to antisemites.

              Whoever told you what Christians believe is lied to you; or, more likely, you grossly misinterpreted him.

              The Bible is 44 books, written at different times and under different hands, of poetry, prophecy, law, history, oration, epistle, and so on. They could not possibly be interpreted literally even if one wanted to. The apocalyptic writings are purely symbolic. The Psalms are poems. No Christian true or not can say that all these things are meant to be taken literally: even the strictest Protestant says that scripture must be interpreted in light of scripture.

              And, again, you seem to have no hesitation in telling Christian what we believe rather than asking us what we believe.

              Unless you are saying – “Don’t pay any attention to what those Christians over there tell you. Pay attention to what us Christians, over here tell you” – and I hold you in high enough esteem to doubt you would intend any such thing.

              Please don’t put words in my mouth while I am in the act of asking you not to put words in my mouth. The irony would make my head explode.

              Again, you are being emotional. You are just making accusation after accusation.

              I am saying you are making up stuff about Christian belief out of your own head, and it has little or nothing to do with what any real Christians say. Maybe you can find a Christian somewhere you says such a thing, but outside an exact quote from a site I can double-check, I am likely to be skeptical.

              But why don’t you please ask me what I think, sir, instead of continuing to tell me what I think?

              Why not ask me whether I think the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura is correct? I will gladly tell you the answer.

              Has there ever been a thread on your blog in which you have gotten into a real give-and-take not with an atheist, but with a hard core, six 24-hour days, inerrancy fundamentalist?

              Aha! At last, a real question! No, I have never spoken to a persons such as like you describe, not once, either online or in real life. I am beginning to have doubts that such people exist outside of caricatures.

              Technically speaking, I am believe in inerrant scripture (since I believe the Bible not to contain errors) and I am a fundamentalist (since I believe the fundamentals of the Christian faith) but I suspect I am not what you have in mind.

              However, as a Catholic, I worship the Pope rather than Christ, pray to statues of the Goddess Mary in our many pagan rituals, believe in magic, seek the death of Queen Elizabeth, and I am not allowed to read the Bible nor to learn Latin. We are also forbidden from using contraception so that we will out-breed and out-number the Germans, and because of a general hatred for women.

              Now, if that caricature of a Catholic made you laugh, then you should likewise laugh at the caricature of a Protestant you are arguing against. If it did not make you laugh, or if you did not recognize it as a caricature, you are ignorant of the nature and beliefs of the Christians.

              I will happily, happily answer to any degree of detail you wish and to the best of my ability, but only if you give me your word as a gentleman to stop putting words in my mouth and stop telling me what I and mine think.

              I have been emotionally scarred for life by an argument with a fellow science fiction writer who would not, no matter how I asked or begged or demanded, stop telling me what I thought, and called me a liar what I told him what I really thought. Because of that, I get hayfeverish around straw-man arguments.

              This is not a matter of switching gears. This is a matter of switching off your emotions and using your reason.

              • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                I am beginning to have doubts that such people exist outside of caricatures.

                Feel free to drop in on the well known conservative forum “Free Republic” where you will find no shortage of those who hold the Bible to be so literally true that they expect Christ to return equipped with hinges and a doorknob.

                I’ve posted there for six years under the nym “Notary Sojac” and have gotten flamed more times than I can count for suggesting that 4004 BC and a 144 hour creation were in fact turning thinking people away from Christianity.

                Be advised that you may get blamed for that whole Latimer and Ridley business though………

                And I will try my darndest in future not to put words in your mouth. But I won’t hesitate to put the responsibility on my own shoulders by telling you “this is what it sounds to me like you are saying”.

                • Comment by Tom Simon:

                  I’ve posted there for six years under the nym “Notary Sojac” and have gotten flamed more times than I can count for suggesting that 4004 BC and a 144 hour creation were in fact turning thinking people away from Christianity.

                  Of course you get flamed for attributing to Christians a belief that no intelligent Christian holds, then drawing a false dichotomy between Christians and ‘thinking people’, and then identifying the one nonexistent thing as a cause of the other. On your own showing and your own summary, your claims are ridiculous and insulting to the intelligence.

                  • Comment by robertjwizard:

                    …a belief that no intelligent Christian holds,

                    Well, there’s the rub.

                    Am I truly to believe no one, other than Ruiz and I, have heard of people having these views? I not only have them in my family, I can easily find them on the internet. Try creation.com

                    He didn’t draw a false dichotomy, he is simply saying some dumb yammerheads paint a bad picture that more intelligent people are turned off by.

                    Perhaps it is possible, Mr. Simon, he is talking about people such as himself being turned off by such views. Perhaps he is looking for answers, considers himself intelligent, and finds such views to be pure hokum. An extreme case would be every time the Westboro Baptist Church makes it onto the news.

                    But, hey, instead of flying off the handle yet again and venting anger, let’s be charitable, or at least considerate, and ask Mr. Ruiz. Maybe he can tell us what he meant.

                    Mr. Ruiz, did you intend to present a dichotomy of intelligent people as one class, and as a separate class, Christians? Did you mean to express the idea that intelligent people form one class, and Christians form another so that no member of the class of Christian is present in the class of intelligent?

                    I’m willing to bet this is not what he meant.

                    • Comment by Darrell:

                      I like you more by the day.

                    • Comment by Patrick:

                      I second Darrell’s statement.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      As pure hokum as the notion that a monkey once gave birth to a human baby? That evolution comes in teleological stages without any intention? That Europeans are superior because their eyes are blue, which shows they are further evolved than those people who have dark eyes like other animals? That an atheist can dismiss other people’s religion as nonsense, when according to itself, the principle on which he bases this is nonsense — and evade this by calling his own principle “important nonsense”?

                      Do we get to tar him with the silliest notions on his own side, too?

            • Comment by Darrell:

              As you might hold me in less esteem than Mr. Wright I will go ahead and say, “Don’t pay any attention to what those Christians over there tell you.” Because they are what we would call heretics. You can think of them as false map sellers if you’d like. The maps they sell are as likely as naught to lead you astray.

              • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                Because they are what we would call heretics.

                As are you to they, Darrell.

                Have you truly no understanding of how such reciprocal accusations appear to a non-believer??

                • Comment by Darrell:

                  What does that have to do with anything? Of course a heretic would believe that the orthodox (as well as other heretics) are heretics. Heresy does not by necessity imply hypocrisy.

                  Since I was an atheist I have a fair grasp of how “reciprocal accusations” appear to non-believers. I’m not certain the relevance though.

                  If I worked as an attorney for the Old Firm and you told me that an attorney at Wolfram and Hart provided you legal advice that you clearly knew to be false and my response was, “You’re absolutely correct. Wolfram and Hart are notoriously poor at practicing law. In fact they aren’t even bar accredited — of which they are quite proud.” I’m not sure why your response would be, “They disagree with you, and since you both practice law you both must be wrong!”

                  At least tell me what I’m wrong about.

                  • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                    I don’t know whether you are wrong, or whether the Protestant fundamentalists are wrong, in the areas where you profoundly disagree.

                    Both are sincere in belief, have the best interest of my soul at heart, and can marshal substantial intellectual firepower in their cause.

                    I only conclude that one must be right and one wrong, if God is not a gamester.

                    Would that it were so simple as selecting a law firm! It would be easy to ascertain whether one or the other had a track record of superior success in a case such as mine. If Wolfram and Hart won significantly more of their cases, “accreditation” would not be the determining factor.

                    Alas, the afterlife offers no such scorecard. Unless the South Parkers have it right, and it’s Mormons after all…

                    • Comment by The OFloinn:

                      One may suggest
                      a) close historical study of continuity; and
                      b) rational philosophical analysis for consistency
                      as being helpful tools in making the decision.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      I am pretty sure that it is the Mormons after all. but the South Parkers did a fairly terrible job of depicting the Mormon view of the afterlife, in all respects, probably on purpose. Anyways I am just another random heretic that thinks everything else has some degree of heresy in it, so if I were you I would ask God as to the subject rather than random people on the internet.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      I agree with the virtuous and benevolent heretic, whose love of Christ cannot be questioned, that God is the source of truth you should approach, not man. (And certainly not a man like me, a johnny-come-lately convert whose faith is weak.)

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      The idea that any Christian denomination teaches that a correct knowledge of theology is the proof of salvation is a crazy.

                      I had assumed no thoughtful atheist believed such stupid accusations. Don’t you read? Do you know NOTHING about the belief system you are criticizing? Don’t you talk to your neighbors?

                      There is no test on the nature of the transubstantiation when one reaches the pearly gates, or quiz on Papal authority, or so says one who Protestant and Catholic and Orthodox all say should know.

                      When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, Mt. 16.27 then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: Mt. 19.28
                      32 and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
                      33 and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
                      34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
                      35 for I was ahungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
                      36 naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
                      37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee ahungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
                      38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
                      39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
                      40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
                      41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
                      42 for I was ahungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
                      43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
                      44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee ahungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
                      45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
                      46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Dan. 12.2

                      In any case, the actual disagreements between the denominations are far less than appears to an outside: one says Man is justified by faith, from which works follow; another said man is justified by faith through works; one says the Holy Ghost proceeds from the father through the son; another says the Holy Ghost proceeds from the father and the son. If you are driven away from Christianity by that, then you are exaggerating the degree and the severity of the schisms. Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox all acknowledge the baptisms performed by the other as valid sacraments.

                      I will say yet again, if you tell Christians what Christians believe, you sound the fool. If you ask them what they believe, you will be answered.

                    • Comment by Darrell:

                      I don’t know whether you are wrong, or whether the Protestant fundamentalists are wrong, in the areas where you profoundly disagree.

                      Both are sincere in belief, have the best interest of my soul at heart, and can marshal substantial intellectual firepower in their cause.

                      I only conclude that one must be right and one wrong, if God is not a gamester.

                      I’m uncertain whether you are being ecumenical or simply wry so I will try to be charitable in my response and assume the former.

                      It is, of course, quite possible that we (your imagined Protestant fundamentalist and I) are both wrong. Indeed, as an atheist, my argument would have been that all theists must be wrong and that, at the bottom of the well, many knew that they were “wrong” as religion was part of their overall con of the stupid and lazy thinkers.

                      However I suspect we’ve wandered from your original point and my response to it. You suggested that there is no way of sussing the truth when faced with a plurality of conflicting claims although that surely can’t be what you really believe. My response was, essentially, that it makes no sense to state that John and his school of thought are factually or morally wrong about X and yet when I state that my school of thought and I agree with you (for that is not what we believe/teach either) that you then respond with, “but how can I tell which of you is right and which is wrong when the two of you disagree?”

                      You’ve determined that there is no Christian God because “Protestant fundamentalists” are wrong on several important theological/moral points and therefore ascertained that the claims of Orthodox Christianity are equally wrong because they disagree with said Protestant Fundamentalist points that founder your acceptance of a Christian God. I find it challenging to believe that this logic pretzel is really what you have meant to convey or actually believe.

                      Interestingly Orthodox Christianity asserts that it is wrong on quite a lot — especially when it comes to speculating about God who is intrinsically unknowable. What Orthodox Christianity’s essential claim is, is that God made Himself known through the Incarnation and provided the point of mankind, which is theosis, as well as the means to achieving it which is through membership in the Church.

                      Now, believe it or not, I have no interest in “converting” you and even if I did, do not believe that I have any such power or ability. Where my interest lies is in untangling Orthodox Christianity from “Christianity” because the knee-jerk response of, “I can’t believe in any God who would condemn Gandhi to hell,” unbalances me. It strikes me as much the same as saying, “I can’t believe that evolution is correct because no one has found the missing link.” Sometimes it isn’t the theory that is wrong but a particular person’s incorrect understanding of the theory.

                      As I said, if there is a particular point about Christianity that you disagree with, I’d be more than happy to attempt to explicate it or discuss it with you.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  He might not, but I do. It is a great scandal to the infidels to find the followers of Christ in less than perfect agreement, particularly over technical matters that do not seem to affect salvation.

                  However, the skepticism of the infidels would be just as great if we were in perfect agreement, considering how many warnings pepper than Old and New Testament about false prophets and false teachers, for then the warnings would be wrong.

                  • Comment by robertjwizard:

                    However, the skepticism of the infidels would be just as great if we were in perfect agreement,…

                    I would be. Not because you’re Christians. But because you were humans who managed to achieve perfect agreement. I know of no such phenomena.

                    • Comment by Patrick:

                      Jesus went 11 for 12 among his APOSTLES. our Creation is apparently much more straightforward for the omnipotent than our magnification.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  Just to be clear: I am a Catholic. I do hold that the various, endless break off and break away sects are heretics or schismatics or both. The accusations are not mutual and not symmetrical, since we can show an ancient continuity of our beliefs, and they cannot. In order to justify the breakaway, a novel theory of clerical authority, indeed of revelation and Apostolic succession, must be invented to justify the schism.

                  • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                    Very well. I will attempt not to require you to defend any flavor of Christian belief which you have not specifically espoused. Doubtless you will let me know when my attempts fall short…..

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      WTF?! That is not what I am asking. I am not asking you only to ask me about my own denomination. You are ignorant of the basics of Christian philosophy, so you cannot possibly know the difference between Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican and Catholic, not to mention the many Churches of the East.

                      All I was saying was that, since I am not a modern man whose brain is full of mush, I do not believe that the word “heretics” is a dirty word, but is, like most Catholic words, both ancient and precise in its technical meeting. I was asking you not to misinterpret my understanding of how scandalous schism looks to infidels to be an apology for the condemnation of heretics.

