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HolyGround >> A couple things about Hell...


10/31/11 5:46 PM
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RoidsGracie
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Ridgeback - 
RoidsGracie - If hell as a place of eternal punishment is actually real, I would curse my parents for bringing me into this world. Even the smallest possibility of being punished for all eternity would be enough for me to prefer to not have been born at all. Now, I realize the need for justice but I wouldn't even wish eternal punishment on the worst rapist or mass-murderer.
 

 Let us say that a human has made free choices to the point that he has to prey upon other humans to be happy.  You can say that he dominates them or robs them or rapes them or murders them.  It doesn't matter.  The point is he puts his own desires above the concerns of others.  

Now there are three possible ways a God could deal with this person while not stripping him of his freedom.  And some may argue that a good God would simply annihilate a bad person who won't choose to use his freedom the right way, but that is the same as not having any freedom since there are no real choices and real consequences. 

So this God could:

1. Leave this person in a world where real moral choices are made but others will always suffer at his hands. Therefore, it is a world without justice, which is the one we live in.

2. Recreate the world such that everything is in the light and people are powerless to prey upon each other.  This is the Christian conception of paradise, but it will be Gehenna for our man because he will hate a world where he can no longer feed off of his fellow humans.

3. Create a false reality in which the person thinks he is preying upon real people, but it is all a delusion in his mind.  Since he still has freedom, however, he either discovers that the world is a fake and is in Gehenna of another kind or he continues to become more of a monster and creates his own Gehenna.


Can you think of any other possible outcomes where people remain free, where justice is achieved (not Justice in the sense of punishment but justice in the sense of the poor and weak not being preyed upon) and which won't be a hell for a person like that?  I will be interested in you answer.

 Wouldn't destroying the person and thus denying him a place in paradise be sufficient punishment? I'm not sure how that would contradict free will since the person will still have a period of time at least to follow his evil desires to the extent that he can carry it out. Also, by removing the person from paradise it would also prevent others from being preyed upon by them.
11/1/11 8:26 PM
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Lahi
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Workman - 

So to begin, I'd like to ask you if you are aware that the Bible speaks of the term "death" in more than one sense, or way.

Are you aware of this? If not, please let me know so I can show you some examples, as your understanding of this is crucial to gaining an accurate interpretation of Matthew 10:28.


I'm aware of some differences, but would you give some examples? I'm guessing you know about more than I do.
11/1/11 11:27 PM
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Ridgeback
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 At the end of this thread it still seems like Prof. is saying that humans are free, but when they go bad it must be because of the flawed nature that God gave them.  I don't know how the same nature can produce free people who make heroic choices and become more loving in the agape sense (even to the level of St. Paul who said he would give up his own salvation to see his brothers saved) but also produce the people who apparently don't make free choices because they made bad ones and so God must be to blame.  Now I would agree that if God didn't do everything in his power to help his creatures despite their choices then he wouldn't be like a loving human father, but a loving human father isn't going to help his son murder people and eventually he has to choose between the conflicting elements of that situation as in stopping his son from being able to harm people.  
11/5/11 4:28 PM
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prof
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Edited: 11/05/11 4:30 PM
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Ridgeback,

You still aren't confronting the question I'm asking (and the point I'm making).

When it comes to the question of God's culpability in human misery, you simply can not hang everything on the notion of "free will." It doesn't support it.

Free will simply denotes that someone is free to make a choice. It does not explain all the other things there are to explain, like how someone comes to be in a position of choosing to do bad or good.

And we are often in the position of choosing between good or evil due to the influence of elements in our human nature (along with our situation and environment...much of which we also do not "choose.")

We know for a fact that most humans share certain tendencies, and that there are also ranges and variations within human nature. As I said, anyone who is a parent is confronted with the amazing influence of biology on the nature of their children.

Take my two sons. Despite being raised in the same family, on the same principles, they are incredibly different by nature. My eldest is very much like my wife and her father - has always been shy, retiring, incredibly focused on a few interests, is reticent about trying new things, new foods, and is generally a serious-natured person. He is in psychological terms a "homeostatic personality." He prefers things to stay the same, and looks for consistency, clinging to the things he likes and not varying routine.

Whereas my younger son, from as long as I can remember, has been utterly different: outgoing, expressively friendly to all, out to try anything and everything. Loves to travel, try new foods. Always looking for change and diversity for stimulation. It's like looking at polar opposites - a strict homeostatic vs a strict heterostatic person.

They both have "free will" yet this fact about them does not at all explain WHY they make the choices they do. It doesn't explain their natural inclinations and desires, and why they are so different.

