The Ten Commandments are Not the Basis of Anything: Huckabee Edition

Pretty much the best way to tell if someone is truly full of it is if they insist that the Ten Commandments are the basis of the American legal system and philosophy. As countless skeptical folks have tried to explain, this argument is so patently absurd that you really have to wonder if the people claiming it have actually even read the “Ten Commandment”s in the first place. Ed Brayton over at Dispatches takes on the latest example of this claim: from a Presidential candidate no less. As he notes, as seems obvious, and yet as no theocratic activist seems to ever acknowledge, of the standard ten, only two would even be constitutional in the U.S., and even those two (against murder and theft) are common universals in nearly every society in recorded history.

The Ten Commandments themselves aren’t even all they’re cracked up to be. In the modern form, they are little more than a Disney-fied version of the original Scriptures, which are far more complicated and obscure in their presentation. The first set of commandments, handed down to Moses on stone tablets, are not even called the Ten Commandments anywhere in the text. In fact, the number of actual commands are so ambiguous that different Scriptural faiths divide them up differently: there seem to be thirteen distinct statements made at least. This makes the common call to post “the” Ten Commandments on public school walls problematic even amongst believers: Protestants, Catholics, and Jews all have their own versions. Any version you pick is going to be a sectarian selection right off the bat.

Then of course there is the problem that these commandments are really only the first of a very many laws and commands, at fact which is often simply avoided, usually because many are barbaric and generally folks don’t want to follow them anyway. Also avoided is the fact that the text very explicitly describes the decidedly unlovely punishments for breaking the original commandments. In nearly every case, it’s death.

Christian theologians, when forced to actually confront these passages, often squirm and complain that Christ re-wrote the law, that it no longer applies, only ever applied to Israelites, and so on (and yes, these are, amazingly, the very same people who try to insist that only by light of their ideology can morality be absolute). I have a hard time understanding how that makes someone who was murdered for cleaning out his garage on the Sabbath any less dead, and any less unjustly dead. The same God, supposedly, ordered these punishments to be carried out, and we have every reason to believe that they were carried out on many poor souls. There is no “out” from that, no moral excuse. The fact that the penalty was magically lifted at some arbitrary date around the time of Christ makes it more absurd and morally offensive, not less.

But if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that there are some things in Scripture that are explicitly called the “Ten commandments.This second list, however, given to Moses after he broke the first, supposedly replace or reproduce the first set… but don’t. And this list is treated as even more important than the first, since it is the basis of God’s Covenant, and includes several new and decidedly batty things like “All the first-born are mine” that concern exactly how God is to be worshiped.

Oh yes, “All the first-born are mine.” (the plain translation is actually more graphic, specifying the first-born as those things which “openeth the matrix.” Ew.)

Imagine if that hung on a public school wall!

On second thought, that’s awesome. Let’s post the real Ten Commandments! Public school kids should totally be regularly informed that the creator of the entire universe desires, perhaps more than anything else, fresh fruit.

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77 Responses to The Ten Commandments are Not the Basis of Anything: Huckabee Edition

  1. C.L. Mareydt says:

    … you are actually very funny in this article … i enjoyed reading it just for the information & the sarcasm … thanks & merry christmas :)

  2. Russ Cruzan says:

    Do you try to keep them? For example, “Thou shall not murder?” Do you try to obey that command?

  3. Bad says:

    Russ:

    Uh, yes, de facto at least. It’s not exactly hard not to murder people, since I don’t think I’ve had any serious desire to murder anyone in the first place. Not because anyone chiseled it into a stone, but because I care about other people and can’t bear to contemplate causing the harm and hurt to that person others that would result.

    The idea that these are somehow THE moral commands from which all others flow is ridiculous though: you realize that right? Every known society pre and post this particular Biblical story had laws against murder and theft. In some ways, that is what a society fundamentally is in the first place.

    Merry Christmas Mareydt!

  4. mattgalyon says:

    “The idea that these are somehow THE moral commands from which all others flow is ridiculous though: you realize that right? Every known society pre and post this particular Biblical story had laws against murder and theft. In some ways, that is what a society fundamentally is in the first place.”

    I agree with you in saying that it is ridiculous to say that all moral commands flow from the ten commandments, this is indeed not a Christian view of the 10 commandments. The ten commandments simply reflect the moral law which is written on the hearts of men (Rom. 2:14-16). The purpose of the Law, and therein the ten commandments, was to expose the breaking of this moral law that was written on the hearts of all men, showing their need for atonement. The allotments in the Law for animal sacrifices showed that there had to be bloodshed for the remission of sins, which has now been fully fulfilled in the blood of Christ, therefore fulfilling the ceremonial aspects of the Law.

    I’m probably going to e-mail you soon about some I.D. stuff. Have a great Christmas.

  5. Bad says:

    Actually, Judiasm did not require bloodshed for the remission of sins: animal sacrifices were actually the most trivial sort of sin atonement, and of course human sacrifice was considered vile and paganite. Full out atonement was always available in the first place, not requiring some grand final sacrifice or fulfillment of the law. Indeed, the very concept of fulfilling the law isn’t something supported by Jewish Scripture: it’s a later invention (and one that failed to convince many educated Jews).

  6. qtipy69 says:

    Jesus says in matt. 5 that if your just angry with your brother your guilty of murder, because Jesus judges the intents of the heart. That’s because He is Holy and Just. So according to scripture you have committed murder, unless you have never been angry with anyone. Jesus also says if you just look with lust your guilty of adultery. Have you ever looked with lust? Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen? Have you ever used God’s name as a cuss word?

    I’m sure you think very little of such things, but they are very offensive to our sovereign Lord, and it’s appointed unto a man once to die then the judgment were you will give account for every word, deed, and action.

    Gal. 3:24 tells us what the law is for- “ Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

    James also tells us how to use the law like a mirror that shows us how God sees us.

    Jas 1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.
    Jas 1:24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
    Jas 1:25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

  7. Chad Jarbern says:

    LOL the above comment referring to ‘the Lord’ as ‘sovereign’ made me chortle, unless I’m unwittingly on a creationism blog, in which case I apologize and will take my leave

  8. Bad says:

    because Jesus judges the intents of the heart. That’s because He is Holy and Just.

    Really? In my opinion that would make him psychotic and obsessive. Condemning people for their thoughts, which in themselves hurt no one, is insane. And learning the difference between thoughts and actions, and learning how to moderate your thoughts (many of which are beyond your direct control) and prevent them from becoming bad actions is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    So according to scripture you have committed murder, unless you have never been angry with anyone.

    This is stretching the meaning of “murder” into absurdity. What exactly is the point of this sort of bizarre moral calculus? Just to make people feel bad about themselves for being human? For having interests and urges in the first place?

