And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers.
April 5, 2007 4:52 AM   Subscribe

God vs. the Devil: a Death Toll Perspective So, who has killed more people throughout human history? In the blue corner, it's the Lord of Hosts, the Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and all Things Seen and Unseen: God!!! In the red corner, it's Old Nick, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, the Sultan of Sulfur, the Bringer of Brimstone: Satan!!!
posted by Tommy Gnosis (127 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I thought Satan wasn't even mentioned in the Bible. Huh, I guess I'm wrong--he's in Job at least.

Wow, this total doesn't even include The Flood.
posted by DU at 5:26 AM on April 5, 2007


The fuller list has estimated numbers for The Flood and other divine disasters and comes up with a total of almost 33 million.

Worse than Hitler!
posted by DU at 5:28 AM on April 5, 2007


So, we're comparing two fictitious concepts against each other based on their apocryphal death tolls? I get more enlightenment out of Red vs. Blue.
posted by mr_book at 5:30 AM on April 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'd put a snide comment but with this guy's track record...
posted by unsupervised at 5:30 AM on April 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Some people just have no sense of fun. I found it amusing on a few levels. Nice post.
posted by psmealey at 5:33 AM on April 5, 2007


so how many have they each saved?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:37 AM on April 5, 2007


Not as many as Tony Esposito.
posted by psmealey at 5:37 AM on April 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


Huh. I first read that as "google vs. the devil"
posted by delmoi at 5:38 AM on April 5, 2007


Saved from what?
posted by DU at 5:38 AM on April 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


Not surprising, then, that his followers down here on earth keep on doing the Lord's work: killing, killing and more killing. On the other hand, your basic everyday run-of-the-mill Satan worshipper? Never hear about him fighting no holy wars, do ya? Or calling for the head of unbelievers? Ever hear anyone sing "Onward Satan's Soldiers"? Satanic jihad? Nope.

God's a drag.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:38 AM on April 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow. God's actually doing pretty well in the killing loads of people stakes. Assuming low estimates are correct, he's actually winning.

He must get up really early in the morning.
posted by tomsk at 5:43 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


so how many have they each saved?

Saved from what? That juvenile, petty eternity-in-torture construct that god created? Nay, had the Free Will to not create, even?
posted by sourwookie at 5:45 AM on April 5, 2007


Perhaps related is this.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:47 AM on April 5, 2007


A RODRIGUEZ/TARANTINO DOUBLE FEATURE
DEATHCULT
First up: The Insane Whirlwind of Blood Begins
PLANET TORAH
What Hath God Wrought? ACTION
And then:
A Man... Created For Sacrifice
Brings a Curse of Blood on His Tormentors
JEWVENGER
A TERROR SO FIERCE IT'LL TEAR YOUR FAITH IN TWO

posted by thirteenkiller at 5:48 AM on April 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


anotherpanacea, God is displeased with those who link to deleted threads.

Better watch your back, man.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:50 AM on April 5, 2007


Worse than Hitler!

God... wins??
posted by psmealey at 5:52 AM on April 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


Poor Herod... it's so sad to be the last to die for a bad cause.
posted by peeedro at 5:56 AM on April 5, 2007


flapjax: I was deleting to a comment in that thread.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:04 AM on April 5, 2007


Where does Bob fit into all this?
posted by unsupervised at 6:04 AM on April 5, 2007


Our times are in His hands. Satan cannot kill anyone unless He allows it.

We are all eternal beings. The only differentiation is where that eternity is spent. Death is simply separation.
posted by konolia at 6:07 AM on April 5, 2007


He's a killer queen gunpowder gelatine
Dynamite with a lazer beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind
Recommended at the price
Insatiable an appetite wanna try?
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:07 AM on April 5, 2007


I was deleting to a comment in that thread.

Ack... brains... don't... work. Need... coffee.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:08 AM on April 5, 2007


Seeing as it's Holy Week, this thread'll make for great comedy relief for my pastoral team at church.
posted by pax digita at 6:09 AM on April 5, 2007


This reminds me of a deep, deep philosophical conundrum I had growing up. What exactly goes on in the lives of sitcom characters for those 6 days that we don't have an episode about them? Are their lives pretty much the same as what we see on TV? Or does some madcap shit happen every seven days? We just don't know.

To compare the death count in the Bible of God vs Satan is a bit false, because the Bible isn't about Satan. What is he up to for all those pages while we're hearing about brothers dressed up in goatskins and whatnot? We have no idea. Satan could be having some major hijinks.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:20 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


And by hijinks, I mean killing people.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:20 AM on April 5, 2007


This thread will not be deleted unless He allows it. (Or maybe She does. Or even Him. It's a trinity.)
posted by pracowity at 6:24 AM on April 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I was all set to rattle on about that fact that it hardly needs to be pointed out that 'god' came off as one bloodthirsty son of a bitch in that old book... but I'll just go for some Latin, instead.

Ubi dubium ibi libertas.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:24 AM on April 5, 2007


What exactly goes on in the lives of sitcom characters for those 6 days...

In six days sitcom characters created the heavens and the earth. And on the seventh day they appeared in some lame-ass TV show.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:26 AM on April 5, 2007


Ubi dubium...

Wasn't that a Roy Orbison song?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 AM on April 5, 2007


If your god doesn't kill, he's really not much of a god...right?
posted by PHINC at 6:38 AM on April 5, 2007


I thought Satan wasn't even mentioned in the Bible.

Satan appears in the Old Testament three times. One, as you mentioned, was in Job. That is his longest and most significant appearance.

The appearance I find to be the most fascinating is in 1 Chronicles.
In 2 Samuel the Lord (it appears literally as "the angel of the Lord" in the Hebrew text) is angry with David and instructs him to take a census of Israel. As taking a census is a grave sin (you don't want your enemies to know what your actual army size might be), the Lord later in the chapter causes the death of thousands of Israelites to punish David for taking the census.

1 Chronicles was written much later than 2 Samuel. By this time, the Israelites' view of God had evolved considerably. Previously, their belief was that their God was responsible for everything that happened. Evil was considered to be God punishing the world. The Israelites grew uncomfortable with the idea that their God was capable of such horrific deeds. As such, they created a fall guy -- Satan. 2 Samuel recounts the exact same story as the one cited above in 1 Chronicles. However, there is an important change. Where "the angel of the Lord" appeared to incite David to number IIsrael, the word "Satan" appears. Satan is essentially stepping in for "the angel of the Lord" in this passage. So Satan not only has God-like powers, but I think the argument can be made that Satan is, in fact, God. At least Satan is a manifestation of God in the same way that "the angel of the Lord" is. The phrase "angel of the Lord" appears often throughout the Old Testament, usually doing good things. Sometimes it does things that are not so good.

In both accounts above, 70,000 people are killed.

I think that the third place Satan appears in the Old Testament is in Zecharia. If I remember correctly, he is standing at the right hand of God as the Accuser. Again, he is playing the role of "the angel of the Lord."
posted by flarbuse at 6:42 AM on April 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


Satan cannot kill anyone unless He allows it.

wow, so he not only scores his own points, he gets credit for an assist on every one of satan's points as well!

future first ballot hall of famer for sure, this guy.
posted by lord_wolf at 6:47 AM on April 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


It looks like it's time for Satan to drop back and punt.

That 2nd link is nice too.
posted by winks007 at 6:47 AM on April 5, 2007


Our times are in His hands. Satan cannot kill anyone unless He allows it.

So I guess we should add Satan's 10 deaths to the God total as well.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:48 AM on April 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


wow, so he not only scores his own points, he gets credit for an assist on every one of satan's points as well!

He's not the all time leader in quintuple doubles for nothing, you know.
posted by psmealey at 6:49 AM on April 5, 2007


So, has anybody read Mailer's newest book? It's ostensibly about the childhood of Adolf Hitler, but it's really just a recasting of Paradise Lost into 20th-century terms; the battle between God and Satan is waged as a Cold War on earth, with angels and devils acting as competing intelligence agencies. The concept's great, I think, but the execution kind of stinks.
posted by COBRA! at 6:49 AM on April 5, 2007


lord_wolf is a more alacritous servant of the Dark One than I am, I see.

(curse those few seconds between preview and post)
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:50 AM on April 5, 2007


quintuple doubles double quintuples
posted by psmealey at 6:51 AM on April 5, 2007


Neca eos omnes, Deus suos agnoscet.
posted by Ritchie at 7:12 AM on April 5, 2007


Sic gorgiamus allos subiectatos nunc.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 7:13 AM on April 5, 2007


If you believe in God as first cause then God has effectively killed every extant creature since the dawn of time. By way of comparison, I would rate this as "somewhat more impressive" than, for example, bowling 300 at the local alley.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:14 AM on April 5, 2007


This is stupid. The real contest should be who inspires better heavy metal. God or Satan.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:21 AM on April 5, 2007


..God has effectively killed every extant creature since the dawn of time.

