14 Jan 2009

Atheists & Morality Rehashed

Russ, a Christian and Minister in the Missouri Synod of of the Lutheran Church, and I have been chatting with a certain frequency…for some reason it always lands on the subject of morality…we hit other subjects some times, but morality is one thing that we ALWAYS end up getting back to. Maybe I am not authoritative enough on the subject of morals (I don’t know why not), but I can’t seem to say things in a way that satisfy Russ…so we chat and I explain my side, challenge his side a tad, try to explain why god is not necessary in the moral dilemma that we face daily…and for some reason it just never gets across, I have no doubt that I am using some sort of logic that seems circular but I just don’t know any other way to put it. The thing is, Russ knows that I am not an immoral person, he admits that…He understands that a godless person like myself can still have morals but that they may not have a basis. Usually after going over this a few times we start to do a bit of name calling and then kiss and make up, because Russ is a really nice guy and I am too if I must say so myself (usually we only prod one another, I think he knows I am just picking with him). I guess I just want to know from the Atheists and the Christians (or anyone else for that matter) where I am messing up my explanation of this thing. So what follows is a portion of one of our more recent conversations (edited to make it easier to read, no other edits made) from Gtalk.  Afterward I am going to try to explain my view (which as far as I know is well accepted, but I base it entirely on my own understanding of history and my observations of the human race) Tell me what I can do to improve my understanding or explanation of this, is there a precedent on this argument that could help me?

I do have to admit one thing though, I have a major advantage over Russ. I have been the Christian before, I have seen the affect God can have on one’s morals and beliefs so I understand the position he is coming from. Russ gets frustrated with me because for some reason this pre-qualifier doesn’t make it any easier for me to explain the dynamic nature of morality and ethical behavior to a person holding views similar to my own former view. It frustrates me too, I always thought I might be a decent wordsmith, evidently when I am on a pro-tempo spiel sometimes the things I say and the things I think just don’t line up. So this really isn’t something I can blame on him, I have the precedent, he has never been an Atheist, His view has been fairly unchanging on this subject for his entire life, mine has gone from one extreme to another in roughly 10 years.

Now for the text below, assume that morality includes all ethics and morals that society as a whole holds as a part of a whole, if that makes any sense. Also note that this is only a portion of our conversation which spanned about 6 hours (which is probably why russ is set as busy on Gtalk now, because when he talks to me he doesn’t get any work done…its ok Russ, I understand)

Russ:   I still can’t get around the morality question – again, it’s certainly not that i think atheists have no morals or that Christians are more moral than atheists – the only point is, even while Christians screw up, there’s always something objective to look back to that shows us where we’ve screwed up – a static target, if you will. What I still don’t understand is what you’ve described sounds to Me like a morality that has a constantly moving target for it’s basis and I can’t for the life of Me understand how that’s sustainable.

Me:     so you don’t see how morality has changed throughout the ages at all?

Russ:   I do see how it’s changed – and that’s part of my point – because in my opinion, SOME of that (not all) is a result of abandoning God’s Word – the abortion debate, for example

Me:     when I say ages I Mean before there was a word of god

you know

how like, before 1930′s euthanasia, hereditary breeding, selective neutering and all were common practices in many countries…this included abortions…by far

That’s a modern example

Eugenics..

It’ll make a come back

Russ:  exactly my point

and that’s a terrible thing

but with a relative morality – what’s to stop it at all?

who’s to say it’s wrong?

you have nothing to appeal to

THAT is my point – not that Christianity/God’s Word WILL stop it, but at   LEAST you have a place to appeal to – does that make any more sense?

Me:    I know what you are saying

but it doesn’t have to be wrong “because god said so”

it can be wrong because “we value all life”

or because “we believe killing is bad and therefore it is”

Russ:  but WHO makes the final call?

great – but if the majority says “yeah for eugenics” where do you appeal to?

Me: the ever changing status quo

Russ: moving target

your appeal is GONE as soon as the status quo says it’s acceptable

Me:    not necessarily

my appeal probably would not change

that of society likely would

there will always be dissenters

Russ:  but what is your morality based on?

you – as an individual

if 99% of the population says eugenics is a great thing and you keep crying out “no way!” what ground are you standing on?

your own thought and reason?

what’s it based on?

certainly not the status quo, I’d think – if you’re a dissenter

I’m really trying to understand, but I just don’t see any point where the buck ultimately stops

Me:     it doesn’t stop

my morality is based on the facts as I understand them and my own ideals and opinions

Russ:  and you think that’s a good thing?

Relative/ subjective morality?

Me:    I don’t think that it is good or bad

I think that it is reality

it just happens to be that way


So the real crux of what I am trying to explain here is that morality, no matter what religion is predominant in society always moves through ebbs and flows from Extremism to Moderate to an opposing Extremism.  Society changes it’s views and preferences over time, the fact is Christians talk about this all the time and Russ brings it up too, that society is getting progressively worse ( he calls it moving away from god’s word). I wouldn’t necessarily say worse coming from an entirely objectionable view point, because once society has mad that transition what you and I think is moral will either be immoral or too moderate for the next generation.

Also, I am not defending the ebbs and flows, I think good is good and bad is bad, as defined by what I think is good and what I think is bad, but the change is happening all the time because facets of society (herein called dissenters) will always be pushing the boundaries in one way or another…there are always multiple suites of extremists that are diametrically opposed to one another, and a common people stuck in the middle that conform to some middle ground between the two (or more) factions in general. I know it sounds incredibly simplistic but I think that history supports this.

Speaking on a modern front; if we look at sexuality alone I think it is increasingly obvious that sexual activity is occurring in younger and younger generations, and I know Evangelical Christian society is trying to fight this in their own children so this has to appeal to those sensibilities. When I was in High School 16-18 was a normal age to lose ones virginity, now I know 10 year olds that claim to be sexually active (they represent an extreme), their peers at 12-14 are picking up on this and conforming to that standard. Therefore the age that children begin to think about and pursue sexual activity is decreasing rapidly. Now, since things are going toward one extreme we need to know if there has ever been a precadent for that extreme before…and the answer is YES there has.  2-300 years ago it was common place for a 14 year old to get married and start having children-marriage aside they were being subjected to sexual activity-the reasons now may be different as I am sure some will argue, but the fact remains that the standards are changing.

This model can be applied to all sorts of things:

Bloodsport: Gladiators in Greece – Boxing with gloves –Mixed Martial Arts (UFC) –Some more extreme bloodsport of the future (think Death Race or something like that)

Racism: 1940′s American South still lynching blacks – 1970′s and 80′s Interacial Marriage becomes more common place – 2008 Barack Obama wins the US Presidency–this might sound silly because I think we are still on an extreme as far as racism goes …but eventually the Minorities might change places and the roles of oppressor and oppressed may change (Dont shoot me here I’m just speculating and certainly am not advocating common racism as I see every day in my small Georgia town…just theory folks…I am VERY pro civil rights for ALL people)

Nationalism: Nazi Germany (Fascist Nationalism) captivated Germans in overwhelming national and racial pride which made it OK to Euthanize entire races and religions, today in Germany most of this mindset has been set aside and those things seem abhorant, and now Isreal opresses a nation behind ghetto walls—what’s next????

I just think History and society back this view up, that societies morals change indefinately the extreme becomes common becomes extreme becomes common, over and over forever and ever.

And the most important part: Christianity has prevailed through most of this and even catalyzed parts of it—Islam too, religion is promoting the extremes on both sides as opposed to providing some moral standard. God’s Word as an argument…well…burden of proof on that one, because the Bible isn’t perfect enough to be God’s word (if we hold Him to a higher standard).

Was that all rambling? I was afraid of that.

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Matt is a former Christian who, through facing his own doubts found a life without faith. Now atheist he dedicates his life to helping people transition through stages of belief via private counseling. Matt is currently working on his first book - Embracing Doubt, and contributing to the dialogue between atheists, Christians, and skeptics.
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70 Responses to “Atheists & Morality Rehashed”

  1. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    I'll just speak for myself here, Matt, but you're explanation and everything from our conversation was absolutely fair and representative of my views and from how you presented yourself.

    You mentioned in your prologue that you believe "good is good" and "bad is bad" – again my challenge, and the whole point of this conversation we've had (multiple times) is how do you KNOW what's good and/or bad when what (if I have understood you correctly) defines it for you is a ever moving target? In other words, how can your definitions for "good" and "bad" be static when what their based on is dynamic? Or for that matter, even if your definition of bad remains static – what can you appeal to; who can you "cry to help for" when I suddenly say that's now a good thing. Again, the murder example. I'm assuming it's safe to say for you, it would be bad from me to kill your wife in cold blood because I just felt like it. But, with your definitions of what defines good or bad – ULTIMATELY, what's to prevent that from becoming a good thing at some point and if so, does that suddenly change how you view it? That is to say, if the "status quo" decides that it's good for me to murder your wife, how can you possibly appeal to anything to stop me? Does that make any more sense? And this goes without saying, but for the benefit of your readers – I have absolutely nothing against your wife and I certainly don't want to murder her – I'm just using a very extreme example to try to make my point.

    Again, thanks for your fair representation of both sides of our recent discussion. Peace!

  2. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    oops – edit that, I meant epilogue, not prologue – you get the idea

  3. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    Oh, and one more thing – a minor correction, if you will. I would submit that all people actually DO have a basis for morals whether they recognize it or not: God's natural Law written on the hearts of all man, Christian or not. Unfortunately, from a Biblical standpoint, our sin taints our understanding of it.

  4. Reply Ginkgo100 says:

    I think you can have a true morality without a concept of a real personal God… but not without a concept of objective truth. Because morality by definition is objective. Some atheists (and not a few theists) consider truth, especially moral truth, to be a subjective thing. Obama said he considers sin to be acting against his (own, personal, subjective) values. I would argue that you can't have a real morality if you believe moral truth is subjective.

    John C. Wright, who is Catholic but who was once atheist, proved to me that atheists can rationally believe in objective truth and objective morals. Read his trilogy "The Golden Age" (about which I have written on my own blog; click my name for link) for an example of that — he wrote the trilogy while still an atheist, and it reflects a strictly secular and atheist worldview permeated by objective truth.

