• Can we choose what we believe?

    Isn´t it interesting how the same argument can be very powerful and persuasive for some people while being completely uninteresting for others? The problem of evil is one of the most powerful arguments against the existence of an all-loving God for many Atheists, but I never cared much about it. I´m not sure why, maybe because I never believed in a God anyway, for other reasons, so speculations about what an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God would or would not do always seemed kind of moot to me. But nevertheless, I recently thought about the problem of evil when I had a discussion with our local young earth creationist JohnM. And I think I came up with an unusual variety of the problem of evil (I´m pretty sure that others came up with similar arguments before, but if so – I haven´t seen it or have forgotten about it, feel free to point out other varieties of this argument in the comments).

    The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20 (NIV)

    What the apostle Paul is writing here would be proven wrong by the existence of just one honest Atheist. Either every single Atheist on this planet is lying about his beliefs – actually believing in the existence of God but denying it, or Paul was making stuff up. If the Christian God indeed does exist (and is omnibenevolent), this statement by Paul has to be 100% true and accurate however, let me explain why.

    Whether you believe in libertarian free will or not, it is immediately obvious that what you believe in is not a choice. If you disagree – are you sure that you could simply choose out of the blue to genuinely believe in something ? Are you sure that you could just decide to genuinely believe that the moon is made out of green cheese? Are you sure that you could just decide to genuinely believe that 2+2=42? Are you sure that you could just decide to genuinely believe that Elvis Presley was resurrected from the dead? You can´t. Try it if you don´t believe me.

    Our belief-forming mechanisms operate subconsciously. You can of course change your mind on things, by reading, hearing new arguments, seeing new evidence, discussing it with others and so on – but you can´t just choose one of your beliefs, and start to genuinely believe in its negation out of the blue. And the accuracy of a claim has very little to do with the easiness of persuading you that the claim is indeed accurate. Our minds employ many heuristics and if you understand these heuristics, you can easily convince many people to believe in the most absurd claims. This is frequently exploited by con-artists and Scientology is a very good example for that.

    What does all that mean for the problem of evil? It means that you cannot simply decide to genuinely believe in the divinity of Jesus. You could be persuaded by arguments or by thinking about the issue, but you can´t just choose to believe it. How could an omnibenevolent God allow such a situation? An omnipotent God could easily create a world in which Romans 1:18-20 would be true – a world in which God´s existence and the divinity of Jesus are as obvious as the existence of your biological parents. But he did not (unless you believe that every single Atheist actually does believe in God and simply lies about it).

    There are many different beliefs about hell from the literal fire-and-brimstone-eternal-conscious-torture hell over annihilationism to hell just being a metaphor. But which interpretation of hell a Christian has does not really matter, all that matters is that believing in Jesus is somehow good for you – and that seems to be something that all Christians can agree on. So, no matter which interpretation of hell, if the Christian God exists, he punishes people who do not believe in him for something that they could not choose to do otherwise.

    When I raised this point in a discussion with JohnM, he tried various approaches to weasel himself out of the issue. For example by insisting that salvation requires “putting your trust in Jesus” and this would be something that everyone could choose to do, he tried to illustrate this with an example:

    I’m out shopping, on a bicycle. I need to go into a store, and I can’t bring my bike. A man walks up to me, and offer me to hold the bicycle for me, while I’m inside. I decide to put my trust in him, and accept his offe ( I believe in him being sincere ).
    But when I come out, he has run off with my bike. Now, I have good evidence that he is not to be trusted.. So I go out to buy a new bicycle, and return to shop, to get what I came for in the first place. When I arrive at the shop, there is the man again, and he says that he’s really sorry about having stolen my bike. And again he offers me to hold the bicycle, while I’m inside shopping. So…
    Could I believe this man? Despite having doubts about the trustworthiness of this man, and having considerable evidence that he can’t be trusted, could I actually decide to give him a second chance, and choose to believe in him being sincere, this time around?

    This objection however is moot. If you do not believe in the divinity of Jesus, there is no motivation to “put your trust in him” and if you don´t believe in his resurrection as well, there is no one trust, because you don´t believe that he exists anymore. You cannot “trust” someone if you don´t believe that this someone exists! JohnM seemed to realize this and ultimately tried to argue along the line that Atheists are actually aware of God´s existence and are just lying about it:

    That is the bible’s definition of “atheism”. Dishonest fools who deny what is clearly seen in creation.

    Does this make sense? The logical conclusion of this belief is, that Atheists are fully aware that an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God exists but choose to deny that, no matter the consequences. The absurdity of this belief should be obvious (but apparently is not to people like JohnM).

    Category: EpistemologyPhilosophical Argument Against GodProblem of EvilUncategorized

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    Article by: Andreas Schueler

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    • Clayton Flesher

      I gave a presentation on this to our local atheist group a while back. Here is the video of it.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRjxLVi4OH0&feature=plcp

      • Hi Clayton. Thanks for popping by. I am listening to your talk now. Cheers!

        • ~Andy – that is pretty much what you were saying, though with more philosophical establishment.

    • BethAnnErickson

      Great post. You touched on one of my pet peeves: those who say, “when did you decide to quit believing in god?”  That sentence drives me mad. It was never a decision, it was a realization that actually felt quite good when I realized I didn’t have to engage in mental gymnastics anymore. Thanks for sharing.

      • Thanks for the feedback, Beth. /i have not had a chance recently to do my regular trip round SIN to see the great offerings – apologies!

    • TristanVick

      I think education is a big factor, both in terms of how one formulates their beliefs and in how they go about analyzing their beliefs.

      Religious people are usually very comfortable formulating beliefs, but very rarely do they check them to see if they can be justified. I think this simply has to do with certain systems of religion making it harder for one to question their belief sets, but also partially because people usually don’t know how to go about it.

      For any belief proposition to be assumed true it has to be built up with support. What we typically see, however, are believers coming to some set conclusion about an *assumption which they *desire to be true because some experience one has had, for whatever reason, has cause them to lean in the direction of it being genuine. To them it seems like the “God given truth.” So they make the assumption without actually testing the belief.

