7
May

Waiting For the Right Time to Witness

imagesNot long ago, my teenage son and I settled down to watch the miniseries “The Pacific.” It’s a gripping production of war in the Pacific in World War 2, following the lives of several young Marines. We’re both history buffs, and with the magic of Hollywood, it was not difficult to imagine that we were viewing the actual events.

We talked about what life would be like for those young fighters. But what really got my attention was a scene in which one Marine is holding a Bible and the other, seeing him, asks with a sarcastic smile whether he is a believer. I always tune in to these TV portrayals of apologetics and this one turned out to be a good opportunity to examine a type of challenge that many Christian apologists will face.

The scene unfolds with the questioner asking the other Marine to confirm that God created everything, including the Japanese soldiers that are trying to kill him. The believer’s response – “free will, what we choose to do” – wasn’t bad. But since he’s God, the questioner persists, he knows what we are going to do before we do it. “Predestination” is the believer’s unexplained response. The questioner then springs the apparent trap: “So the whole game is fixed while we’re down here, for what, his entertainment? That makes us chumps or God’s a sadist and either way I got no use for him.”

No answer to this challenge is offered. Instead, a question is asked: “So, what do you believe in?” The questioner answers quickly: “ammunition.” This of course draws a laugh. He ends with the request that the other Marine ask God to sink a few transports so he can get out of there and go home.”

Great dialogue, from a theatrical standpoint, but it left the issue hanging unresolved. I was debating whether to weigh in when I saw my son looking over at me with a growing smirk. “Well?” was all he said. When he paused the video, I knew he wanted – needed – an answer.

“Don’t start with an answer,” I told him. “Take a closer look at the challenge. What’s wrong with it?” That helped, I think. His eyes lit up and he said, “He’s offering only two alternatives.”

“That’s right,” I responded. “Presenting two loaded options like that prevents a meaningful discussion. It’s like the question, ‘have you stopped beating your wife?’ Either a yes or no answer constitutes an admission. The presence of evil in the world – the moral evil brought on whenever a state of war exists – does not mean that we are either chumps or that God’s a sadist. Many other options are available for the thinking person.”

I reminded my son that not every challenge is actually asking for a persuasive response. Here, the questioner isn’t really saying he doesn’t “believe” in God. He’s really indicting God, telling the listener that he is angry at a God that would allow great suffering to occur.  This is often the case when dealing with “committed” atheists. Their arguments oftentimes reflect more about the anger and confusion they feel when assessing a fallen world, than about the question whether a personal and loving God actually exists.

I suggested to my son that the questioner may not have been ready for an actual answer. Trying to force an answer on him, or trying to “win” the argument, would be counterproductive. What he needed, perhaps, was someone to listen, to sympathize and to let him know that the questions he asks are legitimate ones, that the pain he feels is real, and perhaps most importantly, that knowing the truth doesn’t take the pain or confusion away.  Answers are there, of course, intellectually satisfying answers that can help put things in perspective, even if they don’t eliminate the emotional turmoil that accompany so much of what we call “life.”   But the answers have to wait until he’s ready to actually engage the question. Perhaps the best we can do in such a situation, then, is to answer with a question of our own: “Are you really interested in hearing an answer to the challenge you pose, or are you just letting me know what you think of God?”

And then letting them know that when they are ready, you have an answer that might just make a little more sense than they’re willing to admit….

Posted by Al Serrato

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20 Comments

  1. zilch says:

    Al- I agree with you: no matter what your worldview, some truths are hard to accept. As an atheist, I don’t have an intellectual problem with evil: it’s built into our condition, as part of the conflict between individuals (be they genes, persons, or countries) and society. But I am discouraged and depressed about how many people don’t see the obvious need to clean up our act.

    • Al says:

      Zilch,
      Many people remain in blind to the obvious. Take evil for instance. The concept makes no sense in a naturalistic setting. Do you think a lion is evil for devouring his prey? Why is man – just another animal after all – expected to act differently? If it is his nature to practice survival of the fittest, so that his genes are transmitted to the next generation, why would you expect anyone to clean up their act? You should simply expect efficiency improvements, since behaving nicely (as you put it) is simply a preference, and one that is not shared by many others.

      • zilch says:

        Al- lions are not evil for devouring their prey. Are humans evil for devouring theirs? Do you eat meat?

        And I expect people to clean up their act for pretty much the same reason you do, except that I don’t have any gods behind me: I want a sustainable, peaceable world for my children. Unfortunately, as you say, many others, including many Christians, are not interested in behaving nicely.

