Debate: Theism and Morality

April 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

The following appeared in the April 7, 2010 Opinion section of the Des Moines Register, resulting in a debate mainly with one atheist named Leeroy over morality and other evidences for God’s existence.

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In his April 7 letter, “Show Atheism’s Value Through Good Works,” Donald Kusmaul challenged atheists to list their humanitarian achievements. I will make such a list. On it will be every time I failed to teach generations of children to fear eternal torture if they didn’t properly appease the correct, invisible, sky people, along with every occasion that I didn’t use my trusted position in the atheist community to molest one of these children. It will also contain a full record of all the times I didn’t advocate genocide on account of thousand-year-old dogma or a theological disagreement.

This isn’t to say that religion shows no benefit to humanity, I’m merely suggesting the net impact is slightly less positive than the religious would like to believe.

As a side note, some of the largest philanthropists happen to be atheists: Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Robert Wilson and Warren Buffett. This is included, not because I take pride in it personally, but only to disprove the idea that atheism is incompatible with humanitarianism. As an atheist I don’t suffer from the delusion that these people’s accomplishments are my own.

–Jon Stahmer, Iowa City

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Mike

Atheists can certainly contribute to humanity. We are all part of humanity, made in the image of a God who values good. Atheists, like anyone else, “show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness…” (Romans 2:15). That “law” is our innate sense of morality that tells us certain things are good and worth pursuing, and that certain things are bad and worth avoiding.

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Leeroy

Made in the image of God? Which God? Oh, the biblical version. Well the Bible also says this:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” -Ephesians 2:8,9

According to this verse, God doesn’t care so much if you are good, only that you have faith in him.

Contradictions are abound in the Bible. It is for this reason and many others that it is not my first refence when facing a moral dilema.

That being said, I appreciate your acknowledgement of morals, even amongst non-christians. Our disagreement is that I think nature “wrote the requirements of law” through millenia of social and biological evolution.

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Rich

You propose god values good things; does he value them because they are good? or are they good because he values them?

If the former, would those good things not be good if he did not value them? Would treating people decently, love, etc., be bad if god did not value them?

If the latter, would anything god loved be good? what if god loved murdering children (as in the passover)?

you can read the Socratic dialogue Euthyphro for the rest of this discussion at http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/plato/euthyphr.htm

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Leeroy

Rich – Nice Euthyphro’s Dilema pull. I can always explain it, but never remember what it is called.

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Mike

Leeroy: The requirements of God’s moral law demand perfection for us to earn salvation. The problem is nobody can meet the requirement because of sin, which is why God a provided a solution in His Son Jesus Christ. That is the grace/gift “not of yourselves” Paul mentions in Eph. 2:8-9, which doesn’t contradict anything in the Bible—in fact it’s the main message.

Our sense of morality can’t be accounted for by evolution or societal influence. The first occurrence of a moral act or thought evolving into being would need to fit a pre-existing standard for morality to be deemed moral. Morality bound by societies means that murder, rape, theft, lying etc. could be perfectly acceptable in some, or outside society’s jurisdiction. Would murder be OK on the moon? While societies don’t wholly agree on what to enforce with civil law and how to enforce it, being moral agents we all know that there is a standard for right and wrong outside of ourselves that we should follow, i.e. your presupposition that contradiction is a bad thing.

DMRich: Euthyphro’s Dilemma is a false dichotomy because it wrongly assumes only those two options. What is good/right/true is based on God’s nature and character. If God had to appeal to an another source evaluate morality, He wouldn’t be God. That source would be God.

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Leeroy

The requirements of God’s moral law demand perfection for us to earn salvation. The problem is nobody can meet the requirement because of sin, which is why God a provided a solution in His Son Jesus Christ

This is the one of the main reasons I find your religion disgusting. It teaches children that they are born sick with a burden called sin, which, as you admit, is unavoidable by definition, and tells them they deserve to be tortured for eternity. Let me repeat that: your religion teaches children that they deserve to be tortured for eternity. But WAIT! They have the cure! You just have to believe the unbelievable and give us lots of money! THAT is an immoral system and I dont need a sky daddy to tell me so.

Provide a shred of evidence for a god, then provide a shred of evidence for your god, then and only then can your religion have the monopoly on morality.