  5. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    Ginkgo – in a sense, you've articulated what I was trying to say. Belief in God aside, you do need some sort of objective truth for a sustainable morality. Obviously as a Christian, I believe that God is the source of that truth. I'm curious though, (and this is not an attack or even a challenge but a genuine question because I just haven't looked) for those who believe in an objective truth but not God, what is argued as the source of this objective truth?

  6. Reply nicole says:

    I am not sure exactly what you are asking, but imo, morals/morality, comes from a place inside each of us. I think most athiests, myself included, believe that to be a moral person is to "do unto others". While that may be one of the 10 commandments, to me it has absolutely nothing to do with religion or any "god", it is simply an acceptable way to operate as a human being, and it is what I base my decisions on when considering whether a thing is moral or not.

    It just seems very simple to me. Maybe I am missing something. :)

    • Reply Matt says:

      I think the only thing you are missing is the filter of Christianity, which is why I believe the Christians among us are having such a difficult time grasping this concept…It is hard for them (and myself formerlly) to perceive anything in life without the filter of Gods presence and existence…but truly that is only a self applied filter which is completely subjective as well…since god is merely a figment of ones imagination…it is an unintentionally applied filter.

      you should join the Freethinking Carders when i get it up if you haven't already expressed interest in that BTW
      thanks for the comment

  7. Reply David says:

    You guys are aware there are whole branches of psychology that explore this topic, right? lol

    If I may start by quoting a Bible verse:

    "Mat 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

    I agree with Russ that hidden in all people is God's law. I interpret that from a little of many different schools of thought (i.e. Bible, Aikido, tv sit-coms, anecdotal experience, Freud) to mean that God has something that allows us to know deep down that acts inspired by love and creativity are "right" whereas acts inspired by greed, fear, self-preservation, strife, etc. are "wrong."

    Note: I don't use the term conscience here because I believe environmental factors and choices are always changing someone's subjective values and there is no "little always right voice" the natural Godless person can always depend on.

    In other words, I think with all of us it's more like the little angel dude on one shoulder and the little devil dude on the other, but anyone with any wisdom knows which one is the angel dude and which one is the devil dude. This discernment is what I believe is the natural law of God.

    (A minor digression: if any are unfamiliar with Freud, an interesting thing he allegedly would say according my psych prof is that there's naturally an id, an ego, and a superego respectively being your irrational subconscious instincts, your conscious mind trying to sort through everything, and the moral center you've learned. "A long time ago in a galaxy far away" or maybe just my Star Wars ideals, the id would be the little devil dude telling you what you want to do, the ego would be you trying to decide what you should do and how that relates to what you want to do, and the superego would be the little angel dude telling you what you probably should do. The good instinct is supposedly the "life" instinct whereas the bad instinct is supposedly the "death" instinct. That's slightly homologous to the Aikido life/creativity versus all the polar opposites as well as the model Jesus makes in John 10:10 saying He came to bestow abundant life instead of the devil who steals, kills, and destroys.)

    Anyways, where were we? Oh yeah. Furthermore, whether or not this knowing what is from moral inspirations and what is from immoral inspirations is innate is unclear to me; however, it's rather objectively obvious the way the world works.

    Consequences balance actions.

    It's similar to how the economy balances itself, chemical reactions seek to be balanced, math balances itself, hot and cold balance each other, the press supposedly balances the U.S. government, what goes up….must come down…. etc. Assuming people work the same way may be against the rules of rhetoric, but this, of course, is my humble opinion. ;-)

    The idea of consequences establishing morality is the interpretive Biblical definition of right and wrong that I follow and many people I know follow. "Does it hurt your neighbor and/or you?"

    When you "reap what you sow" as the Bible puts it in Gal 6:9, or when karma takes its revenge as some believe it, what comes of your actions? Let's speculate:

    If your a habitual murderer eventually you'll probably be murdered. If you steal eventually you'll probably have those you thought were your little thieving buddies steal from you. If you commit adultery or incest you'll probably at a minimum reap heartbreak and probably familial disasters. If you do hardcore drugs, you'll go psycho and probably overdose or get shot. If you enslave a people, they'll eventually revolt. If you engage in homosexuality, you'll likely contract a venereal disease or at least be childless. If you lie, you have to earn people's trust again and will likely dig yourself into a mess of trouble. If you harbor bitterness, you'll likely not have peace and likely will have high blood pressure.

    Ruminatively and conclusively, although I'm someone who likes to meditate on 1 Cor 13 and study Old Testament law, in the end life teaches morality. It's this ubiquitous thing constantly regenerating itself all around us. It isn't controlled by popular vote. It's able to be learned or not learned by practicing Christian and Athiest alike.

    It eventually teaches everyone his or her lesson.

    Romans 6:23 "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."

    • Reply Matt says:

      I don't think you are describing morality at all David. What I see you talking about here is more of a cost/benefit deal…or an action vs reaction thing….

  8. Reply Dhanamjaya says:

    David and Russ saved my intellect burning out from the many different directions and details of this debate by referring to God's Natural Law written on the hearts of all man. But unfortunately Russ sees that tainted by sin, I guess unforgivable sin, unless you accept the name Jesus Christ as your savior, I guess again because the name Jesus Christ is the only container of God's Natural Law that can grant forgiveness.

    My feeling and understanding is that God's Natural Law is written everywhere and not just the hearts of men and women. And God's greatest gift to human kind is free will to make any "good" be "bad" or any "bad" be "good" with the feeling one has in his or her heart. For example, for a hunter killing a cute little deer is good or fun, but to an animal lover killing a cute little deer is bad or tragic.

    Everything that Matt talks about throughout recorded history is the result of human beings using free will to choose to make any "good" be "bad" or any "bad" be "good".

    So if in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” sin is what God's Natural Law recognizes as bad and therefore results in death, then eternal life through Christ Jesus has to be also Christ as God's Natural Law and NOT just the name Christ Jesus.

    Eternal life (absolute righteousness…moral perfection…all good)is gained using God's greatest gift of free will via a healthy heart that's sensitive enough to God's Natural Law to be able to choose to make "good" be better in life on Earth in the direction of the eternal life of God's Natural Law.

  9. Reply Frigga says:

    Some people don't understand the concept of doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. For people such as the Reverend, they believe that one must be persuaded to do the right thing. The Christian God is one of those "forces" pushing people to do the right thing. Also, for Christians, the world is very black and white with little gray area in between. You're either a Christian or you go to hell. Their faith does not allow them to think outside the box like you or I can. Therefore, you can talk until you're blue in the face, but the Reverend will never understnad why someone is willing to do the right thing just for the sake of it being right.

  10. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    Matt, thanks for the link but if that's somehow supposed to simplify things – whoa. I understand some of what he's getting at, namely that there are certain things, depending on context, that could be considered "good" or "evil" such as eating in front of a starving person and refusing to give them any food. The problem is, it's not about the action, but what's behind it. Call it selfishness or whatever label you want to give it, the refusal to show compassion or flaunting what you have in that instance is what is the evil/bad, not the act of eating. So in some way, it's not a matter of defining which actions are/are not evil/good, it's about a condition. Ultimately what I see in that article is that regardless of how eloquent the author is and despite all his helpful diagrams (which they honestly are, to an extent), it still comes down to an individual determining what is right/wrong good/evil. I'm still failing to see any absolute reference point (and admittedly I started getting tired of reading it, so I skimmed a lot) and without that – even if it's not God – I don't understand how morality is sustainable if we're all left to relying on our own definitions.

    And if I may just correct that author for a moment, though it's a little bit off topic, he takes the NT quote on "not judging others" WAY out of context. Jesus doesn't mean I can't say "hey, brother, what you're doing is wrong" it means that ultimately I'm not the judge of one's eternal destination; that is God's job alone. It also means that as a Christian, I simply rely on God's Word and point to that for promises and warnings. I know what God says is the "criteria" for forgiveness and eternal life – faith in Christ. I also know what can endanger that, living a life of unrepentant sin. So, while I dare not be hypocritical (cf. removing the splinter from my brother's eye while there's a plank in mine) nor do I try to take the place of God as Judge, I have a responsibility to lovingly and gently show people their (eternal) life endangering sin (while recognizing my own) and point people to Christ as the only solution for forgiveness and eternal life. In other words, though I'm not the one who determines who goes to heaven and hell, I can say with relative certainty – based on God's Word and based on people's confession – on which path they are presently heading. Those on the right path I encourage and admonish when needed. Those on the wrong path, I lovingly try to correct to show them the right path. Ultimately, it's not about living a sin free life here and now because that's just impossible. It's about where one spends eternal life.

    How's that for rambling…I hope some of that makes sense. It's obviously a complicated issue and I wish I could articulate it in a clear, concise sentence or two but as another pastor once told me "the minute I can completely understand everything about God is the minute He ceases to be God and instead is just my friend. That's not a God I want to follow."

  11. Reply Ginkgo100 says:

    Nicole,

    #

    nicole (2 comments) said:

    January 14th, 2009 on 9:47 pm

    You said, "imo, morals/morality, comes from a place inside each of us." That statement by itself is not rational. Why, from a materialist perspective, would there be a morality that comes mysteriously from "inside" you? The closest thing might be the social conventions that evolved as part of our psychology, which is really just about getting along with a group, not about objective right and wrong.

    "I think most athiests, myself included, believe that to be a moral person is to “do unto others”. While that may be one of the 10 commandments,"

    Actually, it's not one of the 10 commandments. :-) But it paraphrases the second of the 2 "great laws" that summarize the commandments.

    "Some people don’t understand the concept of doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing."

    Frigga, I'll have to confess I'm one of those people. From a materialist perspective, that statement seems to be a non-sequitur. At least, unless you are arguing that there is an objective moral truth and it should be followed simply because it is objectively right. But I so often hear this outside the context of objective truth.

    As a Catholic Christian, I do try to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. I don't feel "forced" or "pushed," but I do identify the right thing (goodness) with the person of God, so it is impossible for me to separate in my mind being good for goodness' sake and being good for God's sake. They are one and the same for me.

  12. Reply Frigga says:

    Ginkgo100: I think we're almost saying the same thing. For Christians "Good" and every single concept associated with "Good" is directly related to God. He decides what's good and what's not. For someone who does not believe in the Christian God, "good" can be good with no religious bearing.

