15 Questions For Atheists

December 7, 2012 - 12:42 am
Irradiated by LabRat
42 Comments

Yeah, it’s gimmie content, that I basically borrowed from Ozy (whose own answers I will not read until I’ve hit publish lest I talk myself out of posting in the belief someone else had already said everything, which I’ve been doing way too much lately), but it’s content. And I haven’t stirred this particular pot in awhile.

So, from Loving Christ With Your Mind, 15 questions for atheists and their replies from this atheist.

1.

1. Why are atheists so obsessed with religion?

If life were meaningless and ends at the grave, why even bother. If life is just a monopoly game that’s going to be put up, why even try to take the property and money of others (in a metaphoric sense, of course)? It doesn’t make much sense. Given atheism, nothing really matters since it’s not going to last. So, again I ask you, why bother with religion and its negative effects?

Well for one, because having such a fundamental worldview difference from your fellow man, including people who share your culture and your life and are in all other respects fundamentally like you, is a weird and somewhat alienating experience at times. It’s really difficult to ignore, especially when some people will tell you people with your worldview are mean, nasty, grasping idiots with no sense of morality.

That, and this question contains some worldview assumptions that simply aren’t true. “Life is meaningless because it wasn’t personally gift-wrapped for me by an omnipotent deity that cares about my every thought and deed” is a childish outlook. To me, the fact that I believe none of it will last is exactly why everything matters. What I do and how I treat others matter because I will never get a chance to do it again, be redeemed, make restitution, or be forgiven. If our time here with each other is really all we’ve got, then it would be horrific to waste it.

2.

2. Why are atheists so obsessed with monotheistic religions?

Why only the big three? If all religions are equally false, why only bother with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam? What about Hinduism or deism? Again, it doesn’t make much sense. Perhaps there’s a reason that atheists are so amazingly obsessed with Christianity?

Because they’re the dominant religions in the West. They are, so to speak, right here in our backyard having pancake breakfasts. See again, y’all are really difficult to ignore by minority faiths and lack-of-faiths. Why Christianity? Because the majority of us in the west come from Christian backgrounds or Christianity is the dominant faith in the neighborhood.

That, and to a mind like mine (I was raised Unitarian, for the record), there’s something really curious about a mind that has an extremely complex background story about God and the savior that involves God messing around in a dissatisfied fashion with humanity for thousands of years, getting piqued and wiping out most of it at least once, eventually deciding that the way to redeem his failing science project is to conceive a child with a Jewish woman and make a blood sacrifice of him to serve as a supernatural middleman for the rest of eternity, yet also believes all other religions to be obvious fiction.

Not that I find Judaism or Islam any less strange, but I’m an American and Christianity is the water in which I swim, so to speak.

3.

3. How do atheists explain the beginning of the universe?

Often atheists have pointed to the Big Bang to justify their worldview, but the Big Bang actually proves theism. Here’s a simple syllogism:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

There is great evidence for the Big Bang. We can be led to it by first stating this fact: The universe is either eternal, or it is not. If it’s not, than my argument is scientifically supported. The universe cannot be eternal because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy is running out. If the universe is eternal, it should’ve run out a long time ago. The Big Bang proves God because it proves the universe came into being from nothing, and nothing cannot create nothing, for it is nothing. Therefore, Something must have caused the Big Bang. So how do you explain away this evidence for the existence of God?

Two-part answer: one, the answer to the first question is “I don’t, because I don’t know.” Some physicists seem to think they know about how things got rolling, but they might be wrong and we might know something entirely new and yet more fantastic a century down the line. But I don’t actually require physics to give me a definite answer; I’m comfortable with “I don’t know” and can’t swallow “Because an omnipotent entity whose existence and cause are also unexplained and who would have to be more complex and fantastic than the universe created it personally with the intent of populating one planet with humans.”

And my reaction to the second part is just… clearly that makes logical sense in the author’s head, but to me it reads like “the big bang proves God because banana”. You’re aware that “some other cause we don’t comprehend yet” is as valid an answer to that “dilemma” as “the God described in the Bible”, right? And that answer still leaves us with a causeless thing, i.e. God.

4.

4. How do atheists explain away objective moral values?

Objective moral values are ones that are independent of human thought. If God doesn’t exist, they wouldn’t exist either. There’d be no one in charge to make a universal standard of right and wrong. It’d simply be a matter or opinion. But moral relativism fails. For one, it says that moral claims are only a matter of opinion but it asserts that as a fact. Also, we know things such as rape, murder, and child abuse are wrong, and if everyone agreed that they were right, they’d still be wrong. We know things are objectively wrong because we feel guilt when we do what is wrong; If morality was just our opinion, we wouldn’t feel guilty, for we would be doing what is right for us. So how do atheists justify the fact of objective morality?

