Stenger buried again at HuffPo

October 29, 2010 • 6:17 am

Poor Vic Stenger—the sole strident atheist at HuffPo.  His columns (the latest is “Why religion should be confronted“) are always buried in the bowels of the Religion section.  And for good reason, too:

In America “people of faith” are treated with great deference. They are assumed to be persons of the highest moral standards–exemplars of goodness, kindness, and charity. But why should that be? How does faith qualify a person for such high esteem? After all, faith is belief in the absence of supportive evidence and even in light of contrary evidence. How can such a frame of mind be expected to result in any special insight? How foolish it is to build a society based on faith. And how foolish we are to respect the beliefs of people of faith.

I highly recommend Stenger’s latest book, The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason.

h/t: Butterflies and Wheels

258 thoughts on “Stenger buried again at HuffPo

  1. No disrespect to Jerry, Dawkins, or anyone else. But among the Gnus, there is no one whose authorship I have enjoyed more than Stenger.
    To anyone who hasn’t read them I recommend God the failed hypothesis, and The New Atheism.

    1. He actually says something good in that piece – something several of his critics have complained of his neglecting in the past. (I’m one, but more prominent critics have also made that complaint.)

      “scientists are heroes, not geeks. They’re the last caste of explorers, and represent the very epitome of passion for a career. They don’t do what they do for personal enrichment, but rather, because they get a crack at solving the greatest remaining mysteries. Their lives are adventure stories.”

      I’m glad to see that he gets that, and points it out.

      The piece overall is too PRspeakish and kind of “Hey kids, scientists are hip too!” for my taste, but at least there’s no gnu-blaming. I wonder if he’s turned over a new leaf since the LA shindig. Props if so.

      1. It’s not a nasty piece from him but it is a little ham handed. Who on Earth thinks that sticking a scientist into a posed picture with a rock star somehow makes science hip? Science is never going to become a valid career for a large number of young people until it becomes financially viable to go down that route.

        1. Yeh, that’s what I meant about PR-speak. It makes my toes curl, but it’s not finger-pointy. For this relief much thanks.

          (And I do like the “passion for a career-remaining mysteries” bit. I’ve made a point about not seeing that in his work in the past, so credit where it’s due.)

  2. I’m still fond of the way I’ve put it:

    A person with faith is one who makes conclusions about that which he has concluded is inconclusive, has knowledge about that which she knows is unknowable. Faith is not “willful ignorance,” but rather “willful insanity” or “willful idiocy.” Faith is a thing deserving not praise and respect, but pity and scorn.



      1. ‘Sokay. I’m just one of those random semi-anonymous blog posters on teh Intertubze. I have no problem at all being marked as shrill and strident. A faith-head who reads that will surely dismiss it out of hand…but, with luck, I’ve been successful in both planting a brain bomb and shifting the Overton Window.

        Besides, that ain’t nuthin’ compared to what I’ve been known to post as USENET’s BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy….



        1. As a long-term feminist, I’d like to thank the Gnu Atheists for all they are doing to reclaim the adjectives ‘shrill’ & ‘strident.’


          1. My pleasure, ma’am!

            Much as it’ll mortify Plait and Mooney, I’d be delighted to take ownership of those terms away from teh wimmins.

            And, in all seriousness, if all this attention on Ebil Athiestses means we can finally start treating people the same regardless of their plumbing (and, like, maybe even pay them the same for the same work, horror of horrors), that in and of itself would be a more than worthy goal all by itself.



            1. Feminist men are so sexy. 😉

              Yeah, misogyny’d lose a lot of its underpinnings if we could ever deep-six the Bible…

  3. While he has quite a way to go to get to the heart of it, Stenger is the only atheist I’ve seen who dares to point out the continued existence of religion is 100% incompatible with that us solving our global sustainability crisis.

    My criticism is that it isn’t enough to say that science has to lead the way towards solving the issues of climate change, Peak Oil, ecosystem collapse and overpopulation, because a lot of people will see that as another call for technofixes (which do not exist or is impossible to be found on time for most of these problems) while the reality is that it is all about putting humans in their proper place in the universe (i.e. not in the center of it), doing away with our view of ourselves as the most important thing in the world, realizing our dependence on the environment for our continued existence and exercising some restraint on our exuberant behavior.

    But it’s still the only voice out there who at least mentions this, which is a step forward. Certainly much better than the likes of Mooney and Eugenie Scott who are so fixated on single relatively insignificant issues such as the teaching of evolution that they completely miss the big picture..

    1. You seem to be implying that Jesus isn’t about to burn up this world and start over, and I find that deeply offensive.

      You have just driven me away from science and back to the open arms of the church.
      [/theoretical fencesitting theist who misunderstands evolution anyway]

      1. True, but my point is that the “militant” atheists aren’t doing a very good of raising these issues either. It mostly revolves around fundamentalist terrorists blowing themselves up, gay marriage, and other relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things stuff.

        While that’s not what this is all about, the fundamental problem with religion is that it forces on people’s minds an anthropocentric view of the world that is not only totally out of touch with reality, but is extremely dangerous for the survival of the species in the long term. That’s true for even the softest versions of religion. But we are rarely talking about that.

        1. I think you’re being unjust to the Gnus.

          Ask any of us — or even, don’t ask, since we’ll tell you anyway, sooner rather than later — and we’ll tell you that what matters most is truth.

          I don’t think Richard Dawkins can go more than ten minutes with an accommodationist before asking, “Yes, but is it true?” PZ’s opening remarks in that panel discussion not long ago were an exposition on that theme, and Dr. Coyne had a lengthy blog post on the matter in the past week or so.

          All we can do, really, is seek truth and beg others to do the same.

          And, yes, AGW and peak oil and other symptoms of overpopulation are the biggest problems looming over the species right now. I’ve written more than one lengthy reply on the subject here, myself.

          But it’s damned hard to get people to pay attention to that sort of thing when they’re obsessing whether or not they’ve got the right magic spell to ensure that an ancient Jewish zombie will eat their brains before he eats anybody else’s brains when he returns sometime this coming spring.



          1. I do care what’s true as much as anybody else. I don’t see where disagree on that.

            I am being “unjust” because as you seem to agree, those things are indeed the most important issues we should be talking about, yet, when people debate religion and the approach we should be having to it, they never come up. Yet, they are very tightly linked to religion and there is no real “solution” to them that doesn’t involved completely doing away with any sort of superstition, because those are, on a very fundamental level, problems arising from the way we see our place in the world.

            Getting those issues into the discussion and into people’s thinking would help a lot

            1. “Getting those issues into the discussion and into people’s thinking would help a lot”

              Yes, but it has to be approached in a useful manner. For instance, pointing out, no matter how vehemently, that global crises will result from religious dismissals means absolutely nothing to those who believe god has it under control. Your concerns are, to them, simply hand-waving about nothing.

              Your message is best addressed to those that already know it, to galvanize them into action about it. And that’s where Stenger’s derision of accommodationism comes into it. While religion has nothing to do with informing people about ecosystems, we cannot allow for personal beliefs in such areas, because those beliefs deny the very existence of the problem. Climate change, ripple effects, resource depletion, extinction events, and evolution itself all need to be brought firmly in front of people, with unquestionable amounts of evidence, in order to get the point home. If this offends someone’s worldview, that should be considered only the fault of the person holding that worldview. Too bad, so sad, get over it or get out of the way.

            2. I don’t think you get it. The reason people are in denial about AGW, Peak Oil and the rest of it, is precisely because they believe in God and don’t see themselves as part of the ecosystem but as something separate from it, with the ecosystem existing for them to forage on it.

              Of course you aren’t going to convince people, where by “people” I mean the ignorant religious mass. But it wasn’t those people I was talking about, I was talking about the internal secularist discussion about the way to approach religion. Which should absolutely involve some more serious talk about the really fundamental problems that religion has caused for humanity, yet this is almost completely absent…

            3. I don’t think that’s the only reason though. I think it’s bigger than that. It’s partly just habituation. We’ve all grown up in a high tech world, so we have a background idea that it’s “normal” and will go on forever. At least, I’ve noticed that I have that idea, and I’m guessing that it’s a pretty widespread default assumption. Our grandparents were around for the appearance of cars, our parents were around for the appearance of radio and tv, we were around for the appearance of computers and the internet, the next generation will be around for whatever it is. It’s just difficult to get it into our heads that that process could crash to a stop.

            4. The situation is way more complex than that. AGW denial has a well-funded anti-science PR campaign that serves to try to protect industries and the wealthy, and when it is phrased in terms of “it is a liberal plot to take your jobs and money”, religion plays no part in that.

              If I am discussing religion with someone, AGW does not usually come up. If I discuss AGW, then religion might come up. Why throw in side tracks to the main discussion? When I am talking about the latest movie, I don’t just bring up “yer religion sux” for no reason. Inserting AGW and the other issues are tangential to the main issue which is a lack of evidence for superstitious beliefs. It may come up if relevant, if not, it won’t.

            5. GM,

              I like your line of thinking on the subject and would want to check out your position on certain issues

              I am not sure if you are monitoring this if you do let me know how i can reach you provided if you still think that “getting those issues into discussion and people thinking” is important

          2. While I share your opinion of the importance of the issues you raise, I strongly disagree that the resistance to tackling them stems solely from religion. I also believe it is a bad idea to conflate atheism with political, social, and economic causes, however much we might feel that a more universal embrace of rationality and critical thinking would lead people to agree with your positions. It is a mistake to assume that all atheists are on the same wavelength politically, economically, even philosophically. Alas.

            1. I agree.

              The solution to the herding cats problem is not anywhere near.

              Nor is it desirable. True, accepting empiricism would help.

              (For example, of those issues mentioned, I would say AGW exist; there is no “global sustainability crisis”, “Peak Oil” is a failed oil field hypothesis that doesn’t even retrofit to outcome and in fact is not even wrong since it is not applicable to the oil market at all, “ecosystem collapse” is badly defined, and “overpopulation” isn’t defined at all.)

              But it would be a terrible day when everyone agreed on issues.

        2. True, but my point is that the “militant” atheists aren’t doing a very good of raising these issues either.

          frankly, the sales figures for their books (which have been much better than the lame apologist responses, btw) tends to support the opposite.

          Stenger even notes the role atheist internet blogs like this one and PZ’s have done to raise awareness of issues, and play “friendly home” for tens of thousands that have been isolated for far too long.

          so, no, the accomodationists have literally done NOTHING to progress the debate. Indeed, their position is dependent on the debate stagnating.

          their hope is that by stagnation, it will become a non-issue.

          yeah, like that’s EVER happened before.

    1. I stand corrected. I found this on the “Religion” page last night (and it was then in the “religion” section, but now I see it’s also labelled “politics” and is on the front page.

  4. Most people who believe that God exists, also believe that they will give an account to him about the way they lived their lives. In this day and age, even believers don’t act like they will give account to God. However, the principle remains. It’s just like an employee that does his job a little better because his boss is right beside him. The believer should act the same way. Sadly, most of us don’t live life like God is real anymore.

    The atheist’s morality is like the wind. It blows where it wants. It could be the best morality or the worst morality. It’s all up to the individual. Today’s prevalence of high moral atheistic standards seems almost like an act of rebellion. In rebelling against God, they feel they must prove that high moral standards can exist apart from God just so they can smear it in the faces of religious people. But, if the individual wants, they can lower their moral standards without having to justify it. That’s the advantage of atheism. Right now, it’s just more convenient to adopt good morals.

    1. All right, you asked for it. If you don’t want to be banned for trolling, I expect you to deal with and answer the objections that will surely come. If you don’t, and simply maintain your position, you’re outa here.

      1. If, as I’m fairly certain will happen, Denial gets the banhammer, do please be so kind as to let the rest of us know the reason for his sudden silence?

        And thanks for letting us play with the squeaky toy in the mean time!



    2. Pardon? Rebelling against God?
      I am rebelling against God in exactly the same manner that the average Christian rebels against Quetzalcoatl or the average Hindu rebels against Thor.

    3. “Right now, it’s just more convenient to adopt good morals.”

      Er, no. It’s more of a “this is the only world and life we’ve got” situation, and we’ve got to do it right.

      You’re confusing the hard work of reason with the “convenience” of just accepting what a religious tradition hands you.

    4. I can see how, from a believer’s point of view, atheists are rebelling against God. I’ve even encountered blogs where believers say that atheists hate God.

      The believers’ point of view leads to a mistaken conclusion. Atheists don’t rebel against God. Atheists don’t hate God. For Atheists accept that there is no god to rebel against or hate.

      This is hardly a recent mistake. How many religious wars have started based on the point of view ‘Because you worship another god, you must hate my God’?

        1. Exactly. I hate YHWH the same way I hate the Baron Scarpia or Darth Vader.

          After all, YHWH and Vader have a lot in common: both utterly destroyed an inhabited planet over a triviality.

