Thursday, April 12, 2012

Christian Apologist Drake Shelton's Hellacious Views on Hell


I'm not sure I expected that anyone could top Christian apologist Steve Hays on his incredibly bigoted defense of hell, but Christian apologist Drake Shelton's hero W. G. T. Shedd (and Shelton by association) takes the evil cake.  In his post Shelton first quotes a lot of the Bible on damnation and I don't have much to disagree with there.  It really does teach all that stuff.  But then he starts defending it.

Ironically Shelton closes his review of Keith Parsons' chapter in "The End of Christianity" on hell with this:
...the scripture (Gal 5:20) calls heresy a work of the flesh. Ideas are moral. You see God is a divine mind which means union with Him is something intellectual. To think is in the genus of being, but to think wrongly is ethical, in the genus of ethics, and is to separate from God. Let any Christian reader take this to heart. 
I agree that ideas have moral implications, but my views of others are not so black and white.  While it might be emotionally satisfying to rail against everyone I disagreed with as though every departure from my perspective was indicative of a moral failing of theirs, it would be intellectually dishonest to think that it couldn't also be (aside from me being the one who happens to be wrong) a combination of the subjective mixture of ignorance, honest error, neurodiversity, and common cognitive bias.  There's just not such a tight fit with the cultish "heresy = evil person" equation, but sometimes there are some stand out issues that make you wonder.  Condoning eternal torture is one of them.

In this post I'm going to show just how "demonstrably delusional" Drake Shelton and W. G. T. Shedd are, because they are amazingly wrong about so many things that are even beside their main point.  Enjoy.

Shelton reveals he used to have a conscience:
This was the primary reason I was a Christ rejecting pagan in my childhood and teenage years. It was my assumption that the God of Christianity, though he may be the true God, could never punish his creatures with eternal torment. The very idea was grotesque to me and was my primary excuse to live however I wanted with no fear of punishment. 
Shelton delusionally assumes that everyone with a similar opinion has the same motives from his one personal experience.  That's called a hasty generalization.  Not everyone who rejects Christianity on principled grounds does so for the sake of getting away with absolutely anything.  Also, it's not actually possible to get away with absolutely anything, since there are real world consequences to immoral actions.  Christians cannot simultaneously sell the worldly benefits of their Christian virtues while putting down the moral lifestyle as undesirable in and of itself.

Shelton says:
God created man perfectly righteous in the genus of being. His constitution was completely directed to good not to hell. This is why Adam’s sin was so heinous.
So Adam and Eve had 100% motivation to do all good and yet somehow they managed to do evil.  Well that sounds entirely plausible.  No wait, the heinous thing is that they actually believe that.

Shelton claims:
If our opponents were consistent they would deny the reality and eternality of heaven.
To be consistent with the remedial correction of hell theory, heaven would have to be a temporary place designed to send you to hell eventually as though Yahweh's primary desire isn't supposed to be wanting everyone in heaven (Ezekiel 33:11).  So the temporary hell theory is consistent with that even if it isn't consistent with other unprincipled assertions of Christian scripture about eternal damnation.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
The objection, that a suffering not intended to reform but to satisfy justice, is cruel and unworthy of God, is refuted by the question of St. Paul: "Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? God forbid: for how then shall God judge the world ?" Rom. 3:5, 6.
This delusionally begs the question as though because the character Yahweh does something, that makes that type of action by definition justified.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
Endless punishment is rational, in the first place, because it is supported by the human conscience. The sinner's own conscience will " bear witness" and approve of the condemning sentence, "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." Rom. 2. 16.
This delusionally assumes that when Yahweh's laws are violated any given individual will necessarily feel guilty about it because of the "intrinsic" nature of the crime.  Let's take an easily verifiable example.  Living the homosexual lifestyle is a sin punishable by death and warranting eternal hellfire according to Christian doctrine.  Do you think 60 year old gay couples are feeling any tinges of guilt about their relationship?

