Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


series
Thorny problems with karma #5: the sustainability paradox

Even assuming karma can get started in the first place, how does it keep going while still letting off enough steam to allow everyone to eventually escape?

← Continued from part 4, on how karma seems unable to bootstrap itself in the first place

If the bootstrap paradox is the right cross to a karmic worldview, there is a second problem that comes directly on its heels as the left hook to KO the whole system. It revolves around the question:

How does the karmic system sustain itself without necessitating that evil continue forever?

Imagine we accept there is some “original sin” perpetrated by Abed upon an undeserving Booker, which starts the whole karmic system going. Let’s say Abed spits in Booker’s tea (with apologies to my friend Paul Manata for my flagrant plagiarism). Karma then arranges things to have Booker spit in Abed’s tea to balance the scales. But now the karmic system seems to be skewered on the horns of a dilemma. Which of these two statements do we take as true?

  1. Because Booker’s vengeful spitting into Abed’s tea is karmically warranted, it is therefore morally warranted, and Booker incurs no karmic debt of his own
  2. Although Booker’s vengeful spitting into Abed’s tea is karmically warranted, it is not morally warranted, and Booker therefore incurs a karmic debt of his own

You can see how either of these options breaks the karmic system (it does seem so terribly fragile!)

1. Karmic warrant = moral warrant

This option carries two stiff costs for the karmic system…

Stiff cost #1

Firstly, it is extremely troubling to think that a karmically warranted action is a morally warranted one. This becomes much more obvious if we up the ante. Imagine Abed murdered Booker. Booker then is reincarnated, and murders Abed to balance the karmic scales. It just seems obviously wrong to say that Booker murdering Abed is not itself a great moral evil. Surely two great wrongs do not add up to a right.

You could say we just have to bite this bullet. The mere fact that Abed deserves to be murdered in order to balance the scales is sufficient grounds for Booker to be innocent in murdering him, and this only seems troublesome if one’s ethical views are built on the idea of justice being meted out by a legitimate moral authority such as God (or a stand-in like the judicial system). Under karma, there is no such authority; rather, the karmic system itself metes out justice. So if Booker is an “agent” of karma, then Booker’s murdering Abed is a sort of judicial execution, and is thus blameless.

But while this seems like a consistent explanation, it implies that serial rapists and murderers like Ted Bundy are (or may be) morally justified in their actions. This is simply unbelievable. I would venture to say that anyone willing to accept this premise in order to believe in karma would be deeply morally defective.

Stiff cost #2

The second cost comes in the form of a sustainability problem. Once Booker “gets back at” Abed, Abed’s karmic debt is paid. But since Booker has incurred no debt of his own during the reprisal, because it was karmically justified, the whole system grinds to a halt at the very beginning. There is no further karmic debt, so the cycle of karma stops. But that is not the world we are faced with. The world we are faced with seems to carry a great burden of karmic debt which is constantly being repaid throughout innumerable lives.

Merely postulating a larger pool of original sinners doesn’t seem to solve this problem, since they could all repay their debts in parallel: Booker could balance the scales with Abed at the same time that Candy balanced the scales with Darcy, ad infinitum. Nor does it seem to help to postulate one or more “super-sinners” who did lots of bad things to lots of people, since although that might drag things out in terms of their karmic repayments—even for thousands of years—it doesn’t explain why so many other people are suffering (let alone why the population of the system appears to be growing dramatically over time). The only obvious solution is to take a “loose” view of karma and say that the system is continually being “injected” with new, undeserved evil actions.

But this seems to highlight yet another tension. Why are people inclined to act evilly? Why are we all super-sinners? Why do we sin against every single person we meet, and repeatedly at that? Most karmic systems tell us that people are inherently good; yet if the loose view of karma is a solution here, we appear to be inherently evil.

