Christians Who Just Don’t Get It (3 of 3)

Toy bunnies

In part 1, we looked at the odd interpretation of atheism by “John” the atheist. Several commenters have already suggested that it’s such a bizarre interpretation that it must be a Christian parody.

In part 2, we looked at the even odder embrace by Christian apologists of John’s conclusions. I suppose John’s ideas fit their agenda to make atheism look ridiculous, but do they not stop to consider whether John’s views are shared by other atheists? Or if the views are at all defensible?

Let’s look at one final Christian reaction to John, this time from the Wintery Knight blog. Its enthusiastic embrace of John’s message is clear in the title: “An atheist explains the real consequences of adopting an atheistic worldview.”

Atheist Richard Dawkins cited

First, this post tries to establish that John is not some maverick, either a nut who has no clue which end is up within atheism or a prescient pioneer who plainly sees what no one else can see. Rather, he says that this is already admitted by other atheists and should be a standard part of the discussion. He quotes Richard Dawkins:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.

This is supposed to mirror John’s position? Nope. Dawkins is simply observing that there is no evidence for a benevolent supernatural that looks out for us or a wise supernatural that created us. Unfortunately, this Christian blogger doesn’t offer any reason to believe otherwise.

Nature just exists without emotion or mind. Mt. Everest doesn’t care who climbs it or dies trying. It doesn’t celebrate if you get to the top, and it doesn’t lament if you fall to your death. When a fox chases a rabbit, “good” is relative, and what’s good for the fox is bad for the rabbit and vice versa. Germs don’t want to replicate or hurt you—it’s just biology. The tea in my cup doesn’t want to stay hot or cool down—it’s just physics. Why imagine the universe as a whole acts any differently?

Dawkins points out that there is no human justice in nature, but that doesn’t mean that there is no justice. Merriam-Webster gives several definitions of justice (none of which appeal to objective anything) including “the assignment of merited rewards or punishments,” “the administration of law,” and “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.” It’s clear that humans can strive for this kind of justice, even though we don’t have the objective or transcendent kind.

Atheist Michael Ruse cited

Next, the Christian blog quotes philosopher of science and atheist Michael Ruse.

Morality is an [evolutionary] adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. . . . Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate when someone says, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” [but] such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory.

And again, this is quite different from what John said—John imagined that only objective morality exists. That the blogger doesn’t understand this simple distinction between objective morality and the regular kind as defined in the dictionary threatens my lofty evaluation of Christian apologetics.

Wintry Knight’s conclusion

The blog draws its conclusions:

I see a lot of atheists these days thinking that they can help themselves to a robust notion of consciousness, to real libertarian free will, to objective moral values and duties, to objective human rights, and to objective meaning in life, without giving credit to theism. . . . [As Cornelius Van Til observed,] atheists have to sit in God’s lap to slap his face. We should be calling them out on it.

Wait—who should be calling out whom? You’ve got no argument. You’re simply presupposing God, but you don’t get to just presuppose God into existence. With no sense of irony, a sentence later in the same paragraph begins, “This is not to say that we should go all presuppositional on them,” but I’m afraid that ship has sailed.

You can point to issues that science still has unanswered questions about, like consciousness, but let’s not imagine Christianity gives us reliable answers (that is, answers backed up by evidence). And as for objective morality and meaning, the ball’s in your court to show that these exist apart from the ordinary kind that we experience in our own lives.

The image shouldn’t be sitting in God’s lap to slap his face. Instead, imagine unwrapping a present from God on Christmas morning to find a book. The book is one of your favorites. At first you marvel at how well God knows you to give such an appropriate gift, but then you notice your name on the inside cover. And all the margin notes that you added. And the gap on the bookshelf where you remember that book being.

Morality isn’t something we get from God. Morality is already part of humanity, but “God” wants to pretend to give back to us.

I think it’s particularly important not to let atheists utter a word of moral judgment on any topic, since they cannot ground an objective standard that allows them to make statements of morality.

Why complain about atheists’ lack of an objective standard when you don’t have one yourself? All you have are empty claims.

Further, I think that they should have every immorality ever committed presented to them, and then they should be told “your worldview does not allow you to condemn this as wrong.” They can’t praise anything as right, either.

I will with pleasure judge things as right and wrong. You’ll say that those would be subjective judgments. Yes, that’s true—just like yours.

The problem for most Christians is that they can’t fairly judge God’s actions. I’m happy to label his crimes as bad, from maximizing Pharaoh’s downfall by hardening his heart in Exodus 9:12 to the global flood. Those Christians can’t call God wrong if they declare whatever God does as right by definition (more here).

It can be hard making an honest characterization of your opponent’s position. This, I’m afraid, isn’t an example.

