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question of the day

"God Brought Him to My Door"

So says Ashley Smith, the woman who was held hostage by cold blooded murderer Brian Nichols. She believes that perhaps Nichols was brought to her apartment by God so he could be caught and then spread the word of God to other prisoners.

If God is so interventionist as to lead this homicidal maniac to Ashley Smith's door, then why didn't he intervene when Mr. Nichols was mowing down innocent people in a courthouse? Further, why didn't God intervene when Mr. Nichols was (allegedly) raping his girlfriend? Were the deaths and rape all part of some mysterious plan to get Nichols into prison to preach the word?

Just curious.

Update: This isn't something specific to Ms. Smith, who I think is a very brave woman. You read stories like this every day, and I honestly want to know why people believe God would choose to intervene in some ways, but not in others. For instance, helping a kid through an operation, but not stopping the accident that put the kid on the operating table to begin with. Or why he gets credit for saving mountain climbers, but does nothing to stop the murder of the faithful.

Andy is on the same wavelength.

Update:

I think a lot of you are missing the point. I'm not questioning anyone's faith. I'm questioning why sometimes God is shown as being omnipotent, and sometimes he's not. It's really just a curiosity to me, how people can say on one hand that God works in mysterious ways and there are reasons that four year old has cancer, and on the other hand, say that God saved them from falling off a ledge. If God has the ability to be omnipotent, then why not save everyone who suffers? Why keep one person from feeling pain and not another? Why keep one person alive and allow another to die a horrible death? These are questions I asked when I was a church going Catholic. And they are questions I continue to ask. Maybe some day, someone will provide an answer that makes sense to me.

Update again -

An email I sent to Skillzy:

I really should have reworded it. It wasn't a slam on her at all. She is hella brave. I don't think I could have done what she did. And if faith got her through it, then that's fine. But what I don't get is how much of this I see in news stories every day - "God brought him here" "God made me steer the other way" "God was watching over my kid so that when his father ran his head over, he didn't crush it all the way, just a little bit." It seems absurd to me sometimes to put all that on God. Because it makes him come off as random and I would like to believe that if there is a God and he is an interventionist one, he's not random. But as long as there are kids being beaten and starved to death by their own parents, I won't believe that God has anything to do with bringing someone's kitten home safely.

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» God's Little Helper from The World Wide Rant - v3.0
The Man UpstairsTM keeps on working his voodoo magic in spooky ways. Today's installment comes from Georgia, where Ashley Smith, held hostage by courthouse-killer Brian Nichols, says the spirit of God was moving across the waters Buckhead, down the hig... [Read More]

» Faith Helped Courthouse Shootings Hostage from Don Singleton
It is not that He wants Nichols to go to prison and preach the word. But He certainly gave Ashley the necessary peace to enable her to survive the encounter. I don't know or care what Nichols does in prison, but I do wonder what important job He has ... [Read More]

Comments

I'd cut her some slack. Her Husband is reported to have died in her arms a few years ago after being stabbed.

She faced death in the face and if this helps her keep it together so be it.

As my neighbor would say:
Now that bitch crazy.

OK, let's cut her some slack.

Now what about the fundies who will latch onto this story as one more demonstration of the miraculous power of Big Bad Voodoo Deity's hocus-pocus loving?

Seriously, who peed in your cornflakes?

SIdestepping the question of whether God ACTUALLY had a hand in the convergence of the twain....

Here's an example of what a difference it can make when people believe, think and act as though God takes a hand in our affairs, as though our souls have importance and our actions have consequence and meaning.

Maybe it was just luck that the passage about servitude from the book the woman read to him, clearly spoke to this man's struggle to avoid being a seen as a "servant" in the temporal world...his fear of losing self-dignity, not having power over others.

But this womans insistence he could still matter, that his life might still have meaning and purpose even after what he had done, made him act differently than he otherwise might have.

It prevented more death, at least his, and prevented mayhem that might have resulted in innocents being harmed.

Peed in my cornflakes? I had Fruit Loops today.

This is something I've wondered about for a long time. Why do people like Reggie Jackson, for instance, believe that God saved him from dying in a car accident, yet the same God wouldn't save a five year old kid from being beaten to death by her own mother.

I'm just curious about why people believe that God would single them out for a miracle and not others.

Ya know, if you start doing posts for the ACLU I'm outta here.

I think you can justify a believe in any higher being in this manner. If I believed that the sun was omnipotent and had a hand in everything that occurred in my life.. I could easily say "I almost got hit by a bus today, but the Sun saved me!" and you really can't argue with me about it. You have no proof that the sun didn't save me, and I can just tell you to go stuff it. :)

I think most people in this country would label me an idiot in such a circumstance. I think you see where my crappy comparison is going, though.

Well, if God is actively doing things in the world at all (as opposed to just sitting back and letting everything run its course), I don't imagine all of His (or Her, or Their, or Its, whichever you believe) motives would necessarily make sense to us. I mean, if He can see all futures, maybe He's doing what will work out best in the end, regardless of what it looks like now. Also, if one chooses to believe in Deity and an afterlife, it can be assumed that there might be more important things than what happens in this life. Dying hideously isn't so bad if it means you're moving on to a better life, right?

This reminds me of an old rant from Adam Carolla on Loveline that I once heard. He was talking about some boy who had been attacked by an alligator and his parents were talking about how God was clearly looking out for him because he didn't die. His question was if God was looking out for him, why the hell didn't he stop the alligator in the first place.

