Conversation with atheist

Hi,

I have many friends who don’t believe in religion (especially Christianity), and they often question me on Church’s view on things.

The most common “attack” that I am getting is, “If God is good, why is God letting all the violence to take place in this world?” and I am finding myself trying to defend God by saying “well the violence is the result of abuse of our own free will, and God is good because he made us to be free”.

But my response, apparently, is not so effective because some do say that “since God is good, he would only allow things that result in good - but no good thing can come out of such violence, and God is just playing around, using our free will as an excuse. Don’t you guys believe that if God doesn’t will some events, then it won’t happen? If so, why doesn’t he simply “not wanting” the violence?”

…? what can I say to this? In brief, I have two questions:

  1. Do we Catholics believe that if God does not will some events, then those events certainly do not take place in this universe? (need confirmation from Catechism experts)

  2. How can I explain why it is a good thing that God made us as a free being (freedom is good, but I am not exactly sure why freedom is good)?

Thank you,

Hi catholic0913 :slight_smile:

Okay

I believe that is a good answer.

I hope the following will help -

Yes. Everything that happens is either directly willed by God (ordained) or permitted by Him with His permissive Will.

Hopefully the above quote from C.S. Lewis will help, also there is a 2014 movie out called ‘The Giver’ I don’t know if you have heard of it or not, but it explores this very well imho. It gives them a glimpse of the utopia that your friends speak of I believe.

I would also like to share the following posts that I believe may also help -

Post 1 - forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=12381359&postcount=11
Post 2 - forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=12381361&postcount=12

I hope this has helped.

God Bless

Thank you for reading
Josh

This is the distinction between God’s passive and active wills. God’s active will the salvation of all souls, and the adherence of all souls to the moral law. However, despite this being his active will he allows us to make our choices in regards to it, and in most cases he will not protect us from the effects of our choices. That is his passive will, that he allows us to act against Him.

  1. Do we Catholics believe that if God does not will some events, then those events certainly do not take place in this universe? (need confirmation from Catechism experts)

The universe exists through God’s will, so in a sense he does will everything. This is getting back to the issue of God’s active and Passive wills. He wills the good for us always, but allows us to either accept that good or reject it.

  1. How can I explain why it is a good thing that God made us as a free being (freedom is good, but I am not exactly sure why freedom is good)?

Thank you,

God is Love, and all that God desires from us is Love. Love must be given freely, as such we MUST have free will in order to Love him. If he only created us capable of loving him then the ‘love’ would be absolutely meaningless, nothing more than the mechanical response of a programmed entity. Unfortunately, many people do chose against love and harm each other; while this does pain God he’s not going to hinder our ability to freely choose him just to prevent some of us from rejecting him.

Adam & Eve by disobeying God brought all the evil down on the human race. Don’t blame God…He warned them.

The people you’re talking to have brought up a problem that is older than Christianity itself. Personally, I think that the position that they have taken is fairly weak, logically, and perfectly satisfactory solutions have already been proposed in this thread.

A more complex question would be why there are what some people call “natural evils” in the world - natural disasters, for example. These are things which humans consider to be evil, since they bring death and suffering to us. If a truly good God created the world, then why are these so-called evils present in the world?

I bring this question up not to change the subject, but because I can easily see it arising in the conversation that the OP is describing. I’m still trying to come up with a good solution to it myself, but perhaps someone else has an answer.

Regarding Josh’s post from C.S. Lewis - Mere Christianity “If God is omnipotent and omniscient, is the existence of Satan in accordance with his will? If it is, he is a strange God, you will say: and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?”

Interesting quote, but how about you ask the atheist:

“If God exists, and there is battle between good and evil, what reality would you expect? Would God speak to you at some point and tell you he exists and here are the rewards and consequences? However would that take away your free will and make God a dictator?”

Few people are true atheists. It takes time to logically reject all major miracles and supernatural events like apparitions. Most people are agnostics as in “I don’t know and I don’t care”.

You can ask why we know some things we do are right and some things we do are wrong. Self preservation should mean we look at what benefits us collectively and personally. What is the point of having a “conscience”? Why do we not get happier by simply adding more pleasure? Why do people want to create, share, donate?

I suggest not to debate an atheist but simply ask some questions back and get everyone thinking.:slight_smile:

C.S. Lewis I believe tackled your question in his book ‘The Problem of Pain’ although I haven’t finished reading it yet but when I do, I’ll try and come back and let you know what I think.

