The Carrier-Marshall Debate: My Eighth Reply

Christian historian Dr. Wallace Marshall and I are debating whether or not enough evidence points to the existence of a god. For background and format, and Dr. Wallace’s opening statement, see entry one; for the rest, our index.

We are now discussing what I call the Argument from Indifference against the existence of God. Marshall just answered my second defense of that. I shall here respond to his latest answer.


That the Evidence Points to Atheism (VIII)

by Richard Carrier, Ph.D.

Evidence & Probability

Dr. Marshall claims “for a particular fact to count as evidence for theism it isn’t necessary that” it “should be more probable on theism than on atheism, but only that it make theism more probable” than without it. But I already noted that’s impossible. Unless the fact is more likely on theism than atheism. Marshall doesn’t get the math.

If you start with ignorance (a total absence of evidence), at most there’s a 50/50 chance a god exists or not. The only way to increase that probability is to find some evidence e such that P(e|h) > P(e|~h). Because that’s the only way to increase P(h). Otherwise if P(e|h) = P(e|~h), then you have a multiplier of 1, and anything multiplied by 1 is itself, not a higher number; which evidence won’t move the probability in either direction. And if P(e|h) < P(e|~h) then e decreases P(h), not increases it. As these three options exhaust all possible states of the evidence, clearly P(h) can only increase when P(e|h) > P(e|~h). Marshall is simply wrong to claim otherwise. [1]

My gremlins analogy illustrates this, showing why no one believes in gremlins. If people had an irrational investment in the existence of gremlins (as they do in God), they would believe in them despite the absence of evidence. Marshall weirdly confuses “people believe x” with “there must be evidence for x.” To the contrary, most false beliefs are believed in error, not on a rational evaluation of evidence. [2]

Moral Excuses

Marshall keeps incorrectly claiming natural evils are less than moral evils.

Per capita, more people, especially children, have been maimed, disabled, tormented, and murdered by diseases, accidents, and disasters than by “people.” Until very recently in human history, 50% of all children didn’t survive into adulthood (a body count even the Holocaust came nowhere near to globally achieving) and natural disasters all combined (like famines, floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis) killed, ruined, or maimed more people than war. And then there’s the vast realm of pointless miseries suffered by animals for five hundred million years. Natural evil vastly outnumbers moral. Indeed moral evils have been on steady decline ever since secularism began to take hold, not god or religion. [3]

But it’s also illogical to say “God has caused less evils than people, therefore God is good.” Even if natural evils were less frequent than moral, God is still responsible for them. And a good God would not allow that; because there’s no plausible (much less probable) reason he would. Therefore a moral God is unlikely to exist. Again, Marshall doesn’t understand the math. If we must assume an improbable excuse exists for God to act exactly like an utterly, morally indifferent and irresponsible person without actually being one, then the probability God exists goes down, not up.

Take an excuse that’s half as likely as not—and Marshall has presented not even one excuse that comes anywhere remotely near as likely as that—that excuse will reduce the probability God exists by 50%. If P(God) starts at 50% and evidence contradicts “God,” but we can get that evidence to fit by adding a supposition not in evidence that has a 50% chance of being true, P(God) becomes the conjunction of P(God) and P(Excuse), and that means, by the laws of dependent probability, P(God&Excuse) = 50% x 50% = 25%. So rather than getting God to be likely, we just made it less likely. And since excuses are not even 50% likely but, as I said, millions to one against, P(God) is millions to one against (unless God is fundamentally devoid of moral character, but there’s no reason to believe in that god either).

Excuses therefore can never rescue belief in God. Unless and until you have evidence those excuses probably really obtain for God. [4] Marshall has produced no such evidence. Therefore his God probably does not exist.

That’s an unavoidable mathematical fact.

Moral History

Dr. Marshall falsely claims humans have “always” had right moral ideas. His own Bible refutes this; likewise world over. Good ideas were always mixed with bad, and no divine guidance reformed or corrected anyone. Moralities only improved painfully slowly from trial and error over thousands of years. Exactly as would happen without God; not at all likely with one.

I’ve referenced many examples. [5] Including God’s vile command that we murder anyone who exercises their freedom of speech, religion, or sexual autonomy (Deuteronomy 12:1-13:16, Leviticus 24:11-16, Numbers 15:32-36; Deuteronomy 22:13-30, Leviticus 20:13), the Lord’s recommendation to mutilate yourself for having disapproved thoughts (Matthew 18:8-9), and God’s failure to correct the New Testament commandment to subjugate women (1 Timothy 2:11-15). And more.

Just take God’s commandment to engage in chattel slavery (Leviticus 25:44-46). That God would allow anyone to claim he said this, rather than that he damned it, is itself immoral. Yet nothing can have stopped God from correcting it. Therefore there can be no moral God.

Moral Psychology

Dr. Marshall gets the science of moral character wrong, incorrectly claiming disciplined environments impair growth of moral character, thus impugning all effective models of parenting and policing. [6]

Just because the Danish far better police violence than the United States or Honduras doesn’t mean they’re more undeveloped morally; they’ve the same or greater moral conscience (e.g. they’re much more charitable in taking care of their poor and downtrodden). Survey nation by nation: the more poorly policed breed the greatest number of the criminal, violent, selfish, and corrupt. Ergo God’s helping us police ourselves won’t damage our character.

Instead Dr. Marshall obsesses over trivial things (like gossip) and absurdly disproportionate responses (like inflicting disease), thus not answering anything I’ve actually been talking about.

Conclusion

Marshall also incorrectly claims:

  • I didn’t cite evidence that aesthetic responses actually improve differential reproductive success. [7]
  • I didn’t allow God might have a reason for fine-tuning, missing my point, that such excuses still reduce, not increase P(God), just as in the “moral excuses” case.
  • That there’s a “preponderance of evidence” against past eternality, when I just got done showing there wasn’t. [8]
  • That I argued past eternality evinces atheism. [9]

And yet, Dr. Marshall concedes we don’t “expect God to allow evil and suffering” and “this constitutes…evidence for atheism.” So. The current status of this debate: he’s presented no evidence for theism; and concedes I’ve presented evidence against it.

-:-

Such is my latest response to Marshall.

Continue now to read Marshall’s next answer.

-:-

Endnotes

[1] See the sources I cited on this fact in my last entry, in endnotes 1 and 2; and my gremlins analogy under the heading “The Logic of Evidence.” Note that P(h) is the probability of the proposal h before considering any evidence; P(e|h) is the probability the evidence e would exist if h is true; and P(e|~h) is the probability the evidence e would exist if h is false.

[2] See e.g. Satoshi Kanazawa, “Why Do We Believe in God? IIPsychology Today (28 March 2008); Malcolm Murray, “Error Theory,” in The Atheist’s Primer (Broadview 2010), pp. 218-26; J.D. Eller, Introducing Anthropology of Religion, 2nd ed. (Routledge 2014), pp. 1-49 (esp. pp. 15-26); Stuart Vyse, Believing in Magic (Oxford University 2013); and my bibliography in Sense and Goodness without God, p. 272. Also see “List of Cognitive Biases” at Wikipedia for the whole range of how humans regularly draw logically invalid conclusions from available evidence.

[3] See Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Penguin 2012); Michael Shermer, The Moral Arc (Henry Holt 2015); and Phil Zuckerman, Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment (New York: New York University Press, 2008). As well as: Gregory Paul, “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions,” Evolutionary Psychology 7, no. 3 (2009): 398–441, and “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look,” Journal of Religion and Society 7 (2005).

[4] See, again, endnote 14 in my Sixth Reply.

[5] See, again, Richard Carrier, The Will of God: 24 Evil Old Testament Verses and “That Christian Nation Nonsense (Gods Bless Our Pagan Nation)” (12 March 2013) as well as “The Real War on Christmas: The Fact That Christmas Is Better Than Christ” (23 December 2016).

[6] See, e.g., Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, ed., Moral Psychology, 5 vols. (MIT Press 2007-), 1:209–67 and 3:297–370 and Darcia Narvaez and Daniel Lapsley, Personality, Identity, and Character: Explorations in Moral Psychology (Cambridge University 2009); likewise, e.g., Monika Keller, Wolfgang Edelstein, Christine Schmid, Fu-xi Fang, and Ge Fang, “Reasoning about Responsibilities and Obligations in Close Relationships: A Comparison across Two Cultures,” Developmental Psychology 34.4 (1998): 731–41 and Nancy Eisenberg, Klaus Boehnke, Petra Schuler, and Rainer Silbereisen, “The Development of Prosocial Behavior and Cognitions in German Children,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 16.1 (March 1985): 69–82.

[7] See the whole list of sources showing this in endnote 7 in my Seventh Reply.

[8] Richard Carrier, Final Reply on the KCA (31 May 2019).

[9] “Marshall thus confuses the invalidity of one argument for God (the KCA) as evidence against God” and “we don’t know for sure if existence ultimately began, and agree that if it did, its uncaused first cause was not probably a god,” Richard Carrier, “My Seventh Reply” (6 June 2019).

76 comments

    1. We both have Ph.D.s in history. And to be fair, historians aren’t taught logic or probability theory. A grave error in the entire profession’s standard of education that is quite thoroughly documented and called out in Fischer’s renowned treatise Historians’ Fallacies.

      Though as Marshall is also a Christian apologist and thus claiming expertise in philosophy, he should have sought by now a good working knowledge of logic and probability theory, as I did. I certainly have assumed he has.

      Reply
  1. Dr. Marshall finds this world beautiful, and as such, is evidence for god. Actually, what we consider beautiful in the natural world reflects an evolutionary desire for a good, open view of our surroundings, so we don’t get killed by predators and snakes! The entirety of human behavior, thoughts, beliefs, etc. can described as a predictable (given what we now know) result of the slow motion ecological disaster known as the Miocene.

    I know this is slightly off topic, but I’m struck by the contrast between Dr. Carriers’ approach, which synthesizes a broad general education, and Dr. Marshalls’, which attempts to concretize and shoe-horn everything into a single view, i.e. god exists. Some of us do know about the Miocene, which was a definite event in the earth’s geologic history, as well as lots of other things, which we can put together to form our own views. Dr. Marshall has been reduced to pleading that we agree that it’s possible that god exists, in order to prove to us that god exists!

