Thursday, January 10, 2008

The ultimate proof of God

Our conversation always comes back to one question
– The Question, I suppose, for any discussion about religion: Does God exist?

Those who have cast their lot with faith tend to get defensive when something so near to their heart is questioned. Those who dismiss faith as delusion become frustrated at the blind credulity of believers. Neither finds the other's arguments persuasive. And even fellow believers disagree over which arguments hold water (Because the Bible tells me so? Mystical experience? Church authority?).

I like what Dr. James Howell of Charlotte's Myers Park Methodist Church wrote in his current series of e-mails on questions about faith:

"God remains hidden, elusive, beyond our grasp – perhaps to drive us crazy, but perhaps so we will seek after God, so faith will be required, so love will yearn for fruition. ...

"If someone attacks the faith, if someone shudders over the very idea of God and religion, we might ask – Why? Often those who are hostile to God have been hurt by the Church, or personally disappointed by God or Christians in some profoundly painful way. Perhaps the first response to doubt is listening; perhaps the truest answer to the absence of faith is love. In the earliest days of the Church, what persuaded skeptics wasn’t the intellectual sophistication of Christianity, but the way the Christians loved, and acted on what they said they believed. The ultimate proof of God isn’t an argument, but love in action."

He adds in a later reflection:

"The most alluring proof of God’s existence for me is the way people who devote themselves to God live transformed, joyful, purposeful lives, their charity and embrace of goodness, their courage in the face of agony. The cure for doubt in our world isn’t entirely intellectual, but rests in the hands of God’s people, who too often lead vapid lives or merely dabble in faith instead of embodying the real thing."

Do you agree? Is there worth in arguing, or is that energy better spent in finding ways to love?

90 comments:

Danbo020759 said...

Jane Pope wrote, "...we might ask – Why? Often those who are hostile to God have been hurt by the Church, or personally disappointed by God or Christians in some profoundly painful way."

I believe I have been asking that very same question these past days right here on this blog (if those comments haven't been deleted).

Anonymous said...

Nice post Jane! I will try not to be offensive to anyone this time.

"The most alluring proof of God’s existence for me is the way people who devote themselves to God live transformed, joyful, purposeful lives, their charity and embrace of goodness, their courage in the face of agony."

See, for me my life transformed because I've started to deal with exchange students and when becoming a foster/adoptive parent. (BTW: been told on several occasions from people who didn't know I was an atheist that I am a true Christian. Go figure! :)

You know I've once read an article that dealt with Jesus in an interesting way and I mostly agree with it. The main message was "Atheists for Jesus". It somewhat encompasses (in my opinion) what people think when they say "I am not religious but I consider myself a follower of Jesus". Because if you separate mythical from the rest Jesus (I'll let alone the thing that I don't believe he ever existed as a real person) had some radical ethics and other good things. I also think he would be appalled at what has been done in his name (from Catholic Church to religious right).

So, hope this wasn't offensive to anyone. Come to think of it Atheists for Jesus is not too bad of a thought :)

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

What is with all the Jesus freaks???

Anonymous said...

My problem with organized religion is the fact that it breads intolerance. I especially despise the one's who try to push their beliefs on to me. They become so brainwashed, naive, and ignorant and it is pretty sad.

Anonymous said...

I meant breeds :) lol

Anonymous said...

As someone who has been "hurt by the church, or personally disappointed by God or Christians in some profoundly painful way," this post resonates well. I honestley don't think I'd be turned off of religion, or anyone, or anything, if we all treated each other with an ounce of love and honesty.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE - Lennon

Anonymous said...

The church tries hard, but, alas, is made up of humans who err. (yes, even those who believe and try to "save" others by being un-Christ-like to nonbelievers)

Christ is, always has been and always will be - perfect.


Forget about churches and organized religion (and the judgments they bring) and immerse yourself in God, his perfect son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, that lives within all of us.

Lennon didn't say it, but he should have: God is love.

Anonymous said...

What if --- just consider this --- it turns out that "God is Love" is literal, complete truth?

That the central, universal spirit we identify as 'God', which perhaps we can't help but imbue with distinct, one-individual characteristics because of our own limited frame of reference as humans, is in reality nothing more and nothing less than......love. Openness to this belief does not need to mean that God's dominion over the world is any less so than if it were 'He' (or 'She,' or just, 'God'). I'm talking about love in all its purest, most selfless forms: devotion for family, true romance for a significant other, charity given for those who need it. A dictionary may define love by many variations of desire or passion, but I believe love is BEST defined as stepping outside one's self to make an altruistic spiritual connection with another. Thus, Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam) = selflessness = love.

If this were true, or is true, then atheists cannot deny the existence of 'God', and sincere Christians cannot deny that their Litmus test for the only doctrine that matters is if it's fundamentally about love.

Anonymous said...

I think you're onto something...

Take John 3:16 literally: God so "loved" the world that He became human in the form of Jesus, who died so that ALL people can have eternal life. All they have to do is believe in Him. It can't help but change your life if you truly believe.

Anonymous said...

"Lennon didn't say it, but he should have: God is love."

Since Lennon was mentioned several times, here it is:

JOHN LENNON lyrics - Imagine

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one








Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

There's a twist -- quoting John Lennon in a discussion about God and love. John Lennon knew only one love and one "god" -- himself. When not curled up in a drug-induced stupor he was giving interviews with his wife -- naked and in bed.

John Lennon's "love" was apathy and irresponsibility.

D.J. said...

"Is there worth in arguing, or is that energy better spent in finding ways to love?"

My answer - yes. :)

The Christian faith is both intellectual and relational. It is love, but that love flows from our understanding of the nature and character of God. If one has perfectly formulated doctrine and intellectual greatness but doesn't have love, it is worthless (see 1 Corinthians 13). Likewise, if someone pays no attention to what God has said about himself (and about us) in Scripture and simply tries to love people, they will fail, for such a viewpoint fails to take into consideration the sinfulness of all people (Romans 3:23). Our sinfulness will frustrate our efforts to carry out the commands to love God supremely and love others, and it separates us infinitly from a perfectly holy God. Scripture teaches us that Christ came to earth, died, and rose again to redeem us from our sins, and Scripture goes so far as to say that if Christ was not raised "we are to be pitied above all men." (1 Corinthians 15)

Theology matters. Love matters. If we disregard either, we do a grave disservice to the faith. Many posters have asked if arguing/debating back and forth is profitable at all. I say it is. No, I will not change Iztok's (and others') mind with a clever argument, only God can change the heart. Yet I have grown in my faith as a result of debating with Iztok - he's keeps me from growing lazy in my faith, as I must make sure I follow Peter's admonition to "always be ready to give an answer." As I argue for the truthfullness of the word of God I see its beauty, and am moved to try and live out its truth more completely and faithfully.

Sorry, Beatles fans, but Lennon was just plain wrong. All we need is exactly what God says we need - to engage him and others with both our heads and our hearts. Things got a little nasty on the last post with some rather cheap shots being taken. But (to my fellow Christians here) let's strive to be more like Christ in our engagement with one another, rather than giving up on meaningful interaction with the truth of God's word.

Soli Deo Gloria

mike huckabee said...

God, you jesus freaks are weird. Go have a drink and enjoy life.

Anonymous said...

Jane: Could you do a post about whether you could become a Christian if you don't believe that Jesus is th e only way? I've been struggling with that for many years.

Danbo020759 said...

Anonymous, no need -- the answer is simple for a Christian.

Belief that Jesus is the only way is central to Christianity (in light of the Resurrection). Without the Resurrection, there is no hope for any of us.

Now, be careful in analyzing what I have just said. As a Catholic what I am *about to say* is at odds with many non-Catholic Christians and with many Catholics, too; although the Catholic Church does not disagree with the heart of what I am going to say.

It is *possible* for those who do not understand or *know* Jesus to attain Salvation. Why? Because, "All things are possible with God." [D.J.'s going to love this one, LOL.]

Now, the following is my own take on this alone and does not necessarily reflect the teaching of the Catholic Church, but it also does not contradict the Catholic Church Teachings, either.

I believe that for those who sincerely do not understand that Jesus is the Son of God, Salvation is *possible.* My reasons (apart from the argument above)? Jesus "came for all men/mankind." Not just for Gentiles. Not just for Jews. Not just for believers. For all. He pleads for "us" at the right hand of the Father.

What of the Jews and others who lived *before* Christ died for our sins? Some believed He would come, some never heard of The Promise. Where are they now? In Hell? Moses? In Hell? Noah? In Hell? Abraham? Isaiah? David? In Hell? As Christ died "for them" He died for all mankind. I'll say it until I am blue in the face -- Salvation is a gift from God. None of us deserve it. When someone offers a "free lunch" I don't make it my business to decide who should and who shouldn't eat.

I can rationalize that Jesus is the only way to Father while still believing that those who do not "know" Him (yet still love "God" by keeping His commandments) can still be saved.

Now I've opened the floodgates.

Anonymous said...

"mike huckabee", this is uncalled for! Name calling is just wrong.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Danbo020759 said...

But you'll notice MH began his insult with the word, "God." Interesting.

Reminds me of a funny line from "All in the Family" --

Mike Stivic: "It's times like these when I thank God I'm an atheist."

Jane Pope said...

Please, let's avoid insults, whether of individuals or entire religious groups.

There are interesting ideas to be discussed here, and throwing around terms like "Jesus freaks" generates heat, not light.

D.J. said...

Ah, Dan, you know me too well :)

You say you shouldn't make it your business to say who can and can't be saved. But what if God said? I believe he clearly has.

"It is *possible* for those who do not understand or *know* Jesus to attain Salvation. Why? Because, "All things are possible with God."

The question is not whether it is possible for God to save those who do not believe in Christ, but whether he does. So a Christian should ask, what does Scripture say on this topic.

"He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." - John 1:11-12

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." - John 3:18

"We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." - Galatians 2:16

"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" - 1 John 5:4-5

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." - Galatians 1:8-9

Continuing with Dan's thoughts...

"Not just for Gentiles. Not just for Jews. Not just for believers. For all. He pleads for "us" at the right hand of the Father."

Scripture clearly states that Christ came not just for Jews and not just for Gentiles. However, when you say "not just for believers" you are making a claim that Scripture never makes. If you can show me that claim from Scripture I'd be very impressed. You say that Jesus speaks for 'us' at the Father's side, but who is the 'us' in the passage in question.

"Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." - Romans 8:33-34

The pronoun 'us' here refers to the elect of God, those whom he has chosen in Christ. In fact, consider who Paul wrote this letter to - the church at Rome! We must consider the context - Paul was writing these things not to a general audience, but to a group of believers in Christ.

"What of the Jews and others who lived *before* Christ died for our sins? Some believed He would come, some never heard of The Promise."

Could you specify which OT saints never heard of the promise of a redeemer? All people before Christ were saved in the same way we are - through faith in Christ (see Romans 4 and Hebrews 11). They looked forward, we look back.

"I can rationalize that Jesus is the only way to Father while still believing that those who do not "know" Him (yet still love "God" by keeping His commandments) can still be saved."

My friend, I do think you have to rationalize this explaination, for you have a lot of Scriptural hoops to jump through to arrive there. I too believe we should be silent where Scripture is silent. The issue is that on this topic, Scripture is far from silent.

Soli Deo Gloria

Danbo59 said...

I don't like to quote Scripture unless I can do it in context, so I'll respond in this manner --

It is easy to pull isolated verses from Scripture to prove any point. You need to take all of Scripture and get the big picture. Add to that Sacred Tradition (where the Bible does tell us to "hold fast" to tradition) and you have to make a judgment based on the entirety.

The Bible tells us the CHURCH is the foundation and pillar of truth and not the Bible (1 Tim 3:15). It tells us to hold fast to the Traditions handed down to us (1 Cor 11:2). It also tells us to hold fast to Tradition whether oral or by letter (1 Thess 2:15), the Bible says to shun those who do not act according to Tradition (2 Thess 3:14). Finally, the Bible says that not all teaching is in the Bible (John 21:25).

Finally, as to the "I can use the Bible to support almost anything" I submit the following example:

Example (and paraphrasing) -- "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

Narrow-sighted conclusion = anyone who is rich can kiss heaven goodbye.

In-context (and, again, paraphrasing) -- "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven." His disciples replied, "Then who among us can be saved?" Jesus replied, "For man it is impossible. But for God, nothing is impossible."

Hoops jumped through.

You need Sacred Tradition to have a complete picture. Sola Scriptura did not come into being until the Reformation. For 1500 years past there had not been one iota of talk regarding Sola Scriptura. Not until Martin Luther decided to rewrite the Bible his way, adding a few words here and there (guess he overlooked that warning at the end of the Bible about subtracting from or adding to the words in the Bible) did Sola Scriptura come up.

Martin Luther was quite free with his "editing" of the Bible. Romans 3:28 [Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith (alone) apart from the deeds of the law.] was only the beginning.

Luther accepted the Catholic Church's Sacred Tradition of what books were to be in the Bible, then rejected Sacred Tradition using his "edited" Bible. Nicely done, I'd say.

D.J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D.J. said...

Dan,

If you believe I have taken those passages out of context, then please demonstrate textually how I have done so. The debate about Sola Scriptura and Luther editing the Bible (to which I answer "what?!?") is interesting, but not really relevant at this point. You seem to make the case that those passages of Scripture I quoted were taken out of context. Please demonstrate why this is true.

Soli Deo Gloria

Danbo59 said...

Never mind, DJ.

I didn't say you quoted out of context. I said it's easy to quote out of context.

I said that in order to make a determination as to whether non-Christians can be saved that one needed to blend Scripture and Sacred Tradition. I said that one needed to take *all* Scripture and Sacred Tradition into account, not bits and pieces culled out of the Bible.

"Nothing is impossible for God" trumps all. I didn't say everything was probable, I said "nothing is impossible."