                      Why do you persist in so grossly misinterpreting what I say? Do you just write down the first thing that comes to mind, free-association style, without actually reading the words?

                      Instead of doing granting a request I did not make, please grant the request I did make: Answer questions instead of dodging them. Ask questions where you do not know. Stop assuming your slapstick caricature of Xtianity has any basis in reality.

                      (Obviously if the faith were as stupid as you portray it to be, no one would believe it. The fact that some people believe it, folk who are otherwise rational and oriented to the world, some of whom are lawyers and philosophers and scholars and men of the intellect, should tell you that the clown-car version of Christianity that exists in your imagination does not exist outside your imagination.)

                      I will be happy to defend Protestant and Orthodox and Nestorian and Monophysite Christianity against the type of feeble comments (I can hardly call them arguments) you have so far been able to muster. This does not require any particular theological familiarity or subtlety or depth, just a grasp of basic logic.

                      So far, the only argument you have constructed was a dismissal of theism based on a non-rigorous and cursory examination of two philosophies Deism, and the other alternative being that God is an incompetent and indifferent experimenter. I offered you six other possible explanations, and you CHANGED THE SUBJECT. I asked you a third time, and you changed the subject again. And then again. YOU have a mental disease that renders you unable to stick to the point or answer like an honest man? You are not the first man making wisecracks and comments to me who has that disease.

                      You may think you proved the central point of fact in dispute there, namely, that all men have different material opinions of God that are mutually incompatible. In point of fact, you did not say so explicitly, but simply talked as if this point were taken for granted. That is not the way to construct an argument. It is not a point I grant. I think the differences are minor, and are ranked in a hierarchy of insight, as approximates approaching truth. This invalidates the central unquestioned and unspoken premise of your improperly-constructed argument, which assumes any differences in view of God have the same force as a logical contradiction, that they are mutually exclusive. You have not proved that, or even said it.

                      To argue, state the point to be proven. Define your terms and identify your axioms. If you want to be Socratic about it, ask your opposition if he agrees with your axioms first. Then draw first one implication from the axioms, and then the next, avoiding any formal logical errors or leaps, until step by step you reach a conclusion.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  Have you truly no understanding of how such reciprocal accusations appear to a non-believer??

                  Do you mean “appears on an emotional level” sir?

                  If we are talking about a nonbeliever who weighs beliefs according to their content and meaning and dispassionate logic, even beliefs of which he does not agree, his reaction will be different than that of a disbeliever who weighs beliefs only according to their volume of emotional noise.

            • Comment by Patrick:

              “Don’t pay any attention to what those Christians over there tell you. Pay attention to what us Christians, over here tell you”

              Why is this unreasonable, again?

        • Comment by lotdw:

          You should perhaps read what I wrote. There I admitted that there are Christians who believe this. Nor did I say they were not true Christians, BECAUSE I CALLED THEM CHRISTIANS. I said “orthodox theology.” Find me something from a mainline Protestant church, Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity, or stop straw-manning what I said.

          Your interpretation of the quoted passage has so many big problems. Here’s a list:

          1. You are trying to prove the Universe was created for Man. You have at most proven the stars were created for Earth. Man is not mentioned there at all.

          2. Other planets don’t come up in it or in the Bible; there’s no indication that the Earth is superior to them as they are not considered, perhaps because no one then knew they existed. (This is phrased to avoid debates over divine vs. human authorship; don’t get sidetracked.) If I say apples are better than oranges, it does not mean I think apples are better than bananas or asdfkljaeifojgas. Had they known about other planets and deliberately excluded them, that would be different.

          3. The Bible is meant to be read by humans and instruct them in religion. You are quite likely mistaking something like the Anthopic Principle for an exclusionary statement. A Bible written for sparrows or for extraterrestrials could have the same language yet not privilege them in an absolute sense.

          4. The Bible is more than a verse long. At numerous other points there are verses which talk about how much God cares deeply about other parts of creation than mankind. When an interpretation (such as yours) is not mandated by a particular section and is flatly contradicted by other verses, it is generally incorrect.

          5. I asked for an orthodox theology. You gave me a smidgin of a source text of numerous theologies. Why not find a reputed theologian who explicates the Bible or this passage the way you seem to think it clearly should be read?

          6. In relation to the above, there are numerous ways most verses of the Bible can be read. Sticking the verse up there and saying “Here’s what it means!” to people who already don’t think that’s what it means doesn’t do much for your argument. Okay, a number of sincere Christian apologists have told you that’s what it means. Who are they? Anonymous internet commenters? Or Martin Luther?

          Now, it’s one thing to say that there is a hierarchy in the Bible, that man comes last in the creation story and is God’s image, etc. But that is VERY different from “the Earth was created for Man.” Even that hierarchy is not some easy absolute privilege – animals don’t go to hell, for example. You have a simplistic view of religion and of Christianity (and seem to think they’re one and the same).

          Though you didn’t ask, my basic belief as to why so many Christians and atheists believe that your idea is a tenet of Christianity is that we have an inborn tendency to privilege ourselves, whether we want to call that Original Sin or the selfish gene or samsara. So some Christians bring it into their religious beliefs, and atheists concentrate on it because it offends their belief in a purposeless universe and it provides easy straw men.

          P.S. Why did you focus on Christianity? Your original post did not mention it, and I deliberately noted that NO major religion had this conception of the world. My point here is that even if you think Christianity has this belief, AND you think that belief is wrong, it does not mean you need be an atheist – just a non-Christian.

        • Comment by lotdw:

          Something was bugging me about my response here, so I did a quick search and found this in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

          “I.6.358 God created everything for man,222 but man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him:

          ‘What is it that is about to be created, that enjoys such honor? It is man that great and wonderful living creature, more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures! For him the heavens and the earth, the sea and all the rest of creation exist. God attached so much importance to his salvation that he did not spare his own Son for the sake of man. Nor does he ever cease to work, trying every possible means, until he has raised man up to himself and made him sit at his right hand.223′”

          So there’s one, though if I had a more complete explanation I would probably find it is perhaps different from the fundies you’ve mentioned, as I’ve read different beliefs which complicate the quotation above. I know, for example, that the Catholic Church allows for the existence of aliens and that they are not excluded from salvation.

  8. Comment by wedge:

    I think Nietzsche is actually quite important for atheists. The challenge of his madman still remains one of the most pressing issues confronting atheist thought and one which is usually completely ignored by modern atheists (in the exact same manner as those Nietzsche was challenging in the first place).

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      No doubt. Reading Nietzsche might be useful for showing any atheist, first, that the inevitable end result of a post-christian society is not a pagan society but a slough of despond populated by “Last Men” who have neither honor nor an instinct of self-preservation; and, second, the mind-set of total sociopathic selfishness, the belief that one is a god who dictates the content of reality based on empty whim, which both forms the logical foundation and is the logical end product of a consistent atheism.

      But that is not what I was asked. I was asked what atheists I read and admired when i was an atheist. In my youth, I read Nietzsche’s amateurish and emotional denunciation of Stoicism, and realized he was worhtless as a rigorous thinker. I then and read his various screed, shrieks, parables, vents, pscyhodramas, and make-believes, and did not see a single definition, statement, proof or conclusion in all his writing that I read. I concluded that he was a detriment to the cause of atheism. People reading him would associate atheism with stark lunacy and verbal diarrhea.

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        total sociopathic selfishness, the belief that one is a god who dictates the content of reality based on empty whim, which both forms the logical foundation and is the logical end product of a consistent atheism.

        This statement I suspect cuts to the heart of most of the head-knocking that goes on between you and the atheists in this forum.

        Would you conclude that any professed atheist who is not “sociopathically selfish”, who does not believe himself a god, is in fact not consistent in his atheism?

        In that case, some of the writers you cite in the header post, (Twain, Hume, Locke, Paine) surely must be “inconsistent atheists” …..

        ….and considering that illustrious company, whose intellectual boots I am not worthy to shine, “inconsistent atheist” is hardly a slur.

        • Comment by The OFloinn:

          Would you conclude that any professed atheist who is not “sociopathically selfish”, who does not believe himself a god, is in fact not consistent in his atheism?

          Certainly, Nietzsche would have said so. In fact, he did say so. He had contempt for the “English flatheads,” the Anglophone atheists whose atheism was contaminated with residual Christianity.

          Through Christianity, the individual was made so important, so absolute, that he could no longer be sacrificed. … All ‘souls’ became equal before God: but this is precisely the most dangerous of all possible evaluations.
          — Will to Power

          Life itself recognizes no solidarity, no ‘equal right,’ between the healthy and the degenerate parts of an organism. . . . Sympathy for the decadents, equal rights for the ill-constituted—that would be the profoundest immorality, that would be anti-nature itself as morality!

          If we cast a look a century ahead and assume that my assassination of two thousand years of opposition to nature and of dishonoring humans succeeds, then that new party of life will take in hand the greatest of all tasks—the higher breeding of humanity, including the unsparing destruction of all degenerates and parasites.
          + + +
          The criterion of truth resides in the heightening of the feeling of power.
          — Will to Power
          + + +
          When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands. …

          When the English actually believe that they know “intuitively” what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion: such that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, such that the very conditional character of its right to existence is no longer felt.
          — The Twilight of the Idols

          • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

            Perhaps that’s true.

            Perhaps everyone in the world today is either (1) a Christian: (2) a Nietzschean monster, or (3) “contaminated with residual Christianity” (nice turn of phrase by the way!!)

            In that case, I am one of those who’s lived all his life at address number 3. Well, so be it then! I daresay I can survive old Fred’s contempt.

            I’ve grown to adulthood, done a turn in my country’s service, married and raised a family, and made a decent career for myself without once being troubled by Christian residua.

            And again, given some of the names listed at the thread’s top, I appear to be in illustrious company.

            • Comment by The OFloinn:

              Sure. That’s what Nietzsche said about the anglophone flatheads. They smuggled Christian principles in through the back door while denying that they had done so. He described these amiable smiley-faced atheists as the “last men” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. (His “first and last men” meme found its way into SF via Olaf Stapledon.)

              (Science is also irretrievably contaminated with Christianity, since it holds the erroneous belief that the world is meaningful and ordered, not raw chaos.)

              The Late Modern world is shot through with Nietzschean ideas, not only in the deconstructionism of the Academy with its denigration of “truth” and suspicion of science; but even in everyday life, in the substitution of “feelings” for “thought” and the equation of “good” with “victorious.” (And the connection between Nietzsche’s equation of victory by the strong/noble with morality to the notion of natural selection/survival of the fittest should be as clear as the connection with the “class struggle.”)

              An extended essay here giving a good overview of the honest atheist: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/05/nietzsches-truth-36
              and some useful commentary in the middle of this essay on another topic on the aversion of the “last men” to Nietzsche.
              http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2008/01/atheism-and-violence
              + + +
              Argumentum ad populi, or the list of admirable writers coupled with the plaintive cry “What splendid company!” is no substitute for rational thought. One may be an effective pamphleteer or even a fine novelist without being an incisive thinker.

    • Comment by Mary:

      Ah, Nietzsche. How I remember him, writing in — I think it was the Genelogy of Morals about how he did not want to be understood by just anyone.

      In his Aphorisms, he made the mistake of observing:

      Those who know they are deep strive for clarity. Those who want to appear deep to the crowd strive for obscurity—for the crowd will consider anything deep if it cannot see to the bottom: the crowd is so timid and afraid of going in the water.

      As if no one would realize it applied to him.

  9. Comment by Nostreculsus:

    Reading Nietzsche might be useful for showing any atheist, first, that the inevitable end result of a post-christian society is not a pagan society but a slough of despond populated by “Last Men” who have neither honor nor an instinct of self-preservation.

    I agree with Nietzsche. His prediction is coming true.

    But I don’t understand why you agree with him. What of your long post on the Tao and the moral precepts that you consider universal in all sorts of non-Christian societies. Why can’t a “post-Christian” society have solid pagan virtues?

    • Comment by Mary:

      It is a matter of readily observable fact that in fact they do not have them. Going on from that to why is nice but not

      I also note that knowing the Tao is insufficient to act upon the knowledge consistently.

      The Master said, ‘I have not seen a person who loved virtue, or one who hated what was not virtuous. He who loved virtue, would esteem nothing above it. He who hated what is not virtuous, would practise virtue in such a way that he would not allow anything that is not virtuous to approach his person.

      ‘Is any one able for one day to apply his strength to virtue? I have not seen the case in which his strength would be insufficient.

      ‘Should there possibly be any such case, I have not seen it.’

  10. Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

    Very well.

    Please re-ask me a question. The most significant question you consider to have asked me to date, provided that it can be answered with reasonable conciseness. (“Why do you not believe in God?” would not be such a question.)

    I will consider it for at least 24 hours and only then respond.

    If you do not agree that I have at least addressed your question, irrespective of whether or not you agree with my answer, I’ll not trouble you again.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Well said! Spoken like a man! Now you make an offer that shows perfect courage! Well done! I accept your challenge.

      Here is my question again: you said you were agnostic on the question of whether the cosmos had a creator, but that you were definitely sure that if the universe had a creator, he had no concern for mankind.

      Question One: If you do not know whether or not the universe has a creator, how can you know the properties of that creator, including the property of his lack of concern for mankind?

      You responded to this question by saying that it was logically an open question whether the sum total of all matter and energy in the universe arose from nothing spontaneously or at a deliberate cause (a comment to which I voiced no objection) but then said that the question of a a benevolent creator was closed, one the grounds that there were only a few possibilities, including a Deist god who had no concern for man, or an benevolent god who could not clear up confusion about his nature due to his incompetent inability to do so.

