Bedbugs and the theodicy problem

“All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them … Continued

“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.”

But what about nasty, bloodsucking bedbugs, which, during the past few years, have made one of the most spectacular comebacks in entomological history?

In the movie Creation, there is a scene in which Charles Darwin walks out on his local vicar when the congregation belts out the line, “The Lord God made them all.” I doubt that Darwin did any such thing during his long struggle to face the religious implications of his observations and write On the Origin of Species. He was, after all, an English gentleman. But he certainly had his doubts about the Lord’s intervention in creatures great and small, from the bacteria that killed his young daughter to the bugs and rodents that had been his companions on the historic voyage of The Beagle.

The return of bedbugs to 21st-century urban America presents a most potent argument against the idea that everything in creation was planned by an intelligent designer.

If you live in any large city, it has been hard to miss the spate of articles and television specials–eeeeeuw!–about the bedbug resurgence. Unlike humans, bedbugs always find the skies friendly, and cramped planes that are torture instruments for us are a swift route to their next meal. That would be our blood.

Part of the argument for intelligent design–the eye is often used as an example–is that many phenomena in nature are so complicated that they could only have been fashioned by a designer; ie., God. Actually, this is an argument against intelligent design. Simpler designs–in which the fewest possible number of things can go wrong and knock out the whole apparatus–would be much more intelligent.

But the idea that complexity must be engineered is only part of the intelligent design argument. The other aspect is the conviction that everything in nature contributes to an overall, divinely envisioned purpose. We may not enjoy being stung by bees, for example, but bees pollinate many plants. And so on. Taken to extremes, even natural disasters can be seen as part of the Creator’s plan–Hurricane Katrina, for instance, as God’s judgement on America for tolerating homosexuality.

Bedbugs, however, don’t seem to have any purpose at all–except to feed on the blood of larger mammals. According to May Berenbaum, author of The Earwig’s Tail: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-Legged Legends, bedbugs inject humans with natural anesthetics at the moment of biting so that we won’t wake up and kill them before they finish their meal. They also give us a dose of anticoagulant so that they can slurp two to three times their weight in clot-free blood during one short feed. An intelligent design for them, certainly, but not for us.

About the only thing to be said in defense of bedbugs is that, unlike many other insects, they don’t spread dangerous illnesses. They are providing a great deal of extra income for exterminators, however. In the 1960s, before the huge surge in relatively low-cost air travel, bedbugs seemed to have become a pest of the past in the developed world. Now they have been reported in all 50 states, but the world’s great vertical cities are their most popular destinations. According to Dr. Berenbaum, there were more than 31,000 calls about bedbugs to exterminators between June 2009 and 2010 in New York alone. The bugs also–not surprisingly–love to set up shop in bedding and clothing stores. One Victoria’s Secret branch in Manhattan was closed for fumigation, prompting New York women to take a very close look at their latest silky and lacy purchases. Eeeeeeuw!

Bedbugs are also very, very hard to get rid of, in that they have developed a resistance to pesticides that were once used to kill them. After an exterminator has gone over an infested site, and you have either thrown out or washed every bit of cloth in your apartment, the final step for many New Yorkers is to bring in a bedbug-sniffing dog to find any survivors. New York writer Alan Good, in “The Bedbug Theodicy,” views bedbugs as an indicator of cosmic hostility. “Either God doesn’t exist, or God exists and hates us (or at least isn’t fond of us),” he writes. “I cannot accept that a loving God would create a creature whose sole purpose is to feast on the flesh of his so-called children.”

That was pretty much the conclusion Darwin reached, as his private papers show, about the indifference of nature. Of course, the great scientist and naturalist he took a more magesterial view of the whole process, concluding his book with the often quoted, “There is a grandeur in this view of life…whilst this planet has gone cycling on according the the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

But Darwin, unlike the social Darwinists who misappropriated his theory, never applied his ideas about man in a state of nature to man in a state of civilization. If he did walk out while the local congregation was signing, “All Things Bright And Beautiful,” I would like to think his exit came when the choir came to this verse: “The rich man in his castle,/The poor man at his gate,/He made them, high or lowly/And ordered their estate.” Those lines, written in 1848, have of course been deleted from today’s more progressive Anglican hymnals.

Bedbugs, it should be noted, make no distinction between the rich and the poor. But since they do find it easy to hide in plush surroundings, they may well prefer to feast on those who sleep on percale sheets in penthouses. Why doesn’t Congress start a campaign against these nasty, itch-producing illegal immigrants? Anchor bedbugs are a real menace. Since God hasn’t struck them down, there oughta be a law.

About

Susan Jacoby Susan Jacoby is the author of "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism"­ and is completing a secular history of religious conversion.
  • farnaz_mansouri2

    SUSAN,It is an awful thing that the OnFaith Powers that Be (PTB) forever remove the links to your essays prematurely, thereby, forcing the likes of moi to rush around posting the link hither, thither, and, of course, yon, sans salary, recompense of any kind, exhausting myself in the process, but who is complaining, so that your devoted followers might find you.You disciples and opponents, combinations of the two, and the PTB must accept that truth of the blogosphere.WE leave it to you to advocate for chimera.Sincerely,

  • areyousaying

    Other indicators of cosmic hostility:- MormonsWhat was God thinking?

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Are bedbugs straight–I mean heterosexual?

  • timmy2

    One thing is for sure, bedbugs are “normal” so they should be afforded marriage privileges.

  • timmy2

    Yes what a great plan this world is. Perfect for humans, who are of course perfect. Excellent job, God.Our God is an awesome God. And my dog is an awesome dog.

  • Athena4

    Not only bedbugs, but mosquitoes (which DO carry diseases), chiggers, no-see-ums, stinkbugs, cockroaches, etc. What purpose do they serve? I mean, I can see the purpose of flies. They eat carrion. But other insects? I know that insects are supposed to be part of the great Web of Life, but come on! Maybe these pests belong to Loki and other trickster Gods, to remind us Humans that we, too, are food for something.

  • timmy2

    The fallen man deserves bugs! Bugs bugs bugs I say!That’ll teach Eve to keep her filthy wench paws off of my apple tree!With bugs, God is telling humans to suck on that you filthy sinners!

  • timmy2

    Note that Eve ate the apple first and women are more frightened of bugs than men. God is good. Real good. King of spite.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    I’ve done a bit of research, and it turns out that bedbugs are polygamous. I don’t think they’re Mormon, though.

  • RCofield

    Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    The thing is (pause) bedbugs aren’t really controversial.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    It is my firm belief that there should be separation of church and state as we understand it in the United States — that is, that both church and state should be free to operate, without interference from each other in their respective areas of jurisdiction. We live in a liberal, democratic society which embraces wide varieties of belief and disbelief. There is no doubt in my mind that the pluralism which has developed under our Constitution, providing as it does a framework within which diverse opinions can exist side by side and by their interaction enrich the whole, is the most ideal system yet devised by man. I cannot conceive of a set of circumstances which would lead me to a different conclusion.– John F Kennedy, letter to Glenn L Archer, February 23, 1959, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    DITLD, Onofrio, Persiflage, et al,If you check in here, please go to the Main Page, the main thread, and read Alltheroadrunnin’s posts. Farnaz

  • Walt

    Bed bugs and other insects that consume the blood of larger mammals and those that spread disease serve to help reduce the excess population and keep the balance that God has created. There are bugs that eat bed bugs and other animals that eat those bugs and so on. What can you learn from having bed bugs? Many things if you stop and try to figure it out. But you don’t keep your child from ever uncomfortable or non-painful thing. You might as well say, “how can a loving parent make their baby get a shot?” They know that in the long run this temporary pain is beneficial to the child. God knows much more than us and so as part of his design he knows that bed bugs are some how beneficial to us – physically, emotionally, and (potentially) spiritually. Just like the baby doesn’t understand the benefit of the immunization, we don’t always understand how things like bed bugs are to our benefit.

  • PSolus

    edbyronadams,”There is plenty of sin about if God wants to take the credit.”But, I’m one of the biggest sinners there is (I’m sinning right now, I have been sinning since I got up this morning, and I fully intend to spend the entire day sinning), but I don’t have bedbugs; how do you explain that?

  • daniel12

    Test.

  • daniel12

    Bed bugs, mosquitos, flies somewhat, leeches somewhat bother me. I love spiders though. Gnats can be a pain in the ass. Making spider lovers of people is a plan as good as any. Also birds such as robins are excellent insectivors. Roaches I have made my peace with. As long as they stay out of the food I get along with roaches. In general I like insects–wildlife in general–so I might be luckier than most on a discussion such as this one.

