(Originally posted September 2013; updated June 2021)
My title, “An Atheist Response Turns Into Evidence of God,” is worded that way because if the evidence used against God is said to be proof against His existence… and later it is shown that such evidence actually support the God hypothesis, it doesn’t cease being evidence, it just changes columns (or can be in both). Much to the skeptics chagrin. (In other words, “natural evil” turns out not to be so evil.)
First order of business: God Talk
Mind you, these are consequences of a fallen world, i.e., things that must happen via entropy in order for life to continue when not sustained directly — like before the fall. One commentator put it thus:
The question then becomes how do we know if a particular natural disaster is directly from God. The answer is simple. We don’t know. What we do know is that the ratio of the very small number of God-announced natural disasters compared to the total number of naturally occurring natural disasters is very, very small. So we can safely assume that a natural disaster is probably just that, a naturally occurring phenomena that happens because we live in a fallen world [….] So let’s stop blaming God for something that He didn’t directly cause…. (DAVE MAYNARD)
However, as an aside, “fullness of history” itself is known by God alone, so verses like this make known a great mystery that all of it bends to the “arch of God,” if you will:
He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration [dispensation] of the days of fulfillment [of times]—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him. (Ephesians 1:9-10)
While Christian thinkers often have used speculative methods in an attempt to explain the interplay of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, finite creatures likely will never fully understand this mystery. Yet believers can live in the full confidence that God is in control and that the Lord of the universe always does what is right (Genesis 18:25b).
Another example is that hurricanes help to regulate the earths temperature, and cause “sea deserts” to bloom… assisting in many ways earth’s climate:
“Some parts of the ocean are like deserts, because there isn’t enough food for many plants to grow. A hurricane’s high winds stir up the ocean waters and help bring nutrients and phytoplankton to the surface, where they get more sunlight, allowing the plants to bloom,” Babin said. (NASA | NASA)
Why are these “blooms” important, you ask? Well, the blooms produces most of the worlds oxygen, one old article I noted said 90% — but in fact it is closer to 50% (NATGEO says %50… still, that’s the lions share!), and revitalizes what is known as “Dead Zones” in the ocean. Which bring life in “blooms” to the ocean which feed its inhabitants. To wit:
In the process of photosynthesis, phytoplankton release oxygen into the water. Half of the world’s oxygen is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis. The other half is produced via photosynthesis on land by trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants.
….“Most certainly,” says Steve DiMarco, a Texas A&M University oceanography professor who for 16 years has studied the Gulf of Mexico, which has a “dead zone”where oxygen-depleted water can kill marine life.
In early July, most of the Texas-Louisiana shelf from Freeport, Texas, to the Mississippi River Delta was hypoxic – meaning the salt water has lost large amounts of oxygen. Later in July, Hurricane Dolly disrupted the dead zone and re-oxygenated the shallow waters south of Louisiana and the entire shelf off Texas. Oxygen levels started to drop again within days after the storm.
In early August, Hurricane Eduard re-oxygenated the Louisiana shelf, but by mid-August oxygen concentrations dropped to hypoxic levels.
And guess what?
Hurricane Ike re-oxygenated the shelf when it made landfall Sept. 12 in Texas. The latest data collected in October showed oxygen concentrations nearly all at normal levels, DiMarco said….
…New research provides yet another component that appears fine-tuned for life. In a letter in the September 27, 2007 issue of Nature together with a corresponding news release from the University of Bonn, Arno Rohrbach and his colleagues have discussed another mechanism similar to the carbonate-silicate cycle. It also depends on plate tectonics but, in this case, the mechanism controls the amount of oxygen on the surface of the Earth.
Oxygen becomes bound up in various oxides which are then drawn into the Earth’s interior, where various processes result in its being incorporated into an exotic mineral called majorite. The results reported in this letter established that majorite functions as a kind of “reservoir” for oxygen, and when the majorite ascends nearer to the surface of the Earth it breaks down and releases its oxygen. Some of this oxygen also binds with hydrogen released from the interior of the Earth to form water. The authors have referred to the whole process as an “oxygen elevator.”
