Contemporary Blog Atheism

Recent post on Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins introduced me to the world of discussing atheism in this blog and elsewhere. And it has been an eye-opener. It was an eye-opener because I was regularly hearing Christianity(or religion- atheists seem incapable of distinguishing between the two) roundly condemned as ignorant and intolerant. So I was expecting to hear enlightened, reasoned, sophisticated arguments from the atheist community. What did I find? I found ignorance, arrogance and stereotyping. You may of course argue that Christianity can be guilty of all of these- which of course it can. My point is that I was having it stuffed down my throat- to use a favourite atheist description of expressing the Christian viewpoint- about how superior atheists were. And what better people they were.

I found ignorance-of Christianity, of the distinction between religious beliefs, of a fundamental understanding of history and indeed the case for atheism

I found arrogance- anyone who is not an atheist must be an idiot- as I was called on one occasion. Obviously Western civilisation began with Dawkins! No atheist has ever said anything stupid or done anything wrong

I found stereoptying- obviously every Christian approves of everything that has been done in the name of religion from the Crusades to 9/11

One other thing. Much of the discussion in which i found myself involved centred around the issue of morality. The atheist answer to the basis for morality is that society tells us what is right and wrong. No-one has been able to give me an answer to the question of what happens when whole societies get it wrong, i.e. in Nazi Germany. No-one has given an adequate answer to the question of why this society was wrong and those who opposed it were right.

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27 Responses to “Contemporary Blog Atheism”

  1. Larry Lamb Says:

    When Germany went of the rails it did it so with the hearty endorsement of the Catholic Church (“Gott mitt Uns” and so on). What use is xian “absolute morality” if it can’t condemn something like Nazism?

  2. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks for the comment Larry. As I pointed out above I do not wish to condone everything done in the name of religion let alone in the name of Christianity. My list of things that have been done in the name of Christianity and should be utterly condemned is probably longer than yours!
    But you cannot make the case for Christianity being false on this basis anymore than you can say science is wrong because of Mengele or Russia is bad because of Stalin.
    I can condemn the Vatican stance towards the Holocaust as wrong because God states clearly in His word that human life has an intrinsic worth and taking it is wrong. Atheists reduce the taking of human life in the Holocaust as wrong as a mere matter of opinion. And so my original question still stands unanswered.
    I should also point out that those who were authentic opponents of Nazism often came from within the Christian church in Germany suich as Barth, Niemoller and Bonhoeffer.
    The Bible is clear that something done in the name of Christ does not make it an authentic Christian act.

  3. Larry Lamb Says:

    But your morality is no deeper than the atheists you condemn: theirs may depend on the happenstances of their cultures, but yours depends on some fallible interpretation of a text!

    God may have stated that “human life has an intrinsic worth and taking it is wrong”, but He has also demanded genocide on multiple occasions: how does a hypothetical Catholic nazi know this isn’t another such case?

  4. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks for the comment and question. You are of course right when you say that the Bible can be used to justify many things- and indeed it has been. I would say in response that I believe that what God expresses through His word is infallible. I also believe that the vast majority of what the Bible teaches is clear. Furthermore I must seek to order what is right and wrong in accordance with the plain teaching of the Bible. As a Christian in a sense I must allow the text to interpret and change me rather than vice versa.
    You are of course quite right that God ordered ‘genocide’ as we would term it on several occasions. In doing so we must recognise that as the sovereign Creator he alone has the right not only to create life but to take it. We must further recognise that on those occasions where he does order wholesale destruction it is the way in which he punishes sin. As a holy God this is a just action. That is how the Bible presents God and these actions to us. The people God has created are accountable to him and not vice versa.
    I am not aware of any biblical teaching that could be construed as a direct teaching from God to destroy another group on the basis of their ethnicity. Indeed the message of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is that God is redeeming a people for himself from every language, tribe, people and nation.
    As for your hypothetical Catholic Nazi- as a Catholic he would ultimately rely upon the teaching of his church to interpret Scripture. As a Nazi he would rely upon the party. In neither case do I suspect he would be interested in the teaching of the Bible other than in pseudo-Christian terms to satisfy his own ends.
    My aim I would have to say is not to condemn atheists but to explore the mind of the contemporary atheist and hopefully engage it.

  5. Randy the Atheist Says:

    Atheists are Atheists because they have acquired enough information that tells them that Blind Belief is no longer rational or no longer congruent with the facts we are finding in nature. An Atheist is without god – not because he is searching for something else in the meantime or because someone “indoctrinated” him into it, but because he has come to an understanding of why humans invent gods in the first place and why each generation needs to re-invent it into new ways. Thus, Atheism is not a choice. It is a revelation – a transcendence from theism. It grows on you slowly – whether you are seeking it or not – taking years, decades, or the greater portion of a lifetime. As the years roll on by, the god idea we once clinged to so desperately becomes less and less of a reality without any great fanfare and without anyone having to tell you otherwise. You can’t even put an exact date on when you became an Atheist. You simply realize one day that you have been one for quite some time.

