Saturday, April 26, 2008

Faith Effects of 9/11

My aviator friend Bob Perry has another insightful blog post I'd like to recommend. It's his thoughts about an article discussing the various faith responses of people who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack of 9/11 (some turned farther from God, whereas others had their faith strengthened). Here's Bob...
Every one of those named in the story who rejected God in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks did so for emotional reasons. They could not accept a God who would allow such a thing to occur. In contrast, every one of those named in the story whose faith was renewed or grew in the aftermath of the attacks attributed it to a thoughtful analysis of the issues that led them to a reasoned conclusion about the way the world is.
Please check out the post, An Unexamined Faith, in its entirety.

11 comments:

Koko said...

"Every one... who rejected God.. did so for emotional reasons. Every one... whose faith... grew... attributed it to a thoughtful analysis... about the way the world is."

It couldn't be more the opposite:

Those that are questioning The Problem of Evil are doing so because they are the ones truly looking at 'how the world is'. As they say, "The rain falls on the just and unjust alike." Bad things happen to good people, that is 'how the world is'. To reject the notion of an all-good God on the basis that he created a world with an incredible amount of bad in it is not emotion... it is reason.

To watch the hijackers commit atrocities in the name of faith and claim that it strengthens your faith does not make sense to me. The hijackers had true religious faith and acted upon it. If we disagree with what they did, then we are acknowledging that faith can be a VERY bad thing.

A 'thoughtful analysis' of 'the way the world is' reveals a world indifferent to what people consider good and bad. You have to reject reason and reject 'the way the world is' in order to have your faith in an all-good God strengthened by such a horrific religious faith-based atrocity. Faith flies in the face of reason.

----------------------

Tell me if this old quote is emotion or reason:

If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to
Then He is not omnipotent.

If He is able, but not willing
Then He is malevolent.

If He is both able and willing
Then whence cometh evil?

If He is neither able nor willing
Then why call Him God?


Epicurus (c. 341–c. 270 BC)

Av8torBob said...

Hey koko,

Not sure where you got the idea that I think we should "reject reason" or that "faith flies in the face of reason" but that was not the point. In fact, I believe that both of those misrepresent what faith actually is.

That said, I was only addressing the reactions of those who were mentioned in the article. In that article, my statement stands. No one who rejected their faith gave a reason for doing so beyond the one you appeal to ... i.e. that an "all-good God" would not allow such a thing.

But that is an emotional appeal based on the idea that God is "all good" (only good). God is not only good, he is also just. He gives us free will -- which some use inappropriately to do evil things. But their misuse of free will does not reflect negatively on the character of God, only on their own improper choices.

Let me say that I completely agree with you that this is a difficult and uncomfortable topic for theists to address. I don't like some of the answers myself. But the fact is that Christianity offers a coherent (if not satisfying) answer. In contrast, the naturalistic worldview has nothing to offer and no hope of doing so.

Thanks ... Bob

Koko said...

Bob - "No one who rejected their faith gave a reason for doing so beyond the one you appeal to ... i.e. that an "all-good God" would not allow such a thing.

But that is an emotional appeal based on the idea that God is "all good" (only good)."

There are numerous REASONS people reject the concept of God. Epicurus' quote is reason, not emotion. You've still got it totally backwards. Saying that a person's reasons for rejecting God aren't reason is unreasonable! ;)

Rick Gerhardt said...

Koko:

To start from the bottom (of your latest comment), "Saying that a person's reasons for rejecting God aren't reason is unreasonable!" commits the fallacy of equivocation. (And I believe that this is what Bob was pointing out by his original post.) The 'reasons' people gave for rejecting God were in reality 'excuses' and not well-reasoned arguments. Though we use the same word--'reason'--to refer to both of these quite different things, to do so in the same sentence is to equivocate (whether deliberately or out of confusion).

Epicurus may have thought that he was being logical, but his argument is full of problems. Indeed, it (and other versions of it) presumes that the claimant himself is God-like in his knowledge (and thus amounts to nothing more than "If I were God, I wouldn't have allowed such-and-such" or "I can't imagine God's having any purpose for such suffering").

Self-professed atheist and philosopher of science William Rowe has it thus, "Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of the theistic God. No one, I think, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim."

