• GRWelsh
    185
    "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist." This quote is from the movie THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) and is often attributed to Baudelaire from his story “Le Joueur Généreux” [the Generous Gambler] (1864) but the sentiment predates Baudelaire. John Wilkinson wrote in "Quakerism Examined" (1836): "One of the artifices of Satan is, to induce men to believe that he does not exist." Pastor William Ramsey wrote in “Spiritualism, a Satanic Delusion, and a Sign of the Times” (1856): "One of the most striking proofs of the personal existence of Satan, which our times afford us, is found in the fact, that he has so influenced the minds of multitudes in reference to his existence and doings, as to make them believe that he does not exist; and that the hosts of Demons or Evil Spirits, over whom Satan presides as Prince, are only the phantacies of the brain, some halucination of mind. Could we have a stronger proof of the existence of a mind so mighty as to produce such results?"

    The reason I bring this up is that Christians will often cite this as, paradoxically, evidence that the Devil does exist and (as a consequence) that Christianity is true. The fact that so many people don't believe in the Devil is strong evidence he exists, since if he did exist, that is what he'd want us to believe! So the argument goes. Well, okay, let's grant for a supernatural being with the goal of getting the most souls to go to hell, the strategy of convincing us mortals that nothing supernatural exists isn't a bad one. If Christianity is true, and the only way to get to heaven is by believing in Jesus, then not believing anything supernatural exists -- the Devil, angels, God, Jesus, etc. -- is going to lead to your damnation. But wouldn't it then stand to reason that if this is what the Devil wants, then God would want something different? I was thinking about how compatible this reasoning is with defenses against the Divine Hiddenness argument. Let's consider Theodore Drange's argument from "The Arguments from Evil and Nonbelief" (1986):

    1. If God exists, God:
    • a. wants all humans to believe God exists before they die;
    • b. can bring about a situation in which all humans believe God exists before they die;
    • c. does not want anything that would conflict with and be at least as important as its desire for all humans to believe God exists before they die; and
    • d. always acts in accordance with what it most wants.
    2. If God exists, all humans would believe so before they die (from 1).
    3. But not all humans believe God exists before they die.
    4. Therefore, God does not exist (from 2 and 3).

    This argument builds upon some doctrines common in most forms of Christianity such as that salvation is only possible by believing in God, and that God is omnibenevolent and therefore would want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to be saved. If God lets the Devil convince the world that the Devil doesn't exist -- and by extension anything supernatural including God -- that will work counter to what God wants.

    So why would God allow the Devil to pull this trick?

    The most common defense against such Divine Hiddenness arguments (or arguments from nonbelief) is that God wants us to have free will, and if he forces us to believe He exists, that would negate our free will. If God made the fact of His existence so obvious and undeniable, then we wouldn't have the free will to deny Him. My criticism of this defense is that it engages in a subtle equivocation. It equivocates believing "that" God exists with believing "in" God in the sense of willingly following, obeying or worshipping God. The "that/in" distinction is very important and has Biblical support. There are numerous examples in the Bible of beings knowing "that" God exists, yet not believing "in" God -- such as Satan and the rebellious angels, Adam and Eve, Cain, Jonah and Judas. There are plenty of beings that knew "that" God existed yet chose not to believe "in" God -- i.e., their free will was not impinged by knowledge of His existence, and they were still able to choose to not obey or worship Him.

    In conclusion: you can't have it both ways.
  • Tom Storm
    8.1k
    There are a plethora of arguments given by Christians about Lucifer/Satan/the Devil and God which have no Biblical basis. Do they matter?

    What can you say here about Satan and what God wants from us, based on actual Biblical scholarship?

    A lot of what you are referring to might well come from popular culture and certain narrow fundamentalist interpretations of Christianity.

    David Bentley Hart, a significant theological thinker, reminds us that Christianity has a strong universalist tradition - everyone is saved. (Book - That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, published in 2019) Everyone eventually becomes reconciled with god - god is not a monster who would torture someone forever just for being a freethinker. The infinite love of a creator is at odds with fundamentalist accounts of hellfire, which Hart argues were likely not part of original Christian traditions.

    However as Noam Chomsky says - if the God of the Old Testament were real - as written - then he is a devil - a genocidal, misogynist, abusive parent... And this is just god getting things done.

    There are numerous examples in the Bible of beings knowing "that" God exists, yet not believing "in" God -- such as Satan and the rebellious angels, Adam and Eve, Cain, Jonah and Judas.GRWelsh

    No, it's not that they 'don't believe in god'. How could they not, they've seen him in action? Satan has a role as a tempter and adversary. Some others ignore god's commands. Judas makes it possible for Jesus to fulfil his sacrifice so there are traditions (Gnostics) that consider him special.

