Is John W. Loftus “dumber than a box of rocks”?

Posted on 08/13/11 80 Comments

In The End of Christianity John W. Loftus describes the following Christian belief which he finds very implausible:

“That the highest created being known as Satan or the devil, led an angelic rebellion against an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipresent God … and expected to win. This makes Satan out to be suicidal, inexplicably evil, and dumber than a box of rocks.” (100)

So how could any creature be so dumb as to rebel against the supreme omnibenevolent creator of the universe? John definitely has a point: that is definitely implausible.

But now consider the following statement John made in his blog:

“If I was convinced Christianity is true and Jesus arose from the grave, and if I must believe in such a barbaric God, I would believe, yes, but I could still not worship such a barbaric God. I would fear such a Supreme Being, since he has such great power, but I’d still view him as a thug, a despicable tyrant, a devil in disguise; unless Christianity was revised.”

Let’s spend some time chewing on this passage.

According to Christianity, God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent (that is, perfectly good). And worship is, minimally, the ascription of proper worthship to that deity. Incredibly, if that being exists John will refuse to worship that being. Thus we can paraphrase John’s position as follows:

“If I was convinced that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent God existed I would refuse to recognize the worthship of that perfectly good God and would instead treat him as a despicable tyrant.”

Now wait a minute. John’s accusing Satan of being dumber than a box of rocks?

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  • Morrison

    Lets say what people are afraid to say.

    John is not a nice guy. Of course, the claim will be that, even if true, this has nothing to do with his arguments.

    But I wonder about that. As you point out above, I think character can affect arguments.

    And speaking of DUMB…John talks about in WIRC, the earlier edition of WIBA, about all the crimes he committed. Assaults, car thefts, drug use, and some serious stuff.

    This is all by his own admission…I refer only to what he has himself talked about in the print versions of his books.

    Has it occurred to him that his noteriety may remind some of his victims that he is still around?

    Dumb, Dumb, Dumb…

    • NoNeedForAName

      Argumentum ad hominem. Irrelevant, though I like your gambit of argumentum ad misericordiam. Try not to be so transparent next time.

      Dumb, Dumb, Dumb…

  • Walter

    I don’t agree with your paraphrase. John seems to be clearly stating that he finds the God as described in the Christian bible to be barbaric and not worthy of worship, not your hypothetical quad-omnimax God that was dreamed up by philosophers. John is showing moral outrage towards the Christian concept of God. And I tend to agree with him on this point.

    • http://theisticnotebook.wordpress.com David Parker

      quad-omnimax? Sounds like something you’d find at Walgreens. :-)

      • randal

        That reminds me, I need to change the oil in my quad-omnimax.

    • randal

      One of the core claims of Christianity is that God is omnibenevolent or perfectly good. Surely you are not denying that Christians claim this! But Loftus said that even if Christianity is true he would refuse to worship the Christian God. And to refuse to grant worthship entails active rebellion. Thus John is saying the following:

      Even if an omnibenevolent and omnipotent and omniscient and omnipresent deity exists, I would rebel against it.

      So how can he possibly balk at what Christians claim about Satan?

      • Walter

        One of the core claims of Christianity is that God is omnibenevolent or perfectly good. Surely you are not denying that Christians claim this!

        No I don’t deny that Christians claim this. I deny that the bible shows this claim to be true. I have also stated before that if the deity that I read about in the bible turned out to be real, I would actively rebel (assuming such a thing is even possible) because said deity commands and does things which I find to be morally reprehensible.

        • randal

          “I deny that the bible shows this claim to be true.”

          That all depends on how we interpret the Bible (as you surely are aware). The interpretation of the Bible is not the issue here. The issue is that you have agreed with John that if Christians are correct that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent being exists, that you would refuse to recognize that being’s worthship which is tantamount to open rebellion. Having taken this position I have absolutely no clue why you (or John) would think that it is implausible that a being named Lucifer took that very same position.

          • Walter

            The issue is that you have agreed with John that if Christians are correct that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent being exists, that you would refuse to recognize that being’s worthship which is tantamount to open rebellion. Having taken this position I have absolutely no clue why you (or John) would think that it is implausible that a being named Lucifer took that very same position.

            What John said was Satan would have to be extremely stupid if he thought that he could win a rebellion against his own creator who happens to be omnipotent and omniscient. I would agree. It is easy for me to say that I would rebel because I do not believe that the God of the bible really exists. I don’t have access to the same evidence for God that angels surely would have.
            If I felt that Yahweh really existed, I would probably be groveling in fear and would not even contemplate any kind of rebellion against a being that could effortlessly read my every thought, then annihilate or torture me without lifting a divine finger.