Similar with my mom. When she was in a terrible car accident, she thought it was her guardian angel that kept her from being killed. But I guess that angel couldn't do anything to keep the truck from hitting her head on in the first place. I've never bothered to argue with her about it, just seems a strange way to look at things.

Oh, and athletes. How often is it God's work when they win a game? Guess God hated the other side. Oh, and it's never His fault when they lose, of course. Except that the other side is thanking God for the win, so I guess it actually is.

I must give this some thought before opening my big mouth. I'm afraid this discussion may be above my pay grade, but I'll give it a shot when I get home from work.

In the meantime, michele, I'll ask: Do you really want an answer, or is this a rhetorical question ? Some of your commenters have obvious disdain for us fundies and I want to make sure I'm answering an honest request before being sport for said fundie-haters.

"In Case of Rapture, There Will Be About 38 Million Car Accidents"

What can I say?

I work in mysterious ways.

God

If someone's faith gets them through an ordeal, or changes their life, whether that belief is in God, or Buddah, or the sun, or the Pillsbury Doughboy, I say good for them. If faith in something allows people to change for the better, I'm not going to toss their belief aside due to the fact that bad things happen to people too. Just because THEY believe that's what happened, and say something about it, doesn't make it MY business to make judgements about that belief. I'd drive myself insane worrying about everyone who had a different opinion than me on religion, or sexual preference, or cough which baseball team is the best. That woman's not trying to make us all Christians, she's just relating her experience, based on her point of view. Live and let live, I say.

I'm not sure of the exact wording of his bit, but Denis Leary asked something like why Stevie Ray Vaughn is dead, but Michael Bolton still lives. (Someone will find the exact quote, I'd bet.)

I don't think we're capable of really knowing God's grand plan. That's why they call it "faith" and not "evidence." Some of us need one, others need the other.

Now what about the fundies who will latch onto this story as one more demonstration of the miraculous power of Big Bad Voodoo Deity's hocus-pocus loving?

What the hell do you care? You don't believe in God. Wonderful. This woman does. So do other people.

I cannot understand why people get their panties in such a wad over what other people believe. If you don't want to believe in God, then don't. If you don't believe He exists, why do you continually question His existence?

it's called faith. either you have it or you don't.

wouldn't it be easier to simply admit that your god is not omnipotent than to go through these ridiculous explanations to account for bad things happening?

I am a firm believer that God works in mysterious ways. If this lady believes he was brought to her so she could be His instrument to bring a resolution to crisis, I dont have a problem with it.

I say cut her some slack.

I have a lot of the same questions that you do, Michele. For instance, does God love us more than people who lived 100 years ago, is that why we live longer? I guess the way you presented it kinda comes off as a slam on her, and her faith.

Of course God gets credit when good things happen and no blame when bad things happen! How can a perfect being do a bad thing? He can't. So he doesn't!

Isn't circular reasoning much prettier than your pesky realism? ;)

I would chime in with two items:
A) Traditional Christian belief includes individuals with a degree of free will (which has consequences, including bad ones, that must play out for free will to really exist), and an opposing (though lesser) evil spiritual force.
B) An omniscient God knows/understands far more than any of us ever will, such that we are always going to be operating at a deficit in trying to understand how things are all supposed to play out.

There are some fairly good explainations of the issues relating to the existence of evil. They can get fairly deep philosophically, but once one wades through them they seem more appealing than any of the alternatives that I have yet seen.

There is a distinct difference between "GOD is causing this to happen" and "GOD is allowing this to happen"

I agree with KRM. Evil must have the ability to exist for free will to be possible. Good wouldn't have much meaning, if that's all there was.

The bible says often, that God tests his people. The story of Job is probably the best example.

Religion and/or politics, Michele...you can start a real shitstorm by mentioning either one...just sit back and watch it happen.

WR95

Okay, I'm veering a bit off topic here since this thread is primarily about belief in God, but there are many highly unorthodox things in this woman's life - not that there's anything wrong with that, but now that she's got her 15 minutes of fame, I'd like to know some more about her. Such as: how/why was her husband stabbed? Was it a random assault, or something else? Was he involved in something shady? And why was she present? She was apparently taken hostage when she "went to the store" at 2am. Who goes to the store at 2am? And where was her daughter? Why wasn't she with her? This woman was apparently a teenager when her daugher was born, so maybe the daugher doesn't live with her. She handled herself very well during the hostage situation, and I'm not criticizing her, but some aspects of her story are just weird.

What the hell do you care? You don't believe in God. Wonderful. This woman does. So do other people.

Fantastic. And as soon as they stop using their belief in god(s) as sole justification to dictate public policy, invade the private lives of others, and talk ID nonsense in the schools, etc, I'll stop worrying about it.

I cannot understand why people get their panties in such a wad over what other people believe. If you don't want to believe in God, then don't. If you don't believe He exists, why do you continually question His existence?

Primarily because the fact that people continue to believe at once amuses me and boggles my mind. But then I'm sure other atheists have their own reasons.

Good wouldn't have much meaning, if that's all there was.

That's like saying lasagna wouldn't be delicious if sushi didn't exist (assuming sushi is nasty, which it is). In short, it's a fallacy. There could be a set of actions that were completely neutral and then a set of actions that were varying degrees of good, and good will still have meaning - all without the existence of evil.

The bible says often, that God tests his people. The story of Job is probably the best example.

Why would an omniscient god need to test anyone? He already knows the outcome of every possible action he or the victim could ever take.