        • Al says:

          Zilch,
          Humans are evil for devouring their prey only if there is a source of goodness against which to measure their behavior. If nature is all there is, as you say, then no, they are not evil. And while you may want a sustainable, peaceable world, Adolf Hitler may want supremacy of a particular race and “order” as he defines it. I’m comfortable calling him evil, because God is. It is precisely because my worldview is grounded in God that I can make moral claims, and confront evil. That is the point I’m trying to make with you – there is indeed evil in the world, and there is good, yet you will not draw the obvious conclusion that God is necessary for these things to make sense.

          • zilch says:

            Al- I suspect we would agree to a great extent about what we consider good and what we consider evil. And we would probably also agree about what should be done in many cases: for instance, seeing to it that everyone has enough to eat. We merely differ in how we define the nature of good and evil (or bad).

            And as I’ve been trying to explain over the last several months, you don’t need God, or the concept of God, to make sense of good and bad. Nor do you need God, or the concept of God, to act on your beliefs, say by feeding the poor. Nor do you need God, or the concept of God, to be able to condemn those, such as Adolf Hitler, who destroyed so many lives. Nor do you need God to fight people who destroy lives as Hitler did.

            Thus, since my worldview can also explain good and bad, and can also lead to my doing something about it, I need no further argument or supernatural being to validate my worldview. Subject, as always, like good science should be, to revision pending new evidence.

            cheers from cloudy Vienna, zilch

  2. tumeyn says:

    Great post Al. You make a great point, but even better I love the way your are engaging your son in conversation about tough issues. I love examples of how to weave good Christian / apologetic teaching into everyday life. I try to do that with my girls, but I often miss opportunities like that.

    (as an aside, do you have any book recommendations on training kids/teenagers in issues like this? I have young girls and I teach a 10th grade boys class. I’m constantly trying to get them to think about tough issues so that once they get to college they won’t be surprised at some of the arguments and opposition they face)

    • Al says:

      Tumeyn,
      Thanks for the kind words. I know what you mean about missed opportunities. Sometimes its due to fear that we don’t know the “right” thing to say and we’re afraid to mess things up. But I’ve learned as a prosecutor that unanswered questions lead to bad results, so I’ve trained myself to focus on what’s being asked and to offer my best explanation. Usually it’s not as good as I think it should be, but something is better than nothing.

      As for your book recommendation, I raised my kids using many Focus on the Family ideas and resources. One that worked really well when they were young was “Sticky Situations,” which would lay out a daily ethical issue, offer 4 possible answers, and then give Scriptural references to help refine the answer. For teens, I like J. Budziszewski’s work, especially the one on preparing kids for college. There are other great resources. Feel free to contact me at al@pleaseconvinceme.com. I’m always looking for blog post ideas and if you have some tough questions I would be more than happy to take a shot a answering them.

  3. al says:

    Zilch,
    Yes, you are no doubt correct that we share many views as to right or moral behavior. I have never tried to argue otherwise. My point is that you assert that God is not necessary to have moral views, without ever tackling the actual issue- how could that possibly follow? Every “game” in which behavior is at issue needs rules. It’s like saying that your view and my view on baseball are pretty much the same, but you don’t need an umpire or a set of objective rules. What happens when you want a batter to have 4 strikes before he’s out? What if you and I disagree on the strike zone? The only way to make sense of “doing right” is to have an objective standard of right. Yes, this may be murky at times, and God may not be as clear on an issue as we would like. But we at least have to try. We get nowhere by asserting that standards and arbiters are unnecessary. Your worldview – naturalism – can get you nowhere. If anything, it supports survival of the fittest, which is much more akin to what Hitler implemented, or what the antebellum South practiced, than what the Founders set in motion – ordered liberty under God.

    • zilch says:

      Al- sure, rules are necessary. That’s why parents (not just Christian parents) teach their children to be kind to others, that’s why countries (not just Christian countries) have laws. No gods necessary.

      And as I think I’ve also said more than once, naturalism does not mean supporting “survival of the fittest” as a social good. That’s more what laissez-faire capitalists, many of them Christians, tout as an ideal system.

      cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

      • Al says:

        Zilch,
        Survival of the fittest is part of nature. Do you disagree, or are you carving out an exception when it comes to that “animal” known as man?
        As for rules, you need to take it to the next step – parents have authority, as do countries. That’s how they establish rules for their kids or their citizens. I think we both agree there are moral rules, such as not committing murder, not torturing others, that are not mere conventions but which all people should submit to. But where is the authority for that, in your worldview? It can’t be parents, nor can it be countries, as that would imply a choice to have it some other way. But we both know there is no other way, as it relates to at least some moral rules. I cannot imagine a culture in which murder could be okay, or torture okay, simply because that’s how they view it. How does your worldview make sense of this?

