Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw and experienced the unmistakable face of pain and suffering during the reign of Nazism in Germany. During his time at Berlin-Tegel Bonhoeffer exchanged letters and wrote notes that are now known as Letters and Papers from Prison. It is in these letters and notes Bonhoeffer explored the problem of pain and suffering. His address of human suffering does not flow from a philosophical armchair reflection as a passive observer but rather that of a deeply moved spectator. It is for that reason we do not find any classical defenses such as of John Hick’s Soul-making theodicy and Alvin Plantinga’s freewill-defense in his writings.
Bonhoeffer’s solution to the problem of pain and suffering, to which I concisely introduced, was crafted during his solitary confinement ward at Berlin-Tegel Military Detention Center where Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for his participation in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler. Tegel was the place where he spent his last eighteen months. He was executed on April 9th 1945.
What can Christianity offer in times of prevailing evil? God, in Christianity, according Bonhoeffer, is not deus ex machine, a being that mechanical appears to solve our insoluble problems. He is not a being that we evoke as an explanation of unexplainable due to our epistemic limitation. He is not a being that we call upon to offer us strength in are powerless and weakness moments. No. If Christian God was such a being, then He is no longer needed in the world that is “coming of age”. We are beginning to finally solve our problems. Such a God is “pushed further away and thus is ever on the retreat” (Bonhoeffer 2010: 408-9) Continue reading
“Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind,” rhetorically asked Charles Darwin, “if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (Darwin 1881) In Darwin’s July 3rd 1881 letter to William Graham, we encounter a problem of epistemological uncertainty of our cognitive faculties. Darwin believed that Graham had accurately portrayed his conviction that “the Universe [was] not the result of chance.” He further explained,
“But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy”(ibid.).
Darwin’s unpleasant doubt is the incarnation of the Cartesian malignant Demon. In evolutionary biology, Rene Descartes’ malignant demon took on flesh and dwelt among us. This malignant demon is an “exceedingly potent and deceitful” being that “has employed all his artifice to deceive” us to believe that we are experiencing an external world while in actual reality we are experiencing “nothing better than the illusions of dreams” (Descartes 1901, 224). Deceitfulness and falseness came through malignant Demon. Continue reading
Is it immoral to deliberately end the life of a fetus? This is a philosophical question that tackles the ethics of abortion. This philosophical question demands philosophical answer(s). Before I attempt to answer this question, another basic question that is behind this question must also be answered; what exactly makes it immoral to kill one of us on most occasions? From such explorations I presented three philosophical arguments explaining why I believe abortion, on most occasions, is immoral.
This short essay presented three brief explanations on what makes killing one of us wrong. Those explanations, I will argue, are equally applicable to the killing of fetuses. In this essay I assumed that my readers agree that killing of a suicidal teenager or a revisable comatose patient is wrong. Thus, though a suicidal teenager may currently have no strong desire to live, or a revisable comatose patient may at a certain period be totally unconscious of both her inner self and her outside surroundings, it is immoral to deliberately and unjustifiably end their lives.
An adequate explanation for what exactly makes it immoral to kill one of us, thus, must cover the killing of those who currently have no strong desire to live and also those who are temporary unconscious. The following three explanations cover such cases. Continue reading
I believe you have a mind of your own. I believe a bottle of water can only spinning in one direction at any give time. I believe a bottle of water cannot be full and empty at the same time. I believe that an unsupported bottle of water falls. These beliefs I hold implicitly without cognitive reflection. These beliefs spontaneously develop without special cultural indoctrination. They are maturational natural1 beliefs. Are universal religious2 ideas also maturational natural beliefs?
Preponderance of scientific evidence emerging from cognitive science of religion suggests our answer to this question is yes. Beliefs about the nature and existence of God(s), dualism, afterlife, moral realism &c., are not explicitly cultural indoctrinated ideas. They are intuitive innate implicit beliefs (Bering 2006). Jesse Bering, representing many cognitive scientists, argued that “belief is a ‘cognitive default’ and that, all else being equal, in any given cultural context religious beliefs are driven into expression by a universal, evolved, core set of psychological intuitions present in all normal human brains”(Bering 2010: 167)
Our cognitive faculties have naturally evolved to hold particular mental predispositions. We enter our first day of life with a natural implanted universal cognitive, motivation and perceptual biases. These biases predispose us to foster native instinctive and implicit beliefs of supernatural3. These biases, thus, aid us to effortlessly hold supernatural beliefs. Continue reading
I am so good at being so wrong. For a long period of time, I was not persuaded by the argument from innate desire for the existence of the transcend beings. Even though I deserted atheistic worldview 6 years ago, I am incapable of completely breaking free from the philosophical ghosts of my past. The shekels of empiricism and positivism are still strongly intervened in my Christian worldview.
David Hume, whose philosophy I strongly followed, captured how I went about evaluating whether a particular argument was persuasive when he wrote,
When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?” No. “Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?” No. Commit it then to the flames. For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (Hume 2000: 123)
I committed the arguments from desire to the flames. In Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis presented one of the versions of this argument that I rejected. Lewis contended that creatures possess innate desires that correspond to their satisfaction. Creatures possess some of innate desires that finds none of their satisfaction in this world. Therefore, it is probable that there is another world beyond this world. He argued, Continue reading
Imagine for a second that there is no God. Imagine God is dead. What would we expect our world to look like if God did not exist? Based on this idea a brilliant, young Irish economist by the name of Robert Nielsen has presented an interesting, but ultimately unpersuasive case in his article World Without God. Nielsen states that this argument in the foundation for his atheism. I hope to test his case below:
I could say many things about Nielsen’s article, but I would like to focus exclusively on his main argument which is as follows¹:
1. a. If God existed & control the world, then our world would exhibit features A.
b. If God existed & control the world, then our world would not exhibit features B.
2. a. Our world does not exhibit features A.
b. Our world does exhibit features B
Nielsen defends premises 1 and 2 as follows: If God controls our world then we would expect our world to exhibit certain features A. These features include those of a perfect world. He argues, “its fair to assume that it would be perfect (assuming God can do anything and loves us).” A perfect world is that without hunger, without fear, without diseases or disasters. In short it would be the world without pain and suffering. This is not enough for Nielsen. God must also be self-evident, not hidden from His creatures, thus creating no possibility of religious confusion. Our world needs to be a paradise, or something close. Continue reading
The logical problem of evil is dead. This is the general status of the once loved argument against the existence of an omnicompetent God in academia. The idea that existence of evil is incompatible with the existence of God is dying.
This page collects verdicts of prominent philosophers who deem that the logical problem of evil dead, after the contribution of Nelson Pike and Alvin Plantinga. The aim is to bring awareness to those who are not familiar with philosophical status of the deductive argument from evil in academia.
J. L. Mackie On Plantinga’s Free Will Defense:
“[S]ince this defence is formally possible, and its principle involves no real abandonment of our ordinary view of the opposition between good and evil, we can concede that the problem of evil does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another.”(Mackie 1982: 154) Continue reading