Religion and Morality

Outspoken atheists like myself obviously spend a lot of time debunking the so-called ‘evidence’ for the existence of God, but it often seems to me that evidence is largely irrelevant to theists. Their beliefs are based on a need to believe in God for emotional reasons, and there are many. I’ve talked about some of these before (fear of death, fear of the unknown, the need for a “higher justice” etc.), but there’s one very big one that I haven’t tackled directly yet: morality. It seems that a big reason a lot of theists feel they have to believe in God is that without him, humans would have no morality.

Let’s begin with their most often cited ‘evidence’ for this idea, the great tyrants of the 20th century: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-Il etc. These people were supposed to have been atheists, yet they are responsible for the greatest acts of genocide in the last 100 years. Surely this must prove that—whatever problems religion might have—atheism is actually far worse? As a matter of fact, it doesn’t prove that at all—indeed, when we look at the evidence more closely, it actually leads us to the opposite conclusion. For a start (unlike the countless examples of people killed in the name of God), none of these people committed any of their atrocities in the name of atheism. They committed them in the name of Nazism, Communism etc., which tells us what is actually going on here. These were in fact new religions—the only reason these tyrants denounced other religions is so that they could become Gods themselves. It is noteworthy that communism spread far more effectively in the east than it did in the west, and I think there are two key reasons for this. One is that the oriental countries have basically always accepted the idea of their king, emperor etc. being an earthly God, so it wasn’t really anything new to accept their communist leader as one. The other reason of course is that full democracy was already well established in the west, which naturally leads the people of those countries to question their leaders, and not blindly follow them. Which leads to my next point.

If the majority of the population were naturally inclined to always question what their leaders tell them, then how would the dogma of Nazism, communism etc. have ever become established in the first place? That, in essence, is what atheism actually is: it is not accepting what we are told on the basis of faith, but rather—and only—on the basis of hard evidence. This is why we have jokes like “organising atheists is like herding cats”—it is very difficult to get atheists to believe in something, unless you make a very strong, rational case for it, with very strong supporting evidence. While it is true that many atheists support socialism, this is definitely not the same thing as the communism practised by Stalin, Mao, Kim Jog-il etc. Indeed, democratic socialism has been shown to work very well in the countries which have practised it (most notably the Scandinavian countries). Theists often like to say that atheism is a religion in itself, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the word atheism probably shouldn’t really exist at all; we don’t define anybody else by their lack of belief in something, which is all atheism actually is (the word atheism literally means lack of belief in God)—it doesn’t say anything about what atheists believe in, only what they don’t believe in.

If we replace the word atheism with something like rationalism, we get a clearer idea of what most atheists actually do believe in—and we can see these tyrants do not follow this belief system at all. Indeed, it was blind faith—of the sort used and promoted by religion—which allowed these tyrants to gain the huge following they needed to do their dirty work in the first place. When our most cherished beliefs (our religions) are based on faith rather than hard evidence, it leaves us completely open to manipulation by unscrupulous political leaders. Indeed, none other than Hitler himself was perfectly happy to use the existing apparatus of religion when it suited him—he quoted the Bible extensively in support of his campaign against Jews, for example (indeed, it seems very likely that Hitler was in fact a Christian, and not really an atheist at all). Perhaps even worse, established religion was very happy to support these tyrants themselves when it suited them—the Vatican actively aided and abetted the Nazis’ genocide and victimisation of Jews, for example, and even assisted several high level members of the Nazi regime to escape prosecution for war crimes after they lost World War II.

This leads to perhaps the most damning indictment of religion as an arbiter of morality: the fact that so much of what religion says—and what its followers do—is so immoral. The religiously justified genocide I mention above is just one of countless examples of people doing the most horrible things in the name of God; in fact, there’s so many of them, I won’t even start to list them here, or this post will go on forever. Instead, I’ll just focus on a little of what the Bible has to say regarding morality, to see if it really is likely to make us more moral. Let’s start with the example of God himself—if God is the enforcer of our morality, then surely he must set the highest moral standards of all. Actually, the complete opposite is true: the God of the Old Testament is in fact the cruelest genocidal maniac we know of! The tyrants I mentioned at the start of this article all pale in comparison to God—the Bible documents him as having killed literally millions of people, often in the most painful and tortuous way possible. He advocated and enacted death and destruction on a scale unimaginable to even the most cruel of human beings. Even the ten commandments—where he is supposed to have laid out the moral standards we are supposed to follow—document extraordinary cruelty. Disobeying any of them (even something as innocent as working on a Sunday, as all priests and housewives do in any case) is punishable by death. He literally says he is a jealous God (hence violating one of the seven deadly sins), so the punishment for worshipping other Gods is particularly monstrous: not only must the perpetrator be killed, but also their family—for four generations! Given what both the Bible and Koran say about non-believers, is it any wonder we have endless war and killing in the name of God?

Then there’s all the stuff that should be in the ten commandments but isn’t. A good example of this is how there is a commandment saying we should honour our parents, but there isn’t anything saying we shouldn’t commit child abuse, or even pedophilia. Then there’s the example of Lot, who offered up his daughters for gang rape (Genesis 19:8) and later impregnated them himself (Genesis 19:30-38)—yet he was spared from God’s genocide of Sodom and Gomorrah, because God considered him “just and righteous”! (Alas, his wife was not so lucky—God turned her into a pillar of salt for looking back at God’s destruction of her lifelong home, and all the rest of her family and friends.) There also isn’t anything forbidding slavery: in fact God gives very specific instructions on how we should buy, sell and even beat our slaves—including selling our own daughters into sex slavery (Exodus 21)! Then there’s all the hopelessly antiquated references, such as “thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s ass”. The ten commandments clearly are not the word of any God, but rather those of a particular group of people at a very specific time and place. Of course, many Christians conveniently choose to ignore the Old Testament, relying only on the words of Jesus. The problem with that is that Jesus himself believed in the Old Testament and saw nothing wrong with it; in fact, he specifically says that’s how things will be when he returns to earth to bring about end the world (Luke 17:27-32).

