“If God Is Not, Then All Things are Permissable” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

If God is not, then there is no accountability in our universe, no ultimate day of justice. The atheistic regimes who have done unimaginable things to other human beings in an attempt to create a secular (without God) utopia will never be brought to justice. If God is not, genocide is permissable. There is not, nor will there ever be cosmic justice.

If God is not, then you are not important. One person may do to another person as they wish. There is no sense of innate, moral value, no ascribed value. If God is not, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are permissable. If God is not, life is not sacred. If God is not, there are no ultimate moral values to guide how I treat someone else.

If God is not, suffering is never resolved. While many create an “atheistic rendition of God” in order to show how cruel his nature is and to bring Him down to our level, the Bible continuously asserts the goodness of God and the final resolution of all things dis-eased. If God is not, I may create more suffering rather than work to resolve it.

If God is not, there is no explanation of our human moral center that prompts us to do things contrary to our “Darwinian” universe. If my child is being beaten by a stranger outside, and I hear it, I am compelled to act, despite the harm I may personally encounter by doing so. Something in me compels me to respond. “Survival of the fittest” simply does not explain this scenario. If God is not, I keep reading the paper and do nothing.

If God is not, then history must be retold, because God has been embedded in human history from the very beginning. One may rewrite history, but it can be rewritten, not as truth, but as my interpretation of what happened, so as to demonstrate that there is no authority or control being asserted over those who read the reinterpretation. If God is not, then we lose history to endless revisions.

If God is not, there is no meta-narrative or narrative identity; no larger story going on. We must then create our own story, improvise our own narrative arc. If God is not, we merely live for several smaller stories, lesser stories, that will end when life terminates. If God is not, I make up my own meaning for being here and devise my own script, ascribing my own meaning to things I don’t understand.

If God is not, I am not. Of all the things that can be said about what we think God is like (cruel, mean, unjust), He has given us life itself. And that life is endowed with emotional, rational, social, and spiritual capabilities that allow me to understand, feel, relate, and experience life itself. If God is not, there simply is no explanation for such a life.

If God is, then there is a larger story, preserved in history, by image-bearing human beings, who reflect the image of the One who created, and who seek to alleviate suffering and disease, guided by an internal sense of conscience and justice, that eventually finds ultimate satisfaction when all things are set right and the world is as it should be.

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63 Comments

Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Theism

63 responses to ““If God Is Not, Then All Things are Permissable” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  1. Dear Sir, I agree with most things you say. The trouble is, most likely “God is not”.
    Thank you for your attention.

  2. shamelesslyatheist

    A disingenuous blog at best. Let’s see why….

    “If God is not, then there is no accountability in our universe, no ultimate day of justice…” Guess there is no reason for a human justice system with god, then.

    “If God is not, then you are not important. One person may do to another person as they wish…” Who thinks this is so? Not atheists. Seems to me the religious right does it though. It never ceases to force its views on everyone.

    “If God is not, suffering is never resolved…” Not sure what this nonsense means. However, it is through the actions of people helping others that suffering is removed, if it is possible to do so. Christians (nor any religion) have no monopoly on this. Human secularism teaches the same thing.

    “If God is not, there is no explanation of our human moral center that prompts us to do things contrary to our “Darwinian” universe…” This is baloney. Moral behavior evolved as part and parcel of a social survival strategy. Many social mammalian species display what we would call moral behavior, even mice. For a discussion on the state of knowledge see Marc Hauser’s “Moral Minds”.

    “If God is not, then history must be retold, because God has been embedded in human history from the very beginning…” The bible itself is revisionist. Whoever wrote Mark revised Daniel because the apocalyptic verses never came to fruition, which was revised by whoever wrote Matthew and Luke because Mark’s apocalyptic predictions never came to fruition, etc. And certainly god has NOT been (as you say) embedded in human history from the very beginning. Gods have come and gone, including yours.

    “If God is not, there is no meta-narrative or narrative identity; no larger story going on…” So, human history would not exist in the absence of god? Please.

    Well, I’ll stop there. It just gets sillier. David Hume must have had you in mind when he used the phrase “sophistry and illusion” because there is certainly nothing factual here.

  3. “If God is not, genocide is permissable.”

    Wrong.

    Saying that something won’t ‘ultimately’ be punished does not mean that it is therefore permissible. It just means that we have to punish it in our own limited way.

    Why, you may ask? Because I don’t want genocide to happen to me. The best way of doing that is keeping it from happening to others.

    And, ta-da, no god needed and we get to stop genocide.

    If you, however, need an imaginary friend to keep you from hurting others, by all means keep believing. For the safety of your neighbors if nothing else.

  4. Human justice, though flawed, actually keeps our world from being over-run by a floodtide of evil, which resides in you and me and in entire belief systems. A system of justice is God’s idea, not ours. Otherwise, the entire creation would be sabotaged by the Pol Pots, Hitlers, and Stalins, and people would get away with taking your things and killing people who matter to you.

    Why don’t you push atheism to its logical ends, and what you will find is that you have just reduced humanity to nothing more than biological machine.