  • daniel12

    Test.

  • daniel12

    To Susan Jacoby: People might not be posting because of a problem with the Wash Post On Faith site (both main page and panelists). People when they try to post are often sent to a page which asks that one registers, but we all registered years ago and should be able to bypass this process. Furthermore, when a person tries to register again the registering process does not work. This same problem occurred a few months ago when there was an advertisement for Templeton Science foundation (or some such name) as if the advertisement is interfering with the automatic registering process.

  • daniel12

    Test.

  • Elizabeth Tenety

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  • daniel12

    A pressing problem which needs to be discussed is the consequence of science replacing religion and leaving a multitude with only the concepts society and surrounding environment.What this means is that science, true, does alleviate much sorrow. But it is also true that science reduces man to a strictly biological animal and this animal far from demonstrating reason is guided by lower passions and destroying the ecological system of the earth.Furthermore, without religion and only science we arrive at a view of society which values only the utilitarian ethic, which means that we, as persons, have to be useful in some manner or literally devalued. So what we have today is a mob hoping science will help them, but in actuality using science for lower passions, and we all recognize this, and are searching more and more, desiring more and more, creative persons which means the utilitarian ethic gets only stronger, and people are scrutinized more and more severely by science and in a biological manner.Right now parents in the U.S. are driving their children to succeed in school beyond all reason, knowing full well the brutal utilitarian ethic. But there are just not enough truly useful people so many are left behind or at best helped by science and left to lower passions…And of course the many left behind are a political, economic and environmental disaster…Meanwhile China is racing to catch up to the U.S. economy, has just surpassed Japan to be the number two economy…We have man bereft, with no spiritual hope according to science, an animal hoping to develop into something worthwhile before destroying everything around him not to mention himself. And again, the utilitarian ethic pressing stronger and stronger, people desperate to not be left behind and no doubt resorting to every device that can be devised to get ahead…Not a pretty picture. And a terrible shame that atheists, supposedly more intelligent than the religious, have not the courage to speak of it at all.

  • RCofield

    DANIEL12,You make several valid points in your last post. You wouldn’t happen to be a.k.a. “DANILINTHELIONSDEN,” would you?

  • Peter Huff

    test

  • Peter Huff

    test

  • Peter Huff

    Hi RCofield and Daniel 12,I believe Daniel 12 is not the same person as DITLD.DAN 12:”Furthermore, without religion and only science we arrive at a view of society which values only the utilitarian ethic, which means that we, as persons, have to be useful in some manner or literally devalued.”Hence abortion, euthanasia, the loss of truth, the blurring of the measure by relativism, moral confusion and the ‘devaluation’ of man. Nancy Pearcey [RCofield, you will probably recognize some of this theme as coming from the thoughts and writing of Francis Schaeffer, for Nancy was a student of L'Abri if you are not familiar with her work.] developed these similar kind of thoughts further in her book ‘Total Truth’ in which she identified that with the Enlightenment came a dichotomy between faith and reason, the fact/value, public/private divide, on which one was held on an upper level (non-rational, non-cognitive) and the other on a lower level (rational, verifiable). This kind of dualism can be seen in areas such as between Romanticism and Enlightenment (i.e., religion and the humanities verses science and reason), matter and mind, (i.e., spirit thought, emotions, will, verses a mechanical, deterministic machine), between fact and value (i.e., socially constructed meanings or individual choices verses publicly verifiable truth that are binding on everyone), between the ethics game and the science game (i.e., humans having moral freedom and dignity verses humans as data-processing machines), between the private sphere (i.e., personal preferences) and the public sphere (i.e., Scientific knowledge) and so on it goes.As I said, this dichotomy, more or less, came into its own with the Enlightenment and and the consequences of man looking to himself and replacing God as the source of all measure. Before the Enlightenment, and even during it to a lesser degree, most men of science sought to explain the universe and all that is in it in a way that reflected the glory of God or at least looked to Him as the source. This is evident to what they said in their writings. They looked at both faith and reason on one level instead of two, as working together, rather than apart, in explaining all that exists as having come from God.Darwinism, that paradigm of a world-view that has a habit of looking at everything on a biological level has separated and hijacked science and religion to what it has become today, a separation between the two.

  • Peter Huff

    PART 2DAN 12: “So what we have today is a mob hoping science will help them, but in actuality using science for lower passions, and we all recognize this, and are searching more and more, desiring more and more, creative persons which means the utilitarian ethic gets only stronger, and people are scrutinized more and more severely by science and in a biological manner.”Yes, the problem of living life on the lower level in which man is nothing more than a biological animal instead of realizing that man is created separate from the animals, in the image and likeness of God; that is, with the ability to know, reasons and understand in the same manner that God does, except of course, not infinitely/comprehensively like God, but with limits that come with creatureliness. What you see played out more and more in societies/cultures around the world is man trying to live as if God does not exist. When that happens anything goes.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Can you hear me now?

  • ThomasBaum

    Susan JacobyBesides the fact that there is a reason (ecologically speaking), has the thought ever occurred to you that one of the reasons that God made bugs was to bug us.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    Susan Jacoby As far as the “theodicy problem”, if one thinks/believes that “this is all there is”, than how could one have a “theodicy problem” without a theo?If one thinks/believes that “there is more than meets the eye (senses), physical senses that is” than there is no “theodicy problem” unless one thinks/believes that God is a loser.I thank God that God’s Plan is for ALL, a tie would be a loss, so a tie is absolutely unacceptable.Of course there do seem to be quite a few that believe in God, that not only believe that God is a loser but want and pray for God to lose, this is the tie I referred to, as long as they get to the “good place”.There are many ways to do “the work of God” and there are many that do this “work” that don’t even come close to believing in God.One day all, theists and atheists alike, will realize that of all of the different “boxes” that we have built for God that absolutely none of them fit.See you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.P.S. If you had anything to do with fixing the registration problem here on the On Faith site, I thank you and if not, no problem, but I would like to thank you for being one of the few that actually tries to talk with us rather than just to us.

  • daniel12

    Test.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    I have been unable to post on any thread on this blog for several days. Now, I am using a different computer than my personal computer, but as far as I can see, it is just about exactly the same.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    PART 2I do not see people as a mob hoping science will help them. I see people reacting to science as part of their landscape of experience, just as animals react to experience. I see people as being apathetic to science, not knowing much about it, not caring to know much about it; certainly not regarding it as any sort of religion. If there is an atheist or a philosopher who writes about science as though it is a religion, that does not square with the reality of how the mob regards science; many people who react positively to the experiences of science actually feel a hostility to the concept of what they think science is.In America, there may be a tiny few parents, or a small class of people who drive their children to succeed in school beyond all reason. But in general, the problem is more that education is not valued, people are getting dumber, students are doing worse, and more parents don’t care than do.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    RCofieldPART 1Daniel12 and I are in disagreement on just about everything, without exception, so you are not all that clever, after all, if the first name is confusing you. I reply to you who think that I am Daniel12, and to Daniel12, to explain why I think he is wrong on his previous post. I will assume that neither of you will be able to reply very easily.I observe that human beings are animals, that have become self-aware. We experience, as animals do, being in the moment, and we also, extend our being in the moment into memory of the past, and thoughts of an unmade future. We are aware of ourselves as things that may be observed in the third person by others. I do not believe this because science says it; I believe that this has always been true, even when the Medeival Catholic Church enforced a top down conformity of belief; even now, in the twenty-first century, when large areas of the world are dominated by Islam, with its coercive sense of conformity and regimentation of belief, not forced top-down, but forced by the sense of what others may think for not being faithful enough, for their sense of awareness of being observed by others who judge them. Science has not reduced man to anything; man was man, in the past, the same as man is man now, with or without scientific knowledge of what man may be. What Daniel12 calls,the utilitarian ethic, was MORE dominant in the past than it is now. When the Cathedral of Notre Dame was built in Paris centuries ago, how many serfs died in its construction? As long as their bodies could be carted off, and there was enough gruel for their replacement, they went on. because human beings were measured by their work utility; serfs were regarded and lived, more like animals, than any human being today. Today, a fatality on a construction site is a major event, and we don’t employ serfs to work all day everyday, until they die of exhaustion; we employ free men who work 40 hours a week, and the rest of the time is for non-uitilitarian leisure, something Cathedral-building serfs did not even know about, much less have.