By the way, I don't like discussing the 'problem of evil' in such a difficult medium. In part, that is because while we are discussing the philosophical aspects of it, many readers (and perhaps even you) are experiencing deep suffering at this very moment. For them, the philosophical aspect of the problem is currently the farthest thing from their mind. They don't need arguments, and are probably deeply offended by academic discussions about suffering.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Koko said...

Rick,

I would think most believers believe the following:

1. God is omnipotent.
2. God is not malevolent.
3. God does not cause evil.

Do you agree with 1, 2 and 3?

Naturally if God is not malevolent then he didn't knowingly create evil. But if God is all-knowing, then he somehow knew that evil was going to come about right?

Please answer the following two questions:

1. Is God willing to prevent evil?
2. Is God able to prevent evil?

I'm guessing you'll say 'Yes' to both. Which brings us right to the heart of the Problem of Evil. Indeed, what is your answer to Epicurus' question, "Whence cometh evil?"

Even if you can somehow relieve God of having any responsibility for evil's inception; Why does he allow it to continue to exist? Why is he hanging out with Satan and allowing Satan to do as he pleases in the book of Job, and throughout the bible? Indeed, why is Satan supposedly STILL around? If God is all powerful, why doesn't he do something?

Rick said: "many readers (and perhaps even you) are experiencing deep suffering at this very moment. "

I am rather offended by your statement. As if my skepticism of deities is caused by my 'deep suffering'. NO, I'm am a very content woman, thank you.

Currently, I am experiencing the deep suffering of one who is conversing with people that will do anything and say anything to keep their faith in myths intact.

Av8torBob said...

koko,

First, in defense of Rick, you took him completely wrong. I know he meant no offense when he said that you may experiencing "deep suffering." That is not the way he is. The fact is that many people (quite understandably, I might add) question the reality of God in times of trauma or hardship. This includes those who are extremely faithful (re: Mother Teresa). Knowing Rick, his comment was meant only in a compassionate way, so please give him the benefit of the doubt in that regard.

Listen, I can only speak for myself of course, but you will get no argument here about the difficulty of the problem of evil/pain with regard to faith in God. But it seems that you only read the quote Rick posted and not the entire article I referenced there.

The post was NOT meant to imply that those who reject God do so ONLY for emotional reasons. Obviously many (as you point out) have utilized reason to come to their conclusions. My point was only that we theists are generally accused of relying on "faith" INSTEAD of reason to come to our conclusions. But IN THE ARTICLE, the people they cited completely reversed the standardly accepted paradigm. The faithful had thought through their situation, while those who rejected faith did so for purely emotional reasons -- they couldn't understand why God would let such a thing happen. That is the only point I was trying to make.

You said, "1. Is God willing to prevent evil?
2. Is God able to prevent evil?"

And you are correct, the answer to both questions is "Yes." But what you are not seeing is that, though God is willing and able to do so, there is more to the story. In order for God to completely stop evil, he would have to remove the possibility of our having free will. He could make us automatons, but that would remove our ability to love him by our choice.

Evil does not exist in a vacuum. It is the privation of good. Moral evil is the RESULT of human free will -- a necessity in a world where we are free to choose (and therefore demonstrate genuine love) for our Creator. That's how we see it.

You also challenged that: "Even if you can somehow relieve God of having any responsibility for evil's inception; Why does he allow it to continue to exist?"

We theists believe that the universe we live in is meant to do just that. God has given us free will in this creation AS THE MEANS BY WHICH EVIL IS BEING DEFEATED.

That answer may not be satisfying to you. That is understandable. But please don't accuse those of us who have thought through this issue of being ignorant of the questions. Epicurus' challenge is not some earthshattering new revelation. Theistic philosophers have been wrestling with it for centuries.

The answers to these questions are difficult, no doubt. But they are reasonable answers nonetheless.

I hope this helps you understand our point of view better. Thanks ...

Bob

Koko said...

Bob – “theists are generally accused of relying on "faith" INSTEAD of reason”
Yup!

Bob - “they couldn't understand why God would let such a thing happen.”
Do you?

Bob – “In order for God to completely stop evil, he would have to remove the possibility of our having free will.”
Is that what she [God] will do in the end? Is that how eternity will be for all? An eternity of NO FREE WILL? Satan is the necessary evil for freewill to exist on earth? God had to create evil in order to create choice?

Bob – “evil is the RESULT of human free will”
So God created evil and ‘bad’ choices for us to choose so that we could have freewill?