Since you do not ascribe to Sacred Tradition, I provided paraphrases of verses supporting use of such.

You use Sola Scriptura to discount Sacred Tradition, so I point out that the concept did not exist until Martin Luther rewrote the Bible verses to his liking.

Oh, Luther didn't edit the Bible? C'mon. I only started with his addition of the word "only" to Romans 3:28. There are many other instances.

This is the last I'll say on the subject. You are free to practice your religion of exclusion, taking great pleasure in proclaiming the good news of "believe what I do or go to hell" while I will continue to spread the Gospel to those who will listen, while praying for and wishing God's blessings on those who choose to follow their own path to God.

D.J. said...

Dan,

"'Nothing is impossible for God' trumps all."

The topic is not, "What could God have done?" but "What did God do?" Would it have been possible for God to make Jesus a fish? Sure. But you don't believe that Jesus was perhaps a fish, because the Word of God tells us that he was a man. Likewise, God's word makes many statements that indicate that salvation comes only through faith in Christ. I have presented many of those statements here. As I asked before, if the meaning I am suggesting they have is incorrect, please offer an alternative contextual interpretation of the passages. If they don't mean that salvation is only for those who believe in Christ, then what do they mean? You've not interacted with one of those passages, but you tell me that I am misinterpreting them. If you look at my posts on this blog, you will find that if I accuse someone of misinterpreting a text (which you have implicitly by saying that my conclusion is in error) I always interact thoughtfully with that text and offer my interpretation. I'm simply asking for the same courtesy.

BTW, your characterizing me as "taking great pleasure" in the condemnation of unbelievers is off the mark. I am simply trying to be faithful to what I see as the clear teaching of the Word of God, even when what I find is (as it is in this case) a hard pill to swallow. My heart breaks for those who don't know Christ - that's why I'm in the ministry. I think it's rather baseless for you to say I take pleasure in the suffering of the lost.

Soli Deo Gloria

Corey Reynolds said...

danbo said, "I don't like to quote Scripture unless I can do it in context."

But that is exactly what D.J. was calling you out on by saying, "You say that Jesus speaks for 'us' at the Father's side, but who is the 'us' in the passage in question. "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." - Romans 8:33-34. The pronoun 'us' here refers to the elect of God, those whom he has chosen in Christ."

I just thought I would point out that little contradiction. Point, DJ!

Nick said...

Guess I'll chime in here.

Yes. Argumentation has a place. First off, it buffers those who are attacking the faith. People like myself are a defense for those who are not prepared and study to defend the faith. That is essential to protect those who have not studied for themselves.

Secondly, it is done for the third parties who are sitting on the fence. Other people could be watching and not sure what side to go on and a good debate can help them out.

Thirdly, it can convert the person in discussion. I've had discussions with people answering their questions that resulted in them converting.

Now the question of those who've never heard and if Jesus is the only way.

First off, no one will make it to Heaven without the work of Christ on the cross. That is absolutely essential. Now do they make it because they know the name of Jesus or on the authority of Jesus? I would contend the latter. After all, the OT saints did not know that name.

Secondly, can God guide people based on the light they have? I think he can. I think passages like Romans 1 and 2 speak of the witness of creation and the internal law of morality written on our hearts. I believe if someone is truly seeking God, God will provide a way of salvation, but they must be truly seeking him.

Thirdly, we have the words of Scripture. As Abraham said, "Will not the judge of all the Earth do right?" The Psalmist said "He will judge the world with equity." No one on the judgment day will be able to say "It wasn't fair."

Now why is Jesus the only way? Simple. Jesus is the only one who dealt with the problem that is sin. When you are at judgment, you will either be pronounced innocent based on the sacrifice of Christ, or God will judge you on what you have, your works.

If those works are absolutely perfect and you've never done anything wrong, you're in. Problem is most of us have messed that one up already.

If they are anything less than perfect though, you're out. That's the standard. The standard is God himself.

Btw, something interesting to consider. The Book of Acts is about the church evangelizing the world and the word "love" does not show up once.

mooms said...

Is DJ really saying that no one who is not a Christian will go to heaven? Does this really mean that the loving, kind, gentle Laotians my daughter lived with for a year - people who were the kindest people she had ever met - doomed to Hell?

What a "loving" God you folks subscribe to!!

By the way: The last discussion, re whether God loves all people, or just Christians, really doesn't get to the question at the beginning of this post: Is there a god? More on that later.

Nick said...

Mooms. Before answering that, I must ask by what standard you condemn this action.

mooms said...

Nick asks "Before answering that, I must ask by what standard you condemn this action."

Condemn what action? The idea that perfectly good, innocent people would be condemned to eternal suffering because they don't happen to be Christian?

I don't condemn such thoughts. I just think that they are preposterous.

Anyway, the the question at the start of this particular blog is, "Is there a god?" To that, there is no answer. There is, of course, not a scintilla of objective evidence that there is. And, New Atheist assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, there is no evidence that there is not. The answer will always be subjective, and personal. There does seem to be a human NEED for a god, or gods. Every culture that we know, in every place, and at every time, has had some sort of religion. Even Neanderthals buried their dead, with offerings.

This does not mean that there IS a god, or gods, of course. Sociobiologists opine that religion serves a need for a complex social species like our own, binding together tribal groups, suppressing ingroup aggression, and focusing aggression on outgroups. Being religious is an evolutionary advantage. So, Christians do not attack one another; they attack - or perhaps, try to convert - nonChristians. Or outgroup Christians.

Ambrose Bierce once wrote that god created man in his image, and man has been returning the complement ever since. Some men create a god in the image of a vengengeful, hateful being that would condemn innocent men, women and children for the crime of ignorance. Or, what they choose to define as ignorance: Belief in a supernatural that does not have Jesus at its center.

My daughter lived for a year among the Buddhist/animist Lao. Here is her description of them:

"The Lao are all smile and "Bo phan nyang" - no problem. They are curious about everything. I even had a guy crushed into my shoulder in the bed of a truck don his reading glasses so he could enjoy my novel with me as he breathed into my eyeball.

A close, friendly people, they look after themselves and everyone else. Your business is their business.

The Lao feel deeply, with heart. Although the sexes can't touch in public, men walk down the street hand in hand with their male friends, and women walk with their arms tight around each other.
The Lao never, ever hurry, things happen as Buddha proscribes, Buddha cannot be rushed. It is leisurely, and I appreciate this.
They Lao laugh easily, they are painfully open. I have been told many times that I am very fat by cheerful faces - it is not an insult here where food is scarce. People always ask how old I am - age is a gift in this poor society. When Alex and I divulge that we are married, there is the inevitable query of where our baby is - what, no baby? When will we have a baby? Alex looks at his watch and scratches his head, that's our answer. But here babies are blessings, and the children are gorgeous and happy.

The Lao are like honey - natural, slow-moving, and sweet. To generalize, they are the nicest group of people I have ever met, the most loving, laughing and compassionate."

Frankly, if there is a god, I hope she is the one created in the image of the Lao.

pornstudent said...

I am often impressed by the love of some Christians. They are loving in spite of what their Christian doctrine says or what they profess. Their love won't convert me, but it is a reason I might like them and not piss on the bible while they're looking.

Anonymous said...

mooms: "And, New Atheist assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, there is no evidence that there is not."

Most (if not all!) of "new atheists" actually do say something to the extent of "there is almost certainly no god". With exception of Hitchens who is antitheist rest pretty much claim there is not enough evidence to claim there is god and also claim that onus is on those who claim there is god to prove it. It really isn't our task to prove there is no such thing (universal negative is something impossible to prove).

Anyway, I wonder one thing. If DJ, Nick, danbo, and Jane (and others) could spend few minutes and go to this link and when finished tell us how many hits they took and how many bullets they've bit their first time answering this.

I would be interested in the results.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

Nick: "First off, it buffers those who are attacking the faith."

How is telling that faith is irrational and there is not enough evidence for it attacking faith?

"People like myself are a defense for those who are not prepared and study to defend the faith. That is essential to protect those who have not studied for themselves."

Actually from my point of view you are trying to keep those people ignorant and unable to think for themselves, you are in fact shielding them from reason.

I can completely understand why as it is obvious that critical thinking is the enemy of faith. People in this environment are so conditioned that they see what they are told to see.

For example there is a story of a father who was so delusional that he took his child and planned to kill him because voices in his head told him so. Can you imagine the terrified child that was about to be killed? This is child abuse. Yet most of you see it as show of God's love?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Mooms said...

Itzok writes:

“Most (if not all!) of "new atheists" actually do say something to the extent of "there is almost certainly no god". With exception of Hitchens who is antitheist rest pretty much claim there is not enough evidence to claim there is god and also claim that onus is on those who claim there is god to prove it. It really isn't our task to prove there is no such thing (universal negative is something impossible to prove).”

Actually, Richard Dawkins also claims that science and logic prove that there is no god. He and the rest come across as eager to proselytize as any evangelist.

I don’t think there is an onus on anyone to “prove” anything, unless you want to make converts. And proof would imply knowledge. If you have actual knowledge, why then would anyone need faith? You know, the old “doubting Thomas” phenomenon that Gould made much of in “Rocks of Ages.” I liked Gould; he had the sort of “live and let live” attitude I encourage in myself.

If you are really confident in your point of view – your faith, if you will – you won’t NEED to convert others.

Interesting little test. Thanks!

Nick said...

Nick asks "Before answering that, I must ask by what standard you condemn this action."

Mooms: Condemn what action? The idea that perfectly good, innocent people would be condemned to eternal suffering because they don't happen to be Christian?

Me: There's the problem. Are they really perfectly good? Are they really innocent? If the words of Christ are true, what is going on in your heart is more important than what you are doing externally.

Mooms: I don't condemn such thoughts. I just think that they are preposterous.

Me: Which is pretty much saying you don't like them. Note also that in Christian thought there are degrees of suffering in Hell just as there are degrees of reward in Heaven.

Mooms: Anyway, the the question at the start of this particular blog is, "Is there a god?" To that, there is no answer. There is, of course, not a scintilla of objective evidence that there is. And, New Atheist assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, there is no evidence that there is not. The answer will always be subjective, and personal. There does seem to be a human NEED for a god, or gods. Every culture that we know, in every place, and at every time, has had some sort of religion. Even Neanderthals buried their dead, with offerings.

Me: Of course, I would dispute that there is no evidence for God that is external. In fact, many of the medieval philosophers would prefer a posteriori arguments for belief in God's existence be it Scotus or Aquinas or others.

Also, why would it be subjective? My faith is based on an external event in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Mooms: This does not mean that there IS a god, or gods, of course. Sociobiologists opine that religion serves a need for a complex social species like our own, binding together tribal groups, suppressing ingroup aggression, and focusing aggression on outgroups. Being religious is an evolutionary advantage. So, Christians do not attack one another; they attack - or perhaps, try to convert - nonChristians. Or outgroup Christians.

Me:Or could it be that these things are advantageous to society because we were designed to work that way and Christianity fits in perfectly with that system. It raises D'Souza's question. How does Darwinism account for the evolution of atheism which would not contribute to such a system if followed to its logical progression? (And Nietzsche did that if anyone did)

Mooms: Ambrose Bierce once wrote that god created man in his image, and man has been returning the complement ever since. Some men create a god in the image of a vengengeful, hateful being that would condemn innocent men, women and children for the crime of ignorance. Or, what they choose to define as ignorance: Belief in a supernatural that does not have Jesus at its center.

Me: Did you even read what I wrote on the problem of those who never heard?

Mooms: My daughter lived for a year among the Buddhist/animist Lao. Here is her description of them:

"The Lao are all smile and "Bo phan nyang" - no problem. They are curious about everything. I even had a guy crushed into my shoulder in the bed of a truck don his reading glasses so he could enjoy my novel with me as he breathed into my eyeball.

A close, friendly people, they look after themselves and everyone else. Your business is their business.

The Lao feel deeply, with heart. Although the sexes can't touch in public, men walk down the street hand in hand with their male friends, and women walk with their arms tight around each other.
The Lao never, ever hurry, things happen as Buddha proscribes, Buddha cannot be rushed. It is leisurely, and I appreciate this.
They Lao laugh easily, they are painfully open. I have been told many times that I am very fat by cheerful faces - it is not an insult here where food is scarce. People always ask how old I am - age is a gift in this poor society. When Alex and I divulge that we are married, there is the inevitable query of where our baby is - what, no baby? When will we have a baby? Alex looks at his watch and scratches his head, that's our answer. But here babies are blessings, and the children are gorgeous and happy.

The Lao are like honey - natural, slow-moving, and sweet. To generalize, they are the nicest group of people I have ever met, the most loving, laughing and compassionate."

Frankly, if there is a god, I hope she is the one created in the image of the Lao.

Me: Here's the question then. Do you want God to be arbitrary? For instance, do you think that to get to Heaven, you should be like the Lao? That you should live as wonderfully as they do? How good do you have to be?

Do you want God to set up a point system? You do good and you get X points. You do wrong. You lose X points. Then in the end however many points you get determines your status in the afterlife? It would be entirely arbitrary and no real justice to it.

God has a standard. Himself. Do the Lao make it? That depends. What have they done with the light they received? Believe it or not, the worst thing to do is to tell God you don't need him and try to go it your own way. If doing that, then the goodness can be more of an insult to God. If there are Lao who are sincerely seeking the one true God though, I believe he is able to get his message out to them.

Nick said...

Nick: "First off, it buffers those who are attacking the faith."

Iztok: How is telling that faith is irrational and there is not enough evidence for it attacking faith?

Me: I am talking about the faith and you are talking about faith. I'd also say you're using an inaccurate description. Faith relies on evidence. It is belief based on evidence. This was the testimony of the early church. Go to that tomb. It's empty. We've seen him. He's alive. Repent.

Now if you want to say there is not enough evidence, feel free to try that. I will ask first off again do all beliefs have to be backed by evidence to have epistemological warrant?

