it all started with a Facebook status update

…about the 1973 Marian apparitions at Akita, Japan. One of my co-workers commented on the link, and a long, interesting, wide-ranging dialogue ensued.

My comments (C) are in green, my co-worker’s (B) are in purple.

Japanese quake's epicenter located near Marian apparition site :: Catholic News Agency (CNA) The epicenter of the earthquake that caused a deadly March 11 tsunami is located near the site of an apparition in which Mary warned about a worldwide disaster that could afflict humanity.

B: I think it’s wrong to help the victims since it’s God’s punishment. He rains down fire, you don’t wanna be caught with a fire extinguisher, that’d be like thumbing your nose at God, no?

C: Surely you jest. 🙂   I take it you saw my earlier link about the Tower of Siloam?

B: I did not. I was just going by what the apparition said. (Although she may have been kidding.)

C: I don’t know where you got that from the article. Certainly your logic doesn’t reflect the messages themselves.  http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/akita.htm

If Mary had said not to pray, not to change their lives, then I could see your logic as… parallel, but…

You seem to be saying that God’s punishment must mean God’s choice to be violent and destructive. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God’s punishment is understood as corrective action taken out of love for the people, not out of a desire to cause ultimate destruction. Or at the very least, God’s punishment has more to do with a kind of spiritual physics, where when people treat God and the world with disrespect, there are consequences built into the actions. It’s not about a capricious or vindictive divine power.


B: “In order that the world might know His anger, the Heavenly Father is preparing to inflict a great chastisement on all mankind. With my Son I have intervened so many times to appease the wrath of the Father. I have prevented the coming of …calamities by offering Him the sufferings of the Son on the Cross, His Precious Blood, and beloved souls who console Him forming a cohort of victim souls. Prayer, penance and courageous sacrifices can soften the Father’s anger.”

“if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead.”

C: So where does the message warn against repenting, because that would be “thumbing one’s nose” at God? Where does the message imply that God delights in punishment? Do you delight in disciplining your son? Or do you do it out of concern and care for him?

B: You’re not actually saying you believe natural disasters are God’s punishment, are you?

C: OK, now your question is in greater focus. You’ve asked an interesting question: Should natural disasters be understood as divine punishment?

It’s not an easy question, or one that lends itself to a sound byte (or Facebook comment!)….

Here’s the beginning of an answer, just by way of putting the question in context…

My initial reaction is to say that it’s difficult to unriddle the secrets of the universe, the meaning of suffering, or how God’s will might reveal itself in human events. It’s a difficulty born, in part, of being creatures of finite intellect making statements about a being without such limitations.

If we can say anything at all about the mind of God, or His will, it will be within the framework of faith, and of what we believe God has revealed about himself, not about what we might fancy or think plausible by our own devices. In other words, in the context of divine revelation, rather than the framework of a sterile, self-enclosed human logic or rationality.

Then you have the matter of the manner of the revelation: public or private. Clearly with Akita and other apocalyptic visions, we’re dealing with private revelation.

That whole topic — of the kinds of revelation — itself could be the subject of an essay. Here is an article by then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) on that matter:

http://www.miraclehunter.com/marian_apparitions/discernment/ratzinger.html

Let me think through the rest of your question… and if I don’t post an answer here in the thread, I’ll do so in a blog post. It’s an interesting question.

A shorter answer would be, I have to contend with the testimony of Jesus himself, in Luke 13:

http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/luke/luke13.htm

B: The argument that “God works in mysterious ways” and we can’t know the will or mind of God, etc., is a bad one because it leads to moral nihilism. If something that seems clearly evil to us might be good to God, then we can’t possibly know anything at all about what’s right/good or wrong/evil.

The very idea that God massacres people — whether He targets specific groups for sinning or just wipes out people at random as a lesson/deterrent (as Luke suggests) — is so repugnant to me that I find it hard to believe any Christian would even entertain it.

I do appreciate you taking the question seriously, though.

Natural disasters, it seems to me, are one of the hardest aspects of the problem of evil for theists to explain. Either God causes them, or God lets them happen. (And in either case He created the planet, so He created the natural disasters in advance even if He doesn’t arbitrarily intervene to suddenly cause them.)