    Question. How does atheism eventually resolve suffering in our world?

    Your explanation of how we acquired a moral center, a conscience, is a much bigger piece of baloney. There are some things we cannot NOT know. That there is a God is one of them. That we have an innate sense of right and wrong is another one. But you will probably pretend that you don’t know this. Most atheists do.

    You are lost on your apocalyptic comment.

    There is a larger story, an overarching narrative. You lose this as an atheist. There is no One over anything. We are free to make our own story in atheistic existentialism. Read Camus and you’ll see what I mean.
    https://spiritualquestions.wordpress.com/2008/11/12/humanity-has-lost-the-larger-story-and-atheists-havent-helped-any/

  5. “Why don’t you push atheism to its logical ends”

    You mean, create a world where people stop killing each other over religion, and let others freely believe whatever they want so long as you don’t harm anybody?

    That’s what we’re trying to do. People like you are trying to stop us.

  6. Some evil is so heinous that even our human systems of justice cannot make it all right. Cosmic justice eventually makes everything right. All people are held accountable. If you and your family lived in a country where an atheistic tyrant decided to eradicate you on some dark night with no one watching, atheism says, “Too bad, you lose.” Christian Theism says, “We will all be brought into account; that there is ultimate and final justice.

    This sense of justice is deep within us as human-beings. Just watch movies, read books, or live life for a little while, and you will encounter a sense of “fairness” or “unfairness.” God placed it there. It runs through everything we do.

    If you were absolutely convinced that there would never be any consequences to your actions, it would change the way you live life and treat people. Goodness is not innate. It’s in our nature to destroy ourselves. The imaginary friend is beside the point. There is a God and he does not shuffle around, impotent to deal with evil. He will resolve all injustice. So if you mock Him, mistreat others, flaunt justice, and flip Him off, you will be held accountable.

  7. shamelesslyatheist

    “If you were absolutely convinced that there would never be any consequences to your actions, it would change the way you live life and treat people.”

    Goodness is not innate? You’re kidding, right? When you help an elderly woman cross the street, do you not feel good about that? I do. And I have no need of any god to feel good about anything.

    “If you were absolutely convinced that there would never be any consequences to your actions, it would change the way you live life and treat people.” There are always consequences to actions, and none of these consequences requires a god to explain them. This whole ‘if there were no god chaos would reign’ is getting pretty old seeing as it does not stand up to any scrutiny.

    “This sense of justice is deep within us as human-beings. Just watch movies, read books, or live life for a little while, and you will encounter a sense of “fairness” or “unfairness.” God placed it there. It runs through everything we do.”

    “A system of justice is God’s idea, not ours.”

    Unsubstantiated, unverifiable, untestable and unfalsifiable. As good a definition of sophistry as any.

    Ultimate justice might massage your sense of injustice in the world, but it need not exist. Indeed, you can not at all justify that it does exist. Justice takes the work of humans, not the divine. Yes, it is imperfect, but human justice is the only kind we know exists and we do the best we can.

    The universe in the absence of gods looks remarkably like one with gods.

    “You are lost on your apocalyptic comment.” No, I am not.

    “Your explanation of how we acquired a moral center, a conscience, is a much bigger piece of baloney. There are some things we cannot NOT know. That there is a God is one of them.” I don’t know that there is a god or gods. Nor do you. You BELIEVE there is a god, but how much confidence can you have in this belief without empirical evidence to back it up? The existence of a moral centre based on reciprocation, however, has substantial evidence in support. Heck, fMRI studies have shown the neural pathways used. Please educate yourself on the science before claiming it is baloney.

    “That we have an innate sense of right and wrong is another one.” Of course they are! But there is no need of the existence of a god for them to be there. As Laplace told Napoleon, “I have no need of that hypothesis.” But you keep on thinking that I’ll face some ultimate justice (the existence of which we can not verify) if it makes you feel better (or more smug, which does actually seem to be a trait of Christians).

    “Why don’t you push atheism to its logical ends, and what you will find is that you have just reduced humanity to nothing more than biological machine.” The logical end of atheism is to believe that there is nothing supernatural. That’s it. It makes no demands on ethics because it has nothing to say about ethics. It is simply a lack of belief in god(s). So, I have already pushed it to its logical ends. How can I mock something which does not exist?

  8. shamelesslyatheist

    “Question. How does atheism eventually resolve suffering in our world?”

    Missed this one.

    Answer: It doesn’t. How does your god when it allows suffering? Again, the existence suffering in the world is better explained by the non-existence of god (unless you believe in an malevolent and evil god).

    Does any god alleviate suffering? Nope. But people helping others does remove suffering, at least insofar as it is possible to do so. Why do people do this? Simple. Because we want to be helped when things are bad for us. There’s that reciprocity again. Funny how it keeps coming up.

  9. Pingback: If God Is Not? « Nous

  10. Wisdom Of The World

    The atheists will deny God over and over again because they will not honor God. They know God is. Every man knows. They simply want no authority. But whether they want it or not, they will answer to the ultimate authority, as we all will. They may deny it until the moment it happens, but in one horrific moment they will be in the very moment and in the very prescence of the One who they willfully denyed, and they will have eternity to ponder it.