      I often like to point out the fact that just because a person believes something to be true doesn’t necessarily make that belief *actually true. Belief assumptions about any proposition which cannot ultimately be falsified cannot be proved in any meaningful way, and so could not be considered “true” in any respect.

      It is herein where religious believers always seem to jump the gun, so to speak.

      They are making a false assumption about the validity of their belief, thinking it is true, because that aligns with their agenda, rather than seeking to prove the claim and thereby justify the belief.

      The problem with metaphysical religious assumptions are that they are entirely without support, so those like your friend here end up using metaphors and analogies to paint a scenario where their assumption would make sense in light of the fact that they are absent any real evidence to validate their underlying belief assumptions.Yet by this standard one could technically believe in anything, if they wanted. The reason you seem to point to it being difficult to simply invoke belief in something, is because as a philosopher, you realize the key differences between belief and faith. Belief consists of a proposition which has the potential to be proved either truth or false. A faith based claim/belief, on the other hand, doesn’t always have this prerequisite. In fact, many things taken on faith don’t need proving, which allows the believer to accept their faith based belief as true, regardless of having to justify it.When I talk about faith, I always have in mind unjustifiable beliefs. Whereas when I talk about belief, I am referring to the realization that assumptions of belief propositions are probably true or false. The religious often conflate the two, it seems, because they don’t see any different, or more likely, haven’t looked close enough to realize their is a subtle, yet distinct, difference in the varieties of belief we are talking about.

      • Interesting points, Tristan. 

        This is a good article about doxastic voluntarism (the notion that people have control over what they believe – problematic at best).

        I think that people have a threshold over which evidence has to push them in order to believe a particular proposition. One cannot control the belief when the evidence pushes over that threshold, or stays under.

        However, the question becomes as to whether we can push that threshold around voluntarily. In denying free will anyway, it is obvious where my beliefs lie.

          • Andy_Schueler

            That was a very interesting article!
            I´m not surprised that there seems to be a consensus that direct doxastic voluntarism (I hope I manage to remember that term :-D ) cannot be universally true. The arguments for it are very weak IMO:

            Before Sam left for his office this morning, Sue asked him to bring from
            his office a particular book that she needs to use for preparing her
            lecture the next day, on his way back home.. Later Sue wonders whether
            Sam will remember to bring the book. She recalls that he has sometimes,
            though not often, forgotten such things. But, given the thought that her
            continuing to wonder whether he’ll remember to bring the book will make
            her anxious all day, she decides to stop fretting and decides to
            believe that he will remember to bring the book she wanted.

            => This simply doesn´t work in real life, Sue might stop thinking about it because the thought worries her too much, but Sue could not choose to believe that Sam will most likely bring the book if she currently believe the opposite.

            We have started on a trip by car, and 50 miles from home my wife asks me
            if I locked the front door. I seem to remember that I did, but I don’t
            have a clear, detailed, confident memory impression of locking that door
            (and I am aware that my unclear, unconfident memory impressions have
            sometimes been mistaken). But, given the great inconvenience of turning
            back to make sure the undesirability of worrying about it while
            continuing on, I decide to continue on and believe that I did lock it.

            => Same as above – and this is an example I can relate to because I frequently worry about whether I locked my car or my office door or not. Sometimes I stop thinking about it but I cannot choose to believe that I most likely locked the car door when I actually believe the opposite.

            • Which /i think was also critiqued in the article by differentiating belief from acceptance:

              Ginet surely seems correct in noting that people have experiences in which they are (at least moderately) anxious about the truth of some proposition, when the evidence they have for the proposition is ambiguous, and they alleviate their anxiety by electing to act as if the proposition is true (or false). Thus, to rebut Ginet’s argument, critics would have to show that what people do in such cases is not decide tobelieve. But how else such cases can be described? If such people are not deciding to believe, then what are they deciding to do? A quick survey of the philosophical literature on the nature of belief suggests two possible lines of reply. First, someone might be able to rebut Ginet’s argument by showing that that the kind of cases to which Ginet refers are cases not of believing a proposition, but of accepting a proposition. According to this line of rebuttal, the person understands the proposition and decides to act as if the proposition is true for some practical purpose, but (unlike in cases of believing) the person neither affirms nor denies the proposition (see, for example, Buckareff 2004; cf. Bratman 1999; Cohen 1989, 1992). Second, someone might be able to rebut Ginet’s argument by showing that the kind of cases to which he refers are cases not of believing a proposition, but of acting as if a proposition is true (see, for example, Alston 1989, 122-7; cf. Steup 2000). According to this second line of rebuttal, the person decides to act as if the proposition is true for some practical purpose(s), regardless of whether the person understands the proposition, and of whether he or she affirms, denies, or suspends judgment about the proposition. (For a related discussion of another of Ginet’s cases, see Nottelmann 2006.)

    • JohnM

      Jonathan : I recently thought about the problem of evil when I had a discussion with our local young earth creationist JohnM.

      AhhH! That guy.. He’s such a jerk  ;D

      Jonathan : What the apostle Paul is writing here (Romans 1:18-20) would be proven wrong by the existence of just one honest Atheist. Either every single Atheist on this planet is lying about his beliefs – actually believing in the existence of God but denying it, or Paul was making stuff up.

      Lying about it, deceiving themselves about it, having been deceived by others about it or having been brainwashed to interpret the evidence in a framework, that completely obscures what they’re actually telling us. I think there’s a multitude of options, really.

      Jonathan : Are you sure that you could just decide to genuinely believe that Elvis Presley was resurrected from the dead?

      Well.. If someone tells you, that it is so.. And adds, that you’re a stupid retard, if you don’t agree with him.. And you allow yourself to be influenced by that, and therefore accepts it to be the case, without questioning it, or investigating it further… Then it is quite possible to walk around and believe that, without ever having been challenged on it…

      And let’s face it.. The masses of atheists in Europe today, are not challenged, like most believers are. Most atheists merely follow the flow, and the flow does not question their own.

