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Old 11-23-2013, 12:09 PM
Location: Northeastern US
14,197 posts, read 9,104,852 times
Reputation: 6081


Harlequin ichthyosis and the Justice of God - The American Vision

Someone in another thread, here or on the religion forum, referenced this article, and I got around to reading it this morning. He acknowledges that the Problem of Evil (or as I prefer, the Problem of Suffering) is "atheism's most powerful argument" and that a particularly nasty example of human suffering (babies with horribly painful / fatal skin disease and deformity) gave even him pause. For about 2 minutes.

So I was interested to see how he would rationalize this.

Ultimately his argument degenerates to (1) Jesus suffered, too and besides (2) Real Christians endure in the face of suffering, believing that it will be made right Someday, whereas people with "latent unbelief" make "hasty decisions" to reject god.

(1) is a little like saying that the fact that your child has a horrible illness which dooms her to untreatable suffering and premature death is okay because after all I broke my leg once and had to have it repaired. But as for (2) ...

I have never seen such a slick way to sneak in the "You Were Never Really One of Us" argument.

I've debated theists for a few years now on the POE / POS, listened to various lame theodicies that generally involve necessary consequences for sin and the need for god to not interfere with free will (I call this "robot phobia"), but this is the first time I've seen anyone cut right to the chase and bypass theodicy altogether and just use the circular argument that anything that is cognitively dissonant between scripture and reality which then causes someone to be unable to believe simply is evidence of "latent unbelief" that was there in the first place. He even seriously suggests that bearing witness to horrible suffering simply strengthens the faith of True Believers and exposes the un-faith of unbelievers. Suffering is acceptable, even good, because it flushes out the faithless and unbelieving. WTF??

This is one of those "wow ... just ... wow." moments for me. I need to go do something mindless for awhile just to keep my head from exploding.

So more level headed people may be asking at this point, "is there a question here?" Well ... yes. Yes, there is.

Is there such a thing as "latent unbelief"? I would say not. (Un)belief is a state descriptor. You either believe, or not, at any given moment, based on what you know of available facts and evidence. To suggest that unbelief is a character defect that needs to be hunted down and exterminated before it can take root is making the assumption that skepticism is a Bad Thing and credulousness is a Good Thing.

I would actually say the opposite. All humans are skeptics because all but the most prodigiously dim among us -- all of us who function at all in the adult world -- have some sort of criteria for what we will believe and what we will not believe. If I ran up to you on the street and warned you of an oncoming stampede of invisible pink elephants, it's likely you would be unconcerned about the elephants and concerned about my sanity.

Most of us have figured out that the world runs largely on BS and therefore must be approached skeptically. To deliberately cultivate across the board credulousness in a particular area of one's life -- to encourage people to believe not only in the absence of evidence but in the presence of contrary evidence -- is a ghastly inversion of reality.

And so ... I declare "latent unbelief" a canard.


Last edited by mordant; 11-23-2013 at 12:35 PM..
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Old 11-23-2013, 01:22 PM
Location: Sto'Vo'Kor
328 posts, read 407,580 times
Reputation: 410
Hi there,

I found this part of his nebulous screed particularly elusive and confounding. And I quote:

"It is easy to find a quick and easy intellectual loop to evade tough questions, but the faithful will neither want to take it, nor be forced into taking it. The faithful will endure and be refined. The case of H.i. here is the convenient cause for a quick and hasty decision to abandon faith in God. This is a mistake. It represents the abandonment of philosophy in the name of philosophy, and it reveals an intellect which is overwhelmed by the passions, a pseudo-intellectual world where revulsion and despair equal rational proof. In unbelief, grief leads to despair. When unbelief encounters irrational suffering, it reacts in rebellion against God: “curse God and die!” When faith encounters grief it experiences the same revulsion, but it reacts in hope and with work toward that hope. Christian faith “makes the great difference between hope and despair”[2]—between reform and rebellion. “Pain and suffering can always be turned to blessing when used (rather than resisted or complained about) as God’s Word directs.”[3] - See more at: Harlequin ichthyosis and the Justice of God - The American Vision (source).

My observations:
He is incapable of viewing the world from any other stance than a biblical one. Where is his critical analysis of the topic? He is incapable of relating to life and the observation and reality of human suffering from any other angle than the one issued to him by his doctrine and beliefs. I do not wish to conclude that this particular author is guilty, but many religious people are outright intolerant of other viewpoints. Naturally, intolerance and a position of "I'm right because I believe and you do not" will shut down rational discussion and critical analysis. They won't even entertain a different opinion, even when logic proves an opposing point, or makes a clear strong correlation to x.

Strangely enough, many believers do not even agree on their own dogmatic principles, even within the same group. Then, what is their truth, if they cannot even agree upon it as a collective (Christians specifically)? And, since it is well established that their "god" cannot be quantified or qualified...and the figure "god" is at the the basis of religious belief, then I submit that any position that a believer takes with "god" or the "god's" doctrine as proof of said position or statement, therefore falls short of logic. He therefore has nothing else to fall back on. The reasoning will always be circular with religion believers, because that is their way of processing data. "Latent unbelief" is a sad resort and a non-conclusion. To be honest, his ignorance was painful to read.
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Old 11-23-2013, 01:37 PM
Location: Northeastern US
14,197 posts, read 9,104,852 times
Reputation: 6081
Originally Posted by Doomed_Shroom12 View Post
He is incapable of viewing the world from any other stance than a biblical one. Where is his critical analysis of the topic?
He is a typical Bibliolater. Biblical inerrantists / literalists conform the world to the Bible, not the inverse; to compare the Bible and the world and find a discrepancy is invariably to find fault with the world, not the Bible.

It has been hard for me as a former inerrantist to truly "get" the concept that it is my job to adapt to reality as it actually presents itself, not to explain and reinvent reality in terms of me and my ideals. To this day I still am rooting out little bits and pieces of nuttiness, like someone who took a big shrapnel hit in the Great War digging little tiny shards of metal out of his skin decades later.
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Old 11-24-2013, 08:31 AM
39,249 posts, read 10,922,331 times
Reputation: 5101
Two brilliant posts which I could not have written. I can only say that 'God knows what he is doing - just have faith and don't question' is not in the least bit convincing for me and - what is more significant - it is not convincing for a lot of believers, too.

The problem of evil, in one of its forms, is one of the most common reasons why believers end up unbelievers. It may be the beginning of doubt, or it may be the final shock, when God says no, just when, if there is any credibility in the God-claim, he should say 'yes' that lets the pent - up doubts that were always kept outside the Box come crashing through and sweep away the whole Big Lie.
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