  • cornbread_r2

    Besides the fact that there is a reason (ecologically speaking), has the thought ever occurred to you that one of the reasons that God made bugs was to bug us. Thomas Paul Moses Baum /blockquote>

  • daniel12

    But if science cannot provide for all, and especially if people cannot rise above their passions and keep from destroying the environment among other things, then the scientific view leaves man without religion and strictly a biological animal in a dog eat dog world.My belief is simple: No matter the advance of science, no matter how much suffering it has alleviated, it is considering man more and more just a biological animal and people far from rising up to use science respectfully are acting as precisely the animals science says they are. Furthermore, although man might have suffered horribly in the past, man will come by science to be scrutinized more and more according to a utilitarian ethic, which is an ethic which takes man as being without anything other than what present talents he might possess. No matter how much science has helped man, man is coming more and more to be examined for his worth to society only. You Lion’s Den seem to think that the rise of science has led to man being taken as more valuable, useful to society, than in the past. But that is because we are still living in a world which has brought more rewards by science than failures. But more and more every day we can see science abused by an increasing population of humans, and these humans cannot go back to religion for solace but have to exist in a world which takes them more and more for their utility to society only. Without religion you are just your job no matter how science has improved your life. And when science destroys the environment, when we have so much economic competition between nations, where will man be? An animal valued strictly according to his worth to society. Each person will be scrutinized ruthlessly as we in fact already do with so many tests in school and so on today. Add the genetic sciences to the mix, knowledge by genetics of potential advantages and failures and we have a world of humans with more self-knowledge, brutal self-knowledge than ever before.Part two.The question is are there enough talented humans to use science and continue improving the lot of man, or do we have relatively few people of talent and a mob, rather, abusing science. I say the latter, that we have a mob and few people of talent. And the people within this mob will be scrutinized according to the utilitarian ethic as never before–precisely because religion has declined and man is only his worth to society.

  • daniel12

    Part one.Lion’s Den, I totally disagree with your last posts.Prior to the establishment of science man, no matter his suffering (animalistic), had the possibility of religious belief, that he was precisely not an animal no matter, again, animalistic suffering. That the average person in the past suffered more than people at present does not at all mean that man took himself as the same man he considers himself today, a suffering animal. He rather, had spiritual belief to sustain him.It has been by precisely science reducing man to a strictly biological animal that man knows himself just a biological animal. In the past, again, he did not consider himself an animal. Now science, it is true, has alleviated much suffering and one can speak of man as suffering less than in the past, but science has also reduced man to a strictly biological animal.In other words, a tradeoff has occurred: Man suffered worse in the past but had religion, the assurance he was not just a suffering animal; today man has science but he has been reduced by science to strictly animal status. Now as long as science can provide for multitudes, and each person is valued and has a valuable job, of course the tradeoff of being considered an animal but with science is acceptable.

  • daniel12

    In last two posts, the second post should have PART TWO written at the top rather than before the last paragraph.

  • RCofield

    test

  • RCofield

    DANIELINTHELIONSDEN,You state: “Daniel12 and I are in disagreement on just about everything, without exception, so you are not all that clever, after all, if the first name is confusing you.I reply to you who think that I am Daniel12, and to Daniel12, to explain why I think he is wrong on his previous post. I will assume that neither of you will be able to reply very easily.”You are correct. I cannot “reply very easily” to that post. There are two possible explanations for this:1) Your profundity is so far beyond me that I simply don’t understand what you are saying.OR,2) Your post is incoherent, esoteric rambling.You will forgive me if I tend to think it is #2. The “landscape of my experience” in reading your posts is that they are generally nonsensical and are, more often than not, self-contradictory.My mistaking that DANIEL12′s post was from you was an error of assuming that you had finally put together a coherent post and had posted it under a new name given the problems on this site. My apologies to DANIEL12.And the only part of your post of which I am certain was your last paragraph. Given that you previously indicated you were a scientist, it smacks of scientific elitism.You state: “Scientists approach the limits of this landscape, and hack out new paths and clearings with their machetes, and build new roads behind them, and all the rest follow, and experience these new roads, as if they had always been there, and with no more wondering of how these roads came to be, than a simple animal would do.”I guess your esoteric scientism is just beyond the rest of us “simple animals.”

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    RcofielsHuman beings are animals. That is just plain common sense, easy for anyone to see. I find it incredible that you do not comprehend his “esoteric” concept. The defining trait that makes human beings distinct from other animals is the quality that we have of self-awareness, which many people call “intelligence.” That is not incoherent or esoteric, is it?I admit, in trying to understand what intelligence is, and what kind of consciousness animals may experience, Iis difficult for me to explain, because I do not really know; it is a struggle to understand, but at least, I am trying. If it is incoherent to you, then you are free to stick to biblical quotes, for your ideas, arguments, and proofs, which I suppose are more coherent than I am.It is an almost universal given that the trait of intelligence makes us the “superior” animal, the highest animal. I believe that is an arbitrary thing to say. Perhaps that is esoteric, but it is not really incoherent.The thing that offends you is that you assume that being an animal, and that my consideration of the human animal is an assault on humanity, an insult to all of humanity, and to you personally. But I do not think of it that way, at all. I do not consider animals as “inferior things.” They are “things” like us, and we like them. Perhaps this is esoteric, and hard for you to understand, but it is not incoherent.I do not have any such alliegeince as “scientism” as you refer to. That is incoherent, on your part. In giving my analogy of how science works, and how most people don’t care how it works, I was trying go give a concrete example of how I disagree with Daniel12′s comment of the “mob hoping for science to help them.” You, yourself, are a perfect example of the type of person who experiences science as just part of the world, yet with a fundamental hostility to what you mistankenly think science is.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Rcofield… and another thing,… you did not reply to anything that I said, not a single point AT ALL. You called me incoherent and esoteric, with a little mean sarcasm thrown in.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Daniel 12My belief is also simple, that no matter what science says about anything, that most people do not know, and do not care. People have spiritual options now, and they use them. There are lots of religious and spiritual people around.I hate to say, it because we have been through all this before, but I think you are pointing to the decline in religious political power over society. In the times when religious belief was required and enforced, don’t you suppose that there were many people who chafed under these political programs to believe what they did not believe? And the relaxaation of the political requirement to believe might be seen as undermining belief by some, but as liberation by others?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Daniel 12As I said, I believe that individual human beings are more valued now, than they were in the past. I have never said that it is science that has lead to this. It is simply the trend of Western liberalism, and democracy that has lead to the rise of the individual. Serfdom is gone, slavery is gone; not by science, but by all of the things that have gone into making the modern world, of which science is one aspect.I believe that everything in the world defines everything else that is. I do not believe in a list of laws of nature, but only that all defines all, and everything that is, must be, in order for all else to be. This is not a political consideration of who should dominate, atheists or the religious, in the trends of thought that dominate a society, but merely of what actually is the natur eof the physical world of which we are a part.I think that you express regret and recriminations, and a longing for what was, and for what could have been. I can see all of your points. But here we are, along a different way. If you are worried about “purpose” in life, I cannot see that as a particularly useful worry. There is no specific purpose for human beings to exist beyond the purpose of all the rest of the world that supports our existence. And I am afraid that any such real and true purpose, beyond religious quotes from the Bible or the Koran, might be beyond the comprehension of a human mind, which after all, exists to navigate a tiny spot on a tiny world, and not to know the purpose of all that is. That is what I think, and that satisfies my worries about purpose, and futility. This is a problem in your own mind, that you must figure out.

  • Carstonio

    Jacoby quotes Alan Good: “Either God doesn’t exist, or God exists and hates us (or at least isn’t fond of us)…I cannot accept that a loving God would create a creature whose sole purpose is to feast on the flesh of his so-called children.” Good ignores he possibility that a god may exist who is indifferent to human existence. But the larger issue is why so many people treat “loving” as the default or normal characteristic for a god, even people like Good who are trying to refute the idea.

  • Carstonio

    The “theodicy problem” is really an artificial one driven by two assumptions – that one or more god-beings create and control the universe, and that such beings are good or just. Theologians and philosophers put a lot of work in trying to explain suffering while maintaining those assumptions. They may not need to do so. I submit that suffering doesn’t need to be explained. I would reword the Serenity Prayer to say that serenity, courage and wisdom are not granted from outside but developed from inside.