Of course, if you are this type of Christian, other people's feelings and worldviews don't exist.  All human consciences do not align on all issues and Shedd's argument makes a straight forward fallacious argument to future events.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
The final judgment is not a terror to good works but to evil. Wilt thou, then, not be afraid of the final judgment?
If anyone stepped into the court of some third world dictator after having vacationed in their country for a month, I imagine just about anyone would be afraid because who knows what kinds of values this king would have?  The odds of some kind of clash would be high.  It makes sense to fear amoral power.  That doesn't make the moral paradigm behind that power correct.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
Keep the law of God perfectly, without a single slip or failure, inwardly or outwardly, and thou shalt have praise of the same.  [...] It is not necessary that a man should commit all kinds of sin, or that he should sin a very long time, in order to be a sinner. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10. One sin makes guilt, and guilt makes hell.
"Don't worry, just be perfect" is insane advice and zero comfort.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
The opponent of endless retribution does not draw his arguments from the impartial conscience, but from the bias of self-love and desire for happiness. His objections are not ethical, but sentimental. They are not seen in the dry light of pure truth and reason, but through the colored medium of self-indulgence and love of ease and sin.
And the proponents certainly aren't jerking off their moral centers in their brains to the extreme at the expense of their core humanity, right?  It is delusionally evil to make compassion and human happiness a crime.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
The knowledge that future suffering will one day cease would immediately relieve the awful apprehension of the sinner. 
This delusionally concludes that no one ever feared any punishment that was anything short of eternal.  It is downright crazy to say shit like this and Shelton would come back and defend every line item here like a total nutcase.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...evinced by the universality and steadiness of the dread of it.  Mankind believe in hell, as they believe in the Divine Existence, by reason of their moral sense.
So everyone believes that hell exists?  Shelton and Shedd are crazy.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...a permanent and general fear among mankind cannot be produced by a mere chimera, or a pure figment of the imagination.
Of course, this only applies to the extent that various versions of hell have captured the imaginations of various demographics of people over the ages.  Made up ideas can do that.  Also, Shedd is probably aware of the concept of "fear of the unknown," but doesn't bother addressing it or distinguishing it from his delusional conclusion.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
Men have no fear of Rhadamanthus, nor can they be made to fear him, because they know that there is no such being. "An idol is nothing in the world." 1 Cor. 8:4.
This is simply jaw-dropping stupidity and abject ideological solipsism.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
If the Biblical hell were as much a nonentity as the heathen Atlantis, no one would waste his time in endeavoring to prove its non-existence. What man would seriously construct an argument to demonstrate that there is no such being as Jupiter Ammon, or such an animal as the centaur? The very denial of endless retribution evinces by its spasmodic eagerness and effort to disprove the tenet, the firmness with which it is entrenched in man's moral constitution. If there really were no hell, absolute indifference toward the notion would long since have been the mood of all mankind, and no arguments, either for or against it, would be constructed…
This delusionally assumes everyone that doesn't believe in hell is out to disprove hell (on top of the other delusions that everyone knows about and believes in hell already).  It also delusionally assumes people who set out to disprove hell necessarily spend a lot of time doing so.  It also delusionally assumes that because people disagree with it, that must make it more right.  Gee, if that were the case, what contentious side of every issue wouldn't be true?  And it delusionally assumes that people don't make arguments against all sorts of silly things and have done so throughout history.  It's called skepticism.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...sin is actually being added to sin, in the future life, and the amount of guilt is accumulating. 
Do they have the option of repenting after Judgement day?  Then I've stopped blaming them for what they cannot control.  The delusional Calvinists on the other hand have not.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
That endless punishment is reasonable is proved by the preference of the wicked themselves. The unsubmissive, rebellious, defiant, and impenitent spirit prefers hell to heaven...
So would you like to be raped or shot in the head?  Shot in the head?  See, you wanted to be shot in the head.  Makes perfect sense.  If you are a delusional Calvinist who think this respects free will in some sick way.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
"They hate both me and my Father," says the Son of God, " without a cause." John 25:24, 25. 
And after all this, we're expected to feel sorry for the Christian god?  That poor omnipotent, perfect being.  [/sarcasm]

[Note, That verse is John 15:24-25, btw, since there is no chapter 25 of John.]

