Theodicies. Have the Christians any answers to the problem of evil? (Page 2)

MadLinguist1
MadLinguist1: Thunder does not happen because of some foreign God called Zeus!

Norsemen did know Constantinople tho!

And Plenty of other Places!

No, Thunder happens because Thor bangs his Hammer!

Everybody knows that!

Thorrs Hamarr!

Ja!

Dansk-Svansk-Norsk-Islensk!


And enough dissing Pagans!

Ir's your Monotheism that's Rubbish!

We don't do Crusades!

We don't do Wars of Religion!

We don't do 'Holy' Inquisition!

We don't let Popes and Priests brainwash us!
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MadLinguist1
MadLinguist1: Finsk, I will add, for good Measure!
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MadLinguist1
MadLinguist1: I like Stuff that the Fanatics don't like, eg the Book of Ecclesiastes!

Wisdom of King Solomon!

Qoheleth!


Oy VEY!

Iz shver, mayne Kinderlekh!

Shver tsu zayn a Yid!

O Woe!

Tis hard, my Children!

Hard to be a Jew!

But there's a Joy to being a Jew all the same!
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JX Amaro
JX Amaro:
@Madlinguist1: Your claim that the Morgenthau Plan was aimed only at economic destruction and not genocide might be correct, and I might have swallowed some bogus information on that. Until I can verify that the Morgenthau Plan as a genocide attempt from quality sources I will withdraw the claim.

And sorry if I offended Mighty Zeus or Thor!!!

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harpalycus47
harpalycus47: JX The whole thing has become so fragmented and complex that I think the only way to go is a thematic one. Answer each separate question one at a time.

It has not gone without note that you have made no attempt at answering the question posed. We can come to that in the course of time. Instead, you have concentrated on an attack on atheism, making a singularly important claim in so doing.

So, the first theme I would like to address is the validity of this claim, an interesting one I have never come across before.
Therefore, I have put all my responses that lie within the parameters of that claim below, for you to answer or question as fit, each with its previous posts to give the necessary context.
I hope that we will get the chance to answer the other questions that have appeared in the exchange in due course.
Should you like to start a new thread on a different area of the debate, that will be fine.

I apologise for the time taken, but I had quite a bit of research to do.

THE GREEK WAR ON ATHEISM DEBATE.

JX 1 You quote from the much beloved Epicurus … The question he asked wasn't a “leading question” meant to lead to Atheism. The Hellenists thought the Atheist a madman.

H 1a Total irrelevance. The question is the same question however it was framed and for whatever purpose.

JX 2.1 On Epicurus being a theist, not an atheist. H47: “Total irrelevancy.” It's totally relevant.

H.2.1 An argument should stand on its own, the beliefs, character or purposes of its author should be irrelevant. Even if you have reason to believe that prejudice could have resulted in omission or equivocation this would need to be demonstrated. Not to do this is the very definition of an ad hominem argument. Besides which Epicurus (as well as his follower Lucretius), though he accepted that gods exist, regarded them as examples for men, but having no interest in the world of humanity. Thus, he regarded belief in providence as superstition and religious ritual of no effect (Letter to Menoecus). He also taught that ataraxia (the state of balance and tranquillity sought by Epicureans) was to be gained by the elimination of fear of the gods and fear of death, for which he saw no afterlife. So exactly how his own religious opinions have any bearing on the problem of suffering with respect to the personal God of Christian theism seems somewhat obscure.

JX 2.2 It demonstrates that the Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism. The Apology of Socrates is precisely that he believes in God and merely asks annoying questions to demonstrate that people usually don't know what they are talking about. This becomes an overture to the project of philosophy – Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno and even Aristippus of Cyrene. Anyone who reads Greek philosophy and doesn't recognize that the whole thing is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil has missed everything.

H 2.2 The whole of Greek philosophy is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil? Well, that I absolutely challenge. I have found no overarching attempt to squash atheism. Not a trace. I think some appropriate evidence needs to be given, and it will need to be substantial for such a monumental claim.

JX 2.3 If you disagree with this statement, feel free to read the dialogue Gorgias. It is the “denial of evil” that makes the atheist a “madman” in the classical mind. The Greeks knew, damn well, just where atheism leads. That's what this discussion is really about.

H 2.3a No, actually the discussion is about a good God and the existence of suffering.
I have read Gorgias, and don’t recall anything about squashing atheism. It begins as a debate about oratory and ends up with the famous, ‘it is better to suffer than to cause suffering’ and ‘it is better to be punished than not to be punished’. I have just checked it and find that there is no mention of atheism, belief, disbelief or worship. I know of no great problem with atheism (the charges against Socrates were a cover for a political trial) and can find no trace of the atheist as madman. In fact, please cite any texts that you have that state this seemingly all but universal belief.

JX 2.4 The Greeks knew, damn well, just where atheism leads. That's what this discussion is really about.

H 2.4a My understanding of Classical religion, at least the public religion as practised by the state, is that nobody cared what a person thought, only what they did. So long as they made the appropriate sacrifices, that was all the gods demanded. Consider the Christian persecutions. If the accused sacrificed to the emperor, they went free. The number of atheists, if any (don’t forget Christians were termed atheists by the authorities as they denied the official gods) was very small.


H 2.4b People frequently fail to consider that there is a fundamental split between modern world views, shaped by centuries of Christian belief and those of the Classical world. It is necessary to recognise that morality and religion are not necessarily interdependent, as can be seen by any reading of the Ancient Greek mythos. The Gods are powerful and need placation and worship, but are certainly not moral. They may make diktats about social behaviour but not from within a moral paradigm. Questions of morality are for men, like Socrates, to determine, which is why there was debate and not reference to scripture.

H 2.4c “The tenuous connection between (im)morality and (a)theism can be explained by two foundational aspects of Greek theology. The first is that the gods are not consistently presented as moral arbiters, and the second is that there was no doctrine of a theological or moral nature. First, the Greek gods did not consistently act as enforcers or arbiters of moral behaviour. In the cognitive sciences, Ara Norenzayan et al have hypothesised that theists in religious societies connect morality and religion and believe that theists are more moral (and atheists less) because the gods are believed to be prescribing and enforcing moral rules, and failing to believe in the gods would therefore mean an individual would lack the deterrent against immorality. If gods are moral agents, then unbelieving in them means lack of a moral compass, and if the gods require moral behaviour then unbelief means lack of a moral paradigm. As Baumard and Boyer have observed, the assumption that the gods are moral agents is a key part of this hypothesis, which cannot be easily sustained in the ancient world.”
Godless Greece: atheism in Greek society. James Christopher Ford. p 93.
https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/3009604/1/200646496_Sept2017.pdf

H 2.4d The juxtaposition of atheism and immorality (as, for example in Euripides’ Helen, the correlation of terms - betrayer, faithless, lawless, godless) seems rather to be adding atheism to the pejorative mix, rather than demonstrating that atheism causes these failings. Otherwise, would it be necessary to add them? It can obviously be argued that they are there for aesthetic balance, but it cannot be held as evidence that atheism was believed to be the progenitor of immorality.

H 2.4e That the two were seen to be separate, consider the Athenians’ blatant ‘might is right’ defence of their destruction of Melos. ‘When you speak of the favour of the gods, we may as fairly hope for that as yourselves; neither our pretensions nor our conduct being in any way contrary to what men believe of the gods, or practise among themselves. Of the gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a necessary law of their nature they rule wherever they can. And it is not as if we were the first to make this law, or to act upon it when made: we found it existing before us, and shall leave it to exist for ever after us; all we do is to make use of it, knowing that you and everybody else, having the same power as we have, would do the same as we do. Thus, as far as the gods are concerned, we have no fear and no reason to fear that we shall be at a disadvantage.’ Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War. Book 5. Ch XVII.

H 2.4f There is evidence that the causal direction could be regarded as the very opposite of this. Consider, for example, Thucydides’ account of the dreadful plague of 430BC. ‘Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them. As for the first, they judged it to be just the same whether they worshipped them or not, as they saw all alike perishing; and for the last, no one expected to live to be brought to trial for his offences, but each felt that a far severer sentence had been already passed upon them all and hung ever over their heads, and before this fell it was only reasonable to enjoy life a little.’ Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War. Book 2. Ch VII.


H 2.4g Certainly, Plato did consider that the two were clearly related. Socrates, in the Theatus, states, ‘Two patterns, my friend, are set up in the world, the divine, which is most blessed, and the godless, which is most wretched.’ But the real Socrates cannot be safely disentangled From the Socrates who is Plato’s mouthpiece, and Plato’s philosophic God is very different from the popular communal gods.

H2.4h And even Plato who considered belief in the gods to be necessary for a just society (But who wasn’t above banning stories of the gods that he felt were bad examples and even creating ‘noble lies’ about them for the people’s edification) wrote:
‘For he who does not believe in the Gods, and yet has a righteous nature, hates the wicked and dislikes and refuses to do injustice, and avoids unrighteous men, and loves the righteous.’ (Laws Book X. 908b-c) ‘ (Laws Book X. 908b-c). Hardly a madman and there seems to be no contradiction with him being able to do this without a belief in a moral structure given and supported by the gods.

H 2.4i Instead, “while some people viewed atheism as mistaken, it was rarely seen as morally wrong. In fact, it was usually tolerated as one of a number of viewpoints that people could adopt on the subject of the gods.” https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/disbelieve-it-or-not-ancient-history-suggests-that-atheism-is-as-natural-to-humans-as-religion.

H 2.4j Have you any evidence at all? I trust you will provide enlightenment.

JX 3.1 When dealing with Epicurus and the Epicureans, we see H47 pulling up to the zen atheist Burger King and turning into the “have Reality your way” drive thru. Zonk! Going on that the epicureans didn't believe in an afterlife or religious rituals and believed in artful living aimed at ataraxia is like the magician saying, “Hey everybody, now look at the birdie or my beautiful assistant in skimpy clothes!” In short, misdirection.

H 3.1 They didn’t believe in an afterlife and religious rituals and taught that the gods had no interest in mankind. So, they weren’t exactly in the personal loving god theist mould. Which is what I was demonstrating. It was not misdirection. Misdirection from what? And why?

JX 3.2 The facts: Epicureanism is a theistic philosophy. Serious atheists admit this. Amateur atheists don't. Sorry H47, I'm not going to let you hide out at Epicurus' swanky garden soiree.

H 3.2a Theism is one of those vague words. It can mean simply belief in a god, or even gods, but more specifically it has connotations of belief in a ‘personal’ god with whom one can have a relationship. i.e. ‘belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe.’ So, I would dispute Epicureans are theists. Not that it makes a whit of difference either way.

H 3.2b You say, Epicureans can talk about evil. Atheists can't. How can you possibly justify that? I don’t have to believe in a concept to discuss it. That is sheer nonsense, as are the terms serious and amateur. Perhaps define them?

H 3.2c Perhaps you ought to clarify the meaning of serious atheism is “beyond good and evil” as well. A touch of Nietzsche in the night? I can make a good guess as to what you’re hinting at, but I would rather it came clearly from your own mouth.

JX 3.3 Most people who consider themselves “atheists” and who reject the “denial of evil” and the “denial of moral good” and actually do believe in moral decency I suspect are really agnostics and/or philosophical theists who just haven't thought these things through.

H 3.3 What makes you suspect that they are NOT atheists? And what is the idea of a philosophical atheist who hasn’t thought things through? The very antithesis of a philosopher I would have thought.

JX 3.4 Real atheism is the abyss of a meaningless universe. Total black. Total nothing. Totally devoid of light.

H 3.4 Well, I’m a real atheist and I don’t see any black abyss. Perhaps you ought to get out more.

JX 3.5 When dealing with Plato's dialogues, H47 shows such a level of ignorance one has to wonder if he really is that dumb or just lying. I'll leave that for others to decide. For now, I will just unpack the dialogues and make a couple points.

H3.5a Oh dear no, wouldn’t dream of it. Please show clearly what my level of ignorance is, how dumb I am or in what way I am lying. Then others won’t have to decide. They can see for themselves the ignorance, the stupidity and the lies. For example, you have cited two Socratic dialogues in support of your contention that the Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism. Neither of them provide any support at all. Or, if I have missed it, please show the relevant text(s)

JX3.5b The Apology of Socrates is precisely that he believes in God and merely asks annoying questions to demonstrate that people usually don't know what they are talking about. This becomes an overture to the project of philosophy – Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno and even Aristippus of Cyrene. Anyone who reads Greek philosophy and doesn't recognize that the whole thing is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil has missed everything.

H 3.5b What, pray, is the significance of the named philosophers. Apart from making impiety a crime, and the and recognising that atheists could be honourable people, Plato has little to say about atheism, though see H 2.4g above, Aristotle’s beliefs tended more towards deism than theism and I can find no trace of him regarding atheism as a danger. Zeno of Citium was pretty much a pantheist and once more, with a distinct lack of any meaningful comments about the atheist peril, while why Aristippus was mentioned is beyond me, as we have none of his writings.

JX 3.6 Before Plato's Academy, there were the pre-socratics. They dispensed with the gods as the cause of all things and looked for natural explanations.

H3.6a I am not aware that they DISPENSED with the gods as the cause of all things. They certainly looked for material explanations, but both Anaximander and Anaxamenes actually spoke of gods (Whitmarch p57) and we have nothing to suggest Thales was an atheist.

H 3.6b There has been a modern suggestion that the Milesian school’s use of the term theos was without religious significance. But there is no evidence of this then or now. As Etienne Gilson wrote, ‘very few words have a more distinctly religious connotation that the word ‘god’ … every one is entitled to interpret the sentence ‘all things are full of gods’ as meaning that there is not a single god in anything, but the least that can be said of it is that it is a rather bold interpretation.’ (Thrower p16).

JX 3.7 Very quickly, this opened Pandora's Box. Many of these thinkers became atheists and tried to mislead the youth of Athens into atheism.

H 3.7 How many? Here’s a thing. How many Greek atheists can you name between c625BC (the birth of Thales, regarded as the first philosopher) and 31BC (the Battle of Actium which marked the end of the free Hellenistic world). Six hundred years. I’ll bet you that you will be hard- pressed to reach twenty, and most of those will be controversial. Not a lot to make it the focus of such desperate attention.

JX 3.8 And this is the charge Meletus is making (falsely) against Socrates to put him to death?

H 3.8 Exactly what was the charge? That there were lots of atheists trying to corrupt the youth of Athens?
The charges did not even include atheism. The charge was impiety (asebeia), an extremely nebulous concept. Specifically, in the Apology the charges are of "corrupting the youth" and "not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other daimonia that are novel" to Athens. This is confirmed in Xenophon’s Memorabilia. Now there’s a strange thing, he wasn’t even an atheist. Moreover, the trial has been credibly linked to Socrates’ connection with Critias and the Thirty Tyrants, particularly his relationship with the notorious Alcibiades and the political and social trauma of the Peloponnesian war. See, for example, Robin Waterfield’s Why Socrates Died.

JX 3.9 These facts – clear and self-evident and not “between the lines” inferences – can be ascertained simply by reading The Apology. This isn't even disputable.

H 3.9 Not even disputable? The hell it isn’t. I’ve read the Apology. There is nothing there. Socrates does accuse Meletus of thinking he must be prosecuting Anaxagoras as he accuses Socrates of saying the sun is a stone and the moon earth. But that’s it.
Now, where are all these clear and self -evident and ‘not between the lines’ inferences that are indisputable. I can’t find them. Perhaps, as in so much else, you could give me the appropriate texts?

JX 3.10 On the cited article: An article written in contemporary times – no doubt written by people wanting to find their own conclusions – is of zero evidentiary value compared to writings from the times of the event. Also, note the slippery phrase “usually tolerated”!!! “Usually,” by definition, means not always. “Tolerated,” by definition, means allowing for something unpleasant. So yes, Athens “usually tolerated” atheists, but: a) sometimes they didn't; and b) the common people generally despised the atheists. (In the dialogues, you find out why.)

H 3.10 It is sensible to use all sources with caution, but this degree of unwarranted suspicion seems somewhat prejudicial.
Actually, secondary sources do have evidentiary value. Less than primary sources and need to be used with caution (as indeed should all sources) but they do have value. If you would like to argue the point please do, because there isn’t a single primary source in the gospels.
Usually is not a slippery phrase, more poisoning the well, it is a sensible qualification. Would you like to tell me that every single word in your posting is spelt correctly?
Primary source evidence for those claims, if you would.

JX 3.11 Plato's dialogues are – as a whole – essentially derivative to the trial of Socrates.

H 3.11 I’m not certain what you mean here. Do you mean that Plato’s dialogues (I won’t comment on that slippery phrase, as a whole) derive from or are based on the trial of Socrates?
In what way do you mean that? That they are part of some overall plan that is ultimately dependant upon the trial? What?

JX 3.12 The project of the Academy, as a whole, was to establish a new view of reality that: a) acknowledged the “fabulous stories” of Olympus as untrue; and b) argued the belief in a creator God was true (Aristotle's “unmoved mover”).

H 3.12a And there’s me thinking the Academy was a place of teaching and debate.
Where is the evidence that:
a. It was specifically founded to create a new view of reality.
b. one of its purposes was to show the Athenians that their myths and beliefs were untrue (that would have been singularly unpopular)
c. To argue that the belief in a creator god was true – that it was actually founded to do that!

H 3.12b In the Timaeus the world is created by the demiurge. The supreme God is the One, who somehow creates the demiurge. ‘The Monad emanated the demiurge or Nous (consciousness) from its "indeterminate" vitality due to the monad being so abundant that it overflowed back onto itself, causing self-reflection’ whatever the dickens that means. Whatever, it’s not a simple single monadic god. In fact, Plato is polytheistic. For example, the planets are divine souls or gods. Nor does God create everything. It is limited by flaws inherent in material, so it is not a creator in any absolute sense.

JX 3.13 This is “the God of the Philosophers.” (And according to St Paul, this “Unknown God of Athens” was the “Known God of Israel” – see Acts 17.)

H 3.13 Now this I must see. Where is the evidence that the unknown God can be equated to Aristotle’s God of the philosophers? I know of absolutely NONE!

JX 3.14 When reading Plato, you have to fill out the “dramatis personae”; and, to some to degree, you have to read between the lines. For example, in The Republic, Socrates begins by debating Thrasymachus who makes a typical might-makes-right type of argument. To be fair, I don't believe Plato clearly identifies Thrasymachus as an atheist, but you have to be amazingly dull-witted not to pick up on this. For Thrasymachus, you can just as well read Herbert Spencer, the atheist social-darwinist philosopher. Duhh... This isn't hard to figure out.

H 3.14 Damn right that Plato doesn’t identify him as an atheist.
Spoiler alert. We’re going to be fed unevidenced guff, and that’s not good, because if someone doesn’t believe it, they’ve been labelled dull-witted in advance. That’s a sign it’s going to be even more nonsensical than normal.
Oh, so Thrasybulos is effectively Herbert Spencer. Didn’t spot that. Duh indeed.
Seeing I’m so dull-witted, perhaps JX could tell me exactly in what ways is Thrasybulos like Herbert Spencer, apart from having two legs and things like that?


JX 3.15 On Gorgias: Here H47 really flips out and crashes his clown-car. H47 states that the dialogue ends by saying it is better to suffer injustice then do injustice. Fact check: Accurate. But who said it? Fact-check: Socrates. (Jesus would have said it, too.) Is Socrates an atheist? Fact-check: No. Socrates is a theist and the people he is debating are atheists.

H 3.15 Where does it say that they are atheists, or what text can be so interpreted, because I can’t find it in my copy.
Or are you simply assuming they are atheists because a) you expect atheists to choose the arguments consistent with evil or b) it fits your theory?

JX 3.16 You might want to re-read the dialogue as it is clear that his opponents – Polus and Callicles – do not agree that it is better to suffer than inflict injustice. That's the damn point! Nietzsche would agree with Polus and Callicles, so would Kissinger.

H 3.16 Well, apart from the fact that Big Ears is going to get very annoyed that I’ve crashed the new yellow car, what the dickens is all that about? The point is they do not agree with Socrates. So where does that take us? Simply tell me exactly where we are going, what is the argument that takes us there and exactly what conclusion will have been drawn?

JX 3.17 But the clown-car show isn't over. H47 then puts up a deceptive quote from Plato’s' The Laws.

H 3.17 See H2.4 above. Exactly why do you regard it as deceptive? Where is the deception in it? That is what it says. It means what it says in context. And what it says is that Plato obviously did not regard atheists as evil per se (or as madmen). That that was the meaning can be seen by my final comment ‘Hardly a madman.’ Now, exactly how is that deceptive? More well poisoning?

JX 3.18 “For he who does not believe in the Gods, but has a righteous nature...” Exactly! The whole project of the Academy was to establish a new monotheistic God of Reason. Don't you get it???

H 3.18 No, I don’t. How does discussing the punishment that should fall on a decent and honourable atheist have anything to do with a new monotheistic God of Reason?

JX 3.19 Olympianism leads to religious irrationalism, atheism leads to unrighteous behaviour,

H 3.19 Olympianism leads to religious irrationality. You mean it began as religious rationality?

JX 3.20 and the new theism allows for righteous behaviour

H 3.20 Theism allows for righteous behaviour. Which meaning of theism are you using, a general belief in gods or belief in a specific personal God. I am presuming the latter.
How does this actually happen? How does it ‘allow’? Permits? Makes intellectual room for? Provides a suitable world view for? Unless you are defining acting in a right manner as acting in accordance with the requirements of a known creator God, in which case you would seem to be creating the problem by definition, what is your argument for this weird idea?

JX 3.21 with a delimited belief in a creator God – not Gods. To deny that the Academy was setting up a delimited God of Reason – contra polytheism AND atheism – is to be either grossly dishonest or very ill-informed.

H 3.21a And it isn’t a God. It is gods. Plato was a polytheist. He had a supreme god, but then, so did many early religious systems. His was more ‘supreme’ than most, I would agree.

H 3.21b What do you mean by delimited? A god having its limits marked out? What’s that about?

H 3.19d To deny that Plato was peddling a ‘philosopher’s god’ is reasonable, but that it was specifically set up to counter atheism and polytheism I have seen no evidence. Nor did Anthony Kenny, Antony Flew or Bertrand Russell see any, dishonest and ill-informed as they were.

H 3.19e Do you seriously consider that there wasn’t unrighteous behaviour before the first glimmerings of possible atheism? Or that there is credible evidence of a meaningful change in general behaviour going from polytheism (and/or atheism?) to polytheism with a bigger god?

H 4.1 Your general thesis seems to be that atheism leads to some kind of crisis of general morality, of sufficient seriousness for the Greek to be aware of it, be frightened by the possibility of it and to take active steps to control it. But you have never given it clearly. Perhaps you could do so now, so that we can be sure we are looking at the same thing, and that you can provide appropriate specific evidence.

H 4.2 For the moment, I shall assume that this is a reasonable description. It is an idea with which I am unfamiliar, so I have taken it seriously and have looked for any evidence that it has any validity.

H 4.3 To that end, I checked up in several volumes of the history of philosophy, specifically regarding the classical period, Russell, Flew, Kenny, Garvey and Stangroom, Martin’s Cambridge Companion to Atheism and such online resources as the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Followed by A Short History of Western Atheism by James Thrower and Battling the Gods. Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh.

H 4.4 I could find no significant evidence of any Greek concerns. The best that I could do was the antics of Diopeithes, who seems to have been a ‘religious obsessive’ and persuaded Athens to pass the extremely loose impiety law. And the vituperative attacks of the comic poet Aristophanes. But then he attacked everything vituperatively. It is very odd that eminent philosophers like Russell and Flew have failed to spot that ‘the whole project of philosophy is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil’ and thus ‘missed everything.

H 4.5 There were certainly accusations of atheism, against Xenophanes for example, anecdotal in nature and it is doubtful how accurate they were. It has been pointed out that the early philosophers were beginning to explore non-traditional theologies and ‘scientific’ thought. Some of them certainly developed certain naturalistic theories that would admit of them being agnostic, but whether they were full blown atheists is far from certain. Moreover, writings and plays that contained ‘suspect’ opinions, by Prodicus and Critias for example, remained in the public arena. It seems odd to me that the Greeks, battling to squash the evil of atheism, allowed suspects to put on plays.

H 4.6 Even the most materialistic philosophy of all, atomism, could not rid itself of some vestiges of divinity (See Epicurus above). Carneades, a sceptical leader of the Academy, may, or may not have been a full atheist, but was respected enough to be sent as part of an important Athenian delegation to Rome. Similarly, Euripides certainly expressed atheistic thoughts on the stage, (‘Does then anyone say there are gods in heaven? There are not, there are not, if a man is willing not to give foolish credence to the ancient story’ Fragments 7, 286), but remained one of the greatest Athenian playwrights.

H4.7 I managed to dig up a list of those supposedly prosecuted for impiety (https://medium.com/@dcweinbel/battling-the-gods-a829eb81ae5e). Looking at them should be instructive.

H 4.8 Anaxagoras fled (with or without trial is uncertain) having postulated that the sun was simply a glowing stone. But before that he remained in Athens for thirty years and was a friend of Pericles, the great Athenian statesman. He was supposedly prosecuted by Cleon for impiety, according to Diogenes Laertius, but there may well have been political ramifications to the incident. Plutarch claims he fled to Lampsacus because the Athenians were beginning to blame him for the Peloponnesian War, due to his influence over Pericles. Interestingly he was described by
Diogenes Laertius as ‘outstanding in nobility and wealth, and also in generosity’

H 4.9a Diagoras of Melos was probably the most notorious of them all, sometimes termed Diagoras the atheist. Athenagoras of Athens (2nd century AD) wrote about Diagoras: ‘With reason did the Athenians adjudge Diagoras guilty of atheism, in that he not only divulged the Orphic doctrine, and published the mysteries of Eleusis and of the Cabiri, and chopped up the wooden statue of Hercules to boil his turnips, but openly declared that there was no God at all.’

H 4.9b As a Melian, and therefore a survivor of the Athenians immoral and savage massacre and enslavement of the population of Melos, though no doubt all done with due piety, he was a reminder to the Athenians of their own shame.

H 4.9c He helped one Nicodorus, a statesman and lawgiver in Mantinea; the subsequent constitution of which was said to be an example of democratic moderation and equilibrium by both Aristotle and Polybius. Moreover, Diagoras had apparently been living in Athens, unmolested, for some time until the mutilation of the Herms and alleged profanation of the Eleusinian Mysteries immediately prior to the Sicilian Expedition (see Bremmer, Atheism in Antiquity, Cambridge Companion to Atheism, p18). He was duly banished, but then, so was Aristides, by the process of ostracisation, allegedly because citizens were fed up with hearing him being called Aristides the Just.

H 4.10a Euripides was accused of atheism and supposedly prosecuted for ‘not believing in the gods’ (Plutarch) or ‘because he declared the sun to be a hot ball of metal’ (Diogenes Laertius). However, the Cambridge Companion to Atheism, p15, says, ‘Even the tradition of Euripides’ trial for atheism is probably either derived from comedy or invented in analogy of the trial of Socrates.’

H 4.10b The satirical poet Aristophanes, who also wrote the Frogs lampooning Socrates, certainly attacked Euripides for his evil atheism.
’Of what crimes is he not guilty? Didn't he show pimps, women giving birth in temples, sleeping with their brothers, claiming that life is not life? And then our state is filled with these bureaucrats and oafish democratic apes always cheating the people, and there's no one able to carry the torch anymore because of lack of training.’
That such vitriol could be spilled in public but yet Euripides continue with his vocation as a brilliant playwright, says much about the lack of real public concern.

H 4.11 Protogaros is interesting. He seems to have clearly been agnostic rather than an atheist, saying, ‘With regard to the gods I cannot feel sure either that they are, or that they are not… for there are many things that hinder sure knowledge.’ The accounts are late and uncertain, but some sources claim that his books were burned and he was obliged to flee Athens. It is significant that Plato himself (Meno 91e) has Socrates awarding him an unblemished reputations after forty years as an active sophist. So why was there no public concern over his beliefs for forty years?

H 4.12 Others, Diogenes of Apollonia, Demetrius of Phalerum Damon of Oea and Theophrastus seem to have been prosecuted under the catchall mantle of impiety for such sins as having an interest in natural philosophy or the vague ‘undermining the gods’ but detail is lacking. My particular favourite is Stilpo of Megara who was prosecuted for saying the famous statue of Athena of Pheidias was not a god, but argued that she wasn’t – she was a goddess! He was supposedly banished, but it was never enacted.

H 4.13 Interestingly, Critias was the sophist who is probably one of the best candidates for actually being an atheist (Epicurus maintained that Critias’s arguments had ‘made it impossible for them [i.e. the gods] as generally conceived to exist.’ Though take note of the qualifier, ‘as generally received’. And yet he was made one the Council of Thirty set up to rule Athens in the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War by the famously pious Spartans.

H 4.14 It is pretty clear that the struggle against atheism was a lacklustre affair at best. And this was in Athens, a city notorious for its litigious nature and its extreme democracy allowing for decidedly irrational actions as when they executed six of their admirals after their victory at Arginusae. The reason being that the ships sent back by the admirals to pick up Athenian survivors of the battle from the water, were prevented from doing so by the weather. Perhaps admirals were equally inimical to the moral stability of society.

H 4.15 Outside of Athens, Greece, Corinth, Thebes, Sparta and the rest of the poleis and leagues seem to have been singularly untroubled by this crucial danger of atheism. Socrates mentions two sophists, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, being exiled from Thurii (which significantly was a colony founded by, and influenced by, Athens - though I can find no evidence as to the reason for their exile) and Demetrius of Phalerum was exiled from the Libyan polis Cyrene. There is “no evidence that Greece in general, then, including Athens before the Peloponnesian war, people were very concerned to prosecute atheistic views as impiety.” (https://medium.com/@dcweinbel/battling-the-gods-a829eb81ae5e).
Instead, it sounds very much that this extremely small burst of prosecutions was driven by the trauma of the Peloponnesian War.

