Thursday, November 8, 2007

Is angry debate all there is to organized religion?

I've been away for a while, but I see the conversation continued. I wish it had done so with less rancor -- with more of a desire to understand other views than an eagerness to prove them wrong. But that will only happen when people write about their own beliefs rather than insisting that they know what someone else believes, or that they know another person's motivations for posting.

So is it true that this sort of argument is the inevitable fruit of organized religion? Is it the best that churches can offer?

If I thought so, you certainly wouldn't find me there almost every Sunday. I know better, though.

Despite the noisy, often nasty debates that make up much of the news we hear about religion, that's not the real face of faith. Most people don't go to church or synagogue or mosque to join an argument. They go for community. They go to learn how to love. They go to find God.

This past weekend I experienced why being part of a church family matters. It had nothing to do with apologetics or condemning others or fighting over the meaning of Scripture.

It was my church's annual retreat in the mountains, a time for reflection and togetherness. The retreat was to be even more meaningful for me this year, because we were placing the ashes of my late husband in the memorial garden there.

The decision to make Kanuga his final resting place was easy. It was a place that had been special to us throughout our marriage -- in fact, we even spent part of our honeymoon in one of its cabins. We had laughed there, prayed there, made joyful music and lasting friendships. We led retreats and worship services that we wrote together. He played his fiddle to make children dance. It was, Gary once said, a place where he could be himself.

But as the time approached, I began to doubt whether that decision had been right. I began to fear that this place of such happy memories would forever be tainted by grief. That from now on the absence of Gary would be felt more intensely than the presence of God.

The decision had been made, though, so a few days before the retreat I sat down to plan the service. I pulled prayers and scriptures from several sources, then added, adapted and edited until it was the way I wanted it. And as I read the final prayer, something in me shifted.

The prayer read in part: "God of creation and renewal, we thank you for your good earth, which now cradles the body of our brother Gary. Continue to meet us here, at this holy resting place, where earth and ashes and dust mingle. Open our eyes to its beauty and our ears to the whisper of your voice on the wind. Keep Gary present in our hearts, that we may honor his memory by embracing each new day with courage and faith ..."

The prayer reminded me that the memorial garden would be a place not of remembrance only but of encounter. "Continue to meet us here," in the place where I had always found it easy to experience the divine. "Keep Gary present," not trapped in dusty memory.

It was a shift of heart that changed dread to a sense of blessing. And it happened because I chose to share this parting ritual with my church family. We could find together what I might not have found alone.

So it was with great gratitude that I welcomed about 50 people to that "holy resting place." We listened to one of Gary's students play "Amazing Grace" as he taught her to, while golden leaves spiraled to earth. We prayed and wept and read ancient words of hope and spoke of how Gary's life intersected with this place. We prayed some more, then sang enthusiastically while my son played guitar with his father's passion.

In the embrace of "organized religion," I found joy and comfort. No arguments, only love. It helped me find meaning when life's certainties fell apart.

That's the true face of faith. Too bad it's so often hidden behind a fearsome mask.

45 comments:

Nick said...

I've been away for a while, but I see the conversation continued. I wish it had done so with less rancor -- with more of a desire to understand other views than an eagerness to prove them wrong. But that will only happen when people write about their own beliefs rather than insisting that they know what someone else believes, or that they know another person's motivations for posting.

Myself: But this is my concern here. I am told at the start that we should not be eager to prove other people wrong. My first question is, if what I believe is right, ought I not be eager to share it?

Also, let us remember that it was in earlier posts that the non-Christians came out and then the Christians answered. It was not the Christians taking it to the skeptics. (Although in many cases, the church needs to do that. It worked in Acts.)

However, this is my concern. We are told we cannot know another person's motivations for posting.

If that's the case though, then how can we know that the motivation was an eagerness to prove someone wrong? Either the first part reflects the view of the second part does. It cannot be both.

Now we have a story, and it's a good story, but the problem is that the story cannot tell me what the truth is. If I want to know if Islam is the way or if Christ is the way or if Buddha is the way, I cannot get that based on a story. I need to examine the claims.

Is Islam hopelessly contradictory with its transcendence of a God too far to reach? Is Buddhism in a bind with a moral vacuum where there is no God to uphold it? In other words, what is wrong desire if there is no God to say what wrong is?

No. I need to look at the claims and the one that rings true is the claim of Christ as the one who came, claimed to be God, and proved it by rising from the dead.

To see the true face of faith, one looks at Christ.

Chris said...

The problem Nick, is that the proof you think you have is based on a book written by men well after these alleged events transpired. I think you could find that in a number of other religions. If so, does that count as proof? Not as it would be defined by the scientific method. And that's just the New Testament.

Part of my reason for debating is that I think it's important to cast light on better ways to solve our problems. One based on reasoning and rational thought, not superstition. I think the original purpose of religion was good - to help society function. However, it has been corrupted by those that have used it for power by praying on people's fears. We need to keep moving forward, not backward.

Sorry for your loss, Jane.

Nick said...

Chris: The problem Nick, is that the proof you think you have is based on a book written by men well after these alleged events transpired.

Actually, no. The first biographies of Buddha showed up centuries after his death. Muhammad's first one was in 767 A.D., 135 years after his death.

Meanwhile, the gospels can be dated to within one generation of the events that they describe. This is far better than other ancient sources by far.

Chris: I think you could find that in a number of other religions.

Myself: Which you couldn't.

Chris: If so, does that count as proof?

Myself: Does that prove Jesus rose from the dead? No. It gives a strong pointer to the reliability of the manuscripts though.

Especially for the epistles. NT scholars by and large will grant you 1 Cor. You know about that creed in 1 Cor. 15?

Chris: Not as it would be defined by the scientific method. And that's just the New Testament.

Myself: The scientific method is not the ultimate test for all truth. It works great in science, but it is for science. You don't use the scientific method to determine truth of aesthetic claims or mathematical claims for instance. The same for historical ones.

Chris: Part of my reason for debating is that I think it's important to cast light on better ways to solve our problems.

Myself: And what are our problems?

Chris: One based on reasoning and rational thought, not superstition.

Myself: Actually, I'd like to see superstition defined here. Don't give me a dictionary definition. I want the personal definition you use.

Also, I would be a strong advocate of reason and rationality. I constantly beg people to go and bless themselves and read the Republic and the rest of Plato. Get copies of Aristotle and read him.

Chris: I think the original purpose of religion was good - to help society function.

Myself: Can you show that was the original purpose?

Chris: However, it has been corrupted by those that have used it for power by praying on people's fears. We need to keep moving forward, not backward.

Myself: Actually, Christianity was not preached based on fear. The idea of "Turn and burn" is relatively new. The main focus of the gospel was that Christ had risen.

Chris: Sorry for your loss, Jane.

Myself: As am I. I wish I knew more behind the story though.

Anonymous said...

Chris wrote:
"I think the original purpose of religion was good - to help society function. However, it has been corrupted by those that have used it for power by praying on people's fears. We need to keep moving forward, not backward."

What you will find is that any organization, bureaucractic in nature, as are organized religions, government and larger businesses, will become corrupted by those in power; more exactly, in control.

This is the nature of men.

A religion, Christianity, Islam or whatever, is started by true believers.

A business is started with a focus on a product or service.

A government bureaucracy is started with the ideal of providing a service.

At first the product or service is the sole reason for the organization. Later, those who would use the organization for their own advancement gain position and control and 'corrupt' the nature of the organization to their own purposes.

This is the nature of man.

It is both one of the reasons we need religion, and, at the same time, one of the reasons organized religions seem to be less than they should be.

Jane has the ideal right. "Most people don't go to church or synagogue or mosque to join an argument. They go for community. They go to learn how to love. They go to find God."

Church is as much community as anything else, perhaps more so. The basic reason people attend a specific church, or join a specific religion is one of common beliefs.

Lewis Guignard

Danbo020759 said...

It would have been nice if Jane had spared a few of her comments for the posters who did not argue, yet instead reinforced her idea of organized religion. But, as usual, the squeaky wheel(s) got the grease.