If your Biblical, theological "explanations" don't go beyond the rote repetition of "free will" to help explain the whys of human nature more deeply, then it is superficial and impotent. It doesn't actually explain much at all. (Which is why I'm trying to get you to think past the rote "It's our free will that explains our fallen predicament" response).

And as I already said: We know through research that human beings share many seemingly in-built forms of prejudice and bias effects in our cognitive processing of the world. "Free will" simply does not cover this, or act in any explanatory capacity. (Which is why theology is ultimately so empty and impotent against the advance of more specific, careful, critical scrutiny of various sciences).

So you have to answer questions like these: Is it not the case that humans have a nature, many features of which are inherent rather than being objects of conscious choice? And doesn't facets of our nature help explain WHY we have the desires we do and WHY we make some of the choices we do?
And isn't God, as our Creator, the author of human nature?
Therefore, wouldn't God be responsible for HIS part insofar
as He provided us with limitations, inclinations, certain desires, etc, which are behind why we choose to do both good and bad things?

Surely like any human you struggle with some sinful urges. And surely you do not consciously "choose" to have those sinful urges (why would you?). Rather, these urges (like your urges to do good) are urges you have. Moral Free Will comes in insofar as you know which urges are "good" to act on and which ones are "bad" to act on. And hence it becomes your moral duty to restrain your actions as best as possible and choose to act on the good urges. But the urges themselves...WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?

Prof
11/6/11 9:11 AM
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colubrid1
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Psychiatry is the new religion of today.
11/6/11 4:07 PM
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Lahi
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Edited: 11/06/11 6:05 PM
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Prof, a few thoughts on your posts:

First, I fall into the camp of wishing that Universalism were true, but believing that it probably isn't. I hope I am wrong. At the same time, the idea of a person being able to separate themselves from God for all eternity is something that I don't see as being morally indefensible on God's part.

Going back to your picture of the kids with the tarp and candy: I think our actual experiences as humans who choose are wide and varied, with this example representing one end of the spectrum. At the other, I think you have adults in a kitchen who know that the knives there are meant for cutting food, who know the full consequences of using them to cut themselves (or others), but who choose to use the knives wrongly anyway.

This may sound extreme, but I don't think we are being honest about the human condition if we don't admit that we sometimes see the good and bad of a situation clearly (meaning the consequences for us and others), and choose to do bad - not because of any inherited characteristic that makes us do it, but because seeing all the options, we want to eat the bar of soap instead of the bar of chocolate (or whatever other example you want to use that sounds crazy, but I think fits our behavior sometime).

I would say that both you example and mine represent extreme ends of choice which are not the norm, but which non-the-less do occur. I would imagine that most of our choices fall somewhere in between.

I think a fair picture of the Christian teaching would be that at one time we were sinless, with a clear view of reality, and that we chose to use the kitchen knife for the wrong reasons knowing full well the (at least immediate) consequences. With or without God, one aspect of free will seems to be the ability to influence others for the worse, and Christianity seems to teach that our ancestors who chose wrongly did this to us as a race, resulting in the muddled instincts, view of reality, and ability to choose that we now have. Again even without God, I think we can see this at work on some level in the way family (and community) cycles of abuse, poverty, and addiction perpetuate themselves.

Maybe one could argue that a good God could have found a way to create a world where people could freely love Him, but not have to face the consequences of choosing otherwise. Looking at the way the world works, I wonder if this isn't a nonsense question that might seem reasonable to us, but simply can't work.

I haven't thought this through I'll admit; but any way I could see it working in our world as it is seems to end up with God being the North Korean type celestial dictator Hitchens talks about. If someone were determined to choose bad, with all things being equal (no propensity for it, and a knowledge of the consequences), what could God do to protect them (and others) but to act preemptively, or over-ride their consciousness in some way?

I agree that no one would be likely to choose eternal punishment of any kind outwardly, or directly (although Hitchens says he would, I think, not want to go to Heaven even if it existed, but I could be wrong). If it were a matter of God saying "step across this line and do these things, and be in Heaven, or don't, and be dead forever," I think most would say that they would step over the line. But I think human nature is more complex. I see us as more the people who look at a good and a bad marriage, and say "of course I want the good one." Then we try to convince ourselves that we can cheat on our spouse with no consequences, and still have a good marriage, knowing full well that it really won't work. This attitude seems to lead right back to people who simply wouldn't be happy in God's presence no matter what; acting on their decisions to do harm will only lead to more misry, and even if they aren't allowed to hurt others, experiencing God's goodness while wanting the opposite would still seem miserable enough (as I think Ridge was saying).