H 4.16 Now, you make a very definite series of statements.

a) The Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism.
b) Greeks believed the atheist a madman. [It]is the “denial of evil” that makes the atheist a “madman” in the classical mind.
c) Plato's dialogues are – as a whole – essentially derivative to the trial of Socrates.
d) The Apology of Socrates is precisely that he [Socrates] believes in God and merely asks annoying questions ...
e) The Apology of Socrates becomes an overture to the project of philosophy –Anyone who reads Greek philosophy and doesn't recognize that the whole thing is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil has missed everything.
f) If you disagree with this statement read the dialogue Gorgias.
g) The Greeks knew, damn well, just where atheism leads. That's what this discussion is really about.
h) Many of these thinkers became atheists and tried to mislead the youth of Athens into atheism.
i) And this is the charge Meletus is making (falsely) against Socrates to put him to death.
j) These facts – clear and self-evident and not “between the lines” inferences – can be ascertained simply by reading The Apology. This isn't even disputable.
k) The project of the Academy, as a whole, was to establish a new view of reality that: a) acknowledged the “fabulous stories” of Olympus as untrue; and b) argued the belief in a creator God was true.
l) The whole project of the Academy was to establish a new monotheistic God of Reason. Olympianism leads to religious irrationalism, atheism leads to unrighteous behavior, and the new theism allows for righteous behavior with a delimited belief in a creator God – not Gods.
m) To deny that the Academy was setting up a delimited God of Reason – contra polytheism AND atheism – is to be either grossly dishonest or very ill-informed.

H 4.17 Yet you haven’t even clearly enunciated the “problem of evil”. You haven’t defined evil, the existence of which seems to cause you so much concern. You have not described the scope nor outlined your predictions of the effects of this problem. You haven’t offered any evidence for a significant problem at all. You have not explained how noted philosophers and historians have failed to see that the whole project of philosophy is an attempt to squash atheism.

H 4.18 Where are the stringent laws against atheism throughout Greece? Why is there no evidence of massive persecution? Where are the works supportive of religion, arguing theism and teaching theodicy? Where are the philosophical equivalents of Origen’s Contra Celsum? Why were so many supposed atheists not only allowed to live their lives untroubled but achieved positions of responsibility and trust in the community?
A lot of questions to answer.
(Edited by harpalycus47)
2 years ago Report
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JX Amaro
JX Amaro:
STATEMENT: H47’s byzantine response to my above post gets off to a squalid start with a TOTAL LIE that must be addressed first, then I will get to the rest of his response.

H47: “It has not gone without note that you have made no attempt at answering the question posed.” (From second paragraph of his above post.)

JX: This is astonishing intellectual dishonesty so absurd that it makes one wonder if either H47 is a shameless charlatan or was simply stoned while writing. The question posed is: “Do Christians have any answers to the problem of evil.” In my FIRST POST under Section 2 I analyze and address it at length! I start by breaking the problem of evil down into two types: Natural Evil and Manmade Evil. I acknowledge that Christian thought (as far as I know) doesn’t have a perfect answer to Natural Evil – and neither does Epicurus or anyone else. But I also point out, through Thomist thought and a helpful example, that Christian thought does have an answer to Manmade evil that involves free will, moral law and the purposeful violation thereof. I did offer an answer, and I did have the intellectual honesty to admit it wasn’t a “perfect answer.” Sadly, and predictably, we see that atheists like H47 do not value intellectual honesty. Oh, if only there was an explanation.

On to the Main Event...

General Over view: If Nothing else, H47 understands the concept and strategic tactics of filibustering and Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW)!

General Summary of my Talking Points
1 The Christian faith has an imperfect answer to “the question of evil.” However, the failure to offer a complete and satisfactory answer is NOT an existential threat to Christianity (nor is it an existential threat to any other form of theism – Epicureanism, Stoicism and Cyrenism included).

2 The Atheist faith has NO answer to the “problem of evil” and this IS an existential threat to the atheist faith. And this shattering fact offers a plausible explanation as to why atheists have to lie, fudge facts, deny reality, play mind games and engage in other forms of intellectual dishonesty to defend an atheist faith that begins with irrationality (their failure to offer a reason-based cosmological theory) and ends with moral insanity (denial of all moral values – which explains the horror shows of political atheism).

3 Christian theodicy is problematic, but not existentially lethal to the Christian faith. Atheist theodicy is catastrophic AND existentially lethal to the Atheist faith.

Main Event: General Annihilation of H47's Talking Points

1) On the relevancy of who asks the question vis-a-vis the problem of evil: While it is “totally irrelevant” as to who poses the “problem of evil” question (eg, a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, an Epicurean or a Stoic), it is relevant that the “question of evil” does not end the faith of the theist. Is it a problem? Yes. Is it dispositive? No. (Note: “Dispositive” is a legal term. A fact is dispositive when it ends the case. For example, if Billybob is on trial for the murder of Mr Smith and Mr Smith turns up alive and well, then the case is closed and Billybob walks a free man.)
Thus my point was on point. Let me quote it: “The question he (Epicurus) asked wasn't a ‘leading question’ meant to lead to Atheism.” I was correct on that. The “problem of evil” question doesn’t debunk a theist faith. Epicureanism did not default into atheism and Epicureanism is NOT a form of atheism. It is only due to the intellectual squalor of atheism that atheists have to try to claim him and his movement as part of their own. (They do this a lot.) Total Fraud!
And the relevancy? Simple. Atheists use the problem of evil as a BATTLE in a larger WAR against religious belief. But it only leads to a pyrric victory, if even that. Once Atheist Man opens the theodicy door, Atheist Man opens himself up to total annihilation. The Christian faith, and any other form of theism can survive, and has survived, like Epicureanism survived; but the atheist faith cannot survive “the problem of nihilism.” Even if they win the BATTLE they do so at the cost of losing the WAR.

And it is for fear of losing the war that atheists don’t allow for discussion of atheist theodicy – the denial of ALL moral values.

2.1) H47: “So exactly how his (Epicurus) own religious opinions have any bearing on the problem of suffering with respect to the personal God of Christian theism seems somewhat obscure.”

JX: The very next sentence you quote from me (in 2.2) satisfactorily answers. Let me quote it: “It demonstrates that the Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism.” Again, the Epicureans were completely aware of the problem of evil and that did not cause them to abandon a belief in God. It’s a perplexing problem, but it is not an existential threat to a theist faith. The problem of nihilism IS an existential threat to the atheist faith and forces many to try to completely deny it. The reason is obvious: the atheist faith can not survive it. Atheist theodicy destroys atheism; Christian theodicy does not destroy Christianity.

2.2) H47: “The whole of Greek philosophy is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil? Well, that I absolutely challenge... I think some appropriate evidence needs to be given, and it will need to be substantial for such a monumental claim.”

JX: This is going to be a headache! First, consider the “sitz im leben.” It’s ancient Athens. There’s no Christianity. There are only three players in the game. 1) Votaries of Zeus. 2) Philosophers. 3) Sophists. In the dialogues, very rarely does one even have a lengthy debate between Socrates and a votary of Zeus. Most of the dialogues are either Socrates debating with his friends and followers and showing them some of the problems in philosophy (eg, how do you really define “courage” – the problem of definitions) or Socrates debating with a Sophist – debating to win. The Sophists are the villains and the literary art of Plato makes that clear. Thrasymachus (from the Republic), Polus and Callicles (from Gorgias) and the brothers (from Euthydemus) are villains.

Thus, the intellectual “sitz im leben” can be topographically viewed somewhat like this. Both the Philosophers and the Sophists know the days of Olympianism are over – the intellectual ideas of the old religion are so crude relative to the revolution of the pre-socratics that no one takes them seriously enough to debate. The real fight is between the Philosophers and the Sophists. And this begs the question: What’s the real difference between a Philosopher and a Sophist?

Answer: God.
Proof: The claims made by the Sophists.
Briefly, Socrates HAS (roughly) denied the gods, which would be shocking to the huffy conservatives of Athens (eg, the Bill O’Reilly types). But Socrates has NOT denied God. Accordingly, Socrates is very interested in questions of justice and righteousness. His Sophist opponents, not so much. Denying God, they deny any need for righteousness. Hence, in Euthydemus the Sophists go about claiming they can teach people to win any argument. The question of justice is of NO interest to them. The question of disinterested truth is of NO interest to them. All they are interested in is getting ahead and winning. For the sophists, the denial of gods entails denying morality. Therefore, they are teachers of wickedness – not righteousness. They are nihilists – no belief in God (or gods) and no belief in morality.

Since you said that you have read Gorgias, I will concentrate on that as a further proof-text for the claim. Socrates asserts that he would rather suffer injustice than cause it. This is righteous and it is coming from a man who believes in God. What was Polus’ line? Oh, he argued that the happiest and the best person is NOT the one who is honest and harmless but the one who is successful – by any means. This occurs when Polus discusses the Macedonian tyrant Archelaos. Polus begins by saying, “That he (Archelaos) is wicked I cannot deny…” Polus proceeds to tell how this tyrant came to power through murder and crime and achieved such power that he could “let go the reins of lust.” Apparently that’s Happiness. (One is reminded of the modern atheist and tyrant Mao who murdered millions while also debauching young virgins on a daily basis.) Of course, Plato doesn’t interrupt the dialogue to jump in and say, “Hey everybody, Polus is an atheist, did you catch that?” No. But the conclusion is obvious. No God = No Morality = Sophistry = Teaching wickedness. Conversely: God = Morality = Philosophy = Teaching righteousness. (Note: It’s interesting to compare Polus advocating for the tyrant Archelaos to Nietzsche advocating for the tyrant Cesar Borgia. See Beyond Good and Evil #197.)

In short, the essential difference between the Philosopher and the Sophist was a belief in God. The belief in God entailed objective moral truth, while the denial of God led to “relativism” and the teaching of wickedness to be successful. Not much has changed. There are still honest Philosophers who believe in God and Righteousness and there are still Sophists who deny God and teach wickedness.

Now, to bring it on home. Plato’s dialogues were such a success in demonizing the atheist Sophists that the schools that followed (eg, Epicurean and Stoic) acknowledged the God principle, in however delimited a role. This because they knew where atheism leads: Polus advocating for Archelaos, like Nietzsche advocating for the “beyond good and evil” Superman – eg, Cesar Borgia. You can deny the obvious if you want, but you are living in an atheist-fundie group-think echo-chamber if you do. The Philosophers were the theists teaching righteousness; and the Sophists were the atheists teaching wickedness. Duhhh.

2.3 Most of what H47 discussed in this talking point I addressed directly above. One sub-point remains. It is this: “I know of no great problem with atheism (the charges against Socrates were a cover for a political trial) and can find no trace of the atheist as madman.”

JX: To say the charges “were a cover” is a dodge. Let’s analyze. Socrates was NOT an atheist. Metelus hates Socrates. Metelus wants Socrates put to death. So Metelus frames Socrates as an atheist and then accuses him of using the common tricks of the Sophists in his mis-teaching of youth. Please observe the connection! Accusation: Socrates is an atheist. Proof: He uses the mis-teaching techniques of the Sophists! Conclusion: Sophists were atheists who used tricky debating techniques and this led to the Sophists (read: atheists) to being so despised that at this particular time the death penalty could be called for. The logic is inescapable.

Now why might the death penalty be called for when dealing with atheist Sophists? The answer is above in the commentary on Gorgias! The Sophists were teaching ambitious young men to model themselves on bloody tyrants like Archelaos! Duhh. (And this is why the Socrates-to-Alcibiades relationship is such a pivotal “sub-plot” in the dialogues.)

(A not entirely irrelevant Note: The “New Atheists” are rolled out by Big Money to glamorize atheism, destroy Christian values and pave the way for the New World Order of eurofascist “Globalism” which will be a form of anti-liberal industrial feudalism ruled by a small CASTE of old money families (eg, Rothschilds, Rockefellars etc). The capitalistas can play the Gramsci card, too. It would nice if the atheists woke up to the fact that they have been duped and that their “four horsemen” heroes are zeros. The “tell”: when Hitch started playing for Bush-Cheney. The good die young. Unfortunately, Hitch didn’t die young enough. Oh, and then there’s Dennet and Dawkins doing the TED talks. Do you know how much you have to pay to be there? $6,000 a seat. It’s all about the 1%. The “four horsemen” have come to bury the 99% and liberal democracy, too. Steven Pinker is a total gasbag of lies, but I think I am getting off-topic. Sorry.)

2.4 a-j) This seems a rather long and itemized list of points that smells of a filibuster. The relevant issue seems to be this:
JX: “The Greeks knew, damn well, just where atheism leads. That's what this discussion is really about.”
H47: “Have you any evidence at all? I trust you will provide enlightenment.”

JX: I think my commentary on points 2.2 and 2.3 suffice. The pre-socratics set the stage for attempting to understand the world through Reason, not the Will of Zeus. From that developed two groups of people. Atheist Sophists who denied God altogether and went about teaching wickedness; and the theist Philosophers who accepted a more delimited God and went about teaching virtue and righteousness. In short, Plato and the Academy were fighting a two front war: They were fighting against the old Olympians (sort of like the “fundies” of modern times) and the atheist Sophists who were encouraging every wickedness – as seen by various Sophist villains.

Essentially, the raison d’etre of the Academy was to establish that one could deny the traditional gods and still be righteous, but this required a fundamental belief in God. And that is why the God principle is so important in the dialogues. Observe that neither the Academics, the Peripetetics, the Stoics, the Epicureans or even the Cyrenians denied the God principle. The triumph of Plato, in short, was ending traditional Olympianism AND atheism. The dialogues proved a tour de force and atheism was crushed under the boot – disappeared from the cultural scene – until the Enlightenment age.

3.1-2) Section 3 gets off to a clunky start. Subpoints 1 and 2 seem related, so I will take them together. H47 from 3.1: “They (Epicureans) didn’t believe in an afterlife and religious rituals and taught that the gods had no interest in mankind. So, they weren’t exactly in the personal loving god theist mould. Which is what I was demonstrating. It was not misdirection. Misdirection from what? And why?” H47 from 3.2: “Theism is one of those vague words. It can mean simply belief in a god, or even gods, but more specifically it has connotations of belief in a ‘personal’ god with whom one can have a relationship. i.e. ‘belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe.’ So, I would dispute Epicureans are theists. Not that it makes a whit of difference either way.”

JX: Here we have some pretty typical (read: sleazy) atheist debating tactics. A couple points.
A) As a point of fact “theism” is the larger species. Monotheism, duotheism, polytheism, and pantheism are the sub-species.
B) The “misdirection” is the consistent attempt to kidnap Epicurus out of theism and use him as an atheist to lend intellectual and moral credibility to the atheist cause. This type of philosopher-rustling occurs often among the cult of New Atheism. Other theists they try to hijack and pawn off as their own include Spinoza and Buddha. As if!
C) It makes a huge difference. To continue the “species” metaphor, theism and atheism can’t procreate. There is a species wall between them. It’s up to team atheism to present dignified persons and representatives of their cause. They have no right to steal and hide behind beloved theists. None. This is sleight-of-hand con-gaming and counterfeiting. Total sleaze.

3.2b) H47: “You say, Epicureans can talk about evil. Atheists can't. How can you possibly justify that?”

JX: Easy. If there is No God there are No Moral Values. No Good. No Evil. Nothing. The atheist worldview is just a world of cold facts. For an atheist, moral sentiments are just feelings. As feelings, moral sentiments are “irrational,” no different than the feeling that there is a monster under your bed waiting to grab your ankle and pull you under. Accordingly, the ethical practice of a serious atheist is to exterminate moral conscience and act (ruthlessly) on hedonist self-interest from there. Atheist ethics are “beyond good and evil.”

3.2c) H47: “Perhaps you ought to clarify the meaning of serious atheism is (as?) “beyond good and evil” as well. A touch of Nietzsche in the night?”

JX: Yes, I think Nietzsche is a pretty good example of a serious atheist. Nietzsche isn’t considered one of the great philosophers for reason of his views on Wagner – or Shakespeare, for that matter. Nietzsche is Nietzsche because he took the “death of God” seriously. Nietzsche also has the honor of being intellectually honest about the conclusions and not trying to “soft-ball” or cloak it.

The New Atheists have a singular problem with Nietzsche: he exposes the fraud of their “we are the good people” line. As such, some commentary is in order.

If Nietzsche was an idiosyncratic oddball (like Ragnar Redbeard), then his views wouldn’t matter. But he wasn’t. His views are in line with those of Polus from Gorgias and other Sophists from the dialogues. The similarity of Nietzsche’s advocacy of the “Superman” and Polus advocating Archelaos derives from the same foundation: denial of God. Quite simply, the “beyond good and evil” approach to morality is atheist realism.

John Locke agreed. To quote from his Letter on Toleration: “...those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all...” (Locke, Toleration, 20).

Now let’s unpack the ethics of New Atheism. Richard Dawkins is pretty clear on this. His ethics are “ruthless selfishness” that is hidden behind a false veneer of “altruism.” Quite literally, Dawkins advocates the wolf in sheep’s clothing style of ethics. (Maybe this explains his bonkers idea of selling “Atheists for Jesus” t-shirts.) At least Nietzsche had the honor of being honest about his conclusions, not Dawkins.

3.3-4) These two subpoints revolve around my (charitable) contention that most contemporary atheists aren’t beyond good and evil “immoralists” (see above). Most “moral atheists” haven’t seriously considered that without the God principle, objective moral claims of any variety are impossible – human life as having any value becomes impossible. Many who have been deceptively lured into the world of atheism by the New Atheist evangelicals with their atheist good news gospel have been given a “utopian atheism” snowjob. The “moral atheists” actually have more in common with the old philosophical schools of theism – Peripeteticism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Cyrenism. They would be wise to cash out of atheism and cash into a theism. There are options. One doesn’t have to join a “fundy” religion.

3.5) This whole section is a confused mess. H47: “Please show clearly what my level of ignorance is, how dumb I am or in what way I am lying. Then others won’t have to decide. They can see for themselves the ignorance, the stupidity and the lies. For example, you have cited two Socratic dialogues in support of your contention that the Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism. Neither of them provide any support at all. Or, if I have missed it, please show the relevant text(s)”

JX: WTF? At this point I really think H47 is just playing mind games and is a total liar. He seems to want to win by attrition. He will ask thousands of questions and make thousands of demands knowing no one has enough time to respond. This is idiotic. The dialogues I cited – the Apology and Gorgias – have NOTHING to do with the problem of evil per se. It had to do with establishing that there were atheists in ancient Athens; and that the atheists were ill-esteemed; and they were ill-esteemed due to their wicked teachings.

3.5b) This section is a train wreck of H47 playing mind games, being deceptive and trying to run out the clock with “Ask 1,000 Questions.” The significance of the named philosophers is that they were all theists, not atheists. Duh. That’s obvious. Also obvious: Plato does not support atheism – your bogus claims on the Laws quote have already been dealt with. Then the grift of saying Aristotle is deist not a theist. You might as well say an eagle is not a bird. Even Saul Alinsky would be ashamed by this level of scummy debating. And Zeno is a pantheist. Yeah, that falls under theist, too. Then you toss Aristippus out. Why? Diogenes Laertius gives us a boatload on him and you can read him debating Socrates in Xenophan. He advocated hedonism and is the godfather of Epicureanism. And he, too, accepted the God principle. Why? Because while he believed in the wine, women and song lifestyle, he did NOT believe in the “beyond good and evil” atheist life or the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” atheist ethics of the Richard Dawkins type.
Summary: The Philosophers were theists. The Sophists were atheists. Duhh.

3.6a H47: “I am not aware that they (the pre-socratics) DISPENSED with the gods as the cause of all things. They certainly looked for material explanations, but both Anaximander and Anaxamenes actually spoke of gods (Whitmarch p57) and we have nothing to suggest Thales was an atheist.”

JX: I didn’t claim the pre-socratics were atheists. My claim is that FROM the pre-socratic era CAME the socratic generation. That generation saw the atheist Sophists and the theist Philosophers. Plato dramatizes that era. Epicurus and Zeno and the rest are of the post-socratic generation and they are theists due to Plato’s demolition job on the atheist sophists. Duhh.

3.7-9) H47 has gone totally ga-ga here. He even denies that the charge against Socrates in the Apology has anything to do with atheism. It clearly states this and anyone can read it to find out who is lying. This is just typical of the way atheist fundies “black out” all facts harmful to their cause. Here’s some interesting reading:
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/10c3/0867eb8a799386ead2c58a7150c37b61e65e.pdf

Here’s the title: “Plato’s Apology and Sapienta Salomonis on atheism.” And here is the first sentence: “In 399 BC, three enemies of the wise and righteous Socrates accused him of corrupting the youth and of godlessness and demanded the death penalty for him.” Now compare that (from a scholarly source) to H47’s statement in subpoint 3.8: “The charges did not even include atheism.” Either H47 is lying or grossly uninformed about a subject he has bet all his stake on – and lost. Needless to say, this is a pretty epic fail on H47’s part.

Need more? Here’s a smoking gun:
https://blogs.ubc.ca/phil102/files/2018/01/Plato-Apology-Jowett.pdf
Go to page 7 of the pdf for the accusation that Socrates is an atheist.

3.10) I don’t even know what H47 was going on about here. He had previously cited an article that stated that Athens “usually tolerated” atheists. All I did is point out the obvious. “Usually” doesn’t mean always; and “tolerated” implies something disliked. These are basic definitions. And I have no idea why spelling errors have anything to do with anything. Maybe he was just drunk or stoned by this point. Hard to tell.

3.11) H47: “Do you mean that Plato’s dialogues (I won’t comment on that slippery phrase, as a whole) derive from or are based on the trial of Socrates?
In what way do you mean that?”

JX: Hagiography. Socrates died a martyr’s death. The dialogues, among other things, are written to justify him as a hero of wisdom and knowledge unjustly put to death. Everyone knows this. You can’t possibly be this dumb. No one is. This is just atheist trickery: ask a 1000 questions; run out the clock; delay, delay, delay… and “win” by default when the opponent decides they have better things to do than answer endless dumb questions.

3.12) H47: “And there’s me thinking the Academy was a place of teaching and debate.
Where is the evidence that:
a. It was specifically founded to create a new view of reality.
b. one of its purposes was to show the Athenians that their myths and beliefs were untrue (that would have been singularly unpopular)
c. To argue that the belief in a creator god was true – that it was actually founded to do that!”

JX: Yet again, questions so amazingly dumb that they can’t possibly be real. Just running down the opponent with endless questions, questions, questions…
a) What else was the Academy for? Teaching the gospel of Zeus? Was it a car park? Did they sell togas there? Obviously it was about creating and teaching the new philosophical system of Plato, premised on the new God of Reason. And when Aristotle started developing ideas counter to Plato, he left and created the Lyceum. Also, Aristippus was a contemporary and had his own school. But Academics, Peripetetics and Cyreniacs all believed in a God-based system of thought. They weren’t atheists and not because atheism didn’t exist or was unknown to them. They rejected atheism – with contempt – due to it’s logical conclusions.
b) Everyone knows that Plato taught against the traditional religion and it’s saucy stories. Everyone knows that Plato was rejecting/replacing “gods” with God. That is common knowledge. No one is this stupid.
c) Just read the Metaphysics by Aristotle. Duh.

3.13) H47: “Now this I must see. Where is the evidence that the unknown God can be equated to Aristotle’s God of the philosophers? I know of absolutely NONE!”

JX: Again, this is common knowledge. No one is this stupid. The Unknown God of Athens was the God of Philosophy. And the best statement of it is in Aristotle with the “Unmoved Mover.” Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations” begins with a Hymn to the Great Architect God. Same thing. Who do you think the Unknown God of Athens was? Marduk? Isis? Elvis?

What we are seeing here is that H47 is an “atheist fundie.” As religious fundamentalist fight to the bitter end to defend as literal biblical stories that were meant to be understood as symbolic, atheist fundies also ignore the obvious and demand absolute “smoking gun” proof for things everyone knows by common sense. SMH

3.14) H47: “Oh, so Thrasybulos is effectively Herbert Spencer. Didn’t spot that. Duh indeed. Seeing I’m so dull-witted, perhaps JX could tell me exactly in what ways is Thrasybulos like Herbert Spencer, apart from having two legs and things like that?”

JX: In The Republic, Thrasymachus is defending the might-makes-right line. Herbert Spencer is the atheist philosopher of “Social Darwinism.” He even coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest.” Feel free to fact-check:
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Herbert-Spencer

3.15) H47: “Where does it (Gorgias) say that they (the Sophists) are atheists, or what text can be so interpreted, because I can’t find it in my copy. Or are you simply assuming they are atheists because a) you expect atheists to choose the arguments consistent with evil or b) it fits your theory?

JX: It’s called a “circumstantial argument.” We know from the Apology that atheists were despised. We know from the Apology that atheists made tricky arguments. We know from the Apology that the atheists were “corrupting” the young. (Socrates is accused of these things as part of the railroad job to frame him as an atheist. If that was the frame for an atheist, then we know what atheists were like. Don’t we? Simple logic.) We know from Gorgias that Polus is a Sophist advocating wickedness: for Archelaos – a criminal tyrant. If you can’t put it together, it’s just because you are being an atheist fundie and denying common sense to keep your atheist worldview prim and pure.

Circumstantial Evidence is “evidence that tends to prove a fact by proving other events or circumstances which afford a basis for a reasonable inference of the occurrence of the fact at issue.” – Merriam Webster
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/circumstantial%20evidence

3.16) H47: “The point is they (Polus and Callicles) do not agree with Socrates. So where does that take us? Simply tell me exactly where we are going, what is the argument that takes us there and exactly what conclusion will have been drawn?

JX: LOL, the point is that they are godless Sophists advocating wickedness because they are godless. Socrates rejects them because he believes in God and therefor believes in righteousness. This is obvious as 2 + 2 = 4. You can’t see this due to your atheist fundie blinders, like those who can’t see that the Noah’s ark story is symbolic and not meant to be taken as literal, scientific history. H47 is literally on the same intellectual level as those who think Noah’s ark was filled with every possible kind of animal!

3.17-18) Here H47 doubles down on the quote from the Laws that states that a man doesn’t have to believe in “the Gods” to be righteous. H47 has jumped the shark thinking this means Plato is talking about atheists being righteous. Zonk! He means a person like Socrates can be righteous even though he doesn’t believe in the gods of Olympus, but does believe in God. Again, this is obvious. H47 is just three sheets to the atheist wind. And the Academy is there to teach this new God and how to be righteous relative to that New God of Philosophy. This the Sophists rejected along with the Olympian gods. They taught godlessness and wickedness. We know that circumstantially from any common sense reading of the Apology in particular and the dialogues in general!

3.19-21) Here is another mess where I am called upon to write an entire book on Greek religion and the development of philosophy – with 100s of footnotes included. Zonk. The basic idea, if you use common sense, is simple. Socrates died a martyr. Plato and the Academy continued his cause. Aristotle finished it. The cause was to create a God of Reason. Starting with the “unmoved mover” as the cause of the universe, extending into physics and ending with an ethics of eudaimonian righteousness. Needless to say, this was a HUGE jump forward from old Olympianism. And it was dependent on a creator god. It had nothing to do with atheism – which fails on cosmology as badly as it does on ethics, btw.

4.1 H47: “Your general thesis seems to be that atheism leads to some kind of crisis of general morality, of sufficient seriousness for the Greek to be aware of it, be frightened by the possibility of it and to take active steps to control it.”

JX: Not quite. My thesis is that Plato thought that the atheist Sophists presented a crisis to BOTH general morality and the project of the Academy. That project was to create a philosophical religion based on using Reason to understand a God-created world. The atheist Sophists, with their tricky tactics and their teaching of wickedness, was bringing shame on the whole project of trying to move beyond the old Olympianism. This is why the atheist Sophist movement had to be demonized and destroyed in the dialogues.

Interestingly, this EXACT triad exists today in certain corners of thought due to the neo-fundamentalist movement that erupted out of the late 70’s.

Compare:
Christian Fundies: Olympian Fundies
Christian Modernists: Greek Philosophers
Contemporary Atheists: Greek Sophists
Got it???

4.2-15) This was quite a lengthy filibuster. And quite a bit of it I suspect was cut and paste. But the overall trend was clear, in spite of endless special pleading. Wherever someone was outted as an atheist or suspected of being one, a cloud of suspicion came over their head. Your own evidence demonstrates that.

4.16) A lengthy inventory of my claims! WTF?

4.17) H47: “Yet you haven’t even clearly enunciated the “problem of evil”. You haven’t defined evil, the existence of which seems to cause you so much concern.”

JX: No definition of problem of evil? Huh??? There is Natural Evil and Man Made. Of the latter, it is the problem of what men do with free will. And the issue here is that when one leaves God behind the teachings of the Sophist enter. No God = No Morality = No Righteousness = atheist Sophists (classical and contemporary) teaching relativism and wickedness. Duhh.

(Note: A BIG part of the atheist illusion is that people can exodus not just Christianity but religion – theism – altogether. What “Promised Land” do you think awaits you? You don’t need to scratch your head, you already know: the prison state. We saw this movie last century. It would seem you lived through quite a bit of it. What part of the plot did you miss? I would highly recommend you read Bertrand Russell’s book on the Bolshevik Revolution (bought and paid for by Wall Street, I point out – the Revolution, not the book). Russell begins by discussing the great sense of hope that people had in the Revolution. Then, after he visited, he came home disillusioned at the nightmare that had befallen Russia. “Darkness at Noon” by Koestler also recounts similar sentiments. As does “Animal Farm” by Orwell. The eurofascist New World Order is being sold to us as a new paradise. The World Economic Forum tells us that we will own nothing and be happy! Of course, slaves in the old south didn’t own anything and I am sure the old Confederates were quite certain about the happiness of their slaves! Are you beginning to figure this out? Have you noticed a strange silence coming from these New Atheists in regard to the 99% (aka “the proletariat”)? Why do these people have so much corporate money power behind them? Think about it...)

