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ForumsWEPRThe Religion Debate Thread

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nichodemus
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nichodemus
14,920 posts
Grand Duke

So yeah, our threads on religion have long since died out, so I figured it would be time to start afresh here!

Do you believe God exists (I know almost all of you don't)? Do you feel religion is important today? Is it a force for good? Discuss everything related to that here!

I'm going to start the ball rolling:

We all know about the rise of ISIS and the terrible acts it perpetuates. Does that show that Islam and religion in general is an awful concept? Is it the people who twist it? Or is it fundamentally an evil force?

Roping in the WERP frequenters
@MageGrayWolf @Kasic @Hahiha @FishPreferred @Doombreed @09philj

  • 704 Replies
lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
978 posts
Farmer

This is the thing (as I understand it) that broke our relationship with God such that no one who died before Jesus's sacrifice went to heaven. As I understand it, people who died before this ultimately sacrifice simply weren't in the market for redemption. Jesus fixed all that.
The Jews were God's chosen people before Jesus's sacrifice and they were the only ones on the market unless, I think, you married into a Jewish family or were adopted by a Jew and then followed Jewish practices.

What you're talking about--post-Jesus sin--can be rectified by repenting (either in confession to a priest, through penance, or to God).
I mean that would make sense, but I was taught that repenting is just an act of resubmitting to God. It's kinda like baptism where it's not necessary for salvation, but you do it because it has spiritual significance and because God commanded it. I just wanted to clarify (just in case it causes confusion later) that post-Jesus sin is rectified when an individual accepts Jesus's sacrifice and accepts Him as Lord.

What I'm talking about is original sin that has made humans unable to reach heaven because of a disconnection to God--one that was breached when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
Oh I understand your argument then. I like to think that God is in the business of redeeming people so I don't think He would like to wipe everyone out in order to take care of a naturally sinful species.

I've since Googled this and I'm even more confused than ever. Like, literally every different website I went to had a different story about why Jesus was necessary and what happened to those who died before Jesus's time on Earth.
I like this answer. Hopefully you do too.

Do you have any thoughts on that, or am I just rambling?
Imma keep it real with you chief... but I lost you at consequentialist.

But I looked over it again and I think that I believe C and I add in DCT because God is the one who enforces universal morals. Idk does that make sense?

FishPreferred
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FishPreferred
3,173 posts
Duke

He would never forgive someone unless they come to Him and repent.
They would never do that unless they knew they had a reason to, so why can't or won't God make that reason known to everyone?

Is it impossible not to lie? Is it impossible not to say God's name in vain? Is it impossible not to envy? Is it impossible not to feel anger towards someone?
I don't care. Is it possible to commit yourself to a deity you've never seen or heard of in your entire life?

But we are talking about a theoretically perfect judge.
So? As long as the accused isn't perfect, there's no logical reason to hold them to the standards of absolute perfection.

I can see why you say that but please elaborate.
Suppose someone commits all of the most unspeakable crimes on earth 900 consecutive times, and is them apprehended. Well, it's reasonable to conclude that some combination of factors led to this, so doing what is best for everyone would include preventing that combination of factors from occurring. Also, the culprit clearly cannot be released as-is, so some means of reform is necessary. If reform is impossible, the culprit will need to be cared for in permanent isolation. Hell is not any of this. Hell is needless torment with no option of reform, no consideration of the well-being of the condemned, and no preventative measures other than some people claiming that it exists.

I like to think that God is in the business of redeeming people so I don't think He would like to wipe everyone out in order to take care of a naturally sinful species.
In that case, He should definitely replace His marketing team and PR advisor.
lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
978 posts
Farmer

They would never do that unless they knew they had a reason to, so why can't or won't God make that reason known to everyone?
I don't care. Is it possible to commit yourself to a deity you've never seen or heard of in your entire life?
It is not possible to commit yourself to a deity you have never seen or heard of in your entire life. I'm not sure why God won't make that reason known to everyone. My understanding is that God doesn't have to make it known to everyone because He isn't trying to be save everyone.
So? As long as the accused isn't perfect, there's no logical reason to hold them to the standards of absolute perfection.
Why not? It's pretty simple. If you are not perfect, you cannot enter a perfect place in the presence of a perfect being.
Suppose someone commits all of the most unspeakable crimes on earth 900 consecutive times, and is them apprehended. Well, it's reasonable to conclude that some combination of factors led to this, so doing what is best for everyone would include preventing that combination of factors from occurring. Also, the culprit clearly cannot be released as-is, so some means of reform is necessary. If reform is impossible, the culprit will need to be cared for in permanent isolation. Hell is not any of this. Hell is needless torment with no option of reform, no consideration of the well-being of the condemned, and no preventative measures other than some people claiming that it exists.
Yeah that makes sense. So I don't really know how God's justice works.
lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
978 posts
Farmer

I hope you don't mind if I try to reset the debate. So I've been reading up on the subject and I think a divine command theory is the best to describe my position. God is the ultimate authority who made all the rules. I am going to argue that God's most important rules have never changed which makes Him the perfect judge. At the same time, I will also say that God is not fair not because He breaks his own rules, but because his rules are inherently unfair. On top of all this, I am willing to conclude that God is worthy of praise and worship because He saved me. It's possible that you guys will not appreciate it, but I believe it's also possible that you might come to the same conclusion because you have been saved yourself. To start off, do you have any questions or objections to anything I said?

