One True God or two?

The first of the Ten Commandments decrees that believers shall have no other gods before the one making the rules. This is all well and good until you look at the fact that none of today’s hardcore Christians adhere to this.
What I’m getting at is exemplified by one of many psychotic rants PZ Myers recently received by e-mail.

Evolution is the biggest lie Satan has ever told. Have you ever even read about where the idea of “millions of years” come from? It wasn’t entirely Charles Darwin’s idea. He simply used that idea to justify his own personal revelation to discount God…
Evolution is used now as a tool to promote the vulgar and disgusting homosexual movement that has recently become violent. By claiming that evolution is real, the gay community can claim that they were born gay, which is absurd. No one is born gay. it is a psychological problems that stems from early childhood scenarios…
I wish I could get a job teaching at a University, but I am not qualified.

There’s loads more head-spinning nonsense in this and other letters PZ posted. Great yet troubling stuff, and it raises more than a few questions.


While it is obvious to superstition-free people that Satan is merely a convenient construct to explain away the shortcomings of an allegedly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent force as well as the tendency of humans to favor their evolutionally endowed instincts and the conclusions they reach via their intellects over misguided Biblical directives and proscriptions (no masturbating, eating of certain foods, etc.), Christians genuinely believe that Satan is a force to be reckoned with, not only instigating the ruin of humanity itself by tricking Eve in the Garden of Eden but also deceiving modern people into believing the lie of evolution and compelling them to use evolution to expand the homosexual agenda (I’m not sure what the relationship there is, but I hear a lot about it). In fact, these hardcore Christians attribute pretty much everything that disturbs and confuses them, from sex education to other religions to natural disasters to countries that don’t like America, directly or indirectly to Satanic influence.
The obvious question this raises is, how can Christians claim to believe in only one god when they openly grant that Satan has at least as much power as the alleged good guy? Prayers for sick and suffering loved ones go unanswered by the millions, hurricanes and fires and tornadoes claim the lives of innocent children on a daily basis, and life has a tendency to not only suck from time to time but to be tragically, horrifically painful, and believers are no better off than others. Yet things roundly blamed on Satan are constantly and noisily in evidence. If you believe in supernatural beings and had to pick a winner, it’s pretty clear which being that would be.
The implication is that Satan is clearly a god. Maybe not a very nice one, but a god nonetheless. After all, any being that has more real-world pull than one with limitless powers would have to have even more limitless powers (we’re talking about bullshit beings here so I can make statements that violate logic). Either that or Satan has bribed God to sit back in the shadows and allow faggotry, atheism, terrorism, and other solecisms to persist untrammeled, or perhaps God is just lazy or enjoys a good dust-up, which would make sense considering we were supposedly made in His image and are notorious for being shiftless, materially driven rubberneckers.
I guess the Christian response to this would be that Satan offers only cheap and immediate gratification, and that God allows people the free will to succumb to temptation so that only those who can resist it will come to find Him, thereby guaranteeing a flock of only virtuous sorts. This is no more or no less crippled and ludicrous than anything else in the whole dogmatic scheme, but it makes a kind of twisted, internal sense. Nevertheless, anyone who cannot see the incoherence of stipulating the existence of a kind and all-powerful deity and then stipulating the existence of another one who consistently kicks the first one’s ass is is not likely to be persuaded by real-world evidence of the failure of the entire enterprise. It’s believe, believe, believe and fuck anyone who doesn’t.
Anyway, it’s no mystery which overlord I want in my corner when this terrestrial ride is over with. Only one got game, and I’m gonna stick with the undisputed winner!

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  1. #1 by Mathews on December 18, 2008 - 11:40 am

    I usually try not to get into religious discussions… but you are wrong. It’s true that many Christians do blame bad things on Satan (wrongfully).
    But, the Bible says that bad things need not happen for a bad reason. Take Job. He had a lot of bad things happening to him. It wasnt Satan’s will but God’s will. It is the test of fire. And what did people think to be born of the water and the spirit was?
    Satan, or the evil guy, does God’s work. He exists because God willed it. He deceives people because he has been instructed to do so. The revelations do say that the power will be given to him. Not that he had the power.
    Finally, lot of misguided Christians periodically bash Satan. It is said in the Bible that not even the arch angel dared to do that ( Jude 1:9 ).
    So.. you are wrong. Some Christians do believe in an equally powerful Satan. No Christian, who is worth his stuff, will say that. ( This definition of Christian does not include preachers, public speakers, false prophets, who usually have no idea what they are talking about ).

  2. #2 by Kevin Beck on December 18, 2008 - 11:51 am

    “So.. you are wrong. Some Christians do believe in an equally powerful Satan.”
    Do you want to try again, this time without the self-contradictions?
    There is no point in dividing Christians into those who are supposedly wrong in their beliefs about Satan and those who are not, because they’re all wrong. There is no God and there is no Satan. There are also no angels, archangels, or other henchmen on either side. I suppose if you consider yourself a proper Christian than you can make truth claims about the ones who are supposedly off the mark, but in so doing you’re merely giving me a window into your own belief system, which is no more correct than the one I maligned, only different.
    “Satan, or the evil guy, does God’s work. He exists because God willed it. He deceives people because he has been instructed to do so.”
    Why on Earth would you want to submit to the authority of a God that, in effect, keeps a starved pit bull on hand just to fuck with people? What horseshit. I feel bad for those who have been deceived (not by Satan, but by perfectly well-meaning but blunt-minded parents) into thinking there is any relevance or reality to this tired scheme.

