• The ‘Why I am a Christian’ series – Vincent Torley of Uncommon Descent (Part 1)

    After having looked at Randal Rauser’s reasons for being a Christian, and having had my reasons and his defences intensely debated on his blog, I would like to offer Dr Vincent Torley’s account. Some readers may know Vincent from the Uncommon Descent website which attempts to refute evolution. I have argued with him at length when I used to write for John Loftus more often at Debunking Christianity. Here is his bio:

    Vincent Torley is originally from Geelong, Australia. After obtaining a B.Sc., a B.A. and a B.Ec. from the AustralianNationalUniversity (all at no cost to himself), he worked for several years as a computer programmer in Melbourne, during which time he obtained an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Melbourne. In 1999, he moved to Japan to take up a job as an English teacher, returning to Australia for a year in 2001 to complete a Dip. Ed. in high school teaching before going back to Japan, where he has resided ever since. He obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Melbourne in 2007, while studying in Japan. He currently teaches English in high schools, as well as teaching English conversation and business English. He is married and the father of a seven-year-old son. His personal Web page is at http://www.angelfore.com/linux/vjtorley/index.html

    I have split this up into two parts as it is pretty lengthy (whilst he didn’t have that many paragraphs, he made them massive!). I have also taken it upon myself to split it into Points so that it makes it easier to reference. I hope both of these actions are OK with Vincent.

    Please make every effort to have a civil and discursive back-and-forth. I hope some interesting discussion can be had. Thanks to Vincent, as it takes some guts to put your beliefs in the firing range, but it is what we should all do. Over to Vincent:

    Before I explain why I am a Christian, I’d like to address the problem of evil. The world we live in is filled with all manner of appalling (and pointless) evils, and in most cases, we have no satisfactory explanation as to why an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent Creator would permit these evils to continue, for even one moment. At the same time, there’s no proof that the existence of these evils is logically incompatible with there being a God. There isn’t even a probabilistic argument; for if there were one, then it should be able to provide us with a mathematical estimate for the likelihood of God’s existence (or at least, an upper and lower limit). What we have instead is a strong prima facie argument against the existence of God. It’s an emotionally powerful one, but we need to recognize it for what it is: an argument from incredulity. We cannot imagine how a good God could make or even allow a world like this to exist, in which so many people (and sentient animals) suffer so needlessly. Rather than answer that question, let me quickly point out several flaws in the argument.

    Point 1

    First, it implicitly assumes a static model of evil: there is evil, and there is God, and we are asked how the existence of the two can be reconciled. But the world is a changing place. What we need to ask, then, is whether the changes occurring in the world comport with what we’d expect of a morally good Deity. And to answer that question, we’d need to know a lot more about the world than we know now.

    Point 2

    Second, the argument assumes that God can get the job of removing evil done in no time. Maybe He can’t. Just because we can mentally picture an omnipotent being instantly abolishing evil by Divine fiat (“Let there be no more suffering!”), that doesn’t mean it’s possible in the real world. Maybe it’s not that simple, even for God. Maybe freeing the world from evil necessarily takes quite some time.

    Point 3

    Third, the argument assumes that the only relevant duty that God might have vis-à-vis creatures is the duty to prevent them from suffering when there’s no good reason for them to do so. But if God has other kinds of duties towards creatures as well, then we have to at least consider the possibility that these duties might get in the way of Him removing pointless evils from the world, all at once. Perhaps it would be bad for us if He were to do that – perhaps even worse than it is now.

    Point 4

    Fourth, the argument assumes that God’s duties vis-à-vis creatures are determined purely by their nature, as sentient and/or sapient beings. The argument fails to consider the possibility that God might have extra duties towards us that He assumed voluntarily, at some point in the past – perhaps because we asked Him to do so. Perhaps at some point very early on in our prehistory, our ancestors grew tired of God always watching over us like the attentive parent of a young child, and said, “Enough! We don’t need a cosmic nanny protecting us from evil! Leave us alone to figure it out for ourselves!” And maybe God reluctantly complied with their wishes, and promised to refrain from continually saving us.

    Wow, lots and lots to talk about, and this is only a quarter of it!  Enough to be discussing for no.

    Point 1

    “There isn’t even a probabilistic argument; for if there were one, then it should be able to provide us with a mathematical estimate for the likelihood of God’s existence (or at least, an upper and lower limit).”

    This is actually incorrect by Vincent’s own language. The language of probability gives modal verbs like could, might and may probability values. Something I am sure Vincent is aware of considering his English teaching heritage. There are dozens and dozens of grammar pages and actual analytical papers from journals which will tell you this (just google ‘verbal probability estimates’). The fact that he lists such modal verbs means that he is already conceding that it is unlikely. Therefore, God’s existence is predicated on unlikely probabilities. Ergo God is improbable. At best. If God ‘might’ do this, or ‘could’ feel this, then we are dealing with unlikely scenarios as defined by those modal probability values.

    Modal counter:

    • Perhaps 5
    • Might 12
    • May 5
    • Maybe 5
    • Could 11
    • Possible 6

    Now, on their own, these will merely show Vincent’s thesis to be improbable. But if they are used in conjunction, the probabilities are compounded. This means that if one perhaps means a 25% probability, and a possible means a 10% probability, then the final probability of the thesis is .25 x .1 = .025, or a 2.5% chance of being true. There are at least 44 modal expressions used. If they are in conjunction at all, you can see how small the final probability will become.

    “First, it implicitly assumes a static model of evil: there is evil, and there is God, and we are asked how the existence of the two can be reconciled. But the world is a changing place. What we need to ask, then, is whether the changes occurring in the world comport with what we’d expect of a morally good Deity.”

    Hang on Vincent, are you conceding moral relativity?  Whilst this may be accepted by an atheist, depending on their moral framework, this is not going to help a theistic account of the world. However, it does make sense considering God is a consequentialist (which implies that morality is not grounded in God) and has illustrated Covenantal moral relativity (slavery, eating shellfish, wearing different materials etc was bad in the OT, but superseded by Jesus’ covenant in the NT and now become (un)acceptable!). Vincent, do you, by contextualising suffering (evil) admit that it is relative in some way?