    And compared to what? Can you prove that Jesus had no evil thoughts? If he didn’t, does that make him laudable, or just vacant and robotic? And heck, his God (or he as God) not only conceived of murder, but actually carried it out. Jesus himself propounded the most evil doctrine ever imagined: eternal suffering meted out simply for people not happening to believe what he wanted them to. That is more just and less hateful than idle thoughts or emotion with no desire behind them, or properly reigned in by ones better judgment? I would say that your concept of “judgment” is just about the most hateful thing possible: an utter perversion of the very idea of justice.

    And anger is akin to wishing murder now? Isn’t that more Star Wars than Christianity? If I dislike something, I might tip into the Dark Side and support the very things I’m fighting against?

  9. PalMD says:

    Given that humans have little control over their own unconscious motivations (one of the couple of things Freud was right about), it is silly, arbitrary, and cruel to judge people on their thoughts.

    Getting back to the real reason for the post, any rational person should be able to understand that the 10 commandments, in any form, are not the basis for any American jurisprudence.

  10. […] Blog: Bad Idea Blog. Here is an interesting discussion on the so-called “10 Commandments”: […] The […]

  11. Russ Cruzan says:

    Pal,

    You are correct; no one can be judged because of what he thinks. But if you look “to lust” you are no longer merely thinking. It is far deeper then that. It is who you are in your “core”. The things that no one else sees, God sees. For man sees the outer appearance but God looks upon the heart. And as God looks upon the hearts of men He sees wickedness. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:”

    Now if you are honest and still a breathing human, you will admit that some or even most of the items from the list above would describe what your heart dwells upon. The Law of Moses was given to teach man that the condition of all of our hearts (mine included) is evil continually. God is testifying that man is evil in the very core of his being. “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.”

    And because Man is evil, he is in danger of judgment. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

  12. Bad says:

    If God likes to watch people’s thoughts, that’s his own fetish. I still don’t see how that makes thoughts in themselves the evil. That seems like such a basic confusion that it’s almost a childish misunderstanding of the difference between reality and fantasy.

    Now if you are honest and still a breathing human, you will admit that some or even most of the items from the list above would describe what your heart dwells upon.

    Heart dwells upon? No, that wouldn’t be particularly accurate. Certainly the lust section of things involves a rich fantasy life that enjoy, but this again also hurts no one, and I still wouldn’t say that my “heart” dwells on it in any case, in the sense that its a real preoccupation. And again, it’s still the actions that matter, not the thoughts.

    The claim of God, or at least you claiming to know what a God claims, that man is “all evil” is either obviously wrong, or pretty meaningless, morally. Especially if you are speaking of the Biblical God, which would have about zero credibility in the realm of moral goodness.

  13. Russ Cruzan says:

    No one would ever commit murder unless he/she first hated that person. Murder, then, is the outward fulfillment of what was first in the heart. Thoughts are not evil but hatred is evil. Hatred is more then just a thought.

    God requires that a man/woman not only be holy in their outward actions but also in their inmost being. “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

    Jesus was murdered. He was hated by people because He testified that even though they may live a moral life, they are filthy on the inside.

    When the Bible says that God is Holy, it is speaking of His very nature, who He is in the very core of His personality. Not only was Jesus perfect in what He DID, He is perfect in the very core of His being. Jesus never hated anyone. Even as He hung on the cross He said to those who were murdering Him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

  14. PalMD says:

    “No one would ever commit murder unless he/she first hated that person.”
    People commit murder for many reasons, hate being only one. People often murder those they love, and people often murder strangers.

    “Jesus was murdered. ”
    Since God is all powerful and all knowing, and Jesus died for the purpose of redeeming mankind, either he was not murdered, or God murdered him.

  15. Russ Cruzan says:

    I think it was obvious from my response that I was referring to a certain type of murder. Premeditated murder if you will. I was not referring to senseless killing. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

    God is all powerful. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” If He truly is all powerful it is not beyond His power to make Himself subject to the same laws of mortality, including death at the hands of his fellow men, that you and I are subject too. However, you are correct in a way. He was not murdered by His Father but He was sacrificed by the Father for your sake and mine. Only Jesus could pay the price for my sin because only Jesus is the “spotless lamb” – without sin.

  16. PalMD says:

    “I think it was obvious from my response that I was referring to a certain type of murder. Premeditated murder if you will. I was not referring to senseless killing. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.”

    Perhaps you need lessons in either theology, philosophy, morality, or all three. You cannot “change the rules” on what murder is based on an ongoing debate. Murder is murder. Arguments can be made about the death penalty, etc, but murder is murder.

    Murder is only sometimes motivated by hate. Most often, murder is a spur-of-the-moment crime, without premeditation. That makes it no less wrong.

  17. Russ Cruzan says:

    My point is that God will and MUST judge the thoughts and intents of the heart AS THOUGH THEY WERE ACTS THAT WERE ACTUALLY COMMITTED. In God’s economy, lust is equivalent to fornication. This is why all of mankind stands guilty before a Holy God because the thoughts and intents of man’s heart are evil continually. Some may be worse than others, but ALL are guilty.

  18. qtipy69 says:

    Jesus says there are wicked thoughts in more than one place, so either your right or He is, and since I know what is in the human heart from experience, I will go with Jesus.

    Mat 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

    Mar 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,

    The thoughts, words, and actions of every human show us what is in there heart, who they really are. We know corruption is in them by what comes out of there mouths. The things you think and talk about show what you treasure.

    Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

    Mat 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    Pro 27:19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.

    Pro 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.

    God cares what you think because it shows the condition of your heart, who you really are. Paul tells us in Php 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

  19. PalMD says:

    If God is such a nosy prick that you can’t even think without worrying about it, then God can good and truly go fuck himself.

  20. PalMD says:

    I’m sorry, that came out wrong. People who proteletize ridiculous, authoritarian beliefs can good and truly go fuck themselves.

  21. Bad says:

    No one would ever commit murder unless he/she first hated that person.

    This is, of course, clearly not the case: lots of murders are dispassionate. And many are unintentional.

    Murder, then, is the outward fulfillment of what was first in the heart. Thoughts are not evil but hatred is evil. Hatred is more then just a thought.

    No, it isn’t. It’s an emotion, just like any other. And sometimes hatred is justified, like when you hate an evil and want to see it ended. What is good or evil are choices on whether to act on that emotion, as well as how to deal with having it.

    God requires that a man/woman not only be holy in their outward actions but also in their inmost being.

    You can, of course, make up whatever you want to call “holy” and say that this or that isn’t it. But the issue is morality, not holiness.

    Jesus was murdered. He was hated by people because He testified that even though they may live a moral life, they are filthy on the inside.

    The historical Jesus was most likely killed by the Romans, fairly dispassionately, for causing what they saw as trouble. They regularly executed such people.