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
In this vicarious atonement for sin, the Triune God relinquishes no claims of law, and waives no rights to justice. The sinner's Divine Substitute, in his hour of voluntary agony and death, drinks the cup of punitive and inexorable justice to the dregs.
Yes, Jesus had a bad weekend once.  Quite comparable to the full extents of the experiences of humanity.  Especially that eternal suffering part for most of us.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...he who rejects it must through endless cycles grapple with the dread problem of human guilt in his own person, and alone...
This delusionally assumes people are unable to process guilt outside of the conceptions of this Christian worldview.  Has he ever even spoken to someone outside of his cult?  Or like listened?

Shelton says:
Let the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment then be a settled issue.
Because quoting another author saying a whole bunch of delusional, evil things settles this issue.  Some Christians actually have consciences, you know.  Like that "embarrassing" Eastern Church Shelton is so proud to disown for their openness to less than absolutely evil doctrines.

Shelton says:
Parsons exposes more of his American brainwashing on page 249 when he argues that Christianity is unreasonable...

There were some other things to respond to from Shedd and Shelton, but I've paraded before you all of the most obvious supplementary delusion of this Christian worldview.

Lastly here is the main argument from Shedd that is supposed to justify eternal punishment for the finite crimes on earth:
...suffering that is penal can never come to an end, because guilt is the reason for its infliction, and guilt once incurred never ceases to be.  The lapse of time does not convert guilt into innocence  [...]  When a crime is condemned, it is absurd to ask, "How long is it condemned?"
Balanced people recognize that there is more than one value than just justice and that playing any one of our moral values out to this extreme at the expense of all others is evil.  

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...another reason for the endlessness of sin is the fact that rebellious enmity toward law and its Source is not diminished, but increased, by the righteous punishment experienced by the impenitent transgressor.
So you have to keep stabbing the cornered animal for all eternity to get this particular reaction.  That's great.  Again, most emotionally stable, normal, good people, with properly functioning consciences, recognize this as sick.

The famous theologian John Calvin decided that eternal punishment not only wasn't an issue, but in fact the sufferings of the damned would be one of the viewing pleasures of heaven!  However, in reality land, when kids are prone to torture animals, for example, we diagnose them with mental health issues.  Of course, this is religion.  Let the sickening rationalizations begin (er, continue).


