Sunday, January 07, 2007

Fundamentalist Atheism?

The current Atheist Papal Authority
"Fundamentalist Atheist" is a title that is unwanted by atheists but is beginning to be applied more and more. Atheists have tried to make their philosophy appear to be the free-thinking, rational, non-dogmatic worldview. This image is now being scoffed at as the stripes of Fundamentalism in Atheistic philosophy are becomming evident for all to see. This has become particularly clear in the polemical attacks from what seems to be an Atheist clergy led by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins has put out a documentary "The Root of All Evil" in which he makes the assertion that Religion (All) has been the root of nearly all the bloody wars in history, and really is stunting the intellectual growth of man in general. In short if religion was done away with altogether the world would be a better place.

The term "Fundamentalist Atheist" really begins to be applicable when we see that atheists share distinct commonalities with every other fundamentalist religious group. This is in claims of exclusivity (Atheists are quite dogmatic that there is no God and all theists are wrong) in holy texts (Darwin's Origin of The Species) evangelism (there are numerous atheist outreach groups, Dawkins movie is one example of Atheist evangelism) etc. This is well presented in the documentary "The Trouble with Atheism" which is at the bottom of this post.

Now, Dawkins and most atheists will explain the existance of religion as basically being a crutch for the intellectually weak. Now we have come to a place evolutionarily where God is no longer necessary, we are at a place where we do not need to elplain lightning and rain with deities science has filled those gaps. The only reason religion continues is because people are simply weak and need a pie in the sky promise. Most atheists will use the line: "Just like I don't believe in fairies, elfs, or unicorns neither do I believe in God."

But what of ethics? How is ethics/morality accounted for in an atheistic/evolutionary philosophy? Well evolutionarily of course. Morality is always changing, shifting to fit man's contexual needs. I can not give an atheistic ethical theory that ALL will agree to, however, MOST adhear to a kind of social majority view of morality (What is right and wrong is determined by the majority opinion in a particular society). This is generally based on what makes the majority happy or what is least harful for the majority.

I will address these points, and have a documetary at the end of this post which talks about the Fundamentalist nature of Atheism. (It is really really good)

I) Religion the Root of Evil?

Well from the outset this is absurd, because in order to even call something evil you need an objective moral standard from which you base your moral judgements. Dawkins does not have this, nor does any atheist (As we saw the best ethical theories atheists can contrive is consensus based so all Dawkins is really entitled to say is "Most people think religion is evil."). So in making this assertion the atheist is really guilty of unwarranted dogmatism. Yes it is true people flew a plane into the WTC on 9/11 in the name of God but the atheist has no objective footing on which to stand where he can say: "9/11 was immoral!" The atheist can an does say things like this all the time, but I would submit in doing so he is being inconsistant with his worldview and really borrowing from my objective Christian ethics.

The next problem that arises with this charge is the cherry picking of data and historical facts. Yes it is indeed true that many people of all religious stripes have done horrible things in the name of God, however, one only has to look to the 20th century communist regimes to realize that Atheism has blood on its hands as well. Communist Russia was an atheistic regime which exterminated over 20 million people, many of them specifically because they would not deny Christ. Richard Wurmbrand is an example of a Christian who suffered under the oppressive atheist Communist regimes for his Christianity. This is one of the tennants of Communism, to eliminate all religion and establish an atheistic state. This led to much bloodshed.

Not only this but there is an undoubted link between the Darwinian ideas of natural selection and its offspring eugenics. Eugenics is the idea that we will selectively eliminate the unwanted traits in human beings thus speeding the evolutionary process. Margrett Sanger the woman who started Planned Parenthood was a big supporter of eugenics (particularly directed at brown people). Not only this but all this talk of eliminating unwanted traits led to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany which was seeking to produce a "MasterThe consequences of bad philosophy... race". This ties directly into evolutionary theory, which is the foundation of all atheistic explanations of life.

This being so it is simply wrong to have a rosey/idealistic utopian picture of a society run without religion, people have done it, and it has led to oppressive Totalitarianism wherever it has been done. To make the assertion that religion is the root of all evil is simply absurd and selective of historical facts. Yes wars and evil is done in the name of God, however there are a lot of wars and a lot of evil done under Atheistic presuppositions. To not acknowledge this really is to either be ignorant of the facts or minipulate the data to fit a theory (Dawkins probably knows a lot about that being an evolutionist Paleontologist).

II) Religion a Crutch for the Weak

The thing about bad philosophy seems to be that the charge can always be turned on its head upon the one making it. Just as Dawkins and many atheists assert that Religion is just a crutch for weak minded individuals who simply can not deal with reality, so the Theist can make the same accusation to the atheist. Atheism the Theist can say is for the weak, who simply can not cope with the reality of not being autonomous but accountable to a Creator.

In like manner the oft repeated line of "Religion is just wishful thinking...people want to think there is a heaven awaiting them after death" can also be turned on its head.
For example one could say, "Atheism is just wishful thinking, for weak people who can not deal with the reality of standing before God Almighty and being damned...so the Atheist is engaged in wishful thinking, he wishes there is no God so he says there is no God."

In reality when we make such charges we are really playing Freud, we think we know how the other person arrived at the conclusion (wishful thinking). Indeed it is probably true that there are Theists who are Theists out of a wishful thinking but the same I think can be said of Atheists. However, to make a blanket statement that all Theists are such by wishful thinking is simply arrogant and presumptuous.

III) Ethics

Well I think the problems that are evident when we approach Atheistic ethical systems is the unavoidable relativism. When we base our ethics upon any particular (man's reason for example) rleativism is unavoidable. By relativism I mean that there is no fixed unchanging standard for what right and wrong are, in the example I gave above right and wrong are changing based upon a societies majority view. This leads to multiple problems, for instance if a particular societies majority has a view that homosexuality is wrong what is the standard that minority of people who say homosexuality is right base their morality? Society itself is the standard, so no real moral shifts could take place.

Likewise on what footing can one society critique another societies morality if morality is based upon majority consensus within the particular society within which one resides? For example on what basis can we look at Hitler's eugenics and say that it was wrong? Who is right when two seperate societies with differing morals disagree, how can we tell? We are arrogantly imposing our consensus based morality onto a consensus that does not agree. In this vacuum I think all that is left is power, the atheist is right based upon his worldview the society is the standard, however the society will ultimatly be led by a Totalitarian elite just like ALL of the Atheist based governments have been.

As a Christian I have no such dilemma. My ethical system is not based upon any particular but on an absolute objective Being that transcends time and space, this provides an adequate basis for universal and unchanging morality. In the Christian worldview ethics reflect the character of the Triune God revealed in His word, thus they are as unchanging and absolute as His character is.

Atheists almost always raise ignorant questions like: "What if tommorrow God said that rape is now good, would you listen?...Nope didn't think so, so your morality really isn't based upon God!" This is just dumb. It's dumb because the Christian Biblical God has revealed that He does NOT change (James 1:17) but is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
So if something apeared to me no matter how majestic and said: "Hey I'm God, about that rape stuff ya know I changed my mind..." I know that this is not the True Biblical God who is immutable (unchanging) and is an imposter.

In asking such a question like: "Can God make a rock that He can't lift?" the Atheist is commiting a catagorical fallacy. Can God do something He cant do? That is really what is being said in this "profound objection to Christianity". In the case of the "What if God one day said rape was good..." the Atheist is asking "What if God did something He can't do (Change His mind and go against His unchanging character)?"