So on some level I suppose the theist has to consider such events as God’s will, otherwise they would be difficult to account for — except in a universe without a god, in which they are explained quite easily.

C: Again, you have further refined your question, and it is one of the most weighty questions facing the Christian believer — why does evil exist in the world?

(Conversely, one of the most weighty questions facing the unbeliever is: why does goodness exist in the world?)

One resource I recommend as a starting place is the opening chapter of a little gem of a book called Introduction to Christianity, written in 1968 but still as thoughtful and relevant as ever.

It’s available on Google Books (see pages 39-47):
http://books.google.com/books?id=LJlkwvExekkC&lpg=PA39&ots=ztKKaj1MIk&dq=introduction+to+christianity+clown&pg=PA39#v=onepage&q&f=false

It ends with this thoughtful passage which has remained with me and has guided me again and again in the 19 years since I first encountered it:

“No one can lay God and his Kingdom on the table before another man; even the believer cannot do it for himself. But however strongly unbelief may feel justified thereby, it cannot forget the eerie feeling induced by the words “Yet perhaps it is true.” That “perhaps” is the unavoidable temptation it cannot elude, the temptation which it, too, in the very act of rejection, has to experience the unrejectability of belief. In other words, both the believer and the unbeliever share, each in his own way, doubt and belief, if they do not hide from themselves and from the truth of their being. Neither can quite escape either doubt or belief; for the one, faith is present against doubt; for the other, through doubt and in the form of doubt. It is the basic pattern of man’s destiny only to be allowed to find the finality of his existence in this unceasing rivalry between doubt and belief, temptation and certainty. Perhaps in this way doubt, which saves both sides from being shut up in their own worlds, could become the avenue of communication. It prevents both from enjoying complete self-satisfaction; it opens up the believer to the doubter and the doubter to the believer; for one, it is his share in the fate of the unbeliever; for the other, the form in which belief remains nevertheless a challenge to him.”

But to return to the question about the problem of evil, in particular: Christianity locates the source of evil not in the person of God / the creator, nor in man himself, but in the misuse of freedom, introduced into the word through the Fall.

A couple of resources, briefly:
Theodicy and the Scandal of [Physical] Evil
http://christopherblosser.blogspot.com/2003/12/theodicy-and-scandal-of-physical-evil.html

The Catholic Catechism on the Fall and the reality of sin (which is set within the larger context of the section on The Creator):
http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s2c1p7.htm

* * *

That was the end of that thread.

However, later that day, I visited his Wall and saw this status update:

G: Where’s the dislike button!!! Don’t knock prayer – it works – sorry you haven’t experienced that!!

A: prayer is a nice placebo used when we do not understand that we are living in random chaos/pray all you want, if it makes you feel better/i find it disturbing when professional athletes whom have won something say their prayers were answered by the same fellow that is supposed to fulfill victims of tragedies prayers/you know the first people that really find god and pray all day are convicted murderers waiting to be executed/believe what you want, and pray real hard

B: This sums it up perfectly and succinctly: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/602215-god-and-disaster

C: Richard Dawkins finds it so puzzling because he can’t locate the problem of evil in the misuse of freedom. To quote Dawkins in a 2006 debate with a believer: “I’m just not interested in free will. It’s not a big question for me.”

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0086.htm

That’s pretty revealing, I think. I wonder what Dawkins thinks of Pascal’s Wager… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_Wager

@A: you have populated an entire field of straw men in a single comment. Impressive.

B: One straw man might be bringing up a tangential question asked of someone 5 years ago who didn’t actually write the article in question… ; ) Pascal’s Wager is rather weak and disingenuous. Nonetheless, Dawkins himself does address it in his writing.

C: The question of free will is hardly tangential, seeing as it is the primary explanation of the problem of evil by the Christian church over its 2000 year history… I’ll have to look up Dawkins’ treatment of Pascal’s Wager. Very curious about that.

B: Well, free will is one those paradoxical concepts that no one can be certain about (throwing God in the mix just makes matters worse, since He 1. Made everything and thus made everything happen, and 2. supposedly intervenes in earthly affairs when He feels like it). Are you saying that natural disasters are caused by free will / “original sin”??