    Jesus never hated anyone.

    You can claim this, but then I can claim that I’ve never hated anyone either (a falsehood, but how you prove it was?), and the claim is just as worthless. The Jesus of the Bible and the God of the Bible both seem given to all sorts of wild and irrational hatreds and rages.

  22. PalMD says:

    Especially God. He was just plain mean in that novel.

  23. qtipy69 says:

    The bible is the most authentic book of antiquity, historically accurate, archaeologically accurate, prophetically true, written by 40 plus authors, over 1500 years. Just for the new Testament alone we have more than 5000 manuscripts in the Greek, some dating to just 30 years after Christ’s death. Combined with the other languages more than 24,000 manuscripts.

    The book is reliable, accurate, and you can count on that. What was written 2000 years ago(the new testament) is what we have today. It was written by eyewitnesses.

    2 Peter 1:16. For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

    God inspired the eyewitnesses to write it.

    2 Peter 1: 21. for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

    Have you heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls? They verify the old testament and we can compare the bible we have today with what was written thousands of years ago to know there have been no changes. We have all the old testament books there, but the book of Esther I think.
    The point is we can rely on the bible, it’s not a novel and anyone who truthfully looks at the evidence can see that.

  24. PalMD says:

    I think that Tolkein has given us the most accurate view of the past. Look at all the supporting and spinoff literature.

  25. Bad says:

    qtipy, your argument is simply nonsensical. The fact that a story is kept close to its source material is not a reason to believe it was true. What the Dead Sea Scrolls show is that known rabbinical and scholarly traditions of copying are robust (far far more robust than copyists of the New Testament, btw, where in many cases we don’t even know what the “original” wording was since we have so many differences). It doesn’t demonstrate that the stories were true in every detail. And in fact it doesn’t even demonstrate that there wasn’t a prior time when the stories varied quite a bit, before they were compiled into modern forms. This, in fact, is what we know happened with the Bible, and we quite suspect happened with the Old Testament stories which seem as if they were at some point cobbled together from several different accounts.

    Very few of the things written in the Bible count as eyewitness accounts. Many don’t even have known authors or provenance. Who was the eyewitness writing about the creation of the universe? Who really wrote any of the Gospels, even Luke/Acts? Paul is one of the few people we know writing in his own voice, and very early in Christianity (though some of the passages and books are suspect), and what is particularly telling about those is how little Paul seems to know of the things the Gospels recount, or really much of anything about all the supposed events.

    As for the “prophetically true” I have to say that I find that claim pretty absurd. In many cases, the record of the predictions don’t even appear until after the events they predict. In others, the “fulfillment” of the predictions seem downright contrived and based on some very sketchy after-the-fact interpretation. In some cases, like putting Jesus on two donkeys at once, or calling him Emmanuel in the text when no one seems to have called him that in real life, the authors seem almost laughably desperate to fulfill prophecies they don’t really even seem to understand (largely because they were likely not particularly erudite scholars of Jewish Scripture, or even native readers/writers of Hebrew).

  26. qtipy69 says:

    You are right, it does not prove what it says is true, only that what we have is accurate to what they had. And I never said the authenticity made it true only accurate. I do, however, wonder if you are seeking truth or not.
    I also still wonder if you have ever lied, stole, or do you lust? Do you consider yourself to be a good person?
    Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
    Rom 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
    Rom 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
    Rom 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
    Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

  27. Bad says:

    And I never said the authenticity made it true only accurate.

    Really? You certainly seemed to be saying that (“The book is reliable, accurate, and you can count on that. What was written 2000 years ago(the new testament) is what we have today. It was written by eyewitnesses.”)

    Why would you wonder when I’ve already answered that question?

    The passage you quote is actually a pretty good example of just how full of hate the Biblical God (or at least the people who envisioned such a god) was.

  28. Russ Cruzan says:

    Bad,

    We know that the Old Testament was complete long before the birth of Jesus. We also know that the Old Testament foretold the coming of a Messiah. Not only did it foretell that He was coming, it foretold many details concerning Him. Let me point out just a few:

    1. The Messiah will be Jewish. This does not seem that significant but just this one detail concerning the Messiah excludes over 99% of the all people who have ever lived from claiming to fulfill the office.

    2 Born in Bethlehem. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.

    3. The Messiah will be a descendant of David.

    Israel is one of the smallest nations and Bethlehem one of its smallest villages yet here is Jesus, uniquely fulfilling these prophecies.

    Then we have the promise to the gentiles. What Jew would make such promises? NONE. Just the fact that we have prophecies toward the gentiles from Jewish writings is a miracle, let alone that they would be fulfilled. “I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

    Then there current prophecies being fulfilled. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

    And there are future Prophecies, “And they (Israel) also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. The nation of Israel itself is evidence that the Bible is true. How did this nation survive 1900 dispersed throughout the world and yet maintain its identity as unique a people? Yet God promised, “”Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

    Now, these few (there are many more) points are “evidence” but they are not “proof”. Yet even this is by design. If God were to prove that Jesus is who He says He is, He would then take away your free will to choose Him or reject Him. God will never force you to believe but there is plenty of evidence so that our faith is reasonable, not blind.

  29. qtipy69 says:

    Once again you are right, God hates sin! He is a God of love also, and of mercy, and of Justice, and of wrath. He is angry with you because you call Him a liar, and you sin against Him when you break the ten commandments. Your an enemy of God by wicked works through your mind. That’s what the bible teaches. And understand this, I am no better than you, and in fact I have probably committed worse sins than you.

    This is way I stated, “…and since I know what is in the human heart from experience, I will go with Jesus.” But this is not the whole story only the bad news, but I can not and will not cast the pearl before a Prideful heart.

    Maybe I should back up a second and ask you this, do you believe there is a God?

    P.s. I do appreciate the conversation even if your hostile toward religion, I don’t care for religion either.

  30. Bad says:

    Russ: What the Old Testament says about the Messiah very clearly demonstrates that Jesus could not have been it. He did not usher in an age of universal peace. He did not end unbelief. He did not restore Israel. And so on. All of these are the ACTUAL requirements for the Jewish Messiah, and handwving promises of it all happening some day didn’t impress literature Jews in the time of Jesus, and doesn’t impress me today. The things you and early Christian apologists cite are extremely vague and tenuous as supposed references: they are highly interpreted after the fact connections that Christian apologists had to scramble to come up with in the face of the fact that Jesus had failed all of the straightforward signs.

    And how can Jesus both be born of a virgin and be a male line descendant of David (the only sort that counts) anyway?

    How did this nation survive 1900 dispersed throughout the world and yet maintain its identity as unique a people?

    Are you actually asking this as a serious question? Do you not know the actual history of the Jewish people? The answer is found in history, not miracle.