Unfortunately, if you accept the story of Job, you paint God as a rather cruel and - dare I say it - evil monster.

I remember when I was a kid, asking the nuns that if God loved us, why didn't He come and show himself in BIG ways like in the Bible anymore? Did he forget about us?

The nuns didn't like it when I asked questions.

I think the way to look at why people are comfortable with attributing God's hand in our daily lives is that maybe it's not an awareness by God of us that occurs in whatever form - intervention in our lives or bestowal of grace.

Maybe it's an awareness by us of God.

I dunno. None of us will know for a fact until we reach the other side. Personally, I believe that whether our reaction at that time is "Whoa...guess I was wrong." or "Yes!!! I knew it all along!", as long as we've lived our lives without bringing purposeful harm to others that we'll all end up in the same good place.

Least I hope so.

Faith is like the blues. Either you feel it or you're Constantine. Science has no help, and discussing it is pointless.

Sorry, but it all comes off as a slam on Ms. Smith. Either she's a fool for trusting her invisible buddy when faced with a man on a killing spree, or she's unbelievably arrogant to think a God that didn't bother to save Rowland Barnes, Juli Brandau, Hoyt Teasley, and David Wilhelm. (Or, for that matter, her husband who died violently five years ago. She must not have thought he merited saving either.)

As for why it happened, really, could any atheist please explain how faith could exist in a world where nothing bad ever happens to good people or believers? That's not faith. God works on a scale beyond our comprehension. If you believe in heaven, you believe God has the means to make up for any suffering you endure on earth, and she apparently believes she had a chance to set an example that will help more people believe.

I don't doubt this will all seem very simplistic to someone like Andy, who seems to treat his contempt for Christians as proof of his great intellect. ("Of course! Just put any question you can't answer off on some plane beyond our understanding!") But that's what faith is. It's also the reason Ms. Smith had the courage to talk down Brian Nichols, and I don't see how one can belittle it without belittling her.

Bad andy, no pizza.

Your spirited attacks on Christianity make me wonder who peed in your cornflakes. You certainly seem to "see" a lot of problems that I've missed. Personally, I don't trust the militant unbelievers any more than I do the militant believers. You've both got closed minds.

Yummmm.
Sushi. I could have it every meal.

As an avowed atheist it's been expained to me thusly by the devout: ours is not to question why, we're not enlightened enough to know why God does what he does.

Whatever. Reminds me of the Simpsons episode with the little people who think Lisa's god and ask why she let's people die, suffer, etc. If there is a God, this teaches us that he doesn't even know he is God.

Earth is not the end-all, be-all.

This confuses people at times, even though Richard Bach addressed this very point in "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" which was also addressed by, say, My Son, two of your millenia earlier.

Seems like only half a moment ago.

To me.

God

Posted by God

Dear God,

It's me, Margaret.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Gib -

I don't doubt this will all seem very simplistic to someone like Andy, who seems to treat his contempt for Christians as proof of his great intellect.

It always amuses me that people think that simply because you disagree with a Christian's beliefs that you have contempt for Christians. I disagree with the beliefs of any number of people, but it doesn't mean I have contempt for them as people; I can think one misguided without disliking the person in question.

Now, I'm sure if she had come out claiming that she was doing her duty as a devout follower of Binky the Magic Space Clown, there'd not be a single snicker from the peanut galler. Nope, you'd be jumping valiantly to her defense, wouldn't you?

Forgive me if I have my doubts.

Skillzy

Bad andy, no pizza.

Lasagna then?

Better question

God created all things living and dead.
God knows what will happen in the future.
The devil is evil.
God must have known how he would turn out and yet still created the devil.
Who is more evil then, God or the devil?
Why would you want to worship something like that?

Dear Michele,

"It's me, Margaret" ... yeah, I get that one a lot. A lot.

Let me tell you something, Margaret got her period, okay? And now she's with me because it was the 70's she didn't read that Toxic Shock warning label, but that was her choice, see?
Not some divine act on my part.

So, now Margaret is here in heaven, which is almost, but not quite what people expect it to be. It's different. Not subject to human expectations, my explaining 'heaven' to you is sort of like you explaining Yankee Stadium and its purpose to a really smart dolphin.

But anyway, there's knowledge to be gained from the struggle.

God

ps. please stop taking my name in vain during the upcoming season, at least until the post-season.

Mr. Lawson, we'll have none of your so-called "questions" here, as they show a real contempt for Christians! God as evil? Blasphemy!

You'll get your comeuppance on Judgment Day!

Give it a rest, andy... Discussing the existence of God, let alone the nature of God on a blog is like discussing Calculus with a 6 year old that's just learned addition.

mr lawson- Yeah, and if God is omnipotent can He create a stone that He can't lift?... Yawn... You want to challenge God's omnipotence with 4th century BC Socratic logic? How intelligent of you!

Creation requires nonintervention;
God cannot contradict Herself.

However, comma, our reality, as created,
is a Stranger place than we can imagine
(Fred Hoyle ? and Stephan Wolfram)
and its dimly perceived mechanisms, working toward perfection, seem like
Divine Intervention to us.

Discussing the existence of God, let alone the nature of God on a blog is like discussing Calculus with a 6 year old that's just learned addition.

Rather we should discuss it where? In ivory towers? Over beer? In church where the outcome is already assumed? I think a blog is as good a place as any except for the dragging out of tired arguments...