Then there is another even deeper problem with Christians choosing to only follow the teachings of Jesus, and ignore the Old Testament: this means they are choosing their own morality, rather than following that which is laid out in the Bible. This is perfectly understandable, given God’s outrageous immorality in the Old Testament, and how much our own standards of morality have moved on since Biblical times (such as the examples of slavery and child abuse/pedophilia I mention above). Yet it shows very clearly that for these Christians—and indeed the entire human race, given how our own current moral standards are so much greater than God’s—our morality does not come from God, but from ourselves. So how the does our morality actually come about? That’s a story for another post.

Tags: , ,

I have said this before, but I think it bears repeating: only Christianity and Islam have a consistent history of persecuting other religions. And even within that context, Catholics and Protestants have cheerfully slaughtered each other to the tune of their top 40 hymns, as have Shiite and Sunni. The two best quotes from those eras were 1) at the slaughter of the Albigensians at Montsegur: “Kill them all; God will know His own.” This was in response to the question of how to differentiate between the heretics and the ‘good’ Christians in the town; 2) Praisegod Barebones, Cromwell’s man in Ireland, calling the slaughter of women and children at Drogheda “A good day’s work for the Lord.”

  
Quote
  Reply

*claps wildly*

Best. Post. Ever.

My favorite quote to counter the “Jesus only preached LOVE!” claim is Matthew 10:34-37:

“Think not that I am come to send peace on Earth: I came not to send peace but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her father-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be of his own household. 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.”

Of course, Sachiko, the inevitable, “Well, Paul probably wrote that/wrote so much of the Bible and the REAL Jesus would never say that!” or some other Apology to deflect blame and responsibility will come soon enough from someone who happens by this post.

Ooh, great timing. I’m watching telly and there is this commercial for CatholicsComeHome.org and they say, “Guided by the Holy Spirit, we compiled the Bible”…wow. This is amazing, calling for all Catholics to come home. I wonder if that will include LGBTQ Catholics, of which there are MANY? Or Catholics who are sex workers? Or Catholics who are pro-choice? Catholics who don’t believe the Pope is all-knowing, second only to god? Hmm…. I think that commercial just took a tithe of my patience.

  
Quote
  Reply

You choose to be an atheist. Fine. I respect your choice.
So why do you care about what God did, related to the Old Testament?
Why do you care about this somebody has done if you don’t believe he exists?
Why do want to demonstrate something about this person if you think he does not exist?
You are your own contradiction.
Or maybe you are crying for some help. Inside you there is this sparkle of faith that all your talks and talks have not extinguished. You want to believe but you don’t understand (yet) what is written in the Bible? Fair enough, go and talk to a priest, you are courageous enough… unless you are afraid to be converted? No I don’t think so, you are too strong for that, afraid of nothing…

Now to the intelligent person you seem to be, answer these 4 questions:
- who are you?
- where do you come from?
- where do you go?
- what are you doing here?

See you.
Jacques

  
Quote
  Reply

@Aspasia – Thanks Aspasia! And that is a great quote – I’ll remember that one.

@Jacques – Wow – my post must really have hit the spot if that’s the best you can do! :-)

I used to take a live and let live approach to religion, but the problem is, you won’t leave us alone. And even worse, your vote has put people like George Bush into office, which endangers the entire world. And that’s just one of countless examples of how religion endangers the human race. I can’t in good conscience sit back and just allow religion to run amok and quite possibly destroy the world.

Anyway, the only truly honest answer to your questions is “I don’t know for sure”. And that is what you are afraid of: the unknown. I am not afraid to accept the fact that mankind does not yet know the answers to the ultimate questions, and possibly never will. You however are so afraid of the unknown that you have to cling to a book riddled with inaccuracies and contradictions written 2 millennia ago.

  
Quote
  Reply

I really appreciate Sachiko’s opening essay! Lots of things to take home, and well worth a patient re-read. Like it or not, “religion” can have fantastic power over human affairs, as though it truly were an existential manifestation of some intelligent force of the universe, however adverse its impact upon certain peoples might be. Yet all kinds of crazy practices have been bent into service by mere human will to create and develop “religion”. (We need not recapitulate, once again, the long list of religious and quasi-religious abuses.)

“Morality” seems to be a more abstract thing than “religion”; it is somehow less dependent upon human creativity (or the lack thereof) to make its somber presence known. The “morality” concept is something that lies in wait in long-term human perceptions, or in deeper levels of the cumulative collective experiences of nations. Its perceived violation can provoke a collective quest for justice or correction for adverse practices (including, but not limited to religious ones). But (somewhat like “religion” itself) the quality of human inputs into the original provocative consciousness of “morality” for a given situtation influences how just, sincere, and effective a crusade for correction can truly become.

This seems rather convoluted, Sachiko, but I’m groping for a little better feeling for the material, you see.

  
Quote
  Reply

And even worse, your vote has put people like George Bush into office, which endangers the entire world.

Bush is the same as Obama and every other American president for the last 40 or so years. You are being fooled by the left-right paradigm. Obama said he will pull the troops out straight away, and then he sends 30,000 more. Now America may go into Iran and even Pakistan.

And so I think it’s incumbent upon all of us as American citizens to pay attention.