        • zilch says:

          Al- I thought I’d explained this several times, but I’ll try again. Why should I have to base my morals entirely on nature? To build societies, which people want to do, requires laws above and beyond “the survival of the fittest”, because “the survival of the fittest” just means “the survival of the fittest genes”, not “the survival of my society” or “the survival of all people”. Genes will only take you so far. I don’t think I need to demonstrate why people mostly see the advantages of living in workable societies, do I?

          And again- why do I need to “take it the next step” with rules, beyond parents, countries, and what has proved to work, and suppose a God on top of all that who dictates “objective” rules? I don’t see what that accomplishes, and I don’t see any logical need for it. My worldview has no problem at all in making sense of this.

          cheers from rainy Vienna, zilch

          • Al says:

            Zilch,
            You have to base your morals entirely on nature, in your worldview, because nature is all there is. You need to take the “next step” if you want to test the workability – the veracity – of your worldview. If it does not bear intellectual scrutiny, you should consider abandoning it. That is, after all, what makes humans so distinctive – the ability to reason. Why would you abandon reason as to this most central question? You should not “suppose” a God as much as you should submit to the necessity of such a being, and then begin to pursue knowledge of him. Why? Because to insist that he is not there, because he does not make himself known to you in the manner you expect, is to abandon rationality. What does it accomplish? It allows you to begin to make sense of reality, as it relates to your ultimate destiny, which is the single most important question each of us must answer.
            You say your worldview makes sense of all this, but you have never answered my question: if rules come from authority, which you seem to acknowledge, by what authority do you base your view that, in the end, all that matters is that we “behave nicely?” Where is this grounded? What consequence is there to me if I have the power to simply ignore this rule? And most importantly, in your worldview, what is the purpose of life? What comes next? Is there justice? Seriously, do you really believe that “behave nicely” is satisfying comprehensive explanation for life?

  4. zilch says:

    Okay, al, we’re having problems of terminology here. You say I have to base my morals entirely on nature, because nature is all there is, in my worldview. But if “nature” merely means “that which is not supernatural”, as it obviously does for you here, then culture and reasoning are also “nature”. So why do you say that I must base my morals on “the survival of the fittest”, when that is just one part of nature? I don’t base my morals on “gravity” either.

    And I don’t insist that God is not there. I just don’t see any evidence for any gods so far.

    You say:

    “You say your worldview makes sense of all this, but you have never answered my question: if rules come from authority, which you seem to acknowledge, by what authority do you base your view that, in the end, all that matters is that we “behave nicely?” Where is this grounded?”

    I have answered this question several times now, but I think you are unwilling to see it as an answer, because it’s not “God” and I make no claims for “objectivity”. You make such claims, but they are just claims. There are many “authorities” we are both subject to and which, added together, inform our ideas about what constitutes behaving nicely- you might call it behaving scripturally. As I’ve said, these authorities are threefold (roughly): our genetic heritage, our cultural heritage, and our reason. I don’t see why I need more “grounding” than that.

    You ask:

    “And most importantly, in your worldview, what is the purpose of life? What comes next? Is there justice? Seriously, do you really believe that “behave nicely” is satisfying comprehensive explanation for life?”

    There is no one purpose of life, but many purposes.

    What comes next is death.

    There is sometimes justice.

    And no, whatever gave you the idea that I thought behaving nicely is a “comprehensive explanation for life”? It’s one of the most important things, because without it we have lots of unnecessary pain, but it’s not an “explanation” in the way that, say, the Theory of Evolution is a (partial) explanation for life.

    Okay, al, goodnight, and go well. I’m going to take a break from this, because it is going nowhere, and I need to get lots of stuff done in the real world. Thanks for chatting and take care.

    cheers, zilch

    • Al says:

      Okay, Zilch, I’ll chat with you later. Some things to consider: genetic heritage is not authority, nor is cultural heritage. The question is how we seem to know that rape is wrong even if our genetics and our culture don’t happen to agree. I don’t think you would dispute that, would you? So, if we are judging both our genetics and our culture against some outside standard, where is that standard? You say reason, but reason is the tool by which we discern things, not the authority itself. If I build a house, the nails and wood and hammer are the tools. I use these things to reach a result. But it’s the blueprint that is the authority; the thing I am following. This should give you some pause, as the explanations you posit (cultural, genetic heritage and reason) cannot do the work you are asking them to do.

