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9/09/2006                                                                                       View Comments

Why Don't Christians Argue This Way Much Anymore?

By John W. Loftus

People in Biblical times defended God against the problem of evil by blaming themselves and their own sins for the natural disasters that God sent on them. They believed God controls all natural happenings (Ex. 12:23,29,30; 32:35; Num. 11:33; 16:46-50; 25:18; 2 Sam. 24:15-16). Why don’t very many Christians today use this same response to exonerate God for natural disasters? In ancient times, disasters were usually explained in only one way: God was upset with people because of their sins. And that’s the explanation we find most often in the Bible, although there are a few notable exceptions (Job; Luke 13; John 9). But even here we see a God who could do anything with the world of nature that he wanted to do without regard for the ordered world and laws of nature.

In Job for instance, we see the Biblical answer for the problem of evil in the first two chapters. The answer was that God is testing us with disasters and he allows Satan to do us harm so that he might be glorified from our actions. That is a sick answer to the problem of evil, and here’s why: Medical ethics will not allow us to experiment on human beings with life threatening procedures, nor with procedures that might cause other serious complications. And they certainly don’t allow us to experiment on anyone involuntarily. But this is what we find God doing to Job, presumably because he’s God.

In Luke 13:1-5 we find Jesus commenting on why a couple of disasters took place. Were these people worse sinners than those who escaped the particular disasters? Jesus’ answer is an emphatic, “No!” His point says nothing at all against the culturally accepted view that our sins cause disasters. He only says that these people were no more guilty than those who didn’t suffer these disasters. So apparently everyone deserves the disasters that occur, it’s just that some do not experience what their sins deserve.

In John 9 Jesus’ disciples asked him who sinned that a particular man was born blind. His answer was that neither he nor his parents sinned. But even so, his being born blind still had a purpose, “that the work of God might be displayed in him,” and then it says Jesus healed him. So his “purpose” in being born blind was for him to later be healed by Jesus.

Many Christians would agree with Rabbi Daniel Lapin who tried to explain God’s goodness in light the Indonesian tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people. In the process of arguing his case he said: “God runs this world with as little supernatural interference as possible.” Now how does he know that? Such a belief was not shared by most all ancient people before the rise of the repeatable results of modern science. So why don’t they argue the way Biblical writers would argue? Let me suggest that it’s because they are modern people after all! And let me also suggest that early Christians would have condemned modern Christians who simply say, “bad things just happen.” For them, even the very dice cast from a man’s hand is controlled by God. (Pr. 16:33).

But surely, the punishment for sin by God cannot account for everyone who ever died from a tornado, a hurricane, a fire, a flood, an epidemic, or a famine. Many innocent people have died. The distribution of disease and pain is not related to the virtue of those punished. Besides, I simply cannot understand that even if many people today are sexually immoral, for instance, that such sins deserve such punishments. Can you hear God saying this: “Oh, you had an affair, so your punishment is to lose your children as a result of Katrina.” What did these children do wrong? “Or, you are a homosexual, so I will make you a paraplegic the rest of your life, and later cast you into hell.” And so on. The so-called punishments simply do not fit the “crimes.” Just look at our own “selfish” system of punishments, and compare that with the kind, caring father/God’s punishments. Our punishments are kinder and gentler. They’re civil. The punishments of God in the Bible are barbaric.

27 comments:

freedy said...

The fundie world explains this as the "law of generations".The babble says "the sins of the fathers shall be visited on following generations".
This is how christians deal with the horrible childhood diseases like aids,..etc.
It's very clear that if there is a god ,he's is a god of chaos and not order!
* The fundy explanation of the extreme punishment called hell:.....Temporal sins against man
lead to lesser punishment,..but sins against an eternal deity are crimes that deserve eternal consequences.This of course is a bunch of crap and shows the limited thought surrounding christian doctrines.

Bentley said...

As men, our only purpose in life is to insiminate as many woman as
we can and bring forth children so that they may grow up to face Jesus or Hell.

How many men had Jesus on their minds at the exact moment of ejaculation? Raise your hands!!!

So where does God and Jesus come into play involving bringing children into this world?

Absolutely Nowhere!!!

freedy said...