If religion brings out the angry debater in you, you miss the point entirely. Belief in and worship of God should afford one peace above all else. Let some of that peace reflect off yourself and fall on others -- others who may not necessarily share your idea of "religion."

I know that angry debate is the last thing on my mind when a conversation turns to religion or to God.

Peace.

Anonymous said...

I've spent over a year going to church here in Charlotte almost every Sunday. I've helped setting up the stage, talked to the people, listened to the sermons etc... why? Because I was trying to figure out what makes people believe in this.

What did I find out? I found out that I can't find any rationality why people would believe in stories from OT and NT (seriously, spending days inside of a whale?!?) I couldn't figure out why God would spend the energy to create this beautiful day (many times I've heard "thank God for this wonderful day" when people were referring to a genuinely nice day outside) yet allow so many kids to die from starvation at the same time. I can understand people go to churches to meet like minded people and to "hang out" with them, but beyond that I just don't get it. I've read the Bible and with over two million people (explicitly named/numbered) being killed as a result of God, his actions or followers (being instructed to do so by God) I just don't see it being a just and loving creature. (Yes I am taking it out of context as apparently anything that points to Jealous - the true name of God - not being a good creature is "out of context").

I've tried to read books by people like Behe in the past and couldn't finish as they were full of BS. Even judge in Dover, PA pointed out that Behe is just a fraud. Yet almost every time I discuss religion with Christians they bring up Behe.

After spending over a year and being surrounded by Christians I still don't understand why anyone would believe in these stories when there is so much outside, there is so much to learn about nature, things they are missing because their answer is "God did it" for just about everything. How do you seek if you "already know the answer"? What drives your curiosity when you already know "the answer"? Why does it matter to you if two women want to marry each other and adopt a kid? (Is it better for a kid to grow up in the system than to have two loving moms or two dads?) Why does it bother you if someone else wants to have an abortion? (My kids sister is not even 18 and pregnant and going to age out of DSS custody before end of this year, she has no way of taking care of her new baby and same thing that happened to her will happen to her baby. Baby will not be taking care of as well as it should be, it will stand little to no chance not ending up in the system and the cycle will repeat.)

To answer those who claim non-theists "started this" I only have two words to say "Jesus Camp".

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

Some people are asking me why I am afraid of Christianity? Here is one of the reasons:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Robertson

'On January 2, 2007, during the 700 Club show, Robertson said that God spoke to him and told him that "mass killings" were to come during 2007, due to a terrorist attack on the United States. He added "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."'

My question is, do you guys consider Pat Robertson Christian and why?

Sincerely,
Iztok

D.J. said...

I think it is a mistake to classify all debate as "angry." I certainly to not argue for the truth of the Christian faith because I'm angry, I do so out of an urgent and genuine love for people and a desire to see them embrace the truth of the gospel. Jane, it seems you want a discussion where everyone shares their experiences and we all embrace those experiences as equally valid. This is not possible for someone like myself who belives in the absolute and exclusive truth of the gospel of Christ. I love others, I respect their right to their beliefs, but I do not accept those beleifs as truth. That viewpoint is often branded as "intolerance" and pushed from the stage. When that happens, your slogan becomes "The only thing we won't tolerate is intolerance."

Soli Deo Gloria

D.J. said...

Iztok,

Is Pat Robertson a Christian? Ultimately only God knows that. However, many of Pat Robertson's beliefs and statements are contrary to what Scripture teaches. His "prophecies" (which never come true, incidentally) and calls for the assassination of foriegn leaders hardly reflect Christian character as outlined in the Bible. I'll say this - if Robertson is a Christian, he is a greatly confused one with a big microphone - hardly a Christian leader.

Soli Deo Gloria

Danbo020759 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danbo020759 said...

Iztok, you miss the point -- by a mile.

Christianity doe not mean that each and every Christian is right in what they say and do. Pat Roberston isn't why I am a Christian. The Crusades do not deter me from being a Christian.

People make mistakes -- they sin. That does not mean that we should not aspire to higher ideals.

There is no conflict between God and nature, between God and science. Saying "God gave us a beautiful day" does not deter me from wanting to find out how He did it through the wonders of nature and science. The secrets of the atom are there for us to discover. God was the architect of a plan and the materials to carry it out.

Iztok, you seem to be a very intelligent and thought-provoking person. God loves you despite your refusal to believe in Him. But, it's never too late to believe.

As for rationality -- belief in God is not so much about rationality, but more of faith.

Evil in the world? Ah, the question that will plague us until the end of time. Why does God "allow" children to starve? For wars to exist? Easy answer although hard to swallow -- God is the "author of life while Satan is the "author of death." Man chose his path (death) by sinning (and continuing to sin). Thus evil entered "our" world. Therefore, man chose to sin, chose death and evil. God has nothing to do with it.

God "allows" evil to exist because 1) he gave man freedom of choice (without evil there is no choice) so that he could be proven the better for it and 2) believe it or not, there is a "good" that comes out of every evil act. We do not know what that good is in many occasions, but we will know one day.

I reiterate, God would be "jumping for joy" if every human being turned away from sin today -- permanently, but man is still weak. When disaster befalls man, pray for those affected -- but then look at the outpouring of love to those left behind; the good that is done. Don't dismiss the good that is accomplished just because it was evil/disaster that brought it about.

As Luke Skywalker said to Darth Vader, "Let go of your hate." That's the first and biggest step to finding God.

Respectfully submitted,

Dan

D.J. said...

Good thoughts, Dan.

- And bonus points for the Star Wars reference :)

Soli Deo Gloria

Marim said...

Thank you for sharing the beautiful story about the memorial for your husband. What a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate your husband's life with such a positive and peaceful remembrance. The prayer that you included was very touching and you are truly blessed to have such a wonderful church family to share this with.


And double kudos to Dan for the Star Wars reference. Love it! Two thumbs way up!!!

Nick said...

First off Iztok, how are things going for you? I know in the last thread, you left under some strong circumstances. Have you got those worked out?

Now on to our usual dialogue. (And for clarification, while it could be a debate, it is not an angry one. If my roommate was here, he would testify that I am in a good mood when I start to post and when I finish.)

Iztok: I've spent over a year going to church here in Charlotte almost every Sunday. I've helped setting up the stage, talked to the people, listened to the sermons etc... why? Because I was trying to figure out what makes people believe in this.

What did I find out? I found out that I can't find any rationality why people would believe in stories from OT and NT (seriously, spending days inside of a whale?!?) I couldn't figure out why God would spend the energy to create this beautiful day (many times I've heard "thank God for this wonderful day" when people were referring to a genuinely nice day outside) yet allow so many kids to die from starvation at the same time. I can understand people go to churches to meet like minded people and to "hang out" with them, but beyond that I just don't get it. I've read the Bible and with over two million people (explicitly named/numbered) being killed as a result of God, his actions or followers (being instructed to do so by God) I just don't see it being a just and loving creature. (Yes I am taking it out of context as apparently anything that points to Jealous - the true name of God - not being a good creature is "out of context").

Myself: I hate to say this as it admits a huge error in the mainstream church today, but you will find very few people it seems who know why they believe. It is simply "I have been raised this way" or "I feel the presence of God" or something like that which a New Ager or a Muslim could say.

I am incredibly disappointed by that. I commend the search though. I am thankful that in coming to this town, I found a church that has a strong emphasis on Christian Apologetics and wants to train people in what they believe and why.

Now if you wanted to discuss any particular story, I would be glad to explain why I believe in it. However, I would advise you to take C.S. Lewis's advice and don't write off a story beforehand just because it contains supernatural elements.

As for the problem of evil, I would gladly discuss that. I have done a debate on that topic before and am familiar with the question. I would say though to separate the emotional problem of evil from the rational one. An example:

Suppose I get a ministry position one day and in comes a mother to see me asking "Why did my teenage son die when a drunk driver hit him?"

Now I'm philosophical by nature, but I've told others in my field that if that happens to you and you give her an argument on the problem of evil, I will come and I will give you a good and swift boot to the head. That lady does not need an argument then on why God allows evil. She needs a friend, a minister, a counselor, a prayer partner, etc. (I'd also recommend letting a lady handle that for other reasons.)

