Sunday, November 23, 2014

The 'Good News' is only good if we buy the 'Bad News'

I use this analogy. A salesman comes to your town and tells you that everyone in this town has a terrible, awful disease which no one knew about until this salesman shows up. Although the salesman can offer no proof of this disease he swears we will all suffer and die from it. However, he says the "good news" is he has the cure, and one can only get the cure from him, but he will save you and you will be eternally grateful to him if you but buy his product.

Meaning: Christians tell us that we all have sin and that sin will bring us a terrible awful fate. Nevermind that until they came along, no one ever suspected we had this terrible condition and the Christians can't offer one shred of proof that we have 'sin' or that a terrible fate awaits us. But, the 'good news' aka Gospel is they have the only cure and we can only get it from them - one can only be saved from sin and hell through Christ, not by living a good life or practicing peaceful Buddhism, etc. We are supposed to 'buy into' their product, i.e., believe it wholeheartedly (hook, line, and sinker) and accept Christ as our personal Savior and be eternally grateful to him.

The 'good news' only exists if one believes the premise of the 'bad news' that we have sinned and will be damned unless we accept their product. Sounds like a snake oil sales pitch to me. I think we in the town would do better to live like we did before Christianity came to town, before we had ever been accused of having the horrible condition called 'sin' which I have no reason to believe exists.

Oh, yeah, and the salesman tells those of us who are skeptical that even though he can't prove we have this deadly disease, we better not chance it, because if he is right that we have this disease and we did not accept the cure, it will be too late to buy his cure once we start experiencing the terrible fate.

How manipulative is that?!?!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Take on Miraculous Experiences

So, what is my bias in the way I think about these experiences? I do believe that in all likelihood, the supernatural doesn't exist. I believe the natural world/cosmos is all there is. So, my bias is each and every one of these experiences probably have a natural explanation. I have read thousand of these experiences (premonitions, fulfilled prophecies, answered prayers, near-death experiences, astral projections, Voodoo curses, ghost encounters, feeling touched by dead relatives, divining rod, ESP, alien sightings, etc), and I have never encountered an experience for which I could not come up with at least one idea of how it may have happened naturally using nothing more than known processes such as: confirmation bias, illusory correlations, faulty memory reconstructions, hallucinations, etc. The problem is these events don't happen under careful, skeptical scientific observation. Every time scientists have made careful observations, the supernatural thing that supposedly can't be scientifically explained never happens. I guess ESP is camera shy. LOL. 

Susan Blackmore, a scientific researcher who graduated from Oxford I believed set out to prove her skeptical professors wrong by proving these supernatural things were real. She began researcher as a believer because she had experienced what is commonly called astral projection. She spent decades of her career trying to show something non-natural was going on. Eventually, she became convinced by her own research that there isn't any evidence of things going on that cannot be understood through a natural worldview.

James Randi is a guy offering $1,000,000 to any one who will submit their supernatural powers (ESP, divining rod, etc) to his scientific examination and pass some tests that would prove they have some supernatural ability. No one has ever claimed that million dollars.

I don't believe that what we have to explain is what the person claims happened. We have to explain what actually happened, and the only way we can know what actually happened is if we have carefully collected scientific data on the event, which we almost never have. Human memories are suspect, human interpretations of their experiences are suspect, human perceptions are suspect, and human sensations are suspects. We know that they all have been wrong from time to time. So, we cannot use that faulty anecdotal data to establish extraordinary claims. It takes extraordinary evidence to support extraordinary claims.

It is clear that these types of human experiences happen quite often. It is not clear that they are what they seem to be, even what they seem to be to the participant of the experience.

Even when we cannot think of any natural way to explain an event all that leaves us with is an unexplained event. We have no reason to jump to a "God did it" accusation. Theoretically, there are nearly an infinite number of possible explanations (i.e., Gremlins did it, Fairies did it, Good witches from the other side did it, Magnetic impulses from negative energy did it, etc). But, not one of those things is an explanation at all. In order for any of them to be an explanation, we would have to understand HOW such a signal to come home was generated and how it traveled and how it is received, etc). Without that one cannot have an explanation, at best one only has an accusation. For us to acknowledge that science has an explanation, we expect science to take us step by step and show us how such a thing could happen using known physical forces. If science can't do that, we say science does not have an explanation. We have to hold all of these religious "explanations" to the same standard.