People with no moral education don’t feel guilt because they have no idea it’s bad. It’s one reason we have as a court defense the idea that the defendant can’t be convicted of, say, capital murder if for some reason they legitimately have no idea the action was wrong.

I don’t try to explain it away, I think the idea of right and wrong as abstract but objective entities is a necessary thing for a socially living ape that is capable of abstract thought. But unlike many atheists, I do believe religion has done more good than harm for us as a species by providing structures for that. Abstracts are hard. (And a lot of morality IS a matter of opinion. If that weren’t true there wouldn’t be different sects of religions and we’d have no need at all for ethical philosophy.)

5.

5. How do materialists justify immaterial realities?

Logic, math, morality, and other things such as free will, human dignity, and time exist. These things are all immaterial. We can’t put the number 7 or the Law of Noncontradiction in a test tube. But if God doesn’t exist, matter would be all there is, since there’d be nothing to be the foundation of immaterial things. Everything would come through by matter, and thus, be matter. How can atheists give an answer to this argument?

Erm. Being a materialist doesn’t mean that you stop believing in abstract concepts, or anything that can’t be seen and touched. “Abstract” and “supernatural” are two different things. I’m not sure I can really… answer beyond that just because the idea of treating everything that is an abstraction or is a dimension or just can’t be touched and held as directly from Yahweh is… incredibly bizarre to me.

6.

6. How do atheists explain the existence of the universe?

If atheism is true, there isn’t a reason for anything. It’s all an accident. There isn’t any purpose. But if there weren’t a purpose for anything, how do things exist? If God does not exist, the universe would have no meaning for its existence, and would, thus, not exist. So how can we living in a universe that both exists and has no reason for its existence?

I don’t. I can’t. I’m not omniscient. But having an explanation isn’t a trump card if your explanation is incorrect. I can’t out-argue Christianity by saying “Aha, I have developed the superior cosmology by explaining the universe is all about the end goal of the Nabisco corporation. My explanation fits on a cocktail napkin, and I win.” There’s also the fundamental worldview conflict; I believe meaning is created by living, and that things don’t need to have a meaning or teleological purpose to exist. They can exist for their own sake. Existing is the ultimate “because”.

7.

7. How do you explain away circumstantial evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?

Here are just two facts that help lead up to the conclusion that Christ is risen: 1. The early Christians died for their belief that He rose from the dead. You don’t die for what you know is a lie. No one does, and no one ever could. 2. Christianity started in Jerusalem. If the tomb weren’t empty, the Jewish pharisees could’ve proved it and ended the Christian movement. But they didn’t. How can an atheistic worldview explain this?

If “here, look, see, it’s not like that, knock it off” were sufficient standard of proof to crush cults in the process of beginning, there wouldn’t be any. And lots and lots of people around the world and throughout history have died for cults of various sorts believing sincerely their beliefs were correct, including lots of cults that Christianity believes were dead wrong.

8.

8. If the gospels are just pieces of historical fiction, why are there embarrassing details in there?

Jesus being accused of being a demon. A prostitute wiping Jesus’ feet, which was seen as a sexual approach. Peter being called “Satan” and denying Jesus three times. Jews being told to pay taxes to the Roman empire. One criteria of finding a historical truth is to see if the text is embarrassing to the writer. If it is, they probably didn’t make it up. Could you clear this up for me?

….Yes. Clearly it takes an agent of profound truth and compelling morality to put embarrassing details in a memoir, or as many atheists believe the Bible to be, a collection of people jotting down half-remembered and sometimes fictionalized details, often many years after their events supposedly occurred, that were later patched together into a coherent account. For that matter most of those weren’t even embarrassing, they were “SEE SOCIETY IS AGAINST US BUT WE WILL TRIUMPH IN THE LORD’S KINGDOM.”

9.

9. If we are just matter, and not souls, why would some atheists support life-sentences?

The matter in our body is totally changed out every seven years. If Cartesian dualism—a view I embrace—is false, and we are just matter, that means I am not the same person as I was seven years ago. And this is also true for a criminal.The justice system is completely futile if atheism is true. If matter is who we are, why don’t we change as our matter changes?

The first sentence is just… dude. I support life sentences because I think there is such a thing as doing something so heinous to the social contract that you are no longer allowed to participate in society, for society’s safety.

The rest of it is just hogwash because it’s based on an urban legend that is pretty easy to see the flaws in if you apply a few minutes’ thought instead of playing logic games with someone you disagree with. If the human body were completely renewed every seven years, tattoos would have an expiration date (I have one I’ve had for eleven years, I’m PRETTY SURE IT’S NOT TRUE), and people with paralysis and brain damage would only need to wait seven years to be all better again. Plus, uh, aging wouldn’t exist at all. And… I’m pretty sure having some new cells doesn’t make you a completely different person because I live in reality and that doesn’t happen.

