God Made Us This Way — It’s Only Reasonable He’d Be Angry About It

The blog Thomisic Bent has been doing a series lately on why it was perfectly okay for God to command the Israelites to slaughter entire ethnic groups in the Old Testament, even down to the women and children. I’ve felt obliged to comment on all of them, because toward the end of my time as a Christian I began to realize just how heinous these stories are. Could you imagine God commanding something like the shootings in New Town, CT? As crazy as it sounds, what the OT suggests is even more horrific.

Thomistic Bent’s latest post, “Holiness and the Justice of God,” continues his rationale for accepting some of the Bible’s most blasphemous claims about God. Here’s an an excerpt:

As long as we compare ourselves to each other, we can convince ourselves that we’re not so dirty, and it’s really the other guy who needs a bath. But when we truly see how holy God is, we suddenly know how dirty we are…

God is patient, but will eventually demand a separation. In God’s terms, this is Hell, which is a separation from God, away from His good graces, a place where we can have what we want, to be left alone.

So we all deserve separation from God. But what if God were to select some, clean them up, and give them another chance? If He takes some of the filthy rags and cleans it up, He is not bound to take all the filthy rags.

So is part of the answer with God’s actions with the Canaanites. If God acted the way He does in the rest of the Bible, then we can conclude that He likely gave them plenty of notices about what He expected, and plenty of chances to change. The Canaanites refused, so He ordered all of them separated from Him into Hell.

Meanwhile, we sit around and compare one of them with the other and with ourselves, and say some of them are not so bad, for it seems to us that they did not do much wrong. We feel this way because we are comparing the Canaanites to ourselves, comparing one filthy rag with another. But if we, or the Canaanites, were to realize how holy God is, we would all, along with Isaiah and Peter, beg God to cast us away, for we are all deserving of separation. Only by God’s infinite mercy do any of us have a chance to change our ways.

Using this kind of logic, I could make the same case about dogs. When you compare one dog to another, there’s little difference. But when you compare a dog to a human, it’s suddenly quite clear that dogs are filthy, stupid, and completely uncivilized. That’s why we are well within our rights to wipe out all dogs. It’s what they deserve for not being as clean, intelligent, and civilized as we humans. In fact, the dogs would completely agree with us, if they could ever come to understand just how much better than them we really are. If we decide to spare any dogs, it only shows how merciful we are.

Does that really make sense? Or is it more rational for the higher being to accept the lower being for what it is? What’s even worse, when we think about this in terms of God, is that he supposedly created us to be exactly the way we are. If he’s all powerful, he could have given us the same level of perfection that Jesus had so that we would be able to live more perfectly and be more pleasing to him. Instead, he purposely handicapped us, and then decided to reject us because of the same handicap. He wants us to hate ourselves, merely for the “crime” of being what he created us to be. What kind of monster would operate in such a way?

The problem with people like the writer of Thomistic Bent is that they unquestioningly accept whatever the Bible tells them without really thinking about its implications. And I should know — I used to operate the same way. If you dig back far enough into this blog, you’ll see what I mean. But the problem with that position is that God himself has not told the writer of Thomistic Bent that all these things actually happened, or that he would have approved of them even if they had. No, these stories were passed down from generation to generation before being written down by mere men. We don’t have the original copies. And all the copies we have are divergent in certain areas. And God didn’t hand us a list of which books were authentic — that was decided by groups of men. At every step along the process, the books of the Bible have mankind’s fingerprints all over them… why in the world would we still assume that they contain the actual words of God, especially when they contain such disgusting barbarism and attribute it to him? Not to mention this type of vengeful God was typical for ancient Canaan.

Look, guys like the writer of Thomistic Bent mean well. They think they’re performing a public service by warning us about the scary sky-monster that they worship. They believe that the Christian god is very real, and their definitions of goodness, morality, justice, and mercy have been contaminated to the point that they can read everything about God in the Bible and not see it as contradicting those qualities. It’s a sad and dangerous state to be in. It’s religious fundamentalism. And while we look at the perpetrators of events like 9/11 as warped and backward, they were merely the fundamentalists of a different religion. If Christians believe that it was just for God to command the slaughter of an entire nation of people, down to the very last infant, then we can only hope they never begin to believe that he commands something similar for today.

I wish people like this would realize that even if the Christian God is real, he created us with the ability to question and reason. Even some passages in the Bible talk about the value of questioning things. If they could only apply those questions to the Bible — a collection of books that they agree were written by men, many ages ago — then maybe they would begin to see the problems in the Bible for what they are. If there really is a God, and he really does possess the qualities of goodness, morality, justice, and mercy, then such an honest, objective search for truth could only be pleasing to him, even if it leads someone away from religion altogether.

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130 thoughts on “God Made Us This Way — It’s Only Reasonable He’d Be Angry About It

  1. No, this bloke does not mean well, Nate, he is an arse of the first degree. He restricts comments, never engages in truly honest discussion and is as condescending as hell in the face of all reasonable challenges to his posts.
    There are several christians of this ilk who are not really worth the time spent reading their posts. But I shall, just to see your comments.
    I admire your patience with him.

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  2. Nate,
    It’s a terrible thing, a damn near paralyzing thing, to come to the realization that God, if published reports are to be trusted, is both good *and* evil. Because God is all-powerful.

    This blogger you’ve been interacting with (or attempting to, anyway) seems to me to not be able to accept that. He seems unable to look God in the eye. He’s not alone. We need an omnipotent deity to be One of the Good Guys. Because if somebody like Loki is actually running the show, well…

    You should pick up “The Sparrow”, by Mary Doria Russell. You’d love it.

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  3. Haven’t been to his site lately but I think anyone who has words to rationalize those heinous crimes committed in the name of god is not fit to live among us.

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  4. @guywiththeeye — great comment; couldn’t agree more.

    @Ark — Thanks for the comment (and compliment). I definitely get frustrated with him. I just keep trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    @makagutu — Thanks for the comment. I feel kind of sorry for the guy at Thomistic Bent, because I do think I understand where he’s coming from. He also feels disturbed when he reads about the genocides described in the OT. He probably even feels bothered by the concept of Hell, and I think that’s why he tries so hard to rationalize both these things. After all, the Bible also tells him that God is good, loving, and merciful. And the Bible can’t be wrong, can it? So when he sees these examples that so clearly go against the qualities that God is supposed to embody, he can’t allow himself to see the contradiction — he’s forced to rationalize the extreme brutality. It’s really sad. I guess something that should be pitied as much as it’s reviled.

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  5. @rodalena — Thanks! I appreciate the book suggestion. I haven’t heard of it, but I’ll definitely check it out. I’ve just added it to my Amazon wishlist. 🙂

    It’s a terrible thing, a damn near paralyzing thing, to come to the realization that God, if published reports are to be trusted, is both good *and* evil. Because God is all-powerful.

    This blogger you’ve been interacting with (or attempting to, anyway) seems to me to not be able to accept that. He seems unable to look God in the eye. He’s not alone. We need an omnipotent deity to be One of the Good Guys. Because if somebody like Loki is actually running the show, well…

    Yeah, this is the crux of it, isn’t it? The guy at Thomistic Bent is trying to have it both ways — a perfectly good God that also commands and approves of things like genocide, eternal torture, infanticide, etc.

    I think that a brutal god fits in very well with the ancient Canaanite cultures — it’s not surprising to me that they believed such a barbaric god would also be “good.” But now that modern society has progressed to a point that we can recognize the humanity in every individual, regardless of their “tribe,” we realize that ethnocentrism doesn’t jive with perfect morality.

    So either the god of the Bible is a fiction, or just like you stated, he’s both good and evil. Either scenario would explain the contradictory accounts of the Bible, because why should we expect it to be completely true if it’s inspired by a god who’s just as capricious as we can be?

    That such a god might exist is probably the most terrible scenario imaginable, because even if you try to serve him, who’s to say he won’t tire of you at some point anyway? How can you trust a megalomaniac who really is all powerful? It’s like trying to be Hitler’s favorite lieutenant. Even if you win his favor, is that really a good thing?

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  6. Hi Nate,

    I did take some time to look back at your older posts back from 2006 and sure enough just like you said you tried to justify genocide in the bible as well, and I don’t write this as a judgement but I write it because I believe we can all take this as a lesson – even the most thoughtful, kind, and even reasonable people can be led to believe in very dangerous ideas. When I was a Christian I too somehow believed that there was some answer to why God had commanded these kinds of things – my own answer was that “it was a mystery that I just didn’t have an answer to yet”, but many of these kinds of passages in the bible always sat in the back of my mind as very troubling pieces of my own belief system. So, in short, if you do believe you may be able to convince Thomistic Bent then don’t give up on him. You of all people with your incredible patience and the fact that you once believed much like he did are the right person to be able to interact properly with him. I wish other more liberal Christians had the patience to do the same.

    For the most part I am a live and let live kind of person, but I do draw lines somewhere, and I do believe it is very well worth the efforts to try and sway people like Thomistic Bent who believe very dangerous and scary ideas. Your analogy to terrorism is spot on, and a scary thought indeed. Thanks for having the patience to do this!

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  7. Hi Nate, you know what I think about all this, so I won’t bore you again with the details. We mostly agree, you and I. But I will raise one matter where we probably won’t agree. If nothing else, conflict helps your visit stats! : )

    “we can only hope they never begin to believe that he commands something similar for today”

    I agree with your sentiment, though I don’t think it is very likely. But I feel your anger or concern at these thoughts reflect a view of the value of human life and of ethics that your current atheism cannot justify. Why are human beings worth more than dogs if atheism is true? Why should I care about another nation (be it Canaanites or Iraqis) if there is no objective morality?

    I think you are still living with the christian morality you grew up with, and I hope you continue to. But it may not be logical for you now.

    I have a greater fear of logical atheists, naturalists and determinists getting control than of fundamentalist christians. Read up on what atheists like Peter Singer, Alex Rosenberg, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins say about freewill, ethics, raising children, the delusions of religion, etc, and ask yourself how they would treat religious people if they were in charge. They are good people in many ways, especially Singer (he’s an Aussie! and a compassionate and selfless man), but they could do many fearful things believing it was best for society, because they don’t have an objective ethic to stop them. At least, that’s how it appears to me.

    I’d rather any day an ex-christian atheist like you! : )

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  8. Josh

    Nate,
    Your final paragraph is puzzling. Suppose, as you submit in that paragraph, that the Christian God is real, and he has revealed himself to us in scripture, and he has created us with reason to aid us in a search for Truth (the Truth being that he exists, and scriptures reveal him accurately, and we have the reason to figure that out). How then could it possibly make sense that he would be happy that some people turn from belief in him while claiming reason as the grounds? In this scenario their reason is faulty, at best, or they have deceived themselves, at worst.
    In fact, this is exactly what scripture describes we have done. We have used the reason and intelligence God has give us to find a “better way”. In ancient times people used other gods. The Romans worshiped their own ideals. The Pharisees worshiped their own ideals. We all worship our own ideals. This is our nature. Jesus came to accept the blow we deserve. According to his death, this includes brutal punishment and agonizing death. You can look inside yourself and determine whether you feel you deserve punishment or reward. This will determine what you ultimately believe.
    I really appreciate the thoughfulness and respect with which you talk about these things, Nate. That’s something I can’t say about other Christians and sceptics I’ve read. I know the depths of my heart too well, and I’ve witnessed too much in this life to see the myself and people in general having the innocence you seem to think we have. I know what I and the people who’ve done the things I’ve seen deserve. This is why I simply cannot let go of the salvation and hope that is promised in Christ. Thanks for the food for thought.

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  9. Nate and Uncle E,

    The subject of morality is not a simple one which is why it gets hashed out so many times on blogs like these.

    I am going to try to be a little more direct this time, and maybe bring your blog ratings up a small bump as well. 😉

    “God does not exist therefore moral truths do not exist” has the same logical validity as this: “wine does not exist therefore cheese does not exist”. Yes, my point is there is no logical validity at all to these sentences. Just because people have connected 2 ideas together for many centuries is not a reason to claim they are logically connected. Uncle E is spreading a false idea which I believe many atheists and theists seem to see as true because it has been imbedded within us by our cultures. I hashed this out a little with Uncle E before, and I realize that he’s being a little loose with words when he uses the word “illogical”, but this subject of morality is really a very important one that I do think it is worth calling this kind of stuff out.

    The existence of moral truths can be (and is) considered separately from the existence of God. There are many atheist philosophers who believe in objective morality, speak out about this, and also work out details of what this kind of ethic looks like. They may be wrong, and I’m sure we could poke holes in the details of their ethics, but I really have never seen a well reasoned logical argument for proving that moral truths cannot exist because gods do not exist.

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  10. Nate, you said: “So either the god of the Bible is a fiction, or just like you stated, he’s both good and evil. Either scenario would explain the contradictory accounts of the Bible, because why should we expect it to be completely true if it’s inspired by a god who’s just as capricious as we can be?

    That such a god might exist is probably the most terrible scenario imaginable, because even if you try to serve him, who’s to say he won’t tire of you at some point anyway?”

    Come on, Nate, you know what the scriptures say about repentance. I understand if you don’t agree with what the Bible teaches……there are plenty of people like that. And I really don’t expect the average atheist to know what the scriptures teach, for they don’t really read them. But you know what the Bible says about those who repent, that God always loves a contrite heart. You have every right to disagree with what the scriptures teach, but please at least represent what they say. If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches that He loves a repentant heart and always accepts those who turn to Him. It’s always the hard-hearted ones who God rejects, and He always accepts the one who turns to him for forgiveness, and never casts them out.

    Regardless of what you think about how God treats unrepentant sinners, you know that it teaches everlasting love towards those who turn to Him. There’s always time for anyone on earth to turn to Him, and He has promised not to cast them out. At least represent correctly what it teaches.

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  11. Hi unkleE, thanks for the comment!

    I have a greater fear of logical atheists, naturalists and determinists getting control than of fundamentalist christians.

    Ooh, I don’t know. I’d have to disagree with that one. There are some pretty scary Christian fundamentalists out there. In fact, every time one shows up in an election here in the US, they’re usually the candidates that scare me the most.

    Read up on what atheists like Peter Singer, Alex Rosenberg, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins say about freewill, ethics, raising children, the delusions of religion, etc, and ask yourself how they would treat religious people if they were in charge.

    I’m probably not as well-read on these guys as you are, but I am familiar with some of what Dennett, Harris, and Dawkins have said about morality, and I don’t think they would do anything to religious people. They certainly disagree with them, vehemently at times, but they also value the individual’s right to go his own way. In fact, one of the things they seem to dislike the most about certain Christians is their propensity to push their own beliefs on everyone else. When it comes to morality, each of these guys believe (to put it in a very basic form) that morality should be based on whatever increases human well-being. In most cases, I think that would point them in the right direction.

    There’s still more study on morality that I need to do, as I mentioned in our last discussion on the issue, so I won’t dig into it any further at the moment.

    I’d rather any day an ex-christian atheist like you! : )

    Thanks! And I prefer Christians like you! 😉 By the way, thanks for the feedback on this new theme. I really liked my old one, and I’ve been using it for quite a while. But I happened to run across this one, and I like it so far too. I like the color scheme as well as the wider column for the articles. I’ll probably hang onto it for a while.

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  12. Howie,

    I appreciate you digging back into some of my earliest posts, though I’m a bit sorry you had to see them. But thanks so much for the kind things you said about me. I appreciate that more than I can say.

    Also, thanks for your comment on morality. I’ve just gotten around to reading the posts you’ve done on the subject, and I thought they were very good. It’s a really difficult subject to talk about — in some ways, talking about morality is more difficult than just being moral. And I’m not sure that we’ll ever come to a consensus on why we value morality the way we do, but it’s very obvious that theists and non-theists alike do find value in it (other animals do as well).

    When my faith was slipping away, I worried that my feelings on morality might change, but I really think they became more refined. I realized that I had many good reasons not to steal or rape that had nothing to do with whether or not some authority told me I shouldn’t do it. And it helped me see that some of the things I had thought were moral issues (like how often someone goes to church) had no real bearing on true morality at all.

