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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » A Hypothetical: What if God Proved His Own Existence? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: A Hypothetical: What if God Proved His Own Existence?
Foust
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Here's a hypothetical scenario. Let's say God does something - or a series of things - to prove his own existence. Whatever standard of proof you wish, whatever actions God would have to take to prove he exists and that he is indeed omnimax.

Then, he points at various conservative Evangelical figures - Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson, etc - and says: "These guys basically have it correct. Gay is not ok, I like libertarian economics but whatever, I do think abortion is murder, and oh yeah, if you don't accept Jesus as your savior you will go to hell. Jews, Muslims et al take note. The rapture is going to happen in a few days, it's time to make a choice." Add whatever conservative evangelical positions you wish to this list.

What would you do?

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Strider
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Believe in god, reject him.
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Foust
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I should have said this in the first post. I forgot. Strider, I don't mean to ambush you, I meant to put my cards on the table before anyone responded.

I don't think rejecting this God is a valid choice (When I say God in this post, I specifically mean this hypothetically-existing-Pat-Robertson God).

Opposing this God would be a genuinely lost cause. If you reject this God, you change nothing - all that happens is that you end up in hell. No goal will be reached, no one will be helped; the only thing one would achieve by defying this God would be the purity of their soul/identity/ego.

There would be no other possible benefits; only the preservation of the purity of one's soul. It is the ultimate example of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face, isn't it?

There are two parts to anyone's answer to the OP question. 1) What do you say you would do and 2) What would one actually do.

I think that saying one would pursue the lost cause - at the cost of an eternity of suffering in hell - is a stakeless moral claim; it is signaling one's own purity.

Secondly, actually defying God would be nothing other than a defense of one's own purity. Purity that serves nothing and no one.

So why would it be worth it?

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Dogbreath
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If this did happen, would God also start taking more proactive measures in correcting the things he views as evil? I.e, turning gay people straight, stopping unwanted pregnancies, etc? Or would he just damn gay people from the get go, even though he presumably created them with that "flaw"?

Obviously believe in God. Accept him as my savior... I dunno. I'm not sure what's more important - my integrity, or my not burning forever. Can we get saved and still have dissenting opinions? Because traditional Christianity pretty much just requires you to accept the Nicene Creed (which I have no problem with) in order to be saved, it doesn't add any extra bits about not being gay or democrat or anything.

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Shanna
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I kind of worry about what good heaven would be if its ruled by a hateful God and populated by Pat Robertson and his ilk.

The eternal torture in hell would suck, but the company would be infinitely better.

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Orincoro
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I find it amusing to contemplate the idea.

Also, I find it funny that you might have an inkling of an idea that framing your hypothetical like this might actually make the case for god legitimate. As an atheist, I am not merely unconvinced by god. I am not waiting for a sign. I *know* there won't be one, in the way that I know the sun will rise tomorrow and that winter will be cold. Radical events would not shake my confidence in the reasoning behind my knowledge.

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Emreecheek
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If such happened, I would think God was testing everybody. People who rejected that message would be the ones who ended up in heaven.

This presents theodological issues, but fewer than the beliefs that God is proposing in this hypothetical scenario.

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Marlozhan
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
I find it amusing to contemplate the idea.

Also, I find it funny that you might have an inkling of an idea that framing your hypothetical like this might actually make the case for god legitimate. As an atheist, I am not merely unconvinced by god. I am not waiting for a sign. I *know* there won't be one, in the way that I know the sun will rise tomorrow and that winter will be cold. Radical events would not shake my confidence in the reasoning behind my knowledge.

So, hypothetically speaking, if you were to die and arrive in God's presence and look him in the face, would you assume that it was some sort of deception, no matter how convincing his presence was? Are you saying that your knowledge could never be changed no matter what, or something else?
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Strider
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I would demand god sit down with me and explain, to my satisfaction, why I should accept him and Jesus as my lord and savior given the myriad of problems I have with religion. I'd ask him about the errors and contradictions in the bible, I'd ask him to defend moral claims that I disagree with, I'd ask him to explain the suffering and evil in the world, etc...and if he could convince me that I had been mistaken all these years about my ethical stances, then I guess I'd have no choice but to accept Jesus right? But if he couldn't do that, I think I'd have to stick with my morals, and choose not to submit myself to a being I consider not worthy of my support.