    If God were to prove that Jesus is who He says He is, He would then take away your free will to choose Him or reject Him.

    Sheer nonsense. Does the existence of the police take away anyone’s free will to break the law, or prevent everyone from dong so?

    By being honest with people, instead of cryptic and appearing as if you don’t exist at all, you are restricting their range of informed choices, not broadening them. You are misleading people as to what the real situation is.

  31. Bad says:

    Maybe I should back up a second and ask you this, do you believe there is a God?

    I should have thought it was pretty obvious by now that I do not. If not, I apologize: I do not.

    I’m not hostile towards religion at all: I’m very live and let live about religion itself. I will, however, criticize what I see as bad ideas and claims that I think are poorly supported or even misleading.

    The “my worship relationship with the supernatural being Jesus Christ is not a religion” line isn’t particularly interesting to me either, nor do I think it makes much sense. You can call what you believe anything you wish, as much as it matters to me. That doesn’t make it any more or less compelling as a set of claims.

  32. Russ Cruzan says:

    God does not operate according to your timetable concerning prophesy. He works it according to His timetable. Because Jesus did not fulfill all of the prophesies concerning Himself, it does not mean that He won’t do so in the future.

    Dan 9:26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;

    Isaiah 53:3
    He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

    Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted

    But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

    All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

    And Jesus’ own words, “”Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

    “appearing as if you don’t exist at all”. Actually, the Bible says that the reason God is hidden from your eyes is not because of Him, it is because of you. The Bible says that your sin has separated you from Him.

    IS 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.

  33. Bad says:

    God does not operate according to your timetable concerning prophesy.

    Maybe so, but in that case your claims about fulfilling prophecy are pretty empty, since it apparently doesn’t matter whether they are fulfilled or not. If you make any sort of excuse you want, then you can bend and twist and excuse just about anything. At that point, so what?

    Actually, the Bible says that the reason God is hidden from your eyes is not because of Him, it is because of you.

    It’s one thing to claim something: anyone can claim this or that, and any author in any book can do so. It’s quite another thing entirely to be accurate in those claims, or to make a convincing argument on the point.

  34. arthurvandelay says:

    And how can Jesus both be born of a virgin and be a male line descendant of David (the only sort that counts) anyway?

    Exactly. The genealogies both cite Joseph, not Mary, as the descendant of David. Could the Gospels have been wrong? But I thought the bible was inerrant! Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways . . . :)

  35. Bad says:

    Generally, one of the ways apologists try to resolve this problem by saying that one of those family trees is really Mary’s. But that doesn’t explain what the relevance of ever citing Joseph’s is, so others say that they are both forms of Mary’s. There is no consistent answer: there is, instead what we generally find with theological apology: lots of different answers all tossed out with lots of irritation, and seeming disinterest in the “right” answer, despite all the claims about certain truth found in the Bible.

  36. Russ Cruzan says:

    Bad,

    If the law were merely external, then it could never govern the thoughts of the heart. But is does govern the thoughts of the heart. The law says,

    “Thou shall not covet”.

    I suggest to you that you could not even define “covetousness” unless the law were written upon your heart. For this sin can only be committed in the depths of your heart.

    That is why you are separated from God. Because, although you know the law is written on your heart, for God has shown you, you “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

  37. qtipy69 says:

    The same thing you do…. lots of different answers tossed out with lots of irritation, and seeming disinterest in the “right” answer!

  38. Bad says:

    Russ: For this sin can only be committed in the depths of your heart.

    You assume it’s a sin in the first place (or “the law”). I don’t: I don’t see that it makes much sense as a moral system in the first place. Of course, the point of this article is that it would be grossly unconstitutional to make a law against coveting things, not that you can’t have an opinion on what is right and what is wrong just as I do.

    Russ: That is why you are separated from God. Because, although you know the law is written on your heart, for God has shown you, you “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

    This is a self-sealing argument: no matter how weak your case, you can always insist that you are correct and I just don’t want to see it. Again: not a very good substitute for a credible argument or justification for your claims.

  39. Bad says:

    qtipy: maybe it is what I do, maybe not. You’re rubber, I’m glue, yadda yadda yadda. But note that at least when I make that accusation, I can give examples of this sort of attitude. Can you do so with me? If so, then we might have the makings of a real discussion.

    And I don’t think I’m so far off base at all. Where is the theological consensus on the issue of Jesus’ genealogy? Do most theologians really, ultimately, even care whether or not they can make sense of it? Or is, really, the point to just insist that it makes sense, regardless of whether or not it does? This sort of attitude is puzzling to those of us with an empirical bent, because for us these details ARE the way to know if the claim is true and make sense. I guess if, on the other hand, you already believe that something is true, how you can know that and if the claims that support it make sense are indeed of a far lesser importance.

  40. Tom says:

    It’s funny that some of these Christian commenters are still talking about “the ten commandments” as if they hadn’t even read the post they are commenting on.

    I’d like to see one of them address specifically whether killing someone for working on the sabbath was/is good, moral Jewish or Christian behaviour? Or killing heretics? Should be perfectly easy to answer I would have thought given how explicitly it’s stated..

  41. Bad, I’ll give you credit: you have a lot more patience than I do. ;)

  42. […] Bible? Nope, & Not Even the Declaration I recently covered the utterly laughable claim that American jurisprudence is founded in the Ten Commandments. A series of must read posts from Ed Brayton at Dispatches and Jonathan Rowe over at Positive […]

  43. Russ says:

    Tom,

    Jesus already answered your question:

    Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

  44. PalMD says:

    OK, just to reiterate—the 10 Commandments never have, and can not, serve as the basis for any legal system in the U.S. Most are about religious issues, which we do not legislate, or about “thought crime”, which we also do not legislate.
    Perhaps a little hunk of Idaho could be carved out for those who wish to use the tc’s as the basis of law.

  45. Bad says:

    Russ, I don’t see how that answers the question at all. God, the same God people claimed Jesus either was, or was the “son” of in some unintelligible sense, ordered people to be killed for working on the Sabbath. Was this moral or not? Jesus doesn’t answer that question, or even really address it.

  46. Russ says:

    Bad,

    Good question. God saved an entire nation, the nation of Israel, from slavery in Egypt. They had been slaves for 400 years. To this nation that God saved by His grace He gave various commands, one of which was that God required that His people rest one day each week.

    Everything that God does and says in His word is there for a reason. Why would God require that anyone working on the Sabbath be killed? Because God is communicating to you and to me that He is holy beyond all belief! He is holy beyond anything we can imagine and that all of His commands are to be followed – with blessings from Him as the result but with death if He is disobeyed.

    James tells us, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

    Therefore all of mankind if guilty before God, for we all have stumbled in many points.