4.18) H47: “Where are the stringent laws against atheism throughout Greece? Why is there no evidence of massive persecution?”

JX: H47 has decided to focus his last post on this particular skirmish: the Greek War Against Atheism. So let me try one more time to try put this all together in a holistic fashion. It is clear that the pre-socratics launched a revolution in thinking. And it is clear that out of this revolution one gets the first historical wave of atheists. It is clear that at the time of the trial of Socrates to be accused of being an atheist mis-teaching the youth was a criminal offense and one that could lead to the death penalty. In short, it would seem there was an “Atheist Scare” in Athens at the time (399 bc), like the “Red Scare” in America during the 1950s.

So what were these atheists teaching that produced such an “Atheist Scare”? Obviously they were teaching that there was no god; and this leads to teaching relativism; and teaching relativism leads to teaching wickedness; and this leads to teaching ambitious youngsters to become tyrants like the Archelaos of Polus (or the Cesar Borgia of Nietzsche, for that matter); and this becomes a threat to democracy and the state. Hence, the death penalty. Duhh.

It is from this world that we get the Dialogues of Plato. And Plato gives us several of these atheist teachers of wickedness – the Sophists (eg, Polus, Callicles, Trasymachus etc.). The Sophists, in short, are the lost atheists of Athens. Anyone with an interest in atheist history or atheist thought should be interested in this and in recovering the “lost legacy” of atheism in Athens. The fact that Plato demonizes them shouldn’t get in the way of acknowledging that these “Sophists” are atheists. And as Suetonius blackened the 12 Caesars, Plato blackened the several Sophists. In doing so, he crushed the movement of Sophistry – godless Reason. So be it.

Result: The philosophical project moved on attempting to understand the world through Reason, with Reason grounded in the metaphysical belief of a world created by a God. And this God becomes the “unmoved mover” of Aristotle. And this “unmoved mover” becomes the Great Architect God of the laws of physics and morality. And this Great Architect God becomes the “Unknown God of Athens.” And this “Unknown God of Athens” becomes the God of Christianity through Acts 17. Thus, Christians are the heirs of Reason while atheists are the counterfeiters of Reason – neo-Sophists. Comprendez???

4.18) H47: “A lot of questions to answer.”

JX: Yeah, and to fully answer the questions in 4.18 alone would take another five pages. And nothing would alter the basic facts or add to the leviathan I have already written above. So at this point I have a right to ask some questions.
1) Why does H47 tell so many bold face lies? For example, as noted at the top of this post, his absurd claim that I never answered the basic question of the post. Or, why does he deny that Socrates was charged with atheism? Again, I have produced OBJECTIVE and VERIFIABLE evidence to support my case. Is H47 just an atheist who, like the Sophists of Athens, believes in practicing wickedness? As per the ethics of Dawkins, does H47 just assume the sheep-skin clothing of being honest while simply being a wolf – a liar?
2) Why does H47 ask so many questions? How am I supposed to answer all this? Only a fool would have done so, and as such I confess to being a fool. But it won’t be enough. H47 will come back with another 1000 questions. How can I avoid coming to the conclusion that this is just a sleazy debating tactic that aims to wear an opponent out and then declare victory after the opponent decides to stop wasting their time on endless questions and filibustering?
3) It didn’t go beyond MY notice that for all H47’s talk about me not answering on the question of evil – which I have verified as a false accusation and a blatant lie – H47 has not answered on the problem of nihilism. He has offered nothing, not even the slightest argument, as to how an atheist can establish any type of objective moral truth, even for something as basic as human life having value.
4) While I don’t want to think that H47 is a purposeful liar, I think he needs to offer good evidence that he believes in intellectual honesty. If not, what’s the point of going on? Should I just waste my time answering another salvo of 1000 (mostly pointless) questions? Should I just waste my time debating an atheist fundie who wont accept objective facts of reality that go against his “belief” system?

En fin: The essential issue is this: Which is the more damaging? The “Problem of Evil” vis-a-vis the Christian faith; or the “Problem of Nihilism” vis-a-vis the Atheist faith.

Do the atheists have any answers?
2 years ago Report
0
MadLinguist1
MadLinguist1: I have the Answer now.

The Answer is THOR!!!!

Great Thorr!

God of Thunder!

Those who wish to, may worship en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perkūnas!

His Name is related to Latin Quercus, Oak Tree!

The Lightning shows a Predilection for striking the Oak Tree/1

2 years ago Report
0
harpalycus47
harpalycus47: I walked out of this forum some time ago because of the total lack of informed debate and the general level of intolerance, unreasoned denial, abuse and downright lying. It was hardly a surprise to find my reasons for going immediately deleted. I was, initially, going to simply abandon this forlorn hope as well, but eventually decided that it ought to be answered.
I apologise for the long wait, but it took a lot of reading and research, and I am congenitally unable to ignore something I don’t agree with. Lots of rabbits needed to be chased down rabbit holes.

As the argument seems to have come down to JX’s claim that the aim of Greek philosophy was to destroy the cancer of atheism, perhaps it would be instructive to give JX’s ‘thesis’ in his own words (except for linking phrases in square brackets). At least, as far as I understand it.

I assume that Year Zero is some future point when atheists take control (though how nihilists and madmen can take any form of control is a moot point) or, perhaps, become so predominant as to cause a social collapse.

The exact nature of the actual end is unclear. I assume some apocalypse or end times. At the very least the atheists are going to be annihilated.


JX’s thesis:


Socrates died a martyr. Plato and the Academy continued his cause.

Essentially, the raison d’etre of the Academy was to establish that one could deny the traditional gods and still be righteous, but this required a fundamental belief in God.

Both the Philosophers and the Sophists know the days of Olympianism are over – the intellectual ideas of the old religion are so crude relative to the revolution of the pre-socratics that no one takes them seriously enough to debate. The real fight is between the Philosophers and the Sophists.

In short, Plato and the Academy were fighting a two front war: They were fighting against the old Olympians and the atheist Sophists who were encouraging every wickedness.

The Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism

And that is why the God principle is so important in the dialogues. Observe that neither the Academics, the Peripetetics, the Stoics, the Epicureans or even the Cyrenians denied the God principle.

Plato’s dialogues were such a success in demonizing the atheist Sophists that [they ended] traditional Olympianism AND atheism. The dialogues proved a tour de force and atheism was crushed under the boot – disappeared from the cultural scene – until the Enlightenment age.

Aristotle finished it. The cause was to create a God of Reason. Starting with the “unmoved mover” as the cause of the universe, extending into physics and ending with an ethics of eudaimonian righteousness. Needless to say, this was a HUGE jump forward from old Olympianism. And it was dependent on a creator god.

The philosophical project moved on attempting to understand the world through Reason, with Reason grounded in the metaphysical belief of a world created by a God. This “unmoved mover” becomes the Great Architect God of the laws of physics and morality. And this Great Architect God becomes the “Unknown God of Athens.” And this “Unknown God of Athens” becomes the God of Christianity through Acts 17. Thus, Christians are the heirs of Reason.

Anyone who reads Greek philosophy and doesn't recognize that the whole thing is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil has missed everything.

In short, the essential difference between the Philosopher and the Sophist was a belief in God. The belief in God entailed objective moral truth, while the denial of God led to “relativism” and the teaching of wickedness to be successful.

Without the God principle, objective moral claims of any variety are impossible – human life as having any value becomes impossible. If there is No God there are No Moral Values. No Good. No Evil. Nothing. Atheists are the counterfeiters of Reason – neo-Sophists [and] nihilists. The atheist is a madman. Christianity IS the religion of Reason and Love. There can only be one winner in the “survival of the fittest,” you know. Kill or be killed, baby. Law of the Jungle.

One of the first things [that will] happen will be a re-write of moral theory. After all, “evil” was just an ignorant dogma of the religious dark age. From the Year Zero perspective, genocides won't be evil, but a state policy and often a very wise one. The atheist worldview is just a world of cold facts. For an atheist, moral sentiments are just feelings. As feelings, moral sentiments are “irrational.” Accordingly, the ethical practice of a serious atheist is to exterminate moral conscience and act (ruthlessly) on hedonist self-interest from there. Atheist ethics are “beyond good and evil.”

“the problem of nihilism” or the “denial of evil” is terminal to atheism as anything but madness – moral insanity. Even if they win the BATTLE they do so at the cost of losing the WAR. Atheism does not survive as a credible, respectable belief system. Total annihilation.

And it is for fear of losing the war that atheists don’t allow for discussion of atheist theodicy – the denial of ALL moral values.


JX’s thesis is beset with incoherencies and confusion.


The main one is the nature of God.

He tells us that the belief in God entails objective moral truth, and that without such there can be no value given to human life.
But a belief in God does NOT necessarily entail objective moral truth.

Apart from the insuperable difficulties of identifying objective moral truth even if it exists, and the objections as to why there can be no value to human life in its absence (the empirical evidence is that there is – ask any atheist), there are many concepts of the divine that do not lend themselves to providing anything like this.

The polytheists of this era see the gods as fickle, arbitrary and frequently amoral or even immoral.

Pantheists, like the Stoics, see God in the totality and very nature of the cosmos, so, at the very least, although a morality might be derived as acting in accordance with this, there is no place for a separate objective and accessible rule book.

Hedonistic schools, such as the Cyrenaics, see God as having no real relevance to their worldview. The much-debated Epicureans specifically say that the gods have no role to play.

Deists, such as Aristotle and the Peripatetic school, see God as the creator of the Cosmos who thereupon continues without interest in his creation, at least in the human part. This God of Reason lacks an objective moral framework, as JX demonstrates himself by describing the ethics as eudaimonian.

Now, JX has a real problem here. He requires there to be an objective moral framework. This would seem to presuppose a creator to bring it into being, and a creator with a personal relationship with his creation to provide a reason for its coming into being. But this had not happened at the time in question and would not occur until the partial synthesis of Christianity and Neoplatonism, which can arbitrarily be said to be with Augustine about 800 years after Plato.

If there is no such framework (as I do not believe there is) then there is seemingly no defence against atheism and the supposed ineluctable slide into nihilism and social collapse. If a defence can, indeed, be mounted from a position of cultural relativist morality then there is no need for the objective moral framework.

So, JX is faced with a chronological problem. His own professed requirement for an objective moral framework will not be in place (if it even exists) for 800 years and the intermediates he suggests, Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, the Stoic Architect God and the ridiculous ‘Unknown God’ about whom we know precisely nothing, are not theistic Gods, in the sense that is needed.
Instead, the God Principle is taken to be sufficient (though exactly how this differs from Olympianism is not defined – especially as the Epicureans, with their own ‘faded’ polytheistic gods are supposed to subscribe to it).

This is perhaps why JX talks about the creator God, the God principle, the God of Reason, a fundamental belief in God – anything but a God of objective morality, not at least with any direct causal connection to the Platonic ‘squashing of atheism'. The incautious reader will be left with the implication that the God of Reason (and/or its compatriots) is the Abrahamic god with its allegedly objective and fixed moral laws.

The strange word delimited can now be explained. JX knows that his examples do not actually provide evidence for his thesis. So, he has, sensibly I must admit, qualified it so that he cannot be subsequently accused of deliberate equivocation.

Similarly, it explains why he oscillates between the two different definitions of theism. As explained elsewhere, theism in the modern sense refers specifically to the belief in an interventionist creator god with a personal relationship to his creation, the older definition is simply a believer in any god or gods. By claiming gods under the old definition to be theistic, he is able, by implication, to claim them as theistic in the first definitional sense, and therefore disguise the fact that throughout this period there is no actual suggestion of an objective moral code.

So, how can Plato be supposed to have crushed the atheists underfoot 800 years before he has the necessary objective moral framework? JX slides carefully over this by claiming that the God of Reason, as developed by Aristotle, was what was required.

But even if denial of God leads to “relativism”, what morality was present before the God of Reason that was not already relativistic?

How were the atheists crushed underfoot? There is no record of any significant persecution. There remain atheists in the ancient world. There is no description of any such persecution in the primary textual sources. It is crafted purely from imagination.

Exactly what were the arguments and/or tactics that resulted in this stunning defeat for something that is so shatteringly evil and dangerous?

“Plato’s dialogues were such a success in demonizing the atheist Sophists that [they ended] traditional Olympianism AND atheism.” A real chicken and egg. Socrates was supposedly executed because his accusers cunningly and wrongly painted him as a sophist/atheist. So, if being an atheist was sufficient to earn the death sentence, then what sort of success can Plato’s dialogues possibly have had? It seems that the sophists were already demonised.

There are further problems. In the absence of an objective moral framework, if the God or gods described do not offer such truths, then one would surely expect the atheist to arrive at the negation of all and any moral values even more easily. So why was the world not a cauldron of atheist depravity and cruelty BEFORE Moses brought the commandments down?

Why has this important reinterpretation of the history of Greek philosophy not been previously recognised by scholars and philosophers, not least Bertrand Russell. Especially as it is ‘obvious’ and anyone who has not spotted it has ‘missed everything’.

Where is there any evidence that atheism leads to immorality and that atheists are more wicked than theists? See sections 2.4a-j in my previous posting, which were summarily dismissed by JX as filibustering, as well as section 61 in this posting, which no doubt will be.

JX asserts that fundamental belief was required to deny the traditional gods and still be righteous. So exactly what does the phrase, a fundamental belief in God mean (a belief in any god or gods, a belief in a God of reason or a belief in an Abrahamic God) and exactly how does it differ from fundamental polytheism?

Where is there any evidence that Plato destroyed the traditional gods of Hellas and Rome? They were certainly still around in the time of Constantine when he declared tolerance for Christianity in the Edict of Milan in 313.

“There is consensus that Christians were a small minority in the Empire in 300, and non-Christians a small minority by the time of the last western anti-pagan laws in the early 600s. Scholars fall into two categories on how and why this dramatic change took place: the long established traditional catastrophists who view the rapid demise of paganism as occurring in the late fourth and early fifth centuries due to harsh Christian legislation and violence, and contemporary scholars who view the process as a long decline that began in the second century, before the emperors were themselves Christian, and which continued into the seventh century. This latter view contends that there was less conflict between pagans and Christians than was previously supposed.”
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_pagans_in_the_late_Roman_Empire

Where is there any evidence that the Greeks understood the problem of evil (at least as JX understands it)?

What exactly are the laws of morality as given by the Great Architect?

As can be seen, the whole thesis suffers from internal contradictions and confusions and clearly lacks any evidence.


Now to go through the whole detailed posting:


1. JX “STATEMENT: H47’s byzantine response to my above post gets off to a squalid start with a TOTAL LIE that must be addressed first, then I will get to the rest of his response.
H47: “It has not gone without note that you have made no attempt at answering the question posed.”
JX: This is astonishing intellectual dishonesty so absurd that it makes one wonder if either H47 is a shameless charlatan or was simply stoned while writing.”

I apologise that it was not clarified sufficiently, but this was in answer to, and was therefore referring to JX’s LATEST post.
In that post, there was indeed no attempt to address the question. Instead, he concentrated on an attack on atheism, making a singularly important claim in so doing. That Greek philosophy was an attempt to squash atheism as an evil.


2. JX “General Overview: If Nothing else, H47 understands the concept and strategic tactics of filibustering and Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW)!”

The length and detail of my reply is due to the fact that JX is prone to make sweeping claims without a scintilla of evidence.
I am required therefore, to identify any unjustified claims, to ask for specific evidence AND to provide ample and sound evidence as to why I reject them.
Respect for proper justification and cited evidence is a fundamental requirement of true intellectual honesty.

As a case in point, for such sweeping claims, let us consider his assertions that there was a plan, at the end of WWII to ‘exterminate’ the Germans.

I quote:
‘These are your lovely atheists in action. What happens when the whole world overcomes the “God Delusion”? Wait! We don't really have to. We have a historical test-case. At the end of WW2 Churchill was presented with The Morganthau Plan. The idea was to exterminate the Germans. Churchill rejected it saying it was un-Christian.”

No, Churchill actually, if reluctantly, accepted it. There are three telling points to be made over this unusual attempt by JX to provide some ‘evidence’ to flesh out wild assertions.

A. As an example of ‘lovely atheists’ in action, it seems to lack something. ‘Lovely atheists’ for one. The plan was developed and considered by ‘Christian’ nations and leaders.

B. The Morgenthau (not Morganthau) Plan was a suggestion that Germany be effectively demilitarised by eliminating its arms industry and other associated industries such as steel manufacture and thus to effectively turn Germany into an agricultural nation. When it was examined, it was decided to be unworkable and could have unintended consequences - the possible death of over twenty million people from starvation. Perhaps it is some scrambled memory of this that brought on this ridiculous notion of deliberate genocide.

Here’s the actual preamble of the Morgenthau plan.
“Demilitarization of Germany.
It should be the aim of the Allied Forces to accomplish the complete demilitarization of Germany in the shortest possible period of time after surrender. This means completely disarming the German Army and people (including the removal or destruction of all war material), the total destruction of the whole German armament industry, and the removal or destruction of other key industries which are basic to military strength.”
http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/PSF/BOX31/t297a01.html

C. Despite the fact that such a public genocidal plan would be unthinkable (even the totalitarian Nazi state took care to hide the Holocaust from the public), JX has obviously made not the slightest effort to fact check his assertions, and no-one can have any confidence in anything he says.


3. JX “General Summary of my Talking Points”
“The Christian faith has an imperfect answer to “the question of evil.” However, the failure to offer a complete and satisfactory answer is NOT an existential threat to Christianity (nor is it an existential threat to any other form of theism – Epicureanism, Stoicism and Cyrenism included).”

Where was it suggested that the problem was existential? This is strawmanning - ascribing arguments to one's opponent and then knocking them down (though here, JX doesn't even manage to do the latter).

If JX is using theism to mean belief in a single, benign, ‘personal God’, then I don’t think you can call the Epicureans such (their gods, in the plural, had neither care for, nor interest in, man), while Stoicism was essentially pantheistic. I haven’t the faintest idea what Cyrenism was. My best guesses were the Cynics, or the Cyrenaic school, but neither were manifestly theistic.


4. JX. “The Atheist faith has NO answer to the “problem of evil” and this IS an existential threat to the atheist faith. And this shattering fact offers a plausible explanation as to why atheists have to lie, fudge facts, deny reality, play mind games and engage in other forms of intellectual dishonesty to defend an atheist faith that begins with irrationality (their failure to offer a reason-based cosmological theory) and ends with moral insanity (denial of all moral values – which explains the horror shows of political atheism).”

Why is this an existential threat to atheism? I presume the idea is that atheists will become increasingly nihilistic until society, with no remaining social contract, collapses, destroying the foolish atheists while the elect are whisked off the heaven. Apart from the obvious immorality of a God who is prepared to sanction such a cataclysm, it does make it difficult to see how society and then civilisation could possibly arise in the first place.

That atheists ‘have to lie, fudge facts, etc.’ needs to be demonstrated. I have no doubt that atheists lie, fudge facts etc as frequently as the next person. But where is the evidence that they are driven to it? A mere display of pejorative language, unless the charge can be justified.

Failure to offer a reason-based cosmological theory? Apart from the fact that it has no relevance to this topic and the theist’s answer, it was magic, is scarcely based on reason, that really does need to be justified. And don’t imagine for one moment that the fine-tuning argument doesn’t have perfectly rational rebuttals.

Moral insanity? I can only presume then, that moral sanity is offered by religion. But which religion? Abrahamic monotheism? Henotheism? Deism? Pantheism? Dualism? Polytheism? Shamanism? Animism? What about the non-theistic ‘religions,’ Buddhism and Daoism, for example? Which morality is required or is it any morality associated with a religion, such as that of the Kali devotees in Thugee or the human (particularly child) sacrifices associated with the Mesoamerican and South American cultures of the Maya, Aztec, Inca and Chimu peoples? How is JX going to deal with the serious problem of moral relativity?

“Atheist faith that begins with irrationality and ends with moral insanity (denial of all moral values).”
This, I’m afraid requires a detailed rebuttal. I assume that JX is saying that theism provides objective (?) moral values. See the Question of Objective Morality in 65 below.


5. JX “3. “Christian theodicy is problematic, but not existentially lethal to the Christian faith. Atheist theodicy is catastrophic AND existentially lethal to the atheist faith.”

As above, there has been no suggestion of an existential threat to the Christian faith. I actually agree with JX about Christianity, but he does not say how it could be lethal to atheism. Though I would guess that his thoughts are towards a total societal moral collapse.

The exact relationship between an objective moral system and atheist nihilism is never made clear by JX. Is it that morality can defend against atheism (in which case how does it do this)? Or even crush atheism (seems unlikely as presumably such a morality exists now but there are no signs that it is prevailing over atheism)? Or could it simply act as an escape pod for those adhering to it while the earth suffers a cataclysmic collapse (this seems to be in the realms of a biblical apocalyptical prophecy so it’s going to happen anyway)?

By which definition would one regard atheism as a ‘faith’:
1. strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence
2. a specific system of religious beliefs:
3. (Theology) Christianity trust in God and in his actions and promises
4. (Theology) a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion, esp when this is not based on reason
5. complete confidence or trust in a person, remedy, etc
6. any set of firmly held principles or beliefs

The only ones that could be valid are 1 and 6, but both require firmly held and unshakeable beliefs. And that is simply not the case. The majority of atheists simply don’t believe and care nothing for the question. You would not class a ‘nominal’ Christian as a person of faith. And if there is conviction, then where is the evidence that it could not be based on reason.

Theodicy is defined as ‘defence of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.’ JX’s statement simply does not make sense. I am assuming that he mistakenly takes theodicy as being synonymous with the problem of evil. That is precisely why I said atheist theodicy was an oxymoron. If there is some alternative reading that I have missed, please explain it to me.


6. JX “Main Event: General Annihilation of H47's Talking Points”

Well, you can’t accuse JX of a lack of self-confidence. Whether it can be justified remains to be seen.


7. JX. “On the relevancy of who asks the question vis-a-vis the problem of evil: While it is “totally irrelevant” as to who poses the “problem of evil” question (e.g. a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, an Epicurean or a Stoic), it is relevant that the “question of evil” does not end the faith of the theist.”

As to the relevance of the “question of evil” with respect to the faith of the theist. This simply does not make sense. My words had nothing to do with this.

The original point in question was JX’s ‘You quote from the much beloved Epicurus … The question he asked wasn't a “leading question” meant to lead to Atheism’
To which my answer was ‘Total irrelevance. The question is the same question however it was framed and for whatever purpose.’

And that I stand by.

A side issue, but a telling one. I did not bother making this point at the time but will now. Where is JX’s evidence that it wasn’t a leading question meant to lead to atheism – as he so confidently asserts?

I knew that the quotation was actually taken from Hume’s use of it in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. But I was surprised to learn that its source has never been traced. The best that has been offered is On the Anger of God, ch. 4, by Lactantius, which can be found at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0703.htm and seen that it is nothing like Hume’s argument. Sextus Empiricus (Outlines of Pyrrhonism, III. iii), has something like it but there is no attribution to Epicurus.

If JX has traced the original source, Wikkiquotes would be delighted to hear from him. If he has not, could he please explain to me how he could so confidently assert something that is simply not known, and then even congratulate himself on ‘being correct about that’.
Inventing facts to support your arguments is not a sound debating device.



8. JX. “Thus my point was on point. Let me quote it: “The question he (Epicurus) asked wasn't a ‘leading question’ meant to lead to Atheism.” I was correct on that. The “problem of evil” question doesn’t debunk a theist faith. and Epicureanism is NOT a form of atheism.”

We need to backtrack on this one.
I cited a quote from Epicurus that summed up the problem of evil as an argument against the existence of God.
JX countered with, “The question was meant to lead to... a garden party chit-chat. Pleasant chit-chat among epicurean theists at that.”
I pointed out that it didn’t matter who made it, or why, the question remained a valid one.
Now, above, he claims that he was indeed correct [in saying his words were relevant].

As he gives no supporting evidence for this, other than what follows, I can only suppose that this is meant to be his supporting argument:

“The problem of evil question doesn’t debunk a theist faith.”

But this has not been demonstrated. How does a theist faith explain away the problem of evil?

In an earlier post JX admitted,
“Neither Christians nor Epicureans (nor anyone else as far as I know) have a good answer as to why God would allow Natural Evil to occur.”
“As per Man-Made Evil, it is the “price of the ticket.” If we didn't have free will, we would be robots”.

Therefore at least part of the problem of evil has no ‘good’ answer, and the claim that free will is an answer is simply not justified. Nor, I believe, can it be. It has never been tested in debate as JX pushed it one side in his eagerness to have a go at the atheists. I would be more than happy to argue the point.

JX goes on to say, ‘Epicureanism did not default into atheism and Epicureanism is NOT a form of atheism.’

This does not seem germane to the issue, and I had been clear that Epicurus ‘accepted that gods exist’ and so accepted that Epicureans were nominally theists. I did however point out that he saw the gods as ‘having no interest in the world of humanity’ and that ‘superstition and religious ritual [was] of no effect’.
In other words, this is most definitely not the God required by JX to establish and support an objective moral code. Whether they are considered atheists or theists is therefore of no relevance at all.
It is typical that JX has simply ignored this and continues to claim the Epicureans as theists, even saying that it was ‘perplexing’ that the Epicureans were completely aware of the problem of evil and that it did not cause them to abandon a belief in God.
Finally, what possible relevance to the actual argument does this have? If it had been pulled out of a Christmas cracker and read out by a jester riding a monocycle it would remain a valid argument. As it would if the Devil himself produced it.

9. JX. “It is only due to the intellectual squalor of atheism that atheists have to try to claim him and his movement as part of their own. (They do this a lot.) Total Fraud!”

“Atheists claim Epicurus as a fellow atheist a lot”. I’m not actually surprised. I think they were probably agnostic or atheist. Gods who take no part in the events of the human world are effectively of no practical interest to anyone. I suspect the Epicureans were just playing safe. To suggest this does not seem an example of intellectual squalor to me. JX may not agree with me, but he cannot deny that it is a reasonable and plausible possibility. If it is claimed that they were definitely atheists, then that would be pushing the envelope.

Moreover, it is an argument that goes back to classical times and therefore should be taken seriously.
“Marcus Tullius relates that it was said by Posidonius, that Epicurus understood that there were no gods, but that he said those things which he spoke respecting the gods for the sake of driving away odium; and so that he leaves the gods in words, but takes them away in reality, since he gives them no motion, no office.”
Lactantius. On the Anger of God. Chapter 4.

Perhaps JX could now justify that this description is ‘total fraud.’ Firstly, I never described the Epicureans as atheists. Secondly, it still could have been justifiably argued if I had. So I remain totally bemused as to where the assertions this is ‘intellectual squalor’ and ‘total fraud’. What other atheists say has nothing to do with my argument anyway. JX’s need to attach the labels of liar and fraud does make me wonder as to the underlying psychology.


10. JX. “And it is for fear of losing the war that atheists don’t allow for discussion of atheist theodicy – the denial of ALL moral values.”

Assertions that are completely without any evidence. Where is there evidence that atheists don’t allow for discussion of atheist theodicy [read atheist problem of evil]? And I’m not sure exactly what is the referent for the ‘denial of ALL moral values’, but if the phrase refers to atheism or atheists, it is manifest and libellous nonsense.


11. JX. “2.1) H47: “So exactly how his (Epicurus) own religious opinions have any bearing on the problem of suffering with respect to the personal God of Christian theism seems somewhat obscure”.
JX: The very next sentence you quote from me (in 2.2) satisfactorily answers. Let me quote it: “It demonstrates that the Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism”.”

So, exactly how do Epicurus’s religious opinions demonstrate that the ‘problem of evil’ is NOT dispositive to theism? What exactly is the argument? The best that can be said, I think, is that the Greek philosophical schools were all theistic. But this demonstrates nothing without some clear indication that their reason for their theism is logically linked to the idea that the problem of evil is not an existential threat to theism.

After all, Epicurus is the one who stated the problem of evil.
“God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak – and this does not apply to God. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful – which is equally foreign to god's nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?”— Lactantius, De Ira Deorum 13.19

A major problem is the term theism.
Like many terms this word can mean quite distinct things.
A A general belief in the existence of god(s) of any kind.
B. A belief in a god, especially a single supreme creator, with whom the believer has a personal relationship.

JX seems to oscillate between the two.
However, only the second is relevant to this debate, as the problem of suffering is peculiar only to an Abrahamic god. For a deist, God does not care about the problem, for dualists, one god is evil already, for polytheists the gods do what they want to do and most of the time it isn’t moral at all, to pantheists god is the whole world which includes any and all aspects of evil. Only for the good, loving creator god does evil become a difficulty.


12. JX. “Again, the Epicureans were completely aware of the problem of evil and that did not cause them to abandon a belief in God. It’s a perplexing problem, but it is not an existential threat to a theist faith.”