Just because I accept that this deity created the universe, and that some specific religion is the most accurate description of this deity's wishes and commands for his creation, doesn't mean I accept that this deity is in fact worth following.

"But god is all knowing and all powerful and all good!"

"But how do we know that?"

"Well it says it in the bible."

"But how can we trust the bible?"

"Well, god dictated it, and since he's right here, you can even ask him!"

"Yup, he's right, I said those things."

"Okay...but I still haven't been given a good reason to believe them. I've only been given good reason to believe this deity exists, but the traits attributed to him are still unsubstantiated."

There are plenty of lost causes that are still worth fighting for.

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Vadon
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It's a contradiction.

For God to prove Him/Herself to my satisfaction would require that They prove Themself perfectly benevolent. If this supposed God gave me a shopping list of things found in conservative evangelical Christianity such as a litmus test of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior for passage into heaven, they couldn't prove themself to be God to me. This being may have created the universe, demonstrated great power, and is capable of banishing me to Hell in the rapture, but I reject the notion that moral rightness would come from such a being. In other words, it is impossible for this being to prove themself God and then say this sort of thing to me.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Marlozhan:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
I find it amusing to contemplate the idea.

Also, I find it funny that you might have an inkling of an idea that framing your hypothetical like this might actually make the case for god legitimate. As an atheist, I am not merely unconvinced by god. I am not waiting for a sign. I *know* there won't be one, in the way that I know the sun will rise tomorrow and that winter will be cold. Radical events would not shake my confidence in the reasoning behind my knowledge.

So, hypothetically speaking, if you were to die and arrive in God's presence and look him in the face, would you assume that it was some sort of deception, no matter how convincing his presence was? Are you saying that your knowledge could never be changed no matter what, or something else?
I'm not waiting for a certain burden of proof to be fulfilled, is what I am saying. I am very confident that my conclusions about the world, as I observe it, are consistent. Should I die, and should something new be revealed to me at that point, I would expect that revelation to be at least as internally consistent. That rather obviates the possibility of evangelical Christianity actually being true, in my estimation. I have strong confidence in that conclusion.

So, no, my knowledge is changeable, but my reasoning is less elastic- it being reinforced on a continuing basis by observation, and surviving, very handily, such challenges as are offered by, of all things, evangelical Christian doctrine.

The problem with the hypothetical, as I pointed out, was that getting me to admit that under unrealistic circumstances, my "beliefs" might change, does not allow for the fact that my conclusions about the universe are not based on an unwillingness to believe, but on more solid premises. My view of the universe is inherently more defensible, partly because it is divorced from my own personal desires. Religion requires devotion- science only requires understanding.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Vadon:
It's a contradiction.

For God to prove Him/Herself to my satisfaction would require that They prove Themself perfectly benevolent. If this supposed God gave me a shopping list of things found in conservative evangelical Christianity such as a litmus test of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior for passage into heaven, they couldn't prove themself to be God to me. This being may have created the universe, demonstrated great power, and is capable of banishing me to Hell in the rapture, but I reject the notion that moral rightness would come from such a being. In other words, it is impossible for this being to prove themself God and then say this sort of thing to me.

I find that to be well reasoned on philosophical grounds. It is the basic objection, philosophically, that I have to god. No god could be powerful, benevolent, and comprehensible at the same time. But this makes sense: we caste god in the image of human beings mostly because we aspire to be god-like. We envisage god as basically a perfect human, forgetting or choosing to ignore the fact that the human condition trends toward, but does not ever actually approach ultimate power over everything. We get more and more power, and our horizons recede- god occupies only the next farther horizon- once we get to it, we don't find god there.
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Foust
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I've had similar discussions elsewhere on the net over the last few years, and it is remarkable how many people claim they would brave the eternal flames of hell in the name of their own moral sense.

That is an extraordinarily strong statement, right? We are talking about the flames of hell which would never be quenched. And some of you claim you would go there in the name of your consciences.