            The way I see it, every great story needs a hero and a villain. Satan is Lex Luthor to Yahweh’s Superman. Yahweh and Satan are just characters in a grand tale.

            • randal

              “What John said was Satan would have to be extremely stupid if he thought that he could win a rebellion against his own creator who happens to be omnipotent and omniscient.”

              Yes that is stupid. It is equally stupid to refuse to worship the maximally perfect, omnibenevolent creator of all things, don’tcha think?

              • Walter

                Yes that is stupid. It is equally stupid to refuse to worship the maximally perfect, omnibenevolent creator of all things, don’tcha think?

                Does that hypothetical being simply get to declare itself to be maximally perfect and benevolent? What if that being’s actions did not match up to its claims about itself? Would Randal rebel if God could be conclusively shown to be something less than perfectly benevolent?

                • randal

                  Walter, you seem to be beset with a deep confusion on this matter. I asked you how you would act if Christianity is true meaning that a maximally perfect and omnibenevolent God existed, and you replied by saying that you’d grovel but would not worship because God wouldn’t be maximally perfect and omnibenevolent. In other words, I’m asking you how you’d act if Christianity is true and you’re replying by explaining how you’d act if it was false!

                  • Beetle

                    I think you gentlemen are talking past each other.

                    Walter and Loftus can make a pretty solid case with regards to Yahweh of the of the Old Testament. Randal, you are talking about a modern understanding of Yahweh. (Naturally Randal, you want to argue that these are the same being, but that is a different topic.)

                    • NoNeedForAName

                      The entire exchange ignores one /massively/ Biblical aspect: Matt 5:18. OT law is still in effect, per their “messiah”.

                  • Walter

                    There is some confusion here. You keep adding the part about God being maximally perfect and omnibenevolent. If the Christian God turns out to be a reality, those descriptions do not fit him. That is the point that I am making (and John too, probably). The deity described in the bible IS NOT maximally perfect or omnibenevolent. And for the record, many Christians believe that God is perfectly just but not necessarily omnibenevolent.

                    You tend to allegorize away the passages in the bible that show Yahweh/Jesus in a less than perfect light. I don’t.

                    • http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com Gene

                      Randla’s not confused at all and he’s been quite clear.

                      Let’s put it thist way. If the following was true:

                      1) God exists
                      2) God is omnibenevolent
                      3) God is omnipotent

                      a) Satan is dumb because he is rebelling against God.

                      if anyone else rejects the above they too are dumb.

                      John Loftus says he would rebelt against

                      x) God exits
                      y) Gid is NOT Omnibenevolent
                      z) Gid is omnipotent.

                      John Loftus however argues that if ABC are true then he would reject that.

                      If John meant he would reject God on XYZ then he needs to be more clear.

                      There are other forms of Christianity, namely Universalism which teaches God will eventually bring all of creation freely to order (good).

          • NoNeedForAName

            IF such an omnimax creature existed, you’d have /no/ way to know if you’re truly acting under free will.

            Thus, said entity would have to be destroyed.

            I don’t expect you to acknowledge this point.

        • Beetle

          I understand that Christian philosophers came up with this quad-max view of view of God, and that point to the New Testament for inspiration.

          > I deny that the bible shows this claim to be true.

          Not only does the Bible fail to show that this claim is true, I contend that the Bible fails to make this contemporary quad-max claim in anyway that would be recognizable to a lay person. (The Bible is vague and contradictory enough to be useable to back just about any claim. I am referring to quad-max assertions that go well beyond the usual Biblical vagary.)

  • http://www.retheology.net Jared

    Interesting. I think Loftus made the same argument as practitioners of Church of Satan . They are a(nti) thesists and see the character of Satan as the ultimate literary a(nti) theist. It seems Loftus made the same connection. I don’t know whether that gives more credibility to Loftus or CoS…

    • NoNeedForAName

      Christopher Hitchens is an example of an antitheist. I consider myself an antitheist.

      … but “Lucifier” an antitheist? A mythological entity supposed to have sat by the hand of “God”? WTF.

  • LOL

    “And to refuse to grant worthship entails active rebellion.”.

    Refusal to worship isn’t rebellion…unless you consider that free-will would be automatically revoked upon the realization that the *christian* god exists:)

    In any event correlating the refusal to worship and actively rebelling are two different things:)

    • randal

      LOL, if Louis XIV walked into the court and you refused to bow you know what would happen? And do you know why it would happen? The court would recognize that refusal to recognize the status of Louis XIV is rebellion against Louis XIV.

