Unpleasant conversations between atheists and theists

(Wayne Dawson) #101

I don’t know about Belgium. However, I spent about 3 years in Poland not so long ago.

I had a lot of difficulties in Poland obtaining important journal articles in my area of study. However, I found the librarians at Warsaw University (Nencki) were very resourceful. They were able to dig around and get the documents I needed. They weren’t always the greatest copies, but I could learn what was in the documents. So I would suggest that you get to be friends with some librarian you might have access to. They have a few “tricks up their sleeve” that us regular folk don’t know or have not the means. It is, of course, a little different on the matter of journal articles – i.e., research – but I am sure there is some parallel.

A little bit of an aside. … My main experience outside the US has been in Japan. Fortunately for me, I graduated from the University of Tokyo (UofT) so I have access to their library facilities as an alumnus and from time to time as an employee. In general, my experience has been that it was far more difficult outside of the US to obtain reference materials (including Japan). I would say that I am lucky to have access to the UofT’s library. In the US, I was always able to get the books I needed through this interlibrary loan process. I have come to realize that this access that I thought to be just “common sense” is actually a great privilege.

Perhaps because the EU is rather new, the concept of an interlibrary loan is a little too new. The US is a bit more unified with a common language, currency, and a long history of “interstate” process. Hopefully, something like that will eventually evolve in the EU. Then it will become easier to develop this concept of interlibrary loans there as well.

– by Grace we proceed
[some editing for grammar and an additional point.]

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #102


I must correct my statement about the Omni words being Greek. They are Latin based. My mistake. What I said is true except for this error. I apologize.

(Marvin Adams) #103

consider someone committing a murder. Do you think that the murderer can be excused by the absence of moral guidance in his mind or do you think it to be the rejection of moral guidance for the benefit of the self. Could the murderer have been in a place were there was no God? Or was he in a place were God was present but he chose to reject him out of his free will? Do we punish him for being in the absence of moral guidance or rejection of moral guidance?
Were was God in the bataclan massacre? Those who do not understand God and reality think God was not there, thus allowed suffering to happen. They are the same that think that when Jesus said “eli-eli-lama-sabachtani” that God was absent when Jesus was on the cross. It is excusable for those who lay no claim to be intellectuals, but it’s an embarrassment for those who do, or are elected into a leading church role, like the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is present everywhere, it is just a question how we deal with his presence, if we embrace him or deny him. Hell can be any place were we deny God’s presence. It does not mean he is not there.

(Luca) #104

Sure but this is not the hell i was thinking about when i say God couldnt be there. It wasnt really a statement of saying God isnt able to be anywhere. I believe God can be anywhere. Rather it was a statement that was to show that i believe hell is no place. Sure you can say there is hell on earth. But thats taking me out of context. Happy easter!

(Randy) #105

I appreciate the discussion here. It is in many areas over my head, I think. I appreciate Randal Rauser’s (a Christian, randalrauser.com) book dispelling many prejudices against atheists in “Is the Atheist My Neighbor”? GK Chesterton had one of his atheist characters in his Father Brown stories lament, “I wish to God there was a God; but there ain’t. It’s just my luck.”

Here’s Rauser’s discussion of the way we evangelicals often misuse the Bible to malign atheists:

Who is the Fool? How Christians misread the Bible to attack atheists

 February 14, 2018 / /  The Tentative Apologist /  8 Comments

RandalRauser_Is-the-Atheist-my-Neighbor_200x300This article is an excerpt from my 2015 book Is the Atheist My Neighbor? Rethinking Christian Attitudes Toward Atheism. It’s a book that J.L. Schellenberg, one of the leading atheist philosophers of religion, recommended as “brief and lively but remarkably full and acute” and “impressively fair”. You can decide whether this brief excerpt lives up to those descriptions.

Let’s begin by considering Psalm 14:1, a text with which we are already well familiar from our survey of Christian attitudes toward atheism in chapter 2. Beginning with the “Atheist’s Day” anecdote, we saw that Christians have repeatedly appealed to this verse to support the Rebellion Thesis. But is that really a correct reading? James Spiegel certainly believes so. He speaks for many when he writes:

When smart people go in irrational directions, it is time to look elsewhere than reasoning ability for an explanation. And Scripture gives us clear direction as to where we should look. Consider the psalmist’s declaration that “the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). The Hebrew term rendered “fool” here denotes a person who is “morally deficient.” And elsewhere in the Old Testament Wisdom Literature we learn of various symptoms of this moral deficiency. The book of Proverbs says “a fool finds no pleasure in understanding” (Proverbs 18:2), that “fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7), that “a fool finds pleasure in evil conduct” (Proverbs 10:23) and is “hotheaded and reckless” (Proverbs 14:16).[1]

As with several other Christian writers surveyed, Spiegel simply assumes the text applies to atheists and he infers from this that it supports the Rebellion Thesis. But are these assumptions justified? I will argue that they are not.