However, it is an attack on the faith. If you say my faith is irrational and there is no reason to believe it, then you are saying that it is not true. Christian faith is not a claim about my personal reality. It's a claim about the world as it is.



Iztok: Actually from my point of view you are trying to keep those people ignorant and unable to think for themselves, you are in fact shielding them from reason.

Me: Yeah. That must be why I tell them to go read Plato and Aristotle as well. That must be why I tell them to read the Qu'ran if they want to know what Muslims believe and to learn to question everything and not even accept what I say blindly.

Honestly, I wish more people would question and doubt. It's a shame too few do.

Iztok: I can completely understand why as it is obvious that critical thinking is the enemy of faith. People in this environment are so conditioned that they see what they are told to see.

Me: Nope. It's the ally of the faith. Go look at the great minds in history like Augustine and Aquinas. Sorry Iztok, but I point back to the thinkers. As Aquinas said, "It is not based on documents of faith but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves."

I'd also like to see the atheist explain to me the validity of his reason without using reason.

Iztok: For example there is a story of a father who was so delusional that he took his child and planned to kill him because voices in his head told him so. Can you imagine the terrified child that was about to be killed? This is child abuse. Yet most of you see it as show of God's love?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: No. I don't. I see that as man's stupidity. If you want to make the analogy to Christ though, it's entirely off. For one thing, in Christian thought, Christ goes to the cross willingly. Yes, he wanted there to be another way, but he was willing to go regardless. He himself said he lays his life down. No one takes it from him.

As for the link, I found it amusing. I had a TPM medal, though I think there should be more clarification on the answers such as Plantinga's argumentation there.

pornstudent said...

Nick said, "As Aquinas said, 'It is not based on documents of faith but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves.'"

He said he said they said.

Anonymous said...

Nick: "Faith relies on evidence. It is belief based on evidence. "

Definition of faith: "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence."

This sounds similar to when people who say they are not religious yet they are "followers of Jesus". You really can't change the definition to fit your wants.

mooms: "Actually, Richard Dawkins also claims that science and logic prove that there is no god. "

Hm... perhaps you should ask Richard Dawkins himself. I've read many of his books and he is a scientist and I am sure he says: Why There Almost Certainly Is No God.

See, difference between science and religion is also in a negative vs. positive feedback. Scientist have built in negative feedback mechanism that assures things don't run amok, while in religion you have positive feedback that actually assures you have plenty of rooms for fanatics. (Hence religion is a dangerous thing.) See in science people compete amongst other things not only to prove some hypothesis and turn it into a theory but also work hard to replace/change theory. So skepticism is built in, while in religion questioning the very root of it is almost always a big no (in science it is encouraged to question everything).

Sincerely,
Iztok

Mooms said...

Nick says:

“Of course, I would dispute that there is no evidence for God that is external. In fact, many of the medieval philosophers would prefer a posteriori arguments for belief in God's existence be it Scotus or Aquinas or others.”

They make arguments; they do not present evidence. For assessment of “evidence,” and contrary argumen, read Dennett, or, if you prefer something lighter, try Carl Sagan’s “The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God.”

Nick:
“My faith is based on an external event in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Sagan treats that event, and the evidence for it, which he compares, unfavorably, to the evidence for alien abductions. But not in a snarky way. There are, after all, people who take alien abductions, and the evidence for them, very seriously.

But why do you need evidence? If you had proof, you would have knowledge; what religion asks is faith. Did not Jesus scold Thomas for asking for proof?

Nick:
“It raises D'Souza's question. How does Darwinism account for the evolution of atheism which would not contribute to such a system if followed to its logical progression? (And Nietzsche did that if anyone did)”

D’Souza apparently doesn’t have a good comprehension of evolution. Evolutionary pressures can increase the incidence of a characteristic in a population, without causing every individual in the population to have that characteristic. It can move the mean, leaving a wide distribution around it. Evolutionary pressures have, over time, increased intelligence in homo sapiens, but not all homo sapiens are equally intelligent.

I would point out here that even those human populations that are supposedly very secular, like those in Northern Europe, contain only a minority of actual atheists. Atheists are outliers in all human groups.

Nick:
“God has a standard. Himself. Do the Lao make it? That depends. What have they done with the light they received? Believe it or not, the worst thing to do is to tell God you don't need him and try to go it your own way. If doing that, then the goodness can be more of an insult to God. If there are Lao who are sincerely seeking the one true God though, I believe he is able to get his message out to them.”

What have they done with their light? Love one another. Tolerate and respect every human they meet. Are there Lao “seeking the one true god”? Why in the name of all that is holy (sorry – couldn’t help myself) would the Lao search for a being so utterly alien to their culture?

In point of fact, there are people such as yourself who are attempting to bring this “one true god” to the Lao, with hilarious results. As related by my daughter:

”There are Evangelical Christians loose in the village. There is no escape. I had hoped to leave them busy with the daunting task of running the United States of Evangelica, but they are far too crafty to be outmaneuvered by an airplane and an evasive hegira through the sprawl of a vast jungle. They are here. In supernumerary plenitude. It’s a regular ecclesiastic orgy, an excrescence of Evangelicals, a froth of the faithful fighting to convert the heathens.

”They swarm out of the woodwork come Christmas, bearing freakish plastic trees that spin and shriek tinny pinged carols. Their scheme is simple – buy businesses and force the employees to attend church and listen to preaching and wear elf costumes. Or they’re fired. Sort of the “my God writes a paycheck better than your God” principle.

The only glitch in this system is that Buddhism inculcates the implicit respect for all other world religions, which are each seen as another valid view of enlightenment. In Malaysia, the Buddhist residents bow in passage before a mosque, Hindu temple, or church (and hypothetically synagogue if they had any), and here the unmitigated expanse of wats [Buddhist temples] are full of paintings and sculptures of Hindu gods hanging out in Nirvana with the Buddha and Bodhisattvas.

“So with good humor the Lao have turned the forced Christmas infusion into a new myth, one of a mad dwarf from Finland named Santa, who has long white braids and brings candy to foreigners once a year. They drink, they feast – for the Lao possess an admirable attitude that there are no bad holidays and having another occasion to celebrate is in itself an occasion to celebrate.”

If your heaven does not envision inviting in these people, I'm not sure I'd want to go, either.

Nick said...

Nick: "Faith relies on evidence. It is belief based on evidence. "

Iztok: Definition of faith: "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence."

Me: Could you please tell where that definition comes from? I suspect it is not a biblical dictionary for if I am using words from the Bible, I want to use them as the writers would understand them. Sorry. Webster's does not count as a source for me.

Iztok: This sounds similar to when people who say they are not religious yet they are "followers of Jesus". You really can't change the definition to fit your wants.

Me: Which makes me wonder why modernists change what faith is.



Iztok: Hm... perhaps you should ask Richard Dawkins himself. I've read many of his books and he is a scientist and I am sure he says: Why There Almost Certainly Is No God.

Me: I read the article. I was expecting to see some substance to it. For one thing, if he knows Aquinas at all, he should know the first attribute of God that Aquinas lays out is divine simplicity. Unfortunately, Dawkins says God is complex because he's working on a materialistic basis and assuming that God is an essentially material being. It doesn't work.

Also, his argument against the Anthropic principle doesn't answer the question. We're here. The question is. Why? Consider if you were assigned to be shot by a firing squad of sharpshooters. You're tied up to a pole and you hear "FIRE!" and you hear the guns go off. You open your eyes and everyone of them has missed. There are bulletholes all around you, but not a single sharpshooter hit you. The order is given again and the same happens again.

Why are you alive?

Does it work to say "Of course I'm alive because none of them hit me!" Well that is why you are alive, but does it explain why none of them hit? You need a greater explanation.

He does have a lot of truth in there though. He does have it right on the seedlings of space. I do agree that there is scientific evidence for many claims of Christianity, though I do not think science is the only determiner of truth. I think there is historical, philosophical, archaeological evidence, etc.

And as for evolution, that is the best naturalistic explanation but it simply begs the question. Why allow only naturalistic explanations?

Iztok: See, difference between science and religion is also in a negative vs. positive feedback. Scientist have built in negative feedback mechanism that assures things don't run amok, while in religion you have positive feedback that actually assures you have plenty of rooms for fanatics. (Hence religion is a dangerous thing.) See in science people compete amongst other things not only to prove some hypothesis and turn it into a theory but also work hard to replace/change theory.

Me: Actually we do the same thing in theology. People read other peoples writings all the time and critique them. The ECF took ideas of others and said why they were wrong or why they were true. The medieval scholars commented on the works of each other and the arguments for God's existence. Some they accepted. Some they didn't.

Iztok: So skepticism is built in, while in religion questioning the very root of it is almost always a big no (in science it is encouraged to question everything).

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: In modern religion, questioning is not seen as good. The Bible knows no such thing. The Bereans were more noble because they looked to see if what was said was true and Paul told us to test everything. The biblical soul was to be one that studied well. John Wesley even before the modern era told ministers to be versed in geometry, science, logic, philosophy, history, etc.

Yes. I encourage people to ask questions of religion. I wish they would ask more.

Hmmm. What would happen if I questioned naturalistic theory though if I was a scientist? What would happen if I said that I didn't think Darwinism was true and maybe we ought to return to the God hypothesis?

Nick said...

Mooms: They make arguments; they do not present evidence. For assessment of “evidence,” and contrary argumen, read Dennett, or, if you prefer something lighter, try Carl Sagan’s “The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God.”

Me: Only someone who doesn't read the arguments of the ancients would think they had no evidence. By the way, an argument can very easily count as evidence. It's philosophical often and not necessarily scientific, but it is evidence.



Mooms: Sagan treats that event, and the evidence for it, which he compares, unfavorably, to the evidence for alien abductions. But not in a snarky way. There are, after all, people who take alien abductions, and the evidence for them, very seriously.

Me: And if you wish to dialogue why you think that did not happen here, I'm ready.

Mooms: But why do you need evidence? If you had proof, you would have knowledge; what religion asks is faith. Did not Jesus scold Thomas for asking for proof?

Me: No. Thomas was scolded for not accepting the evidence that he had. He should have believed the testimony of the others.

Also, why do I need evidence? Because I am not told to believe something blindly. That is a modern definition of faith and not the biblical one.



Mooms: D’Souza apparently doesn’t have a good comprehension of evolution. Evolutionary pressures can increase the incidence of a characteristic in a population, without causing every individual in the population to have that characteristic. It can move the mean, leaving a wide distribution around it. Evolutionary pressures have, over time, increased intelligence in homo sapiens, but not all homo sapiens are equally intelligent.

I would point out here that even those human populations that are supposedly very secular, like those in Northern Europe, contain only a minority of actual atheists. Atheists are outliers in all human groups.

Me: I suppose this is to somehow address the argument. D'Souza's point has not been touched and he is one who does believe in evolutionary theory though not in Darwinism which is naturalistic evolution. He simply asks how is a belief like atheism beneficial since it teaches no morality, no hope, no truth, no purpose, etc.



Mooms: What have they done with their light? Love one another. Tolerate and respect every human they meet. Are there Lao “seeking the one true god”? Why in the name of all that is holy (sorry – couldn’t help myself) would the Lao search for a being so utterly alien to their culture?

Me: First off, you are arguing that love is a good and tolerance (Whatever you mean by that) is a good, but I'm wondering how you reached that conclusion.

Also, you assume that God is utterly alien to their culture. The biblical view though is that God is love in his nature. How is that alien to the Lao culture?

Mooms: In point of fact, there are people such as yourself who are attempting to bring this “one true god” to the Lao, with hilarious results. As related by my daughter:

”There are Evangelical Christians loose in the village. There is no escape. I had hoped to leave them busy with the daunting task of running the United States of Evangelica, but they are far too crafty to be outmaneuvered by an airplane and an evasive hegira through the sprawl of a vast jungle. They are here. In supernumerary plenitude. It’s a regular ecclesiastic orgy, an excrescence of Evangelicals, a froth of the faithful fighting to convert the heathens.

”They swarm out of the woodwork come Christmas, bearing freakish plastic trees that spin and shriek tinny pinged carols. Their scheme is simple – buy businesses and force the employees to attend church and listen to preaching and wear elf costumes. Or they’re fired. Sort of the “my God writes a paycheck better than your God” principle.

The only glitch in this system is that Buddhism inculcates the implicit respect for all other world religions, which are each seen as another valid view of enlightenment. In Malaysia, the Buddhist residents bow in passage before a mosque, Hindu temple, or church (and hypothetically synagogue if they had any), and here the unmitigated expanse of wats [Buddhist temples] are full of paintings and sculptures of Hindu gods hanging out in Nirvana with the Buddha and Bodhisattvas.

Me: If Evangelicals are using evangelism like that, I agree that it is nonsense. This is my question though. Why aren't the Lao Muslims? Why aren't they Jews? Why aren't they Christians or Hindus or Sikhs?

Buddhism originally was founded on the rejection of the Vedas and the caste system. Buddha rejected both of those when he went off to find the answers to his own questions. He started out then saying that the Hindus were wrong.

Now I can respect a belief. I have no problem respecting the Lao. I just say their beliefs are false. Everyone else does the same thing. We all believe that what we believe is true and that which contradicts it is false.

Mooms:“So with good humor the Lao have turned the forced Christmas infusion into a new myth, one of a mad dwarf from Finland named Santa, who has long white braids and brings candy to foreigners once a year. They drink, they feast – for the Lao possess an admirable attitude that there are no bad holidays and having another occasion to celebrate is in itself an occasion to celebrate.”

If your heaven does not envision inviting in these people, I'm not sure I'd want to go, either.

Me: The Heaven I have is open to everyone. The invitation is there already. It's the question of who comes and who doesn't.

mooms said...

Nick:
Only someone who doesn't read the arguments of the ancients would think they had no evidence. By the way, an argument can very easily count as evidence. It's philosophical often and not necessarily scientific, but it is evidence.