Problems with Pascal’s Wager:

1) it amounts to pretending and thus lying to yourself and to God; and gambling based on the promise of reward / fear of punishment. (I don’t think God would be terribly impressed…)
2) You can’t simply *choose*… whether or not to believe something. (Back to the essential problem of “faith” — if it’s not based on evidence then there’s no basis on which to decide *what* to place faith in. It’s epistemological nihilism.)
4) the overwhelming abundance of evidence is against the existence of a personal god, so it’s not a 50/50 wager
5) it’s not correct that “you have nothing to lose” — I would say devoting your life to something that doesn’t exist amounts to losing quite a lot
6) it doesn’t actually tell you how to live or which religion to follow (so if the Muslims are right, you still lose the “bet”). Personally I believe that, if there is a god, He/She/It (if good & just) would not care what religion you were a member of or but how you lived your life and treated your fellow human beings. In which case, the point is moot.

D: The same “god” that would listen to any such prayers is the same “god” that sent the Tsunami. Agreed B. And, that’s a longer discussion that only becomes circular for religious types who will defend their reasoning to “faith” and to “it… is written.” Which, by that definition, faith in Zeus, Thor, Hercules and Harry Potter would also be acceptable personas to request “help from” in Japan.

Back to your original point, the action and kindness you first suggested, I believe would be much more appreciated by any “god” than a bunch of people thinking really hard with their eyes closed, talking to themselves.
“Prayers” are just that, wishful thinking, hoping really hard, ‘sending good thoughts’ and a way for people to not take action and still feel like they cared. Not that prayers can’t bring themselves some comfort, but I am positive, the same “god” who would listen to these prayers, is the same god that sent the Tsunami—so what does that mean?

Let us not pray to the person who sent the Tsunami in the first place, but rather take action to show the PEOPLE we care, and if there is a “god” assume it would prefer action over good thoughts.

E: People wake up – all these bad things are happening because the people of this country have walked away from the faith our founding fathers fought for and founded this country on!!!!! You all wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a God in Heaven that created you because you didn’t come from monkeys because even they know there is a God!!

B: Umm… are we still talking about Japan? ; )

I think the bottom line is, even if God did not send/cause the earthquake, He sat idly/silently by and allowed it to happen. If God does not intervene to prevent massacres or genocide, what reason could you possibly have for supposing that He will intervene in anything, ever?

D: so it’s the USA’s fault for having freedom of religion? I’m confused, Kim.

F: Weren’t there some pretty bad things happening when the founding fathers were still around? Slavery?

D:  and, um…just google a bit about our found father’s, most of them used religion the same way our modern politicians do (specifically you can find info about Benjamin Frankin in this regard). But, very few of them were Christians the same way you would imagine them to be.

I know for a fact that I didn’t “come” from a monkey, but I am more confident that we share 95% (or more) of the same DNA, suggesting our great-great-great ancestors walked in the same jungles.

B: Oh boy — talk about tangents… : )

F: I blame the aliens.

G: You are confused because you don’t want to believe it!! It’s called sin and it’s the all the people in the world who have started believing in someone or something other than the one true God who created this world and everyone on it! No… one derived from a monkey Kirk – read the Bible – it’s not just some fairy tale book like everything else you read including what you read on the internet about Benjamin Franklin!!! You think the tsunami in Japan was bad, just wait till you find where you’ll be spending eternity you keep denying the one true God – the tsunami will seem like a cake walk!!!

B:  I think Japan got hit cause they don’t say “God Bless Japan” often enough. Also they say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Also not a fan of any deity who is so insecure that He demands to be worshiped, and tortures people who prefer the scientific method to blind faith. (But that’s just me.)

D: so G, god is a jerk is what you’re saying? He’s mean, cruel, demands worship, denies the possibilty of a dna link to his own species, writes books and doesn’t believe in sharing information via electric communications, but wants us to believe in a book written 1,700 years ago by some dudes in the Middle East, but loves the USA?

I didn’t DENY God, I am though, suggesting, that know less than you think about him.