      Question Two: If your list of possible reasons for the confusion of man about the nature of god is incomplete, is the question open rather than closed?

      In other words, since there are at least seven possible ways of explaining how the confusion of man could logically coexist with the compassion of the creator, not one of which you addressed in your list, is the question still logically open? Is it a question where a man may be agnostic?

      Question Three: Why did you not list the main reason given by Jews and Christians for the confusion of man, namely, Man’s sin, rather than God’s incompetence? You cannot possibly be unaware of this offered answer. Why did you not include it, and offer your reason (if you have one) for rejecting it?

      If your response does not address the question, I will tell you so.

      Please do not hesitate to ask for clarification: There is a vast gulf fixed between us that we cannot cross, and my axioms and assumptions and experience differ from your own. We do not see the same world, and the objects we both see, we cannot see in the same way. The only thing we have in common is reason.

      • Comment by The OFloinn:

        all matter and energy in the universe arose from nothing spontaneously

        It is always amusing how many folks chuck their skepticism out the window when it comes to swallowing this one. As if “spontaneously” was an explanation of some sort and “nothing” was a sort of something.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I assume the skeptics merely assume that the cosmic origin is by definition inexplicable. No events as science understands the term can take place outside of timespace, nor is there any such thing as a time before timespace, nor can there be cause and effect outside of timespace, which is defined as the continuum of cause and effect. There is no evidence and no possible way to imagine an experiment which would illuminate the matter. As far as science is concerned, the Big Bang is simply a given: an ultimate end point we cannot even imagine going beyond.

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        Those are three questions, after all. May take a little more time.

        I’ve always considered that there are three tests which must be met in order to become a Christian (or an adherent of most of the world’s faiths)

        1. God exists.
        2. He has an interest in my life.
        3. He has earned my worship.

        ….and those actually dovetail very nicely with your questions.

        See you in a day or two!

        VR

        (Afterthought thirty minutes later) In recent years, the book which has had the greatest influence on my thinking about God is a slim volume entitled “Who Knows?” by Raymond Smullyan. I dearly wish I had an electronic version and could email it to you while still respecting Prof. Smullyan’s copyright. Not because I desire it to change your beliefs, but because Prof. Smullyan says what is in my own mind, so much more elegantly than can I.

        • Comment by Darrell:

          I just bought the book for my Kindle and will attempt to address it here or on my blog once I’ve finished reading it. However, having just read the preface, I sort of wish that you’d indicated at it was a response to Gardner’s THE WHYS OF A PHILOSOPHICAL SCRIVENER as perhaps I should have purchased and read that book first.

          • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

            I had not read the Gardner book either. I don’t think it’s in any way a prerequisite.

            And – you’re quite entitled to conclude that Prof. Smullyan gets a little too new-agey on us in section 3. I cut him a fair amount of slack there owing to the excellence of sections 1 and 2.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I have read Smullyan’s books of logic puzzles with great enjoyment, and I have read his essays on the Westernized form of Zen he espouses, which I regard as amateurish and ridiculous – you will forgive me, but my father in law was a Zen Buddhist since the 1950’s and perhaps the earliest American convert to that way of life, and so I have seen the authentic real thing close up.

          I have also been an atheist for some 35 years, all my adult life, before my conversion, and I sincerely doubt you have found some approach to the question I am not familiar with. The circle of atheist authors is smaller than the circle of science fiction authors, and a man can easily read all there is to read in a few years.

          I have also met God. I converted because God converted me, and because the Holy Spirit entered me, and because I was overwhelmed by the ecstasy of divine love against which all your earthly pleasures are less than dross, and not because I abandoned one scientific or philosophical hypothesis in favor of another. So discussions about intellectual doubts have no bearing on me, albeit, as you say, I am sure I can understand the profound source of doubts in another.

          I am a thoroughgoing skeptic myself, and have the greatest respect for honest doubt.

  11. Comment by robertjwizard:

    Mr. Ruiz,

    If I may make a suggestion that is a variation on what Mr. Hutchins said earlier. Do a more formal study before picking brains on a blog or forum. For one thing it allows you to hone your questions to something specific and more to the mark – and you get to avoid the wrath of those that get frustrated with you.

    There are many great resources out there. At the moment I am part way through a free Yale online course INTRODUCTION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT. http://oyc.yale.edu/religious-studies/rlst-145
    It provides a wealth of knowledge and context and interpretation that a simple reading will not give you. I can’t recommend it enough. There is a course on the NT also from Open Yale Courses, but I haven’t sampled that.

    I am also using the recommended book for the course The Jewish Study Bible which has verse by verse commentary and excellent essays. Just last night I read a fascinating account of Ritual and Moral Impurities in Jewish theology – a concept, that I suspect will have application for fully appreciating the NT.

    I haven’t decided on a NT course, and I am not sure what is an authoritative NT Study Bible. Perhaps someone here knows? I found only one Jewish study Bible, but there are all sorts of Christian study Bibles, and there one would have to tread carefully. For instance, I don’t care to come under the tutelage of an Evangelical anything.

    A sort of capstone course would be THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES IN JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY https://itunes.apple.com/us/course/hebrew-scriptures-in-judaism/id512201207

    I personally have met the type of Christian you mentioned to Mr. Wright. One of them is my own sister who told me once that dinosaur bones were planted by Satan (apparently channeling the spirit of Loki) to foil man into not believing in Genesis as literally interpreted (6/24 and 6000yrs, etc) or made up, or misread, or however one wants it phrased. Oh, there are all kinds out there.

    • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

      dinosaur bones were planted by Satan

      At least she does not think that they were planted by God, in an exercise called “Who ya gonna believe? My Book, or yer lyin’ eyes??”

      I’ve been told that twice. To my face, and with one hundred percent sincerity.

    • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

      When looking for Bible passages online, I consistently prefer the Catholic translations, as I am used in French to the outstanding “Bible de Jerusalem”. For example, I put to test the New American Bible Revised Edition, recommended by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb dot org) and it seems very good.

      My test is the chapter 8 of the letter to Romans which I know almost by heart. I happened 20 years ago to have a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness and asked him to consult his Bible on this chapter. I found the translation so bad as to be incomprehensible. It is probably worse in French because it is a re-translation from their English version, but I just checked it online and it is very bad in English too.

      For the Old Testament I usually prefer the Douay-Rheims (Catholic) version to the KJV, which is also very good and the preferred one of traditional Anglicans. I suppose the cross-references, notes and essays accompanying good translations are generally reliable.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        I don’t tend to look up Bible passages online since I have the JSB and the KJV right next to me at my desk.

        But what I am looking for is a good Christian study Bible. For two reasons: 1) I don’t presume to be able to grasp everything on my own, or even a fraction of it 2) to round out my Jewish reading of OT.

        I would tend to stick to Catholic translations myself for study; for one it is the majority opinion and the original one. I wonder, however, if there is something analogous to what they have for the Torah, namely the Talmud and various midrashim, etc.

        I don’t deal in Jehovah’s Witness type stuff. I think I can get an honest perspective from a Jewish and Catholic study. And then the Protestants for modern dressing.

        • Comment by Darrell:

          I use the Orthodox Study Bible — though it is imperfect. The nature of Orthodox Christianity does not readily lend itself to an individual studying the Holy Bible outside of the Church and Orthodox Christianity is not hugely popular in the English speaking world so there is a dearth of study aids.

          http://www.amazon.com/The-Orthodox-Study-Bible-Christianity/dp/0718003594/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361724912&sr=8-1&keywords=orthodox+study+bible

          • Comment by robertjwizard:

            I looked at some pages on amazon. Looks interesting as an alternative text to the ones I have. Why do you say Orthodox Christianity does not readily lend itself to an individual study? What I know of Orthodox Christianity is the historical fact alone of its existence.

            • Comment by Darrell:

              In shooting for pith I fear that I hit pitch instead.

              I was referring, in this instance, to an individual studying the Holy Bible outside of Holy Tradition. Within the Orthodox Christian tradition the Holy Bible is not regularly read by most parishioners outside of church. This is partly why it is rather challenging to find an Orthodox Christian Holy Bible — the other being that the books of the Holy Bible are broken into multiple volumes in an Orthodox Christian church and so there is rarely a need to have them all compiled together. This being the case, it is frankly impossible to find an English copy of a fully orthodox Orthodox Holy Bible with or without study notes.

              As important as the Holy Bible in Orthodox Christianity is, the wider Holy Tradition (of which the Holy Bible is really but a subset of) and the Divine Liturgy (again a subset of Holy Tradition) are equally important. So to actually understand the Holy Bible a student should read it, attend Divine Liturgy (which is shot through with verses from the Holy Bible), and read what the Father’s wrote.

              As heretical as this might sound to a Protestant or a Restorationist (or just a modern American subconsciously steeped in their theology) it would be more desirable for someone seeking to understand the Church and (little ‘o’) orthodox Christianity to start by reading St. John Damascene’s An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith than to start with the Holy Bible.

              I hope that I wasn’t unduly confusing. If I was, please let me know and I’ll try to untangle my words.

        • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

          …it is the majority opinion and the original one…
          Thank you, sir. GKC would probably acknowledge your common sense.

          Sadly, I cannot help you find a study Bible in English. I don’t have one. This is why I check passages online when I want to quote from the Bible: I read it in French, then I look up the corresponding verses in English online.

          I had no difficulty to find two good bibles in French, one complete with essays before each book and most interesting and useful notes and cross-references; the other is in many volumes with extensive scholarship and patristic quotes (I only have the Pentateuch and the New Testament, but what a treasure). I am pretty sure you would only have to ask for the likes in a Catholic bookstore and find something convenient and reliable. You might check recommendations on Catholic resources on the net or at diocesan services in your region.

    • Comment by John Hutchins:

      I like the LDS KJV, the translation is the straight KJV but there are extensive cross-referrences to other scriptures as well as some other details in the footnotes.

      I really like an ecumenical bible I read in Portuguese as it had Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical side by side in terms of what each passage meant, it was interesting to see where things were different and where everyone agreed. I think getting a Catholic study bible and comparing it to the Jewish one would probably be even more interesting.

      I second avoiding the Jehovah’s Witness versions as they tend to leave some verses out entirely and change the translation to fit their doctrine. Also, I believe their source documents are different then what everyone else uses. I find it more interesting to see what parts of a chapter or verse they ignore then the ones they highlight, particularly in Isaiah. It is really amusing as they tended to be ones that brought up Revelation 22:19 the most, which meant that not only could one bring up the similar verse in Deuteronomy that one could also just ask them to look up some verses that are just completely gone from their translation.

  12. Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

    OK, here we go.

    Please bear in mind that I do not intend to “prove” anything. I’m under no illusion that you or any of your readers will say “Gee, I guess Ruiz has just about closed down the case for God”, nor do I desire that. I merely intend to talk about what I believe, and why.

    If you do not know whether or not the universe has a creator, how can you know the properties of that creator, including the property of his lack of concern for mankind?

    I do not know whether the universe has a creator, because I am a part of that extant universe, and therefore by definition neither I nor any observer other then the creator himself could have been present prior to the Big Bang to make that determination.

    I choose not to believe that the creator has been personally involved with mankind subsequent to the Big Bang because I have not seen or been shown any evidence within the universe which shows a clear fingerprint of personalized intervention.

    Is the creator obligated to leave such a fingerprint for Ruiz to read, to place ten mile high flaming letters in the ionosphere? Of course not. But having declined to do anything of the sort, he may be on thin ice in condemning Ruiz’s conclusion. He has chosen to create his universe in such a manner that it cannot be
    distinguished from the construct of a deist’s god.

    Now there are many who have personal stories which attest to the existence of a personal God. I respect those stories and do not deny them. Likewise, there are many personal stories which attest to God’s indifference. One of them is my family’s. I give those stories the same respect and do not deny them. I set personal
    narratives aside when contemplating this question.

    And I do not think I am standing upon the wobbly ground of logical positivism. I am not saying “This question is beyond the bounds of answer-ability”, but rather “No answer to this question, sufficient to demonstrate a personally involved creator, has appeared”.

    If your list of possible reasons for the confusion of man about the nature of god is incomplete, is the question open rather than closed? In other words, since there are at least seven possible ways of explaining how the confusion of man could logically coexist with the compassion of the creator, not one of which you addressed in your list, is the question still logically open? Is it a question where a man may be agnostic?

    Of your three questions, this is the one which I found the most challenging – I’d certainly be willing to explore it further.

    For now, I think I must answer merely “Yes, but with qualification.” The qualification being that any such alternate worldview would have to explicitly address the issue of whether the creator is omnipotent and free from error, or not. Some of the alternate world views you listed can be fitted to the nature of such a creator, some can’t.

    Why did you not list the main reason given by Jews and Christians for the confusion of man, namely, Man’s sin, rather than God’s incompetence? You cannot possibly be unaware of this offered answer. Why did you not include it, and offer your reason (if you have one) for rejecting it?

    Up-thread, I had intended the question of sin to be understood as a derivative of my category (2b). In other words, God’s clear and universal communication of his nature and desires to all mankind must be a prerequisite for any determination that some or all have sinned and must accept the consequences. It’s apparent that I failed in the attempt to put that across.

    So let me suggest an alternate line of thought…

    I start by positing that Man’s sin stems from a root cause, a fall from grace by a literal or allegorical First Couple. I know of no Christian or Jewish denomination which holds to the concept of original sin that does not also understand it in that way.

    Further, I understand Christian doctrine to be that we are all inheritors of that sin, polluted by it from the moment of our birth, and it is that sin which has caused God to reject us unless we come to him via Christ.