Man, I spent 8 years in parochial school, and went to a Presbyterian College. The trouble with philosophical arguments is that everybody’s got another one. If one is a materialist, none of the philosophical arguments for theism wash; if you’re not a materialist, arguments from materialism don’t matter.

Nick:
And if you wish to dialogue why you think [the Resurrection] did not happen here, I'm ready.

I’m not silly enough to try to prove a negative. I don’t argue that it didn’t happen. I argue that the evidence generally presented for it is insufficient to convince anyone who is not already Christian. These arguments generally rely on what is called eyewitness testimony, recorded in sacred texts. That is insufficient. The texts themselves are questionable – even by Christian scholars - and the reports they contain are unreliable and unverifiable.

Nick: “No. Thomas was scolded for not accepting the evidence that he had. He should have believed the testimony of the others. Also, why do I need evidence? Because I am not told to believe something blindly. That is a modern definition of faith and not the biblical one.”

But you do believe blindly.


Nick: “I suppose this is to somehow address the argument. D'Souza's point has not been touched and he is one who does believe in evolutionary theory though not in Darwinism which is naturalistic evolution. He simply asks how is a belief like atheism beneficial since it teaches no morality, no hope, no truth, no purpose, etc.”

First of all, those characteristics of atheism that you list are false. Each and every one of them. And they are insulting. Perhaps the “benefit” of atheism is its association with high achievement in endeavors requiring rationalism. More than 40% of physicists, for instance, are atheists, as compared to some 7% of the general population. And the higher up you go on the academic ladder, the more atheists you find.

Secondly, evolutionary biologists argue that RELIGION is beneficial to homo sapiens, not that atheism is. It is RELIGION that provides the societal glue that has allowed us to build a complex civilization. Most people, in all times and in all places that we know about, are religious. Perhaps that is why there are so few atheists. Except in the upper reaches of science.

I will say again that D’Souza seems to be largely ignorant of how evolution through natural selection actually works. It is a naturalistic process. Only naturalistic processes are amenable to study by science.

Nick: “First off, you are arguing that love is a good and tolerance (Whatever you mean by that) is a good, but I'm wondering how you reached that conclusion. “

I also think that Mozart and chocolate are “good.” Most humans, however, believe that love of one another is “good.” The foundation of all the sets of ethical systems the world has ever known is some version of the Golden Rule. As early as 500 BC or thereabouts, the Buddha and Confucius both formulated versions. Buddha wrote: "One should seek for others the happiness one desires for himself." Asked if there was “one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life," Confucius replied, "It is the word shu--reciprocity: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you."

We do not need the threat of punishment or the promise of reward to enforce these rules; we need only the knowledge of our common humanity. We NEED to love others as ourselves. That should be reward enough, in and of itself, for anyone. It is reward enough for me. So. How did I reach the conclusion that love of others, and tolerance for others, is a moral good? I am human. I didn’t even have to think about it.

Nick: “Also, you assume that God is utterly alien to their culture. The biblical view though is that God is love in his nature. How is that alien to the Lao culture?”

Ever hear of the 6 blind men and the elephant? Sure, you have. The Lao, and Buddhists generally, simply don’t think they have a corner on truth; a corner on the font and source of love. They accept the visions of the missionaries in their midst; they accept whatever you want to believe as right for you. Sure, they understand love; they just don’t believe that Christians have a corner on the market. Why should they?

Nick: Now I can respect a belief. I have no problem respecting the Lao. I just say their beliefs are false. Everyone else does the same thing. We all believe that what we believe is true and that which contradicts it is false.

Fine. You think their beliefs are false; they might not think that your beliefs are FALSE, exactly, but that delusions of a corner on truth are. They would certainly respect your belief, and wouldn’t try to argue you out of it. They’d just be perplexed about a desire to argue them out of their beliefs.

Your arguments, here, remind me, oddly enough, of the arguments of New Atheists, like Dawkins. He says we are all atheists, just about different gods. Your are an atheist re Zeus, Thor, et. al.; he just goes one god further.

I disagree with him on this; I think it abuses the word atheism, which specifically means NO god, but the similarities, there, are amusing.

Nick: The Heaven I have is open to everyone. The invitation is there already. It's the question of who comes and who doesn't.

See you there, then. Along with my dog. I don’t go anywhere without my dog.

Nick said...

Mooms: Man, I spent 8 years in parochial school, and went to a Presbyterian College. The trouble with philosophical arguments is that everybody’s got another one. If one is a materialist, none of the philosophical arguments for theism wash; if you’re not a materialist, arguments from materialism don’t matter.

Me: Actually, arguments from materialism do matter to me. Some arguments are better than others. We could say the same for any type of argument though. An argument is either true or false be it historical, philosophical, scientific, etc. It can be refuted or shown to be accurate.



Mooms: I’m not silly enough to try to prove a negative. I don’t argue that it didn’t happen. I argue that the evidence generally presented for it is insufficient to convince anyone who is not already Christian. These arguments generally rely on what is called eyewitness testimony, recorded in sacred texts. That is insufficient. The texts themselves are questionable – even by Christian scholars - and the reports they contain are unreliable and unverifiable.

Me: Got any backing for any of this? First off, we can disprove some negatives. I can prove there are no elephants in my apartment right now. We can argue many historical events that we weren't there to see just by the sources.

Also, eyewitness testimony is some of the best testimony we have and all of the gospels are either by eyewitnesses or have information told from eyewitnesses.


Mooms: But you do believe blindly.

Me: Please. I want an argument and not psychoanalysis. I'll say you have reasons for what you believe if it's something other than Christianity. I just think they're false. I have my many reasons for believing God exists and believing that he has revealed himself in Christ. Trying to psychoanalyze me won't work.




Mooms: First of all, those characteristics of atheism that you list are false. Each and every one of them. And they are insulting. Perhaps the “benefit” of atheism is its association with high achievement in endeavors requiring rationalism. More than 40% of physicists, for instance, are atheists, as compared to some 7% of the general population. And the higher up you go on the academic ladder, the more atheists you find.

Me: You think they are? Please give me the basis for morality in atheism. Please give me the basis for truth. Please give me the basis for hope in the future. Nietzsche was honest about the ramifications of atheism. I wish more were.

Mooms: Secondly, evolutionary biologists argue that RELIGION is beneficial to homo sapiens, not that atheism is. It is RELIGION that provides the societal glue that has allowed us to build a complex civilization. Most people, in all times and in all places that we know about, are religious. Perhaps that is why there are so few atheists. Except in the upper reaches of science.

Me: So it's beneficial to believe a lie if you think it is one? You mean in order to function in reality, you have to deny reality? How simply amazing. Could it be these things benefit us though because this is how we were hard-wired?

Mooms: I will say again that D’Souza seems to be largely ignorant of how evolution through natural selection actually works. It is a naturalistic process. Only naturalistic processes are amenable to study by science.

Me: Says who? Several scientists for centuries worked with the basis that God was the God of reason and rationality and the universe would work upon that foundation. See a non-Christian like Whitehead if you want some confirmation that Christianity is what enabled the rise of science. The same is shown in Rodney Stark's "The Victory of Reason."

If there is no rationality behind the universe though, why should I think it to be rational? Why should I think it to even exist? Why should I think that my mind would correspond to it?



Mooms: I also think that Mozart and chocolate are “good.” Most humans, however, believe that love of one another is “good.” The foundation of all the sets of ethical systems the world has ever known is some version of the Golden Rule. As early as 500 BC or thereabouts, the Buddha and Confucius both formulated versions. Buddha wrote: "One should seek for others the happiness one desires for himself." Asked if there was “one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life," Confucius replied, "It is the word shu--reciprocity: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you."

Me: Got the quote from Buddha? I'd like a reference to that. Now you can say these things are good. Here's my question. How do you know that? Upon what basis.

Mooms: We do not need the threat of punishment or the promise of reward to enforce these rules; we need only the knowledge of our common humanity. We NEED to love others as ourselves. That should be reward enough, in and of itself, for anyone. It is reward enough for me. So. How did I reach the conclusion that love of others, and tolerance for others, is a moral good? I am human. I didn’t even have to think about it.

Me: But you do if you have no basis for what good is even. If atheism is true, there is no basis for good. I might as well eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow I die. You can say these things are good but since you have such a strong interest in science, I'd like you to scientifically demonstrate that they are. I don't have enough "faith" to accept them blindly without some idea of good.



Mooms: Ever hear of the 6 blind men and the elephant? Sure, you have. The Lao, and Buddhists generally, simply don’t think they have a corner on truth; a corner on the font and source of love. They accept the visions of the missionaries in their midst; they accept whatever you want to believe as right for you. Sure, they understand love; they just don’t believe that Christians have a corner on the market. Why should they?

Me: Here's the problem. First off, none of those blind men even have a piece of the truth. They all have misconceptions of the truth.

Secondly, there still exists a truth. The question is, do the Lao have it? I would say no.


Mooms: Fine. You think their beliefs are false; they might not think that your beliefs are FALSE, exactly, but that delusions of a corner on truth are. They would certainly respect your belief, and wouldn’t try to argue you out of it. They’d just be perplexed about a desire to argue them out of their beliefs.

Me: If there is no corner on truth, then you'd better tell that to all the religions in the world because every religion holds to some exclusive truths. That's why the Lao aren't Muslims or Hindus or Christians. There is a different set of beliefs involved and when one thing is affirmed all that opposes it is false.

Mooms: Your arguments, here, remind me, oddly enough, of the arguments of New Atheists, like Dawkins. He says we are all atheists, just about different gods. Your are an atheist re Zeus, Thor, et. al.; he just goes one god further.

Me: But anyone can make the same claim. Everyone who has a belief is saying that they are rejecting all beliefs except one. Just change the word god with "belief system" and it works just as well.

Mooms: I disagree with him on this; I think it abuses the word atheism, which specifically means NO god, but the similarities, there, are amusing.

Me: It's an old argument that's been around for awhile.



Mooms:See you there, then. Along with my dog. I don’t go anywhere without my dog.

Me: And upon what basis will you be in Heaven?

mooms said...

Nick: “Also, eyewitness testimony is some of the best testimony we have and all of the gospels are either by eyewitnesses or have information told from eyewitnesses. “

“Eyewitness” testimony, is not, in this case, sufficient. See:

http://books.google.com/books?id=WsQpdzzC7oMC&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=peter+miracles+smoked+fish&source=web&ots=FFA6axdqjv&sig=SvUjBsXgsUqoNzNM2aAXf_S4pqI#PPA4,M1

In this account, Peter is in Rome, and trying to convince the crowds that Jesus is God. He notices a smoked tuna hanging in a fishmonger’s shop. He asks if it would convince the crowd if they could see that fish swimming again in the river. They answer, as one, that that would convince them. So, he told the tuna, in the name of Jesus, “Tuna, in the presence of all these, live and swim like a fish.” And the fish DOES come to life, not just for a moment, but for good, as the crowds see, when they feed it bits of bread.

There are many eyewitnesses to this miracle. It is from the time of the canonical gospels.

Nick: “Please. I want an argument and not psychoanalysis. I'll say you have reasons for what you believe if it's something other than Christianity. I just think they're false. I have my many reasons for believing God exists and believing that he has revealed himself in Christ. Trying to psychoanalyze me won't work.”

OK. You have your own reasons for belief. They just don’t apply to me, or convince me.

Nate: Please give me the basis for morality in atheism. Please give me the basis for truth. Please give me the basis for hope in the future. Nietzsche was honest about the ramifications of atheism. I wish more were.

Because atheists, like you, are human. Please scan through this article, published just today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

According to this – and much other research, and hey, just my own experience - humans are BORN moral; they don’t need religion to BECOME moral. I am a moral person; I don’t need religion to TELL be to be moral. You are human. Why would you need some god or other to TELL you to treat other humans humanely?

The basis for morality for ANYBODY is membership in the human race.

Nick: “ So it's beneficial to believe a lie if you think it is one? You mean in order to function in reality, you have to deny reality? How simply amazing. Could it be these things benefit us though because this is how we were hard-wired?”

I’m not sure what you are talking about here. What is the “lie”? If you don’t believe in gods, it’s no lie to say you don’t. It would be a lie to say that you do. An unusually large number of top scientists are atheists. They aren’t lying.

Luke: “Says who? Several scientists for centuries worked with the basis that God was the God of reason and rationality and the universe would work upon that foundation. See a non-Christian like Whitehead if you want some confirmation that Christianity is what enabled the rise of science. The same is shown in Rodney Stark's "The Victory of Reason." “

Sure. Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest minds of all time, was a Theist. Many of the best scientists working today are theists. They just don’t confuse science, which deals solely with provable natural principles, with the supernatural, which can do anything it wants. Again, anything you predict can be what god wanted. You can’t prove, or disprove, the supernatural. That doesn’t mean the supernatural doesn’t exist, by the way. It only means you can’t do science on it.

Luke: “Got the quote from Buddha? I'd like a reference to that. Now you can say these things are good. Here's my question. How do you know that? Upon what basis.”

Here’s one reference, among many, to many formulations of the Golden Rule, including the one from the Buddha:

http://www.virtuescience.com/golden-rule.html

How do I know? How do YOU know? How do you pick which scripture to work from? According to the source I quoted above from the NYTimes, ALL humans, by and large, with some exceptions for psychopaths, KNOW the golden rule. It’s a human instinct. It is embedded in our genes. It underlies our whole existence as a social species. Without the Golden Rule, and the morality based on it, we couldn’t exist as a social species. We invent religions to justify it, but we are moral by human instinct. I am human; I am moral. No, I can’t point to some god or other and say, “She said so!” But that would carry no weight with anybody who worshipped a different god.

Luke: “But you do if you have no basis for what good is even. If atheism is true, there is no basis for good. I might as well eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow I die. You can say these things are good but since you have such a strong interest in science, I'd like you to scientifically demonstrate that they are. I don't have enough "faith" to accept them blindly without some idea of good.”

