Ken Miller wants our government to embrace MORE Christian values

October 15, 2019 • 9:30 am

I cross-posted my post about Pompeo’s Christianity to Facebook, and, surprisingly, Ken Miller, a biology colleague and an observant Catholic, weighed in. Since this post is public, I don’t have any qualms about posting our exchange here:

The trick is, of course, that by “genuine Christian values,” Miller means “those Christian values that I like”. In other words, he’s embracing a form of the Euthyphro argument, because Miller’s “Christian values” are those that have nothing to do with the dictates of God or religion, but align with what he likes (and with what secular humanists espouse). Miller’s set is cherry-picked from all the Christian values, many of which aren’t so congenial but just as genuine.

I admire Ken for his work against creationism, and for the liberal social views he espouses above, but he simply doesn’t get to be the arbiter of what “genuine Christian values” are. And it’s a bit misleading to conflate humanistic “Christian values” with “Christian values per se”.

Watch that space; others may weigh in, or Ken and I might have further exchanges.

75 thoughts on “Ken Miller wants our government to embrace MORE Christian values

  1. Jerry, as I pointed out on Facebook you’ve misinterpreted my comment. Naturally, you would recoil against any attempt to instill the “Christian” values you regard as reprehensible (which are listed in your posting). But my point was that the current administration has itself trashed some of the values that form the heart of the Christian “social gospel,” most especially the treatment of immigrants, refugees, and the poor. So they have absolutely no business complaining about the demise of “traditional” values when they are actively involved in trashing them every day!

    1. On my reading, what Jerry was objecting to was the unavoidable implication that certain values are inherently “Christian”. Clearly you both agree on those values, but the “Christian” is a superfluous appendage.

      Without accusing you of intending to do this, I do think it’s a valid accusation that the church and religion in general tend to identify what is of value to humans, and then park themselves on top of it and claim ownership.

      (Ownership, or condemnation — as William Blake noticed: “As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.”)

      P.S. Thanks for your excellent work opposing Creationism! I regularly link to it on my blog.

      1. I don’t think that Ken Miller’s statement is it an “unavoidable implication that certain values are inherently Christian”; that’s exactly what he asserts, no pussyfooting implication about it.

          1. Yeah, I thought you were engaging in politesse — rather, I thought you were being polite (or perhaps politic) in a way that came off as politesse. But there’s too much of that going on these days by the good guys, in critical situations where the intent is crystal clear, and that gives the other side the upper hand — necessary wiggle room, a chance to deny what is patently obvious. It puts us on the defense. Look at all this jive about “quid pro quo.” Does somebody have to articulate specifically, “This is quid pro quo” in order for it to be quid pro quo, when the very shape and content of the discussion was precisely about quid pro quo?

            We can’t give those evil jokers an inch.

            1. Clarification: Goodness, I’m not implying or insinuating that that Ken Miller is an “evil joker.” By no means. Mea Culpa Ken Miller.

              I became exercised thinking about the way the Trumpists pounce on every crumb of doubt in order to discredit their opponents, and the quid pro quo business was an example. I was referring to the Trumpists and duplicitous people of that ilk, but neglected to make that clear.

            2. Well I give Dr Ken some credit for showing up in the comments, making one civil comment and then leaving (rather than leaving a string of insults, saying he’s leaving, coming back, leaving another string of insults, saying he’s leaving, realising he’s left a string of insults where everyone else was polite, coming back and trying to smooth it over but winding up leaving another string of insults).

              Plus I think he deserves some credit simply for kicking William Demski’s ass so thoroughly in the Dover case!

              1. From everything I know about him he seems like a thoroughly decent chap. I disagree with him strongly about metaphysics, but in the fight against populism you take your allies where you can find them imo.

    2. I don’t think Jerry was saying any of the Christian values you’re talking about are ‘reprehensible’. I think he was pointing out that there’s no reason to accept that they’re ‘Christian values’ in the first place.

      Why should we accept that they’re Christian values when a huge chunk of American Christians have spent decade after decade making a mockery of them, and as soon as Trump came along – who is about as close to an anti-Christ figure as you could find – they hugged him close to their hearts?

