Ken Ham: Atheism is “harmful superstition”

June 15, 2015 • 11:00 am

If I were a religious Jew, I’d have to stay away from pork, but now that I’m a heathen, I can easily deal with ham, especially if its first name is Ken.  I have mixed feelings about Ham’s latest post, “Is religion ‘harmful superstition’?”, at his Answers in Genesis site: I suppose it’s gratifying that such a famous religious wacko thinks me worth bothering with, but on the other hand I get covered with his ridiculous blather, and then, to boot, damned to hell.

The basis of Ham’s piece is my recent interview in National Geographic , which was called “In age of science, is religion ‘harmful superstition’?”, and of course my answer was “yes.” This was based on the Oxford English Dictionary‘s definitions of “superstition,” of which there are three relevant to religion. (In FvF, I stick to the OED for definitions so that people can’t accuse me of cherry-picking definitions of stuff like “faith” or “fact”.) Here they are:

SUPERSTITION

II. Senses relating to belief.

Religious belief or practice considered to be irrational, unfounded, or based on fear or ignorance; excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural.

A widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such a belief.

Religious belief or practice considered to be irrational, unfounded, or based on fear or ignorance; excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural.

Based on those definitions, and because I see nearly all religions as unfounded and irrational—and largely based fear and ignorance—religion is clearly a superstition. Believers, of course, would deny that, but they’re wrong. It’s no different in kind from not stepping on cracks to avoid bad karma, but of course is more elaborate than crack avoidance.

Ham is one of those believers who denies his faith is superstitious, and it is with some cognitive dissonance that I must report that he agrees with me on the incompatibility of evoution and faith:

Now, we’ve written about Coyne before. He’s a very outspoken critic of creation and promoter of evolution. Actually, I’ve pointed out that he seems to understand how absolutely incompatible evolution and biblical Christianity are more than even most Christians!

But of course as founder of the Creation Museum (and the troubled Ark Park), Ham takes issue with my science:

[Coyne] makes specific reference to the doctrine of creation and how evolution has supposedly disproved the beginning chapters of Genesis. Of course, he completely ignores the major problems with evolutionary ideas about the past. The article also includes a photo and brief description of the Creation Museum.

So be it. He’s wrong about evolution, too, though thousands of credulous sheep follow him and are indoctrinated (at their own expense) by the Creation Museum. But where he goes doubly wrong is when he turns the tables on me, claiming that the “harmful superstition” is not religion, but atheism!

First, he characterizes atheism as a religion:

But what Coyne would refuse to admit is that atheism itself is a religion. It’s a set of beliefs through which atheists view and interpret the world, and they hold to this worldview with ardor and blind faith—despite the inconsistencies and irrationality of the religion! So, then by Coyne’s own definition, his religion of atheism is nothing more than superstition! And his religion contains irrational beliefs—it goes against the laws of nature, the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, and observational science, which confirms that the naturalistic explanation for the origin of life is impossible!

So let us turn once again to the OED and see what “religion” is, a definition I put in FvF:

RELIGION: Action or conduct indicating belief in, obedience to, and reverence for a god, gods, or similar superhuman power; the performance of religious rites or observances.

Of course this excludes certain sects or philosophies that are seen as “religious,” like Confucianism or Jainism, but it certainly characterizes the Abrahamic religions that dominate the West. And if you accept that definition, then atheism is certainly not a religion. It is not a belief, but a lack of belief; and it has no gods. In that respect it cannot be “blind faith.” Nor are there atheistic rites or observances.

The last sentence of Ham’s paragraph, in which he claims that atheism violates the laws of nature, logic, and so on, is basically incoherent. Atheism in fact respects the scientific method by dismissing or minimizing the existence of gods because they’re asserted without evidence. As for the “naturalistic explanation for the origin of life,” well, we don’t have a widely accepted one yet, but we certainly don’t deem it impossible. Only diehard religionists say stuff like that. It’s time for those who claim that atheism is a faith to ante up and explain why.

And, in fact, atheism is not a worldview, either. There are conservative atheists (e.g., S. E. Cupp) and liberal atheists, although more of the latter than the former since conservatives a). tend to be religious and b). have less respect for evidence that contravenes their emotional commitments. The only way atheism can be construed as such is that we accept naturalistic over supernaturalistic explanations. But that’s not really atheism, either—it’s science.

Ham then moves on to his main argument, “Atheism is unfounded and irrational”:

You see, atheism’s worldview is completely unfounded and irrational. For example, according to atheistic ideas about the origin of the universe, everything came about by naturalistic, material processes. But if everything is the result of material processes, how did completely immaterial laws of nature and logic come about? Where do they come from? And if our universe truly is the result of random processes, then why do these laws work consistently everywhere throughout the universe? And why do they work the same today as they did yesterday? In a naturalistic worldview, there is no answer to these questions!

The answer, my dear Ham, is that science doesn’t know the answers to these questions, although one of them might be “that’s simply the way things are.” Ham’s own explanation, of course, is God, but then, as Hitch used to say, all the work is still before him. What is the independent evidence for that God? Surely it can’t be the uniformity and constancy of the laws of physics, for then one has to explain why that would show there is a God. Why couldn’t God make the laws differ over space and time? (In fact, they likely differ among universes in the multiverse model.)

After all, some creationists (Ham may be one) explain the appearance of an old Earth by suggesting that the rate of radioactive decay used in dating methods has slowed down over time, misleading us about the Earth’s age. And they explain the fact that we see light emitted from stars billions of years ago by positing that God created that light in transit, another violation of the constancy of physical law. (Alternatively, the speed of light might have decreased as well.) Finally, why is there a God, and what did He do before he created the universe? Saying that He existed forever, of course, is no answer at all, for that’s a declaration without evidence. It’s no more convincing than saying, “That’s just the way it is.” He continues:

Later on in the interview Coyne again exposes the irrationality of his worldview when he says, “The less a religion has to do with a tangible God, the less it hands out moral dictates and the better it is. Once you believe in an absolute authority that tells you what to do, you’re heading down the road to perdition, I think.” So first he implies that moral dictates are a bad thing (which, in itself is a moral dictate!), but then he says that he believes in “perdition,” which implies that he believes in moral absolutes or at least morality. But Coyne can’t have it both ways! He can’t say that “moral dictates” and “absolute authority” are part of what make religion bad, and yet still believe in and espouse moral dictates as if he and his religion are the absolute authority! It’s utterly hypocritical, inconsistent, unfounded, and irrational.