I don’t think you understand evolution very well. A social population who depends on others successfully is more likely to survive than a population that does not. The more socially “moral” a population, the more likely it is to pass on its traits.

If nature cannot provide any sense for morality, explain why the piranha evolved without being cannibalistic. Even in a feeding frenzy, piranhas avoid eating each other. Did Yahweh stamp morality on their hearts? Or is cannibalism an evolutionarily deleterious trait? (ok now that IS a false dichotomy… but I made my point)

If Euthephro’s dilemma is a false dichotomy, what are the other options? You seem to be assuming your conclusion in your premise – you assume the source for morality is god.

Let me put the dilemma to you without sounding dichotomous: would it be moral to kill your first born if God told you to do it?

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Mike

Leeroy: A doctor doesn’t warrant disgust because he shows a patient his tumor in a scan and offers a cure. Might be easier for a patient to ignore it and forget the whole ordeal, but that isn’t an option if they want to live. The Bible “teaches children that they are born sick with a burden called sin” because it’s the truth. It’s obvious that what is wrong with the world stems from human nature, and what happened in Genesis 3 best explains that corruption.

I can’t prove God to your satisfaction, but more than a “shred of evidence” exists in your own sense of morality. You call Christianity and “immoral system”. By telling me this, aren’t you proposing that I should empathize with you on this? Clearly then, morality is not up to the individual. Would you hold the view that Christianity was an immoral system in a society that wasn’t heavily influenced by Christianity? If morality is based on societal norms, you’d have no basis for making any moral statements that conflict with society. Since the vast majority of people are theists, why wouldn’t you allow the societal majority dictate your moral views? It’s clear that moral law transcends geographic, civil and cultural boundaries, which means it can’t have a human origin. Considering what it can’t be, I offer not proof but a “best explanation” on the origin of morality, and that is our creation in the image of a moral God described in the Bible.

If nature cannot provide any sense for morality, explain why the piranha evolved without being cannibalistic.

I don’t assume that piranha evolved. What we can observe about piranha is that big teeth don’t necessarily mean they are frenzied carnivores. Most piranha are fairly harmless, and some are frugivores (i.e. Pacu or pet store “vegetarian piranha”, a close relative). What makes sense is a Creator who wouldn’t generally involve in His plan creatures with instinctual programming that allow them to eat each other into extinction. Either way, this involves the fish’s survival instinct, not an understanding of moral choice.

A social population who depends on others successfully is more likely to survive than a population that does not.

Yes, because doing good is good for everyone. But why? Where did the standard for good come from?

If Euthephro’s dilemma is a false dichotomy, what are the other options?

The 3rd option is stated in my last post; that good is based on God’s nature. He appeals to Himself.

would it be moral to kill your first born if God told you to do it?

A rather loaded question. It assumes that this is a command that God would give anyone today. God’s character never changes (He is holy, loving and just) but He does change the way He relates to people (dispensationalism). The Old Testament has passed. God is the author of life and has the right to give it and to take it. While death is not inherently evil, murder is, and taking innocent life is not our right. This article addresses this very common question: http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=260

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Leeroy

Your Doctor analogy fails miserably because doctors have what is called evidence. He can find a tumor using verifiable methods and use treatments that have been tested and proven successful. There is no evidence for sin or hell, let alone the supposed cure. It is ALL based on faith. So let me repeat myself again: Your religion teaches children that they deserve to be tortured forever, based entirely on faith. This, of course, is how religion works. Scare children into believing fervently BEFORE they reach the age of reason and threaten them with eternal torture for questioning their faith. Fear 101.

The Bible “teaches children that they are born sick with a burden called sin” because it’s the truth. It’s obvious that what is wrong with the world stems from human nature, and what happened in Genesis 3 best explains that corruption.

Just because the bible says it is the truth, does not make it the truth. Especially when your best explanation comes from a verse with a talking snake. A TALKING SNAKE! Are you serious?

I can’t prove God to your satisfaction, but more than a “shred of evidence” exists in your own sense of morality.

Even if there were not reasonable natural explanations for human empathy, there is still NO evidence for your god. The fallacious argument from ignorance (not that you are ignorant) happens when you do not know how something works, you jump to another conclusion as a default fallback. God is not the default fallback until there is evidence for him.

By telling me this, aren’t you proposing that I should empathize with you on this?