      If there’s such a huge gap between modern Christian behaviour and these values you talk of, and if non-Christians tend to embody these values more than actual Christians do, why should we talk about ‘Christian values’ at all?

    3. How about the Christian values of casting out oogie-boogie demons. Why is that not mentioned when helping people cast out the oogie-boogie demons it is such a very nice thing to do for them?

      1. Seriously though, that’s about the best thing someone could do for people. Cast out their oogie boogie demons. And yet no mention of that value. (Presumably because it’s too embarrassing lol.)

    4. The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the divinity of Christ has nothing to do with human conduct or “values” per se. That’s all just dogma.

      Charity, kindness to others, forgiveness, contrition do speak to “values.” But Christianity cannot not lay exclusive claim to these “values.” Many religions and philosophies espoused them long prior to the Christian era.

    5. Ah Ken, if only You simply asked where the Jesus of these Christians is who followed a guy who hung around with prostitutes and what of Matthew 6:5?

  2. There is a good argument here that many values can find justification outside of Christianity. And speaking for myself, I am not a Christian, or even a believer. That said, I think that there is a good case historically and culturally that there are some positive values associated with Christianity and some worthwhile perspectives that draw on Christianity. As long as it’s not being put forward in an exclusivist fashion, I think that some actual, genuine discussion of historical Christian teaching in the State Department could be worthwhile, especially with respect to just war theory and Christian Realism as advocated by Reinold Niebhur.

    1. “I think that some actual, genuine discussion of historical Christian teaching in the State Department could be worthwhile, especially with respect to just war theory and Christian Realism as advocated by Reinold Niebhur.”

      A discussion of Buddha’s doctrine of Dependent Origination (the interconnectedness of all things) or Mahavira’s concept of Ahimsa (non-violence) would be worthwhile as well. Or Maimonides’s conception of theodicy. We would have to give equal time.

  3. Exactly.

    If the values Ken Miller holds were embraced by more people in our government that wouldn’t be a bad thing. But Ken’s values do not map well to Christian values as actually demonstrated by many, even most, Christians.

    Jesus F. Christ, it’s Christians that are some of the most avid supporters of Trump, a veritable paragon of low moral values. It’s Christians who decades ago laid plans to infiltrate and influence our government and military for their own religious ends and have met with some measure of success doing so, to the detriment of us all.

    Ken Miller is almost certainly a very good person but, my god (or rather his), has he no shame? Not true Christians just doesn’t cut it.

    1. Hmmm… that’s exactly right, isn’t it. Christians put Trump into office. If Ken Miller thinks they don’t represent Christian values, he should be explaining to them where they went wrong, not to Jerry or anyone else!

    2. I think more largely, the Christian impulse/value/obligation to proselytize and convert people to Christianity is one of its most destructive and its on full display with this statesman. It’s this aspect that makes it unpleasant for the rest of us.

  4. I often hear people, even some atheist people, say that “There’s a good side of religion,” with examples of how religion encourages us to take care of one another. And I reply, “Actually, that’s just a good side of humanity,” and much of that we see in other species, too — nothing to do with religion. As Jerry has pointed out, some of the people writing scripture had good ideas about how we should treat each other, and they wrote them down, and then retroactively people we say those ideas actually came from scripture. They didn’t though — they came from well-meaning human beings.

  5. IMO the US government seems to have embraced the values of modern American Christianity pretty damn well: a kind of ethically pliable, tribally conservative complacency, floating on a sea of hypocrisy.

    People often say that when American Christians went all-in for Trump it was a ‘betrayal’ of their value system – but really it was just the logical end-point for modern American Christianity, a religion that has taken Jesus’s teachings about the meek and the poor, and his exhortations to give away all possessions, and brutally reshaped them into a sprawling mess of megachurches and cross-over promotions with the NRA, portraits of Jesus with an AK, private planes paid for by poor people babbling in tongues, pastors as used-car-salesmen and pro-life demagogues secretly paying for their mistresses’ abortions.