  3. #3 by Kevin Beck on December 18, 2008 - 11:51 am

    “So.. you are wrong. Some Christians do believe in an equally powerful Satan.”
    Do you want to try again, this time without the self-contradictions?
    There is no point in dividing Christians into those who are supposedly wrong in their beliefs about Satan and those who are not, because they’re all wrong. There is no God and there is no Satan. There are also no angels, archangels, or other henchmen on either side. I suppose if you consider yourself a proper Christian than you can make truth claims about the ones who are supposedly off the mark, but in so doing you’re merely giving me a window into your own belief system, which is no more correct than the one I maligned, only different.
    “Satan, or the evil guy, does God’s work. He exists because God willed it. He deceives people because he has been instructed to do so.”
    Why on Earth would you want to submit to the authority of a God that, in effect, keeps a starved pit bull on hand just to fuck with people? What horseshit. I feel bad for those who have been deceived (not by Satan, but by perfectly well-meaning but blunt-minded parents) into thinking there is any relevance or reality to this tired scheme.

  4. #4 by Rev. BigDumbChimp on December 18, 2008 - 12:42 pm

    Satan, or the evil guy, does God’s work. He exists because God willed it. He deceives people because he has been instructed to do so. The revelations do say that the power will be given to him. Not that he had the power.

    People chose to believe this shit and call him a loving and just god?

  5. #5 by Bill from Dover on December 18, 2008 - 12:45 pm


    But, the Bible says that bad things need not happen for a bad reason.
    >

    The alternative being that bad things happen for good reasons? Please enlighten me on… oh, lets say… the Inquisition or the Holocaust.

  6. #6 by Kevin Beck on December 18, 2008 - 1:07 pm

    Hell, Bill, why even go that far? Whenever I see a sentence that starts with

    But, the Bible says

    then I know that what follows will be gibberish, a desperate search for an “out,” a livid affront against logic, or some combination of these.

  7. #7 by WTFWJD on December 18, 2008 - 1:44 pm

    Monotheism?
    Harrumph. Goddamitey, Jebus, and Super Spook — that’s three right there. Satan is a fourth.
    And if those christians are Roman Catholics, then there is their whole pantheon of saints.
    Can we say ‘innumeracy’?

  8. #8 by mark on December 18, 2008 - 1:54 pm

    its just a fairy tale.

  9. #9 by Kevin Beck on December 18, 2008 - 2:00 pm

    Of course it’s just a fairy tale. But within the constraints of said tale exists a glaring contradiction–thou shalt have no other gods before the three-in-one-special, but when it’s convenient, thou shalt be permitted to assign Satan more power than Mr. three-in-one.
    Yes, I’m wasting my time as there are hundreds of absurdities and contradictions within Christianity that are just as glaring, but at least this one is new (to me).

  10. #10 by Kevin Mulholland on December 18, 2008 - 2:17 pm

    Why should they?
    Even god himself (according to the first commandment that you quoted) believes in other gods�
    He simply makes a very reasonable request to be equal with them. He asks that the other gods not be in front of him (or behind).

  11. #11 by Kevin Mulholland on December 18, 2008 - 2:17 pm

    Why should they?
    Even god himself (according to the first commandment that you quoted) believes in other gods�
    He simply makes a very reasonable request to be equal with them. He asks that the other gods not be in front of him (or behind).

  12. #12 by The Science Pundit on December 18, 2008 - 2:17 pm

    Some Xian denominations get around the polytheism paradox by eliminating one of the three assumptions of The Problem Of Evil—namely omnibenevolence. For example, the WBC certainly don’t believe in an all loving god. I’m not sure exactly where those wack-a-loons stand on Satan, but it would be ironic if they actually believed in him; a theology centered around an omnipotent malevolent god has no need to invoke a rival evil spirit.

  13. #13 by b on December 18, 2008 - 2:21 pm

    If it’s all coming down to a battle (in our world) of good vs evil, I’ll go all in on black, thank you.

  14. #14 by Jon on December 18, 2008 - 2:38 pm

    I am no “Christian”, at least not in any standard sense of the word, but I see both believers and atheists frequently misunderstanding or at least not acknowledging the “true” meaning of ancient religious texts. Briefly in the sense that God and the Devil represent the best and worst of our own human nature these two characters/archetypes are “real.” So called “Christians” “Muslims”, “Hindus” etc. project their own natures on to these characters/archetypes and mistakenly conclude that God and the Devil are entities separate from themselves. Non-believers make a different mistake and conclude that all religious texts are just horsesh*t. They’re both wrong. Myths and religions are best understood as early examples of Psychology. In that sense myths and religions are quite true and quite effective in helping us understand ourselves.

  15. #15 by Kevin Beck on December 18, 2008 - 2:52 pm

    “in the sense that God and the Devil represent the best and worst of our own human nature these two characters/archetypes are ‘real.'” … Non-believers make a different mistake and conclude that all religious texts are just horsesh*t.”
    On the contrary, Jon, I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve always maintained that religious constructs are nothing more than expected outcroppings of human psychology. Therefore, religious texts are indeed horseshit from a basic factual standpoint, but if you’re arguing that they accurately represent the projections of believers’ psyches, well, sure. But try telling a Christian that God and Satan are merely convenient labels for things that exist only in their minds and emotions and see how many of ’em are on board with this.