    If we have freewill in this space then the only way this can really work, as far as I can tell, is to know god exists and choose not to follow him anyway. If we don't believe he exists, or we have never heard of him, then we are not making a free choice not to follow him. We are unable to follow him because we think he is fictional. What you beleive in is not generally a matter of choice - you either believe in something or you do not
  • schopenhauer1
    9.9k
    In conclusion: you can't have it both ways.GRWelsh

    Some posters don’t like my use of my reference to Socrates here so I’ll just say it’s inspired by his idea of “is it good because the gods will it or do the gods will it because it’s good”? You presume if there’s a deity, that this deity A) has a sense of morality like humans B) that he abides by a morality that is recognizable to humans.

    For A, is there really evidence if this? Look at the world. There is immense negatives of suffering, fighting, displeasure. IF that was part of his plan, how is this justified as moral to create? You can only appeal to the idea of a higher kind of morality that suffering is necessary but then is that moral itself? It seems like gods morality resembles nothing like our our own god is an immensely cruel “dungeon master” creating a suffering stage so he could watch the action unfold like watching a tragic comedy in real time. Either way is problematic for the theist.
  • GRWelsh
    185
    What can you say here about Satan and what God wants from us, based on actual Biblical scholarship?

    A lot of what you are referring to might well come from popular culture and certain narrow fundamentalist interpretations of Christianity.
    Tom Storm

    That's true, and that's why I said "most forms of Christianity." I am going by popular interpretations and doctrines. In classical theism, God is traditionally understood as having a set of attributes based on passages in the Bible such as omnibenevolence, and we can extrapolate on what his intentions are. From Psalm 100:5: “For the LORD is good; His loving kindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.”

    The same applies to the Devil:

    "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8 ESV

    Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:23

    Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

    People infer what God and Satan want based on these and other passages from the Bible. I agree with what Chomsky says about the God of the Old Testament, but that's the thing about the Bible: people tend to cherry pick the passages they like best, or favor the interpretation they believe.

    In regards to Universalism, most Christians don't believe it and I am not responding to that particular belief. I don't think it will ever be the predominant form of Christianity because it undercuts the main 'selling point' which is to accept Jesus and become a Christian in order to be saved. If everyone is saved, there is no motivation to join the faith.

    No, it's not that they 'don't believe in god'. How could they not, they've seen him in action? Satan has a role as a tempter and adversary. Some others ignore god's commands. Judas makes it possible for Jesus to fulfil his sacrifice so there are traditions (Gnostics) that consider him special.

    If we have freewill in this space then the only way this can really work, as far as I can tell, is to know god exists and choose not to follow him anyway. If we don't believe he exists, or we have never heard of him, then we are not making a free choice not to follow him. We are unable to follow him because we think he is fictional. What you beleive in is not generally a matter of choice - you either believe in something or you do not.

    Actually, I think we are in agreement here and perhaps I didn't word my thoughts as clearly as I should have. I agree that one needs to believe 'that' God exists as a prerequisite to believe 'in' God meaning to obey, follow, worship, trust, etc.
  • GRWelsh
    185
    You presume if there’s a deity, that this deity A) has a sense of morality like humans B) that he abides by a morality that is recognizable to humans.schopenhauer1

    That's correct. I am going with the traditional interpretation of classical theism with God defined with the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipresence, eternality, aseity, etc. That's generally part of the belief system of the person who claims "the greatest trick the Devil pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." To be clear, I'm not arguing that this God exists, I'm only responding to what I perceive as the popular, traditional concepts of God and the Devil in mainstream Christianity. I'm not interested in defending their God from the Euthyphro Dilemma.

    For A, is there really evidence if this? Look at the world. There is immense negatives of suffering, fighting, displeasure. IF that was part of his plan, how is this justified as moral to create? You can only appeal to the idea of a higher kind of morality that suffering is necessary but then is that moral itself? It seems like gods morality resembles nothing like our our own god is an immensely cruel “dungeon master” creating a suffering stage so he could watch the action unfold like watching a tragic comedy in real time. Either way is problematic for the theist.

    Agreed. I'm an atheist, myself, and I've made use of the Problem of Evil argument in debates with theists in the past.
  • schopenhauer1
    9.9k
    That's generally part of the belief system of the person who claims "the greatest trick the Devil pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." To be clear, I'm not arguing that this God existsGRWelsh

    No I get it. You are trying to say that it is an odd "proof" to say that God wants us to use our free will to know him so that we can fulfill his plan in light of other Biblical characters such as Jonah, etc. who "knew" he existed but didn't follow him.

    Just stepping back a bit. I'll be the "devil's advocate" for a minute (no pun intended).