Bob says, Evil is “a necessity”

Bob – “God has given us free will in this creation AS THE MEANS BY WHICH EVIL IS BEING DEFEATED.”
You just said that evil was created so that we can have freewill. If evil is to be defeated, then that will simultaneously defeat choice and freewill.

Bob – “The answers to these questions are difficult, no doubt. But they are reasonable answers nonetheless.”
Circular reason-able answers nonetheless.

You would agree that ‘God made everything’ right?
Then why do you deny that God made evil?
There is simply no escaping this point.
Either God made everything, fully knowing everything or he did not.

Do you see that you are claiming that the answer to the Problem of Evil is that God needed evil in order to create freewill? Your answer to “Why is there evil and suffering?” is “God needed to create it so we’d have freewill.”

-Koko

Av8torBob said...

Koko,
It doesn't seem that you are actually interested in answers or that you are genuinely listening to my responses but I will try one more time...

If God had perfect foreknowledge of the world he was creating (and I believe he did) then yes, he did know that we would make evil choices. But that does NOT mean he "created" evil. He created a world in which we could make evil choices. He could have made us automatons and forced us to love him. Instead, he allows us the choice. By giving us free will, he also gives us the possibility to make the wrong choices.

God "allows" the possibility of evil. We actually "create" it by our choices.

That said, you still refuse to address the issue that prompted these comments and in fact, seem to avoid the actual question when you say, "Bob – 'theists are generally accused of relying on 'faith' INSTEAD of reason' -- Yup!"

While I have never denied that theists do this, the point of my post was that NON-THEISTS DO IT TOO ... and that they did it in the article I cited.

"Is that what she [God] will do in the end? Is that how eternity will be for all? An eternity of NO FREE WILL?"

I have no idea. But my suspicion would be that, having seen what a world with evil in it becomes, we would maintain our free will but never again choose wrongly.

I hope this makes my point clear for you. You can choose to reject it or not. I only ask that you actually consider what I'm saying instead of looking for sound bites to fight against with further sound bites.

All the best ...
Bob

Koko said...

Bob – "He created a world in which we could make evil choices. He gives us the possibility to make the wrong choices. God "allows" the possibility of evil."

Indeed, it appears that God NEEDS evil for choice. But haven't you ever heard of choosing the 'lesser of two evils'? Why could not God have given Adam and Eve the choice between vanilla and strawberry? Freewill without evil! He specifically made the tree of knowledge for them NOT to eat from. What a malevolent monster!

Bob – "we would maintain our free will but never again choose wrongly."
Without the possibility of choosing 'wrongly', what kind of freewill is that?

You have noted that we cannot have freewill without 'bad choices' being offered by God. Then you say that we can have freewill without ever making 'wrong' choices. Please choose one side. If you go with the first, then there will never be freewill without evil. Freewill requires bad choices always being possible. If we go with the other side, then God did not need to ever 'allow' or create evil if we could have freewill without it. The possibility of freewill without evil is a SERIOUS problem for God because, "Whence cometh evil?" God looks REALLY bad for allowing evil in a world that doesn't need it for freewill.

Bob - "You can choose to reject it"
Apparently not once evil is destroyed.

-Koko

Av8torBob said...

koko -- instead of taking up space on Rick's blog and taking the risk of my espousing ideas with which he disagrees, I would prefer to move our discussion to the place where this topic originated: http://truehorizon.org/2008/04/23/an-unexamined-faith/

But until we do, I want to address this ... koko said:

"it appears that God NEEDS evil for choice. But haven't you ever heard of choosing the 'lesser of two evils'? Why could not God have given Adam and Eve the choice between vanilla and strawberry? Freewill without evil! He specifically made the tree of knowledge for them NOT to eat from. What a malevolent monster!"

First, I will try to get past the condescending tone of the question but beyond that, this is a false choice. Who determines which "evil" is greater or lesser? Who determines what is evil at all? The question is not about the degree of evil/suffering but about its existence and origin.

Second, the Genesis account does not address a "tree of knowledge" but a "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" -- which presupposes the possibility of evil prior to the choice Adam and Eve were given.

Finally, I would be interested in your explanation for the existence of evil in the absence of God. How do you explain it and what is your solution for eliminating it?

And again, please post your response at my blog it you don't mind. I feel bad taking up space on Rick's.

Thanks,
Bob

Koko said...

Moved over to http://truehorizon.org/2008/04/23/an-unexamined-fait