    You’re to be congratulated for so far ignoring the thinly veiled ad hominem attacks on you. Not on your arguments, but on you. Philistine dullness indeed!

    Reply
  2. “I’ve referenced many examples. [5] Including God’s vile command that we murder anyone who exercises their freedom of speech, religion, or sexual autonomy”

    secular christianity hates this command and seems to have fallen in love with the teachings of pagan religions.

    bart ehrman recently said that in pagan religions you could worship any god you want and their would be no fear of execution.

    my question is, in the pagan religions, was their any command to kill adulterers ?

    ot says “you shall have no other god beside me”

    jesus said that he has not come to abolish this command but to obey it.

    secular christianity says worship anything and everything

    the question is, why secular christianity accepted the traditions of men over the “commandment of god” ?

    Reply
    1. I don’t quite know what you mean by “secular Christianity” or it teaching “worship anything and everything.” I don’t think there is such a thing.

      But as to your question, “pagan religions” have commanded all kinds of the same horrible things the Bible does and more. Just not usually so many things as the Bible does. The Bible is particularly, even remarkably vicious compared to even the most brute of pagan cults, and certainly compared to most pagan cults that did not command much murder at all.

      Also though keep in mind: most law was not religious in antiquity. The Bible is actually weird for combining them. Hammurabi’s Code, for example, purports to have been revealed from on high by the sun god, but was actually just an enactment of a human king, and readily altered or abandoned by subsequent kingly decree; no one confused the law, with religious worship or belief. By the time we get to Greco-Roman times, laws (except still under Judea) were fully recognized to be experimental human inventions created democratically or autocratically to better organize society, not as expressions of religious devotion to a god. Romans did have, for example, a death penalty for adultery. But their reasons for it were not religious, but wholly secular; and no one claimed that law “came from God.”

      Reply
  3. Dr Carrier, understanding what constitutes evidence is probably the most important aspect in any area of study. Can you please recommend a book that addresses this issue? I understand that each discipline has it’s own standards (for example, a scientist may have different criteria than a historian). If you are aware of a book that covers the basics standards of each area I would appreciate it.

    Reply
    1. You would need to be more specific for exactly the reason you explain: every field has a different methodology and benchmark for establishing what’s true. But note, most fields have never articulated this; it’s just “inherited knowledge,” often intuitional, and not really organized or analyzed anywhere. Which IMO is a problem that we should be more concerned about.

      If what you mean is what establishes a thing as evidence in a logically valid way for any field, whether its practitioners are aware of this or not, the answer is exactly what I’ve been explaining in this debate. And I show why in Proving History. You can find more technical demonstrations of the same point (e.g. this paper). There are other attempts to define or articulate the logical structure of evidence, but they all reduce to the same thing IMO (I demonstrate this in PH).

      But of course semantics has wide valence. “Evidence” can mean all kinds of things. You have to decide which thing you are talking about first. And once you do that, you’ve already answered your own question what “evidence” is—in that usage.

      I think the only useful definition of the word in argument is “data that increases the probability of a hypothesis,” which can be proved to entail “data that is more probable given that hypothesis is true than given it is false” (as I have shown).

      But other uses exist, e.g. in Bayes’ Theorem technically the term e for “evidence” can include literally anything; in fact, it includes literally everything, minus what you placed in b (“background knowledge”), as b and e must sum to all human knowledge (nothing, no known data, can be left out). And if you work from a logical prior (i.e. the only data in b is “logic”), e literally does mean all data that exists, all information whatever. But almost all of that data will have an “evidentiary value” of 1, which is to say, it has no effect on a hypothesis (neither increasing nor decreasing its probability). And its not particularly useful to call all of that “evidence” in regular discourse. But if you want to, you can. You just won’t be saying what we are saying when we use that word. And you’ll be confusing yourself by affirming vacuous propositions like “this poker card is evidence for God…and evidence for atheism,” as in “this poker card is as much evidence for God as for atheism.”

      Reply
      1. “If what you mean is what establishes a thing as evidence in a logically valid way for any field, whether its practitioners are aware of this or not, the answer is exactly what I’ve been explaining in this debate”.

        Yes! exactly! The paper you recommended is perfect! Would you also recommend I also get a book on Epistemology?

        I thought your book Proving History was specifically about Historical evidence. Which I was planning on getting anyway because I’m also interested as a layman in learning the basic criteria historians use to determine whether a past event is historical.

        As far as I know these are the basic criteria that apply to all areas of History:

        Sources would be independent
        Sources would be multiple
        Sources would be contemporary to the events
        Sources would be consistent with each other
        Sources would be unbiased

        Reply
        1. Yes. Those are all examples of things that decrease the probability of the evidence on the hypothesis being false, and thus increase the “likelihood ratio” favoring the hypothesis. So they don’t guarantee the claim is true; but they do increase the probability it is. Other factors can then decrease it. And so on.

          No one has assembled a complete list. I provide some well-known lists in Proving History, ch. 4. That also cites several leading textbooks on historical method that give even lengthier lists, although scattered across each book. When I teach my course on historical method online (you may be interested in that), we assemble some lists and discuss them as a study exercise.

          On epistemology, I don’t know what your needs are or what would serve them, but there are several treatises on evidence published these last twenty years. I don’t recall the titles off hand though. And I haven’t vetted them in any case.

  4. Dr. Carrier, to truly address the general topics for God, it seems one needs training/awareness in a number of different fields (philosophy, cosmology, history, probability, and neuroscience). It may be unrealistic for anyone to obtain serious aptitude in all fields. So if you would, I have some questions.

    Firstly, what would you say is the best way to find the general consensus on a scientific topic (for those fields we simply haven’t learned ourselves)? Second, what do you think is the most foundational field to know for ourselves (what we each should study rather than just looking for consensus)? Third, what field do you think is most lacking when it comes to opponents/apologists?

    Reply
    1. First, start with current (or, to evade price-gouging, “last edition”) college textbooks in any given field.

      Their content will be 95% reliably on key for what’s currently established. This is less true the further you get from hard sciences (e.g. life sciences, a little less so; psycho-social sciences, a lot less so; humanities, e.g. history, much more so, but particularly in fields highly subject to strong truth-avoiding biases, e.g. religious history). There are other ways to gain this same knowledge, but they are so highly various they cannot be described here.

      Second, the most important base skill is first, logic and critical thinking as a skillset, and second, philosophical reasoning (not the history of philosophy; the skills of philosophers: I have recommendations; history of philosophy is also useful, but not as a base skill).

      Learning how to discern a reliable from an unreliable source, and speculative from established facts in any given field, is far more fundamental to any other knowledge seeking. It should be the first skill you focus on mastering in life. It will not only make your belief system more reliable, it will make you a better voter, a better citizen, and a better and more informed person more capable of resisting manipulation by those authorities who want to control your beliefs and emotions.

      Third, it varies by opponent of course. But psychology, anthropology, and sociology are the fields most commonly most poorly understood by apologists.

      But quite frankly, rarely are apologists well informed about anything. Even Biblical studies: they often only know sectarian theological and ministerial hermeneutics and like rigmarole, not the actual science, methodologies, and knowledge of the field apart from that.

      Reply
  5. Wilson Cole (aka sysking) June 13, 2019, 9:05 am

    Dr. Carrier,
    If we can prove that certain principles in the bible are infallible when applied, would that not constitute evidence of God?

    Reply
    1. I don”t know what “infallible when applied” means but a broader principle is always true: if there were evidence for God, there would be evidence for God. I can think of countless examples that would persuade me, including some involving the Bible. I enumerate many of them in Why I Am Not a Christian.

      An even more obvious example would be: if the world turned out to be exactly as the Bible described (geocentric, flat and domed, six thousand years old, surrounded by increasingly perfect heavens observably occupied by angels, etc.). See Ed Babinski’s chapter on “The Cosmology of the Bible” in The Christian Delusion.

      Though beware, evidence there is a God would not necessarily be evidence God is good.

      There could be a God…whom we ought to defy and oppose or despise. Christians always have a hard time separating believing a God exists from submitting to or worshiping that God.

      This would be true if the OT God were exactly as the OT describes, which is: a petty, monstrous, inhuman sociopath; in fact pretty much identical in personality to the most powerful despots of the eras and areas the Bible was written in. Which explains why its primitive authors thought God was like that. What better model of awesome overlord than the actual vile invincible despots they were always subjected to?

      There are some really good chapters on this point: one by Biblical historian Jaco Gericke (“Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn’t?”) and another by psychologist Valerie Tarico (“God’s Emotions”), both in The End of Christianity.

      -:-

      However, back to what you may have been asking, if you mean “If the fallible and ignorant humans who wrote the Bible came up with some accurate folk wisdom, would that evince God?” the answer is obviously no.

      Humans were around a hundred thousand or so years before writing that book, and great wisdom literature had begun to be written in multiple civilizations a thousand-plus years before the Jews even existed much less composed the Bible.

      That after thousands of years of trial and error humans would catch on to one or two correct principles, such as regarding social dynamics, and then the authors of the Bible borrow that idea and include it, is exactly what is expected on atheism, not theism. If the ideas came from God, they would have been communicated from on high to all cultures from the beginning. Not arrived at tens of thousands of years later after repeated trials ad failures, and come only to a few avid intellectuals scattered across a few cultures, who all preceded their ideas being plagiarized into a late bit of Canaanite storm-god literature.

      Reply
      1. Wilson Cole (aka Sysking) June 14, 2019, 10:39 pm

        Mr. Carrier,

        Your statement: “I don”t know what “infallible when applied” means……” prompts me to give you an explanation.

        In the bible, there are laws and there are principles. Laws are enforceable and principles are not. A biblical principle can be implemented by anyone regardless of age, race, location, time, religion, culture, gender, circumstances, etc.

        A principle is of no use unless it is implemented. I find principles in the bible that works every time, everywhere and by anyone whenever it is applied. Unfailingly!

        That is what I mean by infallible, not “accurate folk wisdom.”

        You wrote:

        “Though beware, evidence there is a God would not necessarily be evidence God is good.”

        Since these biblical principles are ALL good, this indicates that their source is also good.

        Thus:

        “. . .Likewise, every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit. A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit.” (Matthew 7:17, 18)

        There is also a principle here that has nothing to do with trees.