I think a blog is as good a place as any except for the dragging out of tired arguments...

Yeah, you're right, we should stick to the totally fresh Binky-the-Magic-Space-Clown-type arguments. Never heard that kind of argument before.

I'm not employing an appeal to authority fallacy (because I'm not offering the following as evidence of God's existence) by saying that enough brilliant people over the course of history have expressed a belief in God (variously defined) that I can't agree with this sentiment:

Primarily because the fact that people continue to believe at once amuses me and boggles my mind.

I'm shocked neither by belief, nor by atheism. Perfectly rational, intelligent people come down on either side of the issue. It's understandable to me that people take different positions on the subject. I'm not an atheist, but I certainly don't find their belief to be amusing or something to mock.

By the by, I thought Den Beste, an atheist, did a great job of outlining why atheism is a belief (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Sorry, Hubris - by "tired" I meant arguments that have already been shown to be logically weak and left wanting. Given that Binky, Yahweh, Allah, and Thor all have the same amount of empirical evidence for their existence, I suppose we could say belief in each is logically weak; so I won't drag out Binky if you don't drag out God.

Deal?

andy,

I would highly recommend Den Beste's piece if you haven't already read it.

There is no empirical evidence of any sort I can think of that there is no God of any kind, if this is your assertion. Of course, I'm assuming you're a mechanistic atheist (as is Den Beste).

Color me among those who believe that God is omnipotent in the sense that He can do anything He chooses that can be sensibly articulated. Among the things that can't be sensibly articulated is the old saw about making a rock so heavy that even He can't move it: logical nonsense tells us nothing about what God can or can't do.

So we're left with the traditional belief, which is that when something bad happens, it isn't that God was powerless to prevent it, but rather that the reason for not preventing it isn't evident to us. Not very satisfying psychologically, emotionally, etc. but given the context of imperfect information it's the best we can do, with or without a conception of God (and in fact, this whole thread is prompting me to write an essay with bits of theology, artificial intelligence, economics, modal logic, Decision Theory, etc. thrown in, mostly just to demonstrate how all of these disciplines wind up saying the same things in different ways).

Andy,

Plenty of people can disagree with a Christian's belief without having contempt for Christianity. However, regarding you personally, I know three things:

1.) All you know about Ashley Smith is what she did when faced with Brian Nichols, and that she relied on her faith in God to help her find a way out.

2.) On your own blog, you compare this woman's faith to a form of retardation.

3.) You compare faith in God to a belief in "Binky the Space Clown" or "Bezar from Planet Glorp" if I recall your email correctly.

That you personally hold Christians (at least those impertinent enough to acknowledge their faith in your presence) in contempt may be a snap judgement on my part, but it's one I'm willing to stick with.

And frankly, if she came out and credited a religious faith I don't personally share for giving her the strength to face down Brian Nichols, and you still decided to mock her, yeah, actually, I'd still be offended.

Gib -

I compared thinking that four people had to die just so that a criminal could end up in your apartment to find his purpose-driven life to a form of retardation. Sue me, but if someone out there really thinks this was the work of God, I hope their God never loves me enough to have me innocently gunned down in the process of improving someone else's life.

Re: Binky and Bezar. Normally I go the Binky route, blessed be his big red magic nose. Bezar came to me on the spur of the moment. I admit it's not as clever.

Feel however you like about me; no big whoop for either of us I would imagine.

Have a fantastic evening, must go tuck my daughter in and then watch 24.

I'm questioning why sometimes God is shown as being omnipotent, and sometimes he's not.

Do you have a better way to explain all the random shit that happens on this planet? To people who don't deserve it? If you do, great. For some of us, this is the option that makes sense.

andy - Atheism requires at least as many leaps of faith as belief in a deity or deities. I am not going to denigrate your intellectual capacity for coming down as you have on which leaps of faith you wish to take, but hostility to those who have taken other leaps does not serve to make you look intellectually honest (it makes you appear to be working to maintain the leaps of faith that you've taken or to deny that you took any).

krm - What is a bigger leap? To say that the origin of the universe is an unknown, or to posit an unknowable entity as the explanation to the unknown? If any leaps of faith are being made, in the case of the theist it is always going to be Andy+1.

All the atheist must assume is that the universe is knowable through human investigation and reason; the theist is welcome to assume otherwise but I wouldn't expect a whole lot of progress to come from it. Of course, most theists also assume that the universe is knowable.. uh, until we get to the whole "god" thing.

Leapity leap leap leap.

OK, goodnight!

This argument always amuses me. Especially the way everyone seems to be pouncing on Andy because he comments on just how freaking insane these comments by this poor lady are. "It's gods will" that this guy managed to escape police after murdering four people in cold blood? These aren't the words of a rational person, god fearing or not. And Andy points out that this lady is certifiable and everyone jumps on him for exposing this lunacy? WTF?

Again, the wonderful thing about our country is that we can believe what we want. But you damn well better keep your beliefs away from my beliefs, and out of both of our laws and governments. There is no consensus about "which" God is the more believable one, so let's just let that remain a matter of faith, and not of law.

Your right to swing your bible stops in front of my nose.

All the atheist must assume is that the universe is knowable through human investigation and reason;

I don't think that's quite accurate, Andy. Atheism is an affirmative denial of the existence of a God, which is ultimately a belief and not based on empiricism (don't confuse this with something like scientific evidence supporting evolutionary theory versus Creationism, as atheism is the denial of any God or gods, not just a rejection of the Christian God and attendant beliefs of followers).