I remember it having something to do with only in an indifferent environment, can we have free will, because in order to say something ‘good’ or ‘bad’ our vocal cords need to be indifferent to good and bad, they only need to allow the possibility of speech and he somehow extrapolates the whole idea onto nature as a whole.

Anyway, relating to the OP, another good one I believe to come back with when one brings up the ‘problem of evil’ is ‘the problem of good’ One cannot have a problem of evil without a problem of good.

I hope this has helped

God Bless

Thank you for reading
Josh

:thumbsup:

I agree.

:thumbsup: I believe there is a great deal that neo-Darwinian evolution fails to account for and unfortunately it often does give the illusion to many that it accounts for much more than it actually does which is why I really like this quote from G.K. Chesterton.

I agree. :thumbsup:

God Bless

Thank you for reading
Josh

“Natural Disasters” …just go back to Adam & Eve. After they sinned, God said there would be pain in childbirth, the soil would have weeds & thistles, they would work by the sweat of their brow…you can include natural disasters, also!

This is a recurring theme, not just on this board, but everywhere where the so-called “problem of evil” is discussed. It is called the “free will defense”. (There is also the “greater good” defense, but let’s not go there.) Let’s analyze it and show where it goes wrong. Some apologists say that the benevolence, or kindness, or “love” is without value if one is not “allowed” to perform murder, torture and other assorted mayhems. Of course that makes no sense. The love and caring for my child or spouse, or a random stranger on the street cannot be contingent upon my freedom to torture someone else to death! How could it be? Being helpful and kind cannot be dependent upon a possible murder.

Imagine a world where someone implanted a device into everyone’s brain, which will monitor all the thoughts and desires of the person. This gadget only gets activated when a malevolent intent is detected. When you intend to perform some act which would hurt someone else, the gadget would prevent that act to be put into practice. It does not have to be a drastic interference. The great science fiction writer, Larry Niven came up with a perfect defensive “weapon”; when someone desires to commit a violent act, he is filled with joy, happiness and peace. No one can be violent when one is overflown with happiness.

Now, consider your child, and your love for her. Does your “power” to kill a random stranger add anything to your love for your child? Would your love disappear if you did not have the freedom to hurt someone? Obviously not.

Next consider your doctor. When she received her diploma, she “had to” take the Hyppocratic oath, effectively “forswearing” her freedom to choose whom to heal and whom to let die. Even if her mortal enemy would be on the operating table she MUST do her best to help. She has no freedom to let her enemy to die. Does this oath take away the benefit of her action? Obviously no.

Now consider a “robot” doctor, who has absolutely no freedom in making a decision. (The human doctor is free to violate the oath, and cause harm.) “It” must do everything to help that patient. Would you decline such a help because the doctor has no freedom to harm you? Obviously no.

So this whole “freedom” to perform something “bad” does not add anything worthwhile to the helping act. The one who is hungry does not care why the person gave her food? Was it out of a genuine desire to help? Or was it the result to feel good about oneself? Or to gain “brownie” points in the community? When push comes to shove, the intent of why does one do something good. is irrelevant. The act itself is what counts. And whether it was volitional, or pre-programmed does not matter at all. BTW, the same is not true when something perceived as “bad” is committed. In that case all the circumstances must be considered. But that is a whole different ballgame.

I am not a Catechism expert so take my answers or leave them…

  1. God does not will every movement of every leaf that has ever fallen from every tree nor does he will the movement of every molecule of air as the wind blows. It is enough that he wills that leaves fall and wind blows. In short, no, I do not believe that God wills the minute detail of every event that has ever taken place.

  2. God is a father. A god who forces his creatures to do his bidding is a master and his creatures are slaves. I would not worship such a god. Men are children of God the Father. Children are allowed freedom. It is how we grow to become like our fathers.

-Tim-

Hi Pallas Athene :slight_smile:

Okay, before I continue it’s probably a good idea for me to ask whether you agree with the premise of the argument that there is a problem of evil? Because I believe without that premise, the ‘free will’ defence is moot.

Okay.

Okay.

Yea something like that, because love nor hate are in a vacuum, they are confirmed through works.

Many people I believe try to simply ‘dismiss’ the free will argument, but I believe it makes total sense and not only that, but if you dismiss free will, I believe it throws much more into disrepute than merely the problem of good and evil.