2. Karmic warrant != moral warrant

It seems depraved to think that seemingly immoral actions can actually be justified if they happen to balance karma. But if the alternative is true—if karmically justified actions can themselves be culpable and accrue karmic debt—how does the system ever stop once it starts? Abed spits in Booker’s tea. Booker spits in Abed’s tea to balance the scales. Abed’s debt is paid, but now Booker has a debt of his own from spitting in Abed’s tea. So karma seems to somehow necessitate that Abed spit in Booker’s tea again—which wipes Booker’s slate clean, but then accrues a second debt to Abed. This process seems to be without resolution; it will continue indefinitely. But this entails that karmic debt can never be repaid, because someone will always have to act immorally to balance the scales for someone else, thus unbalancing them for themselves. And that defeats the entire point of karma.

(There is another problem in here, with respect to free will, which I’ll devote a separate post to.)

One possible solution would be to say that we don’t necessarily need Booker (or anyone) to do a bad deed to Abed to balance his previous debt. Perhaps Abed’s debt could simply be paid off by having to endure drinking really bad tea on a couple of occasions. But this solution then proves too much—because if karmic debt can be repaid in this way, why does the karmic “system” ever rely on bad deeds to balance the scales rather than some other kind of suffering? After all, evil deeds always make the overall moral system worse rather than better—but karma is specifically meant to gradually make things better, not worse. If a debt can be balanced without anyone having to sin, then that is obviously better than balancing it by having someone sin.

How loose karma makes things spiral out of control

One other possible problem is that if you take a loose view of karma, where every evil action is not necessarily indexed to some prior evil which needs to be balanced, things get geometrically worse. You evade the bootstrap paradox at the cost of making the sustainability problem spiral out of control. For instead of merely maintaining a karmic “perpetual motion machine”, you are adding “energy” in the form of more undeserved evil that requires balancing. So every time Abed decides to spit twice into Booker’s tea, instead of just once (which would balance the scales), he accrues an extra debt that then has to be repaid. Eventually that teacup would be filled with nothing but saliva. In other words, under loose karma the universe can keep getting worse…but there seems to be absolutely no way to ever make it better.

(This seems to completely gut the very idea of karma, but the silver lining is that it could at least explain why new people keep appearing in the universe—perhaps they are being created because the current number of people is insufficient to repay the ever-rising karmic debt! I jest, of course—a world which tends toward an infinite population is hardly a helpful “solution”.)

You can see how the sustainability paradox follows immediately from trying to solve the bootstrap paradox. I think karma has the ring of falsehood about it because of the way these problems snowball. Just as there is the ring of truth about philosophies where elegant solutions turn out to be consistent with prima facie unrelated questions, so there is the ring of falsehood about philosophies where solutions seem ad hoc, and cause a cascade of crumbling down the line.

Continued in part 6, on how karma is in tension with free will and moral culpability →

11 comments

  1. Andrew

    Thought: perhaps you’re conceptualising the whole problem in a Western rather than Eastern way? Conceptualise “Evil” not in terms of “injustice” but “disharmony”, or creating negative energy. Thus, people who are “bad” are like cosmic magnets that attract bad stuff to them, and the suffering that thus ensues teaches them to become more enlightened and thus attract less bad stuff. Under this conception, keeping away from those who are suffering is not about interfering with justice but avoiding contamination.

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    There’s some validity to that, but I don’t see how it escapes the main force of my argument nonetheless. Even if karmic reward or reprisal is conceived in those terms, it still seems to run into the same problems with bootstrapping and/or sustaining itself. You could swap out “evil” for “disharmony” in my arguments and they would still go through.

    That said, I think if we conceive of karma in terms of mere disharmony, we run into some serious problems.

    Firstly, it seems to be a very high cost in terms of understanding morality. If there is no good and evil, merely disharmony, that requires a massive adjustment to our intuitions about things like torturing children for fun. I think any worldview which ends up saying that torturing children for fun is not evil is one which doesn’t really need to be taken seriously.