Just because we can't think of a natural way to explain an experience that doesn't mean that it wasn't naturally caused. Now, to be fair, just because we can't think of a supernatural way to explain an experience that doesn't mean that it wasn't supernaturally caused. But, here is the advantage of the natural explanation - every phenomena that we have ever looked at that was formerly believed to be supernatural in origin has turned out to have natural causes (thunder, storms, death, diversity in species, planetary orbits, etc). Nothing has ever been found to have a divine/demonic/fairy dust explanation. Furthermore, natural explanations not only use natural forces and processes which we know exist, they also use natural elements (atoms, cells, genes, etc) which we know exist. Supernatural explanations would use elements that we don't even know if they exist (gods, angels, spirits) and forces or processes that we don't know exist (immaterial entities interacting with material substance, spirits leaving bodies, telepathic communication through unknown mediums, etc). 

By the way, I have had countless of these experiences that might be hard to explain naturally. I don't deny I had the experiences, but I do question the interpretation I gave them at the time (that they were acts of God, etc). For me, anecdotal evidence (aka personal experience) will never be sufficient to reliably tell me about the nature of existence. In short, I do not trust my interpretations of my personal experiences at all.

Permit me to speculate on what may be the natural causes of premonitions. Our bodies are bombarded with a lot of stimulation all throughout the day. Signals are being sent to our brain constantly, but we are only consciously aware of a tiny bit. For instance, if you are wearing shoes, the whole time you have been reading this post, your brain has been receiving messages from the receptors in your foot that there is pressure being exerted on the top of your foot by your shoe and you were completely unaware of those messages until I just brought our attention to it. So, fact number one - our unconscious mind is receiving and processing signals it receives from the environment without our conscious awareness. Two, our brains are exceptionally good at recognizing patterns or associations between things. For instance, a stirring in the bushes usually indicates there is an animal in the bushes even though we can't see them. Three, there are subtle signals of danger or health problems that we may perceive just below our conscious awareness. Example, our joints might ache before a storm comes due to changes in air pressure. Now, sometimes those joints aches may be strong enough that we become consciously aware of them, and if so we will credit them as the reason we think a storm is coming, but if those ache signals are processed only by an unconscious mind, we may only have the sense (or premonition) a storm is coming, but have no idea why we think that (because the explanation isn't something we are consciously aware of.

OK, so we know that dogs can be trained to smell low blood sugar in their owners and can alert their owners to that fact so the owners can eat something, etc. And we know some dogs can smell cancerous skin cells and identify which moles are cancerous and which are benign. So, there is a physical chemical being released by the body of someone with low blood sugar and someone with skin cancer that dogs can pick up on in their conscious minds. Our noses aren't as good as a dog's, but in theory our noses could pick up on the chemicals being released by a person with low blood sugar, etc, but the signal be so weak that we are not consciously aware of it. Then, our unconscious could give us the feeling (premonition) that something bad is about to happen to the person even though we don't know why we feel that way because the real reason is outside of our conscious awareness. There could be other clues for other physical ailments. For instance, half the face of a person having a stroke might relax, and although we do not consciously notice it, our subconscious might.

So, a wife says goodbye to her husband and heads to the mall for some shopping. She is not consciously aware of anything wrong, but she gets a strong feeling (premonition) that something bad is happening at home so she rushes home to find her husband going into shock due to low blood sugar. It may have been that when she was leaving the house her unconscious mind smelled the chemicals that indicated sickness.

This hypothesis of mind could generate scientific tests: can humans detect the scent of low blood sugar, etc. All this post is to show that there could be natural explanations for some premonitions.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

How I came to no longer believe there is a god (Brief)

When I was Mormon I thought I had a very strong, intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father. I talked to Him all of the time and I thought he spoke to me through impressions in my mind and feelings in my heart. The problem was those impressions in my mind and feelings in my heart had led me to believe the Book of Abraham was exactly what Joseph claimed it was. Well, it is crystal clear that the BoA is not what Joseph claimed it was. So, those impressions in my mind and feelings in my heart are at a minimum not a reliable way to find out what is true. It could be that those impressions and feelings are created by me entirely. If they were sometimes true and sometime false, I could not tell the difference because they felt exactly the same. Yet, through these impressions and feelings I experienced God and felt his love, etc, or so I thought. That started my questioning that maybe there was no god, maybe I had never experienced him, maybe he was nothing more than an imaginary friend. I reviewed my entire life history looking for anything definitive that I could cling to that would say, "here, here is something that strongly suggests there is a god". But, I could find nothing, not in my own life or the stories of what has happened in other's lives. I have read of near-death experiences, "miracles", "fulfilled prophecies", "answered prayers", etc. Of course, I have learned to think like a scientist and a skeptic, so stories that might be convincing to others aren't to me.