    Anyway, like I told unkleE, there’s more study that I need to do on morality, so I won’t muddy the waters any further. Thanks again for the comment!

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  13. Hi Josh,

    Thanks for the kind comment, and I appreciate your weighing in.

    Suppose, as you submit in that paragraph, that the Christian God is real, and he has revealed himself to us in scripture, and he has created us with reason to aid us in a search for Truth (the Truth being that he exists, and scriptures reveal him accurately, and we have the reason to figure that out). How then could it possibly make sense that he would be happy that some people turn from belief in him while claiming reason as the grounds? In this scenario their reason is faulty, at best, or they have deceived themselves, at worst.

    This is a great question, and I totally see where you’re coming from. I guess the best way to answer it is to say that I’ve come to my conclusion because of my great respect for God, regardless of whether or not he exists.

    Matthew 7 says that if we seek, we shall find. The apostle Paul claimed that he had done everything in all good conscience — even when he had been wrong. In Acts 10, God sent Peter to Cornelius to teach him the truth of the gospel, because even though Cornelius had been serving God incorrectly, his sincerity was apparent. God, in other words, admires effort.

    I am sincere in my search for truth. I was a very devout Christian that believed in Biblical inerrancy for many years. I taught (and converted) others — I made serving God the centerpiece of my life. When I left Christianity, it was not over personal reasons, it was not about a rejection of Christian morality, etc. It was solely about textual and doctrinal issues that I could no longer reconcile. In other words, I have gotten to my present state through a sincere search for truth. I don’t “know better” deep down — I honestly don’t believe in the god of the Bible. And I have no fear of Hell, because I believe it’s a myth.

    So if the Christian God is real, I don’t see any just way that he could condemn me for my present beliefs. I haven’t gotten here out of rebellion — I’ve actually put forth more effort to understand the Bible than most Christians I know. I don’t mean that to be insulting toward them or boastful of myself — I just view that as an accurate statement. And since I believe the God of the Bible to be a righteous being, I’m confident that my efforts would be pleasing to him, in a weird way.

    I can’t speak for anyone else. I’m sure there are atheists who haven’t been as sincere in their quest for truth, so I don’t know how God would view people like that. But I’m also sure there are Christians who haven’t been very sincere in their search for truth either — will God judge them any different than the atheist if they’re only Christian by accident of birth or circumstance? When it comes down to it, it gets harder and harder to estimate who might be saved and who won’t…

    Sorry for the lengthy response! I hope my rambling made at least a little sense. 🙂

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  14. Hi Humblesmith,

    Thanks for commenting! I hope I haven’t offended you in any way with this post. That’s really not my intent, even though I know some of the statements are strongly worded. It’s not easy to hold the positions you do, since even most Christians would probably view you as too legalistic, etc. So I admire your conviction, even though we disagree. I’ve been there myself. 🙂

    Yes, I do know what the Bible teaches about repentance. I’m not trying to mislead anyone. However, the Bible says many things about God, and this is where the problems set in. Rodalena is quite right: there are many biblical reasons to think that God is not all-good and all-loving, despite what some passages claim.

    To put it simply, the Bible portrays God as an abusive parent. Romans 5 says that Christ’s sacrifice was so important because he freely offered himself up for us while we were still sinners. This shows the level of concern that God has for us, even when we aren’t yet on his side. But we can’t really say this is an unconditional love, because if we don’t do the things he wants, he threatens to torture us for eternity. We only receive his love when we apologize for our individuality and human nature and promise to serve him. This is kind of like the dad that has nothing to do with his kids (other than mistreat them), until one of them becomes rich or famous. Then he’s interested.

    Maybe that’s the way he really is. But if so, it doesn’t fit characteristics like perfectly good, moral, loving, merciful, longsuffering, etc. So we can (1) pick and choose the aspects of his character we want to believe in, (2) we can change the definitions of those characteristics to fit the actions attributed to him in the Bible, (3) we can assume that he is both good and evil, which would mean that some of his claims (but which ones?!) may not be truthful, or (4) we can recognize that parts or all of the Bible may not be inspired after all. At the moment, I can’t think of any other possibilities to explain the wild array of behaviors and characteristics attributed to him. Which possibility seems most likely to you?

    I hope that explains my position a little better. Thanks again for chiming in.

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  15. “I do think it is worth calling this kind of stuff out.”

    HI Howie, I’m not sure if there’s any need to “call out” anything. I am very happy for a friendly discussion of where we disagree!

    “God does not exist therefore moral truths do not exist”

    I didn’t actually say this, in fact I didn’t mention God at all. All I suggested was that naturalism/atheism has certain consequences. You have responded by not making any comment about those consequences. Is it possible that you agree with me that those are consequences of atheism, but you wanted to point out that christians were no different to atheists in this regard? I presume not, but I don’t know. If you disagree with my comment, where would your disagreement lie?

    The existence of moral truths can be (and is) considered separately from the existence of God. There are many atheist philosophers who believe in objective morality, speak out about this, and also work out details of what this kind of ethic looks like.

    I agree that many atheist philosophers have strong and well-worked out moral codes, but do many of them believe they are objectively true? I don’t know. Who are you referring to here? And how do they justify them as being objectively true?

    I really have never seen a well reasoned logical argument for proving that moral truths cannot exist because gods do not exist.

    You may be surprised to know that I agree with you here. But if you assumed that was my argument, then you were mistaken. Logic could arguably exist without a God, so perhaps ethics could too.

    But we have the means of knowing logic (we can demonstrate the various standard logical argument forms like Modus Ponens, etc to be true), but we cannot demonstrate any true ethics in a similar way. So how can we know there are objective ethics, or what are objectively true ethical statements, without God? And how can we explain the existence of objectively true ethics without God?

    So my argument is that ethics are true whether God exists or not, but only with God can we explain how they came to exist in this universe, and know what they are. How would you explain those facts?

    Thanks.

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  16. There are some pretty scary Christian fundamentalists out there. In fact, every time one shows up in an election here in the US, they’re usually the candidates that scare me the most.

    We are agreed there. But they are a minority within christianity, and they are losing influence – Romney was chosen, not one of the more scary candidates, and Obama picked up votes even on him. People are losing respect for them. But the scary atheists look benign and claim science and academic clout on their side. If they did scary things, it would all be in the name of science and for the good of society – they would say.

    I don’t think they would do anything to religious people. …. When it comes to morality, each of these guys believe (to put it in a very basic form) that morality should be based on whatever increases human well-being.

    So when Dawkins likens a religious upbringing to “child abuse”, he doesn’t really mean it? If I knew a child was being physically abused by its parents, I am legally bound to report it so the child can be rescued. Is that what Dawkins wants? Or is he just sounding off??

    Or when Sam Harris says: “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them” and “in certain circumstances, [torture] would seem to be not only permissible but necessary” and of Islamic nations getting nuclear weapons: “the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own … [this would be] an unthinkable crime …. [but] it may be the only course of action available to us” and calls such a pre-emptive strike “an unconscionable act of self-defense” and then says: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss” – you don’t think religious people shouldn’t feel even a little concerned?

    Or when Peter Singer (a man who I admire in many ways for his concerns on world poverty) used to suggest that infanticide could be ethically justified, we should not be even a little alarmed? (To be fair, I think he may be revising his views here.)

    I have heard of atheists in Scandinavia who burnt down many churches in response to a rabid atheist website. And when I hear atheists call christians delusional, I can’t help wondering if they ever came to power whether they would put some of us in mental asylums. You may feel sure that is an exaggeration, but I am not so sure.

    Of course I know not all atheists share these views, but they have been expressed, and they should be repudiated.

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  17. RFLMAO
    Unklee at his best (sic)

    Think of the fun we could have having a dickhead like Ken Ham in charge of out children’s well being.
    Or even half-baked twits like our newest visitor, Humblesmith. Humble? Oh, for the love of his god.

    Oh, boy! Right on, baby. Let’s get the Fundies in power! Jesus wants us all for his little sunbeams.

    A radical Christian Fundamentalist at the helm of a nuclear power would likely scare the crap out of the Muslims, and then we’ll have mini- Jihads all over the place, you can bet your sorry arse, Unklee.
    Ah, yes, I love to read such comments from our erstwhile intelligent religious brethren.

    “Our god’s better than your god, so there, you Christian dog!”
    ‘Oh yeah, Raghead? OH YEAH!! Well see how you like these apples!”

    Let’s hear it for Yahweh…..and Unklee, of course.

    “God wills it!”

    Priceless!

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  18. @Humblesmith
    ”Regardless of what you think about how God treats unrepentant sinners, you know that it teaches everlasting love towards those who turn to Him. There’s always time for anyone on earth to turn to Him, and He has promised not to cast them out. At least represent correctly what it teaches.”

    Of, course it’s a bit difficult for ‘sinners’to repent after Yahweh has just enacted genocide.
    How many chances did ‘He’give them?

    How many chances would you give your kids before you blasted them to ”hell”’or commanded the neighbours to butcher them for not ”tidying their room” ?

    You are an absolute prat.

    May any god preserve us from the likes of you, sir.

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  19. Ark, let’s try to play nice. Hate the sin, love the sinner, etc… 🙂

    UnkleE, I’m not familiar with those particular quotes, but I do agree that they’re troubling. I understand Dawkins’s child abuse comments, and I don’t think they’re completely off the mark, especially when you consider the irrational fear of Hell that’s instilled in many, or the extreme cases of parents keeping their children from modern medicine, etc. But I also understand that these people believe they’re doing the best thing for their children, and I wouldn’t be in favor of stepping in.

    Basically, like you, I understand that good intentions can lead to disastrous results if people begin trying to push their own ideals on everyone else, whether they’re religiously or secularly motivated.

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  20. Excellent post! I have to say some of the comments are ridiculous.

    “Why should I care about another nation (be it Canaanites or Iraqis) if there is no objective morality?”
    LOGIC!! It makes no sense to kill other people or to allow others to kill other people. The outcomes of the action or allowance of the action are ALWAYS negative. I get so sick of hearing this. Believing there is a ‘correct’ morality is the problem, and not analysing situations logically as and when they arise. How Christians who like to think they have a brain can keep pedaling this nonsense around is totally beyond me.

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  21. Josh

    Nate,
    Thanks for your response. You’re doing a couple things here that I think we’ll just have to disagree on. You presume that the people who suffered were not guilty of “enough” that the punishment would be warranted. Scripture teaches we are all guilty “enough” to deserve death and eternal punishment outside of the grace offered through Jesus’ accomplishment. You also presume to know more about what kind of punishment is appropriate than God. This is, to put it bluntly, the ultimate blasphemy. If God is real, as you often grant for the sake of argument, there is simply no way you can determine what punishment he can and cannot command, and who does or does not deserve it. Paul echoes what is taught in Job – that we, as created beings, cannot possibly make these kinds of judgments about God’s actions. We believe we can know more than what God knows, but this is a false premise, if you start from the position that God exists. If you start from the position that he doesn’t exist, then none of this really matters anyway.
    I’m not saying all of what God commands sits well with me. A lot of it does offend me emotionally, and seems incredibly cruel. But, as someone who is convinced that Jesus and God are who they said they are, I must accept what scripture teaches about humanity, God, sin, and judgment.
    You and others often make statements like “I don’t see any just way he could condemn me for my present beliefs”. You are, again, missing that we are all deserving of punishment for our rebellion against God. To claim that you are not rebelling, and that God should not punish you for coming by your position honestly, is to contradict what scripture teaches. We are, all of us, in rebellion and deserving of judgment. Every single one. This is clearly taught. To place yourself or others outside of this statement, for any reason, is to misunderstand or misrepresent what is taught.

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  22. Hi Josh,

    Thanks for the reply.

    To claim that you are not rebelling, and that God should not punish you for coming by your position honestly, is to contradict what scripture teaches.

    Then perhaps scripture is wrong?

    It seems to me that if we cannot question what Christianity teaches, then why should practitioners of other faiths question their religions? If we take the position that we can’t question anything about the religious texts we use, then there’s no way anyone would ever leave one religion for another. After all, if the Koran teaches something that seems illogical or immoral, who are we to question Allah? Better to just put our trust in him and recognize that his ways are so much higher than our own.

    However, if our religions teach us to question things and seek after truth (Matt 7:7, 1 Thess 5:21), and if we possess qualities of reason that God gave us (if he exists), then does it not make more sense that we should employ those gifts of reason relentlessly and follow truth wherever it leads us?

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  23. Josh

    Nate,
    Good stuff. Thanks for continuing to reply.
    First, you keep writing things like “if the Koran teaches something that is illogical or immoral”. I disagree with you there, and I’ve explained why. I believe what God says about human nature, and not just because scripture says so. I see evil within myself, and I see it all around me in others. I think, not to be insulting, that you’d have to be blind or deceiving yourself to think that people really are very good at their core. So, I am at a place where I just plain disagree that what God commanded is illogical or immoral, and I don’t accept that point.
    I think questioning what you believe and why you believe it is important. I have questioned Christianity, and I have looked into evidence for other religions as well. I have come to a place where, based on evidence and observation, I believe scripture’s testimony about God and Jesus. What I am saying is, once I am at that point, it is not my place to question God. As you rightly point out, people of other faiths would likely argue the same of their god. I would not question whether they can judge their own god’s morality, as I would agree with them that, if that god is real, it is not our place to question his reasoning or his judgment because it is beyond us.
    As an aside: I’m not saying that I never question God about his actions. I think we all do that as we don’t comprehend him most of the time. I’m pointing out what I think should be obvious logically: once we have reached the point that we believe he is real, and he is God, then he will know infinitely more about circumstances than we do, so we have no grounds on which to question him. Unfortunately, for those who do not believe God exists, you have no one to go to ask why things happen or why he would command or allow certain things. You’re grasping for reasons, but there aren’t any.
    What I would question people of other faiths about is evidence for their religion, whether their religion paints an accurate picture of reality and humanity, and how they can know whether they are living up to his standards (Christianity is clear on this – we can’t. We needed god to come to us. Other religions teach we can get to god through our deeds. The question for them is: how do you know when you’ve done enough?). I am convinced Christianity has the best answers for these problems.

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  24. Josh

    One final thing to wrap up, and then I’ll just continue to read comments. I do see the point you’re trying to make about God’s punishments. I think, to summarize, where we disagree is whether God had reason. I do believe he has reason (as I’ve said, the evil I know is in myself and others), I don’t just simply believe we shouldn’t question him because he is authority. He has explained to us reason. Whether we accept that reason is the question. Thanks, Nate.

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  25. Hi Josh,

    We’re just coming at this from two very different points of view. So let me zoom out just a little to help explain my perspective a bit better.

    We live in a world where it’s possible to question the very existence of God, even the supernatural altogether. Our world also contains many religions that, more often than not, tend to break out along ethnic and cultural boundaries. Most of these religions claim to be the one true way to win the “game” of life — whether that’s through reaching enlightenment, receiving salvation, etc.

    So for the sake of argument, let’s say that there really is a God, and he’s given us one of these religions that we’re supposed to follow. As most of these religions teach, picking the wrong belief system will result in horrible punishment that is likely to last an eternity. I already see lots of problems with this scenario, but let’s ignore those for the moment.

    How are we supposed to know which religion is the true one?

    We’re not born with the luxury of knowing about all these religions from a young age. Instead, each of us is raised to believe that one of the options (or none of them) is the truth, so it’s not until we’re adults that we really begin to learn more about the wider world. And at that point, we have a lot of preconceived notions to overcome. But luckily, these religions usually teach that God is a benevolent being that wants every single one of us to find the path to him, so we can reasonably expect that he’ll help us find a way to him.

    The most direct way to communicate something to someone is to speak to them directly. So God could choose that method to let us know what he expects of us. If you’re into video games, this is similar to the tutorial dialogs that pop up in your game to let you know the rules. It’s a helpful tool. You can still press whatever buttons you like, but at least you’ll know what’s expected.