    Suppose such a God does exist. A God who hates sin. Where does that leave you? For, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.

  47. Bad says:

    He gave various commands, one of which was that God required that His people rest one day each week.

    Or else be murdered by their friends and family? Sorry, but no. Either saving people from slavery was the right thing to do or it wasn’t (if it actually ever happened), but doing the right thing does not give you the right to make absurd demands of people on penalty of death and then call that morality.

    Because God is communicating to you and to me that He is holy beyond all belief!

    Wait: so demanding that people be killed if they break a bizarre and pointless law is a way to demonstrate how totally awesome you are?

    He is holy beyond anything we can imagine and that all of His commands are to be followed – with blessings from Him as the result but with death if He is disobeyed.

    Well, sorry, but I find that morally abhorrent and evil, no matter who or what this is.

    Suppose such a God does exist. A God who hates sin. Where does that leave you?

    Well, if the God you describe doesn’t exist, then at the very least we are lucky that a monstrous tyrant doesn’t exist. The fact that a super powerful being can bribe and threaten all sorts of things doesn’t make it any more or less moral.

  48. Russ says:

    So if God does exist, He must conform to who YOU think He should be. As a matter of fact, I suspect that if He does exist, He would look and think and talk almost exactly like you do! But because God is not like you (praise God), He therefore does not exist.

    God is a personality. The only way I can get to know who my neighbor is if they choose to reveal who they are to me. If they do not communicate who they truly are, I can never know them.

    God has chosen to communicate with man. He has revealed who He is. One of His attributes is Holiness. It is part of who H e is but it is not ALL of who He is.

    Because God is Holy, He requires that sin be punished but because God is also love, He chose to punish His own Son in my place and in your place. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have ever lasting life.”

    Would you die for your enemy? Yet Jesus died for the sins of the world even while the world rejected and cursed Him. “For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

  49. Bad says:

    So if God does exist, He must conform to who YOU think He should be. As a matter of fact, I suspect that if He does exist, He would look and think and talk almost exactly like you do! But because God is not like you (praise God), He therefore does not exist.

    I’m sorry, but you cannot simply invent silly logic and then ascribe it to me: knocking down a straw man will get you nowhere. You need to deal with what I actually say, if you wish to discuss something with me. I pretty clearly separated the issue of existence from the issue of evil. An evil God could exist, or it could be that no God exists. These are distinctly different possible propositions.

    I notice that you never really respond to my arguments, but basically start afresh with each post, heading off on a different tangent. Why is that?

    God has chosen to communicate with man. He has revealed who He is.

    I don’t see any evidence that any God has chosen to communicate with man. If there was a God who wished to communicate with mankind, there are countless additional things that it could do that have not been done, and we are left with a situation in which many people, such as myself, cannot honestly conclude that there is a God out there communicating with us and still remain honest.

    Because God is Holy, He requires that sin be punished but because God is also love, He chose to punish His own Son in my place and in your place.

    You realize, of course, that this makes no sense? Evil is not corrected by punishment or “payment.” And killing innocent people as a sort of blood sacrifice is a complete non-sequitur. It is, in fact, a pagan idea, completely at odds with the Judaic religion from which Christianity claims to be derived. It all boils down to God being so angry and intolerant that his own creations are as he created them that he must murder himself in order to make himself feel better and more forgiving, or to pay off some debt he owes himself. That’s just plain incoherent.

  50. Russ says:

    “…or to pay off some debt he owes himself. That’s just plain incoherent.”

    I think is was your debt He was paying, not His.

  51. Russ says:

    “I notice that you never really respond to my arguments, but basically start afresh with each post, heading off on a different tangent. Why is that?”

    Let me repent of that right now.

    “An evil God could exist, or it could be that no God exists. These are distinctly different possible propositions.”

    Or, it could be that a good God exists but that man is evil and is in rebellion against God and is actually at war with God and with himself which is why man crucified The Son of God when the Father sent Him.

    Jesus said, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.”

    “I don’t see any evidence that any God has chosen to communicate with man.”

    That is because you reject the Bible.

    “Evil is not corrected by punishment or “payment.””

    It is in our own judicial system.

    “And killing innocent people as a sort of blood sacrifice is a complete non-sequitur. It is, in fact, a pagan idea, completely at odds with the Judaic religion from which Christianity claims to be derived.”

    The atonement for sin by the shedding of innocent blood is a very Jewish idea.

    Ex 12:5 “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.”

  52. Bad says:

    Or, it could be that a good God exists but that man is evil and is in rebellion against God and is actually at war with God and with himself which is why man crucified The Son of God when the Father sent Him.

    All possibilities. But that doesn’t alleviate the need for any claimed one to make sense, and this one doesn’t. Nor can you simply declare that something evil is something good as if it were just another possible fact.

    That is because you reject the Bible.

    The Bible is no more especially compelling than any other religious text. If a God wanted to make it obvious and compelling as his message, it would be very very easy to do so. But it is not so: it ISN’T clearly distinguishable from the work of various religious sects and believers over time.

    It is in our own judicial system.

    No, it isn’t. And you’re confusing pragmatic measures like prevention and deterrence with moral wrongs and rights. Not the same thing at all.

    The atonement for sin by the shedding of innocent blood is a very Jewish idea.

    Again, no. Human sacrifice is explicitly forbidden and labeled a paganite perversion. Animal sacrifices are not offered because they are some sort of substituted violence to please God. They are sacrifices in the sense of showing that you are willing to give something up in order to worship God and show that you’ve turned your mind back on doing what God commands. And sin sacrifices like this are, in fact, the LEAST and most MEAGER sort of atonement for sin in any case. There is no grand unifying demand for a final great bloodshed or sacrifice a human being, let alone the messiah.

  53. Russ says:

    “…that doesn’t alleviate the need for any claimed one to make sense, and this one doesn’t.”

    The reason it does not make sense to you is that your eyes are blinded.

    2 Cor 4:3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

    John 9:39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

    1 Cor 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

    Jam 4:6 …God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.

    2 Cor 3:14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the [veil] is taken away in Christ.

  54. PalMD says:

    Hmmm…so basically, my Hindu friend could tell me I am blind to the power of Krishna, my Muslim friend could tell me that I am blind to the Final Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and my pagan friends could tell me that the Big Momma wants me to suckle on the teat of creation, but I’m too dumb to see it.
    Your religion has no more inherent legitimacy than anyone else’s.

  55. Bad says:

    Accusing me of being blind isn’t an argument: it’s just an evasion. Anyone can run around claiming that their opponents are wrong because they are too stupid or blind to see the truth. But that’s not the same thing as supplying a good reason to think that something IS the truth. What really matters is HOW we know whether something is true or not: only once we know the how can we have any likihood of knowing that we are correct.