    There are of course plenty of Christians who oppose Trump, and Ken Miller’s a good example. But if Christian values really meant anything they’d all oppose Trump. He is a metaphorical(or maybe not so metaphorical, I’m not ruling anything out yet) anti-Christ.

    1. The Dominionists or Christian nationalists are like the Sharia supporters of the west. They are truly terrifying.

  6. I greatly appreciate your extremely dedicated work for humanity. You are are very much a rarity in our world but eventually rationalism, secularism and humanism will flourish giving the best opportunities to all the people. Since thousands of years after Charvaka unfortunately most countries are still in dark ages while the “nones” have greatly increased in recent times. Home of Charvaka is ruled by a theo-centric/religious party now has almost absolute control of Republic of India. State governments in India routinely perform/encourage religious ceremonies and no organization has brought in any case against such events by government bodies in India. See this ridiculous ceremony encouraged by a state government to appease snake god.


  7. It is praiseworthy that Ken Miller has discovered that Donald Trump & Co. do not represent “genuine” Christian values. One is reminded of similar revelations on the Left. For example, today’s pop-Leftists have begun to discover that the regime of Venezuela’s Unified Socialist Party isn’t “really” Socialist, just as Stephen F. Cohen (the Nation magazine’s house Russian expert) discovered in the 1970s that Stalin’s regime wasn’t “really” Communist. We can expect many more such intellectual breakthroughs on all sides.

    1. Personally I don’t think them viewing it as a sin is a problem. The issue is when they want to treat sex before marriage as a crime. Sins are offenses against imaginary beings, and they are welcome to that delusion if they keep it to themselves.

      1. Yes pushing their bad ideas on the rest of us. The proselytizing and forcing of Christianity. It’s horrible.

  8. I would just like to add that the “values” Miller refer to are not only cherry picked from a long and absurd list of crimes , but that all the crimes warrant capital punishment. Not cheating on your wife is not really a value in these religions but a crime they can murder you for..

  9. My reading of Ken’s point is that the values in question were espoused by Christ but are not always practiced by those who identify as “Christians.” The fact that others espouse the same values doesn’t negate the fact that Christ espoused them. In that sense, at least, it’s accurate to say they are Christian values.

    Notably missing from Ken’s list, however, is “Love God,” which in the Christian canon comes before “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and which, unlike the other items, is not a humanist value.

        1. Ah, my friend, do you not know the relevant passage in Matthew? (I have read my scripture.) To wit:

          6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,

          7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.

          8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?

          9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

          10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.

          11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

          1. There’s also the matter of Jesus’ vengeance against the fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22.

            But I’ve little doubt the former seminarian among us knows this Scripture well. 🙂

      1. Death to fig trees not olive trees. And source it was only the once but still. Is that any way for the messiah to behave?

      2. Plus he fully endorsed the Jewish Law

        Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven

        (Matt. 5:17-19 NRSV)

        That includes quite a lot of pretty horrible stuff about homosexuals, rape and slaves.

        1. Although he did break a few and even “interpreted” a few to his own benefit. Yes, Jesus was a cafeteria Christian. It’s hard not to be one when the scriptures are so stupid in a lot of places.

  10. The good Perfesser would do well to spend more time with his nose in Plato’s Socratic dialogues and less cherry-picking the bible.

      1. Plato’s the one who recorded Socrates’s remonstration, at the court of the king magistrate, with Euthyphro regarding the source of virtue, so there’s really no escaping him.

  11. I get what Ken Miller is saying but Jerry is right. These values are not Christian per se. If you need religion to tell you that it’s good to help people and to tell the truth then you probably shouldn’t be in government.

  12. The existence of scientists who publicly espouse good science but also continue to hold religious beliefs (how I know not) are the ultimate argument in the public’s mind for the compatibility of science and religion. You can believe in evolution; you can believe that religion *never* gets anything right of a scientific nature; you can believe there is absolutely no evidence to support your religious beliefs, and you can *still* believe. Ken Miller is a living proof of concept.

    If Miller’s religious belief proves anything, it’s only that the human brain didn’t evolve to seek truth for its own sake.

  13. I disagree with the civil tone of my earlier comment above. Dr Miller should be trying to convince his fellow Christians that those are Christian values, not Jerry.