Now maybe in a few weeks or so, she might want to discuss the rational problem of evil and then you can go philosophical, but not before.

Iztok. My first question though is that you seem to recognize a way the world ought not to be. Does that not imply a way it ought to be? Where does that idea come from?

Iztok: I've tried to read books by people like Behe in the past and couldn't finish as they were full of BS. Even judge in Dover, PA pointed out that Behe is just a fraud. Yet almost every time I discuss religion with Christians they bring up Behe.

Myself: I personally don't go into the creation/evolution thing too much. Science is not my main subject. My reasons for not believing in macroevolutionary theory are more philosophical than scientific.

Iztok: After spending over a year and being surrounded by Christians I still don't understand why anyone would believe in these stories when there is so much outside, there is so much to learn about nature, things they are missing because their answer is "God did it" for just about everything. How do you seek if you "already know the answer"? What drives your curiosity when you already know "the answer"?

Myself: What fascinates me is how he did things and why he did things. The problem with your response is you are automatically writing off "God did it" as an invalid answer. Well Iztok, if God did do it, it certainly is a valid answer to have.

Iztok: Why does it matter to you if two women want to marry each other and adopt a kid? (Is it better for a kid to grow up in the system than to have two loving moms or two dads?)

Myself:Because family is the foundation unit of society in producing children for the world. A child needs a Mom and a Dad. It's the same reason I wouldn't want a single parent to adopt.

Iztok: Why does it bother you if someone else wants to have an abortion? (My kids sister is not even 18 and pregnant and going to age out of DSS custody before end of this year, she has no way of taking care of her new baby and same thing that happened to her will happen to her baby. Baby will not be taking care of as well as it should be, it will stand little to no chance not ending up in the system and the cycle will repeat.)

Myself: My simple reason and this is blunt. I see abortion as murder. It is an innocent human life and we have no right to terminate it. Instead, put the baby in adoption. There are several women who would love it. In fact, go back to those churches and be honest with your plans and you'll find several families who would gladly adopt the child before abortion.

Oh, as for Pat Robertson, I pay no attention to him any more. Him or TBN or any of those crazies don't matter to me.

Danbo020759 said...

LOL. Of all the comments I've contributed, I get mentioned in two successive posts for my "Star Wars" quote. You've got to love people who love God! :)

Seriously, thanks for the kind words!

Dan

billy graham said...

Organized religion breeds intolerance. Your all crazy.

Nick said...

Organized religion breeds intolerance. Your all crazy.

Myself: Could you define intolerance please as you see it?

Anonymous said...

1. Existence of evil is not required for humans to have free will. I see no way these two are truly connected except in a way that one needs a justification for evil.

2. There is no way you would be able to seriously convince me that starvation of innocent kids is for the greater good. You can try but I don't see how you can bring any rational to the game.

3. My personal situation changed yes. Thanks for asking! My kid is like night and day this week despite my travel and she is reconsidering adoption again and doesn't see it as a betrayal of her natural family.

4. Adoption rather then abortion. There are several thousand kids in custody of DSS in NC alone. They do not have families that are willing to adopt them. So I am asking you to point to those people who would rather adopt then see abortion so I can direct them to proper institutions where they can step up to the plate and stop talking. Talk is cheap, (lack of) actions speak different story. My kid was in the system for several years before we stepped up to the plate. Only 4% of the kids once they reach age of 10 are ever adopted in US.

5. What is a family? In my book is one or more parents with one or more kids. If one can't have "traditional" family I feel that a single parent or same gender parents are better then kids ending up in the system. Unless you can point out where those kids would do better in DSS custody rather being adopted by same gender parents I can rest my case there. Here is a link to a study info: http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=38cc20ce-7f14-44ea-b4d9-d4cd16d7a269&k=9378

""A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in 'traditional nuclear' families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences," says the 74-page study."

Sincerely,
Iztok

jenn said...

Normally, I enjoy what other people have to say about faith and religion, but reading these comments just wears me out.

But Jane, I loved this story about your husband and his final resting place and how your church helped you to feel like that was where he belonged. I hope that you are able to visit him there often and that you find a lovely sense of peace and connectedness from being there.

Nick said...

Iztok: 1. Existence of evil is not required for humans to have free will. I see no way these two are truly connected except in a way that one needs a justification for evil.

Myself: No one is saying it is. Evil doesn't pre-date free-will. Free-will predates evil. The existence of free-will does not give the necessity of evil but allows for it.

Also, what is the moral standard by which you differentiate between good and evil?

Iztok: 2. There is no way you would be able to seriously convince me that starvation of innocent kids is for the greater good. You can try but I don't see how you can bring any rational to the game.

Myself: There is no way one would have been convinced that the death of the most righteous one of all would be for the greater good, but lo and behold it is.

Please note this. Evil acts are not themselves considered good. No one says that kids starving is a good thing. Here's what we do say. God is great enough that evil will be overcome and all suffering is redeemable.

Here's also a more pointed question. The problem of starving kids is more a problem of human evil. We have more than enough resources to feed everyone on the planet easy. The real question then becomes, what are you and I doing about it?

There's a story about two people talking and one saying "When I get to see God, I'm going to ask him why he didn't do something about all the suffering on the planet" and the other responds, "I'm not because he might ask me the same thing."

Iztok: 3. My personal situation changed yes. Thanks for asking! My kid is like night and day this week despite my travel and she is reconsidering adoption again and doesn't see it as a betrayal of her natural family.

Myself: Good. Adoption is never betrayal. I wish it would be done more often.

Iztok: 4. Adoption rather then abortion. There are several thousand kids in custody of DSS in NC alone. They do not have families that are willing to adopt them. So I am asking you to point to those people who would rather adopt then see abortion so I can direct them to proper institutions where they can step up to the plate and stop talking. Talk is cheap, (lack of) actions speak different story. My kid was in the system for several years before we stepped up to the plate. Only 4% of the kids once they reach age of 10 are ever adopted in US.

Myself: There are several who are willing. There is a reason many people do have to adopt overseas kids. In many places due to abortion, there really aren't people willing to adopt. Now I being a single man would not do so at this point, but again, the local churches I'm sure have several.

Also, I still don't see how abortion could be justified. I plain and simple see it as murder.

Iztok: 5. What is a family? In my book is one or more parents with one or more kids. If one can't have "traditional" family I feel that a single parent or same gender parents are better then kids ending up in the system. Unless you can point out where those kids would do better in DSS custody rather being adopted by same gender parents I can rest my case there. Here is a link to a study info: http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=38cc20ce-7f14-44ea-b4d9-d4cd16d7a269&k=9378

""A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in 'traditional nuclear' families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences," says the 74-page study."

Sincerely,
Iztok

Myself: What I am wondering about is what is meant by social competence. Can they function in society? I don't see why not. That could happen under anyone. I learned English from my parents, but I could have learned it from anyone in society.

However, are the kids going to be raised virtuous? Are the men going to be raised to be men and are the women going to be raised to be women? That's my concern. We talk a lot about the kids being happy. Unfortunately, happy kids aren't always the best ones. Look at the children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The four bad kids are all happy, but do you want your children to be like that?

Anonymous said...

Hooray for light rail !!!!!

With that said.... I when think people, especially of no faith such as myself, are constantly witness to the atrocoties "in the name of religion" has and is causing in this world, we tend to get a little angry about any type of religion.

It really is all quite troublesome. Much of our problems, the lack of world peace, etc. would dissapear if religion were to do the same.

But hey, that's just my own personal opinion and I don't want to have an angry arguement.

Peace.

Danbo020759 said...

Actually, evil did pre-date the free-will of man. Satan's fall was the result of the sin or pride.

Mankind then used its free will to choose to do evil. Hence, death entered human existence. But death was conquered by the Resurrection of Christ, who came to save all mankind.

And the previous poster was right -- don't blame God for evil in the world. Laythe blame at the feet of those who choose to do evil; i.e., man.

Like it or not, God is so powerful that good can be salavged from any act, no matter how evil. That's why He is God. All things are possible with God.

Anonymous said...