You do not need to empathize with ME on that. I empathize with YOU. I used to buy into Catholocism so I know how it feels to fear hell. When I got older and learned more about reality, I determined that the Catholic hell was just as likely as all the hells in all the thousands of other Christian denominations and religions – not very.

Since the vast majority of people are theists, why wouldn’t you allow the societal majority dictate your moral views?

The majority of people in the world are not Christian, so why wouldn’t you allow the majority to dictate YOUR moral views? Because we are individuals who see the world differently.

It’s clear that moral law transcends geographic, civil and cultural boundaries, which means it can’t have a human origin.

You are right, morality does not have human origin. Other animal species also exhibit moral behavior, so it CAN have natural origins.

Considering what it can’t be, I offer not proof but a “best explanation on the origin of morality, and that is our creation in the image of a moral God described in the Bible

Moral God described in the Bible? The same God that endorses slavery, murder and genocide on an astronomical level? The bible is not even a good explanation of morality, let alone the best.

I don’t assume that piranha evolved.

I do not assume it either. But based on the mountains of evidence in favor of evolution I can safely say they did.

What makes sense is a Creator who wouldn’t generally involve in His plan creatures with instinctual programming that allow them to eat each other into extinction

That may make sense to you, but there is no evidence for it. There IS evidence for natural selection as the mechanism for change over time.

Either way, this involves the fish’s survival instinct, not an understanding of moral choice.

I agree that it is instinctual, but is morality entirely a choice? I instinctually feel bad when I harm others.

I also want to note that other apes exhibit higher functions of moral choice, so even that is not exclusively a human trait.

Yes, because doing good is good for everyone. But why? Where did the standard for good come from?

From nature. Because if your species kills each other at a rate faster than reproduction, your species fails – naturally. But like I said, even if there were no evidence that morality evolved naturally, you still have to provide evidence for your god before he can qualify as an alternative.

A rather loaded question. It assumes that this is a command that God would give anyone today. God’s character never changes (He is holy, loving and just) but He does change the way He relates to people (dispensationalism). The Old Testament has passed. God is the author of life and has the right to give it and to take it. While death is not inherently evil, murder is, and taking innocent life is not our right.

Changing the way you relate to people IS changing! As I said in my very first statement, contradictions run amok in the Bible. Dispensationalism? Who comes up with this garbage? It is either wrong to kill children or not. That does not change.

How can you fail to see the contradictions? It takes amazing mental gymnastics to take the Bible literally. Have you ever at least tried to critically examine the Bible?

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Mike

This, of course, is how religion works. Scare children into believing fervently BEFORE they reach the age of reason and threaten them with eternal torture for questioning their faith.

That isn’t my experience or that of any Christian I know, including a number of former atheists, who arrived at a realization of God and the truth of scripture as rational, free-thinking adults. A friend, Dennis, now a 50 year old missionary to Turkey, rejected the idea of God as a child after losing a parent and seeing so much pain and hate in the world. As an young adult, he came to the awareness in Yosemite Nat’l Park that creation requires a creator and discovered that pain and hate are consequences of our rejection of the creator in Genesis 3. The only part part fear played in his childhood was to drive him to suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18), until his eyes were eventually opened to the “tumor” he had all along, and subsequently, the cure.

As for “mountains of evidence” supporting evolution, there are mountains of something… but it’s only evidence if you presuppose evolution as fact, which there is no scientific basis for doing. It’s unobserved and untested, and inconclusive from the fossil record. What we do observe and can test is natural selection, limited variation within kinds. We don’t observe increased complexity, formation of novel structures, new body plans, or any change that can’t result from mere shuffling or loss of genetic information. The magical effect of adding vast amounts of time is illusory. What ToE leaves you to conclude are things that we never observe and we even laugh at in any other natural context: complexity from simplicity; intelligence from non-intelligence; uniformity from chaos; and—to follow this path outside of the scope of evolution—life from non-life and something from nothing. Insects evolving into flight don’t just need wings. They would need a complete overhaul in musculature and body design, and a nervous system wired for flight—flies don’t think about each wing stroke. They turn it on and off like a switch depending on whether their feet are in contact with a surface, yet steering is controlled by their brain. Describe how direct parallel component modification would work in that scenario. I don’t know if I have that kind of faith. Multiplying assumptions is the only way to make evolution palatable, all perhaps so we can avoid God and all that moral responsibility that many seem to not want to bother with. On the other hand, life, the world and the universe we observe is what we would expect to find if the Bible were true.