They go on to say that “without the ‘oxygen elevator’ in its mantle the Earth would probably be a barren planet hostile to life. According to our findings, planets below a certain size hardly have any chance of forming a stable atmosphere with a high water content.”
This research confirms the existence of one more finely tuned mechanism that depends on plate tectonics and contributes to an environment that can support life. It also gives humans one more reason to be appreciative rather than dismayed when we experience an earthquake that breaks some precious possessions beyond repair.
In other words, the skeptic should be THANKING God for the environment that allows life. The gift of life and the opportunity to know and have a relationship with your Creator is a miracle! And is why God is a jealous God and burns with righteous anger at the rejection of giving Him alms — instead the non-regenerate use even their breath to curse Him.
If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling “whatever you say and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?” But then that threw me back into another difficulty.
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too — for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.
Another good read on this can be found at Evidence for God. Similkarly, a common challenge that includes the same categorical mistake has to do with “Can God make a rock soo big He cannot lift it?” Go to a previous post of mine where a paper, a video, and my Power Point presentation on the matter are.
What happens after we die? Does everything just end? Or, is there something that comes after this life? Who hasn’t asked themselves these questions? In this compelling video, Dennis Prager deals with the issue of the afterlife head on.
Here is a thoughtful challenge by someone a friend is in conversation with:
I’ll jump into this message by addressing the assertion that suffering is related to sin. I understand that this is what the Bible says, and during the infancy of the human species, when religion was our first attempt at making sense of the world, it might have made sense to attribute suffering to violating the will of a god. However, to make such an assertion in 2016 seems rather ridiculous. Nine million children die every year before they reach 5 years old. Remember that tsunami in 2004 that killed 250,000 people? Imagine one of those every ten days, only killing children under the age of five. We’re talking about a thousand dead children per hour, or about 17 every minute. This means that before you reach the end of this paragraph, some few children will likely have died in terror and agony somewhere in the world. The parents of these children almost certainly believe in God, and are praying at this very moment for their children to be spared. You and I both know that these prayers will go unanswered. The classic position taken by nonbelievers is that any god who would allow children by the millions to suffer and die in this way, and their parents to suffer and grieve in this way, either can do nothing to help them, or doesn’t care to. This conception of a deity is therefore either evil or impotent.
The very first thing that pops into my mind is the idea Dr. Clouser pulls from many positions taken by people who profess to “think well,”
The program of rejecting logic in order to accept mutually contradictory beliefs is not, however, just a harmless, whimsical hope that somehow logically incompatible beliefs can both be true…it results in nothing less than the destruction of any and every concept we could possess. Even the concept of rejecting the law of non-contradiction depends on assuming and using that law, since without it the concept of rejecting it could neither be thought nor stated.
Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2005), 178.
(More can be see in this regard in my intro chapter to my book, here)
We will venture into how this challenge is void of “thoughtfulness” — which is why I italicized this word in the first sentence at the top of this post. The main laws of logic will show that if the skeptics viewpoint is “true,” then “truth” does not exist. But I digress ingress.
Numbers 1 and 2 taken together do, of course, entail 3. Therefore, the propositions from our original theistic set that now make up 1 are logically consistent with the existence of evil. The only relevant question regarding 2 is whether it is possibly true. Obviously it is since it is not logically false. Therefore, the theistic set is logically consistent from which follows the impossibility of anyone’s ever demonstrating that it is not.
So we see that by using logic found in philosophical principles that the challenger alluded to, especially in his last sentence, saying “This conception of a deity is therefore either evil or impotent,” that the challenge is defeated.
Not only that however, is, HOW does the challenger come to a conclusion that he can judge something to be wrong, outside of his personal opinion that is. In other words, he is saying that an action or inaction constitutes evil. He uses this moral presupposition bound up in “evil” to insert into a syllogistic formula to disprove God (at least God in the Judeo-Christian sense… for “evil” being negative is absent from every other religious viewpoint).
He, the challenger, is saying that I, that my neighbor, someone in Bangledesh, or Papua New Guinea [etc.] should see this formula, understand what “evil” action or inaction is, and agree with him. He is – in other words – inserting an absolute principle in the formulation. This is where I want to challenge such an idea.
CS Lewis once reflected on himself doing the same thing as an atheist when he said:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.