    Point 2

    “Maybe freeing the world from evil necessarily takes quite some time. “

    Well, we must get into the argument as to what omnipotence means, and whether he is truly constrained by his own creation. There is obviously an implicit hierarchy of needs and desires for God here. I imagine he doesn’t like suffering, but then he would rather have suffering than disallowing free will or some other greater, outweighing good. Of course, it is hard to see what greater good must come to “necessarily” cause the unstoppable suffering of a fawn dying in a forest fire. This affects no one or anything. It is just painful and rather senseless.

    What Vincent is really doing here is appealing to the omniscience escape clause. We cannot know the mind of God and there could be a reason for allowing this: a greater good.

    The issue here is summed up in my book, The Little Book Of Unholy Questions:

    282. If my child was to walk on the flowers in my garden, trampling them, it would be immoral to punish him without telling him what he had done wrong. This would communicate to my child his misdemeanour so that he would not do it again. What have we done wrong to deserve cancer, malaria, the tsunami, the Holocaust, disability, cholera etc., and is it right that you have not communicated to us why we have had these ‘punishments’?

    The analogy that I use about my child stomping on the plants and being told off arbitrarily after the event is powerful. The fact that ‘high-falluting’ philosophers and theologians argue incessantly, and without sound conclusion, over the nature of evil clearly means that God is doing exactly this. There is no clear communication from God as to why this evil is taking place, as to why we are being punished, if indeed evil exists as a result of some kind of punishment. If evil exists for any other reason, God is still not communicating this, and as a supposedly all-loving ruler I suggest that it is his duty to do so. His subjects are suffering each and every day in a universe where there could be no suffering. As the suffering ones, I believe we have a right to know why this is the case.

    This ‘could’ and ‘might’ style of appeal to reasons for God allowing suffering punts to the unknown. But worse, it often implies that we are too stupid to understand. So we can pretty much get quantum mechanics, but are not clever enough to understand why God would want to allow 240,000 people to die in a tsunami? Wow. If not this, then we are just being kept in the dark. How fair is it to be punished without knowing why we are being punished? Our morality prohibits this, and it is grounded in God’s moral goodness, supposedly. He is dying by his own sword.

    The crucial tack we must take here is asking this question:

    What thesis more likely explains the massive amount of suffering on earth, from that caused by freely willing humans, to tsunamis and plate tectonics, to the millions upon millions of malaria deaths each year?

    A) an all-loving, all-powerful God.

    b) a universe without a personal god.

    Think on that and savour the intuitive probabilities. Yes there may be a reason why God keeps us in the dark whilst he goes about killing literally billions of organisms every year (by designing and actualising this world over infinite others, he is actively responsible, knowing all of the counterfactuals, in this coming about). But is that likely? Especially given that I am only likely to believe in that god if I am fortuitously born into a particular situation and geography where that god is prevalent.

    Point 3

    “If there is a God, then He could have made rank upon rank of beings higher than ourselves, whom we know nothing about, because they’re invisible to us.”

    It is easy to appeal to invisible entities to explain real and empirical facts. It could be the unicorns’ faults. Why did the stock market crash? Well, it could  be that the money goblins, they’re invisible don’t you know, flew in and… You get the picture. Do we have good reason to think these things exist? No.

    Point 4

    “Perhaps at some point very early on in our prehistory, our ancestors grew tired of God always watching over us like the attentive parent of a young child, and said, “Enough! We don’t need a cosmic nanny protecting us from evil! Leave us alone to figure it out for ourselves!” And maybe God reluctantly complied with their wishes, and promised to refrain from continually saving us.”

    These reasons are becoming increasingly ad hoc to the point of being incredible, as in I am amazed that they could be believed to be even remotely true. We have no evidence of this at all and it appears incredibly unlikely.

    But more than this, the crucial mistake that Vincent makes here is assuming that we would want and allow some prehistoric hominid or early human to speak for us!! Man, I wouldn’t even allow a person from 50 years ago to speak on behalf of me and what I want. This argument is by far the weakest Vincent has to offer. It simply makes no sense. Imagine if I kept saving Vincent from being run over to the point that he said, “Look, bugger off and leave me be” so that I did this and left his descendants be. 6,000 years later, his descendants are getting run over left, right and centre whilst I sit back and watch. They ask me why I am not helping, and I just look blankly at them. I don’t even stoop to letting them know that their great ancestor, Vincent, told me to stop mollycoddling him, and that his demands and rights supersede theirs. For no particular reason.

    To be continued. Let the debate begin!

    Category: ApologeticsGod's CharacteristicsPhilosophy of ReligionProblem of Evil

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    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

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    • Daydreamer1

      Hi Jonathan,

      To what degree do you see (bad?) philosophy as part of the problem, not the solution. There is a clear and common trend of escape to the safe ground.

      Perhaps it is philosophies own version of creationism. Maybe not quite so bad, since science can disprove creationism, but there are almost entirely safe areas of philosophy where agnosticism is required and yet people run to them and camp. I have no way to prove I am not dreaming, or that I don’t know something about something in the distant future outside this universe – so people who cannot present a more valid reason camp there happy that they are immune to rational disproof and protected by hundreds of books of philosophy that no matter what side you are on defend against the other – without any hope of reaching an answer, because the answer is that we cannot know.

      So we get; 1) Things that begin have causes, 2) The universe began, 3) God is timeless and all Loving, 4) Therefore God made the universe. – Can’t disprove that – You don’t know everything – run away from science – run towards theology and bad philosophy.

      You can’t be a scientist if you don’t meet certain standards, but you can be a philosopher of schools that are in complete opposition even regarding an ability to know anything at all.

      I would say that if you don’t know something is true and you don’t know that it is untrue then you don’t know much about it and should just be honest and admit that. But then it feels like some school of philosophy is going to have some comment and someone is going to run with that, differentiate between knowledge about something and the human right to believe in it anyway, do a marathon, and come back saying that within their framework not knowing about it is my problem and they have just redefined what they feel as a type of knowledge anyway so they are now ‘right’.

      Give me something I can measure any day of the week. Sure some philosopher is going to say that just because I can measure it doesn’t mean I know anything and some theologian is going to come back and say that that means Christianity is correct and God is all loving, but at least there is honesty in measuring something, until a philosopher comes back and says honesty is relative and since I can’t know what I did I can’t know if I was being honest and then some theologian is going to come back and say that that means Christianity is correct and God is all loving.

