An Atheist vs. a Christian: 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), pictured at right. The following is Lee’s response to Murtagh’s opening post launching the debate last week. Subscribe to this blog to follow the conversation between these two young, smart minds as they discuss God, government and the purpose of life.

Hello Andrew,

Thanks for contacting me!

I appreciate your kind words about my writing, and I hope to learn more about yours over the course of this debate. I’m sure I’ll be able to offer a similarly positive and enthusiastic recommendation of it. You describe yourself as a “doubting theist”, which isn’t a term I’ve heard anyone claim for themselves before, and I’m curious to hear more about what it means.

I think this blog exchange was an excellent idea. These are the deepest and most fascinating questions there are, and I’m always happy to have a friendly debate with people of good will, whatever their viewpoint is. Besides which, I’ve always been of the opinion that any forum which consists only of people agreeing with each other is bound to be boring and unilluminative. Truth is best revealed in the light of the sparks that fly when two worldviews bump up against each other, illuminating the corners where they mesh and the rough areas where they clash.

You’ve laid out your starting principles, and I’m sure you’ll have ample opportunity to expound on them over the course of this exchange. In return, these are mine. Suffice to say that I see plenty of areas of both agreement and disagreement that we can productively explore.

You asked about my views on morality, and that’s a good starting point, because that’s really what it all comes down to, right? No matter what we think of someone else’s beliefs or customs, the most important question is whether we can live on the same planet together.

Well, my answer is that morality is the science of human happiness. In the same way that medicine is the science of restoring the body to health (whatever your definition of “health” is), I contend that morality is the same thing, but with a broader purpose: not just fixing what’s gone wrong, but figuring out how we should treat each other so that all our lives contain the most happiness (whatever your definition of “happiness” is).

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.