SIO7: An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar…

Joining me today are that atheist and that Christian, and their names are Justin Schieber and Randal Rauser. Justin and Randal have written a book containing a very fruitful and respectful dialogue between an atheist and a Christian. Today they talk about the origins of the project and then were kind enough to go over one of the many arguments contained in the book! The argument is on the hostility of the universe and whether it makes sense under theism. There’s a very spirited back and forth that I encourage you to listen to!

You can find the book here.

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6 Replies to “SIO7: An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar…”

  1. Good discussion. Schieber’s argument reminds me of the beginning of C.S. Lewis’s Introduction to his book, The Problem of Pain:

    Not many years ago when I was an atheist, if anyone had asked me, “Why do you not believe in God?” my reply would have run something like this: “Look at the universe we live in. By far the greatest part of it consists of empty space, completely dark and unimaginably cold. The bodies which move in this space are so few and so small in comparison with the space itself that even if every one of them were known to be crowded as full as it could hold with perfectly happy creatures, it would still be difficult to believe that life and happiness were more than a bye-product to the power that made the universe. As it is, however, the scientists think it likely that very few of the suns of space – perhaps none of them except our own – have any planets; and in our own system it is improbable that any planet except the Earth sustains life. And Earth herself existed without life for millions of years and may exist for millions more when life has left her. And what is it like while it lasts? It is so arranged that all the forms of it can live only by preying upon one another. In the lower forms this process entails only death, but in the higher there appears a new quality called consciousness which enables it to be attended with pain. The creatures cause pain by being born, and live by inflicting pain, and in pain they mostly die. In the most complex of all the creatures, Man, yet another quality appears, which we call reason, whereby he is enabled to foresee his own pain which henceforth is preceded with acute mental suffering, and to foresee his own death while keenly desiring permanence. It also enables men by a hundred ingenious contrivances to inflict a great deal more pain than they otherwise could have done on one another and on the irrational creatures. This power they have exploited to the full. Their history is largely a record of crime, war, disease, and terror, with just sufficient happiness interposed to give them, while it lasts, an agonised apprehension of losing it, and, when it is lost, the poignant misery of remembering. Every now and then they improve their condition a little and what we call a civilisation appears. But all civilisations pass away and, even while they remain, inflict peculiar sufferings of their own probably sufficient to outweigh what alleviations they may have brought to the normal pains of man. That our own civilisation has done so, no one will dispute; that it will pass away like all its predecessors is surely probable. Even if it should not, what then? The race is doomed. Every race that comes into being in any part of the universe is doomed; for the universe, they tell us, is running down, and will sometime be a uniform infinity of homogeneous matter at a low temperature. All stories will come to nothing: all life will turn out in the end to have been a transitory and senseless contortion upon the idiotic face of infinite matter. If you ask me to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.”

  2. I predicted how this conversation would go from the start. I did find it particularly interesting because apologists just make stuff up to suit their argument. It’s like when two kids are playing cops and robbers and one kid clearly shoots the other with a Nerf bullet and the other says, “I am wearing an invisible bullet proof vest.” Then the other says, “Well, I will cut it off with my Nerf knife.” Then the other kid says, “Its Nerf knife proof as well.” And on it goes.
    At some point, the tete-a-tete becomes meaningless.

  3. Justin Schieber is sorely missed in the atheist podcasting community, I just don’t follow Youtube videos the same way I can audio formats. It was a great conversation, thanks for hosting it Thomas!

    The fail to see how Randal Rauser’s argument is not a “Mysterious Ways” argument or how it could possibly be adapted to a specific god. It barely works with a vague Deistic god. Unless we just choose to believe god has his “reasons” and will omit or lie about what he/she/they want from us and the Universe.

    Yahweh for example, just wanted his people to make him some BBQ (Literally just fatty meat burnt on an altar), but we should believe he really has some good reason to care about us and all the burn Hydrogen balls out there?

  4. Had a similar experience during listening. At point Randall says in response to Justin. ‘I can think of a perfectly good reason God would made it like this’. Well that’s good for you Randall. Its just that the fact whether you can think of a reason ( ad hoc rationality) or can’t think of a reason (fallacy from ignorance) doesn’t inform us in anyway whether it actually coforms with reality.

  5. And Justin points out that 99.99% of the universe is totally instant death.
    Now I think he has the number wrong. It is more close to 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999% of the universe is inhospitable to us. It is interesting to hear how Randall totally steps over this. It just doesn’t matter to him, which makes kind of sence I guess, since the mindset ‘God made it that way’ fits ANYTHING.
    But on Earth even: there are millions of species. What makes you think it’s us God intended to make. Perhaps it is ants what it really is all about. Ants have complex societies and communicate using chemicals. Their chemical equivalent of our bible probably put them at the pinnacle of creation. And we are just the ‘large stuff’ God made. The crawly creepy things are what matters

  6. At the beginning of the episode they both kind of made straw man arguments regarding the arguments against Philosophy of religion in acadamia.

    Their arguments weren’t valid.

    For example they claim you need to use the philophy of religion to point out you don’t need the philosophy of religion.

    The point of the argument (THe main point of people like Loftus is) that they avoided was “it should not be in Academia”.

    There is nothing wrong with philosophy of religion, and there is nothing wrong with calling it philosophy.

    But consider whether there should be a philosophy of the tooth fairy in academia? No? Then why philosophy of religion.

    Didn’t you feel the back and forth was just weird between the two of them. The Christian argues for a god (With LOaded language), then accuses Justin of using “Loaded Language”.

    But.. But.. But, you have no way to know the mind of god he says…

    Well no shit, thats why it shouldn’t be in academia.

    Their entire discussion is the equivalent of arguing how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

    God exists and here’s why.

    No actually on the theory of god we would expect this to be like that which is what we see.

    No, you can’t know what to expect from a god.


    Because you are both talking out of your asses about hypothetical scenarios like arm chair quarterbacks.

    It will never get past this level of ASS Talk, because there is no THERE there to clarify.

    Which is why Loftus’s argument has merit.

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