Ben,...it's always amazes me how christians are willing to gamble that their kids will accept and follow Jesus.

This is the nightmare christians face,...living in eternity without those loved ones who rejected christ!
I'd personally would rather burn in hell with my children, then with a vindictive and petty god in heaven.

P.s. If you believe in hell,....for gaud sakes "DON'T HAVE ANY CHILDREN!!!"

boomS said...

Freedy said: "If you believe in hell,....for gaud sakes "DON'T HAVE ANY CHILDREN!!!"

Or---if you believe in hell and already have children, KILL them at once, so that they can avoid the risk of hell later on. Honestly now, wouldn't this be the logical, safer, and "Christian" thing to do?.. in the eyes of a "True" believer? I mean, God killed HIS child, right? The parent has ALL of eternity to be their children later on, right? Or.... are we to believe that the only reason that the Christian parent doesn't take this route is because "murder" is a "sin"? Bullsh*t.

The concept of "heaven", "hell", and "salvation" are absolutely, insanely ludicrous.

Bentley said...

Thats my point, why bring children in this world having to face either God or Jesus or Allah or hell or death and diseases and rapists and murderers and christians and preachers and religions and politics, and wars, what shame people have bestowed upon the world.

There's no frikkin God or Jesus or Allah or Hell, etc. only death and diseases and getting old and flopping over dead, thats all there is, how everyone addresses reality each day to themselves is all there is to life, and if you live in a fantasy, there is nothing but mental delusion, just like being under a drug or alcohol.

Mental fantasys, not related to reality!

God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell, Allah, Satan, Politics, Drugs, Alcohol, Roll Playing, Santa, Easter Bunny, etc.

People that have a strong belief in the Bible and Q'uran are roll playing in their minds. They are eccentually lunatics! They cannot separate reality from fantasy, nor do they want to, nor are they willing separate themselves from reality!

What a shameful disgrace religions and mental fantasies have brought unto America and to the world!

Nvrgoingbk said...

i used to have some sympathy for religion and christians, but the longer i am "out" the less tolerant i become of their hypocrisy, their ignorance, their hatred, and their threats of Hell. I am so SICK to DEATH of hearing about God's love for me as they bite on the inside of their cheek knowing that they will one day rejoice at my being burned in Hell along with my loving NON CHRISTIAN husband. My first husband was a christian and is currently serving time in prison for the THIRD time!!!! My current husband and I were both Christians. I came out first and he soon after. We have the most beautiful love of anyone we've ever known. I've never in my whole life seen a couple love eachother the way we do, and that's not just bias, because we hear others tell us the same. Our marriage is not MADE IN HEAVEN, and if it is it wasn't due to the CHristian God, because according to scripture, i am an adulteress for being remarried while my exhusband is still alive even though he left me for another woman and abandoned me and our three children! I guess Christians would claim that my husband and i will one day rot in hell even though we love eachother, our children, and our fellow man the best we can. Even though we live lives of integrity and honor. We are just a couple of heathens and so are our children. We don't know what REAL love is since we don't have the love of Jeebus in our hearts. They need to look at the divorce rate among evangelical christians and they'll see it is a useless argument.

Everytime i hear about the love of God i feel violent. Isn't that ironic?

Ian said...

I believe in God, but I also believe that God almost never interferes in earthly affairs, letting us do what we want and learing from what comes as a result of our choices. In other words, God, in my opinion, is letting us grow up how we want.

The tsunami wasn't caused by God. It was caused by natural forces. All the diseases and natural disasters are caused by natural forces, bacteria, etc. God has nothing to do with it.

If God does interefe with us, it would probably be to inspire people to help others as a result of misfortunes.

Anonymous said...

Jesus christ most christians don't even understand that hell in the old testament was simply the grave.

Death in the old testament is scientific death, unconciousness.

Ecclesiastes 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

No wisdom, no knowledge, therefore no consciousness.

Xianity really shows how unstudious most people are even with their own claim to be christian.

steamboat_willey said...

Good post, Mr. Loftus. Another thing that's interesting to consider is that in the OT, if a disaster befell somebody, it was a sure sign that God was angry. Death from the disaster was that person's final judgment. He would no longer have a share in what takes place on earth (Eccl. 9). The Hebrews at that time had no doctrine of Satan and no doctrine of life after death. God was in charge of everything that happened. He didn't just "allow" evil to occur. He brought it (1 Kings 22:23).