    What exactly is "Objectively Right?" For Christians, the Bible answers this question pretty thouroughly. However, for non-Christians, the Bible is simply a group of stories written by many different mortal human beings with faults and their own objectives. Therefore, for us non-Christians the bible is NOT objectively right.

    Right and wrong is subjective in every scenario. My life experiences guide me to make my decision on right and wrong. The Bible guides you to make your choices, however it was your life expieriences that made you choose to believe. All of these decisions are extremely subjective, a part of that outside the box mentality that The Bible doesn't allow.

    Maybe my face is starting to turn blue, but maybe you can see how my morality is based on life experiences just like yours, only you use the Bible as a guidebook, whereas I don't. Even with this difference in us, we agree more than we disagree on what's right and wrong. Killing is wrong. Helping the needy is right, etc.. A person's beliefs canntnot be immoral, actions can be.

  13. Reply Dhanamjaya says:

    Everyone chooses what is good or bad for him or her with free will based on how his or her heart feels about it. Christians choose to make the Bible good and Atheists choose to make the Bible not so good, both are right for themselves.

    Thus, morality is always a choice based on how an individual feels. But God who I'll define as total good, is completely uninfluenced by what people choose to do with their free will. The individual who makes the choice is the main person who is impacted by the choice. If an individual chooses something bad in relation to the total goodness of God, the individual has to deal with the bad they have chosen instead of the goodness of God. It doesn't matter if an Atheist believes in God or not, if he or she chooses some badness then they have got some badness to deal with; if he or she chooses goodness then they have goodness. If one chooses to continue to choose badness, over and over again, he or she is either down right stupid or the badness somehow really is good for them as an individual.

    Like my previous comment above, which includes the example of the hunter and animal lover having opposing views on killing deer, what is good or bad is totally up to the individual, as well as how good and how bad something is. Free will has the power to take/make good all the way to perfection (to Rev Russ' total amazement). Continuous improvement baby, the human heart can make things better with its love and sensitivity and the happier and healthier a heart is the more love and sensitivity it has to make things better. Again it's totally up to the choice of the individual.

  14. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    Frigga, if I may just clarify a few things based on your response:

    Some people don’t understand the concept of doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. For people such as the Reverend, they believe that one must be persuaded to do the right thing.

    I'm sorry if that's what I implied. I never meant that we, as Christians, are "persuaded" to do what is right. I am merely trying to convey the point that I do not understand how, when right is defined subjectively by each individual, you can have a sustainable system of morality. You talk about everyone agreeing that killing is wrong; feeding the hungry is right. My question is, how do you know that? Just because? Where does that knowledge of what's right/wrong come from? That's the answer I'm trying to get because if it's defined by one's subjective views, I can overrule you with my views and you have no way tell me I'm wrong.

    Also, for Christians, the world is very black and white with little gray area in between. You’re either a Christian or you go to hell. Their faith does not allow them to think outside the box like you or I can.

    I never said everything is black and white though I do agree with you 100% the Christian view is that without Christ, a person is certain to face an eternity in hell. That being said 1) I'm not sure why someone who doesn't believe in hell really cares anyway and 2) If I claimed anything different, I wouldn't be a Christian. Tolerance doesn't mean I have to say everyone's viewpoint is equally as valid. Tolerance means, by definition, that I tolerate and put up with beliefs I believe to be incorrect while trying to proclaim the truth in a caring and loving way. I know many think that for us to claim that Christ is the only way is unloving but in fact, the opposite is true because it means Christ has already paid the necessary price for you, me, everyone – so long as you don't reject it.

    Therefore, you can talk until you’re blue in the face, but the Reverend will never understnad why someone is willing to do the right thing just for the sake of it being right.

    Again, I realize this may be a fine line but I don't doubt that all people, to an extent, know the difference between what's right and wrong. I'm not claiming that Christians are inherently better people than non-Christians. I'm just simply asking where does that knowledge of what's right and wrong come from? Or better yet, how do you explain wrong/evil in people. For example, a child molester who thinks what he's doing is right because it makes him feel good? On what basis can you actually define that as being wrong? That's all I'm asking.

  15. Reply Pearl says:

    If I can just jump in as a person raised without a religion and who has done well without out, I don't need an imaginary figure to tell me what is right and wrong. My parents did that, I've done that. I've garnered it through study, through a desire to understand other human beings, to see the humanity in others and hope they see the same in me.

  16. Reply Dhanamjaya says:

    @Rev Russ,

    "…when right is defined subjectively by each individual, you can have a sustainable system of morality…" because each individual is made in the image of God and thereby has a direct subjective link to absolute sustainable morality.

    "…I tolerate and put up with beliefs I believe to be incorrect while trying to proclaim the truth…." Where does your proclamation of truth come from? The Bible? If so how do you know the Bible is true? Is it because you were instructed the Bible is true or that you subjectively feel the Bible is true?

    You believe, Russ, the modern Bible is true in regards to "…Christ has already paid the necessary price for you, me, everyone – so long as you don’t reject it." because you were there and saw him paying the price for forgiveness of our stupidity with incredible pain or because you subjectively feel that that was a real good, moral, righteous plan for God to have Jesus do. "I’m just simply asking where does that knowledge of what’s right and wrong come from?"

    "…a child molester who thinks what he’s doing is right because it makes him feel good? On what basis can you actually define that as being wrong?" I define that as wrong easily like this: A child molester does not feel good like a sane person feels good. It's like Bush, who as a devout Christian, feels good and is justified to send 4,000+ American individuals to their death in Iraq, while spending $trillions to avenge the death of 2,000+ on 9/11, which was bin Laden's avenging for his people.

  17. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    @Frigga and Matt – I apologize if I've gone into attack mode with my questions. From my perspective, I am just asking what I believe are honest questions and as Matt can attest to, I keep asking because I feel like I haven't been given an answer. I may challenge (and I'm fine with being challenged myself) but I don't think this benefits anyone if we resort to attacking one another. I know how easy it is to get drawn into that and I find it hard to distinguish the line sometimes between honest questions/challenges and attacks. So if I have crossed that line here, please accept my apologies.

    @Dhanamjaya – I've come to realize that we're completely talking past each other. I by no means believe that I can argue you, or anyone else for that matter, into the Christian faith. It's not about a set of proofs or coming up with as much evidence as I can. Nor, for that matter, can I give you or anyone else conclusive proof that what I believe is right. I still believe it, but that doesn't mean I can force it on you. Also, I'm really not interested in "debating" because debating implies that I'm trying to "win" an argument – and I could care less about that to be perfectly honest. As I said before, what I care about it people's eternal destination. I know what the possibility is for all (eternal life in Christ) and it saddens me to know people willfully choose to miss out on that.

    You know, I get the feeling that you really have no interest in hearing any of my answers to your questions because you'll simply refute them because you've already made up your mind. And to be fair, the same is true for me to an extent. What I'm trying to avoid (and apparently doing a very bad job of) is getting into attack/debate mode and rather simply asking honest questions of one another, a dialogue if you will. However, it's so easy in these discussions for all parties to devolve into firing shots across others bows trying to "one-up" each other and prove our points of view. All that is to say, if you're really interested in learning more about me and what I believe, please feel free to ask. If you're just interested in attacking me and my beliefs or trying to trip me up with no real intent of hearing what I have to say, well, I really don't have much else to say. Because in the end I'm going to keep going back to the same thing like a broken record – Jesus Christ – true God and true man, suffered and died for the sins all people of all time to pay the debt we owe – and on the 3rd day, He rose again to secure for us eternal life with Him. That's a free gift from God out of His love for us – it does demand a change of us (be better people) but it's not conditional upon that change. All it "requires" of us is that we don't reject it. Or, put in other terms – our sin separates us from a God who demands we be holy, but Christ through his death and resurrection has restored that broken relationship. It's foolishness to man, as you so keenly point out – even the Bible itself acknowledges that (1 Corinthians 1:18-31), but it's still the wisdom of God.

    Wow…I am way too long winded.

  18. Reply Updates: Coughing, Godless/Freethinking Carders,Forum, Adgitize | RagingRev says:

    [...] First of all , thanks to all those that are participating in the discussion on the last entry about Atheism and Morality, please join in on it and add your own thoughts to the pot–comments from readers and [...]

  19. Reply Mike says:

    Good discussion. I would suggest that even within the context of this discussion there are amazing assumptions that only add to the complexity around trying to understand this topic. Let me play with one if you don't mind…

    The statement that Christians believe… or Christians are like… or Christians think… Hmmm, my experience suggests that even within 'Christianity' there are probably incalculable definitions of morality, interpretations of the Bible and all of its associated individual scriptures, and various sects which all seem to subscribe to particular aspects of the Bible and other religious historical teachings and toss others…

    I've never really been one to frame these types of discussions around Atheists think… Christians think… Etc think… Truly, we all come to our own conclusions about life via a very large complex variety of factors that ultimately influence what we believe to be our 'morals'. I also find it fascinating to think that any of us do any 'good' at all based on ..? How do we know, we generally don't judge ourselves accurately when it comes to right and wrong – we tend to judge ourselves on our intentions and others on their actions…

    I can't speak for those outside of "Christianity", as I've chosen to confine myself to it, however, may I suggest that if we were all to ask a journalist to track and record our lives from a truly objective (I know, journalists aren't very objective…) – with camera and sound, no naration; what would we think of ourselves and our supposed moral code after watching our lives in real time over a period of time. I would further propose that many of us really don't know what we believe or why, but we like to talk about it as if we do.

    My experience suggests, and the Bible actually records, many instances where folks did or do things that seemingly violate what they verbalize as their moral code. So what is the truth of the matter. The Bible is true when it indicates that the heart of man (mankind) is deceitfully wicked – meaning (mho) that we really don't know what is in our hearts/minds or what we are really capable of under all conditions. We don't really know how we will act given different circumstances – we only think we do. We have this luxury because most of us live in the 'civilized' world. I personally think we would all be amazed at what we are capable of given the right circumstances – you only really know what you believe when the right conditions present themselves to test what is on the inside of a man (or woman). How you behave in a given circumstance defines what you truly subscribe to, no matter what you and I may say or state. The proof is manifested in the circumstance…

    Don't want to be too long winded, but after you and I discover what is on the inside via the circumstance, then and only then do we have the opportunity to attempt to assess and adjust – but only until the next circumstance comes along to test it… ;) MM

  20. Reply Mike says:

    With all of that said, there are a variety of structured belief systems present in the Earth. Within them, are contained a variety of moral codes.