          Even with the Job incident, though, YHWH wasn’t quite as twisted as Scarpia. YHWH never was subtle enough to stoop to Scarpia’s level. Though I do have to give points to YHWH for the mindfuck he did on Pharaoh, I’ll admit. Still, that was more like a bludgeoning with a sledgehammer; Scarpia would shiv you with a smile, and you wouldn’t even realize what had happened until you collapsed an hour later.



          1. However, I would hope we all agree that we hate Jar Jar Binks. I don’t care that he is an entirely fictitious character, I would gladly stomp his head in with iron-shod boots if I could.

            George Lucas is real, however…. (no boots, just disgust, to be honest)

    5. The involvement of morality in the debate about the existence of God makes absolutely no sense. What is more “moral” and what less “moral” (to the extent that using that term makes sense) and what the consequences of atheism with respect to people’s morality are completely irrelevant to the question is there are a God or not.

      If there isn’t a God, then there that’s what the facts are. You can’t change the facts just because it would look more “moral” to you.

      1. And if there was a god, why was he so damn unclear such that his believers all come to different conclusions about what he wants and what is moral?

        What sort of god would allow such confusion, sectarian violence, etc. (while remaining indistinguishable from a schizophrenic delusions?)

        Are religious minds so stunted that they do not ask themselves these questions? What a perverse god they feel so special and saved for “believing in”.

        1. Sh*t yeah! I’ve thought this for a long time. If a god wrote one of these religious texts, he certainly doesn’t seem to mind that people are murdering each other for having the wrong interpretation. Shouldn’t an all-powerful god realize that language changes and not everyone can read the language of the texts? Why not release “The Bible: Second Edition, with a new forward by the author?” wouldn’t that be the sensible thing to do?

        2. God can do no wrong, so if He says that genocide in his name is acceptable, then it is. With a God authoring morality, it is the ultimate in relativism. Whatever this god says is good, is good, no matter how we might judge it. Who are we to question the one who created us when he kills children with plagues? When he decides to wipe out thousands to punish one mans decision? When he sends bears to kill children who called a man “baldy”?

    6. Um…no.

      Christianity is the most amoral philosophical worldview.

      Christians believe that they will get into heaven solely asking forgiveness and believing in Jesus. That is the fundamental moral of the myth of the thief on the cross.

      Therefore, Christians honestly believe that no sin is unforgivable. Jeffrey Dahmer is allegedly in heaven, because he converted to Christianity before he got shived in prison. His victims, however, are allegedly in hell, because they were unrepentant homosexuals.

      Atheists believe that how you behave here and now matters. There is no scapegoating of your crimes onto an invisible blood-soaked corpse.

      And the statistics support the contention that atheists are more moral and ethical than non-atheists. Atheists are much less likely to commit crimes worthy of prison, for example. In nontotalitarian atheist countries, there is a much lower rate of murder, rape, and other crimes against person.

      You could not be more misinformed if you tried.

      1. Your response to Daniel criticizes the Christian faith as amoral on the basis of the idea that the Christian perspective of forgiveness is essentially that of a “get out of jail free” card. Do you mind pointing to Christians who can be taken as representative of Christian thought and who adhere to this view? Thanks.

        1. Um…how about every one of them that’s been caught with somebody helping them “lift their luggage”?

          Pretty much everywhere you turn, there’s a Christian wailing and gnashing teeth over some horrendous sin…who, in the next breath, heaps praise on Jesus for the admittedly-undeserved forgiveness and salvation he’s bestowed upon them. And, of course, they rarely stop doing whatever it was that they needed forgiveness for.

          Then there’s the Catholic confessional….



            1. @Nate,

              Perhaps reading my follow up post first will be helpful. Though, if after reading it you still feel the clarified notion is taught in the New Testament, I would appreciate “chapter and verse.” 🙂

              I say that because I have read the New Testament and do not find the idea taught there. Rather, I see the idea of living “rightly” in there here and now as an essential element to Christian living.

            2. I’m sorry, Joy, but the notion that Jesus can in any way be thought of as having taught living “rightly” is pure bullshit.

              This is, after all, the fictional anti-hero who brought us such gems as, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me,” “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” and “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” In the opening of the Sermon on the Mount itself, he commands horrific acts of self-mutilitaion for mere thoughtcrimes, and forbids, on pain of hellfire, divorce for any reason save infidelity on the part of the woman.

              I don’t know where you got the notion that Jesus is some happiness-and-light prince of peace, but it sure ain’t the Gospels.



            3. @Ben,

              We disagree on our understandings of the New Testament. You’re free to call mine understanding bullshit and assume your understand is correct and can withstand scrutiny. However, this is not the issue being address. Rather, we are attempting to discover if the New Testament or Christian thought supports the idea of an “easy escape” perspective on forgiveness.

            4. It’s the common Christian view, with the most prominent NT example being the thief on the cross.

              A more modern example is Ted Bundy, who (like many murderers) figured he was OK with God once he accepted Jesus. James Dobson seemed to complete buy this BS, by the way.

              Even the nastiest modern example, Hitler, repeatedly claimed to be doing God’s work in eliminating those enemies of Christ, the Jews.

              Much less nasty but still disgusting examples include those loudmouth preachers who get caught with rent boys or evading taxes but still feel they are right as rain after their little talk with Jesus.

            5. @Ray,

              I have attempted to clarify again. Do you mind reading and seeing if you still think your examples qualify? Thanks.

            6. Joy, this thread is full of examples. I think this is the first response I’ve posted that doesn’t have at least one.

              For the matter, the fact that you’re pretending that we haven’t given any examples and thus are bearing false witness against us would be another example.

              Hm. I guess this response does have an example, after all.



            7. @Ben,

              I have asked for specific concrete examples for the second premise. You have only provided vague examples which are indistinguishable from the appeal to sophisticated theologians.

              Ray’s examples may work, but I have to be sure he has in mind the second premises and not some other notion.

            8. Jebus, Joy, learn to look things up.

              James Dobson interviews Ted Bundy:

              An excerpt:

              Dobson: JCD: There is tremendous cynicism about you on the outside, I suppose, for good reason. I’m not sure there’s anything you could say that people would believe, yet you told me (and I have heard this through our mutual friend, John Tanner) that you have accepted the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and are a follower and believer in Him. Do you draw strength from that as you approach these final hours?

              Bundy: I do.

              The common Christian view is simply that a serial killer is saved by accepting Jesus, but Gandhi (or better) is going to fry for failing to do so. Moral conduct doesn’t enter into the big picture at all.

              I expect that’s what Kevin meant by “immoral”.

              Now, you might object that Bundy wasn’t “really” a Christian until after he killed all those women. If so, there are three words you should consider: John Wayne Gacy.

            9. @Ray,

              It seems you are address the “forgiveness is easy” idea, and as such you are not address the objection being raised.

              See my question to Kevin below.

        2. I’ve got a couple for you–Jesus, the pope. What exactly do you think confession and repentance are? I’ll help you out even more, Joy. Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Adventists, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Do you mind pointing to Christians who can be taken as representative of Christian thought and who don’t adhere to his veiw? Thanks.

          1. I meant “essentially” to communicate the idea of “easy escape.” That is, one can live as they desire and then play the forgiveness card at the last moment to be free from it all. I apologize for the lack of clarity on my part.

            1. Theologically it’s wrong but if you talk to the rank and file Christian, it’s what the trope/meme often means to them.

              It’s the idea of faith, and not works, that determines your worth as a human being *phooey*, which is fairly common in Protestant denominations, and is getting quite a foothold in Catholicsm (despite being, again, theologically and traditionally wrong)

              How it plays out in practice, is that people view that expanding the “Glory of God” as being the sign that you’re a good person. It’s why when we talk about “moral” issues, we talk about abortion and homosexuality, which are relatively easy issues for most people. Don’t have to sacrifice. We don’t talk about poverty and equity in those terms however, because they are more difficult and often require sacrifice.

              Again, as most of us know, there’s no theology to back any of this up. But it doesn’t matter. What’s important, and what we fight against is the culture of religion, not the specific texts. (Which are a shellgame at best)

            2. @Karmakin,

              I am willing to go along with the idea of the “Christian faith” being what is believed by the rank and file, but I still need some concrete evidence. If Kevin is going to dismiss an entire worldview as amoral on the basis of this idea, then I would expect at a minimum some evidence would exist to support the generalization and that he (or someone else) can point me to this evidence. That’s really what I’m seeking.

            3. Joy, your attempts to pretend that Christians don’t thrive on a perverted sense of repentance are simply incredible.

              Have you never heard of the Sinner’s Prayer?

              I mean, it’s the very foundation of Christianity, repeated incessantly. “Jesus died for your sins.” “Repent and be saved.” “Cleansed of sin by the blood of Christ.”

              If I were you, I’d look for some other way to sell Jesus to Gnu atheists, because there’s absolutely no way this one will fly. You’d be better off trying to convince us that Jesus’s zombiehood was only metaphorical, and that the metaphor was still somehow of something sane and desirable.



            4. @Ben,

              I am challenging an argument, not selling Jesus. Let me try again.

              Kevin presented the following argument.

              Premise 1: Christians believe forgiveness is something easily obtained.
              Premise 2: This belief leads Christians to behave in immoral ways.
              Inference: Hence, Christianity is an amoral system of belief.

              I am challenging the second premise of the argument. I am convinced there is insufficient evidence, be it from the New Testament, theologians, or even the rank and file, to support this premise as categorical or as a generalization. And, in fact, there is evidence to the contrary.

              If you have evidence to support the second premise, I am all ears.

            5. So, Joy, what do you think god had his kid (who was really him) killed for? Wasn’t it so that all who believed in this magical story could live happily ever after despite the fact that their many times great grand parents ate forbidden fruit?

              That’s what I got from my religious upbringing. Like many theists, you are vague so who knows what you believe– but this is the gist of Christianity.

              I suspect that most theists don’t even know what they really believe– they are just afraid to question faith because they’ve been indoctrinated to believe bad things will happen.

              Theism is so vague, changing, daft and loopy that I doubt there are many beliefs that self identified Christians share. Their magical sky buddy apparently wasn’t concerned with sectarian violence, misinterpretation, and people like Fred Phelps or he’d have been more clear and people like you wouldn’t run around claiming to get your own special magical messages out of your favorite holy book.

            6. @articulett,

              To cite the common Christian refrain, “The forgiveness of our sins.” Any point at which my words are ambiguous is entirely unintentional. If there’s something you don’t understand about my objection, I’m more than happy to clarify.

        3. Every. Single. One.

          It’s inherent in the religion.

          If you do not think so, you do not understand the fundamental tenet of your religion.

          Believe in Jesus and all your sins are forgiven. Do you disagree with that?

          1. Do Christians (generally) believe they can and/or do live in immoral ways because they know forgiveness is easily obtained?

            1. As a former Christian, I’d say most Christians would say “of course not”. They believe it’s important to strive to be good.

              However, the evidence of their actions indicates otherwise — because forgiveness for even the most heinous crime or destructive action is just a prayer away, and everybody knows it. What counts for them is not morality but salvation.

            2. @Kevin,

              My experience trumps your “sophisticated theologians” (i.e., vague examples). The Christians around me try to live in moral ways. I read the Book of James and see it stresses “good works.” Thus, I need something more than vague references to the “pious in prison.”


              That may be so, but my experience contradicts it. Hence, my reason for requesting specific examples rather than vague ones.

            3. Joy, most people try to live in “moral ways”. That’s just human nature.

              My Christian experience includes three youth ministers and other lay minister, all whom I knew pretty well, who turned out to be sexually abusing children. In one case, I had to fight other church ministers to keep the abuser away from the kids he was abusing and get them some help instead of just covering it up, as I found to be the usual church practice unless the police get involved.

              I was a Christian for many years, and a non-Christian for the last 15 or so. I’ve really seen no evidence at all that Christians or other religious people are as moral as secular people. The evidence is that religious people are less moral.

            4. @Ray,

              I think we can agree our experiences have differed greatly. (I was involved in youth ministry for a few years. I attend many conferences and such with other youth ministers. It was rare for there to be cases of abuse amongst my fellow youth workers.) Being that our experiences have differed so greatly, I don’t think anecdotal evidence is sufficient to convince either of us. Thus, we need to look for other evidence.

              Now, I am willing to grant your claims in the post are different from those of Kevin. Thus, I am not asking you to provide support for them. (I want to stick to the initial point of contention.) However, if you do support Kevin’s view that the Christian religion is amoral on the basis the Christian perspective of forgiveness, then I would be expect some evidence for the idea.

              I have been fairly charitable, in my mind anyway, in making the task of providing evidence quite easy. I have suggested three lines of evidence. First, one could show that “Christians are free to live immoral lives because forgiveness is easy to gain.” is taught in the New Testament. Second, one can point to well-known theologians (e.g., Luther, Calvin, Bonhoffer, Barth, McGrath, Stott, etc.) or even well-known ministers (e.g., Graham, Robertson, etc.) who teach the idea. And, thirdly, one could point to a number of “rank and file” Christians in print or some other recorded media sufficient to support a generalization of all Christians. For the last point, we could set an arbitrarily low number. How about 15 “rank and file” Christians, in print or recorded media, promoting the idea? Surely, if the idea is as prevalent as has been suggested, then that number should be a cake walk to come up with.

