Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My debate with some strange breed of Uber-Deist-Pandeist

Lately I've been engaging in debates on debate.com. It's quite fun. Of course, you can't always pick the topic, but it tests my intelligence and resolve. No, I'm not going to debate Predestination. But anyway:

A few days ago, I had a debate with some sort of strange...well, read the debate. Even now I'm not sure what this person believed. Anyway, here's the transcript.


Pro ~ Round 1

The Old Testament of the Bible of the Catholic faith is one of the most morally dismissible religious texts that anyone could pick up. With the employment of logic, we can understand the God of the old testament to be an ethnic cleanser, a tyrant, and an insatiable, insufferable, morally questionable leader.

This is not to denounce the New Testament. The New Testament takes a drastic turn for good. It is about tolerance, humility, and righteousness. Don't confuse the two please.

Having gone to Catholic and public school i can honestly say that i have a clear third party judgement. I have been exposed to all religious ideologies, and neglected none.

My only wish for this debate is to make at least one person who reads this realize the grave injustices going on in the Old Testament and by the ignorant zealots that preach it's goodness today. I think the rage of the Catholic deity of the Old Testament was put best in the terms of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."


Con ~ Round 1

First of all, I would like to point out that there were no Catholics when the Old Testament was written. In fact, there were no Christians at all. Christianity did not arise until the coming of Christ. But I assume you know that.

I can't say I'm familiar with the Catholic Bible's VERSION of the Old Testament, which is what I assume you're referring to, but I have studied other ancient religions; such as the Greek and Babylonian ones, and I can assure you that they are very different from the Bible. Judaism in its ancient form, with the five books of Moses as its creed [the other books of the Old Testament, which the Jews generally say were not inspired by God, are in the same mold] was a far more benevolent religion than anything the Babylonians, Greeks, or any other ancient culture could make up. In fact, to my knowledge it was the ONLY Monotheistic religion in the Pre-Christian world.

I don't want to sound like an "ignorant zealot," but I worship the God of the entire Bible, not just of the New Testament. You are correct, however, in saying that the books are very different from one another.

The Old Testament was written in an age of works, before Jesus died on the cross. This meant that the people had to atone for their own sin with animal sacrifice, which I assume is what you find to be a "grave injustice." This seems barbarous and wasteful to us, but I don't need to point out that most of us eat meat, and that can hardly be less cruel than sacrificing it, although I don't think either of them ARE cruel.

You claim that the God of the Old Testament was an "Ethnic cleanser, a tyrant, and an insatiable, insufferable, morally questionable leader." Furthermore, you claim to base this assumption on logic.

First, you say that God was an "ethnic cleanser." By this I assume you mean that he was more disposed to his own favored nation than to the others in the world, and frequently killed them without what you would view as just cause. This is debatably true, but let me again stress that this is a different age. Now, EVERYONE'S sins our forgiven by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Before that sacrifice, however, the Israelites were the ONLY ones to follow God's commands and to sacrifice to him in the proper way. God was not racist in that he did not accept into his fold believers who were not descended from Abraham, indeed he welcomed them, as in the case of Rahab, Ruth, and many, many others.

Second, you claim that God was a "tyrant." According to my dictionary, a tyrant is "an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution." (Merriam-Webster) In that sense, then, God is most certainly a tyrant. God is God, and he is omnipotent. He is not restrained by anyone except himself. Therefore, he keeps his promises. However, he is not cruel or oppressive, which is the other generally accepted definition of "tyrant."

Thirdly, you claim that God was a "morally questionable leader." This is really your most interesting point, because in my view there are no morals if God does not exist, and as he does the morals were his creation. As I said before, God binds keeps his promises because he is God and perfect. God is not immoral because immorality is the antithesis of God. If God is immoral, therefore, God is not God.


Pro ~ Round 2

When i say the Bible of the Catholic Faith, you can make an educated guess, that i am talking about the Catholic Bible.

I know there were no Christians in the time of the Old Testament. That is a given and doesn't prove or disprove anything.

Yes the Torah and the Old Testament as a whole are revolutionary ideas in relation to the religions of ancient times, but that is irrelevant, and again doesn't prove or disprove anything.

If you don't see anything wrong with animal sacrifice, than that leads me to wonder if you have enough empathy to have a debate like this in the first place. The essential difference between eating an animal and simply pouring it's blood on an alter or some other form of a libation vessel, is health and sustenance vs. animal cruelty. The animal can either be recycled through our bodies and in turn sustain life, or it can be killed in vain for a cause it has no purpose in. See what i am saying?