  • persiflage

    Taken from the perspective of practitioners of both science and religion, it seems to me that a primary function of both religion and science is found in their explanatory virtue. Scientific explanations for how the material world functions is potentially in a constant state of flux and change because an accumulation of new information makes change inevitable. Theories come and go, although some remain firm for relatively long periods of time. It is probably fair to say that science and scientific thinking equates only with what is considered to be the material dimension, at this point in it’s development.Religion takes it’s being in the non-physical. Religion specializes in explanations that pertain in general to a spiritual or non-physical dimension – it must be assumed as a fundamental truth that this dimension exists, in order for religion to continue functioning. Similarly, non-physical beings also exist in this non-materal realm(s). In my view, religious practitioners of all stripes take the non-physical for granted, at least implicitly. The moral order attributed to religion is exoterically based on the presumption of higher spiritual dimensions and some kind of perpetual, indestructable element in the human makeup that lives on indefinitely, in some kind of non-physical realm. Some are more adament than others regarding their religiously based perspectives on this issue – with a minority of religious believers giving no particular weight to this aspect of faith. Religion and science are comprised of complex behaviors that are driven by values and beliefs. If one becomes consumed by these forces in either camp, one runs the risk of becoming an unchanging, inflexible ideolog – a fundamentalist if you will. For folks without religous tendencies, science seems to be the obvious default position based on it’s well-established explanatory powers in the material world – the only problem being that the real nature of our ‘material world’ continues to be elusive. The quest for the basis of that material world goes on. Still, science (and secular thinking) have gone a long way in displacing the axiomatic/dogmatic/absolutist assumptions of religion, while the spiritual dimension remains as elusive as ever for all but a few sages and saints. The power of religion is diminishing in the West because for more and more people, the assumptions and presumptions of conventional religions are seen as unreasonable and untenable – and they are. Still, I doubt that people who lose their religion now and in the coming years will replace that void with a new devotion to science – a realm populated by a relatively few experts. More folks may be taking up golf instead. And science is like golf – unless you’re pretty good at it, it tends not to be very satisfying. On the other hand, golf is probably more like religion than science, since even rank amateurs can play……

  • ThomasBaum

    cornbread_r2You asked, “However, how do you explain the enormous amount of suffering that parasites cause to all other animals as well?”I don’t. The same way that I don’t attempt to explain the “enormous amount of suffering” that animals do to other animals, it is just the way it is.You then asked, “Does he not love them?”Actually, God is a Being of Love, God “loves” all of His creation, but what we “see” of creation is not the “end product”, so to speak, it is “ongoing” and the seventh day shall arrive even tho the night of the sixth day shall precede it.You also asked, “What lessons is he teaching them?”Don’t know, don’t even know if God is even attempting to “teach them lessons”.God gave us both reason and emotions, could be that God is trying to teach “us” to use both of them.As I have said, God is a searcher of hearts and minds (emotions and reason) not of religious affiliations or lack thereof and It is important what one does and why one does it and what one knows.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • persiflage

    ‘Also, science and religion aren’t necessarily opposites. There are some religions that don’t presuppose a “non-material” reality, such as Confucianism or Taoism.’I propose that both of these do assume a non-material reality or principle as the basis for what we perceive as ‘material’. The nameless, formless Tao was understood to be the foundation for all, and one could either be in harmony or out of harmony with this essential principle. Later on, Taoist alchemy and the like was pre-occupied with immortality, controlling and even overcoming physical laws with via arcane arts. Some believe that is this early primary principle of Tao is also to be found in Zen (apart from the elaborations of the Buddhist component – which is perhaps more in harmony with science than theist religions). Confucianism was concerned with maintaining a natural order and structure in society that was perpetrated by the actions of enlightened leadership. The foundation was again based on balance and harmony with the essential Tao. The great sages Confucious and Lao Tse were probably mythical composites and historical constucts in any event. Certain legends have Confucious holding the wisdom of Lao Tse in the very highest regard. Whether science will ever apprehend the vaporous trail of this primary principle in the course of it’s calculations and investigations is a question worth asking ;^)

  • persiflage

    Carstonio:’That sounds like a straw man that’s driven by the assumption that a material/non-material divide exists.’On the contrary. No assumptions of any kind were made. I venture to say that scientists (including physicists) will report an avid interest in what is termed the ‘physical’ dimensions of the universe, while having little or nothing to say on non-physical dimensions – at this point in time (not at all the same as the microcosmic world of invisible dimensions, which are well known to science). But one has to ask if string theory, wave theory, and the like are really verging on the non-physical after all. The ‘empirical’ evidence comes from investigations into what can currently be known of physical dimensions (relative though that term may be in common parlance). Mathematics produces it’s own results, so as a construct, maybe the results arrived at by abstruse calculations are equally abstract – and no closer to the real truth of anything. I’ve read a few physicists that have a particular interest in consciousness and consciousness research – which is also an interest of mine. Current thinking is speculative regarding the physical vs non-physical nature of consciousness – or whether the physical merges with the non-physical at some point on a continuum without apparent boundaries. Research into alternate realities, PKI, psychic dimensions, etc. is interesting but is not main-stream science – yet. Buddhism maintains that consciousness conditions all of our perceptions and gives rise to all appearances, and it’s hard to argue with that.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Persiflagea general reply to your post:The reason why human beings can practice science is because we are aware of ourselves in the third person, as things in the world; we are aware that there is a wide world out there that supports our existence; the defining qualities of that world are what have enabled our awareness of it, and so we can figure it out, or, in other wordes, decipher, the pure order that enables all to be. Yet, this very same awareness is also what makes us think of God; this sense of ourselves in the third person gives us a sense of being looked at and observed, even when there is no one there looking. And we imagine this observer to be God. This sense of being looked at and observed is a more motivating influence in the belief in God, than is observation of an ordered world, with a subsequent Ineelligent Designer. We think of this observer as being invisible, but yet, still try to imagine this observing God in a physical way, with a location, Heaven, and a throne, and a list of rules, all written out, like laws passed by Congress, which we are required to obey, like the police require obedience to laws, and with punishment for failure to obey, like being put in jail, or executed. Our great intelligence leads along the way to imagine, and then to believe all these things, easily. But this misdirection of intelligence merely shows, in fact, how feeble we are in knowing or understanding what is going on.The purpose of it all? That is really a very human question. I would not expect there to be any human-scaled purpose to any of this, nothing that a person could understand. I do not say that I am an atheist, but I know with a high degree of certainty, that all human characterizations of God and God’s purpose for us are wrong.

  • persiflage

    DITLD:’The reason why human beings can practice science is because we are aware of ourselves in the third person, as things in the world; we are aware that there is a wide world out there that supports our existence; the defining qualities of that world are what have enabled our awareness of it, and so we can figure it out, or, in other wordes, decipher, the pure order that enables all to be.’I have to agree that we perceive ourselves and all others as subjective objects in our field of perception – and would only add that our perceptions are shaped and influenced by an uncountable number of factors, including how we’re socialized. And theoretically, this is the interactive origin of that special self-awareness of ours, and how we come to see ourselves in others. I believe that intelligence, perception and awareness are innate, but in the beginning they’re completely unconditioned. If we’re the only life form on our particular planet that perceives universal order on macro and microscopic scales, we have to ask whether higher life forms elsewhere see it the same way – or whether an older, alien, and more complex intelligence might see it otherwise. Perception must really be in the eye of the individual beholder, although same species members have many uniquely shared perceptions. Self-awareness and conceptual limits aside, one question worth asking is whether awareness and the act of perceiving (with or without objects of perception) are universal attributes of sentient life on every scale – even with the presumably infinite variations. It certainly seems likely to this planet-bound critter.

  • peterhuff

    PART 1PERSIFLAGE: “I have to agree that we perceive ourselves and all others as subjective objects in our field of perception – and would only add that our perceptions are shaped and influenced by an uncountable number of factors, including how we’re socialized.”Bingo! So how does a subjective human being arrive at truth if we are nothing but biological machines? Again, quoting from Ronald Nash taking from Gordon Clark’s thoughts, same source, p. 297.”If the materialist admits the existence of consciousness, he regards it as a effect and not a cause. For a materialist, thoughts are always the result of bodily changes. This materialism implies that all thinking, including logical reasoning, is merely the result of mechanical necessity. But bodily changes can neither be true nor false. One set of physical motions cannot be truer than another. Therefore, if there is no mind, there is no truth; and if there is no truth, materialism cannot be true. Likewise, if there is no mind, there can be no such thing as logical reasoning, from which follows that no materialist can possibly provide a valid argument for his position….In Clark’s words,

  • peterhuff

    Hi Persiflage,In beginning, sorry to cut in on your post to DITLD, but you raise some good questions that I hope are not just skimmed over.PERSIFLAGE: “‘The reason why human beings can practice science is because we are aware of ourselves in the third person, as things in the world; we are aware that there is a wide world out there that supports our existence; the defining qualities of that world are what have enabled our awareness of it, and so we can figure it out, or, in other wordes, decipher, the pure order that enables all to be.’”That is only if a number of criteria which Ronald Nash (expanding on Gordon Clark’s argument) has identify as having to be true in order for this to be so.1) Truth exists.Quoted from ‘Life’s Ultimate Questions’ by Ronald Nash, p. 296Would you care to debate the validity of any of these?

