Theism and Free will

Christianity as well as any other form of theism heavily rely on the existence of free will. Christians and others often use free will as a “get out of jail Free card” in order to solve the problem of evil, in order to excuse God from sending people to hell and various other things.

In my opinion though, the free will card is completely futile, when it comes to the modern version of monotheism. Since I know most about Christianity, I will talk about the Christian God here.

The first obvious objection, why the free will card fails to convince me is, that it would’ve been completely possible for God to give us free will but only give us the desire not to sin and only choose between non-sinful acts, instead of sinful and non-sinful acts. This would mean, that we exercise our free will in a manner that we only get to choose between good acts and that we’re unable to do evil. As far as Christianity is concerned this evidently is possible, since Jesus is claimed to have been a man without sin. Therefore it’s possible to be a human and sin-free, unless of course Jesus didn’t have free will, which would raise even more issues.

Now even if, for whatever reason, this argument doesn’t hold up, then there is still another problem that plagues the free will excuse and this goes for all abrahamic religions. This problem comes in the form of heaven, a supposedly perfect world just like it used to be before the fall of man, when sin entered the world.

So is there or is there not free will in heaven? If the answer is Yes, then again it was evidently possible for God to create us in a way in which we have free will but we can’t sin. So why didn’t he? The only possible answer I see is because wanted to give us the free will to sin. But he doesn’t want us to have the free will to sin in heaven. The last option is clearly superior, so God intentionally put us into a sin plagued world, instead of the perfect one. This means ultimately God is responsible.

In fact, this is even backed up by scripture in Isaiah 45: 7:

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

Another problem, that is I think the most devastating for Christianity at least is, that as far I am aware, nowhere in scripture does it say that we have free will.

Sure Christians may find me verses, where it says that we can make choices. Well so do all other animals and so machines. Machines make choices every day. Being able to make choices does not equal our choices being free and undetermined. Where exactly does it speak of free will? If free will isn’t mentioned anywhere, then the Christian has no basis for asserting it, since it could be an illusion.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation


Slavery in Biblical times (guest post)

One of the things that atheists frequently have stocked in their arsenals is a variety of different statements that amount to “Your God is an amoral jerk”. An example of this is judgement on Biblical slavery.
Just to clarify, I do not condone slavery or racism or any violation of human rights. And neither does the Bible. How can I support this?
First I will show how God completely promotes the rights and equality of mankind. Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Therefore, Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” The extremity of the punishment conveys the severity of the crime.
Secondly, slavery in Biblical times was much different from the terrible connotation it now holds. It wasn’t based on race but rather on economy, and was much more similar to indentured servanthood than 17th century slavery. When someone couldn’t pay their debts they were given the opportunity to commit themselves to a master to serve in their household instead of living on the streets to beg and probably starve to death. This could only lawfully be done by the servant’s full consent. They were to be paid, justly treated, and released after six or seven years, unless they decide to stay in their master’s care.
The Bible has many more passages about how masters were to treat their slaves than it has about the slaves themselves. It was an element of society that would provide relief for those who could not provide for themselves or their families, and any corruption from that original construct was man’s doing, not God’s.
Ultimately, the Bible’s purpose is not to create an earthly utopian society free from all corruption. It’s purpose is to show the way to salvation through Christ. The way the Bible most often approaches issues of immorality and injustice is to first change the heart of the people, not the result of their actions. Once a person is saved by God, choosing to live for the Lord instead of against Him, he will then truly change the way he thinks and acts, and that is the only way that people will find freedom.

from Kaylin Hutson @kaylin_hutson

Are you really following Jesus?

As I’ve already touched on in my previous post, there are some verses in the Bible, that most Christians tend to ignore and avoid. Last time I talked about the Old testament ( I have an announcement concerning the old Testament at the end of this post) but now I want to talk once again about the central figure of Christianity itself: Jesus Christ.

Many Christians also proclaim, that they don’t have a religion they merely follow Jesus. Really? Do they really follow Jesus? I want  to hit you with some passages then and I will elaborate on them. The first one is Matthew 5: 28-30:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell.

I know that Christians love the first part of this passage, in fact Ray Comfort uses it quite frequently when evangelizing. But oddly enough he never mentions the second part. Now there is no denying, that both Atheists and Theists alike have looked at a woman with sexual desires. I however have failed to encounter any one-eyed or one handed Christian in my entire life.

Now the Christian may object to this and claim, that “Jesus died for our sins and if we repent in him then we will be forgiven and we’ll be saved.” My answer to this objection is the following: “Jesus put it quite bluntly here. If you do look at a woman with lust and potentially have an affair with her you go to hell. Why would he say we go to hell for this if we really aren’t? Either Jesus was wrong/lying which of course puts your entire theology into question or this rule only applied before Jesus died and people weren’t saved in retrospective which of course is problematic as well. Jesus gives no exception whatsoever to this rule. None. So why didn’t he give the exception you’re proclaiming right now?”

There are of course more verses to this effect like Mark 10: 23-25:

 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”  This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.  In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

Yet when we look at Christians like Ken Ham one wonders why they are as loaded as they are. Ken Ham and AiG have 2 Christian tourist attractions (the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter) they make DVD sells and sell books and their Answers Journal and if that’s not bad enough they get donations too. Being rich is sinful in Jesus eyes yet this seems to have escaped many Christians in general and certain faces of Christian apologetics specifically.

One more passage just one chapter short of John 3: 16 I give you John 2: 16:

[Jesus speaking] :To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

I don’t think I need to elaborate.