So... I'm curious. With all these people willing to defy god - the very flames of hell, divine wrath, the whole bit - in the name of their own moral conscience. . . why on Earth isn't the world completely different?

Are all the people that say they would submit to infinite divine punishment in order to defy a god they consider unjust perfectly ok with the world as it is? I'm assuming most of us here are living comfortable lives, to varying first world standards. So, why? You're willing to trade eternity to defy Pat Robertson's god; but you're not willing to make much weaker gestures here in our actually existing world?

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TomDavidson
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That's an excellent question, Foust, especially since you've established that there's nothing gained by opposing this God besides a) a certain eternity of agony and b) some degree of self-satisfaction.
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AchillesHeel
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I don't work for a certain person with ties to international smuggling, I could make a lot of money doing easy/violent jobs right here in the U.S. and seeing as this person may or may not have been doing his business successfully for several decades I could work under his employ with little to no risks. Instead I work in a convenience store on the grave-yard shift, where my car has been egged twice this month and I have been threatened with a knife this week.

Me and my morals, I am not the solution but I do my best to not be the problem.

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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
I've had similar discussions elsewhere on the net over the last few years, and it is remarkable how many people claim they would brave the eternal flames of hell in the name of their own moral sense.

It's less that, for me, than it is that I can't lie to myself. I can't convince myself to feel a certain way if I don't actually feel that way.

Could I pretend to follow this god? Could I make outward showings of worshiping it? Certainly. Could I actually worship it or think it was right? No.

And unless this god is unable to read minds, I'm going to hell either way. So why try to fake it?

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BlackBlade
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One also has to consider that we don't actually know (as in have experienced) just what this hell fire is all about.

Sure there'd be tons of people who would just accept God whatever he wants, I mean look at North Korea? We've had totalitarian governments before where you just learn to live with it. And God can't be deposed. But for some people they'd probably say "I'll go to hell" and then once they've gotten there want to do an about face.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Vadon:
It's a contradiction.

For God to prove Him/Herself to my satisfaction would require that They prove Themself perfectly benevolent. If this supposed God gave me a shopping list of things found in conservative evangelical Christianity such as a litmus test of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior for passage into heaven, they couldn't prove themself to be God to me. This being may have created the universe, demonstrated great power, and is capable of banishing me to Hell in the rapture, but I reject the notion that moral rightness would come from such a being. In other words, it is impossible for this being to prove themself God and then say this sort of thing to me.

Yep.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Javert:
quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
I've had similar discussions elsewhere on the net over the last few years, and it is remarkable how many people claim they would brave the eternal flames of hell in the name of their own moral sense.

It's less that, for me, than it is that I can't lie to myself. I can't convince myself to feel a certain way if I don't actually feel that way.

Could I pretend to follow this god? Could I make outward showings of worshiping it? Certainly. Could I actually worship it or think it was right? No.

And unless this god is unable to read minds, I'm going to hell either way. So why try to fake it?

Also, yep. I, sadly, would probably obey for all the good it does me, but obeying some powerful being is different from believing it is God. Of course, most people who are not the captain of the Enterprise will, after enough torture, see five lights and love Big Brother so, given an eternity of torture all bets are off. But asking us what a person would do when their mind is not their own is kind of a pointless question.
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Foust
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quote:
One also has to consider that we don't actually know (as in have experienced) just what this hell fire is all about.
Well, we're talking conservative Christian theology here, so it is something very akin to literal fire.

quote:
Could I pretend to follow this god? Could I make outward showings of worshiping it? Certainly. Could I actually worship it or think it was right? No.

And unless this god is unable to read minds, I'm going to hell either way. So why try to fake it?

What if all this god wants is the outward actions? Remember what Pascal said: if you want to believe but can't, go through the motions and your mind will eventually change. A few hours a week at church, stop having gay or extra marital sex, etc.

quote:
I find that to be well reasoned on philosophical grounds. It is the basic objection, philosophically, that I have to god. No god could be powerful, benevolent, and comprehensible at the same time.
Well, you can refuse to accept the hypothetical situation if you want. But hey, theologians have been churning out answers of varying quality to exactly this problem for hundreds of years. What if you watch a glowing being snap his fingers and poof a cold fusion reactor into existence and say that you don't understand natural and special revelation? You're going to stick with your reasoning?