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma,
a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt
to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
— Umberto Eco

Image credit: Erich Ferdinand, flickr, CC

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  • GubbaBumpkin

    I think it’s particularly important not to let atheists utter a word of
    moral judgment on any topic, since they cannot ground an objective
    standard that allows them to make statements of morality.

    This is the fallacy of failure to appreciate adjectives. Objective, absolute, eternal moral don’t exist, so no morals of any kind can exist. This is just one of many absolutist arguments made by theists. The afterlife-reward must be eternal. Meaning must be absolute. Etc.

    • jamesparson

      I hate the objective moral argument with a [subjective] passion.

      I want to hear one, just one, f*cking thing that is an objective moral.

      Christians claim it can exist and does exist. Show me one!

      • Pofarmer

        I’ve asked it to be demonstrated many times, but so far-nothing. It seems just about every moral imperative one group has another group disagrees with. If these “objective morals” are out there, God sure has a shitty way of getting them across.

        • Neo

          But, wouldn’t the argument have to start with the beginning point that not everything is “morally” acceptable?

        • Greg G.

          I think Pofarmer made that point with “It seems just about every moral imperative one group has another group disagrees with.”

          We would all agree that killing innocent people is morally unacceptable except we might accept it as “collateral damage” while still condemning terrorists for using the collateral damage part as a primary tactic.

          What morally unacceptable thing does not become an imperative when the alternative is that a madman will push the button of a doomsday device that will blow up the earth? Does it become a math question where the morally unacceptable thing is to decide whether to blow up Planet Y with 5 billion sentient beings, Planet Z with 10 billion sentient beings, or Earth with 7.5 sentient beings? Isn’t that the question Princess Leia was faced with in the first Star Wars? But that goes to show you can’t trust someone who wants to blow up an inhabited planet. But I digress.

        • Neo

          I think Pofarmer made that point with “It seems just about every moral imperative one group has another group disagrees with.”

          To prove moral objectivity, I believe we need to identify that set of principals on which there is no “disagreement”.

          Greg G., the reference to the first Star Wars is an excellent example of relativity but muddys the waters abit – for example, the number of killings does not erase the basic principal that killing is wrong. (I loved that movie)

        • Herald Newman

          To prove moral objectivity, I believe we need to identify that set of principals on which there is no “disagreement”.

          The principle of morality, for the vast majority of humans, is that we want to minimize the harm towards, and maximize the benefits towards, well being. In fact, when I talk about morality, I’m necessarily talking about the consequences of actions, and how the relate to the well being of human, and sometimes other animals. Well being is an objective measure, but it doesn’t make morality ultimately objective.

        • Greg G.

          To prove moral objectivity, I believe we need to identify that set of principals on which there is no “disagreement”.

          That would be universal morality of a subset of humanity which is subjective to that group. Objective morality would be independent of what people think. We might have been naturally selected for what benefits the survival of our offspring to form our tendencies, thoughts, and beliefs. But that may well be the opposite of objective morality, which may be that we should behead whomever we meet, for “there shall be only one” is the only objective morality. But how would we ever ascertain that knowledge? All we can do is do what seems right to us, which is to follow principles that maximize thriving and minimize harm with as much fairness as possible while being aware that sociopaths may be taking advantage and manipulating the whole process.

          What we should not do is accept that a supernatural being delivered morality to a certain person who claims that happened, nor should we accept it from people who claim they got morality from that person. If there is a supernatural being dispensing moral knowledge to people, it can do it for every individual with a perfect understanding so that there is no disagreement. Even then we can only say that it is that one particular supernatural being’s subjective morality.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “Objective morality would be independent of what people think.”

          Rather, I think it more accurate to say that objective morality would be the description of how all life can think and act. Immorality wouldn’t make sense as a word (the Nazis would be just as appalled as you would be at even trying to conceive of killing people/even Jews would think getting killed by the Nazis is just what ought to be/etc).

        • Greg G.

          I think it more accurate to say that objective morality would be the description of how all life can think and act.

          Wouldn’t objective morality for lions be different than objective morality for zebras?

          Might objective morality be as far above our ability to understand as our moralities are above a mosquito’s ability to understand?

          There may be moralities that are objectively better for achieving certain goals and desires but that doesn’t say that our goals and desires are objectively moral.

          Objective morality might mean evolving so that thriving and minimizing harm to fellow humans might be slowing the elimination of suboptimal alleles and is the greatest objective immorality, but nobody will understand that our brains are more highly evolved.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “Wouldn’t objective morality for lions be different than objective morality for zebras?”