-Jesse Ventura-

View this video for more information http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAaQNACwaLw .

  
Quote
  Reply

I have to say that I’m really starting to get tired of all this “Obama is just as bad as Bush” rubbish. Obama never made any promises about pulling troops out of Afghanistan – only out of Iraq, which he has followed through on. And he has now set a timetable for pulling troops out of Afghanistan as well.

Ask yourself if we would even have had the Iraq war in the first place if not for Bush. Of course not!

  
Quote
  Reply

I’m kinda confused at the appearance of the random Obama comment.

@alcove6409: Morality is indeed abstract, though I think subjective hits the mark much better. And you’re right about religion. It is an agreement on practices and rituals dedicated to one or more perceived divine powers with the aim of “properly” revering and capitulating them.

  
Quote
  Reply

I love the comments, and everyone has an opinion of their own. The world is an intricate balance to not believe that someone constructed it. Our DNA alone is far beyond explanation with more mysteries being revealed every day. The Bible, the current collected books, were put together by men, inspired by God. The equal-distance codes hidden in the first four books of the Old Testament alone reveals there is a God that made us in His image, not to mention countless number of prophecies that came true. The odds are too great for these “chances” to be on their own. It’s like finding a single, painted silver dollar coin among other silver dollar coins in the size of Texas blind-folded. By the way, I do happen to admire His handiwork on you.

  
Quote
  Reply

@sak – Your comments reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the laws of probability that pretty much all theists seem to have. Basically, even the highly improbable will inevitably happen at some time somewhere eventually. By your logic, you can never win the lottery, because the odds against it are astronomical. But even with those odds, out of millions of people, somebody will win. You say “Our DNA alone is far beyond explanation”, but that is not true: it is only beyond your explanation, but many scientists who are far smarter than you (and me to be honest) can explain it perfectly well. Theists almost always confuse the limits of their (ignorant) comprehension with the limits of reality.

As for your statement about the “countless number of prophecies that came true”, the only proof of that is the Bible itself! It’s the same as if you or I wrote a book that made some prophecies at the beginning, only to say that they came true by the end! That obviously doesn’t prove anything at all. The only prophecies we can judge the Bible on are the ones it says will happen in the future, and on that it is an epic failure. The prophecies of Revelation were supposed to have happened during the lifetime of the so-called ‘prophets’ who wrote the Bible, yet nearly 2 millennia later, they still haven’t – thank God! :-)

  
Quote
  Reply

Oh BTW, I should stress that while the highly improbable will eventually happen given enough time, the impossible will never happen. And a great deal of what is in the Bible is demonstrably impossible.

  
Quote
  Reply

I think my approach to religion has been largely been derailed by the concept that I am subject to eternal damnation if I am not a member of a particular religion…

  
Quote
  Reply

Dear Sachiko,

On Thursday, my mom said that my dad, who was almost an atheist when he newly married her never flourished much even though he was a very good student and a good person. But after he started to believe fully in God, he began to flourish like anything. My mom said that you’ll face a lot of loss if help an atheist.

  
Quote
  Reply

@Anurag – I don’t pay attention to misguided, second-hand heresay – I only pay attention to reality.

  
Quote
  Reply

Though I respect people posting their opinions (and the opinions themselves), I do not endorse conclusions drawn off of poor logic.

Quite frankly, I don’t have time in this sitting to go sentence by sentence throughout the first few paragraphs to weed out all of the illegitimate conclusions drawn, but here are some points:

1.) Your assumption that religious folks claim atheism is the pure source of evil is something I’ve never heard, read, or even considered before. Ironically, my first exposure to such a concept is from an atheist. By no means is this the case (as you have discussed), but claiming religion to be the source of problems explicitly is pretty outlandish as well.

2.) Dismissing atheistic views in situations such as the Holocaust because people didn’t adequately question their leaders is ridiculous. Atheism is directly in respect to spirituality, not societal authorities. There may be ties, but the implicit correlation is just not there. Ironically, it would take a bold leap of faith to follow your conclusion,
as the logical evidence plainly doesn’t follow.

3.) To claim religion is detrimental because of war is to ignore an immeasurable positive side to religion: the contribution of moral structure to societies today. Note immeasurable. It is impossible to say exactly how much religion has affected the moral system within society as well as the justice system. However, I can tell you that it has been damn significant. Note that this is relevant to both the religious and the atheistic.

4.) The Bible is not a rulebook That’s the whole point, actually. The purpose of stories in that sense is to allow for people to draw on the teachings through situations, not explicit rules. Because things are not generally black and white, the Bible does not generally lay out black and white rules. This allows for translation into today’s lifestyle. Clever, huh?

5.) Dismissing religion due to those who are immoral practicing such religions is not adequate. Religious or not, humans are imperfect. Period. In fact, it is a complete contradiction to say that religion can’t exist due to the immorality of the religious yet to dismiss atheism’s inclusion in regimes such as Hitler’s because they didn’t question him and therefore couldn’t be atheist. Nice try.

6.) Putting God as the most immoral being in existence also doesn’t work within the scope of religion, and therefore cannot be a point of dismissal from religion.
Religion assumes the existence of God, then assumes God as the absolute moral standard. Thus human actions that threaten the purity of the moral standard require banishment (hell) or purification (Jesus, in the case of the Bible). The choice is that of the human, not of God at that point. That’s like calling the concept of quarantining a terminally diseased patient murder because they weren’t allowed to resume life among the others they would ruin.