Ok. Again: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Your hit on atheism as equivalent to moral nihilism is false; is a calumny. Atheists, by and large, are as moral as you are, and for the same reason: They are human.

Luke: “Here's the problem. First off, none of those blind men even have a piece of the truth. They all have misconceptions of the truth. “

And you would know that, how?

Luke: “Secondly, there still exists a truth. The question is, do the Lao have it? I would say no.”

Perhaps they don’t. But then, they don’t claim to, unlike you. They have what works for them, and what makes them far more decent than most Christians I have ever met.

Luke: “If there is no corner on truth, then you'd better tell that to all the religions in the world because every religion holds to some exclusive truths. That's why the Lao aren't Muslims or Hindus or Christians. There is a different set of beliefs involved and when one thing is affirmed all that opposes it is false.”

Except the Lao – and Buddhists generally – don’t say that all the other religions are false. They say that other religions are just different views of the truth. They are a loving, tolerant people. Unlike a lot of Christians.

Luke: “But anyone can make the same claim. Everyone who has a belief is saying that they are rejecting all beliefs except one. Just change the word god with "belief system" and it works just as well.”

One more time: That is NOT what the Lao, or Buddhists generally, say. They do not reject your belief. They do not say that it is false. If it is true for you, it is true. For you.

Luke: “And upon what basis will you be in Heaven?”

On the same basis as you. Me and my dog.

Nick said...

Mooms: “Eyewitness” testimony, is not, in this case, sufficient. See:

http://books.google.com/books?id=WsQpdzzC7oMC&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=peter+miracles+smoked+fish&source=web&ots=FFA6axdqjv&sig=SvUjBsXgsUqoNzNM2aAXf_S4pqI#PPA4,M1

Me: And in this case, it was not eyewitness testimony. It was 150+ years later and I do admit that there are several apocryphal gospels out there.

Instead, check the work of Richard Bauckham, which is quite detailed in showing that the gospels are legitimate eyewitness accounts.


Mooms: There are many eyewitnesses to this miracle. It is from the time of the canonical gospels.

Me: It claims to be from the time, but the writing is not of the time.


Mooms: OK. You have your own reasons for belief. They just don’t apply to me, or convince me.

Me: They apply, but they don't convince.


Mooms: Because atheists, like you, are human. Please scan through this article, published just today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

According to this – and much other research, and hey, just my own experience - humans are BORN moral; they don’t need religion to BECOME moral. I am a moral person; I don’t need religion to TELL be to be moral. You are human. Why would you need some god or other to TELL you to treat other humans humanely?

The basis for morality for ANYBODY is membership in the human race.

Me: Actually, this isn't really accurate. The morality we value so much today is a large result of Christianity. See how Aristotle said some people were born to be slaves. See how Plato wanted men and women to just sleep together, get the best kids, and then ship them off to come back later to be citizens. See how he didn't want the less desirable to have children.

Also, the mistreatment of Plato's dialogue is hideous. I've read all of Plato. The dilemma of Euthyphro was answered throughout the medieval period.

Furthermore, there is no way of identifying what is moral. Well it helps society along. How does that prove it to be moral?

Is the purpose of the gene simply to propogate itself? It is like saying the purpose of the hammer is to produce more hammers? Are people nothing more than gene-carriers?

Finally, an is does not provide an ought. The fear was brought up but never really addressed of if this is shown to be simply chemistry, will we cease to be moral. Well why not? If there is no real right or wrong but it's all an illusion, why keep acting as if the illusion is real?



Mooms: I’m not sure what you are talking about here. What is the “lie”? If you don’t believe in gods, it’s no lie to say you don’t. It would be a lie to say that you do. An unusually large number of top scientists are atheists. They aren’t lying.

Me: Yes, but what if they say we should have religion for morality? We should make something they believe a lie to be essential for morality? Quite revealing.



Mooms: Sure. Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest minds of all time, was a Theist. Many of the best scientists working today are theists. They just don’t confuse science, which deals solely with provable natural principles, with the supernatural, which can do anything it wants. Again, anything you predict can be what god wanted. You can’t prove, or disprove, the supernatural. That doesn’t mean the supernatural doesn’t exist, by the way. It only means you can’t do science on it.

Me: Actually, majority of major branches of science today were founded by Christians and Christian scientists believed they were doing a service for God in studying the universe. Check the writings of Kepler and see his theism showing all throughout for instance.


Mooms: Here’s one reference, among many, to many formulations of the Golden Rule, including the one from the Buddha:

http://www.virtuescience.com/golden-rule.html

Me: I would like to know the reference of this quote from the Buddha. Not just that he said it and when he lived.

Mooms: How do I know? How do YOU know? How do you pick which scripture to work from? According to the source I quoted above from the NYTimes, ALL humans, by and large, with some exceptions for psychopaths, KNOW the golden rule. It’s a human instinct. It is embedded in our genes. It underlies our whole existence as a social species. Without the Golden Rule, and the morality based on it, we couldn’t exist as a social species. We invent religions to justify it, but we are moral by human instinct. I am human; I am moral. No, I can’t point to some god or other and say, “She said so!” But that would carry no weight with anybody who worshipped a different god.

Me: Yes. We are all moral. That's the biblical claim as well based on passages like Romans 2. We all have the natural law written on our hearts. See such thinkers also as John Locke and Thomas Aquinas.

Now you say these things are good. This is simply repeating your assertion. What is the standard of good?


Mooms: Ok. Again: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Me: Which again did not state what the good itself is.

Mooms: Your hit on atheism as equivalent to moral nihilism is false; is a calumny. Atheists, by and large, are as moral as you are, and for the same reason: They are human.

Me: And no one's denied that they can be. The denial is that there is any reason to be such. Nietzsche again saw this. Without God, there is no basis for morality and he would condemn those that tried to make some sort of morality.



Mooms: And you would know that, how?

Me: Because in the story, there is an elephant there and none of the blind men know what the elephant is. The story is the answer.



Mooms: Perhaps they don’t. But then, they don’t claim to, unlike you. They have what works for them, and what makes them far more decent than most Christians I have ever met.

Me: Of course they would. If they don't think what they're doing is rooted in truth, why do it? Also, is truth simply what works?



Mooms: Except the Lao – and Buddhists generally – don’t say that all the other religions are false. They say that other religions are just different views of the truth. They are a loving, tolerant people. Unlike a lot of Christians.

Me: Then again, why aren't they Muslims or Hindus, etc? Also, can you define tolerance?



Mooms: One more time: That is NOT what the Lao, or Buddhists generally, say. They do not reject your belief. They do not say that it is false. If it is true for you, it is true. For you.

Me: Is it true for them only that truth is relative?

Actually, they would say it. What if I told them then to start worshipping Jesus as God and be in church on Sunday and not pray to Buddha and start reading the Bible instead of Buddhist Scriptures? Would they do so? Why or why not?


Mooms: On the same basis as you. Me and my dog.

Me: And what basis is that?

Anonymous said...

Nick, "If there is no real right or wrong but it's all an illusion, why keep acting as if the illusion is real?"

This is usual cop-out for those who are deeply religious. Whilst it obviously isn't true they still claim it. There is nowhere to be said there must me an "ought" for the basis of our morality. Simply tribes who would steal, rape, kill ... each other wouldn't survive long would they?

And as I said, if you need a book/God to tell you to behave good (with enticement of heaven and punishment in hell) then what you say for yourself is "I wouldn't act moral otherwise". Feel free to say that for yourself but there are a lot of moral people on this planet who think higher of their morals and wouldn't ask immoral should there be no punishment or reward for their deeds (I am one of them).

Further more, if you carefully read your holy writ you will again see it was written by men (in fact you can see it was written by male population) to fit their needs several thousand years ago. Your god for some reason chose to reveal itself to a small desert ignorant population ensuring his teachings would take hundreds and hundreds of years to reach others so they could continue to act bad/immoral and continue to suffer, whilst it supposedly has power to do whatever? Oh, should we not forget slaves (that are perfectly ok to have in the Bible as long as you don't punish them to harsly?) or women that are worth half a man? Children that are perfectly ok to be sacrificed to your god? Oh, let's not forget it is demanded of you to hate your parents? And that your messiah came with a sword and was ready to use it?

Some morals! Some design, some designer!

Oh, also, you said that you have proof in form of resurrection. Even if we give you that and assume that is confirmed, you still have no evidence that Jesus was son of God and God at the same time. A single confirmation of "a miracle" doesn't automatically assume others are true. You need to present evidence for each and every miracle in order to be true.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Mooms said...

Luke: “And in this case, it was not eyewitness testimony. It was 150+ years later and I do admit that there are several apocryphal gospels out there. Instead, check the work of Richard Bauckham, which is quite detailed in showing that the gospels are legitimate eyewitness accounts.

You can likewise check out the works of many, many other scholars who disagree. With Bauckman, and with each other. Which is the point, really. Read Bart Erhman. He, too, is a noted scholar. Lots of other scholars disagree with him, of course. They disagree with one another BECAUSE THERE’S LOTS OF ROOM FOR DISAGREEMENT.

They disagree on who wrote the stuff, and when they wrote it, and what their agendas were. Most of the disagreements some scholars have with Erhman concern details about which versions of the copies of copies of fragments of copies are the most accurate, and how to account for the discrepancies. For example, the earliest copies we have of the earliest gospel, Mark, ends with the open tomb. It contains nothing whatever about any “eyewitness” accounts of Jesus walking around after he died. The last verses were added much later, probably by somebody else. One thing that Erhman showed, clearly and indisputably, was that these things were (a) written decades after the event they purportedly describe and (b) were not assembled into a canon until centuries after they were written. So, sure, there were lots of competing accounts floating around, along with accounts of the resurrection of the smoked tuna.

The whole thing seems like assembling laws and sausages. It’s best not to think about the process too much. And one can understand Sagan’s comparison of it all to the more recent and more numerous “eyewitness” accounts of alien abductions.

Luke: “Actually, this isn't really accurate. The morality we value so much today is a large result of Christianity. See how Aristotle said some people were born to be slaves. See how Plato wanted men and women to just sleep together, get the best kids, and then ship them off to come back later to be citizens. See how he didn't want the less desirable to have children.”

Um, I wouldn’t get too near the slave thing if I were you. The entire Bible, Old Testament and New, writes approvingly of slavery. In fact, the Bible was one of the chief bulwarks of Southern slaveholders, up to and including most of the 19th Century.

Scientists would say that the morality of the West is what created the Biblical frame for it. As morality changes, we look at the religious texts, and reinterpret them to suit ourselves. That is what happened with slavery; that is what happened with the status of women, among much else.

I disagree with them on this, but the New Atheists would contend that religion is what created the evil that we are heir to. Things like the Inquisition, the 30 Years War, the Crusades. Hitler was a professed Christian all his life, as were the great majority of the folks who willingly did his bidding. Humans will behave like humans, for good AND evil, then find something to justify their behavior.

Luke: “Furthermore, there is no way of identifying what is moral. Well it helps society along. How does that prove it to be moral?”

Nothing can be “proved” to be moral or immoral. Society comes to a consensus on the matter. As that article showed, there are certain verities that do seem to be part of the human genome; they are true for all societies at all times: Do not kill. Do not steal. Treat one another as you would want to be treated. ALL societies at ALL times have had versions of these things. And all societies write these things into their texts and codes.

Luke: “Finally, an is does not provide an ought. The fear was brought up but never really addressed of if this is shown to be simply chemistry, will we cease to be moral. Well why not? If there is no real right or wrong but it's all an illusion, why keep acting as if the illusion is real?”

Morality is NOT an illusion. It is built into the human genome. It is an essential part of being human. Humans are moral because they are human, and could not function in a human society otherwise. The bases for this morality can be seen in our primate relatives. You will remember the bit about the monkeys who would go hungry rather than pull a chain to get food, if this action would shock another monkey.

Luke: “Yes, but what if they say we should have religion for morality? We should make something they believe a lie to be essential for morality? Quite revealing.”

They do NOT say we should have religion, for morality, or anything else. They DO say, or some of them do (by no means all) that there seems to be a common human urge to create religions. All human societies have religions, after all.

Luke: “Actually, majority of major branches of science today were founded by Christians and Christian scientists believed they were doing a service for God in studying the universe. Check the writings of Kepler and see his theism showing all throughout for instance.”

Sure. Everybody, scientist or not, was a Christian back then, or else. Kepler wanted to go into the Lutheran ministry. Now there’s a guy who is REALLY interesting! I’ve just finished a book called “Heavenly Intrigue,” by the Gilders, who go into the relationship between Kepler and Tacho Brahe. Fascinating. For a very, very long time, Kepler’s religion blinded him to the scientific truth he was seeking. Brahe was much more firmly grounded, modern, and empirical. Kepler had this notion, obtained a priori, that the heavenly bodies were a set of perfect, nested solids. Brahe (correctly) thought the idea was laughable. Kepler had a mean streak a mild wide, as the Gilders make clear with extensive quotes from his letters and journals. From that moment, Kepler HATED Brahe, and wrote terrible things about him in his letters and journals. But he went to work for him, to get at those 40 years of observations. The Gilders make clear that Brahe was also a brilliant astronomer and careful, empirical observer. Unfortunately, our view of him is tainted by the hateful accounts in Kepler’s notes. Anyway, another assistant had stolen some of Brahe’s work, and had published it as his own, complete with errors Brahe had not had a chance to correct. So, when Kepler wanted the data, right now!! Brahe told him to wait until he’d had a chance to clean it up for publication.

Kepler was not merely an astronomer; he was an alchemist, and his mother was almost burned as a witch for dabbling in potions. Not too long after Kepler went to work for Brahe, Brahe died, under mysterious circumstances. The Gilders had his body exhumed, and found, on the basis of hair samples, that he had suffered two massive doses of mercury poisoning, in close succession, and determined that he likely died of this poisoning. Kepler got the data.

