The Predicament of Belief

PDF-file by Philip Clayton

The Predicament of Belief PDF ebook download Updated with note regarding Adam and Eve. Yeah, lookit the time here. New Year's Eve. I'm on a break - AT WORK. Yeah, that's right, some people work on NEW YEAR'S EVE.It's so not fair. There is no God.


I learned two things.

1. For the first time, I think I finally understood the implications of one of the standard arguments about the problem of evil. This problem is succinctly summarized – there is so much evil and suffering in the world that either God refuses to help, which makes God himself evil, or he cannot help, which makes him weak or irrelevant.Believers have to get God out of this jam.Believers respond with the free will argument – if God did intervene, we would become his puppets. Atheists then split the world’s evil into two types :

a) Human evil

b) Natural disasters, which insurance companies always call “acts of God”, which always struck me as their attempt to show insurance companies can have a sense of humour

Atheists can see that God has chosen to give humans free will but complain that humans seem perpetually addicted to SO MUCH evil, and in such dizzying varieties, that it seems there is a massive design flaw in them somewhere, and couldn’t God have arranged things so that there wasn’t quite such a bottomless chasm of violence and hatred in (particularly)male humans. Would that have been so much to ask for?The free will argument doesn’t work for natural disasters, and that’s where believers tend to shuffle and mumble quite a bit. They have no answer for the earthquakes and tsunamis and plagues – why did God allow the planet to be designed so it was prone to these horrors? God knows. It almost looks as if the whole thing came together by chance, or, you might say, evolved, without God being responsible for it at all.Believing scientists, of whom there are a few, tend to say that this planet is just obeying the natural laws of the universe but when atheists say “well, God shoulda made up better natural laws, hadn’t he ever heard of health and safety regulations?” they seem to indicate that these natural laws are the only ones that could possibly exist. Now, I’ve read some science fiction, and I think they’re wrong.There’s lots of safer planets than Earth out there. Our tough luck is this planet is the one we got lumbered with, and it’s dangerous.


Reading Christianity for Dummies subsequently, I came across the obscure original explanation for natural disasters, which is that they all stem from the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. The plucking of the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (are you still with me?) rendered this whole world CORRUPTED. Before the plucking, no earthquakes or typhoons. After, plenty.

Adam and Eve - what silly pluckers.

And now, back to the original review.


However, Mr Clayton and Mr Knapp did explain to me exactly how God is unable to intervene to prevent human evil.While they were arguing, I was thinking ofAriel Castro. He was the guy in Cleveland Ohio who abducted a 14 year old girl, a 16 year old girl and a 21 year old woman and kept them for 11 years. I read an interview with one of them, Gina DeJesus.She endured a decade of beatings and rapes and forced abortions. She knew her family wouldn’t bother looking for her, so she prayed to God, every day. He didn’t do much. But here’s why.

There would be no cut off point for God. The implication is profound. Suppose he reached out and gave Gina the opportunity to escape after, say, six months. Would that have been an answered prayer? Well, yes, but then suppose he fixed the brain of Ariel Castro at birth, so he never came up with the idea of kidnapping and keeping sex slaves. Okay, he could do that, but he’d have to do that for all humans, to be consistent. If he isn’t consistent, it’s not fair. Unless you’re arguing that he should only help people who pray real good. No, you wouldn’t argue that. So he has to be equal. That means he has to eradicate all human evil. But suffering can make people do crazy things, some of which can be pretty evil, so he might probably have to take the step of eradicating all forms of human suffering, such as disease. Pretty soon, you have a human being that can’t die.Pretty soon, you get a world which is nothing at all like this one. Not a single molecule would be free. You wouldn't even get demonstrations by radical molecules holding up signs saying "FREEDOM FOR MOLECULES".

Personally, I say sure, let’s ditch this one, it’s just not working very well. I mean, if you got this world for Christmas, you'd be checking the manufacturer's warranty immediately. Your dad would be saying "It's okay, the shops are open again tomorrow, we can get it exchanged."

So let’s move to the next phase of no suffering and immortality and try that for a bit.

I mean to say, isn't 30,000 years of human suffering enough to prove to God that this version of humanity is never going to get any better? How much more suffering does God really need? Why is he so in love with this miserable version of human life? Come on, God, let's move on!

But actually, you have to take a step back from the whole argument and say well, ahem, God did, in fact, intervene very directly in many ways, if you accept the Bible and/or the Koran. What’s Jesus but an intervention, in the modern sense.So in spite of these intricate arguments, and this book is STUFFED FULL of intricate arguments, it don't make a heap of sense.

2. The other thing I learned is that theology books should have a rating on the back, A to E, for levels of difficulty. This was a B (difficulty = strong) and I’m a C (= moderate strength) reader.In this book you have to be okay with many sentences like the following :

Theism in general only makes sense, however, if we can admit the possibility of a not-less-than-personal being whose self-sustaining infinitude by definition does not require the finite boundaries of embodied existence.

What a crazy world – some people get to be Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry and some people get to write sentences like that.

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