To further draw out this idea, Ravi Zacharias responded to a questioner at Harvard where a moral principle was inserted into the premise of the question:
You see… when an absolute is brought into the equation, the challenger ceases being an atheist or skeptic. UNLESS they pause and explain to others why they should accept what they consider to be an “evil” act. ~These presuppositions also assume a goal or end to life, inserting meaning and purpose that the skeptic EXPECTS others to see and agree with.~ Let us see a little about what atheists consider to be “evil.” Again, these are people bringing their worldview to their logical ends (for references, see, 26 Brutally Honest Atheist Quotes Worth A Read):
“When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is not self—evident. . . Christianity is a system.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“…to say that something is wrong because… it is forbidden by God, is… perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong… even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable….” “The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.” ~ Richard Taylor
“There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions….” | “The hard answer is it [moral decisions] is a matter of opinion.” ~ David Silverman
“There is no purpose to life, and we should not want there to be a purpose to life because if there was that would cheapen life.” ~ Dan Barker
Here is my “AFTERTHOUGHT” to two examples proffered by myself in regards to a meme floating around the internet:
Just as an afterthought. A skeptic who rejects God and accepts naturalism cannot say rape is wrong like the theist can say this:
THEISM:evil, wrong at all times and places in the universe — absolutely;
ATHEISM:taboo, it was used in our species in the past for the survival of the fittest, and is thus a vestige of evolutionary progress… and so may once again become a tool for survival — it is in every corner of nature;
PANTHEISM: illusion, all morals and ethical actions and positions are actually an illusion (Hinduism – maya; Buddhism – sunyata). In order to reach some state of Nirvana one must retract from this world in their thinking on moral matters, such as love and hate, good and bad. Not only that, but often times the person being raped has built up bad karma and thus is the main driver for his or her state of affairs (thus, in one sense it is “right” that rape happens).
In other words they have to BORROW FROM ethics the worldview that they are trying to disprove (again referencing CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias’ work above).
For more on this, see my post noting many more atheist/evolutionary (philosophical naturalism) positions followed to their logical conclusions here:
Here we see the logical consequences of the “God Is Dead” movement and Nietzsche’s prophecy concerning the outcome:
Nihilism can take more than one form. There is, for instance, passive nihilism, a pessimistic acquiescence in the absence of values and in the purposelessness of existence. But there is also active nihilism which seeks to destroy that in which it no longer believes. And Nietzsche prophesies the advent of an active nihilism, showing itself in world-shaking ideological wars. “There will be wars such as there have never been on earth before. Only from my time on will there be on earth politics on the grand scale.
The advent of nihilism is in Nietzsche’s opinion inevitable. And it will mean the final overthrow of the decadent Christian civilization of Europe. At the same time it will clear the way for a new dawn, for the transvaluation of values, for the emergence of a higher type of man. For this reason “this most gruesome of all guests”, who stands at the door, is to be welcomed.
Frederick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy, Volume VII (New York, NY: Image Books, 1994), 405-405.
And so, the Twentieth Century was indeed the bloodiest ever. In fact, non-God [atheistic] governments killed more people in 100-years than all religion did the previous nineteen. See my “Religious Wars” post for more.
Again, even truth is called into question, as the many quotes in the above link show, if God is extant from our discussion about reality.
“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e. of Materialism and — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”
C. S. Lewis, God In the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 52–53.
Do you see? If atheism is true, then these absolute statements entwined in these skeptical position vanish. In fact, “consciousness” is a problem for this discussion:
Atheist Daniel Dennett, for example, asserts that consciousness is an illusion. (One wonders if Dennett was conscious when he said that!) His claim is not only superstitious, it’s logically indefensible. In order to detect an illusion, you’d have to be able to see what’s real. Just like you need to wake up to know that a dream is only a dream, Daniel Dennett would need to wake up with some kind of superconsciousness to know that the ordinary consciousness the rest of us mortals have is just an illusion. In other words, he’d have to be someone like God in order to know that.