    I could choose to subscribe to a communist world view; then I could spend inordinate amounts of time studying it; then I would find over the course of time, that the morals that are resident within it would actually begin to influence my behavior – thus my moral code would become more entrenched over time and would reflect the influence of communism along with it.

    If I was motivated, I could search out the other worldviews and philosophies, study them, and over the course of time, have my moral base influenced; maybe even end up with a confluence of bits and pieces from several structured belief systems.

    I could do the same as a teenager with hard core porn, fascination with death and murder, etc… If I did that, the concentration of beliefs within them would eventually have their influence over me. Who is there to determine the best ones of the worst ones? Society? Nation? Culture? yada, yada, yada.

    Many (notice I didn't say most) 'Christians' have simply exercised their free will and chosen to put their efforts into a belief system that they believe to be the superior one; just like many buddhists, muslims, etc… They all have their reasons. Truly, what we believe to be 'good' may differ very much from what an 'athiest' believes to be 'good'. Its sort of the nature of the beast if you will. In the Old Testament, obedience to the Lord was considered 'good' – killing those who occupied the promised land in their quest to take that land (the Israelites) was 'good'. Those who were killed probably didn't believe that… ;)

    Under the extremist muslim worldview, re-constituting the 'caliphate' is good – even if it means dying and blowing up 'infidels' – without some sort of miracle, nobody will ever convince them otherwise. Unless of course some of them get motivated to look for a change – then it becomes possible. But who is to fault them for what they believe; they grew up with it, its in them. Far be it from me to judge them for that – can I feel sorry for them, yes; judge them, not this guy… MM

  21. Reply Mike says:

    Frigga,

    For the record, 'out of the box thinking' is allowed and expressed exponentially in the Bible. Not trying to be a butthead ;) Just because we haven't been represented well (and I get that), don't count us out yet. In our worldview, we are the ones out of the box and free – its all a matter of perspective I suppose; but I'm unwilling to accept that statement…

    Society has benefited greatly through "Christianity" and its ability to innovate within society. Not discounting all the folks outside of "Christianity" – just don't want to be lumped into that particular assessment… MM

  22. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    @Mike – wow, now I don't feel so bad about getting long winded ;)

    You made an excellent point, one that I've tried to make and probably failed at, is that even with God's objective truth, we as Christians are no "better" than anyone else – other Christians and non-Christians alike. We mess up all the time and I completely agree that for most of us in our sheltered worlds, we have no idea what evils we are really capable of given a certain set of circumstances. Again, my point is simply that in the Christian worldview there is someone (God) that we are accountable to. To put it more simply – there are things God forbids us from doing and things He asks of us to do – both of which we get wrong all the time, often without even recognizing it. Furthermore, as Jesus illustrated in the Sermon on the Mount, we mess up even in our thoughts. So try as we may to do what's right/avoid what's wrong, it's never going to be enough. In fact, I don't know why I didn't see this sooner, but from the Christian perspective, all this talk about morality is really a side issue, if you will, because we'll NEVER be able to measure up. And that's really the point – we're so corrupted by sin and if we look to our own efforts, we'll always be let down. But when we look to Christ who lived a perfect life in our place – THAT is where we find our assurance and hope. Again, it doesn't mean we don't try, it just means we'll never get it (morality/being good) fully right AND thankfully, by God's grace, our eternal salvation isn't dependent on us getting it fully right.

    All of that is to say, my point here hasn't at all been to try to say Christians are necessarily better/more moral/less sinful than non-Christians but rather that we recognize there is a standard, outside of us, that defines what is objectively right/wrong, even if we don't fully understand it and constantly mess it up which is precisely why we need Christ.

  23. Reply sycologist says:

    There is the argument that religion can make us less moral. Why? Well, if you are told that you can always be forgiven at a later date isn't that a justification to do something bad?

  24. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    @pearl – again, if that's what you really think I'm trying to say you've missed my point. I am not arguing that Christians are more moral. I don't doubt you're a relatively "good" person or that your parents are "good" people just as much I'm a "good" person. I'm just discussing here, do you define what's good/bad. If your parents had told you murdering was good, would that make it good? If they had told you that you should steal from people, does that make it good? My point, throughout this discussion has simply been what defines our morals. As Christians, it's God – even though we mess it up ALL the time – even if we don't understand it – God's good and bad don't change. Again, I'm just asking the honest question – not "oh man, how can someone without God be good" because I can find you 100 non-Christians that do way more "good" things than 100 Christians. Again, what I'm asking is how does someone without God back up their definitions of what good and bad are?

    @sycologist – what you've described is known in the church as antinomianism: lawlessness. It's those who think that just because they've been forgiven, they can do whatever they want. It's certainly not a view of orthodox Christianity. In fact, in the book of Romans Paul challenges a group of Christians who take it to an even further extreme: they reason that if doing bad gives God an opportunity to forgive, they're actually helping Him look good by giving him more opportunities through the stupid things they do. So you're absolutely right, that position can and has been abused within the Christian church since the very beginning.

  25. Reply Mark says:

    The argument as I saw it here was Russ arguing that there's no static source for defining morals where atheists are concerned, unlike the Christian morality which is rooted in the Word of God, making morality a bit vague if you're not religious but giving strength and a right to claim superior morality if you are.

    But this is making one hell of an assumption that can't be backed up: namely, Word of God? Really? Much more likely it was the word of numerous men. Now, given that, the only argument for Christians being more moral than atheists is that there's a book with some things written it somewhere that lays down the rules (which are quite conveniently followed and not followed at whim but let's ignore that for now). This then has about as much weight as basing this mystical word 'morality' around the works of J. M. Barrie and claiming that anyone who doesn't listen to the Word of Peter Pan isn't quite as moral as someone who does.

    Morality isn't a universal constant. Like fashion it ebbs and flows and some people follow it and some people don't. Flared trousers aren't in now, but they were at some point. Some moral stands are in now, but they weren't at some point. If you base all your clothing decisions on a copy of Vogue from 1969 then, just like listening to the "Word of God", you've got your static root but to claim you're more fashionable than someone else because they buy new clothes every so often isn't just wrong; it's ludicrous. Now, some people will like what you're wearing and some won't but the bottom line is that you are simply not more fashionable because you have that book to fall back on. Someone without that book might still dress even more horrendously than you, of course.

    Morality, like fashion, is a collective sense of what is right and wrong and, like fashion, some people try to push it in certain directions at certain times. People will follow it or they'll make their own decisions. Some people will simply stick with their copy of Vogue from 1969 and claim they're the best no matter what else is happening. Sadly, they can't actually back up claim with any supporting evidence but that's not really a strongpoint. Fashion blindness affects many people.

  26. Reply Mike says:

    I think as we grow and learn and add to what we know, like over the centuries for instance, we develop new and different definitions of what morality is. I can see that for sure.

    Thanks RevRuss for allowing me to 'redefine' long winded… ;) I do tend to be that way, sorry folks…

    I would propose that it really is only an illusion however. The method of expression is really the only thing that changes. For example, in today's generation we in America consider slavery a morally corrupt approach to the way we treat people – however, we enslave people all the time through the application of our economic system based on credit vs value proposition. We don't see taking on debt as a bad thing, but 150 years ago we did. Got rid of slavery, subscribed to societal debt – simply a different version of slavery. Its really the same thing, cloaked differently for this generation. We all still wrestle with it. At the end of the day, mankind still struggles to get the upper hand over other mankind – its in us…

    Best I can tell, my belief and relationship with a living deity gives me the ability (even if you believe its only perceived ability) to subscribe to a code of morals that enables me to overcome some of my inherently bad characteristics. I have found no other system in the world that has successfully helped me do that, and I've actually put in the time to search the matter out. Many claim it, but when the circumstances show up, the real person shows up and betrays the power (or lack thereof) to really change who I am… Again, this is only mho, it has worked for me for many years, even through the difficulties I've experienced. Without a greater body of evidence to subscribe to, I have decided to stay with the one I am currently working with…

    Even those wonderful folks commenting here have yet to give me any strong evidence that the deity that I serve doesn't exist, although they call for us to prove he does. I'm an evidence kind of guy – give me strong evidence and I'll entertain just about any concept… MM

  27. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    @Mark – at first I thought you were seeing what I was saying, but the end of your first paragraph shows me there's still something I'm failing to articulate. I would not agree that as Christians we are morally superior. I'm not saying we're morally better or worse than anyone else. I thought I was making myself pretty clear on that, but apparently I'm not.

    You, like Matt, have described the reality of the world we live in – that the morals of the society ebb and flow with time and what's considered right today was considered wrong 40 years ago (abortion). My point is that the ebb and flow model takes away any appeal we might have. Let me try an example for comparison. Anyone feel free to point out the flaws/problems with it. Again, I'm going to use an extreme example just to make a point.

    Let's say I want to murder someone. Just off the street, random person – I want to just pull out a knife and stab them to death. Right now, most everyone would agree that this is wrong. That I should be punished for doing that. That my action was "bad" or "evil" or "morally wrong." Agree with me so far?

    Okay, so using the model of the status quo or ebb and flow of society, 20 years from now, our society decides that random murder is just fine. That it benefits society. Would that change your view on it? Would you say "oh, I guess murder is good now." I'm guessing no – I'm guessing you'd still think murder like that is bad. But what can you appeal to? Your source of morals has just changed – even if your own personal view has not. This is my whole point – to what can you appeal to say that murder is still wrong with no absolute source to go back to?

    Put God, Christianity, and God's Word aside for a second – let's just talk some source of absolute truth/morals that doesn't change. Even if society goes in the "wrong" direction, I can still say "hey, wait a minute – random murder isn't a good thing even if 51% of people think it is – because this source says so."

    Again, I'm not denying the "reality" that morals ebb and flow. In fact, that's part of my whole point. With a moving target that defines our morals, how is there any hope that over time things will actually get any better? Even from the Christian perspective, the point and goal ultimately isn't that we can rid this world of evil things – the point is we CAN'T which is why we're in need of a Savior who promises that in Him, there will be a time when all the pain, suffering, and evil WILL come to an end for all those who believe in him. Again, it doesn't absolve us from trying here and now – but our eternal state is not based on how much we get accomplished. As Christians we believe we are saved by grace through faith in Christ – not of works (Ephesians 2) – though we also believe that a faith that produces no works/good fruit is a dead faith (James 2).