Apologists will tell you that God created people with free will to test them, etc, etc. But didn't God create the concept of free will and cause and effect and all that as well? Couldn't God have created a universe in which we mindlessly obeyed His every whim and everyone got into heaven without needing the free will part?

Like, by exercising free will in believing in God, you demonstrate a deeper love than if you were programmed to believe. But God is the one that set up that condition. Couldn't He have made it so that by being programmed to believe demonstrates the deeper love?
posted by DU at 7:21 AM on April 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


The real contest should be who inspires better heavy metal. God or Satan.
That's a tricky issue - certainly it's one that got Aquinas bogged down badly - because, while God has not inspired much good metal, Satan surely has to lose some style points, at the least, due to the existence of phenomena such as Glen Benton.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:24 AM on April 5, 2007


Now I don't feel so bad about that ant I accidentally stepped on.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:29 AM on April 5, 2007


That's a tricky issue - certainly it's one that got Aquinas bogged down badly - because, while God has not inspired much good metal, Satan surely has to lose some style points, at the least, due to the existence of phenomena such as Glen Benton.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:24 AM on April 5


You make some excellent points, but then again...
posted by Pastabagel at 7:31 AM on April 5, 2007


But conversely...
posted by Wolfdog at 7:36 AM on April 5, 2007


Well played, my friend. The spiked boots, face paint, and gut protector are a solid parry, but I'm afraid there is no defense for this.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:44 AM on April 5, 2007


If God created the Devil, though, isn't God ultimately responsible for God's and the Devil's death tolls?

Anyway, this seems like asking "who would win in a fight: Batman or Spiderman?"

(Batman.)
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:45 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


(Batman.)

NFW, man. Batman is just a regular bad ass ninja dude with body armor. Spiderman actually has super powers. Batman would be game because he's tough, but Spiderman would have him inside of a couple of minutes.
posted by psmealey at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2007


But God has Roy Z working for him at least part time. That's got to go in the plus column.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:58 AM on April 5, 2007


And you know who did this to this group's hair? JESUS

We are locked in a bitter contest that will surely destroy us all.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:06 AM on April 5, 2007


We just dealt with this yesterday. Yes, Spider-Man would probably win the first match, but Batman would win all subsequent engagements. Batman's most powerful instruments are his tactics and ability to make use of prior knowledge.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:08 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


But I guess Satan's looking for an escape clause in the contracts he signed to buy the souls of these dorks.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:09 AM on April 5, 2007


And then there's all those God has promised to kill at Armageddon when the blood will fill the valley so deep it'll be shoulder high on the horses.
posted by MasonDixon at 8:11 AM on April 5, 2007


those God has promised to kill at Armageddon

You can count some of those is God is using accrual based accounting, but I think he's cash-based.
posted by psmealey at 8:13 AM on April 5, 2007


We are locked in a bitter contest that will surely destroy us all.
Take it all, our gold, our homes, our life,
But we didn't kill your Christ!!
posted by Wolfdog at 8:14 AM on April 5, 2007


The comments on that post are priceless.

Lots wife had just been liberated, rather than assasinated [sic].
She was warned not to look back. What she was looking back on was, I think, a sight humans cant take in, a bit supernatural.
She turned into salt.


* * * *

Lies and people kill people, not God, not guns. Suckers like you do deserve death . . . . I feel sorry for your shallow, tainted brain.

Oh.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:18 AM on April 5, 2007


Pfft. Batman would totally kick Spiderman's ass.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:26 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cookiebastard! My old friend! Fancy seeing you here!

And yes, Batman would rage and ruin Mr Spiderman.
posted by grubi at 8:27 AM on April 5, 2007


http://www.shadezofblack.com/images/DIMMU_20BORGIR.jpg


Take it all, our gold, our homes, our life,
But we didn't kill your Christ!!
posted by Wolfdog at 11:14 AM on April 5


Maybe not, but you did put a top hat on this guy. Wait, which side am I on again?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:28 AM on April 5, 2007


I'm lost, hell with it, let's just have a beer before God smites us.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:29 AM on April 5, 2007


I have a personal theory that there's some sort of absolute limit to evil, like there is in physics, with the speed of light being an absolute limit.

I think this upper limit to evil, as experienced by any given human, is their own death, or in some cases the death of those they care most about.

So, with that yardstick, whoever kills the most people is the most evil. Especially if the deaths were premeditated, or avoidable, or foreseeable.

You know where I'm going with this. It's nice that chart confirms that we in the Anglo-American alliance are truly doing the Lord's work these days.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:30 AM on April 5, 2007


Fabricati diem, punc.
posted by dazed_one at 8:36 AM on April 5, 2007


I'm lost, hell with it, let's just have a beer before God smites us.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:29 AM on April 5


You're on.

And have you noticed there's a serious conversation going on in this thread? Not the spider-man one, but the other one? I had no idea until just now...
posted by Pastabagel at 8:37 AM on April 5, 2007


So, with that yardstick, whoever kills the most people is the most evil.

Apropos of nothing, but half of all humans that have ever lived were killed by malaria. That makes the mosquito (which spreads malaria) the deadliest creature on earth.

On a more serious note, I don't think there is a good-evil spectrum. There is no 'evil' in the world - just things we do to each other because we want to and think we can get away with it. There's too much psychopathology at work in "bad people" that is beyond their control, and people who you think are good usually have some darkness in them.

The villain is the hero of his own story.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:44 AM on April 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Of course one must ask, who has brought more people back from the dead? Happy Easter!
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 8:47 AM on April 5, 2007


Batman could even beat god.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:54 AM on April 5, 2007


This may well be throwing fuel on the fire, but it was blazing along nicely before I got here, and it will continue to burn after I'm gone, so I may as well try to be a bit informative. If you're tempted to argue against the existence and nature of either God or Satan, that falls outside of this discussion, as both are prerequisites for the linked chart to make any sense.

The word, Satan, means "accuser" in Hebrew. It is a legal term, which refers to the same sort of person that we would call a prosecutor today. (This is a gross generalization-- ancient Judaic judicial law is complex and very different from modern law. But for the sake of this discussion, I believe it to suffice.) The accuser's role is to identify the suspected party and proclaim their guilt before the judge. It is then up to the judge to decide if that person is actually guilty and dish out the punishment for it. The beginning of the story of Job is an example of this sort of proceeding; Satan comes before God accusing Job of being a fair-weather saint.

In the Pauline Epistles, Satan is also described as a tempter and deceiver "masquerading as an angel of light". In this way, he is given the ability to bring out our worst natural properties, so as to better perform the job of accuser. It is similar to the concept of a "Bad Cop" putting you under stress to make you more likely to break down and confess.

So why is God's death toll higher? Well, firstly, it is His creation in the first place. (If you accept the existence of the Judeo-Christian God/Satan, then this is pretty much a given. If you deny it, then why are you arguing about it?) So it's really all His to do with as He pleases. Without God no one would be alive in the first place, and death is pretty much inextricably linked to life according to His plan. Second, God is the Judge. No one else gets to decide, on the eternal timescale, who is sinful (and therefore deserving of death) and who is free from sin (and therefore deserving of life). Third, the condition of sin is inescapable for humans as a consequence of choice, and the consequence of sin is death. (Death in this case refers to spiritual death, separation from God.) There is no "morality scale" with which your good deeds are weighed against the bad ones. (At least, not in the Bible.) The Biblical soteriology makes clear that all sin is equal in weight, and that all sin regardless of size, shape or color results in one end; separation from God (death). Finally, Satan can only take life when God permits it. God is, therefore, the ultimate determinant (judge) of who lives and dies, not only in the mortal life, but in the eternal existence of the human soul.

Wow. That went on much longer than I intended. A lot of fuel, I suppose.

Furthermore, it is not just speculated, but canonical that Batman can beat Superman.
posted by leapfrog at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Worse than Hitler!

I call GODwin!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2007


If God is omnipotent, then anything that ever happens anywhere is, by definition, His Will -- anything that happens, happens because He wants it to. If He didn't want something to happen, it wouldn't happen. The statement "God didn't want X to happen" is self-contradictory, IMO.

I don't see what's so hard about that, but people seem to have this weird logical thing where "omnipotent" gets relegated to "really really powerful" or "omnipotent sometimes, but not other times". I find myself reading religious debates, saying internally "but I thought God was omnipotent" after every few phrases -- it's like He is omnipotent when it's convenient, then forgotten two sentences later.