    Of course, God doesn’t do that for us. Fair enough — what’s another method he could use? Ah, he could send us some kind of “cosmic email” — writing in the sky, or something like that. You know, something that would be nigh impossible for another person to fake. The message would be accompanied by the kind of sign that would give us assurance we’re dealing with the divine. The burning bush, Gideon’s fleece, Paul’s episode on the road to Damascus, etc.

    But if God does this kind of thing today, he’s not ubiquitous with it. I’ve never received a sign like that, nor have most people that I’ve ever known. I guess that’s his prerogative, but it does make one question the Bible’s passages that say God is impartial. But I’m starting to digress…

    So maybe God could send us some trusted messenger. It would need to be someone that I know well, so I could really trust what they’re saying. But again, I’ve never gotten such a message, and I also know that even well meaning people can sometimes be delusional. I’m not sure I want to risk my soul on such a message delivery system.

    So God could send a messenger imbued with divine powers, someone that could work miracles that could only come from God. I would listen to an individual who could do the kinds of miracles that the Bible describes, but I’ve never seen anyone do them.

    However, the Bible is a religious text that claims God did use this method a long time ago. Isn’t that just as good as witnessing the miracles for myself? Not for me. Thomas Paine said that once you tell a divine revelation to someone else, it ceases to be revelation and becomes mere hearsay. I have to agree. For me to accept the word of a religious text, the text would have to be incredibly amazing. The writers would have to demonstrate knowledge of things that they couldn’t possibly have known about ahead of time. When events are recounted in multiple places within the text, they must be without error or contradiction. When science is recounted, it must be without error — not simply a regurgitation of what was already known at the time. Its morals must be without reproach. If it gives prophecies, they must be without error.

    If those standards seem too high, then maybe you aren’t truly considering what’s at stake. The soul of everyone who has ever lived hinges on the judgments of this God. Each and every soul should be just as precious to him as the souls of your own children are to you. Would you leave the fate of their souls up to chance, or would you do everything within your power to save them from eternal torture? If you saw a windowless van pull up to your child and watched the driver coax them to come closer, would you stand back to see how your child reacts, or would you run to them as fast as you could, calling them back all the while? You don’t have to answer, because I know what you would do — you’d do what any decent human would do. Why doesn’t God do the same for us? If I’m currently bound for Hell, and I’m influencing my innocent children to eventually follow in my footsteps, why doesn’t God intervene to help us?

    And before you say he does just that through scripture, the Bible fails every one of the criteria I listed out. In fact, I’m not aware of any religious text that comes close to meeting those standards. If we accept that God is loving, merciful, and just, then it does not follow that he would be the author of the Bible. I’d be happy to cite specific examples of the Bible’s failings, but I’ve written way too much already. Luckily, I have links to those examples in my About section. Please feel free to check them out, if you’re interested.

    I appreciate our discussion, and I know I haven’t directly answered your last few points. But I don’t think I could have done them justice without first laying out my overall thought process. I know you probably disagree with what I’ve written, and I’d understand if you’d rather not get dragged into a long discussion on these issues. But if you do decide to respond at some point, I’d love to know what specific points in what I’ve said seem off the mark.

    Thanks again, and sorry to write such a long comment.

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  26. ‘Ark, let’s try to play nice. Hate the sin, love the sinner, etc…’

    Sorry, but I find playing Mister Polite and Nice to such twits is pointless, and as I have mentioned to you before, they are merely humouring you – Violet tells it like it is, though her language is different.

    Re: your above quote. Let’s face it, Nate, the Christian god took scant regard of this when he obliterated the world, and later the Canaanites, and the Egyptians and these mindless unthinking idiots come here and try to justify their deity’s actions. Beggars belief.

    The biggest sinner in this whole nonsensical debacle is the Christian god. It is a tad difficult to love the ‘sinner’ when one is subject to the mindless hate o total indifference that was behind the annihilation of the human race. And let’s remember, his frothing at the mouth holier than thou minions in the here and now have openly said at various occasions they are quite willing to enact their god’s will should they be utterly convinced that he has commanded them to do so.
    Love the sinner? Hmmmm. You turned your back on the Big Daddy of ALL sinners and you are concerned about hurting the feelings of the likes of Humblesmith. You serious?
    Well, at least it shows you have more humility than them or their god.

    Peace my friend.
    One day we may get to sit and share a beer together and laugh about this nonsense and you can teach me American Football.
    Happy Easter Egg Day to you and your family. Don’t get sick on chocolate!

    Like

  27. Josh

    Wow, Nate. I needed to take my inhaler after reading through that marathon 🙂 Let’s see what I’ve got for you.

    “The writers would have to demonstrate knowledge of things that they couldn’t possibly have known about ahead of time. When events are recounted in multiple places within the text, they must be without error or contradiction. When science is recounted, it must be without error — not simply a regurgitation of what was already known at the time. Its morals must be without reproach. If it gives prophecies, they must be without error.”

    So, you’ve stated here what it would require for you to believe that religious texts are accurate. However, you have not established that is a necessary condition. Just because you think it, doesn’t make it so. Why can’t a religious text measure up to what are accepted standards for historical documents? Would you doubt any other history based on your criteria? I think not. If you did you would have to doubt every kind of historical record we’ve ever known, which would leave you knowing nothing about history. You’ll probably say that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” That’s a nice tagline, but I don’t see that it’s necessary. And, again, you haven’t established that the texts, though they meet all kinds of reliability tests, can’t be accurate because they don’t meet some kind of imagined test you have. It’s a smokescreen set up that no one uses for evaluating the accuracy of any other historical documents. I say, and so do many scholars as far as I can tell, that the gospels and NT documents meet and exceed what we would expect from historical documents of that time. On that issue, that is enough for me.

    I’m assuming when you say things like “demonstrate knowledge of things that they couldn’t have known ahead of time” or “when science is recounted, it must be without error – not just a regurgitation of what was already known” you are saying that these texts should be accurate according to what we know now. Right? Or, is it to be without error considering all knowledge that we will ever know until the end of time. If it is the former, there are two issues. First, the writers would have lost their first century audience. If people had no way of knowing or verifying what the person was talking about, they wouldn’t have believed the person in the first place. Second, if the writers used knowledge we have now, in the 21st century, then it would likely convince you. However, anyone who lives 1-2 thousand years from now would make the same claim you just made: “it doesn’t address science as we know it to be true now (in the year 4013), so it can’t be true”. If it is the latter (using all knowledge humanity will ever discover), there are also issues that doom it to fail from the start. The same issue I mentioned regarding first century followers earlier – not understanding what the person was talking about – would apply to everyone until, at the end of human existence, we discovered all we would know. Only then could anyone realize that the writers were accurate.

    Either way, I feel that you are levying expectations on the text that will lead it to fail on any grounds we could imagine. That, I think, is unfair.

    “It’s morals must be without reproach.”

    Again, measured against which morals? Those of the first century? Those from 6-10 thousand years ago? Ours – the morals of 21st century America? You run in to the same problem here. You offend one group or the other no matter which way you go. If one person believes the moral standards are beyond reproach, then another person will not. Case in point – I believe scripture meets this standard. You do not. So, whose standard do we use?

    “If it gives prophecies, they must be without error.”

    Clearly, your claim implies the scriptures contain inaccurate prophecies. I’ve read a lot of theologians who would argue with you on that, at least about the prophecies we have the capability of verifying. So, I guess we are probably left at a stalemate on this one.

    “In fact, I’m not aware of any religious text that comes close to meeting those standards.”

    Nate, I’m not aware of any kind of text ever that comes close to meeting those standards. You have established standards far beyond what any reasonable historian would require as evidence. If you disagree with that statement, fine. But, I think you have raised the bar all the way to the ceiling. There is nowhere to go beyond the bar you’ve set, so barely meeting your standards is the best any document could ever do. If it did that, I bet you would say that it would have to go beyond your standards to be considered truth. And, of course, if it’s already at the ceiling, there’s nowhere to go but down.

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  28. Hi Josh,

    Just a few points this time — sorry the last one was so long! 🙂

    So, you’ve stated here what it would require for you to believe that religious texts are accurate. However, you have not established that is a necessary condition. Just because you think it, doesn’t make it so. Why can’t a religious text measure up to what are accepted standards for historical documents? Would you doubt any other history based on your criteria? I think not. If you did you would have to doubt every kind of historical record we’ve ever known, which would leave you knowing nothing about history. You’ll probably say that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” That’s a nice tagline, but I don’t see that it’s necessary. And, again, you haven’t established that the texts, though they meet all kinds of reliability tests, can’t be accurate because they don’t meet some kind of imagined test you have. It’s a smokescreen set up that no one uses for evaluating the accuracy of any other historical documents. I say, and so do many scholars as far as I can tell, that the gospels and NT documents meet and exceed what we would expect from historical documents of that time. On that issue, that is enough for me.

    Ah, so you believe Caesar performed miracles? We’re told that by ancient historians… shouldn’t we accept it?

    First, the writers would have lost their first century audience.

    Not if the writers were also verifying things with miracles.

    If the Bible gave us accurate science — even about things that we don’t yet know, people would have been able to test those claims and verify them. Certainly, there are some things that couldn’t have been tested right away. But there are many things that would have made at least as much sense as what the Bible claims, but would have had the major benefit of being accurate.

    Clearly, your claim implies the scriptures contain inaccurate prophecies. I’ve read a lot of theologians who would argue with you on that, at least about the prophecies we have the capability of verifying. So, I guess we are probably left at a stalemate on this one.

    I don’t think we have to be at a stalemate here. Ezekiel’s prophecy of Tyre is one of the best examples, because we can verify (or not verify) it today. Ezekiel said it would be destroyed and never rebuilt. Yet that prophecy failed in almost every way imaginable. Tyre is still there today. The virgin birth prophecy in Isaiah 7 is another good one. There are many we could look at — again, I’ve written about them elsewhere, and I’ve studied what the apologists claim for them. I think a dispassionate researcher would have a very hard time accepting their “explanations.”

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  29. Josh

    “Ah, so you believe Caesar performed miracles? We’re told that by ancient historians… shouldn’t we accept it?”

    If the evidence is sound, sure. There’s nothing in scripture that teaches only Jesus could perform miracles, or even that only believers could. In fact, it warns against believing others just because they can perform miracles. So, if Caesar performed miracles, good for him 🙂

    I’ll pass on the conversation about science. I don’t see your requirements as a necessity, and I can’t argue against the points you make concerning what science is in the text. I’ll stay with the point I already made and leave it there.

    As far as Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s prophecy being inaccurate – that may be the case. I’m more concerned with the testimony about Jesus. I’m aware the evidence for the claims he made may not be perfect in the sense that you’d like, but I believe they stand up to scrutiny. I believe he is who he said he was, and from there I can extrapolate much of the OT based on what the NT writers include.

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  30. Basically, like you, I understand that good intentions can lead to disastrous results if people begin trying to push their own ideals on everyone else, whether they’re religiously or secularly motivated.

    Nate, I think this is a good point on which we can agree. The reason I have posted here is that I think it is so very easy to only see one side of this.

    We both agree that religious fanatics and enthusiasts can do evil things in the name of their religion. You Americans saw that when planes were flown into the World Trade Centre. But you have (arguably) been instigators too, with the Second Iraq war judged as a primarily religious war by the Bradford Uni Dept of Peace Studies. This problem is well recognised, especially by unbelievers, but also by many christians (probably the majority outside the US).

    I wanted to draw attention to the fact that there is just as much a problem the other way. Scientists performed very nasty experiments on human beings under the Nazi regime (Lou Reed sardonically said: “The goodly hearted made lampshades and soap”). The largest (numerically) episodes of genocide and killing have been perpetrated by enthusiastic atheists and communists (Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao), and the same Bradford Peace group found that irreligion has caused far more damage in a shorter time than religion has over a far longer period.

    So there is good reason to be wary of the fanatics and enthusiasts of both sides if their enthusiasm moves in areas which stifle freedoms and demonise their opponents. Some prominent and respected atheists have said things (like what I quoted) that should alarm us all, just as some prominent and (sometimes) respected christians have done. But nasty rhetoric can lead to nasty action.

    Nobel Prize wining physicist Stephen Weinberg famously said: “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    My point is that Weinberg, and your post, are both one-sided. Irreligion will do just as well as religion to achieve what Weinberg says, and in the present climate, I think this is less recognised.

    I think you and I can probably agree on most of that?

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  31. Hey Uncle E – here’s some of the things you said:

    I feel your anger or concern at these thoughts reflect a view of the value of human life and of ethics that your current atheism cannot justify…Why should I care about another nation (be it Canaanites or Iraqis) if there is no objective morality? I think you are still living with the christian morality you grew up with, and I hope you continue to. But it may not be logical for you now.

    Atheism is simply a lack of belief in gods. You seem to agree that a simple lack of belief in gods does not logically necessitate a denial of the existence of objective morality, but the quotes above don’t seem to jive with that. Your other questions can be answered as well, but I don’t see how they resolve the main discrepancy here.

    I have listened to and read several atheist philosophers who I believe do express belief in objective morality. Shelly Kagan is very clear about this in the first 20 minutes of his debate with WL Craig, and I believe he does a good job responding to your questions. Others are: Erik Wielenberg, Stephen Law, Louise Antony, Michael Martin, and Richard Carrier (and Carrier is a naturalist who believes in objective morality – but to avoid confusion I don’t think we need to bring up naturalism because we would have to work at defining it, and I don’t claim to be a naturalist – perhaps Nate has claimed to be one and maybe that is why you bring that up).

    Turns out I am actually agnostic about the existence of these moral truths, but I do believe very strongly however that one can have a lack of belief in gods yet believe that moral truths do exist much like the law of non-contradiction. I also have a strong preference for this position, and it is the position I lean to, but I’ve learned to not let my preferences determine my beliefs, so I can’t claim to know for sure they exist.

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  32. Josh,

    Thanks for the reply. I also appreciate your willingness to consider the possibility that Caesar may have performed miracles and that the OT may have some suspect areas. I think that shows a level of consistency that’s very admirable.

    I don’t feel like I have much more to add to any of your points. There are definitely some areas we disagree on, but at least we’ve been able to discuss our differences civilly. I hope you’ll feel free to comment here anytime. 🙂

    unkleE,

    I think you and I can probably agree on most of that?

    Yep. I think you and I are pretty close on this one. I even thought that as I was writing the initial post. Thanks for weighing in.

    And Ark, thanks for the warning on chocolate. I wish I could say we listened to it. 🙂

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  33. “I have listened to and read several atheist philosophers who I believe do express belief in objective morality.”

    Hi Howie. I have to say that I haven’t seen what I find to be a satisfactory naturalistic explanation of how morality can be objective. I have seen philosophers try to justify it, but either I haven’t understood them or I haven’t felt it was justified. Can you offer an online reference to a justification you find convincing, or even outline how such a justification would go?

    Of course there are some atheists who are not naturalists, and it may be an easier task for them. But I would then question the justification for being an atheist but not a naturalist.

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  34. jjpete80

    Hey Nate-
    Did a bit of reading on the prophecies you claimed are erroneous. I have to say that, not being a learned historian, I find the responses sufficient. It may be true that I am biased toward believing them, but I think it would be dishonest to say the opposite is not also true of an atheist. Thanks for the discussion.

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  35. Josh (jjpete80),

    Thanks for reading up on them. Sure, we do all have biases that influence the way we see things, and it’s hard to overcome them. But I will add that these prophecies were problematic for me before I became an atheist. I was a believing Christian when I found out about the issues, and I was shocked by them. Even when I left Christianity, I remained a deist for a while. So my biases should have pointed me in the other direction back then.

    But either way, your point is valid. Thanks again for all your comments.

    Like

  36. William

    jjpete80,

    I was somewhat like nate, in that I found these “prophecies” problematic before I left christianity. They were part of the reason that my eyes opened.

    I am trying to gain a better understanding of the truth, so i am intrigued by your response here. would you care to elaborate on which prophecies, that nate wrote about, had compelling answers, and could you specify which response provided these?

    also, one thing that I have had trouble with is the type of answers i’ve always gotten to these sort of issues. Could you maybe give an example of a problem (whether from any religion or topic) that couldnt be “answered” in such a way? it just seems to me that many of these responses are just dismissive or grasping at any ole straw, so an example of a what you consider a good contradiction would also be helpful.