      Now of course Louix XIV was a mere human, and not a particularly likeable one. But as for a being of perfect goodness, the only reason a person would refuse to submit to that being is because they are less than perfectly good.

      • LOL

        “LOL, if Louis XIV walked into the court and you refused to bow you know what would happen?”

        Bowing in this regards is showing of respect. Hardly worship.

        “And do you know why it would happen?”

        Because if you failed to show proper respect you would be punished?

        “The court would recognize that refusal to recognize the status of Louis XIV is rebellion against Louis XIV.”

        Failure to *recognize* is not failure to worship.

        “Now of course Louix XIV was a mere human, and not a particularly likeable one. But as for a being of perfect goodness, the only reason a person would refuse to submit to that being is because they are less than perfectly good.”

        Almost a good point. Except that according to dogma, man has free will and conscience. I think what your missing is the matter of perspective, remember that? From John’s perspective and my own I would find such a being morally repugnant, I would submit and show proper respect. But I would not worship.

        It seems to me you like to switch from a theoretical god to the Christian version of god mid stream.

        • randal

          “Bowing in this regards is showing of respect. Hardly worship.”

          I didn’t say it was worship.Rather, it was the ascription of worth-ship. In the case of God the ascription of worthship is worship.

          “Except that according to dogma, man has free will and conscience.”

          I agree on the free will point. People have the free will to make the irrational decision to refuse to worship the infinitely good divine being who created and sustains all things. A properly functioning conscience would never tell you not to worship the infinitely good divine being who created and sustains all things.

          • LOL

            “A properly functioning conscience would never tell you not to worship the infinitely good divine being who created and sustains all things.”

            Except if you find the actions of this being divergent from your own moral standings. Morality is subjective.

            The very existence of evil precludes the divine being from being *infinitely good*, and the *creator and sustainer* of all things. (Even though sustainer slipped in from somewhere else).

  • LOL

    “So how could any creature be so dumb as to rebel against the supreme omnibenevolent creator of the universe?”

    The very fact that the creature was *created* by an *omnibenevolent* being who is omniscient is paradoxical.

    • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

      LOL, very few Christians appreciate that one of the most compelling arguments against their core beliefs is not that they are untrue, but that they are incoherent. Like physicists like to say: “not even wrong”.

      One of the best expositions of the incoherence of the concept of the Judeo-Christian is philosopher John Shand’s A Refutation of the Existence of God from the journal Think Autumn 2010. Here is an excerpt:

      Suppose, in contrast to us, we contemplate the possibility of a being for whom no knowledge was beyond it, for whom nothing it wanted to do would be a difficulty and beyond its power, and for whom there was nowhere to go in time or
      space where it was not already. What we are looking at is a being for whom nothing is a problem, nothing is an obstacle, nothing that cannot be overcome; nothing would or could ever be bumped into in any sense whatsoever. Indeed, given the eternal nature of such a being, along with the other characteristics, logically everything would be known and done in less than an instant; in no time at all in fact. Such a being could not think about anything because it would not have any objects of thought. None would ever be, or need to be, generated or come into existence for it. Nothing would exist for such a being. For such a being the world would be at best an utterly ‘flat’ undifferentiated homogeneity, a great nebulous oneness – although even this would be going too far as it would involve the contradiction of contemplating everything against the background of something else. Such a being would not bump into anything either literally or metaphorically. Nothing would be out of reach. It would not have any cause or reason to generate the meanings and significances that would bring things into existence for it, so that they are discriminated from other things, so that they ‘stand out’, and so may be objects of thought. Such a being could not have interests, so that it cared about some things more than others. It could not engage in the world. But such an engagement is required
      for objects of thought to arise. There would be no motivation for such a being to start thinking about anything at all in fact, as nothing could matter more than anything else to it. Things matter to us more than other things because we are limited, because we find things difficult and some more difficult than others. But the being just described has no limits; it is unlimited; it would never generate a perspective whereby things are ordered according to its interests and in perspective, for what generates such interests is necessarily lacking. For a being lacking a perspective, there cannot be objects of
      thought. If there are no objects of thought, there can be no thinking. For there to be objects of thought there has to be a limited perspective. For thought to be possible it has to be a view from somewhere. It does not really matter where this view is from for the sake of the argument here. It is just that
      a view with no perspective, a view from nowhere, is no view at all.