  16. #16 by rBST on December 18, 2008 - 3:15 pm

    So which God are we supposed to believe in exactly? And which one came first? I have a $2.00 coupon, and Buy One, Get One Free, that have been burning a hole in my pocket.

  17. #17 by Bill from Dover on December 18, 2008 - 3:27 pm


    in the sense that God and the Devil represent the best and worst of our own human nature these two characters/archetypes are ‘real.'” …

    I’ll go with Superman vs Luther. Much easier to understand.

  18. #18 by CyberLizard on December 18, 2008 - 3:32 pm

    If there is a god-type being, I hope it’s Eris. Discordia rules! fnord

  19. #19 by Lofcaudio on December 18, 2008 - 3:39 pm

    *yawn*

  20. #20 by Kevin Beck on December 18, 2008 - 4:15 pm

    *yawn*

    This sort of response has always amused me. When someone goes out of his way to tell you exactly how uninterested he is in a particular post, the only meaningful translation is, “I don’t like what you wrote, but I got nuthin'”–a truly bored person would leave no comment at all.

  21. #21 by Lofcaudio on December 18, 2008 - 5:35 pm

    “I don’t like what you wrote, but I got nuthin'”
    Oh I’ve got plenty, but there’s really no point in sharing it as I don’t believe you are sincerely interested in reasonable answers to the question you posed:
    How can Christians claim to believe in only one god when they openly grant that Satan has at least as much power as the alleged good guy?
    Perhaps this is just another fishing expedition as you have already caught your limit of Gribbits, Ogres and Hoosiers in your other posts and are in the mood to mock some religious types for their “fairy tale” beliefs. Have fun.

  22. #22 by Kevin Beck on December 18, 2008 - 5:45 pm

    “I don’t believe you are sincerely interested in reasonable answers to the question you posed…”
    This still raises the question of why you insist on standing up to be counted here at all. No worries, though.
    Anyway, you’re sort of right: Within the confines of a belief system that is rooted solidly in mythology, there might be reasonable answers, but because I obviously view the entire scheme as bullshit, I’m probably not apt to agree with whatever you might have to say, at least if you attempt to superimpose God/Satan stuff on the real world. I guess it boils down to the difference between wanting a film like Star Wars to make sense given its fictional parameters (a topic worthy of discussion or debate) and trying to convince someone that the events depicted actually took place.
    “Perhaps this is just another fishing expedition…”
    Nah, the topic just jumped into my mind when I was reading Pharyngula.
    Gribbits and Ogres and Caos, oh my.

  23. #23 by Jon on December 18, 2008 - 9:19 pm

    Kevin Beck wrote: “On the contrary, Jon, I wholeheartedly agree.”
    My apologies, then. I guess I should have written that some or many or “most non-believers make a different mistake.”
    I just think it’s a shame that we end up arguing over symbols and cultural expressions of what really is the great mystery of our presence here on Earth. Some of the major world religions make a big deal about “idol worship”. But those who insist God can only be expressed via their particular set of symbols and cultural expressions are the real idolaters.

  24. #24 by The Science Pundit on December 19, 2008 - 12:56 am

    I just think it’s a shame that we end up arguing over symbols and cultural expressions of what really is the great mystery of our presence here on Earth.

    Jon,
    There’s quite a few presuppositions in the framing of that statement. When you say “our presence”, are you talking about biological life or human consciousness or something else? And what do you mean by mystery? Do you mean unknown? Because there’s actually quite a bit that we do know about those things. Or do you mean something else by that word? And what qualifies that mystery to be The Great Mystery over all the others?
    I’m curious.

  25. #25 by Kelsey on December 19, 2008 - 2:10 am

    What about Jesus?

  26. #26 by Jon on December 19, 2008 - 2:22 am

    The Great Mystery would be death. Do we in some sense go on? Is there a soul? etc.
    The (not necessarily) corollary mystery would be the purpose of human life. What is it? I’m not referring to the life purpose of an individual. Obviously we as individuals can be quite happy with mundane pursuits, collecting seashells – or what have you. The mystery is this: As a species do we exist simply to flourish for a few millennia and then die out? Does humanity have a higher purpose? Or no ultimate purpose? Are humans, in the final analysis, insignificant?
    Religions are among our feeble attempts to answer these questions.

  27. #27 by Kevin Beck on December 19, 2008 - 8:59 am

    Jon,
    The idea of a “purpose,” as I understand the word, implies the presence of some consciousness with definite ideas about what people should and should not do while alive. I don’t buy into that even if the supposed consciousness doesn’t conform to any specific religious deity and is instead more like the “Creator” envisaged by the Deists (mostly) of times past.
    I also see notions of humans persisting after death as “souls” as nothing more than a natural response by organisms endowed with the capacity to realize their own mortality. To understand that death occurs is to be almost immediately compelled to want to cheat it. Humans are presumably unique in this regard, but not in as many ways as some like to think.
    Kelsey–not sure what you mean, but given the uncanny and plainly not coincidental resemblance of Jesus to god-man figures who “existed” many centuries before him, such as Horus, Jesus is almost certainly a mythical figure (above and beyond the fact that he obviously wasn’t what he claimed to be in the Bible–a deity or the son of one).