Just like the previous poster said "in the name of religion". By your tone you yourself have no tolerance of other religions except that of the only ONE true religion of Christianity.

It's all a bunch of silly hog wash. Unbelieveable that people still subscribe to this nonsence.

All religion is the same "MINE IS THE ONLY TRUE WAY".

This is how wars are started and people are killed.

Anonymous said...

^ Ditto
All religions have the same stories to them. Just altered slightly, names changed, etc. Same story though. And many bible stories were out there before the bible existed and in other religions. Same folk lore told by different groups.

Nick said...

Hi Dan. I wanted to clarify this:

Dan: Actually, evil did pre-date the free-will of man. Satan's fall was the result of the sin or pride.

Me: Notice though that I did not say the free-will of man. I said free-will came before evil. I do believe Satan's choice was a free-will choice on his part. Yes. Satan rebelled before man fell. I do believe that. That's why I made sure to not say the free-will of man.

Hope that clears things up.

Nick said...

And it seems there's much else to respond to as well.

As for religion being removed leading to world peace, no. That would leave us only with science and science is good for many things, but it cannot tell us what is moral and immoral. Science can speak about information that comes through the senses and your senses do not tell you that murder is evil. Good and evil are not physical qualities that can be measured through the senses.

Now as for the poster who complained about tolerance, does it occur to you that you are intolerant of religion? Everyone has some lines of tolerance. However, in my view of classical tolerance, I can fully respect you as a person while I disagree entirely with your view.

I believe Christ is the way. Should that lead me to hate you? No. It should lead me to show you him so you can be on this way also. Should that lead me to being superior? No. I cannot brag at all about salvation as I am fully dependent on him and the Scriptures warn me not to boast in such a thing.

Finally, to the idea that all the stories existed before the Bible, that would have to be shown. I am suspecting I will hear stories like Gilgamesh and Sargon being found in a basket like Moses and the like.

What will have to be done is to take the accounts and compare them and see when exactly they date from. Also, we must recognize that similarity in accounts does not necessarily equal borrowing from accounts. To do so is to commit the post hoc fallacy.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys read like a Lord of the Rings book.
Seriously, I'm not poking fun. Just an observation.

I believe to each his own. As long as it doesn't bother me I don't care what my neighbor does. That goes for his religion, sexual preference, political stance, whatever.

As far as us not having morals without religion I have to dissagree. I was raised by Atheist parents who have raised me to be respectful of others and treat everyone as an equal.
We donate our time and money to various charities and do our best to be good stewards of the environment so generations after us can enjoy the Earth.
I don't see how religion has anything to do with living a moral life. At least according to my moral standards. Now if you get into all of the religious moral standards then that's a different story.

But that's religion for you.

Nick said...

As far as us not having morals without religion I have to dissagree. I was raised by Atheist parents who have raised me to be respectful of others and treat everyone as an equal.
We donate our time and money to various charities and do our best to be good stewards of the environment so generations after us can enjoy the Earth.
I don't see how religion has anything to do with living a moral life. At least according to my moral standards. Now if you get into all of the religious moral standards then that's a different story.

Me: No one is denying atheists can be moral. They most certainly can be. I know a number of atheists who I consider to be excellent people. The question is, does atheism provide any basis for morality?

For instance, you were raised to treat people as equal. On what basis are we equal in an atheistic universe?

Now you do various actions you call good. I think they're good also, but on what basis? That is the question. How do you get from science to what is good and evil? You need something beyond the senses for that.

If all there is is the physical universe and all that is can be stated in physical terminology, then what of morality?

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's possible for me to answer any of your questions since our thoughts are vastly different.

"On what basis are we equal in an atheistic universe"

I cannot even begin to answer or argue that question since I personally do not see the need of an existence of God or a book to tell me what is right or wrong.

It's common sence from birth unless you have mental problems in which it may differ tremendously. Or you have abusive or neglecting parents.
You know if you are doing something that is hurtful to another. No one has to witness to you so you can understand that. You get it instinctively.

I think this is why "Is angry debate all there is to organized religion?" is the topic. There's really no way to debate something like a God. When one side faithfully beieves in it and the other dismisses it then you really can't debate it.

Anonymous said...

What I'm trying to say is it's "FAITH". You can't debate something you can't prove.

It would be like trying to debate the Atom bomb 200 years ago.

Nick said...

"On what basis are we equal in an atheistic universe"

I cannot even begin to answer or argue that question since I personally do not see the need of an existence of God or a book to tell me what is right or wrong.

Myself: But that is the problem. Where is the justification of this? This isn't a claim about science. It is a claim about metaphysics. After all, in science we are all different. We could say we all have DNA. Some people have 47 chromosomes. Different people have different DNA. How can we say all people are equal if we cannot say how?

Now do we need a book to tell us right from wrong? No. In fact, the book tells us otherwise. Romans 1 and 2 tell us that God's law is written on our hearts, something we in the theistic community call Natural Law.

The problem with atheism in this regards is that there is no foundation for morality. It's as if there are some moral laws that are out there. However, if they are not physical, then matter is not all there is.

You: It's common sence from birth unless you have mental problems in which it may differ tremendously. Or you have abusive or neglecting parents.

Me: Interesting that you mention unless you have a mental problem. That would imply that if the brain is functioning properly, then there is morality.

However, if there is no ultimate design to the brain, there is no proper function of the brain. Design implies what Aristotle called a final cause. Why is it that my brain, supposedly the result of an accident in an accidental universe can apprehend this accident? Why does one accident care about another?

You: You know if you are doing something that is hurtful to another. No one has to witness to you so you can understand that. You get it instinctively.

Me: But this doesn't work. As someone like Kant could say, in some cultures they love their neighbors and in others they eat them both on the basis of feeling, do you have a preference?

Furthermore, have we not been to a dentist before? They hurt, but their actions are certainly moral. (Unless you're in the Marathon Man.) The criteria of not hurting isn't enough and even if that was the case, why should I think hurting someone is immoral? On what basis?

You: I think this is why "Is angry debate all there is to organized religion?" is the topic. There's really no way to debate something like a God. When one side faithfully beieves in it and the other dismisses it then you really can't debate it.

Me: Sure you can. Go to a website like apollos.ws and listen to the debates on the existence of God. The way to do it is the way you debate any other topic. Each side comes and gives their reasons and then the other side answers and gives theirs. Both are to come as partners seeking truth.

Nick said...

What I'm trying to say is it's "FAITH". You can't debate something you can't prove.

It would be like trying to debate the Atom bomb 200 years ago.

Me: That's really not the biblical view of faith. In the ANE culture, faith was trust based on prior evidence. It was never meant to be a blind leap in the dark. That's why the apostolic message always argued based on the truth claim that Jesus rose from the dead and they encouraged people to investigate it for themselves.

Now you say you cannot debate something that cannot be proven. My first question is, what criteria is required as proof? I don't like to use the term. I prefer high probability.

Secondly though, could you prove that you cannot debate something that can't be proved?

Anonymous said...

I guess it just boils down to I rather spend my time enjoying life and helping other instead of debating something that doesn't matter to me.

But it matters to you so debate away. We all need to do what inspires us the most.

Have a great weekend. I am out of work early and plan on getting a head start.

Anonymous said...

I like that...."Secondly though, could you prove that you cannot debate something that can't be proved?".

That's a good one.

Have a great day.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

re: Morals and religion. Latest research shows that morals are result of evolution. Basically animals with better morals seem to do better in this world. Morals are not exclusive to humans, it seems that compassion and other attributes can be observed in other apes as well.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

re: Morals and religion. Latest research shows that morals are result of evolution. Basically animals with better morals seem to do better in this world. Morals are not exclusive to humans, it seems that compassion and other attributes can be observed in other apes as well.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: Hiya Iztok. Good to see you again. Btw, any details on your daughter? That did have me concerned and it was a prayer request of mine.

Looking at what you said though, we can see there is some morality in the animal kingdom, but we have to admit they do things we don't find moral. Many animals eat their young for instance. I doubt we'd copy that.

The problem with saying that this is the result of evolution is simple. An is does not imply an ought. Animals may act in a way we call moral. Does that imply the ought part though? Why do I have this pressing need on me to act moral?