  56. Russ says:

    PalMD, BAD,

    Actually, I think your responses to my post are reasonable, even nice. Please remember that I did not say those things, the Bible does. I only pointed out the Biblical truth that there is one who hates God and who hates you because you are made in the image of God. You were created in God’s likeness, therefore, Satan hates you.

    Gen 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

    God has given you a free will to choose Him or reject Him. He has revealed Himself in the Bible and in the person of Jesus Christ. He has demonstrated that He loves you by going to the cross in your place.

    You are always looking for hard “evidence” but may I suggest that if God were to give you such irrefutable evidence that, in doing so, He would be removing your free will because you would be intellectually forced acknowledge Him.

    God will never eliminate your free will, therefore, He will never give you irrefutable evidence. He will always give you a choice to receive Him as your Savior or reject Him as so many did when they nailed Him to the cross.

    Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

    And

    “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

  57. PalMD says:

    Aye, there’s the rub. “Please remember that I did not say those things, the Bible does. I only pointed out the Biblical truth that there is one who hates God and who hates you because you are made in the image of God. You were created in God’s likeness, therefore, Satan hates you.”

    Why is this “truth”? It is only internally self-referenced. You are saying that the bible is true because the bible says it is truth. That is not an argument, simply an irrational belief (to which you are of course entitled).

  58. qtipy69 says:

    PalMD, your kidding right? The bible is only internally self-referenced? Try that one on all those archaeologist who have tried to prove the bible wrong only ending up to prove it true. It’s also interesting that you say we can’t look at something to find it true, science does this very thing. If we want to know about a frog we study the frog, even to the point of cutting it up!

  59. Bad says:

    qtipy, perhaps you should explain who the archaeologist is who you are talking about. If you mean who I think you mean, then you are talking about a man who was overly impressed by the fact that some of the places mention in the Bible were real places. Well, the ancient city of Troy existed: that doesn’t mean that Cyclopses exist. New York is a real city: that doesn’t make the French Connection a historical document.

  60. bbbertie says:

    Ah, Bad, once again you fail to understand the meaning of the word “murder”.
    You seem to change the definition to suit yourself, but that’s what mankind does we use a sliding scale of “whatever suits me” kind of measurement of good/bad/right/wrong.
    Murder is “unlawful killing” if the law demands death, then that death is lawful.
    (the soul that sins, it shall die).
    I find it interesting that you are defending the murder of the most innocent of people (babies in the womb) yet are outraged that a Holy God could dare to demand the lawful death of a sinner! If you understand that the life everyone has is a gift from God and we will all be held accountable for every idle word on the day of judgement then you will appreciate that death is not the end.
    It is quite clear that you are standing in judgement on God, the Bible and Christ yet are completely uninformed about the measurably supernatural origins of the Bible.

    Any Christians who claim that Jesus negated The Law did not read the words of Jesus himself when He said that not one jot or tittle would pass from The Law until all is done.
    Jesus raised the bar, he pointed out that God judges the intentions of the heart not just the outward actions.

    Are you a good person Bad? http://www.thegoodtest.net

    You can hold an opinion, you are fully entitled to hold an opinion but it is arrogance in the extreme (read relegion) to stick to that opinion without any information on that which your opinion is about.
    You are clearly uninformed on the Bible and it’s authenticity. WHy don’t you go and find out. In fact you can do a scientific experiment in the comfort of your own home, the Bible says that if you seek God with all your heart that you will find him.
    If you seek Him with all your heart…
    However if it is only a half hearted effort because secretly you love your sin, you don’t want to have to change well, then God will be merciful to you and remain hidden to you so that you will have less wrath stored up for you on the day of Judgement.

    It is appointed once for man to die, and then comes Judgement.
    You really don’t want to be wrong on this.

  61. PalMD says:

    “It is appointed once for man to die, and then comes Judgement.
    You really don’t want to be wrong on this.”

    Back at you—what if it turns out the universe is ruled by a supreme being who reviles religion and wants us to eat puppies or be condemned to eternal sodomy?

    It’s really quite arbitrary, which is the major flaw in Pascal’s Wager.

  62. Russ says:

    “what if it turns out the universe is ruled by a supreme being who reviles religion and wants us to eat puppies or be condemned to eternal sodomy?”

    The fact that you can look at this creation of God and everyday see the majesty of the heavens, and the earth, the sea, and all that is in it, the perfect workings of your own hands and eyes and mind and partake every day of His blessings upon you and then suggest that the God of such a perfect creation may be a God who would, “eat puppies, etc” only adds evidence to the Bible, that it is correct when it says that the heart of man is,”… deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer 17:9).

    For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, Jesus said.

    “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. “These are the things which defile a man… (Matt 15:19)

    And because man is infected with sin he cannot have fellowship with a Holy God who hates sin but instead, man is under the wrath of God. The Bible speaks very clearly concerning the future judgments of God.

    And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:12)

    A righteous God WILL judge the world at some point in the future but God is not willing that any sould perish, but that all should come to repentance. And because God, “so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” you can be forgiven and free. For Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.”

    If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:9)

  63. Bad says:

    That, er, wasn’t really any sort of answer to the question.

    The people you are trying to convince largely do not invest any particular belief in the authority of the Bible. For us, what you keep quoting is just a bunch of claims. Making claims over and over is not the same thing as convincing anyone of them, or even trying to.

  64. bbbertie says:

    Simply put, if I’m wrong I lose nothing.
    If you are wrong you lose everything.

    Why not actually research the subject you are advertising your opinions on?

  65. Bad says:

    I think you need the research here: the twisted logic of Pascal’s wager has been widely debunked: it’s a philosophical joke. You lose plenty if you’re wrong: you lose your honesty. You’ll have spent your life hurting and badgering people for no reason. If there is a God that respects rational skepticism and tolerance rather than the hedonistic selfishness that the wager puts as its motive, then you stand to lose quite a lot. And of course, there are an infinite number of other possible other god and non-god scenarios in which you lose big time. Allah may not take well to your failure to bow towards Mecca. Odin may scoff at your cowardice for not dying in battle. And so on.

  66. PalMD says:

    I thought I said that, but I think they don’t get it. They can’t step out of their world view and take another’s perspective.
    I can put myself in their shoes. i can imagine what it’s like to believe. I just don’t happen to.

  67. I think you need the research here: the twisted logic of Pascal’s wager has been widely debunked: it’s a philosophical joke.

    Nothing twisted about it. It makes perfect sense if one understands what he was trying to say.

    OTHERS have tried to use Pascal’s Wager as a proof of God’s existence (and failed, of course). This is because they fail to recognize that Pascal never intended this as a proof for the existence of God. What he was saying was that when one has little or no information with which to make a decision, one should then look at the consequences either way, and make the decision, or in his parlance, the “wager”, based on which consequence is the least onerous.