  28. #28 by hopper3011 on December 19, 2008 - 10:24 am

    “But, the Bible says that bad things need not happen for a bad reason.”
    That is a very interesting statement. The idea of “bad” or “good” is a value judgement – “bad” things don’t happen to insensate objects, or even to sensate objects which lack the ability to understand that a history could have happened where the “bad” event didn’t occur.
    The ability to make value judgements is a human (note that I didn’t say exclusively human) attribute, as is the ability to make the meta-judgement that the good of the good thing that eventuated as a result of the bad thing outweighed the suffering caused by the bad thing.
    The problem here is one of “means” and “ends” – if God requires, to take your example, the suffering of Job to demonstrate that He rewards righteousness, then God views Job as a “means” rather than an “end” in himself – what Job can do for God is more valuable to Him than what Job is in himself. This is the meta-judgement.
    This assignment of a use-value to Job might be considered to be OK in an inter-being (horizontal) relationship (such that, God, considered solely as an extra-human intelligent being who happened to have created the universe, but who is not invested with the powers of all-goodness, and all-powerfulness might acceptably use Job as a means to achieve his goals), but surely this disindividuation is completely contrary to the mythology surrounding God (and not a little disquieting given the vertical nature of the God-human relationship), a mythology that is based on the all-goodness and all-powerfulness of God, whatever sect of God worship you adhere to (including Judaism and Islam).
    I think you can probably see where I’m going, and I am sorry to bring up this old saw, but the problem of Evil simply cannot be satisfactorily resolved by speculating on God’s “purpose” in allowing Evil to happen.
    Until a reasonable explanation of why Evil even exists is put forward, this discussion will not end. It is a mystery to me why the idea that Evil is in some form necessary even constitutes an argument?

  29. #29 by hopper3011 on December 19, 2008 - 10:24 am

    “But, the Bible says that bad things need not happen for a bad reason.”
    That is a very interesting statement. The idea of “bad” or “good” is a value judgement – “bad” things don’t happen to insensate objects, or even to sensate objects which lack the ability to understand that a history could have happened where the “bad” event didn’t occur.
    The ability to make value judgements is a human (note that I didn’t say exclusively human) attribute, as is the ability to make the meta-judgement that the good of the good thing that eventuated as a result of the bad thing outweighed the suffering caused by the bad thing.
    The problem here is one of “means” and “ends” – if God requires, to take your example, the suffering of Job to demonstrate that He rewards righteousness, then God views Job as a “means” rather than an “end” in himself – what Job can do for God is more valuable to Him than what Job is in himself. This is the meta-judgement.
    This assignment of a use-value to Job might be considered to be OK in an inter-being (horizontal) relationship (such that, God, considered solely as an extra-human intelligent being who happened to have created the universe, but who is not invested with the powers of all-goodness, and all-powerfulness might acceptably use Job as a means to achieve his goals), but surely this disindividuation is completely contrary to the mythology surrounding God (and not a little disquieting given the vertical nature of the God-human relationship), a mythology that is based on the all-goodness and all-powerfulness of God, whatever sect of God worship you adhere to (including Judaism and Islam).
    I think you can probably see where I’m going, and I am sorry to bring up this old saw, but the problem of Evil simply cannot be satisfactorily resolved by speculating on God’s “purpose” in allowing Evil to happen.
    Until a reasonable explanation of why Evil even exists is put forward, this discussion will not end. It is a mystery to me why the idea that Evil is in some form necessary even constitutes an argument?

  30. #30 by hopper3011 on December 19, 2008 - 10:24 am

    “But, the Bible says that bad things need not happen for a bad reason.”
    That is a very interesting statement. The idea of “bad” or “good” is a value judgement – “bad” things don’t happen to insensate objects, or even to sensate objects which lack the ability to understand that a history could have happened where the “bad” event didn’t occur.
    The ability to make value judgements is a human (note that I didn’t say exclusively human) attribute, as is the ability to make the meta-judgement that the good of the good thing that eventuated as a result of the bad thing outweighed the suffering caused by the bad thing.
    The problem here is one of “means” and “ends” – if God requires, to take your example, the suffering of Job to demonstrate that He rewards righteousness, then God views Job as a “means” rather than an “end” in himself – what Job can do for God is more valuable to Him than what Job is in himself. This is the meta-judgement.
    This assignment of a use-value to Job might be considered to be OK in an inter-being (horizontal) relationship (such that, God, considered solely as an extra-human intelligent being who happened to have created the universe, but who is not invested with the powers of all-goodness, and all-powerfulness might acceptably use Job as a means to achieve his goals), but surely this disindividuation is completely contrary to the mythology surrounding God (and not a little disquieting given the vertical nature of the God-human relationship), a mythology that is based on the all-goodness and all-powerfulness of God, whatever sect of God worship you adhere to (including Judaism and Islam).
    I think you can probably see where I’m going, and I am sorry to bring up this old saw, but the problem of Evil simply cannot be satisfactorily resolved by speculating on God’s “purpose” in allowing Evil to happen.
    Until a reasonable explanation of why Evil even exists is put forward, this discussion will not end. It is a mystery to me why the idea that Evil is in some form necessary even constitutes an argument?

  31. #31 by Lofcaudio on December 19, 2008 - 10:43 am

    “This still raises the question of why you insist on standing up to be counted here at all.”
    Okay, you got me there. (I got nuthin’.)