The question for me is, given enough time, could God convince the people overtly determined to have things their own way that this is not the way to live, and is incompatible with being in his presence, and with eternal happiness? I hope that he can. But it wouldn't surprise me if we are knowingly capable of changing ourselves to the point that we completely cut ourselves off from God.

To put it another way, what if its not God doing the choosing, but us? Are we capable of warping ourselves to the point that we knowing step on the wrong side of the line, and, despite God's repeated attempts, insist on staying there for all eternity? I don't underestimate the perversity of the human heart enough to rule out that there are some who would choose that. Again I hope I am wrong about that.
11/6/11 4:24 PM
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Lahi
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Maybe the next to last sentence would have been better worded "I don't underestimate the willfulness of some to choose evil..."
11/6/11 7:21 PM
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prof
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Lahi,

Thanks for your thoughts. However, your post avoided answering my question just as Ridgeback's posts.

You continually talked about "choice" and consequences and free will, without putting thought into the question of WHAT EXPLAINS the desires and inclinations
that underly our choices in the first place.

Answers along these lines simply avoid the question:

Lahi -I think a fair picture of the Christian teaching would be that at one time we were sinless, with a clear view of reality, and that we chose to use the kitchen knife for the wrong reasons knowing full well the (at least immediate) consequences.


But..WHY would we have done that? What is it about our NATURE that such a choice would have been made?

When I was somewhat overweight I was edging towards the same problems as my father who gained too much weight, which brought on diabetes, high blood pressure and ultimately stroke. When I reached for a donut I had a "clear view" of the consequences: it was going against my desire to have a healthy weight. It would be putting me in the direction of very plausible health problems I just described. I certainly did not want those health complications.
And yet...like so many people, my father included, I ate the donut anyway.

WHY? Saying I had "free will" and made a choice knowing the consequences simply does not answer that question. That I made that free-willed choice is the VERY PHENOMENON THAT DEMANDS AN EXPLANATION!

It would have been much easier on me, or anyone trying to lose weight, to not have to battle the desire for foods that we know are bad for us. Yet...despite not having "chosen" to have those desires...we have them. What explains the presence of such desires?

To answer that question will mean uncovering something about my desires, my proclivities, inclinations, my physical constitution, my need to eat to survive, how food is processed by my body, he reasons why my brain would "light up" with desire at a fat and sugar-laden piece of food in front of me. All of this has to do with the nature of human beings, and how our nature interacts with our environment, our past history etc.

This question will apply to EVERY choice anyone makes. What is it about human nature that makes infidelity so common? What is it that about human nature that has made slavery such a common feature of history? And war? And racism and general suspicion of "The Other?"
Etc. These questions are not answered by the fact people "used their free will to make such choices." We can assume they could have made other choices so we have to answer WHY it is they were compelled to do these things?

You wrote:

Lahi -I haven't thought this through I'll admit;


And you are not alone. Many people like me have been asking these questions of theists and we can't help notice that theists do not seem to have thought these issues through. For all the amount of ink put to page by theologians, they tend to start with dubious assumptions and go from there, leaving many important problems unaddressed (or not addressed adequately).

The problem is that when you really force yourself to deal with the details of these questions, it's hard to escape God's culpability in our Fallen and sinful nature. And it simply doesn't matter whether you take the Fall to be a literal Biblical account, or whether you take it any other way (e.g. that the Fall was a metaphor for our ongoing "sinning" nature or whatever). Once you have God as our creator, God can't escape moral responsibility for those facets of our nature that lead us to sin.

Prof.




11/7/11 7:33 AM
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Ridgeback
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 I don't have a lot of time Prof, but you are arguing in circles.  Either people are free moral agents or they are not.  What material they start with is irrelevant to that question.  You are just trying to have your cake and eat it like I pointed out.  You allow that people can be good through free choices, but you want to put the blame on God when people become bad through their free choices, citing faulty "natures" given to them by God. This comes across as nothing more than loading the dice.   God is morally responsible for the facets of our nature that lead to sin, but we alone achieve sainthood right?  And people wonder why atheists are accused of having an emotional disdain for God.  I think you just don't believe in human freedom Prof.  I mean you like it when things go well, but when things go wrong then it must not be real.  Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist, witnessed the best and worst of human behavior first hand in Auschwitz and he came away convinced that humans were free not to make their circumstances, but free to respond to those circumstances as they willed, and thereby either become saints or swine.  Otherwise, we are just animals in the sense that we don't hold any animal accountable for its actions along moral lines.  Your philosophy is inherently dehumanizing because you don't give bad people the dignity of having made themselves bad through their own choices.  