Re: appeal to ignorance. That point can be made about both sides of the argument. Lack of proof for God’s existence is not proof of His non-existence anymore than lack of proof of His non-existence is proof for His existence (say that 10x fast :). I would argue that the burden of proof lies with the atheist because 1) ultimate origins of what we can see are better explained by the existence of a supernatural Creator than by nature, which cannot logically cause itself, and 2) we all live as if truth is absolute and morality is objective, though some verbally deny it (thereby contradicting themselves) since it points to a sovereign/transcendent law giver. I don’t expect a non-physical, supernatural first cause to be proven by physical or natural means because there is nothing greater or more “first” to appeal to. If nature is all there is, shouldn’t you be capable, with natural evidence, to convince the majority of the world who see the evidence that nature is not all there is? God is strangely prevalent for something that doesn’t exist.

Apes may appear to “exhibit higher functions of moral choice” but they are not true moral agents. We all have the same creator, so there are similarities, but ability to reason about right and wrong is uniquely human. A gorilla that kills a person out of its instinct to protect itself or its young doesn’t “instinctually feel bad when [it] harms others”, and we don’t punish it accordingly, because moral law isn’t written on its heart. Humans feel that “instinctually” because “our conscience bears witness” (Rom. 2:15). “Other animal species also exhibit moral behavior, so it CAN have natural origins” still doesn’t even address how we come to identify any moral action as moral. Hypothetically, some primitive ancestral hominid, with a brain that was just highly evolved enough to rationalize “moral” thinking, feels compassion for a sick bird (or pick any two species evolving along parallel branches on Darwin’s tree) and shares food or defends it and helps it in some way. How do we look at the past and hypothesize that morality evolved when that first “moral” event still needs a pre-existing standard? Logically, the standard we measure that first act against, and all moral choices now, must be outside of nature.

Have you ever at least tried to critically examine the Bible? 

Absolutely. Dispensationalism is rather simple. You relate to a 3 year old differently than you relate to an adult, yet your standards do not change. “The same God that endorses slavery, murder and genocide…” Common misconceptions that become clearer if you read the Bible plainly (like any other book) without pulling verses and passages out of context. Murder (malice aforethought) is easy enough. Exodus 20:13 and Deut. 5:17 condemn unjust killing. This post is already long enough, but these sources handle the other 2 topics well…

On slavery: http://tinyurl.com/y89m2vn

Genocide: http://tinyurl.com/3tabvs

I’d love to see what specific “contradictions” you see in the Bible (chapter/verse please 🙂

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Leeroy

It takes no faith to accept evolution. It is a fact that speciation has occurred under lab conditions and has been observed in nature. The theory will never be 100% proven, but every time a fossil is dated, there you have a test. If it is dated to when we would expect that species to be alive via evolution – then the theory stands. It we find, say, a precambrian mammal, then the theory is destroyed. Millions upon millions of fossils and so far so good.

I don’t want to continue arguing evolution because, although it is a well substantiated theory, it is irrelevant to the God question. Even if the ToE were somehow proven false, it is still no more likely that an intelligent creator is our reason for existence. As I said earlier, it is not some automatic fallback when we don’t have a good explanation for something. Your god, too, requires evidence. If everything intelligent requires intelligence (as you suggest in your intelligence from non-intelligence assertion), then what created the intelligent creator?

Re: re: appeal to ignorance

That point can be made about both sides of the argument

Depends on how you define atheism. I define at as a rejection of theism based on lack of evidence. Theists tend to define it as the belief that there is no god.

I don’t claim that there is not a god or gods, because I don’t know, but I do reject specific theistic claims due to lack of evidence. I am not out to disprove god, and am willing to accept evidence in favor of him/her/it/them. But until such evidence is made available I do not believe in any of the gods with which I have been presented.

This position leaves the burden of proof squarely on the one making the positive claim – the one who says “There is a God.” That which can be asserted without evidence can be rejected without evidence. Do you reject Zeus based on actual evidence against him, or just because there is no evidence for him?

“1) ultimate origins of what we can see are better explained by the existence of a supernatural Creator than by nature, which cannot logically cause itself”

Until there is evidence for a supernatural creator, then no, it is not a better explanation. And again – if every intelligent being requires a creator, then what created the creator?

re: morality

Morality in no way proves existence of a god. I am moral because minimizing human suffering is generally a good thing. The concept of sin is abhorrent and without evidence.