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  37. jjpete80

    Hi William-
    I think, in a sense, you’re really not going to be happy with this answer. However, I feel as though I’ve sort of gotten myself into a rabbit hole discussion here. Not that I necessarily mind that, but I think it takes away from the overarching point. So, in an effort to not be blinded to the forest because we’re looking at the bark on every tree, I’m going to keep this much broader than what you asked for.
    I don’t doubt there are problems with scripture that have led people away from faith. However, there is also enough evidence in scripture, and problems with atheism, that atheists who have studied have turned to believe Christianity. So, there seems to be something more going on here than just what the minutia would tell us. I believe that Christianity, as represented in Jewish and Christian scriptures, is the best explanation for why our world is the way it is, and why people cannot seem to make any headway in becoming “better” despite all of our great intentions and advancements. We still do horrible things, albeit in different ways, and there is still evil lurking within all of us (that’s a broad statement, but I’ve seen enough that I’m convinced it’s defensible). Naturalism will tell you there really is no reason we can’t get better because we could conceivably control our fate. Every other religion will tell you that we can somehow earn god’s favor, or get up to god somehow. Neither of these, given our complete history, seem to hold any water as we cannot seem to get better. Christianity teaches that we cannot become what we hope to be, and that God had to come to us to redeem us. This, in my opinion, is a much more realistic representation of humanity’s problem than any other explanation. This is really why I believe Christianity, and I think things fall into place from there. Grasping at straws to explain things? Perhaps. It’s still the only worldview that makes sense and provides reasonable hope in the midst of this chaos.
    Feel free to disagree. A lot of people do :). Also, feel free to have at me for not getting into details. But, ultimately, I don’t think the details are what’s important. As I’ve said to Nate, I think NT scripture stands up to a lot of good historical scrutiny. I’m not interested in debating whether it is inerrant and completely perfect. I don’t see that as a necessity. Simple as that.

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  38. @ Unklee
    ” I wanted to draw attention to the fact that there is just as much a problem the other way. Scientists performed very nasty experiments on human beings under the Nazi regime (Lou Reed sardonically said: “The goodly hearted made lampshades and soap”). The largest (numerically) episodes of genocide and killing have been perpetrated by enthusiastic atheists and communists (Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao), and the same Bradford Peace group found that irreligion has caused far more damage in a shorter time than religion has over a far longer period.”

    This old canard, unklee? Again? Really? Do you never tire of your attempts to rally support for your silly religious beliefs by slating non-believers and throwing Hitler,Stalin and Mao into the pot?
    Hitler was religious, and this is a documented fact.
    Stalin and Mao were atheists but it was not atheism that drove them to be the monsters they were, and this argument has been wrung out so often I am just too damn tired to wring it out again. You are beginning to sound like one of your old LP’s.
    Maybe someone ought to (paraphrase old Lou) hit you with a flower, every hour…until you catch a wake up?

    Religion…ALL religion not just your piss willy Christianity, is still causing damage. Look at the nonsense you keep espousing as a perfect example A grown man for goodness’ sake!

    And the largest numerical episode of genocide was committed by your god, Yahweh, with the enactment of the deluge. It’s in your holy book. Would you like me to name the chapter and verse for you, or have you torn those particular pages out or scribbled over them the words. “NOT APPLICABLE TO UNKLEE THEY GIVE ME NIGHTMARES – SKIP TO NEXT CHAPTER.”

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  39. Josh

    Arkenaten-
    Christians definitely “got some ‘splainin'” to do in this regard. We need to own it, no doubt. Of all faiths, Christians should be most ashamed of this kind of past. A faith whose central tenet is an innocent man dying on a cross to save people who hate him should have no followers who commit these kinds of acts. It is sad, indeed.
    -Josh

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  40. Exactly, and the only way it could possibly be true is if they made it all up, and then butchered as many opponents as they were until they had a virtual monopoly.
    Go research what they did at Carcasonne, in France.
    In this particular instance written testimony survives of what happened to heretics and believers alike in the name of your god.

    The sooner Christians recognize that what they believe in is based on lies and turn away from the monster they created the better for all.

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  41. Josh

    Arkenaten-
    I was really just trying to own up to some of the points you made. There really wasn’t any need to do anything buy acknowledge that I had made that effort. Of the 3-4 blogs I’ve been trying to read a bit over the past week or two, you are a consisten commenter. I would just like to point out that, amidst of comments from all the “terrible” Christians and their “monster” god, you are the most insulting, impatient, rude, angry, and inciting person on most of these comment threads. As long as you continue to be a shining example of what hatred, prejudice, and tactlessness can truly be, I don’t see how you can possibly expect anyone to take you seriously. Especially since your attitude is in direct contradiction to your claims that Christians should be bigger bigots and idiots than you are. I felt you required this feedback, but, unless you begin to act like a respectful adult, I will not be acknowledging any of your comments from here on.

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  42. You are entitled to your opinion, of course, and that you get upset because I call it like it is merely reflects the depth of ignorance of your god-belief. And if you think I am intolerant then I strongly encourage you to go and read what ‘christians’ did to Nate and his family when he announced his decision to leave Christianity and the church. Hypocrisy at its best.

    I don’t need your permission, Josh, to challenge the rot that is religion. Some like to pussyfoot around debates, I prefer to expose it for what it is. A rotten building built upon a foundation of lies and butchery. If you feel comfortable following this belief, so be it. But please, if you are going to accuse anyone of being tactless and hate-filled ( I hate NOTHING by the way) and bigoted then I strongly recommend you start writing letters to every single evangelical church leader in your country and also to the Pope. And CONTINUE writing until they own up to the truth.
    You have a lot to learn and there is no time like the present.
    The Christians have had over 2000 years and in that time they have done mostly harm. So you tell me, Josh, how much more patient should we be?

    When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

    You will recognize this verse, I’m sure. yes?

    Time to step up to the plate, Josh.

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  43. William

    jjpete80, thanks for the reply, but no, i didnt find it satisfactory. maybe christianity looks so good to you because you dont look at the details?

    I would reply to the rest of your polite comment, but it was mostly vague, generic and dodged the questions I asked based off your comments. I hope I do not come off as rude. I thought you were very polite. I just wanted to let you know, as politely as I could, that your response might pass with the fervent unquestioning believer, but it would only pass with them. As such, I dont know that I really have anything to respond to.

    Dont you think that anyone could glaze over the details of anything, claim that their way makes the most sense, sidestepping the problems and questions brought up by skeptics of their particular belief system, and making excuses and far stretching answers for other issues? where does that get us?

    take care.

    William

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  44. Josh

    William-
    Yes, anyone can glaze over details, claim their way makes the most sense, sidestep problems and questions brought up by skeptics, and make excuses and far stretching answers.

    “I am trying to gain a better understanding of the truth, so i am intrigued by your response here. would you care to elaborate on which prophecies, that nate wrote about, had compelling answers, and could you specify which response provided these?”

    Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding the destruction of Tyre:
    https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1790

    Isaiah’s prophecy of the virgin birth:
    http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=811

    “also, one thing that I have had trouble with is the type of answers i’ve always gotten to these sort of issues. Could you maybe give an example of a problem (whether from any religion or topic) that couldnt be “answered” in such a way? it just seems to me that many of these responses are just dismissive or grasping at any ole straw, so an example of a what you consider a good contradiction would also be helpful.”

    I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure what kind of example you’re looking for here. I’ll answer as best I can. A “good contradiction” (I’m assuming this means valid contradiction?) would be two statements or records about an event that cannot be true. One example of an often-cited contradiction is the genealogies found in Matthew and Luke. There is a long answer here: http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=932. I guess I’ll just say that I agree with you that some things in the NT documents appear to be contradictions. However, after reading several contradictions and their explanations, I am convinced a close look at the ORIGINAL language can clear up many, many of the contradictions. Another quick example is whether Judas Iscariot hanged himself or fell and burst his stomach open. This one, I think, can be debunked with the idea that a true contradiction means that both things cannot be true. Could Judas have hanged himself, and then fell and burst his stomach? Yes. Maybe that’s a stretch in your book. The point is it’s entirely possible that both things happened, and this cannot be considered a contradiction because of that.

    Will this answer all of your questions? Unlikely. But, I guess I felt compelled to show you here is that there has been a lot of work done in order to not avoid the details, as you say above. This might all look like “grasping at any ole straw” to you, but one thing I’ll ask you to consider is this. Atheists place the burden of proof on theists when the argument is solely about the existence of God. We have to “prove” this, so the claim goes, because it is a positive claim. Any point that an atheist brings that could conceivably argue against God’s existence must be answered, according to the atheist. With regard to the contradictions, though, the roles are reversed. Skeptics make the positive claim that all of these things they list are contradictions. This places the burden on the atheist – they must “prove” this, and answer any objections raised. So, any detail that is brought to the table about original language, or understanding that may be overlooked by the claimant must be considered by the atheist as evidence the account may not, in fact, be a contradiction.

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  45. Josh, thanks for the info. I’ll leave you and William to your discussion — I just wanted to say that I agree completely with the definition you gave for a valid contradiction. With that in mind, you might be interested in the different days and times given for Jesus’ death. Both versions can not be true. See here, if you’re interested (the headings “Time of Death” and “Day of Death”):
    https://findingtruth.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/contradictions-part-8-the-crucifixion/

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  46. Ark,

    I don’t see a problem with you exposing false statements and “calling it like it is”, but I think a few of us would like it if you could stop the insults and rudeness. It doesn’t seem to be in line with the environment that Nate is trying to create here, and Nate has even requested a tone down – do it for him. 🙂

    Howie

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  47. Josh

    Nate-
    “Sure, we do all have biases that influence the way we see things, and it’s hard to overcome them. But I will add that these prophecies were problematic for me before I became an atheist. I was a believing Christian when I found out about the issues, and I was shocked by them. Even when I left Christianity, I remained a deist for a while. So my biases should have pointed me in the other direction back then.”

    I’ve had similar experiences to what you describe here. I have been really challenged in my beliefs on a number of things that are difficult to understand in scripture. I referenced a couple of articles at Apologetics Press in my response to William that I respect as thoughtful and honest responses to those difficult areas. Those are examples of answers that I have found to be quite helpful. For some reason, I find them satisfactory and you don’t. I don’t know why that is, unfortunately.
    All this to say, I guess, that it brings me back to my original response to William. A lot of people have taken the journey you’ve taken (Christian to atheist), a lot of people have made the opposite journey, and a lot of people have maintained their beliefs after examining the information. That’s why I made a point to mention that, despite all the good faith efforts that have gone into evaluating the truth, there must be something more going on than simply processing information. Maybe it’s just that one group or the other is delusional :).

    Oh, and, I didn’t mean to suddenly switch my posting name. I don’t know how that happened. I’ll play the “I’m new here” card.

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  48. @ Howie.
    Fair enough. We’ll make a deal. And I am a man of my word. That you can believe.
    I will be completely civil, and not cal out any Christian for the abuse their faith has perpetrated on humanity for the past two thousand or so years if every Christian who comments on this blog will
    admit that there is no biblical or historical evidence to support the Resurrection and Yashua is not divine.

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  49. Hey Uncle E,

    My comment would be incredibly huge if I took the time to properly answer all the questions you are asking. Since this topic does get confused and muddied so many times, I would like to request that we keep it a little more focussed on the part I am confused about, because if we can’t resolve that then the rest doesn’t matter too much. I wouldn’t mind trying to respond to all of your questions after that – I have thoughts on all of them and I’m sure my thoughts will not at all satisfy your requirements of justification. I don’t in any way see my worldview as superior to others – I’m an agnostic about a lot of these big questions, so if I were being honest it’s kind of hard to make being on the fence about stuff into a superior worldview! 😉 But I simply am not following the things you are saying. I have a hunch that you just weren’t being very careful with your wording in the comment I criticized, but even that I am not really sure of.

    And again, atheism is very easily defined as a lack of belief in Gods which is not really a worldview, naturalism is a worldview that can be defined in different ways and confuse things even more, so let’s stick to atheism for now since your original quote used that, and I know that I am an atheist (an implicit one, but that doesn’t really matter here), but I do not know if I am a naturalist.

    Here goes again:

    I feel your anger or concern at these thoughts reflect a view of the value of human life and of ethics that your current atheism cannot justify…Why should I care about another nation (be it Canaanites or Iraqis) if there is no objective morality? I think you are still living with the christian morality you grew up with, and I hope you continue to. But it may not be logical for you now.

    So when I first read this it sounded a lot to me like you were stating the following:
    – If God does not exist then objective moral truths do not exist

    which surprised me because in our exchange on Nate’s post of 2/14 you had said that you believe moral truths can exist without God – and you confirmed that again in your response to me here (which confused me even more).

    So here is my next guess as to what you are saying based on your responses:
    – If I believe that God does not exist then it would be illogical to claim that objective moral truths exist.

    But even this doesn’t make sense given what you believe. You have stated that objective moral truths can exist without God. If that is the case then it would not be illogical for me to state that I believe that moral truths exist even if I doubt the existence of God.

    To that I believe you would say that it is only possible for someone to be enlightened enough to know that moral truths exist if there is a God. If he doesn’t exist, then the moral truths can still be there, but it would just be impossible for us to realize it. It is this premise that I simply don’t believe is sound. I don’t understand why I need to believe that. You are free to believe that of course, but you haven’t convinced me why I should, especially since you agree that moral truths can exist without God.

    You are probably familiar with the regress problem of epistemology: in justifying beliefs that we have, we need to keep resorting to other beliefs, which in turn keep needing to be justified by other beliefs. At some point you get to the “bottom” where certain things can only be justified by resort to the fact that they are self-evident. The building blocks of morality (e.g. do not harm conscious beings) could be considered as these justified foundational beliefs, given that we do feel so incredibly strongly about them and they simply seem to be true in a very basic way.

    I also don’t know how to justify that objects outside of me truly exist and are not an illusion without resorting to the fact that it simply seems self-evident and if I were to question that then it would lead to what I see as an absurd existence. Now I am willing to admit that questioning the existence of objective moral truths doesn’t rise to this level of absurd making existence, so that is why I am a bit more agnostic about them. But I know that there are other atheists who do believe stronger than I do that they do exist and I do not believe that is illogical.

    Whew! Anyway, sorry I started this exchange out with some wording that bothered you – I just get frustrated hearing this argument (or similar ones) from apologists over and over again. If I were to become a theist again it definitely would not be because of the moral argument, because the premises just don’t seem sound enough to me. Experiential arguments rate way higher than this one to me personally. If I were to be convinced that I can’t believe moral truths exist without a god, then I wouldn’t run to theism, I would instead become a moral nihilist, and I have a hunch most atheists are in the same boat. Do apologists want to run the risk of creating a bunch of moral nihilists when there are far better arguments to use for the existence of God than this one?

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  50. Hi Howie, let me say at the start that I really appreciated this post (and all your others). We obviously don’t agree, but you have explained yourself well, been courteous and focused, all things I appreciate.

    I agree that ethics are a difficult issue, and I have been forced by trying to be brief to over-simplify – and probably to be inaccurate as well. Let me see if i can explain myself (!!!):

    1. I think ethics don’t depend on God to be true, same as logic and maths.

    2. But if God doesn’t exist, we live in a naturalist, probably physicalist universe, and we have arrived at our thought patterns and culture via natural selection. This will likely lead to different outcomes in different cultures, and they will be outcomes that increase the survival chances of people who will pass on their genes to children.

    3. You would expect to get what we in fact see in animals – some altruistic behaviour towards other members of the gene pool, sometimes, but more competitive behaviour towards competitors (which may include some in the gene pool), sometimes quite predatory and destructive behaviour to defend one’s ability to pass on genes.

    4. So on the naturalistic assumption, you’d expect ethics to develop to justify that sort of behaviour, and in fact we see social sanctions working that way in some societies at some times.

