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7 years ago  ::  May 10, 2008 - 3:44PM #1
vacchagotta
Posts: 298
[QUOTE=brburl;477891]I made no mention of God being good or bad.

Good or bad, as the Buddhist texts state:

"If God designs the life of the entire world -- the glory and the misery, the good and the evil acts, man is but an instrument of his will and God  alone is responsible." J V.238.

"He who eyes can see the sickening sight, why does not God set his creatures right? If his wide power no limits can restrain, why is his hand so rarely spread to bless? Why are his creatures all condemned to pain? Why does he not to all give happiness?  Why do fraud, lies, and ignorance prevail? Why triumphs falsehood, -truth and justice fail? I count your God unjust in making a world in which to shelter wrong." J VI.208

"If the pleasure and pain that beings feel are caused the creative act of a Supreme God [Issara-nimmana-hetu], then the Niganthas [Jains] surely must have been created by an evil Supreme God." MN II 222.

Anguttara Nikaya 3.61: "Again, monks, I [the Buddha] approached those ascetic and brahmins and said to them: 'Is it true, as they say, that you venerable ones teach and hold the view that whatever a person experiences...all that is caused by God's creation?' When they affirmed it, I said to them: 'If that is so, venerable sirs, then it is due to God's creation that people kill, steal ...[and otherwise act badly]. But those who have recourse to God's creation as the decisive factor, will lack the impulse and the effort doing this or not doing that. Since for them, really and truly, no (motive) obtains that this or that ought to be done or not be done...."[/QUOTE]

Far be it from me to argue that the Buddha asserted or assented to a positive theology, but it is worth it to note that what is argued against in the quotes provided here is only a specific kind of theology rather than an utter rejection of an absolute norm such as God.  Namely it is a theology which precludes the third and especially the fourth noble truth.  Coincidentally, I had a conversation the other day with a Christian who highlighted for me the fact that not all theological systems are of the kind refuted here.  In brief, they expressed a theology that did not accept that sin is of divine origin in argument against a person who had espoused that something they were engaged in was okay because it came from God.  Rather it seemed that sin, decay, suffering and death, in their belief is much more akin to something like the disorder that follows from rebellious departure from the divine.  The old free will issue comes in here, but they insisted on free will as an aspect of their theology, because, and I hope my paraphrase does their belief justice, God loves good and grieves evil, but when goodness is a kind of slavery there is no love and so men are free to do what they choose.  God loves the chosen good, but chosen evil is merely man's choice, his rebellion.  What results from evil is not God's punishment as much as it is the lack of his grace which cannot come except through man's acceptance of it.  Now, I'm not saying anything about the fitness of this theology, I only present it as the kind of theology that ostensibly rejects the idea that literally everything including sin and death come from God.  Perhaps a rough analogy would be the idea of nourishment.  Healthy food sustains our body and in many respects forms it, creates it, similar to the grace of God.  If we forsake food, we will suffer and ultimately die.  It is not, however the "fault" of the food that if we forsook it and died. 


in friendliness,
V.
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7 years ago  ::  May 10, 2008 - 4:39PM #2
vacchagotta
Posts: 298
I also wanted to add that this person I spoke with stressed that many, most, or even all theological ideas are themselves merely analogies.  When he speaks of God, or God's love, they are merely ways of speaking about something which is more profound than our ability to speak about it precisely. 

in friendliness,
V.
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7 years ago  ::  May 10, 2008 - 7:05PM #3
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
The argument against the Christian god is that if God is omnipotent, he could prevent sin and thus prevent damnation. Since he chooses not to do so, he must not be benevolent. Or if he is sincerely benevolent, he must not be omnipotent, since he doesn't have the power to prevent sin and damnation. The argument that God is giving us freedom, which we misuse by sinning doesn't wash, since (according to Christians) God created us. Presumably, God has the wisdom to avoid sinning himself, but he chose not to give us that wisdom. By not giving us that wisdom, he put limits on our freedom. Since he chose to make us in a state of ignorance, claiming that he is giving us our freedom is hypocritical.

BTW, I don't know of any Abramaic religions that consider sin to be of divine origin. I don't believe that anyone was suggesting that.
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7 years ago  ::  May 10, 2008 - 9:45PM #4
cjelli
Posts: 40
[QUOTE=RenGalskap;491194]The argument against the Christian god is that if God is omnipotent, he could prevent sin and thus prevent damnation. Since he chooses not to do so, he must not be benevolent. Or if he is sincerely benevolent, he must not be omnipotent, since he doesn't have the power to prevent sin and damnation. The argument that God is giving us freedom, which we misuse by sinning doesn't wash, since (according to Christians) God created us. Presumably, God has the wisdom to avoid sinning himself, but he chose not to give us that wisdom. By not giving us that wisdom, he put limits on our freedom. Since he chose to make us in a state of ignorance, claiming that he is giving us our freedom is hypocritical.