Now if morality is an illusion and there really is no standard outside of myself that I am to be obedient to, then why don't I live accordingly? Once I see morality is an illusion, I have no reason to follow it.

I might not answer til late tomorrow. I'm going to be at that big conference here in Charlotte so if you don't hear from me, that's why.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I am disturbed what I've heard from you.

By saying what you are saying you are freely admitting to the following: If there was no God (a law giver) I (Nick) wouldn't act moral because there was no consequence (no reward for being good, no punishment for being bad) for me to act such.

In my eyes this is not what a moral person makes. A moral person is being moral because it is right thing to do, not as of fear of being punished or hope of being rewarded.

If you are moral because God told you so, then you are merely servile, that is it. Hm... how do we call the submission? Islam.

Sincerely,
Iztok

P.S.: I've answered earlier about my daughter. She is doing better, a couple of therapy sessions, help from teachers, adjustment of meds, and lots of conversation calmed her down and she is a different person this week (even counselor didn't believe the difference from last Thursday to this). She is looking forward again to go to Renaissance Festival today :)

Nick said...

Iztok: Nick, I am disturbed what I've heard from you.

By saying what you are saying you are freely admitting to the following: If there was no God (a law giver) I (Nick) wouldn't act moral because there was no consequence (no reward for being good, no punishment for being bad) for me to act such.

Me: Actually, not really. I'm saying that if there was no God, there would be no morality. There would be no such thing as good to reward or bad to be punished. If there is no morality, then when you walk by a pool and see a drowning child, you either jump in and save him or jump in and drown him and there's no moral distinction.

In theism though, it's not like that. There is a moral standard and it exists outside of us in the nature of God. Morality is not preference. It's not like what kind of ice cream I'll get at Ben and Jerry's. There's a right and there's a wrong. I don't do it for a reward either or to escape punishment, but simply because it is right.

Got a basis yet in atheism though for right and wrong?

Iztok: In my eyes this is not what a moral person makes. A moral person is being moral because it is right thing to do, not as of fear of being punished or hope of being rewarded.

Me: But look at this claim "A moral person is being moral because it is the right thing to do?" My answer is "Who says?" Someone says abortion is a right. Someone else, like me, says it is murder. Is there a truly right answer or is it personal preference?

Someone says lying on your income taxes is alright. Someone else says it isn't. Who's right? Someone says homosexuality is a sin. Someone says it's a legitimate lifestyle? Who's right?

If there are right and wrong answers on these questions, then there is an objective moral standard. If there isn't, then there's no sense debating morality.

Iztok: If you are moral because God told you so, then you are merely servile, that is it. Hm... how do we call the submission? Islam.

Sincerely,
Iztok

The idea of submission to God is not something Islam dreamed up. It's been there for a long time. I am submissive to God because he is my source of being and all that I am and I owe him all that I have.

Yet even before coming to Christ, I knew there was a right and a wrong and I needed to follow it, even if I hadn't done a study of natural law and thought about where that idea of right and wrong comes from.

The fact that you find the idea disturbing actually shows that you believe in such a moral law as well. My problem is, if matter is all there is, then how can this moral law even exist?

(Yeah. I know I said I might not be one, but I got up early and I wanted to research something. Glad to hear your daughter is okay. I hadn't remembered much being mentioned of her and that was the one item mentioned that concerned me most.)

Anonymous said...

Nick, you are backpedaling. You well know that disobeying Jealous is a sin and carries eternal punishment. So in essence you are confirming what I said if you admit Jealous is law giver (in case of morals) then you have to accept reward/punishment behind the same concept.

Morals are not absolute, they are relative. For example in my role of a father I would not dream of conditioning my love to my child as I find this an immoral act. My child is disobedient at times and curses her parents from time to time (penalty for that is death according to Matthew 15:1-9, Matthew 5:17-18). I would not dream of killing her as your holy writ suggests. I do not follow your holy writ and I bet you don't either, your morals are more developed then what is written in the Bible. To go back to conditioning love with respect. I love my kids unconditionally, something you can't claim of Jealous at all. Which one is moral? I would say that unconditional love is more moral then conditional one.

Why I mentioned Islam? Because word Islam means submission.

Plus it is clear that our morals are older then holy writ. They even predate Moses. I bet no one expects our ancestors before Moses came from the mountain thought raping, killing etc. was OK and when Moses came down suddenly realized their wrongdoings.

Re: Got a basis for right, wrong in atheism. Sure thing, as I said, it looks like humans (and certain other animals, mostly apes) developed such things through evolution. It was beneficial for the genes thus carriers with more developed sense of right/wrong on the long term survived better.

Re: Abortion: I don't say abortion is right. Woman has to make her own decision what is right and wrong for her. It is not mine to tell, it is her body and her consequences. It is not my place to impose. I don't know her situation. I am not there to judge her situation.

Re: Abortion part 2: I think wast majority of Christians don't live what they preach. Majority Christian branch is opposing condoms because they stop transfer of life. Consequence of this is transfer of death (AIDS) in many African nations. As a result many innocent people die from rape being infected by HIV. I don't see morals in forbidding condoms when result is clearly death.

Re: Abortion part 3: Only 4% of kids in US get adopted once they reach age 10. You can't tell me that this "Christian nation" can't do better. Don't give me an excuse of being young or not married. There is no condition for adopting except that you have to be 18 and willing to welcome a child into your home and provide him/her with loving, safe, and permanent home. It seems to me that care for "life of the unborn kids" is just that until they are not born people preach, once they are born, they become someone else's problem.

Re: Abortion part 4: When I've heard about my friend considering abortion I spoke to my wife about it and we (despite the fact that we didn't want to have a baby in the house) decided to offer her to take her baby and raise it. Unfortunately she didn't go for it but we don't judge her. We were willing to step up to the plate for her. Neither my (Christian) wife nor me believe in abortion but we are both pro choice as we are not in their shoes. We just choose to step up and offer a solution, not bully her into one.

Re: Abortion part 5: My kid's (one in adoptive placement) sister seems to be pregnant. She is not even 18 and unable to take care of herself let alone the baby. She continues to smoke. Do I think she would be better off not keeping the fetus? Sure I do. I even think that right now fetus (being only 3 weeks old) would be better off with that decision too. Why? I am seeing what harm such behavior by natural mother has done to my daughter. She is suffering her biological mother's bad decisions every day and she will continue to do so her whole life. Being abused, neglected, malnourished, moved around from place to place, being in a car accident with drunk mother running red light left her permanent brain damage. Do I love her? I surely do! Would I give my life for her? In a heart beat! More importantly I am trying to make sure that the cycle will be broken. That she will realize that her life is wort something and people care for her and that there is more to life then being tossed around from place to place. I am trying to provide her a loving, nurturing environment. I am trying to teach her that parents love is unconditional. I am trying to teach her to not settle for a man that will treat her with anything else then I do.

At the end, no, my morals do not come from a higher being. They were passed to me by my ancestors and I am grateful to them. My parents raised me that way.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

In my experience, the more a person talks the less they listen.

There are some very poor listeners here.

Nick said...

Iztok: Nick, you are backpedaling. You well know that disobeying Jealous is a sin and carries eternal punishment. So in essence you are confirming what I said if you admit Jealous is law giver (in case of morals) then you have to accept reward/punishment behind the same concept.

In all honesty, much of this first paragraph doesn't make much sense to me. I'm wondering who this Jealous is exactly that you're speaking of. I'll take what I can though.

Is there a reward and punishment system in place. Oh yeah. There is. That's not my main point. My main point is there is no morality without God.

Iztok: Morals are not absolute, they are relative. For example in my role of a father I would not dream of conditioning my love to my child as I find this an immoral act. My child is disobedient at times and curses her parents from time to time (penalty for that is death according to Matthew 15:1-9, Matthew 5:17-18). I would not dream of killing her as your holy writ suggests. I do not follow your holy writ and I bet you don't either, your morals are more developed then what is written in the Bible. To go back to conditioning love with respect. I love my kids unconditionally, something you can't claim of Jealous at all. Which one is moral? I would say that unconditional love is more moral then conditional one.