  • peterhuff

    PART 2CARSTONIO: “The same principle applies to consciousness. I’ve encountered many people who apply the argument from incredulity to the subject, insisting that consciousness must have existence separate from the body. They blindly dismiss other possibilities, such as consciousness being signals in our neural circuits. I’m not arguing for or against any particular possibility.”If all consciousness is is the physical banging together of atoms what are the chances of two, let alone millions, producing the same effects of thoughts?There has to be intent and purpose for similarity, does there not? I mean, how does chance produce constancy? It is willy nilly. Either we are here by chance or by purpose, for chance is random and purposeless, whereas Mind is not. How do laws, that are consistent and repeatable, begin by purely random chance happenstance????In your experience where do you see information gathering by itself unaided by a mind to direct it (as he uses his mind)?CARSTONIO: “Sure, some scientists do say that the “non-material” is beyond their purview or expertise. But as far as science as a field is concerned, the issue is that the concept of the “non-material” makes assumptions about existence that conflict with science.”Maybe with the prevalent view of science (macro-evolutionary), because it is all dependent on your starting point.CARSTONIO: “It’s so, so easy for someone to claim the existence of beings or objects in a plane that cannot be detected empirically. No one can prove the person wrong, so the claim can be anything the person wants its to be. Part of the scientific principle is that one needs to present testable evidence when making such a claim.”How do you test your starting premise, your belief that all human knowledge has its starting point in the sense experience without going out of that physical sense experience? Can you taste that premise? Can you feel it physically? Can you smell it? If not then what makes the premise physical?CARSTONIO: “There’s no point in making assertions of fact that cannot be tested.”Can you test your basic starting point, your most fundamental or core beliefs, without making assertions? I’d like to see you try.

  • peterhuff

    Hi Carstonio,CARSTONIO: “Persiflage, we can’t assume that divide even exists between the “material” and “non-material.” We can’t ignore the possibility that there is only one realm of existence.”But you are ignoring that there is two and assuming that the divide doesn’t exist. If you deny the non-material or immaterial then how do you explain logic? How is logic something that can be felt, seen, tasted, touched or smelled with the physical senses? Logic is a non-physical concept that, if not universally applied, nothing would make sense. It is necessary for communication and yet it is non-physical, non-empirical, outside the realm of the physical.CARSTONIO: “If gods do exist, it’s possible that they exist with humans in one realm and that we haven’t discovered how to detect them empirically. I’m not arguing that all of existence is one realm, merely questioning the assumption that dual realms exist. It’s similar to how many people assume that “miracles” are suspensions of physical laws as though they were rules that objects had to follow.”I wouldn’t argue for the existence of just any god, just for the existence of the one living and true God; the God who reveals Himself in the pages of the Bible. And to know Him you would first have to believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. That relationship only comes about by faith in His Son. Those are His conditions, and for good reasons which we won’t discuss at this moment, for I’m sure you have been exposed to all of this before, except to say that if you are not willing to follow the Son in obedience you won’t know if His teachings are true, even though there are many proofs that point to this very thing. It is again a question of where you place your highest authority – in yourself, some other fallible human being, or in a necessary Being in order for anything else to be ultimately true.

  • peterhuff

    PS, I’m working this weekend so my replies will be sporadic.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Peter HuffI do not believe that conscousness is the result of atoms banging together. That is just your snarky sarcasm, since I do not think that anyone has even implied such simple-mindedness. “Either we are here by chance or by purpose, for chance is random and purposeless, whereas Mind is not. How do laws, that are consistent and repeatable, begin by purely random chance happenstance????”You are so completely uncomprehending. There is not a single thing that you believe about the nature of God that is not just a simple metaphor of man and man’s simple dwelling place on earth. Try an open your mind a little bit and think.I believe that we are neither here by chance nor by purpose, but by the very fact that we are here. I believe that every thing that exists and every process that operates defines, and is defined by every thing else that exists, and every other process that operates. So nothing is random and there is no chaos from which we emerged. Doesn’t this satisfy your squeamishness with the concept of “randomness” and “chance?” Where we perceive no order is called random and chance. But our inability to discern order does not mean there is none. I do not believe that there are any laws that are consistent and repeatable; only that once you have deciphered a pattern in the order of the world, the pattern remains; that is why we notice it as a pattern, not because there is an invisible law that says things must be this way or that way; things just are as they are, by the way that everything is.None of your proofs or arguments mean anything. They are merely circular. We do not need to know what truth is or what knowledge is in order to decipher the order of the world to observe this order, and to make use of this order. People like you need to know what is truth and what is knowledge, in a logical and philosophical way, so that you can have a starting point in building your complicated religious doctrines which are pure inventions. Without your elusive definition of truth and knowledge, your ramblings become and seem incoherent.

  • RCofield

    DANIELINTHELIONSDEN,You addressed PeterHuff: “I believe that we are neither here by chance nor by purpose, but by the very fact that we are here. I believe that every thing that exists and every process that operates defines, and is defined by every thing else that exists, and every other process that operates.”How familiar are you with the two principles of logic known as the “Law of Non-contradiction” and the “Principle of Cause and Effect?” You further address PeterHuff: “So nothing is random and there is no chaos from which we emerged. Doesn’t this satisfy your squeamishness with the concept of ‘randomness’ and ‘chance?’ Apart from the so-called “laws of nature,” could you site a few examples from the “landscape of our existence” where there exists “order,” “patterns,” and design absent a mind?

  • persiflage

    Peter Huff:1) Truth exists.All things considered, #4 is the only point that is supported by actual evidence based on personal experience. All of our personal experience seems to be mental, if we consider experience captured by memory, as brain-centered and brain-based. Truth is of course an empty concept. The idea of ‘truth’ is about as relative as relative gets – there is clearly no basis for the concepts of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ in our actual experience, since these are references to an absolute and timeless realm that can only be fictional in nature. Metaphysics is really a complete waste of time – and all religion is metaphysics. Other than personal experience, nothing really counts, does it? BTW, interpreting personal (inner) experience is also pointless – particularly when one employs the time-worn symbolism found in all religions. What we experience from moment to moment is really far trickier to grab hold of……… I do like Huang Po’s take on the source of all our experience, just below. A grand old Taoist was he…’All Buddhas and all ordinary beings are nothing but the one mind. This mind is beginningless and endless, unborn and indestructible. It has no color or shape, neither exists nor doesn’t exist, isn’t old or new, long or short, large or small, since it transcends all measures, limits, names, and comparisons. It is what you see in front of you. Start to think about it and immediately you are mistaken. It is like the boundless void, which can’t be fathomed or measured. The one mind is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between Buddha and ordinary beings, except that ordinary beings are attached to forms and thus seek for Buddhahood outside themselves. By this very seeking they lose it, since they are using Buddha to seek for Buddha, using mind to seek for mind. Even if they continue for a million eons, they will never be able to find it. They don’t know that all they have to do is put a stop to conceptual thinking, and the Buddha will appear before them, because this mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is all living beings. It is not any less for being manifested in ordinary things, nor any greater for being manifested in Buddhas.”