I have just addressed these pop-Atheist arguments that I hear almost everyday from atheists. These arguments really are so philosophically schlocky I just find it sadly ironic that these are the guys who call themselves the "Free-thinkers" and the ones who live by pure reason. Our reason just like our souls needs to be redeemed and brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, for just like the inspired apostle Paul wrote:

"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools," (Rom 1:21-22)

We need to understand that not only will those who reject and hate God be judged, but also that their atheism IS judgement from God. As Paul states:

"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." (Romans 1:24-25)

To conblude, here is the documentary I promised "The trouble with Atheism"

The Trouble with Atheism (part 1) by Rod Liddle


The Trouble with Atheism (part 2) by Rod Liddle


I found it to be a good response to all of the pop atheistic rhetoric. My only hangup is that Liddle did not approach this as a Christian, but from the supposedly neutral "agnostic" position. Still, there is good stuff here.

39 comments:

natamllc said...

Bobby

I would only add, insert by the power of modernity, Paul's ancient request with relative and common urgency in the declining post modern era of something???:::>

2Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2Th 3:2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
2Th 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil.
2Th 3:4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
2Th 3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.


As for Richard, it just dawned on me who he is and your toe to toe with him.

You must have gotten to him!

michael

Bob said...

Hey Michael-
The "Richard Dawkins" who is always commenting over here isn't the same as the Richard Dawkins I am referring to in the post. Obviously the "Richard Dawkins" commentor is a a misguided young man and looks up to the real Richard Dawkins greatly. My prayer is that they see the effects of their philosophy and the reality of Jesus Christ.

Mark said...

awesome post Bob! I cross posted it if you don't mind.

Bob said...

That's quite alright Mark, I am humbled.

Jody said...

Except that Dawkins doesn’t argue religion is a crutch for the intellectually weak, that the world would suddenly be a utopia if Religion went away or that ethics shift to fit the context of man. He does argue that they are the product of evolution, so you get a quarter point for that.

Oh, and the title of his show was The Root of All Evil ? There was a question mark on the end. (Matches the book, too.) Dawkins has said in several interviews that the title was his publisher's idea to gain both controversy and free press.

I will say that you write straw-man arguments quite well. You’ve got a bright future with that line of work, Bob.

Bob said...

Jody said:

"Except that Dawkins doesn’t argue religion is a crutch for the intellectually weak"

Um, actually that's exactly what Dawkins' says...if you watched Liddle's documentary you would see Dawkin's says almost those exact words several times. Dawkin's and materialists need to give an account for the ubiquotous presence of religion in cultures across the world, they do so by saying it fills the intellectual gaps that science is now filling. Ancient (synonymous with stupid) man didn't know how lightning worked, so says the materialist he just said some god was how it worked. Now that man is more intellectually stabel we no longer need to envoke supernatural deities, we have a thing called natural science to explain phenomena.

You are correct in pointing that Dawkins does not say that a world without religion will automatically be a Utopian society...but he certainly IS saying that rejection of religion is the first step toward acheiving such a society (b/c of all the evil religious dogma unleashes).

I know this is a simplification of the argument, but it is NOT a straw man. Almost every atheist I talk with speaks of religion in a condescending tone just like this. Religion is for the weak stupid and gullible, science and naturalism is for the strong.

"I will say that you write straw-man arguments quite well. You’ve got a bright future with that line of work, Bob."

So because I forgot a question mark on the title of Dawkin's documentary that means everything I said is just a straw man?

natamllc said...

Bobby

I'll answer that and stick my nose in, it's running anyway, sneeze!

yes, and you are conspiring with a grant conspiracy to defeat atheism!

boo!

:)

aaah, did I digress?

michael

Bob said...

I guess so...hehe

Christinewjc said...

Bob,

This is truly an excellent post. You hit all of the usual "talking points" that atheists generally like to throw in the face of Christian believers, despite the enormous evidence to the contrary of such skeptics views. (Especially the Person of Jesus Christ and his resurrection to life as a fact of history). Atheists like Dawkins refuse to face the reality that God does, indeed, exist. Speaking of reason. It is true, in fact, that God is the only reason we are here in the first place!

I have a question for you. What do you think motivates people like Jody to come to our blogs and argue with us?

For me, it doesn't appear (on the surface, anyway) that he is searching for his Creator God. Could it be that he is only here to demean and mock us for our strong beliefs? Or, like Liddle said in the video, is it because Jody is doing what atheism unrealistically tries to do? Namely, as Liddle said in the video, "as if a blank position could show us how to live our lives?"

It's just not logical. It's like trying to create a math problem with all blanks!

Loved seeing and listening to that atheist with the sign in the video. Liddle's comment that "bonafide loonies" exist in the atheistic world...was priceless!

Great work! Loved the first video...will watch the second half now.

In Christ,
Christine

natamllc said...

Oh yeah Bobby

where do you get all that grant money to conspire to get rid of all atheists anyway? You have a wife and two children and and and. I could use some of it, can I borrow sum?

Christine, remember the lake of Fire, that's the place people go when they die in their sins? I am sure you know that and I am putting all kidding aside.

We are "a" war. We are Ministers of Reconciliation. We do represent the Eternal. Atheism is a temporal doctrine of demons.

The way I would frame it, first quoting you:::>[[Atheists like Dawkins refuse to face the reality that God does, indeed, exist.]]

Why does God refuse to move on atheists like dawkins yet seeing He does not refuse any who call upon the Name of the Lord?

Just from my read of your post hereon, it seems that you minimize God's Sovereign abilities to touch any soul at any ole' Sovereign time He wants. Remember Paul, though he was not an Atheist, he too was misguided by lies from the evil forces of wickedness?

Let's engage them as God's Sovereign Children with the clear understanding Who we are representing, that Eternal Life we have been given leaving the Understanding and Life Giving to God.

I refer you to John 17:3

Bob said...

Christine asked:

"I have a question for you. What do you think motivates people like Jody to come to our blogs and argue with us?"

I can't say for sure with all of them, but I think some (very few) really are seeking answers. But most the guys who pop in say their one liner and never bother to have a genuine dialogue fit into one of these catagories:

1)Just like to make fun of people.

2)Are Atheists trying to evangelize to the unreached Theists.

3)They want to reassure themselves that they are right and all Christians are stupid. So they talk to us like we're stupid and they have all the rational answers.

I think these are some reasons behind the actions.

Jody said...

Bob,

Dawkins argues that believing in gods, like believing in fareies, is irrational; that people aren't thinking when they make such claims. He's written that there are very smart people who believe in gods -- but that belief is for belief's sake, not through reason and logic.

You have simplified an argument to the point of creating a Straw Man, by one saying that Dawkins believes religion to -be- the root of all evil and that people are dumb, therefore they believe in Religion.

His argument, time and time again, is that investigation and reason has done more for Humankind than all the prayers of history put together.

Pretty good argument.

Bob said...

Jody said:
"Dawkins argues that believing in gods, like believing in fareies, is irrational; that people aren't thinking when they make such claims."

Well if you presuppose materialism that is very rational. But is it rational to presuppose materialism? That simply is NOT something testable by science, Dawkins and men like you make science overstep its bounds and use it to "disprove" the metaphysical. Natural science by its very nature can merely make hypothesis about the natural world. Whether or not there is a metaphysical world is entirely out of sciences field of study. This is Philosophy of science 101 yet nearly every atheist I talk with talks as though science has some how eliminated God.

Anyway as for fairies and God being in the same catagory, sure that makes for a whitty one liner before a group of young people on C-Span but really it is a logical fallacy of equivocation. God and fairies are not equivelant simply because one of their properties are said to be immaterial. This is just slapstick philosophy and frankly it seems to be the best atheists have come up with lately.

God's existance is necessary to account for transcendentals (universal: laws of morality, laws of logic, laws of nature [in an unchanging sense: see Hume's riddle of induction]), He is transcendentally necessary whereas fairies simply are not.

"His argument, time and time again, is that investigation and reason has done more for Humankind than all the prayers of history put together.

Pretty good argument."


What argument? You talk as if reason and religion are antithetical to one another...that was my point! You are guilty of doublespeak, you want to say there are intelligent Christians yet you want to say that they are simply irrational persons, where atheists like Dawkins are the rational progressives.

