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RightNation.US: The Evangelical Atheist, Part VI: Sovereignty - RightNation.US

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We conclude our series on atheism by touching on an objection to divine authority. Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg declares:

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I really don’t like God. It’s silly to say, ‘I don’t like God,’ because I don’t believe in God. But in the same sense that I don’t like… villains of literature, the God of traditional Judaism, Christianity, and Islam seems to me a terrible character. He’s a god that’s obsessed with the degree to which people worship him, and anxious to punish with the most awful torments those who don’t worship him in the right way.


Atheist reader Max offers similar criticism:

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The Biblical god is the ultimate authoritarian, demanding worship and sacrifice, prescribing death as the penalty for the most minor transgressions, even using 3 of the 10 Commandments to say nothing more than “Worship Me!” while neglecting to forbid things like, say, slavery or child abuse. Those who look to the Bible for morality really value obedience to authority over any rationally constructed morality.


The implied argument seems to be, if the God of Abraham exists, He does not deserve worship or obedience. This is an interesting line of thought, if for no other reason than its betrayal of the atheistic sense that the standard arguments against God must be bolstered by rebellion against His “non-existent” dictates. Overlooking that curious suggestion, what of this charge that God is “the ultimate authoritarian,” some kind of cosmic tyrant making unreasonable demands?

Another atheist unwittingly guides us toward a response. English philosopher Colin McGinn, in his interview in The Atheism Tapes, counters a hypothetical theistic argument that morality must have a divine source, by citing Socrates. The ancient philosopher argued a moral rule is either sound or not and cannot be made sound by God. If God said murder was good, for instance, that would not make it so. Socrates was right, though he missed the larger truth.

God does not make things good. God is good. He does not arbitrarily declare right from wrong. He conveys a perfect knowledge of what is right and wrong. God no more determines good than a sphere determines roundness. Within the context of Judeo-Christian theology, which Weinberg and Max here address, holiness is one of God’s intrinsic qualities. When we receive the Law, we are not being told how to live so much as how we would live if we were, like God, holy. There are no “minor transgressions” against holiness. It is an absolute, black and white, yes or no, up or down dichotomy. God’s Law is no more authoritarian than a stop sign. The point is not to lord over, but preserve life! If you want to keep on living, you better stop your car before others cross. If you want to keep on living, you better align yourself to life’s source.

Let us dispense with this ill-conceived notion that worship and obedience of God is remotely comparable to worship and obedience of anything else. Random House defines worship as “reverent honor and homage.” If there is a God, provider of all that is, including our very existence, would we not owe Him worship? On a lessor scale, if we are employed, do we not respectfully defer to our employer? If we run a business, do we not respect and honor our customers? If our fellow man deserves deference for providing us so little, does not the Creator deserve deference for providing us so much? Human tyrants demand homage which is not theirs by right. God is owed homage for being what He is. There is simply no comparison. Morality is not “rationally constructed.” It merely is, as Socrates argument suggests. It is conveyed to us by the one being whose knowledge of it is not limited by localized perception and a finite mind. Those of us who know Him and worship Him do so, not because we “value obedience” to any random authority, but because we recognize the sovereignty inherent in the act of creation.

Part I: Why Theism Matters?

Part II: No Escape From Belief

Part III: The Cause of Cause

Part IV: Imagine No Religion

Part V: Temple of Reason
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37 Comments On This Entry

I for one, have enjoyed this series immensely; you have done a fine job digging into the metaphysical questions that atheists never like to think about, but are always present. Usually when pressed by such questions atheists vanish and agnostics suddenly pop into existence long enough to avoid the ‘elephant in the room.’

The truth is, when God demands our worship, He is taking for granted that we already give it. That is to say; all men worship something, even those who militantly demand they worship nothing give their homage to something, and that something stares back at them from the mirror every morning. All men believe their reasoning is sound and rational, even the fool does (and of this I am sure) and if, perchance, they suddenly find their rationality impaired, they merely adopt a line of reasoning that allows themselves to be correct once more. It’s kind of bizarre if you think about it, it is not the sovereignty of God that is the great mystery, but rather the sovereignty of man that boggles the mind!

The net result of all of this is that we become like the objects we worship and because I have born witness to this, I have chosen Christ.
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Well done, brother. I appreciate the time and thought you put into this series.

Wisefool, I must ask you, from a brother to a brother, did you really choose Christ, or did He choose you?
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SonofThunder, on Apr 15 2010, 04:55 AM, said:

Well done, brother. I appreciate the time and thought you put into this series.

Wisefool, I must ask you, from a brother to a brother, did you really choose Christ, or did He choose you?


Ah, my brother you have me!