    Secondly, it seems to only push the problem back a step by raising the question of why disharmony matters. If we say something like that disharmony is one person causing another to suffer, then what is it about this that makes karmic balance necessary? The obvious answer seems to be that disharmony is bad, but then we’re back to conceiving of karma in terms of good and evil. Alternative answers are available but seem unsatisfactory; for example, postulating that karma is just a brute fact of disharmony seems to evade the moral issue, but fails to really explain the issue at all; rather, it explains it away.

  3. Andrew

    I agree. But having spoken to Christians from those cultures, I think I’m describing the cultural idea of accurately. “Justice” as a thought category simply is not as prominent in Eastern thinking as it is in Western.

  4. Andrew

    (finishing previous comment)

    I think Karma deserves to be critiqued and has some serious moral issues. We can critique it externally on Western terms, but it’s not fair or accurate to perform an internal critique assuming that it uses terms the same way Western thought does.

  5. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    The way I’ve been critiquing it so far has been aimed at western believers in karma, who in my experience (and this is anecdotal of course) tend to couch karma in more overtly moral terms. Not that there aren’t western Buddhists etc who take a more traditional eastern view, but the sorts of people I have in mind are those who latch onto new age, esoteric-style beliefs. One thing they generally seem to have in common is taking their broadly western ideas about morality and fusing them with karma. So that’s where I’m coming from in this series so far.

    Having said that, I think you raise a good point, so I will add critiquing a “disharmony” view of karma to my to-do list :)

  6. Kevin

    It strikes me how perfectly the Incarnation/Crucifixion/Resurrection event was designed to maximally offend every single worldview except that which it demonstrates. Taken as true (even merely for the sake of argument) it is the worst possible violation a karmic system. Or maybe it wasn’t designed to do so, It just does so of itself because His goodness is so completely, desperately, foreign to our nature.

  7. Trevor

    You stated that Christianity has helped progress science and offered other valuable commodities to humanity, but the fact is, Christianity (like Islam) has propelled violence throughout human history. It tried to kill scientific discovery. Let’s not forget the Crusades or the Inquisition. Christianity teaches judgement based on a person’s belief and action. If you don’t believe in Jesus then you’re doomed. Yet, no one can answer the question of how evil ever came to be? Is man responsible for evil? Not according to the Bible. Evil existed before humans. Did god create evil? Based on the moral precepts of the New Testament the god of the Old Testament is evil. God ordered his holy soldiers to kill their enemies, including children. He drowned his own children. He sent plagues to torment and kill people. Jesus seems to contradict that god by saying to treat others the way you want to be treated, yet he then preaches that on the day of judgement god will punish the wicked. It seems to me that god needs to punish himself for creating the devil and then blaming humans for all the troubles in the world. I’m agnostic, so my little rant is meant more for the sake of “enlightenment” on religion in general rather than blaspheming god, which I don’t believe in anyways. Buddhism is no better. Humans have developed these religions for many reasons. As for karma and judgement, it gives the oppressed a feeling of vindication for the wrongs perpetrated against them. Ultimately, religion = control system.

    I enjoyed the article. It really helped me conceptualize what I was thinking about the idea of karma. With this article and the other articles you wrote it did make sense to me your arguments against karma. How can karma exist without some intelligence guiding it? Who is keeping score? Buddhism is a more sophisticated religion and on the surface appears to have some deep insights into the human condition. However, with the advancements and discoveries in neuroscience and the psychology of human behavior the ideas of Buddhism appear to be childish jibberish to some degree. Life is much more complex than good and evil. According to Buddhism we should all sit, be quiet, and meditate for days on end to find the pure light of consciousness. Yet, there has not been one shred of evidence to support that such enlightenment exists. You can measure brainwaves, but that’s still subjective in nature. You could give someone a drug and induce the same brain firings that meditation causes.

  8. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Trevor, I opted to publish your comment largely as a foil, because I think it’s instructive for people to see how poor, unreflective and ignorant the arguments of non-Christians often are. I assume you’re fair game since you decided to post here.