I suppose that's why I'm a hard atheist: I think the concept of an omnipotent God can be logically disproven. (This is not to say that there may not be really, really powerful creatures out there that make humans look like amoebae by comparison...)
posted by LordSludge at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2007


ZenMasterThis: [nudge, nudge].
posted by psmealey at 8:57 AM on April 5, 2007


flarbuse,
Wow, thanks for sharing that. That's a very interesting point. I know you're not claiming to be a biblical scholar, but would you mind if I asked you a question? You say that taking a census is a grave sin. Where does God mention that, and is his reason (if any is given) the one you listed, that enemies can use it to determine military strength? Is there some moral reason for this, or is this another rule like not eating shellfish that you just have to do?
posted by Sangermaine at 9:10 AM on April 5, 2007


The Devil also appears in the Gospels of Matthew (4:1-10) and Luke.

Regarding "omnipotence" and proof, here goes:

Let set A be the set of all acts. Subset G is the set of all acts which God is capable of doing, and we define /G to be everything in A which is not in G, thus /G is the set of all acts which God is not capable of doing.

Is God "omnipotent"? Can God do anything? If so, then G == A, and /G is empty.

Let T be the act "Identify a member of /G". T is an act so T is a member of A and therefore must be in either G or /G. Which one is T in?

If T is in /G, then /G is not empty.

If T is in G, then God is capable of identifying a member of /G, and thus /G is not empty. (Though we have no idea what the member is.)

Thus /G cannot be empty, and it is not possible for God to do everything. QED

(Note: my creation of sets A, G, and /G is not subject to Russell's paradox because none of the sets or members involved are members of themselves.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:15 AM on April 5, 2007


@Sangermaine: Incidentally, the prohibition against shellfish, and most of the restrictive dietary and sanitary laws of the Old Testament are mostly directed at food safety and hygiene. Shellfish allergies are very common, and in Moses's day antihistamines were not.
posted by leapfrog at 9:21 AM on April 5, 2007


LordSludge: I'm a hard atheist and I'll disagree with you there. We may be able to logically disprove a god who is a) omnipotent, b) omniciant, and c) omnibenevolent, by observing that evil, and/or harm to innocents exists. Obviously most theists disagree, but I find their so-called "logic" on that position laughable at best. It usually boils down to: "we don't understand the mind of god, so when he allowed that six year old girl to be raped and tortured to death we just have to accept that it was good in the broad plan." Either that or, as you observed, a covert renunciation of the idea of omnipotence.

However a god who is omnipotent, but a bastard, could still exist in the universe as it is observed to be.

I'm a hard atheist on the grounds that if we take any non-falsifiable idea seriously we pretty much have to take them all seriously if we're going to be intellectually honest. I can think, right off the top of my head, of dozens of non-falsifiable ideas that I'll guarantee are either laughable or repugnant, oddly no agnostic or soft atheist has ever agreed that to be intellectually honest they have to give as much credence to them as to the idea of god.
posted by sotonohito at 9:22 AM on April 5, 2007


leapfrog
::sigh:: Comic geekdom compels me to point out that no, Batman beating Superman is not canonical. The Dark Knight Returns is considered an Elseworlds title outside of canon. The concept is there, but Batman himself has never done it. It was shown, though, in the JLA: Tower of Babel arc that Batman does maintain files detailing ways to take down every member of the Justice League including Superman (though this plan involved red kryptonite instead of green like in Dark Knight), but it was Ra's Al Ghul who actually put the plans in action. Heck, even Poison Ivy took down Superman in the Hush arc.
As for Spider-Man/Batman, they've met twice, but I don't think it settled the issue...I hate myself sometimes.

Anyway, onto something relevant. DU asked why God didn't just create people to be good. I would point him to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on the Logical Problem of Evil, specifically the part on Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defense. The argument solves the logical problem of evil, though it rests on the premise that people's lives are only morally relevant if they have free will, which you may not accept.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:29 AM on April 5, 2007


It happens to be the case that many Christians believe that their God is omnipotent, but it is not logically required that all religions do so, and proving that omnipotence is logically impossible does not prove that Gods do not exist.

One difficulty here is in defining the difference between a "god" and a "very powerful being", and my usual way of doing it is to say that a "god" is able to violate the laws of physics. But that doesn't require omniscience or omnipotence.

In fact, as far as I know it is not possible to prove that there are no Gods. I wrote about that one time here.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:29 AM on April 5, 2007


leapfrog,
As an atheist, I agree with you that that's the reason they are there. But if you are a believer and view the rules as directly from God, that's not the reason He gives. In fact, He doesn't give any reasons at all, only that we must follow the laws.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:31 AM on April 5, 2007


I am not aware of any place in the Bible where it is explained that taking a census is a sin. However, you can see that those passages I cited clearly consider it to be so. Other than revealing a country's military strength, I have never heard of a reason why it would be a sin to take a census. I think that in those times it would be considered foolish by any nation to tip off another nation as to the size of its military. So I think that the Israelites followed that logic and decided that to do so would be a sin. Plus, if David did take a census and shortly afterward thousands of Israelites died, then it would follow that the cause/effect analysis that led to so many religious beliefs would have led them to believe that it was the census itself that caused the deaths.

As you stated, I am not a biblical scholar by any means. I did major in theology in college, and I did write my senior thesis on Satan in the Old Testament actually being a manifestation of God. But I am sure that there are countless Mefites who know the Bible much better than I do.
posted by flarbuse at 9:35 AM on April 5, 2007


flarbuse,
Thanks for the answer. I was just asking because you clearly know more than me about this subject. I can see the practical logic behind it, I was just wondering what a believer would give as the divine justification for it. It doesn't even seem enough to say that it's because God said so, because if God never mentioned it before it seems kind of odd to just spring a new rule on David and punish him for it.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2007


There is no "morality scale" with which your good deeds are weighed against the bad ones. (At least, not in the Bible.)

I beg to differ.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2007


leapfrog I'm not a Biblical scholar, but to claim that all, or even most, of the dietary laws are based on food safety seems a bit far fetched to me. Many of them don't seem to have any utility, even in the germ and technical environment of the era.

While it can be easily argued that, for example, the prohibitions on pork, hares, etc could have a practical basis, but chicken and other birds carry salmonella and are allowed, while reptiles which are generally quite healthy to eat are forbidden.

There's also a bunch of just plain bizarre prohibitions, like Deuteronomy 14:21, that's the "milk and meat" bit, and it makes no sense at all from a health standpoint. Especially when you take into account the part where it specifies: "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk", given the condition of dairy cows and the lack of pasteurized milk *any* milk that had been "seethed" would be safer to consume than any other milk, regardless of whether meat of any sort was included or not.

My point is just that although some of the Hebrew dietary laws can be seen as benefiting public health, its probably a mistake to think that's the main reason for their existence.

Most religions, especially early religions, made laws about virtually everything, most of which don't really provide any tangible benefit. I'll argue that they were mainly just the result of ritual, and a desire to make ritual part of all human activity to further integrate the religion (and thus the importance of the priests) into the society.

Steven C. Den Beste You are correct, it is impossible to disprove the various insubstantial monotheistic gods that people propose. But that, really is why I'm going to take the strong atheist position and say they don't exist.

As soon as one enters the realm of the non-falsifiable claim he's lost. It isn't my job to falsify things that can't be falsified, its incumbent on the believer to offer proof.

I could claim, for example, that a race of superintelligent, invisible, intangible, rabbits who neither breath, eat, or excrete, and in fact are completely immaterial and undetectable, watch us all the time purely for their own voyeuristic pleasure. You can't prove that the super rabbits don't exist, any more than I can prove that the Christian/Jewish/Muslim god doesn't exist.

If one is intellectually honest one must give all non-falsifiable claims equal credence. I chose to dismiss every one of them as weak minded BS, thus I take the strong atheist position. For the weak atheists or agnostics, why would you take god more seriously than the super rabbits? Neither has any proof, and you can't disprove either of them. Shouldn't they be equal in your eyes? And yet, I'll guarantee you that no agnostic will give the rabbits equal footing with god.

DevilsAdvocate I will say, as an atheist, that I always liked Matthew 25:31-46. Its not only good poetry, but I like its message. If more Christians read and cared about the things Jesus is supposed to have said, well, there'd be fewer of 'em, but they'd be better people.
posted by sotonohito at 9:47 AM on April 5, 2007


14,700 for complaining

I'm not going to say I didn't chuckle at that.
posted by cyphill at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2007


when i was 13 I might have come in here and typed LOL at this. now it's not only old and tired, but adds nothing of value to discussions of religion. meh.
posted by shmegegge at 10:23 AM on April 5, 2007


This is stupid. The real contest should be who inspires better heavy metal. God or Satan.

There's no such thing as Christian metal. Christian "metal", maybe, but I don't see much point in trying to push a worldview using music that's diametrically opposed to it.
posted by vorfeed at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2007


sotonohito : I could claim, for example, that a race of superintelligent, invisible, intangible, rabbits who neither breath, eat, or excrete, and in fact are completely immaterial and undetectable, watch us all the time purely for their own voyeuristic pleasure.