  14. O Jebus. I have no patience, let alone time
    left, for this kind of brains’ thinkings and
    doings. WHERE, for crying out loud, is their
    thinkings in re s c i e n c e endeavors ? !
    Like, ya’ know, the scientific method ? !
    Like, ya’ know, e v i d e n c e ? !

    Jesus – values ? Really ?!
    Like “did I exist ?”
    ” cuz I left evidence of my existence where exactly ? ”
    Like “do I / did I e v a h employ ANY of the
    Human Beings who are its female ones as
    My Disciples ? O wait. I did not.
    cuz, ya’ know, World’s Men, that they are not
    intelligent nor worthy enough to BE
    My Disciples, are they ? ! ”

    GET over yourselves, Other Scientists.
    And, further, ACT like, ya’ know,
    a S C I E N T I S T ACTS !

    O, this is just so angering ! Exhausting
    and angering, and I have z e r o patience
    for this fuck. Not from Anyone, let alone,
    from out of other so – called scientists who
    actually … … are NOT !


    1. Your Jebus – “values”, Mr ( ‘nd .not. Doctor of A Thing Scientific – ) Miller:

      “When man made himself god, he made woman less than human. ‘A woman is never truly her own master,’ argued Luther. ‘God formed her body to belong to a man, to have and to rear children.’

      In the grand design of the monotheistic male,
      woman was NO MORE THAN A MACHINE to make
      babies for him, with neither the need nor
      the right to be anything else:

      ‘Let them bear children TILL THEY DIE OF IT ’
      Luther advised. ‘THAT is WHAT THEY ARE FOR.’ ”

      — Historian Dr Rosalind Miles in Chapter Five entitled “The Sins of the Mothers” of HER Scripture, The Women’s History of the World, page 102.


  15. Yes, Ken has certainly cherry-picked his “Christian principles.” I’ve compiled a long (too long?) list of some of the things Ken left out:

    1. Jesus appeared to condone slavery, teaching in one of his parables that it was reasonable to expect that a lazy slave would be beaten [Luke 12:47-48]: “And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating.” Recall also, that while nothing in the 10 Commandments condemns slavery, the 9th Commandment forbids the “coveting” of your neighbor’s slaves, thus suggesting that the Judeo-Christian god believed it was the “coveting” and not the “owning” of slaves that was the real evil.

    2. Jesus taught that no one should have any regard for his earthly future and discouraged planning [Matthew 6:25-34]. He had no regard for self-reliance, and he and his apostles subsisted entirely on the charity of others.

    3. Jesus taught that diseases could be cured by faith healing (which even he sometimes performed poorly — see Mark 8:22-26), and told his followers that they, too, would be able to heal others by their faith alone. As a result, he has inspired religious fundamentalists to shun medical care in favor of prayer and to stand by and watch as their children die from treatable diseases.

    4. Jesus promoted the monstrous concept of Hell, teaching that the use of torture and purely retributive punishment is morally appropriate, eternally and even for mere offenses to his ego (such as disbelief in his divinity).

    5. Jesus death on the cross supposedly demonstrated that forgiveness demanded a price, as opposed to advocating the nobler act of granting forgiveness gratuitously.

    6. Jesus was xenophobic and on one occasion even compared non-Jews to dogs [Matthew 15:21-28].

    7. Jesus believed and taught that we should have no regard for family relationships, and was repeatedly inconsiderate and disrespectful toward his mother: “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” [Luke 14:26]. “Woman, what have I to do with you?” [John 2:4].

    8. Jesus was repeatedly cold and cruel. He refused to allow one of his followers time to bury his own father (callously telling him to “Let the dead bury their dead”), and refused to allow another to say goodbye to his family before leaving to follow Jesus [Luke 9:59-61]. He even caused a fig tree to wither and die for the offense of not bearing figs out of season [Matthew 21:19].

    9. Jesus expressly refused to renounce the cruelties of Mosaic law, which included the death penalty for such things as homosexuality, disobedient children, picking up sticks on the Sabbath, eating shellfish, and failing to cry out for help while being raped. [See Matthew 5:18-19]

    10. Jesus apparently considered human sexuality to be an evil, and preached that those who were able to castrate themselves should do so [Matthew 19:12].