        Once you spot it, you can tell me if it is infallible or not.

        Then we have this principle taught by Jesus:

        “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. . . .” (Matthew 7:12)

        What do you think would happen if all mankind applied this principle in their lives?

        I would like anyone to show me why this biblical principle is not infallible IF it is implemented!

        Infallibility is not the product of human experience. That being the case, from whence did these principles come?

        I gladly welcome you showing me how my deductions are incorrect.

        Reply
        1. All you are talking about are discovered laws of social dynamics: folk wisdom, regarding what reliably works in all situations, to conduce to a good society. All of which predate the Bible and were invented by humans, not gods, and as a result of innovation and experiment and observation, not revelation.

        2. “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. . . .”

          Acting under this principle means a masochist must inflict pain on all others. I don’t know if that makes it fallible, but it would not be what I desire.

        3. No. That is incorrect.

          First, masochists don’t work that way; they still disapprove the unconsensual causing of them pain. As they would not want to be caused pain they did not consent to, they ought not cause pain others do not consent to. So we don’t even get to your example.

          But even if somehow there were a person who really actually liked being caused any pain randomly by anyone anytime without their consent (I doubt any such reason has ever existed, but let’s pretend one does), it would still violate the Golden Rule for them to treat others as themselves when they weren’t like them. Because they would not want others to treat them like themselves when they were not like them, e.g. if the masochist does not like messy homes, they would not want a roommate who did like messy homes to leave their home in common a mess (they likely would work out a negotiated compromise; because that’s what both would want).

          All action is contextual, ergo conditional. For example, “I would not expect someone who could not swim to attempt to rescue me if I were drowning by swimming for me” because “If I could not swim, I would not want to be obligated to attempt to rescue someone drowning by swimming for them.” Those statements remain true for me even if I cam swim. Because they are conditional statements; “if x.”

          Ergo, a masochist would be violating the Golden Rule if he treated non-masochists like masochists: because if the masochist were themselves not a masochist, they would not want to be treated that way. This is actually how the Golden Rule properly works: empathic awareness of the POV of another person results in treating them as you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.

          No ethical reasoning makes any sense otherwise, e.g. a rich person should not expect a poor friend to pick up the tab at lunch; the rich person does not foolishly go around acting like everyone else is rich. That would be acting contrary to reality; and all decisions contrary to reality are false. Rather, a rich person in touch with reality and the Golden Rule would treat the poor as they would want to be treated if they themselves were poor. Everything else is either stupidity or hypocrisy.

        4. Could we just change wording of the rule? Treat others the way they want to be treated.

        5. That wouldn’t work. Think it through. It will produce extremely absurd and impossible social obligations. Moral conclusions must be based on factual reality, not on what people mistakenly think they want.

          Any “fix” to the wording to avoid that outcome is no different than any fix to the wording the other way around. And then all you have is a tautology: two sentences saying exactly the same thing. There is then no relevant importance in choosing one over the other.

          Another way to put it is: sound moral judgment requires the sound judgment of the actor; which cannot be enslaved to the foolish judgment of others. Because sometimes one must act contrary to what someone else “wants.” But in a way that is what they would have wanted if they were thinking rationally and actually knew all the likely consequences of a given action.

          Or in other words: there is no such thing as a simplistic moral rule. Moral facts are highly complex. One cannot dodge that by trying to come up with new pithy phrases. Alas.

        6. Wilson Cole (aka Sysking) June 18, 2019, 6:44 pm

          Re: Richard Carrier June 17, 2019, 3:40 pm

          All you are talking about are discovered laws of social dynamics: folk wisdom, regarding what reliably works in all situations, to conduce to a good society.”

          Good! Let’s take this for a ride and see if it can hold up.

          “Discovered laws of social dynamics:” that leads unerringly and inevitably to a better society?

          Outside of the bible, WHERE are these “discovered laws” to be found?

          Outside of the bible, Where does one find “folk wisdom, regarding WHAT RELIABLY WORKS IN ALL SITUATIONS,”

          Outside of the bible, where does one find information that serves “to conduce to a good society, and is that “good society,” all adhering to this “folk wisdom,” to be found anywhere on earth?

          You wrote:

          “All of which predate the Bible and were invented by humans, not gods,”

          That I must challenge. I gave you two examples of biblical principles – just two.

          Can you tell me who was the innovator of these principles prior to Jesus Christ?

          If you mention Confucius or anyone else along those lines, you’ve got a surprise coming.

          You also mentioned:

          “and as a result of innovation and experiment and observation, not revelation.”

          Do you mean that there has been and still might be, a society that has applied these principles and they work?

        7. First, none of those principles were ever correctly applied (otherwise the OT and Jesus would not have endorsed slavery nor would the New Testament command the subordination of women; they clearly didn’t actually understand their own teachings’ implications).

          They were, rather, struck upon ignorantly by the common self-reflective application of “Gosh maybe if I treat people a certain way they will treat me that way back,” and “Gosh, maybe if a person acts a certain way that tells me something about what they are like,” both reciprocity principles that are adaptively emergent in all cognitively social animals, and have been analyzed under Game Theory as inevitable properties of all social systems (no gods required).

          More importantly, they were both common lore not only in the OT but everywhere else in advanced cultures of the era. Because they are obvious properties of social systems and social animals and thus readily observed even if not well understood. See my discussion here and here.

          And of course they are not infallible but only statistically adaptive; it can happen that one’s character is not reflected in their actions as expected (context and intent are not always obvious), and it can happen that people will not treat you back as you treat them and the principle then fails (a case well studied under Game Theory).

          Moreover, one can rationalize anything with these principles by simply employing false premises under them, e.g. if you decide being gay is bad, then anyone who acts gay is bad. A false conclusion from what was supposedly an infallible principle. Similarly, if you decide it’s a fact that women are inferior to men and other races inferior to your own, you can actually justify subordination and slavery with the Golden Rule. Another false result from a supposedly infallible principle.

          At most one can always rely on the tautology that if you value yourself as someone who acts that way, acting that way will always satisfy you even when you suffer for it. But that is an inevitable consequence of achieving that psychological state, and would be in all possible worlds. Again no gods required. Again, see the two links above.

        8. Wilson Cole (aka Sysking) June 19, 2019, 1:48 pm

          Richard Carrier June 19, 2019, 12:46 pm

          You wrote:

          “First, none of those principles were ever correctly applied (otherwise the OT and Jesus would not have endorsed slavery nor would the New Testament command the subordination of women; they clearly didn’t actually understand their own teachings’ implications).”

          1. Your observation of the Golden Rule predating the bible is incorrect.
          2. Can you show me where Jesus ever endorsed slavery?
          3. Which of the two examples I gave you are you referring to?
          4. Can you verify that “none of those principles were EVER correctly applied,” or that they are not being applied now by anyone?
          5. If what you say is true, then that would mean that it is not the principles that failed, but their mis or non-application. Right? The principles, therefore, would retain their infallibility – right?

          Then you wrote:

          “They were, rather, struck upon ignorantly by the common self-reflective application of “Gosh maybe if I treat people a certain way they will treat me that way back,” and “Gosh, maybe if a person acts a certain way that tells me something about what they are like,” both reciprocity principles that are adaptively emergent in all cognitively social animals, and have been analyzed under Game Theory as inevitable properties of all social systems (no gods required).”

          So, you imply that they stumbled upon it and adopted it out of self-preservation.

          Unfortunately, Matthew 7:12 has nothing to do with reciprocity. Examine it carefully and you might see that it exhorts positive action without expectation of any reciprocation.

          A bit tricky, I observe, but true.

          You also wrote:

          “More importantly, they were both common lore not only in the OT but everywhere else in advanced cultures of the era. Because they are obvious properties of social systems and social animals and thus readily observed even if not well understood.”

          I visited these “advanced cultures of the era” and found only negative versions of this principle. Like these:

          "Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing." – Thales (c. 624 BC – c. 546 BC)
          "What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. " – Sextus the Pythagorean. 
          

          “Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.” -Isocrates (436–338 BC) (Wikipedia)
          All the others followed the same line.

          This is prime negativity and could result in the individual doing nothing!

          The principle at Leviticus 19:18 goes back to 1512 BCE.

          You might be able to see the difference here:

          “Jesus’ teaching goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing what one would not like done to themselves, to the positive formulation of actively doing good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them. This formulation, as indicated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, emphasizes the needs for positive action that brings benefit to another, not simply restraining oneself from negative activities that hurt another.” (Wikipedia)

          You failed to answer my questions:

          Can you tell me who was the innovator of these principles prior to Jesus Christ?
          Outside of the bible, WHERE are these “discovered laws” to be found?
          Outside of the bible, Where does one find “folk wisdom, regarding WHAT RELIABLY WORKS IN ALL SITUATIONS,”
          Outside of the bible, where does one find information that serves “to conduce to a good society, and is that “good society,” all adhering to this “folk wisdom,” to be found anywhere on earth?

        9. Do you really not know where Jesus commands everyone to submit to being enslaved and the NT orders all slaves to obey their masters?

          Wowza. You need to read your own book evidently. Get on that. Please.

          Meanwhile read the sources of scholarship on this you have already been directed to here.

          Likewise, yes, the Golden Rule predates the Bible. In multiple civilizations. I’ve already linked to discussions showing there is no logical difference between so-called “positive” and “negative” formulations (they tautologically entail each other).

          The links have already been given in this debate thread. Now do the research.

        10. Wilson Cole (aka Sysking) June 20, 2019, 5:58 am

          Dr Carrier,

          You wrote:

          “And of course they are not infallible but only statistically adaptive; it can happen that one’s character is not reflected in their actions as expected (context and intent are not always obvious),”

          This is incorrect. I would like you to name me a single person whose “…character (is) not reflected in their actions…”

          Once again, an infallible principle emerges:

          “. . .By their fruits you will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? 17 Likewise, every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. . .” (Matthew 7:16-18)

          IT ALWAYS COMES OUT!!!

          Like I said, this principle has nothing to do with trees. It is referring to people – especially those who try to hide their true motivations. You can know who they really are by what they do – not what they say.