C: Wow. This thread is really getting disjointed. I’ve never thought that comments threads were a very good place for authentic dialogue, for this reason. But there have been some interesting points raised.

Those who believe in God have to deal …with the real question of how/why evil exists. In a similar vein, non-believers have to deal with the real question of how/why goodness exists. Neither are self-evident simply from empirical data. They are not questions answerable according to scientific method, and to try to answer them in such a way would involve a category mistake… philosophy is not an empirical scientific discipline. Though arguably it is a science of another kind, and a way of knowing.

Those who don’t believe philosophy to be a way of knowing, and limit themselves to what can be proved empirically, could be accused of adopting a religion of their own: a positivistic faith in empirical science as the answer to every question the universe poses. One god has simply been substituted for another.

@B, agreed that the Wager is nothing profound, and could only provide a reason to consider belief… in itself, it could never approach the first stages of what would actually be considered religious faith. But I thought that with someone allergic to religious faith (as Dawkins seems to be) it could be a starting point. I stand corrected.

Back to the question of free will: The Christian position is that God created freedom, preferring to be loved freely by His creatures instead of having some kind of slavish servitude demonstrated by all of creation. Each creature has the choice to love or reject God, and it was through an exercise of freedom that some chose to reject God, and as a result sin entered the world.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s2c1p7.htm

It’s a mystery that God would create / allow freedom for his creatures, and would allow them to be active/vital participants in his creative power, when it carried the risk of being rejected, but that has been the consistent belief of Christians throughout the ages. And it is the hallmark of all love, including human love, that it involves the risk of suffering and rejection.

It’s a far cry — in fact, nearly the opposite — of a God who would be so “insecure that He demands to be worshiped, and tortures people who prefer the scientific method to blind faith.” That understanding is very foreign to the Christian view.

http://christopherblosser.blogspot.com/2003/12/theodicy-and-scandal-of-physical-evil.html

@B: “Personally I believe that, if there is a god, He/She/It (if good & just) would not care what religion you were a member of or but how you lived your life and treated your fellow human beings. In which case, the point is moot.”

Well, isn’t this fashioning a god in one’s own image? That becomes problematic. It seems that if a creature is going to understand anything about a creator God — who is, by definition, infinite, unlimited by time and space, and of vastly superior intelligence — one would need that creator to reveal something about himself/herself. Otherwise one might be simply encountering a projection of one’s own ideas, rather than the living God. Without God revealing himself, there really would be no true knowledge of him… only speculation.

D: as that was pretty well defended, C, and explained. I do not feel a non-believer has the burden of wondering where “goodness” came from–why do we have such little faith in humankind to want to survive, together, in a communal sense,… with or without a “god” to tell them to do so? If all the bibles were lost in a tragedy, and we only had to pass on a MESSAGE, would it be to worship the ‘man in the sky’ or to love one another, and help one another for our own ‘good.’ ? If you had to pick one or the other, as a message to pass on, which would you pick?

oops, not that I was disagreeing with you C, just adding to your comments a perspective. Back To B’s first point; PLEASE consider sending your DONATIONS to Japan, or get on a plane and go help the Red Cross.

H: Not sure if this was pointed out but less than 1% of the Japanese population is Christian. Wouldn’t praying for them just bring more of God’s wrath? That is, if the prayers are being responded to by an Old Testament Christian God.

C: Agreed that donating is very important. The needs are great, and seem to be growing by the hour.

Railing against the evil of a natural disaster makes little sense unless God exists… I mean, if there is no God, then a disaster is simply stuff that happens. Outrage seems a bit absurd at that point… since there is no objective criteria for goodness or evil, other than what one might manufacture as one’s own moral code. We’re left with the nihilism of Nietzsche. Pretty bleak.

B: “if there is no God, then a disaster is simply stuff that happens” — Correct. Again, as with most things, it makes perfect sense from a naturalist standpoint; it’s only when you assert the existence of a personal god that it’s very difficult to explain.

