Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able ? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing ? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both willing and able ? Then whence cometh evil ?

Is he neither able nor willing ? Then why call him God ?


Any thoughts ?

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BTW: Ramachandran, Sapolsky and Sacks don't individually single out Aquinas, they generalise to include practically all religious visionaries throughout history, including present day religious leaders. It's Aquinas's life story and accounts of his visions/voices that declare him to have temporal lobe damage of some form when diagnosed at
a neurological level.

I and my colleagues are aiming to push this stream publicly to force public awareness of the power of such brain damage and it's implications for belief in superstitions, such as religions.

We hope to achieve the outcome of having religion to be confined to the same level of consideration in our society as Astrology and Numerology, where it belongs.

Thus our hammering this topic in forums and public sites around the globe, in the name of public awareness.
I believe all atheists should brush up on this neurological aspect of superstitious belief and use it publicly as well.

It would do the world good to come to a realization that all superstitions are brain malfunction based concepts.

OK, so you have verified that you were making it up when you claimed that V.S. Ramachandran, Oliver Sacks, Robert Sapolski diagnosed Aquinas as having a neurological disorder. Whatever the case, you are presenting a purely ad hominem argument. Aquinas' work speaks for itself, and historians of Christianity are in broad agreement as to the immense effects of his work on the evolution of Christian theology. There is also a very powerful case, which I have already alluded to, that Aquinas stimulated the development of Western rationalism and helped advance the process that eventually led to Western science and technology. Call him crazy, but he did a lot more to advance civilization than most people. 

Three of my favorites. V.S. Ramachandran, Oliver Sacks, Robert Sapolsky. Their questions tickly my imagination, and then when they do their research, they make sense. They are so different in personality. You really have a way of presenting reminders of exhilarating reading. 

It has always seemed to me that Epicurus's riddle is the simplest way to raise the main problem of theodicy—how do you justify the belief in a good and just god in the presence of manifest evil? The standard Christian answer is that this world is a test and that the balance toward good is restored in the promised afterlife. To answer that there is Ingersoll's little verse:

Happiness is the only good.

The place to be happy is here.

The time to be happy is now.

The way to be happy is to make others so.

This was the basis of a remarkable essay by John Leslie Mackie, and it is known today as "the argument from evil" in the growing arsenal of answers for people who ask, "Why are you an atheist."  It is my all-time favorite argument against the existence of God.  No believer can counter it.  Alvin Carl Plantinga smugly responded by saying that nothing's wrong with God, it is man who chooses to be evil. God gave man freedom of choice.  Let me answer for Mackie: "If God allows man to choose evil, why didn't God make sure man would always choose to be good." Nuff said.

I don't know, the argument from evil has always stuck in my craw. It works great when you assume a beneficent god, but some religions see their god(s) as morally neutral. They created teh universe, they rule the universe, but they permit the exercise of evil as a human failing. There are lots of variations on the concept, but the Indian idea of karma, or the Indonesian idea of tanagadalang, reflect this thinking.

By the way, when I discuss these ideas, I'm not endorsing them; I treat them in the way that a mathematician might treat some alternate logical universe that doesn't actually exist, but still has logical properties that perhaps consistent. An example would be N-dimensional universes, although these are logically more feasible than any of the religious universes.

Do you suppose a scientist goes into a question with the intention of proving his/her hypothesis is correct? 

Most scientists, being human, do bring expectations to their research, but they respect the requirement to be objective, and so they're pretty good at attacking their own ideas. They know that, if they don't anticipate every possible line of attack, somebody else will do it for them -- in public. But that doesn't stop them from hoping in their hearts to obtain a particular result.

Good response! As a sidenote, it is interesting to note Darwin's view on this. He expressed it in an 1861 letter:

About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember somone saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit anc count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!

However, Darwin did, just as you say, anticipate every possible line of attack, beginning with Chapter VI Difficulties of the Theory in The Origin of Species. Thus with Darwin we have a perfect example of both of your points.

Scientific study starts from the formation of a hypothesis and proceeds to test it by observation, making necessary revisions in the light of that observation.

I wish more people would read Darwin. While his books are long, the text flows smoothly and his tone is so civilized and reasonable that it is a pleasure to read.

Truth Chris: There is no such thing as 'EVIL'.
Evil things and people don't exist.
The nearest thing to 'Evil' in human psychology are psychopaths.
This is a neurological disorder of the limbic (empathy) system which in most cases is treatable by medication,
If the condition in serious cases (extreme or potentially dangerous psychopaths) is diagnosed early enough, they are completely treatable and never evolve to becoming mythically evil.
Their mirror neurons simply don't work properly and they cannot understand empathy towards others.
It is a form of autism which may be acquired at birth or through brain damage.
Many autistic people have this issue, but rarely do they become dangerous because of their inability to understand empathy.

From a scientific viewpoint, neither 'EVIL' nor 'SIN' exist as a real concern.
There are only brain damaged people.
Mild psychopaths are often the people who drive businesses to success but upset their staff and competitors with their lack of care and remorse for their decisions.
Some of these are not due to problems in their neural network, but simply attitudes that have been embedded/indoctrinated into them by their environment, parents or culture.
These psychopaths are being reduced by better education and development of a stronger, more ethical, care based social fabric.
The kind of social fabric we humanists are trying to sustain.
So, there truly is NO SUCH THING AS EVIL!

@Dr. Allan H. Clark, thank you for the quote from Robert G.Ingersoll, 'Variant', as it appears on a manuscript copy he jotted down for a fan (26 March 1897)"
I happily reconnected with Ingersoll's writings and here is another of his jewels:

"The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth, that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others. It was the first grand assertion of the dignity of the human race. It declared the governed to be the source of power, and in fact denied the authority of any and all gods. Through the ages of slavery — through the weary centuries of the lash and chain, God was the acknowledged ruler of the world. To enthrone man, was to dethrone God."
~ Robert G. Ingersoll, Individuality (1873).
Thank you!

Another great Ingersoll quote to put in my file!

About twenty years ago I found a small photograph card of Ingersoll at a book fair in New York City. The dealer had no idea whose portrait it was and I got it for very little. I had it framed and added that verse in a window below. It hangs on my stairwell where I pass it every time I go up and down.




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