  32. #32 by Kevin Beck on December 19, 2008 - 10:51 am

    Just a note, Lofcaudio: I’m sure by now you realize that I enjoy having some contrary input here even if I respond to it in assholian fashion. Conversing with only like-minded people gets old quickly. And although I’m sure I’ll argue with you on certain topics until the crushing and fiery advent of the End Times, I give you credit for chiming in an environment overwhelmingly populated by atheists and for remaining more civil than I would under similar circumstances.
    I say this having just waded into a thread populated almost exclusively by nutcases such as Gribbit, Cao, Ogre (not a nutcase, but someone who’s willingly relegated himself to a fucked-up platform of ideas) and others. I have utmost confidence in what I say, but trying to take on ten loudmouths at the same time is a challenge unto itself.

  33. #33 by Jon on December 19, 2008 - 12:52 pm

    “I don’t buy into that even if the supposed consciousness doesn’t conform to any specific religious deity and is instead more like the “Creator” envisaged by the Deists…”
    I’m not suggesting that you or anyone else should buy into the existence of this “supposed consciousness”. I only mean to point out that the search for this “supposed concsiousness” has been and very likely always will be a distinguishing characteristic of homo sapiens.
    I also agree with your comments about death. But, again, want to point out that what may or may not happen after death will very likely always remain a mystery. And the void created by this mystery will be filled by beliefs religions, theories and so forth. Certainly we have zero empirical evidence that there is any sort of “life” after death. But then again no one has ever been “there” and come back. This could be because death is like Gertrude Stein’s impression of Oakland Ca., of which she famously stated: “The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, there isn’t any there there.”

  34. #34 by Jon on December 19, 2008 - 1:03 pm

    hopper3011 wrote: “Until a reasonable explanation of why Evil even exists is put forward, this discussion will not end. It is a mystery to me why the idea that Evil is in some form necessary even constitutes an argument?”
    It’s not that evil is necessary. We live in a dualistic world. Or I should say we tend to perceive reality as a set of dualities. In that sense “good” and “evil” are inevitable – as are all of the other dualities: right-wrong, believer-non-believer, etc. etc. etc.

  35. #35 by hopper3011 on December 20, 2008 - 3:32 am

    Jon; “It’s not that evil is necessary.”
    Then why does it exist at all? If you want to say that God is all-powerful AND all-good (which is true of all God-centred religions) AND that he created the universe and everything in it (which must mean that the all-good being created evil), then it is perfectly reasonable to say both that he chose to create the universe with evil in it, and that he could have created a universe where evil didn’t exist?
    Now if God, as an all-powerful being, chose to create the universe with evil in, when he could just as easily (being all-powerful) have created the other one – the one without childhood disease, wars, famine, tornados, etc., etc., then surely you aren’t saying that the all-good being created evil capriciously? That God just put evil in there for no good reason?
    If you are saying that, then surely you reject the right to say that God is all-good? But if you want to retain the right to say that God is all-good, then why didn’t he create the universe without evil?
    If you want to have God be all-powerful and all-good then you need to be able to explain the problem of Evil, which is simply irreconcilable with those qualities.
    Your way forward is the meta-judgement which disindividuates Job – God is willing to let Job suffer for another purpose: “bad things need not happen for a bad reason”. That answer is irreconcilable with the God mythology which supposes that we are all equally important to God, and it leaves you with a huge question to answer: if God is willing to view Job as a tool, a means to an end rather than an end in himself, then why does he care about any of us?
    That doesn’t fit with the God mythology at all, but it is a clear implication of the idea of the meta-judgement. If God views Job as a means to an end, does he view all of us as a means to an end?
    If he is willing to let us suffer for an as yet undisclosed “higher purpose” how can he be all-good?
    But if he needs our suffering for his higher purpose, then how can he be all-powerful (being all-powerful surely means that he could achieve whatever he wants to achieve through the suffering WITHOUT the suffering)?
    There are ways forward, mainly through denying either the all-goodness or the all-powerfulness of God, but it appears that most religions prefer to retain the internal inconsistencies rather than deny his powers.

  36. #36 by Jon on December 21, 2008 - 3:18 am

    “I form the light, and create darkness;
    I make peace, and create evil.
    I Yahweh do all these things.”
    – Isaiah 45:5
    “Just as the Lord has found great pleasure in helping you to prosper and multiply,
    the Lord will find great pleasure in destroying you.”
    – Deuteronomy 29:63
    Jesus said that the “kingdom of heaven is within.” I hasten to add that the kingdom of hell is also within.
    The bible says we were made in God’s image. In the mirror, God sees us and we see God. God is a reflection of us and we are a reflection of God. We are just as rotten as Satan and just as “good” as God. In fact God and the Devil are one and the same. Do you know the darkness and the light are inside you? Then you know what it means to be God.
    Jesus was the solution to Yahweh’s evil. It’s amusing that so-called Christians claim their God is unchanging since the beginning of time. Yet the book these people claim to understand is called the “New” testament and God the father had to send God the son (both of whom are one and the same, by the way) to clean up the father’s mess.
    Please don’t misunderstand me. I am a “christian” in the sense that I see much to be valued in Jesus’ teaching and in the Bible – which is not a divine policy and procedure manual meant to be followed to the letter. The bible is a magnificent psychology book. If more people understood that we would be better off. But I digress.
    “Evil” exists because, without evil, we would not recognize it’s opposite as “good.” Without “night” there would be no word for or understanding of “day”. If the earth were covered with water there would be no concept of or knowledge of the difference between wet and dry. Without death there would be no concept of life. Without failure there would be no understanding of success. If “evil” ceases to exist “good” will die along with it. Think of evil as gravity, inertia or a set of weights: something one must struggle against in order maintain muscle tone. Without the existence of the wrong thing one no longer has the opportunity to choose to do the right thing.