          “. . .“Either you make the tree fine and its fruit fine or make the tree rotten and its fruit rotten, for BY ITS FRUIT THE TREE IS KNOWN….” (Matthew 12:33, 34)

          IS THIS UNTRUE?

          The fruits of hypocritical religion is evident by the fact that its adherents behave no different than the unbelievers. It is spectacularly demonstrated by the way lawmakers, whether believers or atheists, treat each other; to the point where one cannot tell who the atheist is. They are just as the scriptures describe them:

          “. . .having an appearance of godliness but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:5)

          You also said:

          “…and it can happen that people will not treat you back as you treat them and the principle then fails (a case well studied under Game Theory).”

          Once again – this is incorrect. You are looking for reciprocation. That is not what the principle is about.

          “. . .“All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. . . .” (Matthew 7:12)

          Notice – it does not say: “All things that men have done to you, you must also do to them.” Your comments reflect this negative attitude.
          It is not the principle that fails but the mis or non-application.

          What do you think would happen if every human applies the principle:

          “. . .“All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. . . .” (Matthew 7:12)?

          There would be no more wars, etc

        11. If all you are saying is someone who never makes a mistake or wrong decision never makes a mistake or wrong decision, you are simply uttering a tautology, devoid of empirical application. If what you mean is that we can always reliably judge someone by their actions, that’s demonstrably false. We often can. But sometimes we can’t. And in no case is anyone all good or all bad in all that they produce or do. So we cannot say that someone who does a bad thing has no good character or someone who does a good thing has no bad character. Humans don’t work that way. And anyone who thinks they does is dangerously naive about the world and the people in it.

          Meanwhile, you are confusing motives with actions. If you want to discuss why people should follow the Golden Rule, then it’s prosocial reciprocity and personal conscience; if you want to discuss what happens in a social system when people follow the Golden Rule, then we’re discussing sociology and political and economic science. You seem to conflate both as if they were the same thing. Consequently, you aren’t making any intelligible statements about the world.

          You have to pick in what way the Golden Rule is “perfect.” Perfect how? Perfect in that if everyone follows it it produces an optimal social system? Then you are talking sociology. Perfect in that everyone should follow it in preference to principles that undermine it? Then you are talking personal conscience. Either way, it’s empirical reality, studied by science, and astutely observed even by the ancients in many ways. There is nothing surprising about its discovery; and it was discovered by many different sages before the Bible was ever written.

      2. wilson cole aka sysking July 2, 2019, 9:34 am

        Dr. Carrier,

        Adroitly, you dismiss the important questions. Ignoring them won’t nullify them.

        However, this one is important to me:

        You write:

        “Do you really not know where Jesus commands everyone to submit to being enslaved and the NT orders all slaves to obey their masters? Wowza. You need to read your own book evidently. Get on that. Please.”

        I would really appreciate it if you could show me where Jesus made such a command and to whom.

        Reply
        1. This. Did you not know he kept talking after the sentence about cheeks?

          Meanwhile, the rest of the NT likewise contains commands that slaves remain obedient.

          God evidently wasn’t talking to any of these authors. Or else God is pro-slavery. QED.

  6. Dr Carrier, earlier you commented that all slavery is wrong. So that I don’t misunderstand, would you extend that view to all living beings like oxen, horses, camels, mules and so on? Whether you answer yes or no, could you give your justification for the yes or no?

    Second, you focus on pointless suffering of animals. For all the meat eaters out there, would you suggest they stop because it pointlessly shortens their lives and causes their premature suffering?

    Reply
    1. No.

      Animals are not conscious of their own lives as such and thus have no ability to enter into social contracts or comprehend even their own well being (hence without our intervention they brutalize each other and make self-destructive decisions and even fight to avoid medical treatment necessary to save or help them). They have no defensible autonomy in the sense we do. Thus they are not moral beings. And we ought not treat them as if they are.

      As far as employing them and consuming them, as long as we endeavor to do this humanely, such that, they are better off in our care and employment than they would be in the untamed wild (i.e. if humans didn’t even exist to affect anything), we are doing right by them. And the more so, the more we do so.

      Animals can experience suffering, however, and therefore that is the matter that evokes our moral concern with them. They do not have any comprehension of living for the future, and do nothing with that future; they live only for the moment. They therefore do not value their own lives in that sense. So neither need we. Human life is valuable for precisely the opposite reason. That value therefore does not extend to animals. Other values do.

      I’ve written on this already.

      Reply
      1. The great apes arn’t consius’v their own lives?!
        whot?!

        “hence without our intervention they brutalize each other and make self-destructive decisions and even fight to avoid medical treatment necessary to save or help them.”

        A lot’v humans du the same, I dersay.

        ‘humanely killing and eating animals’ – the iruny isn’t lost on pepl. ‘humane slaughter’ whot a contradiction in turms.

        Dusn’t De Waal see morality in chimps/apes etc.
        https://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral.html

        “They do not have any comprehension of living for the future, and do nothing with that future”

        hmmm

        “Studies of non-human primates, rats, black-capped chickadees, scrub-jays, and tayras indicate that animals may have a sense of “the future,” and act accordingly.”

        https://faunalytics.org/animals-think-future/

        https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/humans-are-not-the-only-animals-with-self-awareness-new-study-claims-10325129.html

        Reply
        1. I didn’t say anything here about “the great apes.” Only animals we eat or use for labor were queried here. Apes are employed in neither fashion. If you followed and read the link you’d know I make partial exceptions for certain exceptional animals that come near to human-like consciousness, including apes (though not all the way; apes still can’t enter into moral contracts, and any human who acted like them would be correctly classified as insane and thereby subject to guardianship, not autonomous rights).

  7. Dr Carrier, I notice that Dr Marshall doesn’t cite Bible passages but you do as well as several others on this forum. There are quite a number referred to with complaint. I’d like to offer a different spin. One at a time.

    Grant, for the sake of argument, that you are the Creator and you observe a wicked people worshipping a God/gods that you KNOW doesn’t exist (basically a vacuum). AND, you see them influencing others (who YOU love) to worship this vacuum. Wouldn’t this be upsetting to you? Since you are the Creator and know their hearts and you know they won’t turn to you without empirical proof of your existence (violating the miracle coercion paradox which I’ve mentioned to you before), what would be your remedy? This is in response to your citing of Deut 12: 1-13, and God’s “vile command” to not allow other religions.

    Reply
    1. Anyone who responds to religious liberty by commanding murder to compel obedience is a sociopathic monster.

      That your religion has compelled you to defend a monster should disturb you. It’s the clearest sign your religion is dangerous and destructive of good human judgment.

      Reply
      1. So your remedy is do nothing? I hold the view that “people” taking innocent life is murder. The “people”, that the Jews were commanded to drive out and destroy the objects of their worship, were murdering their children in child sacrifice and God knows how long this would continue. Notice in chapter 10 they were enticing other people to worship their way. Child sacrifice wasn’t their only wickedness. I think that’s a wonderful reason to restrict their religious liberty. Obviously those people would fight back and now you have battles which entailed killing. If you want to support that religion and do nothing in the name of religious liberty I’d say that would make YOU the moral monster. You should be disturbed, not me. BTW, God taking the life of the innocent is simply bringing them home, not murder and not the end. God taking the life of the wicked is bringing them to an appointment with justice. So it wasn’t “commanding murder” as you say (because they weren’t innocent people) “to compel obedience” as you say. It was to stop their spread of wickedness which included child sacrifice. Wicked false religions.

        At the end of your reply you slam my religion calling it dangerous and destructive of good human judgement. Let me tell you about my religion which your atheism has apparently blinded you to. Food program for the hungry, taking collections for emergency needs of people in bad situations, rejecting child sacrifice, trying to defend the innocent not yet born human beings, 10 commandments, leading the charge to end slavery in America because God does not endorse slavery (remember, it was those pesky atheist Egyptians under the rule of Pharaoh that endorsed harsh slavery on God’s chosen people, no doubt slavery was all over the place and not even recorded). I could certainly list much more good loving human judgement. What is sick is slamming good hearted people who continue growing into even better people because of their Christian God.

        Reply
        1. To the contrary, my remedy is to educate and inform. Not to torture and kill.

          Educating and informing does not make one a moral monster. Torturing and killing does. So does endorsing torture and killing for your or others’ pleasure. Which is what you continue doing.

          Your mind is dangerously close to sickening here. You had better step back and rethink the horrible things you are saying. This is what your religion has done to you. And it’s frightening.

          As to the rest, that’s all just false. Because some people commit crimes does not justify genocide (murdering women and children alike). And advocating genocide because some people of a race commit crimes is not just racism, its basically Nazism. Slavery is commanded by God’s word and nowhere ever condemned by God. It was not just “an Egyptian thing.” Half the ten commandments are direct violations of human rights. And Christians today are the number one opponents of all social welfare to end poverty and homelessness and inability to access health care. And much else. You are deluding yourself if you think otherwise. Christianity has been quite bad for our species. And everything good it did, is and was already being done without it.

          We don’t need religion to get good people to do good things. They already do them. What religion adds is a system of excuses for good people to do bad things. And that’s why we need to get rid of it. It causes people to have twisted views of human misery and crime (as you have been exhibiting here), faulty views of how to think rationally (as you have been exhibiting here), false beliefs about the world and its history (as you have been exhibiting here), and harmful views about how to fix things that remain broken (as you have intimated here, with your implied openness to depriving women of their reproductive rights based on a religious superstition).

        2. “The “people”, that the Jews were commanded to drive out and destroy the objects of their worship, were murdering their children in child sacrifice and God knows how long this would continue.

          think about this people, “DRIVE out….” as in

          EITHER slaughter them (pregnant, children, new born)
          OR push them out of their locations and have them STARVE to death

          hahah, what kind of sickness is this?

          it is funny that the hebrews DID worse CRIMES than the people who were DRIVEN out, why didn’t yhwh TELL the hebrews TO TURN THE SWORD ON THEIR OWN CHILDREN AFTER THEY SLAUGHTERED THE CHILDREN OF THE NON-HEBREWS?

          surely the pagans DID NOT KILL their children to the LEVEL the hebrews KILLED them by

          slaughtering them
          driving them out?

          i am saying if you can justify the SLAUGHTERING of children, then anyone could justisfy the slaughtering of hebrew children because they would do WORSE crimes than the nations yhwh had driven out.