    5. So, granted a reality something like that, how does a naturalist justify a quite different and “higher” ethic than that, as most do, including Nate? In my experience they appeal to notions that don’t fit the logical outcomes of their naturalistic beliefs, which we can all be thankful for. But I cannot see how they can say those conclusions are objectively true.

    6. I believe that they actually “know” deep down that some things are indeed right and others wrong, even if they/we don’t always know precisely. But their worldview doesn’t give them any reason to believe they know deep down, or to trust that feeling.

    7. I think this situation does indeed point to God, because God can explain this – not as the source of the ethics (I have already said they are just true like logic and maths are true) but as the creator who built a universe where these truths (ethics, maths & logic) can be expressed and make sense, who created us (via evolution) so we have a capacity to know these things deep down, and has revealed truth to us so we can feel sure that in the end, justice and truth will prevail.

    8. So my argument is not that we need God for ethics ontologically, but epistemologically.

    I hope that explains how I see things. I agree with you that this is a two-edged argument for God, because it can push someone in the “wrong” direction. But it is only one of a whole accumulation of arguments that (IMO) point to God, and a moral nihilist may be more open to the Spirit of God than a person who doesn’t face up to these things.

    Thanks again, I really appreciate the question, and I’m glad you persisted with it.

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  51. ”8. So my argument is not that we need God for ethics ontologically, but epistemologically.”

    Then your god is a blathering idiot, simply because the only tangible ‘footprint’ he has left is the bible, which is nothing more than a collection of fallacious diatribe.

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  52. Nate: Re: your 3/31 reply.
    The Bible uses the word “torment” and speaks of people in hell being in torment, not torture. It is a mischaracterization to describe God as an abusive parent that tortures people. That’s not what it says and not what it means. I’ve dealt with this.

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  53. torment:

    verb (used with object)
    1. to afflict with great bodily or mental suffering; pain: to be tormented with violent headaches.
    2. to worry or annoy excessively: to torment one with questions.
    3. to throw into commotion; stir up; disturb.

    noun
    4. a state of great bodily or mental suffering; agony; misery.
    5. something that causes great bodily or mental pain or suffering.
    6. a source of much trouble, worry, or annoyance.
    7. an instrument of torture, as the rack or the thumbscrew.
    8. the infliction of torture by means of such an instrument or the torture so inflicted.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/torment

    I’m afraid I don’t see a huge difference.

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  54. @ Humblesmith
    ”The Bible uses the word “torment” and speaks of people in hell being in torment, not torture. It is a mischaracterization to describe God as an abusive parent that tortures people. That’s not what it says and not what it means. I’ve dealt with this.”

    Nate is correct. The difference is marginal. It’s like forcing someone to listen to Justin Bieber music for the rest of their life.

    Of course your god is an abusive parent you utter twit. Abraham was the first one to demonstrate faith in this god and what did he do? “Hey, Abe, bring your kid, let’s have a barbeque.”

    And what about Moses? After all that time in the desert and he turns around and says, ”Hey.Mo. Guess what, you’re not getting in!”

    And then what did he tell Joshua? “You know what , Josh, I’m utterly knackered, do me a favour, you go into Canaan and annihilate ’em all for me will you?”
    Now imagine how they felt having to slaughter and butcher everything from battle hardened soldiers to tiny innocent babes to pregnant woman to old people.

    Oh yes, your god is a great guy all right. And not the monstrous deity we have all come to love..sorry I mean despise.

    Nate has more humility in his pinky than you could hope to acquire in several lifetimes.

    But you,sir, are a sanctimonious, apologetic moron.

    Silly Person.

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  55. Josh

    “The doors of hell are locked from the inside.”
    C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

    I wonder, though, humblesmith, if your answers might be a little more explanatory and not so curt. Maybe, then, they would have a better chance of being taken more seriously? If left to our own devices, none of us would choose God – we would all be arguing the side that Nate and Arkenaten are arguing. I think I’m learning more compassion and listening, rather than arguing and debating, might be more useful 🙂 It is foolishness, after all (1 Cor 1:18).

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  56. Josh

    Interesting thought, Nate

    If the God of scripture exists, as he is represented throughout the scripture, would you want to be in heaven with him? Or, would you distrust him enough that you would rather be separated from him?

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  57. Josh

    Luke 16 – are you referencing the rich man and Lazarus? I’ll assume you are. Isn’t it interesting in the parable that, in all the back and forth, not once does the rich man ask to get out. He asks Lazarus to come down, but he does not ask to be brought up.

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  58. “No one goes to Hell because they want to, but because God sends them there. Luke 16 is a good reference.”

    Hi Nate. You know I don’t believe in the sort of hell being discussed here. But I think your innate (hey, that was an unintentional pun!) decency is obscuring the fact that many people profess to prefer to go to hell than be in heaven with God. And I think we should remember that Luke 16 was a parable about wealth inequality, and heaven/hell are just the window dressing. We should be wary of drawing hellish conclusions from it – does anyone believe people in heaven and hell will be conversing?

    These comments aren’t intended to oppose or support any argument, they are just side points. Best wishes.

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  59. Unklee the mediator.Oh Spiffing! Are you getting a conscience old boy, or merely tacitly playing both sides of the field until you see which way to jump?
    When the chips are down or to use a Texas Hold ’em metaphor, when all of us around this table go ‘All in” Unklee , are you going to side with the likes of Nate, Marcus and I or are you going to show your true colours and throw in with the Humblesmiths of the world?
    The question of course, is rhetorical and this is why I despise hypocrites.
    You are as sanctimonious as your christian ‘colleague’.

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  60. Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, I’d much rather be in Heaven than Hell. If God exists, I want to know, and I want to have a relationship with him. I think that when people claim to prefer Hell to Heaven, they’re exaggerating a bit. It’s mostly something they say because they don’t believe in either, and they find the Bible’s portrayal of God to be pretty awful.

    If the choices were between going to Heaven with the Christian God or having an eternity apart from him that isn’t filled with pain — maybe something like the idea of limbo, Hades, or purgatory, then maybe more people would prefer that to Heaven. But when the choices are between Heaven and Hell as the Bible portrays them, I don’t know of anyone who would seriously choose the latter.

    The common argument that those who go to Hell are only getting what they ask for is absurd and a little insulting — though I realize most of the people who make the argument aren’t trying to be either of those things. It fails to recognize that many of us who reject religion truly don’t do so out of a sense of rebellion. For instance, I imagine everyone reading this no longer believes in Santa Claus. Is that because you’re rebelling against Santa Claus? If a gun-wielding maniac told you he’d blow your brains out unless you believed in Santa Claus, you might claim to believe in him, but could you really make yourself? We usually believe things because we’re convinced of them, not because we choose them. And that’s why the contention that people choose Hell is simply not true. Many of them (myself included) simply don’t believe in it.

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  61. Nate,

    This is so well put! I couldn’t agree more. If there is a God that represents all good things then I want to know that it exists, have a relationship with it (if that is possible) and be in it’s presence.

    If there is a hell like the one I believe the bible describes I most certainly do not want to be there. I simply have a very hard time believing that such a place exists. It reads to me like the creation of human minds.

    While theists rightly are bothered when atheists make analogies of belief in God to Santa Claus, I’d like to just clarify for them that you are simply demonstrating with a very good example that it is clearly possible for people to express doubts about the existence of certain beings without rebellion being the motive. We simply are not convinced these beings exist.

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  62. Uncle E, I think I understand your stance, and you are right I don’t agree. I’ll give another try at a response which may get nowhere, but maybe something will get through.

    First we agree that moral truths could possibly exist without the existence of a God. I wonder if we agree that we both have foundational beliefs. I think you must have some. I think some of them might be in the list you have outlined, or if we broke those down a little further we would find some. Or are you able to justify every belief you have infinitely? Or circularly? This is off topic somewhat, so feel free to ignore, but I think it does relate in an important way.

    I don’t understand why this is a true statement: “If there are no gods then naturalism is true”. If the definition of naturalism is “lack of belief in gods” then it’s just semantics and means exactly the same thing. But if it means that the only thing that could exist in the universe are mass, energy and the natural laws which operate on these things, then I don’t see why atheism necessitates naturalism. Why can’t there exist things beyond natural laws which our human minds are not capable of understanding? What is it that proves that gods have to exist for these kind of “transcendental” things to exist? I’m not saying that I know that these kind of things do exist, I am just saying that I do not know how to rule out the possibility that they do exist in much the same way that I do not know how to rule out the possibility that God exists. The explanation for the existence of moral truths could fall in this same category.

    I don’t believe that you have rock solid proof that God exists, but that doesn’t mean that I would say that you cannot logically claim to believe that. In the same way I don’t see why the fact that atheists may not have rock solid proof that objective moral truths exist means that atheists cannot logically claim to believe that. It is a belief just like yours. Their reasons for this could be exactly as you describe – because it just seems so self-evident “deep down”.

    I believe that they actually “know” deep down that some things are indeed right and others wrong, even if they/we don’t always know precisely. But their worldview doesn’t give them any reason to believe they know deep down, or to trust that feeling…I think this situation does indeed point to God, because God can explain this

    Something isn’t quite right with this statement. You say they know deep down. That is the only reason needed for believing they know deep down. I think what you mean is that they have no way of describing why they know this. But some do – and their answer is that moral truths exist and as rational conscious beings they have reached a point of evolutionary advancement that they are becoming aware of these moral truths which exist. Adding God to the mix isn’t necessary to claim this.

    Also, I know it won’t surprise you, but I don’t see why the situation you describe can only be explained by believing in God. Actually I believe a very reasonable case could be made for quite the opposite. The fact that humans have been so incredibly screwed up in both understanding as well as implementing things related to morality could actually point to there not being gods. Not a rock solid proof of course, but maybe a more reasonable choice of the 2 conclusions. Yes, I know we disagree for sure on this.

    and a moral nihilist may be more open to the Spirit of God than a person who doesn’t face up to these things.

    “A person who doesn’t face up to these things”!! So are you saying we all really know that you are right Uncle E, but won’t admit it! 🙂 Uncle E, here is an honest statement – about 18 years ago when I decided I no longer had enough reasons to claim I believed in God I thought even further than you did – I believed that there was no way that there could be objective morality without gods, and so I very sadly and begrudgingly became a moral nihilist. As I have read and studied up on this topic in the past couple of years I have come to realize that I was a bit too hasty in making this conclusion. If you could prove to me that the conclusion is true then sign me up.

    Now it is I who have asked too many questions, and I had a harder time staying focussed this time. If you feel responses might be instructional I am all ears.

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  63. UnkleE,

    You wrote a while back,

    “Why are human beings worth more than dogs if atheism is true?

    I believe that even if atheism is true, human beings are considered more valuable than dogs because as human we think we are more important than dogs. You and I are human beings and like other social mammals, we tend to herd together and prefer the interaction of our own kind to other species. Through our drive to survive as a species we put ourselves on the top of the pile and act accordingly. I’d say many insects are far more successful at surviving on a micro scale than us humans, but to think an insect is more valuable than a human is not something we as humans would like to accept I don’t think.

    That being said, some human beings who live with a lot of animals might actually value their animals over most, if not all other human beings that they know. And conversely, certain dogs brought up in an environment with only one or a family of human beings might be conditioned to become protective and value those humans over their own canine kind 🙂

    You also asked,

    “Why should I care about another nation (be it Canaanites or Iraqis) if there is no objective morality?”

    We should care because even if there is no objective morality, our collective morality as a species still exists. As our world becomes more connected, a global culture has been developing throughout history that views humanity on a whole as valuable, not only some of its grouped members.

    We should care because it is more effective for humanity to be valued as a whole, mostly gone of the days of “tribes” in the western world. Now we have gangs, hoods. And people are trying to break them down so they can integrate into a society as a whole. It is also more aligned to current scientific understanding I would also add, since there doesn’t seem to be too much variation between different ethnicities on a genetic level.

    Therefore, if my tribe is valuable, then the people who make up the other tribe/gang/club/hood/party/government is just as valuable in a genetic sense.

    It’s our own preferences of power and bias that get in the way and cause distinctions.

    Just wanted to address those two points,

    Kind regards

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  64. Then again, if God exists then as an Absolute He Himself would decide who is truly valuable and who is not out of His creation. And I’d imagine people would be weighed on their actions and beliefs, based on my understanding of the Bible.

    So yes, effectiveness from an evolutionary perspective and value from a Christian perspective are very different I think.

    One focuses on the effectiveness to survive and produce as a species,

    while the other is focuses on the value of believing and effectively following Christs teachings, and allowing yourself to be filled and guided by God.

    Two very different perspectives and goals.

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  65. Also, even if value is only based on opinion, it still has a purpose.

    – Say a puppy was introduced to a family. As the puppy grew up it developed affection for that family. The puppy, when it got older, then began to protect that family by yapping at the other dogs and strange people who walked past their house. Now how is this puppy’s preference to this particular family objective? Does this make this family more special than the other family across the road?

    Now doesn’t it seem then that who we value is not objectively validated, but instead based on the attachments we develop with those we grow up with?

    Do we really objectively achieve this value base? Or is this value lens, the one we look at the world through, developed in the memories and affections we shared while we were young. The memoires and affections we shared with those who were in our school, our community, our families, and our church.

    How are any of us any more or less conditioned by those we grew up around than that small puppy that was introduced to the family that took care of it? Our loyality is conditioned into us, and we bite back at “strangers” who we feel threaten those we value.

    There doesn’t seem to be any objective way we value anyway. This is why science strives to be value free to my understanding. When it comes to loyalty and conflict we just work off our bias. The key is education.

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  66. “Why do people need to defend God and his actions? why does God need apologetics?”

    I nicked the above quote from Portal001 off Humblesmith’s blog.

    Apologies for using it and carting it over here.

    This quote/question is at the root of everything concerning the christian god and the idiots that follow the religion they created to worship it.

    A god has no need for its creation to speak on its behalf anymore that it should need its creation to carry out its deeds, good or otherwise.

    Portal001 has struck at the core of the utter crap that is god belief.

    The sooner people with intelligence begin to recognize this the sooner we will develop as a species that is ‘hell-bent’ on developing our full human potential instead of pandering to mentally disturbed individuals that peddle supernatural nonsense inculcating our children and threatening them with damnation if they do not believe.

    Arguing with their ilk is fruitless. It really is time for cards to be laid on the table.
    If none of us here would truly countenance Creationist nonsense espoused by idiots such as Ray Comfort or Ken Ham, then why is any leeway given to ‘ordinary’ evangelists and even their more liberal pick n’ mix. Brethren?

    For them to laugh derisively at the nonsense of folk believing the notion that Dinosaurs coexisted with human beings but then fully accept the notion of a Virgin Birth, that a man could walk on water or raise the dead..including himself, that this same individual should be regarded as a god, smacks of the utmost profound hypocrisy.

    That such individuals are given the time to espouse their erudite yet insidious nonsense when a person like Ray Comfort would likely be merely laughed at at best, but condemned outright, especially if he had desires on educating our children, including, I might ad, those of our more ‘liberal’ christian ‘friends’ is difficult to fathom.

    Liberal, Fundamentalist. They are all, at the core, the same,and should be treated with equal contempt.
    After 2000 plus years the religious have had their time to produce the goods over their supernatural claims about a god, and so far they have delivered nothing but confusion, lies, and fear.

    Now it is time for commonsense and honesty to step up to the plate. The world has had enough of religious liars.

    Like

  67. Hey Ark,

    Hope things are well 🙂

    I read your post above, I think I understand what your saying.

    One of the things you wrote was,

    “The world has had enough of religious liars”

    My understanding is that lying requires intent. Many, who I assume are genuine believers, (including those who visit this blog) I don’t think are sharing their faith out of any sort of maliciousness. I believe they are sharing those things because they believe they are called to do so, that their faith requires them to do so.

    Religion seems to me to be so much more than just black and white dichotomies. I find human beings to be very complicated, even at the best of times. People can do both compassionate things and cruel things whatever their beliefs are.

