Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Zombie Recites His Lines

In a comment, Zombie asks:

Who are we to even question a perfect God as imperfect people? Who are we to sit in judgment of the actions of God? We make mistakes daily and think with minds that are flawed and seemingly unable to get a grip on reality. If we can't see God's master plan we get angry with Him. But who told us that we are entitled to see God's master plan?
You've only begged the question of god's perfection by asserting it (after begging the question of god's existence by asserting that), but the answer to the "who are we" question is that we are beings who understand suffering based on direct, all-too-common experience of it. We also have vast reservoirs of experience with addressing suffering by contextualizing it: the pin-prick hurts, but it hurts less than the polio it is preventing; the childbirth hurts, but the birth and life of the child outweighs it; the hard work is unpleasant, but the money is good and useful.

Likewise we are asked to contextualize the sum of suffering in the world by noting the grandeur of god's plan. This can't be done without inquiring into the nature of god's plan, so put up or shut up. This is no more impertinent than the same question as put to a boss, a dictator, a doctor, a parent, a teacher, a ship's captain, or anyone else who proposed a course of suffering for the sake of a larger good. What is the larger good and how does it compare with the suffering demanded for its sake? If the boss, dictator, doctor, parent, parent, teacher, or ship's captain simply waved his hands and said "the plan and its goodness is inherently beyond your comprehension" then we would rightly call bullshit. And I call bullshit on the exact same non-answer given for god's supposed plan.

So put up or shut up: in exchange for the millions of parents who have prayed over a dying child, in exchange for every moment's suffering experienced in the Holocaust, in exchange for every rapist who has gone to the grave undetected, in exchange for every person burned or crushed for having decided to show up to work on 9/11, god offers what, precisely? What possible good outweighs this and the rest of the unspeakably dismal tide of human affairs?

Zombie continues:
Maybe this sounds silly to you, believing in God, but with some thought, think of the alternatives. We created ourselves out of some explosion somewhere in space from things that created themselves, then kept changing from one appearance to another for millions of years never leaving behind any fossil evidence. Come on, that is so unbelievable it reeks of humor.
It sounds quite a bit worse than silly, but silly fits too. Please be aware that the alternatives are not made untrue by your feelings of incredulity. One virtue of the alternatives, even in the bastardized form you've given here, is the absence of any assumption that there is a 'purpose' or 'love' at the root of it all. We don't have to insult ourselves hunting around for explanations of how a material universe doesn't seem to care about our suffering. I don't offer that as a consolation but in support of the possibility -- I would say the evident reality -- that the universe is not furnished to provide consolation to humans.

Finally, there is an abundance of accumulated wisdom, experience, evidence, and reason that can take us step-wise from simpler to more complex life forms, and that can explain the 'orderliness' of, say, spherical planets, elliptical orbits, Euclidean geometry, and molecular structures. Whereas the alternative, untroubled by either reason or evidence, is that some magic human-like being with a human-like consciousness always existed. And then one day decided to make some people, and place them in a garden with a talking snake, and ... well, we all know the rest of the fable.

4 comments:

Zombie said...

"If the boss, dictator, doctor, parent, parent, teacher, or ship's captain simply waved his hands and said "the plan and its goodness is inherently beyond your comprehension" then we would rightly call bullshit. And I call bullshit on the exact same non-answer given for god's supposed plan."

Using human examples is not the same. You are reaching and glossing over the fact that if God is real, He must be all knowing, all encompassing. A boss or parent or any of those people are not. They may have a plan, but it may be a bad plan. God on the other hand has a plan and it had no possibility of being the wrong plan. The error lies in us, not God. We can argue all day through dim lighting about how unfair God is to allow such atrocities you mentioned, but being a person who is imperfect and unable to grasp all truth as I am, we cannot always see what is in store. Not to mention you keep attributing these things to God, and leaving no responsibility to the evil of people in these things. God didn't gas millions of Jews, God didn't do these things, we did, humanity. The same humanity that thinks it is naturally good. So yeah, I am reciting lines. But does that make the lines untrue because you have offered no proof whatsoever that any alternative form of creation has existed, but you speak as if Christians are dumb for believing in fables that are no more absurd than evolution.

Dale said...