Either way, refusing the hypothetical is not the same as answering it.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
... What if you watch a glowing being snap his fingers and poof a cold fusion reactor into existence ...

Kind of a lame bar though.

That would be child's play for a Q or an ascended ancient and the last thing you'd want to do is accidentally do something like this.

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kmbboots
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Foust, I think that you may be mistaking what would be considered proof of God. For me, God would need to prove goodness, not power.
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Orincoro
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Yeah- if simple incredulity is the bar god has to meet, then the bar is lower the more credulous one happens to be. a glowing being who snaps his fingers and produces something is not, in my estimation, beyond the realm of plausible events. Moreover the meer *appearance* of such power is barely beyond our current tech level, in relative terms to our history.
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Dogbreath
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See now, the church I went to as a teenager taught hell was part of God's mercy... a place for those who cannot or will not accept God to dwell outside of his presence in peace. Or maybe not in peace, since they don't think true peace can come without the presence of Christ, but at any rate, with only their own troubles to bother them.(at least until they choose to accept him - C.S. Lewis took a similar approach in The Great Divorce) Of course, that church also taught peace and love thy neighbor and was strongly concerned with social justice and gave half it's income directly to various charities in the city.

Actually, almost all the Christians I actually know belong to those sorts of quiet, actually Christlike churches. And their voice gets completely drowned out by the guy in a business suit at the huge mega church in the suburbs...

I really, really can't stand fundamentalists.

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kmbboots
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And again, yep. "Hell" as we teach it, is the chosen absence of God so torture with hellfire would be another proof "against" that creature being God.
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:

quote:
Could I pretend to follow this god? Could I make outward showings of worshiping it? Certainly. Could I actually worship it or think it was right? No.

And unless this god is unable to read minds, I'm going to hell either way. So why try to fake it?

What if all this god wants is the outward actions? Remember what Pascal said: if you want to believe but can't, go through the motions and your mind will eventually change. A few hours a week at church, stop having gay or extra marital sex, etc.
I do not accept Pascal's words as fact.

Nor am I interested in pretending to worship something for eternity just to avoid punishment. I might keep it up for a while, but eventually I'd either give it up or slip up, in which case I'd go to hell anyway.

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Foust
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quote:
Foust, I think that you may be mistaking what would be considered proof of God. For me, God would need to prove goodness, not power.
But... I only asked the question because I know this god would appear immoral to you. The question is a boring one if I say "Hey, what if a super duper nice and perfectly wonderful glowing being that puts Mothers Teresa to shame snapped its fingers and created a cold fusion reactor..."

I already know what the most common answer would be; that is why I did not ask that question.

quote:
Yeah- if simple incredulity is the bar god has to meet, then the bar is lower the more credulous one happens to be. a glowing being who snaps his fingers and produces something is not, in my estimation, beyond the realm of plausible events.
Really? Your world, as it stands, has room for the spontaneous, genuinely ex nihilo creation of a cold fusion reactor? Ok... but anyways, I didn't originally list any examples of what god could do because the hypothetical is that this being convinces you that it is the omnimax creator of the universe.

I don't mean to be getting away from my real point of curiosity here: how could someone who says they would choose hell over submission to this god accept the world as it is now, and live a first world style life? It baffles.

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Stone_Wolf_
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Episcopalian Dogbreath? They are my fave Christians.

Here's a problem similar to what others have said...the underlying contradiction: God shows up and says, "I am all knowing and powerful, all loving and if you don't do what I say, I'll torture you FOREVER!"

I'm sorry, but I don't negotiate with terrorists.

Foust, what you don't seem to comprehend is that people (rightfully) would not believe, despite obvious proof that the god in your hypothetical exists, is decent and worthy of praise. Or to put it another way, any being that holds a giant cosmic gun to your head and demands obedience doesn't also get to claim to be loving. Mutually exclusive.

So basically, your hypothetical is this: If god was a giant hypocrite, and was threatening you, would you submit or suffer?