FishPreferred
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FishPreferred
3,173 posts
Duke

God is the ultimate authority who made all the rules. I am going to argue that God's most important rules have never changed which makes Him the perfect judge.

1 I'm not sure how you associate unchanging rules with perfect judgement.
2 What are you gauging their importance by?

[...] but because his rules are inherently unfair.
Is there any particular reason for that?
lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
978 posts
Farmer

I'm not sure how you associate unchanging rules with perfect judgement.
I would say a perfect judge doesn't make exceptions.

What are you gauging their importance by?
I'm not exactly sure how to answer this question, but I know it will be answered eventually. Perhaps I'm being too obscure. I guess by most important rules I mean the characteristics of God.

Is there any particular reason for that?
I don't think so.
Moegreche
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Moegreche
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Duke

lozerfac3

I'm going to leave it to the others to offer objections to your view (e.g. the Euthyphro dilemma). I wanted to offer some support here and maybe help you make sense of some of this unfairness. I really appreciate your openness and honesty as you wrestle with these difficult concepts. It's so very refreshing to see someone critically engage with this stuff, rather than just accept it and tout it as obviously true, despite all these problems.

There's going to be a bit of tension between the idea that God's laws are unfair and yet He's still worthy of worship. Your reasoning is still fine here and your argument works. He's worthy of worship because he is the creator of all things and He saved you, despite the fact that His laws are unfair. But I'm betting you're able to still see some tension here.

A pretty common move to say that God is above moral judgment. A better way of putting this is that it's nonsensical to talk about God's moral commitments. So, to say that God's laws are unfair is, on this view, just not something you can say. It's almost like saying that gravity isn't fair because I can't jump as high as I want to. (The analogy here is meant to help illustrate the point--not to defend it.)

There are a lot of arguments behind this claim, depending on which way you want to go. A common idea is that we cannot morally assess God because He is the fount (the source) of what is good. This line ties into the idea that calling God's laws unfair is just kind of nonsense. Another thought is that us trying to understand God's nature or His laws is like an ant trying to understand world politics. It's just something far, far beyond our comprehension. Ants have some very basic level of something we might try to identify as politics (ants have individual roles that can change based on the situation and they have interactions with other ant colonies). But the comparison here is very weak because they're just on a such a different level in terms of understanding or conceptualising what's going on. In a similar way, our silly human understanding of fairness or justice is just a tiny fraction of divine fairness or divine justice. It's just not something we can process because of our limited intellect.

There are, of course, problems with all of these lines. I'm just making them available to further the discussion and to maybe help you problem solve some of the issues you're wresting with. Personally, I disagree with everything I've discussed above and don't find these lines compelling. But plenty of people do, and you might be one of them. If it helps, then super. And if not, that's okay!

lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
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Farmer

@Moegreche Thank you for your input. I love your role in these debates. I think that's what I was trying to go for. It's common for someone in my church to say "Who are we to question God?" and point to the Book of Job. Job displayed a tremendous amount of faith and yet his life was like hell on Earth. And then at the end, God seemed to reward him for his faith and gave him everything back and more I think. I think God was not even obligated to give Job everything back, but He did anyway. That's what I heard from teaching from my church and a YouTube video I watched and I think it makes the most sense. My own reasoning that God doesn't have to make all his rules clear, is because He wants our relationship with Him to be super personal and so that we wouldn't take it all for granted.

FishPreferred
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FishPreferred
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Duke

Another thought is that us trying to understand God's nature or His laws is like an ant trying to understand world politics. It's just something far, far beyond our comprehension.
The problem with this analogy is that world politics are conflicting and fallible; attributes which a supreme divine authority wouldn't reasonably possess. We could assume that God operates through some Rube Goldberg process too huge and abstract for anyone to follow, but there should be some valid reason for it to be that complicated instead of immensely simple and intuitive through perfect omniscient optimization.

It's common for someone in my church to say "Who are we to question God?" [...]
That's silly. What possible reason is there not to question Him?

[...] and point to the Book of Job.
Where He commits atrocities that don't need to be committed to demonstrate a point that never needed to be demonstrated? If anything, that only gives us more reason to question His behaviour and motives.
lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
978 posts
Farmer

What possible reason is there not to question Him?
He is the ultimate authority. We have no right to question Him. We DO have the right to question teachings about God though.