    2. “Since you are the Creator and know their hearts and you know they won’t turn to you without empirical proof of your existence, what would be your remedy?”

      The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Give them empirical evidence of my existence. You can call it coercion if you want, but better I coerce people with evidence than coerce them with the wars of my followers. In the one hand, I simply show myself and still give them the choice to worship or not. In the other, I potentially give them evidence their vacuum religion is correct (think of how many religions have martyrdom and being oppressed as part of their doctrine).

      Why is it you can’t see this most obvious and moral solution?

      Reply
      1. Evidence does not coerce anyway. One can only validly consent when informed. Withholding information is therefore a violation of free will, not the other way around. Supplying essential information is essential for free will, not destructive of it.

        Reply
  8. “That God would allow anyone to claim he said this, rather than that he damned it, is itself immoral. Yet nothing can have stopped God from correcting it. Therefore there can be no moral God.”

    Dr Carrier, whot ixactly is ur standard fr assessing if summat is moral or immoral? No links please – cud u possibly tell us in a sentuns or tu?

    U deem it ‘vile’ – that is an emotional respons. Is ur moral outraj an indicatr uv whot is rong and whot is right?

    Morality, u affirm, is an invensn – much lika skrudrivr.
    If sumwun/god dusn’t lik ur scrudrivr and
    why be outraj’d?

    Reply
    1. I stated the standard I was applying to this debate in this debate:

      “any being that frequently adheres to the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”) is correctly designated moral; and any being that doesn’t, immoral.”

      Caveats then listed in an endnote.

      If you want to debate whether that’s moral, you are in the wrong place. Comment on the correct article. After actually reading it (comments that betray a failure to read the article commented on will be deleted). Here Marshall has not disagreed with the principle, therefore it applies to this debate.

      Reply
      1. Isn’t the convurs betr?

        Never do to anyone else anything that you would not want someone to do to you.

        Tobit 4:15, Hillel &c

        As ably ixplain’d in
        Arnheim, M. ‘Is Christianity True?’ Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd

        obvius demerit in positiv: wud u like gold? well giv gold t me. (ie impracticabl).

        Reply
        1. That’s simply identical in semantic content. It can be shown both statements reduce to each other. It’s thus the same proposition in different words.

          See the first paragraph here.

  9. Dr.. Carrier wrote:
    “Anyone who responds to religious liberty by commanding murder to compel obedience is a sociopathic monster.”

    Response: It is also important to note most all of the instances that you hear about these where a Christian is being prosecuted or murdered for their faith is not at the hands of atheists but rather of rivaling faiths.

    When Christians talk about such reported instances the assessment or story given is that “they are being murdered for being Christians”. But such an explanation is essentially misinformation (at best).

    Truth be told they are being prosecuted or murdered for practicing or attempting to evangelize a different religion than what is allowed to be practiced in that particular religious state. If it is a Muslim state that we’re talking about then truth be told you could be prosecuted for being the wrong type of Muslim.

    But since Christians have this sort of infatuation with being “prosecuted” (they think it somehow validates their faith as the Bible tells them they will be prosecuted for their beliefs) they can’t or refuse to see such instance in a more objective light.

    Christians also fail to see the irony that it is passages like those in Deuteronomy 13 (Worshiping Other Gods) that are shared by and instruct other religions on how to deal with anyone (including Christians) that might try to lead their people to a different faith.

    Reply
  10. Dr. Carrier wrote:
    “They (animals) do not have any comprehension of living for the future, and do nothing with that future; they live only for the moment.”

    Response: I’m not so sure about that. Because then how would you explain a squirrel burying a nut (for when food becomes scarce in the winter) or a mother bird nesting in preparation for her unborn that she is expecting to be born and present at a future time? Clearly these are examples of animals that are thinking and concerned about the future, correct?

    Reply
    1. The squirrel does not know why it does what it does. It just evolved with the desire to do it. That’s why squirrels cannot plan anything else; they did not develop the ability to plan for the future, just one instinct that causes them to do one thing that causes one result that happens to help them in the future.

      Likewise all other preparatory instincts.

      There are genuine exceptions, and they prove the rule, by showing just how different actual knowledge of the future looks in behavioral terms. (As I mention in my linked article about this, there are a few classes of animals that exist in between general animals and humans, and warrant different ethical treatment accordingly.)

      For example, corvids (a class of birds we don’t eat) show the ability to plan by actually inventing tools and solutions to new situations and remembering what they invented, and solving new problems by planning ahead, without this being the direct result of programmed instincts. Other animals do like things, but they are all animals we neither eat nor employ as labor (at least not legally, or not such as should be legal anymore, e.g. elephants and whales).

      Reply
      1. Dr. Carrier wrote:

        The squirrel does not know why it does what it does. It just evolved with the desire to do it. That’s why squirrels cannot plan anything else; they did not develop the ability to plan for the future, just one instinct that causes them to do one thing that causes one result that happens to help them in the future.

        So when the squirrel later goes to retrieve the nut (from that exact same location) it wasn’t part of any planned process? Keep in mind that they use landmarks to remember exactly where they buried the nuts. So it just mindlessly (in robotic fashion) just did was it was programmed to do from start to finish?

        Reply
        1. Correct. The squirrel has memory. That is not the same thing as understanding the implications of what it remembers and thus being able to think about and plan for future contingencies. That’s why squirrels never do that in any other way than the one single way they are programmed to.

          -:-

          As to whether it’s “robotic” though, that may be a false analogy depending on what you think you mean by a robot. Currently robots have the cognitive capacity of at best insects and thus are not AI on a level comparable to small mammals.

          When we do have robots at that cognitive level, they will be much more conscious than insects; but still not as conscious as humans. They will experience many aspects of qualitative experience, have knowledge and personalities, and make autonomous decisions, albeit with limited understanding. Although as AI, it won’t be the same as animals, who are programmed randomly by billions of years of natural selection; AI we will program to know and understand the things we want the AI to, which will likely differ considerably from what any animal independently evolved to do.

          Eventually, AI will obtain the cognitive level of humans and will be persons in every relevant moral sense.

          So the word “robot” is not very meaningful or useful here. It too readily conjures a false analogy.

          We are all programmed. We are thus all “robots” in that simplistic sense. The difference is in what we’ve been programmed to do and comprehend; what our cognitive abilities are. And once we take that into account, the word “robot” ceases to mean anything informative; it would simply conflate such disparate programmed entities as insects and humans, and thus indicate nothing useful about either.

  11. I can see why atheists are called militant, angry & hostile etc. When you confront another person that embraces a different view you just slam them. If you think you are so correct why then don’t you try to persuade instead of slamming. I certainly don’t want to be an atheist if it means being that way. You’re certainly loaded with assertions & opinions but do little to nothing in showing explanations of your views. You certainly don’t seem to care enough to ask how I arrive at my views. I just hear a tone that says “if you don’t think or speak like us then you need help, you’re dangerous, sick and so on. From my perspective I can say exactly the same to you about you but I don’t slam. Whenever I come across that way I apologize. Ask Dr Carrier.

    I’ll pretend you’re smart enough to ask a simple question like “how do you come to the conclusion God (Christian or other) is moral if He doesn’t intervene in the world’s evil, pain and suffering (EPS)?” Take a moment and hear this line of reasoning. If there is a God that wants a perfect and eternal loving relationship with us then it CANNOT, it MUST NOT be coerced. If it is then it’s not 100% perfect. Think about it. Your moms would NEVER tolerate a man that coerced her into their marriage. For God to intervene in the world’s EPS His presence would be overwhelmingly clear. Call it empirical proof of His existence. This kind of proof would overwhelm your true freedoms and even negate or cancel your autonomous desire to reject Him. You’d see Him in action and say to yourself, “Self, look, it’s clearly God. I better get right with Him or its off to eternal separation for me. You’d probably choose to get right with the Creator for the wrong reasons. You wouldn’t be choosing Him for His goodness, kindness, caring, forgiveness, mercy etc. You’d be trying to escape a bad choice. That relationship then would be less than 100% perfect. Coerced.

    Next you may ask, “what about all those supposed miracles, aren’t they coercive?” No. Miracles are simply evidence but not coercive proof. People in biblical times were even willing to reject the resurrection and explain it away in order to keep their autonomy (just as you do). Empirical proof coerces. Evidence persuades, see the difference? On Christian theism God provides a balance. On one side, sufficient evidence for His existence. On the other side He provides you with the capacity to reject the evidences & Him and go your own way.

    “But the EPS is so horrible” you complain. Let me tell you about someone who could tell you something about EPS and shame you. The apostle Paul was whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked more than once, snake bitten & more. He was surrounded by people constantly suffering… medical, dental and more. With all that, notice what he said. “The suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” He was smart enough to recognize how insignificant this short life of suffering would be…compared to eternity. Reflect on eternity for a moment. Your life is like a grain of sand on an endless beach. People’s interaction with suffering in this world would fade away in eternity. Like a mother’s child bearing pain fades away after the child is born.

    You guys beat me up pretty good in your last comments to me but I just feel sad for you. All you volleyed at me is clearly garbage which I can easily show. I’d be very surprised if you responded with a sincere desire to dialogue. You’ll probably slam again. Bring it on. Be creative!

    Reply
    1. It’s not clear who you are responding to (you aren’t quoting me). But certainly your comment is ignoring my entire line of argument in this debate. Which is bad enough. Obsessing over being insulted by some random person not even engaged in the debate as an excuse to ignore everything being said in that debate is indicative of someone lost in their own bad judgment.

      Reply
      1. I’ll try to help you make the connection. You are arguing the AFI. I think I understand that you are persuaded that since you don’t see God intervening in the world’s EPS that this apparent indifference counts as evidence God is either immoral or doesn’t exist. If this is correct then you are wrong and I do understand your “line of argument in this debate”. My overall point is to show that “if” there is a creator God that creates us (grant for the sake of this AFI) and desires a perfect, eternal, loving relationship then we can see a sufficient reason why God doesn’t intervene in the world’s EPS yet at this time. The intervening would be a type of coercion that would make that relationship something less than 100% perfect. Hence God would seem indifferent if you didn’t understand that. Then, I showed that God would be immoral to bring us into His eternity coerced. If you think it’s ok to be coerced into a relationship then try to convince women of your view.