Tell me more about these rabbits. I'm liking what I hear so far, and I have been looking for a new faith. Particularly one that involves super-intelligent peeping-tom bunnies.
posted by quin at 10:32 AM on April 5, 2007


when i was 13 I might have come in here and typed LOL at this. now it's not only old and tired, but adds nothing of value to discussions of religion. meh.

We value your "meh" and it has been duly noted.

Whatever. This was largely a tongue-in-cheek accounting rather than fodder for a sophisticated thelogical debate. To the extent there are any poorly understood theological issues underpinning this, konolia nailed the Christian perspective on it in a couple of sentences a few hours ago.

If anything else you see here bores you or is beneath you, please don't hesitate to contact us again.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 10:38 AM on April 5, 2007


pastabagel opined:

[quoting me]So, with that yardstick, whoever kills the most people is the most evil.

Apropos of nothing, but half of all humans that have ever lived were killed by malaria. That makes the mosquito (which spreads malaria) the deadliest creature on earth.


Sorry, I thought it was clear that the "evil" yardstick only applied to sentient beings (including deities) who had the power to choose. Let's all agree that typhoons and earthquakes and asteroids and plagues and roving packs of marauding bears are not "evil". Except for packs of radioactive bears with frickin' lasers - that would be evil. And awesome!


On a more serious note, I don't think there is a good-evil spectrum. There is no 'evil' in the world - just things we do to each other because we want to and think we can get away with it. There's too much psychopathology at work in "bad people" that is beyond their control, and people who you think are good usually have some darkness in them.


Huh? "Axis of Pathology" does not cut it when you're trying to whip up support for an unjustifiable invasion of oil-rich nations careful premptive defensive action to preserve world peace.


The villain is the hero of his own story.

That would explain much, i guess
posted by Artful Codger at 10:43 AM on April 5, 2007



I don't get it. Where does George Burns fit into all of this?
posted by Muddler at 11:13 AM on April 5, 2007


@sontonhito and @Sangermaine;
You are correct. The purpose of the Mosaic laws is not food safety. The purpose of the Mosaic laws is to establish Israel as a nation separate from those around it. They are meant to establish a culture which is recognizable to others in the culture through common practice. Some of the laws make sense from a practical perspective, some make sense from a hygenic perspective, and some don't really make sense anymore. Part of the difficulty of understanding the Bible is that it is a collection of historic documents, written by people from cultures vastly different from our own over a span of thousands of years. It is also a timeless document with wisdom and insight which can apply anyone at any time. Did the Mosaic laws provide any tangible benefit? I would think that anyone who is Jewish today would say that the fact that there are still Jews today is proof that the laws do what they were meant to do. I will leave open to debate whether that is a benefit or not. Christians today must at least give credit to the laws for preserving the traditions long enough for the Messiah to come for all people.

I understand that the law about cooking a young goat in its mother's milk was probably a response to a specific sacrificial practice used by a rival religious group in the area. It means a lot more to Jews now. If one looks to the law for salvation, one is bound to develop interpretations of it.

@DevilsAdvocate
My response.
posted by leapfrog at 11:25 AM on April 5, 2007


sotonohito: [I]t is impossible to disprove the various insubstantial monotheistic gods that people propose. But that, really is why I'm going to take the strong atheist position and say they don't exist.

But isn't that weak atheism? I mean, you're holding out the possibility that empirical evidence for the existence of god(s) *could* exist, but that 1. the burden of proof lies with the extraordinary claim, and 2. nobody has produced any such (credible) proof yet.

You're not saying God can't exist; you're just saying you see no evidence suggesting He does.

Or maybe there's something between weak and strong atheism. (Indeed, we require empirical evidence for everything else; why do people equate that with uncertainty when it comes to deities?) "Moderate atheism" has a nice ring to it.

Steven C. Den Beste: [M]y usual way of doing it is to say that a "god" is able to violate the laws of physics.

That is, by definition, impossible. "Laws of physics" are just descriptions of reality, attempts to model "what happens". Once that "god" does anything, any physics model would need to incorporate that godly influence.

Newton's Second Law becomes:
Force = mass * acceleration + Odin's influence
It may unpredictable, it may be unexplainable, but any influence on reality -- "godly" or not -- is, by definition, part of physics. Of course, if a god has no influence on reality, well, that's just another way of saying it doesn't exist.

I am willing to concede that there may be are certainly aspects of physics that we don't understand and might as well consider "magic" or "divine", but as long as those influences do in fact exist, they fall under the broad umbrella of Physics. And, yeah, if supremely advanced aliens started playing billiards with the planets, they'd seem pretty "god"-like -- and, indeed, I bet bona fide religions complete with churches, sermons, etc. would form around them.

Enjoyed your atheism article, btw. As a "Raving Atheist" (ha!) and a mechanist (hadn't realized there was a term for the rejection of supernatural-anything), I'll say that my position is that omnipotent god(s) and/or god(s) that defy physics are logically impossible -- strong atheism. Very powerful beings are logically possible but require empirical proof -- weak "atheism", if you want to call it that.

Interestingly, then, I'm strong atheistic wrt the western Christian god, but merely agnostic wrt Thor, Zeus, Loki, etc. That is very amusing to me!

The problem is that the definition of a "god" is open-ended. "God" is in the eye of the worshipper -- it can be omnipotent, non-omnipotent, or even downright mundane. Hell, people could worship this bottle of Coke and call it a god if they like. Behold, while I drink your god!!
posted by LordSludge at 11:54 AM on April 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


leapfrog: sorry if I wasn't clear. I wasn't asserting that the Bible unambiguously says that there is a morality scale on which one's deeds are judged. I was only asserting that it is not the case that the Bible unambiguously says that there is not a morality scale on which one's deeds are judged. Thus, noting that there are some verses in the Bible which indicate there is not such a morality scale (which I am well aware of) does not refute the argument that the Bible is ambiguous on that point.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:17 PM on April 5, 2007


Hell, people could worship this bottle of Coke and call it a god if they like. Behold, while I drink your god!!
posted by LordSludge


eponysterical!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:21 PM on April 5, 2007


As neither theist nor atheist I feel constrained to point out that logic is a non-falsifiable system.
In that vein*, I won’t argue that benevolence as defined by humans isn’t at odds with omnipotence but that - logically - an omnipresent being (omniscient/omnipotent) would suffer in exactly the same proportion as any and all beings.
But given there’s no possible way to measure an omnipotent force at work (by definition - such a force would include any method of measuring it) why bother? If you die, that much of God dies. Arguing death is evil is like saying the world should end if you’re not there. Or that the tree in the forest makes no sound if not heard. What’s the point? From a subjective perspective there’s no way to objectively measure that. Does the world keep going when I die? Well, many people act as if it does, but I myself will never know. I trust that it does. We see empirical evidence that the world remains when not observed. But once I’m gone for good - all observation stops.


Of course, I think Odin would kick God’s ass. His bodycount is much bigger.

And Spiderman scores big wins over Batman in any fight. But that’s just physical. I mean, put them in a big room, lock the door, Spiderman walks out. He’s faster than human, can predict and dodge an opponent’s movements, can throw a garbage truck around. And we forget - he’s got tactics too. Bruce Wayne - while he’s learned from masters - only started really fighting later in life. Spiderman has been streetfighting in potentially lethal situations since he was in his early teens. And Batman doesn’t face any tougher (proportionally) foes on a regular basis - they’re both nearly always overmatched, fighting multiple opponents or opponents much more powerful (unlike, say, Superman). And any formal style is subject to repetition and therefore anticipation and counter (advantage in lethal combat - they’ll only see it once).
Spidey doesn’t have a formal style (and indeed, often performs inhuman stunts to get out of something), so that effectively neutralizes Batman’s tactical advantage. Whereas Spidey can adapt to Batman’s tactics, and can anticipate far in advance without having to even think about it.
The only way Batman could win would be to dictate the environment and terms upon which they engage. And, yes, that’s his thing, but that’s beyond just the physical engagement.
But indeed, if we’re talking who is more likely to achieve any given objective in a generalized conflict situation (outside of raw straight up physical combat) it’s definately Batman.
Of course, they both have a real thing about not taking lives and being responsible for others, so why they’d conflict in the first place is really the tough question. In fact, I can’t think of any superhero Batman would trust more or get along with better than Spiderman.

(* “As soon as one enters the realm of the non-falsifiable claim he's lost.” - sotonohito)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:23 PM on April 5, 2007


Hogwash. Batman would whup Spiderman, easy.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:34 PM on April 5, 2007


Hi grubi!
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:47 PM on April 5, 2007


LordSludge I may need to brush up on my strong/weak atheism definitions. I thought that weak atheism said "god probably doesn't exist", and strong said "god definately doesn't exist", not "it is impossible for god to exist".