The above is also incoherent. I clearly meant “moral dictates” as “those instructions supposedly dictated by god.” I certainly think there are behaviors that are good or bad for society at large, and I won’t beef too much if people call those “moral” or “immoral” respectively. Ham clearly fails to realize that the ills of religously-based morality come from two differences with secular morality. First, religious morality is absolute, so it can’t accommodate changes in society, like altered attitudes toward gays, that move us forward on the moral arc. Second, religious morality is ostensibly based on the dictates of a bullying, miosgynistic, and egocentric god who demands worship and fealty, so it can’t possibly be constructed to foster a just society. If it does change, it does so under pressure from secular reason.

Finally, Ham consigns me (and most readers here) to perdition. Note the assurance with which he informs us of our fate—an assurance based on no evidence at all save ancient mythology. I, for one, am comfortable in rejecting Christ as a savior.

So, it’s not Christianity that is “harmful superstition”—it’s atheism! And atheism is harming Coyne and those who read his books and listen to his talks. You see, as an atheist, Coyne believes that when he’s dead, that’s it—he’s dead. But that’s not what’s going to happen when he dies. He will spend eternity somewhere, either separated from God in hell or with God for eternity in heaven. His religion is harming him even now as he lives in rebellion against his Creator, and it will harm him for eternity if he and other atheists and unbelievers like him do not repent and turn to Christ for the free gift of salvation that He offers because of His death and Resurrection.

We need to pray that Coyne and others like him will turn to Christ and be saved. Sadly, he believes a fictional story (evolution) as his justification to rebel against our Creator God.

Thanks for your prayers, Ken. Could you also sacrifice a goat?

If I had one wish about believers like Ham, it would be that somehow they would come back to a moment of consciousness after death and realize that, after all, it’s simply oblivion. That’s the one “out” card that the faithful have: they’ll never know how wrong they were.

h/t: Robin

146 thoughts on “Ken Ham: Atheism is “harmful superstition”

  1. Ken Hams it up again!

    In a very tongue-in-cheek way, I wish that atheism was a religion of sorts. That way, we’d at least get to utter some decent curses. No ‘damning to hell’ for us; the best we can do is damn someone to a life of rational thinking, or having to find something else to do on Friday / Saturday / Sunday.

    I find myself intrigued by a comment from our host: “I see nearly all religions as unfounded and irrational”, which begs the question “which religions do you not see as unfounded and irrational and why”, or is it simply a case of not having studied all religions?

    1. I’m not sure, but my guess is that Jerry is recognizing the incredibly fluid definition of “religion” and how it sometimes is applied to belief systems which end up being secular philosophies, more or less. I’m not sure about Confucianism and Jainism, which as I recall generally contain supernatural elements regarding magic or a reality formed in the image of value, but some versions of Buddhism skip the karma crap and end up as good advice on living peacefully, wisely, and in the moment.

      1. The critical question is in my view:

        Is *Platonism* a religion? If so, then, yes, ok, Confucianism can be. If not, well, likely not. Both have some supernaturalistic elements (though there aren’t many in the Analects or even in Mencius – it requires later stuff), but I’m skeptical of that making it a religion rather than simply a non-naturalistic philosophy.

        (The grey area is the non-literate religions a la Pascal Boyer, etc.)

        1. Is *Platonism* a religion? If so, then, yes, ok, Confucianism can be.

          Well, that may depend on exactly how religion is defined. In addition to supernatural beliefs, religions are supposed to involve an entire world view, a narrative, a way to live which somehow aligns you to the supernatural. Not all supernatural beliefs then are, in and of themselves, ‘religions.’

          Ghosts aren’t a religion. Dualism isn’t a religion. Platonism isn’t a religion. But ghosts, dualism, and Platonism are supernatural elements which could certainly ground or be found in religions or ‘spiritualities.’ It depends on the larger description.

          So I’d class Confucianism with its metaphysical and magical aspects (I Ching) as a religion. Without them it’s probably not, but we could say the same thing about any religion, such as humanistic Judaism or cultural Christianity.

          1. I use Durkheim’s slightly more neutral but similar definition of religion (compared with OED):

            “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things”

            This would include some atheists. It still doesn’t make atheism a religion.

            A more vague definition that a non-atheist could use to include even more atheists:

            “Religion is a way of valuing that is most comprehensively and intensively experienced”
            (from Frederick Ferre see:
            http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/pecorip/scccweb/etexts/phil_of_religion_text/CHAPTER_10_DEFINITION/The-Definition-of-Religion.htm )

            If you use this last definition it’s easier to see why one could think that atheism is some kind of religion.

            1. Thanks for the link, but for me the whole thing spirals into incoherent deepities. The link includes an awful lot of Tillich, and a lot of pseudish language, but damn-all by way of evidence.

              Who is supposed to be convinced or to benefit from this stuff?

              1. I wonder what would happen (imagine a good cartoon version, here) if we decided to take their “atheism is a religion” line to its logical conclusion:

                “Sure! And we atheists have the best religion out there, which is why we’re winning converts left and right without any of the lies and other evangelical tricks the rest of you are using!”

              2. I’m not with Dan on this one. It comes down to this:

                But rather than a naively utopian, Pollyannaish approach to debate, Dennett points out this is actually a sound psychological strategy that accomplishes one key thing: It transforms your opponent into a more receptive audience for your criticism or dissent, which in turn helps advance the discussion.

                That’s all fine and dandy if your audience is the person with whom you’re having the discussion and you think there’s actually a chance that you might come to a meeting of the minds.

                But, were I to debate the Hamster…well, we can start right off the bat with the fact that he’s duller than a sack of wet mice and has made plain that nothing will change what little mind he has. And he most emphatically wouldn’t be the audience; he’d merely be the foil. And, really: what on Earth could I possible learn from some putz who thinks the Earth is younger than the pyramids?

                So I have no trouble making plain just how much of an idiot he is, and not even pretending to bother with graciousness.

                Indeed, taking such an approach with somebody like Hammy is counterproductive. You give him gravitas at the expense of your own.