10.

10. Why do so many atheists deny historical facts?

The common view today that most atheists hold is that Jesus didn’t exist. But Jesus did exist. How do I know this? Historically reliable sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, the Jewish Talmud, and Pliny the Younger wrote about Jesus. So why do atheists hold to the Christ-myth hypothesis in spite of what we know through historical facts?

This one is just out of left field. I have yet to meet an atheist that doesn’t believe there was a Jesus or a person the character of Jesus was based on. If you believe the basic story to be fiction, why does it matter or not whether there was a real person behind what at the time was kind of a wild-eyed apocalyptic cult?

11.

Why do most atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Denette, equivocate evolution with atheism?

Evolution does not prove God exists, nor does it prove God doesn’t exist. Darwin did not kill God. Most Christians accept evolution. Why, then, do so many atheists point to evolution as if it disproves Christianity?

Because a lot of really loud folks in fundamentalist Christianity believe that it would and fight to get it out of schools. When someone is attacking the lifeblood of your profession and the education of children, it gets your attention. But seriously, your primary problem is with your creationists there, not with atheists as a whole. Also it’s Daniel Dennett. Personally I’m not fond of either, actually, because I believe doing exactly that (as well as attacking religion wholesale and from a position of frequent ignorance) is misguided and unproductive.

12.

12. Why don’t atheists actually question everything?

They’re always advocating skepticism, but fail to question their own views, including that of skepticism. If we should doubt everything, why not doubt atheism?

Because they’re humans and they have a worldview, and more or the point because the vast majority of atheists weren’t raised that way, they rejected whatever religion they were raised with. They aren’t questioning it because they already did and atheism was the conclusion they arrived at. Plus a handful of people I know who WERE raised atheist have later converted in adult life, so it does go both ways. Part of the process of going from childhood to adulthood is questioning the beliefs you grew up with when you were incapable of abstract reasoning and thinking them through to see if they square.

Plus “if you were really thinking it through and questioning you’d agree with me!” isn’t… an argument.

13.

13. Where do rights come from?

Most atheists are supporters of the gay rights movement, and are furious when someone denies a homosexual of his or her rights just because of their sexual orientation. So it’s pretty clear that atheists believe inalienable rights exist. But where do they come from? How can they be explained naturally?

See again “being a materialist doesn’t mean you stop believing in abstract concepts”. Also “being an atheist doesn’t mean you think life is meaningless and how we treat one another is meaningless”. Believing something to be, at the end of the day, a social construct doesn’t mean you don’t also believe it to be an incredibly important construct worth fighting or even dying for.

14.

14. How can there be no objective evil, but religion causes it?

A top argument in the atheist arsenal is that religion causes evil. This doesn’t prove a thing, for Pythagoras caused evil but no one doubts that a^2 + b^2 = c^2. But when atheists argue against religion by pointing out its sins, they assume that objective morality exists. If morality were a matter of opinion, there’d be no point in asserting it as a fact. So why do atheists use religious evil to try to disprove theism, when it actually does the opposite?

If you believe in right you also believe in wrong, but see again it isn’t necessary to believe they come from a supernatural lawgiver. (Actually I find THAT whole idea highly creepy- that right and wrong aren’t things of their own but the edicts of an old and powerful creature who isn’t even human and is prone to doing things like making blood sacrifices of his children or wiping out most of humanity in a fit of rage.)

Anyway, *this* atheist doesn’t believe religion causes evil any more than it causes good, but evils have been done in the name of religion and from worldviews and beliefs steeped in religion. It’s a human creation, and it can be used for either result.

15.

15. Why are there no good reasons to believe atheism is true?

Whenever I ask an atheist to disprove God, they can’t do it. When something is true, there are good reasons to think it is true. But there are no good reasons to believe God does not exist. So why do non-believers count me as irrational when I embrace theism?

Well, I don’t. The whole premise strikes me personally as nutty, but I accept it’s a basic difference in whether we’ve accepted certain premises rather than an indication of who’s intelligent or rational or not.

As for the rest; we’re not recruiting nonbelievers, or at least most of us aren’t. We just don’t believe, we (mostly, see again I have issues with Dawkins and Dennett and their ilk) don’t proselytize. “I believe as I do because I just don’t buy that story” isn’t really an earth-shaking argument or lifestyle.

If we are to take the claim “question everything” as a serious one, we should question atheism.

Sure. It’s been fun times.

After much doubt, we are able to find that Christianity offers better answers.

Really can’t agree, but run with what’s working for you. Except maybe talking to atheists. Maybe make a friend of some and get acquainted with how they actually think rather than arguing with them on the internet. Man, you meet the worst people doing that.