      Jonathan : What does all that mean for the problem of evil? It means that you cannot simply decide to genuinely believe in the divinity of Jesus. You could be persuaded by arguments or by thinking about the issue, but you can´t just choose to believe it.

      I agree.

      Jonathan : But which interpretation of hell a Christian has does not really matter, all that matters is that believing in Jesus is somehow good for you – and that seems to be something that all Christians can agree on. So, no matter which interpretation of hell, if the Christian God exists, he punishes people who do not believe in him for something that they could not choose to do otherwise.

      Well, all people already knows of God’s existence, by observing the universe that we live in, according to the bible.

      As for Jesus Christ… the way the bible uses the word belief, is rather different from the way you use it.

      Imagine that your basketball coach walks up to you, just before an important match, and tell you “I believe in you”. Is he telling you that he is a firm believer in your resistance? No, not at all. He’s telling you, that he has faith in you, and places his trust in you.

      In the same way, believing in Jesus Christ for salvation, is not a matter of believing in his existence, as such. It’s a matter of having faith in the gospel. It’s a matter of placing ones trust in Jesus Christ, for salvation.

      Now imagine that you’re standing on a frozen lake. There’s ice on the lake. You know that it’s dangerous. Your friend is standing on the other side, calling for you. If you choose to cross, you do so, because you believe that the ice will hold. You’re entrusting your life, to your friends assessment that the ice will hold. You place your faith in, that the ice will carry you over the deadly ice-cold waters.

      That’s what it means to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. And anyone can do it, regardless of what doubts the person may have. But one could also allow oneself to be overcome by disbelief and fear, and choose not to cross the lake at all.

      JohnM: That is the bible’s definition of “atheism”. Dishonest fools who deny what is clearly seen in creation.

      Jonathan : Does this make sense? The logical conclusion of this belief is, that Atheists are fully aware that an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God exists but choose to deny that, no matter the consequences.

      Of course it makes sense. Just look at how much time these atheists spend on arguing against God :P

      • Andy_Schueler

        Lying about it, deceiving themselves about it, having been deceived by others about it or having been brainwashed to interpret the evidence in a framework, that completely obscures what they’re actually telling us. I think there’s a multitude of options, really.

        Alright so all atheists are either liars or have been deceived by others. Meaning that they either choose to be punished for all eternity or are sent to hell for being gullible. 
        Makes total sense. 

        Well.. If someone tells you, that it is so.. And adds, that you’re a stupid retard, if you don’t agree with him.. And you allow yourself to be influenced by that, and therefore accepts it to be the case, without questioning it, or investigating it further… Then it is quite possible to walk around and believe that, without ever having been challenged on it…

        Translation: not a choice, and the gullible fool who fell for this nonsense is sent to hell for being gullible. 

        And let’s face it.. The masses of atheists in Europe today, are not challenged, like most believers are.

        You are being “challenged” for the same reason a flat-earther is being challenged.

        Well, all people already knows of God’s existence, by observing the universe that we live in, according to the bible.

        We don´t. And if you believe we lie about this, prove it. 

        In the same way, believing in Jesus Christ for salvation, is not a matter of believing in his existence, as such. It’s a matter of having faith in the gospel. It’s a matter of placing ones trust in Jesus Christ, for salvation.

        I already dismantled that objection in the OP. You can´t “place your trust” in something you don´t believe in. Try to put your trust in Santa, you´ll see what I mean. 

        Now imagine that you’re standing next to a frozen lake. There’s ice on the lake. You know that it’s dangerous. Your friend is standing on the other side, calling for you. If you choose to cross, you do so, because you believe that the ice will hold. You’re entrusting your life, to your friends assessment that the ice will hold. You place your faith in, that the ice will carry you over the deadly ice-cold waters.

        This is in no way, shape or form analogous to the issue we are talking about. 
        The correct analogy would be: you are standing on a frozen lake and know that the ice will not hold you much longer. Now you remember a story that you once read about Santa Clause saving people in such a situation, but only if you genuinely believe in Santa Clause. And “rescuing” in this case means that you die in the lake, but your “spirit” would live on in Santa´s invisible magic toy factory on the north pole, without any possibility to interact with living humans.
        Now the analogy makes sense. 

        That’s what it means to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. And anyone can do it

        As I just explained, this is bullshit. 

      • Andy wrote the piece, not me – hence his author name at the top!

    • JohnM

      Also:

      Jonathan : So, no matter which interpretation of hell, if the Christian God exists, he punishes people who do not believe in him for something that they could not choose to do otherwise.

      People are not punished for not placing their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. People are free to choose to reject Jesus Christ and the gospel. Rather people are judged according to their own actions:

      Revelation 20:13 :
      The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

      • Andy_Schueler

        People are not punished for not placing their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. People are free to choose to reject Jesus Christ and the gospel. Rather people are judged according to their own actions:

        You are so incredibly predictable….
        But thanks for confirming my prediction from the other thread – “you will ignore everything we said, pretend that your bullshit has not already been refuted many times and repeat your lies in a new thread ad nauseam.”
        http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/06/are-we-born-depraved/#comment-734666415

    • JohnM

      Oh :) Allow me to quote Homer Simpson: Doh!

    • JohnM

      Andy_Schueler :

      you will ignore everything we said, pretend that your bullshit has not already been refuted many times and repeat your lies in a new thread ad nauseam.

      Well I could say the same thing about you..

      And of course I’m going to repeat my refutations of your flawed logic, as long as I don’t accept your silly arguments.

      Free thinker.. What a joke. Try dark age dictator of “truth”.

      This would imply that your actions in some way shape or form affect the “judgment” you receive by God. Based on your previous comments, you believe they don´t.

      But that’s a clear lie.

      I do believe, that people are judged according to their actions, and therefore their actions does effect the judgement. And there’s 2 types of rulings that the judge can make.. Guilty or innocent.