Let’s begin by conceding for the sake of argument (and only for the sake of argument) that the text is addressing intellectual atheists. In other words, when the psalmist speaks of the individual who “says in his heart there is no God,” what he is, in fact, referring to is the individual who denies that God exists (i.e., the atheist). On this interpretation, Psalm 14:1 reduces to the following:

(1) All fools are atheists.

However, that is not what the Rebellion Thesis claims. In fact, on the Rebellion Thesis the order is reversed:

(2) All atheists are fools.

And this is where the problem arises, for any attempt to infer (2) from (1) commits the logical fallacy of illicit conversion. To illustrate, all Ford Mustangs are cars, but it doesn’t follow that all cars are Ford Mustangs. By the same token, even if (1) all fools are atheists it doesn’t follow that (2) all atheists are fools, for it may be that other atheists are not fools (i.e., that they are intelligent, reflective people).[2] Since the Rebellion Thesis does claim that all atheists are fools, one cannot appeal to Psalm 14:1 to justify it.

Thus far I’ve granted for the sake of argument that when the Psalmist refers to the one who “says in his heart there is no God” we should understand that to mean “is an atheist.” Even with this assumption, I’ve demonstrated that the text does not logically support the Rebellion Thesis. Now it is time to go further and challenge the assumption itself, for I believe it to be demonstrably false. In order to see why, we can begin with an important hermeneutical truism: In any reading of a text, attention to context is of paramount importance. As Aaron B. Hebbard observes with only a touch of hyperbole, “Conceivably the three most important rules in interpretation are context, context, context.”[3] There are different levels of context relevant to understanding a passage, and we shall consider two here, the broader cultural context and the immediate literary/textual context.

We begin with the broader cultural backdrop (or worldview) in which this text was originally written. Our starting point is to recognize that intellectual atheism as it has been understood since the seventeenth century played no part in that cultural backdrop. As we saw in our survey, intellectual atheism is a phenomenon which belongs in large part to the modern world. While intellectual atheists in Europe were exceedingly rare prior to the seventeenth century, they were simply unheard of more than two millennia earlier in the Ancient Near East (ANE) when the psalms were written.

One simple way to illumine the radical difference between the ANE and the modern West is by recognizing that ancient peoples did not maintain the distinction familiar to our age between nature (the natural world of mundane human experience and scientific enquiry) and supernature (the spiritual world of God and created spirit beings). In our modern age, we clearly distinguish these two spheres. And so today theists attempt to conceive how God and the supernatural realm interact with the natural realm while atheists aim to do away with the supernatural realm altogether.

The crucial point to appreciate is that this whole debate is a modern one and thus it was simply not on the horizon of ancient peoples. While ancient peoples recognized there were aspects of reality inaccessible to them, they didn’t have a neat division between nature and supernature. Instead, they perceived reality to be a unified whole such that the natural world of daily life was freely explained in terms of the activity of divine beings. For example, natural events like floods, storms, droughts and earthquakes were all explained seamlessly as the actions of God or the gods.[4] The ANE world lacked the conceptual space to conceive the world apart from the reality of supernatural beings. Given this vast difference in worldview, it is hopelessly anachronistic to read back into Psalm 14:1 a modern atheistic position that conceptually distinguishes nature from supernature and then denies the existence of the latter.

So if the psalm is not addressing intellectual atheism, then what is it concerned with? At this point, we can shift our attention from the ancient cultural context of Psalm 14:1 to its literary context. To get a handle on that context we will expand our view beyond verse 1 to encompass the next two verses as well:

1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

One thing becomes clear when considering the wider context of this psalm: The psalmist’s ultimate target is not intellectual atheists or any other subset of the human population. Instead, it is the whole human race. The point, as the psalmist makes luminously clear, is that all human beings have turned away, all are corrupt, and not one does good. This bleak picture provides us with the key to what is meant in the first verse. While everybody in the ANE professed belief in God (or gods) with his or her mouth, the psalmist observes that nobody lived consistently with that confession. While the entire human race may be the ultimate target, the immediate target is the community of Israel which confesses faith in Yahweh and yet fails to live up to that faith. (Covenantal faithfulness, like charity, begins at home.) Consequently, the psalmist is most immediately concerned to indict the rampant hypocrisy of those in ancient Israel who live as if God doesn’t exist, even while they profess that he does.