I talk about it in the following post - forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=12381359&postcount=11

Your love for your child, spouse or random stranger isn’t in a vacuum though, it’s confirmed with works, it’s the same on the opposite side of this spectrum (hate) and hence why Christ didn’t simply teach, He died on the Cross for us, “Greater love has no man than this”- John 15:13

I beg to differ with Larry Niven, maybe one can’t be violent when one is filled with joy, happiness and peace, but one can certainly be evil. Some of the Nazi’s could have easily been filled with joy, happiness and peace with what they were doing I believe.

I beg to differ, I believe obviously it would, If one is not free to perform deeds of ‘lack of love’ (hate) than one is also not free to perform deeds of love.

Yes it does I believe. Because she was forced to do a particular action.

All you have to do is extrapolate that with God to include the most strict of right and wrong and hence we are all sinners, if God were to forcefully stop us from sinning, where would he start and where would he end? thus we find ourselves forcefully perfect and perfectly void of any choice.

Of course we wouldn’t, but I bet the Doctor would, now extrapolate the idea to include you as the Doctor being made a robot.

Of course it does, if one is not free to be bad, one is not free to be good.

They are glad they have food, but that does not negate that yes they absolutely do care what the reason was (or lack thereof) for giving it.

I very much disagree.

Nope, the intent counts just as much if not more I believe.

It absolutely does matter I believe.

I hope this has helped

God Bless

Thank you for reading
Josh

God has given us a part in creation itself. It does not always turn out good though.

Creation itself is unfinished, it has room for our input.

“You know that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”
— St Therese

The problem to me isn’t that we are allowed to choose and that evil exists as a result, but rather that God allows people to suffer more than they can handle. I am an example of this. My crosses so crushed me that I literally cannot comprehend how God is good. The ones who bullied me, who crushed me (other Christians) receive blessings and acclaim. They grow closer to God and are blessed by him. I, after giving years of my life to serve him, am left without a job and with depression, and this after a life of abuse and mistreatment. I literally can’t see how God is good. I try, but I can’t. My will is gone.

There are others like me, too. People that genuinely tried but God crushed them and drove them away, maybe even to despair and hell, because of their suffering. This is incomprehensible to me, that a loving God give suffering that is too great for a soul to bear, even according to the strength (or lack thereof) that he has given the soul. He knows that it will happen, but he allows it nonetheless. This one of suffering, suffering that does not redeem and drives one to despair, along with the theology of predestination and the wrath of God throughout scripture (even on the ignorant), is what makes it difficult for me to believe in an all lovng God. Redemptive suffering poses no issue. Suffering that is too great for the soul to offer up (because their will is crushed) is what I cannot comprehend.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[quote=josh987654321]Okay, before I continue it’s probably a good idea for me to ask whether you agree with the premise of the argument that there is a problem of evil? Because I believe without that premise, the ‘free will’ defence is moot.
[/quote]

The so called “problem of evil” only occurs if one presumes an all-loving, all-caring, omnibenevolent God. In a godless universe there is no problem of evil, though, of course “evil” acts happen. Now that does not mean that we should be indifferent to the actions of other people. We must do everything we can to minimalize the “evil”. The problem is that we are mostly powerless. All we can do is react, but cannot be proactive (most of the time). But if and when we can foresee an “evil” act, and happen to have the power to prevent it, we are obliged to do so. One can be guilty by comission and guilty by omission, and there is very little difference - if any.

[quote=josh987654321]Yea something like that, because love nor hate are in a vacuum, they are confirmed through works.
[/quote]

You are perfectly right. If someone loudly proclaims one’s love, but that “love” is not manifested in actions, then all we have a few empty words, without substance. (And a hypocrite, too.)

[quote=josh987654321]I beg to differ with Larry Niven, maybe one can’t be violent when one is filled with joy, happiness and peace, but one can certainly be evil. Some of the Nazi’s could have easily been filled with joy, happiness and peace with what they were doing I believe.
[/quote]

I did not explain it well, it seems. The “weapon” imposes “ecstasy” on the violent person, the kind which one can feel as the pinnacle of a sexual act. In such a state there can be no violence.

[quote=josh987654321]I beg to differ, I believe obviously it would, If one is not free to perform deeds of ‘lack of love’ (hate) than one is also not free to perform deeds of love.
[/quote]

What does “freedom” have to do with anything? A good, helping, benevolent act remains good, helping and benevolent even if the person is not “free” to act otherwise. I would urge you to think it over again: “what does the ability to kill someone else ADD to your love for your child (or anyone else)”? What is this nebulous “extra” that is gained from this freedom? Because I am unable to see it. Moreover, I am not talking about love as an emotion. Emotions are not volitional, they are either there, or not. So I am not talking about "eros, “filia” or “storge” - but about something usually called “agape” - a selfless action on behalf of someone else.