Ethnic cleansing. Debatealby true? More like absolute truth according to verses from the bible.

"And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and an a"", with the edge of the sword. Joshua 6:21 1
"So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon." Joshua 10:40-41

And we can't neglect the Biblical characters such as David, Saul, or Solomon, who all eventually killed themselves, started worshipping other Gods, or broke under the pressure; all of this while conquering surrounding tribes that posed no threat to the Israelites, but still had to be handled violently. Where is the book about the surrounding farmers who were enslaved and held captive for the rest of their lives.

Another story i would like to call to mind is the story of Job. God made life truly terrible for Job, just to make a point to Satan. No rising above, and letting the fight go. No being the bigger man, and stepping back for a second to think. What we have instead is a stubbornness of a deity.

I am sorry. By definition, "tyrant" is not necessarily a bad leader. But i was trying to make use of the bad connotation that "tyrant" usually comes with in historical writings like 'Common Sense' by Thomas Paine. Tyrant as it is usually interpreted today, is what i meant to call the God of the Old Testament.

To say that without God, there is no morals, is to denounce any natural altruism that one may have developed. one, i am not denouncing the existence of a God, only his motives. Two, what about other religions that have morals that may even make more sense. The Bhuddists of the far east, or the agnostics of today.


Con ~ Round 2

Please don't try and paint me as pitiless. I am a Vegetarian, and I do not support animal cruelty. I have plenty of empathy. That is not an issue. You say, then, that animal sacrifice is animal cruelty. I would argue that since eating an animal and sacrificing an animal begin with the same act (killing) they are more similar than you think. I would also argue that once the animal is dead nothing that can be done to it is "cruel" because it isn't alive. One cannot be cruel to something that isn't alive, whether it once was or not. Animal sacrifice was a harsh remedy in harsh times.

But your original question about it was "Why does God require it?" God did not create humans as puppets, but as thinking, reasoning, autonomous beings. Think of Jesus. Before The Fall, Adam and Eve were like Jesus. Fully human, and yet without sin. I don't pretend to understand it fully, but all evil acts, which are what we must atone for, serve the devil. All good acts, paradoxically, serve God. Yet God cannot see past evil acts; or more accurately, he couldn't before the sacrifice of Jesus. Why is this? It is because God cannot commit evil. Because he cannot commit it, he cannot overlook it. He gave humans free will. We chose sin, and animal sacrifice was what he gave us to atone for our sins before the coming of Jesus.

Saul, David, and Solomon did not kill themselves. I don't know where you got that. However, they were flawed. But again, they atoned for their sins and were right with God when they died. "That is a given and doesn't prove or disprove anything."

When you bring up Job, however, you bring up one of the most complicated books of the Bible, and one of the hardest to understand. In many ways, the story of Job is parallel to the story of Jesus. Jesus suffered, when God could have prevented his suffering, as did Job. But in both cases, it needed to be done. Everyone's faith is tested, in great and small ways, and as the faith of Job was greater than mine or yours, his tests were greater. But did he curse the Lord? No, he kept the faith, and God rewarded him.

In the sense you meant, God is not a tyrant. God is not cruel. It is our sin that makes the actions of God seem cruel. See what I'm saying?

I stand by what I said earlier: there are no morals without God. Present a real argument on that score, and I will debate it.

My point in bringing up the dissimilarity of the Old Testament with other religious texts was to disprove your argument that the OT was "One of the most morally dismissible religious texts that anyone could pick up." I pointed out that, in comparison to other religious texts of the era, it is very moral. Remember, as Matthew says, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." The Law and the Prophets, of course, is the OT. So from your "morally dismissable" text comes one of the greatest and most profound aspects of human goodness: the ethic of reciprocity; the Golden Rule.


Pro ~ Round 3

Both eating an animal and sacrificing an animal are both killing. But eating an animal for self-preservation is primal instinct and life-giving. Pouring the blood of an animal on an alter as an alternate means to a libation vessel is in my opinion cruel. This is speaking from a tird-party perspective.

If it isn't cruelty because the animal is already dead, then what would be immoral about beating up, raping, or just generally disrespectng a dead body? Oh that's right, it serves no purpose other than to hurt something. There is no beneficiary to an act of cruelty after something has already died. But if you consume the animal for self-preservation, there is a beneficiary.