  • peterhuff

    Hi Periflage,I only have time for this one reply since 6AM comes early.ME:PERSIFLAGE: “All things considered, #4 is the only point that is supported by actual evidence based on personal experience.”But try denying any of the others and see where it gets you. So the evidence is there after all and you experience it when you try to deny it.Truth is of course an empty concept.”If that is true then so is your statement and nothing ultimately matters. I think you can have such a philosophy, but you can’t live by it. Truth really does matter. If it didn’t you wouldn’t be contending for what you believe is true – your Buddhist philosophy. PERSIFLAGE: “The idea of ‘truth’ is about as relative as relative gets – there is clearly no basis for the concepts of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ in our actual experience, since these are references to an absolute and timeless realm that can only be fictional in nature.”"Clearly no basis?” Is that true? If there is no clear basis then how would you know? Is this a true statement? As soon as you try to deny the existence of truth, or brush it aside by relativism your argument becomes self-defeating. PERSIFLAGE: “Metaphysics is really a complete waste of time – and all religion is metaphysics. Other than personal experience, nothing really counts, does it?”You are trying to relate truth to personal experience, but truth exists regardless of whether you believe it or not. It is pointless of you to deny truth and still be taken seriously. In denying truth, whatever you said would all be false by your own admission – that there is no truth. If you make it up, what makes it true? Your preference?And the thing about relative statements is the people who make them want to be treated as serious, but why? It can’t be all relative and all true. If that was the case then something in reality that is solely all yellow all over could also be all blue all over at the same time, just by me thinking it is. No, regardless of what I think it is, it is either all yellow or it is not.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    RcofieldI have never taken a class in logic, so I am not familiar with the technicalities but I had 51 credits of math, which is sort of logical, and I think that I have a grasp of logic. But I do not sit around trying to think up the logic of God’s existence or how the world began.My references are to the “local landscape of experience,” not existence. If I ever used the word, “existence,” that was a mistake. The landscape of experience is that part of existence into which we have been placed, and it is everything that we can ever know, but not necessarily everything that is. Everything is ordered. There is a defining reality to everything, that is what makes things real, not logic. In fact, order and being are sort of the same thing. Man does not discover laws of nature. Man does not create things. Man deciphers and makes sense of a pre-figured order, and man creates and builds using tools that man has fashioned from plant and animal mateiral and from the elements and compounds of the earth, all these things which he also uses as raw materials to manipulate, cut, mix, bind and separate, according to ideas and images that he has in his mind based on all that he has seen and experienced before.If God is the Great Intelligent Desinger, like man is, only on a grander scale, then where did he get his ideas from? where did he get his tools from? where did he geit all of the material to use as clay to create all that he ahs created? How could he create and make things with out a pre-figured order to cause things to happen?I am not saying there is not God. I am saying that to picture God as a “designer” is a kindergarten way to think of God, making god merely a bigger more imposesing, more perfect verison of man, by analogy and metaphor.God cannot be described by analogies nor my metaphors.Quoting fromm the Bible to prove things about God and about existence is confusing the narrow cultural experience of man with the great unknown; depending of the precise grammar of a language and the arbritratiyly nuanced defintions of words, which varies from culture to culture and from language to langueat, to ascertain ultimate truth, amounts to hair-splitting over things that we truely do not understand, and cannot understand.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Peter Huff and Rcofield1) Truth exists.Try these:Truth is the quality of being in accordance with facts or with reality;Truth is what actually is. Truth is the perfect perception of existence.Truth is existence, unperceived, unmeasured, unnoticed. Knowledge is the understanding of what has been learned, a body of facts and principles.Belief is the conviction or acceptance that something is true.Knowledge is belief in what is true. Truth, knowledge, and belief defy formal defintion. You can make up little sentences that seem to define them, in a technical linquistic sense, but the definitions are unsatisfying; they don’t seem realistic, meaninfgul, or useful.That is because, each of these words refers to an aspecit of conscsousness, from slightly different views, but all basically getting at the problem of the thoughts that are in our heards; where do they come from, what do they mean?Knowldege/truth/belief are all variations of the same thing, the interior image of the world that forms in our minds, by way of our consciousness and self-awareness.It is not necessary to know the exact definition of these concepts, to know that real things are real, to sense pattersns in our impressions of order. It is only necessary to know what knowledge/truth/belief are if you are trying to create a complex argument seeking to prove its own validity by the criteria of what truth is. These complicated theological presentations are just such arguments. But such presentaitons are arbitrary and not necessary. They do not show us anything of reality or truth, but only of speculation, which may or may not be believable.This belief which I have presented is NOT relativsm, and it is NOT scientism; if you do not understand it, then please, at least, stop calling it something that it is NOT.

  • themoderate

    Perhaps God’s Chosen are bedbugs, and we their cattle created merely to provide them with a feast. But then some bedbug theologian must lie awake at night wondering how a just God could allow pyrethrins in His Creation.

  • persiflage

    continued:All of this makes ‘truth’ event-based, experience-oriented, and time-bound – and far removed from the Platonic realms of eternal ideas or archetypes (BTW, some mathematicians argue for these realms).I support the idea that every element of the cosmos is inter-related at some level – nothing exists as a separate and autonomous entity. It’s all and everything, at every moment (thanks again, G. Gurdjeiff). Of course, this is no more provable than theist contentions of a separate, absolute deity creator. I just don’t view dieties of any kind as necessary in the scheme of things, so I give them no credence. I sense that the entire cosmos is emerging and we are witnesses to this unfolding. Trying to figure this out is completely beyond our ken. Back to Zen and origins – Huang Po’s insights and personal inner experience led him to make the observation that at the most fundamental level, reality (Dharmadhatu) was both void and motionless. No mind, and nothing else besides. A ‘truth’ hard to grasp in the material world.I find that concept appealing, but I couldn’t tell you why. And we still haven’t said anything about bedbugs!

  • persiflage

    Peter Huff:’You are trying to relate truth to personal experience, but truth exists regardless of whether you believe it or not. It is pointless of you to deny truth and still be taken seriously. In denying truth, whatever you said would all be false by your own admission – that there is no truth. If you make it up, what makes it true? Your preference?’Your personal belief in an absolute, separately existing ideal called ‘truth’ is decidely more Platonic than Christian (although Christianity as a philosophy owes a great deal to both Plato and Aristotle). You’ll recall that our resident fundamentalist Catholic TTWSTY constantly refers to the authority of Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle when it comes to defining ‘truth’. It’s curious that theists seem to find their ‘logical proofs’ of absolutes, including a Supreme Being, in the thought of early Pagans! We’ll also recall that Protestants are the progeny of the much earlier Catholic Church. BTW, I find it almost impossible to penetrate the ‘logic’ of committed Christians, so I employ the logic of Zen Buddhists to get the job done ;^) Meanwhile, I maintain that ‘truth as a concept actually refers to something both relative and provisional from moment to moment, and is in a real sense a concept (mistakenly) based on being able to predict our own personal future accurately – which we attempt to do with our every act. Fortunately, with over 300 million cars on the road just here in the USA alone, most people make the correct guess most of the time! Whether we are actually exercising individual free will based on prior knowledge, motor skills training, and accurate perceptual information when thus acting, or whether all the forces of the universe are covertly converging as the true actors, is another matter. We are, after all, among those forces. The philosopher George Gurdjeiff viewed humans as puppets controlled at every moment by external forces that generally remained completely unknown. Only the most advanced sages were able to exercise a modicum of true free will. Although completely counter-intuitive, he is not alone in this view of human behavior (including human thought processes). At all events, we’re interested in achieving desired outcomes and if our calculations and cognitive machinations at the conscious and unconscious levels are correct, we sometimes get them. As humans we all have similar experiences, so we take those redundant similarities for unchanging truth – a completely false conclusion. Science-wise, and given Einstein’s revelations on relativity, it’s hard to know how humans come in contact with an unchanging absolute – and visa versa. If we’re honest with ourselves, we must really conclude that most of us know nothing of absolute, unchanging realms where things and deities are eternally the same – at least first-hand. Beliefs aside, we have no evidence of such an alien dimension in our own experience.

  • cornbread_r2

    Perhaps God’s Chosen are bedbugs, and we their cattle created merely to provide them with a feast. But then some bedbug theologian must lie awake at night wondering how a just God could allow pyrethrins in His Creation. While I assume you were being facetious, I think your statement poses a real problem for super-naturalists. If someone believes in an omnipotent entity that exists outside time and space and whose actions and very existence is untestable and unfalsifiable, then how could they ever be sure that such an omni-entity really isn’t a bedbug? After all, in the supernatural realm pretty much anything is possible. (Even a Christian who cites the authority of the Bible against such a notion would have to admit, I think, that even it might be a carefully crafted ruse invented by a bedbug god to deceive us into believing we are superior.)

  • peterhuff

    Hi Persiflage, Carstonio, Danielinthelionsden, I’ll try and get to your posts before this forum shuts down tomorrow night at 12AM.

  • RCofield

    DANIELINTHELIONSDEN,Apart from the so-called “laws of nature,” could you site a few examples from the “landscape of our experience” where there exists “order,” “patterns,” and design absent a mind?