Given the fact that Psalm 14:1 is so commonly used as an indictment of atheists, it is surely ironic to observe that it is, in fact, an indictment of devotees of Yahweh who fail to live up to their professed belief. Indeed, the use of this text as a proof-text to smear atheists calls to mind Jesus’s strong words against the sin of (religious) hypocrisy. Consider as an example the following sober warning in Matthew 23:2-3: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’s seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” Needless to say, it is the height of hypocrisy for religious leaders to enforce standards of observance on others that many in their own community (and perhaps they themselves) fail to maintain. To put it another way, how ironic it is that a text which was intended to warn against religious hypocrisy is instead proof-texted as a rhetorical bludgeon against atheists who make no such faith confession in the first place.

And just who is the fool exactly?

[1] Spiegel, The Making of an Atheist, 51.

[2] Even worse, (1) is itself false because some fools are theists. In fact, I argue below that the real force of this passage is to serve as an indictment of, and warning for, those foolish theists.

[3] In case you’re wondering about the context of Hebbard’s statement, see Reading Daniel as a Text in Theological Hermeneutics, 142.

[4] See Saunders, Divine Action and Modern Science, chapters 1, 2.

Here’s another good post:

Christian Apologetics, Quality Control, and the Credibility Problem

 March 23, 2018 / /  The Tentative Apologist /  8 Comments

My relationship with the wider Christian apologetics community can best be described as awkward. A big reason for that is because I aim to spend as much time critiquing bad Christian apologetics as seeking to do good Christian apologetics. The reason for this division of labor is simple: I believe that credibility with one’s target audience is arguably the single greatest commodity the apologist has. And bad apologetics eats through credibility like alien acid-blood through Ripley’s body armor.

As a case in point, consider a recent article featured at major Christian apologetics website crossexamined.org titled “4 Major Reasons Why People Become Atheists.” The article begins with a shameless proof-texting of Psalm 14:1:

“The psalmist David wrote, ‘The fool says in his heart, “There’s no God.” They are corrupt; they do vile deeds. There is no one who does good’ (Psalm 14:1, CSB) The psalmist claims that it is irrational for one to deny God’s existence whether it be by atheism or by alternative worldviews. Atheism has become popular in recent years. But, the pressing question is, why?”

As I point out in Is the Atheist My Neighbor?, this kind of proof-texting is a gross abuse of the biblical passage. Unfortunately, things get worse from there. The author, “Brian Chilton,” (who is currently enrolled in a PhD program in theology and apologetics at Liberty University) then makes the following claim: “Normally, people become atheists for four major reasons.” And the rest of the article is devoted to summarizing those four reasons:
1.The person desires moral independence.
2.The person holds emotive reasoning.
3.The person desires global unity.
4.The person desires intellectual neutrality.

I’m not going to bother analyzing any of these reasons. Instead, I’ll focus on Chilton’s claim that people “normally” become atheists for these reasons. While the range of normality is inevitably vague, it is safe to assume that for a state of affairs to be considered normal would require that this particular state of affairs obtain in the significant majority of relevant cases (e.g. perhaps north of 70%). By that reasonable interpretation, Chilton is claiming that in the significant majority of cases, people become atheists for one (or more) of these four reasons.

Okay, so here’s the obvious question: what evidence does Chilton provide that it’s so? Incredibly, he provides a single data point, i.e. his personal experience. He writes:

“I was influenced by some of these reasons to become a theist-leaning-agnostic for a period of time.”

Of course, a “theist-leaning-agnostic” is not the same thing as an atheist. Setting that point aside, Chilton would seem to be reasoning like this:

(1) I became a “theist-leaning-agnostic’ for a subset of reasons drawn from 1-4.

(2) Therefore, the significant majority of atheists become atheists because of one or more of the reasons in 1-4.