You want to talk about atheism as "progress" well just answer this simple question: How do you know what is morally right and what is morally wrong? What is your standard?

Bob said...

Also:

"You have simplified an argument to the point of creating a Straw Man, by one saying that Dawkins believes religion to -be- the root of all evil and that people are dumb, therefore they believe in Religion"

Well, it was NEVER my stance that the "Christians are weak minded people who are stupid" line was the ENTIRETY of Dawkins argument. You are acting as if that was the only point I harped on. That was one of many. Anyway the real point was to show that atheists are just as dogmatic as any fundamentalist theist.

So in reality YOU ARE the one guilty of the straw-man against me. I simply have NOT reduced Dawkin's argument to that one point. I believe I adressed three seperate areas in the original post my friend.

Oh and it would be nice to see that quote from Dawkins you aluded to.

Anonymous said...

Bob,

Dawkin's is correct in one "fundamental" respect which crucially underpins the basis of scientific advancement; The postulation of the singular importance of maintaining an incredulous perspective toward the approach of religionists of any shade whatever, in pursuit of continual, ever-shifting progress, via testable, empirical and tangible evidential bases. In this way, the scientific discourse only gains efficacy, and legitimacy through the destruction of argument, the revision of percieved givens, and the incremental development of human understanding.

The fact that there will ever-remain gaps, chasms, and veritable abysses of undiscovered aspects of the natural world, is neither a reason to dismiss science as the undisputed methodology for advancing our understanding of the corporeal universe, nor to subscribe to a set of ancient, unverifiable, and immeasurably ludicrous doctrine to cement the cavities.

There is no doubt that Liddle has been mildly aggrieved by the popularity of Dawkin's latest, unadulterated onslaught on religiosity in all its forms, and I can quite understand his irritation. Dawkin's forthright denunciations of religion per se, while being from any scientific perspective impeccably argued, remain counter-productive because they attempt to engage with the supernatural.

He is nevetheless assiduously aware of the increasing prevalence of radical theocratic viewpoints and their impact upon global politics, vis a vis the increase in ID within educational establishments, the prevalence of dogmatic, modernistic, fundamentalism whether within Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, and the resultant chaotic thinking which inevitably has followed.

Your definition of so-called "fundamentalist" atheism is semantically absurd. I appreciate it appropriates an oft-repeated, and misused definition of religious extremism and tosses it back to the non-believers however it rather misses the point. Atheism is at base (fundamentally) a subscription to the non-existence of a supernatural deity (of any way, shape, form, character, morals, ethics, attitude, demeanour etc). If one does not regard the existence of God, Allah, Jehova, Gott, Dieu, Eli, JHVH, Adonai, or any other such artificially-constructed (via humanity) entity, as credible one does not necessarily subscribe to a concommitant set of philosophical, endlessly sectarian, precepts.

Bob, I regard your knowledge of Christian theology to be impressive and will happily debate with you regarding interpretations of modern history, the development of biblical studies, and the role of the Church (both as a force for progress and stagnation) in European/American history. However I must stress that my interest in the realms of the supernatural remain confined to one distinct and all-important consensus (one predicated on the expansion of Protestantism in modern European history) and that is that secularism is the key parameter for any modern society, and the essential bulwark to prevent the creation of a theocratic dictatorship, which may precipitate the onset of an apocalyptic future, proposed and indeed craved by marginal elements of variegated "believers", of any sect. The destruction of the world, via superstition, while being an amusingly biblical end-point, is not an outcome that appeals to me.

natamllc said...

Dear King Richard

well tempered this report! It did catch me off guard.

Your sound reason and some depth of knowledge of things can lead the simple astray. I encourage them to stay the hell away from your word seeing they do not lead anywhere!

The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?

The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.


You are to be commended for wanting to debate Bobby.

My money is with his honey and not your stings!

Bob said...

Richard, you said:

"Dawkin's is correct in one "fundamental" respect which crucially underpins the basis of scientific advancement; The postulation of the singular importance of maintaining an incredulous perspective toward the approach of religionists of any shade whatever, in pursuit of continual, ever-shifting progress, via testable, empirical and tangible evidential bases"

No, absolutely NOT! That statement itself is NOT empirically verifiable so it is self refuting. What it is is to presuppose materialism from the outset and say only things that are materially testable are true/exist, that is to simply beg the very question. Verificationism was an atheistic attempt to creat a philosophy of science so as to make Religion absolutely impossible, I am surprised that Dawkins continues to say this stuff that has been abandoned by and large in the philosophy of science.

"The fact that there will ever-remain gaps, chasms, and veritable abysses of undiscovered aspects of the natural world, is neither a reason to dismiss science as the undisputed methodology for advancing our understanding of the corporeal universe, nor to subscribe to a set of ancient, unverifiable, and immeasurably ludicrous doctrine to cement the cavities."

Well here I agree, at least in part, I don't think god of the gaps arguments based upon natural phenomena are good arguments. However, there are aspects to human existance which simply are not testable by scientific induction, things like morals, uniformity of nature, laws of logic for example. These demand a transcendant Deity. What you are saying really illustrates Liddle's point in the documentary, science has become a sort of religion. You seem to think science will one day answer all of life's queries, this is a very optomistic assumption for a skeptic.

"Your definition of so-called "fundamentalist" atheism is semantically absurd. I appreciate it appropriates an oft-repeated, and misused definition of religious extremism and tosses it back to the non-believers however it rather misses the point. Atheism is at base (fundamentally) a subscription to the non-existence of a supernatural deity (of any way, shape, form, character, morals, ethics, attitude, demeanour etc). If one does not regard the existence of God, Allah, Jehova, Gott, Dieu, Eli, JHVH, Adonai, or any other such artificially-constructed (via humanity) entity, as credible one does not necessarily subscribe to a concommitant set of philosophical, endlessly sectarian, precepts."

Well, yes, but that being the case I think it is evident the Atheist goes beyond just having a blank postion. I would ask you to watch the videos I have posted.

"Bob, I regard your knowledge of Christian theology to be impressive and will happily debate with you regarding[...]"

Sure, I wouldn't mind, I have thought of having a debate blog and having formal debates on it, so just pick a topic and I'll make the forum and rules of engagement.

Jody said...

Well if you presuppose materialism that is very rational. But is it rational to presuppose materialism? That simply is NOT something testable by science…

Feh.

2600 years of looking for the Supernatural and none has shown up. While saying definitively such things do not exist is impossible, probabilties that are that close to zero are effectively zero.

More simply, if you want to keep waiting with Didi and Gogo, knock yourself out.

God's existance is necessary to account for transcendentals....

Or Thor's or Zeus' or the Flying Spaghetti Monster's...

What is your standard?

That the commonality of the grey matter between our ears is a far, far better place to start from than anything you've referenced.

Bob said...

"2600 years of looking for the Supernatural and none has shown up."

Really? I seem to recall reading of events like the parting of the Red Sea and a Man who walked on water claiming to forgive sins...but you probably rule those out based on a-priori naturalism.

"God's existance is necessary to account for transcendentals....

Or Thor's or Zeus' or the Flying Spaghetti Monster's..."


Well, this is equivocation and displays your ignorance of what is entailed in the transcendental argument. Thor and Zeus fail to provide transcendental basis for morality because they themselves are finite and immoral Deities (They are always cheating on their spouses with mortal females). Pantheism simply fails to give an adequate basis universal absolutes because its gods are finite.

You then bring up the FSM a cute little atheist concoction to make Theism of all forms look like mythology and akin to believing in magical cyclopse unicorns. The interesting thing about mythological projections is that they are spinoffs of things that actually exist. There are things called eyes and animals with horns and animals called horses, mix it up and you get a one eyed horned horse. This is a projection of things that man has already come into contact with. All false gods are such, just like the FSM. This is the origin of myth.