    I really like Nates blog because it creates a respectful space where people of different positions, perspectives and faiths from all over the world can come and reason together. If there is any understanding and progress to be made between such different perspectives, I personally believe it can only be achieved through respectful discourse.

    I still think people, no matter what they believe, should be given a chance to share what’s important to them. I still believe this people should be allowed to do this without being dismissed. Putting down unwanted or minority voices seems to me as being counterproductive. Furthermore, when censorship occurs it stifles conversation and understanding, creating more alienation and misunderstanding.

    How would this be any better than a church not letting atheists share their thoughts?

    An open forum is what progressive communities thrive on.

    It’s only through willingness for people to read and consider one another’s perspectives that understanding and common ground can be established. Once this begins, and I believe it has begun on this blog, people can develop connections and reason together with a genuine value of the other. This value can be achieved without people necessarily agreeing with everything other people believe.

    I personally believe this approach is far more effective on a forum. Those are my thoughts anyway, but I’ve still got a lot to learn. Actually, I always will still have a lot to learn.

    Respectfully, Ryan

    Like

  68. Just another thought,

    People I think also tend to shut down, or disengage in a conversation, if they feel their deeply held convictions are mistreated or made light of.

    I think if the goal is to encourage understanding, progression and connection between people – then labelling people with deeply held faiths as just “idiots” could trigger an unhelpful polarisation.

    If the goal is to cause conflict then labelling and generalising is probably an effective tool I would think. But if what we want to gain real insight into what other people actually believe, and not merely a stereotype, then those people need to be respected and be allowed to have a voice in the same way as everyone else.

    Also in my experience, belittling a persons beliefs can risk this person to shut off entirely, which then means other people miss out on a valuable opportunity to understand a believer better and gain an more accurate perspective of who they are.

    This just increases misunderstanding, which is where assumptions and misrepresentation step in. There is already enough misunderstanding in the world I think. It’s more productive if a believer is allowed to represent themselves, without being treated like a inferior human being because of their beliefs.

    Then people can consider what believers actually believe in their own words, instead of believers possibly disengaging through being put down and paid out, only to have straw men and misinformation being put in their place

    The more diversity of people I think actually enriches a dialogue. It’s only through diversity that ideas can considered and refined.

    Plus, to understand another person from a completely different position is quite rare for human beings, and therefore quite valuable to take away. This is a privilege, it is to also understanding another aspect of the humanity we all share.

    Also, as I mentioned, I think many believers share their convictions on Nates blog out of compassion and care, not spite. I think this is the case however strange or invalid their beliefs might appear to others.

    Also, it does make sense I suppose, that if you truly believed others were in danger of eternal damnation the most compassionate thing to do would be to share with them the truth: what you believed would save them.

    Finally, because I think some genuine believers don’t make a distinction between what they believe and who they are, to pay out or put down their beliefs is actually essentially putting them down.

    That’s what I think anyway.

    Like

  69. So to conclude,

    You can’t compare ideas against each other and gain understanding without diversity. You can’t get true diversity without respectfully allowing people to accurately represent their beliefs, free of deprecation.

    Like

  70. Howie and Ryan (portal001) — I really enjoyed the comments you both made on morality. Thanks for sharing them! And Howie, thanks for seconding my comment about Hell; I’m really glad it resonated. 🙂

    Ark,

    Arguing with their ilk is fruitless. It really is time for cards to be laid on the table. If none of us here would truly countenance Creationist nonsense espoused by idiots such as Ray Comfort or Ken Ham, then why is any leeway given to ‘ordinary’ evangelists and even their more liberal pick n’ mix. Brethren?

    I’m glad you asked this, because I’ve been thinking about it the last couple of days. First of all, I think the points that Ryan made in response to you are very good and well thought out. I think he’s right.

    The Christians that come on this blog feel passionately about their beliefs, just as we do. I know that it’s sometimes hard to understand why people believe the things they do, but that’s exactly how they feel about us as well. None of us ultimately knows what’s beyond this life. We’re all talking about things we believe, not things we know, regardless of how convinced of them we are.

    I’ve always really appreciated the respect you’ve shown me and my journey out of religion. And I’ve also appreciated the disgust you’ve shown toward my Christian friends and family that shut out my wife and me just because we held a different opinion than they did. But if we follow your advice and stifle comments from the Christians that visit this site, wouldn’t we be guilty of the same behavior?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of yours. And you’ve perfected a nice blend of sarcasm and satire when you talk about religion that I really enjoy. But I think when you jump into personal attacks, it’s taking things too far. And frankly, it minimizes the impact of the very good points you often make. I don’t have a problem with speaking directly — I think it’s sometimes necessary. But please don’t assume that the Christians that visit here secretly believe their religion is bogus. That’s just as wrong as the Christians that think we atheists secretly believe in God. The guys that visit here are sincere, and kudos to them for not isolating themselves in an echo chamber where they never hear different points of view. These guys have sought us out for discussion — I don’t think we should do anything to discourage that.

    Anyway, I’m glad you’re here — this place wouldn’t be the same without you. But I would appreciate it if you’d refrain from some of the personal statements that you sometimes employ.

    Thanks Ark 🙂

    Like

  71. I just kind of think that you need diversity in order to compare ideas and refine understanding.

    Ark, I do find parts of your posts really funny, and I appreciate the humour. btw are you writing a book atm? You seem to be working on some short stories based on the posts on your blog 🙂

    Like

  72. Nate.
    While I recognize your desire to remain civil and do respect your right to call the tune on your own blog I feel a point is being missed.
    The Christians have had 2000 years plus to state their case, and for the most part non-believers were often afraid to even utter a squeak of dissent. Look at your own case.
    To utilize a more direct example.
    If you found that Ray Comfort was going to teach RE at your kids school you would be down at the headmasters office toot sweet…I sincerely hope you would, at any rate.
    Now , imagine you heard that Unklee was going to take the class. Would you be just as concerned, or would you say. “Aw, heck, I know, unklee, he’s an okay sort of bloke, even for an Australian.”

    Now you would rightly get upset if your kids came home and stated as ‘fact’ that T-Rex actually did run around with Neanderthal man, because the ‘…teacher told us it was true, daddy.”
    But shouldn’t you be just as upset if your kid came home and said ” We learned that baby Jesus’ mummy was a virgin and he is really God.”

    Doesn’t it bother you, especially after all you and your family have been through that you had a President who actually believed the world was created in 7 days? That this mentality is still out there. That such twits walk among us? That one such might one day conscript your kid and send him to war because he believes the Muslims are infidels?
    But because we were all brought up to be good mannered and tolerant, liberal religious folk must be given a pseudo ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card simply because they claim they don’t believe in a hell of fire and brimstone and the OT is only for those silly Jews, because OUR god is a really nice fellow. ( Who walked on water, raised himself from the dead, turned water into wine etc etc)

    Given the opportunity, would you think the likes of unklee and Humblesmith would vote For or Against having Christianity taught in state schools?
    And what would you vote, Nate?

    On a lighter note…there is a video on this post that should make you howl with laughter. Scroll down the page a bit.
    http://attaleuntold.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/atheists-are-dumb/

    peace.

    Like

  73. @ Portal001

    ”Ark, I do find parts of your posts really funny, and I appreciate the humour. btw are you writing a book atm? You seem to be working on some short stories based on the posts on your blog ”

    I don’t have a book, but my friend, DSP does. I display a widget for him on my blog.
    If you want to see it , and read a few reviews or even order a copy,here is the link to his publisher.

    http://www.pkaboo.net/almostdead.html

    It is very funny apparently.

    Like

  74. Hi Ark,

    Yes, it definitely bothers me that those mindsets are still out there. And I would not be okay if religion came into my kids’ classrooms, because they view their teachers as an authority. I want my kids to learn what different people believe, but that’s different than being told those beliefs are facts. So I think we’re in agreement there.

    But in a setting like the one on this blog, there is no authority figure. It’s just a bunch of us talking about what we think, and I think everyone should be treated respectfully in that kind of forum. That doesn’t mean we have to pay homage to everyone’s ideas — we should definitely call stuff out when we see a problem with it. But as individuals, we all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, so it’s only natural that we’ll have different opinions. So I think we should be able to take someone’s word for it when they say they believe something, and I think they deserve at least a little respect for having the guts to say what they think, even if it’s unpopular.

    And yeah, that video was hilarious, by the way! I love Lewis Black…

    Like

  75. The awarding of respect as a matter of course is a difficult one, especially when it comes to religion and there is an inherent belief that it should be respected merely because it IS religion.

    While the liberal theist may well feel they are due the same respect as an a- theist their bronze age mythological views influence large parts of our society. More so in your own country, and because of the millennia of inculcation that persists even today,by continually paying lip service we are allowing these people to influence our way of lives.
    Arguments pertaining to religious tolerance are, in a way, similar to those fput forward by gun lobbyists.

    I applaud your desire to encourage dialogue – certainly a lot better than halfwits such as Humblesmith, who is anything but. Yet your posts have a habit of sounding placating at times, which I find extraordinary considering, and it opens the door for liberals to gently and subtly steer the discussion to a point where they often seem to take control. Or at least their viewpoint is on an equal footing.
    If you read the 2nd Nazareth post on unklee’s blog you would see quite clearly that when it was time to put up, the argument for a Nazareth fell flat on its face and became circular.

    Sorry, this is just me. It pains me to the point of my teeth hurting sometimes, reading the diatribe in defense of this deity and all its nonsense.

    There are other more practical issues as well of course. That religious bodies do not pay tax, that infant genital mutilation is allowed on religious grounds, to name two.

    I truly feel that they must put up ( deliver on these ‘promises’ or push off. There is no place for their nonsense in today’s society.

    Love and understanding has never come from the bible or any other ‘holy’ book.

    You host a fine Blog, Nate.

    Thanks for allowing me to be part of it.

    Like

  76. “Now it is I who have asked too many questions”

    G’day Howie. I don’t think you have asked too many questions, although it may be a little difficult to answer them all in the confines of a blog comment space. But I appreciate the conversation.

    First we agree that moral truths could possibly exist without the existence of a God.

    I actually said “I think ethics don’t depend on God to be true, same as logic and maths.” which isn’t quite the same. Without God I don’t think there’d be anything, ever. But now God has created a universe in which morally aware creatures live, those ethics can exist and be true because they are true in themselves, not just because God said so.

    I don’t understand why this is a true statement: “If there are no gods then naturalism is true”.

    You are right, I was inexact – strictly it isn’t necessarily true. But it seems to be statistically true. Most atheists I have talked with are naturalists.

    Why can’t there exist things beyond natural laws which our human minds are not capable of understanding? …. The explanation for the existence of moral truths could fall in this same category.

    I believe there can, and are, but naturalists can’t think that by definition, wouldn’t you say? In your view, what could possibly make an objective moral truth exist?

    I don’t believe that you have rock solid proof that God exists

    No, we are agreed there. There are no “rock solid” proofs out side of maths and logic, not even in science. But I think the evidence makes God way more probable than not.

    You say they know deep down. ….. I think what you mean is that they have no way of describing why they know this. But some do – and their answer is that moral truths exist and as rational conscious beings they have reached a point of evolutionary advancement that they are becoming aware of these moral truths which exist. Adding God to the mix isn’t necessary to claim this.

    All I meant was most naturalists I have talked about this to cannot explain where objective ethics come from, and most believe ethics are relative and cultural. But their behaviour and beliefs on other matters shows they are still ethical people. So I was suggesting they have a belief about ethics that their naturalism/atheism cannot adequately explain, and “adding God to the mix” can resolve this dilemma.

    “A person who doesn’t face up to these things”!! So are you saying we all really know that you are right Uncle E, but won’t admit it!

    No, I am offering my opinion. And my opinion is that there are a number of deep dilemmas about naturalism that most people cannot really resolve, and so they tend to keep on with their naturalism despite that. This is not a surprising or nasty comment, after all, most atheists think the same about christians – it’s part of having a different viewpoint.

    about 18 years ago when I decided I no longer had enough reasons to claim I believed in God I thought even further than you did – I believed that there was no way that there could be objective morality without gods, and so I very sadly and begrudgingly became a moral nihilist. As I have read and studied up on this topic in the past couple of years I have come to realize that I was a bit too hasty in making this conclusion. If you could prove to me that the conclusion is true then sign me up.

    That is very interesting. I went in the opposite direction. I too decided there was no way that there could be objective morality without God, so that became one of a group of reasons why I committed myself to belief in God. I certainly cannot prove anything like that to you. All I can do is what we are doing here, discuss courteously and ask you to explain how a naturalistic universe can produce genuine objectively true ethics. I would also ask the same about genuine free will and the idea that human beings have value in themselves (the “sanctity of human life”). I have never yet seen a satisfactory (to me) naturalist explanation for these things – see Atheism and freewill – the elephant in the room?. If naturalism can’t explain them, then I can only suggest reconsidering a worldview that can. There are several.

    Well those are my answers, as short as I can make them. I’m enjoying the conversation, but wonder whether we should find another venue rather than filling up Nate’s blog? Best wishes.

    Like

  77. Hey Uncle E,

    I get the feeling that Nate doesn’t mind our discussion at all. I think he hasn’t joined in because he has had this exchange about morality with you at least twice before.

    I can’t figure out why you keep going back to discussing naturalism when the discussion is about atheism. Just because most of the atheists you have talked with are naturalists doesn’t mean they all are. I don’t claim to be a naturalist, and you admit to not being able to show me why atheism necessitates naturalism. I see it as a possibility and may even lean toward it depending on the day of the week, but I do not know whether it is true or not. Perhaps Nate is a naturalist, but actually he is the one who introduced me to the word possibilian which I thought described my views very well.

    I believe that I see your reasoning now, and your reasoning really isn’t about morality specifically, it is actually about everything. You could substitute in the word bananas for the word morality and your argument looks the same. You just like to focus on morality because humans have made morality a central focus in discussions about God for many centuries, and because people feel so strongly about it. Much stronger than bananas. I am getting this from your statement: “Without God I don’t think there’d be anything, ever”. Your belief really boils down to this: the fact that anything at all exists is proof that God exists.

    I actually said “I think ethics don’t depend on God to be true, same as logic and maths.” which isn’t quite the same.

    You said this in a previous comment on this page: “Logic could arguably exist without a God, so perhaps ethics could too.” So it seems you did actually agree to what I wrote – the words aren’t exactly the same, but my wording seems pretty close. I will take your current response then as golden and go back to realizing that we don’t even agree on that. I’m really not judging you for this, but trying to figure out where we agree and disagree is looking to be a bit harder here than I thought.

    I only have one question for you in this response to you, and I hope you can answer it: what is it that made the God that you believe in exist?

    Like

  78. Ark,

    “I don’t have a book, but my friend, DSP does. I display a widget for him on my blog.
    If you want to see it , and read a few reviews or even order a copy,here is the link to his publisher.”

    I’ll have a look, thanks

    Like

  79. Hi Howie,

    I get the feeling that Nate doesn’t mind our discussion at all.

    No, Nate’s a tolerant guy. I just meant that blog comments are not always the best place for long and involved discussions.

    I can’t figure out why you keep going back to discussing naturalism when the discussion is about atheism.

    Most atheists are naturalists, and naturalism is a more precise term (some atheists define atheism differently to others). Those that are not, I ask to justify why they believe in something other than naturalism, and what exactly is it? If you are a “possibilian”, I’ll ask you about both alternatives. Specifically, what do you see as (1) the naturalistic explanation of objective ethics and (2) the atheistic but non-naturalistic explanation?

    Your belief really boils down to this: the fact that anything at all exists is proof that God exists.

    The second half of that statement is true, but the first isn’t. It doesn’t all boil down to that. I think there are many reasons to believe God exists. Why is there something rather than nothing? is one of them. But why is there morality? is another. My argument for that was outlined in 8 steps a while back, and I still don’t think I have seen an adequate reason to reject it or an alternative explanation for morality.

    You said this in a previous comment on this page: “Logic could arguably exist without a God, so perhaps ethics could too.” So it seems you did actually agree to what I wrote

    I’ll admit to not being precise sometimes, in the attempt to be brief, but I think all my statements there are strictly consistent:

    (a) Ethics could arguably exist without God.
    (b) I personally think nothing can exist without God.
    Hence my preferred statement is the one I gave:
    (c) “I think ethics don’t depend on God to be true, same as logic and maths.”