      • Some great points, DD. Rather than extensively answer them here, would it be ok to link this essay of mine:

        http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/11/04/an-essay-on-epistemology-can-there-be-very-strong-reasons-for-believing-something-although-it-is-false/

        It should answer most of your questions. Let me know where we are after that.

        Cheers

        • Daydreamer1

          Thanks. I’ll read it when I have more of a chance.

          There is a weakness to hiding in philosophy though. Without being able to substantiate your argument evidentially disputes in academic philosophy must filter down into public consciousness and be judged just by how reasonable they feel.

          It ends up being about communication instead. As you say, how reasonable is it that we would suffer this much, but be left in a position where the people who claim to be able to understand it have so little information they cannot agree among themselves (nor about which major way of looking at things is even the right one).

          In this instance do you think we have a situation akin to a Christian scientist where their faith really has nothing to do with their academic subject, but their PHD is being tagged on as if it meant something in all the roles they are speaking in? I ask regarding the concern of abuse of his philosophy PHD. I find it had to accept that the college level, degree level and post doc level study he undertook to gain his PHD much relates to his ability to talk about how what we don’t know means we can have confidence in characteristics of the Christian God. When I studied philosophy at college it was about critiquing modes of thought and investigating historical modes of thought and the major characters who opposed them. It certainly wasn’t trending towards using what we don’t know as an argument for Christianity. Why is his PHD, or even him being a philosopher relevant to his output when it is no different to what a parish priest with no formal philosophical education might say?

    • Daydreamer1

      Double post – bad internet connect – please ignore… :)

    • Vincent Torley

      Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for posting the first part of my essay on why I am a Christian, and thanks also for your vigorous response. I’ll keep my response as brief as I can.

      You write:


      The language of probability gives modal verbs like could, might and may probability values…

      The fact that he lists such modal verbs means that he is already conceding that it is unlikely. Therefore, God’s existence is predicated on unlikely probabilities. Ergo God is improbable.

      Actually, I’ve just had a look at Rachel Kesselman’s online thesis at http://www.scip.org/files/resources/kesselman-verbal-probability-expressions.pdf and she says that modal verbs lack a clear meaning and are no longer used to denote probabilities in intelligence assessments. She suggests her own list of words for the intelligence community on page 71. For my part, I use the modals in the following way: “must” 100%, “probably” [not a modal, I know] 70 to 99%, “may” 30 to 70% (usually about 50%), “might” 10 to 50% (usually about 30%; some overlap with may), “just might” 1 to 9 %, “could” 1 to 99% (note the vast range), and “couldn’t” 0%. That’s my usage, generally speaking. So when I talk about what could be the case, I am certainly not conceding that it’s unlikely.

      You also write:


      Now, on their own, these will merely show Vincent’s thesis to be improbable. But if they are used in conjunction, the probabilities are compounded.

      There are at least 44 modal expressions used. If they are in conjunction at all, you can see how small the final probability will become.

      I’m sorry, but your probability analysis is faulty. You can only multiply the probabilities of two events if they are independent of one another – e.g. the probability of getting a six on one die and a six on another. The possibilities that I explore in my discussion of the problem of evil are not independent of one another; they are mutually inter-related. Hence it is simply invalid to multiply them and conclude that the ensemble is astronomically unlikely, as you suggest. Moreover, the possibilities I mention are merely a subset of the possible reasons that God might have for not eliminating evil immediately. There may well be others that I simply haven’t thought of. (Indeed, I’d be surprised if there weren’t.)

      I’ll address your specific comments on my first four points in my next post.

      Vincent

      • I did mention ‘if’ they are in conjunction. Given 44 probability expressions to explain suffering, one would expect at least some conjunction. I have read Kesselman’s paper, fyi, and it is interesting. There are plenty of papers on probability expressions (it underpins meteorology, indeed).

        • Vincent Torley

          Hi Jonathan,

          Fair enough. All I’ll say for now is that even I would concede that the argument from evil is a strong prima facie argument against the existence of God. The reason why it doesn’t bother me unduly is that I consider the arguments for God’s existence to be much more powerful.

    • Vincent Torley

      Hi Jonathan,

      Back again. I’d now like to address your specific comments. You write:


      Hang on Vincent, are you conceding moral relativity? …

      Vincent, do you, by contextualising suffering (evil) admit that it is relative in some way?

      I’m not relativising evil. All I’m saying is that in judging (on a practical level) whether an agent is god or bad, we usually look at what their deeds accomplish. If God’s making the world a better place, then that’s a strong prima facie reason to call Him good. Pointing to the evil that He hasn’t eliminated yet strikes me as curmudgeonly.


      Well, we must get into the argument as to what omnipotence means, and whether he is truly constrained by his own creation.

      What Vincent is really doing here is appealing to the omniscience escape clause. We cannot know the mind of God and there could be a reason for allowing this: a greater good.

      I’m not excusing evil by appealing to a greater good. Rather, what I’m suggesting is that removing evil may bring about a greater harm than the evil we’re trying to eliminate. Nor do I suggest that God is “constrained by His creation.” What I’m suggesting, rather, is that if we fully understood the nature of things, we’d realize that some “ideal” outcomes that we can easily picture are not in fact possible. (Think of a winged horse: easy to picture, until you ask: how would it actually fly?) An omnipotent being can do everything possible, not everything picturable.


      What thesis more likely explains the massive amount of suffering on earth…

      A) an all-loving, all-powerful God.

      b) a universe without a personal god.

      I’d say (A). Before you can have a massive amount of suffering, you need living things that are sentient in the first place. You also need scientific laws which make pain perception possible in the first place. Show me how a universe without a personal God could have laws, and how it could generate life, let alone conscious life.


      It is easy to appeal to invisible entities to explain real and empirical facts. It could be the unicorns’ faults…

      Do we have good reason to think these things exist? No.

      The entities I was referring to were higher intelligences, which i said were “invisible to us.” Do we have good reason to think these things exist? Try the Principle of Mediocrity: it’s highly unlikely we’re the most intelligent life-form in the cosmos. There are probably beings far more advanced than we are, and who know what responsibilities God has given them? That, I would argue, complicates the problem of evil.


      …[T]he crucial mistake that Vincent makes here is assuming that we would want and allow some prehistoric hominid or early human to speak for us!!