But this simply raises the question where does the idea of a perfect Being come from? Perfection is NOWHERE observable in the natural world so where does this notion even come from if we are products of the natural world? This is an ontological proof. So if you can honestly think that the FSM is just as likely an idea of perfection as an all powerful, all knowing, all good Being then I think they are one and the same you are simply talking about that Being rather crudely and irreverently.

Ultimatly, none of the other gods you listed can account for transcendentals (objective and universal morality, laws of logic, and the uniformity of nature).

I asked:
"What is your (moral) standard?"

you answered:
"That the commonality of the grey matter between our ears is a far, far better place to start from than anything you've referenced."

You use the term "better" showing you presuppose some sort of objective standard by which to be able to judge whether one ethical system is "better" than the another (of course claiming your's to be superior). You say using our brains is "better" than basing our ethics off the existance of God. This is simply to beg the very question, what is the standard you are going by that entitles you to say that ethics based on autonomous man's reasoning (brain) is "better" than ethics based upon the unchanging Character of God?

You are blatantly commiting the logical fallacy of begging the question.

Jody said...

Really? I seem to recall reading of events like the parting of the Red Sea...

Yeah, the wizard Djadjaemankh was a cool guy. It was fortunate that King Khufu had him around 1,000 years before Moses.

Oh, and it’s the Reed Sea.

Thor and Zeus fail to provide transcendental basis for morality because they themselves are finite…

Um, you can duke the transcendental morality and finite argument with Doreta Peppa, the current high priestess of Zeus, or a rep from the , in Maryland. Call him Kris Kringle or Father Christmas, they’re still just Santa Claus to me.

This is a projection of things that man has already come into contact with…This is the origin of myth.

Like how, when you’re little, your dad always manages to figure out you did something wrong, so when you grow up you create a Super Dad who Always Knows when you did something Wrong?

Perfection is NOWHERE observable in the natural world so where does this notion even come from if we are products of the natural world?

Come to think of it, my Left-Handed WhoofleWhomper isn’t as good as I think it should be. Somewhere, there must be the Ultimate Left Handed WhoofleWhomper that meets all of my needs. Maybe on Ebay.

You use the term "better" showing you presuppose some sort of objective standard..

I didn’t presuppose any objective standard for “better,” merely a relational one, steeped in the ability of the brain’s various regions to judge differing elements of life. While it’s not as ethereal as your ideas, it does have the benefit of parsimony, with one less level of supposition involved.

It also saves me the embarrassment of having to spin sacred stories of
rape and genocide into a hollow, they-deserved-it defense in order to preserve the comforting dogma of “the unchanging Character of God?”

Jody said...

Really? I seem to recall reading of events like the parting of the Red Sea...

Yeah, the wizard Djadjaemankh was a cool guy. It was fortunate that King Khufu had him around 1,000 years before Moses.

Thor and Zeus fail to provide transcendental basis for morality because they themselves are finite…

Um, you can duke the transcendental morality and finite argument with Doreta Peppa, the current high priestess of Zeus, or a rep from the , in Maryland. Call him Kris Kringle or Father Christmas, they’re still just Santa Claus to me.

This is a projection of things that man has already come into contact with…This is the origin of myth.

Like how, when you’re little, your dad always manages to figure out you did something wrong, so when you grow up you create a Super Dad who Always Knows when you did something Wrong?

Perfection is NOWHERE observable in the natural world so where does this notion even come from if we are products of the natural world?

Come to think of it, my Left-Handed WhoofleWhomper isn’t as good as I think it should be. Somewhere, there must be the Ultimate Left Handed WhoofleWhomper that meets all of my needs. Maybe on Ebay.

You use the term "better" showing you presuppose some sort of objective standard..

I didn’t presuppose any objective standard for “better,” merely a relational one, steeped in the ability of the brain’s various regions to judge differing elements of life. While it’s not as ethereal as your ideas, it does have the benefit of parsimony, with one less level of supposition involved.

It also saves me the embarrassment of having to spin sacred stories of
rape and genocide into a hollow, they-deserved-it defense in order to preserve the comforting dogma of “the unchanging Character of God?”

Jody said...

Hmm...

Something wrong with the HTML. It looked fine in the preview.

Bob said...

Jody-
Hey nice to hear from you again, really I mean that. But I see that you are still playing the verificationist game equating all metaphysical beings (purely mythical or not) with one another. That's fine, if you don't want to seriously think about what I said you can do that. The point is that there are transcendental assumptions we ALL make as humans. I gave you three of these: Ethics, Logic, and the uniformity of nature. You haven't begun to form what could even be considered a rational account for these according to YOUR worldview. All you have done is mock and Ad-hom the Christian worldview and equate it to believing any old thing without evidence.

Your response to the ontological argument is again just to beg the question. I don't know what a "Whoofle whomper" is, but the point remains that you can't explain it without referring to things that really do exist.

Anyway to the real error you said:

"I didn’t presuppose any objective standard for “better,” merely a relational one, steeped in the ability of the brain’s various regions to judge differing elements of life. While it’s not as ethereal as your ideas, it does have the benefit of parsimony, with one less level of supposition involved.

It also saves me the embarrassment of having to spin sacred stories of rape and genocide into a hollow, they-deserved-it defense in order to preserve the comforting dogma of “the unchanging Character of God?”


Well, what if you and Atheist Ted disagree as to whether molesting children for fun is actually morally upright. You for some bizarre reason think that it is bad, but Atheist Ted says "No, really there is nothing wrong with it, and I have a team of peer-reviewed psychologists to back me up." Which one of you is right? You seem to be claiming that we can just autonomusly think these things out, no need of an objective moral standard based on some God or anything ridiculous like that. So how am I to know which of you guys is right? Is molesting children for fun moral or immoral? Are you right or is Ted with his team of psychologists?

Now as far as spinning stories, I don't need to. You have no objective moral standard as an atheist to look at what happened in the Bible and say "That is immoral!" You might feel that way, and you might assume a set of morals. But, you can not provide rational basis for your moral judgement...its just what you feel and frankly it's rather arrogant to push your subjective feelings about right and wrong on to other people.

See you don't really live in the world of subjective autonomus morality, you know things like molesting children are wrong because you are made in God's image. In standing up and saying "The things that happened in the Bible are wrong" you are being inconsistant with your worldview. You assume that the same stadard of ethics applies to all people when you can not rationally account for this.

Thus in your raising the "Bad" stuff in the Bible that I need to explain you really just beg the very question, as to what "bad" even is according to your worldview.

King of all atheists said...

You stupid fundie, this is so ridiculous, everything you are saying is dumb, I guess I should expect that because you are a fundie. I don't have time to watch the video because I know it's just a buch of fundie junk. All you do is make a straw man, I don't have time to explain how what you said is a straw man because it is just so stupid.

Jody said...

Well, what if you and Atheist Ted disagree as to whether molesting children for fun is actually morally upright…

Let’s make it a little more interesting, shall we? Say my buddy Ted wants to molest a kid, and I, to be different, purely wish to kill one. Not all atheists are alike, after all.

As we puzzle for a moment about the morality of our desired actions, I bring to light again my thought from before, that since we and the child share a common history, with common thoughts, feelings and desires, asking ourselves if we’d like to be either raped or killed might not that be a fair standard to start from in judging the ethics of our possible choices?

Ted, a fairly hip fellow, agrees that’s a good point. Based on that, we really shouldn’t maim or otherwise decimate this poor helpless kid.

“But what about if the kid says they –want- to be raped or murdered?” That Ted, always a gadfly.

We quickly recall that, when we were that age, we often said things we didn’t mean or understand. There was much that we were still learning about the world, so what might have sounded like a good idea to either of us then, upon later reflection, turned out to be not so good. So probably still not a good idea, even if the weeun might have said something.