42 Responses to “15 Questions For Atheists”

  1. McThag Says:

    Wait! You have atheists in your neck of the woods who actually confront Moslems? WOW!

    The atheists you notice around here are just people who hate Christians a lot and also happen to not believe in God. You don’t hear about any other religion unless you bring it up.

    I’d bet they’d have lot of trouble with these questions.

  2. LabRat Says:

    You have Christians in yours who have something better to do than confront atheists with bullshit logic puzzles? Wow! (Not really. I know lots.)

    And yeah, I’ve heard a lot deconstructing Islam (and less, but some, of Judaism) from the atheist community. It’s because it is (up to a point) my community and I live here, so I meet everyone and not just folks who are looking for a confrontation with me.

  3. Sparrowkin Says:

    I am pursuing ministry with the UUA–Unitarian Universalists. I really hope to have a congregation some day and I’d be thrilled to have atheists in it. I hope I don’t sound like I have unfair expectations; I know not all atheists–or Quakers–whoever–are perfect. I just know that some of the people I learn the most fromt–some of the most amazing kids in the youth group I advised in my home parish, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman (And Temple Grandin, I think) are or were atheists. When my conservative Catholic and Episcopal family asks “what’s the point? Why don’t they just join a health club [for community]?” (real question) smoke comes out of my ears.
    I’ll be happy to have congregation members from any religious (or non religious) background. And I’m NOT trying to convert anyone here (that’s not our bag, baby; we just serve coffee)–just writing to explain one of my reasons for appreciating your post LR.

  4. LabRat Says:

    Sparrow- ironically, I left the UUs because… well, they were the church of my childhood.

    Nothing against them, you understand. But they are who my mother occasionally still nags me to connect with up here and that kinda says it all right there.

    Unitarians make teenage rebellion an exercise in swimming through mud. “So, Jeffrey- I’m sorry, Mortuus- why don’t you bring some Bael’s blood to the next pot luck and tell us all about your fascinating doom religion?”

  5. Comrade Misfit Says:

    It’s a bit harder to deconstruct Judaism because, when you get down to brass tacks, the only requirement is to believe in a single God. The rest is quibbling about the laws of the Torah and the commentary in the Talmud.

    If you’ve ever read the Passover Haggadah, there is a part where learned rabbis are debating how many plagues there were prior to the Exodus from Egypt. One year, when that part was being read, my father said “no wonder so many Jews become lawyers”.

  6. Jennifer Says:

    As a Christian, I find this line of questioning offensive. I resent the author’s condescension. His logic is shallow and self-fulfilling. His entire argument comes down to, “Atheists don’t have an answer, therefore God.” You know, because it’s completely black and white there and faith is something that can be rationalized out.
    I believe God created a wonderful and fantastic world that can stand up to questioning. We are like this for these scientific, provable reasons. I believe God is capable of making something in a rational fashion that deserves a greater explanation than ‘because God said so.’
    I believe that a God that can speak a fully evolved world into existence doesn’t need such defenders.
    Labrat, thank you for recognizing that not all Christians are so narrow-minded. You need not set a place at your table for my invisible friend in order to be welcome at mine.

  7. bluntobject Says:

    There’s so much complex question fallacy in that article you’re answering that all of the questions should be numbered as multiples of i. And yet you managed to be far more charitable than I did.

  8. Sparrowkin Says:

    Hey LR, that’s hilarious and fairly spot on. I was just in the hallway at seminary the other day, found out or President had been arrested in 2011 at a rally and whooped aloud before remembering myself. I hope the Atheist kids in our youth group will stay with the UUs because they’ll bring so much to the church–likewise if the church had grown up enough to inspire you hanging around…(not to mention I am giggling hysterically at the idea of Stingray at coffee hour. Church go boom! I also see a small horde of middle aged women with pixie cuts and artisan cardigans and sensitive guys in sweater vests with yoga bracelets running in scream-filled apocalyptic terror out of church headquarters at 1 Beacon).
    A lot of times in theology class I hear us referred to as a church of ‘refugees’ from other religions interspersed with born and raised UU’s. So my home congregation had a ton of atheists in the adult population. The problem, though, with the degree of independence from parish to parish means you will get the swimming through mud types. So none of this is said to try and set us up as some kind of bastion or haven for atheists or anyone else.
    And your post is awesome.

  9. Mikael Says:

    As an actual antitheist, I have argued against the harm done by many religions (hardly any are without some), that includes hinduism, and even jainism(though the latter is strictly harm to adherents, it is a crippling faith, and I consider it harmful to indoctrinate people in it). I consider Islam to be the most dangerous religion but usually end up arguing with christians.

    And arguing so much with christians, I haven’t seen a single argument made for their position that did not amount to a logical fallacy. Argument from ignorance, special pleading, straw man and downright non-sequitur(no logical connection at all: if beer then banana) being the most common ones.