I have often supposed that it depends largely upon which side of eternity one is viewing it from, but of course you are correct; His will be done and His word not lacking, He first came to me while I was yet His enemy. A better question would be is why has He bothered opening the eyes of this fool, for there is no good in me...
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wisefool, on Apr 15 2010, 04:36 AM, said:

SonofThunder, on Apr 15 2010, 04:55 AM, said:

Well done, brother. I appreciate the time and thought you put into this series.

Wisefool, I must ask you, from a brother to a brother, did you really choose Christ, or did He choose you?


Ah, my brother you have me!

I have often supposed that it depends largely upon which side of eternity one is viewing it from, but of course you are correct; His will be done and His word not lacking, He first came to me while I was yet His enemy. A better question would be is why has He bothered opening the eyes of this fool, for there is no good in me...


You speak rightly, brother. We were all born dead in trespasses and sin. He chose you by His grace and mercy, for His purposes and for His ultimate glory.
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God does not make things good. God is good. He does not arbitrarily declare right from wrong. He conveys a perfect knowledge of what is right and wrong. God no more determines good than a sphere determines roundness


Your reasoning seems to take as axiomatic the fact that god is "good". Since many of god's commandments and actions seem completely antithetical to what any civilized person would consider to be "good", I think you should have to make a case for the god of the Old Testament actually being "good" by objective means. Your choice to instead appeal to god as being "intrinsically" good comes off as an admission that there is no objective case for god being good.

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Morality is not “rationally constructed.” It merely is, as Socrates argument suggests. It is conveyed to us by the one being whose knowledge of it is not limited by localized perception and a finite mind. Those of us who know Him and worship Him do so, not because we “value obedience” to any random authority, but because we recognize the sovereignty inherent in the act of creation.


So how closely do you follow the Biblically prescribed "morality"? Do you think people should be put to death for worshipping gods other than yours? For cursing their parents? For kidnapping? For bestiality? Blasphemy? Sabbath breaking? For any of the myriad other crimes for which the Bible calls for death?

Lest you fall back on the apologetic standard that Jesus' sacrifice wiped away our need to follow such barbaric laws, there are a few problems with that line of reasoning. First, Jesus clearly said (according to the Bible) that "not one jot or tittle" of the law shall pass away until "all is fulfilled". That means you should still be stoning adulterers and burning witches, and consequently our modern civilized society, despite being much more tolerant and having a much higher standard of living than centuries ago, has turned away drastically from god.

Second, if we are to believe that the Bible is the ultimate source of morality, there's no good reason why any of these barbaric laws should have been enacted in the first place, unless A) god, despite being the all-knowing, all-good creator of the universe, is ruthless and barbaric and genocidal (the Old Testament supports this), or B) the Bible was not divinely inspired, and was instead the product of a bunch of ignorant 1st century primitives. I think Occam's Razor applies here.

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Morality is not “rationally constructed.


I do accept that there are some problems with the idea that a morality can drawn up on purely objective, rational grounds. In Sam Harris' defense of this position, he claims that a course of action that maximizes human wellbeing/minimizes human suffering can be objectively determined by what we know about the world, or we will have that capability eventually. He cites as an example the cultural/religious practice of honor killings for rape victims. It seems self-evident that such a course of action does not minimize human suffering, and is immoral by any rational, secular standard, despite being completely in line with religious law.

However, I can see situations where it's hard to define an objective morality. Consider the (admittedly cartoonish) case of two men stranded on a desert island with only enough food and supplies to keep one of them alive. Whatever actions one man takes to promote his own wellbeing necessarily detracts from the wellbeing of the other, and due to the symmetry of the situation those actions can't be defended as moral or immoral. However, I don't see this as a case where deferring to ancient scripture or some supernatural being helps either. Perhaps if one man believed in the "correct" god and the other man didn't, it would be moral for the heathen to starve so the righteous man could live? That doesn't seem to be any sort of morality that stands on its own merit. And if the situation was truly symmetrical, that argument can't be applied.

How does deferring to god shed any insights on what is moral in this situation?
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Max,

Part of the problem for your reply is the fact that you take for granted that God does not exist and therefore all religions are essentially on the same footing. This cannot be the case if God exists.

Something else you apparently glossed over was Walter’s comment on the Law. God is holy [good] and His Law is indeed to show us how we would live if we measured up to His holiness. There would be no punishment for the offenses of the Law because we would be living them and not outside them. The Law as given so that sin would increase; that is to say it would show us how far we are from His holiness. Walter is right when he says that there are no minor infractions of holiness – hell cannot exist within the confines of heaven, nothing unclean can enter before a truly holy God and not be consumed. As far as the Old Testament is concerned do you not think a being outside of the construct of time cannot see the greater good? Was it better for Him to choose out a people for Himself and pound into their heads just the sort of God He is so that the world might have some chance of recognizing His plan of redemption? Jesus Himself asked the question of a couple of His disciples on the road to Emmaus; “Ought not the Christ have suffered these things and entered into His glory?” The whole of the Old Testament was to point us to God’s plan of redemption and once again Jesus cornered the Jewish leadership at the time and told them; “You search the scriptures thinking that in them you have life, but they are that which testify of Me.”