Myself:If morality is relative, there can be no kind of love that is more moral than another. That implies a standard by which you determine the two. Also, if morality is relative, then you can no longer complain about the problem of evil. There is no such thing as the evil of starving children because there is no such thing as evil, not because there are no starving children.

Now I read the passages in my Scripture and I don't think those are the passages you meant to use as they don't speak about child discipline in any way. I believe the passage you are looking for is in Deuteronomy. Let me go on and give it.

It is Deut. 21:18-21. I won't put it here. Anyone can read it. Just a few things.

First off, this is in the ANE culture. I am not a Theonomist. I do not hold that Gentiles are under the civil law of the Israelites. Some clarification though.

This is not about stoning little Johnny because he's snippy to mother once. This is about dealing with a child who is in continuous rebellion although he is being disciplined.

Secondly, the child is described as a profligate and a drunkard. What does that tell me? It tells me that this is an older child capable of knowing the right from the wrong and is living in constant rebellion.

Thirdly, this was a culture where the family unit was the foundation. No parent would delight in this activity. Why was it done? For the greater good of the community.

Fourthly, they would go through all measures whatsoever before reaching this point. In that time, a son especially was a strong worker around the home and most importantly, would continue the family name.

That's just a few comments on it. It should be read in the context of an ANE society and not in our individualistic age.

Iztok: Why I mentioned Islam? Because word Islam means submission.

Me: And you are correct and I do submit to God. I submit to the God who revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. I have my reasons why I do not believe he revealed himself to Muhammad.

Iztok: Plus it is clear that our morals are older then holy writ. They even predate Moses.

Me: But Iztok, I have already affirmed this. Romans 1 and 2 speak of the law written on our hearts. The Ten Commandments were nothing new. The people didn't get them and say "Whoa! We'd better stop this murder thing!"

What was going on? It was something in the ANE culture. God was calling out a people. In Jewish society, this can sometimes be compared to a marriage proposal God was making to the Jews at this point.

Iztok: I bet no one expects our ancestors before Moses came from the mountain thought raping, killing etc. was OK and when Moses came down suddenly realized their wrongdoings.

Me: Exactly! That's what Natural Law teaches. However, if morality is relative, there is no such thing as wrongdoing.

Iztok: Re: Got a basis for right, wrong in atheism. Sure thing, as I said, it looks like humans (and certain other animals, mostly apes) developed such things through evolution. It was beneficial for the genes thus carriers with more developed sense of right/wrong on the long term survived better.

Me: More developed meaning what? Closer to the truth? But if morality is relative, there is no moral truth to get closer to. Beneficial? Then morality is nothing but a selfish invention and not a selfless invention.

Also, because we do certain actions and they are beneficial, it does not follow that they are right and there is no standard for the driving force in morality, an ought.

Iztok: Re: Abortion: I don't say abortion is right. Woman has to make her own decision what is right and wrong for her. It is not mine to tell, it is her body and her consequences. It is not my place to impose. I don't know her situation. I am not there to judge her situation.

Myself: All I'm saying in this is that I believe there is a right and a wrong answer. I believe the right answer is that it's murder and I have my reasons. However, if morality is relative, there is no right or wrong answer. The question "Is it right to abort a baby?" has as much meaning then as "Do colorless green dreams sleep furiously?"

Iztok: Re: Abortion part 2: I think wast majority of Christians don't live what they preach. Majority Christian branch is opposing condoms because they stop transfer of life. Consequence of this is transfer of death (AIDS) in many African nations. As a result many innocent people die from rape being infected by HIV. I don't see morals in forbidding condoms when result is clearly death.

Myself: If morality is relative, there is nothing wrong with hypocrisy. However, if it is absolute, there is something wrong with it and I condemn Christian hypocrisy just as much as the next guy.

However, I don't favor condoms for another reason. First off, condoms do not prevent the spread of HIV. Go to an office specializing in STDs. I have a friend who works for one and makes it abundantly clear. Condoms do not prevent the spread of HIV.

Secondly, the way to help Africa is to change their behavior. There's a great way to not spread HIV to people. Abstinence. When it is practiced, it works 100% of the time. Faithfulness in marriage! If we did that, it would work. A man and a woman stay pure til they marry and stay pure afterwards and HIV is not a concern.

Iztok: Re: Abortion part 3: Only 4% of kids in US get adopted once they reach age 10. You can't tell me that this "Christian nation" can't do better. Don't give me an excuse of being young or not married. There is no condition for adopting except that you have to be 18 and willing to welcome a child into your home and provide him/her with loving, safe, and permanent home. It seems to me that care for "life of the unborn kids" is just that until they are not born people preach, once they are born, they become someone else's problem.

Myself: I would very much like to see the statistics behind this. I also would say I do not believe we are living in a Christian nation. How can we say that when so many rulings from the SCOTUS have come down against Christianity?

Iztok: Re: Abortion part 4: When I've heard about my friend considering abortion I spoke to my wife about it and we (despite the fact that we didn't want to have a baby in the house) decided to offer her to take her baby and raise it. Unfortunately she didn't go for it but we don't judge her. We were willing to step up to the plate for her. Neither my (Christian) wife nor me believe in abortion but we are both pro choice as we are not in their shoes. We just choose to step up and offer a solution, not bully her into one.

Myself: I'd just like to know something. Do you consider what is in the womb to be a human life? Yes or no?

Iztok: Re: Abortion part 5: My kid's (one in adoptive placement) sister seems to be pregnant. She is not even 18 and unable to take care of herself let alone the baby. She continues to smoke. Do I think she would be better off not keeping the fetus? Sure I do. I even think that right now fetus (being only 3 weeks old) would be better off with that decision too. Why? I am seeing what harm such behavior by natural mother has done to my daughter. She is suffering her biological mother's bad decisions every day and she will continue to do so her whole life. Being abused, neglected, malnourished, moved around from place to place, being in a car accident with drunk mother running red light left her permanent brain damage. Do I love her? I surely do! Would I give my life for her? In a heart beat! More importantly I am trying to make sure that the cycle will be broken. That she will realize that her life is wort something and people care for her and that there is more to life then being tossed around from place to place. I am trying to provide her a loving, nurturing environment. I am trying to teach her that parents love is unconditional. I am trying to teach her to not settle for a man that will treat her with anything else then I do.

Myself: And those are important things she needs to learn, but why do you think she does? Because they work, or because they're true? Because they're beneficial, or because they're true?

But how can she learn to value life though if she does have an abortion? There is great depression often for many women who do have an abortion.

Iztok: At the end, no, my morals do not come from a higher being. They were passed to me by my ancestors and I am grateful to them. My parents raised me that way.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: But honestly, if morality is relative, then there is no truth content to the morals. They're what you believe, but they aren't true. It's just a personal preference like ice cream.

I'm grateful for your morals, yes, but I say they do come from a higher being and it's the same higher being your parents got them from and their parents. It doesn't matter if they're atheists, agnostics, Christians, Buddhists, Wiccans, etc. They all have the Natural Law written on their hearts.

Anonymous said...

"I'm wondering who this Jealous is exactly that you're speaking of. "

Hm... someone hasn't read his Bible?

"For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:14)

So who are we to argue with god who names himself Jealous? Why should we rename him?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok: "I'm wondering who this Jealous is exactly that you're speaking of. "

Hm... someone hasn't read his Bible?

"For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:14)

So who are we to argue with god who names himself Jealous? Why should we rename him?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: Actually, I did know about that passage and had it in my mind but was thinking "We haven't referenced anything like that so surely he's not thinking of that."

Let me ask this in response though. When Proverbs says a good name is to be desired above great riches, what does it mean?

Anonymous said...

Nick,

"My main point is there is no morality without God."

Really? I don't see any God in my life yet I would consider (and so would many others) as being a moral person. Even more I would consider my moral standards way higher then of God described in OT. (At least I didn't kill more then two million people for example. As well as NT (my love to my children is not conditional of their acceptance of me).

"If morality is relative, there can be no kind of love that is more moral than another..."