“Coffee,” I ask, looking for my Starbuck’s card.

“Wait!” Ted says, stumbling across a new idea. “We’re being purely relational, relative and rational about all this. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something more permanent? Say a supernatural, perfect solution to this otherwise vexing problem?”

“Why you are right, Ted.” Upset that I hadn’t considered the Bob Alternative before.

“Bob says that God, his god, unlike the rest, is perfect and transcendental, the same today as He was yesterday. Let’s check out the Bible first, just to be safe. If our relative idea is the same as the Bible’s, we’re on firmer ground, in fact, we could even be secretly influenced by some Unseen Hand!”

So with the bright, bubbling blue eyes of our fair haired child attached to our every move, a subtle reminder indeed of the states involved here, Ted hands me a Bible, and I do a quick search to see what it has to say on the topic on the floor.

“Now this is interesting, Ted.”

“What is?”

“Seems I’m allowed to kill a child a child provided my sacrifice is in thanks for a great victory from God. (Judges 11:29-40.) It uses a slight euphemism for that murder (“sacrifice”) but the result is the same. Oh, apparently God can command me to kill a child too, according to Genesis 22.”

“But what about---?”

“Rape? I’m getting there. Seems that we both can get what we want, as long as we’re dealing with a condemned nation, such as the Midianites. According to God, it’s perfectly okay to kill every last one of their males, both adult and child.”

Ted pulls out his knife. “Oh really?”

“Yeah. And provided none of the Midanite women have had sex, it’s okay to rape them as well. If they have had sex, then we gotta kill them.”

“Get to the child part,” Ted said, eagerly.

“Well, if someone hasn’t already beaten you to the finish line, it’s perfectly okay to put on a little Barry White and retire early with your pre-teen

“AWESOME!”

He thinks for a minute.

“But wait. Doesn’t the newer part condemn all of that?”

“Not explicitly, no.”

“But what about that whole ‘turn the other cheek / do unto others stuff…’”

“Good words, “ I say. “But I think that’s a contradiction from before.

“Oooooo. You are right! It is different than what was said earlier. If God changed his mind once in a few thousand years, couldn’t he do it again? Bob said that doesn’t happen!” Ted was now very upset.

“Well, we could come up with a ridiculous explanation for why what the text says isn’t really what the text says,” I offered, picking up my drop cloth and throwing it and the shovel I’d brought into the back of the car.

“But then we’d just be fooling ourselves!”

“True.”

“Damnit, “ Ted said, hunching up into a ball and pouting. “I really wanted to do some raping. And maybe get in on a bit of murder too. Since my reason won’t let me do it, I was SO hoping religion might.”

“Well, there’s always Islam. I hear they don’t even try to rationalize it into making any sense.”

At that, Ted smiled.

Bob said...

hey jody, you said:

"As we puzzle for a moment about the morality of our desired actions, I bring to light again my thought from before, that since we and the child share a common history, with common thoughts, feelings and desires, asking ourselves if we’d like to be either raped or killed might not that be a fair standard to start from in judging the ethics of our possible choices?

Ted, a fairly hip fellow, agrees that’s a good point. Based on that, we really shouldn’t maim or otherwise decimate this poor helpless kid."


Well, this simply begs the question, why should I care about my neighbor as myself? you assume that I should and are borrowing from my worldview. I mean sure Ted wouldn't enjoy being violently molested himself, but why should he give a rip if it happens to someone else? Why should he give a rip about all that common experience glopidy goop, just sounds like you're pushing your dogma on Ted.

And really this cute little ethic of do unto others is in reality borrowing from my worldview, which gives sufficient grounding for why it should be obeyed.

Anyway as for the rest, you hold the Bible up to your presuppositions of ethics, which I still don't see a rational foundation for thus begging the question. Is offering your son up as Abraham did Isaac wrong? You seem to think so, on what grounds?

As it stands right now we have your arbitrary opinion about what is right and wrong being dogmatically pushed like it's some sort of absolute fact for the world to heed. You need to deal with a foundation for ethics according to your worldview before you can start assuming an ethical stadard by which to criticise the ethics of the Bible. You are operating on ethical assumptions the Christian worldview has provided western culture (do unto others) and thus not really being consistant with your atheism. You honestly haven't begun to form anything that can be considered an answer.

That being so all the criticism's you raise of the Bible's ethics really is arbitrarily and can be dismissed as meer whimsical opinion, just jody's opinion.

Ultimatly however, what we have in your criticism is a failure to distinguish between historical narrative (a recording of what happened) and the prescriptive literature (normative direction as to how God's people should live). And no going and conquering lands in the name of God is NOT normative. The conquest of Canaan was for judgement of their sin and it was just. You might say that it was "wrong" because you don't like the Bible, but again you have no real foundation for ruling "X" to be wrong, it's just your subjective opinion.

anyway you said:

"“But what about---?”

“Rape? I’m getting there. Seems that we both can get what we want, as long as we’re dealing with a condemned nation, such as the Midianites. According to God, it’s perfectly okay to kill every last one of their males, both adult and child.”

Ted pulls out his knife. “Oh really?”

“Yeah. And provided none of the Midanite women have had sex, it’s okay to rape them as well. If they have had sex, then we gotta kill them.”

“Get to the child part,” Ted said, eagerly.

“Well, if someone hasn’t already beaten you to the finish line, it’s perfectly okay to put on a little"


Now THIS is what a straw man argument is! You are just making up off the wall narratives and saying that it represents Biblical ethics. God would have been ok with it if some Israelite while they were conquering Canaan molested children...you've got to be kidding! You even make seem like the Israelites are fighting to commit pedophilia, this is the definition of a straw-man. You have absolutely no source to verify this sort of charge, you just made it up and called it "Biblical ethics".

Also the Midianite example is just an oft repeated and uncited atheist fable, God never gave anybody a command to go and rape women. You read into the text what you want to see.

Even if I was an atheist I would say this is simply ridiculous and counterintuitive to any real discussion/reasoning.

Next you say:
"“But what about that whole ‘turn the other cheek / do unto others stuff…’”

“Good words, “ I say. “But I think that’s a contradiction from before.

“Oooooo. You are right! It is different than what was said earlier. If God changed his mind once in a few thousand years, couldn’t he do it again? Bob said that doesn’t happen!”"


Couple obvious problems:

1) Why is "turn the other cheek and do unto others "good""? Just because you feel that they are? Because they show respect to mankind? That just begs the question. Why are these "good" Jody? Why should I in an atheistic universe give a rip about anyone else, and be humble and turn the other cheek?

2) You don't know what you're talking about. It is the Old Testament that teaches these ethics
Jesus is really just restating what the Law says, He's not saying anything new. Maybe you chould read the Bible yourself instead of going to the Bible criticism pages and regurgitating their lame unscholarly arguments.

"“Damnit, “ Ted said, hunching up into a ball and pouting. “I really wanted to do some raping. And maybe get in on a bit of murder too. Since my reason won’t let me do it, I was SO hoping religion might.”"

Bwahaha! This is so ridiculous. Not only is it a false dichotomy between reason and religion but you also assume that you have provided ethical reasons not to rape in an Atheist universe.

"“Well, there’s always Islam. I hear they don’t even try to rationalize it into making any sense.”

At that, Ted smiled."


That's actually true.

I don't know what else to say bro, you have a pretty romantic view of autonomous reason's ability to provide groudning for ethics yet you have not in any way furnished a foundation for ethics based on your worldview. All you have done is assume an ethic (a Christian one) and build a straw man of Old Testament ethics and throw rocks at it. If you don't think there are multiple things wrong with what you said I don't think anything I say will, for someone who trusts in autonomous reason you have done some pretty poor reasoning here.