    This is the same circle that Matt and I keep getting into and I'm beginning to wonder what either "side" can say here to really help bring better understanding because it feels like we just keep talking in circles around each other.

  28. Reply Dhanamjaya says:

    @ Rev Russ

    Thank you for responding to my second comment saying "we’re completely talking past each other." What I hear you saying there is that I am not saying what you want me to say. And then you say, "if you’re really interested in learning more about me and what I believe, please feel free to ask." Well I have asked but you do not answer because you feel we're talking past each other.

    But I will try asking you again: How do you know what you "keep going back to…like a broken record – Jesus Christ – true God and true man, suffered and died for the sins all people of all time to pay the debt we owe – and on the 3rd day, He rose again to secure for us eternal life with Him." Please explain how you know those core Christian beliefs. Is it only because they are in the Bible? Or is there something in your life that helps you subjectively feel the Bible is true? The Bible is obviously what you know, but again how do you know what's in the Bible is true???

  29. Reply Mike says:

    It seems to me one of the biggest differences between Christians and non-Christians is the way in which we gravitate toward a particular center of our universe – for the Christian, this would be the belief that God is and that what he recorded for us in his word is true. While we may debate what it all means, the quest to understand him and all of his ways keeps us occupied extensively. We seek evidence. We seek understanding. We hope that the process changes us all and makes us better people in some way.

    I agree with RevRuss in that I don't think we are saying that those outside of Christianity are bad people or are less superior, for all of us descend from the same bloodline if you believe the historical accounts in the Bible.

    Lets spin it around a bit (I like to play with things). Immorality. Is it a universal constant? What reference do we use to define immorality? Is it relative or constant (or a little of both)? Just curious to see what folks think..? MM

  30. Reply Mike says:

    Dhanamjaya,

    Forgive me for jumping into your discussion with RevRuss, if I may respond with mho. I've tried a variety of other approaches to life (philosophies, religions, political, etc.) – the defining factor for me is that Christianity works for me.

    When I pray for the sick according to the teaching I receive in the Bible, they get better. Go figure – can't explain the technical details of how that happens, but it actually works. I tried one time praying for a sick person in the name of Buddha (back in the day) and it didn't work.

    I have found that when my motive is pure, and I ask the Lord Jesus for help, assistance, provision, health, etc., that he responds and it works. I've asked the government for these things, and they didn't respond quite as robustly or quick.

    It gives folks hope, who may not have any other avenue of hope. Is that a good thing? Or is it just a setup for failure? Is it immoral to promise change, then not deliver it? Just rambling here, but I can't think of any other belief system, moral code, life experience that works as well.

    I was in an emergency room 3 years ago with my youngest son, whom X-rays proved that he had a broken arm from jumping on the trampoline, then falling. We were there for 6 hours. I was tired and frustrated and decided to just pray and ask the Lord to heal him so we could go home. The Doctor came in to 'see' him, and noticed that he was playing and not crying. He asked what happened, we told him. He had the X-ray crew take another set of X-rays. They were different and showed a perfectly healthy set of bones. Side by side the DR. compared them then declared that the X-ray crew must have screwed up and they couldn't be from the same child. He told us to go home and stop wasting his time.

    I can't really explain the technical details of how all that happened, it just worked. I have thousands of those stories – so for me, it works… MM

  31. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    @Dhanamjaya – Yes, what I believe about God and His revelation in Jesus Christ comes from the Bible. Can I objectively prove that what the Bible says is "true" – no. I can't prove it to you at all. I can't prove to you that Jesus is true God and true man. I can't prove that He suffered died on the cross for your sins and mine. I can't prove that He rose again 3 days later. I can't prove that Jesus (or even God for that matter) exists. Why do I believe what the Bible says is true? I guess I just can't answer it other than I have faith. It's a gift from God that I just can't fully explain. The core beliefs of the Christian faith – contained in the Words of Scripture are what give me hope in the midst of the fallen world in which we live. I don't know how to answer your question any better than that.

    I guess what I was reacting too a little was that it feels like often times when you're responding to my statements on the orthodox Christian view about Christ's death and suffering, you often use words like "stupid" and "idiotic" and even if the words aren't used, that's what I'm inferring from your statements. Though you may think I'm wrong (just as I think you, Matt, and others here are wrong), I don't understand why you feel the need to insult me or my intelligence. Do you feel that I've done that to you? While I may challenge and disagree with the beliefs of those here, I'm hoping that I'm doing so in a respectful way. That's all I'm asking for. If I've failed to do that I am a hypocrite and I am truly sorry to you and everyone else. And just to be crystal clear, having respect for someone does not in any way mean that I have to say I believe their viewpoint/belief system is valid or correct. If I didn't believe that what I believe is really true over and against the alternatives, then why try to waste my time explaining my position?

  32. Reply Mike says:

    RevRuss,

    I can't prove that slavery was real or that what is written in our history books actually happened the way it was recorded. It seems that many in the African American community are challenging our 'white' version of the history of our nation. Ahmadinejad is challenging the history of the jewish genocide. What is history really, but a collection of stories written and recorded by people who allegedly were there – I wasn't there so I can't prove that any of it is true… So don't feel bad :)

    I can't help you with the other – sorry dude, no answers to that – but I agree that we should all try to respect each other – I just like the discussion…

    Matt, I hope your not getting tired of me posting. Its been a long time since I had access to the internet and I like your site. This is fun… ;) MM

  33. Reply Mike says:

    Wow, I am getting the feeling that I'm talking to myself… Is that insanity – or does it have to progress to the point where I am laughing at my own jokes first.? hahahahahahahahaha – sorry, I digress. I thought while I was alone on the skating rink that I would jump up and down and act crazy for a bit – since nobody is around and all… ;) MM

  34. Reply Mike says:

    Since I am temporarily alone, let me take the opportunity to stroke Matt's ego. You rock man! I've been following you to other sites and been watching your comments – you have a really good heart and your posts are very well informed. Not trying to win any prizes or anything, just thought I'd compliment you! MM

  35. Reply Mike says:

    Is there some kind of record that I can set here? How many comments can come from the same person in a row – do we have any kind of count that I can shoot toward? Sorry folks, temporarily out of commission my mind is – always like to have a bit of fun in between the battles… :) MM

  36. Reply Aimey says:

    I'm not the smartest person in debates. I (usually) like to leave things short, simple and sometimes sweet. ( if the topic doesn't rile me up too much X3 ).

    On the subject of morality I personally believe that religion is not needed. I do understand that religious people use their religion as a baseline for what's right and wrong. Religion is not the only baseline out there though. I think in the end ones morals USUALLY boil down to what kind of personality they have. Do they respect other people? Do they respect themselves? In the end that's really what decided how one lives ones life and interacts with people right? If someone respects themself and others they're basically going to live by the whole "do unto others as you want them to do unto you" thing.

    My outlook could be flawed though. In a lot of peoples eyes I don't have the best morals. I am always polite and respectful of others though unless they do me harm. Just as I want respect from others unless I've done something to harm them.

    Just my two cents! :)

    AND HI MATT! <3

  37. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    @Aimey – I agree, that there are perhaps other baselines. I have just not yet heard (and maybe I'm just being thick headed) anyone give a baseline that is not subjective (i.e. one that doesn't change). You mention people's personalities – isn't that pretty subjective? What does it really mean to say respect others or even respect ourselves? How do you define what respect is/means? What it means to me could be something completely different than what it means to you – what I define as respectful could be disrespectful in your book. Without some standard against which to measure our definitions, how can one of us say the other is wrong? That's, in part, what I'm trying to get at here.

  38. Reply Aimey says:

    @Russ

    hi!

    I totally understand what you're saying. Personality is always changing. You;re also right that morality and respect based on something changable like personality wouldn't be a great "guideline". I guess it could change at any time. And you're right that people can view respect differently.

    I'm not any religion but I study all of them. The one "guideline" i also held myself to was actually from Wicca. From the Wiccan Reed. It's my baseline for respect and therfore morals.

    "

    These Eight words the Rede fulfill:

    "An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will" "

    I always interpreted it as we can do whatever we want without consequence as long as it harms no one ( including ourselves).

    Did I need religion to realize that though? Probably not. Basic human logic and compassion should instill in us that harming someone is wrong. But we all probably don't have the same basic logic and compassion.

    In the end maybe some people do need religion as a baseline for their morals and to control their actions. Just like some of us can come to the same conclusions just simply using logic.

    ( I realize that may sound kind of insulting which I promise I don't mean it to. I'm just really bad with wording things. :( )

  39. Reply Aimey says:

    and wow @ my spelling. sorry about that. I've been doing paid blogging since 8 am and am exhausted and typing and spelling horrible. x_x

  40. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    @Aimey – thanks for your insights and don't worry – I didn't take any of what you said as an insult :) The fact that you were concerned about it though says a lot and I do appreciate it so thank you. The biggest problem with discussions online is that it's tough to determine someone else's intent and we (certainly myself included) make assumptions too. I realize what I say can come off as insulting/condescending/arrogant and I'm really not trying to do any of that. Again, we may not all agree with one another, but we can still be respectful in our disagreements :)

    The question I have though is how is basic human logic and compassion defined? What guides it? I would submit, as I've said before, is that Christian or not, we all have God's natural law written on our hearts – that is to say, we all have that basic sense of what's right and wrong. However, because of the problem of original sin, our understanding of that absolute truth has been tainted and twisted and therefore, Christian or not, none of us will ultimately be good enough – regardless of what measure we use. That's why even atheists (like Christians) have the nagging sense that there's more good they could be doing or less bad they should be doing. In some sense, I think that's true apart from any belief in God. Someone who is an atheist strives to be better – when are you ever good enough? In the Christian view, as I've said, it's not a matter ultimately of trying to be as good as I can because I know I'll never be good enough. Or conversely, I know I could always do something better. The point is, from the Christian perspective, the fact that there is evil – the fact that even the best of us (again, Christians and non-Christians alike) do bad things and fail to do good things – all serves to indicate our need for a Savior, which we have in Christ. Though we are sinful, we have forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ. As I've pointed out numerous times, that doesn't mean we just do whatever we want now because we're forgiven – that's called cheap grace. The point is while we do strive to be better, our forgiveness/eternal life isn't based on reaching a certain level, it's based on Christ.