    Upon this Earth there have been (thankfully not too many) social/political systems which similarly hold that crime is inheritable, that the descendant is polluted by the failings of the ancestor. The “sin of Ham” was used to rationalize hereditary black slavery. And today in North Korea children are known to have been imprisoned and classified as “social enemies” for naught else than their parents’ alleged crimes against the Kim regime.

    I tell you true, I believe that this practice is simply vile and should be resisted wherever found.

    Now explain to me, from where does my belief come??

    Does it come from God? In that case, God has placed in my heart the belief that a practice which God himself has enacted, not just for a few generations but for all eternity, is simply wrong.

    Does it come from outside God? In that case, not only is there a valid moral belief existing external to God, but it is at least conceivable that my ethical standards are superior to his.

    Is my belief that the concept of inheritable crimes is “wrong” itself a byproduct of my own sinful nature? Perhaps this is so. But how then am I to distinguish a valid moral belief implanted in me by God, from an invalid moral belief produced as a result of my rejection of him?

    Am I as a sinner simply wrong, and God right? Should I follow the divine example, and advocate the punishment of the children and grandchildren of thieves, rapists, traitors? This seems to me to be monstrous nonsense.

    I imagine that some Christians will say, “Well, Ruiz, you just do not get it. Crimes against GOD are so much more heinous than crimes against mere man, that they are inheritable through the generations.” I do not agree that the second part of this sentence necessarily follows from the first.

    Or, at last, is my concept of “wrong” so different from God’s, that what is entirely right for him can nevertheless be entirely wrong for me at the same time?? In that case, we are truly wandering into terra incognita, for me at least, and a whole new set of questions needs to be spun off. I really can’t deal with this idea concisely.

    Only the final selection above, open ended as it is, seems to avoid absurdity or contradiction.

    • Comment by Raphael:

      I’m a long-time reader, first-time commenter on these conversations, and doubtless Mr. Wright will have a more apposite response, but I might at least say this. Regarding what you say about Original Sin, I think you’re making a false identification, and misunderstanding what most Christians believe about the matter.

      We regard God not as an immanent despot, but as a transcendent creator in whom all things cohere, who sustains the universe from instant to instant by his divine fiat. The fallen state can’t be equated with one man holding another man’s children culpable for his sins. This is partly because our relation with God — the author of all being — is in a different category from our relations with one another.

      It isn’t that God, jealous of his prerogatives, is holding something against us; in fact, that was part of the serpent’s lie. Also, it isn’t that a sin against God is that much more grave than, say, rape. Rather, when we rebel against God, we do much more than commit an act of injustice against a powerful yet commensurable being, a kind of gnostic alien intelligence as Philip K. Dick described in his later novels. We cut ourselves off from the very fountain of being and wound *our* nature at its source. And, when Adam sinned, he wounded human nature at its source.

      It would be dishonest to say that the matter is completely explicable; in fact, the Catholic Church regards it as a mystery, which is to say, a reality which cannot be exhausted by concepts. But, at any rate, our catechism say that Original Sin is a sin by analogy only. It is a state, not an act, contracted, not committed, a bit like a genetic disorder. When man turned from God, i.e., made a paradoxical rejection of his own end, he shattered his dominion over his body, the harmony between the sexes, and harmony with visible creation, which became alien and hostile, much as it is in the vision of H. G. Wells. At the same time, man’s capacity for God hasn’t been wholly corrupted, just impaired. If we draw near to God, then God will draw near to us.

    • Comment by Patrick:

      “Further, I understand Christian doctrine to be that we are all inheritors of that sin, polluted by it from the moment of our birth, and it is that sin which has caused God to reject us unless we come to him via Christ.”

      Christians admit God dwelt among the Jews in the Ark of the Covenant, that he sent prophets to heal widows in far-off nations, that he founded his Chosen people solely on of the hope he kindled in an old heathen (Abram), that he has given thousands of patient years to wooing pagans and hypocrites and wanderers to the love of righteousness, etc. So, no, I wouldn’t say you’ve nailed it.

      Your reduction of the Christian perspective into some kind hazy teenage altar call experience is untoward.

      “Am I as a sinner simply wrong, etc.”

      Well, yes. But I, for one anyways, don’t understand your insistence that all Christian philosophy bows down to analysis as sophomoric as “but it is at least conceivable that my ethical standards are superior to his.”

      I mean, you don’t seriously think OTHER people would come to this conclusion about you, do you?

    • Comment by Patrick:

      The more I read your comment, the less impressed I am with your thoughtfulness. Every item you’ve mentioned here to dispute is disposed of in The Republic – let alone Christianity. Divine revelation is not required to discern that you haven’t evaluated your terms.

      In your next post, give us an axiom or two. And NO STEALING from past comments by robertjwizard.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        I might as well be up front and just state for the record I no longer consider myself an atheist, although I have probably called myself that even in this thread. I’m not a “believer” either, and I am not an agnostic. To be totally generic – I believe…something… I know not what. There is no category for where I am at.

        If anyone wants to have at me for that, make the most of it.

        But Mr. Ruiz can steal from me if he finds it of value, I cannot claim credit for it. My first exposure to philosophy was under the tutelage of Ayn Rand. Rand is the most explicit methodologist in philosophy there ever was – whatever one thinks of her conclusions. If Mr. Wright understands what I mean by this, I think he would agree.

        State your premises, check your premises, define your terms, what is the essential? what is the principle involved? What is the root of concept X? What does it depend on epistemologically? What facts give rise to this concept? And those aren’t catchphrases you are taught to mimic, but expounded on in minute detail all the way down to an examination of percepts.

        All of these methods are hammered into you. And I will praise her to the end of my days for it.

        But because of all that, I implore anyone to be more patient and even forgiving of someone not put under that rigor, and, conversely, less patient and forgiving of me. Particularly since I could have driven a truck through most of my own arguments!

        Mr. Ruiz can at least be afforded the credit of forging ahead where I never tread. I merely had to enact my axioms (there are only 3 metaphysically and one corollary) and say goodnight. And his thoughts and understanding are not uncommon, sorry, but they are not.

        • Comment by Mary:

          Indeed that is a vague belief that we don’t have a name for. Not even clear enough for theist, deist, pantheist, and other very high-level ones.

          • Comment by robertjwizard:

            Exactly. I hope you weren’t trying to score points against me with that. I have a thousand other words for how stupid my position is that I can submit for your enjoyment.

            I just merely note that Mr. Ruiz can use my past arguments if it pleases him, but I can’t argue for atheism any longer. I have wandered off… somewhere else. Where? Can’t tell ya, don’t know.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Arrogant as this sounds, I know. For a little space of time before my conversion, I was convinced that atheism was a one-dimensional explanation for a multidimensional reality, and that it led to wrongheaded conclusions about morality and decency, and that Christianity was indispensable to civilization.

              So I was an atheist who had lost his faith in his atheism, but the Hounds of Heaven had not yet caught up with me, so I was kind of lost and stumbling around in the same dark woods Dante loses his way in in the beginning of the INFERNO.

            • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

              I no longer consider myself an atheist

              I don’t know what to say, except that I could have leaped with joy. So, I will say nothing more and continue to pray for you.

              • Comment by robertjwizard:

                That’s touching, thank you.

                • Comment by robertjwizard:

                  I just occurred to me that this may have sounded, possibly, facetious – it was not. It is – I don’t know the word for it – humbling? – to think that someone you don’t even know is hoping for your goodness. I barely know what to say for it.

                  • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

                    this may have sounded, possibly, facetious

                    Not at all. I found it a gracious answer to my wishes for you. I was touched, too. In fact, I could barely think of anything else all day. I am sure, as probably are all of us Christians here, that you are headed to the greatest love of all.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      Mme Rousseau speaks for me as well, Mr Wigard. When I first heard that you were beginning to doubt your atheism, I was giddy with joy, and prayed for you, and did a little snoopy dance, hoping against hope that the Sunny Side could lure you away from the seductions and lures of the Dark Side.

                      You see, I found the Holy Grail. I have drunk from it, and gained life eternal. There is no greater joy that I could have, I would do anything, I would even die the death, if only I could bring one drop of the endless river of life to someone else who is thirsty. If you found the secret of life and the pearl beyond price and tasted the bread from heaven would not you also yearn to share it?

            • Comment by Darrell:

              You have found yourself in the same strange twilight realm where I once myself traveled. It seems odd that I came to atheism very quickly and directly but my transition to Christianity took a much longer and twisted course.

        • Comment by H.L. Tanline:

          Perusing the wikipedia entries on ‘ignosticism’ and ‘theological noncognitivism’ might be of help.

          “An ignostic maintains that he cannot even say whether he is a theist or an atheist until a sufficient definition of theism is put forth.”

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      No, what these answers are meant to show to me (and, I assume, to yourself) that you can answer the question as it is asked.

      I notice here again, the answer to the first question does indeed answer the question. I asked “Why do you not know if the world was created..” You answer “Because I am inside the world, I am not in a position to see whether or not the world was created, etc…” Now, I happen to agree with this answer, but, whether anyone agrees with it or not, it IS a direct answer to the question asked.

      Next, asked “If you do not know whether the creator exists or not, how can you claim to have any knowledge of his attributes, such as His benevolence or indifference, etc.” You answer that you have not come across any convincing evidence to prove that the creator is one way or another. This addresses the question indirectly, leaving me to guess what your answer is. You say you chose not to be believe what little evidence you may have come across that the creator is benevolent, or perhaps you place more weight on the evidence that seems to weigh against, but you did not directly answer the question, which was: How do you KNOW that a being whom you do not know whether he even exists or not, if he existed would have to have certain properties and not other properties? I was asking what you standard of evidence was.

      Now, does this mean you flunked the test of being able to ask a question? I don’t know. It seems to me you tacitly admitted that you don’t KNOW that the Creator is not benevolent, merely that you have not seen cause to believe their is a creator, much less a benevolent one. If that is what you mean, then the question as I asked it was irrelevant, because I asked you “Why do you believe the statement ‘I do not know if there is a creator, but if there is one, I know that he is not benevolent.’?” — if that is not the statement you made, then the question is based on a misreading on my part of what you meant.

      The second question was directly answered. It was a yes or no question. You answered, “yes” with certain reservations, and, I hasten to add, perfectly reasonable reservation about what the question assumes about the nature of the creator. The discussion so far has not reached the issue of the creator’s omniscience or omnipotence, since, as you say, several of the possibilities do not posit such a creator. The discussion so far was only about his existence and his benevolence, or, to be specific, whether the question was an open on or a settled one.

      The third question was also directly answered. You were asked, “Why did you not list the possibility of Man’s confusion as the source of confusion?” and your answer is that you did.

      You then go off on a tangent about the nature of Original Sin, which involves the concept that human nature is an inheritable crime, which is not the Christian understanding of Original Sin. Cain committed murder even though Adam did not, but Cain could not have committed murder had Adam remained faithful to God. This concept does not map onto the idea of inheritable crime.

      You then nicely segue into a discussion of a Euthyphro type paradox, which asks where you get the intuitive knowledge of right and wrong which allows you to condemn God for His injustice toward mankind, whether inside God or outside it. If inside, God is Himself asking you to condemn Him, a paradox; if outside, then God is not the source of knowledge of right and wrong, hence not God, also a paradox. It is a good question, but rests for its logical force on the concept that you have correctly identified an injustice perpetrated by God. It involves blaming God for Adam’s sin and the consequences flowing from that sin. Should God have made Adam unable to pass his nature along to his sons? That would be something of an insult to the dignity of this literal or allegorical father of the race.

      I don’t imagine any Christians giving the response you give. Why not look in the Catechism, which, unlike the Bible, and unlike talking to internet Fundamentalists, lays out the beliefs of at the least the oldest denomination of the Christians in an orderly fashion.

      Your concept of wrong may be different from God’s on certain matters the human mind cannot reach, or areas where you (or perhaps He, if He could) made a mistake. However, when it comes to things like the Ten Commandments, the rules seem to be pretty much the same for God and Man, and we seem to understand each other, almost as if we were make in His image.

      Let me suggest a parable to you. A man is born in a perfect country, and his only law is that he must comport himself to the laws of the perfect leader of that country, who can do no wrong. Dissatisfied with the perfect, and convinced that the perfect leader is in fact standing between him and his true happiness, the man arranges to have himself kicked out, and he emigrates with his wife to the Land of Crapsack. His children are born in Crapsack and are raised up covered with crap, and they themselves, each and every one, disobey the perfect rules of the perfect land left behind so long ago. The perfect leader announces an immigration program: any of the crapsackians can apply for admission back into the perfect land, and none of their various crimes will be imputed to them, provided they (1) take a bath (2) forswear loyalty to the Prince of Crapsack (3) eat a slightly cannibalistic meal consisting of the living soul of the Prince of the Perfect Land, who died in order to make this offer available to interested parties.

      Now, there was one who lived in the Land of Crapsack, who was covered with crap, and who had crap in his ears, who said, “I have not seen this perfect Prince. How does anyone know he exists? He could be a fairy tale, like Saint Nicholas, or George Washington, or some other make-believe character. If there were a real Prince of Perfection, he would surely not have punished the sons of our exiled first ancestor with exile, because that is an absurdly unjust punishment, and no perfect Prince can be absurdly unjust. Therefore I will not bathe, and will not eat the bread of life. No clever con man will pull one over on me!”

      Now what, if anything, is amiss with the legal reason of the man with crap in his ears? Is there any error in his logic?

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      I do not know whether the universe has a creator, because I am a part of that extant universe, and therefore by definition neither I nor any observer other then the creator himself could have been present prior to the Big Bang to make that determination.