    Many theists believe that people become Atheists because they need to “see” something or “discover” something in order to believe – as if there really is something still waiting to be found. This is incorrect. Atheists become Atheists because of what they are ALREADY SEEING or ALREADY DISCOVERED in nature. For those of you who profess a discovery of a “one true god”, your discovery is accidental – a function of time, geography and circumstance. Had you been born in the first dynasties of Egypt, you would be worshipping the “true gods” and “true dieties” en vogue during those eras. Likewise, if you were born only a few centuries ago in the Pacific islands, you would be in tune with their systems of “true ritual”. Would you have been born in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time? According to monotheism, you would have.

    Our thoughts about the gods have indeed changed over the course of our history, but, rather than converge to some harmonious “truth”, it has instead, fractured into a bewildering disarray of conflicting ideologies. And we can see that our ideas of god not only changes throughout history, but through one’s very own lifetime. From a vengeful god that terrorized our youth to a distant god that remains tantalizingly absent, our ingenuity and imagination still struggles to express that same sense of wonder that has always pervaded this beautiful yet terrifying world. As we look back upon all of this, there is only once real choice to make:

    You must decide for yourself if the word “god” has any meaning left today.

  6. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks for the comment Randy and the account of why you are an atheist. (And also the explanation of why I am a Christian!) I actually find your account of ‘conversion’ to atheism reminiscent of CS Lewis’ conversion to Christianity. He said he wasn’t aware that it had occurred except that on the way to Whipsnade zoo he wasn’t a Christian but on the way back he was. Your journey into atheism is somewhat different from the account of others who try to persuade us of the amazing rationalism of their position.
    Your point, ‘For those of you who profess a discovery of a “one true god”, your discovery is accidental – a function of time, geography and circumstance’ is an old one. It fails to account for the fact that many people switch religion. The majority of Christians in our world today do not come from traditional montheistic cultures rather they are turning to Christ from other faiths. That is hardly an argument from history and geography. But it is borne of their conviction that in Christ they have come to know the one true God.
    Also your history of religions hypothesis is also outdated. There have always been conflicting ideas about the gods. And whilst there are parallels between Christianity and other religions there is no evidence of an organic relationship between them.
    For myself I do not hold to ‘blind belief.’ Rather I trust in the God who has ultimately revealed himself in his son Jesus Christ and in him has reached out to us through his death so that he might bring us to himself.

  7. Larry Lamb Says:

    My point is that support for pretty much any action can be found in the Bible; of course some such interpretations are cynical execises in post-hoc justification. But even well intentioned attempts to ground morality in scripture are inevitably heavily inflected by contemporary norms because the text is so open. In short, I don’t believe that actual xian morality is any more securely grounded than secular attempts.

  8. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks Larry, you of course make a good point. I would want to make a two-fold response. In the first instance, as I have noted, I believe that the Bible’s teaching is clear on the vast majority of issues. The problem arises, as you state it, when its interpretation is ‘inflected by contemporary norms.’ I would want to argue that we must allow the plain sense of the text (by which I mean Scripture as a whole) to interpret contemporary norms. And in every age that will of course create a debate.
    My second point is that any attempt to establish Christian morality must appeal to an external source. The problem with atheism is that I can’t see it as having any standard to appeal to. So far all I’ve heard is that morality is rooted in society’s norms. That raises the question of what happens when society’s norms go awry.
    For example in the utilitarian view of atheism slavery was not inherently wrong, it only became wrong when the majority of society accepted it was wrong. Furthermore the minority who argued that slavery was wrong were in fact immoral because they dissented from the accepted view of the majority.

  9. Larry Lamb Says:

    When society’s norms go awry it can go off the rails. That’s just how things work- or don’t – and xianity hasn’t stopped it happening to some xian societies!

    I believe it is possible to ground a secular morality in something like Kant’s “categorical imperative”.

  10. sibbesian Says:

    As a Christian I do not believe in the idea of ‘a Christian society’ and would argue that the attempts to wed church and state have caused some terrible excesses in the name of Christ.
    Kant’s categorical imperative, despite its approximation to Christian teaching, has two problems. In the first instance it still reduces morality to a personal preference. What I would will others to do becomes the standard. Therefore nothing is inherently right or wrong. If I think it is moral to elevate one race above another then that must be moral.
    Secondly, I think it therefore undermines personal morality. This I think is a great weakness in atheism. Whilst in theory atheists are prepared to argue the case for morality e.g against racism, fraud, sexism etc. I don’t think that this really works in terms of personal morality. An atheist may be opposed to adultery but of course another atheist may not- its just a matter of personal opinion with no external standard of appeal.