  10. Mikael Says:

    PS: Oh and not to forget other common apologist staples: ad hominem, poisoning the well, red herring and moving the goalposts.

  11. Kristophr Says:

    Damned. Now I want to play.

    1 and 2: Yep. Religious fanatics have a habit of killing people, or passing laws to force others to confirm to their beliefs. Monotheists are even more likely to go this route.

    3: Agreed. Science is falsifiable. This concept is completely beyond believers.

    4: Heh. Christianity does not have a monopoly on moral values. Our judicial system is Greco-Roman, not Judeo-Christian. Other cultures also figured out that theft and murder is bad. Christianity is not required here.

    5: Same thing again. Christianity does not have a monopoly on abstract ideas. The Greeks were pretty good at this, and the Hindus invented that “zero” thingy. Abstract thought does not require religious non-sense.

    6: Yep. Science again. It either predicts what happens in the real world, or it gets junked. It doesn’t try to force belief on people. Get back to me when we have the ability to observe other ‘Branes, and I’ll have an answer for that question.

    7: Prove that the Heaven’s Gate cult members aren’t now cloned and partying with their space buddies. Same level of “evidence” here.

    8: Dear lord, this one costs me IQ points just reading it.

    These Christians who wrote this would have lied to us to avoid personal embarrassment if Jesus hadn’t held a gun to their heads? Is that your morality? That the only reason you can be moral is because some big fucking god threatens to lob your ass into a flaming pit for eternity if you aren’t?

    How pitiful.

    9: Ain’t no such thing as permanent. You are not the same person you were 1 second ago. The very act of remembering something causes the brain to rewrite the memory from short term electrical storage to long term chemical storage. Every time you remember something, your subconscious has to play it as a day dream in Werneke’s region, and will embellish and confabulate that memory.

    This soul business is just a desperate grab at immortality.

    10: Strawman argument. And the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    Take your argument to those people who don’t believe that another messianic Jew getting offed by the Roman governor is implausible. I’m not one of them.

    11: Yep. Attack science, and people who think science is useful will start to get medieval on you. Not exactly a shocker.

    12: Yep: So not agreeing with you is evidence of unthinking stupidity? Goose, Gander, etc.

    13: Rights do NOT come from God. They are created by men.

    Rights only exist because me, and people like me are willing to go to the wall, and put our lives on the line to defend them.

    If someone takes my firearm from me, or breaks my fingers for saying bad things on the Internets, the hand of God will NOT come down out of the sky to crush the bad person.

    I can only hope that other right thinking human beings will choose to help me because they feel that basic human rights are a very good idea.

    14: Atheists have as many illogical and fuzzy thinkers as any other group of humans.

    15: Disprove leprechauns please.

  12. Kristophr Says:

    McThag: Look up Pat Condell on youtube and get back to us.

  13. Kristophr Says:

    Sparrowkin: I should encourage Asatru to show up at your meetings.

    They can set up your congregation’s first gun club.

  14. Stingray Says:

    This is why we ran LR’s response to these questions. Mine was simply “Holy fuck, have you ever actually read a logic text, or did you burn it as witchcraft?”

  15. Sparrowkin Says:

    Kristophr, –All kidding aside I would be interested and honored, but the commute may not suit. If I get ordained and belong to a church someplace where I can learn to hunt for the local food pantry I’ll be still more interested. Am I a terrible person for adding “Asa-who? Any relation to Cindy?”

  16. Sparrowkin Says:

    –Stingray, I think they used the logic text for toilet paper instead of burning it but I’ll defer to your interpretation.

  17. Sigivald Says:

    I’ve heard a lot of fairly naive attacks on atheism before, but #5 is actually a novel one.

    Really, someone actually thinks that not believing in God means you can’t justify abstractions as such?

    Likewise #9 … but I guess it sorta follows from the misconception in #5?

    If you really think “materialism” means something like “the matter but not its organization or anything”, you could somehow think that replacing “all the cells in the body” over time (at whatever rate that might notionally happen) would make you “a new person”, I guess.

    Which is weird, since nobody* denies that people have an essence that lasts their entire lives, making them “them” and not “someone else”, the detail being whether it’s biological, in the organization and storage of memory and personality in the brain, or The Soul.

    (* Okay, a few philosophers have toyed with denying that, but I don’t think any of them seriously HELD it as a proposition, and nobody agreed anyway.)

    I’m tempted to say this set of question was “not even wrong”, but maybe #5 actually is “wrong” in the interesting sense…

  18. Sigivald Says:

    (Though, contra Kristopher on #5, you can’t really invoke the Greeks and Hindus as examples of “not needing religion to get abstracts”; the Greeks and Hindus had tons of “religion” and metaphysical/spiritual crap going on.