              I want to emphasize again, though, that you, Ray, do not necessarily have to defend the idea. You have not directly claimed nor supported the claim. So, I am mostly posting this for the benefit of others, particularly Kevin.

            5. <sigh />

              Joy, this kind of blatantly insincere disingenuousness is quite unbecoming.

              First, you clearly haven’t been reading the thread, for Daniel has been repeatedly providing the perfect example. He’s obsessed with the fact that “we” continuously sin and therefore need continuous forgiveness for said sins. Obviously, it’s never occurred to him to…you know? stop sinning?

              Next, two words: plenary indulgences.

              Now, I can imagine you right now, getting ready to dismiss that as ancient history that nobody actually believes in any more. Go ahead. I’ll just ask you why you think reducing the price of a desired commodity to nothing while increasing production would eliminate all demand for and consumption of the commodity.

              You’ll probably still hem and haw, after which I’ll point out the Catholic Church’s horrific record of shuffling “repentant” child rapists from parish to parish as part of an organized child rape crime syndicate.

              At that point, you’ll either declare me to be a Catholic-hating bigot or start making off-the-wall observations about the preferred breakfast cereals of Catholics, depending on your clergy’s taste in neckwear.

              Finally, let me point out that Christians know fuck-all about repentance. You might have noticed a fair number of Russian / Polish Jewish atheists around here. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the concept of t’shuvah. It’s actually a most admirable model for moral treatment of transgressions and forgiveness. And it’s the polar opposite of the Christian model. How Christians can claim their religion has its roots in Judaism while so utterly perverting one of the bedrock foundations of Judaism, something that it actually got right, is utterly beyond me.



            6. Joy, do you think we’re saying that Christian leaders explicitly teach that Christians can do anything they want? That’s ridiculous. Beating up their members and potential members with threats of God’s disapproval and punishment is one of their main tools of business.

              What we’re saying is that Christians on average have a poorer morality than secular people, and we think that their “forgiveness” beliefs are a big part of the reason why.

              And I expect the reason you didn’t see sexual abuse by ministers because you weren’t looking for it. It’s actually rather common, it’s sad to say. It is another moral failure of repressive religions.

            7. @Ben and the Others,

              I want to engage in a genuine, respectful and thoughtful dialogue with you and others here. I am willing to make an effort to understand and be understood. I am willing to support my claims to the best of my ability and expect the same in return. With this in mind, is it possible for us to engage on these grounds? I am going to continue under the assumption that we can.

              I shall begin by returning to Kevin’s post.

          2. Before you can even receive salvation, God must give you the faith to believe in him. Man-made faith always falls short.

            Salvation is the work of God, not us. We do not appropriate it for ourselves.

            Salvation is given to us when we give 100% of our ourselves to God. It involves loving God; repenting from not just what I did but also who I was; and seeking God with all of my heart.

            Salvation is not our work, it is God’s work.

            1. Sigh. To introduce more theological ideas into the conversation does not help bring clarity. The waters were already muddy enough. You’ve probably made them too muddy to clear. Thanks a lot.

            2. There is no such thing as “salvation”.

              That’s made up. Imaginary. Fiction.

              The reason Christianity succeeded and supplanted the polytheistic religions is the concept that one can live in heaven.

              There is no more evidence of heaven than there is of the gods living on Mount Olympus, or that all the dead must go to Hades.

              They’re imaginary places.

              No salvation. Only oblivion.

            3. Ha! Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Go for it, guys — Christians are cute when they show that they can’t agree about even the most basic religious issues, like salvation.

            1. Joy, you tangential bozo– it’s not up to anyone here to prove to you what Christians believe. You don’t win points because the Christians you know don’t believe the things that most people understand Christians to believe. I suspect most of us posting here were once Christians… we know how the story goes. I didn’t have any horrible experiences with religion, I just don’t think any of it’s true; (and if it isn’t true, threatening people with hell is immoral in my book… but I guess the Christians you know don’t believe in hell either, eh?)

              We all know you theists don’t agree with each other on what you believe– we also know you have no more evidence for the magical things you believe than for the magical things you dismiss. Your idea of religion is someone else’s idea of a cult. I suspect most of you don’t even know what the hell you believe– you are just afraid bad things will happen if you don’t so you are on a constant quest to ensure you have faith and that faith is something good to have!

              Why should we care about your magical beliefs and the morality you imagine it gives you more than we should care about a Scientologist making similar arguments? Really. Would you cede to the demands of a Scientologist to prove to them that they believe what you think they believe? Why would you expect anyone to do that for you here? Does it matter if some Scientologists are really super duper people doing super duper things? Does that make their faith any more true or worthy of respect?

              See, no one really cares about you think Christians are supposed to believe. That’s not what this topic is about. You are free to believe whatever magical mystical things make you feel super duper. But don’t expect us to respect your magical beliefs or the fact that you’ve been able to believe such things and feel proud of doing so. Don’t expect me to look to you for “the truth” about what “Christians believe”. Despite your delusions of grandeur, I don’t think anyone is trying to convince you of anything since we know from experience that the faithful tend not to be amenable to reason.

              We don’t care what you think “most Christians” believe. We are able to make our own determination on the subject. Convincing you is not an interest of anyone here.

              Most science-minded people care about what is true. We’ll leave you theists to dick around about what your are “supposed to” believe. There really is no way to measure for belief unless someone does something that they wouldn’t do if not for such a belief. You can only go by what people claim to believe. You say you are a Christian, so I assume you believe the stuff I believed when I was a Christian– but I don’t really know or care what you believe.

              See, Faith is not a means of finding out anything true nor is it something that should be respected. It makes the faithful (including those belonging to cults you find dangerous) feel deep and moral and like faith is doing you some good, but it really isn’t evident to the rest of the world. I’m sure every believer imagines that those who believe as he or she does are more moral than those who don’t. So what? What is the point of your entire tangential demands that we prove to you what Christians believe? Who gives a shit anyhow? I don’t really care that all the Christians you know are super duper moral to you because they believe whatever the hell it is you believe.

              So, do you believe that Jesus died to save you from your sins or not? Does that mean you can sin and still be saved or not? Do you have to believe this story to be saved or not? If faith helps morality, why aren’t people who believe this more moral by any objective means than those who don’t? Why do so many people do so many immoral things in the name of what they believe? How do you tell a true faith from a false one; a good one from a bad one?

              What is it you imagine most Christians believe and how is it relevant to the topic again? Do you even care if what you believe is true or not?!

            2. Why do I always arrive at these things so late?!

              Joy, I’ll reply to you here since this us the first indentation level I’ve come across on my phone that will allow it.

              Some hours ago, you told Ben Goren that his understanding of scripture was not your understanding of it. Ben was simply quoting directly. His “understanding” is to take it at face-value. If you feel compelled to “interpret” various passages to mean something they don’t explicitly mean, what is it that compells you to do so? I’ll tell you: your handy-dandy, 100% all-natural conscience. Provided by evolution, as explained by Dawkins et al.
              You keep asking for evidence of less moral xians, as compared to us godless. This won’t prove anything. We can line up well-behaved and ill-behaved folks on both sides until we’re blue in the face. They’re there.

              The point, rather, is that most religions, and ESPECIALLY xianity, do in fact provide that “get out of jail free” card; they provide an excuse to ignore one’s conscience. Perhaps the sum of all well-behaved people in the world would increase if we all felt beholden to look out for each other, and to really consider the far-reaching implications of our actions. As opposed, of course, to worrying primarily about our “relationship” w god, or storing up treasures in heaven.
              The godless are concerned with real people, real issues, in the here and now. There is no second chance. You’ve got to admit, this is definitely a better formula for achieving morality.

        4. Whether something is moral or not is an opinion; I know you theists have a hard time distinguishing between opinion and fact. But nobody needs to prove their “opinion” to you. Unlike facts, there is not “right” answer when it comes to opinions. People can think of Christianity as immoral without having to prove anything to you just as you can think Muslim teachings are immoral.

          But Christianity does teach that Jesus died for “our” sins. It does teach that believers are “saved” because of this “sacrifice”. The message seems to be that Christians can sin and be forgiven while their unbelieving counterparts cannot, right? Or was the sacrifice meant for everybody? Is the sacrifice for future sins or just that apple eating thing our ancestors are said to have done? What does it mean to you to call yourself a Christian– doesn’t it mean you believe your sins have been “paid for”? How do you think this has made you more moral?

          This crucifixion thing might be one reason why Kevin and others might conclude that Christianity’s teachings are immoral. Blood atonement seems pretty immoral too. So does hell. So does a god who orders all the crap your god ordered in your holy book. So does a god who wasn’t against slavery. So does the misogyny. So does an unclear god that allows for so many differing interpretations of his magic book such that it leads to holy wars. I don’t have to know what you personally believe to find the belief system Christianity is based on to be immoral just the same as I don’t have to know what each Muslim or Scientologist believes to come to a similar conclusion about such beliefs. And, in any case, I find all supernatural beliefs primitive, superstitious, and childish– not to mention untrue. I don’t think it’s moral to teach untrue things as “higher truths” that you are “supposed to believe” or suffer eternal consequences.

          Does religion make you incapable of understanding this?

          You’re free to have the opinion that Christianity is a force of good just as others might look at the evidence and find it the source of much immorality. I think facts of the inquisition and the pogroms as well as the many religious sex scandals today and through history supports the latter.

      2. @Kevin, Ray, Ben, and Others,

        What we’re saying is that Christians on average have a poorer morality than secular people, and we think that their “forgiveness” beliefs are a big part of the reason why.

        If I correctly understand the comment above from Ray, then it seems I may have misunderstood the post from Kevin. I understood Kevin to be arguing the Christian faith is “amoral” rather than “the most amoral.” So, I apologize for this misunderstanding, and I would like to thank Ray for being patient and kind enough to work through the misunderstanding.

        However, I still see a point of contention. I am not convinced the Christian perspective on forgiveness necessarily nor generally leads Christians to be more immoral than secular people. I would like to see evidence that generally Christians adhere to the view that forgiveness gives them the freedom to behave in immoral ways, and I would also like to see evidence that this view has generally led Christians to behave in immoral ways.


        1. Joy, if you want to be treated with respect, you could start by not ignoring what we write.

          You keep asking for evidence, we keep giving it to you, and you keep pretending that we haven’t even written anything at all.

          So here, again, is a summary of examples of Christians being immoral as a result of belief in the salvation of Christ:

          * Daniel, in this thread, harping on the necessity for forgiveness of the sins “we” continuously commit without ever suggesting that it might be better to stop sinning.
          * Plenary indulgences.
          * The Catholic church shipping child rapists from parish to parish.
          * The endless stream of evangelical pastors caught with “rent boys” who help them “lift their luggage.”
          * Statistics that show the one of the best indicators of the likelihood of marital infidelity and abortion is strong faith in fundamentalist Christianity.

          But it doesn’t even need that level of proof; it’s in the very psyche of our culture. “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. / Go, my child, and sin no more.” “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.” “Deathbed conversion.”

          Not only is it disgusting, it’s a cancer on our society. On a large scale, it manifests itself in, as Jesus commanded, people giving no thought for the morrow, and therefore wantonly polluting, wasting resources, raping and pillaging foreign lands, and racking up huge debts. It’s the ultimate culture of “ME!”

          At its heart is the conviction that this life is meaningless except for whatever you need to do to get to Heaven. And, once you realize that, you also realize that, in practical terms, Heaven is by far the most evil concept to come out of Christianity. Sure, Hell is bad enough for all it does to scare people needlessly. But Heaven? Heaven means you don’t even have to pretend to build, or even preserve, a future here on Earth. It’s a giant middle finger raised to the rest of humanity.

          Christians are parasites, the whole lot of you. You’re sucking the rest of the world dry just so you can pour our blood into this insane fantasy that doesn’t even pretend to make sense. Those of you who do do good things do it for the worst possible extrinsic motivation: to kiss the ass of an imaginary friend. Heaven help us when y’all decide that the best way to kiss Jesus’s ass is by conquering another country of brown-skinned people.

          While the rest of us are trying to build a better tomorrow, y’all’re busy trying to bribe your way into a better afterdeath. It’s disgusting and utterly uncivilized.



          1. Ben,

            Thank you for the summary, but I do not see them as relevant to my request. However, I will address them one-by-one.

            Daniel, in this thread, harping on the necessity for forgiveness of the sins “we” continuously commit without ever suggesting that it might be better to stop sinning.

            I believe Daniel is saying no matter how hard we try we can never live completely free from sin. To him, sin is a fact of life much like humans needing water to continue living. I believe Daniel would also say we should stop sinning. (He can feel free to correct me, though.) Thus, this example is not relevant.

            Plenary indulgences.

            The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “To facilitate explanation, it may be well to state what an indulgence is not. It is not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; neither could be granted by any power. … By a plenary indulgence is meant the remission of the entire temporal punishment due to sin so that no further expiation is required in Purgatory.”

            Again, not relevant.