      If ‘s’ would be the set of all the actions a human has done in his life, you believe that the human will definitely be found guilty

      Well, all sinners will be found guilty. There’s no doubt about that.

      Just like a murderer will be found guilty of murder, regardless of how many flowers he has given to old ladies.

      and will definitely be sentenced to eternal torture no matter which actions are, or are not, in s.

      But that’s flawed logic.. If people are judged according to their actions, then their actions clearly affect the the judge’s rulings.

      Ergo, actions are completely detached from judgment.

      No. You’re confusing the judge’s rulings, with the sentencing. Those 2 things are always 2 separate issues in law. First comes the judge’s rulings.. ( Guilty or not guilty ). And then comes the punishment ( X time in prison or whatever ).

      And really, the sentencing is no different from the one we commonly use..

      1 brutal murder = Prison 4 life
      5 murders = Prison 4 life
      20 accidental murders = Prison 4 life
      77 murder spree Breivik style = Prison 4 life

      All that could possibly make a difference is believing an embarrassingly stupid fairy tale

      No at all. I would think it to be rather obvious, that no embarrassingly stupid fairy tales, could make any difference.

      It’s only if the gospel is true, that giving your life to Christ, and trusting in him for your salvation, makes any difference,

      your actions are completely irrelevant.

      Actions are far from irrelevant. For starters, repentance is a requirement.

      Mark 1:15
      “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

      Furthermore, a tree is required to bear good fruit

      Matthew 7:19
      Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

      A faith without works, is an empty and dead faith – James 2:14-26

      • Andy_Schueler

        JohnM, you are a lying piece of shit and I´m done wasting time on you.
        You didn´t “refute” anything, you repeat the same bullshit you´ve written in other threads verbatim without even trying to address any of the countless refutations that other´s have provided.
        Every single sentence you´ve written in your last comment was refuted in the comments on this thread:
        http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/06/are-we-born-depraved/
        If you think you can dismantle our refutations to your bullshit, try it – but no one is interested in reading the same lies over and over and over again. Try something new.

      • Andy_Schueler

        But that’s a clear lie.
        I do believe, that people are judged according to their actions, and therefore their actions does effect the judgement. And there’s 2 types of rulings that the judge can make.. Guilty or innocent.
        ….

        Well, all sinners will be found guilty. There’s no doubt about that.

        Alright, since you clearly are incapable of thinking logically, let´s go through the implications of some of your beliefs. You believe:
        b1: “all humans are sinners.” ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/06/are-we-born-depraved/#comment-734314207 )
        b2: “all sinners will be found guilty” (see above)
        b3: “Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime. And there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin. Sin is sin.” ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/06/are-we-born-depraved/#comment-731608913 )
        b4: “All sins are eternally wicked. Sin = Eternal Prison4life.” ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/06/are-we-born-depraved/#comment-734314207 )
        b5: “The first round consist of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and saviour. They are raptured from this earth, and judged, according to whether they have repented of their sins, changed their life, according to their faith, and whether their tree has bought fruit, And if they have walked in the footsteps of Christ, then the blood of Christ covers them, and they are looked upon with mercy.
        Then comes the second round. And here all the wicked sinners, who rejected Gods salvation plan for them, are judged according to their own actions.” ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/06/are-we-born-depraved/#comment-734129822 )

        From these set of beliefs follows:
        c1: Since all humans will sin (b1), all humans will be found guilty (b1+b2), meaning that it can not be humanly possible not to be found guilty (= maximal injustice).
        c2: All “sins” are equal (b3 + b4) – you lying to your girlfriend by telling her that she totally doesn´t look fat in her new dress is just as bad as Hitler´s genocides. Again, maximal injustice.
        c3: No matter what a human does in his life, he cannot avoid “sinning” (b1) and cannot avoid being found guilty (b2). No matter how trivial the offenses (e.g. a litle girl lying about taking something from the cookie jar), the punishment is always eternal torture (b4). The only way to avoid eternal torture, is “mercy” for those that  believe in the same fairy tales that you do (b5). Ergo, actions are completely irrelevant and you believe in a God that is maximally, perfectly unjust.

        And really, the sentencing is no different from the one we commonly use..
        1 brutal murder = Prison 4 life5 murders = Prison 4 life20 accidental murders = Prison 4 life
        77 murder spree Breivik style = Prison 4 life

        1. There is no such thing as “accidental murder” you moron – a murder requires planning (malice aforethought). What you mean is either negligent homicide or accidental killing – you don´t get a life sentence for those crimes. 
        2. A life sentence rarely means that you spend your entire life in prison, you are usually eligible for parole after ~15-20 years.
        3. Unless you want to argue that brutal murder is just as bad as stealing something from the cookie jar and lying about it, this is all moot anyway. If you want to argue for why a perfectly just God would punish all “crimes”, no matter how trivial, equally (equally = infinite torture for even the most trivial offense), be my guest. 

    • WetCoastAtheist

      Quad facepalm for JohnM the YEC, amazing really.  The depth of his delusion is making my small gathering here laugh and point as we read his responses.

    • JohnM

      Andy_Schueler :

      c1: Since all humans who ever lived and those who have yet to be born will sin (b1), all humans will be found guilty (b1+b2), meaning that it is not humanly possible to be found “not guilty”

      That’s flawed logic.

      If you bring 200 serial killers before a judge, and all are found guilty based on overwhelming evidence of their wicked crimes, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to be found not guilty. I just means, that they all happened to be serial killers, guilty of the crime that they were charged with.

      All men are sinners. All who faces the judge, will be found guilty. Not because it’s impossible to be found “not guilty”. But because they are all guilty of the charge.

      c2: All “sins” are equal (b3 + b4) – you lying to your girlfriend by telling her that she totally doesn´t look fat in her new dress is just as bad as Hitler´s genocides.