      While I wouldn’t want some prehistoric human to speak for me, I can see that at some point in history, the decision as to whether to have a God Who continually warns people about imminent dangers (e.g. approaching typhoons) would have to come up. Some might have appreciated the warnings; others might have considered them meddlesome. But what if, at the dawn of human history, the entire human race said to God, “No more warnings! Turn off the cosmic radio, and leave us alone”? A God who respected free will would have to say, “OK.” But having turned off the radio, getting it back on again would be easier said than done: not everyone would want it.

      That’s all for now, Jonathan.

      • Daydreamer1

        This is an awful lot of effort to have to go to to try and get a version of a specific God to fit what we see. I guess the most honest question is whether you would consider a parent that treated a child in any of these ways to be a fit parent? We are not dealing with any scientific evidence there though – this is much more subjective, some people might be fine with parenting like that and some people would find it horrific. How ideas like this sit with people defines the cultural response – the number of new converts etc. Many are happy to rationalise God in this way, but clearly many are not.

        I think this is a nice try – it is about what I would try and develop if given the task of defending it. But it is pretty much just holding up our hands and going ‘we don’t know’.
        My thought regarding such an implication on a matter of morality is that if it takes this much effort and we still can’t really decide then it definitely isn’t falling into the category of goodness that we can so easily identify elsewhere. At best this elevates God into a moral grey area in an attempt to stop God from being evil. Hardly a win for an omnipotent all loving being that is claimed by many to be the definition of morality and goodness itself.

        Perhaps the fact that so much effort must be put in just to keep God in the grey area is one reason why so many are exploring other ideas.

        • Vincent Torley

          Hi Daydreamer1,

          You make a good point about God being an unfit parent. Actually, I list six reasons why I regard the argument from evil as inconclusive, and so far, Jonathan has only shown four. In brief: I would suggest that if God ever made a “non-interference promise” to our ancestors or to intelligent beings in charge of supervising natural processes on Earth, then He would be bound to keep that promise. That, in my opinion, is the most likely reason why He does nothing.

          • Daydreamer1

            Argh, I wrote several paragraphs and now it is gone….
            Thanks for the reply. I understand why this possibility appeals, it rationalises the reality of what we see and I commend you in at least admitting that it is a problem. Some people go no further than saying whatever God does is the definition of morality so if he does not stop a child being raped then by definition there was some moral aspect to it.

            With a definition like that I really don’t know what we are all doing here. If it is really that hard for some people to just say something that terrible is immoral then how can we have hope for a better future? (or at least any hope for the future must in some way be tied to tackling and minimising any consequences of ideas like that.)

            At least this attempts to tackle it not by defining it as supremely moral, but by saying that there are reasons we do not know that override it. Not being tied to rationalising using a Christian base my moral core still finds it objectionable in a simpler and clearer way than I suspect it would otherwise – I can conclude that I would not do the same if I had the power not to. I.e. I would not make a promise that I knew would lead to suffering (and especially if we categorise suffering from the scale of perhaps a single broken heart to the full planetary suffering this device must tackle) if I had the power not to regarding the suffering of my children and their individual human rights.

            I think there is an aspect of partitioning going on though. In the same way as many believing scientists leave their science at the church door and their religion at the door to their lab many people act differently than they theologise. I can only find hope in that – that the conflict between the innate goodness and the rational mind, that part so often picked apart in debates about cold hard science and the emotions of the heart, is visible here too. People are rationalising moral problems in scripture away in ways they do not behave.
            My issues regarding your ‘non-interference promise’ hypothesis are that it creates issues elsewhere, such as regarding divine inspiration in scripture, whether it is contrary to all the other points of intervention in scripture, contrary to the claimed experiences of Christianity (prayers answered, miracles performed etc), that though it answers what we see whether it is truly moral anyway, the relationship and reasons between/for an all powerful all loving and all good being having to make promises to lesser beings that result in the wide scale suffering of such large numbers is unclear to me (morally and experientially)?

            Then there is the problem of free will. Just for once I want to hear a theologian say they don’t think it is about free will, just for something a little different…

            What makes me suspicious is that (ignoring prayers and miracles) God apparently intervenes at the point of death and is quite willing to make pronouncements about selection and incarceration at that time. It is very close to human justice where we must wait for a crime to be committed and act afterwards – and in that sense, apart from occurring in another dimension after death, is surprisingly and boringly un-supernatural. Key to my suspicion though is that it is untestable – it is exactly the only thing anyone could say to fit what we see and still meet a justice hypothesis of supernatural meaning.
            All this effort has to be gone to because, just like in physics and chemistry, morality in the universe looks exactly like we would expect it to if God wasn’t doing anything here (admittedly this can be denied by denying some of the mainstay scientific theories). So we create hypothesis that He is doing it elsewhere. Your response fits that criteria – now His reason is out of sight, but only because we can’t detect (or rationalise) what we see in nature with Christian theology unless something undetectable is occurring; and now it is Gods moral reasoning complete with unstated promises made for unknown reasons to unknown people or beings.

            As I said at the start I understand that this is one possible hypothesis, but during testing are you sure it doesn’t create more problems than it answers? Do you think it is reasonable to conclude that it emerges from this process more likely than when it started – is it really raised from being a hypothesis to your point of being the ‘likely reason’?

      • “I’m not relativising evil. All I’m saying is that in judging (on a practical level) whether an agent is god or bad, we usually look at what their deeds accomplish. “

        So that IS consequentialism! God IS a consequentialist, and morality IS NOT grounded in him!

        “What I’m suggesting, rather, is that if we fully understood the nature of things, we’d realize that some “ideal” outcomes that we can easily picture are not in fact possible. (Think of a winged horse: easy to picture, until you ask: how would it actually fly?) An omnipotent being can do everything possible, not everything picturable.”

        And this is the crux. You are appealing to what WLC calls “unfeasible” states of affairs. The problem is if you believe free will and no suffering exist in heaven, you have problems. But more than that, you ARE appearing to conclude that God’s abilities are fairly impotent. That he cannot produce a world which can support life without plate tectonics.

        Dinesh D’Souza tried this tack and I think it is pretty terrible. A greater good by allowing plate tectonic or not being able to make a universe without plate tectonics is a fairly deistic approach at best. God CREATED physics on your account, yet in all his genius he cannot create a universe where life permitting world do not have moving crusts of volcanoes and earthquakes, tsunamis and the like?

        You can picture the greatest conceivable being and POOF you ontologically imagine it into existence, but picturing even a marginally better world where, say, a larger percentage of organisms photosynthesise is unfeasible?