  41. Reply Mark says:

    @Russ:

    You said: "But what can you appeal to? … This is my whole point – to what can you appeal to say that murder is still wrong with no absolute source to go back to?"

    Answer: Let's say nothing. Now, what is actually wrong with that? What is this need you have for an absolute source, and don't you think that's the problem? Your need for this source, your need for there to be a reason for things is the problem. Some people, following a trauma, need some unspoken help and they create a friend or a persona but it's all in their mind. The need to explain why some event happened, why someone died, why the crops failed, why the sun rise is what gives birth to the religious fantasy but it's no more real than the imaginary friend a child concocts to share adventures.

    You said: "Even from the Christian perspective, the point and goal ultimately isn’t that we can rid this world of evil things – the point is we CAN’T which is why we’re in need of a Savior who promises that in Him, there will be a time when all the pain, suffering, and evil WILL come to an end for all those who believe in him."

    Reiterating: "which is why we're in need of".

    And my response: no, we don't NEED anything, not if we use our intelligence, if we examine, investigate, hypothesise, test, observe, experiment, prove, disprove, think, think, think. It's when we can't or won't do these things – when we're children or ill-educated or scared or stubborn or lazy – that we develop some other need to explain that doesn't involve us putting our brains in gear.

  42. Reply Dhanamjaya says:

    Rev Russ and Mike my friends, sorry for my delay I was outside for my daily 2 hour joy powered fun run. I am going to be running in the Phoenix marathon in a couple of days. I dare you to check my blog for info on what I am doing and how it relates to this discussion.

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful replies to my comment. I do really appreciate it and feel we are no longer talking past each other. Hope you feel the same.

    However, one thing that needs clarification on my side is that I am not asking you to prove anything to me. I am asking you how did you prove your Bible beliefs to yourselves? Your replies have answered that question.

    But Russ cannot fully explain his faith and Mike cannot explain the technical details of praying for and healing his son. Yet I feel what I have been saying explains both: Everyone's belief or morality is right for his or her self because that is what they have chosen, with their free-will, to make right or good by appreciating or loving it. For example, Rev Russ has for a long time loved the idea of Jesus, with great courage and love for mankind, suffering pain to gain forgiveness. I see Russ pretty much doing the same thing as a hunter who totally loves all aspects of the sport of hunting to make the one negative aspect of the sport, namely killing, good or fun.

    That's the power of love, if something is good and you love it, then it becomes better; and if something is bad and you love it, then it becomes good. Whatever one loves will become good or better. With that in mind it should be apparent that you guys cannot make Jesus suffering pain good for me, I am the only one who can do that for myself.

    The idea that I have chosen to love is that Jesus died on the Cross without any pain to demonstrate what it means for us to be made in the image of God. Now I don't expect you to start loving my idea of Christ's crucifixion, I am telling you so you know what it is.

    OK, everyone is aware that you guys have modern Christianity and billions of other Christians on your side appreciating, or believing, the idea that Jesus courageously, lovingly suffered pain to gain forgiveness and gloriously rise from the dead for eternal life for everyone who accepts His gift. But for little insignificant me, God would have to be very stupid to have a plan for mankind like that. Again, it's just me and what I have chosen to make powerful in my life through my love for it. My apologies if you are insulted by my choice, but I am not calling you stupid (I know that you have chosen to make modern Christianity your love) I am calling Christianity stupid and I realize that's almost the same thing as calling you stupid, I am not actually doing that. You see, if I said that I agreed with you about Christ's crucifixion, I would be lying.

    Instead I am saying very clearly what my choice is and explaining how everyone is able to choose and make their choice a good one. I am explaining how everyone is right. Of course, in the end Truth will triumph and everyone will know what Jesus was doing on the Cross, but until then people are going to choose what is good and bad (moral) in their life.

    Speaking of the end, I would like to conclude saying that Mike, by praying for and healing his son's broken bone has proved that perfection is possible in our lives if we have a lot of love in our heart.

  43. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    @Mark – thanks for your thoughtful response. Allow me to make a few remarks of my own.

    Your need for this source, your need for there to be a reason for things is the problem. Some people, following a trauma, need some unspoken help and they create a friend or a persona but it’s all in their mind. The need to explain why some event happened, why someone died, why the crops failed, why the sun rise is what gives birth to the religious fantasy but it’s no more real than the imaginary friend a child concocts to share adventures.

    You're right in the sense that I do have a need to somewhat understand the ups and the downs of this life. How I understand that is explained by the Bible. It shows me what I already know to be true – that the human race is pretty awful and we are capable of horrible things. But, it also gives me the explanation for that – man's fall into sin. But more than that, it gives me hope for the future. Hope that says even though there will be suffering in this world, there is a time when God will bring that all to an end for those who believe in Him through Christ. That, for me and millions of other Christians, helps make this life worth living. So yes, I do need that hope – I freely admit it. Without it, life for seems rather dismal if there's nothing ahead of me. But like I've told Matt – and he still hasn't answered to my satisfaction – if our lives are all pretty much the same here and now (e.g. we all try to do our best to better ourselves, help others, improve the environment, hold others accountable, avoid bad things, etc.), why is my life so much worse because I believe in God and eternal life that He offers in Christ? Why am I such a worse person for believing that? If nothing else, I'd think your response would be "I don't really care what you believe, just be a 'good' person." So if my faith gets me to live just as "good" a life as you – why am I the bad guy and why is that a problem? Why is it such a bad thing that I have hope? If I'm wrong, I'm right where you are anyway – nothing happening at the end of this life so at least I was as good as I could be. So what did I lose? The way I see it, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, with Christianity I have everything to gain and nothing to lose so I'll take my chances here.

    @Mike – please don't take this as an attack, but just some honest questions. What happens or how do you interpret it if God doesn't answer your prayer for healing or whatever? What happens when God effectively says "no" to you like He did to Paul when he prayed 3 times to have the "thorn" removed from his side (whatever that was) in 2 Corinthians 12 and instead says "my grace is sufficient for you." I'm not saying we shouldn't/can't ask for miracles – that would be wrong too. All I'm saying is underlying it all there's the aspect of heeding the "Thy Will be done" of the Lord's prayer and sometimes – many times, perhaps – God's will may not be what we want. I'm just cautioning against using anything in this life as a barometer or gauge of God's love for us because that ultimately takes the focus off of Christ – which is how God's love is made known.

    @Dhanamjaya

    I am asking you how did you prove your Bible beliefs to yourselves?

    I'm still not sure I understand the question, but I would have to say I can't/didn't – I just know it to be true through faith. I can't give you any better answer than that, I'm sorry. And I realize what you're trying to say with the whole "stupid" discussion but let's just be honest – calling Christianity stupid, which is the core of who I am, is really calling me stupid. You don't need to sugarcoat it for me. It's fine – I won't hold it against you ;)

    But for little insignificant me, God would have to be very stupid to have a plan for mankind like that.

    Again, I refer you back to 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 where the Bible itself acknowledges that indeed, God's plan of salvation sounds "stupid" or foolish. But really, that's the beauty of it – that we have a God who is all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, etc. and despite what He could have done, he chose to suffer and die for you that you would live forever – even little, insignificant you, Dhanamjaya. Even me. To know that I have a God who "stooped down to my level" shows me just how much He loves me and to what lengths He was willing to go to save me. Take the suffering out of that – and it ruins the whole story for me (not to mention goes counter to Scripture itself). Then the humanity of Christ isn't a real humanity and his death and even resurrection was nothing more than a big illusion.

  44. Reply Dhanamjaya says:

    Right take the suffering away and Rev Russ' life will be ruined because he won't need to suffer anymore. Rev Russ, and the rest of humanity will have to be healthy, wealthy and wise and live in peace and prosperity.

    What a pity and what a ruin life will be without suffering. And it's all because the Divine love of Christ on the Cross demonstrated that humans are made in God's image and so suffering any intensity of pain and even death can be reversed. Oh it's so sad that almighty God doesn't need to stoop down to the level of sinful humans and suffer intensely so that suffering will be of the highest value for humanity to live all their lives generation after generation.

    Calling Christianity stupid is not calling you stupid, its saying that Christianity has brainwashed you, and most of its followers, who were born as intelligent, loving, perceptive, sensitive human beings into zombies.

  45. Reply Mark says:

    @Russ: It is a real shame that you have a need to explain the ups and downs of life that isn't based on physical reality. It's also staggering to me when someone who comes across as intelligent and articulate can't see the self-serving solution you've arrived at:

    1. You NEED to explain the ups and downs.

    2. You get your answers from the Bible which gives you an explanation and hope.

    3. The Bible was written by men who NEEDED to explain THEIR ups and downs.

    As with all arguments we've strayed off the original topic somewhat but every point you could possibly make regarding your religion still stems from the fact that long ago people told stories to explain things because they didn't have the right tools or didn't have the time to observe and test and work out the real reason. In time these stories became myths and were spread and altered and appropriated and discarded and mixed with allegorical teachings to maintain order. And this became religion and was written down. Your morality is "explained" in your religion … but it's not really. And the reason things occur is "explained" … but it's not really. And there's a promise of a reward, a better life afterwards IF you stick to what your religion dictates (allowing for any current trends to ignore or reinterpret unseemly portions and allowing for the confusion arising from impossibly conflicting instructions, of course) … but, again, not really.

    The Bible doesn't contain the words of people who knew what they were talking about; it just contains the words of people.

    "[W]hy is my life so much worse because I believe in God and eternal life that He offers in Christ? Why am I such a worse person for believing that?"

    Your life may not be worse; that's quite a subjective viewpoint. Tarzan's a good allegory here. As a boy he's raised in the jungle and doesn't know anything about modern life; he's brought into modern life but can't adapt and so goes back. Which was the worse life there? The one he's happy with and always known because that's how he was brought up, or the one where he could receive proper medication, education, drive a car, not get attacked by snakes. If personal happiness is your ultimate definition of a better or worse life then you'll pick one option; if the betterment of the community and the striving for knowledge and deeper understanding are your idea of better definitions of a better or worse life then you'll pick the other.