I’m not claiming Chilton literally reasons in that fashion. The point, rather, is that he provides us with literally nothing in terms of supporting evidence for his claim. More specifically, he fails to provide any relevant social scientific data (e.g. sociological surveys of atheists) which would support that claim. Presumably, his claim is based on nothing more than his intuition that these four reasons are widespread.

I know many atheists, and I can say emphatically that I rarely encounter individuals whose atheism can plausibly be attributed to those four factors. On the contrary, in my experience, some of the main reasons people become atheists include the problem of evil and suffering (often as personally experienced) along with the failure of Christians to act in a Christlike manner. To take an extreme case that I have talked about on several occasions, Bob Jyono was once a faithful Catholic but he became an angry atheist after discovering that his daughter was repeatedly raped by the family priest. Seriously, can you blame him?!

Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot so that an atheist wrote an article titled “4 Major Reasons Why People Become Christians.” And in this case, the article claimed that people “normally” become Christians due to one or more of the following reasons:
1.They fear death.
2.They hate science.
3.They want a god to ■■■■ their enemies to hell.
4.They like feeling superior to other people.

And then imagine that the only reason the atheist author of this article provided to support his claim is his own recollection that he once considered that Christianity might be true due to some of the reasons listed in 1-4.

You can bet that Chilton and his friends at crossexamined.org would be among the first to criticize this absurd bit of reasoning. And of course, they’d be right to do so. The same point applies to Chilton and his reasoning.

This fact leads me to ask: who vets the material that gets posted on a website like crossexamined.org? After all, this isn’t some mom and pop apologetics outfit: Crossexamined.org is among the main Christian apologetic websites; it is run by leading Christian apologist Frank Turek and it features many other leading Christian apologists like Bill Craig and Sean McDowell.

To sum up, articles like “4 Major Reasons Why People Become Atheists” undermine the credibility of crossexamined.org and Christian apologetics more generally. That’s why it behooves all Christian apologists to up their game, apply consistent standards, and work to earn and then retain their intellectual credibility

(David Murphy) #106

Hi all. Just want to quickly apologise for walking away mid-conversation. Had a work emergency which kept me on work-sleep rotation for a fortnight abroad. Put like that it sounds exciting and makes me sound important; it wasn’t and I’m not!! You guys raised about 14,000 excellent points which I’ve only briefly had a chance to skim through and reflect upon. You really made me think, thank you.

Once I fly home (and sleep for three days straight!) I’ll see if I can reply provided the thread is still open. Regardless, thank you so much for the fascinating exchange and sorry again for the delay in replying.

(Christy Hemphill) #107

You have to have six days of no activity before a thread is closed so get some sleep.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #108


Thank you for your thoughts. I will share mine.

Each non-believer is unique, just as each believer. Generalizations are dangerous as what you have written indicates and I try to avoid them or not take them seriously.

My thoughts about “The fool says in his or her heart, ‘There is no God.’” I would say that “in his heart” is important here. Some might say there is a God, but really do not believe this in “their heart,” while others say their is no God, but really act as if there is God.

For me evidence for God is not God, but life. If life is good, then it must have a good Source. At one time one could argue that there is no clear evidence that the universe was created, but now there is with the Big Bang theory. While this does not prove that YHWH God created the universe, it does not exclude this either, so we cannot say that science excludes God anymore, so atheism on this basis should become at least agnosticism. If God created the universe, then only a fool can say in his/her heart that there is not God.

J. Monod wrote a book where he said that objects cannot think, and since the universe is made up of things, the universe cannot think. By this same thinking the universe is not rational. It is rational only because it was created by a Rational Being.

By this same thinking, since thought is necessary to meaning and purpose and the universe cannot think, the universe has no meaning or purpose. That is objectively not true. The universe only because it was created by a Rational Being Who gave it meaning and purpose.

“Many human efforts, particularly those in the service of serious ambitions rather than just comfort and survival, get their energy from a sense of importance -------a sense of what you are doing is not just important to you, but is important in some larger sense: important, period. … If life is not real, life is not earnest, and the grave is our only goal, perhaps it is ridiculous to take ourselves so seriously. On the other hand, if we can’t help taking ourselves so seriously, perhaps we just have to put up with being ridiculous. Life may be not only meaningless, but absurd.” p. 101 the conclusion of What Does It All Mean? by well known philosopher Thomas Nagel

A fool says in his/her heart that Life has no rational meaning and purpose, because there is no God. The serious person says Life does have meaning purpose, so there must be a God somewhere even if I do not know that God.