Not only have you misrepresented Biblical ethics but your entire argument rests on one giant begging of the question fallacy, why are any of the things you criticised even wrong based on your worldview.

But, I know that you know rape is wrong, and murder, and in doing so you are being inconsistant to your worldview. But in being inconsistant to your atheism you are being consistant with Biblical Christianity. This is because you are made in the image of God, and right now as Paul says you are supressing the truth in unrighteuosness.

Bob said...

Jody,
cute story though.

Strappado said...

Just want to mention that I have posted my very first blog post, and it is a reply to this post. :)

Jody said...

….why should I care about my neighbor as myself…I mean sure Ted wouldn't enjoy being violently molested himself, but why should he give a rip if it happens to someone else?

Because he doesn’t want the same thing happening to him.

The “Ethic of Reciprocity” is pretty powerful stuff.

It’s also a pretty common. The ethic, or “Golden Rule” as you like to think of it, isn’t novel to Christianity or Judaism. Neither faith was the first on the scene with the idea. In written form, it predates Judaism by about a 1000 years, depending on how you figure. See The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems ( 1970-1640 BCE.) is the first written example of it.

Faiths as divergent as the B’ahi and the Zorastarians display it. Versions even occur in secular writings of the Greek and Romans. As a concept, if follows the transfusion of knowledge across the ages.

It would be neat to say that this ethic is only a Human one. That we are the only creatures that demonstrate a sense of compassion and altruism. It's just not so. We've observed such behaviors in species as distant genetically from us as the Vampire bat to those who are our close kin, Chimpanzees.

As I’ve said before, you continue to propose a supernatural origin for ideas in general and rather altruistic ideas in particular.

You’ve also argued that the greater ideals are specific to your particular version of the supernatural, while other forms are at best pale imitations of yours.

I've pointed out repeatedly that this isn't the case. That the stories and tales you quote from are part of a common heritage older than your particular myth. Changed, altered, adapted, but fundamentally, little different than any other.

The rightness of the people you lay claim to, the moral supremacy of Jewish people and their God given laws and morality relative to their neighbors, simply doesn't exist.

I didn’t make up the rape and genocide of the Midianites. I just used what Numbers 31:17-18 reported. Such activities were of such import mind you that it was celebrated in Holy Writ.

This didn't occur just once, as some strange artifact of a bygone age that haphazardly was inserted when no one was looking. It's a common behavior, a common action of those ancient peoples, by their own admission and celebrations.

Review the genocide of the Canaanites (Joshua 6:21), the Geshurites, Gezirites, Amalekites (1 Samuel 27:8-9) as well as the Ammonites, Horim, and Avim (Deuteronomy 2:21-24) for example after example.

If that isn't enough, see also the obliteration of the cities and peoples of Ai (Joshua 8:24), Makkedah (Joshua 10:28), Libnah (Joshua 10:29), Lachish (Joshua 10:31), Gezer (Joshua 10:33), Elgon (Joshua 10:34), Hebron (Joshua 10:37),Debir (Joshua 10:38), Hormah (Numbers 21:2-3) Sisera (Judges 4:16) and the lands (and people) of Bashan (Numbers 21:33-35) and Heshbon (Deuteronomy 2:26-35), all justified on theological and religious grounds.

It is "..the Old Testament that teaches these ethics." It's just not an ethic that you've romantically convinced yourself exists.

My ideas for the origins and persistence of these ethics are a reflection of the work being done in biology, evolution, ethnography, evolutionary, experimental and observational psychology, as well as just simple game theory. There's nothing arbitrary about it.

You restate and restate a uniqueness and novelty for your faith formed On High and easily demonstrable by both observation and reason. Yet there is no visible example of this, no specialness that's found in your faith as opposed to others. Differences, sure. But anything to suggest more than the simple variation that occurs over time, place, and situation, no.

The evidence remains on my side.

Bob said...

Jody you said:
"….why should I care about my neighbor as myself…I mean sure Ted wouldn't enjoy being violently molested himself, but why should he give a rip if it happens to someone else?

Because he doesn’t want the same thing happening to him."


Um, This is the very definition of the fallacy "begging the Question". If I was composing a book on formal logic I would use this excerpt as an example to go alongside the definition of the fallacy.

"The “Ethic of Reciprocity” is pretty powerful stuff."

When it is based upon the Christian worldvie "do unto others" makes sense. Once you have divorced it from its Christian base it is just a meaningless arbitrary and subjective sentence that can be accepted or rejected upon personal preference.

In a Christian worldview "do unto others" works because:
a)all men are mad in the image of God and have intrinsic worth/value.
b)The command is itself based upon objective Authority, God and
c)Because it is objective and based upon God it is binding upon all men because God owns all men and will judge all men.

"It’s also a pretty common. The ethic, or “Golden Rule” as you like to think of it, isn’t novel to Christianity or Judaism. Neither faith was the first on the scene with the idea. In written form, it predates Judaism by about a 1000 years, depending on how you figure. See The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems ( 1970-1640 BCE.) is the first written example of it."

Will do, I'll get back to you on this. Whether or not non-Christian men had this ethic really has no real bearing because they would lack adequate base for it to be truly meaningful. So it doesn't matter one way or another, because I would say the same thing I just said to you, without the ethic being based upon the transcendent God it is just subjective fancy to be rejected or accepted at arbitrary whim.

"As I’ve said before, you continue to propose a supernatural origin for ideas in general and rather altruistic ideas in particular."

Well, the problem with atheistic altruism is that it is meaningless and can not answer the question WHY? (See your question begging above) You can utter phrases like "Do unto others" but you have divorced them from their (I would argue) Theistic base which gives them real meaning and would make them binding universally.

The problem with your proposed altruism is that guys like Neitzche or Satre can come along and say: "No, this is all subjective rubbish, we will live with total disregard for others and live only for our own hedonistic pleasure." They can say this and be just as justified as you in uttering "Do unto others" if we presuppose materialism.

So to be brief atheistic altruistic ideas are simply meaningless statements and Satre and Neitzche saw this, thus they abandoned any morality altogether. When you from your materialist worldview utter statements like "Do unto others" you might as well say "Flip froggle glipidy glish glum." They both have equal meaning.

"I didn’t make up the rape and genocide of the Midianites. I just used what Numbers 31:17-18 reported. Such activities were of such import mind you that it was celebrated in Holy Writ."

No, it was the talk of Israelite soldiers basically being allowed to molest children that you just flat out made up. As for the conquest of Median (which I am sure you cam accross after serious study of the Bible on your own) reads:

"Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.
But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves." (Numbers 31:17-18)


Huh, that's strange I don't read anything here about rape...as I recall rape was actually forbidden in the Law:

""But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die."
(Deut 28:25)
"If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days."
(Deut 22:28-29)

But I am sure you came across these passages in your rigorous study of the Bible. So what to make of the Median business? Well far from being rape (which is forbidden by punishment of death) the women who were never mrried were to be taken for wives. To say that "keep for yourselves" means rape is to read into the text plain and simple.

You next go on to basically say that the conquest of Canaan was "bad". Well, based upon your moral system you really haven't provided any real standard by which you can say any of those things are "bad".

What those narratives represent are the judgement of God on ungodly nation, He used Israel to do so. And almost all the "Multiple events" you cite are really just one (the conquest of Canaan), but I am sure you know that as a good Bible student.

"It is "..the Old Testament that teaches these ethics." It's just not an ethic that you've romantically convinced yourself exists."

Again, these are narratives of events that happened which God ordained. They are not prescriptive texts on how we ought to interact with people, that's called law.

"My ideas for the origins and persistence of these ethics are a reflection of the work being done in biology, evolution, ethnography, evolutionary, experimental and observational psychology, as well as just simple game theory. There's nothing arbitrary about it."

This is just jibberish jody, come on.