                People who believe in a magic garden with talking animals and an angry wizard don’t deserve respect. They deserve sympathy at best…but even that’s not called for when they try to pervert our educational systems and make our kids even dumber than they are.

                b&

            2. A proper definition of a concept such as the concept named be the word “religion” involves stating the essential characteristics that each particular instance subsumed by the concept share and which differentiate this concept from all other concepts. Definitions that don’t do this are false definitions which makes the concept, if using that definition, false as well. One is not free to just make up something that sounds nice if one actually cares that the concepts being used have objective meaning.

              1. Durkheim ‘s definition is typical for science; looking from the outside at a phenomenon. Religious people are often not very interested in objectivity, their subjective experience is far more important to them.

            3. “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things”

              But what is sacred?

              The only definition that can make sense in this context is that the sacred is the realm of the gods…in which case, why the added layer?

              The other option tends towards a deepity. Somebody has the sort of transcendental cognitive experience that Sam Harris would describe with his secularized “spiritual” label…is that sacred? If so, that would make the regular ingestion of certain psychoactive drugs a religion, which I don’t think is something you’d get much agreement on.

              Also consider the case of religious Jewish atheists — those who go to schul and participate in services and keep kosher and the lot, yet who will be the first to tell you that the Torah is pure fiction and there aren’t any gods, Jewish or otherwise. Even in that case, the religious part is clearly focussed on the various gods, lesser and greater, in the Torah. If they had a similar level of devotion to some comic book fan club, we would not call those activities religious; it is only when those activities take place in the context of a pantheon, even one explicitly admitted imaginary, that they become religious.

              Cheers,

              b&

              1. I see the sacredness of gods and/or items (f.i. Quran) as a necessary ingredient for any religion.

                An example of a believe in sacred things which aren’t necessary Gods or spirits can we see in Totemism.

                Declaring things sacred is exactly the opposite of science and philosophy where nothing is sacred, everything can be questioned.

                “If they had a similar level of devotion to some comic book fan club, we would not call those activities religious”

                Agree, but some apple-fanboys come close

              2. An example of a believe in sacred things which aren’t necessary Gods or spirits can we see in Totemism.

                I don’t think there’s any consistent objective anthropological definition of the term, “god,” that could exclude a totem from the class.

                b&

              3. And returning to the point about Confucianism – there’s even a book (famous, but I’ve yet to read …) called something like _Confucius: The Secular as Sacred_, which should sound oxymoronic, but …

              4. Also, Buddhists talk big about the Buddha not being a god…but it’s the exact same talk you hear from Muslims about Muhammad not being a god but a messenger, Christians about Christianity not being a religion but a personal relationship with Jesus, and so on. They’ve all got supernatural powers and have transcended mere mortality and represent the ultimate authority. Mostly, it’s just generic propaganda…gods are those false idols everybody else worships, but my imaginary superfriend is the real deal, unlike all the others. So if all the others are gods and mine isn’t like all the others, then mine isn’t a god….

                b&

            4. What then would be the distinction between a religion and a life philosophy? And, as Ben points out, what is the “sacred?”

              The problem I have with these definitions is that they’re deepities; they contain two different interpretations. In general, from what I’ve noticed the interpretation which is publicly privileged tends to overwhelm the esoteric philosophers definition. The supernatural is seriously popular and believers are anxious to have it reinforced at every possible point. Look at “being spiritual.”

              My general rule regarding terms which traditionally indicate the supernatural but don’t have to is that, if people CAN infuse support for supernaturalism into someone’s use of a word, then they WILL do so. They’ll offer you a secular definition with a big smile. Or they’ll smile and nod when you give them your secularized definition. It’s all okay! They totally get it now. And they’re sincere.

              Do not trust them. Do not feed the supernatural temptation. Even when they ‘get it’ they’re still going to slip in an unjustified equivalence, sooner or later, because now “we BOTH believe in (God/religion/spirituality/higher powers/woo/faith/whatever) in our own way.” They can insist the issue is settled and we’re under a permanent truce. I think that’s because the religious really want the debate to end in their favor (or at the very least end) and this sort of semantic wordplay is their tactic here, not ours.

  2. “the rate of radioactive decay used in dating methods has slowed down over time

    Run this by Sean Carroll, but I think that if that were true, the weak and strong nuclear forces would have to have been weaker in the past, such that elements heavier that hydrogen would now be much much rarer that they are (i.e., heavy nuclei that now don’t decay would have decayed in the past).

    /@

    1. Well first, its worthwhile to remember the approximate size of the change they need, because its quite ridiculous. For U-238 decay to fit into a YEC framework, for instance, you would have to change the half-life by 6 orders of magnitude; a factor of 1,000,000.

      Its worth pointing out that when the fraction of U235 – which has a half life a mere one order of magnitude faster – was a few percent higher, we got at least one instance of natural uranium ore going critical and detonating (google “Oklo nuclear,” its quite an interesting tale). A 6-order of magnitude change in the 95% fraction of Uranium would’ve likely caused detonations all over the Earth’s surface (as well as under it), wherever Uranium collected.

      1. Good point. Oklo is something lots more people should read about, just because it is cool to think about.

        Alpha ( the fine structure constant ) is pretty much a solid reminder that most of the physical ly relevant constants for radioactive decay have not changed for (order of) billions of years.

        cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-structure_constant#Past_rate_of_change

        Still Ham can argue we all came into existence last Thursday…hard to prove against that kind of metaphysical skepticism.

  3. But if everything is the result of material processes, how did completely immaterial laws of nature and logic come about? Where do they come from? And if our universe truly is the result of random processes, then why do these laws work consistently everywhere throughout the universe? And why do they work the same today as they did yesterday? In a naturalistic worldview, there is no answer to these questions!

    In a naturalistic world view, we learn to ask better questions. Ken Ham sounds like Philomena Clunk. I can even hear her voice:

    “But the laws of nature and logic — where do they come from?”

    The “laws” of nature and logic are simply descriptions of regularities. Human beings formulate the most reliable regularities into ‘laws.’ We’re not dealing with prescriptions and proscriptions about how things ought to behave or shouldn’t behave. That’s a basic category error coming out of a misinterpretation of a deepity. There’s not some magic “law place” where they’re made and enforced in nature and logic.

    “But why do the laws work so consistently?”

    Because they are descriptions of regularities — iow consistencies. If we notice a change we don’t punish the phenomenon which failed to obey the law: we either reformulate the law, amend it to the new circumstances, or throw it out.