Were the paegan Norseman of Greenland just trying to wash away their sins when they made animal sacrifices? Were they justified? In their eyes they were. In their eyes, both you and I are paegan. Why does animal sacrifie in the old testament, get a double standard? I can't imagine soemone arguing for a viking's right to sacrifice animals. That is because it is only once someone sees someone else doing it, that they get clear perspetive.

Saul did acoording to the bible killed himself. FACT. It is not a given.

If God would be willing to put one of his most faithful serants on earth through all of that suffering to prove a point to Satan, then God doesn't have the morals that i was taught were so great in Catholic middle school.

On the topic of religious texts, do you think that could have been an i dictment of all religious texts? Just a possibility.

This again dismisses any notion of nautral altruism, even though it is clear throughout nature among animals that don't fear God.


Con ~ Round 3

First of all, you're right about Saul. I slipped on that. Sorry. Yes, he fell on his sword so he wouldn't be killed by...the Amalekites? Some people of that mold anyway. Again, sorry for the slip-up.

As to animal sacrifice, I stand by what I said earlier: once the animal is dead, nothing cruel can be done to it. That's just common sense. The word "cruel" implies that the passive party is hurt in some way. A dead animal cannot be hurt, therefore nothing is cruel. That does not mean that "raping" a dead body is acceptable. It merely means that the being that inhabited the body is not around to be hurt, and therefore it is not "cruel." It is repugnant, and sinful, but you can't call it cruel. You say that eating a dead animal has a "beneficiary." I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that, but if sacrificing an animal washes our sins away, albeit in an imperfect way because perfection would not have sinned in the first place, then doesn't animal sacrifice have a "beneficiary" as well? The very idea of animal sacrifice still makes me squeamish, but again, it was a harsh remedy for a harsh crime in harsh times.

Animal sacrifice, as a way of atoning for your sins, is now gone. Caput. Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins. However, the Vikings sacrificed to false gods and did so hundreds of years after the death of Jesus. That does not prove anything except that their dogma made them sacrifice animals. They didn't get any "heavenly reward" from it.

Regarding Job, he was God's faithful servant. He didn't resent being tested by the devil; he regarded it as an essential stumbling block on the path to salvation. There is nothing immoral about God's actions. Job did not resent them, who are we to argue with him?

Ah, sarcasm. I'm sorry it had to come to that. I was enjoying an intellectual debate. Well, so you did mean what you said as an indictment of all religious texts. What of it?

Any "altruism" in nature is instinct, instilled in it by God. Any morality in humanity is the remnant of our pre-Fall selves, and therefore perfection. There is no evolutionary basis for morality, nor for self-awareness. By altruism in nature, I assume you are referring to things like the motherhood instinct, which appears in even the lowest animals (although humans have been giving it a pretty heavy beating since Roe v. Wade.) The Motherhood instinct is just that--an instinct. There is nothing moral about it. It may seem moral to humans, or at least positive, but that is because we share the instincts. Morality is the conscious or unconscious act of a conscious being. Non sentient beings--every known being on Earth besides humans--cannot do anything "moral." That is obvious.

You say that the Old Testament is a "depressing paradigm." Why? Because the God of the universe stood by his creation even after it rebelled against him, repeatedly and continually? Because God did not destroy us, as he could have--we certainly deserved it--but saved us from our sins? Because God did not kill Job, but after his trial gave him the desires of his heart? Because God welcomed Prodigal Man back into his fold? I find nothing depressing about these things.


Anonymous said...

so...um...why don't you believe in predestination? HAHAHA just kidding!
looks like a cool website, not something i'd be good at though

madscientist said...

"no im not going to debate predestination" lol, u r funny! Man, this guy s Wacko!!he is a little bit off the deep end...sounds like a guy i used to work with...

elisabeth said...

That was preety good debating for the most part. Some changes I would suggest are:
1. Shorten your answers, get to the point. It is hard to follow you if you say too much
2. Know your info before you debate. Saul, and Job, for example, you didn't seem to know much about them.
3. When you said that God wasn't aware that Adam and Eve would sin, that was incorrect. God knows all. He just knew it was for the best, or in His grand plan and so allowed it. He was not sinning because of that.

Just some pointers to think about:)

Costas said...

Hey, yo, the God of PanDeism still makes sense to me. Why wouldn't God be all up in everything?