      I do not know whether the Pythagorean Theorem has a creator, because I learned the theorem in school from teachers who had learned it from their own teachers, and therefore by definition neither I nor any observer other than the creator himself could have been present prior to the proof of that theorem to make that determination.

      Actually, common sense tells us that a thing must have an essential cause of its being, otherwise it wouldn’t be. Contingent being must ultimately be grounded in a necessary being whose essence just is to exist. An infinite string of taught teachers does not account for the content of the Pythagorean theorem. An infinite string of forwarded emails does not account for the contents of the message. And two men stranded on a desert island do not become wealthy by selling a piece of flotsam back and forth to each other, even if they do so an infinite number of times.
      + + +
      Man’s sin stems from …a fall from grace by a literal or allegorical First Couple. … we are all inheritors of that sin … and it is that sin which has caused God to reject us unless we come to him via Christ.

      A couple of misunderstandings.
      a) Sin is defectus boni, a lacking in the good; not a positive act, but a deficit in act.
      b) Original sin is of a different category: a state of being rather than a particular deficit. It is the origin-of-sin, rather than “a” sin.
      c) We are inheritors of that condition because we are human beings and have inherited the human genome. Aquinas believed that the inheritance was in part one of genetics: a weakness in human nature, although more properly an ontological condition over and above the genetic aspect.
      d) Aquinas equated original sin with pride or concupiscence; the Buddha equated it with “wanting,” which is much the same. Wanting stuff is the root of all human sin. And the wanting is rooted in the prideful notion that we deserve something simply because we want it. This is the Nietzschean error so popular among adolescent atheists.
      e) Sin does not cause God to reject man. Sin is where man rejects God, and flees down the nights and down the days, down the arches of the years, down the labyrinthine ways of our own minds. God, in the Orthodox/Catholic view, does not reject man, but pursues implacably, unstintingly:
      “All which I took from thee I did but take,
      Not for thy harms,
      But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
      All which thy child’s mistake
      Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
      Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”

    • Comment by Darrell:

      I do not know whether the universe has a creator, because I am a part of that extant universe, and therefore by definition neither I nor any observer other then the creator himself could have been present prior to the Big Bang to make that determination.

      This is in alignment with Orthodox Christianity although Orthodoxy takes it a step further and asserts that God is unknowable even had you, like Galactus, existed prior to the Big Bang and somehow traveled across.

      I choose not to believe that the creator has been personally involved with mankind subsequent to the Big Bang because I have not seen or been shown any evidence within the universe which shows a clear fingerprint of personalized intervention.

      If God is outside of (or, if you prefer, not bound by) space and time what would a personalized intervention look like? What would meet your standard of a clear fingerprint of personalized intervention?

      But having declined to do anything of the sort, he [God] may be on thin ice in condemning Ruiz’s conclusion.

      It is not the teaching of Orthodox Christianity that God condemns your conclusion. I think that this ties back to your and Mr. Smullyan’s focus on hell and informs many of your conclusions regarding God.

      The qualification being that any such alternate worldview would have to explicitly address the issue of whether the creator is omnipotent and free from error, or not.

      Could you explicate this qualification? In other words, I suspect that you had some example in the forefront of your mind when you wrote this.

      I start by positing that Man’s sin stems from a root cause, a fall from grace by a literal or allegorical first couple.

      I’m not certain if you will find this to be a distinction without a difference but mankind’s sin does not stem from a root cause. In other words we are not inflicted with the common imagining of Original Sin as a punishment we are suffering for a crime that our parents or grandparents or greatest-of-great grandparents committed. Rather mankind cannot resist sinning because of our nature. This is what Orthodox Christians call Ancestral Sin — the fact that even when we know what the right thing to do is, not only do we most often not do it immediately, but we very often don’t do the right thing at all.

      we are all inheritors of that sin, polluted by it from the moment of our birth, and it is that sin which has caused God to reject us unless we come to him via Christ.

      The original (first) sin brought death into existence (unlike WB’s Supernatural that posits that Death preceded God) and is what is meant by our fallen nature and the fallen world. Our inheritance of the first sin is mortality and a world subject to entropy but not some personal blame. We are also never ever rejected by God. We choose to reject him.

      As I’ve mentioned before, sin is not a movement towards anything. It is a movement away from God. It is your, to be coarse, allowing your bestial nature to overcome your human nature. To accept God is to willingly fight against your bestial nature and embrace your humanity. To strive everyday to become like God and to understand that it is a losing battle without Him.

      Does it come from God? In that case, God has placed in my heart the belief that a practice which God himself has enacted, not just for a few generations but for all eternity, is simply wrong.

      Jonathan Edwards looms large in the American mind and it is for this very reason that the Church has always opposed heresy — which is likely not what you think it is. The Orthodox Christian Church simply does not teach now, for the last few generations, and certainly not for all of eternity what you think that it does. This entire way of thinking is what occurs when someone divorces themselves from Holy Tradition and decides that their understanding trumps that of the collegiate and corporate Church. Another perfect example is the dogmatic teachings of the Church, which has become a colloquial slur, which are in all likelihood far fewer than you imagine and to which you further likely misunderstand what dogma means. It is on this shaky foundation of misunderstandings that most people criticize the increasingly meaningless term Christianity.

      I imagine that some Christians will say, “Well, Ruiz, you just do not get it. Crimes against GOD are so much more heinous than crimes against mere man

      You can’t commit “[c]rimes against God” unless by this you mean harming yourself and others. God’s purpose for man is for us to become like Him. It is theosis and not acceptance or obedience to random and arbitrary rules that is what man is for.

      A final point, because as I suggested earlier I believe that the doctrine of hell informs significantly your understanding of God. There was a speech where Christopher Hitchens compared heaven to North Korea and talked about how he would find heaven to be hell and the presence of God horrifying. For this post let us take Mr. Hitchens at his word and assume that he was absolutely honest in his assessment. This is precisely what Orthodox Christianity teaches. That when men encounter God they will either find it heavenly or hellish dependent upon how they choose to perceive the exact same encounter. Heaven and hell are not places (which borders on idolatry) but rather they are perceptions of the same experience. We also do not know if anyone experiences hell but only that the real possibility exists. Just as with atheism the focus is not supposed to be on what might come on the other side of death but rather what we do with the life we have here and now.

  13. Comment by kjwkjw:

    Carl Sagan, an atheist? Perhaps his thinking was too ‘light weight’ for you and you were not able to understand it.

    • Comment by Tom Simon:

      Carl Sagan was an agnostic for whom, to borrow a term from William James, the idea of a personal or supra-personal God was not a live hypothesis. In principle, this position is distinguishable from atheism, because it does not claim to have positive disproof; in practice, an agnostic of this kind acts exactly like an atheist. It is a distinction without a difference — the distinction between someone who assumes there is no God because you can never prove that there is one, and someone who believes there is no God because he has accepted a proof that there is not one. Sagan agreed with the most doctrinaire atheists about religious belief, but reserved the right to twit them for being doctrinaire about it.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      My refutation is here: http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Haunted-World-Science-Candle-Dark/dp/0345409469.

      If you are merely arguing that an agnostic who says religion is absurd is technically not an “atheist” because you would like to use a narrower definition of atheist than the world uses, my dear sir, please shut your puke hole. I am not interested in semantic arguments.

  14. Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

    At this point, it appears obvious to me that I am seen as contributing little of value to this discussion.

    And all involved are certainly entitled to reach that conclusion. I am after all a guest here, and one of recent standing.

    White flag raised, I shall confine my comments in future to the science fiction and current events threads, where perhaps the crap in my ears will offend less.

    Thank you all for your time.

    • Comment by DaveSomething:

      I for one value your contribution to the discussion. I don’t think I’m alone in that. Granted, the tone gets a little acerbic at times, but the fact that people are spending their valuable time in writing detailed rebuttals shows that your contributions are valued.

      I think the OFloinn’s counterpoint to your view of original sin is very instructive.

      I would suggest looking at original sin from the inverse point. More or less like so:
      Sin and grace are opposites, in that where one is, the other is not. If a person is “half full of sin”, they are half full of grace. If a person is “full of grace”, they have no sin. Sin is separation from God; grace is closeness to God.

      Now, for whatever reason, the ancients found it more useful to focus on sin. I think the modern mind is better served by focusing on grace. So look at it like this: it’s not that Adam and Eve committed a crime so bad that God had to slap their great-great-great-grandchildren in punishment. But rather, Adam and Eve were created with a special grace (one might call it “Original Grace”) which meant that they were, from the beginning, close to God. That Original Grace could have been passed on to their children, in which case their descendants would also be inherently close to God. But Adam and Eve chose to discard that Original Grace, before they had children to pass it on to. Once it was discarded by their own free act, they naturally couldn’t pass it on to their children, so their children were not inherently close to God.

      I’m no theologian or anything, but I think this is within the bounds of Catholic doctrine. When viewed in this light, does the doctrine seem less offensive?

      If you’re interested in pursuing the discussion off-blog, I can provide an email address. If not, s’cool. :)

    • Comment by DaveSomething:

      I for one value your contribution to the discussion. I don’t think I’m alone in that. Granted, the tone gets a little acerbic at times, but the fact that people are spending their valuable time in writing detailed rebuttals shows that your contributions are valued.

      I think the OFloinn’s counterpoint to your view of original sin is very instructive.

      I would suggest looking at original sin from the inverse point. More or less like so:
      Sin and grace are opposites, in that where one is, the other is not. If a person is “half full of sin”, they are half full of grace. If a person is “full of grace”, they have no sin. Sin is separation from God; grace is closeness to God.

      Now, for whatever reason, the ancients found it more useful to focus on sin. I think the modern mind is better served by focusing on grace. So look at it like this: it’s not that Adam and Eve committed a crime so bad that God had to slap their great-great-great-grandchildren in punishment. But rather, Adam and Eve were created with a special grace (one might call it “Original Grace”) which meant that they were, from the beginning, close to God. That Original Grace could have been passed on to their children, in which case their descendants would also be inherently close to God. But Adam and Eve chose to discard that Original Grace, before they had children to pass it on to. Once it was discarded by their own free act, they naturally couldn’t pass it on to their children, so their children were not inherently close to God. Since kids now don’t have Original Grace, grace must be provided; this is normally done via baptism.

      I’m no theologian or anything, but I think this is within the bounds of Catholic doctrine. When viewed in this light, does the doctrine seem less offensive?

      If you’re interested in pursuing the discussion off-blog, I can provide an email address. If not, s’cool. :)

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        Thanks, but my role here appears to have become that of a sort of zoological exhibit. (“Birds, Left – Reptiles, Right – Cretinous Infidels, Ahead”)

        Perhaps that’s the role I’m most suited for, nonetheless it’s not one in which I long to participate.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      At this point, it appears obvious to me that I am seen as contributing little of value to this discussion.

      What? What brought this on?

      I thought we had a deal. I would ask you a question, and if you addressed it, you would continue the dialog, and if you did not address it, you would quit. I took the time to write up a point by point analysis of your answer to show that you had indeed addressed it. Which means you continue.

      Why are you backing out now? Has someone been rude to you? I will chastise them. Have I? It was unintentional and I will apologize.

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        To paraphrase some of my comments in a “parable” as spoken by a resident of the “Land of Crapsack”, “covered with crap” is in fact bloody well insulting, whether intentional or not.

        If I had paraphrased you in such manner you would be perfectly entitled to deny me future posting rights here.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          And you call yourself an atheist. You are supposed to be a paragon of logic alone in a world of superstitious people, who are letting their emotions, their fear of death, overwhelm the crisp, clean, cold perfection of their logic. And yet here you are, so overwhelmed by emotions that you see insults where none is intended, and this conveniently allows you to storm away.

          I apologize, even though no insult was intended, and even though I cannot see what you find offensive. That I used a four-letter word to describe this world? I used to work for a newspaper, including the police blotter, so I used to go through a list of crimes, week after week, which my fellow man perpetrated on each other. Had I had any utopian daydreams about how nice and kind people are, believe you me, that would have cured me.

          • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

            a paragon of logic alone in a world of superstitious people

            Never have I claimed such a thing, unless in clearly understood jest.

            My beliefs are drawn from my life’s experience, are subject to my various biases, and yes, occasionally are touched with emotion. As are those of every man, I expect.

            You might want to read Mr. Ingersoll again, not on the mistakes of Moses, but on the subjects of love and of family. It is there where he clearly stands first among the great non-believers, his lack of philosophical depth notwithstanding.

            I am an atheist who in fact aspires to emulate him in that regard, rather than to become a Randian superman. Perhaps your posts to me reflect misunderstanding of that aspiration.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              In any case, I apologize for having offended you. I assure you it was unintentional, and I humbly ask you to remain and to continue the discussion, which I think is valuable for both of us. I am a rude and coldhearted man, and since becoming a Christian, I have yet to learn the fear of the Lord, and to learn to be polite and warmhearted. My comment was thoughtless. Please forgive me.

              • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                Understood, appreciated, and accepted. Thank you.

                Your description of your previous stand as an atheist has been made perfectly clear to me. I ask only that you consider the possibility that not all of us are as you once were, and in fact I’m saddened that I may be the first such that you have encountered.

                Can we agree that neither party in a discussion of the ultimate questions benefits by taking the position that “You are ignorant, and I am not”?

                (Unless the other party is an acolyte of Hubbard, in which case I feel free to spit red-hot rivets and smile between spits)

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  You are more gracious that I deserve. I will try to be less abrasive in the future.

                  Let me rephrase my parable and my question in a form more pleasing to the ear.