Then, I also started looking into the history of the Bible which makes much of it look made-up, too. I learned the logical issues that make it impossible for a god (if one exists) to be both all-powerful and all-loving. I learned about the problems with Pascal's Wager. And why the evidence really looks like no thinking entity intervened during the evolution of species or the creation of galaxies and planets. I really came to think that there is no need for the concept of god; it doesn't contribute anything to our understanding of how anything came to be. I came to believe that it is most likely that god is just a made-up concept like fairies and ghosts. I acknowledge that one cannot prove there is no god (or no fairies for that matter). So, there might be a god of some sort existing somewhere, but I highly doubt it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

God Cannot be Both All-Powerful and All-Loving (Reprise)

My thesis is if there is a god, it cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful. It can be one or the other or neither, but it cannot be both.

Let me begin by defining my terms: 1) for my purposes “god” is a variable that can mean whatever people mean when they say god; 2) “all-loving” can include a lot of things and perhaps everyone’s definition might be a little different, but for my logical proof all-loving means at minimum god doesn’t want us to needlessly suffer [God can still be considered all-loving while wanting us to suffer if he deems the suffering necessary]; 3) “all-powerful” means that he can do anything that is not logically contradictory. [A logical contradiction is the conjunction of a statement S and it’s denial not-S. In logic, the law of non contradiction is that a statement and its denial can not both be true at the same time. That means that I would still consider him to be all-powerful even though he could not make us both able to experience pain and unable to experience pain, because that would be logically contradictory. (Now, some people are going to try to use that as a loop hole to pass mountains through, so let me be clear that when we talk about what god is able to do, we are not limited by the way things are now - just because there is a strong connection between two concepts (S & T) in the world where we currently reside that connection doesn't necessarily have to hold in all possible worlds god could create. So, my "logically consistent" language only refers to pairings such as S, not-S, and does not exclude pairings such as S, not-T, even though in our current world T might be part of S. My point is, if god is all-powerful, he can make S and not have T as part of it, and that is not a logical contradiction because S is not T, they just have a connection in our current world. If someone claims the relationship between S & T truly is inseparable, then there is a part of my logical argument that addresses that)]; 4) “needless suffering” is unnecessary suffering as opposed to suffering that is needed because it is the only or best way to accomplish some purpose as judged by god.

Now, you may disagree with those definitions and that is fine, but what I am trying to prove through my logical proof is what those definitions are all about. So, another way of saying god cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving would be god cannot be both able to do anything that is not logically contradictory and not want us to needlessly suffer.

1) Either god is capable of producing a world in which every single one of his goals, purposes and intentions can be met perfectly without us suffering, or he isn't. If he can, then proceed to step 2. If he cannot, then he is not all-powerful and in that case I would be correct in my assertion that god cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving.

2) So, an all-powerful god could create a world without human suffering in which all his goals are accomplished, and he could create a world with human suffering in which all of his goals are accomplished. If that were the case then all human suffering would be needless because god has an option available to him in which all of his goals could be accomplished without our suffering. We don’t have to suffer if he can accomplish the same thing without our suffering. So, all human suffering is needless to an all-powerful god. Proceed to step 3.

3) By definition, if god is all-loving, he would not want us to suffer needlessly. Again, if god were all-powerful then all human suffering is needless. So, if god were all-loving and all-powerful we would live in a world without human suffering in which all of god’s purposes are accomplished. Since we do suffer, we must conclude that if there is an all-powerful god, he cannot be all-loving, and if an all-loving god exists he cannot be all-powerful. If a god exists, it cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful.


And to take it one step further: A) If god is not all-powerful, then who or what was able to set up things such that not even god could change them to perfectly satisfy his purposes without human suffering? At that point, the theist who does not believe in an all-powerful god is in a similar position to the atheist - both wondering about the existence of universal laws that seem to exist without a creator.