  11. sumpteretc

    Atheist, does your theory of reciprocity apply only to the macro, society level? I don’t necessarily see it working on the individual level. Did Bill Gates set up his foundation on the belief that someday African AIDS orphans will be able to help him out?

  12. >If my child is being beaten by a stranger outside, and I hear it, I am compelled to act, despite the harm I may personally encounter by doing so. Something in me compels me to respond.

    How I wish a God existed who shared your opinion. God sees his children suffer every day and then does nothing about it.

    You wouldn’t sit back and watch you children die from starvation so they could learn from the pain. You wouldn’t use it is a megaphone to rouse a deaf child. You wouldn’t use it as a final act of judgment for a life of rebellion. If anyone did any of these things, I would call them evil.

    One thing I will not do is see God behaving in a manner consistent with my concept of evil and then call him anything but evil.

  13. But God played by his own rules though, watching his own Son die on a Cross. Suffering is clouded in mystery, and so we must trust. But God is not above it. He plunged into our ruin.

    Atheist or any human being for that matter cannot tell God how to run a world, a universe. You sound mad because God isn’t doing it your way. You want to explain everything by natural, scientific law, yet when the tectonic plates shift, a huge tidal wave develops and wipes out an entire city, you try to blame God for not coming down and suspending the “natural laws” to stop it. Humans want the moral right to rip a child from it’s mothers womb – and they call it “our moral right.” But when nature claims countless victims, somehow God is immoral.

    I don’t like suffering any more than you do, but we humans cannot make God our cosmic bell boy, demanding that he intervene when “we” think it’s best. Your view of God is flawed. I don’t mean to sound cruel and I have carried my own share of grief in this life, but God is NOT a Celestial Santa Claus, a jolly grandfather who smiles at everything we do and pats us on the head while giving us whatever we want. This kind of god asks nothing of us. He never drives us to our knees in hungry, desperate praying and never sets us on our feet in fierce, fixed determination. He never makes us bold to dance. The safe god never whispers in our ears anything but greeting card slogans… (Buchanan, Your God… 31). When it’s not Christmas, he putters around in the garden, smiles a lot, waves every now and then, and mostly spends time in his room alone doing puzzles. He’s not just a funny old man in tennis shoes and glasses (George Burns).
    https://spiritualquestions.wordpress.com/2008/11/03/a-faulty-view-of-god-and-de-conversion/

    The Bible says God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Don’t trifle with Him. No man can look at Him and live.

  14. >But God played by his own rules though, watching his own Son die on a Cross.

    There’s kind of an evidence disparity. If you wanted proof that children are dying of starvation, you could turn on the news or go to where it is happening and watch it with your own eyes. God isn’t squeamish about providing us with massive amounts of evidence of this.

    But if I want evidence that God played by these rules, it’s kind of hard to come by. An ancient book written a generation after Jesus died which claims that Jesus claimed to be God isn’t very impressive. I could be standing in front of someone today who claims to be God’s Son, and that would still be unimpressive evidence. A happy feeling you get inside when you believe it isn’t very impressive either.

    >You sound mad because God isn’t doing it your way. You want to explain everything by natural, scientific law, yet when the tectonic plates shift, a huge tidal wave develops and wipes out an entire city, you try to blame God for not coming down and suspending the “natural laws” to stop it.

    No, I don’t sound mad at God. You just want that to be the case because your theology does not allow for the possibility that I honestly think your description of God does not align with the world we live in.

    I don’t blame God for tragedies anymore than I blame Santa Claus for not giving me what I want. I just say things like “God sees his children suffer…” and assume you’ll be smart enough to know what I mean and honest enough to accurately represent what I said.

    You’re also horribly conflating what I want with what I think is true. Take a step back, reread what you wrote, and you will see this. It is perfectly consistent to think naturalistic explanations work, and to then criticize alternative views which don’t see the world as naturalistic. Think. It’s not that hard.

    >but we humans cannot make God our cosmic bell boy

    I suppose this is a euphemism for a God distinguishable from no God at all.

    I ask about starving children and you respond with why God doesn’t provide me room service? Are you kidding? Straw men like this make it look like you don’t have an answer.

  15. Return of Tofu

    Your belief system contains no justice, because humans are punished based on their beliefs and not their actions. A Christian could commit genocide and go to heaven, and an atheist could devote their lives to helping others and go to Hell. Some justice.

    Is what god says good because god says it, or good because it is innately good?

    You’re afraid Joey, and you lack the capacity to even consider systems of morality outside your own.

  16. sumpteretc

    Return of Tofu, what is the basis for your idea of justice? Who told you that judgment based on actions is just and that judgment based on beliefs is unjust?

    “Is what god says good because god says it, or good because it is innately good?” Neither. Good is good because it reflects the character of God.

    Your last sentence smacks of an ad hominem attack.

  17. Return of Tofu

    What’s my basis for justice? I see justice as a problem solving mechanism. When someone commits crimes they need to be removed from society and rehabilitated if possible.