First of all, to close, if we are even looking at the issue of "justice" that means that a morally *perfect* god has accommodated the existence of evil in some way.  This is logically impossible since the accommodation of any evil for any reason whatsoever necessarily counts as a moral blemish on divine actions that are supposed to be perfect.  Secondly, even if we lower the standard of moral "perfection" to accommodate the existence of evil, finite crimes from finite fallible beings cannot deserve infinite punishments.  Temporality isn't the issue, equal value is the issue.  The question isn't about Hitler.  It's about a 7 year old who barely tasted her era of moral accountability, committed the smallest sin possible, didn't repent and submit to Jesus, and was hit by a bus.  She deserves the bare minimum of eternal punishment in this Christian worldview without the possibility of parole.  And so, even grading on the curve, this god is off the charts evil.  Thirdly, the only way to get it back on the charts is say that Jesus was lying about hell.  And then he's just evil for lying about such a horrible idea for masses of impressionable people to get all tangled up about.   But again, at least the evil is finite.  Fourthly, this of course sets aside the issues of proper divine management of spiritual resources since to give all humans a fighting, fair chance it would require that everyone have a sufficiently long life, that they all had properly functioning brains, that they were all encultured with the correct moral values and spiritual teachings, and given all the support they would need throughout their lives so that in all likelihood (with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent shepherding god at the helm) no one would be lost.  Surprise, surprise, the world is nothing like this thanks to the implausible plot devices of Lucifer's rebellion, the corruption of Adam and Eve, and allowing them to have children who would be unfairly subject to these ridiculous terms.  Fifthly, and so despite being an all powerful, all knowing, and morally perfect being, and despite expressing the desire that no one should be punished for punishment's sake (Ezekiel 33:11), that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), that no one is responsible for the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18:20), and that even one lost "sheep" is worth his while (Luke 15:4), our pseudo lord and savior Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:14 confesses that there is no mysterious greater good at work here since he loses the vast majority of his flock in the end.  Proverbs 22:6 even says, "Raise a child up in the way he should go and he will not depart from it."  Why our supposed heavenly father does not heed this obvious advice is implausibly beyond my moral comprehension.  Sixthly, even in the extremely unlikely event that a mere mortal managed to get themselves in such an unrepentant funk that it was going to perpetuate itself for all eternity, a chemically balanced deity with the competing desire of "kindness" or "compassion" would instigate some kind of mercy kill or eternal coma after a reasonable finite amount of retribution had been served.  Seventhly, the moral of the story is, only sick fucks ignore this kind of stuff and defend eternal damnation.  So set down the cult think, grab a conscience, and stop.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Christian apologist Glenn Peoples & the Insufficiency of Evidence for the Resurrection


Christian apologist Glenn Peoples has finally gotten around to part 2 of his series reviewing atheist historian Richard Carrier's online version of his case arguing that the apostle Paul and the early Christians probably believed in a super-physical resurrection where Jesus got a new and improved body and left his old one behind (and hence no empty tomb as legendarily portrayed in the gospels).  Specifically Peoples is evaluating Carrier's arguments for the general insufficiency of evidence for the resurrection.

Peoples says:
...Carrier is not here giving an argument against the resurrection of Jesus. He is only arguing that if Jesus physically rose from the dead and Christianity is true, God is “stingy” and doesn’t share his revelation with as many people as need it.
It is logically possible for there to be a resurrection of Jesus and for no one in particular to have to know about it.  However, Peoples needs to actually offer a good reason to expect the "morally perfect god" to be stingy in order to properly dislocate the ideas from each other.  Just because there are Christians all over the spectrum on that claim doesn't mean they have a good case for other lesser expectations.

Peoples says:
Carrier thinks that a written sign in the sky (e.g. on the moon) would count as enough to show all humanity that the Christian God exists. But of course, as soon as we introduce the medium of language, we have to say that the sign is not really universal after all. Aside from the fact that not everyone of Jesus’ time was literate, even if they had been, the question arises: Which language should that message have been presented in? And how could people read it if it was on the moon (which in many night skies would not be large enough to read).
It is surprising that James Hale, J. P. Holding, and Glenn Peoples all seem to so easily forget what kind of a god they are supposed to be dealing with especially in light of the proof of concept of the miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) since such technicalities did not stand in the way.  It's called magic, people.

Peoples says:
Similar problems present themselves for Carrier’s bizarre example of miraculously indestructible Bibles [...]  It is difficult to believe, on reading this, that this is the supposedly sophisticated intellectual case of a PhD historian against Christianity.
Peoples apparently has no problem with many miraculous claims peppered throughout the Christian scriptures, but Carrier's suggestion of an indestructible Bible to show which books are actually from a god finally meets with skepticism?  lol

Peoples says: would not be good enough for the sign to be accessible to Chinese people who lived centuries later... would consign all those non-Greek speaking people of the ancient world to damnation. 
...they would not get the message to people who lived prior to the writing of the New Testament, nor would they get the message to illiterate people.
Peoples seems to just be digging himself into a deeper hole with his responses.  Jesus clearly favors gospel knowledge over ignorance with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and yet the Bible indicates that for some bizarre reason Adam and Eve were allowed to have kids who could subsequently be misinformed by their wayward parents.  Yahweh focused on just one nation of Israel in the ancient world while all the others went along their merry evil ways.  And then with the evangelical ignition of Christianity, despite its success as the world's largest religion, still has managed to miss significant portions of the population in the last 2,000 years.  Yahweh is supposedly head over heels for free will and yet apparently doesn't equally value those free will decisions being informed decisions even though we should expect him to.  Lots of excuses can and have been made and Christians are all over the place on the issue, but the hypothesis that Judeo-Christianity is just a successful religion is more probable on these terms than any of those lowered expectations and ad hoc excuses that can get quite elaborately unevidenced (like apologist William Lane Craig's soul shell game where evil souls are all born in ungospeled nations).

Peoples says:
...perhaps [Carrier] would have been open to the realisation that virtually any outlandish fictional scenario he could concoct where God puts on some amazing show for a huge audience would still be subject to someone raising their hand and saying “but what about those people? They would still miss out!” about that omnipresent Jesus showing up and talking to everyone.  That was hard.  Moving on...

Peoples says:
At most, the conclusion that Carrier could justify is that God doesn’t meet his standards of generosity. But a Christian like this would be justified in detecting an air of arrogance to this. For Carrier, he might say, is assuming to know not only what he would do if he had Carrier’s existing knowledge plus God’s power. He is presuming to know what he would do if he had God’s knowledge and God’s power, which is to effectively say that he currently possesses God’s knowledge.
Oh here we go...  As I said over on Peoples' blog:
Alas, the standard retort to this is, “why should god listen to you?” or “who do you think you are to know better than god?” etc. as though we are not in a position to have to judge reality as best we can based on what we think we know. In other words, Christians are taking to it from a defensive position [and expecting others to have] to prove something wrong, whereas skeptics are taking to it from the position of needing to make the best positive case for any worldview based on what we know. If metaphysical naturalists took the same dishonest route of Christians, we’d shut down the conversation with something like, “Who do you think *you* are to pretend like you know enough about reality to say it couldn’t have happened by chance?” There may be some truth to that, but if everyone gets to say that kind of thing, that’s gridlock and we’re stuck with agnosticism all around. Which isn’t, btw, Christianity.
See also my FAQ over at the Richard Carrier wiki for a more elaborate version of this answer.

Peoples says:
Of course claims of miracles in other contexts counts as evidence for those miracles, and evangelicals have no reason to say otherwise. How could it not count? Evidence is any consideration at all that makes an event more probable than it would otherwise have been. Therefore, testimony is evidence. It should be clear to anyone that testimony of miracles worked by Vespasian clearly count in favour of such miracles happening – they make them more likely than they would be if there were no testimony of the miracles. But saying that if we allow the possibility of miracles then we have to believe all such testimony is clearly unwarranted. It is akin to saying that if we believe in crime then we have to believe every allegation of crime.  It’s a strange line of argument for a historian to make.
Carrier probably means to say that if we have to believe in this bad evidence for the supernatural, then we have to believe in all bad evidence for the supernatural.  The bottom line is this:  I've never seen any miracles.  And the only human institution qualified to evaluate that type of claim beyond my personal ability to do so (since it's a big world) is the scientific establishment.  And despite the scientific establishment being over half religious and cognitively favorable to such claims, there's no consensus in favor of even a single one of that nature or even an ongoing split debate despite there being numerous opportunities for Bible validating claims to be tested (which have been investigated).  Also, there are obviously many confirmed reasons to expect that humans would generate belief artifacts from their poor command of the human experience.  So until I have what I like to call a Miles Bennett Dyson level experience, I'm going to go with anything ranging from "I don't know" to, "That's probably false."  Maybe miracles happen, but I don't have any good reason to think so.  And I'm in a horrible epistemic position to sort out what they would mean even if they do happen.