    In ancient Jewish/Israelite religion God seems very transactional. He won't wipe your city out if you do as he says and worship him alone. He will allow you and your nation to be prosperous if you follow his commandments properly. He won't blot you out of existence when you die (return/resurrect in the World to Come) if you only do the proscribed commandments with fidelity.

    This was basically how most ancient gods of the Bronze and Iron Age worked. You do the right rituals and procedures, and the god rewards you. Israelite religion had its own interesting spin and story with Moses, though as with all ancient stories, had pastiche from nearby civilizations (Egypt and Babylon) though not to deny that there were unique "Israelite" qualities to their historical narrative of their nation's founding.

    However, as Judaism came into contact with Greco-Roman demands for proper reasoning behind various worship, religion became a lot more complicated. It wasn't enough to just have the tradition, but it was important to understand "deeper implications". So the reason you followed Mosaic Law was because not only is transactional but because it allows the participant to be closer to the godhead. That is to say, each practitioner is playing their part in the divine plan by following the commandments of Mosaic Law. So, using your free will to follow commandments became necessary to curry the fulfillment of God's divine plan. With the ancient lineage of kings being a very remote possibility as time went forward, the idea was not only to restore Israel to its rightful kingship under a Davidic king again (the Messiah), but that God was going to fulfill his ultimate vision. History would get to a point where God would dwell on earth similar to as in heaven. And because these are humans making up the stories, there will be a time when those who followed the Mosaic Laws get to resurrect and dwell in the World to Come and live in God's open presence and not just hidden anymore.

    Now of course, why this whole scheme is made up in the first place, seems a bit odd. But I guess those who truly believe in it, don't question the reason other than this is what God wants. He has a plan, and he's carrying it out. The plan itself is not questioned.

    So with Christianity, you have the character of Paul in his epistles that does question this plan. See, Paul had a new idea, that was probably influenced by Platonic and general Greco-Roman philosophy around the idea of a demiurge (which is really the foundation of Gnosticism/gnostic ideas). The demiurge is a creator of some sort, but he is a sort of evil one that creates the world in a way that is flawed because the deity himself is capricious and flawed in some way. However, there is the Universal One or the God of Light who is above and beyond all creation that is the real deal God. And he is all Good. But you see this Good God, would then have to be inept or indifferent!

    So whereas in the Judaic conception you have a God where the flaws are substantiated in the deity (this is just his plan, and he is carrying it out.. who cares if the plan itself involves suffering.. we just don't question it. He likes things like punishment and rewards .. and we are just his participants in that).. In the Pauline (Christian) idea, God is like the gnostic version of The Good who is never "flawed" (never causes or wants suffering), but you see the demiurge (the LAW in Paul is now a standin for the demiurge) is keeping the people down and so the death/resurrection of some dying god (Jesus who is just rehashed mystery cults that Paul seems to integrate into Judaic thought) becomes the way that atones. The Law was a sort of false start and the real law is from The Good who provides you the real deal compassion (except somehow later on, the idea of Hell being eternal and for those who don't believe in Jesus makes it even more transactional than before, but let's not look at the plotholes for now).

    So Pauline Christianity (most of mainstream Christianity) is based on gnostic notions of a true god beyond the demiurgic/lower god of the physical suffering world. So the god of the "Old Testament" while the same god, is really preparing for his compassionate path to salvation. So for whatever reason, he created this world so he can save us from this world.. Which makes absolutely no sense. At least in the original Jewish version, it was simply "the plan man". In the Pauline version the plan becomes about saving people from his plan. Which is so very odd.

    Either way, my point is why is this the plan though? Why are we all playing this out in some game of "did you do the thing the way you were supposed to?" It seems like a very human kind of thing to want to see play out. But I guess we are made in his image... he he likes to see people punished and rewarded? And if it's about relationship, he's going to be pissed off if you don't want to hang out with him in the way he wants? It's all very oddly childish to me. It's like god is portrayed as a baby who isn't happy when his toys aren't doing the things he planned for them. How oddly weird for a supreme being to be playing "gotcha!".
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist."GRWelsh

    Speaking of the Devil ... :smile:

    Not by disrespect to this quotation, but I couldn't help thinking of it as paradoxical, since the world in fact believes that Devil does exist. Well, maybe not so much these days, when a lot of myths have been demolished, but certainly until the recent past. And the quotation belongs to the past.
    So, any idea regarding Devil in this context must point out the fact that people have been convinced about his existence.

    So a funny variation came to mind:
    "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world he exists."
    Which is an oxymoron, because it implies that Devil doesn't actually exist, so how could he pull this trick? :smile

    Another variation, a little more serious, showing how people are convinced about the existence of Devil:
    "The greatest trick God/Religion ever pulled was to convince the world that Devil exists."
    How else could God/Religion justify the cases in which God fails to protect and support people? So, in such cases we let God aside or justify harm, by saying --and believing -- "This is the work of the Devil", "The Devil incarnate", "Get thee behind me Satan", and so on.