    It’s not just to persecute someone for their beliefs, because beliefs themselves do not impinge on others’ rights or damage society (actions based on the beliefs might, but that’s why we should eliminate false beliefs through debate and reason).

    In essence, beliefs are somewhat independent of the good a person does in their life. If you think a good person should be punished for a belief or lack of a belief, I’d be interested in your reasoning as to why.

  18. Return of Tofu

    “Good is good because it reflects the character of God.”

    But why is god’s character considered good? Because he says so?

    You’re correct, my last sentence was over the line. I’ll try to stick to the arguments and not personal attacks, but I’m growing quite frustrated with Joey. For all his talk of “trying to understand atheists” he’s shown very little in the way of considering other points of view. He’s stated several times that he thinks all atheists are liars. It’s hard to have a debate with such lack of respect.

  19. sumpteretc

    Perhaps I didn’t ask my question clearly enough. I don’t understand what you are using as a standard for justice/morality. When you say “when someone commits crimes,” are you implying that each society determines for itself what is just and what is unjust?

    I consider God’s character good because it is good, because He is the source of all good. He is inherently good. Morality/goodness is grounded in God. Whether He claims to be good or not is irrelevant.

  20. Return of Tofu

    Morality is based on human capacity for compassion. Morale actions decrease suffering and increase happiness.

    “are you implying that each society determines for itself what is just and what is unjust?”

    I don’t see how you could come to this conclusion from my post. Yes, different societies have different laws, but whether these laws should be considered just or not is based on their consequences.

    “I consider God’s character good because it is good, because He is the source of all good. He is inherently good. Morality/goodness is grounded in God. Whether He claims to be good or not is irrelevant.”

    Does this mean that every action god takes is considered good? What if he does something we would consider immoral in a human?

    If there’s some way to judge god as good that is separate from himself, then we have no need of god to explain good. If something is good merely because god does it, then good is an entirely arbitrary concept.

  21. sumpteretc,

    There are two foundational questions regarding the meaning goodness from a theistic perspective. It’s unfortunate how similar they sound because it often creates the illusion of having answered the hard question when only the easy question has been answered.

    The easy question is why certain actions of ours are good and others are bad. Did God command them because he recognized those actions to be good or are they good because God commands them? “Good is good because it reflects the character of God” answers this question. It takes the side that God commands things because he recognizes them to be good (align with his character).

    The hard question is why certain actions/attributes of God are good. If the concept of goodness comes from God’s character then to say God is good merely means he is what he is. Which is equally true of you, me, and Satan. Thus with this answer, praising God for his goodness is completely meaningless, and then God isn’t better than Satan, only on our side.

    But if God is good because he is following an external concept of goodness, then applying the usually moral argument for the existence of God to God, there must be a higher God who gave our lower God his concept of morality.

    This hard question is not completely unanswerable. However, the answers are not different from people in a world without God trying to come up with a concept of morality.

    The point of this is that theism doesn’t solve any of the moral dilemmas that are a part of our existence. Theism only postpones all the questions rather than solving them. I like to think of this as taking all our ignorance, throwing it in a big box labeled “God” and declaring the problems inside the box immune from inspection with words like “mystery” and “transcendent.”

  22. sumpteretc

    Tofu, what I am getting at is this. How did you come to the determination that suffering and misery are bad and that compassion and justice are good? If there’s not some external moral standard, one thing is as good as another.

    Jeffrey, I understand your point and it is a good one. We are limited in our understanding at this point in time. I would have to agree with your statement that “to say God is good merely means he is what he is.” It may seem like a cop-out, but if it is true that God actually is the ground of morality, I don’t know of a better way of expressing it.

  23. God is the creator and sustainer of all things. We would not even be self aware, let alone aware of right and wrong, if God had not created within us His image, and therefore the ability to make moral distinctions. God is the source of all life and therefore the source of all truth. God’s laws reflect God’s character. There is nothing arbitrary about them.

    We must also recognize the nature of man. In a fallen state, we are incapable of knowing FULLY what is good. There is knowing, but it’s a fallen “knowing”. Like C.S Lewis said of human depravity, “If we were totally depraved, we wouldn’t know that we were.” But we do know, at least in part (thats why we have a legal system) and that’s why we know we are not totally depraved, when this is defined as being incapable of knowing right and wrong. But what is even worse, the good that we do recognize, we cannot even do (Romans 7). We are not born good and then corrupted by society. Our hearts are messed up from the start. Raise a family, and you’ll see what I mean. We have to embrace the evil in ourselves before we can embrace the good.

    We want things to be right, to be in proper order, but we live in a world so often out of order. Racism, religious oppression, laws which serve only the powerful. We try to bring about justice, but it slips through our fingers. But nevertheless, we seek it. Every human being has a sense for it. Even in the Ten Commandments, though many civilizations may offer there own rendition of these, there is a sense in which all civilizations recognize the valued behind these commandments: family is important, respecting the property of others, expressing worth-ship to a Higher Power, telling the truth, personal rights – all of these are natural laws written into who we are. We don’t break God’s laws; they break us. When we fling ourselves against them, our lives shatter, our society crumbles.

    Justice is about getting our just deserts. But it’s also about restoring image bearing people to what the Hebrews called Shalom – societal and personal peace. We are to do all the good we can to hold back the flood-tide of evil, perpetuated from a fallen sinful human race, and to keep the strong from preying on the weak or poor. God wants the good to flourish and that’s why government and judicial persons are considered “servants” by Paul in Romans. But we also rest assured that a good God can take the evil that we do, and make good things happen out of it (see the Joseph story in Genesis) and that this can reach beyond mans’ flawed justice.

    Morality is about the internalized standards of right conduct and choosing to do right even when you feel like doing wrong, until it becomes a habit. (We need men with chests, says C.S. Lewis. The belly (appetites) and the head (intellect) is regulated by the chest (moral fortitude), to do the right thing). But you can’t have morality without a transcendent standard of right and wrong–transcendent meaning it’s not just what the state tells you to do, or what the culture finds acceptable, or what the individual feels is right for him. Morality is what is right by an objective, transcendent standard, rooted in God’s revelation.

    How do we become good? Answer: We don’t (at least instantly). But we can move toward goodness. The starting point is the concept of the imago Dei (Genesis 1:27-28). Because we are made in God’s image, within all of us is the dim awareness that we have a divine Creator, and, somehow, a divinely ordained purpose and destiny. Part of being made in God’s image is that we have the rational capacity to understand “the order of things established by the Creator” (Romans 1:18-32). We have sufficient free will to be capable of directing ourselves toward the true good for which we were made and to make morally meaningful choices. We have the capacity to “recognize the voice of God” that urges us “to do what is good and avoid what is evil” (Genesis 4:7). This voice is heard in our conscience, which also reflects the divine image (Romans 2:12-16).

    Says one author: “Sin is real and has real consequences. It does not destroy our freedom, or our moral capacity, or the divine image in us as a whole, but it does damage it, and it does mean that we are “now inclined to evil and subject to error.” There is a deep internal division in us. We may still desire what is good, but a contrary force within us pulls us in the other direction (Romans 7).”

    But for Christian Theists, there is the transforming work of Christ taking place within, such that there is less and less evil, and more good.

    David Gushe (Wilberforce Forum): “Sin wounds our nature and inclines our will to evil and our thinking to error. The unredeemed sinner, however, is understood as a divided self rather than a self wholly inclined to evil. What Jesus Christ makes available, then, is deliverance from this condition of internal division, restoration of what sin has damaged, and therefore a return of all that God intended for us all along. As we grow in grace, our divided self becomes more whole, more “capable of acting rightly and doing good.” It is indeed possible to become a morally good person through a process of gradual transformation in Jesus Christ. We will certainly never be perfect, but growth toward goodness is possible. We need not accept the way we are. We can do better, with God’s Spirit motivating, empowering, and strengthening our moral effort.

    But, if God is not, then all things are permissable.

  24. “Belief cannot reason with unbelief. It can only preach to it.” – Karl Barth

  25. Thomas Merton, the Trappist Monk: “Having nothing to say they concentrated on the art of saying nothing with exactness.”

  26. Return of Tofu

    “Tofu, what I am getting at is this. How did you come to the determination that suffering and misery are bad and that compassion and justice are good? If there’s not some external moral standard, one thing is as good as another.”

    Hmm, interesting question! I have to concede that happiness is at least somewhat subjective, but I think happiness is as close to being universally desired as anything can be, so it seems to be the best we’ve got.

    I’d rather live in a world with compassion and justice than one without, and I’m sure there are few who would disagree. The golden rule, I suppose.

    I’m still researching morality, and far be it from me to say I have all the answers. I guess I just don’t see how an appeal to a “higher being” solves anything, because you still have to explain why its actions are considered moral. “Do this because god says so” doesn’t work for me. “Do this because it will create a world worth living in” does.

    “A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.”
    Dorothy L. Sayers

  27. sumpteretc

    Your view of morality does nothing to condemn Hitler or Mohamed Atta. When Atta flew the plane into the building, he was thinking, “I’m doing this to ‘create a world worth living in.'” When Hitler set out to eliminate the inferior races, he did it to “create a world worth living in.” Without an objective standard of morality, you can’t say that Hitler and Atta were wrong. They just had a different idea of what “a world worth living in” means.

  28. Return of Tofu

    I don’t see how believing in god really helps things. Why is disobeying god wrong? Because he’ll punish you?

    Anyway, the thing with Hitler, etc, is that they were working with illogical and untrue beliefs (ex. one race is superior to all others). That’s why debate and research are so important- we need to come to conclusions about reality and the best way to live.

    I can’t say absolutely that their actions were wrong, but I can point out that the results of those actions would be harmful to a world where happiness was maximized and suffering minimized. Happiness/suffering are the closest we’re going to get to absolutes when it comes to humans.

  29. Return of Tofu

    Anyway, I reject the idea that without god we’d just be going around gleefully raping and murdering because we could get around with it. Humanity hasn’t lasted this long by acting like that.