Peoples says:
...the naiveté of Carrier’s suggestion that we have to experience events of a certain type ourselves in order to ever be justified in believing that they have occurred is not a tenable stance to take. It is to effectively declare as a matter of principle that any claim that a truly unique event has occurred in history must be dismissed not only as false, but literally impossible.   
I think Peoples is overstating Carrier's case.  Our brains work on past experience and we are always comparing past experience to incoming information to deduce whether we think it is plausible and believable or not.  It is completely reasonable to take our objections seriously or we have literally no way of disbelieving anything we hear about.  It's obviously a fallible process, but guess what epistemology is hard.

Peoples says:
Caesar crossed the Rubicon and invaded Italy, but in spite of prolonged observation of the Rubicon in modern times, no Caesars have ever been observed doing such things.

That's weak.  People do cross rivers and wage wars, so that type of experience is commonplace.  Now if Caesar flew across the Rubicon and shot everyone with death lasers...that would be a horse of a different color, now wouldn't it?

Peoples says:
It’s not that I agree that Carrier has really answered his critics before they offer their criticisms, it’s that Carrier himself simply wheels out arguments (such as this one against miracles) that have been criticised – “already answered,” if you like – many times over in the literature since Hume’s argument was first published, and yet he does not seem interested in going back and reading the literature on the argument against miracles to address those criticisms.
I won't be defending that our experience of the uniformity of nature somehow proves that "violations" of it cannot occur.  Carrier does not make that case either, even though Peoples seems to assume Carrier does because his comments vaguely resemble Hume's.

Peoples says:
Of course! If dead people rose all the time as part of the ordinary, observed course of nature, then the fact that Jesus rose from the dead would not be miraculous or significant.
So if we had good evidence that miracles occur, that would mean Yahweh was doing it wrong!  Evidence = bad.  Seems legit.  lol

Peoples says:
Lastly, the absurdly prejudiced characterisation of the writers of the Gospels as – for want of better terms – ancient dummies so stupid that they just didn’t know that dead people stay dead – is characteristic of the worst type of historical ignorance coupled with arrogance. Whatever scientific knowledge the authors of the New Testament might have lacked, they certainly knew that dead people do not just get up and walk away! So the quality of the witnesses as ignorant or living in a “backwater” country is really not a factor here.
lol, I always have to chuckle at this when apologists complain about skeptical prejudice since the gospel of Mark (Mark 6:30-38; 6:51-52; 7:18; 8:1-4; 8:15-21; 9:10) actually does portray the disciples as just that stupid.  Actually arguably stupider than that.  They can't seem to figure out that Jesus can do magic tricks despite being in his presence and watching him doing them over and over again.  He continually chastises them for just how dull they are.  This doesn't really even make any sense from a skeptical perspective at face value since it is just really bizarre.  However Carrier's review of Dennis MacDonald's "The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark" does seem to give a good explanation of why this would be.  Regardless, if we take the gospels as basically true, we have to accept that the disciples were really stupid.  Additionally, see Carrier's "Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire: A Look into the World of the Gospels" for the historical perspective justifying skepticism of our sources (as opposed to literary opportunism of Mark).

Peoples says:
But does the Gospel of John depict Thomas as rational and wise for refusing to believe until he had made direct observation? Not at all. Recall that when Jesus has shown himself alive again to Thomas, he chides him in John 20:29- “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!” It is strange then, to see Carrier preface this comment with “above all.” 
What's strange is seeing Peoples think he is improving his case by appealing to the fact his source-books reprimand interest in evidence and instead favor credulity!