Re: Majority of people…

Since the majority of people are not Christian, would you then argue that Christianity is wrong? I don’t think you would.

The majority of people also once thought the world was flat. The number of people who believe something has no bearing on its validity.

“God is strangely prevalent”

No he is not. Religion and superstition are prevalent, but there is still no evidence for the millions of god claims.

I, admittedly, did not read your links on slavery and genocide yet, and I’m sure you can rationalize it when your god says it is ok to beat your slaves, as long as they don’t die within a few days of the beating, but I’ll have to read it later to see how.

As far as contradictions, lets start from the top. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 directly contradict each other regarding the order of creation. They both can’t be right – but they both can be wrong. Due to lack of evidence for either account, I tend to think they are both wrong.

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Mike

Your god, too, requires evidence. If everything intelligent requires intelligence (as you suggest in your intelligence from non-intelligence assertion), then what created the intelligent creator?

Look deeper here. Every material effect we observe in nature has a cause, which is why we hold to the Law of Cause and Effect in nature and physics. The natural universe must have a cause as well (Big Bang Theory would be an effect, not a cause). To get around anything that resembles “God,” Lawrence Krauss proposed a universe from nothing, however he defines “nothing” as a theoretical quantum mechanical vacuum, which is clearly not “nothing”. There simply is no evidence for or even a logical framework for a causeless universe. Evidence in nature and our common sense tells us things don’t appear from nothing (Principal of Sufficient Reason), so naturally we would ask, hypothetically, who created the Creator. (So, good question :).

A fundamental aspect of Causality is that there must be a first cause that is uncaused (Aristotle’s “efficient cause”). This isn’t directly observed, but logically necessary. No one created the Creator, because the nature of anything called the Creator is that it is uncreated, existing eternally (Rev. 22:13). Naturalism won’t accept this because it only looks at nature. I ask, if nature created nature, then what created nature? More nature? Doesn’t it fly in the face of the Law of Parsimony to accept an eternal chain of undirected, unintelligent creation events over one eternal Creator? Unless you look at the supernatural (super=outside of/beyond), you won’t find nature’s cause, which logically must be outside of nature to cause it. Natural sciences don’t apply there (re: “Until there is evidence for a supernatural creator”), but our reason does. The God of the Bible fits the requirements for such a cause, but nothing else as yet does. That is evidence.

Better explained: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/first-cause.htm

Morality in no way proves existence of a god. I am moral because minimizing human suffering is generally a good thing.

Look deeper here, too. Again you state an effect of morality, not a cause. “Minimizing human suffering” is a moral choice. So is valuing the “good thing”. Good has an ultimate standard, which the Bible shows us is the essence/nature of God. You propose that nature caused morality; I assume you mean in the minds of individuals that collectively decide what is right/good/true based on what seems to benefit us all the most. The thing is, people change, so what they hold as moral will change. Nobody really lives that way. Everyone assumes that minimizing suffering always was and always will be a good thing, even if an individual or culture decides otherwise. We assume this because we have knowledge that moral law is fixed and unchanging. We are debating because we presuppose objective moral truth. Romans 2:15 supports this, as well as the concept of an eternal Creator writing those laws in our hearts. That is evidence.

Since the majority of people are not Christian, would you then argue that Christianity is wrong?… The number of people who believe something has no bearing on its validity.”

This is true, and I don’t subscribe to that either (sorry if I led you to think otherwise). Popular opinion doesn’t make something true. I have said that there is an absolute and unchanging standard of morality (which is true regardless of person, time or place) and that it is outside the creative capacity of humans or animals. We can know this because we all try to live by it, and it can’t logically be by our own design. What do you think gives moral truth (or any truth for that matter) its validity?

Religion and superstition are prevalent, but there is still no evidence for the millions of god claims.

But WHY is theism so uniquely prevalent? Is it reasonable to believe that so many people, who outgrow childhood fantasies about Santa Claus, etc. suffer from a worldwide delusion about God as adults, in many cases leading to lifelong devotion? “Religious” people like anyone else are generally able to earn degrees, keep jobs, and lead functional, productive lives with no other signs of mental illness save believing in a deity that plays an active part in directing their lives. This condition has been going around medically unclassified for millennia. This seems to suggest that “God” is not an internal fantasy but an external reality.

Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 directly contradict each other regarding the order of creation. They both can’t be right – but they both can be wrong. Due to lack of evidence for either account, I tend to think they are both wrong.

Genesis 1 is an overview of the six days of creation, and chapter 2 is a more detailed and developed narrative of the sixth day, focusing on the creation of mankind. There is no conflict. If you’re critiquing the relative order of plants and man, Ch. 1 puts plants before man in order of creation. But ch. 2 (“before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown”, vs. 5) refers to the cultivation of plants, which had not yet occurred when Adam was created. God created vegetation (as well as everything else) in a fully grown state, not as seeds in the ground. He gave the responsibility of farming to Adam. The words translated to plant, field and grew differ from the terms that express general vegetation in chapter 1. Some contend that the chapters differ in the order of creation of animals relative to man, but 2:19 suggests that the animals were brought to Adam after Adam was created, not that they were created after him.

Due to the lack of falsifiable evidence for naturalistic alternatives, and the fact that what we observe today meets creationist expectations if Genesis’ account is historically true, it seems to be the better answer.

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Leeroy

“If God created the universe, we must then ask the next logical question: what created God? We might say God came from nothing, or that God always existed. If we say that God came from nothing, why not skip a step and say the universe came from nothing? If we say that God always existed, why not skip a step and say the universe always existed?”

-Carl Sagan

Stating that God doesn’t need a cause while everything else does is special pleading. It is an inescapable regression to which the best response is, “We don’t know yet.” Inserting your preferred religion does no more to answer the question than the next guys religion.

I would also like to point out that the universe didn’t necessarily “appear from nothing”. Through background radiation and math, we are able to deduce that everything came from a small unit – the singularity. Which was not nothing, but rather it was everything – just dense and small.

The God of the Bible fits the requirements for such a cause, but nothing else as yet does.

There are plenty of other made up gods who fit that perceived requirement, too. Why do you reject Zeus?

That is evidence

You set the bar for evidence a little low. What you consider evidence I still call it an appeal to ignorance.

Again you state an effect of morality, not a cause.

A cause of morality? Social human evolution made us empathize with one another and reciprocate. Nature has given us the framework to live what we consider moral lives.

We assume this because we have knowledge that moral law is fixed and unchanging.

Wrong. You assume it. I say we as humans collectively determine what is moral for society. Our secular laws based on individual freedoms take care of that in this country, not some being with a carrot and a stick.

We are debating because we presuppose objective moral truth

I disagree that there is an ABSOLUTE objective moral standard. Is it always 100% of the time wrong to lie, cheat, steal or kill? If not then we have to use our powerful primate brains and subjectively decide, not some ancient book.

Romans 2:15 supports this, as well as the concept of an eternal Creator writing those laws in our hearts. That is evidence.

The bible was written, edited, translated, voted upon, re-edited, re-translated, by men. It is no way evidence for anything other than the creativity of (and lack thereof) first century men.

Why is theism so uniquely prevalent?

Through much of the last two millenia, if you did not accept the prevailing theistic religion you were ostracized from society or even jailed or killed. That will make an ideology spread like wildfire. It only made sense to accept the status quo and tell your children to do the same. It also didn’t hurt that the Bible explained things that were otherwise unexplainable at the time. We now have science for that.

Is it reasonable to believe that so many people, who outgrow childhood fantasies about Santa Claus, etc. suffer from a worldwide delusion about God as adults, in many cases leading to lifelong devotion?

Parents eventually tell their children there is no Santa. Unfortunately the same courtesy is not extended with regards to (insert your god here) because their parents never told them and so on and so on. Those who are especially devoted are so because they have been indoctrinated. That and their natural fear of the unknown, which religion capitalizes on very well.

“Religious” people like anyone else are generally able to earn degrees, keep jobs, and lead functional, productive lives with no other signs of mental illness save believing in a deity that plays an active part in directing their lives. This condition has been going around medically unclassified for millenia.”

I never said religious people are any less capable or intelligent. There is a negative correlation between education and religiosity, but that does not necessarily mean anything. I would also not call it a mental illness. It comes from indoctrination of children before they can think for themselves. Do you ever wonder why religion is so geographically predictable? Because parents teach their children what to think (as opposed to how to think) and most people do not bother questioning it. If it were so evident that one religion is correct, why are there 30,000+ denominations of Christianity alone?