And Christianity does do something that goes beyond merely leaving bad people on their own.  It gives every person the ability to repent and be given the power to change.  So in that respect God doesn't just leave humans hanging despite their bad choices.  There are countless stories of bad people who became saints. Look at St. Moses for example.  These people always point out that they would not have been redeemed on their own.   They would have made choices that would have damned themselves.  And this part of things is grace because it goes beyond mere free choices.  It is a way to turn around for those who have chosen to go down the wrong paths.  The only other thing God could do that would satisfy you, apparently, would be to strip humans of their free will, and slap them down in paradise.  Only they would have no life with God since they would not have the freedom to give themselves up.  Yes there would be no truly evil men in your dream, but there would be no saints either.  They would all be dumb cows chewing the cud of heaven.  That, to me, is hell.
11/7/11 12:54 PM
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Lahi
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Edited: 11/07/11 12:55 PM
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Thanks for the response Prof.

I want to get back to your post later, but want to ask if you can conceive of a way in which humans could be free to choose, without ever having the option of choosing wrongly, and having no consequences if they did so? This is what I meant I hadn't thought through, but it seems to be a non-sense question to ask "could God have given us free will without ever allowing for the possibility of wrong choices."

Saying that our bad choices are God's fault simply because he gave us the ability to choose seems a bit like blaming the government for the irresponsible gun owner, or the beer brewery for the drunk driver.
11/7/11 1:31 PM
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inlikeflynn
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Lahi - Thanks for the response Prof.

I want to get back to your post later, but want to ask if you can conceive of a way in which humans could be free to choose, without ever having the option of choosing wrongly, and having no consequences if they did so? This is what I meant I hadn't thought through, but it seems to be a non-sense question to ask "could God have given us free will without ever allowing for the possibility of wrong choices."

Saying that our bad choices are God's fault simply because he gave us the ability to choose seems a bit like blaming the government for the irresponsible gun owner, or the beer brewery for the drunk driver.


I think Prof's point is that it doesn't seem to be a neutral proposition. It's not that we shouldn't have the option to choose evil, it's that we seem to have a natural inclination to choose evil.
11/7/11 2:50 PM
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prof
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Ridgeback:

You couldn't, or wouldn't, answer the questions.

This really points to the liability of your religious beliefs, and the limitations in the usefulness of your theology. The questions of why human beings have the proclivities we do is a very real, important question. The answers are very important in understanding ourselves, in practical and in moral terms as well. The problem is that the answers to these questions may well be (and I think, are) problematical to some tenets of your theology, namely God has to be kept squeaky clean, morally. So instead of answering, you run away, drop them like a hot potato. When there is the choice between answering hard questions and theology, theology wins. In that respect, you are acting no "better" than young earth creationists who will ignore or avoid problematical facts to cling to the safety of their doctrines.

Ridgeback - I don't have a lot of time Prof, but you are arguing in circles.


No, you are the one stuck in a viscous circle, intoning "free will" as the answer to all these questions. I've been trying to lead you by the hand out of that viscous circle, showing you how intoning "God gave us free will...God gave us free will" does not actually answer the questions.

Ridgeback - Either people are free moral agents or they are not. What material they start with is irrelevant to that question.


That betrays an incredible lack of insight. It's hard to know what else to say at this point, since you don't answer the pertinent questions. But I'm feeling Quixotic, so...

Ridgeback -
You are just trying to have your cake and eat it like I pointed out. You allow that people can be good through free choices, but you want to put the blame on God when people become bad through their free choices, citing faulty "natures" given to them by God. This comes across as nothing more than loading the dice. God is morally responsible for the facets of our nature that lead to sin, but we alone achieve sainthood right?


Nope.

If God is the author of our nature, then God can also be credited with some of our good impulses (e.g. empathy, compassion, ability to love, etc). The problem is, as in reviewing any "product," (cell phone, computer software etc)
the designer deserves credit for the good, but also responsibility for the bad parts of the design. Same goes for the design of human beings.

I have continually said that someone doing an evil act has moral culpability. You keep ignoring my actual argument and point: that someone ELSE can be tainted with moral culpability AS WELL, depending on their involvement in the scenario. This should be obvious...but obvious things suddenly become impossible for believers to compute when it threatens their cherished ideas of God.

Look how it works, again: Think of a judge in the position of sentencing a Serial Killer. The serial killer has been diagnosed as intractable. The serial killer says he still has a strong desire to kill many people. In fact, if he is released, he says he will surely kill more people. And then the Judge says "release him, he's free to go."

Shortly after his release, the serial killer murders again, just as he said he would.