    They weren’t modern monotheists, but they weren’t exactly materialist atheists, either.

    You don’t need religion to have abstract concepts, but those examples don’t work.)

  19. Kristophr Says:

    Sigivald: Often Greek, Roman, and Hindu gods acted in the exact opposite of what most folks consider good.

    Some gods approved of moral behavior. Some didn’t care. Some of them were about as moral as an angry two-year old.

    My point was that justice, honesty, and civilization does not require a religious backing.

  20. Kristophr Says:

    Oh, and Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were, at best, Deist.

    That Socrates fellow was given a choice between suicide and exile for mocking religious beliefs. Don’t ry to pretend that Greek Religion was a requirement for Greek Philosophy.

  21. Mikael Says:

    Agreed with Kristophr about greek philosophers not really being all that religious. Aristotle wasn’t even deist, he was essentially an atheist, but a very strange one from our modern point of view, for example he was an eternalist, he believed all forms of life have always existed, and in their current form, but he also understood that different species were related to eachother. He did a lot of experiments, he was in many ways the first proper biologist (at least that we know about). While he talks about the soul, he talks about it as the thing that makes us work while we are alive, not something that survives death, indeed the soul as he describes it would be analoguous to “the system”, in modern biology/medicine.

  22. Rob Says:

    Actually I find THAT whole idea highly creepy- that right and wrong aren’t things of their own but the edicts of an old and powerful creature who isn’t even human and is prone to doing things like making blood sacrifices of his children or wiping out most of humanity in a fit of rage.

    Yeah; I sometimes wonder if god descended from the heavens and said “I’ve changed my mind on that whole prohibition of murder thingy; knock yourselves out,” if people who make that argument would kill the next person they met. It’s kind of creepy knowing that the person you’re talking to is only restraining themselves because they’re afraid of being punished by their sky daddy, and not because it’s an objectively bad thing to do.

  23. bluntobject Says:

    Rob:

    It’s kind of creepy knowing that the person you’re talking to is only restraining themselves because they’re afraid of being punished by their sky daddy, and not because it’s an objectively bad thing to do.

    In fairness, I don’t think too many people actually restrain themselves from murder only because God said “don’t do that” in Leviticus. If you asked them, they’d tell you that of course they’d never do something like that… they’re worried about everyone else. It’s an instance of the fundamental attribution error — “I don’t kill people because I’m an upstanding moral person, but you… you have an annoying laugh, so you’re probably a horrible person and need divine coercion to keep you from going all Patrick Bateman.”

    It’s a neat thought experiment, though, and an excellent rejoinder to the morals-must-come-from-God argument.

  24. acairfearann Says:

    As always, an interesting post. I can’t, particularly, disagree with anything in it aside from some quibbles about hermeneutics and who wrote what, when, and the compilation of the Bible. Or more to the point, I disagree at the level wherein argument becomes essentially a matter of ‘talking past’; because the key point, for me, is the foundation point you reiterate: a fundamental difference in world view. I believe in God, you do not. Neither of us will change each other’s minds, because it is not a matter of logic. In my opinion, some people, myself included, are hardwired for faith; some, perhaps a majority, of people are not. The best that I can describe faith in a quasi-non religous sense is the master and the servant. Those of us who are wired for faith need masters and we look for them if not in the next world than in this; those of us who are not wired for faith do not search for such loyalty. Presumably, evolution is moving towards the latter, presumably this is, in the long run, a good thing; as twisted as it must seem to you, I have faith in my God that such evolution is His will, though it shakes me to the core. As long as we (mankind) refrain from claiming that one type or the other is a better example of homo sapiens there is no problem.
    …of course, the majority of religious individuals will no doubt find the above horrifically offensive, no doubt everyone else will too…one group would stone me, one would medicate me?

  25. Tatyana Says:

    Thank you for this post, Labrat. My answers would be essentially the same, with few variations – but I wouldn’t be as generous and patient and eloquent. [in English. Although, most likely, in Russian it will be simply unprintable].
    This is where I vary:
    -#4, morality sans religion: I think morality [and therefore ethics] is as much a matter of evolution, as physical manifestations. Commandments is an adaptation mechanism for human society of more than 3 members. The fact that the same moral rules/commandments exist in various cultures, under many religions only proves essential similarity of humans as species. Then the differences arise, influenced by local and time factors. Morality of medieval European society is not the same as Christian Romans living in catacombs – even though they are both following same rules proscribed in their holy books. Besides, often enough the most devoted believers turn out to be the biggest violators of their own religious morality rules (see Tudors, f.i., or just about any participant in Jewish pogroms, or any single Muslim in any place and any time of history, incl. our).
    #11: evolution and atheism
    I do hold evolution as better explanation of world around us than religious 6 (or is it 5?) days of creation. And I do find statement “god created everything, so he created evolution” rather ridiculous. As I find ridiculous a glimpse of yesterday’s O’Reilly show on Fox, where he “argued” with head of Atheist Society (or some such) that Christianity is not a religion but philosophy, and as such it should be adopted as guiding for our State.