        “The entities I was referring to were higher intelligences, which i said were “invisible to us.” Do we have good reason to think these things exist? Try the Principle of Mediocrity: it’s highly unlikely we’re the most intelligent life-form in the cosmos. There are probably beings far more advanced than we are, and who know what responsibilities God has given them? That, I would argue, complicates the problem of evil.”

        Actually, looking at evolution, and looking at our cognitive abilities, it is clear we are the most advanced organism on earth. There may be more advanced ones in the cosmos, but that is irrelevant to life on earth, and without contact, there are no ramifications of interactions with God / humans and God / aliens. The Principle of Mediocrity doesn’t really apply since we know most of the variables. It would apply if we randomly picked an organism out of an unknown world. But we understand this world and how life has developed. An unknown superior being on THIS planet would not fit into any known viable model.

        ie it is utterly ad hoc.

        “the entire human race said to God, “No more warnings! Turn off the cosmic radio, and leave us alone”? A God who respected free will would have to say, “OK.” But having turned off the radio, getting it back on again would be easier said than done: not everyone would want it.”

        You have missed my point. I/ wouldn’t let anyone, corporate or no, speak for me, let alone if they were in the dawn of human civilisation. Do you know how barbaric life without civil rights was (hint: there were none).

        The funniest part is “a God who respected free will”!!! What, by taking prehistoric man’s demands over and above mine? Where is my / our free will in this? Where is all of mankind’s free will since that moment? I don’t think you have thought that through…

        Thanks.

        • Hi Vincent, I’m slowly writing a review of an evangelical book on the problem of suffering, seen in reverse chronological order here:

          http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search/label/God%20and%20Evil

          Check it out as you find the time. I think this is a problem YOU cannot possibly answer. Check back for more entries as I find the time.

          Cheers

          • Vincent Torley

            Hi John,

            I’ll have a look. Just had a quick glance, and it seems you could use a post on Satan.

        • Vincent Torley

          HI Jonathan,

          Some quick responses:

          1. Consequentialism is the doctrine that results are what determines whether a deed is god or bad. That’s different from judging a person’s goodness by what they achieve. Even Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.”

          2. I’m not a fan of the ontological argument (although I reserve judgement on Godel’s version). Hence it is incorrect to say that I picture the greatest conceivable being and POOF it into existence.

          3. Heaven is a static world, which is appropriate for rational beings who have chosen to love God for all eternity. What you need to show is that a dynamic world in which beings were free to exercise bad choices, natural evils would still be eliminable.

          4. Re plate tectonics: please show me the set of natural laws for a life-permitting universe (and Earth) which lacks these features.

          5. Your argument from evolution against the likelihood of higher intelligences assumes the truth of materialism – i.e. that intelligence is a by-product of matter. And I would argue that it simply cannot be. “True”, “false” and “reality” are not concepts that a material system is capable of generating.

          6. Re the Fall: your “Why wasn’t I consulted?” argument overlooks the rather obvious point that you weren’t there. What I’m suggesting is that someone had to make a decision on behalf of the whole human race, as to whether or not we should continue receiving warnings from God about natural hazards to avoid. Necessarily, the first human beings would have been ideally placed to do that. Blame them.

          • Daydreamer1

            I see the plate tectonics argument as very faulty.

            In a universe where life evolves without a God it may be a complete requirement.

            However, the idea that a universe with a God must have plate tectonics is obviously untrue unless one also specifies that that same set God+Universe only made a universe that also appeared to not require a God.

            I wish you guys had studied geology – it is a great shame we do not all know every subject :)

            Geophysicists have measured and quantified the energy reaching the surface in calories/m3 and cross referenced it with the energy requirement for mountain building per calorie/m3 per year. Obviously the data stacks up or we wouldn’t all be being taught it.

            A gramm of granite produces about 300 ergs of thermal heat per year. A hypothetical shell of granite 20km thick across the whole globe would produce 10exp28 ergs or 1000 times the energy released per year in earthquakes, 250,000 one megaton nukes, or the amount we get from the Earths interior per year.

            It would be a strange planet compared to ours of course, but it opens the imagination to the different scenarios a planets surface can get heat – or even just a locality on its surface.

            If you are interested here is the theory behind our planet as per the numerous evidences:

            -4.7billion (Ga) years ago accretion led to the Earth – internal temperature rose to about 1000C through gravitational and kinetic energy

            -Radioactivity took over and internal temperature begins to rise.

            -At about 4-4.5Ga the temperature rises above the melting point of Iron and core/mantle separation begins

            -The sinking of vast amounts of Iron to the core liberates around 2x10exp37 ergs of gravitational energy as heat (equivalent to 10exp15 megaton nukes)

            -This heat results in extensive melting and reorganisation resulting in core/mantle/crust

            Rocks are terrible conductors of heat. That is why underground pipes don’t freeze (ok, sometimes they do) and vaults maintain a more constant temperature. Lava 100m thick takes about 300 years to cool. Heat entering a plate 400km thick takes about 5billion years to flow to the other side.

            If we were relying on conduction to get heat out of the depths it wouldn’t have reached us yet! Radiation is better, but rocks are opaque. Convection is where it is at.

            Add a bit more and you can see why convection is the leading candidate for the cause of plate tectonics.

            -So, we get 10exp28 ergs per year to the surface, (2x10exp20 calories per year or 1.5 micro-calories per cm2 per second), that works out to be 1000x the amount of energy required to raise the Rocky Mountains by 1cm per year.
            Plenty for plate tectonics over geological time scales – and all fitting with the physics of the planet (size, gravitational constants etc) + radioactive element abundances/mineralogy, distribution etc and what we see on the surface – rock histories, patterns, sedimentology etc, mountain range sizes/diversity/distribution etc, paleogeography – oceanic crust spreading rates etc, plus what we see from the biological sciences – paleobiology, paleontology etc regarding distribution, molecular mutation rates and genetic and species diversity etc. All leading to a single picture of the past 4.7 billion years (just to play with the creationists a little :) )
            But the sun delivers 5000 times the energy we receive from the inside of the planet.
            We don’t know the role of plate tectonics to all life. The history of life on Earth would certainly be very different without it, but it would be very different without a certain asteroid strike 65Ma ago.
            But over the whole universe….. My imagination is not so small to think that there is no combination of planetary position, star size, and internal composition and distribution that would not allow a form of life to evolve on a planet without plate tectonics.
            I am not a Christian though, so I don’t need to get to the point of having human beings around to declare a planet a success in terms of biodiversity. I can’t remember the book, but it was talking about multiple universes and it contained an equation for dealing with the probabilities of such a thing. Given the number of galaxies and stars in the universe it calculated the required volume of space to contain 2 of ‘Me’ occurring randomly. It required a volume 140 times the size of the visible universe. Remember though that physicists differentiate between the universe and the Universe (between u, and U). The universe is what we see, the Universe is everything that lies beyond the horizon of what we see – all that stuff the light from which has not had time to reach us. The universe could be much much bigger than we see, plenty of room for sentient life on planets without plate tectonics – if there is a way; and there is no reason to think there isn’t if all you need is chemistry and energy.