Job was witten after the exile in Babylon, when the Hebrews were exposed to Zoroastrianism, with it's extreme dualism and the character of Satan. In Job Satan was only allowed to do the evil God permitted (Job 1:12). It's interesting that Satan obeyed God. It's also interesting that he didn't come from hell. He came from "walking to and fro on the earth." Then he was somehow able to appear in heaven with the other angels.

Satan was only mentioned in two other places in the whole OT -- 1 Chron 21:1 (tempter) and Zechariah 3 (accuser) -- never as a destroyer, never as a serpent, dragon or goat, and never as an inhabitant of the netherworld.

The character of Satan gradually became accepted by the Jews (in the roles described above), but they still had no doctrine of life after death. It was hotly debated at the time of Jesus. Some believed there had to be an eternal reward because things don't always play out like they did for Job. Bad things happen to good people.

Others still didn't believe it. The only scripture that would potentially back it up was the faith of a King (Psalm 91), and the story of Elijah (2 Kings 21). The Jews were saved collectively (i.e. given victory in battle, preserved as a nation), not as individuals (Exodus 15). Abraham had been promised property and offspring, nothing more (Genesis 15). That was their theology.

If the gospels and epistles accurately record what the historical Jesus taught, it is a radical departure from this way of thinking, and could be a major reason the Jews didn't accept him. It was extremely dualistic and individualistic -- personal salvation by a personal Jesus from a personal devil.

We still tend to think of everything as God's doing, or at least think he "allows" bad things to happen to us as people and groups. Regardless of how thoroughly science explains what is going on, the idea of randomness distorts the lense of self-importance with which we tend to view the universe.

freedy said...

You could argue that the millions of babies aborted every year are lucky. Also the thousands of children who die of starvation and aids,...most of which would have ended up in hell,are now in heaven!
According to christian doctrine ,we should stop sending money,food and medicine to these hell-bound children around the world!

Anonymous said...

Ian:
I appreciate what you are saying, but you raise some difficult questions:

How can you determine when God is intervening and when he is not? For all practical purposes (and this seems to be your position) one should assume there are no interventions whatsoever. So when can you say "but in this one instance God intervened?" How would you tell someone who believes that God intervenes in earthly affairs constantly that they are incorrect?

If you believe in God then presumably you believe that he created the universe. If that is the case then didn't God directly or indirectly create the bacteria that cause disease, and the climate system that causes tsunamis, and the plate tectonics system that causes earthquakes? Why did he create such a dangerous environment?

We are supposed to be "learning from what comes as a result of our choices," but there is no possible way to "learn" what happens if you don't believe in God. There are allegedly all sorts of dire consequences for those that don't believe, but none of them occur while one is alive on this earth. If God is letting us grow up they way we want, and we don't believe in God, is that OK or is he supposed to cast us into some sort of fiery pit reserved for nonbelievers? (after we're dead, of course)

Alan

Ian said...

Alan:

I would think instances of God interfering would be moments where people work together and work for the good of everyone. If there is a God who loves people, he/she/it would presumably want to bring people together, not drive them apart. So anything that brings people together in peacefulness and cooperation that helps all would probably qualify as God inspiring people.

As for the question of a dangerous environmnet...I don't know the answer to that one.

As for leaning, I should have said that it was more like "Growth as individuals" rather then learning things. I would think that a perfect God would be most pleased with those who learn to get along with others in peace, who are beneficial to all in thier presence and who are overall, well-rounded people. I'd certianlly choose those people over mindless worshippers.

Anonymous said...

Alan

"How can you determine when God is intervening and when he is not?"

I think his position was pretty clear. God does not interfere.

If you think God interferes, then it's up to you to make the case that it does so, not Ian. If it is your assumption that God interferes, then it is your problem and no-one else's.

"For all practical purposes (and this seems to be your position) one should assume there are no interventions whatsoever. So when can you say "but in this one instance God intervened?"