I agree with D — I don’t even understand the notion that goodness is some how inexplicable without a supernatural being. And the notion that without god/religion there would be no morality is absurd on its face. If you didn’t believe in god, would you just go around raping and pillaging and murdering everyone in sight, or what? I don’t understand the argument.

p.s.: everything we know, or think, or believe, is based on empirical data. (Think about it for a minute and it becomes self-evident.)

By the way, C, I did appreciate this link — http://christopherblosser.blogspot.com/2003/12/theodicy-and-scandal-of-physical-evil.html — about the writings of Harold S. Kushner.

C: ‎”And the notion that without god/religion there would be no morality is absurd on its face.”

I’ll qualify the statement. Of course without God there could be cultural norms, a kind of morality within a particular clan… polite behavior, a …disdain for bad form or mistakes, etc… but I meant something more than that by morality.

An objective, universal set of moral norms — one applying to all of humanity — would be a bit odd without an appeal to something outside one’s own bellybutton. Perhaps that something might be considered a standard other than God, but what might that something be? CS Lewis grapples with the question, and comes up with something he calls the Tao, in The Abolition of Man…

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/lewis/abolition1.htm

“everything we know, or think, or believe, is based on empirical data.”

Is that so? Give me a proof of this statement using the scientific method…

B: Re: empirical data: like I said, to me it’s self-evident, so I’m going to throw it back to you, Clayton. Name one thing that you (or anyone) thinks or knows that did not rely on empirical data.

Re: “Objective, universal” morality externally generated: I think this is a nonsequitur. Ethics involves people, action, interaction, relationships, circumstances, context, motives, etc. — it’s not like there is some Platonic abstract enti…ty called “Morality” floating around out there somewhere).

But on that topic, we’re sort of coming full-circle: again, if a natural disaster such as the earthquake is somehow God “revealing” Himself to us… what are we to make of that? “Sorry your family and everyone you know was asphyxiated — but, you know, we’re all sinners, so they kind of had it coming…”?? Again, if what appears to us to be evil is actually good “in the Grand Scheme Of Things,” then everything we believe about morality is probably wrong. (Nihilism again.)

I understand why cavemen and people in the Middle Ages thought everything that happened (storms, disease, famine, crops failing, etc. etc.) was caused by them and whether or not they made God mad, but… I hope people don’t still believe this?

Question: if God ordered you to massacre an entire village, would you consider that order and that action morally right and would you do it? (Hint: it’s a trick question — if you answer “yes” you’ve lost the argument, for reasons already stated, and if you answer “no” you’ve also lost the argument, because this means morality comes from inside people, not outside them. : )

A: Charlie Sheen is god—WINNER

I: As a Lutheran pastor who posted in his status update, “Pray for Japan,” I suppose I will bite and enter the fray. But it might be full of answers nobody likes.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why praying would be a negative thing. …Now I must be admit that my theology of prayer is different than the vast and large majority of Christianity. I do not believe prayer is simply a matter of asking and receiving. Prayer is about relationship. Typically I give the example, that if I am not on speaking terms with my wife, I am not in a very good relationship with her. If I am not talking with God, it is no different. And this is no one-way conversation. God does not stand before me and talk to me (although that would be nice), and I hear no voices (also would be nice, but only if I stayed out of a mental institution). When I sit in the sanctuary and pray, most of my questions to God are “God, what do I do about this one?” And the answer is mostly a feeling more than anything else.

This is not to say I don’t make requests in my prayers. A couple in the congregation I serve has family members in Japan, who are safe. But with oncoming destruction (fires, nuclear, etc.), the jury is still out! You bet that I prayed for their safety. Does that mean God will answer my prayers because of who I am, or because I am one more person? No. Not at all. But it is about relationship, not the request. And the relationship is realizing my absolute and utter dependence upon God.

I do think your critique is valid in that to pray isn’t doing enough. I would agree. I do think God answers almost all prayers, but frequently the answer is “I think you guys down there should do something about it.” (at least that is the answer to requests of the almighty. The other half of my prayers are prayers of thanks for the gifts I have been given). Now with this critique in mind, guess what many of my Lutheran pastor friends have posted? They have posted links in which to give to the catastrophe (and probably gave as well).