B) If one maintains the belief in an all-powerful god, then one must accept that god created needless suffering when he did not have to, or perhaps suffering was the goal. There is only one goal or purpose that an all-powerful god could have that he could not meet in a world without human suffering: namely, the express purpose of having us suffer. But, if an all-powerful god has our suffering as a goal in and of itself, then not only would he not be all-loving, he would be worse than that, kind of a sadist, and I certainly would not want anything to do with it.


An all-powerful god can do anything that is logically consistent. I think many people's hang up is they limit god to only what is possible in the current set-up, but an all-powerful god is not limited to only what is possible in the current realm. A vast array of possibilities open up when you realize how much an all-powerful god can define and create. Attributes are no longer required to be only obtained through a narrow route, and it is still logical because all things are possible.

An all-powerful god could control all the variables. He can set up whatever rules for learning or growth or knowledge acquisition that he wants. There is no immutable relationship between concepts for him. He can create or modify every concept and every relationship between concepts. If you think suffering is necessary to learn to distinguish bad or harmful behavior from good or helpful behavior, an all-powerful god could set things up such that sunshine teaches people the difference between good and bad behavior.

If suffering has an inherent value, an all-powerful god either gave it that value or could change it, and he could have given something else that value and made the value inherent to it. An all-powerful god can accomplish the value of suffering without the suffering. He could train us solely with rewards and no punishments. He could do anything he wants, and I do mean anything. 

If you truly believe that a person simply cannot learn something, say compassion, without suffering, then you do not believe in an all-powerful god, because apparently there are immutable laws that he can not modify or change. That begs the question, who or what created those immutable laws?

If you want to claim that god is all-powerful, then he could have designed or altered us and designed or altered life such that we could grow without hardships and injustices. And if he could do it (i.e., ensure our growth without suffering), he would not choose the path of suffering if he is all-loving. Remember his ability to accomplish the exact same ends, with or without suffering makes suffering unnecessary. If you can get the same results with or without, then you don't need the suffering. You cannot be all-loving and put people through unnecessary suffering.

Some say god doesn’t cause the suffering, we do. But, we would not even have the ability to cause suffering if suffering did not exist. An all-powerful god could not create the concept or get rid of it if it already existed.

My proof works for every possible purpose god might have for our suffering. We don’t have to know or even be able to conceive of his purposes, because the variable in the proof “His goals” can take on any value. The nice thing about logic is that it allows one to reach into all possibilities, even possibilities we are unaware of and could not comprehend.

I am not claiming that the Bible asserts god is all-powerful and all-loving (I don’t know whether it does or not), I am simply saying if a god exists, and it doesn’t matter who’s god, one thing we can know for sure is that it cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving. Incidently, Mormonism solves this problem by essentially claiming god is not all-powerful. Now, they say the exact opposite - they say god is all-powerful, but if you read between the lines, you learn that they believe God is subject to law. If he were to lie he’d cease to be god, and he has a god and had to follow commandments and ordinances to become exalted, etc. So, there are things he can’t change, thus he is not truly all-powerful at least in the way I am talking about it in my proof. He also seems to have no ability to change us and the way we learn and what we feel, etc.

When you love a child who is hurting, what do you want to do? Comfort them; help them feel better; reduce some of their discomfort; end their pain. If god is all-loving, he would want to end our unnecessary pain. One might argue that all pain is necessary and has a purpose even if we don't know what it is. That might be true in the way the current universe is constructed, but an all-powerful god could have constructed any possible universe. He could have constructed a universe in which every good thing that suffering accomplishes in this universe, could be accomplished without suffering. That makes suffering unnecessary because one could get all the same purposes and needs accomplished without it. So why have it? It is unneeded.

Let's use an example for illustration. A 3 year old girl through no fault of her own or that of her parents gets impaled by a tree branch that a strong wind gust threw into her. Her parents rush to her side, the girl is in excruciating pain minute after minute until she dies a few minutes before paramedics arrive. Let's suppose god has a purpose for her suffering. My point is that if he is all-powerful, he could have designed a world in which that exact purpose could have been accomplished without the girl suffering. If you claim that suffering was the only way, then you are saying that god is not all-powerful and you have conceded my point.

Parents can have a purpose for their child's suffering. Parents have learned over the years that in this world we live in, suffering can decrease the likelihood of people repeating the behavior that proceeded the suffering. So, if they want to decrease the likelihood of their child doing something they consider bad, they do something to make the child suffer, and it works to some extent.