            The Catholic church shipping child rapists from parish to parish.

            I can see a potentially weak connection here, but you’ll need to expound more to make it stronger.

            The endless stream of evangelical pastors caught with “rent boys” who help them “lift their luggage.”

            How does this promote the idea of Christians being free to engage in immoral behaviors?

            Statistics that show the one of the best indicators of the likelihood of marital infidelity and abortion is strong faith in fundamentalist Christianity.

            Even so, is this an outgrowth the a belief in “easy forgiveness?”

            It’s the ultimate culture of “ME!”

            You’ll need to put forth a better argument to show how the “culture of me” is the result of a belief in “easy forgiveness.”

            At its heart is the conviction that this life is meaningless except for whatever you need to do to get to Heaven.

            How does this account for the teaching of stewardship of the Earth found in Genesis? Christ’s teachings about serving others? The Book of Acts showing the early church caring for widows? James emphasizing the need for good deeds? The numerous food banks operated by Christian ministers? The environmental movement within Evangelical Christianity?

            Christians are parasites, the whole lot of you. You’re sucking the rest of the world dry just so you can pour our blood into this insane fantasy that doesn’t even pretend to make sense. Those of you who do do good things do it for the worst possible extrinsic motivation: to kiss the ass of an imaginary friend. Heaven help us when y’all decide that the best way to kiss Jesus’s ass is by conquering another country of brown-skinned people.

            Thank you for letting me know your feelings about me. I am happy to see you can deduce so much about me from a few simple posts on the Internet.

    7. “In this day and age, even believers don’t act like they will give account to God. However, the principle remains.”

      Well, as long as we have the principle. The behavior that is supposed to be guided by it doesn’t really matter, as long as the principle itself remains. That’s why god provided free will – so the rule itself could remain inviolate.

      “The atheist’s morality is like the wind. It blows where it wants.”

      And you are differentiating this from the believers you just named above, in what way?

      “That’s the advantage of atheism. Right now, it’s just more convenient to adopt good morals.”

      Yep, got it in one! Once all of the religious folk have been converted, then I’ll have no problem with eating babies, abusing others, stealing, pillaging… and no one will do a damn thing about it, because nothing says I can’t! My victims will sit there helpless, bereft of any moral code that would permit them to retaliate, codes like remaining meek and turning the other cheek. The laws of the countries and the justice sense of the people will vanish, collapsing from the religious framework that underpinned them. That’s why slavery got abolished and women’s rights were established – because some idiot rewrote the scripture. That, um, the believers aren’t following anyway…

      It’s interesting to see how you contradict yourself in one post. So, are the religious morals working, or are they not? Just curious.

      You see, this is why religion will die. It encourages people to find an argument that sounds good on the face of it, and never examine it to see if it makes sense. Making sense is not an important trait, it would seem.

      And the really ugly part of all this: if you admit it’s not working right now, why do you feel it’s worth supporting? Why are you here, decrying the morality you just said atheists have, and not in religious forums, lambasting the morality they lack? Personally, I thought that might actually be the god’s work so many believers seem to think they’re doing…

      Oh, yeah, my morals flip with the wind, so it’s okay to ignore me. Carry on.

      1. I am sure the hijackers were very certain that they were following god’s word and would be rewarded by god as they flew their planes into buildings…

        The problem with theist morality is they have no method of distinguishing a divine message from a schizophrenic delusion. They all think they are the most moral ones and that those who believe differently are deceived. Lots of people claim to be getting messages from god or that their interpretation of such and such holy book is correct– but there is no evidence of divine truths (nor any magical being who cares about human activities.)And, by any objective measure, theists are not more moral than those who don’t believe in invisible beings.

        I think atheists get their morals the same way everyone else does –they just don’t imagine in comes from an invisible sky tyrant. I evolved to be moral; I feel bad when sentient beings suffer and I feel good when they feel good. I worry about those who need threats of fear and promises of salvation to do the right thing. How is that moral?

    8. Why even begin a debate on morality when he hasn’t even set up the ground. If we want to talk about his god, let’s start with some evidence for its existence.

      Now, if you want to talk about the morality that comes from different people reading different parts of an ancient collection of myths and semi-history and coming up with whatever they want to use as morality…then we can discuss that with a more rational system of ethics.

      1. IMO it’s two different questions. First, does god exist. Second, is our current religious culture helping or hurting our moral standards.

        There might be some way that those questions are related, in terms of honesty as a virtue, but generally they’re pretty separate questions.

        FWIW the answers are no, probably not, and religion is hurting our moral standards.

    9. Oh Daniel, I do not have to proove anything to anyone about my morality or lack thereof. One cannot rebel against Nothing.

      On your webpage you say “when man does evil, it is rebellion against God and the good things he made. When God does evil, it is punishment and the satisfaction of righteous judgment. It’s silliness to think that God is rebelling against himself or corrupting himself. God’s evil is the action of perfect judgment. Against it, none of us can stand.”

      This is your superior morality?
      So your god is all-powerful but not all-good. Or is your god dualistic like the Manichaeans?

      Your god is madness.

    10. God exists

      So what is your evidence?

      The atheist’s morality

      Morality of the non-religious has nothing to do with the question that religion is false.

      But as it happens:

      1) Moral behavior is observed for populations and as products of evolution in many animals.
      2) Religious and non-religious reacts the same on moral situations in research.
      3) Nevertheless there are considered differences. Which no doubt explain why religious morals are terrible and atheists exemplary: in prisons _everywhere_ religious are overrepresented and atheists underrepresented.

      Where are your atheist wilfully “lower[ing of] their moral standards without having to justify it” here?

      It is a _religious_ special pleading for their persecution complex of taking criticism of issue as criticism of person. Talk about “lower[ing of] their moral standards without having to justify it”!

      And that isn’t even before we get to raising strawmen against better knowing, as exemplified here, being the per usual “lying for Jesus”.

      1. Oops. I see down thread that this is but trolling, and bonkers to boot. Never mind – you don’t have evidence for your gods but can’t admit it – why should we care then.

  5. A morality that could be everything and nothing is only as good as the person’s willingness to love his fellow man as himself. If he so chooses, he can look down on other men, just as you look down on religious men. There’s nothing to stop him from being a tyrant, except the power of other men.

    A personal feeling of having to give account to God for every deed whether good or bad motivates men more. It is an external motivation not just as inward choice.

    1. Atheists have plenty of external motivation. We have children that we want to see growing up in a world where people care for one another.
      The golden rule – something common to many religions and secular philosophies (sorry Dr3!) – is a fine basis for behaving well towards fellow human beings and does not require a God to explain – just a desire to create a just society here on Earth.
      The irony here is that many religions teach that the life on Earth is as nothing compared to the time in the afterlife. If that is the case then why worry about the here and now – why try to care for your fellow man if not caring for him or her will result in them going to “a much better place”?

    2. Sorry, no.

      You’ve made the exact same claim twice now, without providing a scintilla of evidence in favor of it.

      When you look at the facts on the ground, the reality is quite different.

      You’re still wrong. If you think otherwise, you need to supply us with the precise statistics and their source to back up this silly assertion.

      I suspect you’ll just continue to assert without evidence that which has already been refuted.

      Atheists are more law-abiding, more ethical, and more moral precisely because they are individually accountable for their actions. There is no one to scapegoat their bad acts upon. Unlike Christianity, where no matter how badly you behave, you get a free pass into heaven merely by getting all weepy-eyed at the thought of Jesus’ rock-hard abs and oh-so-kissable lips.

      Bring evidence next post. Evidence.

    3. “A personal feeling of having to give account to God for every deed whether good or bad motivates men more.”

      The evidence indicates just the opposite. For example, the vast majority of prison inmates in the US are Christian.

      And let’s face it: moral excellence is just not going to happen if the Christian thinks that everything is made OK by asking God for forgiveness and by “Jesus’ finished work on the cross”. Absolutely anything can and will be done by people who think they get the free Jesus pass.

      1. Yes. My point exactly.

        He’s not listening.

        How in the world does a philosophy that says “everything’s permitted as long as you die with Jesus’ name on your lips” promote ethical behavior?

        Doesn’t. Exactly the opposite.

        And then, of course, there is the issue of what objective morality. Who is the arbiter of this morality? Joseph Ratzinger (the pedophile protector)? Rick Warren? Thomas Monson (the head of the Mormon church)? Tenzin Gyatso (the Dalai Lama)?

        Each claims moral authority. What happens when they disagree?

    4. Project much?

      Also, I think you’ll find psychological studies that show that external motivations are not as strong as internal ones. Look at prisons – do the laws we have in place (and your religious laws as well, since most of those in prison are religious believers) keep prisons empty, or is the lack of intrinsic motivation to keep those external laws more effective? The ones with the internal motivation just don’t do the crime, the rest do the time.

      Externally imposed morality is that of a child. Sometimes you have to grow up and make the choices yourself, without threats, punishments, or rewards. There is no invisible Big Father scrutinizing your every thought and deed.

    5. So, why aren’t religious people more moral? Why the pedophilia problems in the Catholic church? Why do evangelical Christians have the highest divorce rate? Why are the most religious areas of the U.S. also the same areas with the highest homicide, crime, and abortion rates?
      Why Fred Phelps? Osama Bin Laden? Pat Robertson?

      Where is this great morality that is supposed to come from believing in an invisible judge? How do you tell a real invisible magic man from a myth? Doesn’t the fact that the average theist I.Q. is lower than the average atheist I.Q. suggest that faith may have more to do with gullibility than anything else?

      Why do people tend to have the religions of their parents and their cultures– doesn’t your magical sky buddy want everyone to have equal access to his word? Why all the sects and confusion and differing religions and interpretations of god’s lesson book? He’s omniscient, right? He’d KNOW people would kill each other over interpretation, right?

      I think you may be too brainwashed to think outside your indoctrination, but I you do make an excellent example as to what Stenger was talking about and why faith in your delusions deserves no more respect than faith in Scientology or whatever delusions it is you mock, dismiss, or find repugnant.

      1. There are (probably) quite a few sites dealing with religious criminals (clergy abuse, etc).

        One is at Deep Thoughts (

        The Freedom from Religion Foundation ( used to have “blackcollar crimes” in their newsletter, and I thought on the web, but I can’t find it there. Lots of criminals hiding under religious guise. The amount of sexual abuse especially is sickening.

    6. Daniel, you say:

      “A personal feeling of having to give account to God for every deed whether good or bad motivates men more. It is an external motivation not just as inward choice.”

      So are you saying that morality is acting in a way to gain reward and avoid punishment? Isn’t that kind of self interested calculation the definition of sanctimony?

      Fear of punishment/desire for reward may produce acceptable consequences, but doesn’t morality concern intentions as well? Is my dog making a moral choice because I have trained her not to soil the carpet?

      Also, isn’t admitting that you require external motivation the same as admitting that you have no intrinsic morality? Is an extrinsic morality even possible? Laws are imposed by authority, morals are self imposed.

  6. “If there isn’t a God, then there that’s what the facts are. You can’t change the facts just because it would look more “moral” to you.”

    Except that there is no “fact” that God exists or does not exists. There’s no way to prove or disprove something supernatural by looking at natural things, since God would not be one of the natural things, but the reality that created them.

    The argument of whether or not there is an objective reality is one of those things that can point indirectly to a creator. That is why it’s relevant.

    1. You are talking past what I said. You can’t argue that because atheism leads to behavior that you would consider contrary to what you see as “moral”, we must believe in God.

      That’s a complete reversal of any rules of logical reasoning. If there isn’t a God, there is no objective morality (and there is indeed no objective morality, but that’s a different discussion), therefore what is moral and what not in somebody’s view is completely meaningless with respect to the existence of a God.

      1. “If there isn’t a God, there is no objective morality”

        Please provide evidence for this assertion.

        Evolution works just as well to “design” a sense of morality, if it’s a survival trait.

    2. And again, an evidence-free post.

      How does the existence of a natural world point to an unnatural creation?

      Let’s see…
      Earth: Natural
      Solar system: Natural.
      Galaxy: Natural.
      All galaxies everywhere: Natural.
      The Big Bang: Natural.
      All of the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology: Natural.
      And from that you infer an unnatural beginning?

      I recommend that you read Stephen Hawking’s new book. In it, he shows that what we already know about the universe is more than enough to conclude that the process by which the universe was created did not need a creator god. Or any other supernatural entity.

      If you want to redefine “god” to mean “the all-natural laws of physics as we know it”, then you’re not talking about the god that demands sets of behaviors. So that would be goal-post shifting.

      1. Vic Stenger’s books are also an excellent read about the lack of evidence (and evidence that points to the non-existence) of a god.

        Why believe in something for which there is no evidence? Because someone told you to? That seems to be the pattern here. I can see the utilitarian argument – that religion serves a cynical purpose of keeping people in check (a claim for which evidence is lacking), but that doesn’t seem to fit the way you post.

    3. The argument of whether or not there is an objective reality is one of those things that can point indirectly to a creator. That is why it’s relevant.