      The being just described is unfortunately God as he should be thought of following from the way in which he is commonly and acceptably characterised by traditional
      monotheistic believers, according to the traditional tripartite features previously mentioned. [i.e. all knowing,
      all-powerful and everywhere).

      In furtherance of my mission, I would be happy to email a copy of Shand’s article to anyone who wants one.

      • http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com Gene

        A-Missionary,
        I am a Christian and I sympathize with similar thoughts. However, what makes Shand think that his rendering is accurate. I’m not gonna just say he’s wrong because of my faith. But I do doubt he’s perfectly right.

        When people talk about Black Holes in outer space and light not being able to escape, it baffles me. What becomes of time? What becomes of space? Are there bounderies to the universe?

        I’m wondering do you sympathize with theists that any universe with intelligent life, such as our own, seems as improbable as a God who’s omnipresent, omnibonevolent and so on? Do you wonder about that? Or would you say there is rational reason to proclaim an infinite universe with intelligent life? Where as there is no rational reason to proclaim a designer (even if it’s not OOOO [omniloving, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent].

        I’m certainly no expert on these fields but it seems to me often that people become so polarized that these discussions are meaningless.

        Thanks,

        Gene

        • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

          “Do you wonder about that?”

          My every waking hour.

          I don’t propose to have the answers.

        • articulett

          When people talk about immaterial beings or divine entities, it baffles me. How do you tell the real ones from the myths?

    • randal

      LOL, unless you’re presently sitting cross-legged under a banyan tree you’re not permitted to utter contentious and unargued pithy statements. So either find yourself a banyan tree or explain where you think the “paradox” lies. (Also explain what you mean by paradox because different people mean different things,.)

  • http://theLordGodExists.com Mike

    I have to admit that I appreciate Dr. Rauser using his converser’s words/arguments against them; since many of the NA’s are not rigorously trained in philosophy their assertions often come back to haunt them. Dr. Rauser positions the web of his arguments, and then his unsuspecting prey just jump right in all thunder & lightening; yet the more they struggle, the more they are bound by the rational snare. Additionally Loftus often seems to be led by emotion, and even though he is not dumb in many senses, he sometimes posits unreasonable arguments.

  • sunburned

    The problem of evil.

    Don’t have to sit under a tree see a rehashed argument.

  • Brap Gronk

    “People have the free will to make the irrational decision to refuse to worship the infinitely good divine being who created and sustains all things.”

    What evidence is there of a divine being sustaining anything?

    • randal

      The point you quote is concerned with individuals who believe (a) God does not exist but who assert counterfactually that if (b) God did exist, then they wouldn’t worship him. So a defense of the doctrine of divine preservation (e.g. via a sufficient reason cosmological argument) is not germane to the point at issue.

      • Brap Gronk

        I knew it wasn’t germane to that discussion, that’s why I didn’t post it as a reply under that thread. But I felt it was a bold enough claim that it warranted questioning. (“Bold” isn’t really the word I’m loooking for in that last sentence, but maybe “different” is, although it doesn’t flow well.)

        In any case, if one were to attempt to answer my question and present evidence of a divine being sustaining anything (or everything) today, I think the Big Bang and abiogenesis would clearly be off the table since those fall under the creating umbrella, not sustaining. I’m just curious what would be presented as evidence of sustaining.

        • randal

          Like I said, a cosmological argument such as the classic version Richard Taylor presents in Metaphysics would be a great place to start.

          • Beetle

            Please do consider a post about “sustains”, as that sounds interesting. There was some hand waving among the peanut gallery about “divine concurrence” when I last pressed about this question.

            As Brap Gronk observes, a cosmological arguement would seem to be in clearly in the creation category.

            • Brap Gronk

              Yeah, I’m not buying Taylor’s light and flame analogy in sections 11 and 12 of this document:
              http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/02-03/01w/readings/taylor.pdf

              He does a decent job of arguing that the universe must have a cause for its existence, where I’m interpreting “existence” as “beginning to exist.” But I have yet to find an argument for a divine cause of continued existence of the universe.

              • http://ponderingthepreponderance.blogspot.com David P

                Check out some Aquinas.

              • randal

                The sufficient reason argument that Taylor defends applies equally to a universe that has always existed. It too would still need a sufficient reason for existing rather than not. Thus, this type of argument is not like the kalaam cosmological argument. (The same goes, as David observed, for Aquinas with four of his five ways.)

            • randal

              “There was some hand waving among the peanut gallery about “divine concurrence” when I last pressed about this question.”

              Wait a minute Beetle, you’re in the Peanut Gallery!