I would suffer...you can force me to lie, but not to believe those lies.

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Foust
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Javert, I still don't think that is an answer to the hypothetical but rather a refusal of it.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
quote:
Foust, I think that you may be mistaking what would be considered proof of God. For me, God would need to prove goodness, not power.
But... I only asked the question because I know this god would appear immoral to you. The question is a boring one if I say "Hey, what if a super duper nice and perfectly wonderful glowing being that puts Mothers Teresa to shame snapped its fingers and created a cold fusion reactor..."

I already know what the most common answer would be; that is why I did not ask that question.


But that is why your question doesn't make sense? Some being trying to prove that it is God by power without goodness may just as well try to prove it is God by being really pink. If you are asking would I crumble and obey some being that had power over me? Sure, probably. I am no stronger than most. But that is true of any one that has the power to torture me. God has nothing to do with it.
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Strider
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quote:
Are all the people that say they would submit to infinite divine punishment in order to defy a god they consider unjust perfectly ok with the world as it is? I'm assuming most of us here are living comfortable lives, to varying first world standards. So, why? You're willing to trade eternity to defy Pat Robertson's god; but you're not willing to make much weaker gestures here in our actually existing world?
I don't see how any of this follows from your premises. You're also making a lot of assumptions about what we're okay with and the kinds of behaviors we engage in.

No, I'm not okay with the world the way it is. And yes, I do donate to charity and volunteer my time to try to address what I feel are some of the injustices in the world today. Are you saying that because I say I'd be willing to take an eternity of hellfire in opposition to god's perceived immorality, I should be willing to give up every bit of my "comfortable" life and devote every waking moment to righting the wrongs of the world?

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Stone_Wolf_
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I don't think your "real" question is at all related to your hypothetical.

Living in a first world country isn't a sin, and doesn't mean that you are stepping on the necks of others.

Plenty of people sponsor children, give to charity, live wholesome and generous lives, and to assume otherwise simply because we live in the USA or western Europe is crap.

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Foust
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Again, theologians have been offering answers to that underlying contradiction for a long, long time now. I agree the answers are not satisfactory - but are you really going to hold to your logic in the face of some impossible display of power?

Stone Wolf, people do believe what you are saying they would not believe. They just want to phrase it differently. Lots of Christians say Jesus is fire insurance (also more than that). You're going to insist on your logic in the face of a guy who looks up at the moon and etches his name in massive canyons upon it?

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Stone_Wolf_
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In a word: yes.
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Foust
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quote:
But that is why your question doesn't make sense?
Conflicting with your beliefs != not making sense. If something has to agree with your beliefs in order to be logically possible, then there is no point in discussing this with you.

quote:
You're also making a lot of assumptions about what we're okay with and the kinds of behaviors we engage in.
Motivations are irrelevant. I'm not curious about the personal motivations of people who would choose hell live the way they do, merely in the fact that they live that way.

quote:
Are you saying that because I say I'd be willing to take an eternity of hellfire in opposition to god's perceived immorality, I should be willing to give up every bit of my "comfortable" life and devote every waking moment to righting the wrongs of the world?
Not suggesting anything, but it's true that taking the craziest and costliest steps that any of us can think of to try and make the world better are completely trivial next to going to hell.
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Stone_Wolf_
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In more then a word, power, even unlimited power, while massively impressive, isn't a valid argument, it doesn't generate trust, or make something that is untrue become any less of a lie, no matter how many names are etched on how many moons. This is the point you can't seem to understand: might does not make right.

You can't be God and be wrong. You can have god like power and be wrong, but if God really does exist He is uninterested in bullying me into his evil beliefs.

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LargeTuna
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My own set of morals and ideals are essentially what make me who I am.

So if god rejects those principles then I continue living my life not caring what he thinks.

I have no plans on being ruled by guilt or fear. I'm just going to be the best person I can.

So yeah, in this hypothetical scenario not much has really changed for me except I may run into a whole lot of crazy people lying to themselves trying to fit in or capitalize on the situation.