    Joey, can you honestly say that without belief in god you’d just let your child be beat to death in the street? I find it appalling that you need a cosmic enforcer to justify helping people.

    Just because an action won’t be absolutely punished/rewarded in some afterlife doesn’t mean it has no consequences here and now.

  30. sumpteretc

    You say that Hitler and Atta were acting with illogical and untrue beliefs, but what is your basis of logical and true? Without an objective standard, Hitler’s truth is just as valid as yours. You continue to state that happiness is a good and suffering is an evil, but you have yet to explain adequately how you came to that conclusion. Apparently, some Palestinian Arabs would be happy (and would suffer less) if the nation of Israel were destroyed and all Jews were exterminated. Perhaps some Israelis feel the same way about the Palestinians. By your logic, they are both right and are both justified in continued hostilities. I say that there is an external standard of truth and justice. Either the Israelis are right, the Palestinians are right, or they are both wrong. They can’t both be right.

  31. Return of Tofu

    My basis for logical and true is something that stands up to empirical evidence. Aryan supremacy doesn’t hold up to this.

    Do unto others… I have to realize that my happiness does not necessarily take precedence over someone else’s. Those who don’t respect others’ views and turn to violence leave themselves open to violence in turn.

    Morality is a tool used by humanity to build strong and successful societies. It’s a survival thing. A group that co-operates is more likely to thrive than one with members who stab each other in the back.

    Perhaps you’re right, and there is an external standard of truth and justice. What is it, and how do you know it?

  32. I agree. It is God who provides the basis of what is logical and true.

    How do we even get this idea of what is right and wrong? You don’t call a line crooked unless you have some idea of what is straight. As an atheist, C.S. Lewis said that his argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. Then it hit him. How did he even get this idea of justice to be able to make that observation? Someone had to write it into who we were.

    My point about merely reading the paper while someone beats my child out in the street is not so much about “belief” in God; it’s more about the sense of right and wrong that God Himself has written into my own heart. I recognize the gross injustice of what is taking place and am compelled to respond. Darwinistic atheism necessitates that I do nothing… just continue reading the paper. The strong survive. We are merely machines. The “fit” move on.

    There is an external standard of truth and justice. It is outside of ourselves in one sense, and yet it has been internalized in another sense. But if God is not, then all things are permissable; there is no standard.

  33. sumpteretc

    Why doesn’t Aryan supremacy stand up to empirical evidence? Because the Third Reich failed? If the Nazis would have won World War II, would genocide have then been morally right?

    I agree with you that “do unto others” is a good standard of morality. But it’s because it’s a reflection of God’s character, not just because I arbitarily picked it as a moral standard.

    The external standard of truth and justice is God, and He has revealed it through His Word and more fully through His Son.

  34. “Why doesn’t Aryan supremacy stand up to empirical evidence? ”

    Because good science contradicts it.

    Science shows us that the strongest, healthiest, most resilient people are more likely to be those of mixed race.

  35. “The external standard of truth and justice is God”

    And sorry. I don’t follow the justice of someone who uses murder and threats of punishment to rule.

    Especially when they don’t exist.

  36. Return of Tofu

    “Darwinistic atheism necessitates that I do nothing… just continue reading the paper. The strong survive. We are merely machines. The “fit” move on.”

    Untrue. The ability to co-operate is in fact an important part of being “fit.” A callous, uncaring and violent person most likely won’t reproduce.

    “How did he even get this idea of justice to be able to make that observation? Someone had to write it into who we were. ”

    If god’s law, as it were, were written into me, what need have we of the Bible? And why do I find so much of it to be unjust or just plain ridiculous?

    “Why doesn’t Aryan supremacy stand up to empirical evidence?”

    Because “race” is an extremely poor predictor of success. The actual genetic differences between races is extremely small.

    “The external standard of truth and justice is God, and He has revealed it through His Word and more fully through His Son.”

    Why is following god’s standard good?

  37. sumpteretc

    “And why do I find so much of it to be unjust or just plain ridiculous?”

    I don’t know. That’s what I’m asking you. What are you using as your standard to determine what is just and what is unjust? How did you come to the conclusion that the Bible is unjust or bad? What standard did you measure it against?

  38. Return of Tofu

    Well obviously not the standard god has supposedly “written into me.”

    Again, I judge actions by their consequences and whether they add to overall happiness or suffering, which are the closest thing we have to human universals.

    Why is god’s standard good?

  39. sumpteretc

    And, again, who gets to define overall happiness and suffering? Mohamed Atta thought that the momentary sacrifice of himself would bring greater happiness to himself and would make the world a better place.

  40. Return of Tofu

    And again, his view was based on faulty information. Unless you believe he’s actually up in heaven with 72 virgins.

    Why is god’s standard good?

