Was Dostoevsky Right?

If there is no God, is everything permitted?

Jordan Peterson seems to think so. And so do I.

So there’d better be a God, or we’re in deep trouble. But where to find him?

The God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob? No. He’s a monster – a bloodthirsty tribal elder.

The God of Jesus of Nazareth? No. Another monster – dealing out eternal torment for any failure to believe the unbelievable.

The God of Mohammed?

As if.

So what is one to do?

17 thoughts on “Was Dostoevsky Right?

  1. The history of humanity during times when there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that there was a God. Was not everything already permitted? If not, whence Islam?

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  3. Those questions fascinate me because the asker has set himself up as his own final authority without realizing it. If he ever did choose a “god” even he knows he wouldn’t really believe in him.

    As of, if there was a God He would have to answer to you. I had an atheist tell me he would rather spend eternity in hell than accept a God who ______. I said no you wouldn’t. He said yes he would. I called him a liar. He riposted to the effect that I was a craven for being afraid of God.

    If He’s real, and you think about it, it would be insane not to be.

    • Exactly. If you are picking and choosing a god, by definition you do not really believe in any of them. You are merely choosing to put a divine veneer on your existing beliefs. If there is a God, it is not a given that that God is all-loving and fair. It is quite possible that God is very particular and genuinely does not care for those who disregard and disbelieve in Him.

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  5. If there is no god people can do whatever they want. People’s wants are evolved. Depress the fertility of people who want to do things that are in their interest but not in the interest of the community, and encourage the fertility of people who want to do things that benefit the community and you will get people who make a good community.

    Fear of god has been used as a psychological tool to keep people from acting in ways that harm the community, building on a pre-existing evolved psychology of thinking in terms of agents and of fear of reprisal from fathers. It is not theoretically necessary to use this lever; I see no reason you can’t breed people who will behave in the interests of the community without it, in fact they do.

    If nothing is forbidden why not steal something we want? Because the enjoyment we would get from having it is outweighed by the joy of being honest, of being a good member of the community, and the sadness of depriving someone of their thing.

    All wants are evolved. The wants that lead us to sin are evolved. The very reason we desire our own well-being and happiness is evolved, and there is no theoretical reason we should prefer it over the well-being of others. It is only a matter of breeding.

    You want some philosophy in the minds of men concordant with and justifying their good desires beyond mere emotion? That appeals to me, but I don’t have a good answer.

  6. Some people talk about evolutionary ethics, the ethos of the hunter-gatherer band. However, evolution is only interested in differential reproduction: whoever produces the most offspring and raises them to maturity creates the next generation, and their characteristics win. Game theory indicates that the will be an equilibrium between altruists and egoists.

    Control of the egoists is the chief problem for any group. Control has failed in the ghettos.

    • OK, I’m puzzled, here. Isn’t the latest word that we’re mostly *not* descended from hunter-gatherers, but, rather, from a combo of steppe-warrior men and the women who loved them?

  7. Don’t know that you could fairly say Jesus of Nazareth “deal[s] out eternal torment for any failure to believe the unbelievable.” The premise is that if you reject Him, He simply respects your wish. If eternal presence in heaven is infinite joy, knowing deprivation of that would be equal and opposite torment. A weak material analogy would be having been told the winning lottery numbers for a $500 million pot, you rejected playing the lottery that day, it would really suck, and you would likely kick and second guess yourself the rest of your life. But it would not be fair to say the lottery dealt you eternal torment for failing to believe those were the winning numbers.

  8. “If eternal presence in heaven is infinite joy, knowing deprivation of that would be equal and opposite torment.”

    OK, so it’s really, really unpleasant? Have I got that right, so far?

    • It’s being eternally in the presence of sin, subject to sin, etc. Those things are fairly unpleasant for me in this world. I don’t know how that would be in eternity but that sounds pretty nasty to me.

      • “…that sounds pretty nasty to me.”

        Exactly. A lot of present-day Christians – even very traditionalist Christians like Lydia McGrew – seem to want to downplay all the hellfire stuff in the gospels and the church fathers. *It’s just symbolic, it just means separation from God, which you willfully chose for yourself*, and so on and so forth.

        OK, fine. But is it really nasty? Or is it a sort of eternal walk in the park with Socrates & Plato & Aristotle?

        That’s what I want to know.

  9. If there is no Supreme Being, then Western epistemology and ontology must be discarded.

    If you believe in Western epistemology and ontology, you necessarily believe in *some* kind of Supreme Being, even if it is a materialistic being with no spiritual element.

    If you discard Western philosophy, then you can stop believing in Western ideologies (including scientific materialism), but you are left with all the problems of Eastern philosophy.

    • Good grief – “Western epistemology and ontology”…

      You are aware, aren’t you, that Western thinkers have views on these subjects that are all over the map?

      If you write “Plato’s epistemology and ontology,” I more or less know what you’re talking about.

      If you write “Nietzsche’s epistemology and ontology,” same story.

      But “Western epistemology and ontology?”


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