Can You be Good Without God?

Atheists like to tell us that they can be “good without God.”

What they rarely do is define what they mean by “good”. If they mean they can have good manners, do volunteer work, give to worthy causes to make the world a better place, then of course they can be “good without God.” If they mean they can be sophisticated people of good taste with fine connections in the world and a place at high table, of course they can be “good without God.” If they mean they can be noble souls who endure suffering in a dignified silence, weep at moments of tragic romance, gasp with delight at the finest art and the beauties of nature, of course they can be “good without God.” If they mean they can love family and friends and country and be loyal and kind and gentle and feel the sweep of fine feelings within their heart, of course they can be “good without God.” Can they feel themselves to be good and have high self esteem and deem themselves upright and worthy individuals? Then they can indeed by “good without God.” Geesh, not only can they be good but at least one atheist feels able to write his own Bible. Go here.

All of these things are possible without God. In fact there is more to it than that. Catholics have always believed that man, according to natural reason alone can understand what is good and evil, and that he can also know by general revelation that there is a God. In other words, not only can man be “good without God” in this sense, but he can also know the difference between good and evil and make good choices over evil choices.

Humans might be able to live pursue a noble and tasteful and even an altruistic life without God, but why should they? What’s the point? Without God the only point of human goodness must be utilitarian. There must be some purpose to it. So the atheist who wishes to be good must point to the consequences: “I will be good because I will thereby enjoy higher self esteem and be more contented and happy in this life.” or “I will be good because if we were all good the world would be a happier, safer and more peaceful place to live.” or “I will be good because my being good will be the best way for my family and friends and I want them to be happier and more peaceful too because I love them.” All this is fine as far as it goes, but unfortunately it doesn’t go far enough. Read more.

  • http://www.astrugglingdad.wordpress.com dboncan

    Excellent father!

  • tz

    Natural law is discoverable by reason, but why be good? Because it conforms to reality. If you want an example, read Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged or her Objectivist philosophical works). In Atlas Shrugged particularly, the morality led to balancing books “to the last penny”, and paying workers their wage “to the last penny”. I doubt few actual catholic businessmen are so scrupulous.

    If at the north pole, you go straight south to the equator, turn right, go 90 degrees, turn right (north), and go back to the pole, the triangle is 270 degrees – three right angles, not 180 degrees; maybe at the north pole it will be many degrees below zero. In one sense, maybe you can construct a form of mathematics where 2+2 is equal to 5 instead of 4, but in this reality if you have to apples in a bag, and add two apples, you have four, not five. I think this is what you are asking of the atheist objectivists (those who hold morality is objective, not subjective). Although you intuitively and through experience know a fact to be true in this world, though in some theoretical and abstract way it may be otherwise, you are holding it true for this world only because you “feel like it”. I think that is condescending and not really a valid argument.

    Some atheists hold morality to be subjective, you are correct with regards to those.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Morality conforms to reality? This is an interesting idea and it certainly applies to being honest when doing accounting. I don’t see how the theory of morality conforming to reality can apply to altruism, self sacrifice, forgiving one’s enemy and loving those who have nothing to return to you. These qualities (which all those who admit that morality exists call the highest virtues) run counter to the reality of self preservation or principles of accounting.

      • http://thetruephilosophy.blogspot.ca/ Jim J. McCrea

        I think that it is true that morality conforms to reality, but the deficiency in tz’s argument is that reality for him is confined to empirically observed facts.

        As Catholics, we believe in what is beyond the senses – the spiritual and the supernatural – the spiritual that can be derived by human reason if one subscribes to the analogy of being, and the supernatural as revealed by God.

        Agape love, or willing and working for the the good of the other for the sake of the other, which is the quintessential good of Christianity, is grounded in the *reality* of the Trinity which is an infinite and eternal process of agape love.

    • http://signsshadows.blogspot.com/ Colin Gormley

      “Natural law is discoverable by reason, but why be good? Because it conforms to reality. ”

      Why follow reality?

  • BM

    There are many senses in which “good without God” can be taken and they must be responded to accordingly. However, the most general sense contains a fundamental flaw that runs through the others. It is this. To be “without God” means, among other things, to not render Him due worship (Cf. II-II Q. 81). But this is an injustice. Hence, a person “without God” may be per accidens good, since he might do good things not contrary to what it means to be an atheist, but insofar as he is “without God” he is per se unjust. It is clear why Aristotle listed the “fallacy of the accident” as among the most common mistakes in reasoning: you see it all the time.

  • Deacon Jason Miller, Ph.D., M.P.A.

    Hi Father,
    I agree that by the Catholic definition of “good”, atheists can be “good” people (though being one with goodness is outside their reality). The problem is atheists are using language they don’t have the privilege to use. From a purely materialistic world view, there is no “good” or “bad” – there just “is. Everything someone does then is the result of a consequence of an event before it – there is no “choice.” “Choice” is an illusion for any materialistic foundation. The Behaviorists, including Skinner and Watson, were very honest about this (I recommend B.F Skinner’s “Walden”). They directly acknowledged that “thought” is merely a byproduct of antecedents, consequences, and biological phenomenon. An atheist is being dishonest with his/her self to appeal to a greater “good.” Whenever they engage in using that language, we need to remind them of that – by their own world view they are being irrational. There is no basis for them to appeal to a greater “good.” Again, by adopting that view, they abandon the privilege to use that language. Furthermore, when they call religion “evil,” it is the same thing. When a behavior is engaged in by 90% of the population and is said by scientists to have a basis in human evolution, you can’t call it “evil.” Again, it just “is” – to argue otherwise is folly. Now you and I know that most of them don’t believe in the depth of materialism they espouse. It is wonderful that they believe in a greater good and that there is a part of them that is sincerely open to “truth.” But it is also a great example of how these folks benefit from a culture with its foundations in Judeo-Christian traditions, but many are oblivious and ungrateful for it. Many of them think this culture just kind of happened or even more absurd, that they have atheist “thinkers” (a materialistic oxymoron) to thank for this. It is an intellectual laziness. I “think” (I have the privilege to use that word) it is about time that when they begin to argue with us and use words like good, bad, evil, think, believe, etc., we just stop them in their tracks and say “Sorry, you can’t use that language because as a materialist and they have no place in your vocabulary. You are being irrational – end of discussion.”

    • Korou

      Just a minor point: if you read, say, Richard Dawkins you will find that he is neither oblivious to nor ungrateful for the rich heritage which religion has left us.

      The rest of your post – from about halfway – is just getting silly.

    • Korou

      What you’re proposing would be about as silly as me saying to you “Christians are so stupid that you don’t have the right to say you “think” anything anymore.”
      That wouldn’t make much sense either, but that’s the kind of thing you’re talking about.

    • Mart

      What do you mean that an atheist has nor right to use the word think. All humans think regardless of whether they are atheist or not. Descartes famously philosophized that to think is to be. If I can not not think then I can not exist in your opinion, therefore you are dehumanising all atheists which is practically the opposite to what I understand being a christian is about.

      Also to the point in the main post “Without God the only point of human goodness must be utilitarian.” would that not mean that Christian goodness is totalitarian? This would mean that the only thing stopping christians from committing evil is their god and the proclamations of the administration representing him on earth. If this is the case then that would imply that there is no love in your hearts for your fellow humans. I feel bad for you all if you do indeed feel this way.

      I do consider myself an atheist but with one caveat, I have a hope that there is a life after this. I certainly do not believe that there is one but I can have the hope that there may be. The reason for not believing is that I have not seen any evidence to lead me to believe in it.

  • Scotty Ellis

    I am not an atheist. It makes me cringe, however, to hear the condescending and misguided claim:

    “Without God the only point of human goodness must be utilitarian.”

    Atheists can still believe that humanity has intrinsic value, a value which is not reducible to utilitarian ends but is rather rooted in that humanity. The primary difference is that an atheist sees this value as intrinsically derived from any number of principles other than the principle that man is God’s creature. There are, of course, utilitarian atheists (that there are also utilitarian Christians is an important point to remember). But it is simply wrong to say that there are no other choices: and we need look no further than Nietzsche to see that, no, atheists are NOT confined to utilitarianism.

    Also, I would like to point out a grave irony:

    ‘So the atheist who wishes to be good must point to the consequences. “I will be good because I will thereby enjoy higher self esteem and be more contented and happy in this life.” or “I will be good because if we were all good the world would be a happier, safer and more peaceful place to live.” or “I will be good because my being good will be the best way for my family and friends and I want them to be happier and more peaceful too because I love them.’

    As opposed to the Christian who says “I will be good so that I may obtain heaven?” Interestingly enough, Walter Kaufmann has exactly the reverse to say of the matter: he claims that Christians are the ones obsessed with doing good for the sake of a reward (an infinite, eternal reward), while an atheist, who believes he will receive no such eternal recompense for his good action, may reflect a far less utilitarian and more selfless act. I do not necessarily agree completely with Kaufmann’s appraisal, but I think he is right to dismantle the silliness of claiming that atheists are somehow inferior because they might be motivated to good for its results.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      and what would those principles be that give any particular human being intrinsic worth? If you read my whole post you will realize that the latter part reveals that Christians are not simply “being good to have a heavenly reward” instead they are motivated by the desire to reach the zenith of their destiny–to become all that they were created to be. It is the difference between working hard to learn how to play a great piece on the piano because you were destined to be a great pianist and learning to play in order to win applause.

      • Korou

        “Christians are…are motivated by the desire to reach the zenith of their destiny–to become all that they were created to be.”

        What a revealing thing for you to say! So you do believe that goodness can be justified without God.

        I would agree with you. People should be good so that they can reach the zenith of their destiny, and become all that they are ABLE to be. Something you do not need God at all to be able to do. A secular motivation for behaving morally. Brilliant!

        Now you could, of course, say that unless you know God you will be unable to reach that zenith. But that’s not the point. The point is that you don’t have to know God to know that you are capable of being a better person and to want to be a better person.

      • Scotty Ellis

        “and what would those principles be that give any particular human being intrinsic worth?”

        For a deontonologist, it is man’s ability to reason that is itself worth moral respect. For others, human rights may be considered themselves a first principle – that is, rights are taken as a first assumption. Others see a creature’s ability to choose as an ability that carries with it a natural respect. There are many different non-theological accounts of why human beings are to be treated as being intrinsically worthy of respect, either due to one of their intrinsic faculties, or because of respect for a thing that can suffer and feel joy, and so forth.

        This is not even to mention the idea that values are creative in nature – the idea that we create the value of humanity through our will. Again, I do not necessarily ascribe to any of these accounts. I simply list them to demonstrate that there are indeed plenty of reasons why atheists might see life as intrinsically valuable.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Too many questions are being begged. Why should the ability to reason necessarily be a good thing? Why should any human being have ‘rights’? Why is the ability to choose a good thing that should be preserved? We create the value of humanity through our will. Why should that be any better than using our will to denigrate a human being?

          • Scotty Ellis

            As opposed to the questions that Christians beg, such as why should one believe in God? Why should someone believe that God, if He exists, is good? Why, even if God exists, should one believe in your particular version of God?

            You have your own first principles, principles that you assume and that are necessary for your other conclusions. I don’t see how it is any less congruent or coherent to make human rights as such a first principle, or reason, rather than a particular religious conception of God. You are right: any principle can continuously be questioned. That is a good thing. There is no such thing as a closed, perfect system – and any attempt at such a system necessarily leads to a very small cosmos. What I find interesting is that this small cosmos may be religious or secular in nature: you can have a very small-minded view of reality both with and without a belief in God. Questioning is a double edged sword that you cannot have both ways: you cannot pretend that your beliefs are free from these questions. It all matters how well you are able to step outside of your assumptions for a moment and actually see what they look like from another vantage – to step out of your house, so to speak, and realize the painted ceiling is not the sky.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I don’t assume that my belief system is beyond question. Question away.

          • Scotty Ellis

            It really isn’t my intention to question your beliefs, except for the specific opinion about atheists you have expressed here. I merely wish to point out that there are indeed non-utilitarian reasons undergirding an atheistic morality, and that your ability to question those reasons does not mean they are invalid any more than my ability to question your reasons makes your beliefs invalid.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Various commenters keep saying there are non-utilitarian reasons undergirding atheist virtue, but I haven’t heard any yet. What are they?

          • Scotty Ellis

            Deja vu!