    Ham is pulling here on the tendency theists have to assume that the normal, expected state of nature is one of pure chaos, with nothing making sense, nothing connected to anything else, and no regularities or consistencies at all. That’s the default. Then they can express amazement and awe that rainbows are not rainbows one moment and raincoats another for no reason whatsoever and gasp “But … but… how can that be? This is highly unexpected, and demands an explanation!!

  4. I had a brief conversation with Ham on the radio years ago about radiometric dating. I don’t know much about his standard MO but the very second he figured out that I knew more about the topic than he did he skidaddled to a commercial at breakneck speed and I was told I could follow up through the mail. The problem with Ham et al is that they have bought into an all or nothing propostion. Everything they know about faith would crumble if they allow the slightest crack in their armor.

    1. The illogic of putting blind faith up against science is well illustrated by your experience. Bravo but Ham gets so scared when his ham is about to get speared and roasted.

  5. Compared to liberals, is it really clear that conservatives “have less respect for evidence that contravenes their emotional commitments”?

    When people imbue their ideological commitments with strong emotion, it’s clear that they tend to be less open to contravening evidence. AS JAC has shown on this site, leftists just like people on the right can be very illiberal and dogmatic in their thinking.

    But perhaps there are differences by political orientation in how people use evidence to select their ideological commitments in the first place. Has this been investigated?

    1. In the particular case of YECs and US politics, they are IMO overwhelmingly aligned with the Republican party and political conservativism. This does not mean most Republicans are YECs, nor does in mean YECs in other parts of the world will be political conservatives, but yes in the US, most YECs are Republicans.

  6. I never understand the “atheism is a religion too” gambit. Religion is never used in a positive sense in this argument. Not only is it a tu quoque fallacy, at best it declares everything as a “belief system” and results in either nihilism or special pleading for the One True ReligionTM.

    1. Their game is to turn everything around. Creationism isn’t science? Yes it is. Just look – it says so right here: Creation Science.

      1. They go further and say, “Creationism is a science and Evolution isn’t!” Deprecation by inversion. Oh and “Christianity started Science too!”

    2. You may be digging too deep. It’s a playground level “No I’m not, you are.” It’s probably a mistake to try to make sense out if it.

      1. Alas, you may be right. It’s the chess with pigeons scenario. I’m wondering why they didn’t checkmate me when they had the chance and meanwhile they’ve already knocked the pieces down, shit all over the board and flown away.

        1. Thank you, I gave up correcting that one and left the interpretation as an exercise for the reader. This could quickly degrade into an infinite regress of attempted corrections, a bit like a debate with Ken Ham…

  7. Ugh. Give me strength. Ken Ham exhausts me and I’m just reading what he says. I don’t know how anyone can stand him commenting on what they say or having to respond to his malarkey.

  8. “immaterial laws”

    No such thing – in fact, that’s a category mistake, even on his own terms. Laws are patterns (imposed, if you believe him, but that’s an aside; to us naturalists they are “in things and events”), so they aren’t material or immaterial.

  9. Unlike Jerry, or most all of us who reach for the dictionary from time to time, Ham has no need for this nonsense. He just makes up definitions like he does everything.

    Also notice how Jerry manages to avoid using the words ignorant or stupid by simply falling back on incoherent. Helps make the case when dealing with a loony, I mean creationist.

  10. It appears that Ham has risen to the rhetorical sophistication of a 7-year old:

    He hears: “You’re a poopy-head!”
    He responds: “No, YOU’RE the poopy-head!”

    (Replace ‘poopy-head with ‘believer in harmful superstition’)

    1. Childish indeed, but you’d be surprised how effective and common a tactic it is within right wing movements.
      Manipulating language is incredibly powerful. That’s how saying happy holidays suddenly becomes a ‘war on x-mas’, gays getting married isn’t about gays getting married, it’s about attacking Christian marriage.

    2. The trick is to do that and keep his magic belief. It is a phase of 3-7 year old’s, IIRC.

  11. Hey Ken, I have some advice for you: shut the hell up. When your arguments aren’t incomprehensible, they are tedious and childish. Since your brain hasn’t matured past the 5th grade or so, it really is embarrassing when you argue with the adults. Thanks for the entertainment though, and bolstering the simple fact that god and religion are bunk.

  12. Technically speaking, aren’t prayer and/or the Catholic lighting of candles to saints, textbook examples of superstitions?

    Kneeling and reciting a little verse because one thinks one is getting something in return is no different from clicking one’s heels three times with the expectation they’ll be transported to Kansas.

      1. “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

    1. Kneeling and reciting a little verse because one thinks one is getting something in return is no different from clicking one’s heels three times with the expectation they’ll be transported to Kansas.

      Yeah, that’ll happen when monkeys fly!

  13. then he says that he believes in “perdition,” which implies that he believes in moral absolutes or at least morality

    This sort of nitpicking really annoys me, almost more than creationist “substantive” arguments. Yes Ken, atheists are allowed to use religious metaphors, similes, and such. Doing that is not hypocrisy, because the purpose of the metaphor is to communicate a point, it is not claiming the metaphor is literally true.

    You don’t have to be a Christian to use “consign us to Perdition” any more than you have to be a professional baseball player to describe an argument as ‘knocking it out of the ballpark.’

      1. This was me, eric. I apologize. I will fuzz my kitteh’s tummy tonight in penance (which – believe me – is a form of flagellation).

  14. Ken Ham – forced to resort to the, “I know you are, but what am I,” gambit to defend his beliefs.

  15. I wonder if Ham has read FvF yet? I imagine the faithful pouring over books like it, red-faced, eyes bulging, furiously concocting new ways to misinterpret facts and simple definitions.

    I finished FvF yesterday. Quite enjoyable, probably could have made a whole other book out of the religious child abuse section, but would have been unbearably depressing although brutally enlightening.

    1. No, he believes there is only one book you need to read to tell you everything you need to know. He proclaims this proudly.

  16. Ham:

    “But what Coyne would refuse to admit is that atheism itself is a religion. It’s a set of beliefs…”

    No, atheism isn’t a set of beliefs. It’s only the rejection of others’ positive claims.