"You restate and restate a uniqueness and novelty for your faith formed On High and easily demonstrable by both observation and reason. Yet there is no visible example of this, no specialness that's found in your faith as opposed to others. Differences, sure. But anything to suggest more than the simple variation that occurs over time, place, and situation, no.

The evidence remains on my side."


Huh, what evidence? You haven't even given a basic answer to the foundation of ethics and you are making these sweeping statements like you finished a masterpiece 1300 page novel. I really don't know what you are talking about in that last paragraph it's totally out of left field in reference to what we were talking about.

natamllc said...

Hey Jody

here's one statement you made that I completely agree with and if you keep thinking like this you too will soon see Who Jesus is!

your thought:

The rightness of the people you lay claim to, the moral supremacy of Jewish people and their God given laws and morality relative to their neighbors, simply doesn't exist.

I ask you Jody, WHERE DID YOU COME UP WITH THAT UNDERSTANDING?

That's transcendental. That truth you are asserting is the very reason for the CURSE that came onto Adam!

That truth is the very reason God ELECTED the Jews, the Hebrews of Abram.

Now you are getting the point!

Happy fishing!
Happy hunting!
Happy reading!

Happy, happy, happy if this is what you come too in your rationalization of this material world, but I also ask, FROM WHENCE IT COMES?

Bob said...

Jody-

As for the "The Tale of Sinuhe" I have just read through it and I have no idea what is in there that you are saying represents a pre-Judeao-Christian "Do unto others ethic" (Not that it would matter anyway). I am sure you have read the ancient texts you pointed me to and can point me to where in the text it teaches this ethic, because I don't see it taught anywhere.

Alan said...

To the author: describing The Origin of Species as a 'holy text' for atheists is absurd. Most of what is contained in this book is true, but some is also untrue, and is unashamedly recognized as such by atheists and other non-believers. Indeed, these same people would regard the average grade school math textbook as containing less factual errors than The Origin of Species. By your reasoning, we should then consider our childrens' math and grammar textbooks 'atheist holy texts', of even higher stature than The Origin of Species. And those who espouse these texts, from mathematicians and linguists down to grade school teachers, would be guilty of 'evangelizing' the holy texts of atheism by asking students to study such books. Such arguments are obviously nonsense.

But even supposing that atheists did treat Darwin's book as revelation, and did try to 'evangelize' through it, this would fail to prove any point. Evolution is a theory designed to explain the way life adapts to its environment. It does not speak to the origin of life (the 'origin of species' is not the same as 'the origin of life itself'), the origin of the universe, or to the existence or non-existence of God. The only challenge implied by evolution is to factual claims made by the Bible regarding the timeline of life on earth.

Similarly, evolution is not, as you suggest, an ethical philosophy, or any philosophy at all - despite people's desire to label non-believers as 'Darwinists', there is no such thing. Evolution is a scientific theory which explains the observed evidence of how life developed on this planet, and makes no moral or ethical judgments about how this life developed, and certainly gives no ethical support to a plan for 'acceleration' of this process via eugenics. To attribute ethical significance to the theory of evolution is no different than attributing ethical significance to other explanatory theories like gravity. If a person throws someone off a cliff, and claims that he was simply acting to accelerate the inevitable course of gravity, we would not reflect that action somehow onto the theory of gravitation itself, nor onto Isaac Newton. The same is true of evolution and Darwin.

In fact, the ethical philosophy to which most non-believers adhere is secular humanism, which has nothing to do with evolution. Simply put, this philosophy states that ethical standards should be determined by rational study of what maximizes happiness and fulfillment for people living together in the world. It can indeed change with time, if there is good evidence that our current ethical standards are not conducive to human happiness. But it is a far cry from the sort of 'mob rule' implied by your article. If a large number of people decided that rape, murder, and genocide were OK, would a secular ethical world have to accept it? Of course not. Because we have clear evidence that such behavior is harmful to society, in several different ways which are clear to everyone. The only difference is that the secular ethical society can prove that such behavior is wrong, rather than simply stating it. This is also the standard by which we compare different ethical practices: if genocide causes misery, suffering, anger, vengefulness, mistrust, and fear, for example, then the secular ethical society would certainly have rejected the Nazis. Secular humanism is not based on the arbitrary, relativist ethical systems you want it to be - it is based on hard, verifiable facts. As far as I can tell, the complaint that atheists 'steal' Christian ethics (which other posts rightly point out are not Christian at all, but rather co-opted from older pagan beliefs) and therefore beg the question when they argue about ethics, is the only real defense being made by the posters. The sheer number of times it has been repeated here is testimony to the Christian's belief that no one else has a real basis for ethics, something that needs to be addressed.

Christians, including many of those posting here, seem to have a very hard time with the concept that the happiness of humans, as revealed through rational study, is a legitimate authority for ethical statements. Most likely, the difficulty comes from the fact that Christians look at the issue from a different starting point: to them, mankind is fallen, and thus its measure of its own happiness is unreliable, and must be regulated by God. With God's oversight, humans pass through this world only as preparation for a better life. But non-believers don't start from that same view - we see nothing inherently fallen in mankind, except perhaps his historical neglect of the one trait which makes him different from all other life: reason. That trait gives the capacity for humankind to live happily in the world, and doing so is a serious mandate for the un-believer, since he doesn't believe he will have a second chance, and doesn't believe that God will right the wrongs he permits in this life. When considering secular ethics, in other words, Christians just need to bear in mind their major unstated premise: that mankind is tainted by evil and can't be trusted to find his own way. Without this premise, there is no reason to distrust our ability to reason towards an ethical world where people live happily.

The other very common mistake that has cropped up in these arguments is the confusion between the existence of a God, and the specific existence of the Christian God. To the extent that he argues against the existence of any God, Dawkins is walking on thin ice, as some of the posts point out. However, this is not true of arguments about the Christian God, such as those made by Jody. This God, via the Bible, is left open to legitimate discussion because positive statements are being made about his attributes and behavior, and testable statements are made in scripture about the physical world. For example, the accuracy of Biblical history, its explanations of the natural world, its statements about the power of prayer, and other matters, are all testable hypotheses. If Christians want to argue for the existence of their God, they cannot hide Him in philosophical obscurities, but have to explain why their theology has failed in these cases.

And this goes both ways, of course: to try to prove God's existence by a generic ontological argument, and then follow from there to any sort of ethics, particularly the ethics in a particular text, is logically fallacious. Even if the un-believer accepts your proof for God's existence, it says nothing about the God of the Bible, and therefore fails to provide the sort of sound ethical authority that is being claimed here. If you want to claim this authority, you have to establish that the God whose existence is proved by the ontological argument, is the same as the God depicted in your ethical scripture, the Bible. Until then, you have no more authority than anyone else.

And as for the rough examples of Old Testament morality, well, I'm afraid the Christians are stuck with these, and there are many, many more Jody could have used. To say that one must distinguish between descriptive and normative won't work, because the Bible doesn't tell us explicitly which story or passage is which. So Jody's interpretation is as valid as anyone else's. The only plausible Christian defense is to say that Jesus and the New Testament supersede what is taught in the Old Testament, and that is a bag of theological worms in itself, since Mark and Paul disagree about that very point.

Lee said...

I must first say how refrshing it is to have a Christian prepared to have a meaningful dialogue with atheists rather than simply shy away from debate or 'quote a Bible passage and run' as most tend to do.

Bob, one thing I picked up on in particular is that you don't see how atheists can have any equivalent meaning behind their ethical values if there is no God backing them up. It seems that you are suggesting that without the promise of eternal life or the threat of eternal damnation then there is no incentive for altruistic behaviours in human beings. I would suggest that this is incorrect in that there is a greater good in preserving for the entire species a moral code derived from what is and what isn't harmful to one another based on objectivity. This is as opposed to moral codes based on a single religion or sect that seek to propogate the beliefs of that group and subjugate the moral codes and beliefs of others. Take, for example, the moral code of Islam which, if applied fully, advocates the stoning of adulterers where Christianity only cites it as wrong to be an adulterer. Both religions have their respective eternal life and damnation beliefs.