But if Kepler was crabbed and mean, he was also brilliant, and he was able to set aside his religious prejudices, and his old ideas, in the face of Brahe’s data, and come up with his laws of planetary motion.

Luke: “ I would like to know the reference of this quote from the Buddha. Not just that he said it and when he lived.”

OK, here’s one bit; there are many others you can google up:
http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/B%20-%20Theravada/Ethics/The%20Five%20Precepts%20-%20The%20Buddhist%20Golden%20Rule/five_precepts_the_buddhist_golde.htm

You can scroll down to:

The First Ennobler
Loving-Kindness - a longing to help others attain to the same happiness oneself has experienced. It is an urge to mutual assistance.
Just as in the case of loving-kindness, it is again a moral necessity for every human being to perform acts of compassion in the same spirit as he has benefited from the compassion of others.

Luke: “Yes. We are all moral. That's the biblical claim as well based on passages like Romans 2. We all have the natural law written on our hearts. See such thinkers also as John Locke and Thomas Aquinas. . . . And no one's denied that [atheists can be moral]. The denial is that there is any reason to be such. Nietzsche again saw this. Without God, there is no basis for morality and he would condemn those that tried to make some sort of morality.

There is EVERY reason to be moral. We are all members of the human race. Frankly Nietzsche was full of it, as philosophers tend to be. God would condemn people who would be moral without her specific blessing? How silly is that?

Luke: “Because in the story, there is an elephant there and none of the blind men know what the elephant is. The story is the answer.”

And none of we blind humans, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, whatever, know even yet. Although some of us are so blind that we think we do.

Luke: “Of course they would. If they don't think what they're doing is rooted in truth, why do it? Also, is truth simply what works? . . . Then again, why aren't they Muslims or Hindus, etc? Also, can you define tolerance?”

They aren’t something else because they have found a correct path for them, and they are humble enough to know that their path isn’t the right path for everyone. Many roads lead to Rome. Tolerance is the humility of knowing that you don’t know everything; that what is right for you may not be right for everyone.

You seem to be really fixated on this odd notion that every religion is as exclusive and intolerant as Christianity can be. That all religions think all other religions are just false. I have a friend on another board who is Japanese. He and some of his associates are undertaking a study of Western religions, especially Christianity, to see if they can determine where the hostility it seems to exude comes from. His words, not mine. The Japanese, apparently, find this perplexing. According to him, the Japanese are not particularly religious, and not particular about their religions. They will go to a Shinto Shrine or a Buddhist Temple as the whim or the occasion dictates. He, too, has said that Buddhists generally do not exhibit the sort of “hostility” he finds in Christians. He has apparently decided that it stems from the commandment to have no other gods. I am not convinced this is so, since Judaism also has such a command, and they are not, apparently, so hostile to other religions. I made some study of Judaism a couple of years ago, when my daughter married a Jewish man. I figured I ought to study up enough to know how not to insult the machetonim or the grandkids, and so read at least a dozen books. Warning: There is no Jewish Pope, no Jewish creed, no list of dogmas all Jews must believe. Only the Shema. Every book I read had some version of the aphorism, “Three Jews, four opinions.” So everything I say will find opposition some where. Anyhow, although Jews are fine being Jewish themselves, they don’t want to go around converting anybody else; in fact, they positively discourage converts. But you don’t have to be Jewish for god to love you and make you his own. God is for all people; you will be a child of god if you are a righteous person. God is famously supposed to have said that he does not care if his people forget him – and we are all his people – as long as we keep his commandments. As long as we are righteous. The role of the Jews, as chosen, is to show the way to god, through righteousness.

Luke: “What if I told them then to start worshipping Jesus as God and be in church on Sunday and not pray to Buddha and start reading the Bible instead of Buddhist Scriptures? Would they do so? Why or why not?”

First of all, they do not pray to Buddha. Buddha was a teacher; he didn’t claim to be a god. Buddhism is a nontheistic religion. The Lao actually leave little rice balls in spirit houses as their most worshipful behavior. They are animists who respect the teaching of Buddha.

Can you simply not comprehend that there are lots of “live and let live;” “Whatever floats your boat” sorts of people out there? That not everyone is like Christians or Muslims?

Luke: “And what basis is that?”

Same as you. I know in my heart what is right.

OK – this has been fun and all, but it is taking up waaaay too much of my time. I may check back in later; for now, I’m outta here.

Nick said...

Iztok: This is usual cop-out for those who are deeply religious. Whilst it obviously isn't true they still claim it. There is nowhere to be said there must me an "ought" for the basis of our morality. Simply tribes who would steal, rape, kill ... each other wouldn't survive long would they?

Why not? Seems like a good way to eliminate the competition. Survival of the Fittest and all.

But if there is no ought behind morality, then there is no doing something because it is good in itself or not doing so because it is evil in itself. It is strictly utilitarian.

Iztok: And as I said, if you need a book/God to tell you to behave good (with enticement of heaven and punishment in hell) then what you say for yourself is "I wouldn't act moral otherwise". Feel free to say that for yourself but there are a lot of moral people on this planet who think higher of their morals and wouldn't ask immoral should there be no punishment or reward for their deeds (I am one of them).

Me:Notice a few things.

First off, I have never said the book is the basis for morality. The book does contain moral teachings, but I have said that the basis of morality is explained in Romans 2. It says that morality is written on our hearts. This is said about those who do NOT have Scripture. They know right and wrong by the natural law which atheism has not explained.

Secondly, you have made a moral distinction that to do it without reward or punishment is better than to do so with. By what moral standard are you appealing to when saying that?

Thirdly, you do live in a system of rewards and punishments. If you go out and murder someone, if the evidence is found to be against you, you will go to prison or get the death penalty in some cases. If you do what you ought, then it is the role of government to enable you to live freely.

You think people will act moral on their own? Alright. Take away all Christian influence. (See what societies were like in pre-Christian times.) Take away all rewards/punishment system. (Scrap police and government of any kind.) Let's see how long you last.

Iztok: Further more, if you carefully read your holy writ you will again see it was written by men (in fact you can see it was written by male population) to fit their needs several thousand years ago. Your god for some reason chose to reveal itself to a small desert ignorant population ensuring his teachings would take hundreds and hundreds of years to reach others so they could continue to act bad/immoral and continue to suffer, whilst it supposedly has power to do whatever? Oh, should we not forget slaves (that are perfectly ok to have in the Bible as long as you don't punish them to harsly?) or women that are worth half a man? Children that are perfectly ok to be sacrificed to your god? Oh, let's not forget it is demanded of you to hate your parents? And that your messiah came with a sword and was ready to use it?

Me: Let's look at these.

First off, the slavery issue. Tell me what sources you've read on what slavery is in the Ancient Near East culture.

Secondly, women worth half as much as men. That was in the temple system. There's a reason why. Men are stronger than women. They just generally are and could do more work. Both sexes are equally human but they are functionally different.

Thirdly, the offering of children. You know as well as I that Isaac was a test. God condemned sacrificing children in the Bible and was not at all supportive of the offerings made to Molech.

Fourthly, the idea of hating your parents? You do realize Jesus was speaking in comparison there don't you in that the idea of hate would really mean to set at a distance in Semitic usage? The love of God must be so strong in your life that God is more important than your family.

Fifthly, yeah. Jesus came to bear a sword. He's not meek and mild and it's a shame we've created a mamby-pamby Jesus. This same Jesus had strong words for his opponents in Matthew 23 and he did bring that sword. The world has been divided ever since he came. He made it clear the line is drawn with him.

Iztok: Some morals! Some design, some designer!

Me: Some lack of moral standard to condemn them!

Iztok: Oh, also, you said that you have proof in form of resurrection. Even if we give you that and assume that is confirmed, you still have no evidence that Jesus was son of God and God at the same time. A single confirmation of "a miracle" doesn't automatically assume others are true. You need to present evidence for each and every miracle in order to be true.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: No I don't! I need to present evidence that the Bible is reliable and I see no reason to date any gospel after 65 AD within the lifetime of eyewitnesses who could have easily disputed the claims. Note that Jesus's opponents did not deny that he did miracles. They just said it was by dark magic that he did so. (And that is outside of the Bible)

Nick said...

Okay. Little thing. I'm just wondering why I'm being called Luke.

Mooms: You can likewise check out the works of many, many other scholars who disagree. With Bauckman, and with each other. Which is the point, really. Read Bart Erhman. He, too, is a noted scholar. Lots of other scholars disagree with him, of course. They disagree with one another BECAUSE THERE’S LOTS OF ROOM FOR DISAGREEMENT.

Me: And room for disagreement proves what? Yeah there's room, but are the reasons valid? Ehrman comes with an errant start on the process of textual criticism and it all goes downhill from there.

Mooms: They disagree on who wrote the stuff, and when they wrote it, and what their agendas were. Most of the disagreements some scholars have with Erhman concern details about which versions of the copies of copies of fragments of copies are the most accurate, and how to account for the discrepancies. For example, the earliest copies we have of the earliest gospel, Mark, ends with the open tomb. It contains nothing whatever about any “eyewitness” accounts of Jesus walking around after he died. The last verses were added much later, probably by somebody else. One thing that Erhman showed, clearly and indisputably, was that these things were (a) written decades after the event they purportedly describe and (b) were not assembled into a canon until centuries after they were written. So, sure, there were lots of competing accounts floating around, along with accounts of the resurrection of the smoked tuna.

Me: I am still waiting for the account of the tuna but a little known fact about the ending of Mark.

The early church already knew that!

Seriously, Ehrman jumps up and down like that's something new and those of us who know about textual criticism are saying "We already know about it."

And as for the copies of copies of copies. Yeah. That's usually how they're made. We have more copies of the NT than of any other ancient manuscript and they're closer to the time. If we can't accept the text of the NT, we can't accept the text of any other ancient document.

Mooms: The whole thing seems like assembling laws and sausages. It’s best not to think about the process too much. And one can understand Sagan’s comparison of it all to the more recent and more numerous “eyewitness” accounts of alien abductions.

Me: No. It's quite clear what the text said. In fact, even if we suddenly lost all of the NT manuscripts, we could re-create the entirety of the NT with the exception of 13 verses from the quotations of the ECF alone.



Mooms: Um, I wouldn’t get too near the slave thing if I were you. The entire Bible, Old Testament and New, writes approvingly of slavery. In fact, the Bible was one of the chief bulwarks of Southern slaveholders, up to and including most of the 19th Century.

Me: Actually, I would go there. Slavery in the ANE was nothing like slavery done here. In fact, it was the Christians who originally ended it. See what St. Bathilda, wife of Clovis II I believe it was did. She was one originally involved with casting down slavery.

Mooms: Scientists would say that the morality of the West is what created the Biblical frame for it. As morality changes, we look at the religious texts, and reinterpret them to suit ourselves. That is what happened with slavery; that is what happened with the status of women, among much else.

Me: Nope. What happened was Christianity. Go look at Galatians 3. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor Gentile. It was the realization of Christ dying for every man and every man having the imago dei that got the concept of equality going. The ancient world beforehand knew nothing about it.

When St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that the men were to be willing to die for their wives, the whole congregation would have been shocked.

Mooms: I disagree with them on this, but the New Atheists would contend that religion is what created the evil that we are heir to. Things like the Inquisition, the 30 Years War, the Crusades. Hitler was a professed Christian all his life, as were the great majority of the folks who willingly did his bidding. Humans will behave like humans, for good AND evil, then find something to justify their behavior.

Me: Nope. Read Hitler's writings. He hated Christianity. He tried to use it, but real Christians saw through it. As for the events that you speak of, most of them have been hideously misrepresented. The truth though is that atheistic societies have murdered more than the supposed Christian societies ever have even with compensation for better weaponry and such.

Also, you still need a moral standard outside of us by which to differentiate between good and evil.



Mooms: Nothing can be “proved” to be moral or immoral. Society comes to a consensus on the matter. As that article showed, there are certain verities that do seem to be part of the human genome; they are true for all societies at all times: Do not kill. Do not steal. Treat one another as you would want to be treated. ALL societies at ALL times have had versions of these things. And all societies write these things into their texts and codes.

Me: All these do so because all societies know this is moral. It's not moral because we form a consensus on it. We form a consensus on it because it is moral.



Mooms: Morality is NOT an illusion. It is built into the human genome. It is an essential part of being human. Humans are moral because they are human, and could not function in a human society otherwise. The bases for this morality can be seen in our primate relatives. You will remember the bit about the monkeys who would go hungry rather than pull a chain to get food, if this action would shock another monkey.

Me: No. I don't remember that. I'd like to see it. However, I do not see this in the genes. That animals can act in ways we deem moral does not necessarily mean that they are reasoning to an abstract moral law outside themselves.



Mooms: They do NOT say we should have religion, for morality, or anything else. They DO say, or some of them do (by no means all) that there seems to be a common human urge to create religions. All human societies have religions, after all.

Me: Yes. There is an urge to explain things. Some explanations are better than others and the one I accept is the one where the God came to reveal himself to us.



Mooms: Sure. Everybody, scientist or not, was a Christian back then, or else. Kepler wanted to go into the Lutheran ministry. Now there’s a guy who is REALLY interesting! I’ve just finished a book called “Heavenly Intrigue,” by the Gilders, who go into the relationship between Kepler and Tacho Brahe. Fascinating. For a very, very long time, Kepler’s religion blinded him to the scientific truth he was seeking. Brahe was much more firmly grounded, modern, and empirical. Kepler had this notion, obtained a priori, that the heavenly bodies were a set of perfect, nested solids. Brahe (correctly) thought the idea was laughable. Kepler had a mean streak a mild wide, as the Gilders make clear with extensive quotes from his letters and journals. From that moment, Kepler HATED Brahe, and wrote terrible things about him in his letters and journals. But he went to work for him, to get at those 40 years of observations. The Gilders make clear that Brahe was also a brilliant astronomer and careful, empirical observer. Unfortunately, our view of him is tainted by the hateful accounts in Kepler’s notes. Anyway, another assistant had stolen some of Brahe’s work, and had published it as his own, complete with errors Brahe had not had a chance to correct. So, when Kepler wanted the data, right now!! Brahe told him to wait until he’d had a chance to clean it up for publication.