    You stated that Christianity has helped progress science and offered other valuable commodities to humanity, but the fact is, Christianity (like Islam) has propelled violence throughout human history. It tried to kill scientific discovery. Let’s not forget the Crusades or the Inquisition.

    Anyone who has bothered to acquaint themselves even with the most basic scholarship on the historical issues here knows at least three things:

    1. The Crusades were no more motivated by Christianity than the recent war in Afghanistan was (although the Taliban certainly spun it as a new crusade). They were a defensive war in response to the Muslim conquest of two thirds of the Christian world.
    2. Without the Crusades, we’d all be speaking Arabic and worshiping Allah. I doubt you’d consider that an improvement on the Christianized culture you currently enjoy.
    3. Despite that fact, the Muslims actually won; ever heard of the Ottoman Empire?

    The Inquisition was a Roman Catholic political machine, not a Christian one. If you think Roman Catholicism is Christianity, you should search this blog and educate yourself. Yet despite the fact I have no love for Catholicism, the fact remains that the Inquisition is vastly overblown. It was a relatively small-scale operation.

    Your assertion that Christianity tried to kill scientific discovery is simply a myth propagated in the teeth of the historical evidence. You are either spouting facts you know you have no actual proof of (which is scurrilous), or you have blind faith that the settled opinion of historians is completely wrong.

    Christianity teaches judgement based on a person’s belief and action.

    So you don’t think people should be judged based on their beliefs and actions? If someone like you believes patent nonsense like Christianity being an anti-scientific force of violence in history, I shouldn’t judge you to be either willingly misinformed or a lying shill trying to perpetuate a propagandized narrative? Or if a man acts to torture and kill a child for fun, I shouldn’t judge that man to be worthy of punishment?

    If you don’t believe in Jesus then you’re doomed.

    So what? Given that trusting God to impute Jesus’ atonement for sin to you is the only way to be considered righteous before him, when you are in fact someone who has willingly and repeatedly broken his laws and deserves his punishment, obviously you’re doomed without Jesus.

    Yet, no one can answer the question of how evil ever came to be?

    Suppose this is true. So what? How does this cast doubt on any of Christianity’s claims? You act as if it represents a fatal problem for Christianity. But where’s the argument?

    Is man responsible for evil? Not according to the Bible.

    If you mean Adam was not the first person to act evilly, I agree. But if you’re suggesting man is not responsible for his own sins, that’s obviously false.

    Did god create evil?

    How do you “create” something which has no ontological essence? What do you think evil is that it could be created? Your question is meaningless.

    Based on the moral precepts of the New Testament the god of the Old Testament is evil. God ordered his holy soldiers to kill their enemies, including children. He drowned his own children. He sent plagues to torment and kill people. Jesus seems to contradict that god by saying to treat others the way you want to be treated, yet he then preaches that on the day of judgement god will punish the wicked.

    Why do you think God is obligated to keep a law which is explicitly intended for man? Are you unaware of the obvious categorical difference between God and man, or do you think it is merely irrelevant? Where is the argument to back up your tendentious assertions about what God “ought” to do? You seem to be fundamentally confused about the basic notion of justice and moral authority.

    Btw, where did God drown his own children? If you’re thinking of the Egyptians, they were patently not God’s children—they were the people trying to destroy God’s children, the Israelites.

    It seems to me that god needs to punish himself for creating the devil and then blaming humans for all the troubles in the world.

    Haha, by all means feel free to furnish that assertion with an argument to cover its nakedness. You make very free with all manner of assumptions about what God should or would do; apparently you are so ignorant of the basic issues here that you don’t even know that you don’t know, let alone what you don’t know. A classic Dunning Kruger skeptic. I’d suggest you at least acquaint yourself with God’s basic purpose in creation before you go shooting off your mouth and proverbially “removing all doubt”.