Atheism is an affirmative denial of the existence of a God,

I imagine that depends on where you took philosophy courses. Under Max Hocutt, we treated atheism as the absence of theism, an absence of belief in deities - a lack of belief, if you will. This would, of course, encompass the lack of belief found in an infant (we all enter the world atheist) and the more assertive forms of belief that there is no god.

I've always considered myself, using Hocutt's approach, to be an agnostic atheist, or a weak atheist. I see absolutely no evidence that would lead to a belief in god, but I don't claim to know there isn't one. However, should any god or gods decide they'd like my attention, they'll have to do better than 2000 year old incorrect books of gobbledygook (with the odd instruction to kill homosexuals).

In the meantime, I'm off to bed.

Try this -- 4 theological mistakes about the nature of God: 1. God is absolutely perfect and therefore unchangeable, 2. omnipotence, 3. omniscience, 4. God's unsympathetic goodness. Andy and I have had this discussion before -- as I recall, he believes that a God that is not omnipotent is no God worth believing in (correct me if I'm wrong, love.) For my part, I embrace a God that is not OMNI-etc.; that God is rather more God-like to me.

Those of you who are interested -- process theology is perhaps the most scientifically based/thought-out Christian theological branch today. Very postmodern, based on the writings of Whitehead (process philosophy), and John Cobb (theologian). What I quoted above is Charles Hartshorne. There is certainly an irrational element to believing in God -- that's what faith is, but it doesn't mean you check your brain at the church door. Still doesn't mean you're going to win an argument with an athiest, though.

Paul Snively writes:

Among the things that can't be sensibly articulated is the old saw about making a rock so heavy that even He can't move it: logical nonsense tells us nothing about what God can or can't do.

It is possible to restate that "old saw" in mathematically rigorous terms which are not nonsensical, using set theory.

I think people flatter themselves to think that a god figure dwells on thier every moment. Of all the billions of people that have come and gone why do they think with everything else like making it rain that he/she/it stops everything to watch them?

Faith is good, trust is good, but it is also said he helps those that helps themselves.

It strikes me as odd that the killer didn't just shoot this looney-bin and move on. Perhaps he wants a witness to testify that he has found de lawd and is a reformed man?

This 'leap of faith' business is also bothersome. Unless you're one of them modern 'physicist' people (or so they call themselves) or a theist, you can't prove a negative, and therefore it's not a 'leap of faith' to assume that, given the absence of any real evidence, Bippity the God of Space Clowns, i.e. humans, does not exist. It just seems like some cheap way of dragging atheists into the mire of religion, similar to the ID proponent's description of evolution as "Just a theory, not a fact."

I cannot understand why people get their panties in such a wad over what other people believe. If you don't want to believe in God, then don't. If you don't believe He exists, why do you continually question His existence?

Finally, the above... that's a question I haven't really seen often, but I guess I could say that it's the same reason that God is so interested in people's sex lives. Just morbid fascination, I suppose. Sometimes life just seems like a scary movie, an impossibility; how could so many people seriously believe in a faerie tale? Ah, it's one of the great mysteries...

I agree with Michele that there is an inherent contradiction in seeing an interventionist God where the outcome is good, on the one hand, and a hands-off God where the outcome is bad, on the other. However, there's really no answer to the "higher plan" argument. It all comes down to faith. In THIS world, it's true that faith is often manipulated for nefarious, altogether human purposes. However, it's also true that faith can be used as a force for good.

I think the woman just relied on whatever resources she had at her disposal in an extraordinarily difficult situation. From the part of her interview that I saw, she didn't seem like any sort of religious zealot. If the guy hadn't seemed to be susceptible to religious persuasion, I don't think she would have continued to try to use it.

In this case, the woman seems to have used her faith in a rational way to help achieve a peaceful end to a potentially catastrophic situation. I don't think it's fair to criticize her for seeing what happened to her as part of her God's plan. We all strive to find meaning in traumatic and stressful situations. As far as I can tell that's all she was doing - not trying to advance some sort of religio-political agenda.

Dear Steven,

Two words: Kurt Gõdel

God

I'd recommend for those who have sincere questions about the existence of pain and suffering on this earth and wonder why God would allow such to happen, 2 books by CS Lewis entitled The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed.

Bear with me, this one is deep. Lewis expands on the following principles:

1. Not even omnipotence could create a society of free souls without at the same time creating a relatively independent and inexorable Nature.
2. A fixed matter implies a possibility, though not a necessity of evil and suffering, for not all states of matter will be equally agreeable to the wishes of a given soul.
3. Souls, if they are free, may take advantage of the fixed laws of nature to hurt one another.
4. A "corrective" intervention by God in the laws of nature, which would remove the possibility — or the effect — of such abuse, while clearly imaginable, would eventually lead to a wholly meaningless universe, in which nothing important depended on man's choices.
5. God's idea of goodness is unlike ours; yet God's moral judgment differs from ours, as Lewis pens, "not as white from black but as a perfect circle from a child's first attempt to draw a wheel." Thus when God means Love, we see love as kindness, or the desire to see men happy. The difference between love and kindness is that kindness doesn't care whether the object becomes good or bad, only that it doesn't suffer and remains happy. Love would rather see the loved suffer than be happy in "contemptible and estranging modes."

6. Pain shatters two illusions: that we can rest contentedly in our sins and stupidities; and that we are self-sufficient - that all we have is our own doing. Conversely, pain TEACHES us true self-sufficiency: to rely on God to act.