  5. Jordan says:

    I’m curious how your idea works in practicality zilch. So that I can better understand your worldview, here are some questions:

    Is a lion raping a female lion an evil act? Why or why not? Is human rape evil? Why or why not?

    Was the holocaust evil? Why or why not? Is the captain at Auschwitz still evil if he feels he is following genetic, cultural, reasoned morality? How would you argue “You ought not” to the captain at Auschwitz objectively and unopinionatedly?

    Is there ever a time when individuals can hold diametrically opposed moralities based on reason, culture, and genetic heritage and both be right? If so, is any act objectively evil then? If not and only one view is true and right, why is that so? Would it not be true that a moral truth in then simply discovered rather than written at such a point? Did it only become morally good or evil when reason, culture, and genetic heritage recognized it or was it always so?

    Perhaps understanding your views here will keep the discussion from going round in circles. School year’s ending so I’m short on time. Will check in later.
    Jordan

  6. zilch says:

    Okay, Jordan, I’ll try answering your questions. But first off: we need to keep in mind that the word “rape”, like “murder”, has evil built into it: rape is unlawful or unallowed sex, murder is unlawful or unallowed killing, by definition. So “rape” is always evil, although sex is not always evil.

    That said: conventionally, the word “rape”, like most moral judgments, only applies to humans. Thus, even if a male lion forces sex on a female lion against her will it would not normally be called “rape”. But there are no hard and fast lines.

    Let me ask you: if a Neanderthal male forces sex on a Neanderthal female, is that also “rape”? What if they’re Homo Erectus? Homo Habilis?

    What if a mentally retarded teenager forces sex on a girl? Is every case of sex either rape or not? Is every case of killing either murder or not? I don’t see any hard and fast lines here.

    About the captain at Auschwitz: I would argue that the Holocaust caused tremendous unnecessary pain and was thus evil. What would you say to a Crusader who cited the Bible to support killing unbelievers? What would you say to Saul killing Amalekite children?

    Luckily, most of us aren’t murderers or rapists. But you don’t need God, or an “objective” morality, to see that everyone will live better if there is no rape and murder. Sure, there will always be psychopaths who argue differently. Some of them are Christians too. If you say they’re not “true” Christians, then I’m glad you interpret the Bible this way- more power to you. But not everyone does.

    cheers from rainy Vienna, zilch

  7. Jordan says:

    Thanks zilch,
    Still trying to fully understand your views, so here’s a couple follow-up questions if you don’t mind a few more.

    You say,
    “Okay, Jordan, I’ll try answering your questions. But first off: we need to keep in mind that the word “rape”, like “murder”, has evil built into it: rape is unlawful or unallowed sex, murder is unlawful or unallowed killing, by definition. So “rape” is always evil, although sex is not always evil.”
    So what about if you live where the law allows it. Is it still evil? If it is not the allowed lawfulness that makes the act right or evil, what does? (and I don’t mean “how do we know it is evil?” but rather “why is it evil?”

    You say,
    “if a male lion forces sex on a female lion against her will it would not normally be called ‘rape’.”
    So is it evil? Why or why not?

    To answer your questions:
    “If a Neanderthal male forces sex on a Neanderthal female, is that also ‘rape’? What if they’re Homo Erectus? Homo Habilis?”
    Since I see Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, Homo Habilis etc. as fictional and either fully man or fully “animal” then the question is irrelevant. However, I do think this is a problem for those that believe otherwise. Whereas animals are expected to live like animals, the Bible makes it clear that man, as made in the image of God, is responsible for his actions. Same question; what’s your answer and why?