Now, does this make the serial killer not morally culpable for his actions? Of course not. The serial killer is morally culpable for his evil doing. But would we not now say the judge ALSO bares some moral responsibility for the fact the serial killer murdered more people. You KNOW that answer to that question is: YES. That judge would come under huge societal moral opprobrium. The judge knew the killer had those desires, knew what would happen if he let the killer free, had the power to jail the killer instead, but CHOSE not to do so. Hence the judge bares some moral culpability IN ADDITION to the serial killer's moral culpability (not "in place of"). You know very well that the judge appealing to free will "but...it was the killer's free willed choice to kill, not mine!" would not fly for a second.

Yet THIS train of logic is exactly what you are trying to avoid in this discussion. And I think you know it. Your responses here are the equivalent of trying to focus the light ONLY on the serial killer's free willed choice, and ignoring the relevance of the Judge's actions to the additional murders.

Now, it's bad enough that the judge simply let the serial killer murder more people. But imagine if you found out the judge had somehow actually put the desire to kill into the killer! Either by some hypnotic or biological wizardry or whatever. That of course would make his moral culpability even more ghastly.

It is therefore EXTREMELY RELEVANT to determine the reasons for why people might have desires or proclivities that
induce in them choices toward evil over good acts. To say this is "irrelevant" is just incredibly blind. And it's directly relevant to the question of God's moral culpability for how humans behave (in ADDITION to the moral culpability we have).

Can you get this yet?


Ridgeback -And people wonder why atheists are accused of having an emotional disdain for God.


The people who wonder that tend to be doing so on the basis of strawmen, like the ones you raise.

Ridgeback - I think you just don't believe in human freedom Prof. I mean you like it when things go well, but when things go wrong then it must not be real.


That is drawn from your imagination and has no relevance to anything I've actually argued, either in this thread or in our other discussions of free will and morality. I've outlined in detail some moral theories, which include ontological/epistemelogical justifications for understanding human actions as "good" or "evil" and what we "ought" and "ought not" do.

You don't help yourself by strawmanning your opponent. As I've said many times: there is nothing so predictable in critics of atheists, especially New Atheists, as hypocrisy. The critic accuses the atheist of simplistic strawmannig of religion, all the while erecting his own simplistic strawmans of the atheist position.

Ridgeback -Your philosophy is inherently dehumanizing because you don't give bad people the dignity of having made themselves bad through their own choices.


Again...fantasy. And that's just a red herring to avoid the inconvenient questions I'm raising.

My philosophy recognizes human moral culpability and moral responsibility, and that our choices have consequences for our future behavior as well. But it does not do so by ignoring any facts about reality that may seem inconvenient.
That life is not set up in an equitable, just and fair scenario does not entail that there aren't in the end good reasons to do X and not Y. But the thing is I can acknowledge the inequities in nature, and in human nature, while doing no particular violence to my philosophy (since I try to build it on the foundation of facts, not fantasy). Whereas so long as you appeal to a Just, Wise, Good author of the universe, and human-kind, facts become very inconvenient for your holding such tenets.

Prof.

11/7/11 4:11 PM
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prof
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Lahi - Thanks for the response Prof.


Most welcome.

Lahi - I want to get back to your post later, but want to ask if you can conceive of a way in which humans could be free to choose, without ever having the option of choosing wrongly, and having no consequences if they did so?


First, if you are a Christian you have already likely conceived of such a scenario: Heaven.

As I understand it, Heaven will be filled with moral entities (e.g. our souls), yet it will not be rife with all the evil
actions that bedevil us here on earth.

How will that work? Well..even if you don't come up with the details, simply accepting the possibility of heaven as a tenet of Christianity undermines the force of a Christian's demands for me to come up with how good moral agents can exist without all the evil we experience. The doctrine of Heaven says it IS possible. Yet God goes ahead and creates an earthly existence with all this evil and suffering anyway. (Sure there are attempts to answer such problems, e.g. soul-building theodicies etc. But they don't stand up to much critical scrutiny as being good answers. And even top Christian thinkers like Plantinga acknowledge that the Free Will defense still leaves the Problem Of Heaven).

So if you are a Christian, you have some of your own fence-mending to do on this very question :-)

Lahi - This is what I meant I hadn't thought through, but it seems to be a non-sense question to ask "could God have given us free will without ever allowing for the possibility of wrong choices."


The first thing to realize is, even IF it were true that free will entails the ability to choose wrong choices, that fact would not in of itself be an excuse for evil and suffering. And we all understand this in our normal, moral thinking.

I've already given the example of the judge who allows the serial killer the ability to freely murder people, were we would understand this makes the judge morally complicit as well. We lock up all manner of criminals to stop them from being able to indulge their free-will. Right? Ought we to release all the serial killers, rapists, recidivist child molesters etc on the principle "Free will only makes sense if people have the opportunity to make wrong choices?"

