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Old 02-18-2007, 06:05 PM   #1
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Putting God "on trial."

If there was any place to post this, I guess it's here. Plus, I think a lot of you might dig this little exercise . I'm a college student taking a Philosophy course (a requirement, but I'm glad I have to take it.) I think the class is phenomenal, thanks mainly to our professor.

Anyway, to conclude our examination of the question, "Does God exist, and if so, what are the implications of that?" we are going to do hold a mock trial. God is the defendant. The charge: "The high crime of allowing unspeakable evils to occur, which he could easily have prevented." Students can volunteer to be a witness, the judge, or to be part of the prosecution or defense. The rest of the class will compose the jury. Questions we are to consider:

What would you say if you were to prosecute God for allowing evil?
What would you say if you were to defend God for allowing evil?
What could be the strongest asset for the prosecution?
What could be the strongest asset for the defense?
What kind of witnesses would you pick if you were on part of the defense team? The prosecution?
If you were to cross-examine the witness for the defense, what would you ask him or her? A witness for the prosecution?
If you were to cross-examine the defendant (God), what would you ask him or her?

Keep in mind here, the "God" we are putting on trial is not specifically the Christian God. I suspect that's what this will turn into, because I do live in the Bible Belt. Nor are we looking at Scripture for the answers to these questions, because "the Bible says so" won't cut it for this particular exercise. We're looking for logical explanations for why an all-knowing, all-powerful God would allow evil to exist.

Personally, I struggle with faith. I do think that a higher power exists, and I was raised in a Christian household. When I decided at age 15 that I didn't want to attend church anymore, my mom didn't force me to go. (My mother is amazing. She's the most devout Christian I know, but knew well enough that forcing me to attend church wouldn't make me a believer. She doesn't push her faith on me.) The questions I listed above are ones that I constantly ask myself.

Anyways. I originally wanted to volunteer for the prosecution, mainly because there are several students in this class who fail to grasp what we're trying to do here and the basic nature of the class -- not just in this particular religious argument, but philosophy in general -- how to identify good and bad arguments, logical fallacies, etc. These students regularly piss me off, because they often hold up the class with questions that amount to, "I didn't do the readings. Can you explain this to me?" After a clear, concise explanation for the 1000th time: "I still don't get it." Some of these students are devout Christians, and I know they'll volunteer for the defense. These are the same students who, when we examine logical arguments against the existence of God, refuse to even participate rather than, you know, working to disprove the argument. Quite frankly, I want to tear them apart on the witness stand for ruining what is otherwise an enjoyable class for me. I know I'll be able to; I'm a pretty good debater, and one of two Criminal Justice majors in a class full of mostly freshman.

Now, I'm not so sure. I'm not really looking to disprove the existence of God, or find him guilty for crimes against humanity, or call all Christians idiots (idiots come in all shapes and forms, religious or not ) -- I just want to shut up a few obnoxious, ignorant students.

I'm thinking of volunteering for the defense instead. I think that side of the argument needs a logical voice rather than a couple of kids who believe in God because their parents told them to, or whose entire argument will be, "God works in ways that we sometimes don't understand." Not when there are a couple of very smart atheists in the class whom I know are itching to tear that argument to shreds.

I know I just raised about a thousands points of debate here, but... thoughts? Not necessarily on which side I should argue for, but about the trial itself? Which side would you take? What would you say? And for the love of God (or not, depending on what you believe), I beg all of you to be civil about it.
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Old 02-18-2007, 06:40 PM   #2
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Frankly, I wouldn't put "God" on trial, mainly because the alternative to "evil"--ending free will--is worse.

But it's an interesting topic nonetheless.
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Old 02-18-2007, 06:48 PM   #3
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Right on Ormus.
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Old 02-18-2007, 07:19 PM   #4
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Some of the questions do assume a Christian God. Karma would explain the "evil" He's being blamed for.
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Old 02-18-2007, 08:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ormus
Frankly, I wouldn't put "God" on trial, mainly because the alternative to "evil"--ending free will--is worse.
Not necessarily. Take the concept of "soul-building evil," one that can plausibly exist under an all-knowing, all-powerful God that allowed free will. Living through adversity strengthens our character and can make us better people -- the Civil Rights movement, scientific breakthroughs to cure terrible diseases, for just a few examples. How can we ever know virture without the existence of evil?