  26. Sparrowkin Says:

    Tatyana:

    “Besides, often enough the most devoted believers turn out to be the biggest violators of their own religious morality rules (see Tudors, f.i., or just about any participant in Jewish pogroms, or any single Muslim in any place and any time of history, incl. our).”

    I may be mis-reading you. It has been a long day. But “Any single Muslim in any place and any time of history, including our)”–Is that including the people who ran countries where non-Muslims could freely and safely practice their own religion (among them Jews avoiding those pogroms you so generously objected to), where technology and medicine were flourishing as Charlemagne drove Franks into the rivers to forcibly baptize them and then went hope to crap in a bucket?

  27. Sparrowkin Says:

    Argh. Went HOME to crap in a bucket. Although perhaps he had to HOPE it was a clean bucket. Anyway, again, I am sorry if I mis-read you but your perspective of Muslims, in the way you are framing it, is…not something I could stand by without bringing up where I varied.

  28. Kristophr Says:

    Sparrowkin: Islam didn’t invent much of anything, including the number zero.

    They did do a better job of preserving what they inherited.

    As for Christian violence … at least the various Christian churches had this beaten out of them. The last witch burning was perpetrated in 1790 by Scottish Calvinists, who were executed for it by the local English magistrate.

    Islam is still killing people for strictly religious reasons to this day.

  29. Sparrowkin Says:

    So…you’re going to stop at Calvinist witch burnings of the 1790s. Are you then discounting the slaughter of Christian Indians in PA (moravians) because white vigilantes (the paxton boys) did not believe they could be Christians, Henry Knox and his outrageous “conquer to civilize/convert/land speculate” campaigns in the Northwest frontier of Ohio, 1791-94? And Sand Creek (we just passed the anniversary)–led by a Methodist minister, (1864. 2/3 of the 100 and change killed were women and children.)? And Wounded Knee? Also the deaths in Federal and religious boarding schools?
    And did you read the part where I said “flourishing” rather than “Inventing?” When it comes down to it, other religions aren’t “inventing” much–Christianity for instance–but it’s worth mentioning when followers of a religion have racked up a lot less genocide hours at the factory and spent time–as you acknowledge–preserving good ideas from the past.
    I do not object to a statement that says people kill in the name of Islam today. I DO object (on the grounds of statistical/historical/theological ridiculosity) to a blanket statement of “Any single Muslim etc (Tatyana) or “Islam is still killing people…” (your statement)

  30. Tatyana Says:

    Sparrowkin: if I understood you correctly, you state that Muslims “ran countries where non-Muslims could freely and safely practice their own religion (among them Jews)”

    That is a patent lie.

    Just google “persecution of Jews and Christians in Spain caliphate”. For instance, see this. There is evidence, also, that flourishing technology and medicine, as you call it, were mostly developed by non-Muslims. [not a proof, just an casual example]Look into “1000+1 night”, f.ex.: who is usually a doctor or a money-changer? A Jew. That’s people of business, technology and medicine for you…then, now and forever.

    And don’t tell me I don’t know history or unfamiliar with Muslims. I am. Too much, in fact, for a quiet sleep at night.
    More than an average American deluded by propaganda (including the kind professed by universities “liberal arts” departments and so called “academic elite”).
    Besides reading on the subject trustworthy sources I have lived 1/3 of my life in islam-dominated countries. Even now I live in Arab-infested area of Brooklyn, among shop signs in Arabic, hukkah joints, curtained to their eyes women and mosques interspersed with maddrassas. And I will stay here even if I will be the last remnant of “kafeer” population. Somebody has to do it.

    You could “stand by” my words or not, as you wish. I will not argue with you. Just like I don’t argue with Christians of the type highlighted by this post by LabRat.

  31. Tatyana Says:

    Besides, Sparrowkin, your use of the word “pogrom” is rather curious. FYI:
    Pogroms. Note the historical period and geographical location. Now compare it to Spanish caliphate. Still think 19th century Jews in Eastern Europe were saved from pogroms perpetrated by Orthodox Russian Christians by Muslims in Cordoba and Andalus in X-century?

  32. Sparrowkin Says:

    Ok. Tatyana.

    1. There is a difference between “flourishing” and “inventing.” I do not think saying that technology “flourished” in countries with Islamic rule means that Muslims invented it all.

    2. I’m not telling you that you don’t know history. You are doing that so well on your own that I won’t mess with perfection.