    I’m agnostic

    As an outside observer, I’d say that’s absurdly unlikely. No doubt you like to think of yourself as balanced and noncommittal, but like any village atheist, your problem is not epistemic but moral. You hate the God of the Bible. Even if you were convinced he did exist, you would defy him and despise him.

    my little rant is meant more for the sake of “enlightenment” on religion in general

    Well, we are all very grateful that you have deigned to patronize this blog with your dizzying intellect and unique insights. We all stand humbly corrected.

    Humans have developed these religions for many reasons.

    Yes—for example, Christians developed their religion because a chap named Jesus died and rose again and proved in various other ways that he was the God of the Old Testament come in the flesh to save them from their sins. It’s hilarious how you blindly and question-beggingly believe that the mere fact of a religion’s getting started is proof it was in response to psychological forces, rather than true events.

    Ultimately, religion = control system.

    Oh excellent, you’re not just a village atheist; you’re also a conspiracy nut!

  9. Trevor

    Your own Christian Bible is a forgery (see Bert Erhman). You profess faith in a man for which there is no historical evidence for outside the dubious scriptures of the New Testament. Christianity and other religions have held scientific thought back for many years. Even today, despite the mounting evidence for it’s validity, many religious people deny evolution. Evolution is a FACT. Christianity is a faith. I don’t deal in faith.

    If you do your homework you will clearly see the evolution of religion, starting from ancient Mesopotamia. The Sumerian’s were the first civilization to truly formulate religious ideas, including a flood story very similar to the Biblical flood.

    You have no argument against what I’m saying. What I’m saying is based on cold hard facts, not faith. I expect this type of response from a “believer.” I grew up as a Christian, so I have a very good insight into how you think. The god you so hail as loving and kind is a murderer. Your savior is dead. Get on with your life.

  10. Trevor

    Stating that religion is a control system does not quality me as a “conspiracy nut.” By attacking me personally it shows your ignorance. You have no argument against me. As for being an agnostic (the only label I find suiting for myself) does not mean I’m riding the fence. Beyond a shadow of a doubt I am in no way, shape or form a believer in any religious text on this planet. I don’t know everything, so maybe there is a god, but let’s hope that the god of the Bible is not the one. If so, we’re all in trouble.

    No one saw Jesus rise from the dead. No one can even present one shred of historical evidence of Jesus’ existence. You take that on faith. What is faith? It’s believing in something without any evidence. If you say the Bible is evidence, then you are more ignorant than I thought. The Bible was put together by a bunch of men (yes ladies, god excluded you in its production). If you want to put your faith in a book like that, go for it. Maybe you should read “The Unauthorized Version” by Robin Lane Fox. Of course, like most of the Christians I know you probably don’t want to read any book that argues against your faith. If your faith is as strong as you contend, then you should have no problem looking at the facts. The burden is on you, not me, to prove god exists.

    Let me ask you a very basic question. If god is so holy and good, then how in the world did evil/sin ever come into existence? God created everything, correct? Evil must be in god then.

    I’m finished here. If anything, I hope I’ve helped raise some doubt in your reader’s minds about their faith. Religion should be destroyed completely. The world would be a better place without it.

  11. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Your own Christian Bible is a forgery (see Bert Erhman).

    You can’t even get the man’s name right. But since we’re just making assertions and waving at an authority to rubberstamp them, your view of the Bible is pure fantasy (see Michael F Bird, Craig A Evans, Simon Gathercole, Charles E Hill, Chris Tilling).

    You profess faith in a man for which there is no historical evidence for outside the dubious scriptures of the New Testament.

    Pure fantasy.

    Christianity and other religions have held scientific thought back for many years.

    Pure fantasy.

    Even today, despite the mounting evidence for it’s validity, many religious people deny evolution.

    I’m not really interested in the evolution debate, but from what I’ve read, both mathematicians and molecular biologists—people who actually have to explain the probabilities and mechanisms of evolution—are increasingly skeptical of it. Plus there’s the recent “convergent evolution” issue which basically shanks common ancestry. A good example of how belief in evolution is independent of the evidence: the entire “tree of life” underpinning the concept is falling apart, but evolutionists continue to improvise ad hoc solutions to save the theory, rather than revising when the facts on the ground overturn it.