7.) Quote: “The ten commandments clearly are not the word of any God, but rather those of a particular group of people at a very specific time and place.” Because you found things you didn’t see how to relate to? Because it seemed outdated? Not even close to adequate justification of this statement. Again, there is irony in that by you claiming this you are asserting that you KNOW the inner workings of a God, and therefore giving the notion that you believe they/it exist(s)/ You gave zero evidence to even come near concluding this. Assertions like this dismiss the validity of your entire article.

Your words in that section paraphrased:

Examples of humans (note: HUMANS, not God) doing bad things, one funny quote that shows that the language has changed => (that means implies in the logical/mathematical world) there is “clearly” no God.

Nice try.

8.) Your conclusions are drawn off of evidence unsupported (things I mentioned above), and the statement that Christians ignore the Old Testament? False. Did Jesus change things? Yes. Did we toss the Old Testament? No.

9.) Show me the plethora of events from the Bible that are demonstrably impossible. My area of study: Physics. Don’t try to fluff me on this one.

Always express your opinions, but take the time to think as you do. Support your conclusions. Be receptive to criticism. There are valid points in this discussion (i.e. that our existence is adequate evidence for God’s existence in the purely probabilistic sense… it is quite bold (stupid) to claim a full understanding of the number of events that have occurred in this universe). However, if you are going to target intellectuals and attempt to use logic, make sure that the conclusions are actually drawn from the data, and that gaps aren’t being jumped.

I look forward to a (hopefully) thoughtful response on this. I will be checking back. If I made you think, I have succeeded.

God Bless :o )

  
Quote
  Reply

Originally Posted By Thoughts
Though I respect people posting their opinions (and the opinions themselves), I do not endorse conclusions drawn off of poor logic.

Then why do you do exactly that in your message?

Quite frankly, I don’t have time in this sitting to go sentence by sentence throughout the first few paragraphs to weed out all of the illegitimate conclusions drawn, but here are some points:

I’d hate to think how long your message would be if you did have time!

1.) Your assumption that religious folks claim atheism is the pure source of evil is something I’ve never heard, read, or even considered before. Ironically, my first exposure to such a concept is from an atheist. By no means is this the case (as you have discussed), but claiming religion to be the source of problems explicitly is pretty outlandish as well.

Did you actually read my article? I didn’t say that about atheism all. And religion being the source of problems is undeniable to any reasonable person, no matter how religious they might be.

2.) Dismissing atheistic views in situations such as the Holocaust because people didn’t adequately question their leaders is ridiculous. Atheism is directly in respect to spirituality, not societal authorities. There may be ties, but the implicit correlation is just not there. Ironically, it would take a bold leap of faith to follow your conclusion, as the logical evidence plainly doesn’t follow.

Once again, did you actually read my article? I didn’t say that either.

3.) To claim religion is detrimental because of war is to ignore an immeasurable positive side to religion: the contribution of moral structure to societies today. Note immeasurable. It is impossible to say exactly how much religion has affected the moral system within society as well as the justice system. However, I can tell you that it has been damn significant. Note that this is relevant to both the religious and the atheistic.

The idea that religion may have had some positive effects on human society does not negate in the slightest that its proven propensity to causing war is extremely detrimental to human society – no reasonable person could argue otherwise. And as my article shows, our morality clearly does not come from religion, so most of the good things that appear to have come from religion didn’t really come from religion at all, but from own innate morality.

4.) The Bible is not a rulebook That’s the whole point, actually. The purpose of stories in that sense is to allow for people to draw on the teachings through situations, not explicit rules. Because things are not generally black and white, the Bible does not generally lay out black and white rules. This allows for translation into today’s lifestyle. Clever, huh?

So the ten commandments are not a set of rules that human beings are supposed to follow? And once again, what does this have to do with my article?

5.) Dismissing religion due to those who are immoral practicing such religions is not adequate. Religious or not, humans are imperfect. Period. In fact, it is a complete contradiction to say that religion can’t exist due to the immorality of the religious yet to dismiss atheism’s inclusion in regimes such as Hitler’s because they didn’t question him and therefore couldn’t be atheist. Nice try.

Once again, I didn’t say this at all either. Did you even try to read my article?

6.) Putting God as the most immoral being in existence also doesn’t work within the scope of religion, and therefore cannot be a point of dismissal from religion. Religion assumes the existence of God, then assumes God as the absolute moral standard. Thus human actions that threaten the purity of the moral standard require banishment (hell) or purification (Jesus, in the case of the Bible). The choice is that of the human, not of God at that point. That’s like calling the concept of quarantining a terminally diseased patient murder because they weren’t allowed to resume life among the others they would ruin.

It’s hard to know where to begin when dealing with such twisted logic. Basically, I am saying your original assumption is demonstrably false, which makes your entire argument utterly meaningless.

7.) Quote: “The ten commandments clearly are not the word of any God, but rather those of a particular group of people at a very specific time and place.” Because you found things you didn’t see how to relate to? Because it seemed outdated? Not even close to adequate justification of this statement. Again, there is irony in that by you claiming this you are asserting that you KNOW the inner workings of a God, and therefore giving the notion that you believe they/it exist(s)/ You gave zero evidence to even come near concluding this. Assertions like this dismiss the validity of your entire article.

Your words in that section paraphrased:

Examples of humans (note: HUMANS, not God) doing bad things, one funny quote that shows that the language has changed => (that means implies in the logical/mathematical world) there is “clearly” no God.

Nice try.

Yet again, that’s not what I said at all. Plus I provide several citations from the Bible to support my contention that the the ten commandments were clearly written by a specific people at a specific time and a specific place, and not by any God. (You might also want to watch my recent series of Bible readings from the ten commandments for more evidence of this.) If they were written by God, they wouldn’t have so many antiquated references (as he would have written for all time), and the moral code wouldn’t have been so specifically geared toward that time and place and people (as once again, God would have universal morals that applied to everyone everywhere for all eternity). If God actually did write them, there wouldn’t be references to coveting thy neighbour’s ass or how to treat slaves, and there would have been stuff forbidding slavery, rape and child abuse, for example.