Where He commits atrocities that don't need to be committed to demonstrate a point that never needed to be demonstrated? If anything, that only gives us more reason to question His behaviour and motives.
There's probably a better lesson to be learned. I'm actually reading through it with my youth group so I'll definitely get back to you if I find anything.

We could assume that God operates through some Rube Goldberg process too huge and abstract for anyone to follow, but there should be some valid reason for it to be that complicated instead of immensely simple and intuitive through perfect omniscient optimization.
How do we know it's not already optimized?
FishPreferred
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FishPreferred
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Duke

He is the ultimate authority. We have no right to question Him.
1 That's like saying the inside of a black hole is the ultimate mystery, and therefore we have no right to wonder what's there. It makes no sense whatsoever.
2 That's a catch 22. Having lots of authority doesn't divest people with less authority of the right to question your authority.

How do we know it's not already optimized?
Your first clue is that we're talking about a Rube Goldberg process too huge and abstract for anyone to follow, and not something immensely simple and intuitive. It's the difference between bribing a cat to chase a rat to get the rat to knaw a rope to get the rope to hang a butcher to get the butcher to butcher an ox to get the ox to drink some water to get the water to quench a fire to get the fire to burn a stick to get the stick to beat a dog to get the dog to bite a pig to get the pig to jump over a fence ... and just having a gate installed in the first place.
lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
978 posts
Farmer

1 That's like saying the inside of a black hole is the ultimate mystery, and therefore we have no right to wonder what's there. It makes no sense whatsoever.
2 That's a catch 22. Having lots of authority doesn't divest people with less authority of the right to question your authority.
Sure, we can wonder what in the world God is doing, but why does God have to give us the answers? You might not like this analogy but think about it like God is a slave master. A master will give orders to the slave or servant and the servant will not question it. The servant literally has no power to change the master's mind.

"As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit." (Job 27:2-4 ESV)

Your first clue is that we're talking about a Rube Goldberg process too huge and abstract for anyone to follow
I understand what a Rube Goldberg machine is. The funny thing about Rube Goldbergs machines is that they are complex for a reason. They are fun to watch. I'm not saying that watching the world burn is fun, but there could be a different reason that God's design is so complex. It could be optimized because it accomplishes everything that needs to be accomplished. We just don't know exactly what those things are. So actually, I guess I agree. There should be a valid reason for it to be so complicated. If there isn't then, again, you just have to trust the process because the master wills it.
HahiHa
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HahiHa
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Regent

@lozerfac3 I'm partly on board with your idea of divine command theory. Not that I believe, of course; but if He existed, I would agree with the following of your points:

- He'd be the ultimate authority;
As the creator and omnipotent ruler of this universe, it would seem obvious to consider Him at the top of the pecking order.

- He would be unfair by our standards;
I assume you've discussed this point already in previous arguments.

- He wouldn't have to explain anything;
As the omnipotent ruler, He could do whatever He pleases for whatever reason, and if we don't like it, more's the pity. As said above, He isn't fair by our standards.

It's a bit the same thing with good and evil; if He existed, He'd be the origin of all good, right? I've encountered people who are actually genuinely surprised when realizing that an atheist can be a good person. It infuriates me that they would think like that, but I guess it's only consequent from their point of view.

I disagree with the whole 'already being perfect' thing. It would make sense; and something that is already perfect wouldn't need to be changed, thus the 'unchanging' bit you mentioned (although I would say logically His rules would be unchanging because they are perfect, not perfect because they're unchanging).
But it appears that the world we live in just isn't like that. I'd agree with Fish in that a perfect world would be noticeably perfect, although I don't know if simplicity is the only or best criterion to judge this. Either way, simply the fact that the church's dogmas have evolved over time would be an indication that maybe His rules are not unchanging and therefore not perfect. You could say that this is down to human interpretation/fallibility, but that wouldn't be an answer that would satisfy me.

Also, I see no reason why such a being would be praiseworthy. If I was to offer worship to any being, apart from having full knowledge of the being's existence I would also have to be on board with His ideals and all that; yet the Christian God, despite all the talk of love and such, is a brutal and unfair being which was more often than not worshiped out of fear rather than love. The German word 'Gottesfurcht' literally means 'fear of God' and is a synonym for devoutness. I don't think I would praise a deity like that even if it existed.

lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
978 posts
Farmer

@HahiHa

I would say logically His rules would be unchanging because they are perfect, not perfect because they're unchanging
I think they would both be right. His rules are unchanging because they are perfect and we know that they are perfect partly because they are unchanging.