I'm sure you'll agree that is not a moral excuse for inaction, for our stopping these people from "freely choosing" to harm others. Right?

The problem is that theists will try to get some generalized concession from an atheist like "Isn't it the purview of a parent to praise or punish his children?" or "Don't we need the ability to choose evil in order for there to be good?" and then run with that, as if it actually provided some broad cover for all the character of suffering and evil humans experience.
It does not do such work. But folks like Ridgeback, like many Christians, use this cover to say things "You just want a God who doesn't give us any choice!" Which is just a way of avoiding answering the inconvenient questions.

Cont'd...
11/7/11 4:13 PM
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prof
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Now, can I conceive of people being free to choose, but alway choosing the better (good) action over the worse (evil) action? Sure. I just did it :-) That is, God could make people with the knowledge of good and evil, but with the inclination to choose good. After all, doesn't God purportedly exemplify this logical possibility Himself?

But we can even downgrade this question: For my point to have traction, I don't need to posit people always choosing good: I just have to point out it's logically possible to have a world were people make much more "good" choices than the world in which we live.

Take my mother for example. She is pretty much renowned by people who know her for her inexhaustible good works.
Delivers to food banks, takes care of Foreign students in her home, opens her home to people in need, helps infirm friends and family...you name it. She's never committed any terrible atrocity or killing or what have you. Most people knowing her would say this world would be a better place if more people were like her. And it would be hard to argue against that idea, if you compare her actions to alternatives like serial killers, murderers, genocidal maniacs etc.

Now...all the "bad" people and my mother made free willed choices. But what EXPLAINS my mother making the choices she did, vs murderers etc? Again, "she had free will" does not EXPLAIN the goodness of my mother vs the badness of other people, since they ALL had free will. Well..whatever it is about my mother's nature and predicament that allowed her to be both conscious of the possibility of evil and yet have the nature of choosing to do good...an All Powerful, All Knowing God could, by definition, ensure more people, if not all people, were instilled with such inclinations. And insofar as my mother's free will is not compromised, neither would other similarly-inclined people's free will be compromised.

So those are some possible answers to your questions.

But we still have to answer: What is it about human nature that explains the good choices we make AND the bad choices we make. Insofar as God created human beings, this will necessarily reflect back on God.

As a non-believer, I have no such problem waiting in the wings. Unlike theology which must shield certain cherished assumptions from criticism, science is actually making progress on such questions (e.g. uncovering natural proclivities for empathy...and racism, tribalism etc). An understanding of evolution being the author of our nature perfectly coincides with our having proclivities that both aid sociality/moral rules while coexisting with proclivities that undermine our best intentions.

Prof.
11/10/11 6:05 PM
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Grakman
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Welcome to Purgatory Planet.
11/11/11 11:11 AM
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prof
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Lahi...you still around?

Prof.
11/12/11 12:32 PM
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Lahi
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Edited: 11/12/11 1:17 PM
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Hey Prof,

I don't have internet at home, crazy week at school so I couldn't get on here. Working on responding to you now:)
11/12/11 12:58 PM
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Lahi
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Edited: 11/12/11 2:06 PM
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Prof: "Now, can I conceive of people being free to choose, but alway choosing the better (good) action over the worse (evil) action? Sure. I just did it :-) That is, God could make people with the knowledge of good and evil, but with the inclination to choose good. After all, doesn't God purportedly exemplify this logical possibility Himself?"

I would say that this is where creation began. When the decision was made to choose evil, though, that choice impacted our race and the raw material we had to choose with. So instead of people seeing their choices clearly, and being drawn towards the good, we began to be warped on both accounts.

I don't see God, then, as the author of our current nature, or the world's, I think that falls on humanity.

As far as Heaven, or the New Earth, Its not the possibility of a good existence without evil that bothers me, but the possibility of a good existence that doesn't allow for the ability to freely choose or reject love. I think in Heaven you would still have the possibility for a being to choose evil, but it will be populated with those who have seen and experienced the consequences of making that choice, and who have had God's original intention for our nature restored in them. You will also have a universe that has seen first hand what a world that chose against love and life turned into. So I would think that the chances of anyone making the choice for evil again would be much less, and there would be no reason to allow the consequences to play out if it were made again.