          If it is different it is not objective as gravity and evolution are objective concepts. Morality (the over all descriptive concept) does exist as a function of living things, but like evolution there are no objective (static/rail-roaded/etc) forms that it must take. I can make a model in my head of my morals, but that doesn’t describe all of my actual thoughts and actions (I am reading this book I saw recommendation for in the disqus comments: ‘Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)’ by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. It has made me do a lot of reflection about how our minds operate according to disonnance theory with such accuracy). Morality isn’t like gravity, which is not affected by the actions of living things.

          “Might objective morality be as far above our ability to understand as our moralities are above a mosquito’s ability to understand?”

          The mosquito like the lion or the zebra “understands” with what it has just as we do. There is no “more highly evolved” or “above”. Our brains and bodies work differently, and this is even true in our human group. If there really was objective morality these differences would be impossible or else be stupidly contrived like Ken Ham’s gentle T-Rex eating melons (the actions of that T-Rex are disonnant with its body). It is no less contrived than people all of a sudden acting completely contrary to disonnance theory with no changes to their bodies (brains).

        • Greg G.

          Morality isn’t like gravity, which is not affected by the actions of living things.

          Gravity is independent of minds. Morality is completely dependent on minds and differs with different minds. That makes it subjective.

        • Joe

          To prove moral objectivity, I believe we need to identify that set of principals on which there is no “disagreement”.

          What does agreement and disagreement have to do with the matter at hand?

        • Herald Newman

          Exactly. Human consensus is still subjective.

        • Neo

          “Human consensus is still subjective.”

          To a degree, yes, and If the concensus is done properly, like a random survey, for example, the degree of subjectivity can be decreased to render the results highly successful – you know, your criticism can be applied to areas of research and development in science and technology – with strict adherence to a scientific method, the human race has made tremendous advances to improve lives – why so strict here, but not there?

        • Otto

          That fact that humans can all agree that jumping off a 1000 foot cliff is a bad idea if you want to continue living proves there is objective gravity, it does not prove that gravity was put in place by an intelligence.

        • Herald Newman

          And how do you get from “not everything is morally acceptable” to “therefore objective morals values, and duties, exist”?

          If you, or anyone else, wants to make a case for an objective morality, they’re going to need to forget about:
          1. My opinions of whether an action is moral. My subjective opinion is still subjective
          2. The human consensus about what is moral. Consensus about the morality of an action is still subjective
          3. The consequences of actions. Moral realism suggests that certain actions are always wrong, regardless of consequences
          4. Talking about God. God would also be a subjective agent, and an unproven one at that

          I’d love to hear somebody actually try to make a genuine case for objective morality without failing to one of these limits.

        • Neo

          “And how do you get from “not everything is morally acceptable” to “therefore objective morals values, and duties, exist”?”

          I perceive your question as stated above as a coy attempt to agree with my claim that “not everything is ‘morally’ acceptable.”

        • Herald Newman

          Sure. There are plenty of things that I don’t think are morally acceptable. But so what? It certainly doesn’t tell me that there is an objective morality. More specifically, it doesn’t tell me that moral realism is true.

        • Joe

          How does that help the objectivist’s cause?

        • Neo

          I may be missing the point, (wouldn’t be the first time), but if one establishes that it is universally agreed that one set of principals is defined as “irrefutably wrong”, whether or not they derive from one “Holy” source or another, doesn’t that speak to the existence of a “Holy One”? The fact that theists quible about whether their God is “the one”, doesn’t detract that one of them is “the one”. But, you’re asking, PoFarmer, whether we can get to the first step of having universal agreement on a set of moral principals…. I’m saying that most believe we do….no?

        • Pofarmer

          I’m saying that most believe we do….no?

          Most may believe it, but I’ve never seen it demonstrated. For pretty much every moral belief I’ve ever seen, there is another group that thinks whatever is prohibited is a-ok. If some deity thought it was all that important, then it seems that these moral commands ought to be universally understood. That simply does not seem to be the case.

        • Neo

          Well, I think this is why we need Philosophers. They take the discussion out of the arena of public opinion where it can tainted with the idiocy of certain interest groups and place it in the arena of abstract thought – for example, Immanuel Kant, the german philosopher sets out a criteria for determining a true moral belief – he’s got three steps, the first one being whether the principal would be a desirable “universal law” – in this step, it is clear that killing is wrong, because if you thought differently, it would be the end of the human race.

        • Pofarmer

          it is clear that killing is wrong

          Just War Doctrine.

          Killing ain’t always wrong.

        • Neo

          Good point.

        • Otto

          Just don’t put it in the hands of the Theologians….please

        • Otto

          >>>”doesn’t that speak to the existence of a “Holy One”?”

          Might it just speak to the fact that we all are generally in the same situation and have to deal with the fact that we are social creatures, and being social creatures there are better and worse ways to handle interactions? In other words it is inherently built in by the situation itself.

        • Neo

          it’s that awareness to evolve, to survive – could be a chicken or the egg proposition…

        • adam

          Why would a “Holy One” need or desire evolution or a need to survive?

        • Otto

          The egg came first

        • Herald Newman

          but if one establishes that it is universally agreed that one set of principals is defined as “irrefutably wrong”, whether or not they derive
          from one “Holy” source or another, doesn’t that speak to the existence of a “Holy One”?

          No, it only speaks to the human consensus on an idea. Human consensus is still subjective.

          But, you’re asking, PoFarmer, whether we can get to the first step of having universal agreement on a set of moral principals..

          There may be some universals to morality, but even if there are it doesn’t get us any closer to demonstrating that moral realism is true. Moral realism is nonsense and, like Platonism from which it is derived, it needs to die the death it deserves!

        • Greg G.

          whether or not they derive from one “Holy” source or another, doesn’t that speak to the existence of a “Holy One”?

          If I say “there is no such thing as a married bachelor whether there is an omnipotent being or not” is not implying that an omnipotent being exists. I have no way of knowing whether a being that is automatically the world champion of Hide & Seek is real, so whatever I say cannot imply its existence, even though I can be absolutely correct about the married bachelor because it is a contradiction of terms. But if I say, “my basement stays dry whether it is raining or not,” I am not implying that it is raining every time I say it.

          If natural selection kills off those who tend to kill allies, leaving only those who think it is wrong to harm allies, that makes it universally agreed but not that it is an objective moral and does not imply the existence of a Holy One. It just means that creatures that thrive in social groups thrive better by acting to maintain the social group while creatures that thrive independently might benefit from killing things that might be threats.

        • Joe

          if one establishes that it is universally agreed that one set of principals is defined as “irrefutably wrong”

          I’ve highlighted the problematic part of your post. Universal agreement tells us nothing other than something is universally agreed upon.

          doesn’t that speak to the existence of a “Holy One”

          A holy one what?

          The fact that theists quible about whether their God is “the one”, doesn’t detract that one of them is “the one”.

          No, because there could just as easily be none.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “irrefutably wrong”

          If “objective morality” exists who would be able to conceive of these irrefutable wrongs to even have such a phrase as irrefutable wrongs?

        • Neo

          “…who would be able to conceive of these irrefutable wrongs to even have such a phrase as irrefutable wrongs?” The only answer I can see is a type of “human concensus”.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          For example, if it is objectively wrong to murder, what is murder? Who would do the murdering, considering everyone would think such a thing absurd nonsense? “Who would be able to do such a thing!”, everyone would say if any of them could formulate “murder” as a coherrent hypothetical action at all.

        • Neo

          ‘”..Who would be able to do such a thing!…”

          I believe the real question is not “Who” but “Why”.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          It would be as meaningless a question as ‘Why don’t pigs use their wings to fly?’ In objective morality, “immorality” would be a non-function of life. For there to be a ‘Why would they do otherwise?’ question is to falsify objective morality.

        • Neo

          “It would be as meaningless a question as ‘Why don’t pigs use their wings to fly?'”

          Well, for one thing, humans acting immorally is possible and, the theology on why we can act immorally is because our creator wanted us to have free will. Like the replicants in the movie “Blade Runner”..

        • Greg G.

          I think objective morality might be that one must travel less than or equal to the speed of light. If masturbation was immoral, it would be as difficult as tickling yourself.

        • adam

          “the theology on why we can act immorally is because our creator wanted us to have free will.”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8f82147c8efa48709931146100a7df8d385664f36cdcdc777d2f5005d4938345.jpg

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I have free will even though moving objects without touching them through “psychic” force is not an actual function of the brain anymore than murdering someone would be in an objectively moral universe. Given enough thought on how that would work exactly shows it is bullshit. What people who are proponents of objective morality mean is moral actions they plead are really special or failing that, might makes right authoritarianism.

        • TheNuszAbides

          which is why so many theists have to shoehorn in The Devil, demons, evil spirits etc. some of them merely cynically use such props metaphorically, justifying their shell-game by the pretense that they’re keeping people under control. some of them actually literally believe the extra layer of unfalsifiability.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The Hebrew word “ratsach” is an ambiguous enough word that allows for plenty of cop-outs. More connotations than one can shake a stick at.

          None of them rescue the commandment and make it an objective moral edict though.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “It wasn’t murder because someone- I’m not saying it was me-I might have said it- told me it was okay to kill the bastard.”

          – Something Trump would say

        • Greg G.

          The only answer I can see is a type of “human concensus”.

          That is not necessarily “objective” though. A consensus might be achieved by propaganda or a pogrom.

      • epeeist

        Christians claim it can exist and does exist. Show me one!

        One of my standard plaints as well. Though I usually ask them to tell me why it is objective and how they know.

  • Tony D’Arcy

    Did I get this right ? Christians insist their “objective” morality comes from a book where Jahweh floods the world, encourages warfare, massacres, slavery, rape and pillage, including of the unborn . And even gentle Jesus, he of the other cheek, offers the likes of me eternal torment for not believing nonsense. Christian can keep their bloody “objective” morality.

    • Greg G.

      Some Christians have acknowledged that there are bad morals in the Bible as what not to do. But the Bible doesn’t distinguish between the bad and the good morals in many cases, so one must have a developed sense of morality before reading the Bible to get the good and reject the bad. If one already has a developed sense of morality, why is there a need to read the Bible?

      • Neo

        “Some Christians have acknowledged that there are bad morals in the Bible as what not to do.”

        Clarification, please.

        “But the Bible doesn’t distinguish between the bad and the good morals in many cases,…”

        Greg G., in what cases are you referring to “many cases”? Agreed, it can be confusing at times-but it’s hard not to miss the majority of the Bible is clear in it’s praise and reward for the people who act good.

        “so one must have a developed sense of morality before reading the Bible to get the good and reject the bad. If one already has a developed sense of morality, why is there a need to read the Bible?”

        Not exactly, the OT codified morality, the NT reads “be ye perfect as your father in heaven is perfect” – Matthew 5:48 – another words, morality on steroids..

      • Neo

        “Some Christians have acknowledged that there are bad morals in the Bible as what not to do.”
        Clarification, please.
        “But the Bible doesn’t distinguish between the bad and the good morals in many cases,…”
        Greg G., in what cases are you referring to “many cases”? Agreed, it can be confusing at times-but it’s hard not to miss the majority of the Bible is clear in it’s praise and reward for the people who act good.
        .

        • Greg G.

          in what cases are you referring to “many cases”?

          There’s the case of Eleazar who ran a spear through an Israeli and his Midianite(?) girlfriend, presumably they were making love, and made God happy enough to end a plague. A group of Hebrews kidnapped a bunch of Hebrew women to be their wives and this was OK so that group could have Hebrew wives. Jesus teaches a lesson using the example of how much beating of slaves was proper. There is the whole slavery issue, allowing slaves to be beaten to death if they suffered a while before dying, explicit instructions on how to con an indentured servant into being a life-long slave using family values, the Binding of Isaac, the general who vowed to sacrifice the first creature to greet him at home if he won a battle, the whole Book of Job. David being punished by thousands of other people dying or his child. That’s off the top of my head.

          But it is the apologetics toward slavery that is the worst. They conflate slaves that are bought with money with the Hebrew indentured servants, then look only at the half of a sentence that says to not treat the fellow Israelis harshly while ignoring the other half that says slaves can be treated like slaves, excluding them from the not harsh treatment. I don’t know if the Christians are intentionally lying or just repeating what they read from Christian who are intentionally lying.

          How about Lot raping his daughters and blaming the alcohol and the daughters with the excuse that the girls thought there were no other men when they had just left a city that was not destroyed? That was after he offered his daughters to be gang-raped by a mob. Or am I confusing that with the Bible hero who let his concubine be gang-raped to death?

        • MR

          I don’t know if the Christians are intentionally lying or just repeating what they read from Christian who are intentionally lying.

          This was a huge problem for me, not specifically on the slavery issue, but the lying. Intentionally lying or repeating? Then it was email, now it’s Facebook. When I brought it up to my pastor, he said, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” That’s when I knew it didn’t make a difference. Telling a lie is as wrong as spreading one, even if you believe it. That’s when I knew we don’t really know God’s mind, that it’s us projecting. Things really began to fall apart then.

        • MR

          How about Lot raping his daughters and blaming the alcohol and the daughters with the excuse that the girls thought there were no other men when they had just left a city that was not destroyed? That was after he offered his daughters to be gang-raped by a mob. Or am I confusing that with the Bible hero who let his concubine be gang-raped to death?

          Another huge factor in me losing my Christianity. This is stuff you can’t defend. Defending it just makes it all the more ridiculous. Also realizing the Lot story is just a retelling of the Noah plot.

        • Neo

          Thank you for the clarification and ample evidence supporting your position.

    • Joe

      No all do. Obviously, the contents of the bible are too rich for some to defend.

      No, they insist that objective morality just ‘exists’, and try and leave it at that. If pushed, they point to an ‘innate sense of right and wrong’. Which, in my view, is no different to the ‘subjective opinion’ of morality they are so opposed to.

      • Tony D’Arcy

        Thanks Joe ! Perhaps my style of asking a rhetorical question was a wee bit obscure ? Most Christians don’t seem to know what’s in their book anyway. In England, the CoE has almost forgotten the devil and hell, and Noah’s flood was a metaphor, blah blah blah ! In the CoE’s case, it would seem hell consists of a nice warm bath, instead of the fiery lake ! Ah how times have changed since 400 – 500 years ago when both the Catholics, the Protestants and the CoE, would happily chop your head off, torture you, or burn you for being a heretic !

  • RichardSRussell

    “John” is about as representative of atheism as David Koresh was of Christianity, yet you don’t see atheists gleefully pointing to him as a typical True Believer.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Great point. How many times have you read from a Christian, “I first ask the atheist to describe the god they don’t believe in, and when they’re done, I say, ‘I don’t believe in that god, either!'”?

      They seem to have a hard time following their own advice.

      • epicurus

        I first heard that quote from NT Wright. Then I made the mistake of reading some of his work. Very disappointing. His faith manipulates his conclusions.

        • Pofarmer

          His faith manipulates his conclusions.

          Well, duh.

        • epicurus

          I know, but he’s promoted by himself and others as a great scholar, so I got taken in by the hype. I keep hoping. Although I guess I don’t know what I’m really hoping for because if he did not let his faith influence his conclusions then he probably would not be a Christian and would not be writing the books he does .

        • Pofarmer

          Exactly. It’s all circular. They all do it.

        • Joe

          Everything is working as intended.

      • Ignorant Amos

        There’s one commenting on this site at this moment that said that very thing…james warren.

      • Zeropoint

        It seems kind of silly, too, because as an atheist, I don’t believe in ANY gods. There isn’t one specific god that I don’t believe in.

        • Greg G.

          Are you a poly-atheist or an apolytheist?

  • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

    This is nothing new. Both of these are standard “gotcha” quotes here. William Lane Craig uses them, and J. L. Mackie (a deceased philosopher who agreed ethics are subjective). Never have I seen them deal with any atheist who did argue our morals are objective, or even justify that they need to be. Let alone offer any of their own. I’m not sure many even know what those words mean. They claim Christianity gives us objective morals. Yet objective is “mind-independent” here. These morals are based in God’s character though, i.e. his mind. So that’s subjective as well.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      There are some atheist philosophers who believe in objective morals (I disagree with them, but they exist). And there are some theist philosophers who do not. So divvying it up that way doesn’t get them far.

      • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

        You’d never know it to hear from these theists though. I don’t know enough to say either way about if it seems they’re right or not. Who are the theist ethical subjectivists?

      • Jim Jones

        1) Despite philosophical attempts to justify it (the trolley problem etc) I see no valid reason to kill a healthy child who is not in some extraordinary extremis.

        2) In general, killing humans is wrong except under exceptional circumstances.

        3) It is wrong to damage the planet we all share without actual necessity.

        None of these is proscribed in the bible.

        • Halbe

          Christians will say that these are proscribed in the Bible. You just need to apply the right interpretational framework. Pages and pages have been written by theologians about how the Ten Commandments actually really cover the whole of modern secular ethics, when you read/interpret them in the right way. Yeah, I don’t buy into that either…

        • Jim Jones

          2,000 years of everyone making it up as they go.

    • primenumbers

      Their god is divinely simple so god’s character is god’s mind. Christian morality is entirely subjective.

      • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

        Yep. They are quite clear God is only a disembodied mind.

  • Joe

    I see a lot of atheists these days thinking that they can help themselves to a robust notion of consciousness,

    Neuroscience is developing a fairly robust model of consciousness.

    to real libertarian free will, to objective moral values and duties,

    No, those are imaginary.

    to objective human rights,

    Now that is very easy to do since the object (humans in this case) exists.

    and to objective meaning in life, without giving credit to theism. . . . [As Cornelius Van Til observed,] atheists have to sit in God’s lap to slap his face.

    Only if he pays cash, and even then no touching is allowed.

  • eric

    I think it’s particularly important not to let atheists utter a word of moral judgment on any topic, since they cannot ground an objective
    standard that allows them to make statements of morality.

    And I think it’s particularly important not to let dragons discuss morality until they stop eating virginal princesses.

    Fortunately for atheists and dragons, neither scenario is real.

    • Joe

      I’ve always seen that argument (“atheists can’t discuss morality”) as the equivalent of “only members of our club can be in our treehouse”.

      • Jim Jones

        No Gurlz Aloud

      • eric

        Yes, it’s a dumb argument. Good thing the people declaring it have probably only argued with the atheists in their head.

  • Doubting Thomas

    I think it’s particularly important not to
    let atheists utter a word of moral judgment on any topic, since they
    cannot ground an objective standard that allows them to make statements
    of morality.

    I think it’s particularly important not to let theist utter a word of moral judgement since they have surrendered their own morality to the whims of an imaginary psychopath.