    11. While Jesus was adamant that everyone should help alleviate the suffering of the poor in tangible ways (not just by praying for them), he himself failed to do much of anything to help anyone else with their earthly existence (except for those few miracles which he was begged to perform). In fact, despite his admonition to “give everything you own to the poor” [Matthew 19:21], Jesus actually berated his followers when they suggested that some expensive perfume that was poured on him should have instead been sold to raise money the poor [Mark 14:3-9].

    12. Jesus repeatedly lied. For example, he told his brothers he would not be attending a festival in Galilee, and then secretly went anyway [John 7:8-10]. He said that his second coming would occur before all of his followers had died [Mark 9:1, Matthew 16:28, Luke 9:27] but it did not. He said that he would remain in his tomb for “three days and three nights” before his resurrection [Matthew 12:40], but instead supposedly rose after 36 hours. When questioned after being captured, Jesus lied and said that: “I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret” [John 18:19-20]. However, the Gospel of Mark tells us that “He did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples” [Mark 4:34]. He even ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah [Matthew 16:20].

    Apart from mentioning the Golden Rule on one single occasion (an un-original idea that pre-dated him by many centuries, and which he somehow “forgot” to include among the 10 Commandments), preaching love for one’s enemies while nonchalantly condemning non-believers to an eternity in Hell, and admonishing people to help the poor while again refusing to do so himself, most of the Gospels consist of tales of Jesus casting out demons and telling people to believe in god lest they face eternal damnation – a pathetically thin moral philosophy.

    1. Yeah, but aren’t you forgetting that Jesus wasn’t a Christian, by definition, so he couldn’t have Christian values.

    2. Jesus was the opposite of what the Jewish people of the day might have expected of a Messiah (Christ). The anointed one was supposed to defeat the enemy and rule over the new kingdom. Instead he was defeated and dispatched by the enemy. So he was a bit of an anti Christ himself.

      Some time ago, I read an article written by Ken Miller.

      The link does not work anymore:

      However, the website seems to have some trace of its existence.

      However, I had this quotation from the article:

      ‘To me, the message is clear. The creative verses of Genesis describe a command from the Creator to the materials of the earth to bring forth life. And that, as evolution tells us, is exactly what happened.’

      At the time, given his context of his stance on creationism, it seemed a strange thing for him to say.

      1. Usually they will say that if something didn’t happen that was supposed to happen, it did happen… in the spirit world. Like for example how come bad people get away with bad things when they aren’t supposed to? Silly atheist, they don’t get away with it! In the spirit world…

        Impossible to lose an argument!

    3. About the Golden Rule ‘which he somehow “forgot” to include among the 10 Commandments.’

      He was not around when the Commandments were issued, was he? Or are you saying that because Jesus was God he could have given the Golden Rule to Moses?

      Or is there a Jesus version of the Commandments that I don’t know about?

      1. According to Christian mythology, the three gods of the Trinity arersomehow only one god, and always were and always will be, so it makes no sense to say Jesus wasn’t around when the10 Commandments were issued. Presumably they worked as a committee. 🙂

        1. It must be an easy committee work in — when everyone is one. This reminds of a Roman in Asterix and Obelix who wanted to form a triumvirate of one.

      1. The Morton’s Demon theory as it applies to religious conservatives makes perfect sense. Keep in mind that religion actually encourages and celebrates ignorance, since retaining your faith in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary is actually considered a virtue. Moreover, everything they don’t understand can then be considered to be proof of god. Their certainty gives them great comfort, while the rest of us poor schmucks accept — and have to suffer with — the possibility that some of what we think we know might be wrong.

  16. Mme. Blue is mood indigo(nant) today. and. rightfully & righteously so. so: ‘Like “did I exist ?”
    ” cuz I left evidence of my existence where exactly ? ”’

    dunno. nobody do. What, Jesus? What Jesus?, darkest midnight : most brillant sapphire morning. . . .

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