You are right, if God doesn’t exist then your moral problem of the desert island has no correct answer, if, as I know, God does exist then the correct moral answer would be for the Christian to give his portion of the one who does not believe and perish; “For there is no greater love than this – that one man might lay down his life for others.”
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You are right, if God doesn’t exist then your moral problem of the desert island has no correct answer, if, as I know, God does exist then the correct moral answer would be for the Christian to give his portion of the one who does not believe and perish; “For there is no greater love than this – that one man might lay down his life for others.”


Assume they're both Christian. Both equally devout.

And are you saying that we should be living according to the "morality" laid out in the Old Testament? Should we be stoning adulterers, putting blasphemers to death, burning witches, killing those who dishonor their parents or break the Sabbath? If we find a town with people worshipping the wrong god, should we destroy the town, kill all of the inhabitants and take the virgins as the spoils of battle? Should we be curing lepers by sprinkling blood on them?

According to the arguments I'm seeing here, we should be living according to these laws. If they seem sadistic and barbaric to someone, why, that's just because our mere human brains can't possibly comprehend the infinite wisdom of such a benevolent and all-knowing god. Right?
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Max,

You obviously didn’t read my entire post, much less comprehend it and I have yet to see in any of the posts on this topic, the avocation of living under the Law. You keep skipping over the fact that no human being can follow the Law in its entirety, for the birth place sin is in the heart, which is why Jesus magnified the Law in the Sermon On The Mount; to show you how impossible it was to follow the Law. So please quit trying to twist people’s arguments into something they never said. Even when an expert on the Law tried to trap Jesus by asking “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?” Jesus replied “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. This is the fist and greatest commandment. And the second is equal to it; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Considering He was [still is] the author of the Law, in Him I will trust. God bless and have a good weekend!
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Part of the problem for your reply is the fact that you take for granted that God does not exist and therefore all religions are essentially on the same footing. This cannot be the case if God exists.


Yes, it can be the case. It is possible for some sort of god to exist, but for all religions to be wrong.

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You keep skipping over the fact that no human being can follow the Law in its entirety, for the birth place sin is in the heart, which is why Jesus magnified the Law in the Sermon On The Mount; to show you how impossible it was to follow the Law.


What does this even mean? I'm sorry that I'm not well-versed in the mental gymnastics that are involved in Christian apologetics, but I thought my post was fairly straightforward, and I have yet to see a good reason for why we should not be enforcing the laws given to us by god in the Old Testament.
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I would like to make a couple of comments concerning the law. The Levitical law was given to the Israelites only, no Gentile nation ever received this law, so they are not held responsible for its various provisions. The Israelite community was held to a higher standard than those who had not received the law. But that doesn't get you, as a Gentile, off the hook. There is the written law and the unwritten law. The unwritten law is the natural law, or the law of nature. All of us have this law of nature in our hearts and minds. We know instinctively what is right and wrong. It is called our conscience, that twinge we get when we do something we know to be wrong. Now many are able, over time, to callous over that conscience, or tamp it down or ignore it, but they are still held liable for it. So, you are not liable for breaking the Levitical law, you are held responsible for breaking the natural law, which I dare say, you probably have done many times. Paul explains this in Romans chapter 2.
As Christians, we are also held to higher standard, that would be the law of Christ as written in Matt.22:

Mat 22:36 Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?
Mat 22:37 And Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments all the Law and the Prophets hang.

So that's it, love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Sounds easy? try it. As an unbeliever, you cannot keep these laws, your sinful nature will prohibit it. As a believer, it is difficult, since we are still humans with a totally depraved nature, but we have two advantages,
1. We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who, over time, supersedes our sinful natures so that we may do the things pleasing to God. One who is not a believer, cannot ever please God.
2. We have an advocate before the Father, Christ, who fully atoned for our sins. When we sin, and we do, that sin was paid for in full, there is no more punishment for sin for the believer. The unbeliever does not have this advantage either, since their sins are not atoned for at the cross.

So to sum up, we as Gentiles are not held to the standard of the Levitical law, but we are held liable for the light we have been given, for the knowledge of right and wrong given each of us, the natural law.
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So are the Jews supposed to be living in accordance with Levitical law then? Is that what people here are saying?

What I find so bewildering about this form of apologetics is that many people here seem to have no problem identifying aspects of Sharia which are similar to Levitical law as horrific and barbaric. How can that be the case if similar laws were passed down by your god to his chosen people? Are Muslims who follow Sharia not simply living a devout and holy life according to their religious laws? After all, you with your mere mortal mind can't comprehend the true nature of their god, and there is just as much of a chance that Allah is the one true god as there is that your version of god is the one true god.
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So are the Jews supposed to be living in accordance with Levitical law then? Is that what people here are saying?


No, because the old or "Mosaic" covenant, made between God and the Israelites, was abolished when the new covenant, brought through the death and resurrection of Christ was established. When you get down to the nub of it, the old covenant was the law, which could not help nor save anyone, and the provisions made for man to temporarily atone for or cover his sins. The law pronounced the perfect standard of God and revealed humans inability to keep it. Hence, the old covenant pointed the way to the coming messiah, Christ, who was the fulfillment of the law. The new covenant was first brought to the Jews, then the Gentiles. God provided a way to receive perfect atonement, through the one time sacrifice of Christ, and through His resurrection, the believer is fully redeemed and justified before God. That is one of the main differences, if not the main difference, between Christianity and the world religions. The world religions are all works based. You do this and this, and somehow you will be justified and declared righteous before God. The problem is, our sin is so overwhelming, that we can't do enough good works to overcome your sin and sinful nature. With Christianity, the work is done through Christ. We are atoned for fully by His death, and declared righteous and justified through His resurrection. There is not one good work I could do that would add to it or make it better. When God looks at a believer, He sees Christ, when He looks at an unbeliever, He sees his sins.
In 70 AD, the temple in Jerusalem, where the sacrifices were made, was destroyed, and never rebuilt. That was no accident. God made sure that no one could go back to the old covenant, that no one could make sacrifices to cover sins, that was done away with, the new covenant is now in place, the only means of salvation. The book of Hebrews in the bible gives a fuller explanation of the abolishment of the old covenant and the establishing of the new covenant.
The main objection to sharia law is that it forces all people in that country to either submit and become Muslim, accept "Dhimmi" status (adherence to Islamic law by non-Muslims and second class citizenry) or death. The Levitical law never forced anyone to convert, never treated the non-Israelite as a second class citizen as Dhimmi status does nor killed people for not submitting. While it is true that those who were considered "strangers" in the land could not take part in the ceremonies, feast days or sacrifices of the Israelites since they were considered ceremonially unclean, as long as they lived in peace with their neighbor, they were not treated any worse than the average Israelite. Believe me, sir, you would have been much better off living amongst the Israelites than for you to live in Saudi Arabia today under Sharia law.
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I've been away from the computer the past few days focused on Tea Party events and my GOP CD convention.

wisefool, on Apr 15 2010, 07:36 AM, said:

His will be done and His word not lacking, He first came to me while I was yet His enemy. A better question would be is why has He bothered opening the eyes of this fool, for there is no good in me...

I was having coffee with a good friend the other day, talking about this series (which he had not read). He relayed an interesting analogy some pastor had given him regarding election, perhaps the most difficult theological concept to come to terms with. The pastor likened election to a gubernatorial pardon of inmates on death row, saying those pardoned are no less guilty than those whose sentences are carried out; the condemned have no compliant, as they deserve their fate; the pardoned merely have cause for gratitude. I find the analogy somewhat lacking, since the elect are actually made innocent through Christ's payment; but, it serves the point that none may rightly complain regarding their death sentence.

My one-year-old son stands guilty. When we talk of "innocent" life, our perspective is subjective and behavior-based, rather than nature-based. Our nature is sinful. We are condemned from conception. I believe this to be perhaps the greatest point of resistance among atheists and agnostics, because it is counter-intuitive and perceived as "unfair." Our standard of fairness, which I think is an emotionally-based pseudo-intellectual perversion of actual justice, is based on a flawed baseline - our current natural state. Acceptance of the concepts of holiness and sin are prerequisites to understanding the necessity of condemnation. I didn't get into it within the series, because I did not what to delve too deeply into uniquely Christian theology; but, the idea God is "anxious to punish with the most awful torments those who don’t worship him in the right way," as Weinberg asserts, incorrectly projects a human concept of punishment onto God. God's condemnation is separation from him, which is a direct result of the creature's momentum, not the Creators. Put another way, the sinner's hell is no more the fault of God than a wanderer's cold is the fault of the campfire they left behind. God is in a fixed position of holiness, unmovable, constant, everlasting. We come to him or, perhaps more accurately, are brought or drawn. We are the ones in motion, not Him.

maxpower01 said:

Your reasoning seems to take as axiomatic the fact that god is "good". Since many of god's commandments and actions seem completely antithetical to what any civilized person would consider to be "good", I think you should have to make a case for the god of the Old Testament actually being "good" by objective means. Your choice to instead appeal to god as being "intrinsically" good comes off as an admission that there is no objective case for god being good.

Oh, I freely admit there is no objective argument. There is no shame in that "admission." Objectivity is ill-equipped to discern such things. An intellectually honest Objectivist must ultimately concede there is no standard for their morality. I'll elaborate on that momentarily.

First, an aside: By switching from metaphysical arguments to theological arguments, which is what you do when you refer to "The Biblical god," you enter into an arena where your demand for an objective argument is unreasonable. Theology, by its very nature, is not objective. It may be defined as the study of divinely revealed knowledge. To ask for an objective argument within that context is, at best, misguided. Questioning the hypothetical goodness of God requires the hypothetical existence of God; so it makes no sense to counter the claim of God's existence from an argument regarding His goodness. To evoke scripture, the source of your criticism regarding God's goodness, is to evoke belief. You cannot tell me what I believe. So, the best we can hope for from this exchange is mutual understanding regarding each others' beliefs. You cannot place upon me the burden of reconciling your interpretation of scripture with mine. You can only seek to understand my interpretation, to accept or reject as you see fit.

That said, let's backtrack into the metaphysical for a second and address this axiomatic goodness. Let us focus first on the knowledge of good and bad.

As Socrates and others have argued, what is good is good regardless of whether anyone says it is good. This argument, typically used to discredit the need for God, actually bolsters His case. It says, look, there is this absolute standard of right and wrong out there waiting to be discerned through reason. You demonstrate awareness of this truth when you refer to "rationally constructed morality." I would phrase it "rationally discovered morality," which is to say it is there like a vein of gold, not constructed by the act of finding it. Just as God would have to know where the gold is, he would have to know right from wrong. It is intrinsic to his omniscience, which is a necessary quality of anything "god-like," as McGinn would say.

This takes us back to the metaphysical necessity for a "cause of cause." In the same way God must be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent in order to be sufficiently equipped to have produced all that is, He must also be good. Both concepts are difficult to comprehend, because they tax our perception, much in the way quantum physics does. Extraordinarily intelligent men like Dawkins and Weinberg still manage to apply natural law to a necessarily supernatural Cause. This is not surprising, because our entire experience is within causation; it is as difficult to contemplate beyond causation as it is to contemplate the higher dimensions. Likewise, our entire experience is within sin, making it difficult to contemplate beyond our subjective morality. When you and I think of good and bad, we think in relative terms with emotional connotations, positive and negative. But actual good is not a value judgment; it is a quality, a descriptor of the nature of a thing. God is good because He could be nothing else.

I'm not sure how to make it sound less axiomatic. Let me try another way. If we accept that good is something discovered, either through rational processes or revealed truth, we are inherently presupposing the existence of Good - some absolute measure of morality. Such a measure could not exist in the natural world, as Plato indicated with his concept of ideals. So, we know there is this measure. We also know it cannot be of here. This necessarily places it in a space which only God can occupy. It places it in that "cause of cause" space.

Back to your demand for an objective argument: I have no idea whether you identify with Objectivist philosophy. But its morality is the best "rationally constructed" of which I am aware. I refer to it often when making libertarian arguments from a secular perspective. However, it has an ultimate flaw when you trace it back far enough. The entire basis of Objectivist morality is the acceptance of life as "the ultimate measure of value." If I do not accept life as the ultimate measure of value, the entire rational construct falls apart. You may say (and I would tend to agree with you) that life is self-evidently the ultimate measure of value. But that makes a consensus of two which obligates no one else to the same position. Hitler would disagree with us, and might would ultimately make right. So, objectivity is a fairly lame mechanism for discerning right and wrong. Its authority is individual perception. If we're truly interested in understanding something which is necessarily beyond the objective, an objective methodology is inadequate.

I will have to respond further later...
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I wish I had more time to devote to responses, since this is a topic I'm genuinely interested in, but I still have problems with your arguments.

- First of all: you claim that morality cannot be objectively determined, but I don't really see any good argument against determining morality in most cases simply be evaluating an action's effect on overall human wellbeing. Sure, there are some issues to be ironed out with this approach, but I don't see how an arbitrary religious morality is any better.

- Religious morality is arbitrary, as I mentioned, because there is no reliable and objective way to select one form of religious morality over any other. Why is the morality prescribed in the Old Testament better than that of the Jain Buddhists or Hindus? Are there any aspects of the teachings of Jesus which don't exist in other world religions, or which can't be arrived at by rational means? If we are to follow the morality laid out in a religion's holy book, how do we know which one to follow without making an a priori assumption that one particular religion is the "correct" one?

- Religious morality has the unenviable side effect of forming a division between adherents of the particular religion and non-adherents. Dhimmitude is a classic example of this, and non-Christian slaves are commanded in the New Testament to serve their Christian masters well, even moreso than their non-Christian masters (1 Timothy 6:1-2). This is certainly not an ideal condition for a civilized society.
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Walter, to go back over what I said earlier; you have done a great job of showing that just because atheists do not acknowledge the metaphysical arguments by no means make them cease to exist. Having just been accused of having to pull of some serious mental gymnastics to reconcile a belief in Christendom, I would submit that our belief is far more rational than the atheist, or at the very least requires much less in the way of mental gymnastics. One of the truly great things about Christianity is that it can be embraced by the simplest of men and yet at the same time it can take you deeper than the dreams of geniuses. In my reading over the weekend I stumbled across and article by Russell D. Moore. I do not wish to transcribe the whole thing, but a few paragraphs would be enlightening as it pertains to a lot of the arguments made here:

Regardless of how often fallen humans seek to classify themselves as merely biological, they know on the basis of their common rationality, morality and search for meaning that this is not the case. No matter how many times Darwinians, for example, speak of humans as one more kind of animal, and no matter how many times some psychologists explain our behavior on the basis of evolutionary mechanisms, human beings know it just isn’t so. We know there is something distinctive about us – which is why the Bible calls us to appeal to the minds and consciences of unbelievers, even though their minds are blinded (2 Co 4:4) and the consciences often calloused (1 Tm 4:2).

Therefore, the biblical witness about human beings stands in stark contrast with other belief systems. Unlike some Eastern religions, the Bible does not present the life of a human being as a cycle of incarnations, nor does it affirm, as Mormonism does, the preexistence of disembodied human spirits. Unlike many nature religions and various forms of pagan worship, the Bible does not present humanity as part of the larger “life force” of nature. Unlike Islam, the Bible affirms the freedom and responsibility of human beings as moral creatures before a God whose image they reflect. Unlike many psychological theories, the Bible does not reduce human motivations or actions to the interactions of unconscious desires, habitual patterns, or firing of neurons. Unlike Marxism and libertarian capitalism, the Bible presents the longings of the human heart as far more than material. Unlike Gnosticism or feminism, God’s good creative purposes are seen in the goodness and permanence of sexual differentiation, in the equal worth of the sexes as image bearers (Gn 2:27), and in the protective, sacrificial headship of men as fathers of families and leaders of tribes (1 Co 11:3). In contrast to rival beleif systems, the Bible presents human beings as distinct from a nature they are called to govern (Ps 8:5-8), free to act according to their natures (Jos 24:15), responcible for their actions before the tribunal of Christ (Rev 20:12-13), and created for conformity to the image of Jesus as joint heirs of a glorious new creation (Rm 8:17, 19). The doctrine of the image of God grants value to every human life, regardless of its vulnerability or stage of development (Gn 9:6), and it stands in eternal hostility to any form of racial bigotry or nation-state idolatry (Ac 17:25-27).

The Bible’s truthfulness about human depravity contrasts strongly with belief systems that are more optimistic about human nature, such as Mormonism, Scientology, or secularism. Human sin is an apologetic issue since a Christian framework explains how educated, rational, loving persons can bring forth cruelty, violence and hatred. The biblical teaching on sin also answers what may be the most persistent charge against the truthfulness of Christianity: Christian hypocrisy.

Likewise, the prevalence of world religions and ideologies, which is often used as an objection to Christianity, actually serves as an apologetic argument for Christian claims. The Bible tells us that the universal instinct to worship and interpret reality is grounded in the revelation of God and that the universal suppression of this truth leads to diverse idolatries (Rm 1:18-32). We should not be surprised, then, that every human civilization in history has had some practice of worship, also that cults, world religions, and even secular ideologies often ape some aspect of Christian truth. Nor should we be surprised, as the ancient book of Ecclesiastes illustrates, when the human quest for sensual gratification, material abundance, or the wielding of power apart from the Creator’s purposes leads to despair.


When one begins to really understand both the theology and truth that is biblical based, you arrive at the very same set of “self evident truths” embraced by our Founders. Sadly, the questions that human secularism ignores becomes the mandate for mass graves; because no matter how rational they believe their arguments, worship in some for or other will continue and then what? What do you do with these billions of souls who refuse to listen to your siren song of philosophical excrement? The only answer can be to cut them from decisions that you decide matter; you must remove their rights in order to maintain the illusion you have built for yourself – and then it is a very short step to embrace the idea of a ‘final solution.’
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No matter how many times Darwinians, for example, speak of humans as one more kind of animal, and no matter how many times some psychologists explain our behavior on the basis of evolutionary mechanisms, human beings know it just isn’t so.


We know that this isn't so? Are you (or the author you are quoting) contending that human beings are not animals? What part of the definition of "animal" do we fail to meet? We most certainly are metazoans, and this is a biological fact. There is something distinct about us, and that is that we are the most intelligent animal (and we have opposable thumbs to boot, and our brains combined with our ability to manipulate our environment are a potent combination). However, other organisms can claim to be exceptional for being the strongest, fastest, most adaptable/robust, longest-lived, etc.

The claim made in the second paragraph seems to say, in effect, that Christianity presents the most flattering view of mankind, therefore it must be true. This view is not based on science or evidence, but is merely assumed. It also claims that the doctrine of our being created "in the image of god" (that god being a bipedal ape, apparently) gives intrinsic value to every life, despite the fact that the enemies of the Israelites in the OT were clearly not treated as intrinsically valuable, with entire cities being wiped out for worshipping the wrong god. The advocation of slavery also seems to contradict this idea that all human life is intrinsically valuable.

Your last paragraph is utter nonsense. You refer to the Holocaust as if it is the logical conclusion of secularism, despite the fact that Hitler was a Christian Creationist who denounced scientific naturalism and espoused an ideology based on religious hatred and laden with mysticism. Look up "Positive Christianity" sometime.

Why must one accept that secular humanism will result in the mass murder of those who don't adhere to that philosophy, but the same won't happen with religion? History seems to contradict this claim.
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Max,

What you keep skipping over is the idea of true morality. That is something that cannot possibly be held too if Darwinism/naturalism is the underlying truth to our universe. You said religious morality is arbitrary, to which I say you are partially correct. However, you left out the other side, which says that humanistic morality must also be arbitrary! There is no getting around that – no matter how you phrase the answer it will always be an arbitrary, albeit, possibly a consensus, moral code. In Sam Harris’s said defense of his position, you said he claims, “that a course of action which maximizes human well-being/minimizes human suffering can be objectively determined by what we know about the world, or we will have [faith] the capability eventually.” Ironically, that path is dead to you. For you cannot compel one human being under said moral code to suffer for any greater good, for there is no greater good – only individual existence. What can possibly make yours (or anyone else’s) existence in life a higher priority than another’s? You have your 100 years of conscious existence and so does another – that is the only fact your side can point to. The future and the past are all essentially trumped by whatever you decide to pursue in the time you have. If, by some stretch, someone else believes your rules are holding him or her back from their hearts desire, you have a stalemate – neither side can claim a higher moral ground. All you can do is try to build a consensus of other individuals, but that does not actually trump the others right to do as they please, even if that happens to be “psychotic” behavior, for from their point of view, your (or societies) rules might be worthless, or worse, bent to withhold their dreams.

So how does humanity “know it isn’t so?” Well, for one, we hold to this thing called morality, which each of us seeks to understand, even those who admit that there cannot be any. As for my last paragraph – what must happen to two irreconcilable sides? Again, at what point does your morality trump another’s if there is no higher moral law?
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What can possibly make yours (or anyone else’s) existence in life a higher priority than another’s? You have your 100 years of conscious existence and so does another – that is the only fact your side can point to.


And how does religion solve this dilemma? I was never given an answer to my hypothetical situation except for one that assumed one man to be Christian and the other not. It seems that your solution to breaking this "stalemate" is to divide people into two groups: those who adhere to the "one true faith" and those who do not. Of course, there are arbitrarily many faiths and no way to determine which one is the true faith, a situation which results in centuries-long religious strife and conflict.

Again, just as gaps in our knowledge about the evolution of life on earth is no reason to throw science out entirely and replace it with creation myths, the fact that some moral questions do not yet (or may never) have completely objective answers is no reason to throw objectivity out the window entirely in favor of religious morality, especially when the religious morality in question is anything but moral in many cases.
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I am sorry, but I cannot allow this paragraph to remain unchallenged:

Quote

Your last paragraph is utter nonsense. You refer to the Holocaust as if it is the logical conclusion of secularism, despite the fact that Hitler was a Christian Creationist who denounced scientific naturalism and espoused an ideology based on religious hatred and laden with mysticism. Look up "Positive Christianity" sometime.


Hitler was not a Christian, nor a Creationist, the proof is in his own words:

Quote

Was Hitler a Christian?
By John Baskette - but the information came from Marty Helgesen in a soc.religion.christian post.

The claim is sometimes made that Hitler was a Christian - a Roman Catholic until the day he died. In fact, Hitler rejected Christianity.

The book Hitler's Secret Conversations 1941-1944 published by Farrar, Straus and Young, Inc.first edition, 1953, contains definitive proof of Hitler's real views. The book was published in Britain under the title, _Hitler's Table Talk 1941-1944, which title was used for the Oxford University Press paperback edition in the United States.

All of these are quotes from Adolf Hitler:

Night of 11th-12th July, 1941:

National Socialism and religion cannot exist together.... The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.... Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that evolution was in the natural order of things. (p 6 & 7)

10th October, 1941, midday:

Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure. (p 43)

14th October, 1941, midday:

The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death.... When understanding of the universe has become widespread... Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.... Christianity has reached the peak of absurdity.... And that's why someday its structure will collapse.... ...the only way to get rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little.... Christianity the liar.... We'll see to it that the Churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the State. (p 49-52)

19th October, 1941, night:

The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.

21st October, 1941, midday:

Originally, Christianity was merely an incarnation of Bolshevism, the destroyer.... The decisive falsification of Jesus' doctrine was the work of St.Paul. He gave himself to this work... for the purposes of personal exploitation.... Didn't the world see, carried on right into the Middle Ages, the same old system of martyrs, tortures, homosexuals? Of old, it was in the name of Christianity. Today, it's in the name of Bolshevism. Yesterday the instigator was Saul: the instigator today, Mardochai. Saul was changed into St.Paul, and Mardochai into Karl Marx. By exterminating this pest, we shall do humanity a service of which our soldiers can have no idea. (p 63-65)

13th December, 1941, midnight:

Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless, nor any more indecent way of turning the idea of the Godhead into a mockery.... .... When all is said, we have no reason to wish that the Italians and Spaniards should free themselves from the drug of Christianity. Let's be the only people who are immunised against the disease. (p 118 & 119)

14th December, 1941, midday:

Kerrl, with noblest of intentions, wanted to attempt a synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity. I don't believe the thing's possible, and I see the obstacle in Christianity itself.... Pure Christianity-- the Christianity of the catacombs-- is concerned with translating Christian doctrine into facts. It leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely whole-hearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics. (p 119 & 120)

9th April, 1942, dinner:

There is something very unhealthy about Christianity (p 339)

27th February, 1942, midday:

It would always be disagreeable for me to go down to posterity as a man who made concessions in this field. I realize that man, in his imperfection, can commit innumerable errors-- but to devote myself deliberately to errors, that is something I cannot do. I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie. Our epoch in the next 200 years will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity.... My regret will have been that I couldn't... behold ." (p 278)


Sir Arthur Keith, himself an atheist and evolutionist said this concerning Hitler:

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‘To see evolutionary measures and tribal morality being applied rigorously to the affairs of a great modern nation, we must turn again to Germany of 1942. We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution produces the only real basis for a national policy … . The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.’
(Keith, A., Evolution and Ethics, Putnam, NY, USA, p. 230, 1947)
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maxpower01, on Apr 19 2010, 08:21 PM, said:

And how does religion solve this dilemma? I was never given an answer to my hypothetical situation except for one that assumed one man to be Christian and the other not. It seems that your solution to breaking this "stalemate" is to divide people into two groups: those who adhere to the "one true faith" and those who do not. Of course, there are arbitrarily many faiths and no way to determine which one is the true faith, a situation which results in centuries-long religious strife and conflict.

Again, just as gaps in our knowledge about the evolution of life on earth is no reason to throw science out entirely and replace it with creation myths, the fact that some moral questions do not yet (or may never) have completely objective answers is no reason to throw objectivity out the window entirely in favor of religious morality, especially when the religious morality in question is anything but moral in many cases.

Max,

There is very little point in continuing to discuss this with you as your demands are impossible. Nonsense remains nonsense even for God – something we should take comfort in. You cannot ask for God to draw a square circle and then condemn Him because He cannot. God is not the author of confusion, rather it is through Him that order and science is established.

You can have your faith that someday someone will make a scientific discovery that destroys all arguments for God – you’ll die of old age still clutching that hope as many have before you. You fear the coming of death – something your world view demands; I on the other hand have no such fear and there is nothing you can do to re-introduce it to me. The true answer to your shipwrecked victims is this: If both are equally mature in their walk with the Lord, they will pray and either follow God’s prompting that one should perish and one should live (for there is no death for either of them) or else they would divide the supplies with mutual love for each other and both parish. For you death is death and you cannot see past it; to die is the supreme evil, for us it is passing from this half life into full life for we go to the Author of life. I know this is not what you want to hear, but somehow you rage that all should join you in the fear of death and realize that that the here and now is all we have, but how you hope that should somehow make us all less selfish and more loving I cannot see – for in truth it demands selfishness and service to that self while you yet have it. I can give up my self, knowing that it will be given back to me. May you find the peace you are so sadly lacking and the love that brings it.

-Wisefool
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