      This is such a silly statement. Being superstitious and fearful, you, Daniel, see patterns everywhere in which they don’t exist. Replace the word creator or God with Apollo or Zeus or Thor in all your pronouncements and you can see how superstitious and nonsensical your stand really is.

    4. How do you derive your morality from “God”. From the Bible, the Koran, from Hadith or perhaps the book of Revelations. Then again maybe God speaks to you or you intuit what he wants. How do you determine what is true. Do you want to reintroduce slavery because it is supported in the Bible and must therefore be moral.

      Take this hypothesis that God is the God that Osama bin Laden believes in. Therefore the 911 hijackers were carrying out God’s will and the attack is both holy and moral.

      What do you say to this? All you can do is effectively say “my God is better than your God” bringing it down to the level of a childish playground squabble. Faith can provide no objective basis for morality. All we know about “God” is he appears to be obsessed with two things beetles and what humans do with their genitalia.

      Faith is a vice not a virtue. A real working morality can only arise out an analysis of the human condition placing the human in society at the centre of our thinking and by examining the historical lessons of a changing morality to work out what is best for us living now. This is called Secular Humanism, unlike religion it is the basis for finding a real ethics.

  7. “Atheists are more law-abiding,…Unlike Christianity,…you get a free pass”

    What’s missing here is any acceptance that we have all done wrong things and have not received a just punishment for them. You may be good, but what about the times you weren’t? Does justice have no claim on your actions because they were small? No one is perfectly good. It’s easy to point at huge corruption is someone else’s life when you only have a minuscule amount of it. We don’t care so much about the little wrongs, but if justice is perfect, we would be found guilty just as the criminal. We are all in need of a “free-pass”, religious or not, from the murderer to the liar. Who can look into perfect justice and stand.

      1. I’ve eaten shellfish, and I think worn clothes of mixed fabrics. I guess I deserve to be tortured for eternity for that. After all, that is what is considered a “just” punishment.

        It’s like taking a newborn baby, seeing which way it’s head turns when it is born, and saying “it turned to the left, so we will make sure it lives a long life, and we will spend that life torturing it mercilessly.” That is what this religion says is just, but worse, since eventually the baby would die, while the Christian tortures just keep going on and on, so long so that the original “sin” is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction….etc…of a percent.

        This is considered “just”?

    1. And there you have it…you just claimed that we’re all in need of a “free pass”.

      You’re advocating scapegoating your crimes onto some invisible entity.

      How does THAT promote ethical behavior?

      Doesn’t. Precisely the opposite.

      And you raise the issue of “just punishment”. Well, OK then. What’s just? Is it “just” that Jeffrey Dahmer is allegedly in heaven? Is it “just” that his victims are allegedly in hell?

      Is it “just” that no matter how badly you behave, you get a free pass merely by proclaiming yourself forgiven? How in the world can that be considered “just”.

      What you have is an irreconcilable conflict between the concept of a just god and a merciful god. A just god would punish one’s crimes based on their severity, duration, and impact.

      A merciful god forgives all crimes, no matter how serious. Mercy is the enemy of justice.

      So, which is it? Is your god just or merciful?

      Can’t be both. Can’t.

      1. If justice requires punishment and God is all powerful and all knowing, then Who exactly will this just God be throwing into hell forever if not Himself?

        1. And why would he invent a hell in the first place? I wouldn’t make a child if I believed there was even a remote chance that the child could suffer forever– and I’m not “omnibenevolent”– just a regular human being. That makes me more moral than Daniel’s god, right?

          Heck, why make a physical world at all if the immaterial world is the be all and end all and the way we all are supposed to spend eternity (and why aren’t Christians taking more risks so they can get to their “happily ever after” sooner?)– (And how do you feel, think, experience, and remember without a material brain or material sensory input?)

          Theists and theism never made any sense to me. I tried to make myself believe, but the only way I could believe was to not ask questions… and I’m not daft enough to do that for any length of time.

          If an invisible guy wanted me to believe in him, he should have made me more gullible, I guess. I have my standards, and I only believe in beings who are material.

      2. I forgot about the whole – let’s kill someone in your place, and that is also just. Of course, this guy who “suffered” and “died” just also happened to have been reborn, completely whole, and with infinite power as a result (a trade I would gladly make). Some sacrifice on his part, but also an ethically wrong idea – substitutionary atonement is a horrid idea. We don’t let a mother die for a crime her son commits – that is wrong and unjust, yet when this god says it is ok, well, then it’s all fine and dandy. The whole idea of this god and his morality is “I have the power, so I can make the rules, and you have to like it!” – it’s Stockholm Syndrome on a massive scale.

    2. One other thing, and then I really do have better things to do…

      Is it “just” to punish someone perpetually for a finite crime? And for merely the crime of guessing wrong? Or of being unconvinced by the evidence?

      Yet that’s the punishment for not believing in your version of a half-god with superpowers. If you don’t believe in Jesus, god will torture you for all eternity.

      No matter how ethical and moral you were in life, no matter what beneficial impact you had on society and those around you, your religion teaches that if you don’t guess right about the name of the deity, then you are to be tortured for all eternity.

      Is that really justice? Or is that sadism?

      Seriously, Christianity is the most fucked-up religion ever. It has no basis for moral authority whatsoever. Its fundamental tenets are absolutely contrary to the workings of a healthy society.

      Christians GLEEFULLY gloat at the prospect of someone else going to hell because of the thought crime of guessing wrong about the name of the deity. That’s some sick shit right there.

      But there’s nothing you can say, no evidence you can bring, no authority you can cite, which will overcome the fundamental fact that Christianity is at its core anti-human, amoral, and despicable.

    3. I’m with Daniel, though I’m a unicornist, not a Christian. It’s only because I know that a unicorn will eviscerate me if I do something bad that I don’t do something bad. Luckily, unicorns allow people to apologize for whatever they did wrong before eviscerating them, and unicorns are, almost to a fault (I include “almost” because, as everyone knows, unicorns have no faults), very forgiving.

  8. Daniel, humans are moral because we wouldn’t survive, we wouldn’t exist if we weren’t.

    If you’ll think about it for just a minute or two, if everybody were to go on a murderous rampage at the drop of a hat, it’d be like a scene from that favorite Christian snuff porn fantasy, the Apocalypse / Second Coming of Jesus. There’d be one massive orgy of bloodshed and then there wouldn’t be anybody else left alive.

    In a civilized society such as ours, if you go around kidnaping people so you can rape them and then kill them and eat their corpses, as you seem to think atheists are wont to do, you’ll soon find yourself in the same position as Jeffrey Dahmer. You might get away with it in the short term, but certainly not in the long term.

    If you can warp your brain around those facts, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out that doing moral things such as helping little old ladies across the street help build a better, healthier society — which, in turn, is a wonderful return on investment. Morality, along with taxes, buys civilization.

    The Heaven you hope to get to when you die is as much a fantasy as Peter Pan’s Never-Never Land. If you truly wish to see Heaven some day, the only way is to join the rest of us in building it here on Earth. And the only way to do that is by doing your part in being a moral and productive member of society.

    As has already been hinted at earlier in this thread, Christianity is the most immoral flavor of ethics popular in America today. It encourages horribly destructive behaviors and is a significant drag on society. If you wish to truly become moral, it’s about fucking time you grew up already and stopped fantasizing about becoming an immortal zombie.



    1. Christians tend to gloss over the fact that homo sapiens are the most social animals on the planet. Deeply social groups simply cannot function without broad agreement on how to live together. Just to forestall the counter-argument: Social function does not require that all individuals agree on all or even any moral position, just that such nonconformity is kept in check relative to group functional needs.

      Once you leave Jesus behind and are no longer constrained by a Father Figure we are not going to let you rape, pillage or murder because that’s just not healthy for the rest of us.

  9. “And you raise the issue of “just punishment”. Well, OK then. What’s just? Is it “just” that Jeffrey Dahmer is allegedly in heaven? Is it “just” that his victims are allegedly in hell?”

    I don’t see how pointing out someone else’s supposed “lack of punishment” puts a band aid on your own little wrongs. Point all you want, but it doesn’t make null and void the fact that you have yet to receive justice for all the wrongs you have done.

    “What you have is an irreconcilable conflict between the concept of a just god and a merciful god.”

    This is just ignorance about what God has done. Or, are you just willfully ignoring that God took your full punishment upon himself. Justice has been fulfilled. No longer are we required to follow a list of do’s and don’ts in order to bring us into God’s good graces. He made way.

    1. Daniel, answer me this one.
      My mother was a Christian when she died. If what you are claiming is correct then she is now in heaven with God. At the same time I am an atheist and have no intention of finding Jesus. Does this mean I am destined for torment in Hell?
      And if I am then what sort of eternity does my mother face in heaven. Can it really be heaven knowing your child is being tortured in hell for eternity?
      And this is hardly an isolated incident. Practically every one of us must have family members who are either religious or non religious (or of the ‘wrong’ religion).
      How can you reconcile a heaven, Daniel, knowing your loved ones are being tortured in hell?

    2. What “justice” for the “wrongs” we have done? You seem to have this confused idea that there is “justice” outside of what we humans take from each other. As Larry Niven put it – “There ain’t no justice”, just the systems of laws, ethics, social norms, etc that we humans have evolved with and constructed ourselves.

      That said:
      Have you eaten meat? Have you received your just punishment for sinning in Jain and Buddhist society (some of them anyway, it’s a bit more complicated than that). Have you not bowed to Mecca five times a day? Sinner – have you received your just punishment for that? I’m sure you have not sacrificed to Zeus his due in bulls, so when will you receive your just punishment for that?

      If the claim is that we have sinned against you god and deserve justice for that, I would hope you can see that is a laughable idea unless you accept that you deserve just punishment for breaking the laws of every other religion on Earth. You can sin by violating the laws of your religion, but no non-believer (or believer in any other religion) can sin in yours. Sin is a part of the believers restrictions that affects no one else, except in the minds of the irrational.

    3. But it’s not our “little wrongs”.

      It’s serial killing, baby raping, genocide and all the horrors you can imagine.

      Christianity forgives THAT.

      That’s not justice.

      Because you do not understand that, please stay away from my kids.

      I’m not kidding. Come near my kids, and we’ll have a problem.

  10. This is also why I say that Atheistic morality is like the wind. You have no definite sense of justice. You accept justice for the medium things, and the big things, and even some small things. But, you see no need for justice for “every” little thing you do wrong. Justice then becomes whatever you want it to be.

    I hear the wind, it’s changing directions.

    1. Once again, what is and what people wish to be are two different things.

      Based on the accumulated evidence, experience and understanding of the world we have gained over the centuries, it is safe to say that there is no such thing as objective morality. And that it is not only worthless but harmful to fixate so much on “morality” because it can lead to some very negative consequences in the long run.

      To connect things with the discussion a few post above, here is a very good example. Is it amoral to exercise external birth control (i.e. limit the number of children people can have to something less than what they would choose on their own). Traditional morality tells you that it is very much wrong to do so. But if you don’t do that, you end up with a ecological collapse due to overshooting the carrying capacity of the environment, which harms the whole species much more. So if you actually care about the long-term future of your progeny, the “moral” thing is to enforce birth control on people who are unwilling to do so.

      As you can see, if we start framing things in terms of morality, we get in a serious mess. However, our goal as biological organisms isn’t to be moral, but to successfully propagate our genes. So how we set up our society really becomes, if we were rational creatures (which we’re not), an optimization problem where the goal is to maximize the long-term propagation of human genetic material. Based on that, we can derive certain rules about how we should behave, but those are not immutable, and are a subject to change in the presence of better information.

        1. Good question. There is no apparent reason for it, as there is no apparent reason for our existence or for the existence of the universe.

          We do it because that’s our deepest instinct as living things – obviously, any life that didn’t look to propagate its genetic information didn’t make it very far

        2. There is no external justification or purpose for propagating our genes.

          It’s just that we each come from a long, long, line of ancestors that by instinct and/or choice have each propagated their genes. The drive to propagate is blindly incorporated into us.

        3. I guess what makes it difficult for me to accept the idea is the distinction between free and determined. If we are free, then we need a reason. If we are determined, then it doesn’t matter (i.e., there is no reason for me to care because “I” don’t exist.)

          1. The reason is the effect of behavioral urges stimulated by a complex system of sensory input and endocrine signals that induce copulation and orgasm. How “free” we are within this regime is a matter of perspective that has been debated here extensively.

          2. “If we are determined, then it doesn’t matter (i.e., there is no reason for me to care because “I” don’t exist.)”

            I’m a wee bit unclear on the inference from causal determinism to nihilism there. I’m twice as unclear if it’s determinism to non-identity to nihilism. Can you support any of those inferences?

      1. Or Larry Niven (given in my response above), which he put into a curse “Tanj it!” (or maybe it was just “Tanj!” – it’s been a while since I read his tales).

        Why is “blowing in the wind” (a horrible analogy to begin with) bad if all we are is dust in the wind anyway?

    2. Daniel, just because you think you have no moral sense without Jesus’ word doesn’t mean that everyone else is so morally stupid.