Yes, God could have a similar purpose for our suffering. But, this is where the analogy between god and human parents breaks down. Parents can't control the universe, they can't rewire their children's brains to accomplish the same results (namely, a decrease in the likelihood of a behavior being repeated) when exposing the children to the color purple. Parents have no choice but to go with what works in the current world they live in; not so with God. Parents have to make the best choice from the options available to them. An all-powerful god can create whatever options he wants. He can't use the excuse that he wanted to spare us pain but he just couldn't and still have us turn out the way he wanted. He is all-powerful, he could spare us the pain and still have us come out the way he wanted. If god is all-powerful, he could create a world in which every benefit we/he now gets from suffering could be achieved through something other than suffering. So, we would not need suffering to learn not to do some behavior, because in this other world god could create he would have created/altered us and created that world such that parents could use a certain tone and it would work just as well to decrease the likelihood of a child repeating the behavior.

Yes, this presumes a reality that is not contradictory or illogical. If reality is logical and non-contradictory then a god cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving.

If one is willing to throw out everything and imagine a reality that is illogical and paradoxical, then one inhabits a reality that truly makes no sense. In that kind of reality, there is little point to talking about anything since nothing can be counted on in a reality that is illogical. In short, we'd have much bigger problems than the nature of god in a reality that is contradictory and paradoxical. Playing that trump card is akin to burning down the whole house just so you don't lose the card game. There would be no point for the scriptures or anyone else to talk about the attributes of god because they would be incomprehensible and unreliable if god and reality doesn’t follow the laws of logic. Arguing that god can be illogical is a major concession that has huge ramifications on anything you think you may understand about god.

Some people say to just trust god. The fact that we have suffering means that god is not all-powerful, or he is not all-loving, or he is neither all-powerful nor all-loving, or that he doesn't exist. If god is all-powerful, but not all-loving, he is sadistic for putting us through pain when he did not have to, or he wanted us to, and thus is not someone I want to trust. If god is all-loving but not all-powerful, there are things beyond his control, and so he might be trustworthy, but only to a point, there may be some promises he can't deliver on and some fates he can't save us from. If god exists but is neither all-powerful nor all-loving, then I am not too inclined to trust him especially since he hasn’t made himself that available to be known. And if he doesn't exist, then I wouldn’t want to trust a figment of my imagination.

When we humans make decisions, there is always a cost and benefit to the alternatives. Choice 1 may have benefits A, B, and C, but negatives X, Y, and Z. Choice 2 may have some of the same benefits B and C, and maybe a unique benefit as well D, but it also has some of the same negatives X and Y, with the additional negative of Q. When weighing our options, we have to decide does benefit A with cost Z (Choice 1) outweigh benefit D with cost Q (Choice 2). We can't have our cake and eat it, too. This is because we are not all-powerful - we do not control all of the variables. We cannot uncouple benefit D from cost Q. We have to accept that they come in a package deal, because we are not all-powerful.

You seem to be implying the same is true for an all-powerful deity. That he could have reasons (i, ii, & iii) for choosing Choice 2, even though it contains cost Q, because he can't get benefit D without it, or he doesn't want to choose Choice 1 because he really doesn't want cost Z and benefit A, although very similar to benefit D, isn't exactly the same.

If god is all-powerful, he can create a design that gets him everything that he wants and none of what he doesn't want. If he is all-powerful, he is not limited like us to have to take some negative to get a benefit he wants. He controls all of the variables and all of the linkages between the variables. He doesn't have to settle. He doesn't have to choose the best of the alternatives presented to him because he has complete control over every aspect and implication of every alternative. He doesn't have to give himself a bad choice, cause he can have it all - exactly what he wants! There can be no reason to have to settle for a plan with suffering in it, because to an all-powerful god, he can create a design with every single thing he wants without suffering. If, in our current world, suffering is the best teacher and there is just no substitute as good as it, it is only because god made it that way. He could have made it that (blank) is the best teacher. There is nothing that suffering can offer us that an all-powerful god could not make something else offer us. So, there can be no unique advantage to suffering if god is all-powerful. So, there can be no reason (i, ii, or iii) for him to choose a design with suffering in it, when he could have all that he wanted, every purpose, every need, every reason accomplished equally well in a design with no suffering. 