    This is the primary reason I find PZ’s position regarding “dictionary atheism” problematic. There are a lot of great and noble views one can hold, but atheism isn’t necessarily connected to any of them. Even from a tactical perspective, I think atheism is made stronger by not tethering itself to any particular ideology. It doesn’t matter how frequently atheism and equal rights advocacy coincide in the same person, the one doesn’t necessitate the other, and if you say they do, then you can’t make the rebuttal I made above about Ham’s claim that atheism is just another worldview/religion in need of justification. Atheism needs no justification because atheism is only the observation that actual religious claims have not justified themselves.

    1. The argument is: you have a knowledge-producing methodology that leads you to reject gods. That same methodology leads to the conclusion that all humans are basically the same, with all the humanistic equal rights that that implies. So if you reject the former on methodological grounds, and you want to be consistent/not a hypocrite, you have to accept the latter on methodological grounds too.

      I’m not sure its a great argument. But IMO its worth thinking about, for instance, how acceptance of empiricism as a basis of knowledge could be consistent with (for example) a social policy of discrimination based on race. It doesn’t seem to be.

      1. The argument is: you have a knowledge-producing methodology that leads you to reject gods.

        That’s conflating rationalism and atheism.

        Reason is perhaps the most common route to godlessness, especially affirmative forms of godlessness, but there’s nothing that says that you can’t reject all gods through some other cognitive process.

        And even rationalism doesn’t automatically get you to PZ’s brand of social justice. As is trivially evidenced by all the people who fully embrace rationalism who conclude that, on certain social matters, PZ is highly irrational….

        b&

    2. Considering that Atheism takes the last step that many religious followers stop short of.
      We are consistent, they are only consistent to their own deity. We go 100%, religionists go 99%. Agnostics are frightened fence sitters for those who do not want commitment.

      Agnostics give the benefit of the doubt.
      Atheists give no such benefit. We want proof.

      For Christians their religion says they would be going against their religion to show proof.

  17. For anyone new to all this who doesn’t want to wade through volumes of argument and counter-argument, the whole thing can be easily encapsulated:

    The ability of each man to answer the question “Should I grow a beard?” is indicative of the relative merits of their respective views on evolution.

      1. Our free will under Christianity is the rat in the maze. WE have the freedom to decide which pit we will be in. Only we don’t really. Since we have no control over the choices. Just the ones imposed on us.

        They tend to not like their cherished “freedoms” reduced to lab rats in a maze.

  18. It seems so utterly self-evident to me that atheism is based on lack of faith that I am utterly befuddled as to why anyone would characterize it otherwise. There are many religious positions I understand why smart people believe them, but not this one!!!

    There’s a !*sociological*! distinction IMO between religion and superstition, but not necessarily a belief-related one.

    S.E. Cupp has been quoted as saying that she “really aspires to be a person of faith some day.” As conservative atheists go, I somewhat prefer George Will who wrote “natural rights do not require grounding in God.”

    1. S.E. Cupp has been quoted as saying that she “really aspires to be a person of faith some day.” As conservative atheists go, I somewhat prefer George Will who wrote “natural rights do not require grounding in God.”

      With my hypothesis that all feelings of a need for some kind of belief system that leads to some kind of religion, S.E.Cupp suggests someone who has been the unfortunate recipient of only some of the genes necessary to be active as most have to want it and seek it out. She seems to only have the want it, but can’t accept it. She emotionally desires it, but can never fully embrace it. Unusual but interesting. Sad for Ms Cupp though.

    2. It seems obvious to me that atheism is a lack of belief too, but I think some believe atheism involve the belief that there is no god, or at least they profess that interpretation of atheism. I think some theologists’ and apologists’ arguments rely on that arguments, so they aren’t motivated to disabuse readers.

      1. Many of us atheists have no trouble making the affirmative case that there are no gods, any more than there are any comic book superheroes. But it should be obvious that, if you believe that there are no gods, you also lack belief in gods, and that it’s perfectly possible to lack belief in gods without going so far as to believe that they’re the incoherent nonsense they so clearly are.

        It is the lack of gods that makes one an atheist, not the reason why you don’t have any. Just as, for example, it is the lack of disease that makes one healthy, and not the reason one is free of disease or even the particular diseases you’re not infested with.

        b&

        1. Agree, although, for clarity’s sake, I’d make a distinction between people who have thought about the issue and deliberately concluded that atheism is the rational position and people who’ve simply never been to church and have never thought about the issue one way or the other. Granting the latter category the formal, official title “Atheist” leaves the door open for arguments like this:

          “For years I was an atheist, but then Jim Bob reade the bible, and the scales fell from my eyes. I knew then that my atheism was mistaken.”

          How could such a person be mistaken about his or her atheism when s/he never deliberately came to that conclusion in the first place?

          1. I’d make a distinction between people who have thought about the issue and deliberately concluded that atheism is the rational position and people who’ve simply never been to church and have never thought about the issue one way or the other.

            That’s an important distinction to make, but it’s not the job of the word, “atheism,” alone to do it. For that, there’re a lot of other words or various qualifiers — affirmative atheism, apatheism, igtheism, and so on. Usually, in practice, you just have to write an explanation such as the one you just did and the conversation pretty much comes to a close at that point.

            b&

      2. Atheism in the broadest sense is having no (religious) belief in any god(s), which may be simply naïve (and not in a pejorative sense; babies are necessarily naïve atheists) or rational (reasoned) or otherwise (maybe an emotional response?).

        (The atheists that mb mentions, those that become religious, were, very likely, naïve or otherwise, but not rational, atheists.)

        But for some, atheism is a (rational) belief that no gods exist.

        There’s this slippery switching among religious critics of atheism between the different senses of “belief” – faith without evidence or rational conclusions (from evidence or philosophical grounds).

        “It is the lack of gods that makes one an atheist, not the reason why you don’t have any.” — b&

        Yes, and this was the point of PZ Myers’s original attack on “dictionary atheists” — saying that you’re an atheist because you have no belief in any god(s) is not why you are an atheist.

        A “dictionary bachelor”: “I’m a bachelor because I’m not married.” Yes, but why have you never married?!!!

        (Of course, PZ then took things too far… but let’s not go there.)

        /@

        1. A “dictionary bachelor”: “I’m a bachelor because I’m not married.” Yes, butwhy have you never married?!!!

          A not bad parallel. We might jokingly refer to a very young child as a bachelor. The label is clearly correct but not exactly significant and perhaps not entirely applicable. Bachelorhood often comes with an implication of some form of “availability.” It is technically correct to say that inanimate objects are (with some notable exceptions in the contexts of certain cultural practices) both bachelors and atheists, but it’s a peculiar way to use those words.