  33. Sparrowkin Says:

    Tatyana–I used pogroms to make a generalized statement about persecution in Eastern and Western Europe that medieval Jews would have needed a refuge from. It was not the best word choice. “Avoiding persecutions earlier than but similar to those pogroms etc” would have been better.

    although, in the spirit of FYI…naw. I’m leaving this alone.

    “Patent Lie”–I don’t think it means what you think it means…

  34. Tatyana Says:

    Sparrowkin,

    Now you added “medieval Jews of Europe” to your mess of 10th century Caliphate +19th century Russia. When, in your enlightened opinion, occurred Middle Ages? try not to look up timeline in Wiki.

    I use “patent lie” to characterize certain typical statements. “Patent” because they are regularly coming from leftie quarters; I’ll spell it out for you: it’s as if the Left took a PATENT on telling propaganda non-truths. “Lie”, however, has no hidden connotation: a lie is a lie. And this particular lie has been disproved thousand times over.

    To your pp.1&2:
    Employing Jesuit rhetorical devices is all you can do, I see. No substance. Fine by me.

  35. Mikael Says:

    “As for Christian violence … at least the various Christian churches had this beaten out of them. The last witch burning was perpetrated in 1790 by Scottish Calvinists, who were executed for it by the local English magistrate.”

    Let’s just say that christians killing jews went out of fashion after world war 2, but gays are still being beaten to death for christian morality reasons to this very day, and churches still preach that.

    And of course there are christian terrorist organisations, it’s not just the muslims. Off the top of my head: The National Liberation Front of Tripura(top 10 for terror activity world wide), The Lord’s Resistance Army(Kony and his child soldiers), Iron Guard, Army of God, Lambs of Christ. The last two domestic American ones.

  36. staghounds Says:

    Murder is universally wrong? Is it murder when I kill and eat a shark? When a shark kills and eats me? When a shark kills and eats a mackerel?

    Why did God create so many creatures that can live only by killing, by doing a universal wrong?

  37. Mikael Says:

    Btw this showed up in my email box yesterday:

    The Biblical story of the Amalekites has been used to justify mass murder for centuries, from the massacre of Native Americans to the genocide in Rwanda.

    Now the Child Evangelism Fellowship wants to bring that message to more than 100,000 public elementary school kids in America– telling children that if God wants them to kill a group of people, they should massacre them without question!

    The CEF’s Good News Clubs make no secret of the fact that they use their after-school programs to convert children into fundamentalist missionaries. But the CEF’s newest instruction manual doesn’t just encourage these kids to conquer people who practice a different religion. It tells them murder is God’s will—and that feeling remorse means they don’t have “the strength to obey”!

    Hate, murder and intolerance have no place in after-school programs for children. Please, sign our petition urging the CEF to stop teaching the story of Amalekites to these impressionable children immediately. What we teach children today is what they will act on tomorrow: tell the CEF to stop teaching murder and hate!

    Petition link: http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/216?n=4545803.n3Rz1g

    Yeah christianity isn’t as tame as we’d like yet.

  38. LabRat Says:

    Staghounds- that one, I think, is on “modern English is sloppy”. We tend to use “murder” pretty freely, but it used to be a rather highly specific word for the deliberate and unjust killing of another person- not an animal, and sadly often not the killing of a human being unqualified for personhood by that society’s lights. It’s one of the reasons I twitch a bit when I see “thou shalt not kill” as a translation; “kill” is WAY too broad a word compared to what was there in the Hebrew.

  39. Glenn Dixon Says:

    Well now you can say you’ve met an atheist who doesn’t believe that Jesus was a historical figure, at least not in any way recognizable by the New Testament. I think the original ‘sayings of Jesus’ were probably a collection from multiple messianic prophetic types in that era. Everything else is pure fiction.

    Having said that, I would say that my position is definitely in the minority within atheism. I should probably start a campaign or a web site or something… oh, wait!

    http://jesusneverexisted.com :)

  40. staghounds Says:

    I filtered it through that. If the “objective wrong” is the deprivation of human life without just cause, what about lions, tigers, sharks, and crocodiles, and wolves killing humans?

    Actually he lost me at “We know things are objectively wrong because we feel guilt when we do what is wrong; If morality was just our opinion, we wouldn’t feel guilty, for we would be doing what is right for us.”

    Unless “we” are Jeffrey Dahmer, or a couple of hundred thousand World War II veterans.

    And of course “The early Christians died for their belief that He rose from the dead. You don’t die for what you know is a lie. No one does, and no one ever could.” is one of the stupidest and most ahistorical things I’ve ever seen written.

  41. Sparrowkin Says:

    Mikael–signing the petition. Thanks! (I wrote my MA thesis on Native American wars of the 18th century–primarily the Miami confederation versus Henry Knox, so it means a LOT to me.)

  42. Old NFO Says:

    Meh… Y’all believe what you want, I’ll believe what I want, and we’ll let it go at that.