    “What if a mentally retarded teenager forces sex on a girl? Is every case of sex either rape or not? Is every case of killing either murder or not? I don’t see any hard and fast lines here.”
    Simply because the glasses of your worldview only allow you to see vague fuzzy lines, doesn’t mean the lines do not exist. Again, the question isn’t “Do I think it is right?” (Christians and atheists get this wrong sometimes) but “Is it right?” If the act is evil, our opinion doesn’t matter. As to the teenager, the act is evil. Whether he can discern it or not is irrelevant as to the morality of the act. However, God at many times in Scripture gives mercy to those unable to distinguish right from wrong. (James 4:17, Jonah 3:4-4:11) This leads us to…
    “What would you say to Saul killing Amalekite children?”
    First, is you and I got what was fair and deserved we would be dead and in hell right now according to the Bible. The fact that we are either forgiven, or are at least still given time to seek forgiveness is by the mercy of God and not vice-versa. And God did give them time to repent. (Genesis 15:16)
    Second, consider the Amalekite’s wickedness in 1 Samuel 15:33. Their bereavement of mothers of their children was justly recompensed.
    Third, as mentioned above, God has mercy on those unable to discern right and wrong. Although the Bible isn’t 100% clear, it seems to indicate those not reaching that discernment level are forgiven. Perhaps it was in God’s mercy that many never reached the point where they could be held accountable for the wicked action they would commit.
    Fourth, they could not be allowed of God to influence the Israelites, thus causing them to commit evil, and ultimately bringing more judgment of God.
    Fifth, God doesn’t desire the punishment of any. (II Peter 3:9)
    Sixth, God shouldn’t have to answer to us for His decisions.
    Ok, maybe my answer was overkill. Just tired of hearing this argument.

    You say,
    “What would you say to a Crusader who cited the Bible to support killing unbelievers? If you say [proclaiming Christians living wrongly] are not “true” Christians, then I’m glad you interpret the Bible this way- more power to you. But not everyone does.”
    Again, the issue is not whether I fully understand the objective morality of the Bible because of my interpretation of it. Rather, it is “Is there a right interpretation of the Bible that defines an objective morality?” If there is a right interpretation and true objective morality then Christians either align themselves with it, or live contrary to it. Whether they believe they are doing so or not doesn’t change whether the action is right or not.

    You say,
    “You don’t need God, or an “objective” morality, to see that everyone will live better if there is no rape and murder. Sure, there will always be psychopaths who argue differently.”
    Sure you don’t need God to SEE that acts are objectively wrong, but the fact anyone that sees otherwise on some things is considered a psychopath (or at least has something wrong with him) indicates the objective morality exists. The issue again is not whether we SEE it as wrong, but whether acts are truly right or wrong in the first place. Certain acts are wrong whether or not we SEE them that way. Why?

  8. zilch says:

    Jordan- you say:

    “Since I see Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, Homo Habilis etc. as fictional and either fully man or fully “animal” then the question is irrelevant. However, I do think this is a problem for those that believe otherwise.”

    In what sense can bones be “fictional”, Jordan? As you may know, we now have a pretty good fossil record showing very fine gradations, such that there is no way to draw a line between, say, “advanced Homo Erectus” and “achaic Homo Sapiens. Indeed, the point where the lines are drawn is arbitrary. So can you show me exactly where in the fossil sequence “animals” stopped and “people” began? Maybe more to the point: why do we have this series of fossils in the first place, if humans did not evolve?

    And again: why would this be a problem for me? I don’t claim there’s a line to be drawn where morality suddenly starts- that’s your line.

    About the Amalekite kids: first, if God is justified in tossing all of us in Hell because we didn’t turn out right (I guess He goofed), then He’s not as nice as 99% of the people I know.

    Second: so killing the kids was justified to punish their mothers? That’s sick.

    Three: yeah, I’ve heard that the Amalekite kids went straight to Heaven. Admitting that the Bible is not “100% clear” on this is rather an understatement. As far as I can see- and while not a Bible scholar, I have read the Bible through pretty carefully- there is not one word on this. In fact, I don’t see any evidence at all for this “age of discernment” claim made by post-Enlightenment Christians, who are more sensitive than the Israelites and Jehovah about such things, pertaining in any way to where children go when they die on God’s command.

    Fourth: so the kids needed to be offed because they might seduce the Israelites into apostasy. Gotcha. That’s real nice.

    Fifth: God doesn’t desire the punishment of any. But He sure dishes it out even so. Why would an omnipotent omniscient being need to punish anyone, especially for the “sin” of taking facts at face value?

    Sixth: God shouldn’t have to answer to us for His actions. Well, God is not going to answer to us, because He doesn’t exist, but we might reasonably ask ourselves why we believe in such a mean tyrant.