Dennett’s assertion that consciousness is an illusion is not the result of an unbiased evaluation of the evidence. Indeed, there is no such thing as “unbiased evaluation” in a materialist world because the laws of physics determine everything anyone thinks, including everything Dennett thinks. Dennett is just assuming the ideology of materialism is true and applying its implications to consciousness. In doing so, he makes the same mistake we’ve seen so many other atheists make. He is exempting himself from his own theory. Dennett says consciousness is an illusion, but he treats his own consciousness as not an illusion. He certainly doesn’t think the ideas in his book are an illusion. He acts like he’s really telling the truth about reality.
When atheists have to call common sense “an illusion” and make self-defeating assertions to defend atheism, then no one should call the atheistic worldview “reasonable.” Superstitious is much more accurate.
These are meta-narratives just assumed by the skeptic with no regard to how they arrived there. I liken it to an analogy of driving a car. The atheist thinks he has gotten in his car, backed out of the drive-way, and is a few turns into his trip to the market of reason. I am merely pointing out that the car is not starting when the key is turned. One may wish to go through another post of mine entitled, “Is Evil Proof Against God? Where Does It Come From?“
Remember, always ask yourself if the question or challenge is a proper one to begin with…
Mortimer J. Adler rightly points out that while many Christians are quick in responding to the conclusions in an argument often times the Christian is unaware that the point of departure is not in the conclusion, but in the starting premise, the foundational assumptions.
Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001), 20-21.
Classic Syllogism – Simple Change
This is how it is often presented:
★ If God is all-powerful, He can prevent evil. ★ If God is good, He would want to prevent evil. ★ Evil exists. ★ Therefore, there is no God. (Or: God is either not all-powerful, or He is not good.)
All that is really being done is this simple change, and it is sound:
★ If God is all-powerful, He can prevent evil. ★ If God is good, He would want to prevent evil. ★ Evil exists. ★ Therefore, the world contains evil.
The conclusion that the world contains evil has no explanatory power on why it does or even if this impacts the existence of God in any way.
FIRST I knocked the opening intro volume down some DBs… people like me that may be up late watching this stuff while my wife is asleep in the next room and then have this *BLARE* creates bad blood between husband and wife. (Fellas’ you know what I am talking about… can you give me an “AMEN!”)
The audio from Fry’s video used was horrible… like they were recording the sound from the laptop, fixed that with the inclusion of the video of Stephen Fry’s interview — something that offers a better visualization of what Dr. Craig and Kevin Harris are viewing for audience inclusion and clarity.
How would you respond to the following quote: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion). In this video, filmed at a Fearless Faith Seminar, Frank Turek and J. Warner Wallace respond to this common objection. If you would like to bring a Fearless Faith seminar to your community, visit http://crossexamined.org/fearless-faith-seminars/
A partial portion from my proposed book and an old post elsewhere:
I wish to illustrate with a conversation (unfinished by the way) between myself and a Zen Buddhist. This conversation can almost happen with any religious Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or the like. The conversation takes place after an interesting post by the person on his blog about self-defense, the Dalai Lama, WWII, and the Buddha. I will post my reply to his original thought, and then he responds, followed again by me. (Keep in mind I am using our “blog” names, they are almost like “handles” like in the movie Top Gun):
My initial engagement:
Does the idea of “violence” as a moral good or a moral evil truly exist in the Buddhist mindset? What I mean is that according to a major school of Buddhism, isn’t there a denial that distinctions exist in reality… that separate “selves” is really a false perception? Language is considered something the Buddhist must get beyond because it serves as a tool that creates and makes these apparently illusory distinctions more grounded, or rooted in “our” psyche. For instance, the statement that “all statements are empty of meaning,” would almost be self refuting, because, that statement — then — would be meaningless. So how can one go from that teaching inherent to Buddhistic thought and say that self-defense (and using WWII as an example) is really meaningful. Isn’t the [Dalai] Lama drawing distinction by assuming the reality of Aristotelian logic in his responses to questions? (He used at least three Laws of Logic [thus, drawing distinctions using Western principles]: The Law of Contradiction; the Law of Excluded Middle; and the Law of Identity.) Curious.