    • Kevin K

      …and in the US, at least, have surrendered their own morality to the whims of a real psychopath.

      • Pofarmer

        Ouch,.

  • epicurus

    I’ve read that it was quite a shock for Medieval and later Europeans when they started to emerge from their culture bubble and interact with cultures like China that did not have a Bible or conception of a Judeo- Christian God to give their lives meaning and absolutes. Yet there they were, an advanced culture with art and ethics, and people who behaved no worse than Christians.
    While on a two week vacation in Japan last year, I didn’t notice any obvious lack of morals or ethics or absolutes, despite the lack of people running around saying we need the Bible to give us those.

    • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

      They could have learned that just from their own heathen ancestors. It would be hard to argue Greece and Rome didn’t have advanced civilizations. After all, the Christians arose in them and got much from their heritage. It’s easy to forget after you ruled the roost for centuries however it seems.

      • Greg G.

        When Moses killed an Egyptian slave master who was beating a Hebrew slave, he ran away from Egyptian justice. That was at least 40 years before God delivered the 10 Commandments to Moses. How did the Egyptians know it was wrong to kill people already?

        • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

          Well, you could argue he’s simply fear punishment, not think it was unjust. Some people claim that the Ten Commandments simply outlaw killing fellow Hebrews anyway (which makes sense given that they slaughtered so many foreigners later) so it wouldn’t be wrong.

    • Greg G.

      While on a two week vacation in Japan last year, I didn’t notice any obvious lack of morals or ethics or absolutes, despite the lack of people running around saying we need the Bible to give us those.

      I have used the urinals in airports in Tokyo, Seoul, and Ho Chi Minh City where women were cleaning the sinks and mirrors in view of the urinals. It’s like they have no Puritan ethics at all.

      • epicurus

        A sure sign of moral decay!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        It’s like they have no Puritan ethics at all.

        You mean … there are other kinds?

        Reminds me of trying out a public bath in Japan. There was a one woman cashier who took money from people coming in either side. Lots of naked men on the men’s side, but no one cared. Except me, for a moment, and then I didn’t care either.

    • Otto

      Well…whether those Japanese people know it or not they are borrowing their morality from the Bible. /s

    • Herald Newman

      Yet there they were, an advanced culture with art and ethics, and people who behaved no worse than Christians.

      How many Christians are actually saying that non-believers cannot be moral, or are less moral than believers? Even some of the worst apologists acknowledge that atheists can be moral, but try to sneak in that we cannot justify morality without God. Addressing nonsense ideas like “non-believers are less moral” seems like a complete waste of time, since I don’t think many people actually believe it.

      And, for the record, yes I’m well aware that atheists are the most untrustworthy group for public office in the US, right beside Muslims. I think there are a variety of reasons for this, including ideas like Christians wanting more “Christian” laws in their country, rather than secular laws.

      • epicurus

        Could you unpack your last paragraph? Atheists are the most untrustworthy because Christians want more Christian laws? I don’t understand.

        • Herald Newman

          My point is that the reason Christians don’t trust atheists as politicians is can be explained by fear of laws being enacted which don’t favor Christians. They fear that their religious freedom may be in jeopardy.

          When we look at these surveys, atheists and Muslims basically rank at about the same level of “trustworthiness.” What I suspect they don’t trust is atheists giving their religion a place of preference. It’s quite natural that humans don’t trust “outsiders”, and when (for many people) your life is centered around belief in Jesus, I can understand why non-believers and Muslims (who are generally hostile towards the ideas of Christianity) are seen as untrustworthy.

          More to the point, what I don’t think explains the data is the idea that atheists don’t have morality.

        • epicurus

          Could you link or reference these surveys, I would like to read them, or the results.

        • Herald Newman
        • Herald Newman

          The most interesting survey (which they don’t link to) says that apparently 45% of Americans believe that belief in God is necessary for good values. I think that such a proposition has been falsified six ways from Sunday, as your anecdote about Japan and China allude to.

        • epicurus

          Yes, it would be interesting to find the actual survey questions to see how it was worded – did it just say belief in God or specifically the Christian God. – I assume belief in God meant or implied the Christian God in most respondant’s minds, since Muslims believe in God yet they are perceived in the surveys as untrusworthy as atheists. I’ve also met/read/and known many conservative evangelical Christians who would call anyone not a Christian, an Atheist. I finished a book in the spring called Battling The Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World
          that was very disappointing. There was no definition of Atheism, and pretty much every example was of someone who just didn’t accept the state or Greek Pantheon. The author was keen to show that atheism wasn’t some new thing that had only been around since the Enlightenment. But with no decent attempt at a definition, and examples that didn’t apply I think he failed. It was a very frustrating and longwindedly boring book.