It simply does not matter that we cannot know what all of those reasons or purposes might be. All that matters is that god knew what purposes he had in mind and that if god is all-powerful, it logically follows that he could accomplish those purposes without suffering.

Some want to make a big deal that just because he could doesn't mean he should. Well, I've already shown that an all-powerful god could not have a reason to choose suffering that he could not overcome, because an all-powerful god does not have to settle as he can have exactly what he wants with no unwanted stuff. If god were all-loving, he would not choose for us to suffer when he doesn't have to, and he doesn't have to if he is all-powerful because there can be no advantage to a design with suffering in it that he cannot completely replicate in a design without suffering in it. If not, then he is not all-powerful.

Now, we live in a world with suffering. So, either god did not have the power to create a design in which he could accomplish all of his purposes without suffering (i.e., he was not all-powerful). Or, he is all-powerful and could have created a design in which he got everything that he wants with nothing he doesn't, but chose to include suffering anyway (i.e., he is not all-loving). But, he absolutely cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful, because we do have needless suffering in the world, and it is needless because if he were all powerful, he could have met ever need, purpose, and reason he has, in a world without suffering.

My point is if god were all-powerful, he would not be stuck with having to just accept the kind of universe we have now in which people can cause suffering, etc. He could have designed a universe in which suffering does not exist, period. If suffering did not exist, no one or thing could cause suffering. Now, the apologist usually tries to say here, "yeah, god could have created a universe with no suffering but he chose not to because he wanted us to be able to learn/develop love/compassion/ability to discern good from evil/make the right choice/strength/yada yada, and the only way we could get whatever is through suffering".

I say to those apologists, you are still thinking too small. If god were all-powerful, he could design a way for us to acquire/develop/learn love/compassion/ability to discern good from evil/make the right choice/strength/yada yada without us having to suffer. If he were all-powerful, he could. If you say, he could not, then you are saying he is not all-powerful, which proves my point.

If you acknowledge that he could do that, but chose not to, then you are admitting god is a prick, because he invented suffering for no good reason except for the sole purpose of having us suffer. Every good reason for suffering, god could have accomplished without suffering, yet he chose to enable us to suffer. Therefore, god cannot be all-loving.

Now, some people want to say _____ isn't ______ if there is no suffering. For example, they'll say compassion isn't compassion if there is no suffering, so god could not enable us to develop compassion in a universe without suffering and since he wanted us to have compassion, he had to create a world with suffering.

My response, if there is something god is unable to do, then god is not all-powerful. You are thinking too small, accepting these words and concepts like compassion as if they are givens, stuff that god has no choice but to work with. If these words "compassion" and "suffering" really are beyond god's ability to change or redefine, then who created those concepts in the first place. It as if god was born into a space in which these concepts already existed. Surely you don't believe that, right? God is supposed to be the beginning of everything, nothing existed before him right? So, then he created the concept of compassion and suffering and established the relationship between the two. Therefore, if god were all powerful, he could have created other concepts or created the concept of compassion, but declared compassion could only be developed through holding hands or whatever. The apologist says, "well, then it wouldn't be compassion". Who says? If god is inventing the concepts and their relationships, compassion is whatever god says it is.

Still not convinced? Well, let's talk about god's values. An all-powerful god can choose to value whatever he wants, right? So, he could choose to value a version of compassion that requires suffering or value a version of compassion that doesn't require suffering. If the universe he creates doesn't have suffering, what good is it for us to have the version of compassion that enables us to have empathy for the sufferer? No one is suffering, so there is no need to have the ability to empathize with the sufferer. If he simply wants us to love, be drawn to, have our heart swell, want to be with, another person, he could have easily built a universe in which we could develop that without suffering, and there would be no need for suffering, for every good thing he might accomplish through suffering could be accomplished without suffering if he were an all-powerful god.