    Since one can never know with certainty whether God exists or not, one can only make a decision with regard to one’s faith based on the outcome of belief or non-belief, since there are no empirical data on which to make a decision.

    This is, of course, quite tangential to what’s being debated here, but the rest of you are doing a fine job dealing with the zealot, so you hardly need any help from me, and I hate to see poor old Pascal getting kicked around so much. His argument actually makes sense in its proper context.

    The real flaw in his argument is that after stating that God is unknowable, he goes and ascribes human attributes to God. Furthermore, there is no room for agnosticism in his scheme.

    But it’s not fair to call his logic “twisted”. It’s only twisted if one sees it as an attempt to prove the existence of God, which it most certainly is not.

    -smith

  68. Bad says:

    But we aren’t talking about a decision, we’re talking about a matter of knowledge. Pascal’s logic is deeply twisted for this reason. As many have explained, his calculation of the odds is bizarre nonsense (simply a Christian-blinders sort of lack of imagination on his part). The “outcomes” of belief or non-belief are just as unknowable as anything else. There’s no basis for such a calculation. Nor does he seem willing to include in his calculation things like intellectual integrity or morality: both of which would reject what is essentially lying to yourself about what you know or don’t know, or acting out of pure hedonistic calculation (let alone one that has its maths so out of whack).

    And really, the idea that it is not an attempt to prove the existence of God is sort of lame on Pascal’s part (I’m not disagreeing with your claim that Pascal would make the complaint that you are making: that he wold say he wasn’t trying to prove the existence of God per se). His argument is essentially a means to threaten and bribe people into forcing themselves to believe by tossing out a hypothetical false dichotomy. That falls pretty clearly in the realm of trying to get people to believe in God, and just because it is not technically a direct proof, exactly, doesn’t mean that it can’t be faulted for trying and failing to do pretty much the same thing.

  69. […] Huckabee, thankfully, doesn’t seem to have any desire to go quite that far. And at least now he’s being a lot more honest and realistic than he was when he was claiming that the country was founded on the Ten Commandments. […]

  70. But we aren’t talking about a decision, we’re talking about a matter of knowledge. Pascal’s logic is deeply twisted for this reason.

    Nay, nay, my friend. The lack of knowledge is the whole point of the wager in the first place. Like any good child of the Enlightenment, Pascal states: “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having, neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is.”

    Hence, any assertion about God is tantamount to a wager. Remember that Pascal was a mathematician who pioneered probability theory, and, incidentally, had a strong interest in gambling.

    So, simply put: X believes in God. Y doesn’t. Either could be right or wrong. Since they have no way of knowing for sure, Pascal says they can only make their decision based on the outcomes of being wrong. If X is wrong, the consequences of being wrong CANNOT be any worse than the consequences of Y being right. But if Y is wrong, the consequences of Y being wrong ARE worse than the consequences of X being right. So the logic here is valid, within its limited context.

    Look at it another way. If you were dying from some rare, incurable disease, and your doctor came to you and said there was this new, highly experimental drug that MIGHT cure you, what would you do? There is no way to KNOW what will happen, so you are, in effect making a “wager”. So now you have to base your decision on probable outcomes. If you take the drug, and it works, you live. If it doesn’t work, you die. But if you don’t take the drug, you die anyway, without even a chance of living. So what do you do? You take the drug, of course, because the consequences of taking the drug cannot be any worse than the consequences of not taking it.

    The real flaw in Pascal’s reasoning lies in the assumption that God actually gives a shit whether or not you believe in him, and will get all petulant if you don’t. Perhaps when you die, Bad, you will come face to face with a most annoyed God, who looks at you menacingly from under his bushy eyebrows, and says something like, “So, you little atheist suckball, who don’t you believe in now, eh?” before casually flicking you into the infernal pit.

    With all due respect to the fundamentalist Christians who occaisionally wander onto this blog, I strongly suspect that it just doesn’t work that way. If God is really this crazy, then we’re all screwed anyway.

    As for the “threaten and bribe” part, this has been done by others, I agree, but I do not believe this was Pascal’s aim. Don’t forget that the “Wager” was part of a larger work which he did not live to complete. Most of it was found as disconnected jottings in his notebooks, so it is difficult to be sure of the exact context. But from what I know of Pascal, I don’t think that he considered this a proof of God’s actual existence.

    Finally, I came across something that you might find amusing, if you haven’t already seen it. It’s called that Atheist’s Wager, and goes like this: “It is better to live your life as if there are no Gods, and try to make the world a better place for your being in it. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent God, He will judge you on your merits and not just on whether or not you believed in Him.”

    One certainly could not argue that this constitutes a proof of God’s non-existence, but it’s certainly not a bad philosophy.

    -Smith

  71. Bad says:

    Pascal forgot the most basic rule of probability: you cannot calculate the odds if you don’t know the situation.

    The logic is simply not valid in any way shape or form. You cannot calculate the consequences to X or Y at all. Pascal is simply lacking in imagination as to what the possibilities are: framing in them in terms of the very theology he’s yet to convince anyone of. It’s a classic false dichotomy, and in this case, utterly and absurdly false because of the sheer limitless range of metaphysical possibilities, from Odin, to Vishnu, to opposite-day God, to no God but an afterlife of shame for believers, to virtually anything at all.

    To use your analogy, the drug could kill you and it turns out that your doctor was lying: you aren’t sick at all. Or you could be dying, and the drug will lengthen your life… but cause you to be in sheer unbearable agony for the rest of your days. So taking it might well be way worse than not taking it. If there’s no way to know, then there really IS no way to know.

    And this is beside the point of how outright wrong it is to assert things as true or false based on what one hopes to gain or lose, rather than on whether one has good reason to think something true or false.

  72. Pascal forgot the most basic rule of probability: you cannot calculate the odds if you don’t know the situation. The logic is simply not valid in any way shape or form. You cannot calculate the consequences to X or Y at all.

    On the contrary, that was exactly his point. If you don’t know the situation, you must base your decision on the expected outcome. That’s what he’s doing here. If you want to fault him for using a too narrow context, fine. But within the context he uses, the logic is perfectly valid.

    Pascal is simply lacking in imagination as to what the possibilities are: framing in them in terms of the very theology he’s yet to convince anyone of. It’s a classic false dichotomy, and in this case, utterly and absurdly false because of the sheer limitless range of metaphysical possibilities, from Odin, to Vishnu, to opposite-day God, to no God but an afterlife of shame for believers, to virtually anything at all.

    You forgot to mention the Flying Spaghetti monster. And in any event, I’ve already acknowledged that the flaw in Pascal’s argument was to presuppose what God’s reaction to an atheist would be, which is, in fact, one of the problems with theism in general. I’ve always held that if God does exist, and if he’s really all he’s cracked up to be, he/she/it would be far above caring what we think.