8.) Your conclusions are drawn off of evidence unsupported (things I mentioned above), and the statement that Christians ignore the Old Testament? False. Did Jesus change things? Yes. Did we toss the Old Testament? No.

Once again, did you actually read what I wrote? I am saying that – even though some Christians try to make the excuse that they ignore the Old Testament – they don’t ignore it, and nor does Jesus.

9.) Show me the plethora of events from the Bible that are demonstrably impossible. My area of study: Physics. Don’t try to fluff me on this one.

Yeah right! I’m always amused by how willing people like you are to lie to support your beliefs. If you were really confident in your beliefs, you wouldn’t have to lie to support them.

If you actually were a physicist, you’d know that the Bible is riddled with the physically impossible. How about Noah’s ark? The fact that it took God nearly a week to create the earth and everything on it, but he was able to create all the billions upon billion of stars and moons and other planets in just one day? Or the fact that Satan was able to show Jesus the entire world from the top of a mountain?

Always express your opinions, but take the time to think as you do. Support your conclusions. Be receptive to criticism. There are valid points in this discussion (i.e. that our existence is adequate evidence for God’s existence in the purely probabilistic sense… it is quite bold (stupid) to claim a full understanding of the number of events that have occurred in this universe). However, if you are going to target intellectuals and attempt to use logic, make sure that the conclusions are actually drawn from the data, and that gaps aren’t being jumped.

You might want to try following your own advice. You might also want to try actually reading what I wrote, as you clearly have very little idea of what I actually said. Clearly you approached my article under the assumption that it must be wrong, without making any genuine attempt to comprehend it. Simply talking about logical arguments and supporting them with evidence doesn’t make it so – you have to actually do it. Clearly your approach to logic and evidence is nothing but a matter of faith.

  
Quote
  Reply

Two things to begin this next post, as I want this to be a continued discussion not argument:

1.) I apologize for the way I started the last post. If I want anyone to listen to my thoughts with an open mind, immediately degrading their thought processes is both detrimental to my goal and rude to the person expressing their opinion. Pretty ironic to conclude with “feel free to express your opinions” when I begin with insulting them, eh? Sorry.

2.) There are a few things that I misinterpreted in your claims. I will try to make clear how that happened by citing the sections specifically that I misunderstood your words. I’m not here to twist words (at least not intentionally)! Again, this isn’t a win or lose argument. Honestly, I doubt that’s possible… if it is, I think the question of religion would have been solved long ago.

I love the thought processes involved with this, and my understanding of life changes (and hopefully grows) each day through challenges and discussions such as these. For this, I thank you; your response was prompt and organized.

I’d hate to think how long your message would be if you did have time!

Ha! Well played… I ended up alt+tabbing to this as I was doing something else, so I got most of my thoughts in. If that wasn’t the case, I feel like I’d have to send you a book or something .

Now to the fun stuff!

I’ll begin numbering again with responses according to your points, beginning with the atheism/evil point :

1.) Misinterpreted by me. The first few parts of your second paragraph gave me indication that you believed that the religious thought the atheists to be the source of evil… pure evil may have been a bit overboard. Still, I haven’t heard much on the religious claiming tyrannical rule being directly correlated to atheism.

However, I don’t know that I entirely agree with the point of tyrannical rule (Nazism, Communism, etc.) being a new religion. The pursuit of power has long been ingrained in human history, and the statement that trying to become “God-like” making it a religion isn’t strong in my mind. That is quite against what is found in most religions; attempting to become God is (more than) frowned upon in much of what I’ve heard of. If this isn’t what you meant, please clarify!

Finally, be careful with using direct articles (“the”) rather than indirect articles (“a”).

And religion being the source of problems is undeniable to any reasonable person, no matter how religious they might be.

Do you mean to say that religion is the sole source of problems on the planet? I’m assuming not, but if so, that will be room for further discussion in the next response.

2.) This is what made me think of the next point:

If the majority of the population were naturally inclined to always question what their leaders tell them, then how would the dogma of Nazism, communism etc. have ever become established in the first place? That, in essence, is what atheism actually is: it is not accepting what we are told on the basis of faith, but rather – and only – on the basis of hard evidence.

That’s where I thought you claimed it wasn’t atheism because they didn’t question… I know now that’s not what you meant, but I hope it’s at least visible to you how that could have looked that way.

Also, be careful with this “hard evidence” business. Let me know when you figure out from current science that there is no potential for a God to exist.

3.) You can’t possibly weigh this with absolute certainty. To say religion is absolutely detrimental is to say you know exactly every positive and negative contribution to this world that religion has made. That’s quite the claim.

Will I deny that the wars are absolutely awful and detrimental? Absolutely not. But I’m also not going to claim that I know whether religion has provided overall positive or negative contributions to society from a standpoint of “hard evidence.” Hell, I don’t even think I could define explicitly what “positive” or “negative” contributions are in a black and white fashion!

Also, if you have proven that morality is explicitly differentiable from God, go get this published! I’m sure plenty of people would be interested to see it. I’m still at a bit of a loss for where exactly this happens… because you think that morality has evolved since biblical times? By what standard? If its based on what’s societally accepted, I don’t think that’s adequate support.