They Call Him James Ure, responds:
You’re right that language is just a tool and in the end a useless one at that but It’s important to be able run a blog. That or teach people the particulars of the religion. It’s like a lamp needed to make your way through the dark until you reach the lighthouse (Enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.) Then of course the lamp is no longer useful unless you have taken the vow to teach others. Which in my analogy is returning into the dark to bring your brothers and sisters along (via the lamp-i.e. language) to the lighthouse (enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.)
Then… if reality is ultimately characterless and distinctionless, then the distinction between being enlightened and unenlightened is ultimately an illusion and reality is ultimately unreal. Whom is doing the leading? Leading to what? These still are distinctions being made, that is: “between knowing you are enlightened and not knowing you are enlightened.” In the Diamond Sutra, ultimately, the Bodhisattva loves no one, since no one exists and the Bodhisattva knows this:
“All beings must I lead to Nirvana, into the Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind; and yet, after beings have been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana. And why? If in a Bodhisattva the notion of a “being” should take place, he could not be called a ‘Bodhi-being.’ And likewise if the notion of a soul, or a person should take place in him.” (Comparative Religions – Buddhism)
So even the act of loving others, therefore, is inconsistent with what is taught in the Buddhistic worldview, because there is “no one to love.” This is shown quite well (this self-refuting aspect of Buddhism) in the book, The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha. A book I recommend with love, from a worldview that can use the word love well. One writer puts it thusly: “When human existence is blown out, nothing real disappears because life itself is an illusion. Nirvana is neither a re-absorption into an eternal Ultimate Reality, nor the annihilation of a self, because there is no self to annihilate. It is rather an annihilation of the illusion of an existing self. Nirvana is a state of supreme bliss and freedom without any subject left to experience it.”
My Final Response
I haven’t seen a response yet. Which is fitting… because whom would be responding to whom? Put another way, would there be one mind trying to actively convince the other mind that no minds exist at all?
Here’s another way to see the same thing, Dan Story weighs in again:
It may be possible that nothing exists. However, it is impossible to demonstrate that nothing exists because to do so would be to deny our own existence. We must exist in order to affirm that reality doesn’t exist. To claim that reality is an illusion is logically impossible because it also requires claiming that the claim itself is unreal—a self-defeating statement. If reality is an illusion, how do we know that pantheism isn’t an illusion too?
Another author put it thusly, “if pantheism is true (and my individuality an illusion), it is false, since there is no basis by which to explain the illusion.” The challenge then becomes this: “if reality is an illusion, how do we know then that pantheism isn’t an illusion as well?” You see…
…most people assume that something exists. There may be someone, perhaps, who believes that nothing exists, but who would that person be? …. no one ever consciously tries to defend the position that nothing exists. It would be a useless endeavor since there would be no one to convince. Even more significantly, it would be impossible to defend that position since, if it were true, there would be no one to make the defense. So to defend the position that nothing exists seems immediately to be absurd and self-contradictory.
Another problem in pantheism is God’s inability to deal with or solve the problem of evil. Dan Story points out what should be becoming obvious, “He is the cause of it (remember, all is God).” Mr. Story continues:
Pantheism and the New Age may try to ignore this problem by claiming that sin and suffering is merely illusion. But let’s bring this philosophy down to the real world. Try to convince a man dying of cancer or a parent who has just lost a child that evil and suffering are illusion. Even if evil is an illusion, the illusion itself is real. In either case, evil exists. As Geisler noted, “If evil is not real, what is the origin of the illusion? Why has it been so persistent and why does it seem so real?… How can evil arise from a ‘God’ who is absolutely and necessarily good?” The answer must be that if pantheism is true, God cannot be good, and He must be the source of evil.
Between karmic destiny and the god[s] of pantheism and its dealing with pain and suffering (and consequently the promotion of it) by claiming everything is an illusion is not an answer at all. Must we not live as if this illusion is reality? In other words, “look both ways:”
As the professor waxed eloquent and expounded on the law of non-contradiction, he eventually drew his conclusion: “This [either/or logic] is a Western way of looking at reality. The real problem is that you are seeing contradictions as a Westerner when you should be approaching it as an Easterner. The both/and is the Eastern way of viewing reality.”
After he belabored these two ideas on either/or and both/and for some time, I finally asked if I could interrupt his unpunctuated train of thought and raise one question.