Zombie, when you say you care about people and about these arguments, I am willing to take you at your word. But it should already be obvious that this is not a space where your religious beliefs will be given the sort of deference they're typically given in "polite" society. That's a mistake in tone and a flaw in social discourse this blog is intended to counteract. I say that as a preface to saying I care about people too, but I don't mince words when it comes to what I perceive as bullshit, nor will I. So thanks for coming by -- really, I mean that -- but set your expectations accordingly.

To say that god's reckonings and plans are perfect and cannot be compared with people's is simply to beg the question. How is god's plan perfect? That's what I am asking. Point me to the details of god's plans that will, in the fullness of time, counteract the evils -- both natural and man-made -- in the world, and justify the adjective "perfect." Simply asserting that god's plan is perfect and all-wise and will make it all right in the end is not enough. You wouldn't accept it from Castro or Stalin or apologists for Islam; I don't accept it coming from Christians.

Plenty of errors and evils reside with us. But earthquakes aren't caused by people. If god exists in the form you say he does, he must know how to stop cancer. He must have known how to stop the plague before many millions died in agony from it. He must have known how to stop malaria since before the first case of it killed someone. He's all loving and all knowing, right? So where's the beef?

The usual answer: all this suffering is part of god's majestic plan. Yes, we're suffering, but there's a perfect teleology at play, which some day we'll understand. Someday we -- or those of us who were "saved" or whatever -- will look back and say, "yes, all that unpleasantness, but it was really worth it."

I have not seen even the outlines of such a plan. I see no reason to believe in it. It is absurd on its face. It is a huge claim, and the believability of huge claims has to scale with the availability of huge evidence.

Zombie said...

Plenty of errors and evils reside with us. But earthquakes aren't caused by people. If god exists in the form you say he does, he must know how to stop cancer. He must have known how to stop the plague before many millions died in agony from it. He must have known how to stop malaria since before the first case of it killed someone. He's all loving and all knowing, right? So where's the beef?

I already stated that the whole creation got death due to the sin in the garden. This means everything, so yeah, I attribute earthquakes to sin as well. I also already told you that we can't contend to know God's will as we are not as imperfect beings even able to comprehend perfection, so you will not find an outline for God's plan and if that feels like bullshit to you, than OK. I never asked you to believe. I saw your blog that said "I Tried, Really" which made me believe that you were really trying and open for other's input. I am not peddling my faith or standing in defense or apology for it. I do get what kind of blog I am in. I am not a child, I get there is hostility to God here. I am not afraid of being spoken to harshly. Jesus was beaten and killed and He asked for forgiveness for His murderers, so I think I can handle a few harsh and misguided criticisms. (Notice that passive aggressive word, I didn't intend it to be). I do disagree with you, but I can offer no proof of God as you cannot offer any proof of evolution. I can only speak of what I know of God in my life. I am a changed person who battles with depression, who tried to kill himself, and who found hope, not a crutch, but real hope in Christ. I don't believe because it is better than dying or misery, in fact being a believer in a society hostile to those that believe is not always very fun at all, but it doesn't make it not true. I only encourage you to think about it. Before the words, before your mind begins chopping up all of the things I say and formulating super intelligent ways of portraying them on the internet. Stop and think, and listen, then chop me to pieces if you want to, but at least you opened your mind for a moment to hear what I am saying.

Domestically Challenged said...

Wow, god is just so compassionate! And so loving! I can easily see such qualities in a being so vindictive as to punish the billions of humans born after the sins of the first two. Or, I mean one, since it is Eve who really is blamed for it all. Yes, a perfect being really would say "I give you free will but now I must punish you for using it. I must punish you for displeasing me." Sounds quite like the temper tantrums my toddler would have. But then, he sends his only son to die for our sins and to teach us compassion and forgiveness, yet the father himself can't forgive and has held his grudge for thousands of years. Ah, but he claims to have forgiven us... only if we again, do things his way. In fact, he is so great and compassionate that I can commit all ranges of sin and still be forgiven because I accept Jesus as my savior! Too bad for all the moral do-gooders out there who don't accept JC. And how will we know what God's way is? Why it's all in the Bible of course! A book written by MEN. You say Atheists delude themselves in believing there is no god yet we lack the proof of this claim ... yet your only proof of a god is the Bible?... a book of pure fantasy which defies all logic and evades any sort of empirical science!

Ok. I'm converted. I'll blindly believe in your unseen deity because I understand the absolute wisdom of that and am willing to trust that His reasons and plan are far beyond my ability to comprehend. I am humbled by that amazingness.