    To use your analogy, the drug could kill you and it turns out that your doctor was lying: you aren’t sick at all. Or you could be dying, and the drug will lengthen your life… but cause you to be in sheer unbearable agony for the rest of your days. So taking it might well be way worse than not taking it. If there’s no way to know, then there really IS no way to know.

    For the sake of the argument, the assumption was that the only negative side effect of the drug was that it didn’t work at all. You can’t change my analogy and then claim it doesn’t work.

    And this is beside the point of how outright wrong it is to assert things as true or false based on what one hopes to gain or lose, rather than on whether one has good reason to think something true or false.

    Again, you’re misreading Pascal. He wasn’t asserting God’s existence to be true. It was the very uncertainty of this which was the basis of his reasoning. To say that it is was intended as a proof of God’s existence, and then to shoot it down as such, is simply a straw man argument.

  73. Bad says:

    On the contrary, that was exactly his point. If you don’t know the situation, you must base your decision on the expected outcome. That’s what he’s doing here. If you want to fault him for using a too narrow context, fine. But within the context he uses, the logic is perfectly valid.

    This is like saying that the only two choices are drinking acid or drinking drain-o, I guess I’d better drink acid, and that logic is perfectly valid within that context. But the context is part of the logic! Worse, the context he’s giving just so happens to be the very one he just assured us was unknowable (i.e. the context he’s using is one that only someone who already believed in the Christian God would accept as the two options)

    Look, if you allow someone to game the odds and skew the possibilities, then you can make almost anything at all seem logical. But how is that a valid form of argument?

    For the sake of the argument, the assumption was that the only negative side effect of the drug was that it didn’t work at all. You can’t change my analogy and then claim it doesn’t work.

    Of course I can, when it is the very construction of the analogy that is at fault. If you’ve already acknowledged this core flaw, then I’m not even quite sure what we’re arguing over, aside from:

    Again, you’re misreading Pascal. He wasn’t asserting God’s existence to be true. It was the very uncertainty of this which was the basis of his reasoning. To say that it is was intended as a proof of God’s existence, and then to shoot it down as such, is simply a straw man argument.

    I don’t think I’m misreading him in the quoted paragraph at all. No, he’s not technically trying to give evidence to prove God exists. But he is basically advocating an epistemology based on what a person stands to gain by believing this or that, which is perverse and nonsensical. And since the thrust of the argument is to get people to believe in God, I don’t really see much problem in lumping it under “reasons to believe in God.” Pascal might complain, but just because he was famous doesn’t mean that he wasn’t also disingenuous in this case.

  74. Pascal might complain, but just because he was famous doesn’t mean that he wasn’t also disingenuous in this case.

    This is essentially where we disagree. His argument is flawed, but it is not disingenuous.

    It’s all a matter of context. To an 18th century European, “God” meant the Christian God of the Bible. Vishnu, Thor, and all the other possibilities you mention were irrelevant to them and to their ideas.

    Pascal states from the get go that the question of God’s existence is unanswerable, but he naturally assumes (as most everyone did in 18th century Europe) that if God DOES exist, he would be the vengeful Jehovah of the old testament. So, based on that particular notion of “God”, Pascal’s wager makes perfect sense.

    It all comes down the difference between a “valid” argument and a “sound” argument, which I’m assuming you’re familiar with. Pascal’s argument is valid insofar that his conclusion follows logically from his premises.

    However, it can certainly be argued that his argument is not sound due to a flaw in (at least) one of his premises. But to say his argument is “twisted” and “disingenuous” is being somewhat unfair to Pascal.

    -Smith

  75. Bad says:

    Again, that is like saying that based on the idea that I get to pick what hand of poker I get dealt, I’m a great poker player. The context is indeed the fatal flaw (if you ignore the issue of just plain intellectual vacuity), but just because it is contextual does not make it forgivable: any false or forced assumption can make logic seem compelling, but it’s just as wrong and misleading. It’s trivially easy to create a valid argument for just about anything at all: but I don’t see where Pascal says that he’s just engaging in a trivial or meaningless argument: he presents it as if it were indeed sound and compelling.

    That is, Pascal really is tying to offer a reason why it makes sense (hedonistically) to believe in God, which presumes that one starts out not doing so, i.e. that one does NOT simply assume to begin with that the Christian God exists. If his argument fails to sincerely take into account the idea that the metaphysical possibilities are limitless, rather than carefully limited to a forced choice, then so much the worse for his argument.

  76. qtipy69 says:

    The bible is our instruction book that leads to that remedy and the law is our school master. Man is not good, but there are those who would say otherwise and the book even tells us that men will proclaim their own goodness. But Jesus said otherwise, And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'”

    Jesus turns to the law to show the rich yung ruler that he was not good, the law was the school master to show the condition of the yung rulers heart and we too can look into the mirror of the law to see how we stand in the eye’s of God. Lets go through a few of the ten commandments just as Jesus did.
    Have you ever committed adultery? In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus raises the bar saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
    But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” So, have you ever looked with lust? If you have, then you have committed adultery, breaking the 7th commandment.
    Have you ever committed murder? Again Jesus raised the bar “ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. If you have been angry and called someone a fool then you have murdered, breaking the 6th commandment.
    Have you ever stolen anything, no matter what the size or value? If you have then you are a thief, and guilty of breaking the 8th commandment.
    Have you ever lied? If you have, then you are guilty lf breaking the 9th commandment.
    Have you ever disobeyed your parents? If you have then your guilty of breaking the fifth commandment.

    Well, how are you looking now, not a good picture huh? The mirror of the law is very revealing, in fact you cant hide the truth, your not looking good now, if your not lying to yourself.

    It’s just as Jesus said, there are none good. So either Jesus is right your not good, or you are right. And what are the implications that come from this understanding?

    If we are good and Jesus is wrong then we can boast that we don’t need Jesus, that we are good and we can earn our own way to heaven. If we are wrong and we are not good then we have nothing to boast about, and we cant earn our way to heaven. But what does the book say?

    Here are some quotes:

    “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but by me.” – Jesus

    “Unless a man is born again he can not see the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus

    “There is no other name under heaven were by a man must be saved, except the name of Jesus Christ.” – Peter

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Paul

    “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Jesus

  77. PalMD says:

    “The bible is our instruction book that leads to that remedy and the law is our school master. ”
    Why? I mean, why should it be mine? If you wish to believe that, well, fine, but why should anyone else believe you? Has God/Jesus appeared to you on your toast and jam? Performed a miracle that can be measured, recorded, seen?
    No. It is a matter of faith, which is inherently illogical (but not inherently bad).

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