But that raises another question: are all evils of this "soul-building" sort? Suffering doesn't always make the victims stronger. It can make them a shell of a person, embitter them, or kill them. Just for an example, take a torture victim: even if he or she is in some sense made stronger by the ordeal, would the experience have been worth it? You could say that suffering causes its witnesses to become better people, but that isn't always the case either.

And are all evils soul-building? I'd say no; some evils are entirely unnecessary. I'll use two examples, one of a "moral" sort and one of a "natural" type: the Holocaust and the bubonic plague. A God that allowed free will could have intervened to make sure that Hitler was never conceived. The same goes for allowing a terrible disease to exist. I think it's possible for an all-knowing, all-powerful God to intervene in the world to prevent unspeakable acts of evil from occurring without impeding free will.

Then again, you could say that there were some benefits to those events (the kidnapping, imprisonment, torture, and murder of millions in one case and the death of a third of Europe in the other) that we can't see or possibly understand in this life. I have to admit, I don't know if I could ever accept that explanation.

So, more food for thought there.

And martha: using those examples, would karma really seem a satisfactory explanation?
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Old 02-18-2007, 09:07 PM   #6
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Guilty.
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Old 02-18-2007, 09:16 PM   #7
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From the perspective of my personal faith and understanding of God, the concept of a trial doesn't really work. I've tried to think of how to answer the questions, but it just doesn't make any sense. Interesting project though.
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Old 02-18-2007, 09:45 PM   #8
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Well, I suspect that my professor is trying to get us to examine these questions in a way that will be fun and interesting to us, rather than having the class get into a heated, name-calling debate that goes nowhere. I think any of the "prosecution" or "defense" questions can still be asked in a non-trial format.
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Old 02-18-2007, 10:03 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Allanah
And martha: using those examples, would karma really seem a satisfactory explanation?
Yes, to both examples.
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Old 02-18-2007, 10:25 PM   #10
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Philosophy could also be tried. I'd suggest you have it up next.

This is the second thread to make me think of the movie The Man who Sued God. The gist is a guy's boat (he's played by Billy Connolly) is destroyed when a storm blows through, and as a result he has nowhere to live. His insurance policy states it wont cover 'acts of God'. He naturally doesn't accept this and takes them to trial demanding the insurer proves that God exists - after all, they must have proof of the existance of such a God if their underwriters can put it in a legally binding document, right? So then the insurer has to get the church to prove God exists - which they naturally cannot do, and they get mighty pissed off. The insurance company look like giant arseholes because not only can none of them prove God exists, but they also cannot prove the storm which sunk his boat was because of God, either.

The movie will leave you with endless open-ended questions, and for me it was largely that humans place God and God concepts in things which are entirely a human construct and then we battle when it fails to meet what we set out for it. Take your average insurance policy of old which was underwritten to exclude Acts of God. Take world disasters. We all blame God, yet we can't actually humanly come to terms with it so easily. We introduced the idea - there's nothing in the bible about God fucking around with our lives for [insert reason here]. We get angry and blame an existance of, or use Him to justify something, but really, should we? Especially when there never has been one scrap of proof. We base so much on faith. A non tangible idea.

...I've changed my mind. can you suggest putting humankind on trial next? We're a bit thick, really. It's about time we answered to someone.
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Old 02-18-2007, 10:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by martha


Yes, to both examples.
Care to elaborate?
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Old 02-19-2007, 12:26 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Allanah
Not necessarily. Take the concept of "soul-building evil," one that can plausibly exist under an all-knowing, all-powerful God that allowed free will. Living through adversity strengthens our character and can make us better people -- the Civil Rights movement, scientific breakthroughs to cure terrible diseases, for just a few examples. How can we ever know virture without the existence of evil?
We wouldn't know virtue without evil. And, as I have posited before, "good" cannot exist without the presence of "evil," because we define "good" based on the reference of "evil." And, likewise, vice versa.