          • 1. As I am sure you know, there are many different types of consequentialism, and many ways of calculating moral value.

            2. Fair enough! But we can quite simply conceive of situations, and as DD has stated EVEN NOW CREATE THEM (in theory), so to say that God finds it unfeasible is a little odd.

            3. How do you know? On what are you basing this? The knowledge of heaven is little to none. Well, none actually.

            4. I leave that to the geologist, DD.

            5.OK, argue it!

            6. This isn’t the Fall, this is your non-mollycoddle argument. The Fall is problematic enough as it is (downright incoherent)!

            “someone had to make a decision on behalf of the whole human race” – eh? HAD to? On what are you basing this? Are you, as it seems, entirely making this up and in so doing, defining ad hoc?

            • Vincent Torley

              Hi Jonathan,

              I’ll address your most powerful objection up-front. You find the idea of higher intelligences governing the cosmos doubtful because you hold that intelligence is a by-product of matter. I maintained above that “True”, “false” and “reality” are not concepts that a material system is capable of generating. Here’s why.

              1. Concepts are by definition shareable. (If they’re not, we can’t say anything meaningful about them.)

              2. If materialism is true, then everything we do – including sharing concepts – can be described in terms of physical processes.

              3. Concepts cannot be shared unless we can unambiguously identify their sense or meaning. (Otherwise we get an indeterminacy problem: how do I know that what you mean by X is what I mean?)

              4. Physical processes are incapable of unambiguously identifying abstract concepts such as “true”, “false”, “meaning” and “reality”.

              5. Since we are (somehow) capable of grasping these concepts, the process by which we do so cannot be a physical one. Ergo materialism is false.

              Since we know that there are non-physical processes going on in the cosmos all the time (i.e. acts of understanding), the notion of non-physical intelligences becomes a lot more plausible.

              Other points:

              How do I know Heaven is static? See Revelation 21:4, 23-25; 22: 1-5.

              I’m still waiting for DD’s set of equations for a tectonics-free planet that generates life, or even sustains it in the long-term. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve got: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610124831.htm

              Scientists believe liquid water is essential for life. But a planet also must have plate tectonics to pull excess carbon from its atmosphere and confine it in rocks to prevent runaway greenhouse warming. Tectonics, or the movement of the plates that make up a planet’s surface, typically is driven by radioactive decay in the planet’s core, but a star’s gravity can cause tides in the planet, which creates more energy to drive plate tectonics.

              “If you have plate tectonics, then you can have long-term climate stability, which we think is a prerequisite for life,” said Rory Barnes, a University of Washington postdoctoral researcher in astronomy.

              However, tectonic forces cannot be so severe that geologic events quickly repave a planet’s surface and destroy life that might have gotten a foothold, he said. The planet must be at a distance where tugging from the star’s gravitational field generates tectonics without setting off extreme volcanic activity that resurfaces the planet in too short a time for life to prosper.

              You ask why “someone had to make a decision on behalf of the whole human race” as to whether humanity should continue getting public warning messages from God as to possible natural hazards, e.g. tsunamis. Well, let’s just say the human race had to make a decision, somehow. I mean, it’s a pertinent question. And it should be self-evident that a human race whose members defy God’s will by sinning, as well do from time to time, has no right to continue receiving supernatural warnings from God.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Well, let’s just say the human race had to make a decision, somehow.

              Why does an individual or some indivduals has to make a decision for an entire race and all generations that descend from it? This makes no sense whatsoever.

              I mean, it’s a pertinent question. And it should be self-evident that a human race whose members defy God’s will by sinning, as well do from time to time, has no right to continue receiving supernatural warnings from God.

              That´s not self-evident at all. If my little son “defies me” by touching the hot stove although I warned him not to do that, would that mean that he (and all children that he might eventually have) no longer has any right to “receive warnings from me”? Again, this makes no sense whatsoever.

        • Daydreamer1

          ‘That he cannot produce a world which can support life without plate tectonics.’

          That is a funny one. True, we have evolved here, but if we were to colonise Mars we would be doing just this. Especially if I hinge the assessment on ‘support’ and not ‘create’.

          What is fun in this thought game though is the fact that we can now build life out of base chemicals. How far are we from flying to another planet, assembling the required chemicals there, and combining them to create life? We have no ambition for such a thing, but it is likely not outside our abilities in a few centuries time – especially if we use robots.

          To the people who wrote the Bible we are now so distant that their greatest dreams are becoming within our grasps.

          If religious logic leads a person to make claims like this one then that same logic pushes me ever further from thinking in the same way.

    • Vincent said:

      “Maybe it’s not that simple, even for God. Maybe freeing the world from evil necessarily takes quite some time.”

      Two problems:
      (1) The best arguments from evil do not suggest that God, if he existed, would remove all evil. Rather, they point out that there are evils that God, if he existed, would eliminate. At least some of the suffering of a terminally ill cancer patient seems to foot the bill. Surely some of this evil is gratuitous.

      (2) Surely an omnipotent being can remove such evil rather easily. If we believe that God can create the heavens and the earth from nothing, then it is beyond credulity to suggest that God cannot remove at least some of the suffering of a terminally ill cancer patient.

      • Vincent Torley

        Hi Jason,

        Good points. However, I list six reasons for regarding the argument from evil as inconclusive, and so far, Jonathan has only shown four of them. In a nutshell: if God (for whatever reason) made a “non-interference promise” either to our ancestors or to higher intelligences in charge of supervising natural events on Earth, then He would be bound to keep that promise. I think that’s the most likely reason He does nothing.