Peoples says:
The Jewish community, its diversity notwithstanding, did not teach that the Messiah would die for our sins and then be resurrected. The Jewish hope was that the Messiah would claim David’s throne and wield political power, making Israel great.  [...]  Not only do we know that first century Jews were strongly opposed to religious syncretism, then, we also know that even if they had been so inclined, there just aren’t good candidates in the pool of myth and legend that would readily have been morphed into a Jewish Messiah who was crucified, died, was buried and resurrected three days later.
In another place, Carrier says:
Religious syncretism is the process of combining ideas from several sources, often the most popular or useful ideas in the air, into a new whole, making for a new religion. All religions are produced this way. Christianity therefore certainly was as well (it would go against all prior probability to claim otherwise, and against all the evidence as well). Judaism had a prominent component of sacrifices atoning for a nation’s entire sins, a belief in the holy spirit making Jewish kings into the sons of god (see Not the Impossible Faith, chapter 9), and a tendency toward ascetic denigration of sexuality. Paganism had a prominent component of dying-and-rising savior gods, who likewise offered ways to cleanse their followers of sins and thus procure them entry into paradise–not necessarily by their death, but always in some way, and in many cases through baptismal rituals long predating Christianity’s adoption of the same or similar ritual (see The Empty Tomb, p. 215, n. 210); and pagans had many traditions about virgin born sons of god. Note what happens when you combine the Jewish side with the pagan: you get Christianity. This is actually almost certainly what happened, and thus should not even be in dispute.
And as Carrier describes in his first debate with Mike Licona, it may have been just the right innovation contrary to what everyone else was doing that allowed Christianity to succeed.  Other Jewish sects expected some military force that would never happen, and Christianity somehow invented a heavenly temple and a new sacrificial system that the Romans could not touch.  So having an unfalsifiable alternative that satisfied similar spiritual yearnings of the time would make perfect sense.  

Peoples says:
Now, it’s true that after the resurrection of Jesus, Paul declared that Jesus had risen from the dead “according to the Scriptures.” 
Ah ha!  And yet this forces Peoples to belittle the connection:
What Scriptures did Paul have in mind. The reality is that there is precious little in the Old Testament to suggest any such thing. 
...go back into the Old Testament with this conviction and find allusions and parallels to the resurrection of Jesus there. 
The question is not whether or not people with knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection could, in principle, find references in the Hebrew Scripture that they could attach to the resurrection of Jesus. 
There is not a single Jewish source in the first century world to suggest any such reading of the Scripture.
And with that Peoples seems to be saying that the whole Jesus as Messiah and Old Testament prophecy thing is a huge retconning/tea-leaf-reading sham.  Good job.

Peoples says:
The view that the disciples literally invented the resurrection of Jesus out of nothing and then went around proclaiming him as risen – knowing full well that this was a lie – and ultimately being willing to suffer and die for this deception, has virtually nothing to commend itself.
You'll have to show me where Carrier argues that.

However, it is a little narrow-minded to think there aren't religious people who fervently believe in their core doctrines and yet find no problem selling the general public a more elaborate tale that they think helps promote their basic spiritual values.  And these people might also be willing to be martyred for it aside from the pious fraud they thought was perfectly justified.  The fallacy of the modern Christian apologist is to assume that the apparently lesser, more modest beliefs (whatever those may have been) were not just as valid to them as the more elaborate beliefs they passed on to later Christians.  There have been all sorts of religious people throughout the ages and we can't necessarily be sure what type we are dealing with based on their propaganda thousands of years in hindsight.


Carrier's entire argument (a good hundred pages) on this topic can be found in chapter 5 of the skeptical anthology "The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave."  Note, what he argues there is compatible with his new case in the forthcoming mythicist book, "On the Historicity of Jesus" as he explains here in the Spiritual Body FAQ.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Theodicies, the Philosophical Fool's Errand

Willy Wonka meets Jesus.


Happy Good Friday!

Over on Christian apologist Glenn Peoples' blog, he responds to the challenge that making excuses for a good god that allows for a lot of evil is no different than people believing in an all bad god that has mysterious reasons for allowing for too much good.  He says he has three responses to this that he mentioned on his podcast and I've responded to the ones that showed up in his blog post and takes a while to describe what he sees as the principled difference between "motivated" and "unmotivated" ad hoc explanations (ones that serve only to save theories rather than ones consistent with them) and says many things typical of Christian apologists defending their "all good" god.  It may help to read his post, though you may be able to pick up on things anyway.