(Luca) #109

Dont worry! Get some rest :slight_smile:

(Wayne Dawson) #110

I agree that Psalm 14 cannot be talking about intellectual atheists.

I see “fool” in the Psalms to be talking about “practical atheism”. A person can be “religious” (at least apparently) and do all sorts of devious deeds. Perhaps a classic incongruous picture is something like the Godfather where the mob boss has no problem sending someone to the bottom of the lake, or practicing double-dealing, graft, money laundering and extortion. Yet there in his very office is a gold crucifix maybe even showing Jesus suffering on the cross with the crown of thorns. The irony is that the big kahuna doesn’t necessarily deny the existence of God, yet God is far from his real thoughts. He is a practical atheist because he thinks that God does not see and God does not hear. He is like the people described in Ps 94 "They crush your people, Lord, hurting those you claim as your own. They kill widows and foreigners and murder orphans. “The Lord isn’t looking,” they say, “and besides, the God of Isreal doesn’t care”.

Of course, many of these sorts seem to get away with murder and never seem to pay. We fret when we see it. Mob bosses can lead countries, and stay there for a very long time. It never seems like justice comes around looking for them. Yet it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. That’s the thing, you might get away with it all your life, but there is that day when you come before that judgment seat. I think this is why at the end of it all, it is being a fool to think it possible to really cheat God.

It is a cheap shot for Christians to equate a person who happens to be an atheist with a fool. Paul in Romans 2:24 writes “No wonder the Scriptures say, 'The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you”.

The problem I would see with atheism is that we would have to conclude that some people really do get away with doing evil, brazen evil. Be it so that this is only a few. Somehow, justice seems never really to be looking for them. The thing is, it is not so easy once we throw out God to see how such a rotten world makes any sense. Suffering and injustice seem unfillable whether you are an atheist or a theist.

– by Grace we proceed.


Can’t these sorts of people ask for forgiveness on their death bed and not face any punishment for what they did?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #112

I hope you don’t mind me butting in on your conversation here, @wkdawson, but this is a good question, and I’ve got a moment, so here goes.

The problem with this mentality is: have you ever tried to be sorry for something that you don’t regret doing? That’s a contradiction, actually; it’s impossible. I can’t accept somebody’s forgiveness if I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. Philip Yancey once described a disturbing conversation in which a close friend asked him for the same reassurance: “Can God forgive me no matter what I do?” After Yancey reassured him that this was so, he answered “Good. Because I’m going to leave my wife.”

Here’s the problem with that. You can’t plan or intend to do something (or keep doing something) and at the same time regret doing it or repent of doing it. We can “know” that what we continue to do is really wrong, and yet we continue doing it. But by our doing it we show that we have somehow justified it in our own minds or made some allowance for ourselves – we are geniuses at rationalization. We may wish at some deep level in our spirits that we didn’t want something for ourselves that we shouldn’t have, but we do it anyway. Paul agonizes over this very thing in Romans 7. As long as we want to do it, we can’t simultaneously be sorry for it. Or if we enjoyed it so much that we have no intention of quitting, …again, that means we are not sorry, and therefore have no use for God’s grace or forgiveness [at least not for the particular act in question]. We may think to ourselves: “I’ll just stop doing this and make amends right before I die.” But could that possibly work? How do I genuinely start to regret something that I have never had regrets about doing for much of my life? We don’t – such is our wretched state. We can’t even want the right things.

You are right that ultimately, God’s grace is scandalously free. It couldn’t be otherwise. People on their deathbeds could in theory get that just like the thief on the cross. But by living a profligate lifetime and then thinking “I’ll just have ‘fun’ till right before the end, and then slip in the Pearly gates last thing before I die” is going to be a fool’s hope. You can’t [short of God’s miraculous intervention] suddenly “regret” things that you have spent a lifetime chasing. And if you did – then imagine the crushing blow you would have to feel of a whole life time lost to regret that you only now come to see. Think of it like this: A person lives in a putrid pit their entire lives, but doesn’t know any better – doesn’t believe that a glorious world lies just around a certain corner if he would but pluck up the courage to go around that corner. So he lives his entire life in his hell-hole, thinking “I know I’m supposed to go around that corner – but I’m really quite attached to my present situation as miserable as it is, and I’ll just wait to go around that corner until I’m about to die.” So he lives his life in his spiritual squalor. Then right before he dies, (miracle of miracles!) he rounds that corner and briefly tastes the glory of what he missed out on for his entire life! And in that crushing moment he realizes what could have been, and what he had stubbornly refused to try – sees what he has really done to people that he should have loved, and all the missed opportunities he could have had if he had just had the courage to go there earlier. That is what a real deathbed conversion would look like. They happen, I’m sure. But they would be anything but typical.