  41. Because God is good. God has self-disclosed. He has revealed himself. While he still transcends us and is well beyond us, we do know in part enough about God to know that he is good and is not angry with us anymore (if he ever was in the first place). That’s what the gospel is about. If you want to “frame” a “cruel god” just let me head you off before you go there. Any anger that he had for mankind was poured out on the cross about 2,000 years ago. I personally don’t think that persistent anger has ever characterized God (God is love – the Bible does not say in the same way that “God is wrath” for example. Does he demonstrate it? Absolutely, but it does not characterize Him as the attribute of love does).

    What does this self-disclosure look like? Three things…a Creative word, a written word, and a living word….

    A Creative Word. It was Paul’s argument that there is enough of God revealed in nature that individuals can encounter Him (Romans 1:18-20), even atheists.

    A Written Word. It was also Paul’ argument that the Bible is a reliable source of truth (2 Tim. 3:16). God shows himself in his interactions with mankind. The Bible also accurately represents peoples perception of God without either affirming or condemning.

    A Living Word. Furthermore, Paul also believes that Jesus Christ was God and revealed God and his message was authenticated via resurrection (1 Cor. 15). God in the flesh.

    So, to your question. Why is God’s standard good? Because Jesus was good, the world he made is good, the unfallen people he made in his image were pronounced good, and the Bible is good, in that it teaches us history, helps us reexperience story, and teaches us theology with no intent to deceive. Embedded in all this is God’s good standard.

    You and I can trust it. And remember the love story…. love…true love…

  42. sumpteretc

    “And again, his view was based on faulty information. Unless you believe he’s actually up in heaven with 72 virgins.”

    Whether I believe it is irrelevant. It’s either true or it isn’t. I say it isn’t true, and I base it on what God has revealed of His character. You say it isn’t true, but you can’t tell me how you know it isn’t true. It’s just your opinion, because you don’t believe in an absolute standard of morality.

  43. Return of Tofu

    “Because Jesus was good, the world he made is good, the unfallen people he made in his image were pronounced good, and the Bible is good, in that it teaches us history, helps us reexperience story, and teaches us theology with no intent to deceive. Embedded in all this is God’s good standard.”

    Yes, but by what standards are you judging these things to be “good?” God’s standards? If so, you’re just saying “God is good because God says so.”

    “It’s just your opinion, because you don’t believe in an absolute standard of morality.”

    Just because I don’t believe in moral absolutes (absolutely) doesn’t mean I don’t believe in absolutes altogether. Don’t confuse the two.

    I can reasonably say something isn’t true if there is no evidence for it (and especially if there’s strong counter-evidence).

    There are universal laws out there, but morality is a human construct, so it’s subject to humanity.

  44. sumpteretc

    “Just because I don’t believe in moral absolutes (absolutely) doesn’t mean I don’t believe in absolutes altogether. Don’t confuse the two.”

    I thought we were discussing morality here, and whether or not it is possible for you to pass judgment on the 9/11 terrorists.

    “I can reasonably say something isn’t true if there is no evidence for it (and especially if there’s strong counter-evidence).”

    As Joey has pointed out, there is significant evidence for God provided by His self-revelation. There cannot, of course, be strong evidence for something’s non-existence.

  45. Return of Tofu

    “I thought we were discussing morality here, and whether or not it is possible for you to pass judgment on the 9/11 terrorists.”

    Yes, we were, but the question of whether or not a terrorist gets 72 virgins in heaven is not a moral question.

    What you seem to be implying is that I should think reality itself is a matter of opinion. That’s not what I’m arguing.

    I’ll ask you again. By what standard do you say God is good?

  46. sumpteretc

    I’ll agree with Joey’s answer:

    “So, to your question. Why is God’s standard good? Because Jesus was good, the world he made is good, the unfallen people he made in his image were pronounced good, and the Bible is good, in that it teaches us history, helps us reexperience story, and teaches us theology with no intent to deceive. Embedded in all this is God’s good standard.”

  47. Return of Tofu

    By what standard do you judge Jesus to be good?

    By what standard do you judge the world to be good?

    By what standard do you judge the unfallen people to be good?

    By what standard do you judge the Bible to be good?

    I’m merely asking you the same question you posed to me. You’ve listed some things you find to be good. However, you’ve done nothing to explain why you find these things good.

  48. sumpteretc

    I’m not sure that I can address your question adequately, because God is good by definition. I would have a similar problem addressing the question, “By what standard do you judge that which comes from a light source to be light?” Whatever comes from God is inherently good, because He is the source of all goodness. I’m sure you find this answer inadequate, but I say that God is good because He is God. He is the standard of goodness.

  49. Return of Tofu

    So your standard for morality is that good is good?

    Remind me what your problem with utilitarianism was again?

  50. sumpteretc

    My standard for morality is that God is good, and He–by revealing Himself–has revealed what is good.

    This is not a matter of “Whatever works is true and good.” It is “Whatever is true and good, works.”

  51. Return of Tofu

    I’m honestly having a lot of difficulty understanding what you’re trying to get at.

    You say that god is good, but you’re arriving at that conclusion using the standard of god… essentially saying “god is good because god is good because god is good.”

    Using this standard, wouldn’t it be true that whatever god does, no matter what it is, would be good? Doesn’t this make your morality completely arbitrary?