  11. Larry Lamb Says:

    The categorical imperative does not suffer racism (the “universalising” first formulation). I do not believe it is a “personal morality”, being rather grounded in our nature as social beings – a deep fact, deeper than our humanity.

    Regarding Xian morality, even if there were a moral code dictated by the creator of this universe, an individual still has to make a moral commitment external to that code to commit to it, surely: in which case it’s personal preference all the way down…

    I would say that adultery is a matter that concerns the solely the affected individuals, and is “right” or “wrong” according to the understandings and agreements they have between each other.

  12. sibbesian Says:

    As a Christian I understand that our human nature is deeper than our nature as social beings but perhaps that is somewhat irrelevant to your point.
    Your right that if God makes laws we must decide whether or not to obey. But it is that decision that differentiates between our actions being right or wrong. A personal preference in relation to our own opinions can never be right or wrong. It must always be right because we decide that it is right.
    ‘I would say that adultery is a matter that concerns the solely the affected individuals, and is “right” or “wrong” according to the understandings and agreements they have between each other’- this is exactly my point about the nature of atheist morality- determining right or wrong by personal choice is not morality because we ultimately decide in our own favour.

  13. Larry Lamb Says:

    Are you really saying that atheists never admit to having acted wrongly? I’d like to offer myself as a counterexample.

    The point about adultery is that it isn’t the sex that’s wrong per se, but the betrayal.

  14. sibbesian Says:

    My point is again two-fold. By what criteria do you decide that what you have done is morally wrong? And what happens when another atheist disagrees with your judgement upon your own action? It comes down to his/her opinion against your opinion.
    It is a somewhat moot point in the overall question of the nature of atheist morality whether its the sex or the betrayal that is at stake- I would suggest the two are somewhat inseparable in this case. The issue remains the same- determining right or wrong by personal choice is not morality because we ultimately decide in our own favour. Perhaps the only sense you may come to regrd it as wrong is because of the bad consequnces it has for you.

  15. Larry Lamb Says:

    By what criteria do I decide that what I have done is morally wrong? Kantian ones, as mentioned above. I would similarly attempt to persuade someone who disagreed with me on using such principles (almost everyone – including xians – agrees with them, after all: those that don’t are at least latent crooks and probably beyond the reach of argument). What happens when another Xian disagrees with your interpretation of scripture?

    I’m afraid I find it a bit much to be told that the “only sense I may come to regard something as wrong is because of the bad consequences” as this is exactly xian moralit: follow the rules, get an eternity of bliss, don’t, get an eternity of torment.

  16. sibbesian Says:

    As previously noted the categorical imperative is just another form of subjectivism. Nothing is either inherently right or wrong. I have no court of appeal beyond some common sense of fellow feeling.
    When Christians disagree we return to Scripture as God’s standard and seek to understand what it is saying.
    Christians are not ultimately motivated by the consequences of their action. the true spur for Christian behaviour comes from a love for God, a desire to honour him and a belief in the excellency of all that he has ordained.

  17. Larry Lamb Says:

    The categorical imperative isn’t “another form of subjectivism”: the whole point is that it begins with an acknowledgement that others are like ourselves and deserving of the same basic whatevers: as such it’s a clear rejection of subjectivism, in the same way that sane people reject solipsism.

    There’s a passage in a Jane Austen novel where a heroine says, of a suitor, that she can’t remember exactly when she first knew she loved him, so fine and complex are her feelings, but thinks it might have been when she first saw the magnificent grounds of his country house. I’m afraid I feel the same way about xian accounts of their motivations: the prospects of an infinity of bliss or of torment must simply dominate all other considerations.

  18. sibbesian Says:

    Larry, thanks for the constructive engagement with these issues- although we seem to be on two parallel tracks!
    To me the categorical imperative seems to be the very essence of subjectivism. That is it is rooted not in any external value but in what the subject would will to be universally followed. To my mind it is in part an issue of authority- where do the categorical imperatives get their authority? I accept that we may have to agree to differ on this one.
    You are in part right that Christian thinking is dominated by eternal considerations. But the heart of the Christian gospel is not that good people go to heaven- otherwise heaven would be empty. Rather it is the message of sinners such as myself saved by grace. The wellspring of our action is not be good and go to heaven. But that by the grace of God we are forgiven and will go to heaven and the only appropriate response to the grace of God is to love the one who has loved us. And such love is demonstrated in our conformity to God’s expressed will for his world.

  19. Feargal Says:

    Larry – I feel slightly nettled over your opinions of christian motivation. How do you KNOW that christians are motivated solely by a desire for eternal bliss? You are more ‘in for spin’ than trying to understand anything (osrry if that feels like a flame – perhaps all should step back and breathe a bit). Many many atheists I know immediately assume that motivation for christians; maybe the assumption that christianity demands egotism (which to me covers more their own problems) is only an excuse not to debate the issues properly.