[edits …]

(Jennifer Thomas) #113

You know, that’s a really excellent point. In fact, it’s one of the theological questions Christians often do a poor job of addressing.

When I was studying for possible ordination a few years ago (I changed my mind about ordination, but that’s another story) I noticed that none of my theology professors were interested in talking about forgiveness – what forgiveness is, what Jesus said about it, how to practise it, how to incorporate it into daily life as a human being.

Many Christians look to doctrines of the End Times to explain how justice is (or will be) achieved in the world. These doctrines have been an important part of Christianity’s history.

But it’s actually possible to believe in God, to honour Jesus’ teachings about God, and to live a life of meaning and learning and healing by understanding how to give and receive forgiveness right here and right now (without waiting for Judgment Day, that is).

I know biblical citations aren’t your thing, but, for the sake of accuracy, it’s interesting to note that in the Gospel of Mark (the rebel Gospel, as I like to call it), Jesus is pretty clear about the importance of forgiveness as a boots-on-the-ground spiritual practice.

I actually don’t know of any spiritual/emotional/psychological practice that has a greater positive effect on the brain than forgiveness. So I doubt very much that the loving God we claim to love and trust would deny us the abundant biological blessings that come with forgiveness.

If more people learned how to forgive as Jesus taught forgiveness, we might have fewer children growing up to become abusive psychopaths in need of some solid justice.


We can’t know what is in a person’s heart, so I think we can both agree that true deathbed conversions are a bit difficult to verify. What I was responding to was @wkdawson argument that people who have done evil will certainly get their comeuppance once they stood before God. Obviously, there is a rather large loophole in that process.

“The problem I would see with atheism is that we would have to conclude that some people really do get away with doing evil, brazen evil.”

It would seem that theism has the same problem.

(Randy) #115

Thank you. Good illustration.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #116

Well sort of … sort of like a careless driver speeding down a highway kills somebody as a result of his reckless driving. Then (as if that wasn’t bad enough) he discovers that the person he killed was his son. The judge decides not to send the distraught man to prison because he has suffered enough already.

So … did the man “get away with it”? Yeah – I guess if that’s what you want to call it. Judgment could look like that – all of us being made aware how much we’ve hurt people, and feeling the pain that has caused as strongly as if the victims had been our own loved ones.

Absolutely! This isn’t science. Only God has access to the heart (even more than we do for ourselves).


Or a person purposefully drives down a busy street and purposefully runs people over, killing them in the process. Once the person sees how much pain and sorrow he has caused other people and asks for forgiveness, the judge sees how sorry he is and forgives him of all wrongdoing. He is free to walk.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #118

You make it sound like he “pulled one over on the judge”, as in he’s pretending to be sorry to avoid punishment. So in the here-and-now sense yes, he did get away with it. But there is no “pulling one over” on God. For those who don’t believe there is a God to hold anybody accountable, yes – they would definitely presently believe the man totally got away with it. But when he dies and discovers there really is a God holding him accountable (whether he believed in him or not) … that’s when he discovers there is hell to pay. Literally. And that’s when the real remorse would set in I’m sure.


In the scenario I described, the defendant is completely honest and really did see the wrong that he committed. The defendant is truly sorry and is honestly asking for forgiveness. In this scenario, do we usually let a defendant off? No. Would we consider it justice if we did? That is an interesting question, and I can see merit for both sides of the argument.

I am also putting forth the scenario of someone who has done evil realizing the evil they have done and truly asking for forgiveness from God in the here and now, not after they die. In this scenario, we may run into the same problem that @wkdawson saw in atheism, that the person is never punished for the evil they did. Strangely enough, however, one could even make an argument for pardoning someone in this lifetime if they showed remorse.

Either way, I think atheists and theists are both faced with a Gordian knot when it comes to justice, evil doers, and forgiveness.

(Luca) #120

I kinda agree here. Thats why i leave the judging to God.