                  Galadriel the Elfin queen was born in the Uttermost West, and gazed in her youth upon the white strand strewn with pearls leading to Mount Everwhite, where the unstained and angelic powers dwell, and the light from the gold trees and the silver in the First Age mingled. For the sake of ambition, and to found her own kingdom, she fled from the perfection of those blessed shores of Aman, and came to Middle Earth, which suffers under the tyranny of Melkor the Enemy, and death and disease and all unhallowed things thrive and multiply. A child of hers is born in Lothlorien, in Middle Earth, and has never seen the Blessed Lands, and the Angelic Powers of those lands has placed a barrier of fogs and enchantment and impassible seas between the Uttermost West and the sad shores of the moral world.

                  But, in their compassion, the Powers have allowed that any ship departing the Gray Havens may indeed find the one straight path back to the homeland of the elder race, and have their tears sponged away. The only requirement is that any crimes or misdeed performed by the elfs while tarrying in Middle Earth be confessed and forgiven, for it so happens, by some mystery the elves do not understand, some greater power from beyond even the Uttermost West, a son of Eru, the One, has been granted power to forgive.

                  Now, imagine this child of Galadriel, call him Gallandus, should reason thus with himself: “I do not know for certain if the tales told by my sire and dame be true of a mountain that is ever white, where the gods in peace and splendor reign, or a farther shore where no sorrow and no warfare ever comes. But for two ages of man, I have marched in battle against the orcs and unclean things of the Dark Lord, and seen sorrows unnumbered, and shed tears, and never again shall bloom for me the glorious trees of my youth I once knew, nor can I find the entwives, whom my ancestors talk the powers of speech.

                  “Suppose the tale is false, what then? Shall I endure the clouded oceans mazed with spells and haunted by monsters to reach no shore? What if only endless wastes, or an hemisphere without solid land, is all the prow of the Last White Ship shall find?

                  “If the Powers were just, they would not have imposed the sentence of my mother’s exile on me: for I was not born when she removed from that long lost world of perfection and came to this middle earth of sorrows. To punish me for my mother’s crimes when I am as innocent as new-fallen snow is gross injustice! And if the Powers are not just, I have no desire to dwell in their happy fields. Indeed, the idea of a power both angelic and unjust is a paradox: I cannot believe that they exist at all, or their homeland of which I have heard tell.”

                  Is there anything wrong with the reasoning of Gallandus son of Galadriel? Can you detect any flaw in his logic?

                  • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                    Nicely (re)told.

                    Clearly Gallandus speaks in error when he claims to as innocent as the new snow. None of us are, you will get no argument from me there. However, that speaks to observation, not to reasoning.

                    To the extent that the principle of “confess your ill deeds and you may take ship for the West” becomes demonstrably self-evident, axiomatic in the manner of “do not turn your back on a wounded orc”, I indeed find Gallandus’ position more difficult to logically sustain. He could hardly claim cosmic injustice in the case of an orkish pike becoming embedded between his shoulder blades.

                    Whether it is axiomatic is of course a different matter.

                    • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                      Something has gone awry between my computer and the WordPress server.

                      Often everything goes swimmingly, but on occasion when I hit “post” I do not get the edit/request delete menu. Instead, I get an “internal server error” and then find my post has appeared for all to see, but with no editing option.

                      Any misspellings or superfluous/missing words may then be blamed by me on an inability to edit the post. Occasionally, this will in fact be the reason.

                    • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

                      A further thought.

                      Your phrasing of the parable does not make it clear that the way to Valinor was veiled as a consequence of Galadriel’s flight, or whether it was an entirely separate occurrence: an immigration law, if you like.

                      If the latter, I agree that Gallandus cannot claim injustice; if the former, I contend that he can.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      I have three questions:

                      First, let us suppose, for the sake of Argument, that the Valar in disgust over the departure of Galadriel, drew a veil around Valinor. You say Gallandus can rightfully claim the Valar have done him an injustice. But Galadriel now has no part nor portion of the bliss of that blessed realm which she forsook. Her son Gallandus is born in after times in Middle-Earth. Logically, he cannot inherit an inheritance his mother forswore, no more than I can inherit a property my father sold to another before I was born. So what claim has he to the lost paradise? By what right can be claim citizenship there?

                      Second, which of the two (a consequence or a separate occurrence) was the expulsion from Eden? Was it a consequence of Man departing from God or a consequence of God exiling Man? Or both?

                      Another way of asking the same question: In what sense is the human condition a punishment?

                      Third, As for the unfairness of it, what is the basis for any complaint? I myself am guilty of rebellion against God, independent of anything Adam has done. What can I point to in my life which proves I am worthy of eternal life, infinite bliss, a crown of gold and angels to bow to me?

                      Again, suppose God wished to re-invite Man back into paradise, so that this unfairness would be alleviated. It is not logical to argue that no such offer should be trusted or accepted on the grounds that the injustice is so great that no alleviation should be accepted, for then where does the injustice lay?

                      In my parable, what happens when Gallandus refuses to consider returning to Valinor? Whose is the blame then?

  15. Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

    I find it difficult to believe that you were not knowingly paraphrasing some of my own comments in the “parable” about the “covered in crap” residents of the “Land of Crapsack”.

    Which “parable”, for that reason, I do find bloody well insulting.

    Had I paraphrased any of your comments in such manner, I would view you as entirely within your rights to ban me from your forum.

    I do not think I have ever characterized believers in general, or Catholics in particular in such terms, here, on any other online site, or in person. I would regret it sincerely if any of my comments had been so taken.

    Is this the way you talk about unbelievers with your co-religionists, when you think we are not listening?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      No, I was not paraphrasing you; I don’t even know what you think I was paraphrasing.

      The “crap” in the parable is sin, and the bath is baptism, and the meal is the Eucharist. I thought that was obvious.

      Sin makes it difficult to hear what someone is saying to you, because a supernatural opposition (and I mean the devil) encourages any message of salvation to be misunderstood. The fact that you misunderstood me here so completely should arouse your suspicion. On any other topic, do you hear people saying what I am saying now, that you have completely and entirely misunderstood me?

      No insult and no mockery was intended, and I apologize for any unintentional offense that was given. What I said was not disrespectful, and I am frankly taken by complete surprise that you took it to be so.

      Think for a moment how odd your accusation is. You are asking me if something I said to you directly was how I speak about unbelievers when they are not listening. Something — and in my opinion, something supernatural — convinced you that what I said to you directly was something I meant to say behind your back, and that I am a hypocrite for not saying it to you directly. Do you understand how odd that logic is? You are using something as said to you directly as evidence that I spoke about you behind your back, that is, indirectly.

      Yes, all Christians believe all humans are sinners. It is the only part of our doctrine that is absolutely and unambiguously beyond doubt or dispute.

  16. Comment by Mario Herrera:

    Mr. Wright,

    I’m a cradle Catholic and like many, I only started to try and understand my faith after Our Father lovingly and patiently applied the gentle balm of the holy two-by-four to my thick skull. I’ve never studied atheism except what is thrown around by the popular media and that has been terribly frustrating. I don’t find atheism itself to be insulting or intolerable. I rather enjoy a good, rational, respectful discussion about God or the absence of such a thing. However, hack-philosophers like Dawkins irritate me to no end because their arguments are about as profound as one of my children complaining about how unfair I am being. Seriously, debating a subject that forms the foundation of human existence at the level of a 4-year-old, THAT is intolerable.

    Oops. Sorry, I lost track of my question. In my mind, it seems impossible for a sane person to live from day-to-day without hope. Do atheists have or acknowledge the existence of hope? If so, to what source do they attribute this radical notion of hope? To my limited knowledge, human beings are the only animal species on Earth that suffer from this affliction. Well, my cat hopes that I will give her food or scratch her chin but I’m not sure that’s the same thing.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I cannot speak for any other atheist aside from myself. Back in the day, I regarded the hope of the theists as mere self-delusion, children hoping for Santa Claus when there was no Santa Claus. The theists hoped for life after death, but no definitive proof could be proven to show there was no life after death (it is not as if an atheist version of Virgil could bring Dante into a nonexistent afterlife and show him it was empty) and so the hope seemed to continue unabated, even though it was irrational.

      Back in the day, I lived without any hope aside from the normal daily hopes one has about daily things. Fear of death, I told myself, was irrational — there is no use in struggling to flee from inevitable things.

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        Do you find that your atheist acquaintances (now and in the days when you numbered yourself in their company) evince despair in their daily lives, or do they face the blankness of the future with fortitude?

        I’m thinking here of the passage in one of C.S. Lewis’ books where he discusses whether Christian hope in God has much to do with hope and joy in daily things.

        I’m sure you know it – he contrasts a Christian woman who is nonetheless a curmudgeonly, friendless recluse with an agnostic who is cheerful, outgoing, and liked by all.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          The atheists in my day did not think much about death one way or the other, and when they did face it, they assumed a front of manly fortitude, or assumed the gaiety of one who feasts at midnight, eating and drinking and making merry, because he dies in the morning.

          The atheists of this generation whine and complain and seem angry at the God in whom they do not believe, and they call people racists.

          There is a considerable gulf between the two.

          When I was an atheist, no Christian was ever rude to me, no matter how impolite I was to them. Now that I am a Christian, perfect strangers of the agnostic bent feel free to utter the most vile and hurtful slanders imaginable, like a maddened mob of orcs. Whether this is due to pure chance of who I happened to run across, or is a coincidence caused by the general degeneration of civility and civilization, or whether this shows some difference in disposition between those who believe in Love and those who believe in Nothing, I am not in a position to say.

    • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

      Do atheists have or acknowledge the existence of hope? If so, to what source do they attribute this radical notion of hope?

      I can’t speak for “atheists”. I can only speak for me.

      I do think that your question is a subset of the questions “What do you atheists think the grand purpose of Man and of the universe is, anyway? How do you know where we came from, and where we are going, without God?”

      I’ve been asked that question a lot of times. And I know quite well that there are atheists who feel compelled to devise a satisfyingly God-free and yet comprehensive response.

      I respond more naively. In the last four decades, I have become moderately educated, done a turn in my country’s service, married a wonderful woman and raised two fine younglings, and established a reasonably successful career.

      All of that while asking myself “what’s it all about” only on the rarest of occasions.
      Most of the times that I have thought about the questions of life, the universe, and everything, it’s been while reading that well-known five volume trilogy.

      Obviously people of faith feel strongly that this is something they have to know. Some non-believers feel the same way.

      I don’t. Is this obtuseness on my part?

      I imagine that I do not have “hope” in the way I think you mean it. Yet somehow this has failed to cause me to fall into despond. I remain cheerful and delight in (most of) what each day brings, and I suspect that if you were to follow me around in a day of work or play, you would find little to distinguish me from the most deeply believing, sure of salvation Christian.

      • Comment by The OFloinn:

        The list of what most people can do without and still get by in their daily lives is a long list indeed. As the Tamil proverb has it, “The child catches the flying snake.” Sherlock Holmes was famously portrayed as knowing nothing of the Copernican model, but as he explained to Watson, it made no difference in his life or work whether it was true or false. I don’t doubt there are Eskimos who are oblivious to the US/Canadian/Danish borders; and my auto mechanic can get by without knowing anything of Darwin.

      • Comment by Mario Herrera:

        Vicq,
        I seem to have made a mistake in my use of the word “hope”. I can see from the various responses that the word”hope” is too broad if not given specific context. My bad. But I do like the interesting conversation it stirred up.

        The “hope” that I had in mind has very little, if any, relation to feelings of happiness or joy or contentment. Without a doubt, there are many millions of Christians, atheists and maybe even anarchists who live lives of great happiness and satisfaction. However, if you were to meet ME on any given day, you might well conclude that I am not a Christian of any sort.

        I fight clinical depression almost every day of my life. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. If my faith in God was based on how happy I felt, I would have whatever the absolute antithesis of faith is. In fact, I would probably be trying to hunt this God person down to tell him how much I hate him.

        Paradoxically, for me at least, the exact opposite is true. The more it hurts, the harder I cling to God and try my best to understand. Don’t misunderstand, I despise depression with all my heart. I ask (beg) God daily to rip that part of me out, whatever the cost. And still, I hold on to my faith and my God as best I can when the really bad days hit. I know something about myself so I know that I don’t come to faith through any great feat of intellect or profound holiness. It’s a gift, pure and simple. It is a gift that I don’t understand and most certainly don’t deserve. It doesn’t cure my depression. It doesn’t lessen my sorrow over friends with cancer or loved ones with Alzheimer’s. It didn’t ease the heartbreak of hearing about the children murdered at Sandy Hook and it certainly didn’t explain why such evil exists in our world.

        But, I HAVE HOPE. Hope tell me that these things should not be. Hope tells me that humans are meant for more than the suffering and injustice that is so pervasive. Hope tells me that there is not just some generic god-thing but an actual and specific God who specifically created ME and specifically loves ME with a depth and ferocity that I have no way to comprehend except from what little I can understand about the sacrifice of Jesus. This seems irrational or maybe delusional. I get that. I’ll never convince anyone that these things are true. Even stranger, I’ve yet to encounter a Christian with faith who believes that they can convince anyone else either. In fact, after 2000 years of study and prayer by some of the greatest minds in history, the Catholic Church still to this day, throws up her hands and calls it “The Mystery of Faith”. So, I don’t really sweat it too much.

        Now that definitely got out of hand but I felt that it was important to try and clarify what I meant when I used the word “hope”.

        On a side note, for anyone that’s interested, grab a copy of Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Monsignor John R. Cihak. This is no Depak Chopra or Joel Osteen “I’m okay, you’re okay” book. This may well be the best book on depression I will ever read. I would add a link but I think you ought to try and buy it from a Catholic book store if you can.