        When I try to defend this view (remember, I’ve constantly repeated that I too am repulsed at the world’s suffering and that “we” have the duty do what “we” can to minimize the suffering) I’m accused of being sick, dangerous, lost in my bad judgement, a moral monster (and yes it wasn’t helpful for me to respond in kind) and I could go back and list more. And now you think I’m obsessed with the insults. NO NO NO. Listen carefully. I feel sad for those who launch insults at me. My point here is I wonder why, instead of the slamming/insults, I’m not asked how I get to my views. I guess I’m looking for more sincere dialogue.

        Moving on, you mention that if there was a God then He should provide us a book (smaller than the Bible) that informs us how to live. (Let me know if I’m mistaken). What do you think should happen to people that choose to ignore it and live contrary to its directives?

        Reply
        1. That’s all false. Talking to the people you love, helping them, answering their questions, and making it evident you exist cannot coerce them into anything. Free will requires informed consent. Concealing evidence violates free will by depriving us of informed consent.

          You cannot excuse someone who acts indifferently by saying anything they do is coercion therefore they must be indifferent. That contradicts the very definition of what it means to be a good person, and perverts the very relevance of actual coercion in human decision making.

          Friends help when asked; answer questions when asked; intervene when danger arises; keep environments safe. Friends who don’t help or anything else whatever because they think what friends do is “coercive” are bad people. Not superlatively good ones.

          Indifference is evidence of indifference. Not goodness and kindness and care. Goodness and kindness and care are evidence of goodness and kindness and care.

          Which is why this scale of monstrous indifference is only compatible with two possibilities: being monstrously indifferent and not existing.

          Take your pick.

      2. So if God talks audibly with you, answers your questions and helps you etc in the way you expect then what would happen? You would have a completely different response to Him. That’s what I’ve been calling coercion (maybe you could call it “improperly swayed”)You would at that time have an overwhelming proof positive awareness of His existence. You’d now have this knowledge without any seeking of Him on your part. You would then, (and in your case only then) at that time (if you had any good sense at all) choose to opt into a relationship with Him. You would know that if you didn’t you’d be choosing to separate yourself from any goodness and joy for eternity. This would now be the reason for your choice. It’s kind of like marrying someone for their money or stuff and not for the person themself. It seems that the only way God can avoid this is to instead provide what He considers sufficient evidence for His existence but not to the overwhelming proof positive point that would “sway” you into choosing for the wrong reason.

        You listed several nice things that friends and good humans would do. Something they can never do is create people and properly prepare them for a perfect, eternal, loving relationship. If Christian theism is true and I embraced God the way you demand then I would have this nagging eternal knowledge that I was in that relationship with less than 100% of my own true free (unswayed) choice. That eternal nagging would sour the relationship for eternity.

        Finally (for now) the word “indifferent” radiates the idea of not caring. The best you can honestly do is say that God (if He exists) seems to have an “apparent” indifference to the EPS in the world. Suppose He has your best interest at heart concerning another more important matter? If He didn’t tend to that then you could correctly say He was indifferent (not caring). I can see that us being prepared to appreciate eternity is ultimately most important and the EPS we experience weighs in on that preparation. In this case I completely agree with the apostle Paul when he says “this momentary suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison”. If you think this life is all you’re going to see then your view of the EPS will be short sighted. Also, you may be living with a great fear of suffering.

        What you call a “monstrous indifference” is not seeing the whole picture. Dr Marshall and I don’t see completely eye to eye as to suffering (from natural causes) being a result of God’s punishment. As I said before I have a list of 12 reasons God permits EPS and punishment / correction is lowest on that list. I have much more to add but am curious to hear your response of what I’ve said to this point.

        Reply
        1. So if God talks audibly with you, answers your questions and helps you etc in the way you expect then what would happen? You would have a completely different response to Him.

          I would have a correct and informed response to him. Just as I do everyone else I know cares about me.

          That’s what caring people seek. Precisely because they care. Only people who don’t care, don’t seek it. Ergo, not seeking it, entails not caring.

          Caring and helping is the opposite of coercion. Unless and until one asks you to stop. But that’s not the case here, so it’s irrelevant.

          Likewise informing, giving evidence, is the opposite of coercion. It’s informing, facilitating one’s free will choice, rather than hindering it by allowing ignorance and error to replace information. Not telling the truth is deception. Deception is coercive. Telling the truth is not.

          The best you can honestly do is say that God (if He exists) seems to have an “apparent” indifference to the EPS in the world.

          Indeed. And one needs evidence it is merely apparent. Otherwise it’s improbable that it is. As I’ve already explained: fabricating excuses not in evidence to force appearance to match the opposite reality reduces the probability of God, not salvages it. You can’t just “make up excuses” for every appearance to declare reality the opposite. You need evidence that’s the case. Actually the case. There is none. As I’ve shown, the probability of such an excuse existing is even millions to one against. Ergo so is the existence of God.

  12. Wilson Cole (aka Sysking) June 21, 2019, 12:53 pm

    Dr. Carrier, You wrote:

    But even if somehow there were a person who really actually liked being caused any pain randomly by anyone anytime without their consent (I doubt any such reason has ever existed, but let’s pretend one does), it would still violate the Golden Rule for them to treat others as themselves when they weren’t like them. Because they would not want others to treat them like themselves when they were not like them, e.g. if the masochist does not like messy homes, they would not want a roommate who did like messy homes to leave their home in common a mess (they likely would work out a negotiated compromise; because that’s what both would want).

    All action is contextual, ergo conditional. For example, “I would not expect someone who could not swim to attempt to rescue me if I were drowning by swimming for me” because “If I could not swim, I would not want to be obligated to attempt to rescue someone drowning by swimming for them.” Those statements remain true for me even if I cam swim. Because they are conditional statements; “if x.”

    Ergo, a masochist would be violating the Golden Rule if he treated non-masochists like masochists: because if the masochist were themselves not a masochist, they would not want to be treated that way. This is actually how the Golden Rule properly works: empathic awareness of the POV of another person results in treating them as you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.

    No ethical reasoning makes any sense otherwise, e.g. a rich person should not expect a poor friend to pick up the tab at lunch; the rich person does not foolishly go around acting like everyone else is rich. That would be acting contrary to reality; and all decisions contrary to reality are false. Rather, a rich person in touch with reality and the Golden Rule would treat the poor as they would want to be treated if they themselves were poor. Everything else is either stupidity or hypocrisy.

    MASOCHISM??? Are you kidding?

    This is nothing but speculation and has no basis in fact. You are trying to avoid what is obvious. There is no principle here that could be applied by any and everyone. You just don’t sweep dust into the wind.

    You should be looking for a workable alternative and I haven’t seen any.

    Besides: You are looking at bad examples and trying to use them to make good points.

    You can’t get anything good from something bad. You failed to recognize the principle:

    “A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit.” (Matthew 7:18)

    Dr. Carrier, I am 100% certain that you are unable to produce any scenario in which the biblical principle is proved fallible. Prove me wrong!

    Reply
    1. Good people do bad things and bad people good things all the time. Indeed, sociopaths are consummately skilled at fooling people with their good deeds so as to exploit them; and many a great person who did great things for humanity has also been morally flawed. Thus the principle that good trees can’t do wrong and bad ones can’t do right is not only fallible, it’s universally false. I have no idea how you could be so naive about the world to think otherwise.

      Meanwhile masochism is a very well studied kink. I know a great deal about the kink community and the psychology and science behind it. Likewise Game Theory and the sociology of morality. My moral theories are extensively based on established scientific findings on these things. So when you say this “has no basis in fact” you clearly know nothing whatever of the pertinent facts or science. I suggest you get up to speed.

      Reply
      1. wilson cole aka sysking June 30, 2019, 8:48 pm

        Richard Carrier:

        You wrote:

        “Good people do bad things and bad people good things all the time.”

        As I pointed out before, when a good man does a bad thing, he has become a bad man. When a bad man does a good thing, that does not make him a good man, and that is simply because he is a BAD man. Without permanent change, he will remain that way.
        You write:

        “Indeed, sociopaths are consummately skilled at fooling people with their good deeds so as to exploit them; and many a great person who did great things for humanity has also been morally flawed.”

        Thanks! You are making MY point. How did you know that they are sociopaths? Are you saying that you found out that they were crooked? And now that their devious acts have been exposed, would you still look at them as good people who fool others?

        The point is – they are ALWAYS identified.

        “Morally flawed” people are not good people. Hello?

        Now this:

        “Thus the principle that good trees can’t do wrong and bad ones can’t do right is not only fallible, it’s universally false.”

        Woooooiii! Now you’ve got trees and people all mixed up! Did I say good trees can’t do wrong?

        And “bad ones can’t do right?” Bad what? Trees? Dr. Carrier, trees, good or bad, can’t do anything!

        AND THAT IS NOT A PRINCIPLE!

        As the fruit of a tree identifies it, so the results of human actions identify what kind of people are producing them.

        True or not?

        Let’s restate the principle:

        “. . .A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit.” (Matthew 7:18)

        Now, please expose the fallibility and falsehood of this principle.

        Then:

        “I have no idea how you could be so naive about the world to think otherwise.”

        The naivete is now obvious – don’t you think?

        You write:

        “Meanwhile masochism is a very well studied kink. I know a great deal about the kink community and the psychology and science behind it.”
        Maybe so, but that is not my concern. Masochism does not negate the principle behind the Golden Rule.

        Remember, a biblical principle can be applied by anyone, any time, anywhere, regardless of age, gender, religion, culture, language, creed or anything else. Masochism is not pervasive enough to even be considered an alternative to the Golden Rule.
        You say:

        “ Likewise Game Theory and the sociology of morality. My moral theories are extensively based on established scientific findings on these things. So when you say this “has no basis in fact” you clearly know nothing whatever of the pertinent facts or science. I suggest you get up to speed.”

        There are lots of things supposedly “based on established scientific findings.” That does not give them the ring of truth. Most of these things are worthless because they do not deal with the more important things.

        In view of my explanations, I repeat: As an alternative to the Golden Rule, it has no basis in fact.

        Reply
        1. I can’t help you if you reject scientific facts. Science simply has confirmed (indeed even has developed confirmed mathematical models of) the operant value of the Golden Rule in cognitive social systems.