7. Pain on earth makes us desire heaven more and look past our present lives.

As Lewis wrote, "Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you will find that you have excluded life itself."

Andy - Atheism is an affirmative belief in the non-existence of the supernatural. In other words, they belief with certainty that there is no God.

Agnostics are the ones who take the "I don't know" position. They either acknowledge uncertainty or assert that the answer is not knowable.

Those are very different positions.

I believe God is non-interventionalist. We were made in God's spiritual image... which means we can effect our own destines for good or for ill. She used her own God-given power to achieve a good thing, just as he used his God-given power to do an evil thing. God gave them the ability but they made the choice.

Christians often forget God created EVERYTHING and that includes the Devil. Why? Well, thats the nice thing about being God, I suppose, you really don't have to explain it to anyone.

Kong

Christians often forget God created EVERYTHING and that includes the Devil. Why? Well, thats the nice thing about being God, I suppose, you really don't have to explain it to anyone.

Ah, but not all Christians believe God created everything everything. There are sects who believe that a core component of every person (and the Devil) that has always been. Wouldn't the existence of such a core element change the game a bit?

I sorta cut her some slack, I turned over to another channel when she was on Fox so I wouldn't laugh. She was a brave woman...why can't she just take credit for being a strong person? Although considering that that cretin has done in his life why exactly was it a good thing that he didn't top himself?

I don't know why God intervenes in some situations and not in others - it's enough for me to believe he does sometimes guide us. An example: Years ago I was driving home from a city about 100 miles away. There were two routes to take, and I planned to take route A. At the last possible instance, I felt something tell me to take route B. A few miles down the road, I came across a young woman with a flat tire. She was miles from home, had no money, no one to call for help. I had a trunk full of tools and was able to fix her flat there on the side of the road and send her on her way safely. To this day I firmly believe someone sent me to her.

I guess the easiest way to describe my view of God is with an example of set theory:

God
{...[ Everything ]...}

The set of Everything is within the set of God and the set of God contains more than the set of Everything. So the sects that believe in core components that have always been are not incorrect as God has always been and these things are a part of God. They are incorrect to try and define God in the finite terms of the universe. Actually, in my view all religions are partially correct, but incorrect in their attempts to define/minimalize the Creator.

Basically I took the philosophy of Anaximander and moved it beyond the physical level to the conceptual.

Kong

Brian Nichols, Bart Ross, Perceived Unfairness (Courts Under Attack)...

Taking a life is wrong!

Fighting the justice system outside of its contour isn’t rational. Freedom has provided civil liberties when used correctly removes insurmountable barriers such as segregation, discrimination and the like. Although many Americans have formed certain perceptions about the judiciary that represents an overall lack of trust, one must prove their argument within the structure provided and advocate change through civilized conduct. There are many methods of mentally or physically withdrawing from a hostile situation. The most common, attribute racist behavior to ignorance and chose to educate as a response to discrimination, which can give a sense of empowerment.

A spate of violence in the judicial system has many uneasy and on edge. Security at federal, state, and local courts across the country has been increased in the wake of the shooting of three people in Atlanta (Judge Rowland Barnes, his court reporter and a Fulton County deputy) today and last week’s killings of U.S. District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow’s husband and mother in Chicago.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, courthouses today are already secured by electronic surveillance systems, armed security officers, and metal detectors and scanning devices at every public entrance. In short, Judges are often the target of threats from defendants or litigants. They worry that their addresses and other personal information are easily accessible using the Internet and public records. And, there are trials that have the potential for additional security concerns.

In Chicago, police concluded that 57-year-old Bart Ross, a Poland immigrant, harbored a grudge against Judge Lefkow because she dismissed his malpractice lawsuit. In Atlanta, observers say a second rape trial was going badly for 34-year-old Brian Nichols, an African-American. It was his second trial in as many weeks. The first ended in a mistrial after a jury was unable to reach a verdict (8 to 4 in favor of acquittal).

Public confidence plays a significant role in the ability of courts to perform their function effectively. Courts must rely for enforcement of their decisions on retaining sufficient respect from individual citizens so that the vast majority will comply voluntarily. Perceptions influence, even shape, behavior. Both Bart Ross and Brian Nichols appear to have expressed a concern about possible unfairness. Note, more than one-third of all Georgians see African Americans as receiving worst treatment than others by the court system. See “Essay: Race and the Georgia Courts: Implications of the Georgia Public Trust and Confidence Survey for Batson v. Kentucky and its Progeny,” 37 Ga. L. Rev. 1021.

In fact, there are twenty years of surveys (1978 to 1998), that identify positive and negative images of the judiciary recurred with varying degrees of force-fulness across the nation. See David B. Rottman’s, “On Public Trusts and Confidence: Does Experience with the Courts Promote or Diminish It?” Negative images centered on perceived inaccessibility, unfairness in the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, and lack of concern about the problems of ordinary people. There is also a concern that the courts are biased in favor of the wealthy and corporations - political considerations exerted an undue influence on the judiciary.

Nonetheless, improving public trust and confidence of the courts is fundamental and likely to be the best defense against the emotional reaction of losing a legal case. As early as 1988, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, William H. Rehnquist, detailed the extent, almost since the inception of our system of government, that the courts require the public’s trust and confidence. See “The Supreme Court: The First Hundred Years Were the Hardest,” 42 U. Miami L. Rev. 475, 477 (1988).