    • Comment by Darrell:

      I have taken your use of “hope” to describe there being a point for life and consciousness and thus a potential for eternal life. If I understood you correctly I have encountered three answers:

      (1) A stated desire for obliteration. Some atheists suggest that they look forward to the day of their cessation and that life would have no meaning without death and the idea of immortality is the very description of hell. My attributions come from memory and so may be wrong but I recall this being the hope of Isaac Asimov, Christopher Hitchens, and Philip Pullman.

      (2) A stated lack of need for hope. Some atheists suggest that they place little or no thought to the matter and that once they die why care? It is not like we will be buried trapped in the dark ground thinking in madness inducing isolation for all of eternity. We will simple cease to exist and won’t even realize that we have ceased to exist so once again, why care? Should eternal life turn out to be true then terrific, but cessation of being really isn’t all that bad to their mind. This is the stated lack of need for hope of my brother and a friend of mine who was once a Roman Catholic.

      (3) Some suggest science will save us! Medicine will continue to extend our lives and eventually we will become more-and-more machine until eventually we make the great leap and our minds are uploaded into the cloud making us virtually immortal. Now this won’t save everyone but fortunately we are right on the cusp and the atheists in question think that they have a really good chance of becoming one of the first immortals — or at least the first Methuselahs. Now to this view there is still the material universe to contend with but give us a few million years as galactic minds and who knows what we’ll accomplish. This was my stated view as an atheist as well as that of the transhumanists, and Eliezer Yudkowsky — at least back when I used to follow him.

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        Well, I cannot deny that I desire that there be a life after death, if only in the rather lightweight manner that makes time-travel stories and the “Riverworld” series so popular. Of course I would love to chat with Cicero, Isaac Newton, or Wilbur Wright, to browse the contents of the library at Alexandria, et cetera, not to mention my departed friends and family.

        And I admit that at times I have “hoped” that such a future may come to pass. But life’s lesson has been that some of my hopes are fulfilled and some are not.

        I had imagined that for a Christian, one does not “hope” for the life to come. One “knows” it is coming and rejoices in it as a fact. Have I gotten it wrong yet again??

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          One advantage of the Catholic faith, is that everything is written down. Here is what Catholics are obligated to believe about hope. Whether this maps on to what you have said about the difference between hoping and knowing, I am not sure.

          Hope

          1817 Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

          1818 The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.
          [...]
          1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end”93 and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.”94 She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

          Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.

        • Comment by Darrell:

          I think that we may be tangling faith and hope. At any rate, I talked a bit in another response to you, which you may not have had the opportunity to read yet, that man and the world that we inhabit is a fallen one and how even when we know what we should do we often choose not to do it — even when this is detrimental to our own well being or the well being of those that we love. The same is true of the fear of our death. A committed believer can still fear his own demise and what awaits (or doesn’t await) him.

          Part of the message that I have been trying to get across is that Orthodox Christianity (and Roman Catholicism though it is not normally presented quite so centrally) is about moving towards God. What we Orthodox Christians call theosis. The act of moving towards God changes us, just as the act of moving away from God changes us, but we still live within an imperfect world and we (who are also imperfect) are daily subject to its trials. Orthodox (the one with the little o Christianity has never hidden this as even the Apostles, which the Holy Bible claims to have witnessed miracles, had their moments of doubt and betrayal. This idea seems often overlooked by atheists who sometimes bastion their disbelief by pointing to imperfect Christians. Heretical or orthodox all Christians (from saints and patriarchs down to me) are all imperfect. That is why we became Christians.

  17. Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

    A quick response to part of your latest post (we appear to be too deeply nested for the reply flag to appear). I’ll ponder the rest of it tonight.

    Another way of asking the same question: In what sense is the human condition a punishment?

    Perhaps in the sense of Genesis 3: 16-19……

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      You mean in the sense that women give childbirth and men have to do productive work for a living? Somehow, I am not seeing the punishment, unless you are saying that female fertility and male productivity deserve to be painless and cost no sweat. If that is the price we pay for not being animals, what right have we to rail against the price?

      Or is the complaint that angels, or unfallen men, do not suffer these pains? Well, I ask again, by what right can I, as a fallen man, claim the reward of unfallen man?

      What injustice has been done me, if I am the son of a mortal man, to be a mortal man myself? I inherit my father’s nature. I cannot claim to be deprived of immortality because I never owned it to begin with.

      If I were an angel, having human nature inflicted on me would be an injustice, if I were innocent of any crime. But I am a man, and Christ says he can inflict angelic nature on me, and make me a god. And you think that is unfair.

      There is some basic unspoken assumption you are making that I do not see. Do you hold God responsible for the sins of man? Well, then you should be pleased that God hung on a cross for three hours and expired in agony, amid jeers and taunts, after being scourged. Has He paid sufficiently for His alleged crime against you?

      • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

        May I try and combine our various back-and-forths into one thread here?

        First, it seems clear to me that the arrival of sin is seen not as the accretion of an evil, but as the discarding of a good. Most of your Middle Earth parable appears to be crafted toward that end. Since I am a skeptic about the very concept of sin, I see no reason why I should dispute this point, and I can discuss it as if that definition is a given.

        So let me return to your statements and questions, in an approximate chronological order.

        (Gallandus) cannot inherit an inheritance his mother forswore, no more than I can inherit a property my father sold to another before I was born. So what claim has he to the lost paradise?

        I do not see this as an entirely fit analogy. When my father sells a tangible property, he is selling something finite. It is not possible for more than one person to hold title to the same property at the same time, therefore he clearly forgoes the possibility of deeding the property to me. But the “lost paradise” is infinitely shareable, is it not?

        I myself am guilty of rebellion against God, independent of anything Adam has done.

        Why, and how?

        Can not Gallandus fairly say, “Those elven-queens who remained across the western sea remain there in bliss to this day. So indeed do their children and their children’s children. The fact that I have been constrained to toil and battle here in the world of Men, (dedicated to the struggle against the Enemy, I might add!!) is no more a failure merited by me, than their blessed status is a success merited by them.”

        It is not logical to argue that no such offer should be trusted or accepted on the grounds that the injustice is so great that no alleviation should be accepted, for then where does the injustice lay? ………..what happens when Gallandus refuses to consider returning to Valinor? Whose is the blame then?

        It’s not unknown in human history for men to refuse to accept a reward for themselves when they believe that their fellows, or those they have determined to protect, have not been similarly treated. Is this “logical”?? To a utilitarian, of course not. But those who have done so have often been regarded as heroes.

        Somehow, I am not seeing the punishment, unless you are saying that female fertility and male productivity deserve to be painless and cost no sweat. If that is the price we pay for not being animals, what right have we to rail against the price?

        The only reason I can comprehend for the pain of human childbirth is the evolutionary explanation that the human braincase was on a different track than the human pelvis. To consider that pain anything but a biological coincidence seems to me horrific, and I would not willingly inflict it upon the wickedest of women. Do you think that the inventor of the epidural anesthetic has rebelled against the will of God, and would you therefore withhold that anesthetic from your wife or daughter?

        Do you hold God responsible for the sins of man? Well, then you should be pleased that God hung on a cross for three hours and expired in agony, amid jeers and taunts, after being scourged.

        If God so planned the world so that a fall into sin was likely, and that a crucifixion therefore would be required, I would say rather that men cannot be blamed for that crucifixion.

        Which is another way of stating the questions I now pose to you.

        Do you think that it was possible, at the creation of man, that he in fact could have averted the fall?

        Did God know that the fall would take place?

        • Comment by Darrell:

          Yes, man could have chosen (and could choose now) not to sin and therefore fall but he wouldn’t and he won’t. You wouldn’t pass the test (which wasn’t a test but I need an analogy) that Adam and Eve failed nor have you.

          Yes, God knew that man would fall (sin). By having free will it is inevitable that man will choose to sin with it.

          Yes, to answer your unasked question, God could have made man so that he wouldn’t sin. Why do you think he didn’t? And no, this is not a rhetorical device.

          Man is Adam and Eve. Jesus Christ and the Theotokos are the New Adam and the New Eve. When we sin we are given an endless multitude of chances for grace and opportunities to strive towards theosis. We reject most of them. Scrupulously catalog for a full day all of the things that you did or thought that you plainly realize were wrong — the need not be moral monstrosities but simple mundane lies, failures of charity, procrastination, cruel thoughts, etc. — and see if you do not sin even when there is no discernible gain. Perhaps your number will be zero and if so then Christianity is alien to you and there would be no way for even the wisest scholar to explain it so that it would make sense. If you arrive at a number then multiply that by 7 and then by 52. This would be the times you might sin in a year even upon paying strict attention to your actions.

          I do have a question that your points brought to mind. Do you blame your parents for the punishment of providing you life?

        • Comment by Patrick:

          “To consider that pain anything but a biological coincidence seems to me horrific, and I would not willingly inflict it upon the wickedest of women.”

          I thought you mentioned somewhere that you have children; if this is so, you are no stranger to ‘inflicting’ undeserved pain on a woman. The fact that you did this, with full knowledge, shows you are either a.) a monster, or b.) something like one, and that your wife is either a.) the most wickedest and most air-brained of all women, or b.) someone with a passing resemblance to her.

          If you knew it would hurt, and you did it anyways, it was evidently – obviously, I hope for your family – for some great good, and one that can’t come out any other way. When you held your first child for the first time, fully dull and doubting as most of us are, you did not look upon the aftermath of your wife’s noisome “biological coincidence”, but the contrary in its epitome; you swaddled the whole great human theme, brought within your hearing.

          When Christians talk of God, and His fatherhood, we mean that God is Our father – that we believe He held us, senseless then and almost senseless now, and loved us, better than we love our own children.

          If you are a father, you must know in your heart how great is your responsibility and how little your power. Ants are more fit for their tasks; they carry home ten times their weight, but can you shrug the weight of one of your daughter’s burdens? They be heavy or light to her but to her father, they are immensities; we cannot move them. We are defenders and providers and we so often are worse than useless. We fathers have not strength enough to save our children any amount of suffering.

          Could an omnipotent God have averted the Fall? This is a strange question – if my old father loved me more, would I be a better man today? What if he disciplined me more? Would I be more resolute, less cruel in my youth? If my God loved me more, would he have allowed me to suffer and cause suffering? Aren’t these questions of the same, craven kind?

          No, a Christian is taught to call God as his father, our lives as His benevolence, and our nature as his kindness. We are well taught; a cretin, an unworthy man, would hand away his just-born daughter and turn to his wife in fear, to cringe and beg his wife’s forgiveness for her pains, and like so is a man who, in the moment of our greatest gift, would turn to his God question that He acts out of love.

          To speculate, before Christians, that God has planned his own crucifixion to be just so, and expect agreement, is like asking if we think yellow and teriyaki futons oscillate the same amount of justice in a windbasket. To ask if we think that God knew the Fall would take place is to ask OJ how the real killer might feel if he found out that Kato and Nicole were maybe kind of more than just friends, you know whatever because Nicole’s great and all but I’m just saying.

          These are not the kinds of questions we have to ask ourselves. It is not our ignorance, but our knowledge, that makes them imponderable.

          • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

            Several posts ago, I suggested that

            “…. is my concept of “wrong” so different from God’s, that what is entirely right for him can nevertheless be entirely wrong for me at the same time?? In that case, we are truly wandering into terra incognita, for me at least…”

            Is this terra incognita that you think I should try to explore??

        • Comment by Patrick:

          “To consider that pain anything but a biological coincidence seems to me horrific, and I would not willingly inflict it upon the wickedest of women.”

          I thought you mentioned somewhere that you have children; if this is so, you are no stranger to ‘inflicting’ undeserved pain on a woman. The fact that you did this, with full knowledge, shows you are either a.) a monster, or b.) something like one, and that your wife is either a.) the most wickedest and most air-brained of all women, or b.) someone with a passing resemblance to her.

          If you knew it would hurt, and you did it anyways, it was evidently – obviously, I hope for your family – for some great good, and one that can’t come out any other way. When you held your first child for the first time, fully dull and doubting as most of us are, you did not look upon the aftermath of your wife’s noisome “biological coincidence”, but the contrary in its epitome; you swaddled the whole great human theme, brought within your hearing.

          When Christians talk of God, and His fatherhood, we mean that God is Our father – that we believe He held us, senseless then and almost senseless now, and loved us, better than we love our own children.

          If you are a father, you must know in your heart how great is your responsibility and how little your power. Ants are more fit for their tasks; they carry home ten times their weight, but can you shrug the weight of one of your daughter’s burdens? They be heavy or light to her but to her father, they are immensities; we cannot move them. We are defenders and providers and we so often are worse than useless. We fathers have not strength enough to save our children any amount of suffering.

          Could an omnipotent God have averted the Fall? This is a strange question – if my old father loved me more, would I be a better man today? What if he disciplined me more? Would I be more resolute, less cruel in my youth? If my God loved me more, would he have allowed me to suffer and cause suffering? Aren’t these questions of the same, craven kind?

          No, a Christian is taught to call God as his father, our lives as His benevolence, and our nature as his kindness. We are well taught; a cretin, an unworthy man, would hand away his just-born daughter and turn to his wife in fear and rue, to cringe and beg his forgiveness for her pains, and like so is a man who, in the moment of our greatest gift, would turn to his God question that He acts out of love.

          To speculate, before Christians, that God has planned his own crucifixion to be just so, and expect agreement, is like asking if we think yellow and teriyaki futons oscillate the same amount of justice in a windbasket. To ask if we think that God knew the Fall would take place is to ask OJ how the real killer might feel if he found out that Kato and Nicole were maybe kind of more than just friends, you know whatever because Nicole’s great and all but I’m just saying.