Naturally, if evidence shows up my mind is changeable, I may be an atheist, but I'm not dogmatic about it. I try to accept reality as it is, thus I'm a materialist, or mechanist, or whatever you want to call one who rejects the supernatural (including any and all deities) in its entireity. But that's based, surprise, on reality as it has been observed, if better or simply newer and different observations indicate the existence of things that would currently be classified as supernatural, I'd accept their existence rather than dogmatically insisting that they can't exist.

ALSO:

Spiderman would *so* take Batman, I mean when its all said and done all Wayne has going for him are the gadgets his immense fortune can buy him, a lot of brooding angst, and some kung-foo. Parker has brooding angst in spades, but he's also got genuine super strength, precognition with regards to danger, he's smart, a skilled tactician, etc. Wayne would be toast.

At least one on one. Presumably Wayne could hire a few dozen broke super types to take out Parker, or heck, just a couple thousand Blackwater mercenaries would probably do the job, if they could catch Parker away from any place to run or hide. For that matter just a couple dozen people blazing away with fully automatic weapons ought to overload his spider sense and thus allow two or three snipers to take him down.
posted by sotonohito at 1:30 PM on April 5, 2007


Wayne has at least as much (probably more) intelligence and tactical planning skills as Parker. cf.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:38 PM on April 5, 2007


Bullsnickets. Batman would whip Spiderman easily. I've read the Spiderman comic strip. Spidey would be Bruce Wayne's bitch inside of an hour.

And a return of a hello to Cookiebastard!
posted by grubi at 1:39 PM on April 5, 2007


DevilsAdvocate Sure, but even if we assume that Wayne is smarter and has better tactics, what good does that do when he's up against a fairly smart and tactically aware guy who is a) able to toss trucks around and b) insanely fast?

I mean against the Hulk (the old dumb Hulk that is) for example, I'd put my money on Wayne; brains beat (dumb) brawn.

But only a slight edge in brains vs. a crapload more strength and agility == Wayne getting his clock cleaned.
posted by sotonohito at 1:43 PM on April 5, 2007


Smedleyman: As neither theist nor atheist I feel constrained to point out that logic is a non-falsifiable system.

I dunno another way to put it: If you abandon logic, you abandon sanity.

(Which, ya know, I see group prayer and it kinda creeps me out on some level: grown adults are talking to their invisible friend. Is that sane? Or is it schizophrenic?)

sotonohito: I may need to brush up on my strong/weak atheism definitions. I thought that weak atheism said "god probably doesn't exist", and strong said "god definately doesn't exist", not "it is impossible for god to exist".

What's the difference?

But, yeah, I think "weak" vs. "strong" is a gross oversimplification. We non-believers don't have a church, a canonical text, or even a set of common dogmatic principals, so each person kinda arrives at his/her own destination.
posted by LordSludge at 1:57 PM on April 5, 2007


Feh. Batman > Spiderman. QED.
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:22 PM on April 5, 2007


Feh. Batman > Spiderman. QED.

F. Must show work!
posted by psmealey at 2:28 PM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Batman is experienced, wise, intelligent, and has learned to cultivate teh best out of himself. Spiderman, on the other hadn, was bitten by a spider, and on occasion, his powers just stop working.

Batman is also a martial artist. Spidey, not so much.
posted by grubi at 2:44 PM on April 5, 2007


grubi I thought we were working from comic book canon, not movie canon. Admittedly I'm only an occasional Spider-man reader, and then only the book Straczynski writes, but I think the whole power loss bit was purely from the movies.

At any rate, how much of a martial artist do you need to be when you can pick up and throw cars, while your opponent is merely a normal human at or near the peak of human ability? Also, it isn't as if Parker is completely untrained, he's been involved in lots of practical work (ie: fights) even if he hasn't recieved formal training.

Like I said, Batman vs. The Hulk, I'l put my money on the rich orphan kid, but Spidey isn't a moron even if we agree (and I don't) that Wayne is smarter than he is.
posted by sotonohito at 3:19 PM on April 5, 2007


Anyways, it isn't about lives, people. It's about the immortal soul which I guess is kinda like money to The Big Guy and Satan.

A locked room is too artificial. Drop them both off in, say, Beirut or Baghdad and force them to have to kill each other. My money's on Batman.
posted by porpoise at 3:40 PM on April 5, 2007


Look, I'll make this real easy for all you:

If DC publishes it, Batman wins. If Marvel does, Spidey wins. If it's some mutually-agreed-to crossover with employees from both companies working on it, they'll fight in such a way that fans of each could claim at least a partial victory, then they team up against some greater threat like Joker piloting a machine made by Dr. Octopus. In a way, it doesn't make sense to think about the problem in terms other than that, since the makers of the book wield the awesome power of the deus ex machina.
posted by JHarris at 3:47 PM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


In a way, it doesn't make sense to think about the problem in terms other than that, since the makers of the book wield the awesome power of the deus ex machina.

It's a cartoon (fuck the term "graphic novel" and so on - it's a cartoon people). It doesn't make sense to think about it at all - except for light hearted entertainment value.
posted by Muddler at 3:58 PM on April 5, 2007


“I dunno another way to put it: If you abandon logic, you abandon sanity.”

I’m simply pointing out that logic is an a priori form of knowledge. It is independent of experience. There is no empirical method to observe ‘logic’. Typically atheists demand empirical proof of God and/or assert there isn’t any or can’t be any or what have you. I always find it ironic that atheists assert the ‘logic’ of their arguments when in fact logic is not experience based (as empirical knowledge is). I’ve seen several very robust arguments asserting the existance/knowlege of God on an a priori basis (Kurt Godel’s comes to mind).

I think many folks use logic as shorthand for justifiable belief and argue God is not one. Machines, f’rinstance, can perform logical operations (albeit unconsciously).
And my allusion to the Cartesian other (the whole my own death thing on an ontological basis - I think therefore I am, but I can’t empirically be shown an "other."(Again, on that basis, consciousness is divided)) doesn’t invalidate the usefulness of logic. I merely assert that God can, and has, been fairly well proven - and indeed fairly well disproven - on an apriori basis.

Empirically, different story.
And given that, it has about the same ultimate real world impact on me and my life as the Batman/Spiderman debate. Which, indeed, is similar enough. There are respective rules determining power levels, dramatic license, etc. as well as rules governing story. And those do in many cases follow logical - and in the better works - plausible and reasonable paths. Doesn’t change the fact it’s fiction.


“Batman is also a martial artist. Spidey, not so much.”

Don’t make me call tkchrist up in here... That's exactly why Spidey wins. Batman depends on gauging an opponents style. Spidey doesn’t have a style, he constantly improvises. There’s no way to anticipate him. And he’s got webbing - each single strand of which is stronger than piano wire. And his powers might go in and out - but he was also Captain Universe. And they’ve met. Spidey was afraid of him, but he got Batman’s respect. Even Superman doesn’t get Batman’s respect.

(Also Batman did fight the Hulk - pretty much had to do everything he could just to stay alive. Plus it took the Shaper of Worlds’ intervention to save Batman’s life. Same thing tho - Batman is smarter in manipulating the environment so he got his way, even though had the Hulk tagged him he’d be red paste.)


Scenario 1 - Batman and Spidey have to fight each other to save -whatever. Batman gets into a defensive posture as Spidey approaches. Batman executes a jumping *Spiderman hits him 140 times from 32 different directions ricocheting from the walls, ground and ceiling*... side.... thrust....kick....*drops*
Spiderman wins.

Scenario 2 - Spiderman discovers (falsely) that Batman actually is a major drug dealer. He goes to investigate. He approaches Batman - who disappears into the shadows. Seconds later Spidey’s spider sense goes off because he is being attacked by Doc Octopus. Spidey reacts and leaps onto a nearby wall. Where a contact sedative has been applied. He notices “Doc Ock” was a dummy decoy. As he’s fighting not to fade into unconsciousness, Batman steps back out of the shadows. Spidey gets off three slow (for him), drug addled punches which Batman narrowly dodges. Batman raises his hand to Spidey’s face and expells knockout gas from his glove. Spidey backflips, but the gas was a feint and Batman had already tossed a gas pellet behind Spidey. Which explodes before he can leap away. Woozy he staggers backward as Batman advances. Desparate Spidey shoots a large net of webbing that snares Batman’s cape. Spidey staggers forward to press his advantage. Batman kneels down and applies solvent to the webbing. He isn’t going to be able to finish freeing himself before Spiderman can get his hands on him.
“Don’t underestimate him,” Batman says. “He’s still strong enough to crush concrete”
“Wha?” Spidey says, balling his fist. “Who’re ya talking...?”
Robin’s nightstick hits Spidey at the base of his skull.
Batman wins.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:10 PM on April 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


“...since the makers of the book wield the awesome power of the deus ex machina.”