Justice Rehnquist provided the following example:

“When former Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, an appointee of President George Washington, fell ill in December 1800, president John Adams turned to John Jay asking him to return to that position (Jay having served as the first Chief Justice). But, John Jay refused the appointment writing ‘The Court, labored under a [judicial] system so defective that amongst its other problems, it did not possess the public confidence and respect which as the last resort of the justice of the nation, it should....’”

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in her address to the National Conference on Public Trust and Confidence in the Justice System (July 1999) has expressed a similar concern:

“[i]n the lasts analysis, it is the public we serve, and we do care what the public thinks of us.”

But, prior to a 1999 study sponsored by the National Center for State Courts and the Hearst Corporation, “How the Public Views the State Courts” there was no systematic body of evidence that could document the extent to which and the ways in which perceptions of the court differ across social groups.

The 1999 survey findings reveal stark differences in how minority groups view the judicial system. African Americans consistently display a more negative view of the courts and less trust and confidence in the judicial system than do White/Non-Hispanics or Hispanics. That is, as a general matter, blacks express low levels of confidence in the courts, lower than other groups.

Minority groups perceive themselves as treated worse by the judicial systems because: (1) court personnel aren’t helpful and courteous; (2) most juries are not representative of the community; (3) courts fail to make reasonable efforts to ensure that individuals have adequate attorney representation; (4) judges are generally dishonest in deciding cases; and (5) courts are just “out-of-touch” with what’s going on in their communities.

Interestingly, Caucasians appear to either not understand or discount the perceptions of minority group members about the fairness of the court process.

A perception that money (court costs) matters in the treatment one receives from the courts is also an important component of the court’s public image. Nearly all respondents (87 percent) believed that having a lawyer contributed “a lot” to the high cost of going to court. More than half the respondents believed that the slow pace of justice, the complexity of the law, and the expenditure of personal time (e.g. missing work) additionally contributed “a lot” to the cost of going to court. Most distressing, all of the groups said courts handle cases in a poor manner. Family relations cases and juvenile delinquency cases, in particular, are said to fare worst.

In Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that a government lawyer prosecuting an African American criminal defendant violates the Equal Protection Clause if the prosecutor uses peremptory challenges for the purposes of excluding African Americans from the jury. The decision was premised in part on a desire to bolster public confidence in the fairness of the court system.

The Batson principle has been extended in a series of subsequent decisions, so that the prohibition on racially discriminatory peremptory challenges now extends to all trial attorneys, regardless of the nature of the case or the identity of the client. See Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42 (1992); Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 (1991); Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400 (1991). In Powers v. Ohio, the Court held a jury “acts as a vital check against the wrongful exercise of power by the State and its prosecutors,” and that racial discrimination in jury selection “damages both the fact and the perception of this guarantee.”

While Batson has not produced a general public consensus that all races receive equal treatment in the court system, that does not necessarily mean the decision has been completely ineffective, or that it is somehow fundamentally misguided. By striking at the use of racial stereotypes as the basis for peremptory challenges, one expected outcome of the Batson decision would be to increase the number of minorities serving on juries. Such an outcome could play a potentially significant role in improving public confidence in the court system. Data from the Georgia survey (Essay: Race and the Georgia Courts: Implications of the Georgia Public Trust and Confidence Survey for Batson v. Kentucky and its Progeny,” 37 Ga. L. Rev. 1021) suggests that, in certain respects, those who have served as jurors tend to have greater trust in the court system than other citizens, and this hold true when minority jurors are examined.

"Atheism is an affirmative belief in the non-existence of the supernatural. In other words, they belief with certainty that there is no God."

That is a common but by no means universally-used definition (for example, dictionary.com doesn't use it). Most philosophers, for example, do not define atheism so narrowly, and it is common to call someone an "atheist" simply because they lack belief in gods. Buddhists, for example, are atheistic even though they do believe in the supernatural.

In any case, while it is technically correct that the positive conviction that no gods exist is as irrational as the belief that they do exist, in everyday terms it isn't. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic god may be rationally said to not exist simply because the traits ascribed to it are logically contradictory -- the statement "the Christian God doesn't exist" is no more irrational or faith-based than the statement "1+1=2". The variety of gods that it is impossible to disprove the existance of are the sort of gods that virtually nobody actually believes in -- strictly non-interventionist gods, or gods with strictly limited powers.

Krm - sorry, but in your own response, you've differentiated between a/theism (belief) and agnosticism (dealing with knowledge). Belief and knowledge are not the same thing.

Thus one can, in fact, be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist. One can claim belief or lack of belief in a deity while also claiming that knowledge of such is impossible. There is no contradiction in terms.

hmmm.....i dont know if this helps or even speaks to the topic really.

but, its like, sometimes God works through pain. For example, the child that thinks getting shots really hurts. It does hurt, and pain is a problem. But what they don't see, and are unable to comprehend, is that there is something better in mind with the pain. Something they may not realize yet, but is there nonetheless.

i hope that kinda makes sense.

So, I ask again, is it a good thing he didn't kill himself? And if so why?

Andy,

I think it's strange that you dismiss the Bible as "gobbledygook (with the odd instruction to kill homosexuals)," unless your purpose is simply to attempt to provoke people.

Even from an atheistic perspective, the Bible has great value from a literary perspective.

I took this man's course in college, and he gave me a new appreciation for biblical texts while simultaneously (and continuously) demonstrating the problems with taking the Bible literally.