          And I didn’t say masochism “negated” anything about the Golden Rule. You described masochism in a way that is factually false in the real world. When we correct your error, it actually in practice conforms to the Golden Rule (that’s called “ethical kink,” and it’s a real thing). Likewise sociopathy is an actual documented and studied medical condition with diagnostic criteria; not something I made up or imagined. It has real properties and predictable effects. Among them: they often become the best pretenders and liars we know. They can thus exploit naive people like you, who think only good people can do good things, and thus do good things to trick you into misjudging them as good. Your principle’s fallibility is exactly what they will exploit. You should see to that. Because being that naive is dangerous.

          These kinds of things are why facts are more important than fantasies. You give us fantasies. I’m trying to explain to you the facts. Because we live in the real world. Not some world you mistakenly imagine we live in.

          And among those facts are that many bad people produce good things and many good people produce bad things. All the time. For many different reasons, including ignorance, error, convergent interests, divergent character, and the fact that no people are all good or all bad, but rather, these properties exist in complex combinations and degrees.

          Thus a principle like “only good does good and only bad does bad” is simply false. As a matter of fact, in the real world.

          Whereas if all you mean is “observed long and carefully enough a bad person will eventually do something bad and good people will usually do everything right” you are simply stating an obvious tautology any ten year old can suss out on their own from simple life observation, not some great mysterious principle we needed revealed to us by celestial powers.

      2. wilson cole aka sysking July 4, 2019, 12:56 pm

        Richard Carrier July 2, 2019, 3:05 pm
        You wrote:
        “This. Did you not know he kept talking after the sentence about cheeks?”
        Yes, I know – he said:
        “. . .And if a person wants to take you to court and get possession of your inner garment, let him also have your outer garment; and if someone in authority compels you into service for a mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one asking you, and do not turn away from one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:40-42)
        BUT JESUS NEVER GAVE ANY COMMAND TO UNBELIEVERS.
        He was teaching that a Christian does not need to pay back blow for blow, retaliating, taking vengeance. . Lie begets lie, hate breeds more hate, violence spawns greater violence, and the circle of evil gains momentum as each races in the wicked footsteps of the other, trying to outstrip the other in evil-doing, striving to repay the other with greater evil. By such dizzy whirlings both men and nations are soon unbalanced and toppled into open warfare. Christians will shun such snares by refusing to complete the first circle or set it in motion by returning evil for evil. Instead, they will counter with good. “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:21, NW.
        So, the command to “turn the other cheek” would be not a command to allow someone to beat or rob a person but a command not to take vengeance.
        He was inculcating the principle of avoiding quarrels by not replying or reacting in kind. What Jesus was saying was that if anyone tried to provoke a Christian into a fight or argument by either slapping him with an open hand or stinging him with insulting words, it would be wrong for a Christian to retaliate.
        Only believers would respond favorably to these instructions.
        So:
        WHERE’S THE REFERENCE TO SLAVERY?
        You wrote:
        “Meanwhile, the rest of the NT likewise contains commands that slaves remain obedient.”
        Will you please be specific? Who told slaves to remain obedient and in what context?
        Since unbelievers were not involved, to whom would theses instructions be directed?

        Reply
        1. Jesus says nothing about non-Christians being exempt from his morals. Everyone who doesn’t do as he commands is damned. That’s the point. No camel gets through the eye of the needle.

          And I can’t imagine you are here arguing Jesus secretly thought Christians should be immoral and accept slavery, while non-Christians should be moral and oppose it, yet never say this…that would really destroy your point; it would mean Jesus was both pro-slavery and said nothing against it. Exactly as I said.

          As for “where’s the slavery,” Jesus is describing slavery: submitting to any master who compels you to do any deed (surrender your labor or earnings or property, march a mile on command, etc.). That’s called slavery. And Jesus commands we accept it; indeed, he is explicitly commanding that opposing it is immoral. This is not about “don’t avenge.” This is about “don’t oppose any evil.” Like slavery.

          That’s your god. And he’s awful.

      3. wilson cole aka sysking July 7, 2019, 8:13 pm

        Richard Carrier July 4, 2019, 3:15 pm
        You said:
        “Jesus says nothing about non-Christians being exempt from his morals.”
        Don’t move the goalpost! We weren’t talking about morals. I said:
        JESUS NEVER GAVE ANY COMMAND TO UNBELIEVERS. Can you show me where he did? Show me a set of instructions given by Jesus to any unbeliever!
        He never imposed them on anyone. True? That’s the nice thing about free will. You don’t have to do what he says. He never gave any instructions to those who were not interested in living by his standards.
        In Matthew 11:15 he spoke of those who “are willing to accept it.”
        And in Matthew 10:38 he said: “And whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)
        He spoke repeatedly about acceptance. Not a word about damnation.
        Peter explained it this way:
        “. . .In past generations he permitted all the nations to go on in their ways, although he did not leave himself without witness in that he did good, giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying you with food and filling your hearts with gladness.”” (Acts 14:16, 17)
        YES – HE LET EVERY UNBELIEVING NATION DO THEIR OWN THING WITHOUT HIS INTEFERANCE.
        He only whacked them when they tried to subjugate his people Israel.
        Ancient Israel live in a closed society. The reason for that was made clear to them. ““You must not make a covenant with them or their gods. They should not dwell in your land, so that they may not cause you to sin against me. If you should serve their gods, it would surely become a snare to you.”” (Exodus 23:32, 33)
        “You must not form any marriage alliances with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons.  For they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods; then Jehovah’s anger will blaze against you, and he will swiftly annihilate you.” (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4) This is what happened when they disobeyed: “In Solʹo·mon’s old age, his (unbelieving) wives inclined his heart to follow other gods, and his heart was not complete with Jehovah his God like the heart of David his father.” (1 Kings 11:4) King Solomon turned to doing what was bad.
        These instructions went out to the believing women: “A wife is bound as long as her husband is alive. But if her husband should fall asleep in death, she is free to be married to whomever she wants, only in the Lord.” (to a believer) (1 Corinthians 7:39)
        Jesus kept the Mosaic Law perfectly.

        You write:
        “Everyone who doesn’t do as he commands is damned.”
        That’s your take on it. Its already been proven false. Where does he say that?
        Then:
        “ That’s the point.”
        No – it isn’t! Never once did Jesus ever threaten anyone with damnation for disobedience.
        This is how he put it:
        “. . .Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for yourselves.  For my yoke is kindly, and my load is light.”” (Matthew 11:28-30)
        THIS IS AN INVITATION – NOT A THREAT.
        Now show me his threat of damnation to unbelievers.
        You said:
        “ No camel gets through the eye of the needle.”
        Twist!!!
        You are wrong – and viciously so. Jesus was here talking about the great difficulty for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom.
        You misquote, mischaracterize, distort, twist and misapply everything Christian.
        You also write:
        “And I can’t imagine you are here arguing Jesus secretly thought Christians should be immoral and accept slavery, while non-Christians should be moral and oppose it, yet never say this…that would really destroy your point; it would mean Jesus was both pro-slavery and said nothing against it. Exactly as I said.”
        That’s how you would like it to be. But it isn’t!
        I’m not arguing that at all! You’re twisting things again! You are introducing your own argument and then refuting it. Please show me what part of MY argument gave you that idea.
        You write:
        “As for “where’s the slavery,” Jesus is describing slavery: submitting to any master who compels you to do any deed (surrender your labor or earnings or property, march a mile on command, etc.). That’s called slavery.”
        Twist again! He said not a word about “master.”
        Definition: slavery:
        noun
        1. the state of being a slave.
        “thousands had been sold into slavery”
        synonyms: bondage, enslavement, servitude, subjugation, thraldom, thrall, serfdom, vassalage, enthralment, yoke;
        2. the practice or system of owning slaves.
        synonyms: bondage, enslavement, servitude, subjugation, thraldom, thrall, serfdom, vassalage, enthralment, yoke;
        3. a condition compared to that of a slave in respect of exhausting labor or restricted freedom.
        “female domestic slavery”
        synonyms: drudgery, toil, (hard) slog, hard labor, grind, sweated labor;
        You are not telling the truth, Sir. NONE of these definitions apply to what Jesus was saying.
        You would pull that mess on me if I did not know how to do my own research.
        Then:
        “And Jesus commands we accept it; indeed, he is explicitly commanding that opposing it is immoral. This is not about “don’t avenge.” This is about “don’t oppose any evil.” Like slavery.”
        BUT THAT IS FALSE, TOO.
        When Jesus was tempted by the Devil, he put up very strong opposition to his suggestions because they were evil.
        I repeat: WHERE’S THE REFERENCE TO SLAVERY?
        And – he was teaching his followers how to avoid violence, bloodshed and warfare.
        Carrier:
        “That’s your god. And he’s awful.”
        We are not looking at the same thing.

        Bible students have long recognized that violence begets violence and that, “an answer, when mild, turns away rage.” (Proverbs 15:1) The Bible advises us to flee, right at the outset, when we are faced with a potentially explosive confrontation. Wise King Solomon wrote: “The beginning of contention is as one letting out waters; so before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.”—Proverbs 17:14.