If god is all powerful, he could do anything he darn well pleased. There would be no "have to" for him, such as if you are going to have compassion you "have to" also allow suffering.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Problems with Pascal's Wager

Some of what follows comes from: Pascal's Wager Refuted ( ) And some of it comes from me.
"Pascal's Wager (call it "PW") may be formulated as follows:
(a) If God exists, then whoever doesn't believe in him will end up being eternally tormented.
(b) If God exists, then whoever believes in him will gain eternal life.
(c) If God doesn't exist, then whether or not people believe in him can't matter very much.
(d) Hence [from (a)-(c)], nontheists are running a grave risk. At the very least, the expected utility of their belief situation is infinitely worse than that of theists.
(e) But such people are able to self-induce theistic belief.
(f) Therefore [from (d) & (e)], all nontheists ought to change their beliefs and become theists.
Here are some objections to PW:"
* If God exists and he does eternally torment non-believers, then I don't want anything to do will him. He is evil and heartless, and I would rather be tormented than align with him. Let my pain stand as a testament to his evilness.
"* According to the Bible, more is required for salvation than mere belief in God. One also needs to believe in God's son (Mark 16:16; John 3:18,36, 8:21-25, 14:6; Acts 4:10-12; I John 5:12), repent (Luke 13:3,5), be born again (John 3:3), be born of the water and of the Spirit (John 3:5), believe everything in the gospel (Mark 16:16), eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood (John 6:53), be like a child (Mark 10:15), and do good deeds, esp. for needy people (Matt. 25:41-46; Rom. 2:5-10; John 5:28-29; James 2:14-26). Therefore, premise (b) of PW is not generally true, so far as the Bible is concerned. And, furthermore, apart from the Bible, there is no reason whatever to believe that premise. Thus, PW's premise (b) can reasonably be doubted.
* Many people who believe in God devote significant time to prayer and church activities. Such people presumably also contribute money, perhaps a tithe (10% of their income). Without that belief, most of them would not do such things. In addition, many such people go through life with inhibitions on both thought and behavior. (Consider, for example, inhibitions regarding sexual practices, marriage & divorce, birth control, abortion, reading material, and association with other people.) In many cases, those inhibitions are quite extreme and may have great effects on one's life and the lives of others. In some communities, women are oppressed on the basis of theistic belief. Also, some theists have persecuted and even killed others (as in inquisitions, religious wars, attacks on homosexuals, abortionists, etc.) because of their belief that that is what God wants them to do. Furthermore, some people (e.g., clergymen) devote their entire lives to God. For these various reasons, even if God does not exist, it would indeed matter a great deal whether or not one believes in God, at least for most such believers. It follows that premise (c) of PW is false.
* It may be that God does not exist and, instead, some other being rules the universe. That being may dislike intensely and may inflict infinite punishment on anyone who believes in God or who believes anything out of self-interest (as recommended in PW). But a person who comes to believe in God on the basis of PW would in that case be in "a heap of trouble," even though God does not exist. The expected utility of the theist's belief situation would be infinitely worse than that of the nontheist. It follows that premise (c) of PW is false."
* Stated in a slightly different way, if one picks Jehovah and you should have picked Zeus, then believers in Jehovah are in a heap of trouble. There are an infinite number of possible gods out there. If you pick one and I pick none, our odds are nearly the same given how many chances we have of being wrong. And if you believe in all gods, and there is only one, he may be jealous and torment you for it.
"* To believe in God, one must believe propositions that are, from the standpoint of most nontheists, impossible (or at least very hard) to believe. For that reason, PW's premise (e) can be rejected.
* Belief is not directly subject to the will. So, it is impossible (or at least very difficult) for nontheists to self-induce theistic belief. This also renders PW's premise (e) false.
For all of these reasons, PW ought to be rejected."
* PW offers a false dichotomy, that there are only these two possibilities. It might be that God does exist and doesn't care whether or not you believe in him, but rewards good behavior regardless, or rewards critical thinking and skepticism. Then it would be the non-skeptics that miss out on rewards.
The worst thing that can happen to a believer who is wrong is to find out he served the wrong god, and have the real god torture him forever because he is a jealous god and doesn't like you serving the wrong god.
* If a god exists and is any good at all, he will not condemn people who do not believe in him.
If there is a god that sends non-believers to hell, I want nothing to do with a god like that. I'd never worship a god that does that. So, if hell gets me away from that monster, to hell I'll go.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

USA "not founded on Christian principles" - John Adams

"The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy."— George Washington

"The United States Constitutional Convention, except for three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary."— Benjamin Franklin

"This nation of ours was not founded on Christian principles."— John Adams

"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."— James Madison, letter to William Bradford, 1771

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;..." ~Treaty of Tripoli 1796

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book of Abraham Papyri Fragments

These scanned images come from the book "By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus" by Charles Larsen.