    The reason I bring this up is that Christians will often cite this as, paradoxically, evidence that the Devil does exist and (as a consequence) that Christianity is true.GRWelsh
    Ah, good. I should have waited before commenting on the quotation ... But now it's too late. And I also enjoyed it! :smile:

    About Theodore Drange's argumentGRWelsh
    The whole construct is built on thin ice and falls easily apart ...
    1) the statement "[God] wants all humans to believe God exists before they die" is totally arbitrary. I have never even heard about that.
    2) ... other similar assumptions ... I skip them and come to the most important part ...
    3) (2) is unfounded. It is based on the assumption that all people should believe what God wants.
    4) The conclusion (4) cannot be drawn from (3). That some people do not believe that God exists doesn't not mean that he doesn't.

    To summarize, the whole construct is based on the assumption that if God exists whatever he wishes should be necessarily affect all people. Yet, God has given humans a free will. A benevolent God would never punish someone who doesn't even believe in him.

    Well, maybe all that was not necessary but I'm always challenged by logical constructs! :smile:

    So why would God allow the Devil to pull this trick?GRWelsh
    OK, I won't follow this part because I can't talk about so many assumptions. Assuming that God actually exists is already a huge assumption, but it is at least challenging. Adding Devil into the game, however, makes the game too heavy or incredible light, like a bubble that can burst at the slightest blow ...

    But I enjoyed it so far. Thanks for the post. :up:
  • GRWelsh
    185
    The whole construct is built on thin ice and falls easily apart ...
    1) the statement "[God] wants all humans to believe God exists before they die" is totally arbitrary. I have never even heard about that.
    2) ... other similar assumptions ... I skip them and come to the most important part ...
    3) (2) is unfounded. It is based on the assumption that all people should believe what God wants.
    4) The conclusion (4) cannot be drawn from (3). That some people do not believe that God exists doesn't not mean that he doesn't.

    To summarize, the whole construct is based on the assumption that if God exists whatever he wishes should be necessarily affect all people.
    Alkis Piskas

    Keep in mind that argument is targeted to people with very specific beliefs about God. If you don't have those beliefs, it doesn't apply to you. For example, let's say you have a Deist conception of God where you believe God created everything but doesn't have any personal interest in human beings. This argument wouldn't be effective in disproving such a God. But if you have beliefs that are represented by the premises, the conclusion follows because this is a valid, deductive argument in the form of Modus Tollens.
  • Wayfarer
    20.4k
    The demiurge is a creator of some sort, but he is a sort of evil one that creates the world in a way that is flawed because the deity himself is capricious and flawed in some way. However, there is the Universal One or the God of Light who is above and beyond all creation that is the real deal God. And he is all Good.schopenhauer1

    But that's much nearer to gnosticism than Pauline Christianity. Gnostics identified the OT god as a kind of demiurge, and the suffering of life is seen as a consequence of either malevolence or ineptitude, whereas the 'true God' revealed in the life of Jesus was thought of as absolutely transcendent.

    Pauline Christianity often cites the Genesis verse saying that God 'saw the world as good' (Genesis 1-4) in refutation of Gnosticism. As to why there is evil and suffering, Pauline Christianity has plausible theodicies, for instance John Hick's influential Evil and the God of Love.

    I'm an atheistGRWelsh

    So, I'm interested in why you would start a thread on this topic. Is it to polish your polemical skills against Christian opponents?

    FWIW, I'm not a traditional believer, or try not to be, but I see many of the ideas, themes and inhabitants of religion as embodiments of archetypal and perennial themes. They don't simply cease to exist, they morph into new forms which are easier to comprehend against their cultural context.
  • schopenhauer1
    9.9k
    But that's much nearer to gnosticism than Pauline Christianity. Gnostics identified the OT god as a kind of demiurge, and the suffering of life is seen as a consequence of either malevolence or ineptitude, whereas the 'true God' revealed in the life of Jesus was thought of as absolutely transcendent.