4.) Note the use of the word “generally” in my claim. The Ten Commandments are not the majority of the Bible. Most of the teachings are through stories, etc. Also, this point was in response to:

Then there’s all the stuff that should be in the ten commandments but isn’t. A good example of this is how there is a commandment saying we should honour our parents, but there isn’t anything saying we shouldn’t commit child abuse, or even pedophilia…

I was saying though this isn’t in the Ten Commandments, I think it is seen elsewhere. I know the SAB disagrees, but we can talk about interpretations elsewhere if desired.

5.) This was in response to the examples you used of the religious doing detrimental things throughout your article… maybe it was meant to be a statement on the effect of large-scale religion on people, and not the religious people themselves? Though I think there must be a correlation.

6.)

It’s hard to know where to begin when dealing with such twisted logic. Basically, I am saying your original assumption is demonstrably false, which makes your entire argument utterly meaningless.

Let me pull up something quickly, to make sure we’re on the same page:

Demonstrably (adj.) – 1 : capable of being demonstrated

Please demonstrate! If it’s as demonstrable as you are claiming, it shouldn’t take much. You have claimed God to be a genocidal creature, (note also: “death” often means punishment in the sense of being sent to Hell; i.e. death of the soul, not necessarily dying in human/flesh form) but to do so you first must determine these “deaths” to be unjustified. Is life in prison murder? If so, then I’d say our justice system is genocidal, and not exactly as evolved as you claim. Assuming a finite existence, as you believe, this is banishment for the extent to which a person experiences time. In the case of religion, infinite existence (in some form) is asserted, and God punishes people for crime against his absolute moral standard, and the resulting “death” is a sort of supernatural lifetime in prison. Analogous? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Also, noting such things as God being jealous, this is again putting his tendencies in relative terms to human understanding; this is part of the interpretation-based nature of the Bible. Comparing our moral responsibilities (imperfect) to that of a perfect being doesn’t check out. Jealousy in our sense is coveting the tangible and irrelevant; God’s jealousy is coveting the perfection of humans: desiring morality itself. Our jealousy is devoting our soul to that which is not moral (anything that is not God), where God’s is desiring us to desire what is right. Does that make sense? That’s how I look at it.

7.)

Yet again, that’s not what I said at all. Plus I provide several citations… If God actually did write them, there wouldn’t be references to coveting thy neighbour’s ass or how to treat slaves, and there would have been stuff forbidding slavery, rape and child abuse, for example.

Bold move in asserting what God would or wouldn’t do. C’mon Sachiko, you’re not unintelligent. “Coveting thy neighbor’s ass” is hard to translate into yearning for that which your neighbor has? Jealousy of what others possess? That lesson made plenty of sense to me in elementary school; as a matter of fact, I could have figured out what that meant on my own. I know you don’t find this cryptic. Of course we don’t have donkeys as a point of jealousy (at least most of us…), but does that really deter from the lesson involved?

Antiquated references aren’t a problem if the message still gets across! As for your citations, we can discuss those specifically in another post, maybe? I’m not dodging (I do want to make sure I read them all thoroughly), but even I am getting tired of my own words at this point :o )

8.) Apparently I misinterpreted. Maybe there are those that dismiss the Old Testament, and I see your point. It is quite the contradiction to hold an “absolute standard” yet disregard a lot of it… that doesn’t mean there’s not room for interpretation on it, though. I do see your point on this measure, however, for those who disregard what they don’t enjoy within the Bible- this IS synthesizing a God, and thereby destroying that person’s evidence for one. I think we can agree on that!

9.) Where did I lie?? I’d love to know.

Here’s the problem: to assert that what happened was impossible is to assume your conclusion. You don’t believe these things are possible because you believe in the physical limitations of this planet, defined by an assumption that there is nothing else. Here is your proof:

There is nothing beyond the laws of physics (supernatural) => (implies) these biblical events are impossible => There is no God.

^^ The first step is the problem. Your assumption is that there is no supernatural being (God) that would make this possible. You have assumed your conclusion.

Simply talking about logical arguments and supporting them with evidence doesn’t make it so – you have to actually do it. Clearly your approach to logic and evidence is nothing but a matter of faith.

Well put. Until you prove the assertion above (“hard evidence” please?), you are doing just what your first sentence describes. Also, using the word “clearly” consistently without providing evidence is a similar concept.

To get you started, please read and gain an understanding of the Planck Scale/Time. Hyperphysics (online physics database) has a friendly description if you search Planck Time in Google. It is the fourth result.

The unit is named after Max Planck, and uses hbar (planck’s constant (h)/(2*pi)), the speed of light, and the Gravitational constant as parameters. Prior to this time (big bang->planck time), the laws of physics do not apply. At all. In fact, we know nothing of this time, nor can we as defined by physics. It requires a unified force; we don’t even have a GUT (Grand Unified Theory) worked out yet, let alone anything that can be used to describe a single, unified force. Go ahead and read about string theory and SUSY as much as you’d like, you’re not going to find the answer.

In addition to this lack of a point of origin (initial condition), we don’t have any way of probing this scale in real time. We can’t do it. Not only is technology not there (actually, I believe a factor of over 10^20 away from measuring this short of a time scale), but even if we had that technology, the physics wouldn’t tell us anything, since the laws don’t apply. This gives us a time-averaged reality.

I don’t know your experience with differential equations, specifically chaotic systems is, but ask anyone doing research in the field of complex systems how they feel about using perturbation techniques (or any other analysis methods) on a chaotic system of essentially infinite variables (our universe) without a point of origin where our data is time-averaged. I doubt their face will show much excitement.

Funny how all of our “hard evidence” stops right at the point at which you would have the best shot at seeing God’s hands, huh (the beginning and/or the instantaneous)?