    I think you agree with (a) & (c) but not (b).

    what is it that made the God that you believe in exist?

    God is often said to be a necessary being, “outside” of time and space, never not existing, never beginning, not needing any reason for his existence. This is a reasonable definition for an all-powerful God. (Whether such a God exists is another question of course, but that is part of his definition.)

    The physical universe and everything in it cannot be necessary (i.e. couldn’t not exist and couldn’t not be otherwise) because it had a start (there is some argument about this, but I think the statement can be successfully defended) and it could have been different. So it needs a cause. That is why I use arguments about things in the universe, and the universe itself, and ask where they came from, because explanations are hard to find without God.

    Like

  80. Hi Uncle E,

    God is often said to be a necessary being, “outside” of time and space, never not existing, never beginning, not needing any reason for his existence.

    That is a possible answer for what makes objective moral truths exist as well. I don’t know how else to make this any clearer – it is a belief just as yours!

    I personally believe you have a double standard here and are being very unfair and inconsistent by allowing yourself to not give adequate justification for the existence of something, but requiring other people to provide justification for their belief in the existence of other things.

    Objective moral truths can simply exist just like your God can simply exist. The fact that we feel so strongly about morality, and also the fact that doing things which are agreed by many to be “immoral” tend to very often lead to very bad results can also be 2 more very valid reasons for someone to believe that morality is objective. I see no reason one must believe in a god to make that conclusion of belief in morality.

    By the way, since you are so incredibly focussed on naturalism you may want to google “richard carrier moral ontology”. He details on his old blog how there can be objective moral truths under naturalism. But this is an aside – what I said above is what I think summarizes my stance as well as I can state it.

    Like

  81. Hi Howie,

    I personally believe you have a double standard here and are being very unfair and inconsistent by allowing yourself to not give adequate justification for the existence of something, but requiring other people to provide justification for their belief in the existence of other things

    I’m sorry you feel I am being unfair and inconsistent. I try to be honest and open-minded, and to present my views clearly, but I don’t suppose I always succeed. But it isn’t a matter of allowing or not allowing, it is simply a matter of testing two (or more) hypotheses.

    Hypothesis 1 is that there is a God who is eternal, etc, etc, and has set up the universe in a certain way. Hypothesis 2 is that there is no God or gods, and the universe has come about in certain ways. All I am doing is exploring how what we know or observe or feel about the universe better fits one hypothesis or the other. Since part of #1 is that God is eternal and necessary, then explaining his origin isn’t meaningful, whereas it is meaningful to ask for the origin of a non-eternal contingent universe in #2.

    May I suggest that your feeling that I have taken an unfair advantage (if that is a fair summary of what you have said) may in fact be a reflection of the fact that #1 has some advantages over #2 as a hypothesis?

    Objective moral truths can simply exist just like your God can simply exist.

    Yes, it is possible. But I am still waiting to see an explanation of how that comes to be the case, and how we could know, if atheism is true. I would still be interested to hear your views on this.

    it is a belief just as yours!

    Yes, it is. A belief (philosophically) is whatever we hold in our minds. I have never used words like proof. That is why we are discussing, because we each need to evaluate the evidence and decide.

    Does your latest comment indicate that you are feeling frustrated with this conversation? Would you prefer to call it a day here? If so, thanks for the opportunity to explore these issues.

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  82. Pingback: This is how religion REALLY is. Turns out, Atheists are not so dumb. | A Tale Unfolds

  83. Hey Uncle E,

    I think at this point I don’t get the feeling that you are going to see my points no matter how I word it. The suggestion you make is so way off the mark, and from that it is clear to me that we are not connecting at all. I was simply trying to use several different words to try and explain how you were falling into the fallacy of special pleading. This seems so incredibly obvious to me, and I honestly thought I was so clear about it that you would at least somewhat understand, but I see not an ounce of recognition of this in your response. Perhaps you feel the same about me, and I think agreeing to disagree is all we can do at this point.

    And I was also waiting for your proof that it is illogical for an atheist to believe that moral truths exist – that never came, and at one point you even seemed to admit there is not one, but maybe you didn’t really mean that also. I think maybe we got off to a bad start. Maybe it will work better if we try again at a later time. Chances seem to be high that this topic will come up again. 🙂

    Thanks,
    Howie

    Like

  84. “I don’t get the feeling that you are going to see my points no matter how I word it. … I honestly thought I was so clear about it that you would at least somewhat understand, but I see not an ounce of recognition of this in your response”

    I’m sorry you feel this way, but it happens all the time in these discussions. One person’s clear points and killer arguments are small cheese to another person.

    “you were falling into the fallacy of special pleading”

    I explained why I didn’t think that was so. I guess we disagree, which is a pity, but hardly unexpected.

    “And I was also waiting for your proof that it is illogical for an atheist to believe that moral truths exist – that never came, and at one point you even seemed to admit there is not one”

    I have consistently said there are no “proofs” in these matters, just arguments and evidence and assessments of most likely conclusions. But I did offer a reasoned argument, my 8 steps back a few comments now. So I have offered my side for discussion. But I have asked you several times for your explanation of how ethics can actually occur in a naturalistic or atheistic universe, and you haven’t done so. I’m not complaining about that, just pointing it out.

    “I think maybe we got off to a bad start. Maybe it will work better if we try again at a later time.”

    I don’t feel we got off to a bad start. I don’t have any bad feelings about the discussion, you, or your part in the discussion. I admire your methodical and courteous approach and I have appreciated the opportunity to discuss. I think you may have had higher expectations than I do. When I started discussing with atheists on the internet about 7-8 years ago, I thought I had brilliant arguments (sarcasm!!!) but soon learnt to have lower expectations. Now I am happy to find out what others think, point out where I disagree and answer questions about what I believe. Hopefully we all learn that way.

    So thanks and best wishes.

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  85. Wow Uncle E, we finally found something we agree on! 😉 Yes, everything you said regarding my expectations is spot on – I would put it simply as I do need to chill out sometimes. Happens not just in my web interactions by the way. I’m cool with your advice. Thanks.

    But yeah, I really am wondering whether our discussion had broken down to us just needing to agree to disagree. I have to admit that your insistence on talking about naturalism here is very odd to me as well given what we’ve said, but I suppose it’s just your way of saying that you still haven’t bought into my point that atheism doesn’t necessitate naturalism. I’ll just accept that then. There is one point though that I think you were missing that I tried to rephrase in a bunch of ways in different comments. I was trying to answer your question about explanation of how ethics could occur in a world without gods, but you didn’t see it as an answer. I’ll try maybe a little more, but I’m thinking at some point pretty soon here I’ll run out of ways to re-phrase.

    Here it is: an atheist could believe that objective moral truths are “necessary” truths, “outside” of time and space, never not existing, never beginning, not needing any reason for their existence. This is what you said about God. Is there something that shows that objective moral truths cannot just be necessary truths in this way?

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  86. “Wow Uncle E, we finally found something we agree on!”

    It is good, isn’t it? 🙂

    “I really am wondering whether our discussion had broken down to us just needing to agree to disagree.”

    Like I said, the first part of any discussion, and sometimes the only practical thing, is to better understand each other. I think that has happened, even though we couldn’t agree on much.

    “your insistence on talking about naturalism here is very odd to me as well given what we’ve said, but I suppose it’s just your way of saying that you still haven’t bought into my point that atheism doesn’t necessitate naturalism”

    I understand that, and agree with you – in theory at any rate. But I said before that:

    (i) You haven’t clearly identified if that is your view. You seemed to be saying that it might be, in which case I am left with discussing your various possible beliefs, of which naturalism is one, and non-naturalism is another. I have tried to discuss both.

    (2) If that is your position, my question is what are you actually postulating? What could there be beyond the natural world if there is no God? (I understand there are theoretical answers, but I’m asking what you actually think.)

    “an atheist could believe that objective moral truths are “necessary” truths, “outside” of time and space, never not existing, never beginning, not needing any reason for their existence. This is what you said about God. Is there something that shows that objective moral truths cannot just be necessary truths in this way?”

    Again, I understand this, and can see that it is a theoretical possibility. But my question is the same. How can you explain this? How could an ethic be objectively true in such a universe?

    We can say that mathematics is objectively true because we can prove the theorems. We can say that the gravitational constant is truly a particular value because we can test it. But what does it mean to say that ethics are objectively true, and how did the universe get to be that way? And, more importantly, how can we know that is the case?

    I understand that you are saying that if God could be eternal, then so could ethics. But we wouldn’t accept the proposition that “If God could be eternal, so could the fly on my wall”. Analogies can’t be used unless they are apt. So I can argue that God, but his very nature, has always been there and is the ultimate reality, but I don’t see how you can argue that an abstract concept like ethics have always been there, especially before any universe was there. If you want to argue that, I guess we could discuss it, but I don’t see how that can be an explanation.

    And even if you could argue that, the existence of ethics isn’t my main point – how we could know ethics are true is my main point. (Epistemology more than ontology, as I have said before.)

    Let me say how it seems to me (this is only a hypothesis and I am asking you questions to try to verify or falsify it). It seems like you want ethics to be objectively true, and you want the universe to be something more than a mechanistic, determined place, which physicalism, and to some degree naturalism, seems to lead to, but you don’t want or believe that God could exist to provide the basis for those beliefs. So you hold onto those beliefs without having a really clear explanation for them. Hence your replies contain ideas like being a possibilian, and questions like why couldn’t it be possible that ….?.

    I think many atheists do the same thing (and yet criticise christians for having faith!). So I am trying to verify if there is any more substantial explanation than what I have seen so far. I have not seen it from you or others, and I think it is probably very difficult to find a practically satisfactory one. Those are some of the reasons why I am a theist.

    So that’s where I’m coming from. I am not trying to be unpleasant, just following the discussion though to its logical conclusion as far as I can. Hope that’s OK. Thanks.

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  87. Again you have said so much that I think we could have many long useful side discussions about elsewhere. But I was trying to stay very focussed to avoid confusion that always gets caused in discussions like these. I am not criticizing you here for having faith. I have already described to you what foundational beliefs are, and all of those require some level of faith. I could say so much more on this, but definitely best to discuss that another time.

    You keep asking what I actually think, and I already said I am agnostic about these things because I see good points to all sides of the discussion. I think moral nihilists have some very good points about how our deep feelings about morality have come about naturally. I think Richard Carrier has some very good points about objective morality although his may not a “necessary” truth kind of belief. I think Shelly Kagan, Stephen Law and Erik Wielenberg have some very good points about objective morality being “necessary” truths.

    There is no more substantial thing I am saying here except that one who does not believe in gods could possibly hold to the belief that objective moral truths are “necessary truths”. To say this is illogical would be incorrect. Did you explain what it is that shows they cannot be necessary truths and I just missed it? (if you are unclear about the definition of “necessary” go back to my previous description which is the same as yours). This is important and the main point of discussion so it would be very good if you reply to this. Is your answer only that they are abstract concepts therefore they cannot be “necessary”? If it is then maybe we have to just disagree because I’m not sure what it is that causes me to conclude this. We definitely have to agree to disagree on this one: “So I can argue that God, by his very nature, has always been there and is the ultimate reality, but I don’t see how you can argue that an abstract concept like ethics have always been there, especially before any universe was there.” First, I definitely still see special pleading here. Second, I personally believe it could be very reasonably argued that the opposite is the better conclusion, because it claims so much less. To claim there are hidden conscious entities that somehow want to interact with us but seem to not want to show themselves when we apply rigorous objective methods and peer review is very problematic to me. You must understand that I am not saying this proves they do not exist, but for me it causes a huge epistemological problem to come up with excuses for why they would want to do this and then jump to the conclusion that people are not being reasonable or injecting their biases by not coming to the conclusion that these kind of beings exist.

    I believe the epistemology question is another good one, but not part of the main point. Again my main point was focussed on what I said in the last paragraph. I actually believe I answered this one as well in my previous comments. I gave 2 valid reasons for concluding that there are objective moral truths.

    Discussing our preferences here are not very helpful in these discussions. We could talk about them but those change all the time. I think it would be honest to say that I want there to be a God who represents all good most of the time, and there are times where I don’t care too much about that. I can’t remember a time where I wanted there _not_ to be one, but I can’t promise you that is true either. I could also say that I do not want the God as described in a lot of places in the Bible to exist, because he doesn’t seem to be a God who is all good, but if he exists I most definitely want to know that he does so I could make the proper decisions that result from that. Again a very long and different discussion on that one. I know you think I misinterpret and see the Bible in the wrong way. The main point is that for myself I try very hard to eliminate the preferences in my search for truth. I understand that you don’t believe I am doing that and you certainly have a right to believe that. I could hypothesize that you are doing those kinds of things as well, and I may have done that (I can’t remember). I think I have tried to leave them out of the discussion, and I think it is fair to ask you to try and leave things like this out of the discussion as well because it doesn’t help me find truth. When I try to understand other people’s beliefs I try many different techniques to try and avoid biases. One of them is to think about how I would explain those beliefs with a straight face to my kids. My kids love asking lots of questions which I am very happy about. I don’t know how to go to my kids with a straight face and say “I know that if you do not believe in God then you cannot believe in objective moral truths because a very cool Australian told me that I was letting my preferences about them get in the way of my conclusions”. Another drawback to bringing these things up is that it causes these very long paragraphs like this one that don’t help others at all, it is just annoying. I read so many internet discussions that go off on these long side tangents about preferences and biases which some people certainly do need reminders about, but whenever I read them I always think “please, please just focus on the main point guys”. You and I and Nate, and most others on this blog are very aware of these things and don’t need these reminders. But yes, I would agree that there are some that do.

    You sucked me into the side topics again. 😉 I feel like Al Pachino in Godfather 3 (just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in).

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  88. “You sucked me into the side topics again.”

    It is happening to both of us I think. But I think we can maybe start to head for the exits. I will try not to provoke you again (I promise!).

    “You keep asking what I actually think, and I already said I am agnostic about these things because I see good points to all sides of the discussion.”

    What I have tried to do is see if you have reasonable arguments for the various viewpoints. That exercise might lead to being able to reject some and favour others. But I’ll cease and desist! 🙂

    “one who does not believe in gods could possibly hold to the belief that objective moral truths are “necessary truths”. To say this is illogical would be incorrect. Did you explain what it is that shows they cannot be necessary truths and I just missed it?”

    I don’t think I have ever said that it is impossible. I have simply said I haven’t seen a reasonable explanation of it – and asked if you had one.

    “I do not want the God as described in a lot of places in the Bible to exist, because he doesn’t seem to be a God who is all good …. I know you think I misinterpret and see the Bible in the wrong way.”

    Actually, I think that is a very reasonable statement about a few parts of the Bible. But christians believe that God is as revealed in Jesus, and any impression different to that must be a misunderstanding.

    There, I’ve been very disciplined and avoided the side tracks (mostly). 🙂 Perhaps we can let the matter rest for now, do you think? I really appreciate the way you have conducted this discussion, and the thought you have put into it. I have found it most interesting. Thank you.

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  89. Yeah, that’s cool Uncle E. This stuff does drain me because when I think about and discuss these kinds of things my brain goes all in and I have a hard time turning it off, so letting the matter rest for now will be much appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to explain your views. It doesn’t bother me that we disagree, and I appreciate your time as well.

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  91. UnkleE,

    you wrote,

    “But I have asked you several times for your explanation of how ethics can actually occur in a naturalistic or atheistic universe, and you haven’t done so. I’m not complaining about that, just pointing it out.”

    Ethics can occur in a universe without God. Its just in such a universe they are not absolutes.

    However, in the same sense. Ethics aren’t really absolutes even in a universe where God does exist, at least not in a universe of the Christian God.

    For example,

    God decrees that Thou shalt not Kill – this seems to be an ethical absolute.

    However, God also asks His people to kill other tribes.

    Now is this then an ethical absolute?