              I’ll seriously file that request. But I have a couple books to finish reviewing first (Loftus and Stark) as well as an additional book on hell that a publisher sent me six months ago. Feel free to email me a reminder at a later date if I fail to circle back around to this after finishing these tasks.

              • Beetle

                > Wait a minute Beetle, you’re in the Peanut Gallery!

                You think I don’t know that? The hand waving was not from you.

                > I’ll seriously file that request.

                Fair enough. The unsupported assertions about magic sustaining the universe seem to come up pretty regularly in recent weeks. It seems odd to me that this was not challenged before on your blog!

                • randal

                  Unless you have evidence that the universe is metaphysically necessary, divine conservation has conceptual work to do. And you should get over the childish habit of calling whatever you don’t understand “magic”.

                  • clamat

                    @Randal Rauser

                    And you should get over the childish habit of calling whatever you don’t understand “magic”.

                    I’m sure you anticipated the rejoinder, but you lobbed that softball up there:

                    Just as soon as theists conquer the habit of calling whatever they don’t understand “God.”

                    More substantively:

                    John’s statements clearly reflect two different conceptions of God, which you try to collapse into one.

                    The first posits an omnibenevolent God. The second explicitly posits a God who is not omnibenevolent, namely a God who is a “barbaric despicable tyrant.” John’s supposition of the “truth” of Christianity clearly referred to confirmation of the fact claims of Christianity, i.e., Christ rose from the dead and the God of the Bible in fact performed all of the horrible deeds ascribed to him. Your restatement of John’s position simply ignores all of this and redefines God as omnibenevolent.

                    That said, I do disagree with John: Satan isn’t necessarily “dumb” to rebel against an all-powerful God, unless it is always dumb to oppose an abhorrent worldview where defeat is virtually certain. Satan would only be “dumb” to rebel against an omnibenevolent God if Satan valued benevolence. Maybe Satan is just, well, evil, and values sadism, cruelty, and power. If so, it makes perfect sense for him to rebel against that huge Wuss, even if he’s certain to go down in flames. :-)

                    • randal

                      clamat,

                      Consider the following three propositions:

                      (1) Christianity is true.
                      (2) God is perfectly good.
                      (3) God commanded immoral actions.

                      If you think a Christian would sooner surrender (2) than (3) then you don’t understand what (1) means. I would prefer not to project onto John Loftus that level of ignorance.

                    • http://theisticnotebook.wordpress.com David Parker

                      Your response is non-sequitur because Randal was addressing a specific person about a specific thing, while you address an imaginary group of theists you’ve created for yourself.

                    • Beetle

                      Not really. I personally have not made the connection between theistic beliefs and magic for probably six months. I took Randal’s “you” to be in the plural, as in “you atheists”.

                  • NoNeedForAName

                    Demands evidence for metaphysics; calls an invisible sky faerie reality. Christian logic.

  • clamat

    Randal

    Consider the following three propositions: (1) Christianity is true. (2) God is perfectly good.
    (3) God commanded immoral actions. If you think a Christian would sooner surrender (2) than (3) then you don’t understand what (1) means. I would prefer not to project onto John Loftus that level of ignorance.

    But apparently you’re perfectly happy to project that level of ignorance onto me.

    A Christian didn’t write the phrase “Christianity is true.” John Loftus did. If John were a Christian, I assume he wouldn’t want to jettison a single one of your propositions. But since he’s not, which proposition your hypothetical, ideal “Christian” would or would not sooner surrender strikes me as entirely irrelevant.

    You are divorcing the phrase “Christianity is true” from any context to declare it necessarily means “God is perfectly good.”

    But taken in context, and actually considering the source for a second, it’s clear the phrase is intended to refer to the fact claims of Christianity. Such fact claims might even include “omniscient” and “omnipotent.” But until everyone agrees on what “perfectly good” means, or until I see a convincing solution to Euthyphro, “perfectly good” is not a fact claim. It’s a value judgment.

    With that in mind, consider the following three propositions:

    (1) The fact claims of Christianity are true. God is omniscient and omnipotent, and Jesus rose.
    (2) God commanded immoral actions.
    (3) God, although super-duper powerful, is a moral monster.

    • randal

      “But apparently you’re perfectly happy to project that level of ignorance onto me.”

      Shrug. I don’t know you.

      “A Christian didn’t write the phrase “Christianity is true.” John Loftus did.”

      So? Surely you’re not suggesting he gets to invent a new meaning for the term.

      “You are divorcing the phrase “Christianity is true” from any context….”

      Um, no, I’m telling you what Christians believe. As a seminary professor for the last decade who has written several books on the topic of Christianity I am credentialed to do so as well.