          Nobody would have a problem describing high school students as bachelors, even though few have ever seriously thought about marriage. Similarly, if they have no gods, we should be comfortable calling them atheists even if they haven’t given the subject any serious thought.

          And, just as somebody who divorces well into retirement age would again be considered a bachelor, even if the marriage was the most devoted ever and the reasons for divorce were incomprehensible to everybody else, an abandonment of gods at any time in life should similarly be described as becoming an atheist.

          …and it’s not like bachelors can’t get married, or atheists can’t find religion….

          Cheers,

          b&

  19. I went to Ham’s link “free gift of salvation”. It took me to a page about Jesus stuff, which had a link to “Witnessing Tools” which turned out to be a whole lot of books, some very expensive ($59.99). Titles included:
    Satan and the Serpent Pocket Guide
    What is Science Pocket Guide
    Atheism Pocket Guide (the cover has a man with his hands over his ears wearing a black blindfold)
    Gospel Tracts: Why Are We Different (“We” means men and women, from each other)
    Creation vs Evolution:Irrefutable Proof
    God and Suffering Witnessing Pack (on sale for only $21.99!)
    The Global Flood Pocket Guide
    Is Natural Selection the same thing as Evolution?
    Global Warming Pocket Guide
    What Does The Bible Say About Astronomy
    Where Did Cain Get His Wife?
    What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?
    Millions of Years and the Downfall of the Christian West (described as: “Where did the idea of millions of years really come from? Here is the concise and compelling historical answer.) The guy who wrote this apparently has a PhD in the history of geology from Coventry University (UK). (I didn’t even know CreationWiki was a thing until I looked him up!)

    1. Most believers in Creationism accept that it has been millions of years at least. But it started with the Jehovah bringing it all into existence. The ones on the statistical fringes, the Science only & Religious only versions have the fewest members.

  20. This episode is going into #TIP and I’m posting this summary of it for the NCSE Facebook page:

    Ken Ham and the view from down in the Tortucan Shell

    Jerry Coyne has just posted a piece on Ken Ham’s grumpy reaction to Coyne’s National Geographic interview regarding his new book, Faith v Fact. https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/ken-ham-atheism-is-harmful-superstition/ with links to Ham’s piece & the National Geographic interview.

    In this daisy chain of citations, Coyne and Ham are grappling over familiar turf of science & religions’ compatibility, with both ironically holding parallel convictions that the natural science Coyne practices and the brand of religion that Ham defends aren’t compatible at all, and indeed operate in universes of thought about as far apart as one can get.

    That issue is not what struck me, though: it was a #TIP methodological one of how Ham lit into Coyne even though at no time did Ham or his AiG operation ever get mentioned in Coyne’s interview. And something even more interesting: Ham was showing a tunnel vision focus that paid no attention whatsoever to the actual content of Coyne’s interview, such as the thorny issue of whether parents should be exempted from to civil penalties for allowing their children to die from treatable diseases acting solely on their own religious conviction (the Ashley King case).

    As is clear from the history of antievolutionism I am working to document at #TIP (www.tortucan.wordpress.com) it is this tunnel vision selectivity, picking up isolated blips of information and discarding the rest with no thoughtful consideration, that shows up as one of the primary methodological traits of antievolutionists in particular, but by extension to all Tortucan-driven ideologies and cultural networks.

    There is a clear (and quite documentable) Madness to Their Method.

  21. I’ll never forget the look on Bill Maher’s face when asked by this hack: “Are you god?”

    Someone should make a .gif of that altercation.

  22. Supposedly, Ken Ham (that Church of Bacon should have chosen ham instead) is able to find food to eat, and also his way to and back from the restroom.
    These achievements imply possession of a highly capable brain.
    So how can this same brain generate that much stupidity about evolution, atheism, faith, moral philosophy, etc?
    It is a contradiction, a highly improbable situation.

    1. These achievements imply possession of a highly capable brain.
      So how can this same brain generate that much stupidity about evolution, atheism, faith, moral philosophy, etc?
      It is a contradiction, a highly improbable situation.

      We get into human psychology and how once you settle upon what you accept your intelligence and all the rest gets turned to protecting it to the end. The harder they are pushed, the more entrenched they will be.

  23. ““that’s simply the way things are.” Ham’s own explanation, of course, is God, but then, as Hitch used to say, all the work is still before him. ”

    Or, as Sagan used to say:

    Was the Universe devoid of all matter and then the matter suddenly somehow created, how did that happen? In many cultures, the customary answer is that a God or Gods created the Universe out of nothing. But if we wish to pursue this question courageously, we must of course ask the next question: where did God come from? If we decide that this is an unanswerable question, why not save a step and conclude that the origin of the Universe is an unanswerable question? Or, if we say that God always existed, why not save a step, and conclude that the Universe always existed? That there’s no need for a creation, it was always here. These are not easy questions. Cosmology brings us face to face with the deepest mysteries, questions that were once treated only in religion and myth.

  24. Does Ham believe this stuff or does he just know his target market?

    It’s remarkable how the stuff creationists sell just happens to appeal to scientifically illiterate people who don’t feel important enough unless they feel they have a close personal relationship with the creator of the Universe who holds them in especially high regard. In other words, the dispossessed underclass whom the political elite just happen to want to accept their place on a promise of something better later – when it’s too late to complain of being cheated.

      1. Too true. To that end, I avoid any company or employee who advertises the fish logo or other indicator of religion on business signs, calling cards, etc. or via code words in speech.

    1. I’m not a great judge of character, but somehow my impression after watching the debate with Nye was that he is sincere. I believe my CFI friends who I watched it with largely agreed.

      1. NOW I think I got the hang of it. And, sorry for the embedded video. How do I make it just a link, again?

        1. Remove the http:// from the front of the link. WP will add it back in, but it will appear as a hotlink instead of an embed.

  25. Hambone is delusional, no surprises there. Everyone here knows that already I’m sure.

    The real reason I bothered to comment is I am halfway through FvF and am loving it! Thank you P.C.C. for a well thought out, well reasoned summary. I can’t wait to get the rest read. I probably haven’t even got to the good stuff yet…

    I have a couple of kids who are outright atheists, I didn’t coach them, but answered all questions as an honest father should. FvF is going to be recommended reading for them (If I have to pound them over the head with it) It is fine and dandy being an atheist as a young man, FvF gives one a fair understanding of why atheism makes good sense, and answers the questions better than I could have. I didn’t mean to give a book review, I’m not even done with it, but just wanted to share where I am at with this fine book. (I hope that’s allright!)