            I’ll just copy and past my earlier answer from above:

            “For a deontonologist, it is man’s ability to reason that is itself worth moral respect. For others, human rights may be considered themselves a first principle – that is, rights are taken as a first assumption. Others see a creature’s ability to choose as an ability that carries with it a natural respect. There are many different non-theological accounts of why human beings are to be treated as being intrinsically worthy of respect, either due to one of their intrinsic faculties, or because of respect for a thing that can suffer and feel joy, and so forth.”

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I know. I read it the first time. My question is why should ‘human rights’ necessarily be a first assumption? Why should the ability to choose necessarily carry with it any natural respect? Animals choose. Why is human choice necessarily something which causes us to treat humans with special dignity? Do our reasoning faculties bring special treatment for humans? I, for one, think the reasoning faculty is wonderful, but rather faulty. Reason on its own does not always lead to correct or moral conclusions. Euthanasia, for example, seems very reasonable, but we believe it to be immoral.

          • Scotty Ellis

            “My question is why should ‘human rights’ necessarily be a first assumption?”

            Why should God necessarily be a first assumption? The questioning goes both ways. But there are potential answers, although as you are probably well aware first assumptions cannot be proven. Human beings do present themselves as having an existence qualitatively different than most other animals. This quality is referred to in many ways, but perhaps the most apt is the rather vague term “personhood,” a somewhat nebulous concept but nevertheless one that indicates that human beings exist as unique sorts of actors in the universe. This uniqueness is often understood as a kind of sentience: the ability to understand the universe through abstractions, the ability to do so in community, and the ability to make and remake the world in ways that express the validity of those abstractions and externalize them by way of artifacts. The only other animals that come close to this sort of activity, as near as can be discerned, are dolphins and some simians, and indeed there are several movements that suggest that these rights should not be species-dependent at all but rather should include any being who expresses this sort of sentience.

            In any case, as creatures with a (relatively) unique ability to understand and experience the world, and as creatures with a uniquely sophisticated social life, it is fitting to assume that such beings have a particular right to exercise those abilities in a way limited only by the similar rights held by other such beings.

            That’s just one way to account for the assumption. Like an explanation for why one believes in God, it has holes in it, unanswered questions, and so forth – it is not a complete system. But I believe it provides an acceptable starting point, and it is clearly non-utilitarian.

            “Why should the ability to choose necessarily carry with it any natural respect? Animals choose.”

            The primary question is what you mean by “choose.” Is there a difference between “acting” and “choosing” and if so what is the determinate factor? I assume you and I both agree that an amoeba does not “choose” in any sense of the term, although it acts. Human beings, we may assume, “choose” their acts (at least, on occasion). There may be doubtful cases. In any case, “choice” is the primary term here, and I propose tentatively that by “choice” we mean a sentient decision originating in the phenomena of conscious experience involving the ability to foresee the consequences of one’s actions and deliberating based on current knowledge, desires, and purposes as to which course of action should be taken. Again, perhaps some animals, such as higher order mammals, do have such choices (dolphins honestly seem the most likely candidate), in which case they too would possess this dignity.

            “Do our reasoning faculties bring special treatment for humans?”

            Kant seemed to think so. In any case, reason is clearly a powerful tool for a social animal, as it allows the reasoning creature to share in common sets of symbols which convey information and purposes and which allows group cooperation towards common goals (an explanation that could be couched in either utilitarian or non-utilitarian terms, depending on one’s philosophical prejudices). Kant’s insight is that reason by its own nature seeks coherence, continuity, consistency, and so forth, and that on that account reasonable creatures should seek to deal with each other equitably and consistently. I am not a Kantian, personally, but although flawed I think that Kant has a point.

            “I, for one, think the reasoning faculty is wonderful, but rather faulty.”

            I would agree, for the most part, as long as we are clear on what we mean by “faulty.” We reason through symbols, mental facsimiles of reality constructed and abstracted from sensory experiences; as such, our knowledge is limited by our physiological make-up and is conditioned by the socially-derived symbols witch which we operate. I would say that all our statements are tentative in nature (including this one): they are always potentially subject to revision or correction.

            “Reason on its own does not always lead to correct or moral conclusions. Euthanasia, for example, seems very reasonable, but we believe it to be immoral.”

            I think this sentence is great because it reveals the greatest difficulty I have vis a vis my Catholic faith: the belief that I can somehow “step outside” of my own limitations to compare it with the “Truth.” I only have my reasoning, my thinking, my understanding. I can never step outside of that to compare it with some unmediated, unfiltered “Truth” or “Reality” directly; all such comparisons are still limited by my own faculties. I agree that “reason does not always lead to correct” conclusions, if by that you mean that we do not have absolute certainty about the ultimate truth of our own propositions; I do not see how it can be any other way, however.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            God is a first assumption by definition. Otherwise called the Prime Mover. I wonder if you have read Pope john Paul’s encyclical Fides et Ratio? It might help.

          • Scotty Ellis

            “God is a first assumption by definition.”

            Oh, I see. It’s defined as such. Well, that takes care of everything? All we need to do is define things as such – and they ARE such!

            I define Albion as a mystical floating island with the curious property that it must exist. Wallah! Albion exists.

            Sorry, that was probably a bit sarcastic, but it gets my point. I have read Fides et Ratio. I am familiar with the cosmological arguments and the ontological argument. I am familiar with the Proslogion and Monologion. I studied these things for years back when I was a 100% bona-fide traditionalist Catholic convert. The trouble is that it is easy – very easy – to become complacent and satisfied with something as inane as: God must exist, because God is the Prime Mover; without the Prime Mover, there can be no subsequent motion; there is subsequent motion; ergo there is a God. It’s a neat little (emphasis on little) argument for a very small cosmos.

            You cannot have it both ways; you cannot expect others to simply accept your asserted first principles and not accept the fact that other people also assert first principles.

            So, in conclusion (as far as I can tell):

            You find only the Christian narrative satisfying. Very well. That is a personal matter on your part. Perhaps you even find the thought of a world without the Christian God either unintelligible or meaningless. Very well. My only comment is that you go too far – that is, you say something unjustified and false – when you say that non-Christians have no non-utilitarian reasons to behave morally. I have provided you with an example and even presented a hypothetical line of reasoning to explain a non-utilitarian atheistic principle for morality. Your response has been to question that principle. Very well, I respond, you can question the principle, just as (as you yourself admit) you can question your own cherished assumptions about first principles; that does not mean that the principle does not exist, or that it cannot have validity or meaning or guide someone’s life. We can conclude, then, that there are indeed non-utilitarian reasons and principles for atheistic morality; it’s just that you personally don’t find them convincing. Very well, I accept that. But more to the point, there are atheists who do accept them as convincing and do indeed live moral lives on their account, thus disproving your initial statement.

            Your only recourse, as far as I can tell, is to try to prove that even though someone thinks they are doing something for one reason they are really doing it for another. I guess that’s possible. But, then, Christianity is very open to the “utilitarian” critique, if you want to go down that route: Christianity can be very easily interpreted as a completely egoistic religion, in which each person is concerned with one thing above all else: his own salvation (and subsequent eternal bliss). This is not, I imagine, how you would want it to be interpreted, but if you want respect for what you say you believe you need to respect what others say they believe – even atheists.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            The principles you presented were specious. You should have to defend and explain them–not just state them to be true.

          • Scotty Ellis

            Which principle, in particular, do you believe is specious?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            We already had this conversation. Over and out and best wishes!

          • Scotty Ellis

            Then I will leave this particular discussion with only this observation: I presented you with hypothetical principles. You said they were specious. I asked which one(s) (and implied that I wanted to know why it was specious). Away you went.

        • Oregon Catholic

          For Scotty,
          Can you envision a non-utilitarian purpose for an atheist to willingly be a martyr to his personal philosophy of morality? If so, perhaps you would expound on your reasons and/or contrast them with Christian martyrdom.

          • Scotty Ellis

            I can imagine a Kantian dying for the sake of duty, that is, for the sake of consistency vis a vis his actions as a rational being. For example, if an atheistic Kantian were asked to tell a lie or face death, the Kantian might very well choose to not lie in order to remain true to his principles. Such a death would be a kind of martyrdom, you could say, but it would not be a martyrdom in a view towards any end other than remaining loyal and consistent to his philosophy.

            This is in juxtaposition to the Christian martyr, who dies for the sake of obtaining heaven in addition to his loyalties. Now, of course, you can debate what degree of importance is placed on the reward and what degree on the loyalty or consistency, but ironically enough it is the Christian martyr who ends up potentially more egoistic than his atheist counterpart. The stereotypical atheist (there is actually quite a diversity, including some who believe in some sort of after-death existence) believes he has literally nothing to gain in death: he will cease to exist. His action, therefore, is entirely directed simply towards his loyalty to his philosophy. The Christian, however, seeks to gain an infinite, eternal reward, and thus sees the loss of his life as fundamentally a gain in the long run.

          • Oregon Catholic

            So it looks to me like in your example the Kantian is submitting to martyrdom to be true to himself – i.e., making himself his own end. That is both utilitarian (perhaps he is thinking about his legacy too) in that it serves his own ends and completely egotistic.

            The Christian martyr however can be said to be dying for love of God which is not selfish. It can be without any intention to prove anything to anyone, even to God. It can even be without any claim to attaining heaven. Such is the way that humility thinks and acts. I don’t know how familiar you are with the lives of the saints but over and over you will see this kind of selfless love and living to do God’s will without counting the cost or benefit to self. The more saintly and in communion with God that one becomes, the less likely one is to believe they ‘deserve’ heaven. They know it is a gratuitous gift of God, wholly undeserved, so it would be pointless to die to win heaven. Paraphrasing here but St. Therese once said that if it was God’s desire, she would gladly spend her eternity in hell for love of His will alone.

            The mistake most people make is judging Christianity by the Christians they know. That’s because most of us still live on self will, just like atheists. Ghandi said it well when he said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians”. To live as the saints live requires supernatural grace and is completely unattainable by human effort. All we can do is keep trying to live as we believe God calls us to live and we can only begin to understand that through prayer and the supernatural grace of the sacraments received. I think the only thing I have that is truly mine is my free will. If I turn that over to God’s direction (so easy to say, so hard to do), then God can do anything through me.

          • Scotty Ellis

            “So it looks to me like in your example the Kantian is submitting to martyrdom to be true to himself – i.e., making himself his own end. ”

            Well, to be specific, a Kantian would submit to martyrdom in order to not act inconsistently towards rationality wherever it is embodied. The heart of Kantian morality is the categorical imperative: “Act in such a way that you could will that all rational creatures always act that way.” Lying contradicts the imperative because a lie requires you to will that you act differently than other rational beings – that you lie while they tell the truth. You must will for others to tell the truth, because only if truth-telling is the norm does your lie stand a change of being believed. Thus you act inconsistently towards rationality as such.

            This is most definitely not utilitarianism. Classically, utilitarianism is acting in such a way as to maximize the total general well-being of the circumstances. Clearly, the Kantian’s loyalty to rationality as such does NOT always maximize the general well-being – in fact, the consequences of the action does not enter into the Kantian’s analysis of the morality of his or her actions. So, no, the Kantian is not acting for utilitarian purpose. If he is concerned about his legacy, he is not being a good Kantian, who is concerned only about his duty to rationality as such.

            “I don’t know how familiar you are with the lives of the saints but over and over you will see this kind of selfless love and living to do God’s will without counting the cost or benefit to self.”

            I am familiar with the saints and their writings. Take, for example, St. Bernard’s On Loving God, and his explanation for why we should love God:

            “Hence I insist that there are two reasons why God should be loved for his own sake: no one can be loved more righteously and no one can be loved with greater benefit.”

            This passage suggests the tension within Christianity that is commented upon by Walter Kaufmann in his Faith of a Heretic. There is a tension between the altruistic formulations of Christianity – that is, the selflessness which is the substance of one of Christianity’s most important virtues, humility – and a certain ultimate egoism that is concerned primarily with one’s eternal fate and reward. To put it differently: imagine that God did not grant any reward for obedience to Him. There is no afterlife and no eternal blessings for martyrdom. Would the martyr’s common logic – that sacrificing this life is gain, since one should be willing to trade that which is perishable for that which is eternal – make sense? No. I am not saying that there would not have been any Christian martyrs. I am saying that the common logic found in Christian discussions of martyrdom, starting with St. Paul and coming down to this day, would cease to be relevant. It is not the case that Christians have traditionally ignored the benefit to themselves; rather, that benefit has been magnified by means of the transcendent reward of heaven, which allows them to treat the glories and honors of this world as acceptable sacrifices.