So, let us look at the Epicureans.
“Epicureanism does not deny the existence of the gods; rather it denies their involvement in the world. According to Epicureanism, the gods do not interfere with human lives or the rest of the universe in any way. Thus, it shuns the idea that frightening weather events are divine retribution. One of the fears the Epicurean ought to be freed from is fear relating to the actions of the gods. The manner in which the Epicurean gods exist is still disputed. Some scholars say that Epicureanism believes that the gods exist outside the mind as material objects (the realist position), while others assert that the gods only exist in our minds as ideals (the idealist position). The realist position holds that Epicureans understand the gods as existing as physical and immortal beings made of atoms that reside somewhere in reality. However, the gods are completely separate from the rest of reality; they are uninterested in it, play no role in it, and remain completely undisturbed by it. Instead, the gods live in what is called the metakosmia, or the space between worlds. Contrarily, the idealist (sometimes called the “non-realist position” to avoid confusion) position holds that the gods are just idealized forms of the best human life, and it is thought that the gods were emblematic of the life one should aspire towards. The debate between these two positions was revived by A. A. Long and David Sedley in their 1987 book, The Hellenistic Philosophers, in which the two argued in favour of the idealist position. While a scholarly consensus has yet to be reached, the realist position remains the prevailing viewpoint at this time.” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicureanism - Religion

In fact, it has been suggested that the Epicureans were indeed atheists:
“Ancient critics thought the Epicurean gods were a thin smoke-screen to hide Epicurus’ atheism, and difficulties with a literal interpretation of Epicurus’ sayings on the nature of the gods (for instance, it appears inconsistent with Epicurus’ atomic theory to hold that any compound body, even a god, could be immortal) have led some scholars to conjecture that Epicurus’ ‘gods’ are thought-constructs, and exist only in human minds as idealizations, i.e., the gods exist, but only as projections of what the most blessed life would be.” https://iep.utm.edu/epicur/ - SH3e

Finally, where is JX’s evidence that the Epicureans were completely aware of the problem of evil, except of course where Epicurus is citing it AS a problem?


13. JX. “The problem of nihilism IS an existential threat to the atheist faith and forces many to try to completely deny it. The reason is obvious: the atheist faith cannot survive it. Atheist theodicy destroys atheism; Christian theodicy does not destroy Christianity.”

Atheism is NOT nihilism. Atheism is simply not accepting the idea of a god or gods.
The argument that atheism leads to nihilism which leads to the destruction of atheism itself needs to be made, not simply asserted.

Remembering that JX’s use of theodicy is confusing, as he seems to think it synonymous with the problem of evil, whereas it is an attempted answer to that problem, what evidence is there for this dogmatic conclusion? Based on what premises and arguments?


14. JX. “2.2 H47: “The whole of Greek philosophy is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil? Well, that I absolutely challenge... I think some appropriate evidence needs to be given, and it will need to be substantial for such a monumental claim.””

JX: This is going to be a headache! First, consider the “sitz im leben.”

So, let’s see what the claims are, and go through them, one by one:

A. There are two opposing groups, sophists and philosophers.
B. The sophists are villains.
C. Both agree that the ‘Olympian’ religion is over.
D. The sophists deny God and any need for righteousness. They are nihilists with no belief in morality.
F. No God = No Morality = Sophistry = Teaching wickedness. God = Morality = Philosophy = Teaching righteousness.


15. There are two opposing groups, sophists and philosophers.
JX actually says, “There are only three players in the game. 1) Votaries of Zeus. 2) Philosophers. 3) Sophists.””

What about the votaries of the other gods? What about local cults and the worship of heroes and what might be called nature spirits? What about the local mystery religions (eg the Eleusinian) and foreign ones (such as those of Isis)? As for the ‘philosophers, how large and how cohesive a group are they and consisting of whom? Similarly, the sophists. How sharp was the demarcation line between them? This may seem to be demanding a great deal, but I know of no evidence suggesting that there was any such formal or informal groupings, other than coming under the same definition.

And the definition, for sophists, contains no suggestion of atheism. Here is the definition by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “professional educators who toured the Greek world offering instruction in a wide range of subjects, with particular emphasis on skill in public speaking and the successful conduct of life.”
One of the problems is that Plato, for whatever reason, did not like sophists, and most of our information about them comes refracted through his eyes. Their major crime, to Plato, seems to be that they accept money for their teaching.

Cp Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Article :The Sophists.
“But their wealth and celebrity status has to be set against the negative reaction they aroused in those of conservative views, e.g. Anytus in Meno 89e–94e, who saw them (to a considerable extent unfairly, as we have seen) as subversive of morality and religion and a bad influence on the young. According to Plato in the Apology, it was that climate of opinion, most strikingly expressed in Aristophanes’ Clouds, which had led eventually to the condemnation of Socrates on grounds of irreligion and the corruption of the young. Consequently, his rehabilitation of Socrates leads him to contrast the genuine philosopher with the sophists, whom he depicts predominantly as charlatans. That hostile portrait was the historical foundation of the conception of the sophist as a dishonest argumentative trickster, a conception which remains the primary sense of the word in modern usage, but which considerably distorts what can be recovered of the historical reality.”


B The sophists are villains.

16. JX. “The Sophists are the villains and the literary art of Plato makes that clear. Thrasymachus (from the Republic), Polus and Callicles (from Gorgias) and the brothers (from Euthydemus) are villains.”

Well, we are shown that some sophists seem to be immoral. By Plato. But by no means all. And where does it say that anyone is a villain, or a commensurate term?

A list (not claimed to be exhaustive, as most are known through Plato’s dialogues) of individuals CLAIMED to be sophists:
Protagoras, Hippias, Prodicus, Euthydemus, Dionysodorus, Antiphon, Gorgias, Thrasymachus, Callicles, Dioagoras, Lycophron and Euenus.

If they were villains, then why were some respected and trusted in political life? Protagoras, for example, drew up the law-code for the foundation of the Athenian colony of Thurii in 444/3 (Diogenes Laertius IX.50), and Gorgias, Hippias, Prodicus and possibly also Thrasymachus acted as diplomatic representatives of their respective cities.

Out of these twelve, Callicles is not described as a sophist but as the student of one, and may, indeed by an invented character as there is no contemporaneous attestation of his existence.


17. Of these twelve, only four were accused of being or were rumoured to be atheists, as far as I have been able to discover.

However, we should be careful in giving credence to what were tales told much later. For example, a fragment, the so-called Sisyphus fragment seems fairly unequivocal in its atheism.
“a shrewd and clever-minded man invented for mortals a fear of the gods, so that there might be a deterrent for the wicked.” It is attributed to Critias by Sextus Empiricus (Against the Physicists). Sextus Empiricus wrote 600 years or more after Critias. Imagine somebody today trying to write a history of Henry V without the help of Mr Google or even a decent library.

And we should be careful about bringing the connotations that words have from our time to a time greatly removed. For example, atheism clearly does not seem to have the same precise meaning. Christians were vilified as atheists, as was Socrates.

See James Thrower. A Short History of Western Atheism. Pemberton Books. 1971. P17.
“The majority of thinkers whom later writers designated atheoi are found upon closer examination to deny only the notion of the gods as expressed in popular belief, and this more often than not as a prelude to the putting forward of a more sophisticated and developed conception of the divine.”

See also Craig A. Evans. The Fool Says in His Heart, “There is no God”: Atheism in the Bible and in Late Antiquity. https://hbu.edu/news-and-events/2016/04/22/fool-says-heart-no-god-atheism-bible-late-antiquity/
"The two principal words are atheos, an adjective that means “godless” or “ungodly,” and atheotēs, an adjective that means “ungodliness.” Neither word implies the idea that there is no god. The words almost always are used in reference to the impious or to those who fail to honor the gods properly. Atheos can also be in reference to a person (or thing) that has been abandoned by the gods, i.e., he is a man who is “without god.” We find an example of this use in Sophocles (Oedipus Tyrannus 662), as well as in later magical texts (e.g ., P GM 36.319: “I want to flee the godless [atheos] Typhon”; ibid. 36.337: “consume with fire the godless [atheos] Typhon”). Examples of atheos meaning showing the gods no respect are found in Sophocles (Trachiniae 1038), Aristophanes (Thesmorphoriazusae 671), and Euripides (Orestes 916)."

Critias was the sophist who is probably one of the best candidates for actually being an atheist (Epicurus maintained that Critias’s arguments had ‘made it impossible for them [i.e. the gods] as generally conceived to exist.’ Though take note of the qualifier, ‘as generally received’. And yet he was made one the Council of Thirty set up to rule Athens in the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War by the famously pious Spartans, and in the dialogues is never identified as an atheist, although it seems likely that Plato would know this, if it was the case, as he was a member of Critias’s extended family. So, considering the scenario we are offered it seems odd that Plato did not take the chance of evidencing his (or JX’s) contention that sophists were all atheists.

Protagorus seems to have clearly been agnostic rather than an atheist, saying, ‘With regard to the gods I cannot feel sure either that they are, or that they are not… for there are many things that hinder sure knowledge.’ Plato. Theatus 165C.

See also Lactantius. On the Anger of God Ch 9
“Protagoras, in the times of Socrates, was the first of all who said that it was not clear to him whether there was any divinity or not. And this disputation of his was judged so impious, and so contrary to the truth and to religion, that the Athenians both banished him from their territories, and burnt in a public assembly those books of his in which these statements were contained.”

The point has been made, that in the atmosphere of free inquiry ushered in by the pre-Socratic, the Athenian in the street was suspicious of such new-fangled ideas. Which is not the same as saying that atheism was regarded as a clear and present danger.

Moreover, he is defended strongly by Socrates when criticised as a sophist.
“SOCRATES: What, Anytus? Of all the people who profess that they know how to do men good, do you mean to say that these are the only ones who not only do them no good, but positively corrupt those who are entrusted to them, and in return for this disservice have the face to demand money? Indeed, I cannot believe you; for I know of a single man, Protagoras, who made more out of his craft than the illustrious Pheidias, who created such noble works, or any ten other statuaries. How could that be? A mender of old shoes, or patcher up of clothes, who made the shoes or clothes worse than he received them, could not have remained thirty days undetected, and would very soon have starved; whereas during more than forty years, Protagoras was corrupting all Hellas, and sending his disciples from him worse than he received them, and he was never found out. For, if I am not mistaken, he was about seventy years old at his death, forty of which were spent in the practice of his profession; and during all that time he had a good reputation, which to this day he retains: and not only Protagoras, but many others are well spoken of; some who lived before him, and others who are still living. Now, when you say that they deceived and corrupted the youth, are they to be supposed to have corrupted them consciously or unconsciously? Can those who were deemed by many to be the wisest men of Hellas have been out of their minds?”
Plato. Meno. 91E

There is a later account of him being banished from Athens. But, from Gábor Bolonyai’s paper, Protagoras the Atheist.
“As the story goes, when the famous sophist visited Athens and gave a public reading of his treatise, already the first sentences caused so immense indignation among his audience that he was immediately expelled from Athens, and the available copies of his books were gathered and burned in the market-place.”
But, as Bolonyai points out, citing John Burnet,
“Plato’s evidence on Protagoras’ career in the Meno virtually rules out the possibility that such trial ever took place.”
(PDF) Protagoras the Atheist | Gábor Bolonyai - Academia.eduhttps://www.academia.edu › Protagoras_the_Atheist

Prodicus “interpreted religion through the framework of naturalism. The gods he regarded as personifications of the sun, moon, rivers, fountains, and whatever else contributes to the comfort of our life.” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prodicus
“In the dialogues of Plato he is mentioned or introduced with a certain degree of esteem, compared with the other sophists. Aristophanes, in The Clouds, deals more indulgently with him than with Socrates; and Xenophon's Socrates, for the purpose of combating the voluptuousness of Aristippus, borrows from the book of "the wise Prodicus"” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prodicus

Diagoras was the most notorious, being known as Diagoras the Atheist.
Throughout antiquity, he was regarded as an atheist, but very little is known for certain about what he actually believed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diagoras_of_Melos. He was accused of having revealed the Eleusinian mysteries and fled Athens in 415, when Plato would be only 13 years old.

Thus, out of the four, one was effectively before Plato’s time, and none are identified as atheists by Plato.


C. Both philosophers and sophists agree that the ‘Olympian’ religion is over.

JX “Thus, the intellectual “sitz im leben” can be topographically viewed somewhat like this. Both the Philosophers and the Sophists know the days of Olympianism are over – the intellectual ideas of the old religion are so crude relative to the revolution of the pre-socratics that no one takes them seriously enough to debate. The real fight is between the Philosophers and the Sophists. And this begs the question: What’s the real difference between a Philosopher and a Sophist? Answer: God.”

They might well have thought that polytheism was untenable, but no evidence is offered. Moreover, we are by no means certain as to what they are putting in its place. Certainly, the sophists are not unanimous in their opinions that are very difficult to tease out from the fragmentary and frequently biased references. There is certainly no evidence that they were a homogeneous group of atheists.

Even Plato’s ‘God’ is uncertain and incoherent to some extent (what exactly is the relationship between God and the forms and between God and the demiurge, for example). Suffice it to say that, though adopted by Christianity in the guise of Neoplatonism, Plato’s God is not the Abrahamic God.

Cp Plato’s God. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
“To Plato, God is transcendent-the highest and most perfect being-and one who uses eternal forms, or archetypes, to fashion a universe that is eternal and uncreated. The order and purpose he gives the universe is limited by the imperfections inherent in material. Flaws are therefore real and exist in the universe; they are not merely higher divine purposes misunderstood by humans. God is not the author of everything because some things are evil. We can infer that God is the author of the punishments of the wicked because those punishments benefit the wicked. God, being good, is also unchangeable since any change would be for the worse. For Plato, this does not mean (as some later Christian thought held) that God is the ground of moral goodness; rather, whatever is good is good in and of itself. God must be a first cause and a self-moved mover otherwise there will be an infinite regress to causes of causes. Plato is not committed to monotheism, but suggests for example that since planetary motion is uniform and circular, and since such motion is the motion of reason, then a planet must be driven by a rational soul. These souls that drive the planets could be called gods.”
https://iep.utm.edu/god-west/#:~:text=To%20Plato%2C%20God%20is%20transcendent,the%20imperfections%20inherent%20in%20material.

This is supported in the Euthyphro, Plato’s mouthpiece Socrates clearly comes down on the horn of the dilemma that that which is right is commanded by God because it is right - some actions are right or wrong in themselves, independent of God's commands. So, Plato does not believe in a God being necessary for morality, though the idea of God may be helpful in inculcating it.


18. D. The sophists deny God and any need for righteousness. They are nihilists with no belief in morality.

JX. “Briefly, Socrates HAS (roughly) denied the gods, which would be shocking to the huffy conservatives of Athens (eg, the Bill O’Reilly types). But Socrates has NOT denied God. Accordingly, Socrates is very interested in questions of justice and righteousness. His Sophist opponents, not so much. Denying God, they deny any need for righteousness. Hence, in Euthydemus the Sophists go about claiming they can teach people to win any argument. The question of justice is of NO interest to them. The question of disinterested truth is of NO interest to them. All they are interested in is getting ahead and winning. For the sophists, the denial of gods entails denying morality. Therefore, they are teachers of wickedness – not righteousness. They are nihilists – no belief in God (or gods) and no belief in morality.”

Setting aside the theological term ‘righteousness’, how does denying God entail denying there is no need for morality? And, if this cannot be demonstrated, by actual evidence of what the sophists believed, or by appropriate logically valid and evidentially based argument, then how can the conclusion that they were nihilists be justified?

“JX cites five examples of villainous sophists.”

Thrasymachus is a sophist in the Republic. The dialogue is set in the context of the laws of a polis, so is more political philosophy than morality as such. There is no linkage of morality with religion.
Thrasymachus does indeed preach cynical realism and that might is right.
“Listen—I say that justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger.”- Plato, Republic, 338c

But his arguments are more that morality is a social construct. He certainly isn’t a nihilist. He argues that justice is ‘natural’ and that it is obeying the laws. How closely these reflected the actual beliefs of Thrasymachus remains uncertain.

Socrates’ reasons for preferring justice to injustice, in response to Thrasymachus, is surprisingly ‘practical’ - the just man is wiser and better than the unjust man (349b); injustice produces internal disharmony which inhibits effective actions (351b); the just person lives a happier life than the unjust person (352d).
Thrasymachus is certainly not seen as a figure to be admired, but there is no suggestion that his views are ‘dangerous’.

In the Gorgias, Polus and Callicles are NOT identified as sophists at all, though they were taught by Gorgias, whose own philosophy is contentious. Gorgias wrote a book, On Non-existence, which resulted in the epithet Gorgias the Nihilist, but it is difficult to see how non-existence, that there is no knowledge or communication for example, can be argued to be the case without being self-refuting, so the implications of the name are obscure. However, that is what he was later known as, so either he wasn’t known as such at this time, or Plato passes over the chance of making clear to everybody, that sophists are dangerous ‘nihilists’.

In fact, Callicles is most definitely NOT a sophist.

Consider this exchange, which follows upon Socrates criticism of sophists:
“The case of the professed statesman is, I believe, very much like that of the professed sophist; for the sophists, although they are wise men, are nevertheless guilty of a strange piece of folly; professing to be teachers of virtue, they will often accuse their disciples of wronging them, and defrauding them of their pay, and showing no gratitude for their services. Yet what can be more absurd than that men who have become just and good, and whose injustice has been taken away from them, and who have had justice implanted in them by their teachers, should act unjustly by reason of the injustice which is not in them? Can anything be more irrational, my friends, than this?”
And continues:
“SOCRATES: …do tell me whether there does not appear to you to be a great inconsistency in saying that you have made a man good, and then blaming him for being bad?
CALLICLES: Yes, it appears so to me.
SOCRATES: Do you never hear our professors of education speaking in this inconsistent manner?
CALLICLES: Yes, but why talk of men who are good for nothing?
SOCRATES: I would rather say, why talk of men who profess to be rulers, and declare that they are devoted to the improvement of the city, and nevertheless upon occasion declaim against the utter vileness of the city:—do you think that there is any difference between one and the other? My good friend, the sophist and the rhetorician, as I was saying to Polus, are the same, or nearly the same; but you ignorantly fancy that rhetoric is a perfect thing, and sophistry a thing to be despised; whereas the truth is, that sophistry is as much superior to rhetoric as legislation is to the practice of law, or gymnastic to medicine. The orators and sophists, as I am inclined to think, are the only class who cannot complain of the mischief ensuing to themselves from that which they teach others, without in the same breath accusing themselves of having done no good to those whom they profess to benefit. Is not this a fact?
CALLICLES: Certainly it is.”

For confirmation see Jowett’s introduction
“In [Callicles] another type of character is represented; he is neither sophist nor philosopher, but man of the world, and an accomplished Athenian gentleman.”

Finally, JX seems to have overlooked the fact that, to quote Jowett,
“Polus is an impetuous youth, a runaway 'colt,' as Socrates describes him, who wanted originally to have taken the place of Gorgias under the pretext that the old man was tired, and now avails himself of the earliest opportunity to enter the lists.”

In other words, he is represented as an immature ‘wannabe’.
This strongly suggests that he is a pupil of Gorgias, studying rhetoric. Certainly, that was Jowett’s opinion,
“At first he is violent and ill-mannered, and is angry at seeing his MASTER overthrown.”

And, above all, Polus accepts that Socrates is right!

“SOCRATES: Well, and was not this the point in dispute, my friend? You deemed Archelaus happy, because he was a very great criminal and unpunished: I, on the other hand, maintained that he or any other who like him has done wrong and has not been punished, is, and ought to be, the most miserable of all men; and that the doer of injustice is more miserable than the sufferer; and he who escapes punishment, more miserable than he who suffers.—Was not that what I said?
POLUS: Yes.
SOCRATES: And it has been proved to be true?
POLUS: Certainly.”

So not quite the “teachers of wickedness – not righteousness. They are nihilists – no belief in God (or gods) and no belief in morality” of JX’s fervid imagination.

How did JX miss that????

Then there are the brothers Dionysodorus and Euthydemos, who are described as sophists in the dialogue Euthydemos. But there is no discussion of morality. The dialogue has been described as a ‘sourcebook of bad arguments’ in which the brothers pit their ‘eristic’ or adversarial arguments against Socratic elenchic methodology, refuting an argument by proving the falsehood of its conclusion. Socrates describes the brothers as expert refuters of whatever is said, true or false, and as possessing ‘eristic’ wisdom (272b9–10).

The problem with using Gorgias as a proof text, for this particular argument, is that the immorality of these two, who are not actually sophists, needs to be based on atheism, of which there is no mention in the text and no other indications. Instead, we have an embedded perfect circular argument. Sophists hold immoral positions, therefore they are villains, atheists are villains, therefore sophists are atheists and atheists are immoral. That is to ignore the unjustified identification between atheists, sophists and villains.

The game is given away by the following quote by JX:
“Of course, Plato doesn’t interrupt the dialogue to jump in and say, “Hey everybody, Polus is an atheist, did you catch that?” No. But the conclusion is obvious.”

Is it indeed? First of all JX does not take consideration that morality is not really the function of the Olympian gods. Just read their tales of rape and cruelty, infighting and routine favouritism.

There was some social function in their role as the guarantors of oaths, but they teach no moral code or obey one. If Plato was the force behind the whole of Greek philosophy being an attempt to squash atheism as an evil, then why didn’t he make it clear that it is atheism he is attacking. If you have a message that is going to save humanity from inevitable collapse, you don’t disguise it so that it can be missed.

Remember this is the ‘evidence’ for JX’s contention that:
“The whole project of the Academy was to establish a new monotheistic God of Reason. Don't you get it??? Olympianism leads to religious irrationalism, atheism leads to unrighteous behavior, and the new theism allows for righteous behavior with a delimited belief in a creator God – not Gods. To deny that the Academy was setting up a delimited God of Reason – contra polytheism AND atheism – is to be either grossly dishonest or very ill-informed.”

So where is the evidence here? The Academicians did not morality with religion. Plato’s God is not the Abrahamic God, not even yet the God of the Philosophers. That really comes with Plotinus. There is no identification and vilification of atheists, let alone connecting them to the dreadful fate that awaits an atheist world.

It is also significant that I challenged JX to name atheists in the 600 years between the birth of Thales, regarded as the first philosopher and the Battle of Actium which marked the end of the free Hellenistic world. I doubted he would be unable to name twenty. One atheist every 30 years is scarcely symptomatic of a disease that needs to be crushed underfoot. As it is, JX has not named ANY, beyond those that he already had named, and of those, some without any justification.


19. F. No God = No Morality = Sophistry = Teaching wickedness. God = Morality = Philosophy = Teaching righteousness.

JX “Since you said that you have read Gorgias, I will concentrate on that as a further proof-text for the claim. Socrates asserts that he would rather suffer injustice than cause it. This is righteous and it is coming from a man who believes in God. What was Polus’ line? Oh, he argued that the happiest and the best person is NOT the one who is honest and harmless but the one who is successful – by any means. This occurs when Polus discusses the Macedonian tyrant Archelaos. Polus begins by saying, “That he (Archelaos) is wicked I cannot deny…” Polus proceeds to tell how this tyrant came to power through murder and crime and achieved such power that he could “let go the reins of lust.” Apparently that’s Happiness. (One is reminded of the modern atheist and tyrant Mao who murdered millions while also debauching young virgins on a daily basis.) Of course, Plato doesn’t interrupt the dialogue to jump in and say, “Hey everybody, Polus is an atheist, did you catch that?” No. But the conclusion is obvious. Conversely: God = Morality = Philosophy = Teaching righteousness. (Note: It’s interesting to compare Polus advocating for the tyrant Archelaos to Nietzsche advocating for the tyrant Cesar Borgia. See Beyond Good and Evil #197.)”

Plato portrays Polus as eager and immature, he is persuaded by Socrates that he is wrong and there is no suggestion anywhere that he is an atheist. If he was, why should Plato not make it clear that he was an atheist? As the author it could not have been easier and since “the whole of Greek philosophy is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil” he has every reason to emphasise this. In fact, nowhere in Plato’s writings is there any demonstration of the equivalence: No God = No Morality = Sophistry = Teaching wickedness. The evidence for this is that scholars have never spotted it. And that must, at the very least, convict Plato of being one of the most ineffective communicators in philosophical history.


20. JX. “In short, the essential difference between the Philosopher and the Sophist was a belief in God. The belief in God entailed objective moral truth, while the denial of God led to “relativism” and the teaching of wickedness to be successful. Not much has changed. There are still honest Philosophers who believe in God and Righteousness and there are still Sophists who deny God and teach wickedness.”

JX earlier said that it was important to consider the sitz im leben, which was actually good advice. Looking from the context of a society moulded by the belief in an Abrahamic God, the simple word God, especially in the singular, conjures up all sorts of connotations of a single omnipotent creator, of a deity who acts in personal relationship with the believer and a God who is the giver of objective moral truth. The idea of the Ten Commandments is firmly embedded in the fabric of our societal structure.

Greek religion was more based upon shared ritual practices than beliefs and dogma. As can best be exemplified by the Roman attitude to the ‘atheist’ Christians. So long as the accused was prepared to simply carry out the ritual sacrifice to the Roma Emperor there was no further action. Compare that with the Inquisition’s thought control.
See Craig A. Evans. The Fool Says in His Heart, “There is no God”: Atheism in the Bible and in Late Antiquity. https://hbu.edu/news-and-events/2016/04/22/fool-says-heart-no-god-atheism-bible-late-antiquity/
“Christians as atheoi, “atheists,” for denying the existence of the Greco -Roman gods. The charge was sometimes leveled against the Jews too in the first century and beyond (e.g., Apollonius Molon, apud Josephus, Against Apion 2.15; Dio Cassius, Roman History 67.14.1–3; Julian the Apostate, Against the Galileans 43B). The accusation of atheism in large part justified the state’s persecution of Christians."

Most Greek moral philosophy was, in fact, centred on the practical problem of achieving eudaimonia – the good or virtuous life or ‘flourishing’ and had no idea of morality being a set of instructions handed by a deity. Consider the important schools:

Aristotle and the Peripatetic School identified the key aspect to be happiness, which is best achieved by cultivating virtue (hence virtue ethics) through the use of reason and finding the mean between extremes of emotion. His deistic concept of God has no role in providing an objective moral framework.

The Cynics argued that living a life according to nature, rather than human conventions, was virtuous, or, at least, conducive to virtue, and taught detachment from much that people consider to be good. Again, there is no divine moral arbiter involved.

The Cyrenaics were a school founded by Aristippus, a pupil of Socrates. It was hedonistic i.e. pursuing pleasure and denying certain traditional virtues at least, such as friendship, wisdom and prudence, though the latter had a role to play in choosing appropriate pleasures and considering the consequences.
As to their supposed theistic stance, there is certainly no mention in Xenophon’s Memorabilia of Aristippus’s religious views and I know of no references elsewhere.

“… our main source for information on Aristippus is the Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius, who wrote over 500 years after Aristippus died. Diogenes Laertius simply collated what others had said about various philosophers, without any regard for the sources’ reliability.” https://iep.utm.edu/aristippus/

Moreover, Aristotle describes him as a sophist. (Metaphysics. iii. 2.) Now, according to JX, the term sophist is synonymous with atheist, so how can Aristippus and his school be claimed as theistic (see 27 below).

Epicureanism was also a hedonistic school but argued that true pleasure coincided with virtue. They aimed for ataraxia (balance or freedom from disturbance) so that avoiding pain and mental distress became the priority rather than the direct pursuit of pleasure for its own sake. Their gods, such as they were, had no interest in or involvement with humans.

The Stoics equated the good with virtues, such as wisdom, justice, courage and moderation, as well as logic and ethics, and was to be achieved by using reason to control emotions. The world is controlled by right reason and therefore virtue is to be found by understanding nature and conforming with its patterns. Hence the stoical acceptance of misfortune. Their goal is, like the Epicureans, the tranquillity of ataraxia. There is no objective moral code.

See Diogenes Laertius as quoted at https://thesideview.co/journal/the-scientific-god-of-the-stoics/ “The term universe or Cosmos is used by them [The Stoics] in three senses : (1) of God himself, the individual being whose quality is derived from the whole of substance; he is indestructible and ingenerable, being the artificer of this orderly arrangement, who at stated periods of time absorbs into himself the whole of substance and again creates it from himself. (2) Again, they give the name of cosmos to the orderly arrangement of the heavenly bodies in Itself as such; and (3) in the third-place to that whole of which these two are parts.”

Pyrrhonian Skepticism. As the name might suggest they held that every argument was balanced by an opposing argument, leading to a suspension of judgement. Obviously, such a deep scepticism is unable to countenance an objective moral framework.
“The Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus compiled a large number of ancient arguments against the existence of gods, recommending that one should suspend judgment regarding the matter.”
n.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_atheism#:~:text=While%20only%20a%20few%20of,philosopher%20Theodorus%20the%20Atheist%20(c.

Thus none of the major schools of philosophy in Classical antiquity are consistent with the ‘objective’ moral codes as promulgated by the Abrahamic God.

So is Plato the only one? Not even that. As in the rest there is no clear indication of anything like the Abrahamic God. Ultimately, to Socrates and/or Plato, knowledge is largely synonymous with virtue, especially knowledge of the seemingly self-existent forms. Virtue leads to happiness or welfare, just as in Aristotle (who had abandoned the forms) but virtue is destroyed by doing wrong. Virtue itself is important in allowing reason to control the emotions. This is why we are famously led to the rather questionable concept of the philosopher kings, as only they can fully grasp the nature of beauty, goodness and justice. It is this knowledge that is regarded as affording genuine happiness, rather than the happiness that can be gained by feeding the emotions.