    Pauline Christianity often cites the Genesis verse saying that God 'saw the world as good' (Genesis 1-4) in refutation of Gnosticism. As to why there is evil and suffering, Pauline Christianity has plausible theodicies, for instance John Hick's influential Evil and the God of Love.
    Quixodian

    I think Paul was a sort of pseudo-Gnostic. That is to say, he tried to have it both ways. Like Gnostics he had "hidden knowledge" and was a "revealer" of the true nature of Jesus (now THE CHRIST). Mosaic Law / religious practice was tied to the material world, where the divine Christ was seen as a higher truth and one was expunged for the other.
  • Wayfarer
    20.4k
    You can make the case and indeed I think that many of the Gnostics would claim Paul as one of their own (although I'd have to research it). But the main argument against the gnostics was against their elitism - the idea that only those perfected (which was the meaning of 'Cathar', from which we get 'catharsis') were 'saved'. Whereas the mainstream doctrine was that 'all who believe will be saved'. This is a tension in Christianity which has existed from the very outset. I think to propose a kind of middle ground is to recognise the role of spiritual insight. That term 'gnosis' has a counterpart in Indian religions, 'Jñāna', which is recognisably from the same indo-european linguistic root. But I think the Indian religions did a much better job of preserving the importance of that insight, overall (hence the upsurge of interest in them since the Enlightenment. See American Veda, for instance.)
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    Keep in mind that argument is targeted to people with very specific beliefs about God.GRWelsh
    Do you mean, it is used to dissuade them from believing in God? Do you think that such a shallow --as I have expalined-- construct would succeed in that? I believe that it would succeed in the opposite: it would rather strengthen their belief in God! :smile:

    Anyway, I had and have no intention at all in invalidating or undervalidating your topic, your description of it, your purpose of launching this discussion or your beliefs about God.
    I just referred to the logical construct you brought in --i.e. from a purely logical viewpoint-- independently of any belief or disbelief in God.
  • GRWelsh
    185
    So, I'm interested in why you would start a thread on this topic. Is it to polish your polemical skills against Christian opponents?Quixodian

    Recently, I saw a Christian use "the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled..." quote and it got me to thinking about how such a Christian will argue that both the Devil and God want to stay hidden to explain the lack of overt evidence for them. But it is odd that they would argue that both the Devil and God want the same thing since you would think hiddenness would benefit one but not both. If the point is that people not believing in the Devil or anything supernatural and becoming naturalists works in the Devil's favor then it wouldn't work in God's favor. Why would God allow the Devil to convince people that he -- the Devil -- doesn't exist and also that nothing at all supernatural -- including God -- exists? Especially if God's goal is to make salvation available to as many people as possible.
  • GRWelsh
    185
    Do you mean, it is used to dissuade them from believing in God? Do you think that such a shallow --as I have expalined-- construct would succeed in that? I believe that it would succeed in the opposite: it would rather strengthen their belief in God!Alkis Piskas

    I don't want to get bogged down defending Drange's argument since I was only presenting it for the purposes of illustration. I was more focused on a response commonly given to it and other "Divine Hiddenness" arguments -- namely the Free Will Defense: "God doesn't force us to believe He exists because He doesn't want to take away our free will," or something like that. It's a terrible response because it should be obvious that one can believe that God exists, yet still have the free will to not follow, worship, obey, or trust God (e. g. Satan, Adam & Eve, Jonah, etc.).
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k

    Right. Talking about free will, I believe is much more constructive. :smile:
  • Wayfarer
    20.4k
    Recently, I saw a Christian use "the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled..." quote and it got me to thinking about how such a Christian will argue that both the Devil and God want to stay hidden to explain the lack of overt evidence for them. But it is odd that they would argue that both the Devil and God want the same thing since you would think hiddenness would benefit one but not bothGRWelsh

    Right - now I see your reasoning. I guess my analysis would be that the ‘divine hiddenness’ and the denial of the reality of Satan would arise from different sources. The decline of belief in Satan maps against the overall decline of religion in secular culture. Likewise for the belief in sin (which I think is the most politically-incorrect term in the English language, isn’t it?) Whereas the divine hiddenness of God is due to God being altogether transcendent.
  • Tom Storm
    8.1k
    [ I agree. They do arise from different sources. Many Christians believe in God but not Satan. The Baptist church I attended decades ago argued that Satan was an allegorical figure or personification of misfortune and poor moral decisions.

    It's a terrible response because it should be obvious that one can believe that God exists, yet still have the free will to not follow, worship, obey, or trust God (e. g. Satan, Adam & Eve, Jonah, etc.)GRWelsh

    Terrible responses and inadequate reasoning are often part of the fundamentalist worldview, so I don't think you're going to get far with this kind of argument. The other response is likely to be - 'God has his reasons, which as mere humans we can't possibly understand. I have faith God has a plan.' This is the argument I have usually encountered when the faithful are faced with challenges.

    What do they say? You can't reason a person out of ideas that weren't arrived at by reason.
  • GRWelsh
    185
    Terrible responses and inadequate reasoning are often part of the fundamentalist worldview, so I don't think you're going to get far with this kind of argument. The other response is likely to be - 'God has his reasons, which as mere humans we can't possibly understand. I have faith God has a plan.' This is the argument I have usually encountered when the faithful are faced with challenges.

