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screwtape

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You live in the same godless universe as we do



Hello, we encounter this sort of thing all the time.

Christian: God has lots and lots of wonderful power!

Atheist: Well, if your god has all this power, why do we never see it in action?  Anyone sensing where the kidnapped soldiers are?  Walking through bullets to save some kids?  Stopping a car bomb?  Heck, God should be able to at least manifest powers on believers like the characters on 'Heroes'

Christian: Oh, no, you see, God's powers are all "spiritual" [translation: invisible and undetectable by any means whatsoever].  He helps us preach and be nicer people.  Physical life, health, freedom from pain and so on don't matter that much compared to the invisible, undetectable spiritual stuff.

What you're doing here is trying to explain how "universe as we know it + Omnipresent, Omnipotent God who knows when every sparrow falls in the forest and does things like raising the dead and parting seas" is completely indistinguishable from "universe as we know it, without such a god."

You live in the same godless universe we do.

Your biggest problem is your religion's advertizing copy (aka "the Bible").  Your holy book presents us with the picture of an entity with amazing super-powers, who even came to Earth and promised super-powers to his followers ("Greater works than these shall you do in my name").

You live in the same godless universe we do.

If you want to be able to do the "spiritual" dodge and say that your god-hypothesis has effects only in an invisible "spiritual" dimension known only within the confines of your own skull, then you've got to get rid of the Bible.  Otherwise, you're like a car salesman going on television and promising that the cars you sell can go from 0 to Warp 9.5 in 6 seconds, and have unlimited gas mileage due to a perpetual motion engine, then, when someone comes down for a test drive saying, "Oh, here on Earth it can only get to 65 mph, gets 15 miles per gallon, and you have to ignore that clunking noise.  But if you sit in the driver's seat and enter a meditative state you can visualize yourself driving across the Galaxy at warp speed!  Woohooo!"

You live in the same godless universe we do.

It is a simple, utterly inescapable fact: The Christian god cannot live up to the claims made for him in the Bible.  To maintain your belief, you have to "interpret" whole rafts of Bible passages away, or say that, despite the fact that your god is "the same yesterday, today, and forever," that he doesn't do all that super-power stuff these days.

You live in the same godless universe we do.

From beginning to end, the Bible is full of passages where your god boasts like the Mighty Oz, hurling vicious threats at those who don't worship him, making sweet promises to those who do, but when we peer behind the curtain, there isn't even so much as a man to be found there.

You live in the same godless universe we do.

Look at this news story[1].  Here we have the account of a community of Mennonites so devout they forswear technology and connection to global civilization for their god.  Except that their inbred community has a way of generating rare genetic disorders, among which is a disease that will kill their children unless the children sleep uncovered under intense blue lights.  Sounds like the opening of a Stephen King novel, doesn't it?

Anyway, these people reject science and technology, believing that their god wants them to live forever in the 1700's.  Their religiously-motivated separatism causes their children to be struck by a horrible disease.  God, as usual, does nothing.  Who does come to their rescue?  A man from the society they reject, a doctor bringing the science and technology they forswear, the blue lights that keep their children alive until they're old enough to take advantage of the man-made "miracle" of liver-transplants.  And so, in a magnificent display of hypocrisy, the people there credit their god with "sending" them the doctor!

You live in the same godless universe we do.

There is a real monster here.  It is not some extra-cosmic superbeing with unstoppable powers and horrifying tortures in mind for those who do not serve him.  It is a meme, a contagious idea, the idea of a god for which you must reject "material" things, and value "spiritual" illusions.  This meme condemns children to terrible, rare diseases in bizarre, cultish communities, with only the hypocrisy of their parents to spare them from death.  It is an idea that can make nice, kind-hearted people sanction genocide and torture.  Like some twisted alchemy, it turns good to evil while claiming credit for the good.

You live in the same godless universe we do.
Quote from: Hello
For those who believe in the immortality of the soul, saving a person from physical death is nothing compared to the power of saving their soul from spiritual death.
 
This fiendish computer virus of the brain even has you sending out veiled threats.  My guess is you're a nice, civilized person who does not employ coercion and bullying in your "material" life.  But when your god-meme is activated, it has you waving your hands in ooky-spooky gestures and saying bewaaaaaare, spiritual deeeeeeaaaaathhh!  We are, of course, supposed to take the whole "believe or you'll be tortured forever in Hell" thing as read, so that you don't have to come out and state it blatantly.

You live in the same godless universe we do.

But you see, there is a difficulty with trying to explain the absence of detectable divine power, and issuing implicit threats in your god's name at the same time.  A threat is only as good as the agency issuing it.  If your cosmological bully existed and had muscles to flex, then maybe we'd have reason to be afraid of it (see Omen's post).  Except that you're telling us that there's no observable difference between god's vast power and the absence of god's vast power.

You live in the same godless universe we do.

What you've done here is to explain why your hypothesis ("universe + Christian God") is observationally indistinguishable from ours ("universe").  In other words, there is no way to look at reality and see anything that fits your hypothesis and doesn't fit ours, i.e. in this case, manifestations of your god's activity in Universe.  Instead, you bob and weave and change your hypothesis to conform to the data that fits ours:
Quote from: Hello
My point was, God gives us powers that benefit people in ways that we may not understand.

If the "powers" your god give you only "benefit" people in ways you don't understand, how do you know you even have these powers?  You're basically claiming to know the unknowable and understand that which you say you do not understand.

There is an epistemological principle called Occam's Razor.  What it says is that if there are two explanations that fit the data equally well, but one has extra entities, postulates, etc. that are not needed to explain the data, then those things may be pruned away.  Since you have all but admitted that "universe + god" is functionally equivalent to "universe" (i.e., without god), then "god" is unnecessary and threats in his name offer only illusory terror.  Because...

You live in the same godless universe we do.    

It is a simple, utterly inescapable fact.
 1. link long gone ~Screwtape
Changed Change Reason Date
Dante For doing what you're doing September 24, 2012, 03:55:48 PM