This concrete enough to get you started? The above is a little example of some of the stuff I’ve been grinding about in my head. Not quite faith-based, blind conclusions, huh?

I apologize for the misunderstandings in my first post. They were genuine, not attempts to ignore your message and promote my own thoughts. However, I have genuinely tried to understand your thoughts better, and more explicitly address my own opinions on similar issues. Your thoughts on why some of the eastern societies were more prone to tyrannical leadership were very interesting… though tough to prove (again, ridiculous numbers of variables), they certainly seem like reasonable contributors to the issue. I have also tried to be less of an ass regarding your opinions in this post :)

My hope is that you can read this, see the logic within, and understand that this is something I struggle with and grapple with every day of my life. However, there is also something that draws me to a certainty it is true; something beyond a desire to think that there is life beyond this one. By no means is this a psychological security blanket for me… the number of intellectual headaches this has caused for me is ridiculous. However, this is where I see the spiritual aspect of the religion paired with the faith in the existence. I can’t prove God does exist, but I know you can’t prove he doesn’t as well. And that appears to be more of a problem for those believing purely in “hard evidence.”

I look forward to your response, and hope it will be in better feelings this time.

  
Quote
  Reply

Originally Posted By Thoughts
However, I don’t know that I entirely agree with the point of tyrannical rule (Nazism, Communism, etc.) being a new religion. The pursuit of power has long been ingrained in human history, and the statement that trying to become “God-like” making it a religion isn’t strong in my mind. That is quite against what is found in most religions; attempting to become God is (more than) frowned upon in much of what I’ve heard of. If this isn’t what you meant, please clarify!

Of course this will be frowned upon by established religions – new religions always are! That doesn’t mean they aren’t religions, however, or that people don’t try to make themselves Gods.

Finally, be careful with using direct articles (“the”) rather than indirect articles (“a”).

And religion being the source of problems is undeniable to any reasonable person, no matter how religious they might be.

Do you mean to say that religion is the sole source of problems on the planet? I’m assuming not, but if so, that will be room for further discussion in the next response.

English isn’t my first language, but I know enough to know that saying something is the source of problems is not the same as saying it’s the only source of problems – that is not what I meant at all.

Also, be careful with this “hard evidence” business. Let me know when you figure out from current science that there is no potential for a God to exist.

Once again, that isn’t what I said. Science cannot disprove the existence of God, just as it cannot disprove the existence of anything else – that’s not what science does. I just said that there isn’t any hard, scientifically valid evidence for the existence of God, which is absolutely true.

3.) You can’t possibly weigh this with absolute certainty. To say religion is absolutely detrimental is to say you know exactly every positive and negative contribution to this world that religion has made. That’s quite the claim.

Will I deny that the wars are absolutely awful and detrimental? Absolutely not. But I’m also not going to claim that I know whether religion has provided overall positive or negative contributions to society from a standpoint of “hard evidence.” Hell, I don’t even think I could define explicitly what “positive” or “negative” contributions are in a black and white fashion!

Yet again, I never made such a claim. I never said religion was absolutely detrimental, but the fact that it has had a lot of detrimental effects on society (such as war) is undeniable.

Also, if you have proven that morality is explicitly differentiable from God, go get this published! I’m sure plenty of people would be interested to see it. I’m still at a bit of a loss for where exactly this happens… because you think that morality has evolved since biblical times? By what standard? If its based on what’s societally accepted, I don’t think that’s adequate support.

It is self-evident – people pick and choose from the Bible which morals they want to follow, which means their morals must actually come from somewhere other than the Bible. And yet again, slavery is a blatant example of how our morals have evolved since Biblical times – the Bible advocates it, but we now consider it abhorrent. And that’s just one example.

4.) Note the use of the word “generally” in my claim. The Ten Commandments are not the majority of the Bible. Most of the teachings are through stories, etc. Also, this point was in response to:

Then there’s all the stuff that should be in the ten commandments but isn’t. A good example of this is how there is a commandment saying we should honour our parents, but there isn’t anything saying we shouldn’t commit child abuse, or even pedophilia…

I was saying though this isn’t in the Ten Commandments, I think it is seen elsewhere. I know the SAB disagrees, but we can talk about interpretations elsewhere if desired.

I’m afraid you’re going to have to do a whole lot better than that: the Bible doesn’t forbid child abuse or pedophilia anywhere. The onus is on you to demonstrate otherwise.

Let me pull up something quickly, to make sure we’re on the same page:

Demonstrably (adj.) – 1 : capable of being demonstrated

Please demonstrate! If it’s as demonstrable as you are claiming, it shouldn’t take much. You have claimed God to be a genocidal creature, (note also: “death” often means punishment in the sense of being sent to Hell; i.e. death of the soul, not necessarily dying in human/flesh form) but to do so you first must determine these “deaths” to be unjustified. Is life in prison murder? If so, then I’d say our justice system is genocidal, and not exactly as evolved as you claim. Assuming a finite existence, as you believe, this is banishment for the extent to which a person experiences time. In the case of religion, infinite existence (in some form) is asserted, and God punishes people for crime against his absolute moral standard, and the resulting “death” is a sort of supernatural lifetime in prison. Analogous? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

So to kill every living creature on earth except those on the ark – even though the vast majority of them would obviously have been perfectly innocent – is not the greatest act of genocide ever conceived? And that’s just God’s first killing! If you cannot agree that this is the act of the greatest genocidal maniac imaginable – hence an utterly morally reprehensible being – then you are so blinded by your religious belief that you cannot be reasoned with objectively and rationally.