Which is why I think many folks are atheists.
(Yeah, it’s purposefully out of context)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:19 PM on April 5, 2007


I think y'all are forgetting the Spider-Man is a genius too. He invented webbing in his bedroom and is good with the science. So all of Batman's attempts to neutralise him would be anticipated and defeated with a wink and a cheezy one-liner. QED.
posted by Sparx at 6:22 PM on April 5, 2007


Okay, if, AND ONLY IF, one were to ignore my prior reasoning...

...then the answer would definitely, definitely be Batman, the reason being that Batman is a supreme realist, and a genius besides. He knows both Spider-man's strengths and weaknesses (Batman does his homework) and his own. If he had any control over the setting of the fight at all, it would be somewhere he'd have an advantage. Hyphen-man may be doing some of this himself, but Batman's entire point is human ingenuity taken to its utmost degree. At the very least, he'd have obtained a sample of webbing, worked out a formula to dissolve it, and probably coated his costume with it. He would have found out about Spider Sense, and figured out exactly how long in advance it operates, and have figured out a way to make a trap that works that far in advance, like a chessmaster engineering a checkmate seven moves away.

Improvisation is simply using the brain's unexamined default patterns and rules of thumb, which are surprisingly flexible but still patterns, instead of a worked-out strategy, so it is perfectly possible to anticipate it.

Nothing in comics, when you come down to it, is more intelligent than Batman, not (to tie in with the theme of the thread) gods, not aliens, not demons, not magic creatures, not energy beings, certainly not supervillains, nothing, because the writers don't know what greater intelligence than that would be like, and fail to imagine it convincingly. And Batman's is defined by utmost human intelligence (he's on a par with Sherlock Holmes after all).

This is not to say that Spidey's a chump, but this is Batman we're talking about. He's a non-powered guy who's somehow in the top tier of the Justice League, that should imply something. If it is in any way possible for a normal guy to defeat Spider-man, then Batman will do so. He has every non-power advantage.

In replying to this, I've already taken 12 megageeks of radiation. I'd better be going before I start developing my own super powers.
posted by JHarris at 7:15 PM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman: I’m simply pointing out that logic is an a priori form of knowledge. It is independent of experience. There is no empirical method to observe ‘logic’. Typically atheists demand empirical proof of God and/or assert there isn’t any or can’t be any or what have you. I always find it ironic that atheists assert the ‘logic’ of their arguments when in fact logic is not experience based (as empirical knowledge is).

Causality is logic. By "logic", I don't mean complex formal proofs with funny Greek symbols; I simply mean "this, therefore that". Actually, I'd argue that logic is observed and verified, empirically, trillions of times per day by billions of human observers -- but even that rigorous testing is not necessary. Further, I defy you to make ANY argument about ANYTHING that isn't utter nonsense without using logic. (In shorthand, logic = sense. No logic = non-sense.)

Here's an example: Surely, we can say that there is no such thing as a four-sided triangle without having to examine every single triangle in the universe to see if it has four sides. Similarly, if we can show that an omnipotent, sentient god is self-contradictory by its very definitions, we don't have to examine every atom to see if there's an omnipotent, sentient god hiding there. Not tryin to be a dick here, but is that not self-evident?

"This, therefore that". If you discard basic logic, there are no conclusions, empirically derived or not, that can be drawn about anything.

Also, I think Batman has been exhaustively shown to pwn every superhero out there due to his prodigious research and planning skills, but he's just so gimmicky with his utility belt and his gadgets and his Bat This and Bat That... I really can't get behind him. I put $50 on Spidey, but I'm prepared to lose it
posted by LordSludge at 7:19 PM on April 5, 2007


JHarris - (he's on a par with Sherlock Holmes after all).

I'd say that the Batman archtype is a melding of Mycroft Holme's intellect with Sherlock's preternatural physicality and inquisitiveness into crime. Throw in some norepinephrin hypersensitivity (or production), a vast amount of wealth. an understanding and adoption of technology, and a supreme desire to accomplish, as an outlet for impulses of revenge - almost borderline OCD - then we get Batman.

Hmm, thanks man - I never really connected the dots; I wonder if the original creators of Batman actually melded the Mycroft and Sherlock archtypes togather and threw in some angst? Sherlock famously credited Mycroft as being a (far) intellectual superior to himself - Mycroft just didn't really care of "everyday stuff" or "finding things out" and would pass it on to his little bro' [but mostly because he thought that Sherlock would get a kick out of it].

Spidey's just some punk mutant kid with a heart of gold.
posted by porpoise at 8:15 PM on April 5, 2007


I could be wrong, but I'm thinking more or less everybody dies. There have been very few exceptions. Do we chalk those up to God too? Seems if you're determined to hate on the Guy you're probably gonna find a way to do it.

This is comparable to the way some people have decided to hate on Adam and Eve, also for being the cause of untold billions of deaths. They neglect to account for Adam and Eve's being equally responsible for (untold billions - 2) births.
posted by eritain at 12:30 AM on April 6, 2007


Yeah well, some people need killing. Man, if I'm ever starving and dying of thirst, guess I shouldn't say anything and go die in a corner, huh?
posted by Talanvor at 2:18 AM on April 6, 2007


It doesn't make sense to think about it at all - except for light hearted entertainment value.

BLASPHEMER! Stone him! Or her!

Pretty tough talk for a guy whose name sounds like a Batman villain!
posted by grubi at 6:28 AM on April 6, 2007


Shellfish allergies are very common, and in Moses's day antihistamines were not.

You've obviously never read "In Search of Ancient Benadryl," by Erich Von Daniken
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:02 AM on April 6, 2007


What about Batman vs. Moses?
posted by darkstar at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2007


“I defy you to make ANY argument about ANYTHING that isn't utter nonsense without using logic.”

I think.

“Not tryin to be a dick here, but is that not self-evident?”

Nope. It’s not self-evident. Observation is self-evident. Logic is axiomatic. I’m speaking of logic from an epistemological basis. You’re asserting it’s usefulness, which is undebatable.
That it is incredibly useful, does not negate the fact that it is knowlege of a certain kind. It is not experiential knowlege (although some assert it is).
A triangle is the relation of an idea, it is not contingent on observation. That the sun emits photons, is observationally provable - and not relatable as a logical necessity. There is no belief that can conclusively be established by reason (or logic, or any form of a priori knowlege) alone.

“we can say that there is no such thing as a four-sided triangle without having to examine every single triangle in the universe to see if it has four sides.”

That’s an absurdist argument. By definition triangles have three sides. But if I take you at what I think your meaning is - you still have the problem of induction here. The largest series of observations consistent with a universal generalization can be logically negated by just one observation in which it is false. (Hume) Inductive reasoning cannot, ultimately, prove inductive reasoning - no matter how robust it is (I’d argue). You need direct observation to prove anything.

Now I’d certainly cede to the practicality in your assertion. We don’t need to devote all our time searching for Yeti or God or what have you. Some beliefs are very justifiable and, as stated earlier, the burden of proof is on the person saying God exists absent any manifest consensual experiential (and repeatable) proof.
No reason to waste time looking. (And indeed, as a non-theist, no real reason it’d have any bearing on anything either way)


But if you’re asserting that logic is empirical (as you appear to be) you’re opposing a realist position and you’re on ground similar (lemme stress similar, not equal) to the Cartesian ontology that asserts the existance of God in that whatever one clearly and distinctly perceives or understands is true - true not just of ideas but of things in the real world represented by those ideas.
Now there are plenty of good proofs of the ontological proofs of God - and some good refutations (many athiests know these) - Dawkins f’rinstance refutes the possiblity of imaginary worlds in logic - but by that argument Euclidian geometry is invalid because it’s an imaginary approximation of physical space, an ‘imaginary world.’
But it’s a pretty self-consistent geometrical system...and useful, so that’s where that problem gets really sticky.
The Taoist answer is - so?
I mean whether God exists or not and can be directly observed (although hasn’t so far) or not or can be proven to exist inductively or not, doesn’t really ultimately matter. God does not have practical application as even an idea in a manner similar to Euclidian geometry. Nice story? Maybe. Useful as a metaphysical concept? Perhaps. Necessary to get any work done? For some people maybe, but that’s subjective, not a repeatable and reliable consistient system like any system of geometry.
So - it’s not that we have to continually reasses empirical data to disprove God, it’s that it’s not even necessary to show that an omnipotent, sentient god is self-contradictory by its very definitions - particularly because those definitions are not self-consistient, but mostly because there’s no practical application. Indeed, by most definitions, if God exists, there isn’t much you can do with that knowlege. And further, there are many assertions that you are constrained by it, it has, in many ways, negative connotations for practical application - and those subject to (as stated) a subjective and inconsistient system. So it is, for non-theists, a fundamentally moot point from first principles.