    I don’t deal in faith.

    Since the Bible defines faith as trust based on good evidence, I can see this is ironically true.

    If you do your homework you will clearly see the evolution of religion, starting from ancient Mesopotamia.

    Are you aware that many ancient historians and scholars of comparative religion are Christians who are highly skeptical of the secular narrative about the evolution of religion (especially Israelite religion)? I guess they haven’t done their homework either?

    The Sumerian’s were the first civilization to truly formulate religious ideas, including a flood story very similar to the Biblical flood.

    Usually when multiple people groups tell similar stories about an event, that’s taken as independent corroboration of the event. But of course, in the case of the flood, it’s just everyone copying the Sumerians. Convenient how your beliefs are unfalsifiable by the evidence!

    You have no argument against what I’m saying.

    Okay, let’s get serious for a minute here. You posted a long, misinformed rant, offering no actual argument whatsoever—just ignorant assertions and smug accusations. I patiently responded with reasoned replies and evidence to show how and why you were wrong. So if you continue to insist on inhabiting this fantasy world where up is down and left is right and you have arguments while I don’t, I’m going to have to stop publishing your comments.

    What I’m saying is based on cold hard facts, not faith.

    1. Why don’t you provide some, then, instead of just telling us about them repeatedly?

    2. Again, faith is not belief despite evidence or belief without evidence. It is belief because of evidence.

    I grew up as a Christian, so I have a very good insight into how you think.

    Sure. You’re an expert who doesn’t even know how the Bible defines faith—the fundamental tenet of Christianity. Forgive me if I don’t take your word for how insightful you are. I’m guessing you’re a lot younger than you’d like us to think, so let me offer you this lil tidbit of advice for no charge: people who say things like, “I have a very good insight into how you think,” almost always have no insight whatsoever into how other people think. In fact, people who think they are very good at something in general are almost always highly mistaken, because their lacking the skill to do that thing means they also lack the skill to assess their performance accurately. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. If I were you, I’d look into it.

    The god you so hail as loving and kind is a murderer.

    This is incoherent. Murder is the unlawful taking of a human life. In what sense is God a murderer?

    Your savior is dead.

    This is an odd statement to make given the high-profile atheists who have been converted to Christianity by setting out to prove exactly this claim (Lee Strobel for instance). What is your alternative explanation for the quality and quantity of evidence we have that Jesus was raised from the dead?

    Stating that religion is a control system does not quality me as a “conspiracy nut.”

    Uh huh…and I suppose neither would stating that the Illuminati are controlling our thoughts and finances through the media and world banks?

    By attacking me personally it shows your ignorance.

    Says the guy who not only bothered to post a comment on my two-bit blog to personally attack the character of Yahweh, but then followed up with a personal email to call me pompous, ignorant, and arrogant. I’m noticing a lot of hypocrisy from you. Did you learn that from growing up a Christian as well? I know a lot of people leave the church because they irrationally equate Christians acting hypocritically with the Bible being false, but it’s kind of sad if they start aping the exact behavior that drove them away, right?

    No one saw Jesus rise from the dead.

    Well done—this is actually true.

    No one can even present one shred of historical evidence of Jesus’ existence.

    Hilariously false. I assume you don’t believe a single thing you have been taught about ancient history, since there is no better-attested historical fact from antiquity than that Jesus existed?

    You take that on faith.

    Yes. I trust it is true because of the overwhelming evidence to support the conclusion.

    What is faith? It’s believing in something without any evidence.

    Arh, and you were doing so well! Never mind. I’m sure, as an agnostic who is only interested in truth, you’ll be able to remove your ego from the equation, admit you were wrong, and do some research into the Greek word pisteo and its various conjugations.

    If you say the Bible is evidence, then you are more ignorant than I thought.