Quote:
But that raises another question: are all evils of this "soul-building" sort? Suffering doesn't always make the victims stronger. It can make them a shell of a person, embitter them, or kill them. Just for an example, take a torture victim: even if he or she is in some sense made stronger by the ordeal, would the experience have been worth it? You could say that suffering causes its witnesses to become better people, but that isn't always the case either.
That aside, does "God" take blame for that, or does humanity? Taking away the "option" or "ability" to torture, even in the slightest, would negate the concept of free will. It is obviously hoped and expected, however, that no one would choose to exercise that option.

Quote:
And are all evils soul-building? I'd say no; some evils are entirely unnecessary. I'll use two examples, one of a "moral" sort and one of a "natural" type: the Holocaust and the bubonic plague. A God that allowed free will could have intervened to make sure that Hitler was never conceived. The same goes for allowing a terrible disease to exist. I think it's possible for an all-knowing, all-powerful God to intervene in the world to prevent unspeakable acts of evil from occurring without impeding free will.
Your argument here is premised on the idea that people like Hitler are unique and one-of-a-kind in that if they had never been born, then the evil would have never taken place. Instead, I believe that, had Hitler never been born, another Nazi leader would have arose and become as hated as he, considering the popular sentiment of the time and place.

I believe, as such, that the reason that another "Hitler" did not arise after his death is because the post-WWII reconstruction attitude was a remarked shift from the vengeful and humiliating post-WWI attitude that led to Hitler's rise to power. Hopefully, we, as a global society, have learned our lessons from this era to make sure that the seeds of such extreme hatred can never rise again.

As for the Black Death, it has also been posited that the disease ultimately led to the future prosperity of Europe, as Europe was noted to have been heavily overpopulated by the 12th century A.D. That leads to another point of mine. Had the tensions and fears of the Cold War never existed, most of the technology of what we enjoy today--including the internet--would likely never have been created.

So there's a question worth posing: is "evil" always "bad"? Does "conflict" forge tomorrow's "progress"? WWII, as evil and devastating of a war it was, ended nearly two millennia of almost incessant conflict in Europe, and it's quite amazing to look at how peaceful the continent is today, compared to its turbulent history.

Frankly, I don't have a concrete answer to any of this; but, needless to say, I have pondered the "meaning of life" for many years now. And I guess that's why I still find questions like these to be quite interesting.
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Old 02-19-2007, 01:37 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by Allanah
Care to elaborate?
Yeah, but Melon pretty much explained my point.

With a very very very simple concept of karma, things happen to people because the people involved have a need for a lesson or an experience. This need, in this lifetime, comes from lessons, actions, and experiences in previous lifetimes.

To blame God, or in some way try to make Him "accountable" for our own actions and the effects of those actions, is pointless.


Frankly, I think the notion of the trial exercise seems a little simplistic and juvenile. Even from a Christian standpoint, which it so obviously comes from, a trial to hold God somehow "responsible" for things which humans can never even begin to fathom, is a bit ridiculous.
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Old 02-19-2007, 01:57 AM   #14
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Originally posted by martha

Frankly, I think the notion of the trial exercise seems a little simplistic and juvenile. Even from a Christian standpoint, which it so obviously comes from, a trial to hold God somehow "responsible" for things which humans can never even begin to fathom, is a bit ridiculous.
Believe me, if you sat in on one of my classes, you'd understand. A lot of the students are simplistic and juvenile. In just a few posts here, I've already heard better and more considered arguments on a fundamental philosophic question than I've heard from the students in two months of classes -- they like to spend half of the classes fighting with the professor over their quiz grades, saying "I still don't get the 'If p, then q' thing," and the like. I don't think that our professor (who's remained completely neutral on the subject, bless him) is necessarily trying to get us to put God on trial as he is trying to put the material in terms that they'll understand.

Sometimes the intelligence of the average American student frightens me, but I think that's a topic for another thread.
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Old 02-19-2007, 03:23 AM   #15
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Billy Connolly put God on trial once, didnt he?
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