        • Herald Newman

          I’ve also met/read/and known many conservative evangelical Christians who would call anyone not a Christian, an Atheist.

          I’ve certainly seen this kind of thinking myself. I’d love to know how extensive this kind of thinking is, but I’m not sure what kind of survey question(s) would elicit this information.

          I finished a book in the spring called Battling The Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World that was very disappointing. There was no definition of Atheism, and pretty much every example was of someone who just didn’t accept the state or Greek Pantheon

          My understanding was that in the ancient world that is what atheist meant to them. Christians were called atheists because they rejected the (Greek/Roman) gods. This is why labels sometimes get tricky, especially when we don’t know what criteria people use for apply labels. In particular I’m thinking of surveys where atheists say they believe in God.

        • epicurus

          “My understanding was that in the ancient world that is what atheist meant to them”
          I agree, which leaves me scratching my head over the Battling the God’s book. The author seemed to think he was showing people that Richard Dawkin’s atheism wasn’t new, and thought his book was going to show that, but the book seemed to miss the point, to my mind. The author, Tim Whitmarsh, is an expert in Ancient Greece, but his knowledge of the other half of the equation – atheism, is lacking, or at least was in this book.

          “In particular I’m thinking of surveys where atheists say they believe in God.”
          It could be poorly written surveys that don’t give enough options for people to explain themselves, and or what I’ve experienced that for some, calling oneself an atheist is really just code for “I don’t like church or organized religion.”
          A friend I have the occasional beer with, generically calls himself an atheist, but when pushed winds up having some kind of supernatural belief. My friend once said, “well someone had to create all this, after I was talking with his wife, and had recited a couple of the traditional arguments for the existence of God (teleological, and argument from design- just for information I was not trying to convert anyone ). Then I said “Whaa? I thought you were an atheist?” His rigorous, definite answer was “Well, you know, whatever, right?”
          Not that I have any rock solid definition of atheism and what it must or must not entail, but surely it must be more we’ve just discussed.

        • eric

          Well, that would be consistent with the last bit of Stephen Roberts’ quote about atheism – “…I just believe in one less God than you do.”
          😉

        • adam

          “When we look at these surveys, atheists and Muslims basically rank at about the same level of “trustworthiness.” ”

          And yet Muslims worship the exact same God of Abraham.

        • Herald Newman

          Yes. So why are Muslims seen as less trustworthy? My suspicion is that it has to do more with hostility towards their beliefs (which Muslims and atheists are), and has much less to do with belief in God.

        • adam

          “More to the point, what I don’t think explains the data is the idea that atheists don’t have morality.”

          It does seem to be about christian privilege more than anything else.

        • Argus

          Plus to many Westerners – Islam is a novel new thing. That which is new to a society is often met with distrust at first.

      • Joe

        How many Christians are actually saying that non-believers cannot be moral, or are less moral than believers?

        This is actually a position held by some theists. Where do you think the whole “baby eating” joke came from?

    • Rudy R

      Speaking of China, shouldn’t it be confounding for Christians that Yahweh chose to let the Chinese, with their heretical religion, survive the Great Flood?

  • Pofarmer

    O.K. This site redesign FUCKING SUCKS.

    I click on an article link for Captain Cassidy and it’s from APRIL 15th? WTF. C’mon. Give me links to current stuff. THIS IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS. And no current comments still? C’mon Patheos, this is stupid.

    • Prof_M

      Totally agree! I posted this 8 months ago!
      >Somewhat off topic:
      >In scanning the list of 58 blogs on “Nonreligious” I counted 18 (31%) that have not posted anything in over 2 months (including some not in over 6 months, and some not in over a year). >What is the standard for being and remaining a listed blogger? Why are these still listed?

      • Pofarmer

        Captain Cassidy is an active blogger. She normally posts minimum one article per week. Why link to a months old article.

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      Also, where did the new blog title banners come from? Can we get the old ones back?

      • Greg G.

        This is progress, I guess. One positive change: the pages load faster.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      There should be a Recent Comments section above this point (and below the post itself).

      If there’s a feedback opportunity, go for it. The opinions of long-term readers must be listened to by Patheos.

      • Max Doubt

        “The opinions of long-term readers must be listened to by Patheos.”

        LOL! That’s a good one, Bob. You’ve got quite a sense of humor there. :)

  • Rudy R

    And God had to inspire people to list the objective rules in the Bible why? If objective morality exists, weren’t His creation already supposed to know them?

    • Michael Neville

      But free will and mysterious ways and “the fool has said there is no objective morality” (Psalm 14½ verse 3.14159) and Pascal’s Wager and stuff like that.

    • Kevin K

      And why did Yahweh wait 1000 years after the Code of Hammurabi was written to give the rules to the Jews?