  37. #37 by hopper3011 on December 21, 2008 - 10:56 am

    Jon;
    I know what a duality is. It appears you have misunderstood; I’m not arguing about the existence of a good/evil duality in the world as it is – the existence of that is very obvious.
    What I’m saying is that, given the attributes ascribed to God by the various religions, there is a substantial paradox in the fact that the world exists in its current dualistic form. Let me explain:
    1) Christian mythology maintains that “God is good” – not that God does good, not that God decides what is good, but that God is good. Therefore God stands separate from the duality of good and evil; everything God is, is good.
    2) Christian mythology maintains that God is omnipotent – He could have made the world in a non-dualistic fashion had He chosen to do so (being omnipotent He could change the world to a non-duality tomorrow, if He wanted to).
    So we have a choice – either God is all-good, but the existence of evil means that he can’t be all-powerful, since an all-good being who could end evil would do so simply as a part of being all-good.
    Conversely, if God is all-powerful then He can’t be all-good – since, being all-powerful He could stop evil at any time (in fact He could have prevented evil from existing), but He quite obviously doesn’t.
    See the problem?
    “If “evil” ceases to exist “good” will die along with it.”
    That’s a very poorly thought out statement – have you forgotten the Garden of Eden? God obviously didn’t think that evil was essential to His creation initially, so why did it ever become necessary, and how could an all-good being allow that to happen – unless He’s not omnipotent?
    “Without the existence of the wrong thing one no longer has the opportunity to choose to do the right thing.”
    Why do you need that choice? If you want to argue free will, why couldn’t the choice be between all good things – if God is all-powerful but wanted us to have free will, then as an all-good being he could have let us chose between cake and ice cream – the choice doesn’t have to be between cake and a shit sandwich for it to be a genuine choice.

  38. #38 by Jon on December 21, 2008 - 12:22 pm

    hopper3011 wrote: “have you forgotten the Garden of Eden? God obviously didn’t think that evil was essential to His creation initially…”
    Wellllll, while the serpent may not have intruded upon “Eden” at the beginning, the serpent was in the universe somewhere from day one. Adam and Eve just hadn’t run into him yet. Are you saying you believe the Garden of Eden story should be taken literally? Like the rest of the Bible the Garden of Eden story is deeply representative of human development and human consciousness but it it is not to be taken literally. The Garden of Eden is synonymous with the womb and very early childhood. There was a time when you and I had no consciousness of the existence of good and evil, night and day, hot and cold, pain and pleasure, hunger and satiation. In the womb all of our needs were meant before we even knew they existed, before we were conscious of them. The womb was the universe and all was right and all was one. And then ‘bam’ you and I were born. We tasted of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, duality in all its forms.
    hopper3011 wrote: “Why do you need that choice? If you want to argue free will, why couldn’t the choice be between all good things – if God is all-powerful…”
    The choice is not between all good things because it isn’t. That’s the reality of life on earth. Are you arguing against the defects of christianity or the defects of reality? War, death, chaos and destruction are real. They are not going away. They really are among the choices.
    We need to understand that the “God” and “Devil” of Christianity and all other religions are not a separate beings outside of us. “God” and his brother, the “Devil” (etymology: double, deuce), are a reflection of us. “God” is “all-powerful” in the sense that God represents all of our instincts, urges, emotions, longings and aspirations. We can no more escape “God” (and the “Devil”) than we can escape who we are, what we want and what it means to live on this planet. God is gravity, fear, pain, joy, death, pleasure, entropy. The whole enchilada. We need to face it all because it’s not going away. At their best the writers of these ancient texts were trying to help us understand and cope with the world we live in. This objective was much clearer in ancient Greek religion wherein the many Gods obviously represented aspects of the human psyche and life on earth (i.e. Eros, god of love and desire in all of its forms; Eris, god of strife and discord; Apollo, god of order, beauty, clarity, individuality, self-control, perfection, creation; Dionysus, god of chaos, intoxication, instinct, intuition, excess, destruction.
    The ancient Greeks seemed to understand better than us that religion exists to help us understand (ourselves) and cope with the world. The stories and characters in the Bible should be viewed in the same light as Greek mythology.
    hopper3011 wrote: “the choice doesn’t have to be between cake and a shit sandwich for it to be a genuine choice.”
    Nevertheless, the choice IS between cake and a shit sandwich. Writing, un-writing or re-writing all of the books in the world is not going to make the reality of these options go away.

  39. #39 by Kevin Beck on December 21, 2008 - 12:46 pm

    I’ve always scoffed at the “without evil, we wouldn’t recognize good” idea. It’s a philosophical faceplant. The mere existence of a few things humans perceive as noxious would be sufficient to establish a gradient from shitty to welcome, but compare this putative minimum with the massive amount of absolutely gratuitous suffering and mayhem that unfolds daily, most of it by definition on people of faith, and it’s clear that Earth is not overseen by a deity with any notion of “goodness” or a desire to apply it.
    To extend Hopper’s cake/ice-cream-shit sandwich analogy, I can better recognize “sweet” as compared to sour, salty, or bitter if I’m given a taste of cider vinegar or soy sauce. I don’t need a vat of sulfuric acid dumped down my fucking throat.