        • Thanks for your reply.

          I don’t think it would be ethical for God to make such a promise. The promise, if it occurred, involved potential future interactions with people who were not a party to the promise. I can request that God not interfere with me, and God can ethically promise to fulfill that request. But it would not be fair for me to ask God to refrain from helping other people who know nothing of this request. And it would not be ethical for God to agree to such a request.

          Suppose there is a wealthy philanthropist, Bob, who is donating $10,000 to every person who is currently battling cancer in order to offset some of the financial costs they have incurred as a result of the disease. Suppose further that Tom is a cancer patient who is offended by Bob’s charity and asks him to keep the money he had offered Tom. But Tom goes further; he says to Bob, “I have three friends, Sally, John, and Mary, who are also suffering from cancer and I don’t want you to give them any money either. Please promise me that you won’t help them.” Bob should not make such a promise because he does not know the wishes of Sally, John and Mary. If they agree that they do not want the money, then Bob may promise to not donate it. But until he knows their wishes, he should not just promise to not offer them aid.

          If I was suffering from cancer (or if I had a family member who was suffering) I would want God’s help. It would thus have been unfair for God to have promised, thousands of years ago, to people who did not know me or even care about me, that he would not help me.

          • Daydreamer1

            I feel very similar regarding the ethics of making promises not to help people in the future for reasons that you know will not be clear to them.

            Sure, we were not born then – but what is all this stuff about a personal God that we are supposed to have a personal relationship with – or be able to have a personal relationship with? At the least now we need to define the relationship as one where God listens and apparently can communicate, but will never communicate this and help suffering people understand the reason due to a promise to allow them to suffer and remain quiet about it to some unknown people that are not allowed to be talked about throughout any written histories or any divinely inspired writings.

            Either that, or this hypothesis is being put forward for no other reason than it explains why it yet again appears exactly like science says it would if there was no Christian God. Strange that.

          • Absolutely Jason, my points entirely.

          • Vincent Torley

            Hi Jason,

            You make a powerful argument, but this isn’t just a matter of God providing help. (He still does that.) This is a matter of God providing a steady stream of warnings and up-to-date information about upcoming dangers to the entire human race: tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and other hazards. And that in turn presupposes that the human race as a whole is still “on talking terms” with God. But if the human race has divorced itself from God, then obviously those channels of communication will no longer be open.

            You might ask why everyone should be affected by something that happened thousands of years ago. Why shouldn’t God still keep talking to me and warning me of possible dangers, even if He stopped talking to Adam, in the distant past? But once again I would point out that none of us is sinless. Is it really appropriate that we should continue to receive this channel of extraordinary assistance from God, as if nothing had happened, if, in our own lives, we have all (to some degree or other) turned away from God, and (in some cases) even stopped believing in Him? That doesn’t make sense to me.

            As for help: it is one thing to ask for help within the framework of the ordinary laws of Nature. But has any of us the right to obtain a miracle? That sounds like a very odd position to take.

            • “As for help: it is one thing to ask for help within the framework of the ordinary laws of Nature. But has any of us the right to obtain a miracle? That sounds like a very odd position to take.”

              The laws of nature are nothing to God in the sense that they do not constrain him. It is not a special favor to ask an omnipotent being to violate what are, for him, completely arbitrary laws.

              If some assistance is in my power to provide, it will cost me nothing to provide it, and providing it will not cause harm to anyone else, then it would be callous of me to refuse to help. So I think that your view that it would be odd to ask of God what is easily in his power to provide is contrary to our common moral sensibilities.

              As for the claim that we are all sinful. While I am not sure I agree, regardless, it is not a sufficient reason for God to withhold his assistance. If a person is about to be struck by a car and it is in my power to save her life, then her sins are completely beside the point. If it would be easy for me to help her, then I ought to, even if she has shunned me or committed thousands of sins. That a person is sinful is not a reason to avoid providing them necessary assistance. Nor is their having shunned me.

              So, again, I think that your suggestion that the fact that we are all sinful and that some of us have turned away from God provides God with a reason to avoid providing us with necessary assistance is very odd indeed. It violates our common moral sensibilities.

            • Vincent Torley

              Hi Jason,

              Thank you for your post. You make a great deal of the fact that assistance is cost-free to God. You also argue that wrongdoing on the part of the recipient of the assistance is not a sufficient reason to withhold assistance, even if it’s wrongdoing against the provider. But the example you use to illustrate your point is a one-person case. In a world filled with people, a person who sins isn’t just wronging God; he/she may also attempt to induce others to do the same. Evil typically has a social aspect: it corrupts other people. That’s why it’s so destructive.

              Now ask: if you were trying to put a stop to evil in the world, don’t you think you’d begin by starving it of oxygen? The Prodigal Son needed to experience hunger before he came to his senses. It could therefore be argued that a world where God doesn’t continue providing supernatural assistance to sinners is a world where He has a better chance of saving them spiritually – which matters a lot more than whatever natural evils may befall them in this short life. If that’s correct, then God, in withholding supernatural warnings from the human race, is actually being merciful to it: He’s helping to bring it to its senses again.

            • “It could therefore be argued that a world where God doesn’t continue providing supernatural assistance to sinners is a world where He has a better chance of saving them spiritually”

              I don’t think so. If God provided supernatural assistance regularly, the argument from evil would have a lot less force. Given that, according to Christianity, belief in God is a prerequisite for spiritual salvation, I would think that the removal of obstacles to belief would be of great assistance.

              I want to preface what I am about to say with the observation that I suspect that it is not possible for one person (even an omnipotent one) to save another one spiritually. If spiritual saving is possible, I suspect that it is something that a person must accomplish on their own (at least to a large extent). It is certainly difficult to see how an omnipotent being could save someone spiritually by sending his son (who is really himself) to die on a cross.

              That said, let me grant, for the sake of argument, that it is possible to save someone spiritually and that God can do it and has a plan to do it and that this plan involved the death of Jesus. If this was possible and there was ample evidence that God existed and was trying to save us, many people who do not believe in God would be working full time to help people come to faith in God. I would be doing so, as would many atheists I know, and I think that most Buddhists and Hindus would be doing so as well. So, the claim that a world in which God withholds supernatural assistance is a world in which he has a better chance of saving people is highly unlikely to be true.