    So ethics is still then based on opinion. Its just in one case it is the developing opinion of a collective society. In the other case it is the All Powerful decree of God, but it is still Gods opinion, even if that Opinion equates as truth – since He is The Creator.

    So either case you have ethics, and in either case you have an opinion and The Opinion. Ethics still exist; the only difference is where people believe it come from.

    And ethics still develops. After all, Christians believe that based on the actions of God it is no longer required that we sacrifice animals or refrain from eating pork.

    Sorry if I keep repeating myself, but this topic seems to keep coming up, and I don’t really find it to be as complicated as it has been previously presented.

    Maybe I’m just not considering it closely enough.

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  92. “Ethics can occur in a universe without God. Its just in such a universe they are not absolutes.”

    G’day Ryan. Yes, that’s what I meant. I had said it several times, and I left the “objective” off here.

    “God decrees that Thou shalt not Kill – this seems to be an ethical absolute”

    I don’t see it as an absolute. I’ve heard that “kill” in tis context may be better translated as “murder”, which gets us into what makes some killing murder and not others.

    I think the absolute or objective ethic is much simpler – Jesus said it: “Love the Lord your God with your whole self and love your neighbour as yourself”. Provided we understand the Greek word used means self-giving and gracious love, then we have got it. (Note: Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic, but this is the Greek translation that we have.)

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  93. Hi UnkleE,

    I appreciate that if God exists and He expresses a Commandment, then it is not only Opinion – It is Truth, since it is a Commandment decreed by the Author of Life.

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  94. Sorry I’ll retype that :/

    So killing is considered murder only when it –

    (1) Has NOT been decreed by God?

    (2) Was NOT done in self-defence?

    (3) Was NOT a government-sanctioned penalty for a crime?

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  95. “So killing is considered murder only when it”

    I don’t think precise definitions of these things are possible. The legal system tries to do it, but there are always grey areas. Jesus’ teachings seem to indicate that God judges by the intention as well as the action, and anything not done out of faith and love is wrong.

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  96. UnkleE

    Yeah I can see where you are coming from,

    If God judges the heart, then it is more about the spirit than the letter of the Law. So the focus is then more on the intent behind the words, and not just a literal adherence to the word. That does make sense to me.

    Thanks,

    Like

  97. “Say a puppy was introduced to a family. As the puppy grew up it developed affection for that family. The puppy, when it got older, then began to protect that family by yapping at the other dogs and strange people who walked past their house. Now how is this puppy’s preference to this particular family objective? Does this make this family more special than the other family across the road?”

    —————————————————————————————————

    When I was using this puppy example, I wasn’t suggesting that our attachments and connections to friends and family are any less meaningful or valuable. I just think it’s important to consider that humans are not necessarily beyond this sort of conditioning.

    Also, a theist believes that God has placed them within a particular community, and has given them certain relations; therefore the people around them have also been placed there through Gods Grace. This can contribute to a different outlook on the value of relationships.

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  98. Sorry, I was reading the comments and can’t find a way to reply directly to UncleE’s comment re atheists.

    1) Good post.

    2) @ UncleE: By now I’m seriously confused. Why should atheists not have ethics? Ethics are not exclusive to deists. Also, what is your definition of a “naturalist”? And a “determinist”? (I thought, determinism was a specific theory in psychology, pertaining to the way a person acts/reacts.) By “naturalist” did you mean “natural scientist”, “a believer in nature and nature spirits”, “Darwinist”, or “a person who enjoys walking about au naturale“?

    Caring about people has been proved to be 1) inborn and 2) to branch out, from one’s family first, then one’s close friends, neighbours, people we know, 3) then to cover our own ethnic group, and only lastly 4) to cover humankind (above, e.g., crocodiles and Great Whites but even there some people are one step ahead of me). If you had to choose between rescuing an Inuit baby and a baby polar bear, and the other one is sure to die, which one will you pick? Did you have to think about it? If you did, you’re more progressive than most people I know.

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  99. Noun 1. naturalist – an advocate of the doctrine that the world can be understood in scientific terms
    philosopher – a specialist in philosophy
    2. naturalist – a biologist knowledgeable about natural history (especially botany and zoology)
    natural scientist
    phytology, botany – the branch of biology that studies plants
    zoological science, zoology – the branch of biology that studies animals
    biologist, life scientist – (biology) a scientist who studies living organisms

    (Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/naturalist)

    determinism, in philosophy, theory that all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by previously existing causes. Determinism is usually understood to preclude free will because it entails that humans cannot act otherwise than they do. The theory holds that the universe is utterly rational because complete knowledge of any given situation assures that unerring knowledge of its future is also possible. Pierre-Simon, Marquis de Laplace, in the 18th century framed the classical formulation of this thesis. For him, the present state of the universe is the effect of its previous state and the cause of the state that follows it. … (100 of 249 words)

    (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)

    Psychology:
    Orectic psychological determinism is the view that we always act upon our greatest drive. This is often called psychological hedonism, and if the drive is specified for self-interest: psychological egoism.
    Rational psychological determinism claims that we always act according to our “strongest” or “best” reason.

    (Source: Wikipedia – our bestest mostest usedest Omniscient Wic.. I mean Dictionary.)

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  100. G’day gipsika

    “Why should atheists not have ethics?”

    I think atheists should, and generally do, have ethics. My question is whether those ethics have any objective basis or are just personal to them and cannot be used to judge others. And if they say they are objective, can they explain how they came to be objective? I don’t have any problem with your comments about ethics being inborn, my questions remain whether or how such inborn ethics could be objectively true.

    “Also, what is your definition of a “naturalist”? And a “determinist”?”

    My definitions are those which I believe are generally used. Naturalism is the belief that “reality is exhausted by nature”, i.e. the natural world we can experience and measure with science is all that there is. Determinism is the belief that “every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature”. (These definitions come from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

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  103. Hey Nate,

    I know we can only focus on one topic at a time,

    but I don’t think this illustration is accurate.

    you wrote:

    “Using this kind of logic, I could make the same case about dogs.”

    I don’t think this example fits, since dogs do not process things in the same way as us.

    If a dog bites someone, unless it sees a person act aggressively as a response, a dog soon moves on to other things, such as food, or fetch 🙂 its remorse does not seem to carry on beyond

    When human beings harm one another or do something wrong, the conviction of this goes beyond how people respond to it. We innately know something is wrong, even if we rationalise it.

    Dogs don’t seem to process things in the same way. Human beings have a different sort of self awareness it seems, that allows us to understand that we may have harmed someone, even if the signs are not apparent.

    you also wrote:

    “If he’s all powerful, he could have given us the same level of perfection that Jesus had so that we would be able to live more perfectly and be more pleasing to him. Instead, he purposely handicapped us, and then decided to reject us because of the same handicap.”

    I see it that we have been created in such a way that we are invited to follow and be transformed through God.

    Ryan.

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  104. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the comment!

    I see what you’re saying, and of course, you’re right about the differences between us and dogs, which highlights the limits of my analogy. However, the blog post I was responding to (at Thomistic Bent) justified God’s command to kill all the Canaanites by saying that if we could understand how bad we are in comparison to God, we would see that such actions are completely justified. To make this argument is to say that we can’t understand the gravity of our offenses. So it’s not that we knowingly choose to be so vile, it’s that we can’t really help it. And in this way, I do think my analogy fits.

    I have a dog who sometimes gets out of our backyard. And when she does, she occasionally finds some animal’s poop to roll around in. Just loves it, apparently. As you can imagine, I can’t stand it. And I have to bathe her before she can come back into the house. Despite how much I hate it and think it’s disgusting, she can’t imagine what would be wrong with it. It’s just part of her nature. She doesn’t mean to be offensive, even though she most definitely is.

    I think this makes for a pretty good analogy. I could beat her, shout at her, kick her, and even do more heinous things, like torture. But would that be just? Would it be right to inflict that upon a creature that doesn’t even realize she’s really done anything she shouldn’t have? And even if she’s gotten the idea that I don’t like it, she still doesn’t understand the gravity of it the way that I do. Does that give me the right to kill or maim her?

    I said:

    If he’s all powerful, he could have given us the same level of perfection that Jesus had so that we would be able to live more perfectly and be more pleasing to him. Instead, he purposely handicapped us, and then decided to reject us because of the same handicap.

    To which you said:

    I see it that we have been created in such a way that we are invited to follow and be transformed through God.

    Have you seen this happen? Do you know any Christians who have achieved and maintain a state of perfection? And even if you do, why do you think God decided to create us without this quality, since without it we are considered guilty?

    Thanks!

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  105. I was discussing this topic with someone the other day and either he or i (cant recall which) commented on how some believers have defended the OT’s depiction of god slaughtering nations, to include their women and children, by saying that since all life belongs to god, it’s perfectly fine for him to do with it what he pleases, even to slaughter it.

    neither of us found this compelling. Perhaps all lives do belong to god, but if he finds all life to be precious (and the bible would have us think he does), and if his creation is to think it is also precious, then god laying waste to lives, and even sweet baby and toddler lives, then at the very best it’s like an extremely rich man burning his $100 bills in front of the exceeding poor.

    Perhaps the rich man can do as he likes with his own cash, but even so, at the very least it’s a jerk move to do so in front of others who had a use for it and placed great value in it.

    Having baby’s hacked to pieces is not merciful by any stretch of the imagination. Severing the heads of terrified toddlers after they’ve witnessed the gruesome demise of their parents and siblings is never justice. Doing all of that and then keeping the virgin girls for themselves is not love.

    Either god is not merciful, just or loving, or the bible (at least the OT) doesn’t accurately depict god.

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  106. William, I think you’ve said it well. I’m not sure whether or not there is such a thing as objective morality, but the bible claims there is and it makes a mockery of the very objective morality that it’s trying to claim.

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  107. Josh

    I have a dog who sometimes gets out of our backyard. And when she does, she occasionally finds some animal’s poop to roll around in. Just loves it, apparently. As you can imagine, I can’t stand it. And I have to bathe her before she can come back into the house. Despite how much I hate it and think it’s disgusting, she can’t imagine what would be wrong with it. It’s just part of her nature. She doesn’t mean to be offensive, even though she most definitely is.

    Nate, I actually love this analogy. It fits really well with my understanding of God and humanity.

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  108. Josh

    or the bible (at least the OT) doesn’t accurately depict god.

    I lean more toward this explanation of OT, and even some NT, writings.

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  109. Josh,

    I’ve been trying to really consider positions like the one you have or that UnkleE has regarding the bible, and while I dont identify with it, or even really find it compelling, I do think that maybe I am beginning to understand it a little better.

    Is it that you can maintain your faith in the bible, despite some serious problems or issues, because you realize that men are fallible, and that it would then stand to reason that their part in assembling and composing the bible would have errors?

    And then when it comes to how can you know which parts are from god and which parts of from man, it’s that you view good and evil like light and dark, as in the distinction between the two are perfectly obvious?

    I am tempted to dismiss this line of thought all together by suggesting that if man can identify right and wrong inside the bible, then man is also capable of deciding right and wrong without the bible; but i suppose that may be over simplifying things. Jesus said he came to save the lost, like a doctor treats sick people and not healthy people, so i guess you’d view the bible as being necessary to light the paths for those who couldn’t figure it out on their own.

    Is this getting close to decoding your position?

    Like I said earlier, i still dont identify with it and i can still some holes that keep me from buying in, but i do think i am beginning to understand it better… maybe.

    there are still some parts of the bible I think on often and try to apply. In other words, leaving the faith didnt mean that i can no longer find value in teh bible, it just means that i dont think god had anything to do with it.

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  110. Josh

    william-
    I certainly don’t want to speak for unkleE. So, this what I write is just my perspective. I look at the “Bible” similarly to how I look at any collection of writing about a person. If you look at a number of authors’ accounts of the life of, say, George Washington, you’d see a number of things that are similar across accounts. You’d also see a number of things that are dissimilar or even contradictory. You can see this even today despite all of our instant recording capabilities. I could show two videos of the same person interacting in different situations and you’d swear they’re not the same person. So, yes, I allow for human error in the recording of what God is “like”. Beyond that, even, the only way we have to talk about God is in an anthropomorphic way, as we do any nonhuman species. That doesn’t necessarily make the conversation invalid, just that we have to understand that our language and human perspective will never perfectly resemble that of another kind of being. In terms of deciding what is true in scripture and what is not – that can be difficult. I look at how strongly pronounced grace is preached by Paul, and I can see threads of that even in amongst the brutal OT. It’s not a perfect understanding, and certainly has holes. The more I read and study, that continues to stand out to me. My personal experience and faith confirm this. Flawed, certainly, but it’s where my journey continues to bring me.

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  111. Josh, this is sort of where I have difficulty understanding this sort of position, because if you treat it like any other book, and if you see the problems in it, like you would in many other works of man, then why not just think of it as a product of man like you do with all other books?

    I know this is rehashing old ground, so we don’t have to delve into it again, but as I try to look at this through your eyes, this is one of the things that keeps popping up in my mind.

    Instead, at this point, i suppose i’d rather simply agree with you that one could live a righteous life by following the bible as long as they tossed aside the parts aren’t just or that are rather heinous.

    I hope you enjoyed your christmas and I wish you a happy new year.

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  112. Josh

    William-
    I’m happy to rehash if you want. I’ll just give some short response, and you can take it further if you’d like.

    this is sort of where I have difficulty understanding this sort of position, because if you treat it like any other book, and if you see the problems in it, like you would in many other works of man, then why not just think of it as a product of man like you do with all other books?

    I do think of it much like any other book, and as a product of men. Like with any other collection of works about someone, I think there are overall truths that can be gleaned from a collection of books that have apparent problems. I see a thread of grace running through the whole of scripture, despite apparent commands by God in the OT to annihilate groups of people. Those threads appear again in the NT in the Gospels, Paul’s writings, and others. So, it seems to me there is underlying truth about God communicated in scripture despite areas that give contradicting accounts. Anyway, take from that what you will. In addition to all of that, there’s also my own personal experience, conversations I’ve had with others, books I’ve read from others’ experiences, and even other religious and nonreligious texts. They all seem to me to point to similar truths best represented in Jesus and His teachings.

    Instead, at this point, i suppose i’d rather simply agree with you that one could live a righteous life by following the bible as long as they tossed aside the parts aren’t just or that are rather heinous.

    I hope you enjoyed your christmas and I wish you a happy new year.

    In response here I’ll just say that I don’t think scripture is primarily about living righteously. I think the thread is about communicating who God is despite any shortcomings on our part. Living righteously is certainly desirable, and God would have us do that. But, the reality is – I’ll speak for myself – that I always fall short of others’ and my own expectations despite how hard I may try and how deeply I may believe. The answer isn’t to try harder or do better. The answer is to understand we are accepted and loved as we are, and go from there.

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  113. so, it’s like koran , in other words? where there’s a theme of god’s grace and people can confirm it through personal experiences.

    I guess i was sort of being sarcastic, but wasnt trying to be mean.

    For me, in order to view the bible as some reliable source of/from god, I guess I’d have to say that it’s because good and evil are like night and day, black and white, light and dark – complete and obvious opposites.

    Good would be clearly seen as good and evil clearly seen as evil. I could take this and then be able to accept the good of the bible while discarding the bad.

    Except I’d have a hard time seeing or showing how the bible is superior to any other book or religion. This difficulty on my part is what also makes it hard for me to completely comprehend positions like yours.

    If i believed in god or gods, and if i though he/they must have written us a book (or at least commissioned a book on his/their behalf), I suppose I’d probably come to think that any book with good in it would do and that there were many paths to the top of the mountain.

    but you and I dont have to agree or see eye to eye – am i just trying to see if from your point of view.

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  114. Josh

    I hear what you’re saying, William. I just don’t see it from that perspective. And, honestly, that’s okay that we don’t come at it the same way. I’ve modified what I believe and why I believe it many times, and there’s no reason for me to think that won’t happen again and again over time. The longer I search, the less I seem to understand. So, I go with what seems to best explain everything I’ve come across and keep moving forward.

    Thanks, William.

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