Kepler was not merely an astronomer; he was an alchemist, and his mother was almost burned as a witch for dabbling in potions. Not too long after Kepler went to work for Brahe, Brahe died, under mysterious circumstances. The Gilders had his body exhumed, and found, on the basis of hair samples, that he had suffered two massive doses of mercury poisoning, in close succession, and determined that he likely died of this poisoning. Kepler got the data.

But if Kepler was crabbed and mean, he was also brilliant, and he was able to set aside his religious prejudices, and his old ideas, in the face of Brahe’s data, and come up with his laws of planetary motion.

Me: I would have to read the book myself, but Kepler did attribute his finding of his laws to his faith. He did not find the laws in spite of his faith but because of his faith.

Luke: “ I would like to know the reference of this quote from the Buddha. Not just that he said it and when he lived.”

Mooms: OK, here’s one bit; there are many others you can google up:
http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/B%20-%20Theravada/Ethics/The%20Five%20Precepts%20-%20The%20Buddhist%20Golden%20Rule/five_precepts_the_buddhist_golde.htm

You can scroll down to:

The First Ennobler
Loving-Kindness - a longing to help others attain to the same happiness oneself has experienced. It is an urge to mutual assistance.
Just as in the case of loving-kindness, it is again a moral necessity for every human being to perform acts of compassion in the same spirit as he has benefited from the compassion of others.

Me: Sure. I'll want to do some checking though and see when this was written.



Mooms: There is EVERY reason to be moral. We are all members of the human race. Frankly Nietzsche was full of it, as philosophers tend to be. God would condemn people who would be moral without her specific blessing? How silly is that?

Me: Nietzsche would tell you there is nothing special about the human race. We just happen to be more evolved.

And the condemnation of moral people is missing the point. The point of Christianity is not to make immoral people moral. It is to make dead people live. Our goal is Mt. Zion. It is not Mt. Sinai. What does it mean to do all the good but tell God "I'm going my own way. I don't care about what you did for me." How is it moral to deny the source of morality?



Mooms: And none of we blind humans, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, whatever, know even yet. Although some of us are so blind that we think we do.

Me: How do you know no one knows? You can only know if you know this truth that no one knows. You've talked to everyone on the planet and found that they don't know? You have also found that you know what it is that they don't know so that you know they don't know?



Mooms: They aren’t something else because they have found a correct path for them, and they are humble enough to know that their path isn’t the right path for everyone. Many roads lead to Rome. Tolerance is the humility of knowing that you don’t know everything; that what is right for you may not be right for everyone.

Me:Okay. Then maybe tolerance isn't right for everyone. Why should everyone be tolerant if there's no right path for everyone? Maybe my right path is Santeria.

Also, if something is true, it is true for everyone. There is no such thing as a relative truth. If it's true that God has revealed himself in Christ and there is no salvation apart from him, it's true for everyone.

Mooms: You seem to be really fixated on this odd notion that every religion is as exclusive and intolerant as Christianity can be. That all religions think all other religions are just false. I have a friend on another board who is Japanese. He and some of his associates are undertaking a study of Western religions, especially Christianity, to see if they can determine where the hostility it seems to exude comes from. His words, not mine. The Japanese, apparently, find this perplexing. According to him, the Japanese are not particularly religious, and not particular about their religions. They will go to a Shinto Shrine or a Buddhist Temple as the whim or the occasion dictates. He, too, has said that Buddhists generally do not exhibit the sort of “hostility” he finds in Christians. He has apparently decided that it stems from the commandment to have no other gods. I am not convinced this is so, since Judaism also has such a command, and they are not, apparently, so hostile to other religions. I made some study of Judaism a couple of years ago, when my daughter married a Jewish man. I figured I ought to study up enough to know how not to insult the machetonim or the grandkids, and so read at least a dozen books. Warning: There is no Jewish Pope, no Jewish creed, no list of dogmas all Jews must believe. Only the Shema. Every book I read had some version of the aphorism, “Three Jews, four opinions.” So everything I say will find opposition some where. Anyhow, although Jews are fine being Jewish themselves, they don’t want to go around converting anybody else; in fact, they positively discourage converts. But you don’t have to be Jewish for god to love you and make you his own. God is for all people; you will be a child of god if you are a righteous person. God is famously supposed to have said that he does not care if his people forget him – and we are all his people – as long as we keep his commandments. As long as we are righteous. The role of the Jews, as chosen, is to show the way to god, through righteousness.

Me: I would like it to be shown where God said that.

Also, you don't think the Jews convert? What is Tovia Singer going around doing? What happens if you're a Jew and you decide to accept Jesus as Messiah? Do you think you'll be welcomed with open arms?

Furthermore, of course people of a secular mindset will think that if they don't think religion has to do with truth. I say it does and all truth is exclusive. If you think I'm hostile towards other beliefs, you're incorrect though. It is no hostility to tell someone that you think they're wrong. (If it is, please tell me why you're so hostile with me.)

Is my faith exclusive? It's exclusive to all outside of it, but it's inclusive in that it invites all to come in. Everyone is welcome to come and accept Christ as savior and Lord.



Mooms: First of all, they do not pray to Buddha. Buddha was a teacher; he didn’t claim to be a god. Buddhism is a nontheistic religion.

Me: Originally, this was true, however there are sects of Buddhism that are theistic and would pray to Buddha.

Mooms: The Lao actually leave little rice balls in spirit houses as their most worshipful behavior. They are animists who respect the teaching of Buddha.

Me: Evidence Buddha was an animist?

Mooms: Can you simply not comprehend that there are lots of “live and let live;” “Whatever floats your boat” sorts of people out there? That not everyone is like Christians or Muslims?

Me: Oh yeah. Already have. I just think they're wrong and then evangelism is the most loving thing I can do. In my worldview, Jesus is the hope of all mankind and has the power to redeem anyone from sin. How would it be loving to not tell someone about that?



Mooms: Same as you. I know in my heart what is right.

Me:A shame for that is not my basis. My basis is in that Jesus is God, came and lived on Earth, died for my sins, and rose again. By his sacrifice, I am atoned for. Without him, I don't have a chance. All the righteous acts in the world won't get me there.

pornstudent said...

Jane - "Those who dismiss faith as delusion become frustrated at the blind credulity of believers."

What gets me mad is them saying there is something wrong with me. Not just me, but everybody. They believe we are all born defective. They believe we deserve to be tormented in hell forever.

Since they believe people are defective and going to hell, their crusades think nothing of imprisoning and murdering us. Their goal is a Kingdom, not a free democracy.

Let them have their delusion, but when they try to make you feel guilty for being who you are, when they try to take away your rights and when they discriminate against you, tell them to f**k off.

D.J. said...

Wow, quite an active weekend at the Sacred Space, I see. I'll just add a couple of thoughts on pornstudent's last post...

"What gets me mad is them saying there is something wrong with me. Not just me, but everybody. They believe we are all born defective. They believe we deserve to be tormented in hell forever."

It makes me mad to know that there is something wrong with me, too. The news that I justly deserve to bear the wrath of God for eternity is not pleasant. Yet truth is not defined by what is palpable to my feelings. As the disciples often marveled at Jesus' teachings, "This is a hard statement. Who can accept it?"

"Since they believe people are defective and going to hell, their crusades think nothing of imprisoning and murdering us. Their goal is a Kingdom, not a free democracy."

Here, however I must disagree. Since I beleive that people (including me) are defective and going to hell, I must hold out the hope that exists through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, which exchanges our just condemnation for his perfect righteousness. It is truly tragic that many people have horribly represented the name of Christ throughout history and many continue today. But what the gospel SHOULD provoke in a Christian is humility, compassion, and self-sacrifice. When I see someone without Christ, I don't "think nothing of imprisoning and murdering" them, I think, "There but for the grace of God go I." Our goal is a Kingdom, but a kingdom that is not of this world.

"tell them to f**k off"

In America, we're largely limited to receiving verbal absue, but this very day many around the globe are hearing those sentiments expressed with guns, swords and fists. May that kind of sacrifice be the mark of the church here in America as we seek to demonstrate the glory and grace of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

DJ: "Here, however I must disagree. Since I beleive that people (including me) are defective and going to hell, I must hold out the hope that exists through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, which exchanges our just condemnation for his perfect righteousness."

See, this is one of the major differences. Not all of us think we are created by God and in his image (as you do) so we accept the fact that we are defective as a fact (not because perfect designer screwed something up and created free will fully knowing we will mess up). Some of us accept simple facts. We are here (obvious one) and we are going to die (another obvious one) and that is it. We don't go in trying to deceive ourselves that we are here for higher purpose (other then be a vehicle for our genes) because we truly don't know that. Nor do we pretend we know what is God's will (assuming that such being exists) as you claim to know. We are not so pretentious.

"May that kind of sacrifice be the mark of the church here in America as we seek to demonstrate the glory and grace of God."

I think you have this all wrong. Our founding fathers were deists and secularists first and they were the one to change this. Church would have had it the old way should there be no secular pressure on it in US as well as in Europe. It is because church lost its power it started to change not the other way around. We can see the push backward towards such state in many instances of suppressing science in our schools and pushing religion instead. We see moments of silence attempts while we need moments of science instead. Our school system is quickly becoming a laughing stock of rest of the world. No I can't grant you that church sacrificed for this, church was forced to compromise.

Sincerely,
Iztok

pornstudent said...

D.J. - I'm not mad at the truth. I love the fact that we are as much a part of nature as the other animals. There isn't sin. There isn't condemnation for being what we are.

A paraphrase from Genesis ...
"Who said you are defective?"
"Those Christians and Muslims did."
"Tell them to f**k off."

D.J. said...

Iztok,

"I think you have this all wrong. Our founding fathers were deists and secularists first and they were the one to change this. Church would have had it the old way should there be no secular pressure on it in US as well as in Europe. It is because church lost its power it started to change not the other way around. We can see the push backward towards such state in many instances of suppressing science in our schools and pushing religion instead. We see moments of silence attempts while we need moments of science instead. Our school system is quickly becoming a laughing stock of rest of the world. No I can't grant you that church sacrificed for this, church was forced to compromise."

Uhhh, what? I was making a statement about the persecuted church in the third world and how I pray that we here in America would have their passion and devotion to Christ. Not sure what that has to do with anything you just said.

Pornstudent,

"There isn't sin. There isn't condemnation for being what we are."

Do you condemn murderers and child molesters, or are they simply "being what they are"? (I don't ask this to be snide, but I really would like to hear your response)

Soli Deo Gloria

pornstudent said...

D.J. - Since Hell does not exist, nothing can be condemned to it.

Nick said...

D.J. - Since Hell does not exist, nothing can be condemned to it.

Me: Do you have knowledge of this or is it just a statement of faith?

pornstudent said...

Me: Since Hell does not exist, nothing can be condemned to it.
Nick: Do you have knowledge of this or is it just a statement of faith?
Me:LOL

D.J. said...

Pornstudent,

You're evading the question. You, in your own words, said that "there is no sin," that things are what they are. Hell was not part of the discussion. My question to you (again) is, do you condemn murderers and child molesters as sinful (or evil, is sinful sounds too religious) or are they simply "being what they are"?

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

Nick: "D.J. - Since Hell does not exist, nothing can be condemned to it.

Me: Do you have knowledge of this or is it just a statement of faith?"

I guess "Hell doesn't exist" is as much statement of faith as "Tooth Fairy doesn't exist". There is really no real proof of non-existence of either.

Sincerely,
Iztok

pornstudent said...

DJ - Hell is part of the discussion. I said, "What gets me mad is them saying there is something wrong with me. Not just me, but everybody. They believe we are all born defective. They believe we deserve to be tormented in hell forever."

Of course, everything is what it is. Rattle snakes bite, malaria kills millions, viruses infect cells, tsunamis drown thousands, feral kittens are killed at the pound, and my wife just made me some cookies and coffee. No need for a theology of sin and evil.

D.J. said...

Are you then saying then that someone who kills people or molests children is no more "sinful" or "evil" than a biting rattlesnake - this is just a natural behavior? You still haven't clearly addressed the question.

Soli Deo Gloria

pornstudent said...

I did answer the question. "No need for a theology of sin and evil."

I could go on but this thread is already very long and we're off topic.

Jane asked, "Is there worth in arguing, or is that energy better spent in finding ways to love?"

Arguing about an imaginary God doesn't accomplish much. Arguing that people are born defective and deserving of eternal anguish is definitely not loving.

D.J. said...

Pornstudent,

You say that "there is no need for a theology of sin and evil," but I'm asking you (a third time) to be consistent in your application of that idea. If there is no sin and evil, only natural behavior, you can make no moral judgments against murderers and child molesters. So, do you?

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

DJ: "If there is no sin and evil, only natural behavior, you can make no moral judgments against murderers and child molesters."

This logically doesn't make sense. Existence of sin and evil has no bearing of what judgments can we as a society make on sociopaths and psychopaths. I am sure that sociopaths and psychopaths think what they do is justifiable for them. In fact many were listening to their voices in their heads or find different justifications. For the rest of us it is different.

Look for example child molesters in ranks of clergy. I am sure you can't argue with the fact that they knew was wrong, yet they've doing it for many years. Further more their own religious institutions were protecting them. I am also sure if I would order a young boy to come stay with me for the night wearing just a linen cloth so I can teach him mysteries (of any kind) that night you would consider me a plain pedophile, wouldn't you? I certainly would report any such men staying with boys like that to appropriate authorities. Would you?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok: This logically doesn't make sense. Existence of sin and evil has no bearing of what judgments can we as a society make on sociopaths and psychopaths. I am sure that sociopaths and psychopaths think what they do is justifiable for them. In fact many were listening to their voices in their heads or find different justifications. For the rest of us it is different.