          • Honest_John_Law

            Excellent points, Jason. Interestingly, NT scripture cites that Jesus healed the sick. And, based upon special authority Jesus reportedly gave to His disciples, the disciples were charged with healing others who sought help. I wonder when Vincent Torley believes the “deal” between God and man may have occurred, and why did those living when Jesus and His disciples lived get special attention… whilst untold millions died in the Black Death (for example).

            Matthew 10:1
            New International Version (NIV)

            (10) Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

            • This is a relevant and important point. I was just reading part of JL Schellenberg’s Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. I think your point is relevant to Schellenberg’s argument as well.

              Some theists have responded to the hiddenness argument with the suggestion that human cognitive freedom (and or moral freedom) requires that God remain hidden. If he were not hidden (if the world were not morally ambiguous), so the thought goes, we would be compelled to believe in God rather than choosing to do so of our own volition. Even if this response is a good one (and I don’t think it is), Christians face a special problem in the life of Jesus and his interactions with his disciples. If Christianity is true, then God was present in a very direct way (performing miracles and so forth) to Peter, John, etc. God was most certainly not hidden. So, wouldn’t that imply that God had violated the cognitive/moral freedom of these disciples?

            • Honest_John_Law

              “Some theists have responded to the hiddenness argument with the
              suggestion that human cognitive freedom (and or moral freedom) requires that God remain hidden.” – Jason

              WLC makes that argument. He claims that if God were to reveal himself to us in some “coercive” way that it would take away our “free will”. Well, the OT and NT manuscripts are full of claims that God revealed Himself in a variety of remarkable ways to humans. For example, the OT biblical account of Hebrew enslavement and the ensuing Exodus from Egypt claims that YHWH levied 10 plagues upon Egypt, divided a body of water so the Hebrews could pass through it before drowning Pharoah’s charioteers in it, and revealed the 10 Commandments to Moses upon a mountain. YHWH also supposedly traveled before the Hebrews as a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, and providentially provided food (manna) and miraculous water as needed over the course of approximately 40 years. That would be a serious demonstration of divine power…

              “So, wouldn’t that imply that God had violated the cognitive/moral freedom of these disciples?” – Jason

              It sure seems that way to me.

            • Vincent Torley

              Hi Jason,

              I agree with you that the Divine hiddenness argument, which says that God must remain hidden in order to respect people’s cognitive freedom is an invalid one.

              What I would maintain is that in a post-Fall world, God is no longer obliged to reveal Himself to everyone, but that if He wishes to reveal Himself to select individuals for a special reason, that’s His privilege.

              The same goes for miracles where Jesus healed the sick. These were public signs of God’s supernatural power.

              For the religious impact of the Black Death, please see here: http://faculty.cua.edu/pennington/churchhistory220/lectureten/blackdeath/religious%20impact%20page.htm and http://history-world.org/black_death.htm . On the whole, I think it’s fair to say that it brought a lot of people back to God and to religion.

            • Honest_John_Law

              “What I would maintain is that in a post-Fall world, God is no longer
              obliged to reveal Himself to everyone, but that if He wishes to reveal
              Himself to select individuals for a special reason, that’s His
              privilege.

              The same goes for miracles where Jesus healed the sick. These were public signs of God’s supernatural power.” – Vincent Torley

              That looks an awful lot like ad hoc reasoning. Jesus gave authority to all 12 disciples to cure every disease and illness and drive out unclean spirits… and then…

              “For the religious impact of the Black Death, please see here:… On the whole, I think it’s fair to say that it brought a lot of people back to God and to religion.” – Victor Torley

              I have already invested considerable effort to learn about the Black Death and its impacts (from a variety of sources). Your declaration is a remarkable declaration. It appears you are suggesting that God “used” the event of the Black Death for some “greater good”.

            • “. It appears you are suggesting that God “used” the event of the Black Death for some “greater good”.” – that is exactly the point. All such events and decisions are seen in this light. This is the necessity of God’s characteristics and theodicies.

              http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/18/god-is-a-consequentialist/

            • Honest_John_Law

              Thanks for the link. I will read it.

            • Schellenberg’s argument is not that God is obliged to reveal himself to everyone. Rather, it is that God, being all-loving wants to have a personal relationship with everyone. Since being in a relationship with God requires believing that God exists, God would want everyone to be in position to judge that it is more likely than not that God exists (i.e., God wants to eliminate reasonable non-belief).

    • Honest_John_Law

      “In brief: I would suggest that if God ever made a “non-interference promise” to our ancestors or to intelligent beings in charge of supervising natural processes on Earth, then He would be bound to keep that promise. That, in my opinion, is the most likely reason why He does nothing.” – Vincent Torley

      Jonathan, I can not believe I just read this. Is this for real? That is the sort of comment I might expect from someone like Ray Comfort.

      • Hmmmm……

        There is rather a lot of ad hoc-ness….

        • Honest_John_Law

          If that is what Vincent Torley believes, consider the implications of that position. According to his stated view, an omniGod may have made a “deal” with humans early on to not “interfere”… with FULL knowledge of future events like the Black Death (for example), where untold millions of humans suffered and died whilst crying our to their God, who basically took the position that, “a deal is a deal”, and subsequently disregarded untold millions of pleas. I can not believe any rational person would defend such a position. In fact, I find that position to be repugnant. I am not a philospher, so I can not provide an elegant “philosophical” explanation why I find it repugnant, other than the fact that I am a member of the human race, and we have a basic biological imperative to survive.

          • Daydreamer1

            This idea requires an awful lot of ‘I don’t know’.
            For what reason would an all powerful being leave its ‘children’ who it apparently greatly loves to suffer terrible afflictions that have nothing to do with their choices or abilities based on a promise?
            This idea is a working rationalisation of why the universe has a moral character that is basically what we would expect if there was no God, but it comes with a cost.
            I am not sure if Vincent has really looked much further than patching up a hole in Christianity with a rough bandaid. I say that because, while the hole is patched, it isn’t fixing the presence of the hole. Ideally, metaphorically, you would want to fill it, not cover over it. Vincents idea explains why the universe looks like it doesn’t have a Christian God, but it doesn’t tackle the problem it sets out to, namely the immorality of that God. At best you now have a God making immoral promises because surely a promise that results in harm is immoral (judged against whether we would view exactly the same thing done by people to people today as being immoral). I can only imagine what Vincent would think of the morality of this if his own parents had done it to him – or if his social circle at school/collage etc had done it.

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