Again, there is nothing in Plato about a god-given moral structure. Plato’s account in the Timaeus is notoriously complex and is neither monotheistic nor a personal god like the Abrahamic. The world is not created ex nihilo, but is ordered out of chaos by the demiurge or craftsman, in accordance with the already existing abstract concepts of the forms and along with the co-existent ananke or necessity. The world itself is a self-sufficient god, as are the astronomical bodies, giving us a wonderful amalgam of pantheism, polytheism and monolatry, but NOT a supreme and solitary creator god, nor yet a god who stands in a personal relationship with the humans (who, interestingly are created by the lesser gods, though the souls are made by the demiurge). Moreover, Plato’s own followers in the Academy, from the Old Academy to the neo-platonism of Plotinus, predominantly saw the description as metaphorical rather than literal.

I have given reasons why Plato should not be regarded as believing a god anything like a modern theist’s conception, that the sophists were not all villains and/or atheists, that Plato himself did not regard them as such and there is no reason to see anything at all about a weird idea that Plato was setting up an anti-atheist campaign. It is all imagination spun from gossamer.

Finally, if it was not apparent before, this confirms that JX’s view of a world split between the good theists and the evil atheists is driven by a religious point of view.


21. JX. “Now, to bring it on home. Plato’s dialogues were such a success in demonizing the atheist Sophists that the schools that followed (eg, Epicurean and Stoic) acknowledged the God principle, in however delimited a role. This because they knew where atheism leads: Polus advocating for Archelaos, like Nietzsche advocating for the “beyond good and evil” Superman – eg, Cesar Borgia. You can deny the obvious if you want, but you are living in an atheist-fundie group-think echo-chamber if you do. The Philosophers were the theists teaching righteousness; and the Sophists were the atheists teaching wickedness. Duhhh.”.

Of course, I may indeed be living in an atheist-fundie group-think echo-chamber, though that seems a little odd as I am not a member of any sort of group, while JX, naturally, inhabits the sunlit uplands of totally unprejudiced and impeccable intellectual analysis. Heaven forfend that he might be biased. But, despite how ‘obvious’ all this is, could I ask:

A. What exactly does JX mean by delimiting the God Principle?

B. As I think I have shown, none of these schools have any notion of a morality given by a God. And only this seems consistent with JX’s view.

C. Even if these schools, in some way, acknowledged such a God Principle, how does JX demonstrate that this was due to Plato’s dialogues? I know JX will complain about filibustering and having to answer thousands of questions, but when one makes an assertion of this kind, it is not too much to require a modicum of evidence.

D. And exactly how does JX know that these schools ‘knew’ where atheism leads. I defy JX to cite one piece of contemporary evidence that shows this.

E. “The Philosophers were the theists teaching righteousness; and the Sophists were the atheists teaching wickedness.” As this has been challenged above, it too, needs to be demonstrated.


22. JX. “2.3 Most of what H47 discussed in this talking point I addressed directly above. One sub-point remains. It is this: “I know of no great problem with atheism (the charges against Socrates were a cover for a political trial) and can find no trace of the atheist as madman.”

Just to make the point that JX gives no evidence or argument that atheists were regarded as madmen.


23. “JX: To say the charges “were a cover” is a dodge. Let’s analyze. Socrates was NOT an atheist. Metelus hates Socrates. Metelus wants Socrates put to death. So Metelus frames Socrates as an atheist and then accuses him of using the common tricks of the Sophists in his mis-teaching of youth. Please observe the connection! Accusation: Socrates is an atheist. Proof: He uses the mis-teaching techniques of the Sophists! Conclusion: Sophists were atheists who used tricky debating techniques and this led to the Sophists (read: atheists) to being so despised that at this particular time the death penalty could be called for. The logic is inescapable.”

If this is logic, I must be the shameless charlatan that JX seems to think I am, or as he charitably offers an alternative, I am simply stoned while writing. I never realised that tea could have that effect.

A (the accusation) is composed of charges B (atheism) and C (sophistry in misleading of the young).
The proof of B is C.
Conclusion. B and C are linked together (sophists are atheists who mislead the young).

Spot the error?
I am sure that the reader has noticed that the linkage between B and C is inserted into premise 2. B is said to be linked with C.
No evidence is given for this linkage in premise 2. There is nowhere in the Apology where it states or entails that the misleading of the young ‘proves’ that Socrates is an atheist.
Thus, it is no surprise to see that B is linked to C pops out in the conclusion.
Because it was put there by JX!

This is that most basic of logical fallacies - petitio principii or ‘begging the question’. Putting into one of the premises the conclusion that you wish to arrive at.

The illogic is inescapable.

If the linkage of atheism and sophism is considered so important, then perhaps it might be considered that other factors could have been instrumental in their juxtaposition in this case. In 423 BCE the scurrilous comic playwright Aristophenes staged the play The Clouds. In it Socrates is mercilessly pilloried as an atheist

Strep. But come, by the Earth, is not Jupiter, the Olympian, a god?
Soc. What Jupiter? Do not trifle. There is no Jupiter.
Strep. What do you say? Who rains then? For first of all explain this to me.
Soc. These to be sure. I will teach you it by powerful evidence. Come, where have you ever seen him raining at any time without Clouds? And yet he ought to rain in fine weather, and these be absent.
Strep. By Apollo, of a truth you have rightly confirmed this by your present argument. And yet, before this, I really thought that Jupiter caused the rain. But tell me who is it that thunders. This makes me tremble.
Soc. These, as they roll, thunder.
Strep. In what way? you all-daring man!
Soc. When they are full of much water, and are compelled to be borne along, being necessarily precipitated when full of rain, then they fall heavily upon each other and burst and clap.
Strep. Who is it that compels them to borne along? Is it not Jupiter?
Soc. By no means, but aethereal Vortex.
Strep. Vortex? It had escaped my notice that Jupiter did not exist, and that Vortex now reigned in his stead.

Later, it is made clear that ‘Vortex’ is to be regarded as a new deity
“Strep. Vortex reigns, having expelled Jupiter.”

One might argue that here, indeed, is the evidence that atheism was linked with sophistry and was an extremely serious charge. But, of course, it isn’t atheism. The words atheism and/or atheist do not appear in the play. And one must answer the question as to why, as the trial took place in 399BCE, i.e. 24 years after the play was staged, did no-one take any action against a dangerous atheist misleading the youth during that time.

Here you have the charge of not believing in his Athen’s deities but worshipping new gods as a popular meme. A gift for the prosecution.

If the sophists were so despised that Sophocles could be indicted as resembling them, why is there such little evidence of action being taken against them? According to the Meno, Protagoras seems to have been living, and being pretty well respected, in Athens. The example we do know, Diagoras, appears to have been accused of revealing secrets of mystery religions rather than atheism per se.

Nor is there any evidence that the sophists were all atheists, or even largely atheists. The ones considered such may well have not been. For example, the early Christians were regarded as atheists and Socrates himself is accused of it, when it was well known that he believed that he had a personal daemon (not equivalent to the word demon at all - perhaps the word spirit might best describe it). Show me, in the Republic where there is any textual evidence of the argument, ‘Socrates is an atheist. Proof: He uses the mis-teaching techniques of the Sophists. Conclusion: Sophists were atheists.’ Because they are both in the same dialogue does not mean they are logically connected.

The idea that the trial was largely political is very widely held.

“The question of what motivated Athenians to convict Socrates remains controversial among scholars. There are two theories. The first is that Socrates was convicted on religious grounds; the second, that he was accused and convicted for political reasons. Another, more recent, interpretation synthesizes the religious and political theories, arguing that religion and state were not separate in ancient Athens.”
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrates – Trial of Socrates.

See also Robin Waterfield. Why Socrates Died.


24. JX “Now why might the death penalty be called for when dealing with atheist Sophists? The answer is above in the commentary on Gorgias! The Sophists were teaching ambitious young men to model themselves on bloody tyrants like Archelaos! Duhh. (And this is why the Socrates-to-Alcibiades relationship is such a pivotal “sub-plot” in the dialogues.)”

Wow. The second Duhh in three paragraphs. I must be doing well.

In which case why weren’t the sophists like Protagoras prosecuted and executed? If they were so bad that simply being like them was sufficient as a pretext to execute Socrates, then why were there absolutely no executions of sophists, or, for that matter, their many pupils?

I do, indeed, think that the Alcibiades subplot is important. Alcibiades had by this time proved the ultimate traitor and gone over to the Athenian’s deadly enemy, the Spartans. That and Socrates’ connection with the murderous Thirty Tyrants recently removed by Democratic revolution are almost certainly significant. And why does Socrates defend himself by pointing out that he had refused an order by the Tyrants to arrest a man at their behest? It certainly suggests that there is a political dimension to the trial.

In fact, the word atheist is NEVER linked to sophistry in the Apology. The word sophist appears but once, and in the context of sophists being paid for teaching, not for teaching atheism.

Nor does the Gorgias even contain the word atheist, nor any meaningful use of the word god(s), while sophistry is merely described as a part of ‘flattery’ along with rhetoric.

All we have is the word according to JX.

Duhh indeed.


25. JX “(A not entirely irrelevant Note: The “New Atheists” are rolled out by Big Money to glamorize atheism, destroy Christian values and pave the way for the New World Order of eurofascist “Globalism” which will be a form of anti-liberal industrial feudalism ruled by a small CASTE of old money families (eg, Rothschilds, Rockefellars etc). The capitalistas can play the Gramsci card, too. It would nice if the atheists woke up to the fact that they have been duped and that their “four horsemen” heroes are zeros. The “tell”: when Hitch started playing for Bush-Cheney. The good die young. Unfortunately, Hitch didn’t die young enough. Oh, and then there’s Dennet and Dawkins doing the TED talks. Do you know how much you have to pay to be there? $6,000 a seat. It’s all about the 1%. The “four horsemen” have come to bury the 99% and liberal democracy, too. Steven Pinker is a total gasbag of lies, but I think I am getting off-topic. Sorry.)”

And now we’re into the world of conspiracy theories, The Rosicrucians, the Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Prieure de Sion and, of course, QAnon.

The New World Order (NWO) is a conspiracy theory especially linked to right wing fundamentalist Christians and antisemitism which hypothesizes a secretly emerging totalitarian world government.

“The common theme in conspiracy theories about a New World Order is that a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian one-world government—which will replace sovereign nation-states—and an all-encompassing propaganda whose ideology hails the establishment of the New World Order as the culmination of history's progress. Many influential historical and contemporary figures have therefore been alleged to be part of a cabal that operates through many front organizations to orchestrate significant political and financial events, ranging from causing systemic crises to pushing through controversial policies, at both national and international levels, as steps in an ongoing plot to achieve world domination.” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_World_Order_(conspiracy_theory)

Conspiracy theories are notorious for being impervious to critical thinking. Any fact can be ignored or made to fit what is an endlessly malleable framework.


26. JX “2.4 a-j) This seems a rather long and itemized list of points that smells of a filibuster. The relevant issue seems to be this:
JX: “The Greeks knew, damn well, just where atheism leads. That's what this discussion is really about.”
H47: “Have you any evidence at all? I trust you will provide enlightenment.”

Indeed. In which case has JX the evidence? I have provided evidence. Too much according to JX. But could I have some? Just a little bit?

However, 2.4a-j was a long list of points arguing that, for JX’s thesis to be true the God in question must be an interventionist deity who both gives and sustains an objective moral framework for his creation. i.e., something like the Abrahamic God. As JX has no evidence for this he effortlessly slides by it dismissing it as filibuster. He then proceeds to ignore it throughout, repeatedly claiming that all that is needed is a belief in God (not even the God of reason). Either he has failed to understand something that is essential to his argument, or he knows full well what he is doing.

His solitary response is “The Greeks knew, damn well, just where atheism leads. That's what this discussion is really about.” Well, he’s right about it being what the discussion is fundamentally about (or, at least, a significant part of it) but the initial assertion is wrong. See 2.4a-j.


27. “JX: I think my commentary on points 2.2 and 2.3 suffices.” The pre-socratics set the stage for attempting to understand the world through Reason, not the Will of Zeus. From that developed two groups of people. Atheist Sophists who denied God altogether and went about teaching wickedness; and the theist Philosophers who accepted a more delimited God and went about teaching virtue and righteousness. In short, Plato and the Academy were fighting a two front war: They were fighting against the old Olympians (sort of like the “fundies” of modern times) and the atheist Sophists who were encouraging every wickedness – as seen by various Sophist villains. “

Well, it isn’t sufficient. This is a repeat and, indeed, elaboration of JX’s somewhat idiosyncratic interpretation of Greek philosophy and has no supportive evidence. Perhaps he could explain why all the commentators on Classical philosophy, including such luminaries as Bertrand Russell, managed to miss this?

Time and time again, things are interpreted according to a very narrow worldview, but never with detailed evidence or answers to the specific criticisms and evidence that show the description is, at best, suspect. Such is simply ignored or brushed aside as filibustering. Where, for example has there been cited actual evidence that the sophists were ‘villains’? I have cited evidence that they clearly were not seen as that, even by Plato (see notes on Protagoras) and absolutely no evidence has been given that ‘the whole of Greek philosophy was an attempt to squash atheism as an evil.’ I asked that some evidence be provided but nothing has been.

Instead, the conclusions are ‘obvious’, ‘circumstantial’ or we are simply given a repeat performance. This is not argument, it is rhetoric.

I ask again. Where is there any reputable contemporary account of Greek philosophy that describes anything like this at all?

28. JX “Essentially, the raison d’etre of the Academy was to establish that one could deny the traditional gods and still be righteous, but this required a fundamental belief in God. And that is why the God principle is so important in the dialogues. Observe that neither the Academics, the Peripetetics, the Stoics, the Epicureans or even the Cyrenians denied the God principle. The triumph of Plato, in short, was ending traditional Olympianism AND atheism. The dialogues proved a tour de force and atheism was crushed under the boot – disappeared from the cultural scene – until the Enlightenment age.”

What exactly is the God Principle as JX understands it? It seems to be the idea that a God provides an objective moral law. But the schools cited didn’t even understand the God Principle, or, if they did, I have never seen any evidence. See 20 above. Perhaps JX could provide that if he disagrees.

Let me just emphasise the point by quoting the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Epicurus.
“Ancient critics thought the Epicurean gods were a thin smoke-screen to hide Epicurus’ atheism, and difficulties with a literal interpretation of Epicurus’ sayings on the nature of the gods (for instance, it appears inconsistent with Epicurus’ atomic theory to hold that any compound body, even a god, could be immortal) have led some scholars to conjecture that Epicurus’ ‘gods’ are thought-constructs, and exist only in human minds as idealizations, i.e., the gods exist, but only as projections of what the most blessed life would be.”
https://iep.utm.edu/epicur/#:~:text=Ancient%20critics%20thought%20the%20Epicurean,a%20god%2C%20could%20be%20immortal)

“The dialogues proved a tour de force and atheism was crushed under the boot – disappeared from the cultural scene – until the Enlightenment age.”
Wonderful stirring stuff. Positively Churchillian. But where is the evidence?

I’m fascinated to know that Plato ended traditional Olympianism. As I’m sure would have been Julian the Apostate, the last pagan Emperor, about 700 years later. As for atheism, as we have seen, it was a term that was bandied about in cases where it clearly or likely was not atheism as we understand it. Christians, for example were described as atheists. There is no evidence for any significant atheist movement, so the crushing under the boot is mere rhetoric. Evidence not assertions.

And, by the way, where did all those pesky Roman atheists come from, as exemplified or illustrated by such as Cicero, Horace, Lucretius, Lucian, Sextus Empiricus and Pliny the Elder, if atheism had been crushed under the boot?


28. JX: “3.1-2) Section 3 gets off to a clunky start. Subpoints 1 and 2 seem related, so I will take them together. H47 from 3.1: “They (Epicureans) didn’t believe in an afterlife and religious rituals and taught that the gods had no interest in mankind. So, they weren’t exactly in the personal loving god theist mould. Which is what I was demonstrating. It was not misdirection. Misdirection from what? And why?”
H47 from 3.2: “Theism is one of those vague words. It can mean simply belief in a god, or even gods, but more specifically it has connotations of belief in a ‘personal’ god with whom one can have a relationship. i.e. ‘belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe.’ So, I would dispute Epicureans are theists. Not that it makes a whit of difference either way.”
JX: Here we have some pretty typical (read: sleazy) atheist debating tactics. A couple points:.
A) As a point of fact “theism” is the larger species. Monotheism, duotheism, polytheism, and pantheism are the sub-species”

That’s indeed what I said. “Theism is one of those vague words. It can mean simply belief in a god, or even gods, but more specifically it has connotations of belief in a ‘personal’ god with whom one can have a relationship.”
And the latter is the usual modern understanding of theism which JX has been peddling, against the evidence, as I showed above. Or does he accept that any belief in any gods is sufficient? Because polytheism was there before Plato.

Moreover, I did make the point that it didn’t make any real difference to the germane issue that the Epicureans did not believe in a God-given objective moral code, the sine qua non of JX’s thesis. This is a defeater to the entire argument given by XJ, but is, as always, simply ignored. Instead, he turns to his ploy of equivocating on the two meanings of the word theism, using each one as the need arises and thus spreading confusion. Now this is either incomprehension on a heroic scale or deliberate on his part, which could well be described as a sleazy debating tactic.


29. JX “B) The “misdirection” is the consistent attempt to kidnap Epicurus out of theism and use him as an atheist to lend intellectual and moral credibility to the atheist cause. This type of philosopher-rustling occurs often among the cult of New Atheism. Other theists they try to hijack and pawn off as their own include Spinoza and Buddha. As if!”

So, talking about sleaze. Let JX show where I have said that the Epicureans were atheists. And, just to prevent a possible misunderstanding, the original posting was
“When dealing with Epicurus and the Epicureans, we see H47 pulling up to the zen atheist Burger King and turning into the “have Reality your way” drive thru. Zonk! Going on that the epicureans didn't believe in an afterlife or religious rituals and believed in artful living aimed at ataraxia is like the magician saying, “Hey everybody, now look at the birdie or my beautiful assistant in skimpy clothes!” In short, misdirection.”
To emphasise the point, this charge of misdirection is undeniably aimed at myself. But JX suddenly writes as though the misdirection refers to atheists in general rather than me in particular. Another questionable tactic?

Though I don’t think I have ever defined them as atheists, knowing that technically they claimed to be polytheists, I suspect they were indeed fundamentally something like atheists, but shielding themselves. JX continues to ‘poison the well’ by making claims that Spinoza and Buddha were hijacked by atheists as atheists themselves. Typically, no evidence is offered, though I am willing to accept that it could well be the case that this has been done.

But not by me. Though Spinoza, it is generally accepted, was a pantheist, and therefore while technically a theist under the comprehensive definition of atheism would certainly not come under the definition of a loving creator god and the Buddha is difficult to categorise, but a case could be made out for him being an atheist of some description cp https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/was-buddha-atheist/
But there is undoubtedly sleaze around.


30. JX “C) It makes a huge difference. To continue the “species” metaphor, theism and atheism can’t procreate. There is a species wall between them. It’s up to team atheism to present dignified persons and representatives of their cause. They have no right to steal and hide behind beloved theists. None. This is sleight-of-hand con-gaming and counterfeiting. Total sleaze.”

How can an explanation that the Epicureans did not believe in an interventionist god with an objective moral framework NOT be a defeater for JX’s required interventionist god
with an objective moral framework? And that is true whichever definition of theism is accepted. Therefore, whichever definition is used, and that that was what the statement referred to, as can be checked, is, indeed of no matter.

As I have not actually tried to ‘steal and hide behind beloved theists’, but the clear implication is that I have, together with the descriptive terms ‘sleight-of-hand con-gaming and counterfeiting. Total sleaze’, then these descriptions must come to rest where they will.


31. JX “3.2b) H47: “You say, Epicureans can talk about evil. Atheists can't. How can you possibly justify that?”
JX: Easy. If there is No God there are No Moral Values. No Good. No Evil. Nothing. The atheist worldview is just a world of cold facts. For an atheist, moral sentiments are just feelings. As feelings, moral sentiments are “irrational,” no different than the feeling that there is a monster under your bed waiting to grab your ankle and pull you under. Accordingly, the ethical practice of a serious atheist is to exterminate moral conscience and act (ruthlessly) on hedonist self-interest from there. Atheist ethics are “beyond good and evil.””

Not so easy at all.

Where is the requirement that moral values need a God? This has to be demonstrated. The evidence is that man, as a social species, creates moral systems. Any suggestion that this results in different or relative moralities is no different to the problem that the there are thousands of different religions in the world today, not to mention the thousands of separate sects and denominations or the number of historical religions that have disappeared. And the claim that there are objective moral truths needs to be demonstrated by citing them, because apart from some very general rules such as injunctions against murder (how defined?) that are more or less ubiquitous to all moral codes (because of the very nature of society) there are none.

And where is there evidence that atheists feel the need to exterminate moral conscience and act with hedonist self-interest? Perhaps JX would care to give some. There are significant numbers of atheists around today, Sociologists Keysar and Navarro-Rivera reviewed numerous studies to conclude there are between 450 to 500 million atheists and agnostics in the world. Wouldn’t this rising tide of effective sociopaths make some showing in the world today. As Pinker shows in The Better Angels of Our Nature, the trends have all been towards less violence and a better society, at least as most people would measure it. Oh, I forgot. Pinker is a “total gasbag of lies.” I have never seen such a considerable body of academic research refuted so comprehensively and concisely. Very impressive.

My family and friends run the gamut from strong atheist to fundamentalist Christian. I married a Christian, who was more than able to participate in debate. I knew an Anglican cleric who was an atheist, except for a vague feeling that there might be something out there. Let me give you two genuine descriptions. An elderly woman who has dedicated her life to bringing up five children under difficult circumstances, unassuming and uncomplaining, who goes every day to a centre nearby to look after the old folk, most of whom are younger than she is. Or a woman who looks tirelessly after her ill husband and nonagenarian father with Alzheimer’s, donates generously to multiple charities and has taken responsibility to look after a man who has chosen to live rough. One is an atheist and one a practising Christian. Which is which?
I maintain that anyone who has not walled themselves up behind barriers of prejudice will be able to cite similar cases.

32. JX “If Nietzsche was an idiosyncratic oddball (like Ragnar Redbeard), then his views wouldn’t matter. But he wasn’t. His views are in line with those of Polus from Gorgias and other Sophists from the dialogues. The similarity of Nietzsche’s advocacy of the “Superman” and Polus advocating Archelaos derives from the same foundation: denial of God. Quite simply, the “beyond good and evil” approach to morality is atheist realism.”

So, they held somewhat similar views.
Firstly, how does JX show that Polus’s views stem from a denial of God?
Secondly, for it to be significant JX would need to show that this is not just a co-incidence, but that this is a conclusion either entailed by or, at the least, inherent in the adoption of atheism. It should be a conclusion reached by an appreciable proportion of all atheists. And I know of absolutely no evidence that it is. Perhaps JX could supply some. Yet more filibustering, I’m afraid!


33. JX “John Locke agreed. To quote from his Letter on Toleration: “...those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all...” (Locke, Toleration, 20).”

The question is whether this is true or not. Locke’s opinion is worthless as evidence. It is the fallacy of appeal to authority.


34. JX “Now let’s unpack the ethics of New Atheism. Richard Dawkins is pretty clear on this. His ethics are “ruthless selfishness” that is hidden behind a false veneer of “altruism.” Quite literally, Dawkins advocates. (Maybe this explains his bonkers idea of selling “Atheists for Jesus” t-shirts.) At least Nietzsche had the honor of being honest about his conclusions, not Dawkins.”

I personally do not agree with Dawkins that Jesus was a great ‘radical thinker’ at all, but that’s by the way. But JX, unsurprisingly, creates a mockery of Dawkins’ position. That nature is cruel and ruthless is undeniable. As Darwin himself wrote, “What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of Nature.’ This is no problem to a world created by the blind forces of evolution, but it is a real problem for those who believe in an omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity. That’s what this debate SHOULD have been about, before it was hijacked by vitriolic atheophobia.

But evolution also permits the development of altruism and Dawkins believes that that, for humans at least, allows for us to overcome the ‘ruthless’ aspects of the struggle for existence. To some extent at least. It is a requirement for social living. I am not that sanguine about its ultimate success, which can only, in my opinion, be a partial one. But Dawkins does not advocate a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing style of ethics’. At the risk of being accused of even more filibustering, could one ask of JX to provide some evidence to support his accusation?


35. JX “3.3-4) These two subpoints revolve around my (charitable) contention that most contemporary atheists aren’t beyond good and evil “immoralists” (see above). Most “moral atheists” haven’t seriously considered that without the God principle, objective moral claims of any variety are impossible – human life as having any value becomes impossible. Many who have been deceptively lured into the world of atheism by the New Atheist evangelicals with their atheist good news gospel have been given a “utopian atheism” snowjob. The “moral atheists” actually have more in common with the old philosophical schools of theism – Peripeteticism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Cyrenism. They would be wise to cash out of atheism and cash into a theism. There are options. One doesn’t have to join a “fundy” religion.”

Nice to see that he accepts that atheists are not necessarily moral monsters. At least that’s a start. Though I suspect that we may be in for a real Scotsman fallacy - examples of good, caring, atheists possessed of a strong moral code shows they are obviously not true atheists - or perhaps I am just overly cynical.

I have pointed out the impossibility of showing that there is an objective moral system. JX needs to list those moral principles that would be accepted by all theists, but not already accepted by the vast majority of social structures. Good luck with that.

And where does he get the idea that without God human life would have no value? I would be interested to see how he can possibly derive that.


36. JX “3.5) This whole section is a confused mess. H47: “Please show clearly what my level of ignorance is, how dumb I am or in what way I am lying. Then others won’t have to decide. They can see for themselves the ignorance, the stupidity and the lies. For example, you have cited two Socratic dialogues in support of your contention that the Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism. Neither of them provide any support at all. Or, if I have missed it, please show the relevant text(s)”
JX: WTF? At this point I really think H47 is just playing mind games and is a total liar. He seems to want to win by attrition. He will ask thousands of questions and make thousands of demands knowing no one has enough time to respond. This is idiotic. The dialogues I cited – the Apology and Gorgias – have NOTHING to do with the problem of evil per se. It had to do with establishing that there were atheists in ancient Athens; and that the atheists were ill-esteemed; and they were ill-esteemed due to their wicked teachings.

So I am playing mind games and am a total liar.
Then allow me to draw attention to an earlier posting:

“JX 2.2 It demonstrates that the Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism. The Apology of Socrates is precisely that he believes in God and merely asks annoying questions to demonstrate that people usually don't know what they are talking about. This becomes an overture to the project of philosophy – Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno and even Aristippus of Cyrene. Anyone who reads Greek philosophy and doesn't recognize that the whole thing is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil has missed everything.
H 2.2 The whole of Greek philosophy is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil? Well, that I absolutely challenge. I have found no overarching attempt to squash atheism. Not a trace. I think some appropriate evidence needs to be given, and it will need to be substantial for such a monumental claim.
JX 2.3 If you disagree with this statement, feel free to read the dialogue Gorgias. It is the “denial of evil” that makes the atheist a “madman” in the classical mind. The Greeks knew, damn well, just where atheism leads. That's what this discussion is really about.”

i.e. JX tells me to read Gorgias if I disagreed with this statement. And the statement originally was, ‘It demonstrates that the Greeks understood the “problem of evil” and understood that it is NOT dispositive to theism. …Anyone who reads Greek philosophy and doesn't recognize that the whole thing is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil has missed everything.’

So I did. And there was nothing in the Gorgias that demonstrated any such thing.

He now says, ‘
“The dialogues I cited – the Apology and Gorgias – have NOTHING to do with the problem of evil per se.”

Perhaps JX will now withdraw the accusation of mendacity. Perhaps not.

As for the charge of attempting to win by attrition. Not at all. If JX ceased his habit of firing off false statements and unevidenced assertions in a scattergun manner, I would not need to painstakingly have to refute them with real evidence.


37. JX “3.5b) This section is a train wreck of H47 playing mind games, being deceptive and trying to run out the clock with “Ask 1,000 Questions.” The significance of the named philosophers is that they were all theists, not atheists. Duh. That’s obvious. Also obvious: Plato does not support atheism – your bogus claims on the Laws quote have already been dealt with. Then the grift of saying Aristotle is deist not a theist. You might as well say an eagle is not a bird. Even Saul Alinsky would be ashamed by this level of scummy debating. And Zeno is a pantheist. Yeah, that falls under theist, too. Then you toss Aristippus out. Why? Diogenes Laertius gives us a boatload on him and you can read him debating Socrates in Xenophan. He advocated hedonism and is the godfather of Epicureanism. And he, too, accepted the God principle. Why? Because while he believed in the wine, women and song lifestyle, he did NOT believe in the “beyond good and evil” atheist life or the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” atheist ethics of the Richard Dawkins type.
Summary: The Philosophers were theists. The Sophists were atheists. Duhh”

This is a train wreck because JX is playing fast and loose with two different definitions of theism.
1. A belief in any god or gods of whatever description.
2. A belief in a creator who intervenes in his creation and has a personal relationship with the believer.

I did, in fact, point this out. I quote:
“Theism is one of those vague words. It can mean simply belief in a god, or even gods, but more specifically it has connotations of belief in a ‘personal’ god with whom one can have a relationship. i.e. ‘belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe.’”

So what does JX understand by the term theist?

What I understood JX as saying was that Plato was setting up a single God who was the giver of an objective moral code. I quote:
“JX In short, the essential difference between the Philosopher and the Sophist was a belief in God. The belief in God entailed objective moral truth.”

However, a belief in any god does not entail an objective moral code. A deistic God, a prime mover who has no interest in what happens within his/her/its creation thereafter will not provide this. A pantheist might, but would not necessarily, provide this. It would depend upon the definition. A polytheist would have trouble providing it. It was not, in the ancient world at least, scarcely a guarantor of moral truths. What moral truths could be derived from the fallible and all too human Olympians?