    Sorry for the overkill, but I’m tired of hearing why it’s good for God to kill children.

    cheers from unseasonably cold Vienna, zilch

  9. Jordan says:

    Hey zilch,
    Regarding ape-men, I feel lazy. Here’s one link: http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/sciences/lifescience/physicalanthropology/evolutionfact/apemen/apemen.htm
    I’m also curious as to why you neither answered nor mentioned any of my questions I asked in first 4 paragraphs. These are things I need to know about your view of morality if I am to show where the Bible differs and why.

    RE:first –
    It is not God who “goofed.” Mankind blatantly rebelled against the creator God. And then spat in His face as He offered His Son in our place going through a horrific death. Yet still, God doesn’t ask much of us in return for complete forgiveness (accept a free gift). He seems pretty “nice” to me.

    RE:second –
    No, not justified. My point here is simply that “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” would say the mothers received what they were do. God did not “Over-punish” the parents for their wrongdoing. The matter of whether this is “fair” for the children is answered through the other points.

    RE:third –
    I gave verses speaking to God’s mercy on those “who can’t discern.” David’s child is another example that could be given (although far from solid). The simple nature of God as portrayed all through Scripture is that God punishes those who “know to do good and do it not.” Scripture is unclear of the details of how he deals with those who “don’t know,” but it is not unreasonable to assume God does so mercifully with greater weight to the eternal rather than the temporal.

    RE:fourth
    Would you kill a murderer to prevent him from killing thousands with a bomb? How about allowing a child to die (physically rather than eternally) so that he and thousands of others don’t spend an eternity in hell? Sounds merciful to me.

    RE:fifth
    Is a judge that allows serial-killers off free a good judge? Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8
    Who deserves judgment. What the penalty is and who paid it. If you reject the payment, you have to pay it yourself. That’s justice.

    RE:sixth
    The omniscient God has reasons for His actions that we won’t always see and we shouldn’t require of Him that we understand all of the “whys.” Neither of us believe in a tyrannical God. I believe in the true God. You don’t believe in a God you believe is tyrannical.

  10. zilch says:

    Jordan- sorry for taking so long to reply. Hectic times here.

    I didn’t answer the questions about my definition of and lines for “evil”, because I think I’ve answered them already in previous posts. Basically, good and bad (I don’t like using “evil” carelessly because it implies a religious stance, which I don’t share) are evolved entities, just as organisms are. No life, no point of view for something to be good or bad: everything just is.

    But as soon as you have life, there’s a point of view about what’s good (food) and what’s bad (being eaten). Fast forward three billion years, and you’ve got people arguing about morals online- I’ve left a few steps out, of course.

    And yes, people do have different ideas about what’s good and what’s bad. But it’s pretty obvious that there’s a lot of overlap. And the overlap is the best part of morals, laws, and religions: it’s the good stuff like being honest, loving your neighbor, providing for your kids, etc, that people seem to come up with over and over. How many people are in favor of rape being legal? The minority is simply going to have to like it or lump it in cases like this.

    You, and many Christians I’ve talked to, seem to think that if there is no God with sticks and carrots, then people can’t behave nicely. This is so obviously untrue that it’s a waste of time to debate. And if you answer, as many Christians do, that I don’t have a foundation for my niceness, then I will say that I don’t give a hoot: being nice does real good in the real world, and that’s enough for me.

    About the apemen: yes, that was very lazy of you. Have you looked at any of the many links I’ve posted showing evidence of transitional fossils? Yeah, yeah, Piltdown man was a hoax. Scientists are human, and they make mistakes. But this mistake was also discovered and corrected by a scientist, not a theologian. Ptolemy was a scientist, and he thought the Earth was at the center of the Universe. Does the fact that he was wrong cast doubt on modern science, which says the Earth is not at the center of the Universe? Errare humanum est.

    But science has the means to improve itself constantly. There’s no doubt about the big picture of evolution, at least not among the vast majority of scientists.

    And about the Amalekites- you’re right, I don’t believe in a God I believe is tyrannical. But I also don’t believe in a God I believe is loving- I don’t believe in any kind of God. I’m just saying that the God who ordered the slaughter of the Amalekites, and the God who was fine with slavery, is not as nice as most people I know. If I believed in this God it would bother me, and merely dismissing it as “God’s mysterious ways” is not enough for me. And the happy belief that the Amalekite kids went straight to Heaven begs the question, why not just kill everyone? As Arnaud Amalric, Crusader against the Albigensians, said to his men, “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” Kill them all- the Lord will know His own. In fact, if life in Heaven is better, and a lot longer, than life on Earth, what’s the point of Earth in the first place?

    It just doesn’t fit together.

    cheers from rainy Vienna, zilch

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