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Foust
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And back around to my first point: what's to be gained by not giving this being what it wants? Like I said: no gay marriage, no fornication, no drugs, a few hours in church, libertarian-ish economics, etc.

Why do people take satisfaction in the belief they would defy this being?

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Foust
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To answer my own question - the belief that one would defy this being has more to do with polishing one's halo, a spite shine for one's soul, then with actual behavior.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
... I didn't originally list any examples of what god could do because the hypothetical is that this being convinces you that it is the omnimax creator of the universe.

I think that this is part of the issue because the way in which this god "convinces" is so integral to the reaction that it would generate that you simply cannot gloss over it.

Especially when you provide amateur hour stuff like
quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
...in the face of a guy who looks up at the moon and etches his name in massive canyons upon it?

that wouldn't even require as much as your previous example, but could be faked by some enterprising Ferengi out for a scam.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Might I suggest, if you are going to ask a question, then reject the answers people give, then answer the question yourself...you can skip the part where you post the question on the internet.

It is not that hard to force people to act the way you want, especially if you have unlimited powers. It is impossible to make them believe what you want them to unless they choose to, no matter the perks, not matter the threats.

So, if your question was: "Would you give lip service to an unjust God to get out of hell?" you are likely to get 99.99% yes. If your question is about people's really real beliefs, then you will need to accept that no amount of arm twisting or threats of eternal torment are enough.

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kmbboots
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Foust, perhaps you are conflating two different questions. If you are trying to ask why people who believe don't do more of what we believe God asks of us the question about belief gets in the way.

I think the first could be interesting but, in the end, probably comes down to human frailty. We are often able to overcome huge, immediate obstacles while simple inertia blocks us from doing all we should.

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Foust
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Those of you that are atheists, haven't you ever had a discussion where someone asked you what it would take to make you believe in god? If your answer is "nothing," then this hypothetical isn't worth talking about, now is it?

If your answer is X, then just imagine this being did X.

Being the omnimax creator of the universe has no logically necessary connection to being good; the hypothetical assumes you think this being is not good.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:

Being the omnimax creator of the universe has no logically necessary connection to being good; the hypothetical assumes you think this being is not good.

Are you positing that the creator of the universe is not God?
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Foust
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quote:
So, if your question was: "Would you give lip service to an unjust God to get out of hell?" you are likely to get 99.99% yes.
Yes, that is what I'm asking, if by lip service you mean taking Pat Robertson's advice.
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LargeTuna
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
And back around to my first point: what's to be gained by not giving this being what it wants? Like I said: no gay marriage, no fornication, no drugs, a few hours in church, libertarian-ish economics, etc.

In fact, that's not all that different than my lifestyle right now, so I would probably find myself doing those things most of the time especially in a society where that is the norm.

However, I won't be turning my back on people who still partake in those activities. I won't be trying to convert them. And there's no way I could actually believe you need to do these things to be a good person.

If this god is against free clinics for the poor and food stamps and other similar economic programs I would be quite confused.

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Foust
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Again, conflicting with your beliefs != logically contradictory. There is no logical necessity to an omnimax creator being anything like what you or I would consider moral. You're refusing the hypothetical, not answering it. And I'm bored with pointing that out.
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Stone_Wolf_
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I'm afraid I'm much too unfamiliar with Pat Robertson's advice to take your meaning.

I'm married, with children, don't drink or do drugs...I don't go to church, but I'm not an atheist.

Unfortunately your saying that "just imagine this being doing X" doesn't work, as God is widely accepted as a moral construct, that is, you can't simply say "just divorce the ethics from the concept of God"...I mean, the thesaurus has "godliness" as a synonym for "morals".

Most people's "X" includes proof of goodness and universal love.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
Again, conflicting with your beliefs != logically contradictory. There is no logical necessity to an omnimax creator being anything like what you or I would consider moral. You're refusing the hypothetical, not answering it. And I'm bored with pointing that out.

Fine. If I were a different person and believed entirely different things about God then my actions would be different. But you may as well ask your hypothetical question of hypothetical people.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Who was your last post pointed at Foust? It seems like it was aimed at LargeTuna, but if so, where do they even mention a logical contradiction?
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