  • peterhuff

    Hi Persiflage,PERSIFLAGE: “Your personal belief in an absolute, separately existing ideal called ‘truth’ is decidely more Platonic than Christian (although Christianity as a philosophy owes a great deal to both Plato and Aristotle).”Rubbish. Yes, Plato did see a connection between genuine knowledge and truth verses opinion in that genuine knowledge must have its source in something that is unchanging, but the tenants of Christianity come from the Old Testament, not from Plato. Over and over in the OT it is revealed that God is unchanging, that He is truth and the source of truth. That is where we get our ultimate, absolute, objective source of truth and what is real from, apart, that is, from Jesus Christ – God incarnate, who gave us greater insight into the teachings of the OT.You are making this mistake because you see similarity between some of what Plato and Aristotle said and Christianity. The references of the gospels and epistles all have their source in the OT, not the Greek philosophers.I like Plato’s allegory of the cave in book 7 of the Republic, and his idea that all knowledge presupposes prior knowledge of the ideal or form, but he traces this knowledge back to reincarnation, something I’m sure as near and dear to your heart (as a Buddhist, I presume?). Where is the indication that the apostle Paul was influenced by Plato’s writings, for Paul constantly makes reference to the OT and ties in his teachings with it, not with Platonic documents. If anything he warns his readers not to get caught up in the vain philosophies of men, ‘which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.’ (Colosians 2:8) The idea that Paul was influenced by Plato stems from thinkers of the 1920-1940′s, not from NT sources (see Ronald Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks). The NT does not teach that the mind and the body are evil, just that the mind and body are corrupted by our sinful ‘flesh.’ Paul teaches the resurrection of the body, not some disembodied existence of an immortal soul. Paul teaches that matter is not evil but corrupted by the Fall. The resurrected believer will have a physical body controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). These are just some of the ways in which Plato’s god is different from the Christian God.I’ll continue when I get more time.

  • cornbread_r2

    Peter Huff:I suspect you’ll never be able to acknowledge the influence of Plato and other Greek philosophers on early Christianity (including the Gnostics) for apologetic reasons, but how can you deny the significant influence Plato and Aristotle had on Augustine and Aquinas respectively?Also, why do think Paul and all of the other 1st century letter writers take their inspiration from the OT and

  • peterhuff

    PART 2PERSIFLAGE: “Did he gain this special knowledge from being taken up to the 7th heaven?? Why some people are inclined to believe such supernatural nonsense is confounding, until you realize that folks can be persuaded of almost anything at all, if the promise of eternal life is included in the deal.”Please forgive me for being so frank, but…And that people can be persuaded to believe such natural dribble would be confounding, if God had not disclosed such to be the case. It works both ways you see. You in your subjective relativism who does not know if we can know such things as objective truth, especially in the ethical relativism department is beyond me. You act as if you know this is certain about Paul. The same thing you do for what is right and wrong – certain – all the while your core values betrays knowledge of anything as certain. It is all subjective in your case to what your mind perceives. You set the rules. On the one hand you have no moral grounds for criticizing anything as good or evil unless you can show it to be from an objective grounds for such a judgment. A relativist cannot do this. Where do you point? Why does your mind set the standard? What makes it so high and mighty.No God is the necessary standard for there to be such a thing as good and evil. Unless you are objective, all knowing and benevolent the only way you could know such things is if God revealed it to you or you thought God’s thoughts after Him. Otherwise all you have is your or someone else’s feelings, your preference, your opinion – nothing more. And I ask again, Why should you be the moral determiner of right and wrong?RCofield suggested I discuss the case of abortion with you. Is it wrong to abort an unborn? He gives the example of 50 million abortions since Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood. Are you pro-choice or pro-life and what makes either right or wrong?ERSIFLAGE: “This is how doctrinal Christianity was built, with Paul’s thinking as an all-important cornerstone.”No, the foundation was already there, the cornerstone being the Lord Jesus Christ.PERSIFLAGE: “I recently watched a darkly entertaining movie titled ‘The Afterlife’. I enjoyed Liam Neeson’s out-of-character role as an undertaker that was able to communicate with the dead.”You are taking a fictitious movie that comes from the mind of some subjective person as a prime example. Come on. PERSIFLAGE: “In the end, my parent’s generation were all buried out of that funeral home including my uncle, the resident mortician. Bodily resurrection seems most unlikely, if you’ve ever spent much time in the presence of the dead.”Thanks for your subjective opinion. And yes, Wikipedia is your source for all three links provided.

  • peterhuff

    Hi Persiflage,Sorry, I thought you were female. My mistake and apologies.PERSIFLAGE: “Much of the mythology that is Christianity today can be attributed directly to Paul of Tarsus, by way of Plato.”What are your sources of this information? Wikipedia!PERSIFLAGE: “His influence is far more significant than the so-called early Church Fathers themselves. Jesus, the paradigm of bodily resurrection, was most probably a figment of Paul’s singularly inventive and overly ripe religious imagination.”No it wasn’t. It was taught in the gospels themselves.”Then the Jews demanded of Him, ‘What miraculous sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do all this?’What do you suppose the ‘Scripture’ they are referring to are? That would be the OT. Eleven men who Jesus was close to and who watched Him die recall His words to them after He is risen, after they had seen Him again.All the gospels and the Book of Acts tells of these physical bodily resurrection experiences. The Book of Acts gives reference to some of these OT passages that speak of His resurrection, one being,”David said about Him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices: my BODY also will live in hope, because You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will You let your Holy One see decay…..seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, the He was not abandoned to the grave, nor did His body see decay. (Acts 2:25-27, 31)PERSIFLAGE: “Why Paul should be such a profound authority on such esoteric matters is quite mysterious!”When you’ve seen the risen Christ and He has commissioned you to take the message to the Gentiles Paul would have to have been given special revelation, as he himself says numerous times. God chose him. There is no mystery about that. Paul tells us that.”Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…Through Him and for His name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” (Romans 1:1, 5) “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,…” (1Corinthians 1:1)”Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother…” (2 Corinthians 1:1)And the list goes on.

  • peterhuff

    Hi Cornbread,CB: “I suspect you’ll never be able to acknowledge the influence of Plato and other Greek philosophers on early Christianity (including the Gnostics) for apologetic reasons, but how can you deny the significant influence Plato and Aristotle had on Augustine and Aquinas respectively?”Whether or not Plato and Aristotle influenced the early Christians in not the point. The point is were the NT documents rehashed Platonic thought or revelation from God. What is the source material from, the OT or from Greek philosophers. How many times are the OT Scriptures quoted or cited in the NT? Paul is constantly pointing back to the OT. How many times are the Greek philosophers, except of course for Aristippus (1 Corinthians 15:32)? How many times does Paul or any of the others discount man made philosophies (Col. 2:3-4,8; 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 6:20)? CB: “Also, why do think Paul and all of the other 1st century letter writers take their inspiration from the OT and never from the actual words of Jesus found in the NT gospels?”I’m sure there are lots of reasons, of which I can give you a couple of. They do speaks the words of Jesus, but seldom precisely (Matthew 28:20), for the gospels are sufficient for that. For the most part they are taking the evidence from the OT because the NT is in the process of being written, and since Jesus first came to His own, they are witnessing of His birth, life, death and resurrection with the OT as their reference and to what it all means(along of course with the Holy Spirit who is teaching them all things concerning Jesus and what He did – see John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-8, 12-14, etc). Matthew 24, Luke 21 are still to be fulfilled with the destruction of the temple and city. There is constant warning that this time is near, that there will be great persecution coming for many of them, and some of them are already witnessing it.

  • peterhuff

    Hi DITLD,I have no qualms about some of your definitions, but,DITLD: “Truth, knowledge, and belief defy formal definition. You can make up little sentences that seem to define them, in a technical linguistic sense, but the definitions are unsatisfying; they don’t seem realistic, meaningful, or useful.Is that last statement true, or is it meaningless and self defeating, self-contradictory? You are on a relativists footing here. If the statement is true then what you have said would also apply, which would in turn nullify what you have said.You are making statements about truth, knowledge and belief, that if true makes your statement false – they defy formal definitions. How can you understand them then? If you can’t understand them, how do you know that they are undefinable?Try this – truth can never be false or it would not be true. Or show me how something can be true and false at the same time and in the same respect.DITLD: “That is because, each of these words refers to an aspect of consciousness, from slightly different views, but all basically getting at the problem of the thoughts that are in our hearts; where do they come from, what do they mean?”If they don’t originate for the Mind of God then you definitely do have a problem, don’t you. It comes down to ‘Can anything be known for certain?’ or, ‘Which subjective mind has perceives truly?’ If none there is no known truth.I agree that we can’t know to the same degree that God does, in seeing every aspect of every fact and its interrelatedness to every other fact, but if an objective Mind has not revealed these things to us, or if an objective Mind has not created us in His image and likeness, you are in a lot worse shape than I am, for you don’t have a necessary standard for truth or knowledge or belief; one that reflects what is real. You are living an illusion.DITLD: “It is only necessary to know what knowledge/truth/belief are if you are trying to create a complex argument seeking to prove its own validity by the criteria of what truth is. These complicated theological presentations are just such arguments.Just as your statement is here?DITLD: “But such presentations are arbitrary and not necessary. They do not show us anything of reality or truth, but only of speculation, which may or may not be believable.”As he presents such speculations himself.DITLD: “This belief which I have presented is NOT relativism, and it is NOT scientism; if you do not understand it, then please, at least, stop calling it something that it is NOT.”Unless you can show me an objective source it is just what you say it is not – subjective relativism. Two individuals disagree in respect to what ‘good’ is. It is subjective to each persons views, unless of course there is an ultimate, objective, higher reference that can be pointed to. Can you point to such a source?