    What do they say? You can't reason a person out of ideas that weren't arrived at by reason.
    Tom Storm

    I understand what you are saying, but what other option is there? Using logic and reason won't work on everyone all of the time, but it must work on some people at least part of the time. Otherwise, no one would ever change their minds. One of the most useful things, in my experience, is to point out a contradiction or inconsistency in how people think. Even if they don't admit it at the time, that will get most people to reflect upon their beliefs and where their reasoning may have gone wrong.
  • GRWelsh
    185
    Right - now I see your reasoning. I guess my analysis would be that the ‘divine hiddenness’ and the denial of the reality of Satan would arise from different sources. The decline of belief in Satan maps against the overall decline of religion in secular culture. Likewise for the belief in sin (which I think is the most politically-incorrect term in the English language, isn’t it?) Whereas the divine hiddenness of God is due to God being altogether transcendent.Quixodian

    I would say the decline in belief in sin directly correlates to the decline of belief in God, since sin is by definition transgression of God's law. With no God, there is no sin. Sin is a religiously loaded word that goes beyond merely meaning immoral or unethical in a secular sense.

    Theists may have different explanations for the hiddenness of God and the Devil, but my point is that it seems inconsistent for both God and the Devil to want their existence to be not be believed in, since it doesn't seem possible that this would favor them both. If the Devil was able to convince humanity he -- and by extension the supernatural realm -- doesn't exist by making us believe in evolution and naturalism, then that wouldn't favor God if God's intention for as many people as possible have access to salvation. Of course, this is predicated upon believing in Jesus as the only path to salvation, and that God wants as many people as possible to have access to salvation.
  • schopenhauer1
    9.9k
    You can make the case and indeed I think that many of the Gnostics would claim Paul as one of their own (although I'd have to research it).Quixodian

    I am not saying they would or wouldn't, but simply that his writings had Gnostic influence. Gnostics themselves were a collection of ideas that varied widely. The tradition of the Gospel of Thomas was much different than the Sethians, who were very different than the Valentinans, who were very different than the Hermetic Gnostics. It was more thematic than ideologically aligned.

    But the main argument against the gnostics was against their elitism - the idea that only those perfected (which was the meaning of 'Cathar', from which we get 'catharsis') were 'saved'. Whereas the mainstream doctrine was that 'all who believe will be saved'. This is a tension in Christianity which has existed from the very outset. I think to propose a kind of middle ground is to recognise the role of spiritual insight. That term 'gnosis' has a counterpart in Indian religions, 'Jñāna', which is recognisably from the same indo-european linguistic root. But I think the Indian religions did a much better job of preserving the importance of that insight, overall (hence the upsurge of interest in them since the Enlightenment. See American Veda, for instance.)Quixodian

    Perhaps. I don't care either way. I see Paul as a myth-maker, more than anything. Using his own terminology, he "grafted" various mystery-cults, and Gnostic themes over a Judaic substrate. I think at the end of the day, this proved devastating for both Judaism and the syncretic pluralism of the Greco-Roman paganism of the time. He screwed over both and created the monster that eventually sprouted religious theology as the lens through which all philosophy was conducted up until around the time of Spinoza and Descartes (Early Modern Philosophy).

    I am pro-Jacob (James), the brother of Jesus who took over the original sect in Jerusalem right after his death. The tensions between Jacob and Paul can be seen in Acts and certainly epistles like Galatians. I think Jacob never accepted Paul, and that tradition remained even unto the late 400s with the Ebionite descendants of the original group, as written by Epiphanius. Jesus was an apocalyptic who preached that the end of the world was immanent, and that the Son of Man (who later became known as Metatron) would help him usher in the Kingdom of God and the Messianic Age. Didn't happen. His brother tried to head the fallout group. They followed Mosaic Law as Jesus would have presumably taught it, under the leadership of his brother Jacob. My guess is the Jesus and Jacob were loosely associated with Pharisees and Essenes. Jacob probably thought Jesus wasn't truly dead. That was their main deviation with other sects at that point. Apparently they went by the name "Ebionities" when later Church Fathers wrote about them (presumably in very small numbers by that time of the 400s CE). Eventually they would have died out as a small, and inconsequential group, got reabsorbed into Rabbinic Judaism, or became an insular sub-sect like the Manicheans or Mandaeans.