My assertion is that its imprecise to argue that ‘logically’ God can’t exist because he’s not observable. It’s not logic, it’s realistic belief. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Science is based on methodological empiricism. It’s a whole other set of arguments to assert the logical basis of the non-existance of God and it’s nothing to do with empiricism. (Unless of course one argues logic is empirical knowlege - and that’s a further meta-argument).
‘Logic’ has come to mean reasonable consideration or justifiable belief and such. I merely find that ironic. It’s not criticism really. Just kinda funny considering the background of all that philosophy. Which few people seem to have a handle on. (And hell, I’m no PhD either, I just read a lot).

And yeah, given time to prepare, Batman wins. But it’s not like he spends every second being ready for every possible opponent he can face right now. If Superman just blasted his way into Wayne manor at 10 am and started pounding the crap out of him, I don’t think he’d be ready for it.
Funny - everyone always modulates the environment to benefit their position. This really falls down in the real world. I remember a very large muscular guy telling me he could kick my ass if I didn’t have a gun. Uh huh, maybe. But, well....I do have a gun....so... And he said if he had a gun too he could out shoot me. Uh huh....got the gun with you now? No? Well....
Old story about special forces vs. regular troops. Straightforward might vs. mobility.
Sergent says “If I had a squad coming through those trees, what could you do?”
“I’d put a sniper over here.”
“Ok, and if I had a platoon, coming over that hill, how can you stop them?”
“I’d put snipers over there, and there and drop some guys behind you.”
“Ok, and if I had a whole company coming from over there to get those snipers, what would you do?”
“I’d put snipers in that building, in the woods, and in the grass to pin you down while my guys played hit and run all along your flanks.”
“Well where are you getting all these snipers and air and mobile support?”
“Same place you’re getting squads, platoons and whole companies.”
posted by Smedleyman at 2:57 PM on April 6, 2007


I think.

No, you don't. =)

You're making a simple assertion. You haven't proven anything, nor even attempted to. The moment you support that assertion with "because", that's logic.

Furthermore, if God is outside of "human logic", then I'm sorry, but everything is out the window. He might well be lying about how to get to heaven. Everyone goes to hell. Why would he lie? Fuck if I know; doesn't make sense to me either! Or maybe every second Tuesday you were really supposed to flap your arms, fly to Paris, and rape chipmunks. Makes no sense? Well, fuck your "human logic" anyhow. I'm outside of it, neener-neerer!

Logic is implicitly assumed in empiricism. If you abandon logic, no empiricism is worth anything, because the rules -- the causality -- could change at any moment.


“we can say that there is no such thing as a four-sided triangle without having to examine every single triangle in the universe to see if it has four sides.”

That’s an absurdist argument. By definition triangles have three sides.


YES! That's exactly why I'm saying that God is absurd and cannot exist. Full stop.

The following is not at all what I'm saying:

But if I take you at what I think your meaning is - you still have the problem of induction here. The largest series of observations consistent with a universal generalization can be logically negated by just one observation in which it is false. (Hume) Inductive reasoning cannot, ultimately, prove inductive reasoning - no matter how robust it is (I’d argue).

Dude, we're on the same wavelength here. I agree with you on the ultimate point that we cannot get past agnosticism if we rely on empiricism. You won that battle before you got to me.

Here's where, I feel, you go off the rails:

You need direct observation to prove anything.

You certainly do *not* need direct observation to prove that 4-sided triangles don't exist! You can logically show that they absolutely cannot exist, because such a concept is self-contradictory. Can we not agree on this? (Hell, you just said this! Where is the disconnect??)

If we define God as an omnipotent, benevolent being -- which the Christian God generally is -- then *if* we can logically show that the two criteria are contradictory, then it follows that a so-defined God cannot exist. A self-contradictory being is, as you say, "absurd", just as a 4-sided triangle is absurd. There is no need for experiment, as the construct is absurd and impossible on its face.

[I]ts imprecise to argue that ‘logically’ God can’t exist because he’s not observable.

Agreed. I haven't argued this. In fact, I have said that I am agnostic (but pessemistic!) wrt the existance of non-omnipotent "gods", invisible pink unicorns, FSM, etc.

Again, as clearly as possible:
1. I believe that the western omnipotent, benevolent God is a logical impossibility and therefore cannot exist. (strong atheism) Empiricism is unnecessary; it's been headed off at the pass.
2. I believe that very powerful beings (call them "gods" if you like) can exist, but until we have falsifiable evidence of such existance (empiricism), the default is that they do not. (weak atheism or agnosticism)

(FWIW, I'm really not familiar with the past work of atheists in this area. It's more fun to come up with this stuff on my own.)
posted by LordSludge at 4:09 PM on April 6, 2007


“You haven't proven anything, nor even attempted to.”

I’ve proven that I think. Observation by direct experiance. I experiance thinking. I know I think. That knowlege comes purely from observation. It’s all evidence, no logic process needed. Most natural processes are similarly observable (unless we get into brain in a jar/deceiving devil sort of sensory arguments).

“Logic is implicitly assumed in empiricism.”

Uh....what? Are we not playing with the same set of semantics here? Logic is implicit in direct experiential observation?
Ok. Show me the perceptually observational evidence.
(If you said God is implicit in existance, I’d pose the same question.)

“YES! That's exactly why I'm saying that God is absurd and cannot exist. Full stop.”

Exactly why I’m saying it’s pointless either way. The definition is a priori knowlege. Inductive and subject to tautology from a wide variety of first principles, that aside from the fact there’s no empirical evidence at all.

“You can logically show that they absolutely cannot exist, because such a concept is self-contradictory. Can we not agree on this? (Hell, you just said this! Where is the disconnect??”

Logical validity does not ‘show’ anything. You can ‘show’ me acid reacts in a certain way with other chemicals to form compounds. There’s no need to prove such a thing. It’s a fact and can be empirically shown.
As I’ve said, one can logically - and very strongly prove self-consistent systems (Euclidian geomoetry). That doesn’t mean they’re accurate in the real world. Proof is not evidence.
And anyway, you’re asserting an axiomatic definition of God that suits your argument - or rather - a 4-sided triangle. That’s merely an absurdity. As an example you say: “If we define God as...”
My statement is that definition is subjective. There could be a logically valid defintion of God through which one can formally prove - logically - God’s existance.
If I accept your operation as logical proof of God’s non-existance - then I have to accept an argument that logically proves God’s existance IF I ACCEPT THE INITIAL AXIOMATIC DEFINITION.
I don’t. I don’t accept yours or someone else’s. Each time you add a statement as an axiom, there will always be other true statements that still cannot be proved as true, even with the new axiom (Godel). Sorry if I’m jumping around.

“I believe that the western omnipotent, benevolent God is a logical impossibility and therefore cannot exist.”

I agree. But again, the caviat is you have to recognize that definition stems from certain initial principles that are fundimentally subjective. If God is a logical impossibility from a certain set of axioms, it might be possible that another set of axioms exist wherein God is a logical certainty. I don’t buy it either case because they’re ultimately tautology. And because there’s no implication - or rather - the implications are subjective. God exists - so? God doesn’t exist - so? The fundimental nature of the question doesn’t imply anything. (For Buddhists this similar to asking “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” whether he does or not - so what? It’s the wrong question).


“Empiricism is unnecessary; it's been headed off at the pass.”
Indeed, I’ve argued that such a being is empirically unverifiable anyway - what does one measure an infinite being with - or how does one measure a system from within - Godel says that’s (logically) impossible - but it’s manifestly empirically impossible as Heisenburg shows if the observation itself interferes with the measurment. Which, in measuring “God” under any terms, it would.
But our difference comes not in the subject matter (God, any formal system, Euclidian geometry, etc.) but in the respective forms of knowlege. I disagree that logic can take the place of observation - you seem to be arguing that in any and all cases inductive reasoning can supplant direct observation. No one’s championed that argument since Aristotle.

“I believe that very powerful beings (call them "gods" if you like) can exist, but until we have falsifiable evidence of such existance (empiricism), the default is that they do not.”

I disagree. Before we observed the earth turned and revolved around the sun we postulated that the earth was the center of the universe. It took empirical data to discover that the earth did indeed revolve. Similarly - I have no idea whether very powerful beings exist or not, but their existance is not contingent on logical proof either.

To put it another way - I agree with your reasoning and what I take to be your meaning in that statement. However whether one can logically prove or disprove the existance of very powerful being has - as with God - no real bearing on me without some ultimate implication. Any implication steming from the existence of such beings would have to be empirically seen. Otherwise, yeah, I have no reason to do anything about it. But the assertion there is not defaulting that they don’t exist, but defaulting that whether they exist or not, there is no implication in their existance because we have no empirical data that it affects anything.