Me: Of course it does. If there is no evil, then if we say "X is evil" we are not speaking the truth. We are merely giving our opinion. Now if it is our opinion with just one person, why should it suddenly become a truth that ought to be obeyed when we have a large group of people? (A society)

All we have is different strokes for different folks. X likes pedophilia. I don't. It's no different in that case from "X likes Rocky Road ice cream. I don't."

Iztok: Look for example child molesters in ranks of clergy. I am sure you can't argue with the fact that they knew was wrong, yet they've doing it for many years. Further more their own religious institutions were protecting them. I am also sure if I would order a young boy to come stay with me for the night wearing just a linen cloth so I can teach him mysteries (of any kind) that night you would consider me a plain pedophile, wouldn't you? I certainly would report any such men staying with boys like that to appropriate authorities. Would you?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Me: Of course we say it was wrong! The difference though is that we believe in a moral standard independent of us.

Btw, when is this going to turn and we'll hear about all the cases of teachers having affairs with students in the school system?

Anonymous said...

DJ, as far as I know school systems don't protect child molesters.

Also: "I am also sure if I would order a young boy to come stay with me for the night wearing just a linen cloth so I can teach him mysteries (of any kind) that night you would consider me a plain pedophile, wouldn't you? I certainly would report any such men staying with boys like that to appropriate authorities. Would you?"

Do you agree this kind of behavior is wrong? Please honestly say what would you think of me (I am a male in mid 30s) if I would spend a night like that with a boy in bed?

Sincerely,
Iztok

pornstudent said...

Iztok,
Is there a character in the Bible who sleeps with kids?

DJ,
To help you understand how atheists can be moral, have a look at
Humanism.

pornstudent said...

Also the American Humanist Association.

Nick said...

If he mentions Lot and his daughters as an example....

D.J. said...

A few clarifications...

Iztok,

"DJ, as far as I know school systems don't protect child molesters."

Not my comment.

"Do you agree this kind of behavior is wrong?"

Yes.

Pornstudent,

I am well aware of humanistic philosophy. I didn't ask you for a wikipedia page on humanism, I asked you (and now ask a fourth time) how you judge two specific examples of sinful behavior since you say there is no such thing as sin or evil. I have posed that question now four times, and never gotten a direct answer to the specific issues I addressed.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

pornstudent, yes there are plenty, but I was referring to the main character itself. He ordered a young man to spend a night with him in only linen cloth to "teach him miracles".

Sincerely,
Iztok

Nick said...

Iztok. You are referring I believe to Secret Mark. Just a little problem.

We have no copy of "Secret Mark."

We have no copy of the reference even to "Secret Mark."

In fact, it was claimed to have been found by Morton Smith and the evidence seems to indicate not that he found it, but rather that he made the whole thing up.

D.J. said...

Iztok,

"pornstudent, yes there are plenty, but I was referring to the main character itself. He ordered a young man to spend a night with him in only linen cloth to "teach him miracles."

Care to give us a reference?

Soli Deo Gloria

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

DJ,

I can repeat my answers to your question yet again, but you would still choose to argue rather than understand. Study that Wikipedia page on Humanism and the American Humanist Association's website. You don't need religion to be a loving person.

Jane wanted us to comment on the worth of arguing and whether that time could be better spent finding ways to love.

My first comment on this post was, "I am often impressed by the love of some Christians. They are loving in spite of what their Christian doctrine says or what they profess." You may have "grown in your faith" through arguing, but your energy would be better spent finding ways to love.

D.J. said...

One question...
Four times...
No specific answer.

Soli Deo Gloria

pornstudent said...

Went back and got the question:

"Do you condemn murderers and child molesters, or are they simply 'being what they are'?"

I answered, "Since Hell does not exist, nothing can be condemned to it."

Your reply, "Hell was not part of the discussion."

I said, "Hell is part of the discussion. I said [in previous comment], 'What gets me mad is them saying there is something wrong with me. Not just me, but everybody. They believe we are all born defective. They believe we deserve to be tormented in hell forever.'"

You ask, "Are you then saying then that someone who kills people or molests children is no more 'sinful' or 'evil' than a biting rattlesnake - this is just a natural behavior?"

I reply, "There is no need for a theology of sin and evil."

You say, "You say that 'there is no need for a theology of sin and evil,' but I'm asking you (a third time) to be consistent in your application of that idea. If there is no sin and evil, only natural behavior, you can make no moral judgments against murderers and child molesters. So, do you?.'"

To help you understand how there can be moral judgments without belief in sin and evil, I suggest you look at Humanism and the American Humanist Association.

You respond, "I am well aware of humanistic philosophy. I didn't ask you for a wikipedia page on humanism, I asked you (and now ask a fourth time) how you judge two specific examples of sinful behavior since you say there is no such thing as sin or evil. I have posed that question now four times, and never gotten a direct answer to the specific issues I addressed."

In my last comment I said, trying to hint that you don't come across as a loving Christian in your arguing, your energy would be better spent finding ways to love.

Murderers and child molesters should be condemned to prison.

D.J. said...

Pornstudent,

Thanks for finally addressing the question. I'd be curious to know on what grounds you think they should be condemned to prison (and yes, I'm aware of theories of humanist morality, I'm simply wanting to know how you personally think through these issues).

Also, in reference to your comment, how does discussing these ideas make me un-loving. I don't see this dichotomy between loving others and having philosophical discussion.

Soli Deo Gloria

pornstudent said...

Murderers and child molesters should be sent to prison so that they will no longer murder and molest.

There isn't a dichotomy between loving others and having a philosophical discussion. All I said is that you don't come across as a loving Christian in your arguing. Just my opinion.

D.J. said...

Pornstudent

Could you please point out examples in my dialog where I come across as un-loving? (I'd sincerely like to know, since that's the last thing I want to communicate).

So now we come to the crux of our discussion. You stated earlier that people kill and molest in the same way that rattlesnakes bite, or your wife makes you cookies. You view making someone cookies as good while murdering is bad. The murderer views murdering as good while making cookies is bad. Why should your standard be grounds for taking his freedom away? Majority opinion? If so, you must conclude that until the majority opinion began to sway 150 years ago, slavery was completely fine. I'm curious to get your reasoning.

Soli Deo Gloria

pornstudent said...

I don't want people murdered and children molested. Call it my "standard" or my "morality" or call it nothing.

I felt like you were badgering me by counting how many times you asked the question. I felt like you were trying to trap me, as if it were a chess game.

I don't know as much religion and philosophy as you, I'm not as educated. I'm not a good debater. You will likely trap me and win the argument.

D.J. said...

"I don't want people murdered and children molested. Call it my "standard" or my "morality" or call it nothing."

And now we come to the point I've been trying to make. In an athiestic or humanist model of morality, everybody gets to determine their own standard. In your case, you've outlined your standard above. Yet someone who kills or molests may determine that those behaviors are okay by their standard. At this point, both of your standards are equally valid, since they are both formulations of your own minds with no objective standard by which to evaluate either. So how do we determine who's standard to put into law? Societal morality says we take the majority view. This makes murder and molestation criminal, punishable acts and allows society to function. However, as I pointed out earlier, this presents problems when what we feel is "right" is in the minority, for example slavery 200 years ago. Why is slavery wrong now? Because our collective moral standard we have formulated says it is. 200 years ago, the collective moral standard said it was acceptable. With no objective standard, both are equally valid viewpoints, morality is simply determined by who's in power at any given time.

Yet this is not how we function morally. You and I know full well that to murder and to molest is wrong. I don't believe it is wrong because I say so or anyone else says so, I believe it is wrong because God has decreed that it is wrong and woven that fact into the very fabric of reality. We have this concept of morality "written on our hearts" as Romans 1 and 2 teach (and as Nick has often explained). We just know murder and molestation are wrong. Because morality comes from an objective source outside of us (God) we can appeal to that source and say with absolute certainty, "Murder and child molestation are wrong, period." They always have been and they always will be. Without an objective source, that moral pronouncement carries the exact same weight as the pronouncement "Chocolate ice cream is best," yet you and I know there is a huge difference in the absolute nature of those two statements. That difference is only possible through the existence and decree of God.

If I have come across as badgering, I apologize, but I think it's vitally important that if you're going to make a statement like...

"I love the fact that we are as much a part of nature as the other animals. There isn't sin. There isn't condemnation for being what we are."

...you think about the far-reaching implications of such a belief. In asking the question that I did and seeking a specific answer I sought to take this discussion in that direction.

Now, one thing that I want to apologize for is for seeming as though my goal is to win an argument. My purpose in this discussion (and in every discussion I enter here) is not to notch a 'W' on my debate scorecard, but to demonstrate the beauty, intellectual integrity, and reality of the Christian faith. I hope and pray that as you see the implications of your denial of God's existence worked out to their logical conclusions you will see the utter inability of the athiestic worldview to explain the reality of this life. You said at one point that you used to be a Christian. I don't know what drove you from that, but I hope to give you cause to re-examine it, that you might see God's glory and grace with joy and clarity. To the extent that I fail to do that, I apologize and lean continually on the free grace of God through Christ, which covers all my sins (and there are many).

Thanks for your willingness to continue to discuss.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

DJ: "Because morality comes from an objective source outside of us (God) we can appeal to that source and say with absolute certainty, "Murder and child molestation are wrong, period." They always have been and they always will be."

How do you feel about killing people who work on Sabbath? Is it wrong? In my book it is. Is it in yours?

pornstudent said...

In a free democratic society, versus a theocracy or kingdom, laws are made according to what the majority wants. Of course the majority doesn't always choose the best laws. But neither do kings and priests. The laws made and the reasons for the laws may have nothing to do with morality. We don't have to convince the murderer nor ourselves that murder is immoral.

It doesn't matter if I'm religious or not in order for me to vote for someone who will imprison murderers. When I'm alone in the voting booth it doesn't matter why I make the choice I do. We all have reasons. If someone else's is different than mine, it doesn't matter.

I can try to convince others to agree with me by saying my way is more moral. But they could just shrug their shoulders and disagree. We each have our own standard, morality, lascivious desire or whatever.

I don't need a reason to want what I want or not want. I suppose there is a reason someplace in my brain. Some would say there is a place in the brain where we are "hard wired" to be moral. Fine.

pornstudent said...

Christians are always having to make excuses for God.

God wanted people killed who worked on the Sabbath. He did change his mind about that, didn't he?

How does an almighty loving God send people to Hell for eternity?

Why did God make a world where there is so much cruelty?

Nick said...

Christians are always having to make excuses for God.

God wanted people killed who worked on the Sabbath. He did change his mind about that, didn't he?

How does an almighty loving God send people to Hell for eternity?

Why did God make a world where there is so much cruelty?

I'd be more than happy to discuss each of these issues with you. The question is, do you really want to discuss them. Are these the issues keeping you from being a Christian?

pornstudent said...

Nick,
Nah, I don't care to discuss them. But I've forgotten what the excuses are. Remind me.

pornstudent said...

DJ - "I don't believe it [murder] is wrong because I say so or anyone else says so, I believe it is wrong because God has decreed that it is wrong..."

Isn't God an "anyone else?" Isn't he a somebody? You do believe something is wrong because somebody says it is.

DJ - "'Murder and child molestation are wrong, period.' They always have been and they always will be. Without an objective source, that moral pronouncement carries the exact same weight as the pronouncement 'Chocolate ice cream is best,' yet you and I know there is a huge difference in the absolute nature of those two statements."

I don't like lima beans and I don't want my wife being raped. There is a huge difference. I don't need an outside "objective source" to tell me how I should feel and react to either.

pornstudent said...

DJ - "My purpose in this discussion ... [is] to demonstrate the beauty, intellectual integrity, and reality of the Christian faith."

The beauty in a religion that has billions of people gnashing their teeth in an eternal lake of fire for eternity is hard to see. I suppose a psychopath would think it a pretty site. Intellectual integrity is lost when attempting to explain a loving God creating such a place.

D.J. said...

Pornstudent,

"Isn't God an "anyone else?" Isn't he a somebody? You do believe something is wrong because somebody says it is."

The fundamental difference is that God is the creator of all things (including morality) and thus is the standard. The "anyone else" I was referring to (other people) can hardly claim such authority.

"I don't like lima beans and I don't want my wife being raped. There is a huge difference."

Why is there a huge difference? Aren't both of them simply your opinions? What makes one carry absolute weight while the other is unimportant?

"The beauty in a religion that has billions of people gnashing their teeth in an eternal lake of fire for eternity is hard to see. I suppose a psychopath would think it a pretty site. Intellectual integrity is lost when attempting to explain a loving God creating such a place."

You ask the question (as many have), "How can a loving God send people to hell?" Yet, have you ever asked, "How can a loving judge send people to prison?"

I must say this strikes me as odd: you've admitted you don't know a whole lot about religion and philosophy, and you told Nick you aren't really interested in discussing these issues. So why have you posted 5 times in the last 24 hours talking about your dislike of Christianity?

Soli Deo Gloria

pornstudent said...

Anyone can claim anything. You've chosen to believe this person called God.

DJ - "Why is there a huge difference [between not liking lima beans and not wanting my wife raped]? Aren't both of them simply your opinions?"

My opinion is good enough for me.

DJ - "Have you ever asked, 'How can a loving judge send people to prison?'"

No, I haven't because 1) I never assumed a judge was loving 2) usually a judge sends people to prison to protect society and 3) I haven't had a personal experience with a judge sending someone to prison.

DJ - "Why have you posted 5 times in the last 24 hours talking about your dislike of Christianity?"

It's easy.