[quote=josh987654321]Yes it does I believe. Because she was forced to do a particular action.
[/quote]

Your usage of the word: “forced” is interesting. Let me give a real life scenario. I have been brought up in a family where I learned that one should always get up on the bus and pass one’s seat to an elderly person. Even today, when I am quite old, I cannot stay seated when I see someone who needs that seat more than I do. Theoretically, I am “free” to stay seated, but psychologically I find it impossible to do so. Now, because I was “brainwashed” into being polite… how does it diminish the value of my politeness? Am I “forced” by my upbringing? And if I am, what does the other person care? She would be happy to take that seat.

[quote=josh987654321]Of course it does, if one is not free to be bad, one is not free to be good.
[/quote]

That is simply not true. Let’s represent the “goodness/badness value” of deeds with numbers to visualize the question. Let positive numbers represent good deeds, negative numbers stand for bad (evil) deeds, and let zero stand for neutral (neither good, nor bad) deeds. The “big” numbers represent very good (or very bad) actions, while the small numbers are just mildly good or mildly bad ones. Of course we are already “limited” in our choices, the laws of physics do not allow ultra-super-extremely good or bad actions. So even if some power (maybe God) would not allow us to perform negative actions, we would still be free to decide to perform good actions of some kind. Since we are already curtailed in our options, what is the problem of making them even more limited? To put it bluntly: “what is wrong with having ONLY good people”? Or even more bluntly: “what is so desirable about having psychopaths and sociopaths”? Because when you argue for “freedom”, you argue for the freedom to commit murder, torture, rape, for the ability to cause needless and useless pain and suffering.

As a society we routinely put criminals in jails and prisons to prevent them from acting on their “will”. Would you argue to let them go free, so their freedom would not be as limited as it is now?

I argue for limited freedom, more limited than we have now. An analogy: usually we are “free” to wear jeans and t-shirts in most circumstances. For a formal occasion we might be expected to wear a suit and a tie. Yet we have freedom to wear a red tie or a blue one. Our freedom is more limited, but it is not “gone”. Even if one is prevented to kill and rape, one is still free to do all sorts of good or neutral actions.

[quote=josh987654321]They are glad they have food, but that does not negate that yes they absolutely do care what the reason was (or lack thereof) for giving it.
[/quote]

How could you know that? If I were in such a predicament, I would not care “why” someone wanted to help me. Let me clarify: does the freedom NOT to render help make that bread taste better or worse, or is the taste the same? Also: does the freedom NOT to give have an effect on the nutritional value of that bread? All the recipient can see is a kind gesture on the part of the giver. She has no access to what the giver thinks. So how could they “care” about the motivation of the giver?

Have a nice day. :slight_smile:

the very existence of human beings is a greater good than any evil one can imagine.

unbelievers seem to be taking the position that it would have been better that God never created human beings than to have created human beings that could choose to oppose Him and thus merit eternity separated from Him.

I reject that position because I believe freely choosing to live with God eternally justifies the creation of those who reject God and His infinite mercy.

I do not think it is that rational to wish one had never existed and could never go to heaven if it means that others will go to hell, especially when God Himself chose to suffer as a creature to enable all and each of us to avoid going to hell.

whatever an unbeliever might suggest about God doing things differently raises at least two important concepts. first, if God had done things differently than none of us would exist. second, how can a person of limited intelligence reject what is because they think it should have been done differently. it is as though such people think reality should be limited by their knowledge and understanding. who, besides those who make such assertions, wants to live in a reality limited by the finite human knowledge of some other human being?

I find some of these arguments too abstract but I rather deal with your comments, user PeaseInChrist, I understand your point of view. I have been physically suffering for years on and off and my wife’s brother is in hospital with organs that barely function. He has been there for a year not getting much better or worse.

I feel great compassion for you and all those in horrible pain.

If I made a list of the top 10 questions to ask God this would be #1. “What sense does this make?” I have researched people who have appeared to have direct dialogue with Jesus or Mary in hopes of finding some answer. Saint Padre Pio is the most famous, the Medjugorje Seers also very famous. I also listed to what Fr Zlatko Sudac said, who must constantly be confronted by the sick: nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/columns/cityside/5990/
I read “Get Us Out Of Here!!”, “The Boy Who Met Jesus: Segatashya Emmanuel of Kibeho”, read Catalina Rivas’s writings from Jesus at loveandmercy.org/english-books/

I find no answers. There are people in such pain and have no hope of getting better and they end their lives. I imagine some preyed endlessly with no results. Imagine how they feel? I think a very chosen few do get results and it is unknown why. For some reason Padre Pio seemed to be able to cure most anyone. If not I think it would have been well known just as his miracles were well known.