  40. #40 by Jon on December 21, 2008 - 2:29 pm

    Kevin Beck wrote: “I don’t need a vat of sulfuric acid dumped down my fucking throat.”
    Sulfuric acid exists. Therefore, whether or not you and hopper3011 want sulfuric acid to be among the “choices”, it is among the choices. We can’t wish away the extremes of heat, pain, sour, sweet etc. They exist.
    I am becoming less and less clear about just what it is we are arguing about or what it is you think I am trying to put across that you do not agree with. As I have made it clear that I am not a “christian” in any typical sense of the word I should hope you are not trying to convince me of what we all three agree upon: Christianity and most, if not all, religions as presently constituted are a farce, a fraud and a bad joke. There is no supreme being in the sky sitting in judgment of us.
    . . . but there is an inner voice.

  41. #41 by Kevin Beck on December 21, 2008 - 2:40 pm

    My point is that Christians who claim that the world needs to include its observed level of “evil” in order for humanity to recognize and define “good” are patently in error.
    You wrote, “Sulfuric acid exists. Therefore, whether or not you and hopper3011 want sulfuric acid to be among the “choices”, it is among the choices. We can’t wish away the extremes of heat, pain, sour, sweet etc. They exist.” Yes, I understand this. But the existence of such unpalatable extremes is not necessary to perceive what is desirable, and the same holds true of “good” and “evil” at large.
    If you’re pointing out the psychological underpinnings of religious inclination, again, I’m not arguing that the impulse should simply dissolve just because there’s no logic involved when the faithful try to defend their incoherent omniscient-omnipotent-omnibenevolent deity concept. Hell, even Fred Phelps claims that God can be hateful (toward fags and others), which, despite his insanity, conforms to the nastyfuckass God of the OT and at least explains the ways of the world better than the idiotic idealization of the Bible.

  42. #42 by hopper3011 on December 22, 2008 - 7:39 am

    1) In your first post you claimed that the value judgement of “bad things need not happen for a bad reason” actually has a value by virtue of its being a teaching of the Bible. If you believe this to be true, then on what authority are you claiming the Bible based for the value judgment to have weight, unless its authority comes from the Supreme Being which is posited in its pages?
    2) If, as you later maintain, the Bible’s only use is as a work of psychology, and that there is no Supreme Being, then you have removed the Bible’s authority for its claim of a meta-position from which to make value judgments.
    If there is no authority who can make the meta-judgment: “this bad thing is outweighed because it happened for a good reason, because, in my grand scheme, the suffering of this one being is outweighed by the good to this being” then where is the authority for the “bad” or “good” value judgments coming from? Who or what is making the judgment that the first being is less valuable than the second?
    3) If you want to believe both that bad things can happen for a good reason AND that there is no Supreme Being then the only authority for the first claim is a subjective one. Therefore, there is no authority for the Bible to suggest the possibility of “good” or “bad” value judgments; if the only authority is the subjective one then if a bad thing happens it is simply a bad thing since the subject has no meta-position to decide whether the event occurred for a good or bad REASON in any great scheme.
    In short, this statement: “There is no supreme being in the sky sitting in judgment of us” contradicts this one: “the Bible says that bad things need not happen for a bad reason”. because the first one removes the possibility of an objective meta-judgment from the second.
    Are you arguing against the defects of christianity or the defects of reality?
    Obviously I’m arguing about the defects of Christianity – in terms of “right” and “wrong” there are no defects in reality – it is what it is, there are no value judgements possible. We, as sentient beings, can make subjective value judgements about the things that happen to us, i.e. the event is “bad” or “good” for us, but we can’t say whether it is “good” or “bad” within any particular context.
    Since you were arguing that the Bible is the authority for the possibility of objective value judgments, is it too much for you to explain where the Bible’s authority comes from if, as you now claim, no Supreme being exists?

  43. #43 by Jon on December 23, 2008 - 3:14 am

    I did not post, “bad things need not happen for a bad reason” and I never stated or implied that the Bible is the “authority for the possibility of objective value judgments.” You have mistaken me for another poster.
    I am also very much in agreement with removing the Bible’s “authority for its claim of a meta-position from which to make value judgments.”

  44. #44 by Jon on December 23, 2008 - 3:18 am

    It was Matthews who posted: “bad things need not happen for a bad reason.”

  45. #45 by hopper3011 on December 23, 2008 - 5:51 am

    Fair comment – but I fail to see what was unclear in my response to the post by Matthews, so why did you get involved?

  46. #46 by Jon on December 23, 2008 - 8:14 am

    I got involved because I am the poster who said. to use your words, the “Bible’s only use is as a work of psychology, and …there is no Supreme Being.” I replied to your reply to Matthews one and only post. So it appears that at some point you thought Matthews and I were one and the same and mixed our ideas together in your reply.

  47. #47 by hopper3011 on December 23, 2008 - 10:09 am

    Absolutely I confused you and Matthews, but that doesn’t answer my question, what were you criticising in my response?
    Did you think that I was unaware of the way in which the physical world might be viewed as a duality?