  26. What follows is an excerpt from a 15 page (with footnotes and citations) reply to someone I knew growing up that became an Assemblies of God minister. On FB he asked me how an “intellectually honest” atheist could deny the “historical reality” of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, followed
    be the nonsensical question of how atheism is not also a “faith.”

    “The “Isn’t atheism a faith too?” question has been asked, and answered, so many times there ought to be a tax attached to asking it. If nothing else, it might recoup the appalling amount of money our government–which is not a theocracy–wastes in the form of tax-exempt status for churches–the biggest, loudest, and shrillest of which give every indication that a Christian theocracy is exactly what they want. In response to your question, I will lay out the case as to why atheism is, most emphatically, not a faith.

    I am going to roll the dice and assume you are not a Bigfoot True Believer™. Or maybe you think it could go either way. Regardless, are you, or anyone else that is not already a Bigfoot True Believer™, under any obligation, at all, to pave over the entire Pacific Northwest to prove it does not exist? Of course not. Bigfoot True Believers™ are making a claim (and expecting others to buy it as well) that can be expressed as follows:

    Bigfoot exists.

    The above statement can be reformulated as:

    “Bigfoot exists” is a true statement about the world.

    The above claim is an example of a “positive” statement, and the burden of proof is always on those making a positive claim. A claim that something or someone exists–be it Bigfoot, a second gunman that fired on JFK from the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza on the 22nd of November, 1963, or God–is a positive claim.

    Our legal system is often described as an “adversarial” system because on one side we have the claimant–i.e. the party making the positive claim–and on the other side, the party against (or about) whom the claim is being made, is called the respondent. In criminal cases, the claimant is the government and in that context is called the prosecution, and it is their job to
    establish, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” that the respondent, called the defendant is, in fact, guilty of the crimes he or she are charged with. To accomplish this, the government, represented by the prosecution, presents evidence and testimony, which, it is hoped, the jury will find conclusive in
    demonstrating that defendant is guilty as charged. This is why, thankfully, our legal system presumes that one is innocent until proven guilty. The onus is on the government show that the defendant committed the crime(s) they are accused of. The job of the defense is easier than that of the prosecution, because all they have to do is discredit or cast “reasonable doubt” upon the evidence and testimony presented by the prosecution by revealing inconsistencies, contradictions, or just plain sloppy reasoning on the part of the prosecution.

    Eventually, the legal counsel for both sides rest their case and the trial goes to jury, where the members deliberate on (i.e. evaluate) the evidence and testimony to determine if it does, as the prosecution claimed, establish the guilt of the defendant “beyond a reasonable” doubt. Once their deliberations are finished, the verdict of the jury is read in court. If the prosecution was
    successful in doing their job, then the jury should have voted to convict the defendant. On the other hand, if the jury concludes that the arguments, evidence, and testimony presented by the prosecution failed the meet the evidentiary standards required to convict, the verdict will end in acquittal, or a verdict of “not guilty.”

    In this discussion, the positive claim being made is that the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is as much a “historical fact” as the Sack of Rome in the year 410 of the Common Era by the Visigoths, the Battle of Hastings in the year 1066 of the Common Era–which clinched the Norman Conquest of England, or the Moon landing in the year 1969 of the Common Era. Your claim rests upon a potentially limitless number of unstated–and undemonstrated–prior assumptions, which include, but are not limited to, the existence of the God of Christian Scripture and the possibility of supernatural miracles (and entities) not subject to natural law. The evidentiary burden required to establish such fantastical claims is incredibly high. All the evidence-not just the cherry-picked bits that Christians use to persuade the incurious and gullible masses–but also the evidence that reveals just how
    incredibly weak–and obviously contrived–the thin veneer of historical plausibility Christians have pasted onto their supernatural myths–little different from those of other cults of the Eastern Roman Empire in the first century C.E. actually are-have been thoroughly, skeptically–and intellectually honestly–evaluated…and have been found wanting.
    The burden of proof is nowhere near being met, which justifies the rejection of whatever claims Christians might make as to the “historical fact” of the Resurrection, its unstated priors and premises, and any claims it is, in turn, the basis of.

    Specific points on which the claim being made by believers like yourself fails are:

    1. Inconsistent and contradictory testimony
    a) The Crucifixion and Resurrection narratives

    2. Tampering with/forging witness testimony
    a) cf. Mark 16:9-20

    3. Witnesses for the prosecution are not available for cross-examination by the defense regarding conflicts between their various stories–in an actual court of law the testimony would likely be ruled inadmissible on that basis in the first place.

    4. Circular reasoning, sloppy logic, and/or logical fallacies
    a) Your question about the historicity of the Resurrection

    5. Suppression and/or destruction of discrepant testimony/evidence
    a) The Nag Hammadi Library anyone?

    6. Persecution and outright slaughter of dissident sects
    a) Arians, Cathars, Gnostics, Mandaeans, to name just a few

    7. Lies of omission and commission regarding the historical contexts of the Christian Bible (Old and New Testaments)

    8. The chain of evidence has been utterly destroyed and cannot be trusted
    a) We have no authenticated and published studies of any original manuscripts
    independently dated to the first century C.E.

    9. The utter absence of any intellectually honest or credible reasons to accept, not only one set of supernatural miracle-stories–those surrounding Jesus of Nazareth–and reject others (e.g. Simon Magus and Apollonius of Tyanna)–but the complete and utter absence of good reasons to accept any supernatural miracle stories at all.

    “Faith” is what gives parents license to refuse evidence-based medical care to their sick child-and delude themselves that their refusal is “holy”-and have that feeling endorsed and supported by their fellow believers. My atheism, my non-belief, is not a “faith,” it is a verdict–a verdict arrived at after refusing to ignore what Christians like yourself blithely ignore. Following my natural curiosity, and guided by reason and evidence, I escaped the mind-numbing echo chamber of religious “faith”; and I demand of religious believers like yourself the same standards of intellectual honesty we demand of our system of justice and in any other sphere of human intellectual endeavor.

    For cryin’ out loud man, we demand higher standards of evidence when haggling with a used car dealer!