    Again, returning to reality for a moment, you need to take a step back and listen to yourself. What you’re doing is not arguing. You’re raving. The way you comment is to blindly insist that what you happen to believe must be true, despite the fact that you must know you have no legitimate reasons for believing it (or even perhaps that what you’re asserting is objectively false). Now, it’s fairly clear that you have a strong emotional need for Christianity to be false—but some people have a strong emotional need for their sports teams to be the best in the world. It doesn’t make it objectively true. What you’re doing is cheerleading; not reasoning. I’m guessing from your apparent ignorance of basic Christian doctrine or apologetics that you were raised in a strictly fundamentalist environment. But in that case, you need to hold up a mirror and recognize that you’re acting in exactly the way fundamentalists act. Sure, you’ve switched belief systems—but your basic approach to believing and defending your worldview hasn’t changed. Just because a fundamentalist leaves the church doesn’t mean he stops being a fundamentalist.

    The Bible was put together by a bunch of men (yes ladies, god excluded you in its production).

    Well, this is trivially true. The question is how the process took place. I realize Bart Ehrman is your idol du jour for this topic, but how much have you read of the scholars who know just as much as him, but disagree with his conclusions? Have you acquainted yourself with how they interact with his position? Have you assessed their arguments? Or do you think there’s no need for that because you just “know” he is right? Are you deciding whether something is true based on how it feels, or based on the actual evidence?

    like most of the Christians I know you probably don’t want to read any book that argues against your faith.

    I realize this will come as a shock given all the unwarranted and uncharitable conclusions you’ve jumped to about me, but I was probably an atheist before you were.

    If your faith is as strong as you contend, then you should have no problem looking at the facts.

    Agreed. I’ll be happy to look at some as soon as you stop hyperventilating and get around to presenting them.

    The burden is on you, not me, to prove god exists.

    1. What is freely asserted can be freely denied. Why do you think the burden of proof falls on my beliefs, rather than yours?

    2. Supposing the burden does fall on me, this entire blog is about reasons for believing God exists, for believing particular doctrines and disbelieving others, etc. Haven’t I discharged my burden of proof to the best of my ability? What more do you want from me?

    Let me ask you a very basic question. If god is so holy and good, then how in the world did evil/sin ever come into existence?

    Growing up a Christian, did no one have even rudimentary answers for this when you asked? Surely this is one of the most basic objections to Christianity, as you yourself say?

    But let me ask you a question in return. You seem to be implying that there is a strong argument against God’s existence, given the existence of evil. So here’s the question: Can you formulate your question into a logically valid argument?

    If you can, I would be genuinely happy to interact with it. I really would. But if you can’t, then I think you’re obliged to admit that your question is just an emotional appeal—a kind of blustering attempt to shame me or fluster me and to bolster your own unbelief.

    God created everything, correct? Evil must be in god then.

    God created everything, but what do you think evil is that it can be “created” at all? You need to explain your ontology of evil before you can even get this line of reasoning off the ground. Christianity typically takes evil to be a privation; not to have an ontology in its own right. Indeed, it’s extremely hard to see how it could. The very idea seems incoherent.

    If anything, I hope I’ve helped raise some doubt in your reader’s minds about their faith.

    Why? That strikes me as vindictive. Suppose Christian faith is delusional, like believing in Santa Claus. Imagine an older kid who went around school just before the holidays, telling younger kids that Santa wasn’t real. Ruining the magic for them. Is that what you’re trying to do here?

    Religion should be destroyed completely. The world would be a better place without it.

    1. This is not just ignorant, but kind of insensitive, because this was an explicit tenet of Communism—an ideology which killed around 100 million people in the past century; many of them religious. Indeed, North Korea is still going to this day. Do you really think North Korea, a country founded in part on the belief that religion should be destroyed completely, is a better place than America, a country founded in part on the belief that God exists and endows man with inalienable rights?

    2. What do you mean by “should” and “better”? Do you think we have an obligation to virtue? If so, you got some splainin to do.

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