I do not expect that those of you that claim no faith to understand prayer. That is fine. You don’t have to. But I will offer my own testimony. As a pastor, when I have encountered someone’s spouse who was carjacked and shot in the back of the head rendering them braindead with two kids and no father, or someone who was tired of fighting a cancer that ravaged their entire body and decided to quit treatment, or a family with two adults laid off from both their jobs wondering how they will feed their family and pay their mortgage, or someone who shares the entire life of abuse they have faced, or a few hundred other situations I have encountered – prayer is in no way a placebo. Prayer was all they had.

B, I dearly love atheists. And while I will always preach Christ crucified, I will encourage you to be the most atheistic atheist you can be. I don’t mind my faith being challenged – I expect it and usually welcome it. But I would ask for the same courtesy of encouragement from you for me to live out my faith to its fullest.

Peace,

C: @B: You wrote, “if God ordered you to massacre an entire village, would you consider that order and that action morally right and would you do it?”

I guess I should go back to some definitions. By God I am thinking of the Christian God…, who is love. Not a capricious, arbitrary God. You seem to return to the idea of God willing evil, or being preocuppied with capricious demonstrations of power, which is a perversion of the Judeo-Christian view… more akin to something from Greek mythology, or what the serpent insinuates God is like in the book of Genesis.

In the Christian view, conscience could be considered the voice of the Creator making itself manifest in the human soul. So in that sense, yes, morality comes from within the person, but not in the sense of each individual manufacturing it for themselves… instead, receiving it from the Creator as part of being fashioned in the image of God.

“Name one thing that you (or anyone) thinks or knows that did not rely on empirical data.”

I think that my parents loved me. I have evidence, but no empirical data… no airtight proof, so to speak.

B: With all due respect, I think you’re evading the question. Pretend God told you to do something that you are convinced is evil — this is the whole point of the question.

(And it’s not even hypothetical — In the Old Testament God orders such things practically every day of the week.)

You’re also pre-supposing the Christian god, which is sort of begging the question. Another [perhaps more immediately relevant] example might be: you’re a Muslim who is convinced God wants you to defend the faith by blowing yourself up and killing a bunch of “Infidels”; do you do it? And why or why not?)

Ps: re: God of torture: is there a Hell? If so, who is in it and what happens to them?

Missed your last response… “I have evidence, but no empirical data” — we might just be having a semantic misunderstanding, evidence = empirical data. (What you perceive through the 5 senses.)

D: http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&s_src=RSG000000000&s_subsrc=RCO_BigRedButton

C: “we might just be having a semantic misunderstanding, evidence = empirical data”

Evidence does not equal proof. I may see a roof over my head, may smell dinner in the oven, may feel my parents give me a hug, may hear affectionate words, may… taste a meal they have prepared… but none of it proves they love me. It could be possible that they provide all these things while being narcissists, and do not love me. (Think of some celebrities that have adopted children as accessories.) But I choose to believe that they love me. True, it might be reasonable to believe it, but the fact is that I could be wrong. It’s a choice I have made to believe it, requiring a leap of faith. Faith is a leap into the light, rather than into darkness…

“Pretend God told you to do something that you are convinced is evil — this is the whole point of the question.”

No, I couldn’t do it the act then. A person ought not violate the certain judgment of their conscience. (the phrase “certain judgment” is important, by the way)

If I am convinced the act is evil, then I would also be convinced that it was not God asking me to do it and would have no reason to feel guilty about my decision (unless God is schizophrenic, and by asking me to do two opposite things at the same time and in the same respect would be requiring the impossible. See the principle of non-contradiction for more on this).

The criteria for acting on one’s conscience are listed here:

http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a6.htm

“is there a Hell? If so, who is in it and what happens to them?”

Yes, according to Christian faith:
“We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor… or against ourselves: ‘He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.’ Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a12.htm

Hell is not a place, but a condition of self-exclusion from the love of God. If I do not want to be in God’s presence, in the presence of divine love, then I will be experiencing His omnipresence as a hell… which I am unable to escape once I have lost my freedom though the definitive abuse of it.