I said, “Sir, are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and system of logic or nothing else?”
There was pin-drop silence for what seemed an eternity. I repeated my question: “Are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and logic or nothing else? Have I got that right?”
He threw his head back and said, “The either/or does seem to emerge, doesn’t it?”
“Indeed, it does emerge,” I said. “And as a matter of fact, even in India we look both ways before we cross the street – it is either the bus or me, not both of us.
Pantheists may pawn this inane philosophy on people, but no one can live it out consistently as Ravi pointed out. Moreover, when a large population tries to live it – like in India – one can see the fruits it produces, the destruction of the family a case in point. The promulgation of suffering and the inability of the religious Hindu to stop and help a suffering child or the rampant infestation of disease ridden — crop eating — pests, is all a loud refutation of trying to live an unlivable religious proposition. A lie.
 I use quite liberally in this exchange two resources, they are follows: Michael J. Murray, ed., Reason for the Hope Within, 212-214; Ernest Valea, “Possible difficulties in Buddhism,” Many Paths To One Goal? Found at: http://www.comparativereligion.com/Buddhism.html (last accessed 8-11-09), the main site is: http://www.comparativereligion.com/index.html
 “One who has taken a vow to become a Buddha.” David Burnett, The Spirit of Buddhism: A Christian Perspective on Buddhist Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2003), 329. “Celestial” Buddha’s and bodhisattvas are said to be able to assist in guiding believers towards salvation as supernatural beings. These bodhisattvas vary in their rolls and offices as the many gods of Hinduism, from which Buddhism comes. See: Michael D. Coogan, Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Toaism, Confucianism, Shinto (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005), 133-139.
 Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.
 Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish, See the Gods Fall: Four Rivals to Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), 210.
 Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.
 L. Russ Bush, A Handbook for Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 70.
 Michael J. Murray critiques quickly the Ramanuja and Madhya philosophies:
Stated in terms of Christian terminology, Ramanuja’s view implies that every soul that has ever existed endured an eternity in “hell” (i.e., the cycle of rebirths) before it could enter “heaven” (i.e., union with God). Now unlike Madhya, Ramanuja claims that God freely, and beginninglessly, created the world, and all existing souls, out of his own being. This latter claim, however, presents Ramanuja with a very severe problem of evil: that of reconciling his belief that God is perfectly good and all-loving with God’s ultimate responsibility for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of sin and suffering. The problem of evil faced by Ramanuja here is much more severe than that faced by Western theists. First, unlike Western theists, Ramanuja cannot say that this evil is a necessary consequence of God’s creating creatures with free will. Although the suffering of a soul in any individual life could be blamed on the bad karma resulting from its free choices in previous lives, the fact that the suffering is beginningless — and hence infinite — cannot be blamed on free choice. The reason for this is that, no matter what free choices souls make in this life, or have made in any previous life, they cannot change the fact that they have beginninglessly endured an infinite amount of suffering; but one cannot be responsible for what one was powerless to change. Followers of Ramanuja, therefore, do not seem to have recourse to the traditional free will theodicy invoked in the West to explain evil. Second, the amount of evil that needs to be explained is infinitely larger than that faced by Western versions of theism, since, according to Ramanuja each soul has committed an infinite number of evil acts and endured an infinite period of suffering. Unfortunately, as Julius Lipner points out, neither Ramanuja, nor any other orthodox Hindu theologian, ever attempted to address this particular problem of evil since they took the eternality of the world and souls as an “unquestioned datum for life and thought.” Unlike Ramanuja (and Western theism), however, Madhva’s theology largely avoids the problem of evil. The reason for this is that in his theology God is neither responsible for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of bondage, nor for the fact that they continue to remain in bondage, this being ultimately the result of their inherent, uncreated nature. Nonetheless, his system suffers from two drawbacks when compared to Ramanuja’s view. First, Madhva’s system leaves one with a plurality of ultimates — souls, matter, and God — without accounting for their existence. Although this is not a devastating criticism of Madhya, everything else being equal, views that hypothesize a single, unified source of everything (such as God), are in virtue of their simplicity, philosophically more satisfactory. Second, even though Madhya claimed to base his view on scripture, from the perspective of many orthodox Hindus his theology seems to contradict both those passages of Hindu scripture that appear to imply a deep sort of identity between God and souls and those that appear to imply that the world emerges out of God.