      By definition God cannot command immoral actions and no Christian I’ve ever met would claim otherwise so your (2) is completely irrelevant.

  • articulett

    How in the world is the god of the bible an infinitely good God?  He created hell.  He knowingly creates sinners so he can punish them and all their descendants, which make him evil if he’s omniscient. He’s omnipotent and can create perfect people like Jesus– but doesn’t. He asks Abraham to kill his son.  He sends bears to maul 42 children to death for teasing a guy.  He orders women to marry their rapists.  He orders stoning for those not keeping the Sabbath day holy.  

    It’s you who have made the indefensible claim– Jaco is right… the Christians today don’t believe in the god of the bible– they believe an immaterial ineffable “first cause” — not the monster of the old testament who supposedly became his own son for some bizarre sacrifice.  God only knows why he needed a sacrifice?!

    You can shape-shift your god or hide between changing meanings– but to be a Christian– you seem to need to believe that Jesus= old testament (burning bush) god= invisible universe creator that is outside space time but everywhere.  And you just can’t get there logically.  There is no logical step leading from one to the other– even if we ignore the fact that there is no reason to believe in a “conscious” “first cause”–in fact there may not be a “first cause” and we might be asking the wrong question.  

    Christian beliefs are incoherent as well as indefensible– no matter how much you play semantic games to keep yourself from understanding this.  Which god do you worship Rauser?  Which do you pray to… oh that’s right, they’re all the same– everyone believers in the same invisible sky fairy! There is only one god and he’s the loving invisible superman and universe creator named Jesus that you pray to, right?  After 14 billion years he just decided to start the evolution of humans amongst the other life he created including ebola, parasites, ecoli, tapeworms, etc. on a little planet orbiting one of his stars so that he could play out his little passion play with his imperfect creations which would eventually result in you.

    (rolls eyes)

    Is the Christian god the bible god or is the Christian god omnipotent,omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent? Because it can’t be both.

    Why would an omniscient god need to test his creations– he would know the answer. Why would an omnipotent god create imperfect people when he could create perfect ones like Jesus? Why would an omnipresent god need to look for Adam and Eve? Where was he on 9-11? Is he where Satan is? Is he in hell? Is he in your ass? And if he’s omnibenevolent then why in the world did he knowingly create sin, hell, Satan, suffering, pain, hunger, anguish, etc. when (if he’s omnipotent) he could have just made everything perfect like he was.

    What is there in the bible that makes you believe Jesus-God is the 4 omnis?– he seems so human. He likes the smell of burning flesh. Does he have a nose? And if we are created in his image, why aren’t we invisible instead of being apes? Is this universe and that book something you would expect from a being with the 4 omnis? I’m not all loving but I would not create life if I thought there was even a remote chance it could suffer forever– and you worship a god who knowingly did so. And you imagine him to be omnibenevolent!

    Doesn’t it ever get tiring doing this tap dancing? Can you at least understand why non-believers have a hard time having a rational discussion with people who believe such incoherent things?(And they imagine themselves saved for believing it!)

    From this outsider’s perspective it seems that Christians may be the ones that are “dumber than a box of rocks”.

    • randal

      If you have a succinct argument which you believe demonstrates that contemporary Christians fail to refer to the Yahweh of the Bible please share it.

      • articulett

        You said that the Christian God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent–

        The god of the bible does not fit that description– the bible doesn’t claim he has those properties– and the god they describe most certainly does not.

        If the Christian god is the god of the bible– John is right and you owe him an apology. That is not a god worth worshiping. This new ineffable immaterial being that is the 4 omnis– is absolutely NOT the god described in your magic book. So where does this description come from? where is the evidence that a being fitting this description exists? How do you know god is these things– along with being Jesus? Why are you calling such a god the Christian God if the Christian god is supposed to be the god that inspired the bible?

        • randal

          “You said that the Christian God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent–

          “The god of the bible does not fit that description– the bible doesn’t claim he has those properties– and the god they describe most certainly does not.”

          Even if I concede your claim that the omnis are not in the Bible, that doesn’t establish failed reference! Let’s say that most astronomers one hundred years ago believed the universe was infinitely large and infinitely old. Astronomers today no longer believe that. Do you seriously think it follows that astronomers today are not referring to the same thing when they say “the universe” as astronomers a hundred years ago?!