Also, noting such things as God being jealous, this is again putting his tendencies in relative terms to human understanding; this is part of the interpretation-based nature of the Bible. Comparing our moral responsibilities (imperfect) to that of a perfect being doesn’t check out. Jealousy in our sense is coveting the tangible and irrelevant; God’s jealousy is coveting the perfection of humans: desiring morality itself. Our jealousy is devoting our soul to that which is not moral (anything that is not God), where God’s is desiring us to desire what is right. Does that make sense? That’s how I look at it.

What a pathetic cop-out! Can’t you see how desperately you are twisting logic here? God’s morality ought to be beyond reproach, and the being that created everything shouldn’t even be capable of jealousy. He even literally says he is a jealous God, which is something no real God would ever say.

Bold move in asserting what God would or wouldn’t do. C’mon Sachiko, you’re not unintelligent. “Coveting thy neighbor’s ass” is hard to translate into yearning for that which your neighbor has? Jealousy of what others possess? That lesson made plenty of sense to me in elementary school; as a matter of fact, I could have figured out what that meant on my own. I know you don’t find this cryptic. Of course we don’t have donkeys as a point of jealousy (at least most of us…), but does that really deter from the lesson involved?

Antiquated references aren’t a problem if the message still gets across! As for your citations, we can discuss those specifically in another post, maybe? I’m not dodging (I do want to make sure I read them all thoroughly), but even I am getting tired of my own words at this point :o )

You are completely missing the point. The fact is, if God wrote the ten commandments, he would have said “do not be jealous of the possessions of others” or something like that – he would have written for everyone, for all time. The fact that it uses such specific and antiquated references shows it wasn’t written by God, but it’s exactly what you would expect bronze age humans to write. So it was obviously written by humans at that time, not by God.

9.) Where did I lie?? I’d love to know.

I found your claim of being expert in physics very difficult to believe, as anyone with any knowledge of physics knows that Noah’s ark is physically impossible, or seeing the entire world from the top of a mountain, or many, many other things in the Bible. However, I now see that you simply allow your faith to completely override your logic and knowledge.

Here’s the problem: to assert that what happened was impossible is to assume your conclusion. You don’t believe these things are possible because you believe in the physical limitations of this planet, defined by an assumption that there is nothing else. Here is your proof:

There is nothing beyond the laws of physics (supernatural) => (implies) these biblical events are impossible => There is no God.

^^ The first step is the problem. Your assumption is that there is no supernatural being (God) that would make this possible. You have assumed your conclusion.

Once again, what a cop-out! Once you start talking about the supernatural, you aren’t talking about physics, and it becomes meaningless talk about the possible and impossible, as anything becomes possible. This makes trying to determine the facts irrelevant – when there aren’t any rules, there isn’t any way to establish right and wrong. Obviously, when I’m talking about what’s possible, I’m talking about the real world!

My response might as well end here: you are admitting God requires the supernatural to be possible, and as a rationalist, I simply do not accept the existence of the supernatural until proven otherwise.

To get you started, please read and gain an understanding of the Planck Scale/Time. Hyperphysics (online physics database) has a friendly description if you search Planck Time in Google. It is the fourth result.

The unit is named after Max Planck, and uses hbar (planck’s constant (h)/(2*pi)), the speed of light, and the Gravitational constant as parameters. Prior to this time (big bang->planck time), the laws of physics do not apply. At all. In fact, we know nothing of this time, nor can we as defined by physics. It requires a unified force; we don’t even have a GUT (Grand Unified Theory) worked out yet, let alone anything that can be used to describe a single, unified force. Go ahead and read about string theory and SUSY as much as you’d like, you’re not going to find the answer.

In addition to this lack of a point of origin (initial condition), we don’t have any way of probing this scale in real time. We can’t do it. Not only is technology not there (actually, I believe a factor of over 10^20 away from measuring this short of a time scale), but even if we had that technology, the physics wouldn’t tell us anything, since the laws don’t apply. This gives us a time-averaged reality.

I don’t know your experience with differential equations, specifically chaotic systems is, but ask anyone doing research in the field of complex systems how they feel about using perturbation techniques (or any other analysis methods) on a chaotic system of essentially infinite variables (our universe) without a point of origin where our data is time-averaged. I doubt their face will show much excitement.

Funny how all of our “hard evidence” stops right at the point at which you would have the best shot at seeing God’s hands, huh (the beginning and/or the instantaneous)?

This concrete enough to get you started? The above is a little example of some of the stuff I’ve been grinding about in my head. Not quite faith-based, blind conclusions, huh?

None of this proves anything one way or the other in relation to God or anything in my article at all.

My hope is that you can read this, see the logic within, and understand that this is something I struggle with and grapple with every day of my life. However, there is also something that draws me to a certainty it is true; something beyond a desire to think that there is life beyond this one. By no means is this a psychological security blanket for me… the number of intellectual headaches this has caused for me is ridiculous. However, this is where I see the spiritual aspect of the religion paired with the faith in the existence. I can’t prove God does exist, but I know you can’t prove he doesn’t as well. And that appears to be more of a problem for those believing purely in “hard evidence.”

So it comes back to the same thing it always does – faith. You have irrational faith, I don’t. That’s it. If you can free yourself of it as I have, your intellectual headaches will all instantly disappear, and everything will make perfect, logical sense. If you want to convince me or any other rational person, logic demands that the onus is on you to prove that God does exist – not the other way around.

I look forward to your response, and hope it will be in better feelings this time.

I sincerely hope your next post will be a little more concise. :-)

  
Quote
  Reply

@Jacques – I find this entire quote ironic. I see no point trying to justify that statement as it will only be heard by deaf ears. If you could reason with religious people then there would be no religious people.

  
Quote
  Reply

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.