Hm... this paragraph of yours just doesn't make sense at all. Surely it is relative. As I pointed it out in the Bible it is OK for certain people (Israelites in your case) to kill disobedient children. Further more Jesus did came to upheld the law from the OT not to change it. So it seems you are the one who is applying relative standards based on who you are applying God's laws to, aren't you? You demonstrated the relativity of the morals yourself (and you explained it with the Bible, what more could you want as a proof from me).

"It should be read in the context of an ANE society and not in our individualistic age."

You are right, moral laws are relative! You've proven my case here.

"Romans 1 and 2 speak of the law written on our hearts."

Hm... Adam and Eve predate Romans, don't they? They didn't know good from evil, did they? God was telling them that they shouldn't eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, yet they didn't have any way of knowing that eating is "not good". So in all honesty they were framed as they had no way of knowing differently. How do you (justly) punish someone who doesn't know better? Do you punish him and his kids for ages to come? Is this just punishment? Modern woman is suffering at birth because Eve did something she did for not knowing any better? Is this just punishment? (Goes back to morals being relative as well.) When truth comes out serpent was right, wasn't it? Issue was not with the tree of knowledge of good and evil but with the tree of life and gods (plural!) didn't want that did they. So in essence Adam and Eve didn't "surely day the same day" as God told them, they just got the knowledge of good and evil (as serpent told them) and only when gods punished them by kicking them out of the garden they've became mortal (not as a result of eating from the tree but as a result of God's punishment for something they had no way of knowing better).

"That's what Natural Law teaches."

You got this right! law of the nature rules us all. We do not have a dominion over it (as Bible says) in fact microorganisms have dominion over us. I knew we'll ultimately come to the same point. (I am not sure you wanted to venture this way but you surely did.)

"But if morality is relative, there is no moral truth to get closer to."

You are right again. Evolution doesn't have a direction. I told you from the beginning that it seems that morality evolved, this should have told you that there is no particular direction of where morals will go. It is same with any other evolutionary development it's direction is a result of random changes paired with natural selection. While random changes are truly random, direction is given with natural selection at one given point with no target in sight.

"Also, because we do certain actions and they are beneficial, it does not follow that they are right and there is no standard for the driving force in morality, an ought."

You claim something w/o any evidence here. There seems no standard to be met. Our morals are better then those living two millenniums ago, they are different from other societies on the planet. They are clearly evolving and are not set in stone, are they? Hence they can not be absolute. You said it yourself, we can't judge our ancestors with todays moral standards, can we?

"I believe the right answer is that it's murder and I have my reasons."

Why would you say it is murder if woman destroys 150 non sentient cells in her body? We kill and eat more sentient animals daily. Please explain this abortion thing with absolutes so we can apply them across all living beings and we can see. (If you are bringing the Bible, make sure you square away all the God's orders to kill babies and women - including pregnant ones - before you do that.)

"If morality is relative, there is nothing wrong with hypocrisy."

Hm... you are right, there are plenty of hypocrisy when it comes to God of the Bible. So it must be relative for him as well.

On the other hand, your statement doesn't make sense. Just because something is relative it doesn't make it you can't make any decisions what is moral and what is not. Our society is different then those of our ancestors, we have different moral standards today then they had. If you agree with that you have to admit morals are relative.

"First off, condoms do not prevent the spread of HIV."

Hmm... care to show us any research? Obviously condoms would only apply to those who use them properly.

"Secondly, the way to help Africa is to change their behavior."

OK, how is this working now? Christians have been trying to do this for many years in Africa. Apparently is not working is it? We don't live in an ideal world. While I agree abstinence is the only thing, but we all know that humans aren't perfect. So your only solution is to be perfect? Have you seen teen pregnancy rate in NC? How does this work for you? In the state where we can't teach proper sex education past "abstinence is the answer". It doesn't work. It is time for good education and modern science to enter the scene. Obviously humans don't have domain over other living creatures, they have domain over us (HIV is good example).

"Now I read the passages in my Scripture and I don't think those are the passages you meant to use as they don't speak about child discipline in any way. I believe the passage you are looking for is in Deuteronomy."

What do you mean they are not? Matthew 15:1-9 are exactly that. Jesus came to affirm that those laws are valid and gave death of children for disrespecting parents from OT as an example. So yes even Jesus is telling you that if kids curse you they should be put to death.

"I would very much like to see the statistics behind this."

I was told this when taking MAPP class. It might or might not be true today. I did a quick search and found the following:

http://statistics.adoption.com/information/adoption-statistics-foster-care-1999.html

Here are some scary stats from it: "After aging out of foster care, 27% of males and 10% of females were incarcerated within 12 to 18 months. 50% were unemployed, 37% had not finished high school, 33% received public assistance, and 19% of females had given birth to children. Before leaving care, 47 percent were receiving some kind of counseling or medication for mental health problems; that number dropped to 21% after leaving care. (Courtney and Piliavin, 1998)"

"Age of Waiting Children on March 31, 1999 - 2% were less than one year old, 35% were 1-5 years, 37% were 6-10 years, 23% were 11-15 years, and 3% were 16-18 years old."

You can look for yourself for other things. I'll search for the source of my claim however.

"Do you consider what is in the womb to be a human life? "

Only past certain stage. I for example don't consider 150 cell embryo a human life (for me one of the conditions is being a sentient being).

"And those are important things she needs to learn, but why do you think she does? Because they work, or because they're true? Because they're beneficial, or because they're true?"

Because they work and are beneficial. Obviously.

"But how can she learn to value life though if she does have an abortion?"

She learned things by now. She will pass that trade down. Circle will continue. Her mom was (is?) a poor example and she is going on her footsteps. I think we all agree that at certain points certain people shouldn't have kids (yet). (For one, these kids will end up abused and neglected and back in the system.)

"But honestly, if morality is relative, then there is no truth content to the morals. They're what you believe, but they aren't true. It's just a personal preference like ice cream."

You are right there! You can observe this all around you. What is moral for some people is not moral for others and other way around. For example for me is not moral to control other persons life/womb, for you it is. For you it is OK for a woman to continue pregnancy despite extremely high risk of child being neglected and abused once born. For me that woman should have right to terminate (within few first weeks). For you it is moral that God punished kids that teased Elisha with being mauled to death, for me it is not.

"When Proverbs says a good name is to be desired above great riches, what does it mean?"

I would say that good name is a blessing. However that seems to contradict with Luke 6:26. Then again Psalm 12:1, 3 says wealth is sign of righteousness. As always you can pick your own story.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Really? I don't see any God in my life yet I would consider (and so would many others) as being a moral person. Even more I would consider my moral standards way higher then of God described in OT. (At least I didn't kill more then two million people for example. As well as NT (my love to my children is not conditional of their acceptance of me).

Me: Notice that this is not my claim though. My claim is not that atheists cannot be moral. I have thoroughly denied that. My claim is that there is no basis for morality in atheism.

Btw, you also speak about how your morality is higher. You can only speak about higher morality if there is a moral standard. Thus, you must be a moral absolutist to make this claim.



Iztok: Hm... this paragraph of yours just doesn't make sense at all. Surely it is relative. As I pointed it out in the Bible it is OK for certain people (Israelites in your case) to kill disobedient children. Further more Jesus did came to upheld the law from the OT not to change it. So it seems you are the one who is applying relative standards based on who you are applying God's laws to, aren't you? You demonstrated the relativity of the morals yourself (and you explained it with the Bible, what more could you want as a proof from me).

Me: Nope. The moral standard is the same. Disobedience to parents is wrong. Being a drunkard and profligate is wrong. What is the difference? The difference is that we do not live in a Theonomy. These things did not become okay when Christ came.

Also, Christ said that he came to fulfill the law, and he did. The obligations of the law have been met. We who are Gentiles were never under that law. We have always been under the moral law though.



Iztok: You are right, moral laws are relative! You've proven my case here.

Myself: Nope. While there may be some minor differences in how we approach morality, you will find that all societies hold to the same unalterable moral standards. For instance, in each society you can find the requirement to honor your father and mother. If you think distinction shows morality is relative, then I might as well say that distinction in personal opinion shows that truth is relative.



