Bugliosi says the holocaust was bad, that war is bad, etc. ... what is Mr. Bugliosi's philosophical basis for his moral system? In other words, how can you have a standard without a standard giver? How can you have a moral standard without a moral standard giver?
Good point, and one that most atheist or agnostic arguments miss. It is true that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion: for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate and linked together it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.
-- Francis Bacon
Bugliosi had some great and perceptive questions showing that a skeptical outsider can often bring more of value to a discipline than the so-called experts. He is asking questions for which learned theologians long ago failed to produce meaningful answers. This is because the theologians long ago abandoned the actual Bible teaching in favor of "tradition" -- some of it imported, as Bugliosi correctly noted, from paganism!
He is correct, that there is no way to square the biblical teachings of 1) a good God, who 2) takes the prerogative to "close" or "harden" hearts, with the also presumed Christian teachings of 3) an immortal soul and 4) eternal punishment for sinners.
If God has the power to open or close men's minds -- as the scripture undeniably says many times -- then it would hardly be right for him to then condemn the sinner to eternal punishment. After all, it wasn't his choice!
This is the dilemma for which "churchianity" has no solution. You have Calvinism -- which posits that God foreknows and predestines everything
; there's no free will whatsoever; and God create billions of humans for the sole purpose of condemning them to hell! Of course, no human with God-given powers of reason and a God-given conscience can contemplate this for long, so Calvinism is a fertile field for producing agnostics and atheists.
The only tenable position is that If God is love, if he is all-knowing, and if he has the power to predestine or even influence man, he must have worked out a system for the salvation of all.
And wouldn't you know it -- this is exactly what the Bible teaches! It's just that the Bible never says that everyone is to be saved within this lifetime.
The Bible does not teach that immediately after this life, you enter into an eternal life of either punishment in hell or reward in heaven. As Bugliosi noted (but most theologians ignore or deny), the concept of inhernt immortality came from the pagans. The concept of an underworld place of torment and punishment where spirits go after they die came from the pagans. The pagan Roman church absorbed this concept and used it as a method of control through psychological terror.
The Bible does not teach this idea. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible states over and over that man is a mortal soul. We live, we die, and we go to the grave. When the Bible was finally allowed to be translated into vernacular languages, the translators -- whether through ignorance or deliberate deceit -- mistranslated the word for grave (in the Old Testament, Heb. sheol; in the NT, Greek hades) into "hell" -- and then continued to teach the corrupt, paganized "hell" concept as a place of fire and torment under the earth. This actually was a fusion of the Greek underworld myth, with some completely unrelated concepts from elsewhere in scripture (such as the obviously symbolic "Lake of Fire" in Revelation).
So, the Church of England, for instance, got to hang onto its lever of manipulation and spiritual control of its subjects by threatening them with eternal damnation if they disobeyed the king and his minions. (At least the papists do allow for middle states such as "limbo" or purgatory, where it's possible to pay off your sins after death -- or have the living pay off your sins via cash indulgences, penances, prayers, etc.; the corrupt Protestant daughters of Rome eliminated limbo, leaving the unsaved dead with absolutely no hope! Just get ready to be Satan's barbecue forever and ever. )
The fact is, the scriptures say that man is immortal. He exists as long as he has the breath of life. When that leaves him, he turns cold, goes into the grave, and turns to dust.
The only hope in scripture for an afterlife is in the resurrection. The Creator who made us will re-make us, and raise us back to life. If he does not do this, we have no hope of life after death. This does not happen immediately after death, at least if you read the Bible literally. It occurs at a date that is yet future. So, nobody at this moment is in either heaven or some imagined fiery hell.
Not only that, the Bible clearly shows that God has never attempted, and is not now attempting, to save the entire world. If he intended to do so, he would succeed. The Bible shows that only a few are called now. The time for the salvation of the many will be in the resurrection. People can see Ezekiel 37, for starters.
God has a plan; it is perfect, it is right on schedule, and it is for the good of all the creation. It involves different stages for different people. And, evil is one of the essential tools for its fulfillment.
One of the best expositions of this that I have come across is in Russell's The Divine Plan of the Ages
. I might not agree with all of the prophetic speculation, but this book does a masterful job of truthfully expounding the scriptures and showing you the wisdom of this plan.
Also from Russell and the Bible Students, see What Say the Scriptures Concerning Hell?
It runs down every scriptural instance of every word commonly translated "hell," and totally disproves the old Roman/Greek pagan concept of eternal torment in a fiery pit in inner earth. Also, it offers scriptural proof of the mortality of the soul and the need for a resurrection in the future -- and also discusses what takes place during that resurrection.
Note, Charles Taze Russell
was not a Jehovah's Witness; he was a founder of the movemnt which after his death, was taken over by a follower and became the Watchtower, aka Jehovah's Witnesses.
For a briefer biblical treatment of why God allows evil and how it fits into his plan, see Oh God, Where Were You When I Needed You?
by Garner Ted Armstrong. He gives a credible explanation within the framework of biblical literalism.
Caution: Armstrong was a serial adulterer who completely discredited himself and his ministry through his behavior. (I know, I was a member of his church and met him on several occasions.) However, he was a good Bible teacher and writer; unfortunately, charisma and communication abilities, and even knowing the Bible really well, do not guarantee that one is going to live it. Those of us who've been through the organized-church mill have learned the lessons of belonging to religious organizations which give too much power, without accountability, to one man or a few men.
Also: Do We Have an Immortal Soul?
These answers only speak to what the Bible says in its literal text. If people reading this happen to be Roman Catholics or of some other sect who says that "anointed" human leaders get to manufacture the truth, then what the Bible says may be of little import to them. However, the context of this discussion was that Bugliosi ws referencing alleged problems in the Bible, so that's what I'm sticking to.
Also note, GTA's work assumes the existence of a personal devil, which people can dispute (you can say Satan is just a "principle" or a "force" or whatever), but the practical effect of evil is the same, and God's plan remains the same, whether Satan is a person who's real or a symbol of something else that's still very real.
Of course, if you accept what the Bible says -- that there is no conscious soul that survives death -- then you have to explain ghosts or other alleged communication with the dead, and so-called "near-death experiences." Actually, the Bible itself shows at least one example where a medium called up a ghost. The serpent told Eve from day one that she would not surely die, so he is still wanting to tell us there's no death and that we have inherent immortal life without God's intervention. Ghosts could be a part of that deception.
Near-death experiences can be explained as hallucinations that are common in certain conditions, and I myself had a dream about flying to a light and a tunnel, very similiar to NDEs, and I was not near death!