Now to the announcement: Tomorrow there will be a guest post where the Christian Kaylin hutson (@kaylin_hutson) will defend the God of the Bible often proclaimed by Atheists like me and others to be evil.Specifically she will give her take on slavery.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

My take on the Resurrection

AI’ve already shown in Supernatural Causation: Why every argument for God fails. The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t prove Christianity true. Since today is Easter Sunday I’ll take this opportunity to tell you why I don’t accept the resurrection.

First let’s look at the evidence, that we have for this extraordinary claim: The Bible or more specifically the 4 gospels. None of the gospels are dated earlier than 30 years after Jesus death by most historians. I’m aware that apologetic sites try to push a different narrative but I accept the dates given by historians to be accurate. Even if they were written earlier a brand new problem arises: we only have copies of copies of copies etc.. This of course means the earlier they were written the more time passed between the originals and the copies we have at our disposal.

Normally the fact, that our sources for this claim are that weak should be enough to settle the issue beyond any reasonable dispute but of course it doesn’t when it comes to people of faith since they accept Biblical inerrancy a position that I find quite frankly to be untenable. For this position one needs to assume, that all the gospels were translated accurately without the slightest mistake.

We of course also have gospels outside the Bible but they suffer from the same problem our sources within the Bible do.

If we take a closer look at our sources then we see, that the first 2 gospels Matthew and Mark paint Jesus quite differently than Luke and John. They all proclaim him to be the son of God but Matthew and Mark tend to be more humble about his miracles while John goes all out boasting about the proclaimed savior. Who’s to say, that such an evolution didn’t take place in the first 30 years after the events? Maybe something ordinary happened and rumors turned it into a resurrection.

Maybe Jesus just had a Doppelganger. That’s a brand new theory, that would make sense of the evidence. It’s certainly more likely than a man surviving death.

As far as I’m concerned, the position, that a man came back from the dead based on sources, that we have no reason to trust on this extraordinary and quite frankly impossible claim boils down to insanity.  It’s not reasonable to believe, that Jesus was raised from the dead when our earliest sources date to at least 30 years after the event and we only have copies of the originals. We frequently observe people distorting narratives, we also know that people lie and when we live in a world in which we experience naturalism every day then that’s exactly what we should assume. That a rumor got around or that the sources are intentionally trying to deceive us.

To quote David Hume: ” Which is more likely- that the whole natural order is to be suspended, or that a Jewish minx should tell a lie?”

If I did believe  in prayer I would pray for one thing: A time machine so we could settle this issue once and for all. And if I’m wrong I’ll change my mind. Fortunately for me, the evidence suggests that I’m not.

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation

Moral Absolutes: Why it’s meaningless

One topic I frequently discuss with theists is the question about morality. “The objection to Atheism is often along the lines of the following: “If there is no God, how can you then say that anything is wrong? It’s just your opinion!”

And I wanna say right of the bat: You’re right about the last part. It is just opinion. So what?

I define the terms right and wrong in the following way: Right is whatever maximizes human well being (and to an extend the well being of animals) and wrong is whatever minimizes/diminishes it.

This definition of morality is one, that I would say is pretty much representative of most people. Most people value human well being and want to maximize it.

I also often get hit with the example of the “raping murdering materialist” and how I can say that he’s objectively wrong.

It of course depends what you mean by objectively wrong. Words in general get defined by consensus. Typical example is the word “gift”: If you say in America “I have a gift for you” most people would be excited. If you talk about “gift” in Germany most people would run away, because gift means poison in the german language.

As I said my definition is a pretty good aproximation of the consensus. But of course it’s about absolutes: Is it absolutely wrong to rape and kill other people.

In my worldview the way the theist defines his words I’d say No.

But what do you gain by being able to say murder and rape is absolutely wrong. The answer in my opinion is: Nothing.

If the theist encounters the raping murdering materialist, he can proclaim that what he does is absolutely wrong. Will the materialist stop raping and murdering after this declaration? No.

The theist can only appeal to God as an absolute standard. But it doesn’t matter because the vast majority of people don’t believe in his God. If the theist tells the materialist: “Murder is wrong, because according to God’s absolute moral standard you should never kill.” the materialist or the Muslim extermist or any other person who doesn’t subscribe to his beliefs can simply shrug it off and say he doesn’t care about his God’s absolute moral standard. At that point you’re stuck, when it comes to persuading other people of different faiths and you’re stuck, because you’re not open to dialogue about these moral absolutes either.

In the end all the theist has gained is 2 terms (who theists of different faiths may or may not agree with): “absolutely right” and “absolutely wrong”.

Now as I said if one subscribes to eternal, unchanging, absolutes as given to us by our Creator, then morality is not up for debate. Something is absolutely right/absolutely wrong because an absolute God’s standard dictates it is such.

But as far as the materialist is concerned I can at least make an argument that might persuade him. I can show him, that his behavior won’t lead to human well being and that being a rapist/ murderer will most likely lead to consequences that will diminish his well being and that he should therefore not desire. It will lead to him being ostracized from society, it might lead to him living in poverty in some cases it might lead to him being killed.

At that point he can either agree with me that he should stop it if he wants to avoid those consequences, he can continue at the risk of those consequences at which point I’ve hit philosophical bed rock with him and we as a society will have to stop him if we can, or worst of all if he simply doesn’t care about his own well being or that of others at which point the result is the same.

The bottom line in my opinion is this: Moral absolutes are a conversation stopper and are only good for one thing: Making the theist feel secure in his morality (doesn’t of course go for all theists).

Goodbye from yours truly,

Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation