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Austin Cline

You Can Be Good Without God: Offensive to Christians?

By February 10, 2009

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More and more cities are getting atheist advertisements of various sorts on their public busses, but it's been tough for some atheist groups to be allowed free expression alongside commercial and political displays. In Halifax, Canada, for example, a sign saying nothing more than "You Can Be Good Without God" was rejected because it was deemed too "controversial" and might upset people. Who besides bigots would be upset by such a statement, and why is Halifax's Metro Transit trying to protect their delicate, bigoted sensibilities?
"We're a public transit system first, and then we sell advertising," Lori Patterson, spokewoman for Metro Transit, told CBC News on Monday. "So, if anytime we feel there's a message that could be controversial and upsetting to people, we don't necessarily sell the ads."

That decision is upsetting to Pat O'Brien, president of the non-profit group dedicated to the separation of church and state. "It would be interesting to see what vegans think about the KFC ads. I mean, at what point do you stop offending people?" he said. ...

Patterson said the transit authority would reconsider its position if Humanist Canada toned down its message. But O'Brien said that won't happen.

Source: CBC

I doubt that Metro Transit is really rejecting the ad simply because it might be "upsetting" — after all, they accept all manner of ads which might theoretically upset people. They don't worry about vegans and vegetarians being upset by meat ads, do they? No, they rejected the atheists' ad because they were worried about upsetting religious people. This means that Metro Transit is more interested in protecting the feelings of religious believers than they are in protecting the feelings of other groups — or about the equality of atheists.

But it isn't just religious believers in general who are being protected. Not every religious believer thinks that it's impossible to be good without gods and not every religious believer would be upset at being told that it might be possible to be good without gods. No, the only people who are being protected here are religious believers who deny that it's possible to be "good without God" and who are offended at the suggestion that "God" isn't absolutely necessary for morality.

Exactly how do you "tone down" the statement "you can be good without God"? This is a good time to point out just how broad the ad would be because it only references "God" in particular rather than "gods" generally. What this means is that the ad is merely pointing out the fact that people don't need to believe in the traditional deity of western monotheism in order to be good; it doesn't even go so far as to say that you can be an atheist and be good. In fact, the ad doesn't even address the existence of gods — it doesn't say that gods definitely or probably don't exist.

So, it's not just anti-atheist bigots who are being protected here, but people who think that Hindus can't be good, Buddhists can't be good, Taoists can't be good, and everyone else who doesn't believe in the traditional western monotheistic deity. They might also include Jews and Muslims here, if they define "God" narrowly to just be the Christian deity.

These are the people Metro North is protecting from getting upset. This is the "controversy" which Metro North is trying to avoid, the "controversy" over whether it's possible for people to be good even if they don't believe in the same sort of deity as others. That is only emphasized by the fact that Metro North was happy to accept ads from Bus Stop Bible Studies — ads that quote verses from the Bible. So it's OK to have ads promoting one religion over all others, but not OK to have an ad that states morality doesn't depend on the existence of or belief in any gods. How much more proof is needed that Metro North in Halifax is actively engaged in anti-atheist bigotry?

Humanist Canada responded to the refusal with this:

Metro Transit needs to understand the seriousness of the message they’re sending by rejecting an ad as benign as ours on the grounds that it doesn’t conform to their standards of “good taste, quality, and appearance.” Metro Transit has a history of running ads that are potentially objectionable, from Vagina Monologue ads that include the slogan “The Vaginas are coming” to ads for an anti-choice organization known as “Birthright.”

We’re very concerned about our right to free speech — I think a lot of Haligonians are expressing similar concerns, so we’re really eager to sit down and discuss this face to face with Metro Transit.

Atheists and humanists have been denied the equality and free speech which other groups — and religious believers in particular — take for granted. Atheists are being denied equality because they are expressing an idea which some religious believer can't accept: the fact that their deity is not absolutely necessary for moral standards, moral behavior, or moral reasoning. This shouldn't be the least bit controversial, but some religious believers are so bigoted against outsiders that they are unwilling to contemplate the possibility that they are superior.

Metro North's decision here is no different from rejecting an ad that states "You can be good without being White" or "You can be good without being Christian." How would Lori Patterson feel defending that sort of racism or religious bigotry? Would Lori Patterson defend Metro North if they rejected an ad stating "You can be intelligent without being Male"? I would hope not, but that sort of misogyny is no different from the bigotry which Metro North is relying on now and which she is defending.

Adults of good conscience and sound moral grounding should refuse to work for companies that insist on promoting such bigotry. When you choose to remain employed by such firm, you choose to be complicit with their immorality. This is even more true when your job happens to be to try to sell and defend to the public that very immorality, as Lori Patterson is doing. You can't defend such immorality without being part of it.

Comments
February 10, 2009 at 1:39 pm
(1) Dean says:

I think we should make atheist ads as innocent and nonconfrontational as possible. Not because we should avoid controversy, but because it we will get the controversy no matter what we put up, and the kindler and gentler our message the more obvious the hypocrisy of our critics. I’m hard put to think of one more innocent than this one, though.

February 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm
(2) Sherry says:

What if the G isn’t capitalized?

Would that be MORE offensive or LESS offensive?

February 10, 2009 at 2:18 pm
(3) BlackSun says:

It’s offensive to them because it calls into question one of their most-used arguments.

But in a free society, all arguments should be on the table.

February 10, 2009 at 4:37 pm
(4) Lee says:

You say, “Who besides bigots would be upset by such a statement…” Really, you can not see how someone could be upset by that statement. If you can’t see that, then…? Or are you saying that all people who believe are bigots? “obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one’s own opinions and prejudiced against those who hold different opinions” What if they hold it as correct, does that make them a bigot?

February 10, 2009 at 5:33 pm
(5) Austin Cline says:

Really, you can not see how someone could be upset by that statement.

No. I notice you don’t offer a non-bigoted reason to be upset at the idea that a person can be moral without believing in someone’s god.

February 10, 2009 at 6:26 pm
(6) Paul B. says:

The ads themselves about determining good or bad is begging the deeper question: what is evil. What is good, what is evil, why the question at all, and who decides? Why does one begin to ask the questions without a possible Morality Giver – a comparison standard to define either. We do not still live in the Garden. If no God, then how does one explain the source and sense of evil in the first place – what is moral then?

February 10, 2009 at 6:43 pm
(7) Austin Cline says:

The ads themselves about determining good or bad is begging the deeper question

1. No, they aren’t.

2. The ads aren’t about “determining” good or bad.

Why does one begin to ask the questions without a possible Morality Giver – a comparison standard to define either.

Why assume we need one?

We do not still live in the Garden.

I never did.

If no God, then how does one explain the source and sense of evil in the first place

Evolution. We can already observe rudimentary moral reasoning and ethical behavior in other social animals.

February 10, 2009 at 7:11 pm
(8) Paul B. says:

So, what is evil? It already implies that there is a sense of ‘ought to’ or ‘ought not too.’ Where does this even come from? Evolution is just a continuous series of questionable links, and has few answers for satisfying questions to even having a morality, except maybe the prescribed ‘might is right’, for who is to oppose me?

Have you ever had a sense of being ‘wronged’?
Where did that come from? It is just one of those random or causic events that makes very little difference.

You know the difference between being ‘in the Garden’, versus the state of imperfection you and I live in today – where the most hideous evils and misfortunes tend to occur. Do you deny evil exists, or that there is some sense of goodness? It makes more sense to believe this and be consistant to an evolutionary theory that comes up empty on these questions.
If not, then by what grounds are good and evil known to be? Where does one find answers to to those questions in evolution? Neo-Darwinism?

February 10, 2009 at 10:12 pm
(9) Austin Cline says:

So, what is evil?  It already implies that there is a sense of ‘ought to’ or ‘ought not too.’  Where does this even come from?  

It comes from us.

Evolution is just a continuous series of questionable links,

Really? Then I’m sure you can show some.

and has few answers for satisfying questions to even having a morality, except maybe the prescribed ‘might is right’, for who is to oppose me?  

Then I’m sure you can demonstrate this.

Have you ever had a sense of being ‘wronged’? Where did that come from?  

It evolved. We can see the same sense of being “wronged” in the behavior of other animals.

You know the difference between being ‘in the Garden’, versus the state of imperfection you and I live in today

I know of a myth about a Garden, but that’s it.

February 10, 2009 at 10:18 pm
(10) David says:

Millions of people are in love with God. The God… which the sign was directed towards (being capitalized) and see him as Father some1 who deeply loves them more then any human possibly could. you say you can be moral w/o God? Is it moral to put up a sign you know would offend in such a deep manner. Would you put up a sign saying you can can be good w/o listening to your parents? Or you can live just fine w/o your daughter? Who needs Parents/kids/family anyway? Why not? If there is no God? where do you conjure your idea of good from in the first place? evolution?! Is it moral for me to kill you because I’m hungry? people do it everyday you know? Should those imprisoned be set free? Why make the most superficial arguments possible…Comparing Chicken to God?..lol
Let’s go outside of the subject of God. How much more money would a company lose for putting up this sign? Hundreds of Thousands? Millions? Could that be the reason?
What is the purpose of the sign? Is it moral to want to pull someone away from something Good or to make something good less prevalent in a world that’s getting worse….Far more worse since the Being you’re against was “Restricted” (like your sign) from so many parts of society? What is wrong with God and What is wrong with your sign? And how is the actions of posting such a sign better than the behavior required by God?

February 11, 2009 at 3:24 am
(11) Zayla says:

I know I can be. I am a person with values, ethics and morals and I don’t believe in a god, so therefore it must be true.

February 11, 2009 at 3:58 am
(12) Zayla says:

David…….you say,

“Would you put up a sign saying you can can be good w/o listening to your parents? Or you can live just fine w/o your daughter? Who needs Parents/kids/family anyway? Why not? If there is no God? where do you conjure your idea of good from in the first place? evolution?”

Where do I start? First, this is not about someone putting up a sign about something, which people do all the time. I read signs everyday of my life. People put them on their cars, lawns, buildings, etc., this is a paid advertisement.

Second, because you may need some “guide” to come up with something that tells you good from bad does not mean the rest of us do. I do not believe in any god, yet I am a very loving, able, caring father of two beautiful wonderful children being brought up in a home filled with hope, love, joy, education and the encouragement to learn and make up their own minds for themselves. I feel bad that you need a book to give you instruction to tell good from bad.

Evolution is not about good and bad. It is science, the biological development and growth of lower forms of life to higher forms of life, etc., etc., nothing about good and bad. It is not religion or philosophy. It is nature.

“it moral for me to kill you because I’m hungry? people do it everyday you know? Should those imprisoned be set free? Why make the most superficial arguments possible…Comparing Chicken to God?..lol”

Huh? People kill people everyday because they’re hungry? I didn’t realize cannibalism was running rampant in the US.

I’m really lost with your freeing prisoners and chickens to god stuff, please explain.

“How much more money would a company lose for putting up this sign? Hundreds of Thousands? Millions? Could that be the reason?

Completely irrelevant. How much a company makes on their marketing campaign versus the subject of discrimination is like comparing the moon to goats. Besides, if I run a private company I don’t have to justify to anyone how much I spend on my advertising.

“What is the purpose of the sign?”

The express a very important message to some people who don’t feel the same way as you. Think about how strongly you feel about your religious beliefs and then try real hard to imagine that others feel the same about things important to them.

” Is it moral to want to pull someone away from something Good or to make something good less prevalent in a world that’s getting worse….Far more worse since the Being you’re against was “Restricted” (like your sign) from so many parts of society?”

This is YOUR opinion, not shared by all, something you just can’t seem to accept. I reject your view that society benefits one bit from religion, in fact I believe society suffers as much from the concept of god and the practice of religion than anything else, but I’m not trying to shove that down anyone’s throat. You, and many like you do want the opposite opinion held as law.

” What is wrong with God and What is wrong with your sign? And how is the actions of posting such a sign better than the behavior required by God?”

Again, I’m having a hard time figuring out what you mean, but, I’m not aware of any “behavior required by god” and if there was, I would ignore it since I don’t believe in god.

Nobody is trying to stop anyone from stopping people from saying what they want about their god. There are some of us that don’t like bigotry, discrimination and ignorance. As is usually the case, you are mixing up issues.

February 11, 2009 at 5:27 am
(13) Fei says:

“Millions of people are in love with God. The God… which the sign was directed towards (being capitalized) and see him as Father some1 who deeply loves them more then any human possibly could. you say you can be moral w/o God? Is it moral to put up a sign you know would offend in such a deep manner.”

Prove to me that God is real. Not just any god, but the specific god to which you are referring. Don’t say that God might be real, show that God absolutely is real. If you cannot show this, then you must admit that the emotional investment that those millions of people place into that god is merely an indication of a profound delusion. (By the way, no matter what you believe, you have to admit that most religious people are delusional, since only one religion, at most, can be true while others must be false. Yet believers of those other religions have as much emotional investment in their faith as the believers of any given faith.) When someone is delusional, regardless of what the delusion is, he or she will be “offended” when that delusion is questioned by others. But why should questioning other people’s delusions be considered “immoral”? Shouldn’t helping people break free from their delusions be considered “moral” instead?

“Would you put up a sign saying you can can be good w/o listening to your parents?”

Sure, why not? You have to admit that some people are simply bad parents, so their children may not always be best served by listening to everything that they say.

“Or you can live just fine w/o your daughter?”

Again, what’s the problem here, exactly? If the wording and intent of the sign is threatening, then it would be a problem. But consider this situation: Your daughter tragically dies, causing you immense grief. But do you really want to live with that grief for the rest of your life? What if that grief caused you to contemplate suicide? Wouldn’t you like to be comforted by the idea that you can get over that grief and move on with your life? Are you saying that you have no problem with people committing suicide over the pain of losing their children?

“Who needs Parents/kids/family anyway?”

Exactly. Why does anybody NEED those things? Are you saying that nobody can live without those things? Again, some people are bad parents, and their children are better off without them. Some people never want to have kids. And orphans don’t have families, per se. But the human experience is enriched by those things, or more generally, it is enriched by social relationships. Humans are a social species, which is why social relationships are vital to our well-being. What does any of this have to do with God?

“where do you conjure your idea of good from in the first place?”

“Good” (and the equivalent words in other languages) is a word and concept invented by humans to describe behavior towards others that is beneficial without being seriously detrimental or malicious to anyone. That is why giving to charity is “good.” “Evil” (and the equivalent words in other languages) is a word and concept invented by humans to describe behavior towards others that is seriously detrimental or malicious. This is why rape is “evil.” If you consider God and his word to be the source and definition of “good,” then I have news for you: The God of the Bible considers genocide and other forms of killing in his name to be “good.” Since he never condemns slavery, he does not consider it to be “evil.” If you believe that genocide and slavery are “evil,” then where did you get this belief, if not from the word of God?

“evolution?! Is it moral for me to kill you because I’m hungry?”

What part of evolutionary theory says this?

“people do it everyday you know?”

Do what?

“Should those imprisoned be set free?”

What does that have to do with God? Law is the foundation of any society, just like rules are the foundation of any sport, game, or other recreational activity. Setting these standards of behavior is primary way to ensure that people cooperate with each other, and cooperation is what holds societies together. When somebody doesn’t play by the rules, that person should be punished.

“Why make the most superficial arguments possible…Comparing Chicken to God?..lol”

Why is that a superficial argument? Who made that argument, and what exactly was the argument?

“How much more money would a company lose for putting up this sign? Hundreds of Thousands? Millions? Could that be the reason?”

No, because nobody knows how much money would be lost. Nobody can even begin to speculate, because the sign is not obviously or profoundly offensive to sensible people. Therefore, the motivation is bigotry.

“What is the purpose of the sign? Is it moral to want to pull someone away from something Good”

Delusions are good?

“or to make something good less prevalent in a world that’s getting worse….”

So delusions should NOT be made less prevalent? If you’re a Christian, then would you want Islam or Hinduism to spread, rather than Christianity? How is the world getting worse, as opposed to better or having about the same balance of good and bad? How could you even say so with such a sense of authority?

“Far more worse since the Being you’re against was “Restricted” (like your sign) from so many parts of society? What is wrong with God and What is wrong with your sign?”

How is God a force of absolute good, as you contend? Have you even read the Bible?

“And how is the actions of posting such a sign better than the behavior required by God?”

1) You have not shown that God, Christianity, or any other religious belief is not a delusion. Freeing people from delusions and superstitions is good, which is why this sign is good.

2) Please list all of the behaviors that are required by God, as stated in the Bible, and explain why each one is “good” without resorting to “because God says so.” Remember, God also commanded killings and genocide in his name, so unless you agree that those things are “good,” then not everything that God says or commands is “good.”

February 11, 2009 at 6:43 am
(14) Austin Cline says:

Millions of people are in love with God.

And more aren’t. So?

could. you say you can be moral w/o God?

It’s quite easy to be moral without gods.

Is it moral to put up a sign you know would offend in such a deep manner.

Only bigots would be offended; yes, it’s moral to offend bigots.

Would you put up a sign saying you can can be good w/o listening to your parents?

Yes. And you can.

Or you can live just fine w/o your daughter?

Some do.

Who needs Parents/kids/family anyway?

Some manage fine without family.

where do you conjure your idea of good from in the first place? evolution?!

Reason. Empathy. Experience.

Let’s go outside of the subject of God. How much more money would a company lose for putting up this sign?

None.

What is the purpose of the sign?

To tell people that they don’t need God to be moral and that atheists are no less moral than theists.

Is it moral to want to pull someone away from something Good or to make something good less prevalent in a world that’s getting worse…

Only bigots think that you need a god to be good.

February 11, 2009 at 8:12 am
(15) Michael says:

The KFC/chicken comparison is perfectly valid. Vegans and vegetarians could very well be offended by those of another group advertising something that does not fit in with their mold. Replace ‘Vegans and vegetarians’ with ‘Christians’ and voila! Of course, not all vegans and vegetarians will be offended, just as not all Christians will be – only those who feel the need to impose their will on another.

So, the company could lose money by having a KFC ad just as they could by running this ad. That was the point (but I chose to bring it even further).

Also, if it’s a matter of money, what about the Vagina Monologues advertisement? I think a fair amount of conservative (socially, not politically) people would find the described advertisement distasteful and rude. Then there’s the anti-abortion advertisement! This is Canada – abortion is not that big of an issue here, as us Canadians are fairly liberal (even our Conservative Party is more liberal than your Republican party), so that would stir up many seemigly unnecesary feelings. They could lose the business of every women who supports the right to abortion, which is most.

I’m slightly ashamed of you, Nova Scotia.

February 11, 2009 at 8:50 am
(16) Mark Barratt says:

Comment #13 by Fei:

By the way, no matter what you believe, you have to admit that most religious people are delusional, since only one religion, at most, can be true while others must be false.

Excellent point.

There’s a Facebook group called “Richard Dawkins is Wrong” filled with courageous enemies of the evil, militant, fundamentalist Dawkins who is EXACTLY the same as a bomb-throwing religious fanatic, even though he doesn’t throw bombs (incidentally, there’s also an Austin Cline: Atheist Guide group).

The problem is, no member of that group actually agrees with the title. They all think Dawkins is right about the religious beliefs of every single person in the world EXCEPT those who follow their specific religion.

They think he’s right about the vast majority of humanity and wrong about only a small, maybe statistically insignificant group that includes them, in other words. EVERYONE ELSE is deluded, just as Dawkins says, even if there is a god.

But, they pretend to be part of a group called “religious people” who believe in something called “religion”, because that allows them to pretend that there are 5 billion or so of them who all believe the same thing.

They pretend they have numbers on their side, when in fact every religious group is a tiny minority promoting their specific dogmas as Ultimate Truth, and who think that the vast majority of the human race is damned for not having the right imaginary friend. And that that is justice.

This is also the problem with people who claim science and “religion” can be reconciled. As if “religion” is a single, clearly-defined thing with clearly-defined properties and parameters that can be observed, digested and compared with science to see if the two can be reconciled.

Maybe when all “religious” people, or all people who believe in “god” have gotten together and agreed on exactly what “god” is, exactly what “god” wants and exactly what constitutes “religion”, then they could talk about whether “religion” is right, and whether or not it can be reconciled with science. But that’s not happened yet, has it? And it doesn’t look likely to happen any time soon.

Until then, all apologetic tactics that rely on such clearly, obviously false assumptions (which, let’s face it, are most of them) should just be dismissed. Those who use them have shown themselves to be unscrupulous cranks with no regard for honesty.

February 11, 2009 at 9:11 am
(17) Mark Barratt says:

Re: Comment #13 by Fei (again):

Also, while a maximum of 1 religion can possibly be true, there could be a god and ALL religions could still be wrong.

By that, I mean that every single religion could have an incorrect view of this god, even though it does exist.

After all, if a real god did exist you’d expect that, after a few thousand years, those most dedicated to studying it would have converged on a fairly concrete idea of its nature.

I think the fact that no such conversion has ever occurred suggests that there’s no god to discover and all religions are made up for reasons that have nothing to do with the truth of their claims. Obviously, or I’d not be an atheist.

However, it’s conceivable that there is a god but that either the religious conceptions of it are so totally wrong or their methods ofstudying it are so worthless that they’ve just never managed to get a bead on it. This is the price you pay when you value comfort over truth when selecting beliefs.

So there could be a God and all religions could STILL be wrong.

A further point: it’s my experience that, when talking to individual sect-members, they tend not to be 100% confident in all the tenets of the sect. I’ve never talked to any religious person who is completely orthodox.

Each sect member tends to have their own idiosyncratic idea of what their god is and what their religion is about.

I may be overstretching, but I think it may well be true that there are as many Christianities as there are Christians, as many Islams as there are Muslims, etc. If that’s the case, then things look even worse than that at most one religion has the right idea: If there is a god, only a maximum of 1 person has the right idea about it!

Heaven will be very lonely.

February 11, 2009 at 9:21 am
(18) Mark Barratt says:

For “conversion” read “convergence”.

February 11, 2009 at 9:33 am
(19) CrypticLife says:

I’m surprised we actually see people arguing the point for the supposed “offense” of this sign here.

“Is it moral to put up a sign you know would offend in such a deep manner.”

Cripes. You completely blew out my hypocrisy meter. If it’s not moral to put up signs you know will offend, what is Christianity doing with all its proselytizing? Are they unaware of how saying Jesus is the messiah could be offensive to Jews or Muslims? Did all the lawsuits against Gideon Bible distribution in schools and the references to “God” in the Pledge and on currency not cue them in to the fact that some atheists are deeply offended by those practices?

But of course, if they’re moral, on learning of their error they should strive to correct it, right? So, Christians would happily remove “God” from the pledge instead of fighting a lawsuit. They would happily stop distributing Bibles in a captive environment. They would cancel the TV shows, the billboards, and the posters. They’d stop broadcasting that anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is going to hell. They’d stop ads like Kieffe & Sons, a car dealership who decided to advertise that they thought atheists should all leave the country.

“Offense” suddenly becomes immoral when its done to you? BS. You’re simply bigoted.

February 11, 2009 at 5:18 pm
(20) AL Jeremy says:

David- That was a pretty long winded way of saying “sit down and shut the f*** up!”

February 11, 2009 at 7:07 pm
(21) Fei says:

“Millions of people are in love with God … and see him as Father some1 who deeply loves them more then any human possibly could.”

This actually sounds a lot like a serious and widespread case of
de Clérambault’s syndrome, which is sometimes called “delusions of love.” Think about it: These people are in love with a being who may or may not exist and thus never has any contact with them, whom they believe loves them profoundly, and whom they believe indicates his love through very subtle or ambiguous means.

So once again: Any attempt to free people from such a delusion is to be considered immoral? What happens when that delusion inspires people to commit extreme acts to prove their devotion? Fundamentalist Islam motivated the 9/11 terrorist acts. Extremist Christianity motivates abortion clinic bombings in the present and has caused the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and witch hunts in the past. These are no less grave than the attempt on Reagan’s life by John Hinckley, Jr., who was driven by his delusions of love for Jodie Foster. People can easily agree that Hinckley was insane, but why does religious belief, as characterized by David above, get a pass in the sanity test?

I am disturbed by the fact that such obvious insanity is not only considered “normal” but also “good” by the vast majority of the public, people like David. And this is furthermore why I consider the “You can be good without God” sign to be MORAL rather than immoral.

February 11, 2009 at 8:03 pm
(22) ChristianDave says:

I would have to agree with the slogan that you can be good without God, but I would have to ask: why should I?

February 11, 2009 at 8:53 pm
(23) fauxrs says:

I would have to agree with the slogan that you can be good without God, but I would have to ask: why should I?

More to the point, why wouldnt you?

Have you no empathy in your fellow man beyond what is commanded to you?

Absent that command you ask why should you exhibit any empathy or kindness to others. Please if god is all that is holding you back from being evil, remain religious.

February 11, 2009 at 10:02 pm
(24) ChristianDave says:

Fauxers, I was playing Devil’s advocate. I want to know, from your atheistic, naturalistic worldview why you think I should be good.

February 11, 2009 at 10:39 pm
(25) Fei says:

ChristianDave, being “good” is just part of human nature. Empathy and morality have clear biological and evolutionary bases, and they can even be observed in many animal species, as Austin has said.

People who have no empathy or conscience or sense of morality are known as antisocial. This is actually a personality disorder, something that is not normal or healthy. People who have antisocial personality disorder are sociopaths and psychopaths. Let me ask you a question: Do you have an urge to hurt people? No? Then you’re normal; you don’t have antisocial personality disorder. But people who do have it almost can’t help it; it’s part of their brain chemistry, and they need whatever they can use to restrain those urges.

The truth is that nobody is perfectly good; everybody does something (often many things in the course of a lifetime) at some point that is hurtful, either intentionally or unintentionally, to someone else. And every normal person feels bad (or at least not good) after doing such a thing. This happens regardless of one’s religious convictions, which further confirms that religion actually has almost nothing to do with regulating one’s behavior. Religions merely tap into a person’s INNATE sense of morality. This is why EVERY religion can claim credit for its followers’ morality, even though it’s not actually the source of anybody’s morality.

February 11, 2009 at 11:11 pm
(26) fauxrs says:

Fauxers, I was playing Devil’s advocate. I want to know, from your atheistic, naturalistic worldview why you think I should be good.

I would hope that it came naturally to you and that you would not need an external reason.

If you really must have a reason then I would read this

February 12, 2009 at 12:22 am
(27) Chris_in_MN says:

The manner in which this topic is entitled is in itself erroneous. To state “…offensive to Christians…” would be inclusive of all Christians. Oh really, you’ve met all 2.1 Billion of us(the estimated population of those who identify themselves as Christians)? Are some Christians offended? Yes. Am I? NO. Why would I? Goodness is an act of the mind (or Spirit/Soul, whichever one believes), not the reading of and following of some ancient text. What some of us are anoyed by is actions such as some people who will make public schools or buildings stop displaying Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny because of “Seperation of Church and State”. Oh really? Show me where in the Bible that it tells us to worship an Obese man who wears a red-velvet suit and hangs out with “vertically-challanged” people. Or how about in Springtime that we should pay homage to a six-foot rabit.
This isn’t about offending Christians (by the way, “God” is “God” whether you’re Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Druist, etc – it’s how you worship that determines what type of “God” beliver you are or aren’t). But my point is that this is a case of some individuals over- reacting. If we were to remove God completely out of the equation, then people would get upset over political affiliation. Remove Politics and one is left with sports, favorite colors, music, etc, etc. In other words, some people are going to be pissed off and offended no matter what. And yes, I include my fellow belivers of God in this as I know some will come out and tell me that I’m going to Hell for not defending God more strongly(as if a Deity would need assistance from a human). But does this bother me? No. Live and let live.

February 12, 2009 at 1:01 am
(28) ChristianDave says:

Fei, what do you mean by human nature? What IS human nature? Thomas Hobbes considers what life would be like for mankind if there was no law. I guess we would only have our ‘human nature’ to guide our actions. He called this the ‘state of nature’. He described it as the war of all against all, that we would live in “continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short” (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes-moral/#StaNat). Doesn’t sound very ‘good’ to me…

February 12, 2009 at 3:24 am
(29) Zayla says:

It never occurred to me, not one time in my life, until I started my studies of religion, atheism, philosophy, etc., over the last five years of my life that anybody would even suggest a connection between good and bad/evil, morality, ethics and religion.

I have mentioned to family members and friends who are “a” religious and it is as foreign to them as it was me.

As someone said, if believing in god is all that stands between you and the loss of your values, ethics and human decency, by all means, keep your religion.

I have been an atheist for most of my life and I have always been a good person. To me, that is all the proof I need. How can this even be a topic?

Someone please explain how this can not only be a topic, but such a significant one. If my 8 year old daughter, who I have discussed this with, on an 8 year old level, would never dream of stealing, lying, hurting someone and forget murder and all that, and she has NO concept of god because she’s simply too young, how can there be a connection?

February 12, 2009 at 3:54 am
(30) Mark Barratt says:

Comment #29 by Zayla

You need to have the idea browbeaten (or just beaten) beaten into you first or, as you say, it just wouldn’t occur to you.

It may be too late, but what you need to do is regularly send your daughter to church. If you do that, then the clerics there will be able to convince her that she is a worthless, fallen piece of scum.

They will convince her that she is so corrupt that it’s ONLY possible for her to be good with God, and the minute she loses her faith in God she will become a rabid bloodthirsty psychopath.

You can see the results of this practice in pretty much all of the recent theistic commenters on this site. At least, the ones who don’t dodge the issue with irrelevant semantic nonsense like “Chris_in_MN” (what’s important is some sort of vague godishness! All religions are equally valid, regardless of what they actually say! People care about other things too!) up there.

When she grows up, she will be so terrified of losing her faith because of what she’s been told by clerics that she will keep going to church, thus paying the salary of the same clerics, or very similar ones, allowing them to maintain the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. They are essentially making a living from telling hideous, mind-destroying lies to vulnerable children and being held up as moral paragons while they do it.

She will then do the same to her children out of the same fear, and they will do the same to their children, thus perpetuating the cushy position of clerics for the forseeable future.

It seems to me that it’s just a brilliant con, but that’s moral, we’re told. That kind of behaviour is deserving of special respect. Even commenting negatively on it is the same as blowing up a school full of disabled children. Even pointing out that other points of view exist is a mortal attack.

I don’t get it myself.

February 12, 2009 at 5:22 am
(31) Fei says:

ChristianDave, Hobbes was wrong in his conception of human nature. Do you seriously expect anyone to consider a 17th century philosopher to be an authority on something rooted in the modern fields of evolutionary biology, psychology, and sociology? Where is the scientific evidence of Hobbes’s “state of nature”? When you look in the animal world, do you see any intelligent species that behave the way that Hobbes described? When you examine the societies of our closest primate relatives—the chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos—do you find the brutality, belligerence, fear, and relentless selfishness that mankind supposedly has within its nature, according to Hobbes?

Frankly, I don’t see how any thinking person could possibly believe that humans have an inherently violent, destructive, and completely selfish nature. The human race would’ve died off well over 100,000 years ago, back when there were no governments and laws, if human nature were truly as grim as Hobbes thought that it was. Don’t you see how the lack of an inherent sense of morality would be destructive to the species? Morality became part of our genetic programming precisely because moral behavior, which is essential to forming social relationships, is more conducive to survival and reproduction than immorality or amorality would be. One indisputable aspect of human nature is our nature as a social species. This is right in line with the natures of our closest primate relatives, who are also social species. Because morality is a fundamental part of proper social functioning, a pattern of immoral or amoral behavior is an indication of antisocial personality disorder, which GOES AGAINST OUR NATURE AS A SOCIAL SPECIES. That’s why sociopaths and psychopaths are a minor part of the human race, rather than the dominant part, as you seem to believe.

But here’s another problem: By bringing Hobbes into the discussion, you’ve undermined your own position in two ways. First of all, Hobbes described the “state of nature” as a context for his version of social contract theory. Social contract theory is the dominant (and yet-to-be disproved) theory explaining the origin and legitimacy of government and laws. All versions of social contract theory, whether it’s from Hobbes, John Locke, Rousseau, or any of the more modern thinkers, state that humans voluntarily limit their own freedom by establishing governments and laws in order to protect their property and their interests. For example, humans give up the freedom to steal by making laws against stealing because they don’t want their own property to be stolen by others. The same goes for murder, rape, and any other evil act. In other words, humans act morally in order to protect themselves. This is the essence of the Golden Rule, which is universal to all societies, secular and religious. I can’t believe that any thinking person would fail to realize this.

The second way that Hobbes undermines your position is the fact that while Hobbes assumed the worst for human nature, he also believed in “natural laws” such as, “that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it” and “that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself.” Thus, he considered the “state of nature” to be an unstable condition that would quickly and inevitably give way to the establishment of law. So in fact, we could never find ourselves having “our ‘human nature’ to guide our actions” in a world without law, or at least not for very long. Hobbes was really saying that THE NEED TO ESTABLISH LAW IS PART OF HUMAN NATURE.

I can even bring classical economics into this discussion. Classical economics assumes that human beings act solely out of rational self-interest. One of the most important concepts is the Nash equilibrium, which was discovered by John Forbes Nash (i.e. A Beautiful Mind). Basically, in a given situation involving the competing interests of two or more persons (called a “game” in economics), and each person knows or assumes the strategy of the other person(s), everybody will act in the best interest of the group instead of in the best interest of the individual. This is because rational people don’t consider the pay-off of acting solely in one’s interest to be worth the cost or risk. The movie illustrates a Nash equilibrium through a scene in a bar involving an attractive blonde woman and her attractive, but less desirable, friends. Says Nash, “If we all go for the blonde and block each other, not a single one of us is going to get her. So then we go for her friends, but they will all give us the cold shoulder because no one likes to be second choice. But what if none of us goes for the blonde? We won’t get in each other’s way and we won’t insult the other girls. It’s the only way to win. It’s the only way we all get laid.” Morality within a society can be seen as an instance of a Nash equilibrium.

You know what? I think that you are guilty of sophistry by deliberately cherry-picking quotes from the one philosopher with a negative conception of human nature in an attempt to suggest what “human nature” is supposed to be without God. I could just as easily quote Locke to refute your argument. But what would be the point? This rhetorical strategy is no way of getting closer to the truth. The only credible way to the truth is through reason and science, not disingenuous appeals to authority (which I remember you were guilty of doing in your comments for “Miracles and the Law of Large Numbers”).

But I’m beginning to suspect that you’re not really interested in truth, or perhaps you are not ready for it. You ducked out of a previous discussion because you claimed to be out of your depth. Well, almost nothing that I’ve said here and in the comments for the earlier post is difficult to understand or accept. It should all be common sense. You don’t need to be an academic or an intellectual, and you don’t need to do any further reading (although I wouldn’t discourage you from doing more research). So do you have the courage and the honesty to start really engaging with everyone’s points and refrain from using dishonest rhetoric?

February 12, 2009 at 6:53 am
(32) Austin Cline says:

The manner in which this topic is entitled is in itself erroneous.  To state “…offensive to Christians…” would be inclusive of all Christians.  

Not necessarily. A headline that says “Americans support president” doesn’t mean every single American does. A headline that says “Senators reject stimulus package” doesn’t mean that every Senator votes against it.

The fact is, headlines are commonly written without qualifiers for the sake of space. Then, if you read a little bit into the actual article, you’ll find the details and qualifications.

What some of us are anoyed by is actions such as some people who will make public schools or buildings stop displaying Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny because of “Seperation of Church and State”.  

Feel free to cite examples of this.

by the way, “God” is “God” whether you’re Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Druist, etc – it’s how you worship that determines what type of “God” beliver you are or aren’t

It’s pretty arrogant and presumptuous to insist that everyone worships your god, but they just don’t know it.

But my point is that this is a case of some individuals over- reacting.  

Yet so many Christians have “over-reacted” in every place that atheist bus ad have been proposed or launched. Why is it so common for Christians to “over-react”? Why aren’t there any of these “over-reactions” to any other bus signs? Why is it only expressions of atheism that gets only Christians upset?

February 12, 2009 at 7:25 am
(33) ChristianDave says:

Fei, firstly, you need to work a bit more courtesy into your post. Just because my thinking leads me to a different place than yours give you no right to repeatedly insult me in a back-handed way by making statements like “I can’t believe that any thinking person would fail to realize this.” I’ve tried hard to keep the tone of my posts civil and congenial. You should do the same.

Now, on to your comments. You said:

“Hobbes was wrong in his conception of human nature” but you don’t show how or why. His description certainly fits my understanding of human history (see below).

“Where is the scientific evidence of Hobbes’s “state of nature”?” Where is the scientific evidence of the opposite?

“Morality became part of our genetic programming precisely because moral behavior, which is essential to forming social relationships, is more conducive to survival and reproduction than immorality or amorality would be.” If morality became part of our genetic programming because it is more conducive to survival, then that means that a moral act is one that helps me survive and reproduce. If my tribe and I are stronger than your tribe, and we attack you and wipe out all your males, kidnap and rape your women, wouldn’t that, by this definition, be considered moral? It certainly helped my family survive and reproduce!

“One indisputable aspect of human nature is our nature as a social species.” We may be a social species, but history shows that different social groups within our species (tribes, nations, city-states, etc) usually don’t like each other, and often try to wipe each other out.

“Frankly, I don’t see how any thinking person could possibly believe that humans have an inherently violent, destructive, and completely selfish nature”. Let’s look at the history of our planet. It is a history of war and bloodshed, of nation fighting nation, religion against religion. It’s still the same today! We have tribal wars in Africa, separatist wars in Asia, ‘terrorism’ wars in the Middle East, human rights oppressions in China and North Korea – all you have to do is turn on the news! We nearly destroyed ourselves with nuclear weapons during the Cold War. The sheer brutality that mankind has shown itself capable of over the past few thousand years of human history alone should be enough to convince you that we are do not have an inherently nice, gentle and loving nature!

“…humans act morally in order to protect themselves.” No, humans act logically in order to protect themselves. It makes sense to band together with like-minded people to protect ourselves from those who do not share our values. That fact that these values became common throughout the social groups says nothing of their true moral status, just their practicality, their ability to make the social group function.

“Hobbes was really saying that THE NEED TO ESTABLISH LAW IS PART OF HUMAN NATURE.” And this says what about the source of morality? Nothing. It’s a comment on the need to establish law. It says nothing of morality. All I wanted to achieve by quoting Hobbes was to give AN idea of what ‘human nature’, when left to its own devices, might become. It was not an authority claim. After all, you were the one who said that human nature gives birth to ‘good’ – I just wanted to show another point of view. I know the quote comes from his work on the Social Contract Theory, but that theory has nothing real to say about morals and their source.

“I can even bring classical economics into this discussion.” I can’t say I fully understood your example (I haven’t seen A Beautiful Mind), but if people act for the good of the group not the individual, that still begs the question – which group? History shows us that the group is not mankind (at least, not until the last few years…) but the smaller social community of ‘nation’ or ‘religion’. Therefore, their actions are not actually ‘good’ or ‘bad’ just profitable for the community or not profitable.

“I think that you are guilty of sophistry by deliberately cherry-picking quotes from the one philosopher with a negative conception of human nature in an attempt to suggest what “human nature” is supposed to be without God.” Actually, the quote says what human nature would be like without laws, not God. And may I remind you that you still have not offered any idea about what human nature is really like? At least I brought an idea to the table.

“I could just as easily quote Locke to refute your argument.” You could. And I could find another to refute Locke, then you could find another, then I could… . We could go on for a long time! I never suggested that Hobbes was above refutation. Again, I put that in to show what some people think is human nature.

“You ducked out of a previous discussion because you claimed to be out of your depth.” Isn’t that the intellectually honest thing to do? Admit your mistakes and limitations? And what does that have to do with this discussion? Have I ducked out of it? Clearly not, for here I am.

“So do you have the courage and the honesty to start really engaging with everyone’s points and refrain from using dishonest rhetoric?” Have I not engaged anyone’s points? I think I’ve responded to pretty much everything people have said to me. If I’ve not, then I think these posts should show you that I’m serious and that any such omissions are an oversight, not deliberate.

Finally, I will grant you this – you are right that we don’t see the kind of brutality detailed here in the animal kingdom. Which shows me one thing – WE ARE DIFFERENT TO ANIMALS!

February 12, 2009 at 7:58 am
(34) Austin Cline says:

“Hobbes was wrong in his conception of human nature” but you don’t show how or why.  His description certainly fits my understanding of human history (see below).  

“Where is the scientific evidence of Hobbes’s “state of nature”?”  Where is the scientific evidence of the opposite?

You’re the one who brought up Hobbes. You didn’t pick his name randomly, out of a hat, right? Surely you didn’t pick him because he seemed to reinforce your preconceptions, right?

If you are trying to engage in a serious conversation, it must be assumed that you picked Hobbes because you have substantive reasons to think he is correct. You must have read and studied Hobbes enough to have arrived at the conclusion that Hobbes’ description of human nature and human society is accurate.

It is thus incumbent upon you to demonstrate that Hobbes is right, not for others to prove the opposite. You can’t insist that everyone disprove everything you happen to say. It’s your responsibility to make the case for your claims, assertions, and positions.

Moreover, selective citations of a few random events from human history, and so saying Hobbes must be right because he fits those selections, isn’t a serious argument. It barely even qualifies as superficial. I could selectively pick out a few good things about human history and say that this demonstrates how innately good humans are.

No, a serious argument would entail contrasting Hobbes with others who are wrong (in particular, the latest findings in evolutionary research, psychology, and sociology) and demonstrating how Hobbes’ position explains things which are otherwise tough to explain through other theories.

If all you can do is say “Hobbes meshes with what I already think, prove me wrong,” then you just don’t have anything serious to offer here.

February 12, 2009 at 5:14 pm
(35) AL Jeremy says:

Chris_in _MN said:

The manner in which this topic is entitled is in itself erroneous. To state “…offensive to Christians…” would be inclusive of all Christians.

It probably doesn’t offend all or even most Christians. Then again, those that are offended by it probably would consider those not offended to not be real Christians in the first place (regardless of whether they are right or not). However, even if they are a minority it is irrelative as they are the ones that get the press, without any real opposition from Christians that say otherwise, they become representatives of Christians by fiat.

If you don’t like it then do something about it. Christians are the only ones that can change it in this case and making pompous, self- serving posts in the guise of a “correction” is not a good start.

This isn’t about offending Christians (by the way, “God” is “God” whether you’re Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Druist, etc – it’s how you worship that determines what type of “God” beliver you are or aren’t).

Not only is this arrogant and presumptuous as Austin said, it is also a strong indicator that you have never given a whit of effort into finding out what other theists actually believe. Then again, other theists shouldn’t feel too insulted by your apparent lack of curiousity for their beliefs because it also implies that you have put just as much thought into your own beliefs.

February 12, 2009 at 5:28 pm
(36) ChristianDave says:

Fauxers, got carried away with other posts and forgot about yours! Sorry! I read the article you linked to, and before I comment on it I want to make sure I’ve understood it properly (Austin, feel free to jump in here!). My understanding of that article is that an act is to be considered moral if it increases happiness and decreases suffering, or of it helps society grow? Is that right?

February 12, 2009 at 5:44 pm
(37) ChristianDave says:

Austin, as I said in the response to Fei, I presented that quote from Hobbes because he (Fei) claimed that good comes from human nature (which I disagree with, obviously, and he offered no evidence in favour of) and Hobbes perception of humankind without the constraints of law is a good example of the opposite point of view. I didn’t put Hobbes up there as some sort of unassailable theory, just as an example of how not everyone shares Fei’s sunny outlook on human nature.

“selective citations of a few random events from human history” These are more than a few random events. The HISTORY of our race is one of war and bloodshed, not peace and tranquillity. Every civilisation I can think of fits this bill. Egyptians – slavery and conquest. South American Indians – human sacrifice. Romans – slavery, brutality, torture, conquest. Communist Russia and China – mass murder and oppression, denial of basic human rights. The British Empire – conquest, destruction of indigenous societies, oppression. These are more than just superficial events. Sure, there are some good things throughout human history (the example Christ gave us, for one…) but I find the world’s history to have been overwhelmingly the opposite. It has only been in the last few generations that we as a race have begun to esteem ‘human value’ and to begin to change the patterns of the past (with the exception perhaps of Wilberforce et al and their anti-slavery campaigns…). For example, women were only given the equal right to vote in the early 1900s, African Americans only had the barriers removed in the 1960, as did Aboriginal Australians. In the history of the world, the last 100-odd years are a pretty small slice!

February 12, 2009 at 5:48 pm
(38) Fei says:

“’Just because my thinking leads me to a different place than yours give you no right to repeatedly insult me in a back-handed way by making statements like ‘I can’t believe that any thinking person would fail to realize this.’”

I wasn’t trying to insult you. I was trying to suggest that you hadn’t thought through your assertions, because you presented no evidence or substantive arguments backing up your position that human nature is brutal, or that without the rule of law or God, people would revert to that brutality. It’s just the same as saying, “I can’t believe that a thinking person would examine all of the evidence for evolution and then reject the theory in favor of creationism.” I can’t believe that a thinking person would arrive at conclusions that are counter to common sense and the mountains of evidence from the latest scientific research. That doesn’t mean that all thinking people have to agree with any given conclusion, but it does mean that they can’t completely disagree.

“His description certainly fits my understanding of human history (see below).”

So again, you’re not interested in truth, only in finding what confirms your biases.

“Where is the scientific evidence of Hobbes’s ‘state of nature’? Where is the scientific evidence of the opposite?”

First of all, I never asserted that there was evidence to refute Hobbes’s claims completely, nor did I assert that there was evidence that humans are born completely good. On the contrary, I recognize that there is plenty of evidence for a killer instinct within every person. But just because everyone has a killer instinct does not mean that everyone is instinctively driven to act malevolently by default. It only means that everyone has the capacity to commit murder and violence, when something pushes someone to that point. I’m saying that the default is for humans to act in a more or less moral manner rather than in immoral or amoral manners.

Second of all, the proposition that a sense of morality is innate to humans and developed through evolution is supported by a preponderance of evidence from recent scientific research. Denying the existence of this research or this evidence is like denying the evidence for evolution, global warming, or the Holocaust. You can literally find some evidence for yourself within seconds by searching online. You can also read The Evolution of Morality, by Richard Joyce, or the Wikipedia article on the evolution of morality for a good overview.

“If morality became part of our genetic programming because it is more conducive to survival, then that means that a moral act is one that helps me survive and reproduce.”

No. That is not what I’m saying, nor does that conclusion follow from what I’m saying. You have deliberately avoided engagement with my actual arguments. I said that the tendency to act morally is part of humanity’s survival strategy, not that survival is equivalent to morality. It’s like saying that a society’s culture is equivalent to its artistic output; both statements are gross oversimplifications. Furthermore, I never defined morality in terms of survival. Although specific definitions of morality vary, all definitions are founded on the idea that morality involves choosing between “good” acts and “evil” acts. Earlier in this comment thread, I defined what “good” and “evil” are, so I will not repeat myself. Survival has almost nothing to do with “good” or “evil.”

“If my tribe and I are stronger than your tribe, and we attack you and wipe out all your males, kidnap and rape your women, wouldn’t that, by this definition, be considered moral? It certainly helped my family survive and reproduce!”

You shot yourself in the foot here. By quoting Hobbes, you expressed your view that humans are innately selfish and that each human being only looks out for him- or herself. In other words, no human would have any interest in developing or maintaining social relationships, which includes families. So here, you admit that individuals would act in the interests of a group. In your hypothetical scenario, an individual would rape and kill for the good of his family, rather than because he simply enjoys raping and killing. Do you agree that sometimes immoral acts are necessary for greater moral ends? If another country attacks your country, wouldn’t you agree that you would probably have to go to war in order to protect your country’s citizens, institutions, and values? Remember that warfare necessarily entails the deliberate infliction of casualties on the enemy’s side. Oftentimes, the soldiers of the enemy are drafted from a population of innocent civilians. And in the case of the Nazis, an entire nation’s citizens were brainwashed by the ideology of one political party. So what is the morality of war?

“We may be a social species, but history shows that different social groups within our species (tribes, nations, city-states, etc) usually don’t like each other, and often try to wipe each other out.”

This does not prove or support Hobbe’s view of the “state of nature.” He believed that in the state of nature, every individual acted solely for his or her own benefit and was in violent conflict with all other individuals. There would be no families or communities or nations.

You also seem to forget that morality entails a conscious choice between doing good and doing evil. Or in other words, morality means knowing right from wrong. When groups enter into violent conflict with each other, each side believes that it’s fighting for what is “good” or what is “right.” Each side believes that it is behaving morally. So in fact, the violent conflicts between groups does not contradict the notion of an innate sense of morality.

Is Christianity opposed to war? If you say yes, then you clearly have not read the Bible. In the Bible, God commands wars and genocides. If you define God’s words and commands as “good” and “moral,” then wouldn’t you agree that the wars and genocides commanded by God were “good” and “moral”? How could you possibly use the violence between groups throughout human history as evidence of what would happen without the guidance of God if God supposedly ordered much of that violence himself? The cognitive dissonance that you display here is astonishing, which is why I doubt your capacity for rational thought.

“Let’s look at the history of our planet. It is a history of war and bloodshed, of nation fighting nation, religion against religion. It’s still the same today! We have tribal wars in Africa, separatist wars in Asia, ‘terrorism’ wars in the Middle East, human rights oppressions in China and North Korea – all you have to do is turn on the news!”

I’m talking about individual humans acting to advance their individual interests. An individual deciding to commit murder, rape, theft and any number of malevolent acts for his or her own pleasure is not even remotely similar or analogous to nations going to war with each other. And God has not been a force for preventing these conflicts; instead he (or rather the religions and ideologies that support him) has often been the cause of these conflicts!

“We nearly destroyed ourselves with nuclear weapons during the Cold War.”

But we didn’t. Why didn’t we? If human nature were really as bad as you and Hobbes have claimed, then wouldn’t one side have just nuked the other instead waiting, for decades, to see what the other side would do first? Instead, the fact that the Cold War didn’t erupt into an all-out war is actually evidence for the innate morality of mankind, because people on both sides realized that the tremendous loss of human life during a nuclear war would’ve been a terrible human tragedy, and natural empathy inspired everyone to consider the deployment of nuclear weapons to be a last resort.

“The sheer brutality that mankind has shown itself capable of over the past few thousand years of human history alone should be enough to convince you that we are do not have an inherently nice, gentle and loving nature!”

Reality is not black and white, and I never said that it was. Just because humans may have an innate sense of morality does not mean that they are at all averse to committing acts that are considered immoral in other people’s eyes, especially when the ones doing those things believe that they are morally justified.

“No, humans act logically in order to protect themselves. It makes sense to band together with like-minded people to protect ourselves from those who do not share our values. That fact that these values became common throughout the social groups says nothing of their true moral status, just their practicality, their ability to make the social group function.”

I actually agree with you here. But the problem is with your idea of “true moral status.” Can you claim, with absolute authority, to know what the “true moral status” of any value or action is? When I talk about “innate morality,” I’m talking about motivation and intent. Humans naturally want to do what is “right.” But definitions on what is “right” varies from culture to culture and from one time period to the next. What you said here actually actually my whole argument about why humans SHOULD act “morally” and why they NATURALLY DO act “morally.” Again, do you consider genocide, polygamy, slavery, and the killing of innocents to be moral? The Bible supports all of those things in too many places to count. What does that tell you about the “true moral status” of those things?

“And this says what about the source of morality? Nothing. It’s a comment on the need to establish law. It says nothing of morality.”

It says everything about the source of “morality.” The law is the closest thing to a tangible, objective moral code that there is. The fact that normal humans believe in the need for law is further proof of an innate sense of morality.

OK, let me ask you one question about the “source of morality,” as you see it. Is what is moral commanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God?

“All I wanted to achieve by quoting Hobbes was to give AN idea of what ‘human nature’, when left to its own devices, might become.”

Yet you have not shown that Hobbes’s views are accurate description of human nature. I could quote John Locke to give ANOTHER idea of what human nature might become when left to its own devices. Therefore, no valid rhetorical purpose was served by your appeal to authority.

“It was not an authority claim.”

Then why deliberately quote Hobbes? Why not simply state your own view?

“After all, you were the one who said that human nature gives birth to ‘good’ – I just wanted to show another point of view.”

And in Hobbes’s view, human nature does give birth to “good.” The “good” that is birthed is the law.

“I know the quote comes from his work on the Social Contract Theory, but that theory has nothing real to say about morals and their source.”

Social contract theory is the basis for secular morality. If you want to claim that God is the source of morality, then you must be prepared to defend the genocides and other violence that God commanded in the Bible as acts of “good.”

“I can’t say I fully understood your example (I haven’t seen A Beautiful Mind), but if people act for the good of the group not the individual, that still begs the question – which group? History shows us that the group is not mankind (at least, not until the last few years…) but the smaller social community of ‘nation’ or ‘religion’. Therefore, their actions are not actually ‘good’ or ‘bad’ just profitable for the community or not profitable.”

This is a red herring. I was simply arguing that the concept of the Nash equilibrium is strong evidence that individuals do not act solely for their own interests without considering others. Therefore, your discussion about “groups” is irrelevant to this larger discussion. And besides, when groups violently conflict with each other, the reason is because each side believes that it is “righteous” and that the other side is “wrong.” So you see, the righteousness that all sides feel is borne out of everyone’s belief that what he/she is doing is moral, is for some “greater good.”

“Actually, the quote says what human nature would be like without laws, not God.”

Then why did you even use the quote? You originally asked why you or anybody should act morally without God. My argument was that morality was a basic part of human nature. Human nature is an observation of how the vast majority of humans (i.e. “normal people”) behave, with or without belief in God and whether or not God exists.

“And may I remind you that you still have not offered any idea about what human nature is really like? At least I brought an idea to the table.”

If that’s what you really think, then you have not paid attention to what I’ve written.

“You could. And I could find another to refute Locke, then you could find another, then I could… . We could go on for a long time!”

That’s why I characterized your use of the Hobbes quote as dishonest rhetoric of little value. That’s why I said that the only way to truth is through reason and science, not through quoting philosophers.

“I never suggested that Hobbes was above refutation.”

Then what’s the point of using Hobbes to make any sort of statement about human nature if you already recognized the potential weakness of your source?

“Again, I put that in to show what some people think is human nature.”

What “some people think is human nature” is irrelevant. What is relevant is what human nature actually is. Putting forth real evidence and science is the only way to begin to show what it is.

“’You ducked out of a previous discussion because you claimed to be out of your depth.’ Isn’t that the intellectually honest thing to do? Admit your mistakes and limitations?”

You seem to have a pattern of advancing arguments that you don’t understand and using sophistry. You did it in that other discussion, and you’re doing it again here. This is not intellectual honesty, and it’s certainly not an indication that you’re as ready to “admit your mistakes and limitations” as you seem to suggest.

“Have I not engaged anyone’s points? I think I’ve responded to pretty much everything people have said to me. If I’ve not, then I think these posts should show you that I’m serious and that any such omissions are an oversight, not deliberate.”

Your responses show little actual engagement with everyone’s points. Merely responding is not enough.

“Finally, I will grant you this – you are right that we don’t see the kind of brutality detailed here in the animal kingdom. Which shows me one thing – WE ARE DIFFERENT TO ANIMALS!”

It would indicate that we are worse than animals. Good for us.

February 12, 2009 at 6:47 pm
(39) Austin Cline says:

Austin, as I said in the response to Fei, I presented that quote from Hobbes because he (Fei) claimed that good comes from human nature (which I disagree with, obviously, and he offered no evidence in favour of) and Hobbes perception of humankind without the constraints of law is a good example of the opposite point of view.  

There is little value in quoting an “opposite point of view” unless you agree with that opposite point of view or, if you’re playing Devil’s Advocate, you can actually make a case for that point of view.

Either you agree with Fei or you don’t. If you do, then admit it; if you don’t, then don’t quote an argument that doesn’t represent your disagreement.

I didn’t put Hobbes up there as some sort of unassailable theory, just as an example of how not everyone shares Fei’s sunny outlook on human nature.

Wow. You actually thought Fei had no idea that anyone in the world disagreed?

Of course you couldn’t have thought that. So you couldn’t have quoted Hobbes merely to make a point everyone knows.

Frankly it seems to me that you quoted Hobbes because he sounds like an authority and said something that seems to support your preconceptions. Now, however, you don’t seem to want to have to do any of the actual work necessary to back up his position. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think he has an “unassailable theory.” If you’re going to use him as part of your objection to Fei’s position, you’re going to have to do some work to support what you’re saying.

You don’t get to quote someone as part of an objection you’re raising and then insist that Fei prove Hobbes wrong. You brought Hobbes up, so the initial burden of proof lies with you to support what you’re saying, not with Fei to refute it.

“selective citations of a few random events from human history”  These are more than a few random events.  The HISTORY of our race is one of war and bloodshed, not peace and tranquillity.

Our history has both. If you think one so dominates that the other is negligible, then make your case.

It has only been in the last few generations that we as a race have begun to esteem ‘human value’ and to begin to change the patterns of the past

You mean, during this period of secularization, when the traditional control which religion and religious institutions have had over society have weakened or even been broken?

February 12, 2009 at 7:10 pm
(40) Zayla says:

Comment #30 by Mark

Both of my children, 8 yr old girl, 10 yr old boy go to church and Sunday school. I haven’t said anything to them due to their age. It has been just recently that I have begun having serious conversations with them, especially my son.

I don’t expect them to understand much, but I have always approached my kids with the attitude that if I treat them with respect and talk to them like they’re people, it will have a cumulative affect.

I have stressed to them it is not my intention to force, coerce or even suggest that they believe anything I, or anyone else tells them. I want them exposed to everything, to learn and make up their own mind, something that wasn’t afforded to me in christian school. I believe that makes me more open minded and tolerant that almost all people with strict religious beliefs.

I already know my son is going to be a card carrying atheist because he’s a natural science nut and he told me this year he didn’t buy the “santa thing” because it made no sense for some fat guy to be able to make it to 6 billion houses overnight, and at 10 years old he was able to make the connection to that and god.

I won’t let anyone brain wash my kids. I told them the only thing they have NO choice in is that HAVE to be KC Chief fans or get out of the house.

Peace.

February 13, 2009 at 6:11 am
(41) Mark Barratt says:

#40 Zayla

Great comment.

It seems to me that the most important thing is simply to equate religious beliefs with other similar beliefs, as you have done.

The thing I always notice is how religious believers have a little area in their heads reserved for their god where the rules are different than for all other things.

They will also not buy the “santa thing” because santa is placed in the main brain area and evaluated accordingly. All other religions are also filed in the main brain area and dismissed accordingly.

Their god is safe in his little box, though. Arguments, evidence and common sense that apply to Santa don’t apply to their god because it’s safe. Their god is DIFFERENT. It must be, or it wouldn’t be in the box. I imagine it’s this box that is constructed during childhood, and after it’s built it often can’t be breached.

How many times have you seen a strong negative reaction to the claim that god is the same as Santa that’s not actually accompanied by reasons that God is different to santa? It’s because the equation of god and santa threatens to breach the special god box which must be protected at all costs, because once the box is broken then they will realise that god is exactly the same as santa.

Check out
this conversation
involving Rowan Williams, the Archbiship of Canterbury. When asked how belief in God is different from belief in Santa, Williams responds that belief in santa doesn’t lead to a moral code, great art or great music. There are 2 problems with this:

1) If I were a Christian, surely the answer I’d want to hear is “the difference is God exists and Santa doesn’t”! Surely! That’s the difference, isn’t it? The fact that the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY doesn’t even think to make this point shows that discussion of God’s truth in relation to Santa is off-limits for him.

2) Belief in Santa DOES lead all of those things. So how is god special?

Not a great showing for the guy who is supposed to be the best at believing in God in the UK. But totally understandable if he has a god-shaped box in his brain hat must be protected from intrusion at all costs.

So you’re probably doing the right thing simply by drawing no distinction between god and santa. It could just be that simple. If you don’t make god out to be special you probably won’t have to specifically deny god’s existence. It’ll probably be as obvious to them as it is that santa doesn’t exist. Well, hopefully.

February 13, 2009 at 2:03 pm
(42) Yahwey says:

GOD IS THERE AND HE LOVES YOU

February 13, 2009 at 5:19 pm
(43) Zayla says:

#41 Mark

The concept of god certainly does not provide a moral code, nor does “he” have a thing to do with imagination, music or art. Those things come from the mind, education and being exposed to all the wonders of our world.
I have been doing that with my kids since they were born and I’m already learning from them.

In listening to the YouTube I tought Ricky kind of whimped out a little in the conversation. Just an observation.

I see no difference between the concept and practice of santa clause and god. They are both myths and santa just isn’t taken as seriously so it drops off at a young age. Just imagine if they kept pounding santa into those young brains. What would the difference be?

Additionally, tell a five year old what’s more “real and important”, god or santa, you’ll find out real quick how close they are in concept.

To me, they both carry the same weight.

Mark, off topic, but check this out:

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=2009020828735

February 13, 2009 at 8:07 pm
(44) Fei says:

By the way, ChristianDave, you said: “If my tribe and I are stronger than your tribe, and we attack you and wipe out all your males, kidnap and rape your women, wouldn’t that, by this definition, be considered moral? It certainly helped my family survive and reproduce!”

That actually is considered moral BY GOD because he already commanded such an act. In Numbers 31:1-54, God commanded Moses and his army to “Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” The army came back with 32,000 virgins after doing God’s will.

February 13, 2009 at 11:50 pm
(45) Lloyd says:

Mark Barratt, thank you for expressing so well the things that I can not, but am so strongly in agreement with.

Zayla, I was just like you, it had never ocurred to me.

You are both proof that there are other sane, rational people out there.

Thank you because after reading this story and the one about the teacher being railroaded, I really needed it.

February 14, 2009 at 12:57 am
(46) blackmetalworkshop says:

zayla you say you wont let anyone brainwash your kids…what do you think goes on at church??? help me out here, i have read other posts by you and you seem to be an atheist, so why do you expose your kids to that poison. you can give your kids the freedom to make life choices for themselves but as a responsable parent you must draw the line somewhere, would you also thet them go to KKK meetings?

February 14, 2009 at 1:45 am
(47) God Isn't says:

The fact is, some people have to believe that it’s impossible for anyone to be “good” unless they believe in their specific god (it says so in their “holy” book), so they ignore evidence to the contrary. After all, faith is belief without evidence and/or despite evidence to the contrary, so ignoring evidence is nothing new for theists.

February 14, 2009 at 8:37 am
(48) Zayla says:

#46) blackmetalworkshop:

I wouldn’t let my kids go to a kkk meeting because they have nothing of value to add, that is not necessarily so of church.

More importantly, they have a Mother, though not terribly religious, wants them to attend church and I have to respect her wishes too.

Do you have children? If so, are you afraid to expose them to church? Are you so insecure that you’re as afraid of church as christians are of you? I’m not.

I’ve told my children that I want them to learn as much about all the different religions of the world as possible and then decide for themselves what makes sense. If they do that, I will respect their decision, and be proud of them. My role as their Father is to guide and help them, not do exactly what we complain the church does, and keep them from being exposed to it.

They are only 8 & 10 and I talk to them about atheism, on a very small scale, and fortunately I have a great relationship with their Mother, my ex-wife and she respects my feelings and understands that they will learn from me as well.

My philosophies apply to my kids when it comes to politics, finances, philosophy, etc., everything is up to them. All I ask of them is that they make informed decisions and I will always back them up and respect it, as long as it is not harmful to them or others.

I have faith. I have faith in my kids, their Mother and myself and the schools they attend. Together nobody will be able to brainwash anyone.

February 15, 2009 at 12:38 pm
(49) Weemaryanne says:

I find it extremely upsetting that junk food is advertised anywhere, yet I doubt that my local public transportation authority would give a moment’s consideration to refusing such ads just because I feel so strongly about it.

February 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm
(50) blackmetalworkshop says:

#48)zayla I understand compleatly, as far as having to respect their mothers wishes and would leave it at that,but you say “I wouldn’t let my kids go to a kkk meeting because they have nothing of value to add ( me-what about selfrespect and protection of your community. i do not defend the klan but they do teach things that, if not for the teacher would be seen as positave. ), that is not necessarily so of church.” so now i wonder what that is. I have a family member who is a nazi skin-head and i love him very much but i hate the group he is a part of. the same goes for my christian family members. you seem to be focused on these “things of value” (that your children can get without church by the way) and ingnoring the negatives (some they could not get out side of church). you said “Do you have children? If so, are you afraid to expose them to church? Are you so insecure that you’re as afraid of church as christians are of you? I’m not.

Yes, YES, and, I am not a church, i am a person, my wifes mother is EXTREAMLY christian and she sees her grand daughter as much as she wants (almost every week-end sadly, but its the mother-in-law thing, way off toppic) I don’t care what her religion is or isnt. you said”I’ve told my children that I want them to learn as much about all the different religions of the world as possible and then decide for themselves what makes sense. If they do that, I will respect their decision, and be proud of them.” do you believe that is what the church tells them?? you:”My role as their Father is to guide and help them,” it seems the church is guiding them on the toppic of christian theology. i have a bible in my house and if my child wants to read it she is more than welcome, and i as her father(or my wife)will answer her questions and i will have guided her as i should being her father, and when she decides she wants to go to chursh, great! you say”not do exactly what we complain the church does, and keep them from being exposed to it.” whats this we stuff, i have never said that nor can i remember any other atheists saying that(not that they havent, but is that what YOU say?)…. you say “They are only 8 & 10 and I talk to them about atheism, on a very small scale,” thats kind of sad, do you think the minister at the church talks to them about christianity on a small scale? yes my daughter will have the right to decide for her self and i will not give her a hard time about it, but the fact is i DO hope she will choose to be an atheist, why would i not?? why are you an ateist????(the question marks are to indicate an important question.) you say “I have a great relationship with their Mother, my ex-wife and she respects my feelings and understands that they will learn from me as well.” i just mention this line to tell you cool! that is rare, and your kids are lucky.
you said “My philosophies apply to my kids when it comes to politics, finances, philosophy, etc., everything is up to them.” i honestly don’t understand what you were trying to say here, sorry.
you say”All I ask of them is that they make informed decisions and I will always back them up and respect it, as long as it is not harmful to them or others.” when a person feels moraly justified in doing somthing imoral, like voting to deny other humans their own human and civil rights, that IS harmful to others, and that is at the very least what they will learn at church if they take its teachings to heart. you say “Together nobody will be able to brainwash anyone.” Someone WILL be brainwashing someone, and when it comes to your kids YOU must decide who you want “brainwashing” your kids. as a father one of your jobs is to guide your children, that means YOU have to TEACH them things, they are kids, they can’t just “figure it out for themselves, of course it is your right to let the christian church teach them for you i guess. cheers and good luck.

March 6, 2009 at 5:30 am
(51) Asian Guy says:

There probably is a God (or god, if you prefer; he – or she, if you prefer – is not offended by such insignificant niceties) and s/he knows exactly what you need to make your life enjoyable, and greatly desires to give it to you, if you will but accept the gift. God does good. Why? God IS good (all the bad stuff comes from the ‘other one’).

March 6, 2009 at 6:29 am
(52) Austin Cline says:

There probably is a God

Prove it.

s/he knows exactly what you need to make your life enjoyable, and greatly desires to give it to you, if you will but accept the gift.

Prove it.

God does good. Why? God IS good (all the bad stuff comes from the ‘other one’).

Prove it.

March 9, 2009 at 8:46 pm
(53) kngdavid says:

How do you know that you can be good w/o God? who do you know never influenced by God? what is morality without God? Since God defines good you being good is following Him.

Empathy and morality have clear biological and evolutionary bases, and they can even be observed in many animal species, as Austin has said.

Silly being that creatures are made by God any empathy or whatever would come from Him.

Who said to Kill was wrong or to steal or whatever…
If no1 ever stated this is wrong to your ancestors or grandparents, etc. your morality or empathy as you guys say would not exist…Case rested

Fei It’s not my Job to prove to you God is real I didn’t prove to myself god was real i thought he wasn’t at many early points in my life. He proved himself to me! Lol, I’m safe but if you don’t want Him like not believing something makes it go away. That gambles up to you. I follow what the Bible says about trusting no man but God and God and I have a great relationship but YOU CAN”T PROVE THE BIBLE FALSE OR GOD NOT REAL…whos the gamble on? Either way it goes I win. I’m not religious. I don’t have to earn my way into heaven. I enjoy helping people. My life is risk free, So for your sake I hope your right, but I’m glad I know your wrong.

Good day…

nice to see you are real Austin and not a lame that would delete my post. Not that it means anything to you, but I deeply respect that. I shall not return… You have the e-mail so if you ever want..Holla!

March 9, 2009 at 9:22 pm
(54) Austin Cline says:

How do you know that you can be good w/o God?

Easy: most people who have ever existed haven’t believed in your god, yet managed to have morality.

who do you know never influenced by God?

Since I don’t believe in your god, the answer is: everyone.

what is morality without God?

It’s just morality.

Since God defines good you being good is following Him.

Prove it.

Fei It’s not my Job to prove to you God is real

No, but it is an obligation you assume when you assert that your god is real. If you are unwilling or unable to support a claim, then don’t make it.

YOU CAN”T PROVE THE BIBLE FALSE OR GOD NOT REAL…

The burden of proof lies with believers.

whos the gamble on? Either way it goes I win.

Pascal’s Wager, refuted so often I’m not even going to bother linking to a refutation again. If you are so uninterested in the validity of your own ideas that you won’t do any research on them before promoting them, it would be a waste of time for me to expect you to do any research after the fact.

I’m not religious.

I don’t think you know what “religion” means.

nice to see you are real Austin and not a lame that would delete my post. Not that it means anything to you, but I deeply respect that. I shall not return…

Nice to see that you aren’t one of those Christians who comes in blazing with arrogant assumptions and assertions, then blazes out without bothering to support any of them.

Uh, never mind.

You have the e-mail so if you ever want..

I can’t imagine ever wanting the email of a person completely uninterested in reason or substantive discussion.

March 9, 2009 at 10:29 pm
(55) kngdavid says:

sorry I had one more statement….
blackmetal says… The church will brainwash to wash is to clean.. To teach your child athiesm allows them to be completely lost no since of direstion… Aka bad parenting

Atheism is weak a failure to make a decision because you cannot find the truth so you shun it all. What is morality and who says so? and who are they? Why are They right? and Martin Luther King wrong?

Why would you quote a philosopher when none of them could answer what life is?

If all your kids have to believe in self the way this country is going (exactly how the bible said it would) when money can’t save them and believing in self isn’t enough or just if they hit a rock and (god-forbid) your no longer with them, what will happen then? Will they go insane because no1 is there for them will they be optimistic or will they be optimistic? Why would they if you taught them to have faith in nothing but self so the PROVEN FACT (which seems to be the favorite words of the atheist [yet some believe theories]) is that they can’t hack it, or the economy won’t allow them to, or they need help. For you child sake I hope they find God but what ever will be will be.

You cannnot possibly go through all religios beliefs (which most are based on the Bible just twisted for their will because the Bible frowns on religions). Preachers almost ruined me from being a Christian or even believing in God till God picked me up Himself. BECAUSE
TO UNDERSTAND A BELIEF, HOW OR IF IT WORK YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IT…

You cannot test a belief by reading especially reading with a bias or ignorance’s mesh eyes.

the holy spirit has to interpret the Bible to you because every words is from god so it is very precise in word choice and meaning. I can’t convey to you in words how amazing it is because no 1 could convey it to me. I did my thang for years and had a blast. I had at least a stack “thousand dollars” in every pocket of my jeans (plus money in the bank of course), my own music studio, a girl for everyday of they week (two or three some days), I partied every night, All my bills where paid for me. You can’t name a state I haven’t been to, I was violent and prideful, yet I still loved people and help most before I even thought about me. I knew I was the best at everything I touched, from building computers, women, selling, etc. I became my God, Alcohol and Newports where my prayers then God said enough!! Something was always missing anyway.. no High or cognac or champagne or Mary Jane buzz was ever like this. Now when I drink my natural high drops and God tells me so much (he always confirms his word He tells you through other people to maybe complete strangers) He’s unexplainable so if you ever expect someone to explain god to me they will be doing you a disservice as I am because I have done you or God any justice but I tried…The job of proving is not given to Christians but to God to prove through people that love Him and those He calls He will prove it to them but only if they let Him. He will not force His hand that’s why he gives grace….peace.

March 10, 2009 at 11:49 am
(56) blackmetalworkshop says:

kngdavid I’m sorry you had one more statement too. Because I found most of your statement rambling and in some cases completely unintelligible, (for example ” You cannot test a belief by reading especially reading with a bias or ignorance’s mesh eyes.” Makes almost no sense) and because you were kind enough to take the time to insult my parenting, I will take a moment to point out some things, so you can save yourself further embarrassment.

Wash and clean are DEFFENTLY not synonyms. I’ll spare you the details, I’m sure you have a dictionary.

“To teach your child atheism allows them to be completely lost no since of direstion”
Although this is by no means a complete sentence, I think I understand what you mean. And perhaps your right, my daughter will never even think of becoming an astronaut, without god telling her, how will she ever know what that soccer ball she kicks around is, or even why she kicks it??? No, Kngdavid, Your failure to take responsibility for your life and the wrong direction YOU took it, is not a convincing argument at all.

“Atheism is weak a failure to make a decision because you cannot find the truth so you shun it all. What is morality and who says so? and who are they? Why are They right? and Martin Luther King wrong?”
I get the feeling you are not talking to me at this point,so I’ll just say,I would, if I had to hastily define atheism, say: Atheism is weak, a failure to make a decision because the truth is in no way hidden so you shun the absurd.

“If all your kids have to believe in self the way this country is going (exactly how the bible said it would) when money can’t save them and believing in self isn’t enough or just if they hit a rock and (god-forbid) your no longer with them, what will happen then? Will they go insane because no1 is there for them will they be optimistic or will they be optimistic?”
Wow that was almost easy to understand.Will they go insane?!? Why would they? I take it you have never met anyone sane, who lost their parents. Optimistic is not the alternative to optimistic.

“Why would they if you taught them to have faith in nothing but self so the PROVEN FACT (which seems to be the favorite words of the atheist [yet some believe theories])”
At what point did I say I taught my children to have faith in only themselves?? Not having faith in an invisible super being, does not negate the possibility of having faith that I’ll put the right amount of sugar in my coffee, or that the invisible super being I have faith in, is better than the one you have faith in. Self reliance is in the bible, perhaps you should read it some time. You seem to be putting ALL YOUR burdens on gods shoulders, which allows you to get away with not making decisions, and the bible is quite clear, that he doesn’t like that.

“is that they can’t hack it, or the economy won’t allow them to, or they need help. For you child sake I hope they find God but what ever will be will be.” Is That A Threat?!?! Just kidding, I get it, thanks for the kind words.( i hope you get sarcasm)

“You cannnot possibly go through all religios beliefs” What?? Go through them how?

You cannnot possibly go through all religios beliefs (which most are based on the Bible just twisted for their will because the Bible frowns on religions). there are only a couple of “new” religions based on the bible. If you had any idea the number of religions that predate the bible, you would get as good a laugh as I got.Thank you for that.

“the holy spirit has to interpret the Bible to you because every words is from god so it is very precise in word choice and meaning.” YES! That’s exactly right, those moderates bug the shit out of me too!

“I can’t convey to you in words how amazing it is because no 1 could convey it to me.” Aww, give it a try, you’ll do fine.

“I did my thang for years and had a blast. I had at least a stack “thousand dollars” in every pocket of my jeans (plus money in the bank of course), my own music studio, a girl for everyday of they week (two or three some days), I partied every night, All my bills where paid for me. You can’t name a state I haven’t been to, I was violent and prideful, yet I still loved people and help most before I even thought about me. I knew I was the best at everything I touched, from building computers, women, selling, etc. I became my God, Alcohol and Newports where my prayers then God said enough!! Something was always missing anyway.. no High or cognac or champagne or Mary Jane buzz was ever like this. ” I don’t get it are you complaining, or bragging here?

“Now when I drink my natural high drops and God tells me so much (he always confirms his word He tells you through other people to maybe complete strangers) ” Well when god said ENOUGH! he was obviously joking right. If you have such a “natural” high from the lord,….why do you feel the need to drink? I’ll tell you why. Gods hooch aint as potent as mans. It reminds me of that spongebob episode where he beats neptune in a patty making contest…but I digress.

Whelp, the rest is the mumblings of a drunken prophet, so I’ll leave you and god to sort it out. Um, yes…peace…exactly.

March 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm
(57) The says:

”’

March 10, 2009 at 1:19 pm
(58) blackmetalworkshop says:

Kngdavid Since you were kind enough to insult my parenting (I understand your belief system tells you, that sort of thing is civil.)I will do my best to help you understand or at the very least save you further embarrassment, because you seem to be going through some inner turmoil. It is also my hope that you will read this when you are sober, and really think. Also if I point out sentences that don’t make sense, my intent is not to ridicule you, but simply to let you know I had a hard time making sense out of them. For example: “You cannot test a belief by reading especially reading with a bias or ignorance’s mesh eyes.” That really can’t qualify as English, (As I know it) and so I can’t possibly respond TO it.

“The church will brainwash to wash is to clean.. To teach your child athiesm allows them to be completely lost no since of direstion”
Wash and clean are DEFFENATLY not synonyms, but I’ll spare you the details, as I’m sure you have a dictionary.
And you may be right about the rest. I mean mercy! What if my daughter wants to become an astronaut, how will she achieve this without god telling her to buckle down on the math?!?! Why, without god how will she know what that soccer ball shes kicking around is, or even why she is kicking it?? No kngdavid, Your failure to take responsibility for your own life or the direction it took is not a convincing argument.

“Atheism is weak a failure to make a decision because you cannot find the truth so you shun it all. What is morality and who says so? and who are they? Why are They right? and Martin Luther King wrong?” As you are obviously not talking tome at this point I’ll just say, If I had to hastily define atheism, I would day it like this: Atheism is weak, a failure to make a decision because the truth is in no way hidden, so you shun the absurd.

“If all your kids have to believe in self the way this country is going (exactly how the bible said it would) when money can’t save them and believing in self isn’t enough or just if they hit a rock and (god-forbid) your no longer with them, what will happen then? Will they go insane because no1 is there for them will they be optimistic or will they be optimistic? ” Why on earth would they go insane? I take it you have never met any SANE people who have lost their parents. And optimistic is not the alternative to optimistic.

“Why would they if you taught them to have faith in nothing but self so the PROVEN FACT”
Exactly, why would they? Never the less, I never said I taught them to have faith in nothing but themselves. Not having faith in an invisible super being in no way negates the possibility of faith in other things, like the fact that I will put the right amount of sugar in my next cup of coffee, or that the invisible super being I have faith in, is better than the one you have faith in.

“which seems to be the favorite words of the atheist [yet some believe theories])” Proven fact are great words, why do you see them as negative?? And yes I believe in some very well tested and successful theories, they really help keep my feet on the ground, if you know what I mean.

“is that they can’t hack it, or the economy won’t allow them to, or they need help. For you child sake I hope they find God but what ever will be will be.”
Is That A Threat!?!?! Just kidding. I get it, thanks again for those kind words.(Ihope you get sarcasm.)

“You cannnot possibly go through all religious beliefs”
What?? Go through them how??

(which most are based on the Bible just twisted for their will because the Bible frowns on religions).”
I only know of a few “new” religions based on the bible, But if you actually did a little research you would discover the massive amount of religions that predate the bible, and have as good a laugh as I got from that statement.

“TO UNDERSTAND A BELIEF, HOW OR IF IT WORK YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IT” I believe you capitalized the letters because you believe that was a profound statement that god is necessary to.

“the holy spirit has to interpret the Bible to you because every words is from god so it is very precise in word choice and meaning.”
YES! That’s what I keep telling people. Those moderates but the shit out of me too!

“I can’t convey to you in words how amazing it is because no 1 could convey it to me.”
Aww go on, give it a try, you’ll do fine.

“I did my thang for years and had a blast. I had at least a stack “thousand dollars” in every pocket of my jeans (plus money in the bank of course), my own music studio, a girl for everyday of they week (two or three some days), I partied every night, All my bills where paid for me. You can’t name a state I haven’t been to, I was violent and prideful, yet I still loved people and help most before I even thought about me. I knew I was the best at everything I touched, from building computers, women, selling, etc. I became my God, Alcohol and Newports where my prayers ”
I don’t get it…are you complaining or bragging here?

“then God said enough!! ”
Goodness!!

“Something was always missing anyway.. no High or cognac or champagne or Mary Jane buzz was ever like this.”
I see…
“Now when I drink my natural high drops and God tells me so much (he always confirms his word He tells you through other people to maybe complete strangers) ” So when god said enough, you thought he was joking? If your “natural” high is so wonderful, why do you feel the need to continue drinking. I’ll tell you, even “with” god you still feel something is missing. You seem to feel the need to place ALL YOUR burdens on gods shoulders allowing you to never make decisions, and according to the bible god frowns on that sort of thing. You really should read the bible sometime. In it you will find a special message of SELFRELIANCE just for YOU!

“He’s unexplainable so if you ever expect someone to explain god to me they will be doing you a disservice as I am”
Why would I, an atheist ever expect that?? And If you know you are doing a disservice, then why do you continue to do it? do you know what that’s called? Look in to it.

“The job of proving is not given to Christians”
AMEN BROTHER!
“but to God to prove through people that love Him and those He calls He will prove it to them but only if they let Him.”
I can’t wait.Who’s stopping him?
“He will not force His hand that’s why he gives grace” Then what was all that old testament nonsense about?
Um, yes….peace…exactly.

March 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm
(59) blackmetalworkshop says:

I realize that my previous comment to ZAYLA was off topic, so I apologise. And as it continues to remain off topic i will keep my response to Kngdavid short.

Kngdavid, I hope you will read this when you are sober, you seem to be going through some inner turmoil, and I hope you will save yourself further embarrassment in the future.

Your failure to take responsibility for your own life and the direction it took, is in no way a strong argument. And your desire to place ALL YOUR burdens on gods shoulders, only allows you to NOT make decisions, and is in no way in keeping with the bibles message of self reliance. you should really try reading it sometime.

March 11, 2009 at 11:41 pm
(60) kngdavid1 says:

lol…I loved my life did you not read. I love it waaay more now. Do you know what embarrassment means? I doubt NOTHING.. I care about YOUR KIDS sir.I take responsibility for my choice to follow God…Wanna know what happens when you turn your back on Him keep watching Oprah and take notes… Love your Kids
the mind is a very dangerous thing to lend to other people’s control …..searching all religions….sheesh

March 12, 2009 at 2:41 am
(61) Diane says:

Many people do good who do not believe in a God re: advertisement ‘You can do good without God.’ Freedom of speech is a right. Re: human nature and what is it? Suggestion: (with permission of parents) a study (non-biased) of as many children of the age of four; from as many ethnic backgrounds as possible; with the use of observation of this group (study) interacting in various activities such as groups playing; groups watching a variety of televised subject material (and observing them); questioning their feelings regarding their play activities; their feelings regarding what they have viewed on television; groups eating together (certain groups with different types of foods…as long as they are not allergic to any of the ingredients), and observing their behaviour while eating…questioning them re: did they like the food. Specific interests could be: which groups reacted which way seeing the same thing on television, which can be determined upon questioning each re: their feelings; do the different groups of children share food when eating? Do the children express feelings toward one another (anger, love, jealousy, etc.) when in these group activities? This would be a large undertaking to complete such a study, not to mention cost. The reason I mentioned the age of 4 is because at that age, it is my opinion, they have not as yet been completely corrupted. I am not an aetheist. I am obviously a human. Not a humanist. I do believe in God and I do believe His Word. I am for Christ. I just thought I’d advise you of my faith. Should you endeavour to do such a study, I would definitely look forward to reading the findings in an article one day. Take care!

March 12, 2009 at 2:50 am
(62) Diane says:

Sorry I left you the wrong e-mail address…resending it. One comment I’d like to make re: theories. It’s unfortunate that the theory of irretrievable debt replaced the Gold Standard in the United States. An invisible debt when it first went into use that is no longer invisible. The Gold Standard that was previously used in the United States was effective in that the country only spent what they actually had in gold in their Federal Reserve. I know it’s off topic but ‘irretrievable debt’ was a theory, and it was put into usage. Too bad there isn’t a plan B when Obama finishes spending their last monies to try and kick-start their economy…at least a plan B hasn’t been exposed as yet.

March 12, 2009 at 2:55 am
(63) Diane says:

I would just like to mention what my son told me last week. He said, “The government has actually been using slavery for a long time.” I believe he had a good opinion and I just thought I’d share it.

March 12, 2009 at 1:47 pm
(64) blackmetalworkshop says:

Kngdavid. “I loved my life did you not read. I love it waaay more now. ”
I see, you love it now that you have BOTH alcohol and the lord. Sure, makes sense.

” Do you know what embarrassment means?” I do indeed. Let me give you an example: A person writes “You cannot possibly go through all religios beliefs (which most are based on the Bible just twisted for their will because the Bible frowns on religions). ” and when asked to clarify, is unable to, because there is no way around the fundamentals of historic fact.

“I care about YOUR KIDS sir.”
Wow! It really shows.

“I take responsibility for my choice to follow God” What a lazy thing to say…

“Wanna know what happens when you turn your back on Him keep watching Oprah and take notes… ” What?? Are you still drunk? seriously though, we don’t all watch your beloved oprah so you will have to explain.

“Love your Kids”
Well thank you for the advise, I never would have even thought about loving them without you telling me to. Silly.

“the mind is a very dangerous thing to lend to other people’s control ” Exactly my point….Is it a tactic of yours to dispute something in one post then support it in another….how odd.

“searching all religions….sheesh” Again, this is not a complete sentence, so if you were expecting a response, you’ll have to wait for the return of jesus…oh wait wasn’t that supposed to happen a year ago?? or was it the year before that?

You have only addressed one question and your response was evasive and lame. So thanks I guess.

September 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm
(65) ANON says:

What could possibly be the benefit of living in denial of a god? There is absolutely nothing to gain. It is absolute nonsense. As Blaise Pascal logically explains, only 4 options exist.
1) You believe God is real, and God turns out to be real. This leads to ultimate happiness and life.
2) You believe God is real and He is not real. This leads to a happy life on earth, then who cares about the rest, as nothing will exist for you.
3) You did not believe God exists, and God does not exist. Congratulations. You were right. Now what have you gained? You don’t even have the opportunity to have the triumphant victory over the wrong believers, so what good is there?
4) You do not believe God exists, and God does exist. This is the rough one. Now you live in complete misery. You know that you were wrong, and you have eternal sadness and misery.

In the end, what can be gained by options 3 and 4? Literally nothing positive can end up, so why take the risk? However if you believe, not only will you feel content on earth, but also live in eternal happiness. I feel that this is the ultimate way to prove atheism is a futile decision, as even if you are correct, you cannot prove it in this life or the nonexistent next, whereas belief has the likely possibility of bringing eternal peace. You can make your decision any way you want, but as a logical human, I am not willing to take the gamble.

September 29, 2011 at 8:14 pm
(66) Austin Cline says:

As Blaise Pascal logically explains, only 4 options exist.

Pascal’s Wager is about the worst apologetics argument in existence. When people use it – especially in such a superficial form – it’s a sign that they haven’t done anything like a serious investigation of the issues.

October 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm
(67) Marvin says:

I think I’ve heard or seen the argument hundreds of times, but ANON is the first believer who connected it to Blaise Pascal in my experience. I give him that.

I’m sure you’re right, though, that if he’d studied the issue at all he wouldn’t have cited it here, at least not without some effort to minimize the obvious shortcomings.

October 7, 2011 at 8:22 pm
(68) OZAtheist says:

Happiness in life believing that God is real!!!
How can I accept this premiss that you make as if it is a self evident truth when all my experience and much that I have read says the opposite? A much greater happiness is found, Anon, if you reject this nonsensical belief in your imaginary friend.

The relief your mind experiences when it no longer has to through the contortions required to maintain faith is bliss, and the knowledge that you are not destined to go to some place of eternal torment when you die is wonderful.

Christians may smile on the outside but beneath the veneer there are frightened people who are constantly wondering if they are going to be among the chosen when the rapture happens.

The Words “Few are chosen” (Mathew 22:14) must weight heavily on the devotee. “Did I have a real born again experience?” and “Did I happen to fluke it by aligning myself with the right sect?” when there are about 40,000 to choose between.

These are the questions that must be in the minds of the average Christians smiling at us. This happiness they can keep.

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