Reason for the Hope Within, 200-202.
 Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 189 (emphasis added).
 Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 113.
 Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 128-129 (emphasis added).
 Rabi R. Maharaj, Death of a Guru, 13 and 14:
No matter how fulfilling life becomes, there are always certain regrets when one looks back. My deepest sense of loss involves my father, Chandrabhan Ragbir Sharma Mahabir Maharaj. How I wish he were still alive! Nor does the fact that this extraordinary man died so young and under such mysterious circumstances entirely explain my regret. So much that is even more remarkable has happened since then. I often wonder what it would be like to share it all with him, and what his reaction would be. To share it with him! We never shared anything in our lives. Because of the vows he had taken before I was born, not once did he ever speak to me or pay me the slightest heed. Just two words from him would have made me unspeakably happy. More than anything else in the whole world I wanted to hear him say, “Rabi! Son!” Just once. But he never did. For eight long years he uttered not a word, not even a whispered confidence to my mother…. “Why is Father that way?” I would ask my mother when I was still too young to understand. “He is someone very special—the greatest man you could have for a father,” she would reply, always patient with my persistent questions and puzzled expression. “He is seeking the true Self that lies within us all, the One Being, of which there is no other. And that’s what you are too, Rabi.”
I want to leave the reader with this thought by Robert Hume. In his book, The World’s Living Religions, he comments that there are three features of Christian faith that “cannot be paralleled anywhere among the religions of the world” [I can add here, the cults either]. These include the character of God as a loving Heavenly Father, the character of the founder of Christianity as the Son of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Further, he says:
The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great religious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strongminded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been worshipped, even with multitudinous idols.
All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances.
Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the comprehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.
Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 285-286.
If there is a God, why is there so much evil? How could any God that cares about right and wrong allow so much bad to happen? And if there is no God, who then determines what is right and what is wrong? The answers to these questions, as Boston College philosopher Peter Kreeft explains, go to the heart of ethics, morality and how we know what it means to be a decent person.
The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either.
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?
Isn’t human suffering proof that a just, all-powerful God must not exist? On the contrary, says Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft. How can “suffering” exist without an objective standard against which to judge it? Absent a standard, there is no justice. If there is no justice, there is no injustice. And if there is no injustice, there is no suffering. On the other hand, if justice exists, God exists. In five minutes, learn more.
Description of the above video:
A student asks a question of Ravi Zacharias about God condemning people [atheists] to hell. This Q&A occurred after a presentation Ravi gave at Harvard University, and is now one of his most well-known responses in the apologetic sub-culture. This is an updated version to my original post (http://youtu.be/4EeOvWdHGaM). I truncated the beginning as well as editing the volume of the initial question. I also added graphics and text quotes into the audio presentation. Enjoy this short response by Mr. Zacharias, it is him at his best.
Description of the above video:
Is evil rational? If it is, then how can we depend on reason alone to make a better world? Best-selling author Dennis Prager has a challenging answer.
Description of the above video:
Atheists Trying to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too on Morality. This video shows that when an atheist denies objective morality they also affirm moral good and evil without the thought of any contradiction or inconsistency on their part.
EVERY ONE HAS HEARD people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kinds of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”–‘That’s my seat, I was there first”–“Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm”–“Why should you shove in first?”–“Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine”–“Come on, you promised.” People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.
Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that some thing has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.
(accuser) “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”
(responder) “Your right, I apologize.”
(accuser) “That’s my seat, I was there first!”
(responder) “Your right, you were. Here you go.”
(accuser) “Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine.”
(responder) “Oh gosh, I forgot, here you go.”
(accuser) “Come on, you promised.”
(responder) “Your right, lets go to the movies.”
Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the “laws of nature” we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong “the Law of Nature,” they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law–with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.
This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who are color-blind or have no ear for a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behavior was obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If they were not, then all the things we said about the war were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practiced! If they had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the color of their hair.
I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities.
But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Creeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to–whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put Yourself first. selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.
But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter; but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong–in other words, if there is no Law of Nature–what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?