BTW, I don't know of any Abramaic religions that consider sin to be of divine origin. I don't believe that anyone was suggesting that.[/QUOTE]

What is abramaic?
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7 years ago  ::  May 11, 2008 - 12:35AM #5
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
"Abramaic" religions originated in the Middle East and have some sort of link, however weak, to Judaism, the religion of Abraham. Examples are Christianity and Islam. Bahai considers itself to be Abramaic.

Also spelled Abrahamic.

"Abraham" means, appropriately, "father of many". But I don't think the original Hebrew speakers intended it to mean "father of many religons". :)
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7 years ago  ::  May 11, 2008 - 3:32AM #6
brburl
Posts: 132
they expressed a theology that did not accept that sin is of divine origin in argument against a person who had espoused that something they were engaged in was okay because it came from God. Rather it seemed that sin, decay, suffering and death, in their belief is much more akin to something like the disorder that follows from rebellious departure from the divine.

And as theologies go, it is a bit silly. Sin, decay and all the fun stuff such as disease and hate are part of the creation god set in motion, god knowing full well its creation would unfold the way it has by virtue of how god set it in motion.

The old free will issue comes in here, but they insisted on free will as an aspect of their theology,

Free will is meaningless, for how can we act other than how god knows we are going to act, unless one is going to argue that god is ignorant and not omnipotent and that we, by our actions, are on par with god (which is blasphemy)?

What is nicely illustrated by the message is the inability of a creator god idea to explain anything.
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7 years ago  ::  May 12, 2008 - 12:41PM #7
vacchagotta
Posts: 298
[QUOTE=brburl;491723]

And as theologies go, it is a bit silly. Sin, decay and all the fun stuff such as disease and hate are part of the creation god set in motion, god knowing full well its creation would unfold the way it has by virtue of how god set it in motion.

The old free will issue comes in here, but they insisted on free will as an aspect of their theology,

Free will is meaningless, for how can we act other than how god knows we are going to act, unless one is going to argue that god is ignorant and not omnipotent and that we, by our actions, are on par with god (which is blasphemy)?

What is nicely illustrated by the message is the inability of a creator god idea to explain anything.[/QUOTE]

I am familiar with the usual objections, but I don't think they bind nor are they particularly more well thought-out than the usual theodicies that counter them.  In any case, however, the view I offered is not my own, so I can't speak further in its defense, except to say I don't think your comment takes it for what it is but rather for what you need it to be so that it becomes inconsistent.  In other words you are taking as presumed some premises that are in fact ostensibly rejected.  But I think it might be a dead end since I am not likely to talk with this particular person again to get their ideas.  And besides, the question remains from the original poster...what about a general belief in God precludes him from being Buddhist?  Obviously it depends on the particular nature of that belief, but generally, it hasn't been shown how the belief precludes any such thing. 

As an end note, though I do not embrace Theism, I also have some problem with the notion that a theoretical God's omniscience necessarily precludes free will.  Short and sweet, it would not be because God knows what a person will do that they do it, but rather he simply knows it because it is a fact that they will do it.   The objection to ominiscience and free will is illogical mainly, despite how difficult it is to shake the feeling of preclusion, because it has the causal chain backwards.  It would be terrifically difficult to prove that such knowledge causes the object of knowledge to be rather than the other way around (that knowledge is because the object of knowledge is). 

in friendliness,
V.
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7 years ago  ::  May 12, 2008 - 1:57PM #8
brburl
Posts: 132
I don't think they bind nor are they particularly more well thought-out than the usual theodicies that counter them. In any case

So you say; however, it does a rather effective job of showing the inability of theism to explain anything.

I don't think your comment takes it for what it is but rather for what you need it to be so that it becomes inconsistent. In

I don’t need it to be anything. It is what it is, a poor tool for explaining anything.

it would not be because God knows what a person will do that they do it, but rather he simply knows it because it is a fact that they will do it.

And they do it because it is the way the world has been set in motion. Gawd, being omniscient - not bound by the constraints of past, present, and future -, knew before the first atoms collided that its creation would unfold the way it has and will.
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7 years ago  ::  May 13, 2008 - 12:37PM #9
vacchagotta
Posts: 298
[QUOTE=brburl;493956]I don't think they bind nor are they particularly more well thought-out than the usual theodicies that counter them. In any case

So you say; however, it does a rather effective job of showing the inability of theism to explain anything.

I don't think your comment takes it for what it is but rather for what you need it to be so that it becomes inconsistent. In

I don’t need it to be anything. It is what it is, a poor tool for explaining anything.

  Fair enough, if that's the way it is for you.  I would argue however that God's role in most religions is not explanatory.  It sounds to me you are accusing a screwdriver of being a poor sledgehammer, if you get my drift. 

it would not be because God knows what a person will do that they do it, but rather he simply knows it because it is a fact that they will do it.