Is it therefore the case that because of the stronger "Divine" sanctions in Islam that the Islamic moral code in relation to adultery is more meaningful that that of Christianity?

That should not be so and in the same way, atheistic moral codes, just because there are no "Divine" sanctions should not be dismissed as less meaningful. It is against our biological interests to inflict harm on another member of our species and in a more philisophical sense it is simply morally wrong in that we should not engage in acts towards others which we would be harmed by if we were to have those same acts done to us. Although you may come back with the idea that adultery is beneficial to our species biologically by encouraging further reproduction I am proceeding on the basis that adultery is dishonest and breaches trust, causing harm to another which is a separate issue to sexual promiscuity which both may and may not be harmful to others depending on the situation if judged objectively.

Keep up the dialogue!!

Jason said...

Just because in your eyes "your" ideas came first doesn't mean that I(its not nice to refer to atheism as a we thing it really isn't) necessarily borrow from you. Even if I wouldn't have been brainwashed into believing in a fanciful unicorn filled heaven, my morals (yes atheists can have morals) wouldn't have allowed killing. Before you assume I actually think your religion among the hundreds of others, is really that special think about what you think the rights of a human being are. Because quite honestly, when I decide whether or not to do something I think of the real people in front of me, not some fanciful God that dictates what is right and wrong.

Cottura 5 Minuti said...

2 words about systems of ethics that are non-christian... Immanuel Kant

zilch said...

Hi all. I'm another atheist who has no trouble with the Golden Rule, whatever its source.

I can't really add much to what Jody and Alan have said, and I doubt that I will convince any of you believers to give up your faith, but I'd like to correct a few common misconceptions that many Christians have about atheists.

Bob, you said "Dawkins and most atheists will explain the existance of religion as basically being a crutch for the intellectually weak." While I can't speak for Dawkins, most atheists I know would agree with me that religious belief has little or nothing to do with intellectual weakness, but rather with education and (as one scientist in the Rod Liddle interviews pointed out) conditioning. Kids mostly grow up to believe what their parents believe. And it's difficult to break away from what most people believe, especially when it is comforting and supported by great art and literature.

But how do religions get started in the first place then? My view is that religions come about, not only as an attempt to explain origins and meanings, but as a method to build societies. Without rules and morals, culture is not possible. Having a higher authority to reward cooperation and punish defection from the group is a powerful way to organize behavior.

And while a higher authority can be natural, such as a social contract or a government, a supernatural God who can put us in heaven or hell for eternity is more likely to be respected, if one believes in such beings. But the nature of rules that work to hold societies together is more or less the same for atheists and believers.

Thus, although there is no one best set of ethics (even within single religions there is widespread disagreement- look at the conflicts within Islam or Christianity), there is widespread agreement about certain general principles that simply work, for instance the idea that we should not cause unnecessary pain, or steal, or kill. Not without a lot of disagreement about particulars, to be sure, which is part of the problems we have in the world.

Bob, you say "...in order to even call something evil you need an objective moral standard from which you base your moral judgements. Dawkins does not have this, nor does any atheist." This is simply not true: Dawkins, and other atheists, can have moral standards, even ones which are largely the same as those of our theistic fellow humans. The destruction of the WTC was evil, because it caused unnecessary pain and loss of innocent life. You don't have to be a Christian or even a believer to feel that.

But where do these moral precepts come from, if not from God? This is a complex question, but the simple answer is that they are not objective, but dependent upon two subjective requirements: humanity and desire to further culture and all that it entails. Rocks need no morals: they feel no pain or joy, so they have no right and wrong. Lower animals feel pain and joy, but have no way to communicate morals. Non-human higher animals have the beginnings of morals with pecking orders and cooperation, but can't codify rules.

We alone of all animals are capable of putting together cultures that learn from the past and evolve ever more complex structures, with all the gifts and burdens they bring. But to do that, we need rules to cooperate. These rules, in the form of religious precepts, morals, laws, and societal norms, have evolved over the millennia, and atheists recognize them just as believers do, even when there is disagreement about particular rules, and about the ultimate (or proximate) source of those rules.

deistguest said...

these canaanites, midianites, jebusites cultures though responsible for creative literary works were also guilty of sexual subversion, cultic prostitution, ritual sacrifice of children, bestiality, incest, to the point that their name was synonymous to thieves and raiders. They posed an immediate danger to Israel as they were going to settle to the promise land of canaan.

Midianites, were cited in the bible to have preyed on the weak, the old and those that were lagging behind during Israel's journey towards the promise land, its no wonder Israel had to go on self-defense, (they were talking about survival here)

The point of these campaigns, were to drive out the really immoral nations settling at that time to quote "even the land became defiled, and had to spit out the people" so only the hardcore carriers of this hedonistic culture were the ones doomed to destruction, the innocents would have sought refuge elsewhere as part of protocol (e.g. Rahab was a non-jew pagan, yet she KNEW that they were no match for the God of the Hebrews) David had for his army non-jews (Kerethites and the Pelethites) Ruth great grandmother of Jesus, was herself a moabite, a non-jew. so God is merciful to the pagan nations that want to follow Israel.

IF the Israelite campaign were truly Imperialistic, then why stop at Canaan, Why not expand the borders towards Persia in the East or Greece in the West. God was tolerant of the Pagan Nations practices. He gave 40years for these nations (Canaanite) to repent through witness of the conscience.

picture it this way, if you had a neighbour, hardened to be violent, absolutely will not listen to reason, stubborn as a mule. Whose every inclination was to kill and murder, you have no choice but to put him/her out of his misery or at least drive him/her away to a place of banishment, since if you try to reason with such a person, he/she will most likely kill you or subvert you to his/her thinking. That is an analogy comparing Israel to her neighbours at the time of her exodus to canaan

PLEASE THINK IN CONTEXT WHEN CITING SUCH PASSAGES IN THE BIBLE ATHEISTS

deistguest said...

Atheism is arbitrary,
Man forms the rules, no gods.
Man can be good and evil, be benevolent and tyrannical. No Ought, Man only IS.

Christianity however is different, God forms the rules, Man obeys, God is a good God because it is essential to his character, Man's highest ethical longings and achievements towards perfecting himself (through becoming a good person to Live benevolently is found in Christ)

There is accountability in Christianity, no accountability in Atheism. But what about the Golden Rule? well it can be ignored by simply pursuit of power through hypocrisy (Be good, since it pays, establish a power base and then oppress people or cheat them in a subtle or perverse way so they can't reciprocate in harming you)

and no, Christians do not believe in God because of payment (eternal life or blessings) as demonstrated in the book of Job. (Christians accept the OT as a source of authority inasmuch as the NT too)

Why the ambiguity of atheism created misinterpretations of Darwin's theory which lead to Social Eugenics by Francis Galton, through sterlization of the physically handicap, the retarted and gave rise to pseudo-scientific race doctrines advocated by Nazi Germany. Hitler was more Nietzschean and Machiavellian (a Closet Atheist pretending to be a Catholic) in his political manueverings than he was a true follower of Christian teaching (Though he was a so called Christian)

Atheism also spawned Social Marxism, Maoism, Cults of Personality, Jacobin Cult of Reason killings amongst others. Pol Pot's extermination of his own people (Dictator's Power Demonstrations, No God, no accountability)Cultural Revolutions. you Atheists do it too you know! at least Christianity has a standard in which to distinguish fakers from genuine believers. "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven"

In Atheism, you can have humanism, you can also have marxism, heck you can live a hypocritical life (Being Good in the outside, cheating when you have a chance of getting away with it) and it still would make sense. since there is no justification for morality