      Most people do pretty well with a bit of common sense and empathy for others. Jesus/God/Allah/etc. don’t help at all, and in fact often steer people into complete immoral directions.

      1. Morality can exist outside of religion. I never said it couldn’t. There are plenty of other sources people derive their morality from. Although, many of them have gaping holes.

        1. Aha! So you do know how to reply to posts! I was wondering about that, given the number of top-level posts you’ve made so far.

    3. Bullshit.

      Pure, unadulterated bullshit.

      You would assign the same penalty for any level of “sin”…eternal damnation and torture.

      How in the world is THAT just?

      Do you think a 6-year-old should get the death penalty for shoplifting a piece of candy?

      The punishment needs to fit the crime.

      BTW: In no way am I talking about “sins”. The concept is nonsensical.

      Sin = offense against god. There is no god, therefore the offense cannot be taken or given.

      You either comport yourself in a manner consistent with societal norms and enacted laws or you don’t. Leave the deity out of this.

      There is no one up there to “forgive” your crimes. It does not exist.

      There is no place that you go to after you’re dead, except the redistribution of your atoms back into the environment.

      No heaven, no hell, no judgment, no forgiveness, no nothing. When you die, you decompose. And that’s it.

      Deal with it.

        1. That’s the truth.

          There is no god, no heaven, no hell, no afterlife.

          I base that on all of the evidence accumulated over the past 3000 years or so of human civilization. All of our knowledge of nature, of science, of everything around us.

          And of the complete and utter lack of evidence for anything other than the natural. Not one scintilla of a shred of credible evidence in favor of any god, any supernatural anything, any supernatural event. None of it.

          You’re now going to engage in some sort of special pleading based on the “evidence” in the bible. Stop. That evidence cannot be corroborated. It didn’t happen. It’s no more credible than the supernatural events reported in The Labors of Hercules.

          Jesus is merely Hercules without as many muscles.

          ALL of the miracles reported in the NT are “the dog ate my homework” miracles. They cannot be confirmed; they left no evidence behind.

          I hope the regulars will forgive me, but here’s the list yet again.

          *Where’s the wine? We drank it.
          *Loaves & fishes? Eaten.
          *The healed sick? Dead.
          *Lazarus? Dead again.
          *The risen Jesus? Invisible in heaven.

          That’s not evidence of anything, other than the credulity of a person who would actually believe such twaddle.

          1. Not only is Jesus supposedly “up in heaven” but he also rocketed up out of the stratosphere first.

            So, so many stupefying miracles and not one of them was recorded by anyone from the outside.

            1. I saw him fly around the world so fast he turned back time and brought a woman to life. If he can do that, surely he could do it for Lazarus.

              Oh, wait, that was Superman, not Jesus. Sorry. My bad.

    4. ‘Justice’ for every little thing… which is to say, PUNISHMENT for every little peccadillo (as defined by Christianity), and for every little imagined sin (read a few accounts of a Catholic childhood, or, say, John Bunyan’s harrowing Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners to see what a terrified conviction of one’s own sinfulness can do to good people). Whence this obsession with your sinfulness and with punishment, Daniel? I am sorry to say this, but you remind me of some poor person with an obsessive-compulsive disorder forever washing his hands (as Pontius Pilate is doubtless doing right now and for eternity). Sufferers from obsessive-compulsive disorders need help from professional psychiatrists, and in all honesty I think that you do, too. I would remind you also that some theologians and confessors would tell you that an exaggerated sense of your own sinfulness is itself sinful.

  11. There have been many good responses to Daniels posts, and I have enjoyed reading them. But, I don’t think there is any hope for Daniel.

    Daniel is thoroughly god soaked and nothing you could say, no matter how factual or reasonable, or how evidenced, will be able to penetrate his conditioning. Daniel is not here to argue or debate. He is here to instruct.

    I am morbidly fascinated by Daniel and it never ceases to amaze me that such early iron age minds as Daniel’s are still extant in the 21st century in developed 1st world cultures. I look at what can be done to a human mind … and despair.

    1. He is here to instruct.

      Would that it were so.

      I’m afraid Daniel is only here to score Jesus points. By tossing Bible Blather into our faces, we have now been duly warned and he’s done his duty. Whatever Jesus decides to do to us from here is our own damned fault.

      He’s also reinforcing his mental image of “them” (meaning those who aren’t members of his particular sub-sub-sub-faction) as Satan’s minions. Any good and honest person would already be chanting the Sinner’s Prayer after reading his posts; the fact that we’re not doing so is proof positive that we’re pointy-tailed hornèd devils just waiting for a chance to shove a red-hot pitchfork up his netherparts.



    2. Daniel and his ilk have nothing constructive to add to the conversation needed to build a global society that maximizes the well being of all sentient beings (yes, I’ve just finished reading “The Moral Landscape”) but they can impede progress towards this goal.

      It is far easier to tear down than build up.

      This may seem like an un-charitable viewpoint but the more I interact with this sort of person the more I’ve come to the realization that what we are seeing is an attempt to divert the energies of those who are actually working towards this goal and a the throwing of a childish tantrum when they realize that more and more people are unwilling to treat them like mature adults with something to add to the conversation and publicly willing to point this out.

    3. I’m of the optimistic belief that, for some people committed to evidence-free and contra-evidential dogmas, that repeated, firm exposure to uncompromising rejection based on sensible considerations, there’s hope of learning.

      Most people, if they band their head into a wall enough times and with enough cause for pain or embarrassment, will consider changing directions. Maybe Daniel is one, or at least, maybe someone else reading who is coming from the same place is.

  12. “I’m sure you have not sacrificed to Zeus his due in bulls, so when will you receive your just punishment for that?”

    It’s false logic to assume that if one religion is true, then all of them are true.

    “it is safe to say that there is no such thing as objective morality.”

    Is that an objective statement? Or are you just stating your own view of things?

    “We don’t let a mother die for a crime her son commits – that is wrong and unjust”

    Finally, a man ready to give account for his own wrongs. He condemns himself. Although, I hope you take redemption eventually.

    “In the opening of the Sermon on the Mount itself, he commands horrific acts of self-mutilitaion for mere thoughtcrimes, and forbids, on pain of hellfire, divorce for any reason save infidelity on the part of the woman.”

    If you apply the rest of the Bible to these statements, you might get the character of God right. Why do you judge believers on only part of the Bible? No one believes in the partial character of the God that you’re talking about.

    1. Daniel: “It’s false logic to assume that if one religion is true, then all of them are true.”

      That wasn’t the implication. The implication was that Zeus worship and Jesus worship were equally well supported — that is, not supported at all by reason or evidence.

      Neither are worth thinking about except when people seriously introduce them into otherwise sane conversation.

        1. Daniel, one group killed or forcibly converted the other. That’s why people worship Jesus instead of Zeus, even though neither object of belief actually exists.

          Surely you don’t think that the number of people who believe something has any bearing on the truth of those beliefs? For example, are Muslims about times as right as Baptists but only half as right as Catholics?

            1. He’s hit way more than that. While listening to a debate on the Reasonable Doubts podcast, I could play “Logical Fallacy Bingo” and fill up the card. I think we can do that here with Daniel.

        2. Daniel – On the demise of the the religion of Zeus. The Roman Empire needed a universal religion to consolidate its ideological control of Empire. There were a number of possible such religions available. The cult of Isis (which I personally prefer even if I am an atheist) was widespread in the Empire and was popular amongst successful freed slaves who were consolidating themselves into an expanding merchant class. Mithraism a religion popular in the Roman army and finally Christianity. Christianity had one great thing going for it. Jebus (if he even historically existed) is supposed to have said “Give unto Caesar that which is Ceasar’s”. No problem with tax collection then. So the Roman’s gave up the now passed its sell by date religion of Zeus (Jupiter and the Roman Pantheon) for Christianity which they centrally consolidated with a power structure in Rome.

          Thus Christianity presided of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire just as it seems to be doing for the decline and fall of the American Empire now.

          Try reading Gibbon on all this, it’s a treat.

          1. I hate Charlemagne for what he did to the Old Saxons… now he was a prize bigot, but Machiavellian in his use of religion for political ends. Tea-party come to mind?

    2. If you apply the rest of the Bible to these statements, you might get the character of God right. Why do you judge believers on only part of the Bible? No one believes in the partial character of the God that you’re talking about.

      Oh, you mean like the time when YHWH ordered Moses to have his merry men rape tens of thousands of pre-pubescent girls for the rest of their lives? Or how the punishment for rapists is for them to marry their victims? Or how the punishment for picking up a twig on a certain day of the week is death by stoning? Or when Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, the walls came a-tumblin’ down, and he did the usual rape-and-pillage bit? Or when a seemingly-countless list of other Biblical “heroes” did the exact same thing to other cities? Or when YHWH personally drowned every kitten on the planet? Or when YHWH personally murdered every Egyptian boy? Or when Jesus will personally murder every living being in the Apocalypse, before turning them and everybody who’s ever died into zombies, and have all our eternally-rotting corpses subjected to eternal flame?

      When it comes right down to it, there’s damned little in the Bible that isn’t repugnant, and the rare bits here and there aren’t anything special. And thoroughly contaminated by the most fetid raw sewage imaginable. I do not exaggerate when I state that the Bible is the most hate-filled, evil book in all of literature. Its one and only redeeming “grace” is that it’s pure fiction.



    3. Jerry said this.
      “All right, you asked for it. If you don’t want to be banned for trolling, I expect you to deal with and answer the objections that will surely come. If you don’t, and simply maintain your position, you’re outa here.”

      You didn’t take this to heart because you haven’t addressed the objections in the least and you have only made assertions, even when asked for evidence to back them up.

      You are a troll and should be banned. We all know the scriptures even better than you do and that is one reason why a lot of us are atheists. We have brains and think about things.

      You are a bore. Why don’t you just go on your way, tell God you did your best but we were too far gone, say a little prayer for us if you need to and then fucking never return.

  13. “This is also why I say that Atheistic morality is like the wind. You have no definite sense of justice. You accept justice for the medium things, and the big things, and even some small things. But, you see no need for justice for “every” little thing you do wrong.”

    That’s fascinating. Apparently the idea is that it would be Right for all humans to receive some kind of punishment for every little thing we do wrong – so Daniel’s “God” is apparently like the kind of parent who uses physical punishment for everything.

    1. “Daniel’s “God” is apparently like the kind of parent who uses physical punishment for everything.”

      Picture it like this:

      If you were giving yourself a shot with a needle, how much of the HIV virus would you want on the needle? What lengths would you go to just to make sure that nothing bad was on the needle?

      How much evil, or corruption, do you think a perfect God should allow to be with him?

      1. Daniel: “How much evil, or corruption, do you think a perfect God should allow to be with him?”

        He should be willing to accept all of the evil he created, which is all of it.

        Isaiah 45:7: I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

        1. Read all of the Bible. Again, Christians don’t believe what you are saying. We believe Isaiah just fine. Understand all of it, not just the parts you like to bring up.

          1. The bible is self contradictory.

            There’s plenty of evidence against other parts of it (Flood, where? Exodus, where? Pi ain’t 3. Bats ain’t birds.)

            Why do you believe it at all?

          2. Daniel:

            “The atheist’s morality is like the wind. It blows where it wants. It could be the best morality or the worst morality. It’s all up to the individual. ”

            The Christians’s morality is like the wind. It blows where it wants. It could be the best morality or the worst morality. It’s all up to the individual’s selection from the Bible.

            1. A laughable assertion. While there is room for varying personal behaviors, there are certain things that you must believe or you simply are not a Christian. I’m sure you enjoyed writing that though.

          3. Daniel, many of us have obviously read the Bible more than you. I’ve read it several times, and I understand most of it pretty well. I just don’t believe any of it anymore.

            Why do we have to explain the Bible to you?

            1. Hell, many of us have looked deeply into the origins (sociology, archaeology, history) of the religion, as well as read a lot of higher criticism, which shows just how shallow and pathetic Daniels attempts are. I think we understand the attempts to twist Isaiah (and the rest of the OT) to fit Christian beliefs better than Daniel. Nah, I know we do.

      2. So you’re saying that “every little thing” we do wrong is evil and corruption?

        So if a child says “no” when you tell her to go get ready for bed, that’s the same category of thing as mass murder?

        Is that what you’re saying?

          1. Of course there is no one who is perfectly good. But what follows from that? You seem to be claiming that God’s justice follows from that, but it doesn’t. “Justice has a claim on each of us” is simply an abstraction, and it does nothing to create a being who will administer the justice or the “punishments.”

            1. It does show that we condemn ourselves. God is not responsible for us having to be punished. We commit our own evil acts. Then we claim God is being evil when we learn that punishment is around the corner.

              The world lies and the world says, “God is ridiculous for telling us that we have to pay for that.”

            2. If God created us, God is responsible for what we are, and thus responsible for our being the kind of entities that commit “evil acts.” And “punishments” fall on infants who haven’t had time or capacity to commit “evil acts,” so it is far from obvious that the “punishments” match up with the “evil acts.”