          • articulett

            I think an invisible man that is outside space time and completely immeasurable but “omnipresent” and interactive with the universe (who also had a son that was himself) is a little different than the universe. But if your false analogy helps you keep the faith– then so be it. It appears that you are prepared to define all horrors as “benevolent” so long as you they are done by your god. It also appears you will shift your definition of your invisible friend as need be to maintain your faith?

            • randal

              “I think an invisible man that is outside space time and completely immeasurable but “omnipresent” and interactive with the universe (who also had a son that was himself) is a little different than the universe.”

              Obviously they’re different. But if you want to assert that there is a “false analogy” being drawn then you need to do more than point out the obvious (since analogies between objects, entities or concepts can only exist when there are disanlogical points between the items compared). You need to explain the points where that difference leads to the analogy breaking down.

      • NoNeedForAName

        Matt 5:18. OT law is still in effect. Fr the very lips of your “messiah”.

  • clamat

    Shrug. I don’t know you.

    So your default position is that I must be ignorant. How charitable of you.

    Surely you’re not suggesting he gets to invent a new meaning for the term[?]”

    Which term? “Christianity”? Is your claim that there has never been debate over what the terms “Christianity” or “Christian” mean, or just that it is undebatable that your definition is the complete and correct one? It seems to me there has long been and continues to be rather heated disagreement on this. But this is beside the point, as is your authoritative assertion of what “Christians believe.” (But on these notes, please explain why your several books on the subject make you more qualified to determine the meaning of the term “Christianity” or what “Christians believe” than do John’s.)

    John did not write “if I were a Christian.” John did not write “if God were omnibenevolent.” Had John written “If I was convinced God is omnibenevolent…God would be a barbaric, despicable, tyrant against whom I would rebel,” that would be inconsistent and difficult to defend. But that’s not what he wrote. You pay John the respect of assuming he’s not ignorant, why won’t you pay him the respect of assuming he chose to use particular words for a reason? To the extent those words may be ambiguous, why not read his words charitably (!) to determine the meaning he intended and argue against that meaning, instead of one you simply impose?

    The initial, unstated question of the blog post was whether John would believe God exists if he was convinced “Christianity was true,” i.e., if he was convinced “Jesus arose from the grave[.]” The answer was yes, “I would believe, but I still could not worship such a barbaric God” because that God is demonstrably not omnibenevolent, rather he’s “a devil in disguise.” Would your position be any different had John had written: “If I was convinced [the fact claims of Christianity are] true and Jesus rose from the grave…I would believe, yes, but I could still not worship such a barbaric God[.]” (Do you see what I’ve been doing here? Using John’s actual words to determine what his other actual words were intended to mean? Ah, context.)

    The charge stands: You are narrowly reading a single phrase from John’s post entirely out of context and according to your unilateral definition of a single word in that phrase, in an effort to demonstrate an inconsistency in John’s thinking. No such inconsistency exists.

    • randal

      “So your default position is that I must be ignorant. How charitable of you.”

      No. My default position was to withhold a conviction about your knowledge of Christianity. It is only when you gave evidence of being ignorant of what Christians believe that I drew that conclusion.

      The problem with your whole lame defense is that people don’t have the privilege of inventing their own novel meanings for terms, at least not if they want to engage in meaningful public discourse. If you say “If Christianity is true…” then certain things follow in virtue of it being true. If you want to deny that those things follow then you’ve hived out a little place where you can have conversations with yourself and imbue whatever meanings you want to terms. Good luck with that.

  • clamat

    And the problem with your whole lame attack is that you think the phrase in question can have only one possible intended meaning, yours.

    I’m “hiving out a little place”? Hee hee hee! You still haven’t engaged any portion of what John wrote beyond four words, and simply refuse to consider those four words in context. This allows you to argue against a strawman, instead of John’s actual point.

    John’s accusing Satan of being dumber than a box of rocks?

    (emphasis in original)

    Others have suggested your original post was “rude” or insulting. I didn’t agree then, but I’m beginning to think they were on to something. You were eager to suggest John is “dumb as a box of rocks,” and figured out a way to do it: By reading without a reasonable measure of sophistication or honesty. Good luck with that.

    • http://ponderingthepreponderance.blogspot.com David P

      Plenty of vitriol, but you’re living in a dream world if you think you’ve made any reasonable points here, clamat.

      • clamat

        Vitriol? I’m being bitterly abusive? Where? Laughter doesn’t seem vitriolic to me.
        Because I used the word “lame”? Randal used it first. Or was it “[without] a reasonable measure of sophistication and honesty.” I’ll stand by it, and match it against “ignorant,” which Randal also used first.

        To paraphrase a great hero: I do not think that word means what you think it means.

