A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government

Editor’s Note:  Welcome to Patheos’ new debate blog, Versus. Our first debate features Andrew Murtagh (a Christian) vs. Adam Lee (an atheist). The opening post is by Murtagh. Subscribe to this blog to follow the conversation between these two young, smart minds as they discuss God, government and the purpose of life.

Adam -

My name is Andrew Murtagh and I am a fellow enthusiast of independent thought. Among other things, I am an author, entrepreneur, and medical device sales rep. My background is in biomedical engineering. In my free time, which there never seems to be enough of lately, I’m pursuing a masters degree in philosophy. Like you, I have an interest in theology, philosophy, science, and culture – and how these areas intersect.

My book Proof of Divine was recently published and I just kicked off my blog and website (www.proofofdivinebook.com) which I like to think is a fresh perspective – the “doubting theist” that doubts both faith and naturalism, yet embraces the irrationality of his Christian faith as the foundation for belief.

Bizarre, I know (more on that later).

First, I wanted to take the chance to tell you how much I enjoy your writing. Your perspectives on God and government are eloquent and thought-provoking. Your messages parlay timeless philosophical themes with creativity and swagger – and you bring that vantage point into the events and stories of the modern day.

My blog and next book, Think! Of God and Government, (currently in development) is very much along these lines. I started writing and then it hit me… There could be no better way to illuminate fresh perspectives on God and government than to encourage a friendly and meaningful discussion of contrasting viewpoints.

Hence, my reaching out to you.

If you have interest, I would like to setup a blog exchange with you on a number of topics on faith and government and from this blog – take our exchange “on the road” for a number of live events. I read your “statement of principles”, here are mine:

  •  Ontology: Open minded non-reductionist
  •  Epistemology: empi-rational-existentialist (it’s a long story)
  •  Metaphysics: Existential Christian (another long story)
  •  Moral Philosophy: Objective moral intuitionism
  •  Political: Independent
  •  The Future: Skeptical Optimist too!

All that said, we would have much to discuss! And yes, mine is a curious case as I am quite comfortable with philosophy, mainstream science, and admit up front that my faith is irrational. Mine is the outlandish thesis that Christianity and atheism are both completely irrational.

But here’s the kicker: I don’t have interest in arrogant discord or mudslinging.

I am genuinely interested in learning. About your views, mine, arguments for and against our views, and jumping right into real issues with this discussion. I would like to understand, not argue. Well, we can argue a little bit as long as we’re laughing and smiling. Deal?

In this genuine exchange, I believe we can illuminate fresh ideas on these topics. The academic debates are tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate higher learning but hearing the same arguments over and over again in a sprit of arrogance gets old.

Where are the true freethinkers who love the debate and discussion?

Where are the clear and concise opinions and relevant discussions of the current day? Why you and I? Because we are real, not politicians or academics – independent thinkers, authors, and citizens of this frustratingly amazing country. Ours will be a fresh and relevant exchange.

Now, on to considering our blog exchange and live events. For our blog, I propose a nice back and forth on a variety of topics. Let’s try and make sense of this rock we call Earth. But let’s be nice. Again, I am genuinely interested in your viewpoints. Some topics that come to mind:

  • Do you ever doubt your doubt (materialistic explanations for the universe, origin of life, and consciousness)?
  • Defining morality within an atheistic world view
  • Calling out religion (I must say I will need the take the opportunity to call out Christians like myself who have missed the mark on following the philosophies of Christ)
  • Reverse debate – what are the strongest arguments for belief in God? (I will certainly give you what I think to be the strongest arguments against the existence of God.)
  • Politics (Optimal size and role of government, separation of church and state, healthcare, abortion, stem cell research, gun control, etc.)

On events, I am not suggesting a few tired “debates”, but revolutionary  forums! Let’s get our audience involved via live text-polling. Let’s tackle tough questions as best we can. Let’s reason about the meaning of life and fix healthcare!

Some issues we’ll agree on, some we won’t. But can you imagine events such as this done in a spirit of friendliness?

Tell you what – I live in Pennsylvania and you’re in New York. Let’s kick off our blog exchange and see where it goes. We’ll bring our discussion to life at our first live debate in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday, Dec 14th at The Midtown Scholar Bookstore – the 6th largest independent book store in the country.

I share in the uncanny notion that we can change the world, one story at a time, one person at a time. I think it starts with a spark, free-thought, and inspiration. It would be an honor to collaborate with you.

What do you think bud? The first exchange is already written. It is this blog, the question below, and your response!


Andrew Murtagh

The Moral Question

Hey Adam,

Help me out with this. You have many theists and atheists both claiming the moral consequence of atheism is relativism at best. You and I both agree morality is objective. You have Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape defining goodness as “well-being of conscious creatures”, which can be quantified through science. It was thought-provoking, yet received very mixed reviews among atheist scientists and philosophers. How do you define objective morality in an atheist worldview?