              You are committed to some ugly beliefs, you know.

            1. At what point do you get to say, “This person deserves to be separated from God.” I cannot make that judgment. However, who among us does just one little thing wrong all our lives?

              I am not the judge, but I can echo what the Bible said. “If you offend in one point it is just as though you were guilty of all.”

              You get offended over a punishment that you don’t have to pay. No one else has to pay it either.

            2. I am not the judge, but I can echo what the Bible said. “If you offend in one point it is just as though you were guilty of all.”

              Sure you can, but by doing so, you echo a disgusting and unjust statement.

            3. So, from the Christian view that person who told the small lie, to avoid embarrassment, deserves to be punished forever and ever, cast into the lake of fire, etc.?

              Check out Revelation 21:8. That’s what the Bible says, isn’t it?

              Unbelievers, too. Wow.

              Is this liar just as bad in God’s eyes as the serial murderer? They seem to get pretty much the same punishment.

              Now, if this strikes you as outrageous, it’s because it is. The Bible is full of outrageous, morally ridiculous crap like this.

          2. …and yet, if you merely claim that Jesus forgives you, then you DO avoid your “just punishments”.

            Talk about cognitive disconnect.

            On the one hand, you say that we all deserve punishment. And then on the other hand, you claim that you can avoid any punishment whatsoever, merely by guessing correctly the name of the deity and doing whatever hand-waving it is that’s done in your particular version of that hate-filled religion.

            Really, a larger load of twaddle I’ve rarely encountered.

          3. But Daniel, you seem to be confusing your idea of what is and isn’t “good” with god’s idea.

            “Good” is a human interpretation. There is no evidence that some magical guy is judging good and bad (though millions believe in Santa). This is why theists don’t agree on what is good and what is bad…

            Most societies come to the conclusion that “good” involves treating people the way you want you and your family treated and “bad” involves refraining from causing the suffering of sentient human beings. You don’t need threats and promises from invisible beings to do that. (Moreover, such threats, don’t work given the number of pedophiles in the clergy– of course, god never really made a commandment against pedophilia… some passages suggest he was for it… but he was sure to tell people to keep the sabbath day holy… interesting guy to get your morals from.)

            Myself, I would learn to put the food away if I left out “forbidden food” and my dog ate it. I would not damn my dog and her descendants to eternal damnation. The god you claim to get your morality from did the equivalent of that. Moreover, he’s supposed to be omniscient so he KNEW how his little test would end up!

            This is the god that Christians worship and claim to get their morality from. Is it any wonder that Christians are not very good examples of morality? Is it any wonder we giggle and mock their magical beliefs?

            I hope that one day your questioning will lead you to be able to do the same. You are defending a silly delusion. You are defending a mythical being that you are better than.

            1. Daniel didn’t address the basis for sin as well. Since Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the “Tree of the knowledge of good and evil” before they had knowledge of good and evil, they had no concept of right or wrong. They didn’t know it was wrong to disobey god (the usual Christian line, not my thoughts), yet this god who knew everything that will happen, let it happen, then condemned them for doing what he knew they would do.

              But this is “justice”. Mighty sick individual, if you ask me (and even if you don’t)

      3. How much evil or corruption has god prevented?

        None of it.

        Not any.

        Think about that.

        Your all-powerful god is apparently perfectly helpless to prevent ANY of the human-derived evil in this world. Nor is your god powerful enough to prevent any of the random all-natural disasters that this tiny speck of dust is prone to.

        Evil is more powerful than god. If it wasn’t, there would be no evil.

        How can you possibly reconcile an all-powerful, all-loving god with the clear evidence that evil exists?

        Only by distancing god so that he no longer has any power on Earth and only has authority in the after-death.

        Sorry, but you’re now going to have to provide evidence that such a thing exists. Or that there is an after-death experience.

        You can’t do it. It’s impossible to prove fictional characters and places are real.

  14. When Andrea Yates killed her children before the age of reason, did she ensure their salvation? Did they go straight to their “happily ever after” because they died as children? Could they have gone to hell if they lived and sinned super bad per your god? If so, then didn’t she do a good thing, by ensuring their salvation at the cost of her damnation? How is this different than what god did with his atonement plan involving impregnating a virgin (without her consent) and having a son (who was really him) and then that whole cross story where Christians blame Jews for killing Jesus even though (according to the story) it was all part of his dad’s plan (his dad who is really him).

    Your religion makes no sense, Daniel. It does not make people more moral. You believe because the people you trust the most indoctrinated you with these stories– just the same as most of the former believer here. You believe because you are afraid bad things will happen if you don’t. That’s silly and childish. You may not be able to behave morally without such threats, but the rest of the world can. We’ve also managed to do fine without sacrificing virgins to volcano gods as well.

    Faith might make you feel moral, but there is no evidence that it makes people act more moral. The hijackers had enough faith to die for what they believed– does that make them more moral than you? Many Scientologists give up all their income and sign contracts for billions of years for what they believe– does that make them more moral than you? Polygamous Mormons disobey the law and commit polygamy– does that make them more moral than you? What things do you do for your faith that you wouldn’t do if you didn’t have faith– and why in the world do you imagine that it makes you more moral?

    1. I’ve often wondered why so many people — Christians, mostly — were calling for Andrea Yates to get the death penalty when what she did was indistiguishable from what Abraham tried to do.

      In her case, God didn’t even send an angel to help, so if anything she was more faithful (aka, crazy) than Abraham.

      Those kids went to heaven, right, and were spared the risk of going to hell instead, as articulett said. For that matter, just how can Christians take the risk that their kids won’t go to hell? Isn’t it better, theologically, for them either not to have children or else “Yates” them before they get old enough to risk eternal damnation?

      1. Those kids went to heaven, right, and were spared the risk of going to hell instead, as articulett said.


        The only way that classical evangelical Christians can be internally consistent with what they consider to be good requires that they go throughout the world killing every child to lovingly insure them eternity in heaven. Anything else would be abject evil.

        Plus they can ask Jesus to forgive them when they’re finished.

        1. Or they could be advocates of birth control, population control and abortion (and against the death penalty for someone who is going to be spending eternity being punished…)

          Heck, with abortion, wouldn’t the soul get to bypass all the hardships of earthly existence and go straight to paradise? Or maybe it has to be baptized first… god has some weird loopholes apparently.

          I also would think Christians would stop wearing seat belts and start taking up skydiving so that they can get to the party in the sky more quickly.

          Or maybe they don’t really believe what they claim they believe– maybe they don’t know what the heck they believe but they like feeling special for believing it.

          Of course, internal consistency is not an attribute I find with any religion. –I can’t even figure out why they think they need to fight the battles of an omnipotent guy. It seems an omnipotent being would be eminently qualified to fight his own battles, no?

    2. How is it different. Andrea Yates had to pay for her own sins. She didn’t pay for anyone else’s sins. If Jesus wasn’t perfect, if he had corruption and evil in him when he went to the cross, he could not have payed for anyone else’s sins either. He would have been busy paying for his own. Jesus, however, was perfect. He did pay the penalty for everyone else’s sins. Take it or leave it. I took it, and I’m thankful.

          1. To put it into realistic terms, why is it considered a good thing for someone else to pay for my crimes? Would it be ok for a mother to face life in prison for her son who murdered someone? Is it a requirement that he be sorry? This is justice? No, it’s a travesty of justice, a perversion of responsibility, yet this is the Christian model.

            Insane. Immoral.

      1. But was it a sin to send her kids to be with god forever and bypass the whole possibility of hell? If I was a Christian, I would see that as a pretty grand sacrifice. Why isn’t it?

        Would you have kids believing there is the possibility they could suffer forever? Doesn’t that make you as immoral as the god you worship? What sort of sicko is okay with eternal damnation for any sentient being? What would be the point of that. (Besides, how can you feel, think, or remember anything without a brain? Clearly heaven and hell are manipulative tools invented by unscientific men to control others… it plays on the fears and hopes of humans, but it makes no sense in regards to what we understand about the brain today.)

        Wasn’t Andrea Yates a martyr in order to ensure he beloved children went to heaven? She hurt herself more than anyone because she was the one who loved those children the most– but she was afraid she was a bad mother (her kids were unruly) and that she was already going to hell so she spared her kids the same outcome. I’d say she believed in Christianity even MORE than you did. In her mind, she ensured her damnation but spared her kids from the same horror. Would you do that to ensure your kids got to live happily ever? According to your beliefs, it’s true– right? Aren’t those kids in heaven? Kids don’t go to hell, right? Didn’t those kids just start their “happily ever after” early thanks to their mom?

        This is the religion you find moral? You want to lecture atheists about the morality of religion?!?

        Did you find it moral that Abraham was willing to kill his son because he believed god wanted him to? How is this a great moral lesson? I think moral people should find it sickening.

        How do people tell the voice of god from a voice in their head? How can you? Some people believe that god is telling them to kill their kid just like Abraham; You don’t know that he’s not. You don’t know that the death of Andrea Yates kids was not part of gods mysterious plan, do you? Christian morality isn’t really as cut and dried as your garbled religion has lead you to believe. As far as I can see from your religion, theists should all be for abortion, since now those souls can all go straight to heaven without ever having to have a chance of risking the horrors of hell (heck, they might be gay…. or an atheist (!) when they grow up!)

        You may be able to justify the craziness of your religion to yourself, but to someone who understands that it’s all an illusion, the whole thing just seem horribly sad and– immoral.

        This includes your god and all the crazy things people do because they think god wants them to…

        This also includes all the people whose kids die because they didn’t get transfusions or they got prayers instead of medicine because some voice in their head convinced them that this is what god wanted. You can’t say he didn’t and there’s no god to clarify his thought on the subject.

        Thanks, again, for making Victor Stenger’s point better than he could.

        Religion makes people crazy and unaware of their craziness. You are truly as crazy as you see believers in other myths, religions, superstitions, and the like– and, as far as the evidence is concerned, just as wrong (and probably just as immoral depends on who is doing the judging.)

        Stenger is right– it’s time for religious superstitions to be treated like the mythologies of the past. We need fewer people who think like you, Daniel. I’m sorry that you have been brainwashed. But there is a whole world of information out there; there’s no excuse to stay stupid. No one here finds you or your beliefs as moral or valid as you imagine them to be.

        1. Right.

          So does this mean we can sin freely– since it’s all been paid for in advance?

          Or is it only those who believe the right stuff who are free to sin with abandon?

          Theology is so confusing!

      2. Andrea Yates had to pay for her own sins. She didn’t pay for anyone else’s sins.

        But her children had to pay – what had they done to deserve that?! And what does her payment do to redress that?

        1. You’re just saying that because you are an atheist– sure the kids suffered a little, but then they got to go to the forever Disneyland in the sky! They didn’t really die according to Christianity– they started their blissful eternity early! I’m sure it was all part of god’s mystical moral higher purpose and bigger plan…

          With theism you can justify anything! You can get any horror done in the name of faith to makes sense or sound okay and if that fails you can claim that faith had nothing to do with it. You can also pretend not to be engaging in moral relativity while engaging in the moral relativity of the insane. You can imagine yourself moral while justifying horrors. Why, there’s a theological belief to justify just about anything you want to do and to hate anyone you want to hate, don’t you know? You can lecture atheists about morality while demanding respect for getting your morality from a most immoral source.

      3. OK, so these two people I never met broke a rule, and this other chap I never met paid the penalty. So far, so good. In Vegas they would call this a push, and I’d keep my money.

        But if I say thanks to this second fellows father, who is actually the same person as the second dude himself, then I get rewarded. But if I don’t say thanks, even though I’ve yet to meet any of these bloody people, then I get punished? Forever?

        And this is morality? Forgive me if I just smile, nod, and back away slowly.

      4. I haven’t time to engage with the whole argument which seems to have been going on for hours, but I will enter just one caveat (though a rather long one):

        The idea of the perfection of Jesus, who was ‘as we are, yet without sin,’ means, I’m afraid, that Jesus cannot represent humanity, as, in fact, most doctrines of the atonement imply. The idea is that, as perfect, Jesus could represent us and so be a perfect sacrifice. However, if he was perfect, then it seems he was lacking something essential to humanity, and is not therefore in any sense truly human, and cannot represent us and be a perfect sacrifice.

        Christianity, like it or not, is shot through with antinomies. Theologians have tried in various ways to escape the implications, but it is quite clear that these are post hoc justifications for something that wasn’t thought about when the myths were being laid down.

        You may think that Jesus paid the penalty for everyone else’s sins, but the logic of the argument comes up a bit short. It’s an interesting myth, but it’s nothing more. If you’re content to base your life on a mythical idea, that’s fine, but it really doesn’t help with your original claims about religion, atheism and morality.

        We’re all really in the same boat. We’re all struggling to live our lives in what might be considered good ways. Even Christians do this. The only trouble with religious morality — and I’m willing to acknowledge that there was at one time something in the idea that a life lived within the idea that a god was looking over your shoulder, so it seemed to give you a reason to act rightly even when you were all alone even when you would not get caught if you acted wrongly — anyway, the only trouble with religious morality is that it does not allow sufficient give in the rules to allow yourself to adjust to the legitimately changing values of those around you. The result often is a failure to act morally, simply because you’re running on outdated rules.