Moreover, JX himself seems to regard polytheism as unacceptable. I quote:
“To deny that the Academy was setting up a delimited God of Reason – contra polytheism AND atheism – is to be either grossly dishonest or very ill-informed.”
and
“The triumph of Plato, in short, was ending traditional Olympianism [i.e. polytheism] AND atheism.”

It thereby seems that JX is clearly using definition 2.

So when he claims all manner of theological beliefs under the banner of theism, these other flavours do not lend themselves to the requirement of entailing a moral code. When I point this out, JX immediately jumps to definition 1, and accuses me of ‘scummy debating’.

Which is it? Theism is simply a belief in God or gods of whatever description OR theism is a monotheistic creator having a relationship with his creation, as in the Abrahamic creator god.
If the former, and the God principle JX referred to was the generalised definition of theism, including polytheism, then what was the need of Plato doing anything? The ancient world was full of polytheists. Genuine, uncontroversial atheists are hard to find. And there is no entailment of a moral code.
It the latter, which he obviously needs for the ‘objective moral truths’, he cannot then include these alternative belief systems as the Platonic theism that he needs to substantiate his weird existential fight of philosophy against atheism.

Actually, I am not persuaded that Plato’s cosmology itself provides the clear moral code that JX needs, but it is famously muddled and may be metaphorical. Certainly many of his immediate followers thought it was. There is no written code or reference to one.

Moreover, if Plato was arguing for objective moral truth given by a God, then why in the Euthyphro, when the question is raised whether something is pious (i.e. moral) because the gods love it or whether the gods love because it is pious, he has Socrates come down on the side of the latter.

This clearly can be reformulated, as Leibnitz did, as:
"It is generally agreed that whatever God wills is good and just. But there remains the question whether it is good and just because God wills it or whether God wills it because it is good and just; in other words, whether justice and Goodness are arbitrary or whether they belong to the necessary and eternal truths about the nature of things."

If Plato was looking for a god-given moral code this seems a very odd argument for an intelligent person to make.

Finally, the summary is, shall we say, contentious. The philosophers were only theists if definition 1 is used, and then they are not the theists with an objective moral code that is required by JX.
And there is no evidence that the sophists were a homogeneous group who all subscribed to atheism though some were accused of it.


38. “3.6a H47: “I am not aware that they (the pre-socratics) DISPENSED with the gods as the cause of all things. They certainly looked for material explanations, but both Anaximander and Anaxamenes actually spoke of gods (Whitmarsh p57) and we have nothing to suggest Thales was an atheist.”
JX: I didn’t claim the pre-socratics were atheists. My claim is that FROM the pre-socratic era CAME the socratic generation. That generation saw the atheist Sophists and the theist Philosophers. Plato dramatizes that era. Epicurus and Zeno and the rest are of the post-socratic generation and they are theists due to Plato’s demolition job on the atheist sophists. Duhh”

What you actually said was,

“Before Plato's Academy, there were the pre-socratics. They dispensed with the gods as the cause of all things and looked for natural explanations. Very quickly, this opened Pandora's Box. Many of these thinkers became atheists and tried to mislead the youth of Athens into atheism.”

i.e. Before Plato's Academy, there were the pre-socratics… Many of THESE thinkers became atheists and tried to mislead the youth of Athens into atheism. So, he did, indeed, claim that many pre-Socratics were atheists.

I don’t know whether JX cannot express himself clearly, doesn’t know what he is saying or is deliberately disingenuous.

Minor amendment to the original posting: Thales is famously quoted as saying ‘All things are full of gods’. (Aristotle. De Anima 411 a7-8).


39. JX “3.7-9) H47 has gone totally ga-ga here. He even denies that the charge against Socrates in the Apology has anything to do with atheism. It clearly states this and anyone can read it to find out who is lying. This is just typical of the way atheist fundies “black out” all facts harmful to their cause. Here’s some interesting reading:
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/10c3/0867eb8a799386ead2c58a7150c37b61e65e.pdf
Here’s the title: “Plato’s Apology and Sapienta Salomonis on atheism.” And here is the first sentence: “In 399 BC, three enemies of the wise and righteous Socrates accused him of corrupting the youth and of godlessness and demanded the death penalty for him.” Now compare that (from a scholarly source) to H47’s statement in subpoint 3.8: “The charges did not even include atheism.” Either H47 is lying or grossly uninformed about a subject he has bet all his stake on – and lost. Needless to say, this is a pretty epic fail on H47’s part.
Need more? Here’s a smoking gun:
https://blogs.ubc.ca/phil102/files/2018/01/Plato-Apology-Jowett.pdf
Go to page 7 of the pdf for the accusation that Socrates is an atheist.”

Here's some even more interesting reading.

First of all, I clearly referred to the CHARGE. The actual accusation put before the court. In the course of what might anachronistically be called the cross examination, Meletus does indeed accuse him of atheism, but this is not the charge. A lawyer may further accuse someone in the dock, who is charged with murder, of lying but this is not the charge.

JX has apparently not read the reference that he gives. Because under the heading ‘The Indictment’ [i.e. the charge] it says,

“Socrates was accused of being wrongdoer [sic], who acted unlawfully, corrupted the youth and did not recognise the gods of the state, but worshipped other demonic beings.”

This is awful scholarship. Having read it I would seriously dispute JX’s description of it as a scholarly source. Socrates was NOT accused of worshipping demonic beings, and the word daemon in Classical Greece did not mean demon as we use the term today. But, you will note, it does not contain the terms atheism or atheist.

Nor was he accused of godlessness as JX’s choice of quote says. The word asebeia meant something like our ‘impiety’ not ‘godlessness’.

Diogenes Laertius (1.5.40) says that the charges were stated as follows: ‘Socrates does criminal wrong by not recognizing the gods that the city recognizes, and furthermore by introducing NEW DIVINITIES; and he also does criminal wrong by corrupting the youth.’

But all one needs to do is to read the Apology (which anyone can do to find out who is lying – pity JX didn’t think of actually doing that.)

“I must try to make a defence: - Let their affidavit be read: it contains something of this kind: It says that Socrates is a doer of evil, who corrupts the youth; and who does not believe in the gods of the state, but has other new divinities of his own. Such is the charge.”
i.e. in the CHARGE, not only is there no mention of atheism, but it is positively refuted – Sophocles has ‘new divinities of his own’.

Then Socrates himself again says that he is not charged with atheism,

“I do not as yet understand whether you affirm that I teach others to acknowledge some gods, and therefore do believe in gods and am not an entire atheist- this you do not lay to my charge; but only that they are not the same gods which the city recognizes - the charge is that they are different gods. Or, do you mean to say that I am an atheist simply, and a teacher of atheism?”

This, by the way, is the section JX refers to as the ‘smoking gun’. Yes, the very passage that clearly says,

“this you do not lay to my charge; but only that they are not the same gods which the city recognizes - the charge is that they are different gods.”

How clear does it have to be? Only a phenomenal degree of confirmation bias can explain how JX could possibly misread this as meaning that Socrates was charged with atheism.

Interestingly, this information was given to JX before. I wrote, in the very posting he was engaged in criticising:

“The charges did not even include atheism. The charge was impiety (asebeia), an extremely nebulous concept. Specifically, in the Apology the charges are of "corrupting the youth" and "not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other daimonia that are novel" to Athens. This is confirmed in Xenophon’s Memorabilia.”

But he totally disregarded it, which speaks volumes as to his approach to ‘intellectual honesty”.

So now JX must admit that he is the ga-ga one who is blacking out facts and lying. Or is grossly misinformed. Whichever, it is a pretty epic fail on his part.


40. 3.10) I don’t even know what H47 was going on about here. He had previously cited an article that stated that Athens “usually tolerated” atheists. All I did is point out the obvious. “Usually” doesn’t mean always; and “tolerated” implies something disliked. These are basic definitions. And I have no idea why spelling errors have anything to do with anything. Maybe he was just drunk or stoned by this point. Hard to tell.”

Hmm. Drunk eh? I’ll have to change my brand of tea.

Here is the actual text,

“JX 3.10 On the cited article: An article written in contemporary times – no doubt written by people wanting to find their own conclusions – is of zero evidentiary value compared to writings from the times of the event. Also, note the slippery phrase “usually tolerated”!!! “Usually,” by definition, means not always. “Tolerated,” by definition, means allowing for something unpleasant. So yes, Athens “usually tolerated” atheists, but: a) sometimes they didn't; and b) the common people generally despised the atheists. (In the dialogues, you find out why.)
H 3.10 It is sensible to use all sources with caution, but this degree of unwarranted suspicion seems somewhat prejudicial.
Actually, secondary sources do have evidentiary value. Less than primary sources and need to be used with caution (as indeed should all sources) but they do have value. If you would like to argue the point please do, because there isn’t a single primary source in the gospels.
Usually is not a slippery phrase, more poisoning the well, it is a sensible qualification. Would you like to tell me that every single word in your posting is spelt correctly?
Primary source evidence for those claims, if you would.”

That seems clear enough to me. I disputed that secondary sources lacked evidentiary value.
Then, as one will be able to see, I wasn’t taking issue with the words ‘usually’ and ‘tolerated’, as JX clearly implies, but the pejorative term ‘slippery phrase’ (as used by him) which JX conveniently forgets.
The point about spelling is to show that ‘usually’ is a sensible qualification when making claims. I’m surprised that JX needs that explaining.

41. JX “3.11) H47: “Do you mean that Plato’s dialogues (I won’t comment on that slippery phrase, as a whole) derive from or are based on the trial of Socrates?
In what way do you mean that?”
JX: Hagiography. Socrates died a martyr’s death. The dialogues, among other things, are written to justify him as a hero of wisdom and knowledge unjustly put to death. Everyone knows this. You can’t possibly be this dumb. No one is. This is just atheist trickery: ask a 1000 questions; run out the clock; delay, delay, delay… and “win” by default when the opponent decides they have better things to do than answer endless dumb questions.”

Everyone does not know that. Usual demand. Cite a secondary source that claims that the dialogues are written to justify Socrates.

Some clearly were, not least the Apology, but most seem to be written as the story of Socrates’ ‘philosophical investigations’ and latterly as an appropriate hook upon which to hang Plato’s own metaphysical speculations.

So, if, in general, historians of philosophy or Plato scholars do not actually say this, and I don’t believe that they do, then it is difficult to accept JX’s assertions that ‘everyone knows this’ and that no-one could possibly be that dumb not to know it.

Then we get the usual complaint. This is all a dastardly plot. JX must inhabit a singularly credulous world if he is so used to getting away with extraordinarily contentious statements without challenge. If he considers a question not to be valid then he should simply say so, and give his reasons. If dogmatic assertions like the above are made, which, with a reasonable acquaintance with Classical philosophy I simply do not recognise, and, frankly, do not believe to be true, then JX must expect challenge. I am beginning to suspect that any comment of his about how ‘obvious’ it is and how anyone who doesn’t see it must be an idiot, is a sort of pre-emptive strike because he actually does recognise the weakness of his case is. I’m afraid the Emperor’s New Clothes ploy doesn’t work with old veterans.


42. “JX 3.12) H47: “And there’s me thinking the Academy was a place of teaching and debate.
Where is the evidence that:
a. It was specifically founded to create a new view of reality.
b. one of its purposes was to show the Athenians that their myths and beliefs were untrue (that would have been singularly unpopular)
c. To argue that the belief in a creator god was true – that it was actually founded to do that!”
JX: Yet again, questions so amazingly dumb that they can’t possibly be real. Just running down the opponent with endless questions, questions, questions…
a) What else was the Academy for? Teaching the gospel of Zeus? Was it a car park? Did they sell togas there? Obviously it was about creating and teaching the new philosophical system of Plato, premised on the new God of Reason. And when Aristotle started developing ideas counter to Plato, he left and created the Lyceum. Also, Aristippus was a contemporary and had his own school. But Academics, Peripetetics and Cyreniacs all believed in a God-based system of thought. They weren’t atheists and not because atheism didn’t exist or was unknown to them. They rejected atheism – with contempt – due to it’s logical conclusions.
b) Everyone knows that Plato taught against the traditional religion and it’s saucy stories. Everyone knows that Plato was rejecting/replacing “gods” with God. That is common knowledge. No one is this stupid.
c) Just read the Metaphysics by Aristotle. Duh”

The Emperor’s New Clothes ploy. Let’s see what evidence JX actually has.

a) What else was the Academy for? Some feeble sarcasm, but no response to the simple suggestion that it was a place of teaching and debate. A new philosophical system is one thing, but a suggestion that it was a plan to replace the Olympians by a new God or reason and to crush the atheist menace under the boot is another. Where is there any evidence as to the latter, which JX claims was Plato’s intention? Where is the evidence “they were fighting against the old Olympians … and the atheist Sophists who were encouraging every wickedness.”

The only weak argument is that other schools ‘believed in a God-based system of thought. But, as I have shown above, this is not the case. Where is the evidence? Other than the usual assertions of course. In fact, where is there any evidence that atheism was rejected because of its supposed logical conclusion – that “the ethical practice of a serious atheist is to exterminate moral conscience and act (ruthlessly) on hedonist self-interest from there” and “Anyone who reads Greek philosophy and doesn't recognize that the whole thing is an attempt to squash atheism as an evil has missed everything”?

And, though somewhat enigmatic, a clear enough prediction of the supposed horrors of atheism:
“For a consistent atheist, there is no difference between smashing a rock in two with a sledge-hammer and smashing a living human being with a sledge-hammer. Do I exaggerate? Emma Goldman: “You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” The omelet is the ideal atheist society. The eggs are human beings. Welcome to Year Zero. Do I have to say it? This is evil.”

Where is any of this in Plato?

b) Everybody knows that Plato was rejecting the “gods” with God.
We are simply treated to the Emperor’s New Clothes ploy again. It’s obvious innit? Duh.

In fact, there is no clear evidence that Plato denied the Olympians.

“A brief remark later in Plato's Republic is also informative. Socrates is about to introduce a famous comparison between the Sun and his highest Form, the Good. In passing, he refers to the Sun as a "visible god." This is not a concession to the popular religion. Plato regards the Sun, the Moon, the planets and the stars as gods, though not as the only gods. Why? They are everlasting. Their bodies do not come into being and pass away. So far as the ancient Greeks knew, they had always been there. They are alive: we can believe this because they run in an intelligible course and an intelligible course is evidence for control by intelligence, which Plato attributes to divine souls in the heavenly bodies themselves. In fact, circular courses are quite proper for their everlasting life; there need be no end to circular motion. Plato never gives a knockdown proof that Zeus, Athena, and Hera exist, but he does give a proof, in the last book of the last work he composed, the Laws, that there are gods. In doing so, he appeals directly to the visible evidence of the gods in the sky. Surely there are gods; everybody can see them!”
https://people.wku.edu/jan.garrett/pgods.htm#:~:text=In%20Plato's%20view%2C%20the%20gods,perfect%20knowledge%20of%20these%20standards.

And some direct quotes from Phaedrus
“Now the use of the wing is to rise and carry the downward element into the upper world—there to behold beauty, wisdom, goodness, and the other things of God by which the soul is nourished. On a certain day Zeus the lord of heaven goes forth in a winged chariot; and an array of gods and demi-gods and of human souls in their train, follows him.”

“The followers of Ares are fierce and violent; those of Zeus seek out some philosophical and imperial nature; the attendants of Here find a royal love; and in like manner the followers of every god seek a love who is like their god.”

“There was a time when with the rest of the happy band they saw beauty shining in brightness,—we philosophers following in the train of Zeus, others in company with other gods; and then we beheld the beatific vision…”

“The qualities of their god they attribute to the beloved, wherefore they love him all the more.”

c) Just read the Metaphysics, JX now says. We’ve been here before with the Gorgias and the Apology that just don’t say what JX claims they do. Once more, JX is guilty of equivocation. The Metaphysics does indeed argue for a creator God, but the deistic ‘unmoved mover’, but not one that interacts with humans and provides them with moral instruction, which is what is required for Plato’s great design.


43. JX “3.13) H47: “Now this I must see. Where is the evidence that the unknown God can be equated to Aristotle’s God of the philosophers? I know of absolutely NONE!”
JX: Again, this is common knowledge. No one is this stupid. The Unknown God of Athens was the God of Philosophy. And the best statement of it is in Aristotle with the “Unmoved Mover.” Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations” begins with a Hymn to the Great Architect God. Same thing. Who do you think the Unknown God of Athens was? Marduk? Isis? Elvis?”

I think the unknown God was the ‘Unknown God’. No more than that. It could have been a reference to any god that existed that had not been ‘described’ or a generic designation so that visitors to Athens could worship their own local deity. I have no idea. Nor does JX. There is absolutely no evidence to identify it with the God of Aristotle. That is pure supposition. The beginning of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations has NO CONNECTION to the Unknown God. It is to the Great Architect. It should be noted that, despite being asked, JX has given no supporting evidence whatsoever. Instead we have the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everybody knows that, Stupid. But they don’t. They really don’t. And if JX insists he is right let him produce one iota of evidence.

As Aristotle’s God is known as the Unmoved Mover and Marcus Aurelius’s Stoic God the Great Architect of Creation, they were scarcely ‘unknown’. What is more, they were very different deities, one a deistic god, the other a pantheist concept.


44. JX “What we are seeing here is that H47 is an “atheist fundie.” As religious fundamentalist fight to the bitter end to defend as literal biblical stories that were meant to be understood as symbolic, atheist fundies also ignore the obvious and demand absolute “smoking gun” proof for things everyone knows by common sense. SMH.”

Simple enough. If it is obvious then there should be ample evidence to demonstrate its validity. If such evidence is given that cannot be refuted, I will accept it. But none is. Saying something is obvious does not mean that it is obvious. This is simply argumentum ad hominem. Making derogatory (and false) statements about the person rather than engaging with the argument.


45. JX “3.14) H47: “Oh, so Thrasybulos is effectively Herbert Spencer. Didn’t spot that. Duh indeed. Seeing I’m so dull-witted, perhaps JX could tell me exactly in what ways is Thrasybulos like Herbert Spencer, apart from having two legs and things like that?”
JX: In The Republic, Thrasymachus is defending the might-makes-right line. Herbert Spencer is the atheist philosopher of “Social Darwinism.” He even coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest.” Feel free to fact-check:
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Herbert-Spencer”

OK. So, Spencer regarded evolution as the survival of the fittest. But this does not mean that ‘might-makes-right’. I was aware that Spencer had been a utilitarian and therefore would have had a moral compass. And this was true. An example being his law of equal freedom (“Every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man” Social Statics, p. 103).

Moreover, unlike Thrasybulos, his ‘social darwinism’ grew from his application of Darwinian evolution to social questions. This led him to accept, for example, that the colonisation of ‘inferior’ races by Europeans was for the general good. Nevertheless, even accepting the conclusion that laissez faire policies were ultimately the best in the long run, he was a strong advocate of pacifism and human rights. “These rights included rights to life, liberty, property, free speech, equal rights of women, universal suffrage, and the right ‘to ignore the state’–though Spencer reversed himself on some of these rights in his later writings.” https://iep.utm.edu/spencer/

So, I don’t think there is an equivalence between the two, but the fundamental thrust of social Darwinism, though one should be aware that it is interpreted in the light of its later reprehensible history, is sufficient for me, upon further reflection to concede that you have a case.


46. JX. “3.15) H47: “Where does it (Gorgias) say that they (the Sophists) are atheists, or what text can be so interpreted, because I can’t find it in my copy. Or are you simply assuming they are atheists because a) you expect atheists to choose the arguments consistent with evil or b) it fits your theory?

I will answer the question that JX avoids. Where does it say in the Gorgias that sophists are atheists?
The answer is that it doesn’t.

This question was asked because JX initially wrote,
“On Gorgias: Here H47 really flips out and crashes his clown-car. H47 states that the dialogue ends by saying it is better to suffer injustice then do injustice. Fact check: Accurate. But who said it? Fact-check: Socrates. (Jesus would have said it, too.) Is Socrates an atheist? Fact-check: No. Socrates is a theist and the people he is debating are atheists.”

So, JX’s fact does not pass the supposed fact check.

Of the three protagonists, Gorgias is a genuine sophist. Whether he was an actual atheist is open to doubt. If so, then Plato treats him quite kindly in the Gorgias. As to the other two, there is no evidence that they were atheists.

See Jowett’s opinion, in his edition of the Gorgias:

“Gorgias is the great rhetorician, now advanced in years, who goes from city to city displaying his talents, and is celebrated throughout Greece. Like all the Sophists in the dialogues of Plato, he is vain and boastful, yet he has also a certain dignity, and is treated by Socrates with considerable respect.”

This seems rather odd for someone who is supposedly a ‘teacher of wickedness – not righteousness. [A] nihilist – no belief in God (or gods) and no belief in morality.’ And it seems odder, as Plato is allegedly in a battle to crush atheists under the heel, that he makes no reference to his alleged disbelief.


47. “JX: It’s called a “circumstantial argument.” We know from the Apology that atheists were despised. We know from the Apology that atheists made tricky arguments. We know from the Apology that the atheists were “corrupting” the young. (Socrates is accused of these things as part of the railroad job to frame him as an atheist. If that was the frame for an atheist, then we know what atheists were like. Don’t we? Simple logic.) We know from Gorgias that Polus is a Sophist advocating wickedness: for Archelaos – a criminal tyrant.

The circumstances in the Apology differ somewhat from those in the Gorgias. Remember that Greek trials relied more on oratory than forensic procedures. But, even ignoring this, the claim that the atheists were despised relies purely on inference – the fact that the accusation is made suggests that it will have a prejudicial effect on the large crowd of jurors. But Socrates does point out,

“The disseminators of this tale are the accusers whom I dread; for their hearers are apt to fancy that such enquirers do not believe in the existence of the gods.”

It will be noted that I am making JX’s case for him, because he cannot be bothered to consult the relevant primary sources himself. Despite JX’s assertion, “This is just typical of the way atheist fundies “black out” all facts harmful to their cause.”

Although it doesn’t actually make the equation, I will accept that the idea that atheists were corrupting the young was extant, at least to some extent. However, we do NOT know that Polus is a sophist and certainly we have NO evidence that he is an atheist, nor should we forget that the Polus episode ends with him AGREEING with Socrates.

Nor is there any clear and compelling evidence that the sophists, as a group were all atheists. And to what extent this was a genuine fear and matter of concern is highly questionable. Plato himself does not make the equation, either directly or by inference, which is very strange as he is the one allegedly directing the whole course of Greek philosophy to a crusade of extermination against atheists.

Finally, it is clear that the sophists are wandering about happily, teaching their skills, which seems to be how to win arguments, and taking the money, as Socrates himself reports in the Apology,

“As little foundation is there for the report that I am a teacher, and take money; this accusation has no more truth in it than the other. Although, if a man were really able to instruct mankind, to receive money for giving instruction would, in my opinion, be an honour to him. There is Gorgias of Leontium, and Prodicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis, who go the round of the cities, and are able to persuade the young men to leave their own citizens by whom they might be taught for nothing, and come to them whom they not only pay, but are thankful if they may be allowed to pay them.”

And never forget that we are relying here on Plato, and he holds a jaundiced view, with what justification we can never know.

So the circumstantial argument does not work. Only by accepting JX’s assertions, which have been repeatedly challenged and for which he has provided no convincing evidence, that sophist = atheist and then using that as a premise in a fallacious ‘begging the question’ syllogism can he justify his claim that the characters in the Gorgias were atheists.


48. JX. “If you can’t put it together, it’s just because you are being an atheist fundie and denying common sense to keep your atheist worldview prim and pure.”

And, just to emphasise how weak his case is, he resorts to his favourite combination of Emperor’s New Clothes and argumentum ad hominem.


49. JX. “3.16) H47: “The point is they (Polus and Callicles) do not agree with Socrates. So where does that take us? Simply tell me exactly where we are going, what is the argument that takes us there and exactly what conclusion will have been drawn?
JX: LOL, the point is that they are godless Sophists advocating wickedness because they are godless. Socrates rejects them because he believes in God and therefor believes in righteousness. This is obvious as 2 + 2 = 4. You can’t see this due to your atheist fundie blinders, like those who can’t see that the Noah’s ark story is symbolic and not meant to be taken as literal, scientific history. H47 is literally on the same intellectual level as those who think Noah’s ark was filled with every possible kind of animal!”

We are still touting this unjustified idea that Polus and Callicles in the Gorgias are atheists. There is NO evidence for that claim. Nor is there any evidence for the claim that Socrates rejects them because of his belief in God and righteousness. This is cutting the claim out of whole cloth and no mistake.

We then have the tell-tale Emperor’s New Clothes gambit. Is it my imagination or is it getting increasingly frenzied?


50. JX. “3.17-18) Here H47 doubles down on the quote from the Laws that states that a man doesn’t have to believe in “the Gods” to be righteous. H47 has jumped the shark thinking this means Plato is talking about atheists being righteous. Zonk! He means a person like Socrates can be righteous even though he doesn’t believe in the gods of Olympus, but does believe in God. Again, this is obvious. H47 is just three sheets to the atheist wind. And the Academy is there to teach this new God and how to be righteous relative to that New God of Philosophy. This the Sophists rejected along with the Olympian gods. They taught godlessness and wickedness. We know that circumstantially from any common sense reading of the Apology in particular and the dialogues in general!

So, the reference is to Socrates?
There are three clear reasons why this is total nonsense.
Let me quote the whole section in question:

Now, men fall into impiety from three causes, which have been already mentioned, and from each of these causes arise two sorts of impiety, in all six, which are worth distinguishing, and should not all have the same punishment. For, and yet has a righteous nature, hates the wicked and dislikes and refuses to do injustice, and avoids unrighteous men, and loves the righteous. But they who besides believing that the world is devoid of Gods are intemperate, and have at the same time good memories and quick wits, are worse; although both of them are unbelievers, much less injury is done by the one than by the other.

We are talking about divisions of men and there is no reason to suddenly switch and regard the generic ‘we’ as indication a particular person.
Just to confirm this, the extract begins with ‘men fall into impiety’ and then homes in on ‘he who does not believe in the Gods’. JX honestly believes that Plato is saying that Socrates fell into impiety and did not believe in the Gods?

And just to prove that this is not some sort deliberate misreading see the interpretation of the same text by the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Plato: The Laws)
“It is less clear why the Athenian is concerned about atheists, however. Although he thinks that cultural relativism is a consequence of the atheist’s cosmological views, he admits that not all atheists are vicious and some are good” (908b-c - ‘For he who does not believe in the Gods, and yet has a righteous nature, hates the wicked and dislikes and refuses to do injustice, and avoids unrighteous men, and loves the righteous’).

Yet JX calls this a DECEPTIVE quote,
“JX 3.17 But the clown-car show isn't over. H47 then puts up a deceptive quote from Plato’s' The Laws.”
And later, he rashly declares his ‘victory’ over such a mendacious interpretation.
JX “3.5b) …your BOGUS claims on the Laws quote have already been dealt with.”

I say, and the evidence is there clearly above, that JX has not read Plato with anything like reasonable care and diligence, and on the basis of his own prejudices, has interpreted it to fit his own preconceptions and then has accused me of deception and being three sheets to the atheist wind.
Zonk.

And then he complains that I ask too many questions and give too much detail. What else can I do when he repeatedly asserts without foundation and accuses me of failing to read the text properly.


51. JX. “3.19-21) Here is another mess where I am called upon to write an entire book on Greek religion and the development of philosophy – with 100s of footnotes included. Zonk. The basic idea, if you use common sense, is simple. Socrates died a martyr. Plato and the Academy continued his cause. Aristotle finished it. The cause was to create a God of Reason. Starting with the “unmoved mover” as the cause of the universe, extending into physics and ending with an ethics of eudaimonian righteousness. Needless to say, this was a HUGE jump forward from old Olympianism. And it was dependent on a creator god. It had nothing to do with atheism – which fails on cosmology as badly as it does on ethics, btw.”

If JX claims that has found a ‘cause’ for Greek philosophy, one that no commentator has spotted before (I know of none and JX has certainly not given any citations), then it really is incumbent upon him to write a book. It is not too much to say that such an idea would revolutionise the whole study of classical philosophy.

We then get the usual assertion without evidence. That Socrates was the instigator. But that Socrates developed any organised philosophy is contentious. The best guess is that he was a ‘gadfly’ who punctured peoples’ affectations of knowledge. Where Socrates ends and Plato begins is essentially unanswerable. Again, JX is far ahead of traditional scholarship.

It’s hard to see how Socrates and Plato could be working towards a specific cause, a God of Reason, when that idea was not yet developed. Indeed, as JX would appear to require a God with a personal relationship with humans to make the idea of a valid objective moral law credible, Aristotle’s God does not fit the bill.

His unmoved mover is engaged in self-contemplation, undisturbed and oblivious, and only has influence in the sense that all things have a teleological drive to perfection.

Even the Neoplatonism of Plotinus and others of ‘the ‘One’ or ‘the Good’ which is ‘beyond being’ but which generates various emanations or hypostases as a spontaneous act, ultimately creating individual souls which must seek knowledge and lose the encrustations of personality, to return to union with the One. There is no objective moral code. This only came with the limited synthesis of Neoplatonism and Christianity.

Only at this point can there realistically be ‘an objective morality’ or at least the supposition of one. But what could possibly constitute such a morality is impossible to determine.

It is certainly a jump forward in terms of complexity, and arguably, subtlety. But whether it is any advance in understanding and/or truth is debateable.

Eudaimonian righteousness is a truly weird, if not oxymoronic, construct. Eudaimonia is a difficult concept to encapsulate within a definition. It is often translated as happiness, but that is misleading. It can best be regarded as ‘flourishing’ or living ones life well, in the sense of living in accordance with the virtues. Righteousness has definite connotations of a theological term, of being right with God, or acting in accordance with the requirements of a deity. I can only think that, as Aristotle’s virtue ethics are indeed, meant to lead to the state of eudaimonia, that the ‘Christian’ word righteousness was deliberately chosen to give the impression that we are talking about a supposedly objective moral law.