    1. The whole case against the historicity of Jesus can be made much simpler and shorter — though, to be sure, fleshing out all the details would require post-doctoral dissertation-level work.

      In short, the earliest mentions of Jesus are to be found at the back of the Old Testament, in Zechariah, especially chapter 6. There, “Joshua” (the same name through a different language, just like “Alex” and “Sandy” are both variations on “Alexander”) is YHWH’s high priest, prince of peace, crowned (anointed / christened) with many crowns, the builder of the one true church / temple, and even called “The Rising” (with a word that also translates as, “Branch,” another common bit of Christian iconography). That’s about half a millennium before the time of the Caesars.

      At the time of the Caesars — and, indeed, overlapping the widest possible set of dates for Jesus’s life — we have Philo of Alexandria, a prolific author and philosopher whose life’s work was the integration of the Hellenistic Logos into Judaism. Never mind that he couldn’t possibly have missed Jesus’s ministry; all he wrote of Jesus was of the one in Zechariah (by explicit citation) whom he made clear was an embodiment of his own Logos. Philo’s Logos never set foot on Earth.

      Perhaps a generation after Philo died, we have the first Christian mentions of Jesus, in the Pauline Epistles. The Jesus in those pages is indistinguishable from Philo’s, all the way to the theological imagery. Adam was the Platonic archetype of the human body, and Jesus / the Logos was the Platonic archetype of the human soul, and so on. And Paul’s ignorance of the Gospel biography is inescapable.

      Then, a generation or two later still, after the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 CE, Mark authors an Ehuemerized biography for Jesus, placing him in the distant-but-not-so-distant-as-to-be-irrelevant past. It’s clearly an epic fiction cast in the mold of Homer, and a rather well-crafted example of the type. Lots of palindromic story arcs, symbolism that makes no historical sense but plenty theological or ideological sense, and so on.

      After Mark, there’s an explosion of sources…all of which trace directly back to Mark, either as re-workings or rebuttals of Mark’s text.

      At about the same time as that explosion, we get the earliest Christian apologists, all of whom were passionate in their defense of Christianity, of course…and who performed their defenses by explicitly describing how Jesus was no different from all the other Pagan gods, only evil time-travelling demons planted false stories about the other gods in order to lead honest men astray when Jesus finally arrived.

      Finally, a bit after that, we start to get the earliest Pagan mentions of Jesus…in which he’s described as a bizarre new god at the center of a completely batshit insane new cult, no different from today’s space alien flying saucer comet suicide cults.

      Concluding from that that Jesus is any more real than Perseus or Quetzalcoatl or Ganesh…takes an act of faith. Which is, perhaps, the most shameful thing any human could possibly do.

      Cheers,

      b&

  27. …since conservatives a). tend to be religious and b). have less respect for evidence that contravenes their emotional commitments.

    It’s certainly true that a lot of religious people identify as conservative — and that the strength of their religiosity (especially as it trends to the fundamentalist and literalist) correlates strongly (though not perfectly) with the degree of their conservatism. It is also true that many people who reject evidence-based scientific consensus — climate change, a salient example — also identify as conservative.

    But I wonder whether there is anything in conservatism per se, or in the conservative mindset, that leads to such irrational beliefs. I’m certainly open to empirical evidence that this so, but in the absence of such evidence, I’m skeptical of any such pat answers — especially where they conform to my own a priori political biases.

    There are some conservatives I’ve known (and, even more, that I’ve read or listened to) that could best be described as Burkean. These are people who do not merely scatter Burke citations or (often apocryphal) quotations throughout their rhetoric, but ones who actually ascribe to some version of the political philosophy espoused by Edmund Burke.

    (Burke was himself, ostensibly at least, traditionally religious, a member of the C of E who nonetheless supported the rights of minority Catholics — probably no surprise given that he was a product of a “mixed” Anglican/Catholic marriage. But Burke’s religiosity stemmed less from doctrinal commitment than from his being convinced of the church’s institutional value for society — a view that, whatever its merits during the 18th Century, seems attenuated now, such that I query whether, were he still around, Burke might not have abandoned it.)

    Some of the present-day Burkean conservatives — as hard-eyed as they are hidebound — argue that it is those of us on the left who are oblivious to evidence, convinced of the perfectibility of Man and wedded to discredited policy. (It bears noting in this regard that there are plenty of people on the left who are religious, many in a mushy, mainline kind of way, but others of a more fervent bent. Liberation theology, anyone? There are others on the left who hold equally irrational, new-agey type beliefs.)

    As a man of the left, I reject the Burkean conservatives’ arguments. But, where they are made by thoughtful, informed persons, I always listen — first, to keep my own outlook honest and, second, to scout out any valid concepts I might have to adopt and incorporate into my worldview.

  28. “If I had one wish about believers like Ham, it would be that somehow they would come back to a moment of consciousness after death and realize that, after all, it’s simply oblivion. That’s the one “out” card that the faithful have: they’ll never know how wrong they were.”
    My thoughts exactly P.C.C. also Hell would be a far more interesting place than Heaven with all that bowing and scraping and endless bloody hallellujas 24/7 , drive me crackers,apart from the fact you,d be cooped up with self-righteous bloody Creationists for all Eternity, now THAT’S what i call Hell.

    1. Yeah. There have to be better bars, cafes and eateries in hell, in spite of the conditions. BBQ anyone?

      “I left my harp in Sand Crab’s disco”

  29. “And if our universe truly is the result of random processes, then why do these laws work consistently everywhere throughout the universe?”

    Umm, because our universe is not the result of random processes?

  30. Regarding the moral principles, Ken has simply to lie. He knows that the golden rule exists and that you can find it in many older than christianity religions:
    You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
    -Leviticus 19:18
    Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality treat other with respect and compassion. Jainism – Suman Suttam, verse 150
    One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.— Plato’s Socrates (Crito, 49c)
    “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.” – Confucius, Analects XV.
    Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. Buddhism – Udanavarga 5:18
    Already in ancient Egypt there was a version of it: in The Eloquent Peasant (c. 2040–1650 BC) one can read: “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you.”
    etc…
    And the reason why it appears in many and totally different religions is simple: It does not depend of any theology or kind of god.
    Nowadays he must ignore all the experiments with monkeys and elephants (de Waals) showing pretty clear that moral principles did not need any religion…

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