            “They know it is a gratuitous gift of God, wholly undeserved, so it would be pointless to die to win heaven. ”

            This is a nice sentiment, but historically irrelevant to early Christian martyrdom. Have you read any of the works of the early Christian Egyptian monastics – those Christians who took the spirit of martyrdom and transformed it into the ascetic practices of hermitage? You will find interspersed throughout gladiatorial references – the notion that the ascetic is indeed a kind of competitor whose self-sacrifice does indeed win the crown of eternal life. The idea of “winning” the crown or the prize – again, a sentiment found in St. Paul’s writings – is a common one throughout Catholic theology. The notion of grace is tied to the notion of merit – indeed, the incarnation is itself discussed by St. Anslem in Cur Deus Homo as a means by which man might actually be able to repay his debt and merit eternal life.

          • Oregon Catholic

            “the notion that the ascetic is indeed a kind of competitor whose self-sacrifice does indeed win the crown of eternal life.”

            You raise some interesting points but not being that familiar with the early hermits I can’t say if your interpretation of winning the crown of eternal life is the same as theirs. But regarding the way you use winning or merit – on a different thread I outlined my belief about why we follow commandments, Jesus’ Way, and practice self-discipline. It’s not for merit or winning a reward in the earthly sense. God asks us to do these things, imo, because He knows it builds a capacity in our soul to live in the Divine Light after death. The Light of God can burn or it can enflame perfect love and I think how we live on earth impacts how we will experience that Divine Fire – as pain or bliss. So it’s different than behavior earning a reward, it’s about behavior that transforms our fallen nature into what we were originally created to be and probably were before the fall. In many ways I think the RCC has done a very poor job of teaching this and has underestimated perhaps the ability of people, educated and otherwise, to understand the language of love and transformation vs reward and punishment. I think the Orthodox do it better. But flaws aside, Catholicism/Orthodoxy still understands it better than anyone else AND we have the sacraments.

    • DavidM

      I second that query: “any number of principles” … like what?

  • Brian Westley

    “Humans might be able to live pursue a noble and tasteful and even an altruistic life without God, but why should they?”

    I find most people who ask this question are closet sociopaths; closet sociopaths are probably better off believing in an invisible morality enforcer, but normal people don’t need one.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Or you could attempt to answer the question…instead of name calling

      • Mr. Patton

        Not every question you pose has a reason or purpose, so to ask why is irrelevant.

      • Brian Westley

        Seriously, I wasn’t name calling; if you genuinely CANNOT understand why people might pursue a noble or tasteful or even an altruistic life without God, you appear to be a sociopath. You have no empathy for fellow humans and see nothing wrong with using people, and you can’t understand why other people wouldn’t act the same way YOU would act without your religion.

        And I have answered your question. You just can’t understand my answer. Because you’re a sociopath.

        • Korou

          Can you explain exactly what you mean by sociopath please?

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Did you actually read the post? I admitted that people could very well lead a noble, tasteful and altruistic life without God.

          Whether one is a sociopath or not has nothing to do with one’s belief system. It is quite possible for both an atheist or a Catholic to be a sociopath.

          • Brian Westley

            “Did you actually read the post? I admitted that people could very well lead a noble, tasteful and altruistic life without God.”

            Yes. Did you actually read my reply? It was about your inability to UNDERSTAND WHY atheists would do so without believing in your god. You can see how atheists actually act; you cannot understand their motives absent a god-belief. In short, you can’t empathize with them.

            “Whether one is a sociopath or not has nothing to do with one’s belief system.”

            I know; that isn’t what I was talking about.

            I was talking about YOUR INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND WHY atheists might WANT to live a noble, tasteful and/or altruistic life.

            “It is quite possible for both an atheist or a Catholic to be a sociopath.”

            Sure. Buy your inability to empathize with people suggests you’re a sociopath. By your own admission, you cannot understand why an atheist might want to lead a noble, tasteful and altruistic life. To me, that indicates you’re a sociopath.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I think we are chasing our tails here. My post was exactly the opposite of what you understood it to mean. I not only admitted that atheists can be good without God, but I also expressed an understanding on why they might wish to.

          • Brian Westley

            “My post was exactly the opposite of what you understood it to mean.”

            I doubt that. Your statements

            “I not only admitted that atheists can be good without God”

            I haven’t been disputing that at all.

            “but I also expressed an understanding on why they might wish to.”

            Well, you offered a possible reason, but it appeared to be from a sociopathic perspective; mere utilitarianism, without a shred of human empathy.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Utilitarianism may have a very humane face. One of the forms of utilitarianism, for example, is sentimentalism. I may make a moral choice because I feel affection and love for my family, my neighbor, another human being or my country. These are good and laudable sentiments, but without an ultimate truth source or deity they, like all utilitarian choices–can only be subjective.

            This does not mean they are worthless, but that they are mutable.

          • Brian Westley

            All god-based morals are subjective, since there is no agreed-upon objective way to determine what any gods want, so they are likewise mutable — pick a different god, and you get different morals. I would guess that since you have been an Evangelical, then an Anglican priest, and now a Catholic priest, your view of what is moral and immoral has changed somewhat.

            But that’s off the subject; your posited explanation about why atheists act the way they do didn’t include human empathy (and seemed to actually discount it). That’s why your question and attitude suggests to me that you lack empathy, i.e. that you are a sociopath.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            What is the basis for what you call human empathy? Why should a person necessarily have empathy towards another person?

          • Brian Westley

            “What is the basis for what you call human empathy?”

            It’s a human emotion; when people with empathy view another person in pain, their own pain receptors in their brain fires.

            “Why should a person necessarily have empathy towards another person?”

            What do you mean, “should”? That’s just how most people ARE. That’s like asking why “should” a person have four fingers and a thumb at the end of an arm. It isn’t a should/shouldn’t sort of question. It’s just what’s very common among humans.

            Again, your strange questions suggest that you do not feel empathy. You might want to check out sociopathworld.com, it’s a fascinating blog written by a sociopath.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            My questions do not spring from my own lack of empathy, but out of a desire to understand the philosophical foundation for your views. I understand your explanation that a person may feel empathy as a natural response–their own pain receptors in their brain fires. However, there are many people who do not experience this empathy you describe. Would you say that their lack of empathy is a disability? If so, is the person who feels empathy in some way ‘better’ than the person who does not? If you think the person who feels empathy is ‘better’ or at least more ‘natural’ why would that person necessarily be superior to a person who does not feel empathy? For that matter, why would feeling empathy and assisting a person in pain necessarily be better than not feeling empathy and either ignoring them or perhaps even being cruel to them?

            Your position raises many questions in my mind. Assuming that it is ‘good’ to feel empathy and assist another person who is suffering how does one decide what form that assistance should take? If you saw someone in great pain and you experienced empathy for that person, and you had no way to relieve their pain–would your empathy for that person allow you to end their life in order to relieve them of their pain?

          • Brian Westley

            Would you say that their lack of empathy is a disability?

            Yes, in the sense that it usually makes living in society more difficult.

            If so, is the person who feels empathy in some way ‘better’ than the person who does not?

            No.

            If you think the person who feels empathy is ‘better’ or at least more ‘natural’ why would that person necessarily be superior to a person who does not feel empathy?

            Not applicable, as your “if” condition wasn’t satisfied.

            For that matter, why would feeling empathy and assisting a person in pain necessarily be better than not feeling empathy and either ignoring them or perhaps even being cruel to them?

            I never made such a claim; I don’t bother defending claims I haven’t made.

            Assuming that it is ‘good’ to feel empathy and assist another person who is suffering how does one decide what form that assistance should take?

            That’s a ridiculously broad question, so my ridiculously broad answer is “I would think about it.”

            If you saw someone in great pain and you experienced empathy for that person, and you had no way to relieve their pain–would your empathy for that person allow you to end their life in order to relieve them of their pain?

            I don’t know.

            By the way, do you feel empathy?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            This conversation is becoming very interesting. Thanks for staying with it. You have said that the lack of empathy in a person is a disability because it makes living in society more difficult. In my first post I claimed that the virtue of atheists was, at foundation level, utilitarian in nature. Doesn’t your answer make my point?

            You have said that a person who feels empathy is not necessarily better than the person who does not, so we must conclude that it is okay not to feel empathy is that correct? If this is so, why do you label such people with the negative label of ‘sociopath’? Or perhaps I am wrong and your use of the term ‘sociopath’ was not meant to be pejorative. If I have mistaken your meaning I apologize.

            Do you agree that feeling empathy and assisting a person in pain would be better than not feeling empathy and either ignoring them or perhaps even being cruel to them?

            You have asked whether I feel empathy. Yes. In my work as a priest I am in contact with people in extreme situations most every day and I not only feel empathy for them, but do my best to assist them. Just yesterday I was visiting some folks in prison. Not an easy part of my job!

          • Brian Westley

            “You have said that the lack of empathy in a person is a disability because it makes living in society more difficult.”

            USUALLY more difficult. Not always.

            “In my first post I claimed that the virtue of atheists was, at foundation level, utilitarian in nature. Doesn’t your answer make my point?”

            I don’t see what kind of connection you’re trying to make.

            “You have said that a person who feels empathy is not necessarily better than the person who does not, so we must conclude that it is okay not to feel empathy is that correct?”

            No. You are conflating “better” with “okay,” two different words. Your use of “better” in the original, at least to me, appeared to ask if a person with empathy was worth more than a person without empathy.

            “If this is so, why do you label such people with the negative label of ‘sociopath’?”

            You’re the one taking it as negative; I’m simply using the word the way it means — someone who lacks empathy. I don’t mean it as an insult.

            “Do you agree that feeling empathy and assisting a person in pain would be better than not feeling empathy and either ignoring them or perhaps even being cruel to them?”

            Yes. But be careful trying to draw conclusions from that.

            “You have asked whether I feel empathy. Yes. In my work as a priest I am in contact with people in extreme situations most every day and I not only feel empathy for them, but do my best to assist them.”

            So why did you omit empathy as a possible motivating factor for atheists who act good? Do you think atheists lack empathy? Do you think empathy is irrelevant to people’s actions? I notice you never responded to the commenter who called the second part of your post “honey-coated hate speech.”

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Thank you for your response. I have some further questions for you.

            You have said that the lack of empathy in a person is a disability because it makes living in society more difficult, but you did not understand how this connected to utilitarianism. The reason you gave for a person having empathy was a useful reason: It makes living in society better. This is a good reason to have empathy, but the foundation for it is utilitarian–it is useful. This was the point of the second part of my original post–that the foundation for an atheist’s virtue must be utilitarian.

            However, if I am wrong, and there is another reason why you think it would be good for a person to have empathy, then I would be very interested to hear it.

            I equated the words ‘okay’ with ‘better’ and you found this imprecise or confusing. Could I clarify that you think a person who feels empathy is not necessarily superior to the person who does not feel empathy?

            I asked: “Do you agree that feeling empathy and assisting a person in pain would be better than not feeling empathy and either ignoring them or perhaps even being cruel to them?” You replied, “Yes. But be careful trying to draw conclusions from that.”

            I do not wish to draw any conclusions from what you’ve said, but it does prompt another question: Why do you think it would be better to feel empathy and help a person who is suffering rather than not to feel empathy and treat them cruelly?

            You asked: “Why did you omit empathy as a possible motivating factor for atheists who act good?

            This is a good question. I omitted empathy as a possible motivating factor for atheists who act good because I do not think that atheists have any philosophical grounds for their empathy. They may certainly feel empathy, but I am interested to know why that must necessarily be good. I am interested to know where empathy comes from and why an atheist would consider it desirable.

            I have no doubt that atheists do feel empathy and are compassionate and helpful to others, and I believe this is a good thing. It is in my nature, however, to ask why atheists would consider empathy to be good.

            You observed: “I notice you never responded to the commenter who called the second part of your post “honey-coated hate speech.”

            The original post, and this thread of conversation is one which examines philosophical questions surrounding atheism. The person who called it ‘sugar coated hate speech’ was very emotional. I wonder what you thought of the comment. Did you find that the person came across as having much empathy toward me?

          • Brian Westley

            “Could I clarify that you think a person who feels empathy is not necessarily superior to the person who does not feel empathy?”

            “Superior” in what way?

            “I do not wish to draw any conclusions from what you’ve said, but it does prompt another question: Why do you think it would be better to feel empathy and help a person who is suffering rather than not to feel empathy and treat them cruelly?”

            Why would the reverse be better?

            “I omitted empathy as a possible motivating factor for atheists who act good because I do not think that atheists have any philosophical grounds for their empathy.”

            That’s no grounds to OMIT it as a possible motivating factor — are you trying to claim that people cannot be motivated by empathy until they have philosophical grounds for it? That would mean that, say, ten-year-olds cannot feel empathy until after they’ve taken some college philosophy courses.

            Most people feel empathy even if they’ve never considered philosophical grounds for it. You still must take their empathy into consideration if you want to honestly understand their moral actions.

            “The person who called it ‘sugar coated hate speech’ was very emotional.”

            So? That’s no reason not to respond to their comments. What’s wrong with being very emotional?

            “I wonder what you thought of the comment.”

            I thought it was accurate.

            “Did you find that the person came across as having much empathy toward me?”

            Yes, they had a lot of empathy towards you, because they detected the hatred behind your words.

            Are you sure you have empathy? You certainly don’t seem to understand it. You shy away from commenters who are too “emotional,” as if you can’t understand other people’s emotions. You seem to think “empathy” only involves detecting positive emotions. You don’t even consider empathy as a possible basis for human actions, because you don’t think atheists have any philosophical grounds for their empathy, but somehow completely overlook that that has NOTHING to do with whether atheists feel empathy or use it as part of their moral system. If you think you need “philosophical grounds” to FEEL empathy, then I can only conclude that you do not, in fact, feel empathy. You analyze it, but you don’t feel it.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I will try to be more precise: Do you think that a person who feels empathy and acts compassionately is morally superior to a person who does not feel empathy and does not act compassionately toward someone who is suffering?

            The original post and this thread are discussing the philosophical basis for atheist virtue. There is plenty of time and space to share emotions and emotional responses and I am all for that, but right now I am trying to discuss the matter in a more philosophical way.

            I omitted empathy as a possible motivating factor for atheists who act good because I do not think that atheists have any philosophical grounds for their empathy, and the discussion was one in which I was attempting to ascertain the philosophical foundation for atheist virtue. You see, if there is no real foundation for your empathy apart from it’s usefulness, then I was correct in saying that atheist virtue can only be based in utilitarianism.

            I am uncertain what you mean by being “motivated by empathy.” By this do you mean that you feel sorry for someone who is in distress and you are therefore moved to help them? If so, then this is a good and natural human attribute, and you are right that most people feel this as a natural response.

            I am still interested in the question: Why should this natural instinct towards empathy and compassion necessarily be considered “good?” You have said that it makes living in society easier, but a strong case could be made that empathy is, in fact, detrimental to the common good. It might be argued that empathy causes people to make expensive and time consuming choices to look after weak members of society who would be better eliminated for the sake of the common good.

            You have said that the person who accused me of “sugar coated hate speech” was accurate, and you have now yourself accused me of having “hatred behind my words”. What evidence do you have of hatred in my words? Was it because I pointed out that a utilitarian philosophy can be used to justify genocide or euthanasia?

            If this is incorrect, then please show me how to correct the statement. If, however, you just find it disagreeable we’ll let it stand.

          • Brian Westley

            “Do you think that a person who feels empathy and acts compassionately is morally superior to a person who does not feel empathy and does not act compassionately toward someone who is suffering?”

            I wouldn’t use the term “morally superior,” but I would say their morals are better.

            “The original post and this thread are discussing the philosophical basis for atheist virtue.”

            Well no, not really. You’ve artificially excluded real reasons atheists use for morals. You can’t discuss reality while ignoring parts of it.

            “There is plenty of time and space to share emotions and emotional responses and I am all for that, but right now I am trying to discuss the matter in a more philosophical way.”

            “More philosophical” does not mean “excluding pertinent reasons” in my book.

            “I omitted empathy as a possible motivating factor for atheists who act good because I do not think that atheists have any philosophical grounds for their empathy, and the discussion was one in which I was attempting to ascertain the philosophical foundation for atheist virtue. You see, if there is no real foundation for your empathy apart from it’s usefulness, then I was correct in saying that atheist virtue can only be based in utilitarianism.”

            But you’re assuming your conclusion. You’re just creating a straw man.

            “I am uncertain what you mean by being “motivated by empathy.” By this do you mean that you feel sorry for someone who is in distress and you are therefore moved to help them? If so, then this is a good and natural human attribute, and you are right that most people feel this as a natural response.”

            That’s pretty much what I meant, yes.

            “I am still interested in the question: Why should this natural instinct towards empathy and compassion necessarily be considered “good?””

            You’re again assuming your conclusion. I haven’t said it’s good (or bad), I’ve only pointed out that real people’s actions are often influenced by empathy.

            “You have said that it makes living in society easier, but a strong case could be made that empathy is, in fact, detrimental to the common good.”

            Even more assumptions on your part; you haven’t established that “makes living in society easier” is the same as “the common good,” and I wouldn’t call the two identical. I also haven’t said that empathy is always a positive trait; there are also good reasons to think that societies with a few sociopaths are actually better than societies without any sociopaths.

            “It might be argued that empathy causes people to make expensive and time consuming choices to look after weak members of society who would be better eliminated for the sake of the common good.”

            Go ahead and argue that if you want.

            “You have said that the person who accused me of “sugar coated hate speech” was accurate, and you have now yourself accused me of having “hatred behind my words”. What evidence do you have of hatred in my words? Was it because I pointed out that a utilitarian philosophy can be used to justify genocide or euthanasia?”

            It was your straw man attack on atheists, ramrodding them into your false utilitarian philosophy; in short, you used the “old plow” routine (as it’s called in comedy) to dishonestly and deliberately defame atheists.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Thank you for visiting my blog and for taking time for an interesting discussion. I went back to read the original post again and I believe I was actually very fair and generous to atheists–granting that they may do good actions for good and laudable motives. One of these motives is a natural instinct of empathy. I went on to expose the fact that as atheists they have no ground for those good actions and motives other than the fact that they are useful. This is called utilitarianism. You did not seem able to refute that, and why should you? If you are an atheist you should stick up for your beliefs and acknowledge that there is nothing beyond this life, that there is no heaven and hell or God or judgement. If you believe this, then the only ground for empathy and good actions is that it is useful in some way. That I criticized this philosophy is not necessarily an attack on atheists. You needn’t take it that personally. I wish you no harm, but only the very best. Thanks again for chatting.

          • Brian Westley

            ” I went back to read the original post again and I believe I was actually very fair and generous to atheists”

            Well, of course you think that — you set up a straw man atheist and found it matched your prejudices. (golf clap).

            “I went on to expose the fact that as atheists they have no ground for those good actions and motives other than the fact that they are useful.”

            No, you exposed no “facts,” you only exposed your own bigotry against atheists.

            “You did not seem able to refute that, and why should you?”

            I have, many times already, but you’re in denial.

            “If you are an atheist you should stick up for your beliefs and acknowledge that there is nothing beyond this life”

            Again, you expose your absolute ignorance about atheists. An atheist is someone who does not believe in gods; this say NOTHING about a belief in an afterlife. People like yourself who have no grasp of logic will often make such obvious blunders. There are, for example, atheists who believe in reincarnation, especially in countries like India where it’s a common belief that is not always connected to gods.

            “that there is no heaven and hell”

            Again, atheism is only about a lack of belief in gods, period.

            “or God”

            Bingo.

            “or judgement.”

            There’s plenty of judgement here on earth.

            “If you believe this, then the only ground for empathy and good actions is that it is useful in some way.”

            WRONG. Stop lying about my beliefs and morals. Your “logic” is terrible.

            “That I criticized this philosophy is not necessarily an attack on atheists.”

            Because attacking a straw man does nothing.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Then what is the other foundation for your ethic than usefulness?

          • Brian Westley

            I keep telling you, but you can’t understand. It’s pointless.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Brian, all you have done is accuse me of being full of hatred, not having empathy and launching an attack on atheists. You have said that ‘empathy’ was a motive for good actions and I agreed with you, but you have not explained how there is any basis for that empathy other than it being useful to make society a bit better.

            I didn’t know about the list of atheistic genocidal dictators before. That’s pretty damning isn’t it? Sort of proves my point. See, when usefulness is the ultimate value the empathy you like becomes irrelevant.

            One atheist might be an empathetic and compassionate person because he thinks it is the best thing for society. The next atheist might consider it more useful to kill 20,000 people because he considers it the best thing for society.

            Why should the first atheist with empathy necessarily be better than the second without empathy? What authority is there to say that the second genocidal atheist is wrong?

            But maybe I’ve missed the point and you can explain further.

        • Oregon Catholic

          Brian, so are you implying that sociopathy is good, bad, or morally neutral? Hard to tell but are you a pure materialist in the manner that Scotty alluded to earlier?

          You seem to be saying that your empathy is simply a matter of neurons firing in response to a stimulus and conversely I assume that you think Father’s don’t fire the same way. If that’s the case then so what? There seemed to be a moral judgment on your part.

          If that is your view of empathy then it would simply be your conditiong and it wouldn’t have anything to do with morality. Put you in another environment where empathy is not shown because it’s not valued and your brain won’t respond the same way because of lack of conditioning. In that case it also would not have anything to do with choice on your part. If that’s what you call morality then you are not speaking of the same thing that Father is, but merely a facsimile that you call by the same name.

    • http://signsshadows.blogspot.com/ Colin Gormley

      “I find most people who ask this question are closet sociopaths;”

      Why is that a “bad” thing? Most of your points reveal you miss the point of Father’s post completely.

      • Brian Westley

        I didn’t say it was a bad thing. I was pointing out that, in my experience, only sociopaths ask such questions (because they can’t empathize with other people, and so don’t understand their motivations for other people’s behavior). People who aren’t sociopaths pretty much know intuitively, and don’t need to ask.

  • Greg

    My thought has always been that the claim of being “good” requires there being thoughts and actions that are in fact objectively good. When you fall into the atheist camp, logically you almost have to reach a state of moral relativism. If the universe is simply based on random principles and everything you ever accomplish will be destroyed by time and entropy, what does it matter what you do here and now? Ultimately it doesn’t, so who’s to say what’s good and what’s bad?

    Contraception is the best example I can usually come up with. We’ll be conservative and say that 10% of Catholics don’t use contraception. That’s a small percentage, but I assure you it’s plenty larger than the general populace. So, if like Catholics you believe that contraceptives are evil, then you most conclude that Catholics are more good than the general populace. Conversely, if you’re an atheist and believe that morals are relative, you can’t conclude one way or the other.

    Basically, I’m trying to say that when you believe in subjective morality, you have to acknowledge that yours is subjective as well, which makes defining how good you are relative to other people impossible.

    • Michael

      That makes no sense whatsoever. As to absolute morals, Christians don’t have a clue what they are. You can pick any modern moral issue (Abortion, birth control, capital punishment, gay marriage, etc.) and within main stream Christianity well intentioned, intelligent, prayerful people or different denominations will come to completely different conclusions. (Of course each person will say the other is wrong and their interpretation of God’s law is the right one but that’s truly a sin of pride). Surely it’s Christianity that is a morass of relativism. Contrast this to atheists who have remarkable unity of many of their ethical issues. Read for instance the Humanist Manifesto (http://www.americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III).

  • NavinK

    God is Holy! God’s nature is Holiness .. As we seek holiness; being nice and good and kind are products of our nature ..

  • John

    Mr. Westley’s comment underscores & enforces my thought that discussions, let alone debates, about these matters: atheist vs. Christian worldviews is pointless. His comment, while specific to him, represents a general view by “the new atheists” that God is a sick, viscious “invisible morality enforcer”…I have no desire to try and change their minds because I can’t.

    I simply wish them well & turn the work of softening their hearts over to the Holy Spirit. Perhaps my view is pessimistic but even St. Paul advised not to get in debates over the meanings of words, for conversion isn’t a nice syllogism or a well reasoned position.

    • Korou

      Well, I must admit I wouldn’t go so far as Brian Westley on that.

    • Brian Westley

      “His [my] comment, while specific to him, represents a general view by “the new atheists” that God is a sick, viscious “invisible morality enforcer””

      No, in MY view, gods are imaginary; I was suggesting that Longenecker is a sociopath, and doesn’t behave the way he thinks atheists would behave because HE believes in an “invisible morality enforcer.”

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        Allow me to correct your false assumption. The Catholic Church does not teach that God is “an invisible morality enforcer”. I think you must have read this somewhere. We believe that a moral life or an immoral life has it’s own built in reward system which is designed by God. A simple example is: “If you eat too much junk food for too long you will get fat and sick.” or “If you eat well and exercise and live well you will be more healthy.” These are simple examples of a principle which–in actual life is far more complicated.

        We do not believe God is up in heaven with a big ruler ready to whack people for being bad or ready to give people candy for being good. Of course some simple Christians may believe such things and teach them, but they do not represent the reality of the Catholic teaching.

      • Brian Westley

        I didn’t say the RCC teaches that; I said sociopaths are probably better off believing in an invisible morality enforcer.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Any immature person feels secure with a morality enforcer–whether the enforcer is visible or invisible doesn’t make much difference.

  • Brother Juniper

    Let’s not be silly (to quote one of my favorite movies). Of course you can’t be good without God. If you are using reason to find goodness, reason is from God. If you must exist in order to be good, existence is from God.

    • Korou

      Brother Juniper, what is reason? In what sense is it necessary for God to exist before reason has any meaning?
      I love the way you say “of course” you can’t be good without God. Of course you can! Even Father Longenecker says that you can.

      • Wills

        And of course Fr. L is never wrong… (tongue in cheek–even he would agree he misses the boat now and again). It’s interesting to watch the extremes and I think the problem is language. The Christian believes one cannot even BE without God. The real question is can one behave “well” without acknowledging God and the answer is clearly yes. But being good is a whole other kettle of fish for again, the Christian believes only God is good, so to BE good, we must enter into His life. This is something the atheist does not acknowledge as a possibility. And when we do begin to enter in, “being good” takes on a whole different meaning that involves degrees of altruism and love of other that are hard to fathom. This is a conversation of apples and kumquats. The two sides are using the terms very differently and the gap is not linguistic it is of viewpoint.

  • Michael

    Lawrence Kolhberg (in an expansion on Piaget’s) work expounded 6 levels of moral development.

    1) Obedience and Punishment
    2) Self Interest
    3) Interpersonal/manner
    4) Authority and social control
    5) Social Contract
    6) Universal ethical principles.

    While Fr. Longenecker may decry atheists for viewing atheistic ethics as self interest or manners my experience as an atheist is that atheistic morality tends to embrace social contracts or universal principles. On the other hand Christianity, especially Catholicism tends to me mired in stage one with the rewards of heaven or the punishments of hell taught to the faithful.

    Although hell has been downplayed since Vatican II (there is a try by Pope Benedict to bring it back to the forefront) I’m old enough to remember Advent sermons on hell that were indistinguishable from Fr. Arnall’s sermon in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a young Man.

    Despite this preoccupation with ethics based upon punishment and reward I believe (no pun intended) there is hope for Catholics to rise to higher levels of morality.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      There are atheists and Catholics at all Kohlberg’s levels of development.

      • Michael

        But only believers need a heaven and hell (carrot and stick ) to define their moral code. Atheists, by definition, do not have heaven or hell.

        Note : I’m talking moral code, not legal code. The two are often quite different.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          You are working from a simplistic misunderstanding. Some believers may be motivated to do good or scared from doing evil by heaven and hell, but philosophically speaking we believe heaven and hell are the natural ultimate rewards built into certain moral actions. So, for example, is a person lives a life of total selfishness and bitter hatred they will end up in a place of loneliness and self hatred. This belief follows in a common sense way from what we observe in life: smoke too many cigarettes: get lung cancer. So heaven and hell are not random punishments or rewards, but the natural consequences of life choices.

          • Korou

            Then that must mean there are a multitude of different degrees of the afterlife, with heaven at one end of the continuum and hell at the other, and every degree of happiness or suffering in between; which contradicts the doctrine of having two places called heaven and hell.

            Furthermore, considering that a person’s existence is eternal, it is very strange that their eternal destination is decided during their life on earth – a blip in the course of their actual existence.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            The experience of heaven and hell is not a blip in one’s experience, but the summary of every choice and action they have ever taken. It is possible that there are degrees of torment or bliss in heaven and hell. This was, or course, expressed poetically by Dante. Catholics also believe that purgatory is a sub-division of heaven where those who are not yet perfect complete their work of education and purification.

  • Al Bergstrazer

    In my experience, the ‘good athiest’ question does not come from athiests, but from Christians grasping at straws over the eternal destiny of an athiest family member or friend. “He/she lives a better life than most Christians,’ is the way that worried parents deal with the fact that one of their children married an unbeliever and their grandchildren will probably not be raised in the faith. I also hear the corollary to ‘the good athiest’ statment, which is ‘if anyone deserves to go to heaven it is _______ ( fill in the blank).” This hopeful substitution of human righteousness for Christ’s righteousness is made because we don’t want to think that despite all the deceased’s good deeds they’re still going to hell.

    • Michael

      First of all there is no evidence for a heaven or hell. And secondly why would you want to worship a God who would allow such a place as hell to exist, in order to torture well intentioned, good people forever just because they didn’t believe in this incredibly inscrutable, intensely shy, pathologically jealous God.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        You ask for “evidence for a heaven or hell”. There are many types of “evidence”. What type of evidence do you require?

        • Michael

          I have evidence that Mumbai exist, I have evidence that Pluto has a moon Charon and I have evidence that electrons exist, but save for a multitude of contradictory sacred texts there is as much evidence of heaven and hell existing as Hogwarts existing.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I am still not sure what type of evidence you wish for. Documentary evidence of someone who has been there and come back? Did you want photographs or a video? Would you like some archeological evidence– brimstone and ash from hell or perhaps some flowers from paradise? Was it scientific evidence–the result of experiments with control samples–that sort of thing? If you tell me what sort of evidence you are looking for for heaven and hell we can then discuss if this exists.

          • Steve S

            First of all, you are begging the question with your demand for “evidence”, however vague that term is. What is your “evidence’ that all that is real must provide the evidence that you demand? What is the evidence that empirical evidence is the sole criterion of truth?

            Second, as a quick example, I may feel love for a person (or I may be lying about that love). Is the reality of that love based in the evidence I may or may not provide? If I tell you that I love someone, is that statement existentially the same as the reality to which it points? My love for a person is not contingent whatsoever to any “evidence” I might provide or not to a third party. It is real beyond empirical observation (“evidence”).

            Third, I think what Father L. is trying to say about the Catholic understanding of morality is that it is not an extrinsic system of reward and punishment with some “big morality enforcer” or “grand sky wizard” distributing reward and punishment ex post facto. There is no “reward” or “punishment” extrinsic to actions. “Heaven” and “hell” are already “within” the act. To use a mundane example, if I follow the “commandments” of throwing a football (and practice and practice, even after failing and failing), then eventually, I will “grow into” a person who can throw a nice, tight spiral with great accuracy. I will be a “good” passer. Similarly, if I ignore the “commandments” of throwing a football (because I am lazy, or I think I know how to do it on my own, or I deny the reality of a “good” versus a “bad” pass), then I will inevitably never reach a point where I am throwing a good pass, expect perhaps by accident every now and then. The “reward” and “punishment” of keeping the “commandments” of throwing a football are intrinsic to the act itself. Returning to the Catholic teaching about morality, keeping the commandments is its own reward. Why? Not because of some utility that they provide, but because they are intrinsically good. A Catholic might say that by telling the truth, he/she is in that very act of truth-telling beginning to exist in the reality we call “heaven”.

            Finally, a moral system that does not recognize intrinsic good or the lack thereof (what we call “evil”) which is objective and greater than any individual or society must be based in some form of utilitarianism. The problem with utilitarianism, at least from my perspective, is that it ultimately is about power. In a world where there is no objective, intrinsic moral reality, then who gets to decide what actions have utility and what actions don’t? Simple: those with the power, the power to impose their utilitarian moral vision upon any person or group who disagrees with them. A world where might makes right is not a world where any person should ever want to live.

          • Michael

            Steve S. I am not begging the question. Begging the question means your statement contains your conclusion. I am raising the question of what evidence should exist. When it comes to beliefs one has totally subjective feelings that should not be used as evidence. I can muse all I want about the feelings I have that The Higgs Boson should exists; that is makes my life complete; that it gives me mass (albeit too much), that I really believe in the Higgs Boson, but that means nothing.

      • Ismael

        Micheal you say:
        “”First of all there is no evidence for a heaven or hell. And secondly why would you want to worship a God who would allow such a place as hell to exist, in order to torture well intentioned, good people forever just because they didn’t believe in this incredibly inscrutable, intensely shy, pathologically jealous God.””

        Too bad that God does not do that. Your arguments are based on severe misunderstandings.

        Let’s go by points:
        1- I will take the Catholic Church (for short jus the Church) position here. Sure there are SOME Christian denomination who claim that every non-Christian goes without a doubt to hell. That is NOT the Church’s position, however.
        These protestant denomination have severe theological, exegetical and metaphysical flaw in their reasoning (I won’t go into that, it would take pages to elaborate).

        2- According to the Church, all people are ‘good natured’, in the sense that human nature is good. That goes for non believers as well.
        However people can chose to betray such goodness in them and sin and be evil.

        3- If a non-believer is TRULY good he will not with certainty end up in hell. Even if he fails to believe in God he still might be saved.
        The reverse is true as well: just because someone believes in God and Christ does not mean he is automatically saved and brought to heaven (that is a protestant-evangelical position, a minority position among all Christians and certainly not a Catholic position).

        4- Nor God is ‘Pathologically Jealous’. Such Dawkins-like expression betray Dawkins gross ignorance in theology and biblical exegesis… and ignorance in those who copy them. Luckily such ignorance can be cured. Being ignorant of some subject is not a sin nor something that person should be ashamed… persistence in ignorance on the other hand, is, of course. Such persistence in ignorance is truly something pathological (and might apply to both believers and non-believers).

        5- Hell is not a torture chambers for non-believers. Atheist and skeptics ought to stop thinking believers think Hell is like Dante described it. Dante’s work is a poem, not a work of Theology nor it is considered ‘sacred’ or ‘inspired’ by anyone. The same goes for other artistic representations of Hell.
        Such representations are art… which might convey some concepts, but it is not a rigorous definition of anything.

        Hell is mainly a state of separation from God. Such is the ‘poena damni’ (the punishment of the damned): the separation from the goodness of God.
        Such separation is not arbitrary, but VOLUNTARY, i.e. by choice those who desire to refute God chose to be in Hell. Such choice, however is not lose from our earthly behavior: What we do is what we are.
        If we behave with malice and cruelty, for example, we can hardly say we are ‘good’.

        6- God is not ‘inscrutable, intensely shy’ as you mean it. God is ‘inscrutable’ in the sense He cannot be fully understood by human reason (but then many things are beyond comprehension, ever concepts we use every day sometimes… Richard Feymann lectures on Energy and Quantum Mechanics attest to that… and he was a genius!).
        On the other hand God IS knowable (to a certain extent) through human reason alone (i.e. natural Theology) and has revealed Himself through Christ, so he’s hardly ‘intensely shy’

        In conclusion your critique might apply to some modern Christian denominations, but does not apply to Classical (i.e. Catholic or orthodox or even the original Protestant) Theology.

        So be assured, Micheal that if you are an atheist you are not automatically condemned to hell (even if you do not believe there’s one).

        • Michael

          “These protestant denomination have severe theological, exegetical and metaphysical flaw in their reasoning” And you realize they say the same about the Catholic Church. (I dropped out of M.Div. degree 3 course short a number of years ago so I know my theology).

          As to intensely shy, God wasn’t always that way. A few thousand years ago we had manna falling from the sky, seas parting, dead being raised, bushes burning, etc. Now the best we seem to get are crying statues and images on toast.

          I have no worries about hell, it’s just that I don’t need it to be good.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Michael, despite your supposed M.Div ‘education’ it is abundantly clear from your descriptions of God and hell that your understanding has not advanced past very early grade school age, i.e., pre-philosophical concrete understanding. No wonder you dropped out. The tension between what you were being taught and what you believed must have been intolerable. Seriously, this is the result of being 3 credits short of a M.Div??? Was it at a fundamentalist seminary? Did you have an abusive parent that became the role model for how you see God?

            “First of all there is no evidence for a heaven or hell. And secondly why would you want to worship a God who would allow such a place as hell to exist, in order to torture well intentioned, good people forever just because they didn’t believe in this incredibly inscrutable, intensely shy, pathologically jealous God.”

  • Ismael

    @ Micheal again.

    “While Fr. Longenecker may decry atheists for viewing atheistic ethics as self interest or manners my experience as an atheist is that atheistic morality tends to embrace social contracts or universal principles. On the other hand Christianity, especially Catholicism tends to me mired in stage one with the rewards of heaven or the punishments of hell taught to the faithful. ”

    That is hardly true.

    1- Although some Christians might be as you claim, Christianity is based on love, not fear of death or hell or self-interest.
    Christians who believe purely out self interest are the ‘least spiritually progressed’ Christians. This does not mean they can evolve.

    Think about the ‘four stages of love’ explained by St. bernard.

    2- “my experience as an atheist is that atheistic morality tends to embrace social contracts or universal principles. ”

    The question is WNY they accept such principles.
    Beyond the fact that Lawrence Kolhberg’s ‘moral ladder’ is questionable.
    The real issue is that:
    a- What are these ‘universal issues’? Since most atheist abide to a relativist morality, then there are no “universal ethical principles” in the first place.
    As a matter of fact the very philosophical ground upon which atheism rests upon makes it impossible to a have a universal morality.
    Most atheist philosophers (like Dennett, the Churchlands and Singer) go to great extent to prove that relativism is the way to go.

    Do I need to remind you that famous philosopher and atheist Peter Singer advocates infanticide? And many atheists, like Dawkins himself seem to agree with him.
    Now I think many other atheists would refute infanticide..

    Hence before you can even attempt to abide to universal morality you need to have one.

    b- I think your claim that “atheistic morality tends to embrace social contracts or universal principles” really means: atheists abide to ‘status quo’ pop-morals. As long as the majority thins that A is good the atheist will go along with that.

    That is neither moral nor rational nor very ‘good’ at all.

    c- Going along with the moral status quo values of society does not make someone ‘good’.

    So your argument for ‘atheist morally superior people’ crashes down like a house of cards during an earthquake,

    3- “Despite this preoccupation with ethics based upon punishment and reward I believe (no pun intended) there is hope for Catholics to rise to higher levels of morality.”

    I wonder is there is ever hope for non-Catholics and atheist to understand Catholicism instead of making the same stupid straw-man fallacy.
    Your understanding of Catholicism and Catholic teaching is pretty poor judging by your words (but maybe not as bad as Dawkins… or at least I hope).
    In any case you prove to be quite self-righteous in your statement.
    Maybe the reason is that Catholic bashing and anti-Catholicism is considered ‘universally moral’ these days (at least in atheist circles), so attacking Catholics with irrational arguments and self-righteousness must make you both moral and good?

  • http://www.squidoo.com/Atheist-Issues Kylyssa Shay

    It always makes me so happy to see tolerant and accepting Christians which is why I was so disappointed to see the honey-coated hate speech on the second page. It’s a shame because the first page made you seem like a relatively respectful and reasonable person with just a few misconceptions about what atheists believe and feel. Sadly, the second page reveals your desire to demonize atheists.

    Really, you think an atheist might kill a sickly loved one because it’s expensive to take care of him or her? If I said that about Christians, I’d probably have a half dozen death threats in my inbox before the day was done. It was an incredibly vile and heartless thing for you to suggest and it shows the hatred you harbor for non-Christians. The fact that you said it so casually, as if you believe it’s an established fact that everyone knows, makes it all the more chilling.

    I know you can find some good things to highlight about Christianity without bashing other people if you just write from your love of God rather than from your hatred of people not like you.

    If Christians didn’t also commit genocide, the pondering about utilitarian thinking causing them might have been brilliant reasoning. Unfortunately, Christian genocides, when defined by the official religious position of the government responsible, far outnumber atheist genocides in both instances and number of dead. The number of Jews killed in religious genocides, including the massive 20th century holocaust, is staggering. However, the Christian genocide of North, South, and Central American Natives was far more complete and involved the slaughter of over 100 million people. If you don’t accept the same definition for Christian genocides as you do for atheist genocides then there’s still the genocide ordered directly by and as well as carried out by the church itself- the Inquisition. If you are going to point out the historical evils committed by people under atheist governments to show your belief in Christian moral superiority, perhaps you should choose evils not also committed by Christian governments and the church itself?

    I’d like to point out that I am sickened by genocides committed by atheist governments just as much as I’m sickened by genocides committed by Christian governments but we can’t ethically pretend that any of them didn’t happen just to bash someone’s religion or lack thereof. Also, I’d like to point out that I believe there have probably only been so many more genocides committed by Christians because there have been so very many more Christians, including Christians in power.

    Atheist genocides and Christian genocides just show us that choices of religion must always be left to individuals. The removal of choice and the official demonizing of differences combined with greed for an extreme wealth of power, money, or resources causes genocide and other atrocities.

  • Brynne

    If you think doing good for oneself, others, and society overall “doesn’t go far enough” in term of morality, you’re missing something. And when a decision arises that’s not a simple black-or-white choice, I’d rather not throw my hands up and hope there’s a god (and that I happen to be praying to the correct one) who will make the decision for us. There are a lot of things we don’t know, but we do have the capacity to think critically and we ought to know enough to use it when it comes to questions of morality.

  • David

    Kohlberg was an excellent scientist but as a scientist myself I have observed that science itself is not the search for truth it is the search for positive reproducible data that may lead to an eventual subjective truth. Kohlberg reported on his observations of children’s choices when presented with a moral dilemma and applied this to adult behavior. This research reveals neither good nor bad nor does it make a comment about good or bad, it simply reports the data. A description of typical (averaged) behavior open to all humanity. Catholic theology holds that goodness was personified in Jesus Christ (God is love, etc.) and this belief (or fact) takes goodness, being good, beyond our full understanding or acheivement. In this respect goodness is no longer relative, no longer subject to typical averaged human data; through Jesus Christ, the Son, goodness was objective truth and he demonstrated it in the ultimate manner, he gave himself totally for our benefit.

    • Michael

      “I have observed that science itself is not the search for truth it is the search for positive reproducible data that may lead to an eventual subjective truth.”

      But theology is the ultimate subjective truth. Go all over the world and scientists from every country, language and race with agree on the vast majority of scientific results. Go around the world to that same countries and you will get thousands of incompatible religions/denominations all claiming to express the absolute truth.

  • Michael

    “Since most atheist abide to a relativist morality, then there are no “universal ethical principles” in the first place.”

    Relativism generally means all moral systems are equivalent. I know of no philosopher of ethics, atheist or not, who would take that stand. Can you supply the name of one.

    Universal ethical principles like Kant’s categorical imperative, like the declaration of human rights, like the charter of Rights and Freedoms, like the Humanist Manifesto. Those are the universals that atheists adopt.

    Excuse me as toi self righteousness, I wasn’t the person who posted a blog entry questioning whether atheists can be good without God. Can we expect a later entry asking whether non Christians can be good without Jesus?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      The post made the point that atheists CAN be good without God.

  • James

    Father, I commend you for your patience and for the post. I imagine religious men and women in the Church today need thick skin, especially in these delightful discussions on the internet.

    Oh, either that, or you’re a sociopath.

  • http://rogertirazona.blogspot.com Roger Tirazona

    Innateness of morality is easily explained by natural means. We have evolved to be a social animal as a mammal and as a higher primate. There is no supernatural reason why morality is part of our nature and strengthened through nurture.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waal_do_animals_have_morals.html

    There are as many “natural laws” as there are religious paradigms. Morality needs to be built from the ground up and not the other way round. The reason why we are altruistic and empathic, is the same reason why a cuckoo bird will hijack another bird’s nest, kills the babies, lays its own eggs to have them raised by other birds. We survived better, because we were more moral. But yes, morality is objective and evolving… or have you forgotten how churches had to revise their positions through history to reflect the changing morality of society? (Think slavery).

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      This is an interesting explanation. However, most people would consider that self sacrifice is the highest form of morality, and self sacrifice doesn’t fit with the basic law of evolution–the survival of the fittest. How do you think the idea of self sacrifice for another person or a greater cause helped people to survive better? Another pretty basic understanding of morality is the idea that the strong should look after the weak. How do you think this helped human societies to evolve and become dominant? Wouldn’t it make more sense to eliminate the weak in order for the tribe to thrive and grow stronger?

      • Brian Westley

        You don’t understand evolution, either.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          That is why I am asking questions: in order to understand your position better.

          • Brian Westley

            No, no, you don’t understand EVOLUTION. That’s got nothing to do with me or my positions, you just do not understand evolution. If you thought the sun revolved around the earth, I’d tell you that you don’t understand physics — that’s got nothing to do with my opinions, it is entirely due to your erroneous statements about a branch of science.

          • Wills

            I think Brian is off base but here’s how evolution and self sacrifice fit together. “Survival of the fittest” is merely scientific shorthand for “getting your genes into the next generation.” Self sacrifice to ensure the survival of offspring to procreate is then totally in keeping with this particular view of evolution. Of course it begs the question of WHY it’s important to keep your genes in the next generation…..keep battling, Father!

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            The Christian ideal of goodness is not just that you sacrifice yourself for your family or tribe, but that you do so for your enemy. This is hardly fitting with any idea of survival of the fittest.

          • Oregon Catholic

            I’ve noticed that ‘Brian the Inscrutable’ loves to give terse non-answers or answer questions with a question whenever it might require him to take a personal position that would leave him open to rebuttal. He can expound without any problem however when he is on the attack. Sure signs of an intellectually and intentionally dishonest person with whom discussion is pointless.

  • http://rogertirazona.blogspot.com Roger Tirazona

    “To do this requires a lifetime of obedience, submission to a greater and more mysterious will and a bewildering psychic launch into worlds unknown.”

    That’s what the 9/11 Terrorist bombers believed as well…

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      It is possible to find similar beliefs among people of very different religions and very different behaviors. That has nothing to do with whether the statement is true or not.

  • http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com JD Curtis

    ..there is no agreed-upon objective way to determine what any gods want

    This only makes sense when Christianity is lumped in with other religions. The Bible is quite clear as to the character of God.

    That’s just how most people ARE. (empathetic)

    Is this how most atheists are though? How do you explain the fact that there is a 58% chance that an atheist leader will murder (at minimum) 20,000 of their own people? Doesn’t sound to empathetic to me.

    • Brian Westley

      “This only makes sense when Christianity is lumped in with other religions.”

      Excuse me for living in the real world, where thousands of religions actually exist, and millions of people advocate their god’s moral rules.

      “The Bible is quite clear as to the character of God.”

      I disagree. Christians disagree on morals.

      “Is this how most atheists are though?”

      Yes; most atheists have empathy.

      “How do you explain the fact that there is a 58% chance that an atheist leader will murder (at minimum) 20,000 of their own people?”

      I explain it by your “fact” is wrong. Here are some atheist leaders: François Mitterrand, Clement Attlee, James Callaghan, Jawaharlal Nehru, David Ben-Gurion, Julia Gillard, Olof Palme, and Jens Stoltenberg, all atheist Prime Ministers of various countries.

  • SteveD

    Several commentators have challenged religion on the basis of the lack of provable miracles. However when you present atheists with an inexplicable event which we acknowledge to be miraculous, they then take the line that ‘Well, I cannot explain this but that does not, of course, mean that there is no scientific explanation for this occurrence’. They demand miracles, we give them miracles and they say ‘as there is no such thing as a miracle, this cannot be one’. They could try this for starters, http://www.faithandfamily.org.uk/publications/jack_traynor.htm
    there are many, many more ‘inexplicable events’ that I can point them to that I find highly persuasive but will never persuade them.

  • http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com JD Curtis

    I explain it by your “fact” is wrong”
    I did not say that all atheist leaders are murderers of 20,000 people, just that 58% of them indeed and verifiably are. (Although Gillard is a later addition taken after the list was compiled). Please prove this assertion wrong or I ask that you retract your statement. BTW…

    Francois Mitterand was Catholic.

    Clement Atlee was an agnostic, not an atheist.

    There is abolutely zero evidence that Callaghan was an atheist when he held office and aditionally was a former Sunday school teacher.

    Please provide evidence that Nehru stated either, ‘There id no God’ or “There are no gods’.

    Davis Ben Gurion was a Jew.

    Olaf Palme is not classified as anything by this skeptic site catagorizing a number of famous figures. Disagreement with the state church != atheism.

    • Brian Westley

      “I did not say that all atheist leaders are murderers of 20,000 people, just that 58% of them indeed and verifiably are. (Although Gillard is a later addition taken after the list was compiled). Please prove this assertion wrong or I ask that you retract your statement. ”

      No, the burden of proof is on you; you made the statement, you support it.

      “Francois Mitterand was Catholic.”

      “Journalist Franz-Olivier Giesbert spent untold hours with the late French President Francois Mitterand, and many of these hours were devoted to discussions about death. After serving two seven-year terms as the French President, Mitterand revealed that he had been fighting prostate cancer throughout his years in the Elysee Palace.

      Born into a Roman Catholic family, Mitterand became an ardent agnostic. In Dying without God: Francois Mitterand’s Meditations on Living and Dying, Giesbert sheds considerable light on Mitterand’s understanding of what it meant to die without any belief in God.”

      If Mitterand had no belief in god, he was an atheist.

      “Clement Atlee was an agnostic, not an atheist.”

      Are you under the impression that someone can’t be both agnostic and atheist?

      “In an interview he described himself as “incapable of religious feeling”, saying that he believed in “the ethics of Christianity” but not “the mumbo-jumbo”. When asked whether he was an agnostic, Attlee replied “I don’t know”.”

      Sounds like an atheist to me.

      “There is abolutely zero evidence that Callaghan was an atheist when he held office and aditionally was a former Sunday school teacher.”

      So, what evidence do you have that he was NOT an atheist when he held office? You don’t get “theist” as a default.

      “In the mid-1980s Callaghan told an interviewer that he was an atheist.”

      Now, that would be about 17 years later.

      “Please provide evidence that Nehru stated either, ‘There id no God’ or “There are no gods’.

      “In his autobiography, which he wrote while in prison in 1936, Nehru said that he did not believe in a god of any kind. He said of religion:

      ‘The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organized religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled us with horror, and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it.’

      Nehru also said that:

      ‘I want nothing to do with any religion concerned with keeping the masses satisfied to live in hunger, filth, and ignorance. I want nothing to do with any order, religious or otherwise, which does not teach people that they are capable of becoming happier and more civilized, on this earth, capable of becoming true man, master of his fate and captain of his soul. To attain this I would put priests to work, also, and turn the temples into schools.’”

      “Davis Ben Gurion was a Jew.”

      Are you under the impression that Jews can’t be atheists?

      In any case, you’re just trying to badmouth atheists with a made-up fallacy (hasty generalization), so it’s pointless to “debate” you.

      • Oregon Catholic

        “No, the burden of proof is on you; you made the statement, you support it.”
        You were asked to support your assertion that the original statement was wrong. Your comment, your burden of proof.

        “When asked whether he was an agnostic, Attlee replied “I don’t know”.”
        Sounds like an atheist to me.”
        Wrong. You can’t get atheist from that statement since he didn’t say he didn’t believe in God. He believed in Christian ethics but not the religious mumbo-junbo. This is completely consistent with many people who believe in God but reject formal religion.

        “So, what evidence do you have that he was NOT an atheist when he held office? ”
        Another of your intellectually dishonest attempts to refute without offering anything which actually refutes.

  • http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com JD Curtis

    Are you under the impression that someone can’t be both agnostic and atheist?

    Yes.

    From the appendix of The Irrational Atheist (2007)

    This is the list of the fifty-two atheist leaders who personally presided over the non-martial murders of
    at least 20,000 human beings. Most, though not all, served as the heads of the regime responsible for
    the slaughters; for example, d’Herbois and Billaud-Varenne were only two members of the nine-man
    Committee of Public Safety which launched the revolutionary Reign of Terror in France. Some names
    that one might expect to see, such as Nicaraguan Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, are missing because
    the confirmed number of government killings do not rise to the 20,000 mark. In other cases, such as
    that of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, there is sufficient evidence to indicate a leader is not an
    atheist despite his nominal Marxism.

    Afghanistan: Nur Muhammad Taraki, Babrak Kamal
    Albania: Enver Hoxha
    Angola: Agostinho Neto, José Eduardo dos Santos
    Bulgaria: Vulko Chervenkov, Todor Zhivkov
    Cambodia: Pol Pot, Heng Samrin
    China: Mao Tse-Tung, Hua Guofeng, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintau
    Cuba: Fidel Castro
    Czechoslovakia: Klement Gottwald, Antonín Zápotocký, Antonín Novotný, Gustáv Husák
    East Germany: Walter Ulbricht, Erich Honecker
    Ethiopia: Tafari Benti, Mengistu Haile Mariam
    French Republic: Jean-Marie Collot d’Herbois, Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne
    Greece Nikolaos Zachariadis
    Hungary: Mátyás Rákosi
    Laos: Kaysone Phomvihane, Khamtai Siphandone
    Mongolia: Khorloogiin Choibalsan, Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal
    Mozambique: Samora Machel
    North Korea: Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il
    Poland: Władysław Gomułka, Boleslaw Bierut
    Romania Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Nicolae Ceausescu
    Soviet Union: Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev
    Spain: Manuel Azaña, Francisco Largo Caballero
    Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh, Le Duan, Truong Chinh, Nguyen Van Linh, Do Muoi, Le Kha
    Phieu, Nong Duc Manh
    Yugoslavia: Josip Broz Tito

    For our purposes here, we will utilize the following definitions,

    Atheist: Individual who is historically confirmed to have claimed to be is an atheist, or to have stated that there is no God, or that there are no gods.

    Leader: Head of state or member of oligarchy with sufficient power to directly order military forces into action without limiting oversight from a superior.

    There are 52 atheist leaders listed. Simply come up with just over 38 other atheist leaders who did not purposefully murder over 20,000 of their own people and you win!

    Awaiting your reply.

    • Brian Westley

      Uh, I said you aren’t worth debating, given your dishonest tactics. And quoting the utterly laughable Vox Day clinches it.

      • Oregon Catholic

        Run grasshopper, run.

    • Korou

      Are you familiar with what an agnostic atheist is?
      An atheist is someone who lacks theism (a-theist). An agnostic is someone who lacks knowledge of gods (a-gnosis). Most of us are agnostic atheists. We lack knowledge of gods, and for that reason we lack belief in them. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
      You can see a more complete explanation here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic_atheism

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        Yours is a reasonable position to take, given materialistic basic assumptions.

        • Korou

          Fair enough. Let’s agree when we can.

    • Korou

      Hope you don’t mind if I answer:
      I see that you have found a large list of people who led countries, were atheists, and committed genocide. Well done!
      Now, on to the next step: can you please provide evidence that they did this because of their atheism?

      When we look at the horrific crimes committed by various religions over the centuries, it’s not difficult to see why they were committed: because of their religions. Ask the Inquisition, “Why are you torturing people?” or ask the Crusaders “Why are you slaughtering Muslims?” and the sincere reply would be, “Because God wills it.”

      But what makes you think that the atheists you have found killed in the name of atheism? Why would anybody kill people because they lacked a belief in God?

      I’ll add a couple of quotes here. From Sam Harris:
      “The problem with Fascism and communism was not that they were too critical of religion. The problem is they’re too much like religions; these are utterly dogmatic systems of thought. I recently had a debate with Rick Warren in the pages of Newsweek, and he suggested that North Korea was a model atheist society and that any atheist with the courage of his convictions should want to move there. The truth is North Korea is organized exactly like a faith based cult, centered on the worship of Kim Jong-il. The North Koreans apparently believe that the shipments of food aid that they receive from us, to keep them from starving to death, are actually devotional offerings to Kim Jong-il.”

      And from http://atheism.about.com/od/isatheismdangerous/a/AtheismKilled.htm – a short article which is worth reading:
      “Atheism itself isn’t a principle, cause, philosophy, or belief system which people fight, die, or kill for. Being killed by an atheist is no more being killed in the name of atheism than being killed by a tall person is being killed in the name of tallness. ”

      I don’t think there’s any need to run away.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        You are correct. Atheism doesn’t demand that people be killed. However, a corollary of atheism is utilitarianism. Not believing in an after life or salvation of one’s soul and all that stuff means that the atheist-utilitarian is concerned with making this world a better place. If he has to do that through a revolution that requires genocide he’s not too concerned about it. For the atheist man is an animal without an eternal soul, and he may therefore be eliminated like any other animal who may be a nuisance. Rats cause disease and are disgusting. Kill ‘em. If human beings are simply complicated rats, then why not exterminate them too? Furthermore, if there is no afterlife–no heaven to win and hell to pay–if when life is over it is simply over–then it doesn’t matter if those people die. They’re just going into nothingness. Equally, it doesn’t matter if I kill them because I will never have to give account for my actions in the great beyond.

        So you are correct. Atheism does not demand genocide, but it does it also does not provide any deterrent to it either.

        I know there have been religious wars and wars between ethnic groups who have held different religions, and their religious differences have added fuel to the conflicts, but I don’t know of any religion that actually demands genocide. I think the most that can be said is that some religious people have been driven by a mis directed zeal to extirpate heresy or drive out the infidel.

        The rhetorical trick of making an atheist leader into a religious figure is interesting. That game can have two players. So, for instance, when someone blames the Catholic Church for the Spanish Inquisition all we need to do is say, “The people who killed others during the regime of the Spanish Inquisition were not real Catholics. They might have said they believed in God and the Catholic faith, but they were behaving far more like atheist dictators who demand total allegiance or else people will be imprisoned, tortured and killed. They weren’t really Catholics. They were atheists.”

  • http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com JD Curtis

    So I guess you refuse to refute certain historical FACTS. Run away little atheist! Run away!

    • Brian Westley

      No, you really don’t know that a hasty generalization is a fallacy. There’s no reasoning with you.

  • Anil Wang

    Let’s separate materialistic and spiritualistic atheists (such as Buddhists).

    From a materialistic atheist perspective, all we are is bags of molecules. Every human act (even assume we have free will, which is likely a farce), even the most “evil”, is just a rearrangement of molecules. How on earth can any rearrangement of molecules be classified as “good” or “evil”. By “whose” authority? Another bag of molecules?

    From a materialistic atheist perspective, it is simply not possible to be either “good” or “evil” so the question “Can you be Good without God” is nonsense, even if the person happens to live a moral life from the perspective of a theist or deist.

    Now, the materialistic atheist might counter that “good” or “evil” could be classified by the categorical imperative, but no-one actually believes it, otherwise all jails should be abolished and bugs should have the same rights as human beings. The categorical imperative always has ad hoc restrictions that vary from person to person, and has no authority to claim that the categorical imperative even applies to one bag of molecules and not another.

    The materialistic atheist might counter that good and bad are charateristics of “bags of molecules”. Namely a good pen is one that writes well and a good saw is one that cuts well. But this definition of good depends on a purpose for the object in question. So people can only be good if they fulfil their purpose, and there has to be someone who grants that purpose, namely God.

    So ultimately, a materialistic atheist that is good, at least in some level, believes in either a deistic or theistic God.

    • Korou

      I’ve had the discussion of how atheists are capable of justifying a system of morality recently, and I’d rather not go over it again right now; but there is a question I am very interested in asking: if you say that it is impossible to know what morality is from a secular perspective, how do you know what morality is? How do you know if an action is good or bad?

      The atheist’s answer would be a variation on: look at the consequences of the action and determine for yourself if the action is moral or immoral.

      How do you do it, as a Catholic?

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        Your method for determining morality is consequentialism–a sub set of utilitarianism. The problem with it is that no one can predict the consequences of an action. The consequences are too manifold and complex and there are too many unpredictable factors. The second problem is that one also has to determine not only the consequences of the action, but the goodness or badness of the consequence itself. This simply puts the problem of making moral choices one step removed. The third problems with consequentialism is that (like all utilitarianism) the desired consequences could vary enormously depending on the circumstances and the people involved. In a difficult case of a person suffering from a terminal illness one person may desire the compassionate killing of the suffering patient and sincerely believe that to be the best consequence. Another person may disagree completely and who is to say who is right?