        More to the point, would you care to offer anything substantive? I suspect not.

    • randal

      Hee hee hee! You’re still trying to invent new meanings for the word “Christianity”. Hee hee hee!

  • clamat

    @David P.

    Just clicked on your profile. The first post on your blog is titled “Dreaming of the Will to Live.” It is generally about developing your ability to lucid dream so that you can recall them and ponder their significance during your “waking hours.”

    And I’m the one “living in a dream world.”

    I say to you again, sir: Hee! And double-hee!

    • randal

      David, you better give up now. You might have survived a “Hee!” But there’s no coming back from a “Hee! And double-hee!”

      This clamat really plays hard ball.

      • clamat

        This clamat really plays hard ball.

        And if you’re not careful, I may have to pull out Willy Wonka: “I said good day, sir!” Don’t mess!

        • randal

          Fair enough.

          In all seriousness, I think it really is important to inject levity into these conversations whenever possible. It reminds us all not to take ourselves too seriously.

          • clamat

            Agreed.

          • NoNeedForAName

            Stand in front the congregation of your local house of worship & proclaim how you don’t take Christianity “too seriously”.

            I look forward to the video.

  • clamat

    You’re still trying to invent new meanings for the word “Christianity.”

    Where did I offer a meaning for the word “Christianity”? Indeed, I observed there seems to be significant disagreement over the meaning.

    Nope, despite your stated aim to…

    spend some time chewing over this passage

    …you still have done no such thing. What other portions of the passage have you “chewed over,” exactly? You have isolated precisely four words – more precisely, one word – to the exclusion of all others.

    • clamat

      I apologize. I should have let your remark about levity bring me back from the brink and keep me from posting that last one, which really doesn’t say anything new. I’ve said my piece (peace? I can never keep that straight). The last word is yours, should you care to take it.

      • randal

        Okay, here’s the last word: peace.

        • randal

          And with that the bleachers erupted in applause.

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  • nick

    It is interesting that John Loftus thinks that Satan’s rebellion against God was foolish. But, why does he mimic this action? Interesting that the self deception of Satan’s sin lead him to believe the intellectual lies he created. When I think of how he was in God’s presence knew his power and his own limitations he still believed a self delusion of his making. John could learn from him. His idea that God is a tyrant seems odd. It as if God must meet the expectations of people with regards to his nature.
    It seems to be ‘thats not playing fair’ kind of argument to me. John wishes others to accept him as who he believes John Loftus authentically is. But, God can not do this seems to go against the fabric of his nature and attributes described above. Self revelation is a gift from God. The self disclosure that I give to those I know also has similar intentions. To make known who I am.

    • NoNeedForAName

      What does it say when your god didn’t know this “Satan” was going to rebel? Oh, let me guess… something along the lines of “free will”, right?

      You ignore the implications of the fable of Job.

  • Blue DKnight

    This is an uncharitable reading of Loftus. Charity would have us try to interpret him as saying that the God depicted in the Bible seems barbaric/despicable for letting certain things happen, and perhaps for actively doing certain things. Loftus is not saying he would go to battle with such a being and expect to win, which is what he attributes to Satan. He is simply saying he wouldn’t worship him. Indeed he even says he would fear him (e.g., a despicable tyrant is not someone you fight, but someone you might privately fear).

    This is a weak “gotcha” kind of thing.

  • NoNeedForAName

    Coward.

    This is why you’re already conquered. You think argumentum ad baculum is worthy to be called righteous. You should convert to Islam. They’re all about “submission.”

    Meantime, assuming your particular flavour of invisible sky faerie exists, I’ll continue to plan strategies of deicide… after all, we’ve already killed so many other mythological deities. What’s one more burnt theology?

    Get back on your knees, slave.

  • skrv59

    I think there are pretty obvious differences between Loftus’s description of Satan and his description of what his attitude would be towards a real Christian God.

    First there’s the difference between fighting God and expecting to win on the one hand (that’s Satan) and refusing to worship him out of moral disgust on the other hand (Loftus). Since it was the former from which Loftus argued that Satan was “dumber than a box of rocks”, and since this specific fact does not apply to Loftus, I think your analogy breaks down already here.

    Secondly, Loftus was relaying the description of Satan from inside Christian mythology, by whose lights God possesses those classical theological superlatives. But I think Loftus was most likely describing his attitude towards a god who matches the Bible’s description and for whom there’s only the word of Christians that he’s omnibenevolent at all. In that case Loftus would appear to have no reason to buy the “omnibenevolence” talk in the first place and would seem perfectly justified in his contempt.