  52. sumpteretc

    You give empirical evidence a great deal of credence. Whatever you see is true because you see it. If you didn’t see it, it wouldn’t be true. Does that make reality completely arbitrary? If you sense (see, hear, touch) a new phenomenon tomorrow, does that mean that reality has changed, or that you have just made a discovery?

    My morality is not arbitrary, because goodness is grounded in an immutable Person. It is true that whatever He does will be good, because He refuses to act in ways that violate His character.

  53. Return of Tofu

    I’m not sure how your first comment is relevant (then again, it’s late).

    “It is true that whatever He does will be good, because He refuses to act in ways that violate His character.”

    You mean his character that is defined as good?

    If whatever god does is defined as good, then goodness is simply whatever god does- it doesn’t matter what it is.

    You’re saying god commands what is good because god is good. But whatever god commands is by definition good. So god can declare anything to be good, and it will be. So essentially god does things because he does things. It’s entirely arbitrary, because any action is good if god does it.

  54. Return of Tofu

    To put it another way, good is just a meaningless descriptor that means “something god did.”

  55. sumpteretc

    If you mean “good is something that is in line with God’s character,” you are correct. Something is good not because God said it but because it reflects His character.

  56. Return of Tofu

    But can’t you see how circular that is? Using this logic, anything god does is by definition good. That means god is good because he does what god does. Good therefore only means “what god would do” and so is useless as a guideline for behaviour, since god could do anything, and that thing would immediately be considered good.

  57. sumpteretc

    If God behaved randomly and arbitrarily, that would present a problem. The fact that God is immutable resolves that problem. I won’t pretend that our understanding of God’s character hasn’t changed as He has continued to reveal Himself, but His character has remained constant.

  58. I agree. There is a standard of good that is outside of us. This does not necessitate that I be as good as God is. It simply demonstrates that His goodness is not based on some arbitrary standard that is as random as human beings are in their goodness.

    He is the only being qualified to establish standards of goodness. It’s rooted in His character. He stands outside the “circle of logic” – our logic, though he is logical. There is “no darkness in Him” writes John. He is totally good, consistent within Himself, and unchanging in His character.

  59. Return of Tofu

    But it does make morality arbitrary. If your only standard for goodness is god, then you can only point to god to know what moral actions are.

    Under this system, the only reason rape is considered bad is because god says so. If he said otherwise, rape would be considered good. You can’t say that rape is bad because it harms people, because this is looking to something outside of god (in this case human feelings of suffering) to establish moral guidelines.

    If you say god declares rape bad because he loves us, you must accept that humans also have capacity for love, and our morality could have sprung from that. Again it would be looking to a standard that can exist without god.

    In essence, you’re just saying rape is bad because rape is bad- bad being “something god doesn’t do.”

  60. sumpteretc

    Rape is not bad just because God says so; it is bad because it is inconsistent with God’s character. God not only loves us; He is love. We have the capacity for love, because we were created in God’s image. Yet, though, we have the capacity for love, we often act in unloving ways. A standard based purely on human activity would fall far short of God’s standard of unconditional love.

  61. Return of Tofu

    “Rape is not bad just because God says so; it is bad because it is inconsistent with God’s character.”

    But why is god’s character the way it is? And why is god’s character considered good? If it was in god’s character to rape, then you would consider rape to be good.

    Maybe humans can not be unconditionally loving, but we have the capacity to envision the concept of unconditional love (perhaps as an ideal). And this can be done without invoking god.

  62. sumpteretc

    You understand, of course, that the question–“Why is God’s character the way it is?”–is an unanswerable one. It might be answerable for a contingent being like you or me, but it’s not answerable for a noncontingent one like Him. God’s character is good, because goodness gets its definition from Him. I know you don’t accept that, but I have yet to hear a better ground for goodness from you. Human conceptions of goodness fall short, human behavior much shorter.

  63. Return of Tofu

    “God’s character is good, because goodness gets its definition from Him. I know you don’t accept that, but I have yet to hear a better ground for goodness from you.”

    If good is merely doing what god would do, then why should we be good? Why is being good more desirable than being evil? What use is this morality?

    You’ve reduced the word good to meaninglessness. Good=what god does, god does what god does, therefore god=good.

    “You understand, of course, that the question–”Why is God’s character the way it is?”–is an unanswerable one.”

    That’s precisely the problem. If we don’t know why god would do what he does, then goodness is just a bunch of inexplicable things god is willing to do.

    If there’s some underlying reason that god is willing to do some things, then that reason is the basis of good, and we can look to it rather than god.

    The only way we can say something is bad is to say that god wouldn’t do it, because it’s not in his nature, and it’s not in his nature because it’s not good. And it’s not good because it’s not in his nature.

    “Human conceptions of goodness fall short, human behavior much shorter.”

    Yet if we can’t fully comprehend god (and as you just explained, we can’t know why god does what he does), then we are simply using a human conception of him anyway.

    And of course if you posit a perfect being other standards are going to fall short. But then you have to explain what “perfect” means, because your version of it will differ from, say, someone of a different religion.

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