      There can be no justification for lying.. Lying is immoral. Period.

      c3: No matter what a human does in his life, he cannot avoid “sinning”

      Inconsistent with what we read in the bible. Jesus was human. And he was without sin.

      You’re basing your flawed logic on the false doctrine of original sin, contradicted by the bible itself.

      • Andy_Schueler

        Hmm… let´s see what happens when we substitute “serial killers ” by “little girls that stole from a cookie jar and lied about it ” and ” little monsters” in your comment and see what happens:

        If you bring 200 little girls that stole from a cookie jar and lied about it before a judge, and all are found guilty based on overwhelming evidence of their wicked crimes, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to be found not guilty. I just means, that they all happened to be little monsters, guilty of the crime that they were charged with.

        This substitution is completely valid, it´s still an accurate representation of your views since you belief that all sins are equal ( “Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime. And there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin. Sin is sin.” ).  I could also substitute “serial killer” by “men that lied to their girlfriends by telling them that they totally don´t look fat in their new dress” or any other “sin” – no matter how trivial, you believe they are all equal.
        But since you are only talking about murderers, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of all people are not murderers (only ~5-100 out of a million are, depending on the country you look at), it seems obvious that you subconsciously realize how ridiculous your beliefs are.

        All humans are sinners. All who faces the judge, will be found guilty. Not because it’s impossible to be found “not guilty”. But because they are all guilty of the charge.
        ….
        Inconsistent with what we read in the bible. Jesus was human. And he was without sin.

        I see, so Jesus allegedly had a diverse set of magical superpowers, like walking on water, creating food ex nihilo, magically curing the sick etc. and since he managed to be “without sin”, every other human could accomplish the same. 
        Interesting, kind of like commanding your little son to walk on water and torture him to death if he fails to do so. It´s only fair – Jesus was human and he could walk on water so everyone else should be able to do the same amirite ?!

        There can be no justification for lying.. Lying is immoral. Period.

        Right, hiding some Jews in your basement and lying to some Gestapo officers about it is not only immoral and not justifiable, it is also just as bad as Hitler´s genocides and should be punished with eternal torture. 
        Again, nice moral views you got there.

    • JohnM

      Keep in mind what Jesus said:

      Luke 18:16
      “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

      Also keep in mind, that there was no knowledge of God and Evil, before eating of the tree.

      Does little children understand the concept of good and evil? No, not at all. They are innocent, until they reach a certain age, where they loose their innocence.

      • Andy_Schueler

        Keep in mind what Jesus said:
        Luke 18:16
        “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Good belongs to such as these.”

        You said earlier “all humans are sinners” ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/06/are-we-born-depraved/#comment-734314207 ) you also said that “Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime. And there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin. Sin is sin.” ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/06/are-we-born-depraved/#comment-731608913 )
        NOW you are contradicting yourself and suggest that “humans” does not include children and (apparently) that a little girl taking something from the cookie jar and lying about it did NOT commit an “eternally wicked crime” (your words) deserving of punishment by eternal torture. You can´t have it both ways – if “all humans” are sinners, children are as well, because children ARE humans (if you think that children are not “sinners”, when do children stop being children ? Would it be an “eternally wicked crime” for a girl that´s 18 years old but not for one that´s a second younger than that ?) 
        Also, if there is ” no such thing as a big sin or a small sin.” then all “sins” are equal(!), either you stand by this statement, which implies that taking something from the cookie jar and lying about it is just(!) as bad as Hitler´s genocides, or you have to retract it. Currently you seem to believe both – and you don´t seem to care about your beliefs being full of contradictions. 

        Also keep in mind, that there was no knowledge of Good and Evil, before eating of the tree.

        So you believe that Adam & Eve were punished for doing something that they couldn´t possibly know to be wrong – yet another example of your God being perfectly unjust. 
        And if your God punishes Adam & Eve for something that they couldn´t possibly know to be wrong – what would stop him from punishing little girls for taking something from a cookie jar ? That would be equally unjust. 

        Does little children understand the concept of good and evil? No, not at all. They are innocent, until they reach a certain age, where they lose their innocence.

        So you don´t actually believe your earlier statements that “all humans are sinners” – apparently only those that understand what they are doing (which excludes quite a lot of people actually, not only children but also all adults that are not accountable for their actions (for whatever reason – drug abuse, insanity, you name it)). 
        You do realize that this absolutely contradicts pretty much everything you said earlier about “sins”, “judgment” and “punishment” ?

        So to suggest that little children are evil and immoral monsters… I think you’ve lost your connection to reality.

        LOL. Awesome dude ;-).
        You run around posting outrageously stupid statements like “all humans are sinners”, “there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin, sin is sin” and even suggest that lying to your girlfriend by telling her that she totally doesn´t look fat in her new dress is an “eternally wicked crime” that is deserving of eternal punishment involving infinite conscious torture in “hell”. And when someone points out the absurd implications of your beliefs YOU accuse them of having lost connection to reality ? Awesome…. Seriously, I doubt that you could have made a bigger fool of yourself. 
        Maybe you should reflect on your beliefs for a few weeks and try to work out the many contradictions, the cognitive dissonance must be quite painful for you. 

        • This is where a cursory reading of the philosophy of morality is needed – something we picked up when he demanded an account for objective morality.

          He has assumed Kantian Categorical Imperatives and then fallen for the Inquiring Murderer problem.

          Of course, God and Jesus deceive many people in the Bible through their own admission. This can only be described in a consequentialist context, thus disproving his Kantian position again.

    • JohnM

      Andy_Schueler :

      You said earlier “all humans are sinners”

      And I’ve said that Jesus was without sin. But he was a human once.

      And I’ve said that people are NOT born as sinners.

      So therefore, I’m obviously exclude some from the group I’m talking about. Such as children.

      Just like the bible will often talk about “all men”, but mean all grown up human beings, including women.

      Also, if there is “no such thing as a big sin or a small sin.” then all “sins” are equal(!), either you stand by this statement, which implies that taking something from the cookie jar and lying about it is just(!) as bad as Hitler´s genocides, or you have to retract it.