I’m sure you can go through mental gymnastics and rationalize any contradiction with that attitude, so I won’t bother posting any others but instead give you a link to mull over. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html. I have a pdf with literally hundreds of contradictions, but I don’t know where it is online.

But no matter what there is still NO actual evidence for anything outside of nature, let alone your particular version of supernature. The bible is a book, clearly written by men, to be taken metaphorically. It is unlikely that we will ever even be able to know whether or not there is anything outside of nature, so until there is actual evidence, I am sticking with doubt.

Does it give you pause that there have been so many different religions through time? Every culture naturally felt the need to come up with there own creation myth because we, as a species, like to have explanations, whether or not they have merit. I assume you dismiss all the others, but why do you think yours is any different.

I admit that I don’t know exactly how everything got the way it is. Claiming knowledge without having it is far less moral than admitting what we don’t know and honestly looking for answers without a presupposition.

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Mike

Re: Carl Sagan and Zeus…

Why I would reject Zeus as the ultimate Creator: As far as I know Zeus never claimed to be such, so there is really nothing to reject. According to Greek mythology, he was the 6th child of Cronus and Rhea, so even if Zeus did claim to be or was ever hailed as First Cause, he had a beginning, so that puts him out of the running.

My reason for rejecting the universe’s expansion from singularity is not so simple. It’s too inconclusive and problematic. It falls outside the realm of physics or natural sciences since it’s supposed to preclude spacetime, and how do we make predictions from or model a starting point of infinite smallness? In short, such conjecture adds more questions than answers. If my assertion that God is the logically necessary eternal first cause is special pleading, how is it any different to propose a singularity as a logically necessary infinite first cause? We look for something there because we all know logically something had to jump start the universe, and that something had to be without a beginning. Why I reject Singularity/BBT is because when we try to match up a cause that is random and undirected with a universe that is very evidently fine-tuned, orderly and well-arranged, it doesn’t fit. The Bible, unlike any other ancient document, is internally consistent, historically reliable, prophetically accurate and comports with reality in our universe and ourselves. It accounts for the objective nature of truth and morality, logic, uniformity in nature, and other aspects of human nature that are a reflection of God, in whose image we are made. Naturalism doesn’t offer that. I think that’s enough cause to move past “we don’t know yet” and make a reasonable conclusion.

A cause of morality? Social human evolution made us empathize…

Empathy puts us in another’s place, but there is still a moral cause to empathize in the first place. What drives us to empathize vs. not caring?

Is it always 100% of the time wrong to lie, cheat, steal or kill? If not then we have to use our powerful primate brains and subjectively decide, not some ancient book.

Sometimes we do have to choose the “higher law” to follow when faced with two options (i.e. Killing in self-defense, lying to save someone’s life… or self-esteem if your wife asks your opinion on her weight) but this doesn’t change the laws themselves. Why did you pick those particular four actions? Isn’t it because you presuppose moral implications of those sins in any situation? And why is it that there are debates like this? Isn’t it because we both assume, like everyone else, the moral “rightness” of our principals over opposing views? I may be right or wrong, but neither evolution or societal boundaries can shift one to the other.

Through much of the last two millenia, if you did not accept the prevailing theistic religion you were ostracized from society or even jailed or killed. That will make an ideology spread like wildfire.

In its beginnings, Islam was spread by territorial conquest and coercion. 600 years earlier, Christianity rose AGAINST opposition from the government and society from a handful a men whose leader has just been crucified. They were threatened with torture and death, but they preached the Gospel anyway, and it spread like wildfire. This is unique to Christianity.

Does it give you pause that there have been so many different religions through time? Every culture naturally felt the need to come up with there own creation myth…

Yet every culture seems to have this overarching idea about invisible deities that should be worshiped and sacrificed to. Granted, we are human, so we often don’t get a good grasp on God, especially when we take His word out of context, or try and invent our own because something about God makes us uncomfortable. Happens often. Misperceptions about the truth don’t change the inherent nature of the truth. So many denominations out there show us that we have varying ideas on how to worship God. That’s our fault. That so many religions, creation stories and flood stories exist is probably because there is truth behind it. By your reasoning, there should be virtually no theists today.