You wouldn't say "but in this one instance God intervened" Got it yet? At least Ian wouldn't. You might, perhaps. But not Ian. Reading Ian's post, I thought that it was made perfectly clear. Exactly where did you fail to grasp this concept?

"How would you tell someone who believes that God intervenes in earthly affairs constantly that they are incorrect?"

You would ask them for evidence. It's that simple. When they fail to present evidence outside of their own belief, they are revealed for the narcissistic bloodsucker they really are. When asked this simple question, the believer will proceed to infuse the conversation with examples of how God has interfered with their lives and how, therefore, each and every hair on their ass is unique, special and meaningful and how God loves each and every one of those hairs more than anyone else's ass-hairs.

"If you believe in God then presumably you believe that he created the universe."

Believing in God does not presumably mean believing that it made the universe. You are either mentally challenged, or intentionally twisting Ian's words. If God does not interfere, then it is possible that God did not create the universe. Perhaps in your own little world, God did create the universe. In Ian's post, however, the idea that God is not interfering was put forth. Ergo, it is possible to say that God did not create the universe. Do you have it yet?

"If that is the case then didn't God directly or indirectly create the bacteria that cause disease, and the climate system that causes tsunamis, and the plate tectonics system that causes earthquakes? Why did he create such a dangerous environment?"

If you believe that God created the universe then you can certainly concieve the idea that God created hostile conditions. Ian did not say that, though. Whose post were you reading? Were you inebriated when you read his post? In an altered mental state due to drugs and drug paraphenalia?

"We are supposed to be "learning from what comes as a result of our choices," but there is no possible way to "learn" what happens if you don't believe in God."

Tell me, Alan, how exactly is it not possible to learn without God? By burning your hand, you learn not to touch a thing. Where does God fit into that learning? Do you believe that God made a thing hot to teach you not to touch it? In that case, you have only learned not to touch it, a knowledge that does not require God's intervention. By assuming that God made a thing hot so you would not touch it, you are assuming that knowledge, not learning it. How does God tell you that it made a thing hot? Because it IS hot? Why add this into the equation? In the end, the most important thing you have learned is that you burned your hand because it ishot; ergo, you should not touch it.

Just like we here at ex-Christian have learned not to believe in the Christiann God because the Christian God is not real, a byproduct of narcissistic self-loathing and aggression.

"There are allegedly all sorts of dire consequences for those that don't believe, but none of them occur while one is alive on this earth. If God is letting us grow up they way we want, and we don't believe in God, is that OK or is he supposed to cast us into some sort of fiery pit reserved for nonbelievers? (after we're dead, of course)"

This still assumes the interference of God, which is something that Ian never mentioned. Here, Alan still seems to assume that Ian DID mention it. I've said all I have to say on this.

Anonymous said...

Ian:

Thanks for your reply. Although I am agnostic myself, your belief is more "Christian" in my view than most of what passes for Christianity these days.

Anonymous:

Thanks for the personal attacks. Here's a tip on reading comprehension: "almost never" does not mean the same thing as "never."

Alan

boomSLANG said...

Ian: "I believe in God, but I also believe that God almost never interferes in earthly affairs, letting us do what we want and learing from what comes as a result of our choices. In other words, God, in my opinion, is letting us grow up how we want."

Again, we see "God" being defined by what God does NOT do, instead of what God does, or CAN, do. So either way, we're going to make poor choices in life whether God exists, or whether God doesn't exist. It seems adding "God" in this case is just adding an unnecessary variable, while lending itself to wish fulfillment.

Ian: "I would think instances of God interfering would be moments where people work together and work for the good of everyone."

This time, instead of intelligent and compassionate humans beings making conscious choices to do things that benefit their fellow man, it is "God" who is doing the thinking for us. We're just puppets. On the other hand, while it posited that God is actually DOING something this time, this "intervention" is nothing that could be deemed supernatural, whatsoever. Ironic? See Occam's razor.

Alan asked: "So when can you say 'but in this one instance God intervened?' "

When God does something supernatural--something that defies the laws of probability, and laws of physics.

Stanely said...

G-O-D is the three letter answer for "I don't know!" Meaning something greater than our own ability to comphrend the existance and the vastness of the universe.