  • cornbread_r2

    They do speaks the words of Jesus, but seldom precisely (Matthew 28:20), for the gospels are sufficient for that. For the most part they are taking the evidence from the OT because the NT is in the process of being written… Peter Huff You seem to be saying, on the one hand, that the early letter writers didn’t need to quote Jesus because they had the Gospels for that, but at the same time also saying that they referenced OT scripture instead because the Gospels hadn’t been written yet. Which is it? What better evidence could they have other than the very, recent, words of their founder, whether they had been written down yet or not?I’m not aware of a single instance of If one reads the NT, Regarding the influence of Greek philosophy on Christian thought:Look no further than the Epistle to the Hebrews.

  • persiflage

    Peter Huff:’Otherwise all you have is your or someone else’s feelings, your preference, your opinion – nothing more. And I ask again, Why should you be the moral determiner of right and wrong?RCofield suggested I discuss the case of abortion with you. Is it wrong to abort an unborn? He gives the example of 50 million abortions since Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood. Are you pro-choice or pro-life and what makes either right or wrong?’My final post on this thread – continued posting problems are really inexcusable…I’m done here until the problem is fixed. That said, I’ve been the moral determiner of right and wrong for as long as I can remember. This is a de facto position forced on all living entities – we make entirely subjective decisions throughout our lives. You may tell yourself that God rules, and that there is an absolute, objective reality – but in fact no one rules in your universe but you. This total responsibility is very hard for many people to accept. You are trapped within your own personal consciousness – relatively few escape artists over the centuries have managed to find their way out of this confounding maze! Religionists attempt to defer the great escape until they’re dead – I personally don’t believe you’ll find satisfaction there. Abortion is always a woman’s prerogative – and should remain so under the law. A woman’s decision must be absolute and inviolable in this case, and the law is currently on her side up to the point of viability or the third trimester. Again, this is not an arguable issue with me, because natural law (if there is such a thing) is on the woman’s side. She can’t be forced to bear a child against her will in my world…….

  • peterhuff

    test

  • peterhuff

    Hi Persiflage,PERSIFLAGE: “That said, I’ve been the moral determiner of right and wrong for as long as I can remember. This is a de facto position forced on all living entities – we make entirely subjective decisions throughout our lives. You may tell yourself that God rules, and that there is an absolute, objective reality – but in fact no one rules in your universe but you. This total responsibility is very hard for many people to accept.”Then you can’t have a meaningful discussion on good verses evil, because ‘good’ to you is just your preference and good to me is just mine and never the two shall meet, but each one is equally good and equally opposite.Okay, let’s take an hypothetical situation.If you are the determiner of good and I am the determiner of good and my good is opposite of your good and I have a gun and you don’t, my good wins. That is all it boils down to. You play by my rules or else. There can be no objection to everyone having their own ‘good’ because every idea of good is different to some degree and therefore it cannot be measured. It is always changing and there is no suitable standard to determine what it is. The ideal changes with each person.You can’t live believing this, for as soon as someone steals your wallet your belief system betrays you. Then some ideas of good are actually better than others. It is ‘good’ that we all have our own standard of good until you are the next one in the line to be gassed. Then not all ideas are of equal value.Your world-view cannot justify your belief system in the real world unless there is an objective standard. PERSIFLAGE: “You are trapped within your own personal consciousness – relatively few escape artists over the centuries have managed to find their way out of this confounding maze! Religionists attempt to defer the great escape until they’re dead – I personally don’t believe you’ll find satisfaction there.”That’s all you have – personal belief. There is no truth there because there is no true standard or measure. Are you so sure that it is not you who is trying to escape the real world and the consequences of a hard look at your belief system?

  • peterhuff

    Hi Persiflage,PERSIFLAGE: “…disparaging Wikipedia as a source of information is disingenuous, yet frequently done by folks that don’t like their beliefs challenged with contrary information. The compiled information presented therein is very often from valid and credible sources.”It is not contrary information I worry about, but whether the information is true. It is a good quick reference, but would you not trust someone who is an accredited scholar over someone who is getting his information from any source available?Thinking human beings always come to the discussion with a bias. It is impossible to live in a vacuum. God is again necessary for there to be an objective standard and measure – truth/true knowledge.PERSIFLAGE: “In the academic treatment of religion we find that all religion has as a foundation mythologies that are often shared, borrowed, and otherwise enlarged upon in order to create new religious forms.”You are inferring that but you don’t know it as a certainty. Usually as myth springs from truth. It gets twisted somewhere along the way. I’ll grant that all religions but one spring from myths and human imaginations.PERSIFLAGE: “Gnosticism was probably first conceived in Judaism and later emerged as an esoteric form of early Christianity – which by then viewed Jesus as a human exemplar of high spiritual attainment, but without the divinity.PERSI: “They were of course branded as heretics and persecuted for centuries by their fellow orthodox Christians – eventual winners in the religious sweepstakes of the day.”The Gnostic’s were not orthodox. PERSI: “The messianic aspect of Judaism was taken quite literally by early Christians, and most notably St. Paul. Religions can be unique while sharing many of the same fundamental traits and characteristics. Christianity is singular among local theist faiths of the region in its claims of divinity for the person of Jesus – however, see the cult of Mithras.”I cover this topic of the other forum.

  • persiflage

    Follow the quotes as Peter commences:’I'll grant that all religions but one spring from myths and human imaginations.’Only in your imagination is this true – otherwise, there are no exceptions in the view of specialists that study the historical phenomenon of religion from an unbiased and objective viewpoint. Religious believers are a breed apart – compared to academicians of religion. The believer doesn’t require evidence for beliefs to seem real, while the professional studies the evidence, free of subjective beliefs that distort historical realities. Religion can be understand in the same context as any other cultural institution. ‘Your world-view cannot justify your belief system in the real world unless there is an objective standard.’In all human experience, objective standards are really subjective standards that are under various strict controls for the sake of accuracy. All standards are created by humans for human purposes, and thus all are relative to time, place, and circumstance. Only religious believers typically dispute this. ‘That’s all you have – personal belief. There is no truth there because there is no true standard or measure. Are you so sure that it is not you who is trying to escape the real world and the consequences of a hard look at your belief system?’I do try to keep my beliefs provisional so that they don’t interfere with real experiences – this is admittedly difficult but worth the effort. Religious beliefs tend to distort actual experience with fictional overlays that confine and/or condition our experiences in pre-determined ways. This can easily amount to a form of personal (and voluntary) imprisonment of the mind, or mind control. I’m comfortable with my complete freedom from religious beliefs – more people should try living this way.

  • persiflage

    More from our fundamentalist preacher: ‘RCO: “The gas chambers of Auschwitz pale in comparison to the genocide that takes place within the sterilized confines of abortion clinics across this nation. Fifty million plus such abortions have been performed since Roe v. Wade, fifty million human beings slaughtered in the very environment where they should be the safest…their mother’s womb.”RCO: “And did I mention that a staggering proportion of these abortions are performed by Planned Parenthood—the brain-child of Margaret Sanger, who was an atheist and who made no bones that she saw her work as a contribution to the evolutionary principle of the preservation of the favored races?”How to describe this tirade verging on hysteria – is it distortion, conflation, self-delusion, or just pure deception in the service of pious anti-abortionist rhetoric? What this false and darkly hyperbolic comparison tends to do is diminish the wanton torture and murder of 11 million living human beings – by placing this historical horror story in the same context with legal abortion procedures taking place in a medically sterile environment. A woman CANNOT be forced to bear children at this time and place in history! I suggest the Rev. Cofield take a guided tour through Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen in order to gain a real appreciation for the differences between these hellholes of starvation, murder, mayhem, and dispair, compared to the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood center.Can you feel the absurdity yet??

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