I think it's strange that you dismiss the Bible as "gobbledygook (with the odd instruction to kill homosexuals)," unless your purpose is simply to attempt to provoke people.

Now, seriously, would I do that?

Even from an atheistic perspective, the Bible has great value from a literary perspective.

Oh, I'll give you that - and from a cultural / mythical perspective as well. So does a collection of stories like the Finnish Kalevala.

As a guide to livin' the good life, though, I think it's more or less gobbledygook.

Yeah, Jesus and Confucius (and most other religions) were so silly with that "golden rule" stuff.

Then again, Rawls didn't do much better.

I was thinking more about the stone the homos and smart-mouthed children aspects, actually.

But, hey, you're right - the "be nice to everyone (except homosexuals and smart-alecky children)" rule certainly makes up for it.

I'm just being difficult. Now, where did I leave my stones?

God's relationship to time is not the same thing as man's relationship to time. We perceive time as a linear progression, through which we move. God (or so many believe) perceives time and space as a unified whole.

Accordingly, what looks to us like God's indifference or selective intervention is an artifact of our own limited perception. We can see some of the good outcomes from His actions because those often occur in a causal frame that we can directly perceive; I had cancer, God cured me, I'm still alive, hooray for God. We can't perceive the causal/temporal frames of bad things because they relate to or cause things in other times and spaces than those we can perceive, although sometimes we get a hint; we see through a glass, darkly.

We are also limited by the fact that things we perceive as being terrible evils may not look that way from God's point of view. Human happiness on this earth is not the goal of the divine will; things that cause human misery but that advance the Divine Plan are thus "good" - even though we may see them as evil.

I'm just being difficult. Now, where did I leave my stones?

You're right, those people were so backward...uh, a couple of thousand years ago. A valid reason to throw the whole thing out, no matter what value lies in the rest, I say!

Similarly, I disregard the texts of ancient philosophers, and scientists of old, since they don't agree with my modern views overall (I'm pro gay marriage).

Hubris - one doesn't need the Bible or another book of myths to understand, appreciate, or abide by enlightened self-interest.

Well, I take that back given the number of Christians who seem to think that if they lost their belief in God they'd go on immoral killing sprees and can't for the life of them figure out why atheists do not.

Robert - unfortunately, if one accepts that view then our ability to assess anything as good or evil goes out the window.

Should we punish this child molester? If so, why? Perhaps his actions are actually resulting in a greater good and we should be giving him a medal instead.

OK andy, you've convinced me. I will ignore all the world's accumulated wisdom because I should be able to utilize my pure reasoning abilities in a Spock-like fashion to formulate all of my moral and ethical framework from scratch. It's kinda hard to do because of other time commitments, however.

Well, I take that back given the number of Christians who seem to think that if they lost their belief in God they'd go on immoral killing sprees and can't for the life of them figure out why atheists do not.

I'm not one of those people, so I can't really speak for them.

Really, don't let obnoxious people affect your entire opinion on religion in general. I certainly don't let obnoxious atheists affect my opinion on atheists in general. Some people are just assholes, regardless of what they believe or don't believe.

Hubris -

Glad I could be of help. I realize that thinking for oneself is difficult and does make demands on one's time, but it is well worth it.

I think that the first time you try it, you'll really enjoy it. If not, your money back.

andy,

Well, if your independent (and wholly original) thinking is indicative of its usefulness and proper implementation, it should certainly help me set up some straw men to knock over.

Thanks for the tip!

Seriously (and I won't trouble this thread again), perhaps it's a communication problem, but it seems to me that you have divided the people of the world into two camps: The logical atheists who actually follow the law of Reason, and the irrational Bible-thumpin' fundies. Of course, there are irrational Bible-thumpin' fundies, but I would submit that your apparent assumption that belief in God automatically amounts to a lack of reasoning abilities is just as annoying as idiots assuming that atheism amounts to a lack of morality.

unfortunately, if one accepts that view then our ability to assess anything as good or evil goes out the window

Not true. We have moral precepts to live by, and we can always accumulate empirical knowledge of the observable results of actions and add new precepts (while recognizing that there are vast areas where we just don't know.)

What we have to throw out the window is the belief that we can have total knowledge of something; we have to acknowledge our fallibility and impermanence. That is very challenging for many people.

This world is hell.

That simple observation allowed me to put everything into perspective. God allows good people to suffer on this earth, because earth is hell and good people aren't supposed to stay here forever. Evil exists on this earth because earth is hell.

There is an energy inside every living thing. This energy is what gives us life. When our physical bodies die, the energy lives on (science has demonstrated that energy can neither be created nor destroyed). Our physical bodies die, but our energy does not. This energy can either be reincarnated in another body on this earth, or go somewhere else. If you are pure of heart, you have a chance to escape this earth upon death. If you are not, you are reincarnated for another chance to learn to love.

Evil people die and are reincarnated on this earth. If they learn to love and change their ways, when they die, their energy can leave this earth.

This world is hell. There is a lot more going on in the universe than what can be experienced through our five senses on this planet. We are not in complete control of our destinies here. Once we let go of trying to control everything, we can live in peace while we are on earth, and hope that our energy goes to a better place when our physical bodies die.

Just an FYI, I came to these conclusions through studying science and the Bible. Everything I studied actually fit together without contradicting the other. Science and the Bible worked together to get me to this train of thought. Just wanted to share some of my philosophy on here, since it seemed like an appropriate place to do so.

Peace,
G