A G-O-D is the only answer anyone can come up with, a greater source beyond our own ability to reason.

A G-O-D is all that we have, we cannot imagine a force greater than a G-O-D.

I personally believe there is a more powerful and greater source than a G-O-D, what it is, I cannot begin to imagine.

A Bible God or a human invented God, needs worship and reverence.

A Bible God or a human invented God has needs and desires and expects something in return for worship.

There cannot exist a G-O-D that created the universe and us and expects something from us for his/her/it's own personal glory.

If you planted a vegetable garden from seed into the soil and nursed them and the seeds sprouted and became healthy and full grown, would you expect those vegetables to worship you in exchange for your giving them life?

If you wanted to feel like a God maybe you would, but would it be the "feeling" that you desire, or would you just want to be viewed as a God?

The Bible writers wrote what they thought a "God" would want and expect from them, they could only write from a very limited human perspective.

The only source of information we can gather is from our own space travel and exploration, and that is if we can interpret what we see as being correct.

The Bible was written mostly on human speculation, it was the best that they could do at the time, yet for many people living today, the Bible is fully sufficient in it's answers.

I personally have not ever been fully satisified with the Bible writers answers or with their emotional and needy God.

freedy said...

Stanley,...well put! I totally agree,..humans have lowered G.O.D. to vindictive,insecure and
ego-driven being.

Not something I would worship.

freedy said...

Stanley,...well put!Jews/christians have just made god in the image of themselves,.....
vindictive,insecure and ego-driven.

freedy said...

oops!

steamboat_willey said...

Stanley:

Good post on the incongruities between the infinite Creator of the universe and Bible God.

Bentley said...

Thanks all,

Here are a few qualifications to be a true christian creator god.

Must be Holy and Pure, and people are not worthy to even see him.

Must be all powerful and know everything past, present and future.

Not a respecter of persons, but does call certain people to represent him (preachers).

Must be willing to send people to hell based upon what their brains have allowed themselves to believe.

Requires prayer and reverence and one must focus their attention on him only.

Must remain invisible and must never be seen by any human, ever.

Inspires his holy precious words to be written down by wicked unworthy humans.

Not willing that anyone should perish, but all people do.

Gets angry and upset and hates sinners only.

Loves every person.

Makes tragic mistakes from time to time.

Loves animal and human sacrifices.

Requires and needs worship every 7 days.

Sends his wrath and fury down upon the Earth,(through Satan).

Loves money, lots and lots of money, infact no one has ever gave God enough money, (must have this gambling problem).

Disquised himself as a human one time, didn't work out too good, every single person didn't believe it was him.

Anonymous said...

boomSLANG

You raise an interesting point - that God would do something that defies the laws of physics (a so-called miracle.) However it seems to me that is like saying God would do something that is outside of reality. In other words if there is an observable event then by definition it isn't supernatural, since it occurred in our natural world. There is no supernatural or mystical reality, there is only reality. If God exists then he is a part of reality. If physics cannot explain a "miracle," that points to a deficiency in physics, and since we would have the evidence of the miracle we would have an avenue to pursue that could describe what God actually is. However at present things aren't going too well for religion, two examples that come to mind are the recent study that showed prayer has no effect in medical outcomes, and the carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin which shows it is a fake. If God exists then scientific investigation should confirm his existence.

Alan

boomSLANG said...

"In other words if there is an observable event then by definition it isn't supernatural, since it occurred in our natural world. There is no supernatural or mystical reality, there is only reality."

Yeah, it seems we're in agreement on that part. The conflict arises when Christians make up their own rules and "definitions" as they go. This kind of weasle-wording is necessary to make the questions fit their "answer". In other words---drawing a circle around the arrow AFTER it lands is called a "bull's eye". lol

Bentley said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bentley said...

I was hoping the book of Judas would throw the christains a curve, since Jesus and Judas had supposedly premeditated Jesus's death(murder)whereas the NT said that Judas was described as a conspirator against Jesus, without Jesus's knowledge, a huge discrepancy, IMHO

SpaceMonk said...

"Not a respecter of persons,..."

Well, then, I'm not a respecter of Gods...

Steve said...

Ian,

Consider "The Riddle of Epicurus":

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?

Then why call him God?