Saturday, June 25, 2011

FacePalm of the Day #94 - Debunking Christianity: For the Love of God: Or Hell as a Tool for Secular Morality

It's been a while since TGBaker has posted on Debunking Christianity. Today, I was reminded of why that is a good thing.  He again makes some serious errors that make me think that he does not understand what the Bible says.

I developed this ditty from a Facebook spat with a friend of mine who is a Christian Philosopher, Dr. James F. Sennett. I had never really thought about this area before. But I think it produces another problem with the omni-attributes of a proposed god.

I sure hope the TGBaker keeps corresponding with Dr. Sennett because God may use the discussions to bring TGBaker into right relationship with God. It would be an answered prayer.

Does God love something because it is good? Or is it good because God loves it? If God does or loves something because it is good, then the good looks to something that is more sovereign than God to which he must conform to be good. If God were to oppose these standards called good then God would not be god since he lacks omni-benevolence. So God's omniscience is limited by the good. If on the other hand what is good is simply what God loves and commands ( the Divine Command Theory), then the good is simply whatever is the whim of God (such as killing all the babies in the Canaanite genocide). If there are no standards apart from God other than what he wants or commands then apart from him there is no good.

The Bible clearly says that God love us. It says that we are evil. Therefore the line of reasoning is flawed from the beginning.  There is no standard that is apart from God and there is no good apart from Him. If we do anything "good" it is because of God's grace and God's restraining of our evil. 

The former idea that there is a good apart from god means that humanity should follow that standard and obey God only if he is compliant to that standard. The latter view which state that the good is simply God's whim is obeyed only because of the threat of punishment or damnation. This dilemma is called the Euthyphro dilemma and has been left to us by Socrates.

Who said that there is good apart from God. TGBaker presupposes this and offers no proof for it being true. On the other hand, morality is not based on God's whim. God's nature does not change. Basing our morality on God is truly objective because God is perfect and unchanging. God's standard is not a moving target.

Sam Harris has offered us a beginning means whereby to ground well-being in empirical science. I would like to call his tool Hell. Harris asks us to imagine a world with as much suffering, as intense suffering as possible, with as many people suffering and all of that for as long as can be imagined. Let's call this "Hell." It sounds like the Christian tradition and might be a good thing to rescue from them. Harris present the empirically based obvious. we would all agree that any movement from that designated measurement is a movement toward well-being, less suffering and more contentment. Obviously there are comparisons and considerations along the way to the antithesis of our Hell but our path will by that of human improvement. Our goal will be that of a paradise or heaven where well-being like physical health will be maximized.

Here is the problem with Harris' ideas: Hell is not just a plane of existence of maximum and intense suffering!  Hell is torment because of total separation from God. We were created to be in relationship with God. That is what the goal of religion is. That is what we search our lives for. People try to fill that void in their lives, often unconsciously. It doesn't matter how much pain is avoided in life because without that fulfillment in God, one can never be whole.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.- Romans 8:18-30

With the removal of god from the mix the Euthypho dilemma becomes manageable. The idea of a transcendent good which God (much less any other being) is removed. An empirically based "landscape" of evidence and information for reasoning humanity to a better course is opened up as a field of promise. The fear of compliance of a tyrant that threatens eternal suffering is dethroned and replaced with a view toward paradise.

Removing God from the mix, make the dilemma unanswerable. Humanity is unable to reason adequately about what is right and wrong. And who can perfectly keep the standard that they know is right let alone what they don't understand? Jesus was clear. Entertaining the thought of sins like lust, coveting, and hatred are just as bad as adultery, stealing, and murder. This is because entertaining the thought may lead to actually performing the act. Be honest. Our hearts are filled with lusts and greed - sometimes beyond our control. Even when we seek to do good, as we understand it, evil is always present. How do you expect to get free?  Can you free yourself? Nope. God isn't a tyrant that threatens eternal suffering. God is a liberator from sin and death to which you are enslaved. Hell is not a possible destination - it is a foregone conclusion without Jesus.

Debunking Christianity: For the Love of God: Or Hell as a Tool for Secular Morality
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