The throwaway, and irrelevant, dismissal of cosmology is a little odd. First of all, there is no such thing as an atheist cosmology. Atheism itself is a belief, not a world view, though it can be incorporated within such.

In terms of scientific cosmology, that stops, in terms of scientific knowledge (though not speculation) at the Big Bang. We have no idea of what lies beyond (if that has any meaning in this case).

We have no idea as to an answer. However, the ‘answer’ of a magical entity being adequate as an explanation when it has no explanation for itself, merely a triumph of imagination (or perhaps the lack of it) and sleight of word. Even if the idea of such an entity of some sort being responsible for creation could be entertained, pace William of Ockham, the chances of it being anything like the Abrahamic God would be vanishingly small.


52. JX. 4.1 H47: “Your general thesis seems to be that atheism leads to some kind of crisis of general morality, of sufficient seriousness for the Greek to be aware of it, be frightened by the possibility of it and to take active steps to control it.”
JX: Not quite. My thesis is that Plato thought that the atheist Sophists presented a crisis to BOTH general morality and the project of the Academy. That project was to create a philosophical religion based on using Reason to understand a God-created world. The atheist Sophists, with their tricky tactics and their teaching of wickedness, was bringing shame on the whole project of trying to move beyond the old Olympianism. This is why the atheist Sophist movement had to be demonized and destroyed in the dialogues.”

As always the tenets of your thesis lack an evidential support.
There is NO evidence that Plato considered that the sophists presented a crisis to BOTH general morality and the project of the Academy.
There is NO evidence that that project was to create a philosophical religion based on using Reason to understand a God-created world.
There is NO evidence that atheist sophists, with their tricky tactics and their teaching of wickedness, was bringing shame on the whole project.
There is NO evidence that the sophists were demonised and destroyed.

So, the task for JX is simple. If he disagrees with this, then all he has to produce is evidence. Either primary textual sources or secondary sources based on mainstream scholarship.


53. JX. “4.2-15) This was quite a lengthy filibuster. And quite a bit of it I suspect was cut and paste. But the overall trend was clear, in spite of endless special pleading. Wherever someone was outted as an atheist or suspected of being one, a cloud of suspicion came over their head. Your own evidence demonstrates that.”

It wasn’t a filibuster, it asked a lot of pertinent questions and gave a lot of evidence. It is significant that you have failed to answer a single question or challenge any evidence.

None of it is cut and paste except where it is cited as evidence, a reference given and the whole enclosed in inverted commas. You may check with Google if you wish.

Exactly what special pleading? Give chapter and verse.

In two lines JX has accused me of
Filibustering - but no evidence of anything which is demonstrably irrelevant.
Plagiarism - but no evidence of text that has been copied without attribution.
Special Pleading - but no evidence of particular circumstances being introduced to offset an argument made against one’s position or to bolster one’s own argument.

So here is an accusation in reply. Defamation, to maliciously accuse someone of wrongdoing without any evidence.

Now let us examine the questions and evidence that JX has so neatly avoided.

Questions.
How does he explain that reputable and distinguished historians of philosophy have totally failed to notice this idea of a battle against atheism – when he insists it is so obvious that one would need to be a fool to miss it?
How does he explain the lack of any clear and direct evidence for this hypothesis?

Evidence.
Individuals accused of atheism at some point were permitted to write and stage plays in the public arena (Prodicus, Critias, Euripides), to take an important role in civic life (Carneades, Anaxagoras, Diagoras, Critias) and were well-spoken of (Anaxagoras, Protogaros). The last by Plato himself.
There are clear indications that charges of atheism were could well have been confounded with political factors (Anaxagoras, Sophocles) or impiety such as revealing the secrets of the Mysteries (Diagoras)
Doubt about the validity of charges of atheism (Euripides, Diogenes of Apollonia, Stilpo of Megara)

The lack of equivalent charges elsewhere in Greece.

And I agree that this evidence shows that there was suspicion and what might be called persecution, although not a great deal of it. What I doubt is that atheism was regarded as a real and present danger.


54. JX. “4.17) H47: “Yet you haven’t even clearly enunciated the “problem of evil”. You haven’t defined evil, the existence of which seems to cause you so much concern.”
JX: No definition of problem of evil? Huh??? There is Natural Evil and Man Made. Of the latter, it is the problem of what men do with free will. And the issue here is that when one leaves God behind the teachings of the Sophist enter. No God = No Morality = No Righteousness = atheist Sophists (classical and contemporary) teaching relativism and wickedness. Duhh”.

Indeed. No definition. Describing an important dichotomy in the concept is not a definition.
Three issues need to be addressed.
At what point does suffering become evil? Is a nettle sting evil? Are broken bones? Being blinded? The loss of a child? Torture? Where is the line to be drawn?
Is evil purely defined by intention? So, falling off a cliff would not be evil, but being thrown from that cliff would be.
In which case, what natural ‘Acts of God’ (A telling phrase) would be regarded as evil and which would not?
Is there a religious dimension? For example, is it evil to disbelieve in God? Or to blaspheme?

Relativism I will grant, though it is a perfectly respectable philosophical position, and religious morality is indisputably relativist. But what contemporary atheists teach wickedness?

The equation I completely reject. JX has given no evidence for it, merely assertions.


55. JX. “(Note: A BIG part of the atheist illusion is that people can exodus not just Christianity but religion – theism – altogether. What “Promised Land” do you think awaits you? You don’t need to scratch your head, you already know: the prison state. We saw this movie last century. It would seem you lived through quite a bit of it. What part of the plot did you miss? I would highly recommend you read Bertrand Russell’s book on the Bolshevik Revolution (bought and paid for by Wall Street, I point out – the Revolution, not the book). Russell begins by discussing the great sense of hope that people had in the Revolution. Then, after he visited, he came home disillusioned at the nightmare that had befallen Russia. “Darkness at Noon” by Koestler also recounts similar sentiments. As does “Animal Farm” by Orwell. The eurofascist New World Order is being sold to us as a new paradise. The World Economic Forum tells us that we will own nothing and be happy! Of course, slaves in the old south didn’t own anything and I am sure the old Confederates were quite certain about the happiness of their slaves! Are you beginning to figure this out? Have you noticed a strange silence coming from these New Atheists in regard to the 99% (aka “the proletariat”)? Why do these people have so much corporate money power behind them? Think about it...)”

No, I don’t know what awaits me. Where is your evidence that it will be a prison state?

Has JX not noticed that the Bolshevik revolution led to a communist regime which degenerated into a simple totalitarian state, which then collapsed?

Is JX saying that Wall Street deliberately set out to create a Communist State? For precisely what purpose? In which case it was singularly unsuccessful.

I have absolutely no doubt that capitalist financiers went fishing in murky waters for profit. There have always been war profiteers. But that it was a deliberate plot requires answers to the following.

Who instigated the plot?
Who was involved?
What was their goal?
What was their plan?
For what ultimate purpose?
With what result?

Of course, there is the usual problem with conspiracy theories. If they are secret no-one knows, or, at the least, can be certain as to their nature, if any. If they are not secret, then they are not conspiracies.

I have read both the Orwell and Koestler. They are excellent books but are works of fiction and demonstrate nothing.

Nothing called the New World Order has tried to sell Paradise to me. Which is hardly surprising as it is a ‘conspiracy’ beloved of sad conspiracy theorists. See 25 above.

As for the World Economic Forum, it never occurred to JX to fact check it, probably because it chimed so well with his beliefs. But I did

Fact check: The World Economic Forum does not have a stated goal to have people own nothing by 2030
By Reuters Staff
A video repeating misinformation about the World Economic Forum (WEF) has been shared widely on Facebook.
The three-minute clip, which has 862 likes and 1,100 shares at the time of writing, is captioned “Let's talk about the World Economic Forum's stated goals for 2030” with the title: “How we can stop them from stealing everything from us” (here).
It features a man who says: “Now let’s talk about their stated goal, ‘by 2030 you’ll own nothing and be happy’. So, the question is, how do they get us to that point? How can over 10 years they get us from having private property to owning nothing?”
The WEF does not have a ‘stated goal’ to remove everyone’s private property by 2030. As addressed in previous Reuters fact checks, these claims likely originated from a WEF social media video from 2016 that stated eight predictions about the world in 2030, including: “You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy. What you want you’ll rent, and it’ll be delivered by drone.” (here)
Danish politician Ida Auken, who wrote the prediction in question (here), said it was not a “utopia or dream of the future” but “a scenario showing where we could be heading - for better and for worse.”
In a written update, she clarified that the piece aimed to “start a discussion about some of the pros and cons of the current technological development. When we are dealing with the future, it is not enough to work with reports. We should start discussions in many new ways. This is the intention with this piece.”
In the past, false claims about the WEF have been conflated with conspiracy theories about the United Nation’s ‘Agenda 30’ framework (here and here), which is a set of Sustainable Development Goals devised in 2015 at the United Nations General Assembly (sdgs.un.org/2030agenda). They are freely available on government websites and outline objectives like ending poverty, which includes the goal making property ownership available to all:
“By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.” (scroll to goal 1.4)
VERDICT
False. The World Economic Forum does not have a stated goal to have people ‘own nothing and be happy’ by 2030. Its Agenda 2030 framework outlines an aim to ensure all people have access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. www.reuters.com/fact-check/about .https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-wef-idUSKBN2AP2T0

XJ seems to be suggesting that this is due to the machinations of the New World Order. But did he stop to consider that destroying the monetary basis of the world economy, apart from exactly how would the world function without some token exchange to allow trade, would not seem to be advantageous to the plutocrats.

Am I beginning to figure this out? Indeed, I think I am. Though I don’t think that I’m coming to the same conclusions as JX.

As to the ‘strange silence’ of the New Atheists about the ‘proletariat’ could that possibly be because they have no immediate relevance to the question as to whether God exists or not?

Perhaps JX could perhaps ‘explain’ exactly why the New Atheists are allegedly being paid (it will clearly be too much to ask for actual evidence). What exactly do their paymasters get out of it?


56. JX. “4.18) H47: “Where are the stringent laws against atheism throughout Greece? Why is there no evidence of massive persecution?”

JX: H47 has decided to focus his last post on this particular skirmish: the Greek War Against Atheism. So let me try one more time to try put this all together in a holistic fashion. It is clear that the pre-socratics launched a revolution in thinking. And it is clear that out of this revolution one gets the first historical wave of atheists. It is clear that at the time of the trial of Socrates to be accused of being an atheist mis-teaching the youth was a criminal offense and one that could lead to the death penalty. In short, it would seem there was an “Atheist Scare” in Athens at the time (399 bc), like the “Red Scare” in America during the 1950s.”


I have decided to focus on this particular skirmish? This is somewhat disingenuous. As I have previously pointed out, the question I posed was that of the problem of evil. It was JX that took it off the rails to attack atheism and promulgate his ‘theory’ as to the nature of Greek philosophy. I’m quite happy to take that on, but not to accept the implication that I am somehow engaged in avoidance tactics.

JX’s avoidance tactics are manifest, however. Notice how he makes no attempt to answer the question, but instead repeats yet again his position. Repetitions do not convince, however. One needs arguments and evidence for that.

There is absolutely no evidence of anything like the Red Scare of McCarthy. The evidence has been given above of sophists living and working in Athens and other cities without any suggestion of let or hindrance. They hold posts of civic responsibility. They put plays on in the public arena. In America they were blacklisted and unable to find employment. Other than Socrates, we know of no-one executed for atheism (though later history of the Christian Church produced plenty of examples of people executed for just thinking the wrong thing about God, let alone disbelieving in him).

I would very much recommend to JX - Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. Tim Whitmarsh. Faber and Faber. 2017. For a sound overview of the subject.



57. JX. “So what were these atheists teaching that produced such an “Atheist Scare”? Obviously they were teaching that there was no god; and this leads to teaching relativism; and teaching relativism leads to teaching wickedness; and this leads to teaching ambitious youngsters to become tyrants like the Archelaos of Polus (or the Cesar Borgia of Nietzsche, for that matter); and this becomes a threat to democracy and the state. Hence, the death penalty. Duhh”.

I do find it helpful of JX to mark those passages that are particularly inadequate with a Duhh. Here we merely have a restatement of his ‘argument’. PS The word ‘obviously’ is a good marker too.

A new wrinkle however is that teaching relativism leads to teaching wickedness. What is the justification for this remarkable assertion?


58. JX> “Result: The philosophical project moved on attempting to understand the world through Reason, with Reason grounded in the metaphysical belief of a world created by a God. And this God becomes the “unmoved mover” of Aristotle. And this “unmoved mover” becomes the Great Architect God of the laws of physics and morality. And this Great Architect God becomes the “Unknown God of Athens.” And this “Unknown God of Athens” becomes the God of Christianity through Acts 17. Thus, Christians are the heirs of Reason while atheists are the counterfeiters of Reason – neo-Sophists. Comprendez???”

I have rarely come across such a concentration of fallacious ‘connections’. Surely the presocratics began the attempt to understand the world through reason (allowing that almost all humans have attempted to use reason in their general understanding of the world around them).
[My apologies. I realised I had misread this and it should therefore be ignored]
As for the deliberate search for reason grounded in belief of a world created by a God, I know of no evidence, nor has JX produced any (no surprises there). Nor that this God became specifically the Unmoved Mover as there were many different concepts of Gods, Olympians, Saviour Gods of the mystery religions, pantheism of the Stoics, the ‘faint’ gods of the Epicureans. Though, to be fair this is probably the one connection that has real probability. It is difficult to know exactly how the different strands of religious thought influenced each other but the Great Architect is linked with Stoicism rather than Platonism and the Unknown God of Athens must be a joke. The unknown God was the unknown God. We know nothing about it, nor that it changed in some way because Paul seized a tempting opportunity to proclaim a new god. Even JX confusedly identifies it with the Unmoved Mover and then the Architect God of the Stoics, and the two are very different concepts of the divine. This is merely joining random dots with nice straight but ultimately meaningless lines. Certainly, Christianity can hardly claim to be the heir of reason, though science, through Aristotle and then the Renaissance and Enlightenment, can.

59. JX. “4.18) H47: “A lot of questions to answer.””

Indeed, and a lot of the old ones not answered. Herewith a list.

“In fact, please cite any texts that you have that state this seemingly all but universal belief.” [The atheist as madman.]

“Have you any evidence at all? I trust you will provide enlightenment.” [The Greeks knew, damn well, just where atheism leads. - after 8 sections providing evidence and argument that atheism was not seen as a real and present danger.] Answered but no evidence given.

“It was not misdirection. Misdirection from what? And why?” [After a description of the ‘theistic’ Epicureans having no belief in ‘involved’ gods, let alone an involved theistic god.] Answered but without an adequate explanation.

“What makes you suspect that they are NOT atheists? And what is the idea of a philosophical atheist who hasn’t thought things through? [After a ‘suspicion’ that clearly moral ‘atheists’ are really agnostics or have not ‘thought it through’]

“Please show clearly what my level of ignorance is, how dumb I am or in what way I am lying.” [After a diatribe about my ignorance or lies about the Platonic dialogues none of which are specified]
“Please show the relevant text(s).” [After saying I showed “a level of ignorance one has to wonder if he really is that dumb or just lying” after I had read the Gorgias and the Apology for evidence of JX’s contentions – and failed to find any]

“How many?” [After a claim that many of these ‘thinkers’ became atheists. I estimated twenty uncertain claims in 600 years.]

“Perhaps, as in so much else, you could give me the appropriate texts?” [Specifically, those in the Apology that are “clear and self-evident and ‘not between the lines’ inferences that are indisputable” and that show philosophy was an attempt to squash atheism.]
“Where is the evidence that:
a. It [the Academy] was specifically founded to create a new view of reality.
b. one of its purposes was to show the Athenians that their myths and beliefs were untrue (that would have been singularly unpopular).
c. To argue that the belief in a creator god was true – that it was actually founded to do that!
Now this I must see. Where is the evidence that the unknown God can be equated to Aristotle’s God of the philosophers? I know of absolutely NONE!”
Answered but no evidence given.

“Where does it say that they are atheists, or what text can be so interpreted, because I can’t find it in my copy?” [After a claim that the people Socrates was debating in the Gorgias were atheists.]

“Exactly why do you regard it as deceptive? Where is the deception in it? That is what it says.” [After my citation of a text in which Plato does not regard atheists as necessarily evil.]

“How does discussing the punishment that should fall on a decent and honourable atheist have anything to do with a new monotheistic God of Reason?
How does this actually happen? How does it ‘allow’ for righteous behaviour? Permits? Makes intellectual room for? Provides a suitable world view for? Unless you are defining acting in a right manner as acting in accordance with the requirements of a known creator God, in which case you would seem to be creating the problem by definition, what is your argument for this weird idea?” [After a statement that theism ‘allows’ for righteous behaviour.]

“What do you mean by delimited? A god having its limits marked out?”

“Do you seriously consider that there wasn’t unrighteous behaviour before the first glimmerings of possible atheism? Or that there is credible evidence of a meaningful change in general behaviour going from polytheism (and/or atheism?) to polytheism with a bigger god?
Your general thesis seems to be that atheism leads to some kind of crisis of general morality, of sufficient seriousness for the Greek to be aware of it, be frightened by the possibility of it and to take active steps to control it. But you have never given it clearly. Perhaps you could do so now, so that we can be sure we are looking at the same thing, and that you can provide appropriate specific evidence.”
Answered, but with no evidence.

“It is significant that Plato himself (Meno 91e) has Socrates awarding him [Protogaros] an unblemished reputations after forty years as an active sophist. So why was there no public concern over his beliefs for forty years?”

“Where are the stringent laws against atheism throughout Greece? Why is there no evidence of massive persecution? Where are the works supportive of religion, arguing theism and teaching theodicy? Where are the philosophical equivalents of Origen’s Contra Celsum? Why were so many supposed atheists not only allowed to live their lives untroubled but achieved positions of responsibility and trust in the community?”

A lot of questions to answer, indeed.


60. “JX: Yeah, and to fully answer the questions in 4.18 alone would take another five pages. And nothing would alter the basic facts or add to the leviathan I have already written above. So at this point I have a right to ask some questions.”

I can’t be responsible if JX’s ‘thesis’ raises many reasonable questions. Here’s another one for you.
Which questions are unreasonable or irrelevant? I am assuming that it is not unreasonable to ask JX to actually do some basic research.


61. JX. “1) Why does H47 tell so many bold face lies? For example, as noted at the top of this post, his absurd claim that I never answered the basic question of the post. Or, why does he deny that Socrates was charged with atheism? Again, I have produced OBJECTIVE and VERIFIABLE evidence to support my case. Is H47 just an atheist who, like the Sophists of Athens, believes in practicing wickedness? As per the ethics of Dawkins, does H47 just assume the sheep-skin clothing of being honest while simply being a wolf – a liar?”

What lies? As I point out above, this posting was a response to JX’s previous posting. And in that, JX made again no effort to answer the basic question posed: have the Christians any answers to the problem of evil?

As for OBJECTIVE and VERIFIABLE evidence to support his case that Socrates was charged with atheism, it merely proves that JX cannot manage basic comprehension.
The very evidence that he cites says, in the words of Socrates,
“I do not as yet understand whether you affirm that I teach others to acknowledge some gods, and therefore do believe in gods and am not an entire atheist- this you do NOT lay to my charge; but only that they are NOT THE SAME GODS which the city recognizes - the charge is that they are DIFFERENT GODS.” My emphases.
What could be clearer that the charge did NOT include that of atheism?

In fact, I had already given him this information (H3.8 in my previous posting) but either through arrogance or carelessness he failed to take any notice. As he was intending to use this to ‘prove’ me a bare-faced liar who seemingly believes in wickedness and who assumes a disguise of honesty to cover his lying, I would have thought it was incumbent upon him to be a bit more careful about getting it right.
Not that accusations are a problem for JX. Note his ridiculous dismissal of Dawkins. Not that he will (indeed, not that he can), but he ought to produce some evidence of Dawkins’ supposedly warped ethics, rather than simple assertion.


62. JX. “2) Why does H47 ask so many questions? How am I supposed to answer all this? Only a fool would have done so, and as such I confess to being a fool. But it won’t be enough. H47 will come back with another 1000 questions. How can I avoid coming to the conclusion that this is just a sleazy debating tactic that aims to wear an opponent out and then declare victory after the opponent decides to stop wasting their time on endless questions and filibustering?”

Why ask so many questions? Because JX’s wild assertions without evidence require the answers to questions. I have shown the questions. They are all reasonable ones. He has given no examples of time-wasting or irrelevant questions. He seems to want to make his assertions without fear of them being questioned and, I strongly suspect, is creating a prefabricated excuse for not answering them. The simple answer is to answer them in the first place and not let them build up.


63. JX. “3) It didn’t go beyond MY notice that for all H47’s talk about me not answering on the question of evil – which I have verified as a false accusation and a blatant lie – H47 has not answered on the problem of nihilism. He has offered nothing, not even the slightest argument, as to how an atheist can establish any type of objective moral truth, even for something as basic as human life having value.”
“which I have verified as a false accusation and a blatant lie”. Not at all. He has made an accusation and it has been answered.
We were actually discussing the thesis that Greek philosophy was a project to squash atheism. Nor was nihilism the given topic. But, if JX wants to discuss the problem of nihilism I’m quite happy to. It needs first to be stated as to its premises, form and conclusion.
Would something like this be adequate?

Only a God can produce objective morality.
An atheist does not believe in God.
Therefore, an atheist lacks objective morality.

If there is no objective morality, then anything goes.
An atheist lacks objective morality.
Therefore, anything goes for an atheist.

Anything goes for an atheist,
If anything goes then nihilism is the result.
Therefore, atheists will become nihilists.

If atheism becomes the predominant belief, there will be nihilism.
If there is nihilism, there will be total annihilation and destruction.
Atheism leads to total annihilation and destruction.

Now JX has never made the extent of this annihilation and destruction clear. That it refers to atheists is indubitable, but to what extent does it involve others? It seems difficult to comprehend that, unless it is wholly atheist, others would not suffer in this seemingly dreadful cataclysm. Presumably the elect could be snatched away to Heaven, but would there be, for example, nominal Christians left behind? Not that important, but just wondering.

So, looking at the argument.
God is needed to provide objective morality…
Firstly, we have got to ask why an objective morality is needed.
Could not a consensual morality serve?
In fact, we have never had a moral system in the world that can be shown to be objective. To do that one would need an indubitable proof of the existence of God, and clear knowledge of the actual moral code.
Even if one of the thousands of moral codes in the world was an objective moral code, it would be impossible to identify it as such.

If there is no objective morality, then anything goes…
Not at all.
There seems ample practical evidence that any working society must have a moral code. Can an example be given of a society where anything goes? Because it wouldn’t last for long.

If anything goes then nihilism is the result…
Why? As every civilisation that we know of has had a moral code as far as we can tell, and most civilisations have not had an objective moral code as far as we know (the Sumerian, the Egyptians the Greek, the Persian, the Roman, the Maya, the Indus Valley civilisation etc.) where is there any evidence that nihilism will be the result?

The question of objective morality.

1. The world has always been a mosaic of widely different societies with very different customs and mores. I am reminded of Herodotus’s story of the Persian King Darius who questioned two groups, the Greeks and the Callatian Indians as to how they disposed of their dead, each being equally horrified by the other’s customs, the Greeks cremated their dead while the Callatians ate theirs. (Histories. Book 3. Ch. 80-82). Now, many would side with the Greeks on this issue, but what fundamental aspect of morality can make the Callatians wrong?

2. All societies that we know of have a morality that allows for social living. They can vary a great deal but certain fundamentals, the definition of murder, the place of private property, sexual mores to protect paternity and family unity and the like, seem universal.

We need to know what type of moral theory we are talking about.
a) Utilitarian Ethics, where some fundamental principle is taken, such as wellbeing, and the consequences of any action evaluated against this metric.
b) Kantian Deontology which requires categorical imperatives (roughly behaviour that all would subscribe to) to be followed under all conditions.
c) Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics which are centred on the virtues that permit eudaimonia or ‘flourishing’.
d) Divine Command Theory. We do what God says.
e) Natural Law. What is natural determines what is good.
f) Social Contract Theory. A set of ‘agreed’ rules that allow society to function. As in Hobbes’s Leviathan.
g) Moral Relativism. Morality is a social construct that has evolved because of a particular context.
Presumably JX would choose Divine Command Theory, but it is not clear that that is necessarily the best choice.

3. Why should this moral structure be worldwide? The evidence is clearly that we have (I would say evolved) a social nature. And ethics are the fundamental rules of being able to live in society. We naturally have empathy and sympathy. We have mirror neurons. We have psychological heuristics that lead to social adhesion – gossip and cheat detection for example, emotions such as grudging, revenge, anger, forgiveness and love. We evolved socially and so have the ‘genes’ for social living. Consider the psychological damage that is inflicted by solitary confinement to recognise the power of social ties. An atheist society would have a moral framework. It would differ from a theistic society, but it would have one.

4. So let us nevertheless choose Divine Command Theory. The next question is obvious which religion? Islam? Judaism? Hinduism? A Nordic Odin? A Mediterranean Jupiter? Whatever our choice how are we going to bring the rest of the world onboard?

5. But let’s accept for the sake of argument that Christianity is the religion with the answers. But which one? Catholicism, Old Testament fundamentalist, liberal Anglican -there is going to be a whale of a difference in the offered morality). There has never been a time when Christianity was not riven by sects.

6. Then where does the actual morality come from? Based on what? One presumes the Bible. Please feel free to offer alternatives, but it would be hard to maintain that the majority of Christians don’t regard their morality to be biblically based. So, which parts of the Bible? The condoning of slavery. The genocides (except for the virgins which were to be kept for themselves. I can’t think why). The judicial murder of witches and homosexuals. The subjugation of women? The stoning to death of a recalcitrant son? Not to mention the weird bits like mixing two different materials in woven clothing. And don’t forget, Jesus clearly said, ‘For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.’

7. Above all there is the terrible immorality of Hell. The most evil doctrine ever promulgated. I know many Christians, to their credit, deny the concept, but there is no doubt that it is and has been, widely taught by the Christian religion.

8. So, what morality exactly are we talking of, and how is he going to achieve a degree of uniformity? Something that spans the void between the Westboro Baptist Church and gays being married in church (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/21/where-christian-churches-stand-on-gay-marriage/).

9. Could XJ perhaps be thinking of the ten commandments, of which the first three are not ethical at all, but the demands of an authoritarian God/religion. The fourth is questionable (why should an abusive and cruel parent be honoured?), the next four are simplistic ideas that can only be applied with a great deal of additional thought and debate, which is NOT supplied by the Bible (can we kill in war, mercy killing, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia – a great deal to unpack and dispute), are all obvious requirements for most kinds of social living and we are social beings. So, it is no surprise that all societies basically have some form of them. Rather like the Golden Rule described by Confucius, Isocrates and in the Mahabharata and the Tao te Ching hundreds of years before Jesus.

10. Where is this objective morality? What are the objective moral standards about human rights, war, capital punishment, retribution v rehabilitation, cloning, euthanasia, abortion, the powers of the state versus individual rights, the extent of free speech, gender issues, gay marriage, racial discrimination? Please give me some clear moral guidance that comes from belief in God (thus presumably, but not necessarily, from the Bible), preferably such that is accepted by, say, over 80% of Christians.

11. If no-one knows what this moral code is, then how can it perform its supposed function? So, how did it work for pre-Mosaic society not to mention other societies whose religion is not fundamentally Abrahamic. And why can’t secular moral codes as described by codes of law and suitable rights and constitutions not be at least as good?

12. In fact, have you ever considered how the Israelites managed to get out of Egypt? Why weren’t they braining one another, running off with each other’s camels and refusing to do as they were told (actually the last one was probably the case). But how did they manage before they received these objective moral laws? Every society has developed its own ethical structure without the need of stone tablets.

13. Where is the evidence that atheists are demonstrably less moral that theists? Surveys of morality and religious faith, as far as I am aware, seem to produce evidence in both directions, but none of it significant in the light of the problems of such surveys (question design, sampling errors, self-reporting, nominal theists (and atheists for that matter) etc.) Even if it did, you would still be faced with confounding errors and the old correlation/causation question.

14. The existence of psychopathy. The definitions, overlap and indeed existence of psychopathy, sociopathy and ASPD is uncertain, as is so much in psychology. But that individuals exist with these personality traits exist seems difficult to deny. In the United States, “the rate of antisocial personality disorder in the general population is estimated between 0.5 and 3.5 percent.” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisocial_personality_disorder
Apart from the awkward question as to their situation with respect to God (not to mention ‘objective’ morality which has the same difficulties as any other morality in dealing with this question) we have a core of individuals who would be, indeed, ‘nihilist’ when it comes to everyday morality. But they do not seem to be destructive of general morality or society (unless they achieve power – it has been suggested that Stalin was a psychopath).

15. The vast increase in a position of atheism in Western Europe. “At least 33% of Britons, and over 50% in some recent polls, do not identify with any faith when surveyed. Some 40% of Britons do not believe in a deity, and some 15% are agnostic.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_the_United_Kingdom
This is not accompanied by any obvious trends towards nihilism or greater immorality as far as I am aware (though I am sure that there will be plenty of anecdotal evidence, as the psychological phenomenon of rosy retrospection is well documented).

16. Where is the evidence from history? There seems no obvious correlation between societal morality and the degree of religious belief. Consider Victorian England and the degree of crime that seethed beneath the cover of its objective morality. I shall leave your argument about the ‘horror shows’ until later.