    I won't say that your life is worse as my opinion won't make it so. I will restate that I simply think it's a shame that you – in the true sense of the word, and not to be taken as an insult please – delude yourself. There's a terrible irony in the religious thought processes: I want the explanation for something without resorting to thinking so I will get my explanation for that something from a book written by people who also couldn't explain something which we've all now decided was given to us by God, a truly inexplicable phenomenon that we're all suddenly and confusingly perfectly happy not actually needing any explanation for.

    You're happy? I'm happy that you're happy. I hope you understand why I'm also puzzled why you're simply happy being happy when there's so much more. But I do appreciate your right to be that way on an individual level. It's when it stops being a personal belief and organises into a dictatorial religion that I really have a problem with it.

  46. Reply Ginkgo100 says:

    Frigga,

    You said, "[God] decides what’s good and what’s not."

    Not quite… For Christians, God IS what's good. Christians don't see morality as arbitrary rules decided by God, but as objective truth that is identified with the person and nature of God.

    "For someone who does not believe in the Christian God, “good” can be good with no religious bearing."

    Yes, I agree with this. I do accept that a non-Christian, be they atheist or a believer in a non-Christian spirituality, can rationally come to an understanding of objective moral good without an explicit appeal to religion. I believe in objective rational truth, so I have to accept that we can rationally arrive at at least some aspects of that truth, independent of any Christian revelation.

  47. Reply Penelope says:

    I am going way back to start and will to an extent disagree with you Mark and agree with the Rev. You seem to say our morality markers have changed over time and are not linked to God but to changing perspectives. In fact all or at least the vast majority of atrocities of our history have evaded any natural moral markers and have been performed as acts of faith.

    I do not think Jesus is the son of God – it doesn't actually say he is anywhere in the Bible – but I do believe he is our saviour. I may get to heaven yet lol*. Jesus was the bridge between Old Testament (Bad Cop God) and New Testament (Good Cop God) and created a new way of thinking that made murdering babies on mass not so nice and relieved parents from feeling they may have to stone their own children to death if they worshiped a false God.

    (*There is only one totally immoral choice in the eyes of the Christian God and that is not accepting Jesus as our personal saviour. That is the one choice that has the gates of heaven slammed shut on you as your soul is cast down to the fiery pits of eternal hell. Even if you not hurt another soul in your life, have given all your wealth to needy people, have freely given time to those who need you etc.)

    Sadly God's Word remains open to multiple interpretation and even in Good Cop times it was in fact God's word that made the Salem Witch trials a necessity, the persecution of 'black's righteous and the mass extermination of whole races a plausible need.

    We have many sick individuals in this world who do awful things. Most of these are sociopaths. They do immoral things by a majority perspective but cannot said to be immoral because they in fact lack any markers at all. The greatest mass atrocities have served the moral markers of a range of deities; the Christian God a significant figure in many. Hence I guess the procreators of these atrocities – including all suicide bombers – are far from immoral as they are acting from what they see as firm morality markers imbedded in ‘God’s Word’.

    I think markers of morality are in fact an innate sense of right and wrong linked directly to survival. What changes about those markers over time outside of faith is what is needed to survive and succeed. Hopefully for most we actively seek to choose the path of action or reaction that causes least harm. If we can do that without the corruption of faith interfering I am sure the world would be a more moral place on the whole.

    Just one example of faith in God continuing to kill babies is that this is the only impediment to stem cell research. A god as a marker of morality is perhaps the most dangerous one we could select.

  48. Reply Penelope says:

    From Professor Tuholsky's Facts by Christopher Logue

    Once upon a little planet,

    A nice provincial planet set

    Deep in the galactic sticks,

    There lived an interesting thing

    Called Man.

    Man had two legs and two

    Convictions:one he called Luck,

    Which he believed in when things went right;

    The other one he used when things went wrong.

    This was called Religion.

  49. Reply Dhanamjaya says:

    @Penelope

    Corruption of faith morality interfering in my family is a major motivation for my other comments here. As like suicide bombers are looking forward to heaven as they blow themselves up, the Christian promise of heaven to its believers inspired my 27 year old niece to put a gun to her chest and pull the trigger. At the memorial service, her mother's (my sister) eulogy was quite sure that God had called her to join Him in heaven as she proudly had a slide show of her baptism in the swimming pool.

  50. Reply Penelope says:

    Dhanamjaya – that is very sad story and opens an entirely different angle in discussion of morally 'bad' things happening through faith as being a corruption of faith. Your nieces decision was corrupted thought processes, for whatever reasons she felt driven to leave this world. It is cool that her mother feels so sure she is in God's arms.

    I think corruption of faith could be a valid argument on individual levels, I am not so sure on the more large scale atrocities. I think the faith of the suicide bombers is quite pure.

    After such a serious subject – here is something kind of funny. Apparently Muslim's believe that when they enter heaven they will be gifted 21 virgins. It seems that the original version of the word interpreted as 'virgin' is more likely to refer to an exotic white raisin :).

  51. Reply Mike says:

    Dhanamjaya,

    Please accept my deepest sympathies for the loss of your niece; and an apology for any influence Christianity might have played. I am deeply saddened by that report.

    Thank you for your kind words earlier and good luck in your marathon; running something like that for the reason you're running it is really cool. I've read some of your blog and it sounds very interesting; looking forward to reading more. Good luck on Jan 18…

    RevRuss, if I may respond to you previous caution. I understand your concern and your caution to be aware of the times that the Lord doesn't respond and bring what I've prayed for. Truly, I can't claim that I've ever experienced a non-answer to any of the things I've brought to the Lord. Let me give a quick, but powerful example; hopefully this will lend strenth to the 'why I still believe' argument.

    August 30th 2006, I was in a hotel room in Houma, LA awaiting the coroner's release of my 22 year old son's body – he had died the evening of 29 August 2006 conducting Katrina recovery operations in the Gulf of Mexico – at 240 feet below the surface of the Gulf, his equipment failed and he died instantly. I went to Louisiana with the intention of raising him from the dead and greeting him after his ordeal. I've experienced very powerful miracles in the past and had no reason to think it wouldn't happen. While I was continuing to pray about it the Lord Jesus invaded my space – I met with him for over 2 hours in that hotel room, face to face. He told me that he wasn't going to let me raise him, and that he was safely home with the Lord. He showed me the exhileration that Chandon was experiencing and proved to me that what he was showing me was real by revealing to me things that were hidden deep in my son's heart – a place that no devil, no psychic or medium on this planet can go. He met me, soothed my heart over the loss and showed me that my son had completed his course and came home doing what he loved, quickly and painlessly and would be waiting for me to arrive when it was my time. It was a powerful, sad and joyous moment full of emotion and an opening of a whole new place in my understanding. This experience has helped me get on with my life and continue to experience amazing peace and joy in this life.

    My wife didn't have the same experience even though I tried to share it with her. She abandoned me and the other children 6 months ago and is deeply grieving my son's death to this day; seemingly with no ability to escape its grip.

    We don't always get what we want, but sometimes have to yield to his will – I agree with that – but if we seek him for answers he will answer. The morality argument in this thread is applicable in that many are still angry over how my son died – claiming that some on the surface rigged his equipment and killed him. Investigation is still going on and many legal issues are yet to be resolved. I'm sure that each person has their own take on what happened and whether or not it was a good thing or bad thing; most falling on the bad side of the argument. I find myself caught in the crossfire.

    At the end of the day; I know where my son is. Its a good thing. He made it, he's there – what more could a Christian parent ask for – other than selfish prayers and expectations of course… Thoughts..? MM

  52. Reply Penelope says:

    So sad that if this your firm belief it does mean the children of so many other devout parents who live by firm and admirable sets of morals must be doomed to hell due being raised in a culture that supports another deity – or a different version of yours. It seems to me incredibly immoral that people who live lives of good intentions, who outwardly strive to respect fellow mankind and do as little harm as possible within their conscious power along the way should yet be told sorry – you chose the wrong dictator so tough! I find religion on the whole with all its wonderful intentions an immoral venture with this as the central precept.

  53. Reply Dhanamjaya says:

    @Penelope and Mike

    The gory details to my niece's suicide are that she had drug and alcohol problems which she felt she had been controlling well for a couple of years to show the court she could be with her son more than just visiting him ever other weekend. The day after the Judge told her she still could not do that is when she decided, that since she had accepted Jesus as her savior and would go to heaven whenever and however she died, it would be a good time to end all her pain and make everything perfect for herself in heaven.

  54. Reply Matt says:

    Raise your hand if you are lost?

    seriously…i am overwhelmed by all the comments …i dont even know where to begin guys

    it makes me feel good to see the conversation happening though!

  55. Reply Dhanamjaya says:

    I once was lost, but now I'm founded.

  56. Reply Mike says:

    Matt, This is great. I love the fact that folks from so many backgrounds have the freedom to discuss difficult topics – I am thankful for this site – just awesome!

    Penelope, one of the challenges of opening up ones heart and mind and sharing the deep, vulnerable things that we think and experience is the fact the some will take that precious pearl, and twist the meaning and value of it into something so different from what was intended – I'm sure I've done the same thing over the years to many others, so I have no room to judge here.

    Let me just say that I'm a bit sad that my story of my experience communicated that message to you. Not all things in the world are black and white, or diametrically opposed to each other. Just because someone experiences something of beauty doesn't necessarily mean that others must by default experience something horrible. I try to maintain what I call an abundance mentality and try to avoid a scarcity mentality as much as I can – learned this over a couple of decades of beating my head against the black and white version of the world.

    My experience was a beautiful experience. And here is some food for thought. Does somebody end up destined for a place called hell (assuming that it exists) because someone who claims to be a 'Christian' says they do? How much of a hellish experience do we experience during this lifetime, and how much of it may be reserved for after this life (if it exists)? IF its real, than why don't folks make it a serious priority to find out if its real – why do we ignore it? Seems to me that logic would say, if there is such a place, lets at least put forth some personal effort to discover if its real, seeing as the consequences are eternal if it is. If the children end up there (in your scenario) how much responsibility belongs to the parents and how much to the children (if any)?