Now I'll admit that I don't see how the suffering and pain in the world makes sense, even in light of free will. There seems to be some truth to your serial killer analogy. At the same time, I think it is also easy (not saying you are doing this) for some to blame *all* of the evil in the world on our bent toward evil. While I don't expect to understand in this life why some things are allowed to happen, I also believe the world would be an infinitely better place if those who do have the ability to choose love over death actually did that daily...if we Christians, for starters, began trying to practice what we preach, and actually began trying to love God and our neighbor with our whole hearts. I think we have to shoulder a big part of the responsibility for the state of this planet as a human race.

I see the problem of suffering as something that is very, very troubling, but not a deal breaker for me as a Christian. I see God active in this broken world, suffering with us, and getting his own hands dirty and bloody too. I find enough evidence to believe that he cares, and is making it right. I think we are always going to run into things we can't understand, and are even disturbing, but may or may not be reason to reject a certain line of belief. For example, if I ever became convinced that the Evangelical Hell was something that Jesus, Scripture, and the early Church taught, I don't think I could go on believing.
11/12/11 1:14 PM
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Lahi
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Prof, I'll add too that while I still have problems with a lot of the suffering that goes on, it also makes sense to me that big choices have big consequences, and choosing to separate one's self, one's family and one's race from the source of life and love is a big choice. Again this doesn't answer all of my problems, but helps me make a little more sense of the mess we're in.

I'm also curious what your thoughts are on free will in general? Do you think science supports us actually having it?
11/12/11 5:56 PM
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Ridgeback
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 For the record, it has been a teaching of traditional Christianity that man was made good and still retains the goodness that allows him to see what is right.  I know this has been completely muddled in the modern mind by Calvinism and all that business about total depravity, but within the narrative of traditional Christianity humans are in fact given a good nature e.g. the tendency to choose the right.  In fact, there is no real temptation if the fruit isn't good.  The issue is in desiring one good over another.  It isn't wrong to eat food for health.  It may be wrong to eat a plate full of food when a person is sitting next to you starving.  
11/13/11 10:26 AM
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prof
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Lahi -
I would say that this is where creation began.


I'm not sure what that means. Perhaps it would help to know what type of creation or Fall story you believe in.
Is our Fall literally the result of the choices of two original people, as described in Genesis? Or....?

Lahi - When the choice was made to choose evil, though, that choice impacted our race and the raw material we had to choose with. So instead of people seeing their choices clearly, and being drawn towards the good, we began to be warped on both accounts.


But that doesn't answer the question I keep raising: WHY would the choice for evil have been made *in the first place?*

What about the nature of those first people making that fateful choice compelled them to MAKE the choice for evil? After all...weren't they the creations of a God who deliberately designed human nature?

Lahi - I don't see God, then, as the author of our current nature, or world, I think that falls on humanity.


That's just skipping the entire question. See above.


Lahi -
As far as Heaven, or the New Earth, Its not the possibility of a good existence without evil that bothers me, but the possibility of a good existence that doesn't allow for the ability to freely choose or reject love.


Well this is why the questions of human nature, and it's implications for free will, morality etc, are so pertinent and intriguing. I have gone my entire life without the desire to personally kill anyone, ever. Yet other people have obviously had the desire to kill another person (and in succumbing to that desire, have actually killed people).
So if I died tomorrow, or if I simply finish off my life without ever having the urge to kill anyone, does that mean I was devoid of morally important free will when it comes to murder? I suspect you'd agree with me: no. (Otherwise it implies one has to actually have the urge, the actual desire to kill, and then not act on it, in order to be significantly "free" in a moral sense. But...most of us recognize that having such desires are a bad thing. That's why we encourage "good" desires to replace bad ones, like compassion over sadism).

So if, in not having the urge to kill I'd still be "free" and "moral," how then is it impossible to conceive of beings who do not have urges for murder, sadism, etc, yet who are still free-willed and moral? It would seem that choosing to do bad is not requisite for a being to be moral (in fact, it seems to act against the idea). So what would be wrong with beings who have the ABILITY to murder, but who have the inclination to not murder? And to your question: what about beings who have the ability to reject love, but who are inclined to choose love?


Lahi -
I think in Heaven you would still have the possibility for a being to choose evil, but it will be populated with those who have seen and experienced the consequences of making that choice, and who have had God's original intention for our nature restored in them.


First, I don't see how it makes sense to say God's "original intention for our nature" would be restored. We would have ended up this way BECAUSE of the nature God originally gave us! There can be no other logical conclusion. Whether you take the genesis account literally or figuratively, it's the same problem. Taking it literally for a moment as an example: It makes no sense to say it wasn't Adam and Eve's nature to eat the forbidden fruit, because everything one does derives from one's nature (in fact, your nature IS "what you do.") So it was Adam and Eve's nature to succumb to the temptation of the fruit. It's impossible, logically, for the chain of causation not to point back toward God.