  48. #48 by Jon on December 23, 2008 - 2:28 pm

    hooper3011,
    I’m lost.
    Which response of yours are you referring to? #38? My only criticism of that post is that you mistook me for someone else.
    As for the duality question: in post #33 you stated,
    “I know what a duality is. …I’m not arguing about the existence of a good/evil duality in the world as it is – the existence of that is very obvious.”
    So the answer to your question is “no”. I did not think you were unaware of the way in which the physical world might be viewed as a duality.

  49. #49 by hopper3011 on December 24, 2008 - 2:17 am

    You quoted directly from my post #26 with an ‘explanation’ of evil (#30).
    Is it too much to ask why you felt the need to repond to my response to Matthews post?
    Your response, taken out of the religio-mythologic context in which I was responding to Matthews, makes no sense – unless you think I don’t know what a duality is.
    If you would like to discuss the validity of seeing the world as duality outside the religious implications then that would be great, and you should make that clear, but I really don’t see the point of your post #30 within the context of the prior discussion, unless you felt that you were imparting knowledge. In the latter case, my question stands: do you think that I don’t know what a duality is?

  50. #50 by Jon on December 24, 2008 - 8:39 am

    No. I do not think that you don’t know what a duality is.
    But back on Dec 19 at 10:24 AM it appeared to me that you were arguing that “evil” was not “necessary” (i.e. that it did not need to exist). In my reply I was trying to say that as long as we make value judgments – as long as we perceive one thing as negative (i.e “evil” or “bad”) relative to another thing which we, therefore perceive as positive (i.e. relatively “good”) – “evil” will be necessary/inevitable.
    Perhaps our (or my) problem here is the definition of “evil”. I was thinking of “evil” as a continuum of all events or attitudes perceived as negative spanning the absolutely trivial and benign (i.e. burning the toast, waking up on the wrong side of the bed etc.) to the horrific (i.e. terminal illness, famine, murder, genocide etc.). On that continuum are many situations which will never be abolished. As a species we maybe able to someday outgrow (evolve beyond) or otherwise overcome (through genetic engineering?) our more malignant tendencies but someone somewhere will always burn the toast – so to speak.

  51. #51 by Jon on December 24, 2008 - 8:39 am

    No. I do not think that you don’t know what a duality is.
    But back on Dec 19 at 10:24 AM it appeared to me that you were arguing that “evil” was not “necessary” (i.e. that it did not need to exist). In my reply I was trying to say that as long as we make value judgments – as long as we perceive one thing as negative (i.e “evil” or “bad”) relative to another thing which we, therefore perceive as positive (i.e. relatively “good”) – “evil” will be necessary/inevitable.
    Perhaps our (or my) problem here is the definition of “evil”. I was thinking of “evil” as a continuum of all events or attitudes perceived as negative spanning the absolutely trivial and benign (i.e. burning the toast, waking up on the wrong side of the bed etc.) to the horrific (i.e. terminal illness, famine, murder, genocide etc.). On that continuum are many situations which will never be abolished. As a species we maybe able to someday outgrow (evolve beyond) or otherwise overcome (through genetic engineering?) our more malignant tendencies but someone somewhere will always burn the toast – so to speak.

  52. #52 by hopper3011 on December 25, 2008 - 7:09 am

    What you say is correct, for one view of a fact-based universe, and your definition of Evil is the same as mine, but you aren’t responding to my argument, which involves the problems involved in positing an all-good, all-powerful creator of the universe.
    One way (not the only way) to look at our existence is that, as we experience it, the universe is a continuing flow of events which – as sentient beings – we firstly arrange into a continuum so that one thing happens after another (which allows us to talk about ’cause’), and secondly we assign values to our experiences, so that we can talk about ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
    I don’t completely agree with you that evil is necessary as a contrast to good, even in a fact-based world view. These value-judgements of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ most likely spring from the instinct for self-preservation, and it is perfectly possible to imagine a species developing without this instinct, for whom the value judgements of good and bad are nonsensical.
    However, this goes away from the point I was trying to make initially: if you posit the existence of a creator of the universe (a la Matthews), then it makes no sense to develop a mythology which posits that being as all-good and all-powerful when the universe we live in plainly allows suffering and misery (even the misery of burnt toast wouldn’t be allowed by an all-good being with the power to end the suffering).
    Simply put, if you could make the universe any way you wanted to (which Matthews’ God can) then you could create a universe where evil isn’t ‘necessary’ – in fact your all-goodness would mean that you couldn’t create a universe with suffering in it (but being all-powerful, would there be anything that you couldn’t do? That’s a whole other question!).
    In that sense I can validly claim that evil isn’t ‘necessary’.
    However, if you accept (as Matthews does) that God created the universe, and that, following the religious mythology of the God of the Bible, he is all-good and all-powerful, then the fact that we experience evil at all (even the minor evil of burnt toast) is a serious problem for your world view.
    One way to deal with the problem is to say that bad things happen for a reason, which leads back to my point about God’s problem with valuing one life over another, etc. etc.
    It is very tempting for the non-religious to simply dismiss the mythology of religion as nonsensical in any case, but that is a dangerous thing to do. This out-of-hand dismissal fails to recognise what science owes to religion – religion and myth were the first attempts at the knowledge which science now ‘owns’, and should be recognised as such.
    That they became dogmatic and assumed a totality is irrelevant to the idea of knowledge and has more to do with the power engendering force of myth (if you ‘own’ the dominant myth, then you control the power structure), and is something that the science community would do well to avoid.

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