Similarly - conceptually, the earth revolving around the sun, myriad other ideas, had little bearing on the ancient world. All the implications are moot - you can navigate a ship just fine thinking they’re little lights so long as you have the empirical evidence of how they move.
At some point knowlege of how the earth moves begins to become important (particularly by the time we’re setting people on the moon). So the a priori ideas had to shift to accomodate the direct observation. The more need for precision and accuracy in execution, the greater the need for our internal reality map (a priori knowlege) to be paired with what we directly observe. In many cases it’s exact (given certain looseness in terms) such as ‘the sun rises in the east.’

I see no point at which knowlege of God would ever become similarly relevent because at no point (whether God exists or not) will human knowlege overtake such a vast concept.
Thus my non-theist point - we don’t really need to know.

“I'm really not familiar with the past work of atheists in this area. It's more fun to come up with this stuff on my own.”

Fair enough. Although some simple wiki on basics such as epistomology and the truths of reason and the truths of fact might help.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:51 PM on April 6, 2007


“But the assertion there is not defaulting that they don’t exist, but defaulting that whether they exist or not, there is no implication in their existance because we have no empirical data that it affects anything.”

Lemme just stress that bit. Even if a very powerful being could send our consciousness to “Hell” for an eternity like period - we have no evidence of it happening. All arguments favoring God’s existance exist to prop up sets of implications (as in fact are many (non-philosophical) atheist arguments). Those implications may, similarly, be provable or disprovable, but there’s no empirical data for them. Neither are the implications which stem from those. Nor the ones that further stem from those.
I see no evidence (and not has anyon else) directly traceable to ‘God’ as a factor in anything. Therefore all empirical data collected thus far refutes the implications of God’s existance. Ockham’s razor here.
But that’s always been the flaw (in my estimation) of atheistic thought. God doesn’t need to be disproven. Only the works. And indeed, if there is even one empirically observable event that does not imply God as externally acting on the process, there is then no need to observe anything further.
*mixes baking soda & vinegar. Watches reaction. Reaction wholly explainable by observational evidence. No implication of God externally required*

Now, certainly God might be synonymous with the process. He might be the reaction, the baking soda, the vinegar, the reaction, the time, all the factors involved. But, so? Equally - God might not exist - but, equally - it doesn’t affect the process. Again, so?

Similarly - logic is not part of that equation. Baking soda and vinegar react a certain way. There is no need to derive a logical implication from it absent some external force. (Such as - why am I performing this experiment). And in this case, I am performing the experiment to watch what happens. Tautology. It’s self-referencing. I’m doing it, to do it. Logic fails.
Now I can posit that other acids and bases will react in such a manner. It’s logical. But I’d have to go and observe that to have evidence of it and most certainly to have fine detailed evidence of it.

Some logical operations however are not capable of support by evidence. Might be true, might be false, but if I can’t see it, and it doesn’t affect anything, I’m never really going to have a handle on it. So why bother?

(And atheists generally bother because they dislike what the theists are doing with what they think are the implications of God’s existence. Which is great, who the hell wants to live in a theocracy? But y’know, a spade is still a spade.)
posted by Smedleyman at 6:17 PM on April 6, 2007


(also my compliments to everyone in avoiding acrimony on this issue - no condescention intended, hell, I fly off the handle now and then too, so *pat pat pat* my own back and esp. LordSludge in dick avoidance, uh, being.)
posted by Smedleyman at 6:27 PM on April 6, 2007


“Logic is implicitly assumed in empiricism.”

Logic is implicit in direct experiential observation? Ok. Show me the perceptually observational evidence.


When observing an experiment you assume causality (basic, basic logic) -- that the same set initial conditions yields the same output. If there is no assumption of causality, there no reason to experiment, cuz everything's friggin random anyhow -- you might get different results with the exact same experiment.

I've cut out a lot here, as there are too many tangents to go off onto.

My basic position:

Suppose you have a definition, "A". Somebody asks the question, "Hey, does A exist?" You first run it through your logic circuit. If A is self-contradictory, then it cannot exist -- e.g., 4-sided triangles. You're done.

If, instead, A *is* self-consistent, *then* and only then do you say, "Let's go look for evidence of A." Because it might exist, but we don't know yet.

I'm not saying that logic is not the end-all be-all -- it is the gatekeeper. If you get past the gatekeeper, then you can carry on with empiricism. You yourself do this, but you're inexplicably glossing over it as even a step of consideration. (Why??) If God is defined as something that is self-contradictory, as I believe the western God to be, there is no need for empiricism. That so-defined God cannot exist.

This says nothing about other definitions of "God", of course. And, indeed, there are many definitions of God. Some cannot exist, because they're logically impossible. But some are logically consistent, but we have no empirical evidence for them.

(Whether "no empirical evidence" = "no existence" or "I have no idea" is not an argument I care to get into right here.)

“YES! That's exactly why I'm saying that God is absurd and cannot exist. Full stop.”

Exactly why I’m saying it’s pointless either way. The definition is a priori knowlege. Inductive and subject to tautology from a wide variety of first principles, that aside from the fact there’s no empirical evidence at all.


Pointless? You've just proven that the western, Christian God cannot exist, and that's "pointless"?? If by "pointless", you mean "Earth-shattering", then I agree.

And that's probably enough for now.
posted by LordSludge at 7:55 PM on April 7, 2007


“When observing an experiment you assume causality (basic, basic logic) -- that the same set initial conditions yields the same output.”

I did mention Hume and circular reasoning didn’t I? Even a cursory wiki search brings up a number of good points on this subject.*
I’m arguing (you’ll note I’m stealing from Hume) from the ‘is’ perspective - you’re arguing ‘ought.’ I’m not debating your reason within you’re ‘ought’ framework - which is not to say I’m avoiding it because I can’t oppose it. Indeed, we pretty much agree which is I suspect where you’re seeing the disconnect. Indeed - given certain initial conditions, even those by proponants of the western conception of God themselves - lead to a logical proof that such a conception of God is logically inconsistient. No problem.
I’m merely pointing out ‘ought’ - even if something ‘ought’ to be more than anything else - doesn’t make it what ‘is’ (Hume, and a general look at would really help here).
That doesn’t invalidate the logical proof or it’s usefulness, merely places the classification of such knowlege where it rightly should be.
The ontological argument in favor of God’s existance attempts the same sort of leap - if something by logical necessity exists - then it must exist in reality. I don’t buy that.
Your argument is the inversion - if something by logical necessity does not exist, then it cannot exist in reality. Well, again, logic - and most particularly human communication - is not reliable enough to contravene the empirically observable laws of nature.

In addition, Hume reverses what you’ve said - in essence - “we can know nothing about nature prior to its experience, even a rational man with no experience could not infer from the fluidity and transparency of water that it would suffocate him, or from the light and warmth of fire that it would consume him. Thus, all we can say, think, or predict about nature must come from prior experience, which lays the foundation for the necessity of induction.”

But again, - doesn’t mean it’s not very very useful. Just means derivation from a priori knowlege does not necessitate empirical evidence of something.
Oh, in many cases it very very very very very likely does. But, there is a contrast between kind there. I have no argument with (and agree to) the extreme usefulness of inductive reasoning, logic, and many other forms of a priori knowlege.


“You've just proven that the western, Christian God cannot exist...”

Debatable. Although as I’ve said - either way, by implication - so what. I like the definition of God as everything. Inherent in the natural processes. The Spinozan - God = Nature. It still doesn’t have any bearing on anything tho. Similar to the Batman/Spiderman fight. Not only can evidence not be shown empirically, but even if it were ‘proven’ within story - not only does that not necessarially make it so, but the very initial terms upon which such things are predicated are subjective - whether reasonable or not.
You are, again, arguing usefulness. And I completely agree with that. It doesn’t change the classification of ‘knowlege.’


*in case you don’t look it up: "We have no other notion of cause and effect, but that of certain objects, which have been always conjoin'd together, and which in all past instances have been found inseparable. We cannot penetrate into the reason of the conjunction. We only observe the thing itself, and always find that from the constant conjunction the objects acquire a union in the imagination." We cannot actually say that one event caused another. All we know for sure is that one event is correlated to another. For this Hume coined the term "constant conjunction". That is, when we see that one event always "causes" another, what we are really seeing is that one event has always been "constantly conjoined" to the other. As a consequence, we have no reason to believe that one caused the other, or that they will continue to be "constantly conjoined" in the future. The reason we do believe in cause and effect is not because cause and effect are the actual way of nature; we believe because of the psychological habits of human nature.
(Hume is all over the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy - nice piece on him on religion)
posted by Smedleyman at 9:02 AM on April 9, 2007


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