        Being human is a much more sensitively responsive kind of thing than religious morality will allow. It talks a lot about love (sometimes), but forgets that loving is something that concerns personal relationship, and therefore is a constantly shifting series of adjustments and readjustments to other people. Instead, religious morality tends to be an absolutist kind of thing, and therefore often ends up acting in ways that are cruel and unjust. And that’s even before you start looking at the Bible and considering how unjust following its rules would truly make you.

        Being human is a moveable feast. It can’t be fixed on tablets of stone, or on moments in the history of humanity, like the crucifixion of a man in ancient Palestine. You have to live now, with all the imperfections that that implies. No, we’re none of us perfect. But what has that got to do with the struggle to live morally? I can remember, in my days as a priest, trying to make excuses for our constant failures to “life up” to the standards laid down for us. But we really didn’t try to live up to them. No one that I know actually gave away their wealth to the poor and then came back to follow Jesus. No one that I know actually turned the other cheek. No one that I know felt that looking at a woman or a man with libidinous interest was committing adultery. To have acted in those ways would have been to have ceased to be human, just as Jesus was not, in theological understanding, a human being, but rather a god dressed up in a human skin.

        The whole thing is, as Hitchens never tires of telling us in his very insightful book (god is not Great), a human creation. Once we have acknowledged that, then we can get down to the real business of being human, instead of supposing that we have a direct line to the source of being and morality.

        The argument, so far, is really a waste of time, because it doesn’t acknowledge some very simple facts: namely, that we are human, and therefore finite, contingent beings who, whatever else we know, certainly do not have any absolute knowledge, which is what Christians and other religious think we have to have about morality in order to act morally. But that is in fact the worst kind of knowledge we could have, for it would make us inhuman, as it has made most religious people most of the time. Once we have acknowledged that, we can start again asking outselves the perennial problem: what is good?

        1. That’s just a splendid piece of commentary, Eric. I’ve already passed it on (with attribution, of course) to another list I’m on, and filed it away to keep.

  15. Daniel:
    there are certain things that you must believe or you simply are not a Christian.

    Please, please, give us the list. I have long wanted to know what one must believe to be a True Christian. It’s very confusing without an accurate list.

    1. Have you noticed, every time he’s challenged in plain, unambiguous language, he doesn’t answer?

      I expect to continue to hear crickets chirping for this question.

    2. Yes– and why is it that Christians never agree on who the true Christians are? And how do you know if you believe something unless you do something you wouldn’t do if you didn’t believe? And if a “true Christian” does bad things, does he suddenly become an “untrue Christian”. Who decides what the bad things are? If somebody thinks they are a “true Christian” are they? What if someone wants to be a true Christian but just can’t make themselves believe the right unbelievable stuff? How do you know if you believe in the right invisible people and the right myths with enough fervency and what does one do if one doesn’t? Haven’t a lot of people been deceived when it comes to this whole belief thing? How do you tell a real prophet from a fake one? How do you tell a real revelation of god from a Schizophrenic delusion? How do you tell the right interpretation from the wrong one? Why don’t Christians agree? Why doesn’t their 3-in-1 god clarify? Or is he 3-in-1? Many theists disagree. What about if the Muslims are right about Jesus not being a god and it being blasphemous to think that he was?

      At last, we have someone who knows the divine truth about what people must believe to be a true Christian! (What if Joy doesn’t believe some of those things?!)

    3. Your words sound of honesty, but your tone drips with poison.

      All who are Christians believe that God exists; that he rewards those who diligently seek him; and love God with all their heart.

      There’s your list.

      1. That’s it? What are all of the other directives in the Bible for, then? God could have just put out a brief memo.

      2. Really?

        No Jesus, then?

        No empty tomb?

        No salvation? I’m sure you said “salvation” before.

        No forgiveness of sins? No justice (or avoidance of it, since that really appears to be your primary argument)?

        No moral arbitration? You started this by claiming morals emanated from god and religion.

        BTW: Where’s your evidence that god rewards those who believe in him? Oh right, only after you’re dead. Here on Earth, it’s a perfectly absentee landlord.


        OK, Dr. Coyne, I give up. The stupid is strong with this one.

      3. That’s it? Really? What about the part where he loved us so much that he sent his son to die for our sins? Or the part where his son then rose from the dead?

      4. Daniel:
        your tone drips with poison.

        Poison? My goodness, that’s a little dramatic, perhaps you’re doing a little too much Bible reading.

        All who are Christians believe that God exists; that he rewards those who diligently seek him; and love God with all their heart.

        Christians may believe those things, but does that list define True Christians? That would make Islamists Christians also, for they believe those things. Along with many other religions. A list defining a True Christian needs to be a little more specific. You’re beginning to sound like just another false prophet, promising things you don’t deliver.

      5. “All who are Christians believe that God exists; that he rewards those who diligently seek him; and love God with all their heart.”

        Wow, I didn’t know Muslims were true Christians! Cool!

        And Jews!

        And all the members of just about every other theistic religion, too.

        The “all their hearts” thing is a little shakey, though. I thought thatwas more of an ideal than a requirement.

        I don’t know anyone other than Andrea Yates who has actually achieved that, and she’s batshit crazy — I mean, truly Christian.

          1. Love is an emotion that takes place in the brain… and it’s not something one can will oneself to do. I don’t know how you make yourself love someone who is indistinguishable from no-one anyhow. Plus, I haven’t found love to be an emotion I can turn on or off at will.

            This is another one of those things that always caused me angst about religion as a kid.

            If god knew about biology, why would he advise anyone to “love” with their “heart”? Why would he think you could force yourself to love anyhow? If it was so important to him why didn’t he just make people love him. A person might be able to will themselves to ACT a certain way, but I’m not sure many people are successful at wiling themselves to FEEL a certain way… not for any length of time, anyhow.

      6. Sounds like you could be talking about Muslims, or any religion for that matter.
        If that’s all it takes can we make up our own religion if it met these simple standards?
        Maybe we could include a little beer and bacon in there somewhere. Crackers and cheap wine aren’t that appealing to me.

  16. okay, this limited-person exchange is fine, but I don’t want this to become another Intersection. I’m glad to see it continue if people are benefitting, even if only to hone their own thoughts. Otherwise, it’s just mutual yelling.

    1. I just became pretty convinced Daniel is going to ignore things that he can’t address.

      And how? I remembered my Bible. What are the chances this is the lion’s den and this is a nym?

    2. It’s not necessarily a “benefit”, except to show a perfect example of the type of theist that Gibberson says doesn’t exist anymore.

        1. Oh yes. I think the whole exchange should be collated and sent to Uncle Karl.

          Let him tell us whether Daniel is a sophisticated believer or not.

    3. To quote Sam Harris, Daniel has “lived too long in the echo chamber of Evangelical Christianity”.

      There is no conversation going on here, as Bill Maher so aptly put it, I see no difference between Daniel and “a urine-soaked street preacher with a bullhorn babbling about the apocalypse”.

  17. @Rob

    Catholics are Christians too. You blame religion for evil. You should be blaming the people. Not all religion is good, but not all religion is bad. No matter whether people join a religion or a non-religion, they always find a way to carry on the old game of evil under the new rules of the group they are associated with.

    1. How does this comport with your original assertion of the Christian god as a unique source of morality that supercedes the inate tendencies of humans?

    2. Moral relativism, is it then?

      I thought you said that atheists couldn’t possibly be moral, because there were no set standards?

      And yet here you are claiming that no religion is perfect. Which completely and totally negates your first argument.

      No kidding, it does.

      Your cognitive disconnect is stunning.

    3. They are using their religion to hide child rapists. They have done so for centuries, if not millenia. They claim to be moral arbiters and the presence of God on Earth.

      How are they any different from you?

    1. That was the debate at which Chris Hedges called Sam racist because Sam had the audacity to point out that the concept of martyrdom is a very real thing for many in the Muslim world.

      1. Sadly, no matter how many times you say it like Sam does some people will simply never agree that religious belief is one of many insidious sources of evil. Apparently, religious fanaticism is almost always a perversion of true religious belief and it is almost certainly provoked by a multitude of factors whose perpetually malign influences are beyond dispute – colonialism, imperialism, foreign occupation, economic disparity, social injustice. Even modernity doesn’t get a pass (Karen Armstrong, for example, sees fanaticism as a obvious reaction to modernity). And then there are the ever-reliable postmodernists who hold that science and rationality should have no ‘privilege’ over faith and superstition.

  18. Oh good, you have recommended a book that I already have and have read (and yes, it was very good). At least this time, my pile of books isn’t increasing (yesterday I bought 2 of Steven Pinker’s books, ‘How the Mind Works’ and ‘The Blank Slate’.

    I think I am suffering from a form of Malthusian book purchasing since I bought a Kindle; the books I have read and finished (and want to go back and reread) increase arithmetically, books purchased increase geometrically …

  19. Daniel, What’s missing here is any acceptance that we have all done wrong things and have not received a just punishment for them.

    Daniel is absolutely correct, and for what Daniel has done wrong, the Holy Qur’an assures us that Daniel will burn in hell for asserting the blasphemy that God is three:

    Surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire; and there shall be no helpers for the unjust.
    Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one God, and if they desist not from what they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who disbelieve.
    Original: لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ هُوَالْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ وَقَالَ الْمَسِيحُ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اعْبُدُواْاللّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ مَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللّهِ فَقَدْ حَرَّمَ اللّهُعَلَيهِالْجَنَّةَ وَمَأْوَاهُ النَّارُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ
    لَّقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلاَثَةٍ وَمَا مِنْإِلَـهٍ إِلاَّ إِلَـهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَإِن لَّمْ يَنتَهُواْ عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّالَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِي
    —The Qur’an (القرآن), Sura 5:72–73 (The Dinner Table, سورة المائدة

  20. Darwin said it all best, Daniel & Joy:

    ‘Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.
    And this is a damnable doctrine.’

    Darwin himself sets off that last sentence. And he is right: Christianity is a damnable doctrine, and you, Daniel, and you, Joy, wallow in it.

      1. Yes, Joy, and it would not only be family and friends but most of the people I live among (I live in Asia), people who are not so different from you and me in most ways… and yet you get silly little fundamentalists going to, say, Thailand and going on about how all those Buddhists are bound for Hell, and then, in their trivial and narcissistic way, like Daniel, obsessing about their petty little crimes and the punishments they might, and should, receive for them… it does not seem to me to be a worthy way of life.

  21. A word of advice, if I may be so bold.
    To all those who, when positing a notional deity, choose to employ the singular “God”, (rather than the plural out of an infinite smorgasbord of fictional fascist masters), might I suggest that in so doing, one has inevitably fallen into the religiously deluded liars’ “Rabbit Hole”, with its concomitant confusing LSD trip away from reality?
    I choose to see this as a practical error.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree.

      There’s a veritable pantheon of gods who share a proper name of, “God.” In order to avoid confusion as to which god named, “God,” I’m referring to, I try to be more specific.

      When it comes to Christianity, use “Jesus.” For the Trinitarian Jesus it’s a perfect substitute. For his cousins, the many non-Trinitarian versions of Jesus, it’s also almost always appropriate as each of those Jesuses are also, at the least, supremely powerful eaters of souls.

      If it’s the Jewish God or the pre-Christian (aka, Old Testament) God, use YHWH. That’s the English transliteration of how that god’s name has been spelled for millennia. Of course, other gods appear in the Bible as the head honcho, especially including El, with Adonis (“Adonai”) making a notable cameo; when appropriate, use their name instead.

      Of course, for Islam, use either Mohammad, Allah, Jesus, or YHWH as appropriate.

      For the god of Deism, I haven’t found anything better than, “the Deist’s God.”

      And, for the sake of all that’s unholy, don’t use either proper-name “God” or (worse) proper-name uncapitalized “god” as a generic term. While it’s true that I don’t believe in God, it’s a lie of indirection to state it that way by itself. It’s not just the Christian god named, “God” I don’t believe in, or the Jewish god named, “God” I don’t believe in, and so on. It’s all the gods that I don’t believe in.

      If somebody asks me if I don’t believe in God, I’ll first ask, “which one?” If I am to state it directly, myself, then I simply don’t believe in any gods at all.

      Aside from the linguistic accuracy of the matter, it also help the religious realize that their own pantheons are indistinguishable from all the other pantheons they themselves don’t believe in. (And, yes, the allegedly monotheistic religions are quite openly pantheistic. Never mind the Trinity: there’s Satan for starters, and the Heavenly Host, and all the Biblical patriarchs, and all the ancestor spirits in Heaven, and on and on and on. In any other religion, each of those would be considered at least minor deities, and the religions of the Middle Eastern desert nomads are no different.)



    2. No, using the singular term “God” gives It way more respect than It deserves. The christians expect you to address their gods as God, it is better to point out the reality that each christian actually has faith in a different god – those christian gods aren’t compatible.

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