And they do it because it is the way the world has been set in motion. Gawd, being omniscient - not bound by the constraints of past, present, and future -, knew before the first atoms collided that its creation would unfold the way it has and will.[/QUOTE]

Tangential as it is, I find this fascinating.  I think this objection is faulty.  It implies that a person's action is only an event in a deterministic sequence going back to God's intended creation.  This further implies that God's foreknowledge of each thing comes as a consequence of knowledge of the sequence of causality itself.  In other words it makes God's foreknowledge more of a scientific nature rather than supernatural, and further implies that actions of individuals themselves are part of God's own intended design.  But that's clearly not intended by the doctrine of free will.  The doctrine of free will asserts that man as a moral agent can choose to do something or abstain from it regardless of circumstances.  If God's foreknowledge is of the nature just described, that of knowing the action by means of knowing the sequence into which it fits originating with an intentional design on God's part, the contradiction arises.  But God's foreknowledge --and the nature of moral choice itself-- could be of another character entirely.  You can't object to free will by redefining the nature of the moral act or limiting the nature of omniscience to that of a designer.  Firstly, God's omniscience is supposed to be supernatural and proceeds by definition from his internal perfection rather than solely from his having designed the objects of his knowledge, so our deterministic model of how knowledge comes about must be discarded in the case of a theoretical perfect being.  So we can posit an omniscience of the sort that comes to know even those things that the knower didn't himself design; ie free moral acts or abstentions.  There is an important distinction there, and a distinction that allows for the coexistence of free will and omniscience. 

in friendliness,
V.

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7 years ago  ::  May 14, 2008 - 3:49AM #10
brburl
Posts: 132
Fair enough, if that's the way it is for you. I would argue however that God's role in most religions is not explanatory. It sounds to me you are accusing a screwdriver of being a poor sledgehammer, if you get my drift.

Of course a creator god is explanatory. It is a major function of such an idea.

It implies that a person's action is only an event in a deterministic sequence going back to God's intended creation.

Certainly. If god set in motion a sequence of events, knowing full well how the events were to unfold, it is hard not to see intention being in the creation.

This further implies that God's foreknowledge of each thing comes as a consequence of knowledge of the sequence of causality itself.

It is not a matter of “foreknowledge." For a god that has created time, so past, present, future would have no meaning. It would simply know all that there is to know - past, present, future - now. It is only for us stuck in the flow of past, present, and future - a creation of the omniscient, omnipotent god - that “foreknowledge” is a concept.

implies that actions of individuals themselves are part of God's own intended design.

Of course. Individuals' actions aren’t part of the all-knowing, all-powerful god’s design? Whose design is it then? There is some other even more powerful creative force at play in god’s creation? It would have to be more powerful than the all-knowing, all-powerful god to keep the all-knowing, all-powerful god in the dark.

If the all-knowing, all-powerful god set in motion its creation, knowing full well how it would unfold (and being all-knowing it would have to know how it would unfold), and that it unfolded in a particular way, giving us Hitler, the Black Death, George W. Bush, scabies, and farts, is this not in fact what the all-knowing, all-powerful god intended? If the all-knowing, all-powerful god set in motion its creation not knowing how it would unfold, it is hardly all-knowing or all-powerful, having some rather severe limitations for a god the created a universe as vast and as minutely intricate as we find this one.

But that's clearly not intended by the doctrine of free will.

And that is the point; free will and an all-knowing, all-powerful god really do not fit together.

doctrine of free will asserts that man as a moral agent can choose to do something or abstain from it regardless of circumstances.

And an all-knowing, all-powerful god would know before that particular human being was even conceived - even before there were humans or even before there was a universe - what choices were going to be made by that person. How can we act other than how god already knows we are going to act by the very virtue of how god set its creation in motion, unless god is not all-knowing or all-powerful, which means the all-knowing god is not all-knowing and that there are other forces at play god has no control of and did not create?

You can't object to free will by redefining the nature of the moral act or limiting the nature of omniscience to that of a designer.

No redefinition. Just taking the notion of all-knowing and all-powerful seriously.

[God's omniscience is supposed to be supernatural and proceeds by definition from his internal perfection rather than solely from his having designed the objects of his knowledge, so our deterministic model of how knowledge comes about must be discarded in the case of a theoretical perfect being.

I have no problem with the idea of supernatural all-knowledge. It certainly does not change the fact that god would have to have known at the Big-bang that as a result of its creation Hitler and athlete’s foot would result. How can things be other that how god knows them to be? They cannot. This has nothing to do with our limited sense of things; rather, it is based upon a god-thingie that is supernatural, beyond the limitations of time.

So we can posit an omniscience of the sort that comes to know even those things that the knower didn't himself design; ie free moral acts or abstentions.

And you are limiting god’s all-knowingness to the constraints of past, present, and future.

There is an important distinction there, and a distinction that allows for the coexistence of free will and omniscience.

And it is not a meaningful distinction, but then god really is not a meaningful concept when pushed.
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