Here, I'm reposting my lengthy comment (with some grammar corrections and minor clarifications):

Also of note is that sometimes we have competing explanations (or entire worldviews) that each require a number of ad hoc explanations simply because we know we don't know everything (like your planetary example) and if we actually managed to explain everything given what we know, that would be pretty amazing wouldn't it?  And so in that event, it can be a matter of counting up the quantity (and motivational quality) of ad hoc explanations on either side to find out which explanation is stronger on balance.

Anyway, I should mention the moral argument fails to break the balance you've laid out because the sense of the existence of moral duties might be created to precipitate extra anguish and tormenting guilt in the world that satisfies the evil desires of the "all evil" god.  In other words it is a great thing for an evil god if everyone believes in good and evil so that we suffer for failing to heed our obligations.  

I'm not going to get into the entire case for Christian historical claims that you mention...

...but I will refute the worldview anyway.  The Christian philosopher's god is defined as a morally perfect being. Perfection entails *at least* the lack of any blemish in actions. Evil is by definition a blemish (and is an admitted component of your Christian worldview).  Hence any accommodation of any evil for any reason under any circumstances entails a not morally perfect god and hence your Christianity is refuted.

Even if good and evil are not justified outside of the Christian worldview, this merely moves the bar back to disconfirming the hypothesis that good and evil exist.  If we treat good and evil as a hypothetical account of reality and find that (as defined) they only could exist in your Christian worldview and we find that it is logically impossible on those terms (as I've just demonstrated), then Christianity is falsified in simply a slightly more elaborate way.

I believe in naturalistic moral realism, but as you should be able to see, it is unnecessary to defend that here.

In case it wasn't obvious the popular free will defense is an accommodation of evil. A morally *perfect* being in control of everything that is created does not barter with components to get the "best" deal out of the moral equation. A morally *perfect* being does not ask itself, "what good do I get out of the deal *on balance* if I allow free will?" It's just not the definition of perfection to allow even a single blemish for any reason whatsoever.

Another popular defense is the idea that perhaps this is the best possible world that could be actualized. We can't *absolutely* prove that it could even be even an iota better and hence this defense is supposed to be a good enough crack for the Christian god theory to squeak by. However, this defense erroneously presupposes that this god (who has free will to do anything) must create anything *at all*. If literally all creation possibilities entail the accommodation of evil for any reason, creation of any sort is not a morally perfect action this entity would undertake.

Hence, we can say that morally perfect beings never allow for a single moral blemish...except for when we are talking about Glenn's god.  Nice and ad hoc in that bad way.

And if for some bizarre reason Christians feel free to lower their standards of what "moral perfection" necessarily entails (and I wonder why ever they would do that), we'd have to decide what we think a good metric for judging the reality presented to us is in terms of what the Christian theory seems to entail. From all of my background knowledge about what it means to be a "good person" and what it would take to facilitate the maximum amount of good people, it would require giving most everyone throughout history a living chance at an adult life (as in not dying as a fetus, baby, toddler, or someone under an "age of reason"), the proper brains to think reasonably, proper education on all relevant topics (spiritual and otherwise), proper enculturalization to make sure people overwhelmingly tend to desire the correct things, proper resources to make sure that people are not living desperate lives that drive them to evil, and patrolling possible extremes so that no one is abused. This is exactly the kind of world we push for as humans and for good reason.  However, our world is nothing like this and so there is no way to make sense out of well worn Christian metaphors of Yahweh as a "good shepherd" or "heavenly father."  How many news stories of children locked in closets and neglected by their parents for a decade of their lives, for example, does it take to figure Christian excuses for such things are "unmotivated" on the part of supposedly well meaning theists?

Nice try, I suppose.


Also I have an extensive argument map defending the logical argument from evil that can be found here.