        • Korou

          A interesting point – but in that case, you could argue that giving a starving child food is an immoral act. Who can say that the child might not get a crumb caught in her throat and choke on it?

          What I’d really be interested in hearing, though, is how you determine whether an action is moral or not.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            As a Christian and as a Catholic priest the basis for my moral choices are grounded in the incarnation of the Son of God and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. This action of ultimate self abnegation and self sacrifice provides the model and pattern for all other moral choices. This is codified in Jesus Christ’s commandment that we should “love God and love our neighbor”. A decision or action that is moral is therefore one in which I sacrifice myself for the worship of God and the service and good of others.

  • http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com JD Curtis

    No, you really don’t know that a hasty generalization is a fallacy

    Let me get this straight…. Putting forth a thoroughly researched and verifiably correct list of atheist leaders who murdered more than 20,000 of their own people and you turning tail and running away like a scared b*tch is a ‘hasty generalization’? How is this so?

    Next, I would imagine that you would say that it’s entirely logical to say definitively that ‘God does not exist’ and ‘I’m not sure God exists’ aand hold both positions at the same time. Wait a minute…..

    Buddhism is better defined as being along the lines of agnosticism IMO.

    • Korou

      It’s really more like saying “It’s not impossible that God exists, just as it’s not impossible that fairies, leprechauns and Zeus do not exist; but until there is some evidence that He or they do we will not believe in them.”
      And what could be more natural and reasonable than that? Present convincing evidence for God, and we will believe in Him.

      By contrast, a gnostic atheist – and there are some – would say “I know for a fact that there is no God.” They might justify this by saying that God, as he is described, is a logical possibility, perhaps because being omnipotent and being omniscient preclude each other (if you know anything, then you already know what will happen if you do anything, so how can you say that you have free will?)

      Or they might say that if God is immaterial then he does not exist; what’s the difference between something which has no substance, and nothingness?
      As I asked in a different thread, are there any examples of something existing without having any material component?

      That’s what a gnostic atheist might say, I think. Most of us – including Richard Dawkins – are agnostic atheists.

      • SteveD

        I’ve tried to present just one (of very many) pieces of evidence above. Take a look at the link.

      • Oregon Catholic

        Korou asks, “…are there any examples of something existing without having any material component?”
        Yes, my thoughts, my emotions, my soul.

        In anticipation, I suspect your response will be something along the lines of there being evidence on a brain scan for thoughts and emotions. But the evidence (areas of the brain lighting up) doesn’t describe the thought or the emotion that created it, it merely points to something. I would say that the world around you is screaming out the existence of God, but like the colors on a brain scan, it only points to God Who is indefinable and indescribable by the scientific method. In Hannibal Lector’s voice God says “Do you think you can dissect me with this blunt, little tool?” BWAHAHAHA.

  • http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com JD Curtis

    It’s not impossible that God exists, just as it’s not impossible that fairies, leprechauns and Zeus do not exist; but until there is some evidence that He or they do we will not believe in them

    And yet when one compares the existance of the God of the Bible with the possibility that ‘fairies, leprechauns and Zeus’ might exist, on archaeological evidence alone, which has the strongest case for existance? Is not archeology considered ‘science’?

    Present convincing evidence for God, and we will believe in Him

    Please define the word ‘evidence’ as you use it here. Might I suggest a standard dictionary definition? This would, by definition, include ‘the testimony of witnesses, records, documents, or objects’.

    • SteveD

      Again, please look at the evidence. Just one of many linked above.

  • Korou

    First: would you kindly acknowledge the point that people can be agnostic atheists? I’d rather get that sorted out before we go on to another topic.

    Okay then. There’s plenty of archaeological evidence that people have lived who believed in gods. Is there any archaeological evidence that Gods actually exist? Also, I’m sure there have been plenty of sincere testimonies of people who say they saw fairies, leprechauns and other gods.

    I’d prefer not to go by the route of the third definition you’re linking to. That’s evidence in the legal sense, and in scientific terms evidence that would be accepted in a court of law is often considered to be extremely weak.
    Why don’t we try the first definition? “Grounds for belief?” We can then discuss what would constitute how reliable the different pieces of evidence are.

    Testimony of witnesses? Almost worthless. Records of encounters with God? Are they on video? Documents? Like the four gospels? Objects? Not unless you’ve got the Ark of the Covenant, as seen by Indiana Jones (well, he had his eyes closed).

    So: what evidence do you have? Say, the type of evidence that would convince you of the truth of a different religion, and which you would expect to convince any rational person if it were presented to him.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Many people who have objectively examined the Shroud of Turin find it convincing. They believe it is virtually a photograph of the resurrection of Christ. Others are impressed by the miracles of the incorrupt bodies of saints or the miracle of the sun at Fatima which was witnessed by 10s of thousands of people. But I don’t think you are really interested in any presentation of evidence. You’re just arguing for the fun of it.

      • Korou

        None of these are particularly impressive. And I take offense at the suggestion that just because I don’t find your arguments convincing I’m not open to the truth. I just haven’t seen any reason yet to think that you have it. Which is why I’m arguing with you.

        Perhaps you’d think I was more open-minded if I agreed with you?

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          You can do what you want, but you’ve proven my point that you’re not really interested in seriously examining any ‘evidence’ that I would propose. I don’t think you would be open minded if you agreed with me. I think you’d be open minded if you were open minded.

  • Eliza

    writing their own bible worked for the mormons and muslims!

  • The Phantom

    Very interesting string of comments from everyone. My main concern is you have basically divided “those who do good” into 2 groups; Atheists and those with God.
    You are correct in that there are only 2 groups. However, These 2 groups can simply be defined as those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and those that don’t.
    ‘Religions’ have done more to destroy Christianity (relationship with God through Jesus Christ), including the religion of Atheism or any of the ‘world religions’.
    Our goodness should be as a result of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Interestingly, all the other religions are based on our doing good in order to merit our worthiness to whatever god we have
    There is only ONE GOD and He had a son named Jesus Christ…if your god doesn’t have a son named Jesus Christ…..beware…eternity is a long, long, long, long time…

  • Will

    This is kind of off the subject, but related. I have been to Europe on tours the last two years. Much has been said about Europeans not attending Mass or services at their particular church. I realize that does not necessarily mean they are without God. The people I spoke with indicated they considered their family and friends very important to them. I have seen polls where people in northern Europe end up near the top in the happy with life category. They also seem satisfied with what I consider a rationale lifestyle: smaller houses, more public transportation, in some countries many use bikes to get around, etc. They seem like good people. (Most Americans also seem like good people, I might add).

  • http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com JD Curtis

    But I don’t think you are really interested in any presentation of evidence. You’re just arguing for the fun of it

    These intellectual frauds do nothing to dispell the notion that atheists tend to be quarrelsome and socially challenged men. I doubt I was even a third of the way down this thread when I realized that BW had absolutely NO intention of examining his own, tightly held, dogmatic beliefs.

    For further confirmation of your above statement, simply consider this recent offering from Korou…

    “Testimony of witnesses? Almost worthless. Records of encounters with God? Are they on video? Documents? Like the four gospels?”

    Notice how K did not dispute the definition of the word ‘evidence’ and immediately began to obfuscate instead. If an ignoramuses such as K had their way, all of recorded history wouold be thrown out if is that is their standard. The War of 1812? Doubt it ever happened. There’s no video evidence!

  • Korou

    Hehe. I was going to write a very nasty comment. But then I clicked on your link and saw that it was to Conservapedia. It’s not worth talking to you about evidence. Bye.

    • David

      The problem of Christianity, is no one buys the idea of evil anymore, it is just too old fashioned. We don’t get sick from curses, and mental illnesses are not demons. There is most certainly good, but that is whatever society says at the time. We are social creatures, and like all social creatures we know we must work together to achieve anything. This is where good comes from, concern about the species.

  • http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com JD Curtis

    Right K. Simply ignore that the New Testament is over 97% intact from the very earliest of manuscripts and that the gospels are filled with archaeologically verifiable facts, some of which were first known only through the gospels.

    There’s far more written evidence from history that Jesus of Nazerth rose from the dead than Alexander the Great ever existed, yet nobody rejects the latter.

    One difference between me and the good father is that I don’t give a wit whether you accept the available evidence or reject it. I just hope you aren’t doing anything blaringly stupid like only seeking answers from atheist sites and authors. They’ve been so discredited so many times that it boggles the mind.

    • Korou

      Have you ever tried that line on an actual historian? There’s a very big difference between giving evidence for Jesus Christ having existed and giving evidence that he actually rose from the dead; so no, there isn’t far more evidence for this than that Alexander the Great ever existed.
      JD, you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Accept the available evidence? You haven’t shown any yet, and I don’t think you can.
      Even if you don’t care about any particular person it should concern you enormously that the majority of souls are being damned to hell due to following the wrong or no religion, when they could be saved, if only Christianity had convincing evidence to show that it was true.

  • Korou

    Fr. Dwight Longenecker said:

    “As a Christian and as a Catholic priest the basis for my moral choices are grounded in the incarnation of the Son of God and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. This action of ultimate self abnegation and self sacrifice provides the model and pattern for all other moral choices. This is codified in Jesus Christ’s commandment that we should “love God and love our neighbor”. A decision or action that is moral is therefore one in which I sacrifice myself for the worship of God and the service and good of others.”

    You seem to be saying – is this right? – that because God did something good for you you have learned that morality is doing good things for others, as He did for you.
    But that hasn’t answered the question. How do you know what is good and what is not? How do you know that it was a good thing when he sacrificed himself for you? On what basis do you agree with his commandment to love Him and each other? How do you know that sacrificing yourself for the good of others is a good thing?

    • Wills

      Korou–how do you know math? There are principles that are abstract and immaterial that have their manifestation in everyday experience and through time, folks discerned them. Then they taught them to you. That’s what Fr. Longenecker is trying to get across to you, I think, in how Christians learn about faith in all its forms. God, totally OTher, became man so as to give us access to His life in a way we can understand. From that we learn and model our own lives. Simple, really, if very, very hard to accomplish.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Because these truths are validated by the constant conscious witness and experience of vast majority of the entire human race in all ages and civilizations.

  • http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com JD Curtis

    Have you ever tried that line on an actual historian?

    Actually, the last person that bothered to challenge that assertion with me in a public, online debate was an atheist attorney from California with designs of someday becoming a judge. He of all people would be quite familiar with the term ‘evidence’ and you’ll have to trust me when I tell you he quickly abandoned the discussion after challenging the veracity of my claim.

    You wouldn’t be willing to point out how I am wrong in my assertion, would you? I’m especially interested in the number of ancient manuscripts re: Alexander as well as the temporal distance from their writers from the events they are describing as opposed to the accounts pertaining to Jesus of Nazereth.

    Awaiting replies.

  • Istighfar

    It’s in the ego of man to do evil. We have to be humble. Ego (love of me) is the root of all evil. Humility is the best virtue. Don’t talk about revision?

    Desist Crimes. Sounds like someone who they who (lied for our sins)
    believe. : ) On the contrary. Numbers 23:19 The biggest crime/lie is to
    idolize or believe G-d is a man, Prophet, or something else.

    A belief or lifestyle is religion. But which is true and which are false? Self righteousness is a common false religion. Ego/id is a (culprit and) most common false god. We were born innocent. Imperfect. The idea of good or deceit comes from our conscience. Yes, we can live without G-d, but only on earth. Til our last breath/sleep/death. Til The True(st) Day of Judgment. Optimism is belief in a spiritual outcome of death.

    The Author of good is G-d but of the bible is who? Jeremiah 8:8 the (false) Jews? The best historical figures we should believe are mere Prophets (of G-d/Truth). The idea of deceit (decent being physical/personal more or rather than spiritual/truly moral) comes from self desire. America’s Invader CC was not a monotheist. Nor is the first amendment a personal or specific but it is a general freedom of religion/speech. The first amendment (contrary to first commandment) is not due to tolerance or good will, but to self-desire/inclination. No weather man or anyone could predict as well as the Prophets of G-d. The question is will good or evil happen to us after the end of this life? You only get two lives. And then, no more lies.

    There is no peace like Islam. The Truth is (Islam/Quran) true monotheism. Few believe. Most are free (to not believe) for a time.


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