        Reply
      4. wilson cole aka sysking July 7, 2019, 11:12 pm

        Richard Carrier July 1, 2019, 8:48 am
        You wrote:
        “I can’t help you if you reject scientific facts. Science simply has confirmed (indeed even has developed confirmed mathematical models of) the operant value of the Golden Rule in cognitive social systems.”
        That is ridiculous!
        Since there is no database of community compliance with the Golden Rule, your “models” are spurious.
        You said:
        “And I didn’t say masochism “negated” anything about the Golden Rule.”
        Then why use it as an example of the failure of the Golden Rule? Isn’t that what you are doing? Especially since you yourself admitted that masochism is inappropriate as an example of the failure of the Golden Rule:
        You wrote: “No. That is incorrect. First, masochists don’t work that way; they still disapprove the unconsensual causing of them pain.”
        Those are YOUR words, Sir.
        You said:
        “ You described masochism in a way that is factually false in the real world.”
        Dr. Carrier, I did not describe masochism in any way or form. If you think I did, please show me.
        You also said:
        “ When we correct your error, it actually in practice conforms to the Golden Rule (that’s called “ethical kink,” and it’s a real thing).”
        What error? Why is it that you misquote me and then seek to correct it? That is devious!
        Then you said:
        “ Likewise sociopathy is an actual documented and studied medical condition with diagnostic criteria; not something I made up or imagined. It has real properties and predictable effects. Among them: they often become the best pretenders and liars we know. They can thus exploit naive people like you, who think only good people can do good things, and thus do good things to trick you into misjudging them as good. “
        I don’t think that at all! You’re pretending that you don’t understand what I said. I’ll repeat it. “When a good man does a bad thing, he has become a bad man. When a bad man does a good thing that does not make him a good man, simply because he is a BAD man“.
        Dr. Carrier, LOOK AT THE STATEMENT!! It tells you, in full view, that good men do bad things and bad men do good things. What are you arguing about? WHEN “pretenders and liars” are found out, are they still trustworthy? Please answer this question.
        You said:
        “Your principle’s fallibility is exactly what they will exploit.”
        Sir, NOBODY can exploit the Golden Rule because it is infallible! Its results are immediate. All that a person has to do is implement it.
        Then you said:
        “ You should see to that. ……..I’m trying to explain to you the facts. Because we live in the real world. Not some world you mistakenly imagine we live in.”
        You cannot “explain the facts” to me because you do not have them. Fact is, the “real world” we live in is on the road to oblivion and mainly due to science.
        Then:
        “And among those facts are that many bad people produce good things and many good people produce bad things. All the time.”
        I never said they don’t! I’m saying that the good do not remain good once they’ve done the bad. That’s how one can tell that they are a rotten tree. They only LOOKED good, until you saw their fruitage. Likewise, a rotten tree cannot produce good fruit. Are you disputing that? If you are, the show me a literal rotten tree that produces good fruit.
        You said:
        ” For many different reasons, including ignorance, error, convergent interests, divergent character, and the fact that no people are all good or all bad, but rather, these properties exist in complex combinations and degrees.”
        You’re not getting it. I already told you: You will know them by their fruit! Good trees do not produce bad fruit and bad trees cannot produce good fruit, no matter how you slice it.
        The point is this: When you find out that the “Good” people are doing bad things, then you should be put on notice that they are bad people.
        And – I don’t care anything about sociopathy. In my estimation, a sociopath is a person who has already been revealed as having a personality disorder. Otherwise, you have no way of knowing – right?
        I already mentioned the principle:
        “No good tree produces rotten fruit. Likewise, no rotten tree produces good fruit.” You seem to be doubting that, so let’s put it to a test: Show me a literal good tree that produces bad fruit!
        You said:
        “Thus a principle like “only good does good and only bad does bad” is simply false.”
        Eehhh? I NEVER SAID THAT!! In what way is that a principle? You don’t seem to know what a biblical principle is, even though I explained it to you. Thus:
        “In the bible, there are laws and there are principles. Laws are enforceable and principles are not. A biblical principle can be implemented by anyone regardless of age, race, location, time, religion, culture, gender,
        circumstances, etc.” The believer treats the principle as if it were a law.
        Remember?
        Next:
        “Whereas if all you mean is “observed long and carefully enough a bad person will eventually do something bad and good people will usually do everything right” you are simply stating an obvious tautology any ten year old can suss out on their own from simple life observation, not some great mysterious principle we needed revealed to us by celestial powers.”
        There you go again! Making your own argument and then debunking it. That is not all I mean!
        Is something wrong with my English?
        I said:
        “A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit.” (Matthew 7:18)
        Are you disputing that? Please show me why that principle is false. The ONLY way you can debunk that by showing me when and how it has been applied and failed.
        CAN YOU DO THAT?
        When a good man does a bad thing, he has become a bad man. When a bad man does a good thing, that does not make him a good man, simply because he is a BAD man.
        Are you disputing that, too?

        Reply
        1. Since there is no database of community compliance with the Golden Rule, your “models” are spurious.

          No they aren’t. The computer models provide very clear demonstrations.

          Maybe you should actually read the things I told you to.

          Meanwhile, the fact that we have countless examples of good people slipping up and doing bad things inadvertently and bad people doing good things aplenty, we have securely refuted the notion that this can’t happen. Empirically.

      5. wilson cole aka sysking July 14, 2019, 11:49 am

        Richard Carrier July 9, 2019, 11:31 am

        You wrote:

        So Jesus did not say you should obey any of his moral instructions in the Sermon on the Mount?
        Wow. You just renounced your entire religion. Nice.

        Not once did he do so. Let’s look at some of it and see to whom his words were addressed:

        Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the Kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and be overjoyed, since your reward is great in the heavens, for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you. “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its strength, how will its saltiness be restored? It is no longer usable for anything except to be thrown outside to be trampled on by men. (Matthew 5:10-13)

        These words were said in the hearing of many unbelieving Jews.

        Were they the ones persecuted “for righteousness’ sake” when THEY were doing the persecuting? Were they the ones reproached opposed and accused “for Jesus’ sake?”
        Were these Scribes and Pharisees correctly described by Jesus as the “salt of the earth” when it was THEY who were taking advantage of the poor and oppressed?

        Remember, those Jews did not believe in the heavenly kingdom so, from where would their “reward” come?

        NO! Jesus did NOT say that “YOU” should obey any of his moral instructions in the Sermon On The Mount if “YOU” are an unbeliever.
        No renunciation here!

        Reply
      6. wilson cole aka sysking July 18, 2019, 11:34 am

        Richard Carrier July 14, 2019, 11:59 am
        You write:
        “So the Sermon on the Mount you completely reject as not a moral guide and inapplicable to you?
        This is wild.”
        Why do you ask me such a bizarre question?
        What did I say that gave you such a totally false impression?
        Dr. Carrier, sorry if I misled you in some way, but I AM A BELIEVER!!!!
        I tried to show you that the sermon on the mount, as a moral guide, is inapplicable to the UNBELIEVER!
        You either did not understand that or you are deliberately twisting my words for some devious and bewildering purpose.
        The bible is God’s book of instructions to believers only.
        Its effectiveness depends totally on a person’s willingness to accept and implement it. (Matthew 11:14)
        “. . .He came to his own home, but his own people did not accept him.” (John 1:11)
        “. . .‘Hurry up and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your witness concerning me.’” (Acts 22:18)
        “. . .Also, accept the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” (the bible) (Ephesians 6:17)

        The unbeliever is under no obligation to live by any of its principles.
        So, when you write stuff like:
        “Although the author of Matthew said WE should oppose no oppression or perceived crimes whatever, ergo, not even force anyone to adhere to any religion, nor execute anyone for anything, etc., simply because it might risk US erring and thus sinning and thus being damned, and the world was about to end so it didn’t matter anyway…..” you are giving a false impression that Matthew and the rest of the gospels apply to everyone.
        Jesus did not come to earth to change the morals and religious practices of the world of mankind. He never even tried to do that.
        He came to find those few humans who are/were WILLING to take his instructions seriously and to live by his righteous principles. His aim was to take them OUT of the world of wicked men by insulating them with knowledge and faith, and to prepare them for the time when he himself will rule over the earth.
        In a prayer to his father in heaven, he said these revealing words:
        “. . .“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name, which you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. 12 When I was with them, I used to watch over them on account of your own name, which you have given me; and I have protected them, and not one of them is destroyed except the son of destruction (Judas), so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because THEY ARE NO PART OF THE WORLD, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:11-14)
        However:
        I see this as a diversionary tactic to avoid dealing with the more important questions. Since you have ignored these, I must ask them again:
        a) Do you mean that there are databases of communities living in compliance with the Golden Rule? Please tell me where they are or ever were.
        b) “A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit.” (Matthew 7:18)
        Are you disputing that? Please show me why that principle is false. The ONLY way you can debunk that by showing me when and how it has been applied and failed.
        c) I’m saying that the good do not remain good once they’ve done the bad. Are you disputing that?
        d) Fact is, the “real world” we live in is on the road to oblivion and mainly due to science. Do you disagree?
        e) WHEN “pretenders and liars” are found out, are they still trustworthy? Please answer this question.

        And you still have not shown me where and how Jesus ever condoned slavery.
        Could you do that now, please?

        Reply
        1. Sigh.

          You are now talking in a circle.

          I said Jesus commanded YOU to submit to slavery and thus endorsed slavery. You are a believer.

          You took us on a wheel of bullshit to try and deny this, until now you admit it. You likewise continue to ignore all the evidence I’ve given you and continue to repeat claims I’ve already refuted multiple times.

          I’m done with this. This is disingenuous and dishonest argumentation. Your posts will no longer be allowed here.

  13. A:
    “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”

    B:
    12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

    what i meant was, would “B” be seen in light of “A”?

    so the author matthew would want others to chat to him about having no other gods before yhwh, would that be his understanding of, “as you would have them do to you” ? today their is freedom to practice different religions in secular countries, would matthew have understood golden rule in the sense of allowing for the practice of religions other than Matthew’s or in the sense of how torah limits freedom of other religions?

    Reply
    1. The author of Matthew certainly would not have seen it that way.

      Although the author of Matthew said we should oppose no oppression or perceived crimes whatever, ergo, not even force anyone to adhere to any religion, nor execute anyone for anything, etc., simply because it might risk us erring and thus sinning and thus being damned, and the world was about to end so it didn’t matter anyway.

      However, that was not because Matthew’s author thought those things were “okay” but rather definitely condemns them as evil but is concerned that our fallibly prosecuting or resisting them is a needless risk of our committing a sin by accident, given the immanent end of the world. It makes no sense for a religion that expected to continue hundreds indeed thousands of years. Matthew is writing for a community he expected to be vaporized by God’s angelic hordes in a matter of years, decades at most.

      And thus his moral beliefs lie there: who he thought those angelic hordes would justifiably disintegrate or eternally torture rather than elevate to heavenly new bodies forever. And in that, the Golden Rule has no place; certainly not in any “let each practice their own religion, because that’s what we’d want them to allow us” fashion. Though the latter is a logically valid extension of a properly analyzed Golden Rule, it is absolutely not anything Matthew’s author believed was actually entailed by it and he would have been horrified by the suggestion he made Jesus say anything that would entail it.

      Reply

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