    Either way, it was Paul who made the group a blockbuster around the Mediterranean and it was the Church Fathers taking his lead that made it into a monster. You can argue that if it wasn't Paul and his ideas, it would have been another group and another person who promoted their own ideas (Mithras, Isis, Mystery Cults, pre-Christian Gnostics, Dionysus, whatever). Perhaps, but history turned out this way.
  • Tom Storm
    8.1k
    I understand what you are saying, but what other option is there? Using logic and reason won't work on everyone all of the time, but it must work on some people at least part of the time. Otherwise, no one would ever change their minds. One of the most useful things, in my experience, is to point out a contradiction or inconsistency in how people think. Even if they don't admit it at the time, that will get most people to reflect upon their beliefs and where their reasoning may have gone wrong.GRWelsh

    I used to think this and I don't entirely disagree. However, I suspect the value of sound reasoning plays a small role in people's beliefs and is of little importance to them. It's more about how ideas make them feel and the community they have around them - belonging and contentment. The question you always have to ask is what incentive is there for someone to change their worldview? Reason is pretty low on most people's priorities - but having reasons isn't - meaning, identity, community, belonging, a shared worldview with others - they are good reasons, regardless of the inherent reasoning.
  • ucarr
    1.1k
    I am going with the traditional interpretation of classical theism with God defined with the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipresence, eternality, aseity, etc.GRWelsh

    Are you willing to examine the possibility that the above attributes of classical theism defining God entail gnarly problems of exegesis pertaining to Venn Diagrams of overlapping boundaries incoherencies, set/subset membership rules of inference paradoxes and origin narrative generative infinite regress conundrums? Moreover, are you willing to examine the methodology boondoggle of analysis-logic in application to axiomatic relationships?

    Why would God allow the Devil to convince people that he -- the Devil -- doesn't exist and also that nothing at all supernatural -- including God -- exists? Especially if God's goal is to make salvation available to as many people as possible.GRWelsh

    Does it follow from God's omnibenevolence that God honors Lucifer's free will no less than he honors yours and mine?

    "God doesn't force us to believe He exists because He doesn't want to take away our free will," or something like that. It's a terrible response because it should be obvious that one can believe that God exists, yet still have the free will to not follow, worship, obey, or trust GodGRWelsh

    If the Gospel of Jesus has for its evangelical mission trumpeting to the four corners of the world the attributes of God named by you above, is it pertinent to ask why a person who believes God exists would refuse to follow God's path? Knowing God exists means knowing God's superlative attributes exist and are therefore to be shared out to the masses via believers. If a person refuses to follow God's path of blessedness, isn't it a logical necessity that such a person does NOT believe God exists? How could any rational person choose the horrors of the fallen world of earth over the beatific attributes you've named above?

    Theists may have different explanations for the hiddenness of God and the Devil, but my point is that it seems inconsistent for both God and the Devil to want their existence to be not be believed in, since it doesn't seem possible that this would favor them both.GRWelsh

    Consider that these theists you name above are making a factual error in the advancement of their argument. God does NOT want God's existence to not be believed in. Not forcing someone to believe in something does not equal not wanting that someone to believe in that something. God's hiddenness is not a divine ploy; it is an effect of worldly preoccupation. God is not hidden from those in possession of a pure heart.

    Lucifer, in contrast to God, aligns rationally with the argument that he wants to not to be believed to exist. Lucifer's ace card and primary modus operandi is deception. Deception, by definition, seeks to conceal itself as it conducts its business. If a deceiver needs the cover of darkness to be effective, what greater cover of darkness is there than the darkness of the minds of those who are to be deceived. A close concomitant to Lucifer non-existent is Lucifer non-toxic i.e., Lucifer good. Lucifer plays at the top of his game when he beguiles his victims with a credible appearance of being Godly. These effects are the central goals of the hiddenness ploy.
  • Wayfarer
    20.4k
    Jesus was an apocalyptic who preached that the end of the world was immanent, and that the Son of Man (who later became known as Metatron) would help him usher in the Kingdom of God and the Messianic Age.schopenhauer1

    My anthropology of the figure of Jesus was as (to adopt a phrase from popular Eastern philosophy) the 'god-realised man'. His mode of life was a wandering ascetic very much along the lines of other axial-age sages (although that period is customarily a few centuries earlier). So the speeches about the kingdom of Heaven were not political - they were pointers to the state of realisation that he had reached, similar in some respects to those of the Vedic rishis. (I don't necessarily accept the New Age theory that he went to the East for some years prior to his teaching mission, although it can't be ruled out, as there was communication and travel along the Silk Road.) In any case, I think to see him in any terms other than as a harbinger of a revolution in consciousness - as a frustrated political revolutionary, for instance - is a misunderstanding of what he was communicating, in my view.


    With no God, there is no sin.GRWelsh

    Right - nor anything corresponding to 'the fall', which, I think, is a real lack in natural philosophy, as I think it says something real about the human condition albeit in mythological guise.

    If the Devil was able to convince humanity... the supernatural realm...doesn't exist by making us believe in evolution and naturalism...GRWelsh

    Naturalism, yes - evolution, not necessarily. There are plenty of theistic evolutionists (as distinct from creationists), such as those who maintain and staff Biologos.
  • Tom Storm
    8.1k
    Does it follow from God's omnibenevolence that God honors Lucifer's free will no less than he honors yours and mine?ucarr

    That's an intriguing idea. I often suspected God of festering, 'How do I vanquish this horned motherfucker?!" Another way of seeing Satan is as God's loyal opposition - created by God specifically to provide a foundational focus for the freewill he has given humans. In other words, Satan is on God's payroll as inspiration and in charge of punishment.