    I can ask questions too. Questions that are just as probing and just as profound with greater consequences if the answers are wrong than the one you proposed. Should we discuss some of these at some point? Or just celebrate the wonderful experiences that we all experience from time to time – those little victories that we all obtain occasionally? What does morality say about that..? Somebody (whether in this life or another) ends up somewhere because they or their parents were too lazy to go find out if something existed or didn't – especially when the information was right in front of them the whole time. Hmmm, immoral it sounds to me. I think that is why we are all exploring all this in these forums, because we don't want to be caught being lazy in the important things in life. Just MHO…

    Dhanamjaya, thanks for opening up and telling us your story. It takes a lot to talk about such experiences. I can see how strange a thought process that may sound like to many – but I can also say that I understand the frustration around being without children who have been removed by the state – its incredibly painful, from personal experience I speak. I'm so sorry that happened, it must be very painful for you – I'm sure you miss her… MM

  57. Reply Frigga says:

    Woooo Boy I missed quite a bit here after I left Friday! It seems that there are some Q's up there posed to me, and this debate is fun, so:

    @RevRuss: You asked how I know the difference between right and wrong. The same as everybody else. Through parents, friends, teachers, society, books, and life experience. And yes, you are correct in saying the morality is subjective. Morality will be different for every single person on this planet, it's even different for every Christian. The whole caring about hell even though I'm not a Christian. Well, not me personally, but generally speaking even non-Christians can believe in the existence of hell. Finally to get to your example of a child molester. Probably not a good example because child molesters KNOW what they're doing is wrong. That's why they hide what they do. Some people have been failed. Some people have horrible childhoods and never learn right vs wrong, or they learn a warped sense of it that doesn't jive with the rest of decent society. Just because they believe what they do is right, doesn't mean the rest of us judge it as right. Personally, I define child molestation as wrong because the molester has taken away the freedom of another individual, to me, that is wrong. Oh, and RevRuss, I definitely don't see your questions as an attack. Just the opposite. I see this as a healthy and open discussion. :)

    @Mike: I don't agree with your statement saying that "out of the boxing thinking is expressed oxponentially in the bible." Where? I come from a very strong Christian backround and spent a large amount of time in various churches and youth groups. In my opion the box IS the Bible, if it's not in the box the Christian doesn't believe it, because the bible is the end all be all, it is the word of God. I, for one, appreciate Christians. I may not believe in the God they believe in, but we all believe in morals and values, honesty and integrity. In my opinion, most Christians are very good people.

    @Ginkgo100: You said "Chirstians don't see morality as arbitrary rules decided by God, but as objective truth that is identified with the person and nature of God." However, that is not entirely true. I had said that "God decides what's good and what's not" in refrenece to what Christians believe as spelled out in the bible. I stand by that. They are called the 10 commandments. After that, you have book after book after book that tells stories that are supposed to be moral guides of how to live your life. Each of those stories in the bible has this character in it referred to as God, or Jesus (Jesus being the son of God, speaking with the same authority as God according to what I've been taught). This God character is the one who has ultimately told every other character in every story what is right and wrong. I never said these rules are arbitrary, but still, God is the one who has set these rules, according to the bible.

  58. Reply Tom says:

    In my opinion the problems with morality or any other such abstract phenomena are routed in the believe that there are such things as absolutes: e.g. Good & Bad, Truth etc.

    But if you can get your mind around to the notion, that their is no such thing as Good, but that this is just a category in which we place things as we please just as we are creating our own worldview, then the problem dissolves.

    There just is no thing that is good of it's own nor is there a thing (or a person for that matter) that IS inherently evil. They just appear so to us in special circumstances.

    And as those circumstances constantly change, so does our view of reality and with it what we call our morals.

    And that is not a bad thing (remember, there is no bad…). It seems totally reasonable to adept to the circumstances we live in. If we can't we tend to try to inhibit the changes in our environment, so that our view keeps in touch with our reality. But that just doesn't work – change happens and it is necessary.

  59. Reply Uncle Roger says:

    I think that "morals" (I'm not sure I like that term) come from a combination of empathy and community.

    It once was that an army that was blessed by God could not be beaten — if you lost a battle, it was because your faith was weak or your soldiers were sinful. Many rulers built up their wealth and power by conquering other countries/tribes whose faith and virtue was not as great. Nowadays, we don't go around invading other countries for profit… er, um… [spoing] Well, the last eight years aside, most people don't see that sort of thing as being good.

    Instead, I think the difference is that we are able to understand that someone else is a person like us, with the same capacity for feelings and emotions and pain as us — therefore what would hurt us would hurt them similarly. Add to that a sense of — for lack of a better word — community, we are not willing to cause that sort of pain/hurt/etc. for our own gain. We're certainly not perfect, since people will happily double park (blocking everyone else for their own convenience) and so on, but we've matured past the raping-and-pillaging stage.

    If you look at the book of Esther, God is hardly mentioned at all, and yet, it has been said it is one of the only books that will last far into the future and is one of the most important books. Why? My theory is that early scholars understood that the role of God, if you will, is played by Esther — it is she that acts godly and saves her people. I think they knew that as time passed and as mankind matured, those things that we once needed an imaginary friend to tell us we will be able to figure out for ourselves. Some of us already do. Others, still want or need that authority figure, whether or not it actually exists. Still others, i think, don't want to lose their God because He provides an easy excuse for overruling their own personal morals — so that they can profit even when they know it is wrong.

    Just my thoughts…

  60. Reply ayashi says:

    Morality depends on "good" and "bad". For it to be an objective moral (choise), one needs an obvective definition of "good" and "bad".

    Now, chistians and most religions people simply say "this is Obvectively Good because God said so. That is Obvectively Bad because God said so". And from that point, they build their morality.

    Atheist have to define themselves their Obvective definition of Good and Bad.

    And as such, contradictions araise (between different atheist, and/or between a same atheist at two differnt moments).

    Personnaly, as an Atheist myself, i usualy take a " group" point of view. For exemple, Murder is bad not because it's somehow inherently evil, nor because some "dusty old book" says so. It's Evil because if Murder is allowed it undermines the stability of society.

    [edit] i went off a rant here i think

    [rant]

    Whatever is detrimental to society, or a group, is bad. To take the logic a bit farther, whatever is benificial to a larger group that it is detrimental to, is ultimatly good. Assuming it's the same level of benifice and detriment: killing one man, so that three other people can skip paying their lunch is NOT good.

    [/rant]

    Now obviously, most moral choises are not that simple. And ultimately it's more of a case-by-case thing than rigid rules. Circumstances play a HUGE role in determining what is right and what's wrong.

    For exemple, abortion is Bad when the mother is in a normal situation, and her pregnancy is just some kind of annoyance for her (God knows how many of those cases happen every year!).

    On the other hand, abortion is good, if the foetus has a type 21 trisomy, or if the underaged homeless and jobless mother with no familial support was raped by some jackass.

  61. Reply Mike says:

    This is a great conversation – man, I just want to say, I really appreciate all the opinions expressed here – what a diversity of good stuff – I'm learning a lot.

    Frigga: Thanks for responding and for your thoughtful input and questions. Throughout the Bible, as we know it today, there are numerous problems that are encountered by the various characters represented. As I read through its pages, I'm struck by the diversity of approaches taken by those who find themselves in difficult circumstances; for instance, an army digging ditches and filling them with water as a strategy to defeat a larger, more aggressive army – then to have circumstances line up so that the aggressor army perceives the water as blood running; thinking that they don't have to fight because the Israeli army is already dead, running headlong into a trap – some have said, set up by a diety that manipulated the circumstance for the benefit of the Israeli army. Or when confronted by a situation in the desert where potentially millions of people are thirsting to death, Moses striking a rock and having water come out – enough to quench the entire group's thirst. Elijah having a woman give him the last of her food in an effort to summon the provision of this diety to provide for her, her son and Elijah for at least another year; the barrel of meal and cruse of oil continually refilling during the great drought and associated lack of food availability. I could go on and on and on. Even if they are mere stories and not historically accurate as so many atheists claim, the writers imagination and subsequent volume of 'out of the box' approaches recorded is in itself exponential in its ability to purport innovative approaches to solving the problems all these characters experienced… That is what I'm referring to…

    And thank you Frigga for your warm remarks about us "Christians" – hopefully we can continue to remain worthy of your kindness… ;)

    This is great, I hope we can keep this thread running; the content expressed here is really rich. Thanks… MM

  62. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    Wow – I'm lost too and I'm sorry I haven't responded to people's responses too me. I just got busy with life and something had to take the back seat.

    @Mark – I don't really think there's anything else I could say or any other way I could respond that would serve as a satisfactory explanation. The type of Christianity you're targeting that is so enamored with "power" and "control" is completely foreign and puzzling to me too because it's contradictory to Scripture. I'm not saying it hasn't happened, it's just not what I've experienced Christianity to be. What it comes down to for me is I've seen what the world has to offer in terms of hope and it's not enough for me. Christianity offers me hope in the face of darkness and why that's such a bad thing puzzles me.

    I do have one final question and again, this is not meant to be an attack but just trying to understand better what you said in your comment. You said that by being a Christian and adhering to my faith that I'm missing "so much more" out there. Could you please help me understand what's out there that I'm missing and how my life would be better with it?

    And for what it's worth, Mark – you appear to be a very intelligent individual as well. However, understand that from my perspective, it is you that's deluded and not me :)

  63. Reply TheRevRuss says:

    @Mike – I just wanted to respond to your comment regarding the loss of your son. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss but glad to know you too have "the peace of God which passes all understanding." I can only imagine that it still hurts, but at least you have the comfort of knowing he's with his Heavenly Father.

    I think you articulated what I was trying to get at. I'd agree that there's no such thing as a "non-answer" but rather at times God simply doesn't answer according to our ways or thoughts but according to His good and gracious will – even if it's difficult (or even impossible) for us to make sense of it here and now. Thanks for sharing that powerful story.

  64. Reply Missing the point « Not Just Another Wise Guy says:

    [...] the point Lately I’ve been having some good discussions re: Christian morality vs. morality of those who are non-Christians, or more specifically, atheists.  I’ve been trying to make the point that morality without [...]

  65. Reply RevOxley says:

    holy shit…i didn't know this thing had 162 friggen comments?!?!?!?!?

    i totally lost track of it

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