Iztok: Hm... Adam and Eve predate Romans, don't they? They didn't know good from evil, did they? God was telling them that they shouldn't eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, yet they didn't have any way of knowing that eating is "not good". So in all honesty they were framed as they had no way of knowing differently. How do you (justly) punish someone who doesn't know better? Do you punish him and his kids for ages to come? Is this just punishment? Modern woman is suffering at birth because Eve did something she did for not knowing any better? Is this just punishment? (Goes back to morals being relative as well.) When truth comes out serpent was right, wasn't it? Issue was not with the tree of knowledge of good and evil but with the tree of life and gods (plural!) didn't want that did they. So in essence Adam and Eve didn't "surely day the same day" as God told them, they just got the knowledge of good and evil (as serpent told them) and only when gods punished them by kicking them out of the garden they've became mortal (not as a result of eating from the tree but as a result of God's punishment for something they had no way of knowing better).

Me: Where do you have this idea of just and unjust punishment? You cannot hold to just and unjust as well as moral relativism at the same time. These two ideas are in contradiction.

Now was this really the knowledge of good and evil in the way you understand? No. It is the idea that they would become the ones who would determine what was right and wrong for them. (Ironically, becoming moral relativists in practice.) Was the devil right? The devil gave a grain of truth mixed with a huge error.

Also, man did not become mortal at that point. Man was already mortal. Had he never eaten from the tree of life, I do not doubt he would have eventually died naturally.



Iztok: You got this right! law of the nature rules us all. We do not have a dominion over it (as Bible says) in fact microorganisms have dominion over us. I knew we'll ultimately come to the same point. (I am not sure you wanted to venture this way but you surely did.)

Me: Iztok. What is understood by Natural Law and the Law of Nature are not the same thing. When I speak of natural law, I do not mean the way the physical universe functions. I mean the understanding of morality written on our hearts.

This is what is meant by Romans 1 and 2. Paul is not saying that when he wrote this that the natural law came into being. It means that from all eternity, the moral law has been understood on the hearts of men.

If you want to discuss science and microorganisms, those are the laws of nature. If you want to discuss how we know what is right and wrong, that is what ethicists refer to as Natural Law and what is meant by me.



Iztok: You are right again. Evolution doesn't have a direction. I told you from the beginning that it seems that morality evolved, this should have told you that there is no particular direction of where morals will go. It is same with any other evolutionary development it's direction is a result of random changes paired with natural selection. While random changes are truly random, direction is given with natural selection at one given point with no target in sight.

Me: Then we have no basis again for saying anything is better than anything else in morality. How can we speak of any such thing as evolutionary progress? How can you call it progress when it simply means that you have got to where you are?



Iztok: You claim something w/o any evidence here. There seems no standard to be met. Our morals are better then those living two millenniums ago, they are different from other societies on the planet. They are clearly evolving and are not set in stone, are they? Hence they can not be absolute. You said it yourself, we can't judge our ancestors with todays moral standards, can we?

Me: No. Not today's moral standards. With today's standards. We cannot judge that we are better simply because we are later. Now you say that our morals are evolving. Evolving into what?

You also say they are better. How can they be better if there is no standard by which one measures one idea as better than another?



Iztok: Why would you say it is murder if woman destroys 150 non sentient cells in her body? We kill and eat more sentient animals daily. Please explain this abortion thing with absolutes so we can apply them across all living beings and we can see. (If you are bringing the Bible, make sure you square away all the God's orders to kill babies and women - including pregnant ones - before you do that.)

Me: I'd be glad to explain those passages in the OT about the wars that seem to trouble you so much if you wish to present them.

As for the abortion one, humans are created in the image of God and we are not simply animals. Also, check the hearing done before the Senate with the specialists in the field. The conclusions are in. Life begins at conception. If human life begins at conception, then it is murder.



Iztok: Hm... you are right, there are plenty of hypocrisy when it comes to God of the Bible. So it must be relative for him as well.

Me: And you speak about this as a bad thing while saying with moral relativism that good and bad are illusions.

Iztok: On the other hand, your statement doesn't make sense. Just because something is relative it doesn't make it you can't make any decisions what is moral and what is not. Our society is different then those of our ancestors, we have different moral standards today then they had. If you agree with that you have to admit morals are relative.

Me: No. The moral standard is still the same. Some of our practices may be different, but the standard is still the same.

Now you can make decisions, but those decisions have no basis. You cannot make the statement "Murder is wrong." Tell me, why is it so many of the moral relativists I know after the V-Tech shootings for instance could not bring themselves to say that that action was evil?


Iztok: Hmm... care to show us any research? Obviously condoms would only apply to those who use them properly.

Me: I would be glad to get the sources from my friend.



Iztok: OK, how is this working now? Christians have been trying to do this for many years in Africa. Apparently is not working is it? We don't live in an ideal world. While I agree abstinence is the only thing, but we all know that humans aren't perfect. So your only solution is to be perfect? Have you seen teen pregnancy rate in NC? How does this work for you? In the state where we can't teach proper sex education past "abstinence is the answer". It doesn't work. It is time for good education and modern science to enter the scene. Obviously humans don't have domain over other living creatures, they have domain over us (HIV is good example).

Me: What the problem is is that students don't follow what is being taught. Why should they? Look at what they are blasted with in the media day after day. A return to virtue is the only thing that I believe will save Western Civilization.



Iztok: What do you mean they are not? Matthew 15:1-9 are exactly that. Jesus came to affirm that those laws are valid and gave death of children for disrespecting parents from OT as an example. So yes even Jesus is telling you that if kids curse you they should be put to death.

Me: Could you please tell me the point of the Matthew passage?

"I would very much like to see the statistics behind this."

I was told this when taking MAPP class. It might or might not be true today. I did a quick search and found the following:

http://statistics.adoption.com/information/adoption-statistics-foster-care-1999.html

Here are some scary stats from it: "After aging out of foster care, 27% of males and 10% of females were incarcerated within 12 to 18 months. 50% were unemployed, 37% had not finished high school, 33% received public assistance, and 19% of females had given birth to children. Before leaving care, 47 percent were receiving some kind of counseling or medication for mental health problems; that number dropped to 21% after leaving care. (Courtney and Piliavin, 1998)"



"Age of Waiting Children on March 31, 1999 - 2% were less than one year old, 35% were 1-5 years, 37% were 6-10 years, 23% were 11-15 years, and 3% were 16-18 years old."

You can look for yourself for other things. I'll search for the source of my claim however.

Me: Let us do that.



Iztok: Only past certain stage. I for example don't consider 150 cell embryo a human life (for me one of the conditions is being a sentient being).

Me: Could you please tell me at what point it becomes a human life?



Iztok: Because they work and are beneficial. Obviously.

Me: But are they true?



Iztok: She learned things by now. She will pass that trade down. Circle will continue. Her mom was (is?) a poor example and she is going on her footsteps. I think we all agree that at certain points certain people shouldn't have kids (yet). (For one, these kids will end up abused and neglected and back in the system.)

Me: if we all agree, are you not saying that this is a moral statement we should believe? Are you not speaking of abuse and neglect as bad things?


IZtok: You are right there! You can observe this all around you. What is moral for some people is not moral for others and other way around. For example for me is not moral to control other persons life/womb, for you it is. For you it is OK for a woman to continue pregnancy despite extremely high risk of child being neglected and abused once born. For me that woman should have right to terminate (within few first weeks). For you it is moral that God punished kids that teased Elisha with being mauled to death, for me it is not.

Me: The question is, can both be true? Also, if both cannot be true, there is no basis to complain about the OT, and if you really want to discuss the Elisha passage, I will gladly do so.



Iztok: I would say that good name is a blessing. However that seems to contradict with Luke 6:26. Then again Psalm 12:1, 3 says wealth is sign of righteousness. As always you can pick your own story.

Sincerely,
Iztok

What does a good name mean? Also, Psalm 12 does not say anything about wealth in those verses. The normal view is that while wealth can be a blessing, it is not necessarily a blessing. The belief was that if you were wealthy, it was because you had God's favor. Jesus reverses that and says it is not always so.