Either way, simply the fact that the church's dogmas have evolved over time would be an indication that maybe His rules are not unchanging and therefore not perfect. You could say that this is down to human interpretation/fallibility, but that wouldn't be an answer that would satisfy me.
I would say that. Just because the church's beliefs have evolved doesn't mean that God's rules have changed. I think the most important rule is what it takes for salvation with has remained the same since the beginning of time. And that rule is that only God has the power to save and even our faith is given by God. If this is the truth, then I would understand why you wouldn't want to worship a God like that.

However, God doesn't even have to save us in the first place. You have to understand that without God's mercy we would be completely vulnerable to God's wrath because we are all sinners.

This is sorta how I understand God's rules:
1. God has all the power to do anything He wants.
2. God is the creator of everything. This includes us.
3. God wants everything to glorify Him.
4. If God is not glorified, then God's wrath will be unleashed.
5. God made up the laws and therefore established good vs evil.
6. Only God has the power to save someone from his wrath.
7. God chooses how He wants to show mercy.

Now, how I understand our relationship with God is that we are naturally enemies of God. Because of our sinful nature (which will probably be another topic of discussion), we disobey God and don't want anything to do with Him while God has his hand stretched out against us ready to pull the trigger because we do not glorify Him. As sinners and enemies of God, we are unable to appreciate God's glory. On the contrary, as a believer of God, you would want to glorify God. So it makes sense if you wouldn't want to praise God like this because you haven't been saved. Of course, this is not an argument for why you should want to praise God, but rather an explanation for why you don't.

HahiHa
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HahiHa
8,212 posts
Regent

I would say that. Just because the church's beliefs have evolved doesn't mean that God's rules have changed.

But if God's rule (now in the sense of dominion) would be perfect, it would be reasonable to expect not only unchanging rules, but rules that are apparent and understandable to everyone. Or simple, as Fish might put it. Then, and only then, could people really decide to join or reject that dominion on their own free will. History shows us that the church has held power over their people for a long time by simply not translating the holy texts, and even now thing change every so often. If God's rules are so perfect, why is even the church, an organization that has had people spending their entire lifetime praising and/or studying His texts for centuries (actually millennia) incapable of unequivocally understanding exactly what those rules mean? Why is the church lagging behind society when it should be the inverse? Because there are no perfect rules.

And that rule is that only God has the power to save and even our faith is given by God.

That's technically not even a 'rule' is it It's only a 'deal with it' stamp that would send the blame for people without faith right back at God if it was true. Being in a state where one would need saving by God is only a thing because God made it so. Because as you say further down:
You have to understand that without God's mercy we would be completely vulnerable to God's wrath because we are all sinners.

... everything depends on God. If His rules where perfect, we should be in a position to freely judge whether to submit to His mercy or expose ourselves to His wrath. Which is a very biased choice, obviously, but at least the terms would be clear. We wouldn't need to understand every little complex bit of His grand plan (which could therefore be as complex as He'd want), so long as the base conditions are clear. As it is, not even His own existence can be ascertained.

3. God wants everything to glorify Him.

Yet He poses weirdly specific and arbitrary conditions to satisfy His own needs, or else He'd simply create hordes of devout people.

4. If God is not glorified, then God's wrath will be unleashed.

Yet it is the result of His actions that determine whether someone glorifies Him or not.
Also, this kinda makes Him sound like an automaton. Keep pushing the button or else the machine jams.

5. God made up the laws and therefore established good vs evil.

And as the ultimate authority, He can judge us all by His standards. Which is inherently unfair because we can't understand those, and are bound to mindlessly submit to His will. Or change who we are, if our standards are not aligned.

6. Only God has the power to save someone from his wrath.

Unless He is schizophrenic, that doesn't tell us much. Of course only He has the power to save us from His wrath, because only He has control over His own wrath! It's all His own decision, and we are left entirely powerless yet still held accountable for reasons unknown.

Now, how I understand our relationship with God is that we are naturally enemies of God. Because of our sinful nature (which will probably be another topic of discussion), we disobey God and don't want anything to do with Him while God has his hand stretched out against us ready to pull the trigger because we do not glorify Him. As sinners and enemies of God, we are unable to appreciate God's glory. On the contrary, as a believer of God, you would want to glorify God. So it makes sense if you wouldn't want to praise God like this because you haven't been saved. Of course, this is not an argument for why you should want to praise God, but rather an explanation for why you don't.

Basically we have no chance of being saved unless He decides to do so; and why He would choose to save someone incapable of appreciating His glory, remains a mystery. Yay?

I think that worshiping Him in earnest would require giving up who I am now, giving up my values and my sense of justice as a human and member of this society. My reasons not to worship Him are based on His supposed actions as described in the Bible, and revealing His existence to me would only confirm those objections I have. Does that mean that I am unable to appreciate His glory because I remain myself?
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