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Posted by Ben on Thursday, June 29, 2006 | Permalink

1) Interesting article about variable honesty - people put almost three times as much money in an honesty box when the suggestion that they're being watched is planted. A god that sees all (yes, you, you dirty boy!) as a form of social control, anyone?

2) Darwin's letters (via Butterflies and Wheels)

3) At Butterflies and Wheels, a discussion of the appalling twists, turns and conclusions one makes and reaches when trying to explain why a loving god allows suffering.

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God says in the Bibles repeatedly that the religions are baloney.
Love, 01.07.2006, 3:02pm #
Not sure who this Swinburne is but he doesn't sound a very sophisticated thinker.

Although I am not defending the idea of an omnipotent God, I think that logically one can see in a simple form there are no discrepancies.

We can take the analogy of the child.

A loving parent may appear in relation to the child "omnipotent"
and certainly with respect to such decisions as to where a child goes to school, may for the purposes of this discussion be considered omnipotent.

Now we may accept that the parent loves the child but does things which cause the child pain. For instance he may decide that child A must go to school B rather than school C even though child A wants to go to school C because his friends are going there. But school B may have a much better academic reputation than school C. Child may go to school B as directed by the parent and may experience great emotional pain. But twenty
years later when child A is a respected academic who loves his work, grown up child A may say: "I am very pleased that my parents made that decision which caused me a great deal of pain at the time, because I now value the knowledge I have gained above that pain."

Clearly on that analogy it is possible, without contradiction, to:

Be omnipotent.

Be loving.

Cause pain.

Do good, as viewed by the person who experienced the pain.

Clearly the charges against a loving god are more severe - not that he causes temporary pain, but horrible, permanent often death inducing pain.

However, this is a question that has a cosmic context not a family one. It seems to me that atheists make the mistake of viewing God as though he was the government of a country or the paterfamilias in a family.

If he exists, he is none of these, he is rather the creator of the universe.

So we have to judge the issue of pain or evil in the universe in this context.

As soon as one thinks about how a God could eliminate pain and suffering, one begins to see the problems. Much pain and suffering results from the exercise of free will (e.g. the pain caused by murderers, rapists and so on). For God to eliminate free will, would be to create a different kind of cosmos and we have to ask ourselves would we like to be deprived of free will. Is there anyone who would "willingly" become an automaton?

I think more importantly the debate must lead one to question what is meant by "omnipotence".
In the final analysis, God does not have the power to create distinguishable patterns AND banish contradiction. The first creates the possibility of the second.

Could God create a world without suffering at the hands of nature?

Wel I suppose WE could create a computer game where the characters never suffered earthquakes, volcanoes and so on. But then, we do not have to define what the game characters are made of. God, in being a creator, has to specify what his creation is made of. Again it seems that God's creation cannot be entirely arbitrary. It cannot be created
as a mature cosmos entire in an instant. It has to evolve. It is likely that these logical requirements, place constraints on the extent to which God can eliminate suffering while retaining free will i.e. to have a world where free will agents can arise, requires a world of energy particles, which in turn implies a world of starts, planets, plate tectonics, volcanoes and the like.
field, 02.07.2006, 6:45pm #
Field: "...Much pain and suffering results from the exercise of free will (e.g. the pain caused by murderers, rapists and so on)..."

I'm not sure I like the term "free will", but I think it is true that much suffering is the fault of people.
The BBC News article is a good demonstration of the fact that people will do bad things, such as stealing, if they think they can get away with it.
James, 18.07.2006, 10:40am #

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