In St. Bridget’s prayer “O Jesus! Heavenly Physician, raised aloft on the Cross to heal our wounds with Thine, remember the bruises which Thou didst suffer and the weakness of all Thy Members which were distended to such a degree that never was there pain like unto Thine.”

How can that possibly be? Never pain like that? Christ did not suffer on the cross for as great a duration as most who were crucified although the scourging was severe. Most of his life he did not physically suffer. I imagine people who have been in a war have had horrific injuries that cause unbearable pain. They may suffer horribly for every hour of every day for 10, 20, who knows how many years. I bet many of these people would gladly trade places with Jesus. I hope I haven’t offended Jesus for this thought but my rational brain can’t resist considering the logic of it all.

At the end of their lives what does Jesus say to them? I suppose he could give them a higher place is heaven but that has nothing to do with their free will. He could give credit if they don’t feel angry towards him.

You see the video of Mirjana at youtube.com/watch?v=G3A8tmQ9N-0. Why oh why would nobody ask this question? If I had the money I’d fly over there and do everything I could to have one of these visionaries ask the Madonna this question.

User PeaceInChrist, I will pray for you now. Also for all those are on their way to ending their life because they find life unbearable. I beg Jesus for inner peace and understanding.

No wonder modern man has forgotten Jesus. So much pain has been relieved by the medical community. If years of praying seems to get us nowhere how can Jesus expect us to keep it up? I wish Jesus would intervene in the worst cases, Why doesn’t he?

If you ever get to ask a ‘visionary’ a question, please ask this one and let me know the answer.

God bless you all,

John

[quote=eddie too]unbelievers seem to be taking the position that it would have been better that God never created human beings than to have created human beings that could choose to oppose Him and thus merit eternity separated from Him.
[/quote]

How many unbelievers did you poll to find out what they think? Unbelievers do not “reject” God. Of course, if God would be powerless to create anything better, then it would follow that not creating something is preferable to an inferior creation. However, since God can create anything and everything (except logical contradictions) it obviously follows that God could have created everyone with a good, loving, caring disposition. No concupiscence, no propensity for hurting others, no jealousy - as a few examples.

[quote=eddie too]whatever an unbeliever might suggest about God doing things differently raises at least two important concepts. first, if God had done things differently than none of us would exist…
[/quote]

Maybe we would not exist preciely as we are now. But that objection presupposes that a world with slightly different “us” would be inferior. Can you substantiate that getting rid of a psychopath would make this world “worse”?

[quote=eddie too]…second, how can a person of limited intelligence reject what is because they think it should have been done differently. it is as though such people think reality should be limited by their knowledge and understanding. who, besides those who make such assertions, wants to live in a reality limited by the finite human knowledge of some other human being?
[/quote]

I cannot imagine that a sane human being would wish to keep the “wars, murderers, rapists, etc…” around, given half a chance to get rid of them. It is a universal effort to get rid of criminals, and no one that I know of (outside the criminals themselves) objects to that. Do you really think that it is better to see children kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered rather than raised in kind loving environment? I should hope not.

As I asked Josh: “what is so desirable about the existence of psychopaths and sociopaths”? I heard this answer before: “we don’t know, but since God seems to prefer to have them around, there must be something, even if we cannot know it”. Of course such an answer would commit the fallacy of “argumentum ad ignoratiam”. If you (not just the personal you, but all the believers combined) cannot point out the advantages of having wars, murders, tortures and rapes around, then the only rational conclusion is that there are no advantages.

Now, let’s suppose that we find a way to get rid all the rapes, etc… maybe that would be a very bad world to live in - for you and all those (handful) who agree with you - but the rest of us would love it. So in that case I propose to have an island set aside for your kind, and let you have there all the wars, murders, whatever else that makes life so wonderful for you. It would be a win-win situation, we could have the goodness, kindness and benevolence we like and you could have all the misery and mayhem that you seem to crave. How 'bout such a nice arrangement? Never mind… I am sure you do not advocate what you said. You just did not think it through properly. Happens all the time.

Cheers, buddy!

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