Second, it's quite clear that, when it comes to human beings, "seeing and experiencing the consequences" of making bad or evil choices does not entail one will not continue to make bad choices. The entire history of humanity argues against it, since we ALL are aware (from the daily and historical events) of the consequences of evil choices, and yet people continue to make them nonetheless. So it just does not follow that, on such grounds, one should expect people to suddenly, utterly learn the lesson and stop making bad choices. That does not describe human beings.

But then you say "and who have had God's original intention for our nature restored in them."

Well...whoa...hold on. What does that "restored" part mean? I suspect that is in there because you understand yourself that people having seen the consequences of bad actions are not sufficient to guarantee good behavior.
So you've stuck in that little "restored" qualification. If that is to suggest that something extra happens to us in heaven, somehow God changes us to fix our tendency to do bad so that all those in heaven will suddenly choose only good, then that completely undermines your position. If such a fix could be applied to us and we would still be free willed, moral beings, why couldn't God have made us with that nature in the first place?

Back to square one.

Cheers,

Prof.
11/13/11 10:55 AM
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prof
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Lahi - 
I'm also curious what your thoughts are on free will in general? Do you think science supports us actually having it?


I think the Free Will issue is quite complicated and far from easy. I want to shout at the screen when Sam Harris, for instance, seems to talk about it as if the answer was a given (we don't have free will).

We can't decide on whether Free Will exists without knowing what we mean by Free Will. And unfortunately there is a lot of disagreement over the term.

As I've stated before on this forum, I find the compatibilist version of Free Will to be most compelling. Libertarian free will (which btw is the version of free will that most Christians assume, though not all), is incoherent.
Determinism seems to be problematical and it's hard to find any determinist whose behavior comports really well with his view on free will.

I agree that determinism is REQUIRED for a coherent notion of a being having a personal "choice," including a free-willed choice, hence I agree that free will is compatible with determinism (hence "Compatibilism").

One thing that annoys me when discussing Free Will with theists is the assumption displayed by so many people that it's inconsistent to be a naturalist/materialist and believe in morally significant free will. Because if as a materialist you are "stuck" with what we know about the world through science, then you are out of luck since so much of scientific knowledge undermines free will. E.g. the influence of family, culture, genetics, and even physics.
Not to mention all manner of cognitive studies that are problematical to free will, such as those experiments that indicate that decisions we think came from conscious deliberation actually arose "before" deliberation, from our pre-conscious.

Then it's like "Aha, Mr. Sciency Materialist! Your own source of knowledge, science, undermines free will, so you are stuck being inconsistent."

But what so many theists fail to realize is that positing the supernatural is no obvious solution to these problems. It's not like by bringing in God that theists can just IGNORE
the findings of science, and all the apparent facts we've found out that point to the influence on our behavior, and it's implications for free will. Those facts don't just go away. Any theistic account of free will must account for ALL THE SAME FACTS as the materialist...and then add on to that issues of God, omniscience, God being our creator etc.

In other words, if the experiments are sound, that our decisions happen before our conscious deliberation, then positing a "soul" does not address the issues raised by the experiment. Because a soul is supposed to represent our conscious state. If it didn't, then it would have no relevance to "free willed choice." But if our soul does not help our choices to be made consciously, what use is it in solving the free will dilemma? (Etc).

This is only one reason why I find theology so vapid and unsatisfying. Theologians all to often simply start with biblical assumptions about free will and go from there, and try and figure out the issue of free will in theological space. I do not see them grappling with all the real world observations, so I see no relevance to solving real world problems of free will and moral responsibility.

Prof.
11/13/11 5:47 PM
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prof
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Ridgeback -  For the record, it has been a teaching of traditional Christianity that man was made good and still retains the goodness that allows him to see what is right.  I know this has been completely muddled in the modern mind by Calvinism and all that business about total depravity, but within the narrative of traditional Christianity humans are in fact given a good nature e.g. the tendency to choose the right.  


Then what explains the choice to choose wrong, resulting in The Fall?

Ridgeback -
In fact, there is no real temptation if the fruit isn't good.  The issue is in desiring one good over another.  It isn't wrong to eat food for health.  It may be wrong to eat a plate full of food when a person is sitting next to you starving.  


But that only discusses a choice between "goods." That doesn't reflect the real world, or answer the hard questions.
Because, obviously, many people actually have desires to do BAD things - like murder, abuse kids, enslave other people etc - so it's not merely about choosing between "goods."

As usual, the answers don't seem forthcoming from pursuits like religion and theology. It seems the answers to hard questions of causation and morality entail hard, unwavering analysis of real world facts and problems.

Prof.



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