For those who love God, the fire of his love is bliss. For those whose love for God is real but imperfect, his love is a purifying fire. For those who have let love completely die in their hearts, his love for them is a scorching torture. In this sense, all souls might be in the very same place, but the experience is entirely different based on their love for God (or lack of it).

D: Just out of curiosity…C, do you believe the god that murdered his own son? And if so, can you explain why that is such a great “sacrifice?” If Jesus is in heaven now, with God, wouldn’t the greater sacrifice be leaving him on Earth… to suffer? But instead, he kills him, which allows Jesus to come to heaven and be a God. What sort of punishment is that? What sort of message is it to say “if you love someone, kill your son to prove it?”

Let me give you another scenario—we often hear Christians say “Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead,” and then they also say “He’s here right now, in spirit.” Which is it? If he can be here in the spirit, why would he have to come back? Couldn’t he just judge in the spirit, too? And if he actually came back, aren’t you certain people would dismiss him as a crazy person? There are so many contradictions in the bible, that I wonder how good, smart people can use it in their debate of religion.

Also, Moses orders the murders of thousands nearly the same time he brings down the 10 commandments, which says “thou shalt not kill,” but then I hear Christians say there’s a difference between Murder and Killing…which is WAY too convenient.

C: For the fallen angels, including Lucifer, the last condition is the most apt description of their predicament. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s2c1p7.htm

D: One last one, for tonight; The first commandment, Don’t have any other gods before me…A) That proves there are other gods, and that the god of moses understood this, and so did the commandments author (moses) and B) that was the god of moses’ rule, 3,000 years before Jesus, hence, Jesus worship is breaking the first commandment. Too many contradictions in the bible.

C: @D: The best answers I can provide for you are on pages 103-110 of a book entitled God & The World (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger):

http://books.google.com/books?id=M4EO-Zotb4AC&lpg=PP1&dq=god+and+the+world&pg=PA103#v=onepage&q&f=false

In particular: “If we want to, so to speak, test God — are you there or not? — and undertake certain things to which we think he must either react or not react, if we make him the object, so to speak, of our experiment, then we have set off in a direction that will not lead us to find him. God is not prepared to submit to experiments. He is not a thing we can hold in our hand….

I can actively and methodically investigate material things; I can subject them to my control, because they are inferior to me. But even another person is beyond my understanding if I treat him in this way. On the contrary, I only come to know something of him when I begin to put myself in his place, to get inside him, by some kind of sympathy.

This is more than ever true of God. I can only begin to seek God by setting aside this attitude of domination. In its place I have to develop an attitude of availability, of opening myself, of searching. I must be ready to wait in all humility — and to allow him to show himself in the manner he chooses, not as I would like him to do it.”

D: interesting.

C:  http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=4019

B: I’ve always enjoyed James Joyce’s [slightly more visceral] description of Hell, really puts the fear of God into you : )

http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=1455082&pageno=87

Hieronymus Bosch has an exciting view of damna…tion also:

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&source=hp&biw=1495&bih=806&q=hieronymus+bosch+hell&gbv=2&aq=f&aqi=g2&aql&oq

(And then there’s Dante, of course…)

Anyway. I, for one, am glad that these things (religious interpretations, moral sense, etc.) have changed and improved over time.

Alas, no more comments from me for a while. I am disappointed that we didn’t solve the problem of evil in the world in this thread. : ) (Sometimes I miss college — when thinking and writing about this stuff was actually your JOB. : )

D: B, one day you will face for a living, I have no doubt. Good thread, now go everyone tithe your butts off.

C:  Thanks be to God. 😉

7 thoughts on “it all started with a Facebook status update

  1. “Or at the very least, God’s punishment has more to do with a kind of spiritual physics, where when people treat God and the world with disrespect, there are consequences built into the actions.”

    I like that concept and it is one which I have kind of come to on my own, kind of inferring it from much reading and meditation. Are you familiar with any sources that speak to this concept specifically?

    This is a wonderful dialogue. I like the comment about the idea of how the presence of goodness is a problem for the unbeliever. Of course, the true materialist avoids all of this by simply denying the presence of good and evil. There is simply self interest and all acts of decency are mere calculations meant to serve this self interest.

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