    Also, Lucifer and Satan are possibly not the same being if you look at various exegetical accounts.

    The endless variations of this story and the human imagination which propels it are like origin stories from the Marvel universe, only less fisticuffs.

    Knowing God exists means knowing God's superlative attributes exist and are therefore to be shared out to the masses via believers.ucarr

    This is not a given. If the God as described in the Bible exists, than this is a violent mob boss deity who runs a celestial protection racket. Claiming god as omnibenevolent is surely just part of a definitional game, which can't be demonstrated as corresponding to a reality. Perhaps we can employ the gospel's, 'Ye shall know them by their fruits.' If god has created a world crammed with chaos and suffering and allows children to die of cancer and starvation in their multitudes, then presumably, he is a piece of shit.
  • ucarr
    1.1k
    Knowing God exists means knowing God's superlative attributes exist and are therefore to be shared out to the masses via believers.ucarr

    This is not a given. If the God as described in the Bible exists, than this is a violent mob boss deity who runs a celestial protection racket.Tom Storm

    You have a strong argument. A violent and wrathful God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac at Mt. Moriah. In our own time, we have diatribes against a seemingly indifferent God in the face of horrific human-to-human violence. Is the sublime, if evanescent, beauty of our natural world also of God?

    Is our most vibrant picture of God nonetheless a tragical portrait, elevated in stature but run through with fatal flaws? Forgive the inadequacy in what I say next when I say that human nature, as I know it, will tear down upon itself any sanctuary of perfection and order before long whereas, faced with a sometimes reveling, sometimes marauding Supremacy, humanity, buoyed upon the desperation of a much-assailed faith, keeps re-visiting the testamental narrative in defiance of rational hope.

    Life cannot get on for long without order and thus logic and internal consistency are essential to it. Life, however, is neither rational nor orderly. Anyone who keeps the flame of childhood alive senses this.
  • schopenhauer1
    9.9k
    My anthropology of the figure of Jesus was as (to adopt a phrase from popular Eastern philosophy) the 'god-realised man'. His mode of life was a wandering ascetic very much along the lines of other axial-age sages (although that period is customarily a few centuries earlier). So the speeches about the kingdom of Heaven were not political - they were pointers to the state of realisation that he had reached, similar in some respects to those of the Vedic rishis. (I don't necessarily accept the New Age theory that he went to the East for some years prior to his teaching mission, although it can't be ruled out, as there was communication and travel along the Silk Road.) In any case, I think to see him in any terms other than as a harbinger of a revolution in consciousness - as a frustrated political revolutionary, for instance - is a misunderstanding of what he was communicating, in my view.Quixodian

    I guess Jesus is whatever you want him to be or not be. The myths surrounding him arise from various Greco-Roman thought. Some texts of the Gospels ver batim take lines from the Iliad and Odyssey. Just playing on tropes that were familiar with the time. Beneath that, I think was a simpler story, but it's not as enchanting maybe, and less universalistic in scope and audience.
  • Tom Storm
    8.1k
    Is our most vibrant picture of God nonetheless a tragical portrait, elevated in stature but run through with fatal flaws?ucarr

    That's a nice description and one might argue this. A reading of the Old Testament can present us with a god who screws up time and again.

    The issue with any version of God is that it will always be in relation to a particular narrative account. Gods are always part of a story which humans tell each other and interpret.

    human nature, as I know it, will tear down upon itself any sanctuary of perfection and order before long whereas, faced with a sometimes reveling, sometimes marauding Supremacy, humanity, buoyed upon the desperation of a much-assailed faith, keeps re-visiting the testamental narrative in defiance of rational hope.ucarr

    Perhaps, but then some families are like this too.
  • LuckyR
    374


    Exactly. Gods cannot be separated from human narratives, since gods exist inter-subjectively, not objectively. Identically to the way that countries, corporations and the value of money exist, ie by human consensus.
  • ucarr
    1.1k


    Gods cannot be separated from human narratives, since gods exist inter-subjectively, not objectively.LuckyR

    Well said.
  • ucarr
    1.1k


    A reading of the Old Testament can present us with a god who screws up time and again.Tom Storm

    The issue with any version of God is that it will always be in relation to a particular narrative account. Gods are always part of a story which humans tell each other and interpret.Tom Storm

    We stand on solid ground when we say God is a narrative. A select few witness miracles first-hand. For most of us, however, knowledge of God comes through narratives.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.