      I’ve never said that stealing from a cookie jar, was just as bad as Hitler’s genocides. That was our own flawed logic. At least keep track of your own gibberish.

      What I’ve said, is that Sin is Sin. Just as wrong is wrong. And right is right.

      There’s no big wrong. There’s no small wrong. Wrong just is wrong.

      So you believe that Adam & Eve were punished for doing something that they couldn´t possibly know to be wrong

      God told them not to eat from the tree, and warned them, not to eat from the tree, or surely they would die.. And having been warned, the would have know that it was wrong.. But they wouldn’t have know what it would bring of consequences for them, as they wouldn’t have been familiar with the concept of sin and death..

      So you don´t actually believe your earlier statements that “all humans are sinners”

      Well, I could rephrase it and say: All human beings, who live to become a certain age, become sinners though their own actions, at some point in life. Is that easier for you to understand?

      Also, it implies that no Atheist will go to hell.

      No atheist have read the 10 commandments?

      No atheist understands the 10 commandments?

      No atheist is aware that God condemns adultery as sin?

      No atheist has ever consciously lied about something?

      No atheist knows right from wrong?

      Just think about how ridiculous your claims are….

      In my experience, Atheists tends to know more about the bible, than the clueless masses that walks around claiming to be followers of Christ, without having the slightest clue, what we actually read in the gospel.

      And therefore you will be completely without excuse, should you one day stand before God. And you’re fully aware of that.

      • Andy_Schueler

        And I’ve said that Jesus was without sin. But he was a human once.
        And I’ve said that people are NOT born as sinners.
        So therefore, I’m obviously exclude some from the group I’m talking about. Such as children.

        So, your statement “all humans are sinners” was bullshit – I´m not surprised. And you exclude children from “humans” – you should think about who else you want to exclude, if children get a free pass, what about people that are insane or mentally retarted ? And when do children stop being children ? 

        I’ve never said that stealing from a cookie jar, was just as bad as Hitler’s genocides.

        You are either lying or you are too stupid to understand your own words.
        You said:
        There can be no justification for lying.. Lying is immoral. Period.” ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/12/can-we-choose-what-we-believe/#comment-737311371 )
        And you said: 
        “Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime. And there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin. Sin is sin.” ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/06/are-we-born-depraved/#comment-731608913
        Ergo, you believe that stealing from a cookie jar and lying about it is just as bad as Hitler´s genocides.
        So, what is it – are you lying or just stupid ? 

        God told them not to eat from the tree, and warned them, not to eat from the tree, or surely they would die.. And having been warned, the would have know that it was wrong..

        And again, you are either too stupid to understand your own words or you are lying. 
        You just said earlier:
        “Also keep in mind, that there was no knowledge of Good and Evil, before eating of the tree.” ( http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/12/can-we-choose-what-we-believe/#comment-738625993 )
        And now you argue that Adam & Eve could have known that disobeying God would have been wrong before eating from the tree. It can´t be both.
        Again, what is it – are you too stupid to understand your own words or are you lying ? 

        Well, I could rephrase it and say: All human beings, who live to become a certain age, become sinners though their own actions, at some point in life. Is that easier for you to understand?

        Ok, so you give up on your original bullshit and try something new. That´s progress. But your new bullshit still contradicts many of your other bullshit statements….
        Let me help you –  humans are born free of “sin”, but will inevitably become sinners at an unspecified age. The only eceptions are the mentally retarted, the insane, and the people who are not accountable for their actions for other reasons. And one other exception – Jesus. Who, despite his alleged numerous magical superpowers, was a human being. And it totally would be possible not too sin, but none of the billions of humans (except for the magic virgin-born dude) who ever lived or is going to live will accomplish that. But It´s still totally their own fault because they could have done the same as the human-omnipotent-God-magical-superman (just like they could create food ex nihilo, walk on water and magically cure the sick, but by pure chance – none of the billions of humans beside Jesus will ever accomplish that). 
        There – still complete bullshit, but at least the contradictions to your other bullshit are gone. You´re welcome. 

        No atheist…

        You don´t believe in atheists. Remember – we all do believe in your God but lie about it.

        And therefore you will be completely without excuse, should you one day stand before God. And you’re fully aware of that.

        Since you believe that we do believe in your God but choose to rebel against it – we are clearly insane and not accountable for our actions for the same reason why a little child is not accountable for it´s actions.
        In your worldview, self-proclaimed atheists would be like a guy that tries to stop a moving train with his bare hands (well, make that an infinitely fast and infinitely heavy train – since we are consciously rebelling against an omnipotent God) – clearly insane and not accountable. 
        Yet another contradiction in your ridiculous worldview – have fun working that one out. 

      • Andy_Schueler

        And another very big contradiction that you should work on JohnM. You say:

        I’ve never said that stealing from a cookie jar, was just as bad as Hitler’s genocides. That was our own flawed logic. At least keep track of your own gibberish.

        So, it seems as if your views are evolving to a point where you no longer believe that all “sins” are equally bad (remember your earlier statement that you apparently no longer believe in: “Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime. And there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin. Sin is sin.”).
        So, if Hitler´s genocides are actually more wicked than a guy lying to his girlfriend by telling her that she totally doesn´t look fat in her new dress (instead of both being equal – “eternally wicked”) why do both get the exact same infinite punishment ? You have three ways to resolve this contradiction:
        1. Believe that your God is infinitely unjust.
        2. Believe that your God does not apply infinite punishment for every sinner, no matter how trivial and harmless his offenses were.
        3. Stop believing in bronze age fairy tales. 

    • Richard Edwards

      I take issue at this claim, JohnM: “And let’s face it.. The masses of atheists in Europe today, are not challenged, like most believers are. Most atheists merely follow the flow, and the flow does not question their own.”

      Atheism in Europe is on the rise (http://www.scienceandreligiontoday.com/2012/05/30/is-atheism-increasing-at-the-expense-of-theism/) despite the fact that atheists themselves seem not to be reproductively self-maintaining (e.g. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100010450/a-nightmare-for-richard-dawkins-statistics-show-that-atheists-are-a-dying-breed/). Then of course there are sites like RDF’s “convert’s corner” (http://old.richarddawkins.net/letters/converts).

      Many, many atheists are just like me – people who grew up deeply religious until the lies and sheer nonsense of it all became too much. Even then, I am sure that many (like me) went on claiming/wishing that they believed long after belief was gone until they finally accepted reality. (The reality that belief was impossible whatever the desire, I mean.) Not only have we been challenged but finding peace with ourselves often comes at the cost of conflict with friends and family. 

      And what about those outside Europe? In some countries, it comes at the cost of conflict with society, employers and the law. 

      Your claims go beyond ignorance have danced in the land of insulting and offensive. You have absolutely no right to claim that anyone else has taken their beliefs (or lack thereof) less seriously than you or had them challenged less than you: indeed, I have honestly changed my beliefs in the face of challenge. Have you?

      Why is it that most religious people all over the world follow the faith of their parents? Is it the belief-challenging environment that churches/mosques/synagogues/temples provide? Do you even realise how backwards your argument sounds?

    • JohnM

      Jonathan MS Pearce :

      Of course, God and Jesus deceive many people in the Bible through their own admission.

      What do you actually mean by that statement?

    • Richard Edwards

      Andreas et al, I totally agree that you cannot choose what to believe, you can only choose whether to have an open or closed mind. You can definitely bias yourself in a certain direction by immersing yourself in arguments one way or the other but eventually there comes a point that, however much you want to, you just cannot honestly believe in something despite a lack of evidence and/or in face of evidence to the contrary.
      When I was a Christian, my solution (for a while) was to come to conclusion that salvation was universal. This already seems to be the solution argued for those that die before receiving the “Good News”. The problem with this, of course, is that it begs the question: what is the point of THIS life?

    • JohnM

      Andy_Schueler :

      You don´t believe in atheists. Remember – we all do believe in your God but lie about it.

      a·the·ist :
      a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheist

      • Andy_Schueler

        Right, you don´t believe in Atheists – you believe we are all just lying about not believing in your God. 
        Enjoy thinking about the many contradictions in your ridiculous worldview – I already helped you to get rid of some of them, you have to work out the rest yourself.

    • JohnM

      Atheism = Denial and dis-belief

      • Andy_Schueler

        Why do you keep repeating your own flawed logic?

        Because you are either lying or too stupid to understand your own words:
        Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime. And there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin. Sin is sin.”
        You seem to be embarrassed of your own words… you know that you could just admit that this was bullshit and retract your statement, right ? 
        If not, I´ll keep pointing out that you believe that stealing something from the cookie jar is just as bad as Hitler´s genocides because that is the logical consequence of your statement. Whether you are too stupid to realize that or not.

    • JohnM

      Andy_Schueler :

      Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime… There.. I said it again..

      And I’ve explained to you, how it adds up perfectly with what I’ve said.

      IF you still don’t get it, then it’s not my fault.

      If not, I´ll keep pointing out that you believe that stealing something from the cookie jar is just as bad as Hitler´s genocides…

      You’re welcome to sit there and tell lies about me. After all, that’s what you tend to do on this blog, anyway… “JohnM said this.. JohnM said that.. Oh my poor little ego.. Someone hurt it”.

      Just let it go man.. Clearly, you can’t handle it.

      …because that is the logical consequence of your statement.

      That is your own flawed logic. Not mine.

      • Andy_Schueler

        Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime… There.. I said it again..And I’ve explained to you, how it adds up perfectly with what I’ve said.

        Nope, I explained it to you:
        Stealing something from the cookie jar = eternally wicked.
        Murdering six million jews = eternally wicked.
        Eternally wicked = eternally wicked.
        “Wickedness” of stealing something from the cookie jar = “wickedness” of Murdering six million jews.

        And now you claim that you actually explained how this statement does not totally contradict many of your other bullshit claims. 
        And this time, you are clearly not too stupid, but consciously lying – you could prove me wrong by linking to your alleged explanation. But we both know that it doesn´t exist. Liar. 

        You’re welcome to sit there and tell lies about me. After all, that’s what you tend to do on this blog, anyway… “JohnM said this.. JohnM said that..

        And now you are consciously lying again, because you know that I always quoted you verbatim – I didn´t add anything, I even linked to your bullshit. 
        Liar.

        What is wrong with you ? Your dishonesty is staggering, even compared to other YECs.

      • Andy_Schueler

        That is your own flawed logic. Not mine.

        Let´s try it one last time. You say:
        Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime. And there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin. Sin is sin.”
        and you stand by it.
        One logical consequence of this statement is that stealing something from the cookie jar and lying about it is just as bad as Hitler´s genocides. And here´s why:
        p1: Lying and stealing is a “sin”.
        p2: Lying and stealing is always and under all circumstances a sin, context is irrelevant. (“There can be no justification for lying.. Lying is immoral. Period.” – your words)
        p3: Murdering six million jews is a “sin”.
        p4: All sins are “eternally wicked”.
        p5: “Eternally wicked” is equal to “eternally wicked” (Law of identity)
        From the five premises follows (among other things):
        c: The “wickedness” of stealing something from the cookie jar and lying about it is equal to the “wickedness” of murdering six million jews.

        You keep on insisting that this is “flawed logic”. But you never explain why. If you think this is illogical, you have the following options:
        1. Demonstrate that one or more of the premises 1-4 is NOT included in your statement (“Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime. And there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin. Sin is sin.”).
        2. Demonstrate that premise 5 is invalid (which requires you to demonstrate why the law of identity does not apply here).
        3. Demonstrate that the syllogism is not sound (i.e. show that the conclusion does actually not follow from the premises).

        If you can´t do any of that, you can either concede that the syllogism is sound (which means that your beliefs logically entail that stealing something from the cookie jar and lying about it is just as bad as Hitler´s genocides) or you can repeat your empty accusations that this is “flawed logic” (“empty” because your statement lacks an actual argument).

        Btw, the frustration and pain you feel when you think about that is called “cognitive dissonance”. You are holding beliefs that strongly and obviously contradict each other (e.g. “My God is perfectly just” and “Every sin, is an eternally wicked crime. And there is no such thing as a big sin or a small sin. Sin is sin”).
        Since these beliefs, despite their obvious contradictions, are very dear to you, and you don´t want to give up any of them because you are emotionally too invested in them being true, you feel frustrated because thinking about it makes the contradictions obvious and you can´t explain them away without lying to yourself and to others.
        The frustration will get stronger and stronger – the only way to end this is being honest to yourself and admit that your beliefs are inconsistent (i.e. they logically cannot be all true – law of non-contradiction).

    • JohnM

      I’m not having any more of this disgusting personal bullshit.

      I’ll just end by pointing out, that your actions betrays your lies..

      If you actually believed half of what you’re telling me, then you would consider this topic, as unimportant, as I consider Santa Clause’s judgement.

      • Andy_Schueler

        I’m not having any more of this disgusting personal bullshit.

        I know, the cognitive dissonance hurts quite a lot doesn´t it ? But there´s hope. All you have to do is start being honest with others and especially yourself – you´ll get rid of the contradictory bullshit in your worldview and the pain will go away.

        I’ll just end by pointing out, that you’re actions betrays your lies..

        It´s “your actions”, “you´re” is short for “you are”.

        If you actually believed half of what you’re telling me, then you would consider this topic, as unimportant, as I consider Santa Clause’s judgement.

        It´s quite simple, we invest time in debunking bullshit proportionally to the number of people that believe in the respective bullshit.
        That´s why we spend more time debunking christianity than we spend debunking homeopathy. And we spend more time on debunking young earth creationism compared to geocentrism (well, some YEC´s are geocentrists but what the hell). And more time on debunking Islam compared to mormonism. And more time on chemtrails compared to bigfoot. And so on.

    • JohnM

      Andy_Schueler :

      One logical consequence of this statement is that stealing something from the cookie jar and lying about it is just as bad as Hitler´s genocides.

      The ignorance of that statement, is alarming.

      Genocide is not a sin as such. Genocide consist of:

      6 million murders
      x million people forced to starve
      x million people beaten and abused
      x million people having all their possession stolen
      And so on..
      And so on.

      To count a genocide as 1 single sin..  I mean.. One really begins to winder, if you’re just completely mad.

      p3: Murdering six million jews is a “sin”.

      No. It’s 6 million sins.

      And 2 sins ( lying and stealing ) does not even begin to compare to the x million sins, committed during a genocide.

      Therefore, to say that stealing a cookie, and lying about it, is just as wicked as Hitler´s genocide, is utterly insane.

      All sins are “eternally wicked”.

      And therefore all sinners, who come under judgement, will go to hell for eternity. Regardless of them being guilty for 1 eternity. Or 6 million eternities.

      Why? Because it’s only possible to serve 1 eternity.

      So the liar and the thief will serve an eternity in hell.

      Just as Hitler will serve an eternity in hell.

      —-

      “They get the same jail time.. So they are given the same punishment”

      No not at all. Once again you have demonstrated your inability to reason about these things.

      Life in prison is not necessarily the same as life in prison.  The hardship in an American Jail, or a Chinese Jail, is bound to be much different from serving a jail time in say, a Scandinavian Jail. Jail isn’t just Jail. All Jails are different.

      So why would anyone think, that Hitler’s Eternity in hell, will be the same experience, as a thief’s eternity in hell?

      • Andy_Schueler

        Oh, completely missed this reply:

        No. It’s 6 million sins.

        To count a genocide as 1 single sin..  I mean.. One really begins to wonder, if you’re just completely mad.

        You believe that all sins are “eternally wicked”, so let´s compare:
        6000000 * infinity = infinity.
        1 * infinity = infinity. 
        Ergo, you believe that taking something from the cookie jar is just as bad as Hitler´s genocides. Is that really so hard to understand ? 

        And 2 sins ( lying and stealing ) does not even begin to compare to the x million sins, committed during a genocide.

        You believe they are equally wicked, you are just too dumb to understand that six million times infinity is not greater than one times infinity. 
        You also believe that the punishment for both is equal. 

        Therefore, to say that stealing a cookie, and lying about it, is just as wicked as Hitler´s genocide, is utterly insane.

        Well, I wouldn´t call your beliefs “insane” (maybe a little…. roughly on par with what a scientologist believes), you are just incapable of applying elementary logic to them.

        And therefore all sinners, who come under judgement, will go to hell for eternity. Regardless of them being guilty for 1 eternity. Or 6 million eternities.
        Why? Because it’s only possible to serve 1 eternity.
        So the liar and the thief will serve an eternity in hell.
        Just as Hitler will serve an eternity in hell.

        So we agree, you think the little girl that takes something from the cookie jar and lies about it is just as wicked as Hitler and will get the exact same punishment as Hitler.

        No not at all. Once again you have demonstrated your inability to reason about these things.
        Life in prison is not necessarily the same as life in prison.  The hardship in an American Jail, or a Chinese Jail, is bound to be much different from serving a jail time in say, a Scandinavian Jail. Jail isn’t just Jail. All Jails are different.
        So why would anyone think, that Hitler’s Eternity in hell, will be the same experience, as a thief’s eternity in hell?

        Imagine a scale where 1 corresponds to the mildest possible kind of torture and 10 to the worst kind of torture possible. 
        Now compare one times infinity with ten times infinity. That´s right, both are equal – the little girl that took something from the cookie jar gets the same punishment as Hitler.

        I know, the consequences of your beliefs are not pleasant – because they reveal that you believe in a God that is maximally evil and maximally unjust. You´ll have to learn to live with that or you can keep lying to yourself.

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