17. Personal evidence. I would defy you to take a ‘character’ of a person, how they are seen by those about them and a record of their behaviour, taken from multiple sources but with all traces of religious beliefs expunged, and be able to correctly (or even above statistical chance) identify them as theist or atheist.

18. We are talking beliefs, and you can’t decide to believe something. You just do or you don’t. Nor would the consequences have any bearing on the truth of atheism, though, like Plato, you might endeavour to promote belief.


64. JX. “He has offered nothing, not even the slightest argument, as to how an atheist can establish any type of objective moral truth, even for something as basic as human life having value.”

I don’t think an atheist can. Nor do I think a theist can. Perhaps JX can give me a long list of moral absolutes that can be accepted by all.

Abortion is wrong.
Really. So one living creature is allowed to control the body of another living creature without their consent? That rape victims must bear the child of the rapist? That the life of a sentient adult person in meaningful relationships must be sacrificed for a non-sentient organism that has no sense of being or memories or emotions? Consider the ‘natural’ or divinely designed ‘death’ rate, the unknown number of miscarriages that occur without recognition, late miscarriages and stillbirths and infant mortality rates.
And what about all those from different religions and sects who believe otherwise?

OK, so abortion is right.
Really, so it is morally acceptable to murder an innocent? That a living organism with the promise of a possible long and fulfilled life is to be sacrificed because someone doesn’t want to accept their responsibilities? That that organism could have been the one to find the cure for cancer and save millions of lives? So, the moral acceptance of murder of the helpless will spread through society and weaken us all? That God is against it?
And what about all those from different religions and sects who believe otherwise?

There are no easy answers in this incredibly complex world. Only simplistic ones.

As for human life having value, you have to demonstrate that. Some people have tremendous value as far as I am concerned. Some not so much. Some not at all. And don’t pretend that everyone isn’t the same. A small newspaper report (the fact that it would be very small is all one needs to know) that ten Chinese peasants died in a flash flood would hold very little, if any, emotional content.
And that is the way we are made. By whomsoever or whatever.

Look at those in the developed world. They (both Christian and atheist) might give generously to charity, but they still sit in their centrally heated homes watching their coloured TVs and getting fat on overeating while the natives of Somalia die of starvation.
But that is the way we are made. By whomsoever or whatever.


65: JX. “While I don’t want to think that H47 is a purposeful liar, I think he needs to offer good evidence that he believes in intellectual honesty. If not, what’s the point of going on? Should I just waste my time answering another salvo of 1000 (mostly pointless) questions? Should I just waste my time debating an atheist fundie who wont accept objective facts of reality that go against his “belief” system?”

I quite admire the way that JX calls me a liar whilst nobly refraining from doing so.
Can JX give me some good reason why I need to offer good evidence as to my intellectual honesty? I obviously disagree with him, but I have given reasons for it. I have not made assertions that can’t be backed up with evidence. I haven’t accused him of lying when it was myself who had got it totally wrong. It is not me that has heaped abuse and unverified accusations on his head. I have not brought out the Emperor’s New Clothes at increasing frequent intervals. I have not played fast and loose with shifting definitions….


To JX.
Of course, I believe in intellectual honesty. I have changed my mind about things too often in my life not to. Why on earth should I lie to someone on what is, after all, an insignificant forum, in which we will probably be the only two to see it. Even if it meant apparently winning an argument, of what possible significance could that have to me? I have always enjoyed intellectual debate, which is why I chose this forum. I have been, as I said at the beginning, sorely disappointed in the standard, but I am sadly unable to give up on an ongoing debate. That is a real flaw in my character, but I’m stuck with it.

I have enjoyed the debate, particularly the research and background, and now I know far more about the sophists and atheists of that era, and even Plato. I fully accept that it is difficult to accept facts that go against the grain of their belief, I am too well aware of the heuristics of our mind that warp and twist our cherished intellect. I hope that you are too. All I can say is that I have researched your ‘thesis’ to the best of my ability and, honestly, I simply do not believe it. Whether that is because, as I trust and hope is the case, I have understood the evidence and arguments correctly and have arrived at the correct conclusions, or I am in the clutches of inescapable bias I’ll never know. The easiest person to fool is yourself. So, the questions are genuine, which you will not believe, but there it is.

En fin: The essential issue is this: Which is the more damaging? The “Problem of Evil” vis-a-vis the Christian faith; or the “Problem of Nihilism” vis-a-vis the Atheist faith.

I do think that the problem of suffering is a real intellectual problem for the Christian faith, but I know from experience that it will, in fact have no effect on most believers. Belief is remarkably resilient. But again, I have absolutely no belief that atheists are on the road to wickedness. I know too many of them. So, I think that neither is on the cards.

Now perhaps we can return to the main question, which is how can the existence of suffering be consistent with a loving and omnipotent God.
(Edited by harpalycus47)
2 years ago Report
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JX Amaro
JX Amaro:
Re: God, Greek Sophistry, Objective Morality...

Your critique of my “thesis” was not without some thought, so I will credit you with at least taking some time to think about it and offer constructive criticism. I will concede that in terms of drawing a “Big Picture” I painted in big and broad brushstrokes. As you should know from basic epistemology, if you look too closely at something you end up with extreme nominalism: every “thing-itself” is – ultimately – a unique thing. As such, “Understanding” requires picking up on the essentials of a “thing-itself” so as to allow a “particular” to become a “universal.” Now when looking at the broad trends of history one often has to “zoom-out” to see the “big picture.”

And by the “big picture” I mean that by the time that you get to the “Age of Caesar” the Roman intellectual upper classes had accepted philosophical ways of thinking about reality and looked down on the pagan religions as something trashy for the ignorant masses. Caesar was an Epicurean, Cato was a Stoic and Cicero had an eclectic system. Here is a quote from Seneca that captures the cultural sitz im leben: “Religion is believed by the common people as true, by the wise as false and by the rulers as useful.” This mindset was the net effect of Plato and the Academy: philosophy (founded in the “God of Philosophy” – not atheism) replacing the pagan polytheistic religion among the intellectuals and upper class.

Thus, while you are correct that Plato and the Academy didn’t vanquish paganism in one stroke, I think it is correct that AFTER Plato the intellectuals abandoned religion for philosophy and that these philosophical systems were rooted in the “God of Philosophy” (aka Aristotle’s “Unmoved Mover,” Stoicism’s “Architect God,” and the “Unknown God of Athens,” as the Book of Acts calls it. And this set the stage for St Paul identifying the God of Israel as synonymous with the God of Philosophy – philosophical monotheism. And this set the stage for the Hellenist-Hebrew synthetic philosophical religion of Christianity: Augustine, Aquinas etc.)

Thus, Plato and the Academy – viewed broadly – represent that World Historical Event (as Hegel might put it) that marks the break from crude, barbarous religion to philosophical systems of thought rooted in the God Principle. Moreover, atheism was known and generally rejected. Atheism was rejected due to it’s moral relativism which would descend into the teaching of wickedness: immorality. In sum, the philosophers were Philosophers because their systems of thought were rooted in the God Principle and some sense of objective morality. The sophists were Sophists because their systems rejected (de facto or de jure) the God Principle and therefore rejected objective morality, hence moral relativism, hence teaching wickedness. Such is my “Big Picture” view.

But counter to this, H47 makes the curious claim that the link between objective morality and religion can be found no earlier than the age of Neo-Platonism, in the days of Augustine – 800 years after Plato. This is just wrong. Let me quote from a recognized classic work on the subject, “From Religion to Philosophy” by FM Cornford.

“The words, Religion and Philosophy, perhaps suggest to most people two distinct provinces of thought, between which, if (like the Greeks) we include Science under Philosophy, there is commonly held to be some sort of border warfare. It is, however, also possible to think of them as two successive phases, or modes, of the expression of man’s feelings and beliefs about the world... There is a real continuity between the earliest rational speculation and the religious representation that lay behind it; and this is no mere matter of superficial analogies, such as the allegorical equation of the elements with the Gods of popular belief. Philosophy inherited from religion certain great conceptions—for instance, the ideas of ‘God,’ ‘Soul,’ ‘Destiny,’ ‘Law’—which continued to circumscribe the movements of rational thought and to determine their main directions.” (from p. xiii of the preface)

As we see, moral law has always been associated with religion and the notion of objective moral law wasn’t some late development in the neo-platonic Age of Augustine. The Romans, in the Age of Caesar, would often talk about “the laws of God and Man,” with the former being thought objective and eternal and the latter subjective and changeable. (See “The Republic” and “The Laws” of Cicero.)

Once one understands this (the connection between God and moral law), one understands that the pre-socratics created a cultural revolution. I won’t rehash my whole argument, but it seems pretty clear to me that Periclean Athens was in cultural chaos due to said cultural revolution – Plato’s dialogues give us the intellectual milieu. Some were holding to the old traditions; some accepted the new ideas while retaining the old notion of God and moral law; and some who accepted the new ideas were radicals who went all the way to moral relativism and therefore “teaching wickedness.” These radicals were the Sophists. And their line of reasoning required the rejection of traditional moral law which necessitated the rejection of God – atheism. This seems pretty clear to me, the reader can come to whatever conclusion they like. Frankly, I think H47 is just hiding behind pedantry as he doesn’t want to accept the obvious. That is: Atheism leads to a rejection of all moral norms, and therefore an ill-reaction to atheism is fairly predictable. So that gets us to the problem of nihilism...

--------
Re: Atheism and Nihilism

The rest of H47’s stupendously long post is something of response to my several points. Frankly, I don’t have enough time for endless tit-for-tatting, though I just love the way H47’s endless hairsplitting over details is just what one would expect from a Sophist! It’s almost like he is trying to prove my point! LOL. Anyway, the independent reader – if there is one – can read through them and decide who got the better of the dogfight. But one issue that kept popping up in one form or another does deserve a response.

H47: “Atheism is NOT nihilism. Atheism is simply not accepting the idea of a god or gods.” (From talking point 13.)

JX: This is Daniel C Dennett (one of the 4 Horsemen of “New Atheism”) from “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” p. 495 and p. 500:
“Is morality just a question of subjective taste (and political power)? … I do not intend this to be a shocking indictment, just a reminder of something quite obvious: no remotely compelling system of ethics has ever been made computationally tractable, even indirectly, for real world moral problems.”

And here is Alex Rosenberg, from “The Atheist Guide to Reality,” offering a quick Question and Answer summary of atheism (from p. 2):
“Is there a God? No.
What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.
What is the meaning of life? Ditto.
Is there a soul? Is it immortal? Are you kidding?
Is there free will? Not a chance.
What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no moral difference between them.
Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes.”

Needless to say, in the atheist worldview, genocide, death camps and killing fields also fall under, “Anything goes.” (Note: The “Guide” has an entire chapter devoted to “Nice Nihilism.” I wonder why Rosenberg didn’t include a chapter on “Mean Nihilism”? Hmmm…)

Thus, H47’s view that “Atheism is not nihilism” is demonstrably wrong; and this, I think, pretty much proves my BIG point. And that is: The “Problem of Nihilism” is catastrophic to the atheist faith. (Oh, and atheism is a faith. Agnosticism is as far as reason can go. The atheist has a dogmatic belief, a faith, in something that can’t be proved just like the theist.)

Here is the logic-train: Atheism = No God = No objective morality = human life has no objective value = “The death of a single person is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic” – Stalin. This logic-train is atheist realism; and this – atheist realism – is why so many people reject atheism. And this – the rejection of atheism – is why the theodicy question is so disastrous to atheism, why the “problem of nihilism” is more problematic than the “problem of evil.”

And yes (!), atheists have to deal with atheist theodicy: no god (theo) means no justice (dike). Atheist ethics, in practice, become, or are believed by many to become, Machiavellian ethics: brute force and ruthless cunning, lies – usually hidden under a false face of goodness. BIG problem.

“If there is no God, everything is permitted” – Dostoevsky. Thus, we see that viewing “the problem of nihilism” – vis-a-vis theodicy – is NOT some “World According to Garp” novelty of my mind, as H47 seems to think. Here is an essay that deals with the issue of theodicy and the twin problems of evil and nihilism:
https://www.the-philosophy.com/god-exist-permitted-dostoevsky

(Note: In “The Greatest Show on Earth” Richard Dawkins muses on Evolutionary Theodicy. “Theologians worry about the problem of suffering and evil… theodicy… Evolutionary biologists see no problem, because evil and suffering don’t count for anything, one way of the other, in the calculus of gene survival. Nevertheless, we do need to deal with the problem of pain... Perhaps grappling with this question is Evolutionary theory’s own version of theodicy.” P. 392-393)

Finally, there is the atheist philosopher Michel Onfray. He is the author of “Atheist Manifesto” and several other works untranslated into English. One basic goal of his philosophy is this: He argues that since the Enlightenment there has been a culture war between Christianity and Nihilism and that Nihilism is now winning (which he takes as a good thing).

Here is a sample of his thought: “La Pensée 68 d'après was the occasion of wanderings. But history had passed, a great moment of dechristianization had taken place. A big step toward nihilism too.”
https://www.grasset.fr/livres/lautre-pensee-68-9782246805489

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Re: Why Evil?

At the end of H47’s lengthy post he attempts to reload the basic question – fair enough. Why would a Good God create Evil? Maybe if the thread question hadn’t been posed exclusively at the Christian community others would have offered their input. In point of fact, the Judaic tradition has quite a remarkable answer to this, though I am not qualified to give more than the briefest of outlines. Essentially, according to the more mystical Kabbalah Jews, when God created the world something went wrong (don’t ask me what) and the “light” shattered. And from this catastrophe the whole mission of the Jews (what they were chosen for) derives: to repair the world, to restore the light. They call this Tikkun Olam. It’s an interesting idea, it would have been an interesting discussion.

One last point I would make on the direct question of the thread is this: Perhaps the answer is more obvious. Perhaps the answer is IN the question. That is, how can you KNOW goodness without KNOWING evil, pleasure without pain, joy without suffering, day without night, light without dark? Indeed, one might ask how can there NOT be evil? Is that NOT a better question? Isn’t the existence of evil a PROOF of a benevolent God? Doesn’t Evil make the Good possible?

And at the risk of digging too deeply into (mystical?) physics, one might wonder if good and evil are ultimately related to quantum entanglement, quantum indeterminacy and subjectively collapsing probability waves...

How might the question be considered vis-a-vis Bostromian Simulation Theory? With this posit, the appearance of evil – like good – is just part of the illusion, the simulation. And this asks the questions of: 1) What lies beyond the simulation; 2) Who or what are we; 3) Where are we, the real us; 4) Who or what are the simulators; 5) Are the simulators motives benevolent or malevolent; and 6) Is "Simulation Theory" just a secularized Gnostic theory with the simulation maker being the de facto “Demiurge”?

But like Kabbalah, this is above my current level of knowledge. It would make for an interesting discussion, though.

-----------

Re: A couple pedantic notes.

1) Unbelievably enough, H47 might actually be right on the Laws quote. It’s Plato’s longest dialogue, something of a blueprint for a totalitarian state, doesn’t feature Socrates, and I only read it once – about five years ago. (It’s a speculation of mine that that text is the reason Aristotle left the Academy and created the Lyceum which advocated the politics of moderation through the mixed constitution. As is fairly well known, Plato’s philosophy became associated with various tyrants on the Greek Islands.)

2) A basic error of reasoning that H47 uses throughout his lengthy critique is the error of using extreme epistemic nominalism to undermine moderate epistemic realist claims/conclusions. “Knowledge” requires one to extract the “essentials” of particular things while dismissing “accidentals” so as to go from a “particular” to a “universal.” For example, American conservatives generally favor tax cuts. The fact that George HW Bush raised taxes doesn’t mean GHWB isn’t an American conservative. This would be using an “accidental” fact (not an “essential” fact) to undermine an epistemic “realist” claim premised on a “universal” concept of an American conservative. It’s faulty reasoning. GHWB is an American conservative. (If GHWB was an ideological Marxist, then the claim that GHWB is not an American conservative would be correct. Being an ideological Marxist rather than an ideological Burkist gets to the “essence” of the thing – the American conservative circa the late twentieth century.) Thus, from the standpoint of extreme nominalism, every Sophist is completely unique. But that doesn’t help us. We think of the Sophists of Athens relative to a “universal” idea. The “essence” of the Periclean Age Sophist is a teacher who charges money and teaches rather shady things to young people (usually young politicians) on how to win (See Note on 2 below). Again, every particular Sophist will have their “accidentals.” But it’s the “essentials” that concern us, the “universal” Sophist.

Another way to make the point is to say that H47 simply misses the forest for the trees. For example, in talking point 17, H47 quotes from a fragment showing Critias to be an atheist. He then says that this comes to us from Sextus Empiricus who wrote more than 600 years later. So what? Total pedantry. What the claim tells you is what was commonly thought about the sophists: that they were godless atheists who taught wickedness. That’s the essential point. That’s the trees in the forest, the Burkism in Conservativism, the Marxism in Communism. Similarly, the tale told about “Protogoras the Atheist” reading his treatise in Athens and then having to run for his life while his books were burned. It’s the point of the story that counts. It tells you that sophists openly known as atheists were hated and viewed as a threat to society. The “essential” meaning is very plain. Again, if you over-analyze (use epistemic “extreme nominalism”) you can miss the obvious, you can miss the forest for the trees. In my view, H47 does this quite often. He finds some iota of pedantry or hairsplitting and uses that to reject reasonable claims (like his denial that a most basic point of the dialogues is to create the mythos of Martyr/Saint Socrates).

(Note on Point 2. Definitions can always be contentious! Trying to be as objective as possible, the word “Sophist” in the Age of Solon meant “wise” as in “Wise Man” – a positive connotation. Only in about the Age of Pericles did the sense of the word change. A Sophist, as a “teacher of arete,” at that time split off into philosophers and sophists and the word “sophist” came to take on associations with shady tactics, taking money and other less than attractive qualities. The word “philosopher” then came to accord with the older and nobler ideas of a teacher of arete and moral wisdom.)

3) In talking points #20 and #27 H47 brings up my views on Aristippus and the Cyrenian school pointing out that I was referring to Aristippus as a philosopher (as such a theist) and Aristotle had mentioned Aristippus as a sophist. So I did some review. And yes, H47 was right and I was wrong! LOL. Ok, my memory failed a bit. In fact, according to Diogenes Laertius, Aristippus referred to himself as a Sophist, and a later head of the school was named Theodorus the Atheist. Also of interest are the many doctrines of the school – many fitting the basic mold of atheism and relativism/nihilism. Also of interest is the fact that Theodorus the Atheist was kicked out of many countries including Athens, much like the story of Protagoras the Atheist being kicked out of Athens. On the whole, I think this actually strengthens my case for associating the sophists with atheism, even if I am forced to admit an embarrassing error of fact!

4) Somewhere in the post, H47 took umbrage that I slandered Richard Dawkins. I’m not sure why this is relevant to anything, is he a saint? (Hitch wrote a book slandering Mother Theresea, so what?) Anyway, I think H47 demanded I supply proof on pain of being considered a charlatan or a mountebank or something like that. So let’s take a look at the Wonderful World of Richard Dawkins as he sits high atop Mt Improbable gasbagging about his goodness. In the “God Delusion” he states as follows: “The laws of nature are brutal and cruel. However, these laws are incorporated in the nature of the world and, therefore, the nature of a human being, who is just the element of the universe. The strongest has the right to live, the weaker dies. There is no such concept as morality or compassion… Thus, only the person who, thanks to his intelligence and strength, is able to survive, behaves properly… The atheist, being a scientist, knows that moral Darwinism is merely the consequence of the investigated findings… There is no other life than the purely material one. There is no God and no life after death. Emptiness is the real meaning of life and every action is assessed through the prism of its effect… We now have four good Darwinian reasons for individuals to be altruistic, generous or ‘moral’ towards each other…” (He goes on to list the four. p. 251)

Please observe that Dawkins puts the word MORAL in quotes! That is an open admission that the morality he is advocating is – at best! – amorality!!! Also, his reasons for “altruism” are all for what one might generously call “enlightened self-interest” – egotism! Yes, I stand by my claim, Dawkins is simply advocating “wolf in sheep skin clothing” ethics! Machiavellian ethics!! Selfish, malevolent egotism posing as kindly, altruistic benevolence ethics!!!

5) H47 also takes umbrage that I slandered another holier than thou New Atheist buffoon: Steven Pinker. Ok, read this:
https://www.salon.com/2019/01/26/steven-pinkers-fake-enlightenment-his-book-is-full-of-misleading-claims-and-false-assertions/

6) Finally, H47 is way wrong if he thinks opposition to “neo-liberal” Globalism (read: anti-liberal fascism) is the stuff of right-wing vulgarians and the types of people who overdose on the Protocols of Zion. Marx was wrong on many things; but he was right on many things, too. The class war never dies. The last thirty years has seen the greatest wealth redistribution in history (all of it going upward). If you think the capitalistas of Davos and the World Economic Forum want a new order to spread the wealth of the 1 Percent to the rest of the world, you have a very different view of the world than I do. Unfortunately, most people don’t actually read Adam Smith. In the Wealth of Nations, Smith describes “the vile maxim of the masters of the world” as “all for us, none for them.” Not much has changed. Profits over people. If you don’t know that Wall Street (House Schiff, to be exact) gave Lenin and Trotsky 20 million in gold bullion (worth, conservatively, a quarter billion dollars today), to overthrow Kerensky (an actual Marxist) you have much homework to do. The Trotsky-ite myth that Stalin “betrayed the Revolution” obfuscates that it was Lenin – with Wall Street money – that betrayed the revolution and created a Marxoid-Tsarist lunatic state. It was Lenin who created the totalitarian despotism (Kerensky ruled under a constitutional republic), the cult of the leader, the secret police, and presided over the death of millions. Stalin only inherited what Lenin created. One book on this is “Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution” by Anthony Sutton. So, why would the richest people in the world back the Bolshevik Revolution? Interesting question. Many have offered diverse answers. My own view is that they simply wanted to control the opposition and create a “Communism” so horrible that it would scare the international proletariat into siding with the bourgeoisie. The capitalistas are very smart and can afford think tanks with bright scholars to work out clever and Machiavellian plans for the class war and they tend to control both sides of an apparent political divide – “full spectrum dominance.” The proletariat, today, by contrast, are all but hopeless and without a party or movement (the Democrats and Republicans are both bourgeoisie parties – “full spectrum dominance”). It goes way beyond the focus of this thread, but neo-liberalism, neo-darwinism, trans-humanism and “New Atheism” are all related puzzle pieces in an elitist politics of genocidal anti-humanism… (Long, but interesting, diatribe edited out.)

BTW, Have you ever wondered why these “New Atheists” NEVER mention the most cited man in academia – Foucault? I mean, he’s an atheist. So too, Deleuze, Baudrillard, and Lyotard among others. Important contemporary thinkers. And they NEVER talk about Subcommander Marcos and the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico. What a very curious aporia! I wonder if it is because Foucault et. al. aren’t supporters of the revolutionary bourgeoisie and their “agenda” of neo-liberal brutalism and terror. Hmmm….

“You don’t need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind is blowing” – Bob Dylan.
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BelgianStrider
BelgianStrider: sorry guys your replies are waaaaaay too long to be read.

Is it possible to start again with this two definitions

- evil: what, how, when, effects
- suffering: what, how, when, effects

what: definition, what it is
how: how can it be felt, represented, executed, applied, suffered
when: when you stat to resent it, when it starts to be felt, when you can say it is "that"
effects: what, how, when and futher consequences

I think it might be a good base to start with that.

Pls also mention whenever possible references to state your opinions that might clarify in a better way. It can not be denied the definition of those "concepts" is exeptionally personal

pls keep it short too

so one reply per "question"
(Edited by BelgianStrider)
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zeffur
zeffur: re: "harpalycus47: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?"

Evil is caused by immoral misconduct. God has given beings the free will to produce good or evil. Some of them produce evil by their thoughts, words, & deeds. While we are on earth, the solution to evil is within our power to do what is morally good & right. Mankind wanted the knowledge of good & evil & they got it by disobeying God & eating the forbidden fruit--which caused their utopia to be changed, so that they would experience the extent of good & evil & use their free will & God's moral guidance to decide how much of each that they would produce.

re: "Then he is impotent."

That ^^ is illogical as God is omnipotent.

re: "Is he able but not willing?"

God created a system in which mankind is exposed to moral law, imperfection, death, & God's judgment & justice. It's all design decisions that beings are forced to experience to prove what they truly want--which will be used to judge them in the end.

re: "Then he is malevolent."

That ^^ is absurd. God is proofing which beings are worthy of everlasting life & which are not--based on their own decisions, words, & deeds. The correct sentence is "God is omnipotent & perfect". The proof is for the official record & for THEIR understanding--God already knows which of them will be saved & which will be forsaken.

re: "Is he both able and willing?"

God is able & willing to create exactly what He has decided to create to sort the wheat from the chaff!

re: "Whence then is evil? Epicurus."

The cause of evil is disobedience that leads to increasing separation from God's perfect will for all beings. Some people disobey so much & become so separated from God's perfect will for them that they reach a state of bad that we call 'evil'. This isn't rocket science. Atheidiots refuse to accept this reality because they hate God/religion & don't want others to know the truth about how evil comes to be.

re: "Written nearly two and a half millennia ago, this has still not seemingly been answered."

Ignored by atheidiots it will never be understood by them for eternity...

re: "I would not use the word evil, which has connotations both of agency and theology, but the more general term suffering."

Suffering is a consequence of disobedience & separation from God. All humans will eventually die as that is what they have earned from having disobeyed God. The wages of sin is death. It has been known from the beginning before Adam & Eve sinned.

re: "I have never come across an answer that even approaches credibility, but it is an extremely important question that needs to be explored.. Any offers?"

Actually, that ^^ is another one of your lies. I have already clearly explained this to you multiple times. You reject it because you do not want it to be true because you understand the consequence of the truth that you are foolishly attempting to evade in vain.
(Edited by zeffur)
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BelgianStrider
BelgianStrider: Ow z is putting his nose here!

Sorry Harp but I don't want to have to reply on senseless inputs from a paranoid indoctrinated zealot
(Edited by BelgianStrider)
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zeffur
zeffur: @BSr: I see you have no truth to offer wherever you post on WC. I have no need for any of your idiocy. Just ignore my comments, as they were not addressed to you. Good riddance, if you choose to never post anything else in WC forums. I certainly won't miss your worthless rubbish.
(Edited by zeffur)
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BelgianStrider
BelgianStrider: let's summarisez's worldview:

- all that agree with him and end his sermons by "amen" are the sole and only real christians holding the sole and only truth.

- all that dare to use the word "but" are dumb nitwits and, or evoidiots - atheidiots conspiring worldwidely against the real christians that are the sole and only to posses the truth ...
Never mind if clear facts and the most simple logic contradicts him !!!!

In his two imputs you just get a small apetizer how he rambles !!!!!!!

Well guys; good luck with that paranoid indoctrinated zealot
(Edited by BelgianStrider)
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zeffur
zeffur: What part of "I have no need for any of your idiocy. Just ignore my comments, as they were not addressed to you." is confusing to you?

You are confused, irrational, delusional, & a dishonest atheidiot. Why would anyone care anything about what you think?? Naturally they would not--unless they were a mental health professional providing you with help for your many mental problems.

Delude on, dummy--& keep it to yourself--you deserve it! Thanks in advance!
(Edited by zeffur)
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harpalycus47
harpalycus47: OK Zeffur. This is my territory, so you are welcome as long as you debate. You start with the mindless insults and I will simply delete you..
So God has given man free will. So what?
First question. Does having freewill entail making the wrong decision.
If I have freewill and know, without any doubt what the right action to take is, and I also know, without any doubt that making the wrong decision will lead to incredible pain and suffering of billions and billions of others and untold numbers of sentient beings and will lead to an eternity of torment for myself, but the right decision will result in an eternity of joy and happiness, not only for myself but for everyone, then what decision would I make?
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zeffur
zeffur: I suggest you warn BSr to keep his stupidity to himself. I did not address him & I could not care less about any of his idiocy.
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harpalycus47
harpalycus47: Hi Belgian, good to see you. Sorry about the length and complexity but it's the nature of the beast. If you want to concentrate on any one point please feel free.
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harpalycus47
harpalycus47: Surely won't, Zeffur
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zeffur
zeffur: re: "harpalycus47: Does having freewill entail making the wrong decision."

Some people make wrong decisions in their lives. That's their fault--not God's fault. They know as well as anyone else what is right & what is wrong morally. It's not a mystery.

re: "If I have freewill and know, without any doubt what the right action to take is, and I also know, without any doubt that making the wrong decision will lead to incredible pain and suffering of billions and billions of others and untold numbers of sentient beings and will lead to an eternity of torment for myself, but the right decision will result in an eternity of joy and happiness, not only for myself but for everyone, then what decision would I make?"

"Would" refers to YOUR will. What decision would YOU make? You get to decide--but, I seriously doubt whatever decision that you make will affect billions of people.
(Edited by zeffur)
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harpalycus47
harpalycus47: Why haven't you answered the simple question, Zeffur?
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zeffur
zeffur: re: "harpalycus47: Surely won't, Zeffur"

Nice to know that you aren't a fair person. He isn't entitled to a free pass to misbehave towards me. That was the point of my response to him & to you.
(Edited by zeffur)
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zeffur
zeffur: The answer to YOUR question is dependent upon what YOU will decide--not me. I don't make decisions for you--you do!
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harpalycus47
harpalycus47: Be happy in the knowledge.
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harpalycus47
harpalycus47: It's what's called a hypothetical question. Your avoidance will fool no-one.
What is the answer to the question?
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