How is religion “geographically predictable?” It seems to be a worldwide epidemic.

I’m sure you can go through mental gymnastics and rationalize any contradiction with that attitude, so I won’t bother posting any others but instead give you a link to mull over.

What attitude and what mental gymnastics? I simply showed a rational reconciliation of the two passages. If I can do that, there’s no basis for claiming contradiction.

Re: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html... I’ve had this same list of “contradictions” from the same site presented to me on at least two other occasions. The vast majority of the claims are absurd. Select any one alleged contradiction from the list that you have personally looked into and we can discuss, but obviously I can’t address “hundreds” of them in this forum. 🙂

“edited/re-edited” is a tenable position for the Book of Mormon, the Quran, and the Jehovah’s Witness New World translation, but it can’t be held for the Bible. Compare earlier versions and that fact is clear. We have over 24,000 whole or partial manuscripts for the New Testament dating as early as the first century that agree over 99% with our current NT, and with one another. We used to rely on 9th and 10th century manuscripts for the Old Testament until the Qumram/Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, containing every OT book except Esther. Turns out they are in overwhelming agreement with the current Old Testament, and they date into the 1st Century BC, (and include prophetic statements about Christ before his birth). Minor copyist errors, usually numbers or misspellings and missing words, account for the small portions that do not agree, but absolutely none that can’t be clarified by context or that alter any meaning or doctrine in the text.

———————————-

Leeroy

The Bible, unlike any other ancient document, is internally consistent, historically reliable, prophetically accurate and comports with reality in our universe and ourselves.

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/inconsistencies.html Internally consistent fail

Just because SOME of the bible is historically accurate, that doesn’t mean it is ALL historically accurate. There is no extrabiblical evidence for most of the characters – especially the magical ones (or at least the magic attributed to them). All evidence points to a 4 billion year old earth, not a 6-10 thousand year old earth. There is also not enough water for a global flood so we can throw that out as historicaly accurate. Historical accuracy fail.

Jesus was supposed to come back in the first century. Prophesy fail. But enlighten me, what prophesies have come to fruition? Note that any prediction made in the Old Testament was pretty easy for the authors in the New Testament to include and doesn’t exactly count as prophesy – unless you already accept every word of the book as true – so I am having a prophetic vision that you will disagree with me on that 🙂

Talking snakes, talking bushes, zombies and people living inside whales for days on end does not comport with reality. Reality fail.

I understand believing in a generic deity, but to be a full blown biblical literalist it takes some serious cognitive dissonance.

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Mike

Just because SOME of the bible is historically accurate, that doesn’t mean it is ALL historically accurate.”

True, but you’d have to prove an inaccuracy to disprove its accuracy. Saying earth hasn’t enough water for a global flood assumes the surface is the same now as before such a flood. There are marine fossils on Everest’s peak.

Re: infidels.org link, please see challenge in my last post.

There is no extrabiblical evidence for most of the characters…

Unless the historical accuracy of the Bible can be disproven, there is no reason to say extrabiblical evidence is required. In 1961, we unearthed an inscription of Pontius Pilate who was previously only known from the Bible and 2 Jewish historians. He was another one to ask “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

Jesus was supposed to come back in the first century.

Reference? There is no such Biblical prophesy.

what prophesies have come to fruition? … any prediction made in the Old Testament was pretty easy for the authors in the New Testament to include and doesn’t exactly count…

Isaiah 7:14 predicts the Messiah’s birth of a virgin, which would be preposterous to fake. Hundreds more are here (http://www.godonthe.net/evidence/messiah.htm), and keep in mind NT writers or copyists would have to fake hundreds of fulfillments to the satisfaction of 1st century readers. Given that our oldest manuscript copies come from various locations and languages yet agree on these Messianic fulfillments, this would be a insurmountable conspiracy of collaboration and execution by all those scribes. Non-messianic prophesies that were fulfilled later include the destruction of Tyre in stages by King Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great. Ezekiel 26 contains 6 different details about Tyre’s destruction, all of which have happened. Ezek. 36, 37:21 and Isaiah 11:12 and 66:8 foretell Israel coming together again as a nation, considered a political impossibility before it happened in 1948.

Talking snakes, talking bushes, zombies and people living inside whales for days on end does not comport with reality.

A reality without an omnipotent and omniscience Creator, no.

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There were no further responses from Leeroy.

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