          These are not the kinds of questions we have to ask ourselves. It is not our ignorance, but our knowledge, that makes them imponderable.

        • Comment by John Hutchins:

          Question for you: Is it right for a government to order the death of criminals? Is it right for a government to defend itself in time of war? Are there not cases where a government is entirely right in killing a person where as if a single person did the same thing they would be entirely wrong in doing so?

          So how exactly is this idea that the Government of the Entire Universe should have actions which are entirely right for Him while if you did the same thing it would be entirely wrong for you terra incognita? If we can debate the morality of the death penalty or the morality of different types of war and then deny that God can do even the same things then we are giving more moral authority to an often (and by this by design of the founders) incompetent congress then we do to the All Knowing, which seems very odd.

          I am not Catholic or anything similar to orthodox in terms of Christianity so my answers wouldn’t line up with the others here.

          According to my faith the lost paradise is something that we have chosen to leave, each individually and shouted for joy at the prospect of being able to grow further and progress.

          Everyone is guilty of sin because everyone has done things which they themselves know to be wrong (and knew at the time to be wrong) and so we are condemned of ourselves, we have all rebelled against what we know to be right independent of anything Adam did.

          The reward is offered to all freely, refusing to take it because someone else has refused (or one thinks they have) is not heroism but rudeness.

          My wife hasn’t had an epidural either time because she didn’t want it for a variety of reasons from the potential health problems that can be caused by an epidural to the cost of an epidural to other reasons that she would have to explain. It isn’t a sin but epidurals do have risks involved and are highly correlated to leading to C-sections (which themselves have huge risks involved) so there are many women who independent of their husbands choose to not get an epidural and are very proud of that.

          God planned for the fall and planned for a Savior for us. The fall not only allows us the capability of sin but also of growth and repentance, which prior to the fall sinning involved being cast out of heaven with no chance of return. Jesus never sinned but He like us lived in a fallen world and in a mortal body showing to us that it is possible to live without sinning, so we are responsible for our own sins. Jesus fully choose to suffer and die for our sins and so it is a gift that He offers to us to save us from our sins, if we refuse then we are taking responsibility for both our sins and for His suffering, crucifying Him anew in our hearts and making us even more blameworthy.

          Averting the fall would have meant that we would have for ever lived in a state of ignorance never progressing and never knowing joy because we would not know misery, yes we would have remained in Paradise but we wouldn’t really have known what that meant because we wouldn’t know anything different. The fall allows us to experience both misery and joy so that if we choose to return to paradise we will have a fullness of joy and know what it is we have obtained.

          Again, I am not Catholic and so what I say about the fall and atonement is not the same as what they say. I am LDS, and there have been plenty of times where the debate has turned into an LDS-Catholic debate just as (or more so) vigorous as anything else here.

          • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

            If someone tells me that “God is defined as the exclusive source of good, therefore everything God does is good by definition” I can’t really dispute that, nor can I mentally process it as a statement of cause and effect. That’s what I meant by “terra incognita”

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              Every good thing does come from God and everything God does is good. This is true.

              There are a pieces where the LDS understanding is different, perhaps. God is not defined as the exclusive source of good, we are all agents to ourselves to choose good or evil. God is theoretically capable of not doing good but in doing so God would cease to be God. Jesus Christ, who is a member of the Godhead, was born as all of us are born and had the option to sin as we all have the option of sin but He choose not to; if He didn’t have the option of sinning then His temptation has no meaning and Him being sinless is irrelevant; that is He would be amoral instead of the most moral.

            • Comment by Patrick:

              This is not the claim being made by Christian orthodoxy; God is the source of goodness, not because God says so, but because He does so. This is not formulated in terms of cause and effect, but a syllogism.

              And again, in Genesis, God calls His creation good; his angels call him ‘holy’. God’s goodness is ours to reject, but is not defined for us and imposed – this is not what is meant when St. Paul says that His law is written on our hearts. Jesus himself asks us, as He asked Pilate, who do we say that He is? Knowing God’s goodness is a possibility afforded to lovers and philosophers, not inductivists.

            • Comment by The OFloinn:

              If someone tells me that “God is defined as the exclusive source of good, therefore everything God does is good by definition” I can’t really dispute that, nor can I mentally process it as a statement of cause and effect.

              But God is not defined as the source of Good. It’s a deduction from First Mover as a being of pure act. Such a being is necessarily singular for the obvious reason and, being singular, is the primary motivation of all powers and all goods.

              Suppose there were a second source of goods. The First Mover would be in potency to the goods of this second source. But First Mover is in pure act and not in potency to anything. Hence, there cannot be a second source. Hence, First Mover is the exclusive source of goods. Modus tollens.

              Hope this helps.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            This is an area where most Christians would agree: that God is sovereign, that His justice is correct, that we all of us have participated in the sin of Adam and fell with him, and we any of us may participate in the death and resurrection of Christ, the new Adam, and undo that terrible primordial disaster.

            “Everyone is guilty of sin because everyone has done things which they themselves know to be wrong (and knew at the time to be wrong) and so we are condemned of ourselves, we have all rebelled against what we know to be right independent of anything Adam did. The reward is offered to all freely, refusing to take it because someone else has refused (or one thinks they have) is not heroism but rudeness. “

            Well said. When I was an atheist, I thought Christians disagreed with themselves and with other faiths about nearly everything. As a Christian, I see small, if very painful, points of disagreement between the various denominations and heresies and schisms, and between the Christian, Jew, and Pagan, only three questions of significance: the nature of Christ, the number and nature of God, and the question of reincarnation versus resurrection.

        • Comment by Pierce O.:

          Do you think that it was possible, at the creation of man, that he in fact could have averted the fall?

          Well, let’s consider:
          *Axiom: Man’s ability to choose, to reason, is what sets him apart form other biological entities such as plants and animals.
          Now, drawing from Christian scripture and Catholic teaching, since you are asking about the Christian God.
          *God creates Man with a will: Man may freely choose which course of action he desires to take.
          *God is supreme goodness. By definition, He is what Man ought to choose. However, because Man can choose, he can also choose not-God. This free decision to reject supreme goodness is what we call The Fall.
          *The only sure way that God could stop Man from choosing to reject Him would be to remove Man’s capacity for choice. God might present Man with all manner of good things and delights to show His love for Man, but Man could still choose to walk away from it all.
          *If God removes Man’s will, Man ceases to be Man as we understand him. He would be just another animal.
          *Therefore, God cannot avert the possibility of The Fall of Man. This is no mark against His omnipotence, however, because it is a logical impossibility. It is like asking if, at the moment of creation, God could make Man not Man.

          Further, God continues to respect the freedom He has created in Man by allowing Man’s choices to lead to their consequences, short term and long term. Man would not be truly free if God simply undid every action of Man’s that He didn’t like. For this reason, God, out of respect for Adam’s freedom and the long ranging consequences of his choice, allowed Adam to transmit his mortal state to his descendants. God was not punishing Adam’s children, just respecting Adam’s decision. Only the consequences of another man’s free act (the consequences of which God would have to respect to the fullest) could bear against Adam’s and “overpower” it; God could not just hit the cosmic undo button without doing injustice to Adam. So God became a man. And the consequences of His act of self-sacrifice as a man included “give mankind a way to escape mortality”. Thus Adam’s freedom was respected while God made a way for Adam’s children to not suffer the consequences of their father’s deed. This is, in a nutshell, the God Christians believe in, and He sounds rather just and fair to me.

  18. Comment by robertjwizard:

    As pure hokum as the notion that a monkey once gave birth to a human baby?

    Yes, one day out of nowhere a chimpanzee queefed out a human baby, and they gathered around and called it the Immaculate Selection.

    That is exactly how it is taught in school – by Ms. Garrison on South Park. Back in reality however…

    There are problems with evolutionary theory, but your laughable caricature is not one of them.

    Frankly I have never thought evolution poses any kind of threat to religion or the conception of God at all. It touches it not one bit. I think, years ago, playing devil’s advocate, I spent all of a minute going around evolution as some sort of bulwark to religion, while tossing daisies and whistling the theme to The Andy Griffith Show.

    Do we get to tar him with the silliest notions on his own side, too? …

    We? Sides? This isn’t some sort of goddamned football game to me, Mary. There is truth and then not truth – those are the sides – not your overgrown version of a high school locker room.

    And the answer is yes, tar away, but please grow up.

    We were speaking of a specific type of belief – the 6/24 day creation, and the 6000 year old Earth. There are individuals who subscribe to this belief. It was this sort of belief that Mr. Ruiz was suggesting turns people away, or spreads discouragement. And in a more malevolent way so does the Westboro Baptist Church (are they on “your side”?).

    • Comment by robertjwizard:

      Damn it, I let Mary stir my kettle again!

    • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

      the 6/24 day creation, and the 6000 year old Earth. There are individuals who subscribe to this belief

      Here in this online community of (mostly) thoughtful Catholic and Orthodox, it may seem that this is a tiny sect, as suggested by mentioning them in the same breath as Westboro.

      But if any here are not willing to take me at my word, I can easily point to where they can be found in droves. They will look you straight in the eye and tell you that if you do not believe in a young earth and six day creation, you are effectively denying the whole Bible and hell-bound without a doubt.

      My personal thought about theistic evolution is that it does seem to imply that God indulged in a lot of false starts and blind alleys along the way……

      …and whoa Nellie, I now see that I did not respond to a question you asked a couple of days ago!!

      Did you mean to express the idea that intelligent people form one class, and Christians form another so that no member of the class of Christian is present in the class of intelligent?

      By no means. Indeed, even the young-earth creationists number intelligent people among their ranks. Intelligence is no bar to the holding of an occasional ridiculous or fanatical idea.

      • Comment by Darrell:

        I have met more than a few actively unpleasant Christians and probably an equal number of actively unpleasant atheists — in fact I was one of the latter. I will say that in person most people (atheist or Christian) even when wacky are far less likely to make the “cunning” and “brutally honest” remarks that the distance of the Internet seems to make them feel are appropriate.

        • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

          Some of the actively unpleasant remain so even after conversion to or from faith, of course. (You are not numbered in that company!)

          I like to think of myself as a not unpleasant atheist and trust that if my beliefs would change I would not be an unpleasant believer. To that end I solicit constructive criticism of my conduct even more than of my opinions.

      • Comment by Patrick:

        “They will look you straight in the eye and tell you that if you do not believe in a young earth and six day creation, you are effectively denying the whole Bible and hell-bound without a doubt.”

        Is this mean?

        • Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

          Is it ill intended? Certainly not. These folks sincerely desire that those with whom they disagree not go to hell.

          Does it achieve its desired end? Again certainly not, at least in the cases of which I am aware. The most open-minded agnostic or deist, the sincerest seeker after truth, may hear this message and say, “Well, if the most readily observed conclusions of geology, astronomy and biology are irreconcilably at odds with the Christian faith, then indeed that faith must be a mere myth and I must seek elsewhere”.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            “Well, if the most readily observed conclusions of geology, astronomy and biology are irreconcilably at odds with the Christian faith, then indeed that faith must be a mere myth and I must seek elsewhere”.

            But no one in his right mind says that. That is only something which lazy atheists addicted to strawman arguments say.

            When I was an atheist, I never dismissed the Christian theology on the basis of Christian biology, because, except for some few lunatic heretics nowhere near the maninstream of Christian faith, Christianity says nothing one way or the other about biology, and it requires an extraordinary mental effort to misinterpret the Bible to make it say so.

            Now, to you, those lunatic heretics and believers in Atlantis are the core of Christianity, and the mainstream Protestants, the Catholics, and the Orthodox Churches are a fringe so small you need not concern yourself with them.

            You live in fantasyland. Back here in the real world, it is Christendom, and no one else, who invented those sciences, and Christianity, and no one else, who established the metaphysical assumptions about the nature of reality and the nature of cause and effect under which those sciences make sense. Everything else is pseudo-science: Lysenko, Nazi Racial Science, Global Warming, hoo-haw and mental lint. Even Chinese and Arabic scientists tacitly have to assume a non-Buddhist Christian understanding of the persistence of external reality and a non-Islamic Christian understanding about the nature of secondary causes in order for their process of science to make sense.

            There is no “elsewhere” to look for truth aside from the truth.

          • Comment by Patrick:

            “the sincerest seeker after truth”

            Good people with neutral premises build bad arguments all the time. What sincere seeker of truth – what not-very-smart, not-very-honest part-time combox philosopher – would not give his time generously to figuring out the difference between a poorly-argued truth and a badly-premised argument?

            And again, poor arguments certainly achieve their desired end – your evidence is your own experience. You’ve apparently met lots of people are who have been convinced by the arguments they offer you, which seem incomprehensible. And you here have not yet made your arguments comprehensible, though we’re all trying to understand you, part of the time.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        I know you didn’t. The question was rhetorical, simply pointing out that a possible interpretation is not necessarily the interpretation. And so phrased it in the most clear-cut manner possible.

        It could have been possible, merely by sentence structure, that that is what you did mean to say. Context is extremely important, and you have not, at least in my reasoning, given cause, context, for such a foolish classification as you were accused of.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Frankly I have never thought evolution poses any kind of threat to religion or the conception of God at all.

      Properly understood, it does not. Improperly understood, however, it does, and not because it offends literal six-day creationists, but because it implies that categories of being (plant, animal, man, angel) do not have distinct boundaries in them, but segue through shades of gray from one to the next, making all categorization (and hence, ultimately, all thought) illogical and impossible.

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