It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my next point, which is this. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature. If there are any exceptions among you, 1 apologize to them. They had much better read some other work, for nothing I am going to say concerns them. And now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left:
I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for us. That time you were so unfair to the children was when you were very tired. That slightly shady business about the money–the one you have almost forgotten-came when you were very hard up. And what you promised to do for old So-and-so and have never done–well, you never would have promised if you had known how frightfully busy you were going to be. And as for your behavior to your wife (or husband) or sister (or brother) if I knew how irritating they could be, I would not wonder at it–and who the dickens am I, anyway? I am just the same. That is to say, I do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature very well, and the moment anyone tells me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much–we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so–that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behavior that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.
These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.
After reading that portion of CLASSIC Lewis, here is some thoughts from a philosopher that I disagree with on many points (he is an atheist after all), but he argues well for the following, even if later rejecting it:
If the reader is not familiar with Mere Christianity, I would urge him or her to buy it. The first chapter alone is worth the cost of the book. It is a brilliant piece of psychology. In it, Lewis sums up two crucial aspects of the human condition. We can see the first aspect in the passage quoted. Human beings do quarrel in the way Lewis describes. We are moral agents who cannot help feeling that there are some things we ought to do, and that there are other things we ought not to do. We believe, sometimes despite ourselves, that there is such a thing as right and wrong, and that there are certain principles of conduct to which we and all other human beings ought to adhere. In our dealings with other people we constantly appeal to those principles. We are quick to notice when others violate them. We get defensive and make excuses when it appears that we have violated them ourselves. We get defensive even when no one else is around. We accuse ourselves when no else does, and we rationalize our behavior in front of our consciences just as we would in front of another person. We cannot help applying to ourselves the principles we firmly believe apply to all. To use Alvin Plantinga’s term, the belief in morality is basic. Even when we reject that belief in our theoretical reasoning, it comes back to haunt us at every turn. We can never really get away from it. There is a reason why our legal system defines insanity as the inability to tell right from wrong: people who lack that ability have lost an important part of their humanity. They have taken a step down towards the level of beasts.
Even if, in our heart of hearts, we all believe in morality, we do not necessarily share the exact same moral values. Differences regarding values are at least a part of what we quarrel about. Yet Lewis correctly recognizes that our differences in this area never amount to a total difference. The moral beliefs human beings entertain display broad cross-cultural similarities. Ancient Egyptians did not appreciate having their property stolen any more than we do. A brother’s murder, a wife’s infidelity, or a friend’s betrayal would have angered them, just as it angers us. Human nature has not changed much for tens of thousands of years. It does not change at all when one travels to the other side of the globe.
I did not believe Lewis the first time I read him, or even the second time. This idea, that there is a fundamental underlying unity to the moral fabric of humanity, is a hard one to accept. Think about those suicidal fanatics who crashed planes into the World Trade Center. They “knew” they were doing the right thing, that Allah would reward them in heaven with virgins galore. How radically different from our own values the values of some Muslims must seem! Yet there is common ground. Even the most militant Muslims despise thieves, cheats, and liars, just as Christians. Jews, and atheists do. They value loyalty and friendship. just as we do. They love their children and their parents. just as we do. They even condemn murder, at least within their own societies. It is only when they deal with outsiders like us that some of them may seem like (and in fact, be) monsters. To distinguish between insiders and outsiders, and to treat the latter horribly, is actually not so unusual in human history. Expanding one’s “inside group” until it encompasses all of humanity is something of an innovation. When we consider all this, the moral gulf between us and them does not seem so unbridgeable. Our admittedly great differences occur against a background of fundamental similarities. Similarities guaranteed by the fact that we are all stuck being human. So it seems Lewis was right, despite my earlier skepticism. Universal moral themes can and do underpin the diversity of our moral opinions.
Moral statements, then, cannot be mere matters of taste and opinion. They essentially involve an appeal to principles that transcend both the wishes of any one individual, and the customs of any one culture or society. That there are such principles, and that we cannot really escape from them, are points Lewis successfully illuminates. It thus seems very plausible to suppose that when our moral statements appeal to these principles in an appropriate and rational manner, they deserve to be called truths.