    I have a certain respect for Kant’s imperative; can you explain adequately its origin? In my opinion, it comes either from an external source (ie a valid objective moral rule), or is only happenstance based on evolutionary benefit. Again, in my opinion, the latter is invalid, as it, like so many pieces of silliness in evolutionary mythology (eg. Huxley’s horses), that it explains away everything.

    By the way, I am NOT decrying evolution; but like religion, it has been sadly abused and twisted to justify every kind of moral indignity. Does that stop you believing in evolution?

  20. Randy the Atheist Says:

    WHAT WOULD YOU BE

    if you were born

    ONE THOUSAND YEARS AGO

    on the deserts of the American Southwest

    into the legendary tribes of

    T H E A P A C H E I N D I A N S

    Would you be a Muslim? a Christian? a Terrorist? a Crusader?
    Would you be a Jew? a Hebrew? a Canaanite? or a Semite?

    No. You would be an Apache Indian of the North American continent and you would be practicing the only beliefs known to you – Shamanism.

    Would you somehow feel betrayed or forsaken by the Judaistic gods?

    No. The Apache peoples did not yet know of such dieties or religions because they were not yet introduced and taught. You cannot come to the same beliefs of the above religions by simply looking at the rocks and the trees. It must be taught to you by others who were taught in much the same way.

    Would you live in despair and destitution because you worshipped other dieties?

    No. You would live in one of the most historic cultures of the North American continent. Life would go on as usual as with any other civlization throughout the world. Contact with peoples from the other continent would not occur until some six hundred years into your future. Oddly, you would have a rather beautiful and peaceful lifestyle until the Judaistic beliefs became imposed on your decendants by the hostile Spaniards.

    Would you feel that you would be going to hell for not being baptised?

    No. Baptism would be a very alien ritual to your decendants. Hell would also be a very alien concept since death was believed to mark the end of your existence. To the Apache, the idea of an afterlife would be as silly as the idea of salvation as these were concepts invented by men on an entirely different continent with an entirely different history.

    Would you feel that you were born

    in the WRONG PLACE

    at the WRONG TIME????

    THE APACHE INDIANS
    850 A.D. – present

    The Apache Indians came from northwest Canada around 850 AD. They settled in the three desert regions of the American southwest and did a lot of trading with the neighboring Pueblo Indians who were already inhabiting the areas for many centuries prior. The Apache were skilled hunters of buffalo but they sometimes practiced a unique method of limited farming.

    In pre-colonial Apache culture, polygamy was practiced when economic circumstances permitted and marriage could be terminated easily by either party due to their nomadic lifestyle. Religion was a fundamental part of Apache life – a type of Shamanism that was practiced for many thousands of years. Among the best known supernatural beings in the Apache world were the Gaans, protective mountain spirits that could be called upon to do good or evil. Present-day beliefs is a mixture of traditional Apache beliefs, witchcraft, and contemporary United States religions.

    First contact with the Apache was made by the hostile Spanish, who invaded and penetrated the territory in the late 1500s. Their northward drive disrupted ancient Apache connections to trading groups that resided in the southern areas of the Great Plains. When New Mexico became a Spanish colony in 1598, hostilities increased exponentially – pushing the Apache out of their homelands and into the enemy territories of Spanish Mexico. An influx of Comanche into traditional Apache territory in the early 1700s forced the Apache to further move beyond the range of their main food source, the buffalo. The displaced groups then began their infamous raids on food supplies and caravans and accompanied much of the American westward movement towards the Pacific being forever engraved in the early episodes of the history of the United States of America.

  21. sibbesian Says:

    Randy thanks for the thought provoking comments. You raise a number of interesting issues and I hope that I can do some justice to a Christian viewpoint. You are of course right in your analysis of Apache Indians being part of a shamanist culture. And you are right that people become Christians not by an accident of birth but as the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to them. Now we begin to diverge. I think your portrait of medieval apache culture as ‘a rather beautiful and peaceful lifestyle’ is somewhat divorced from reality. I think you’ll find for example that European settlers not only provoked conflict but found warriors amongst the existing tribes. The practice of scalping predated European arrivals. So clearly there was no ‘rather beautiful and peaceful lifestyle!’ Furthermore I don’t believe that what the Conquistadores and their ancestors did had anything at all to do with Christianity. Furthermore baptism is not, as you suggest necessary for salvation. Also you seem to suggest that Christianity is a European religion but Judaeo-Christianity has its roots amongst another ‘primitive’ culture in the Ancient Near East.
    One should also note that when Christianity was proclaimed (as opposed to forced baptism) to native American peoples by men such as David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards many gladly received their message.
    If the thrust of your post is that if I were born a thousand years ago amongst the Apaches I would have adopted shamanism you are no doubt right. If you are suggesting I am a Christian simply because I was brought up in Europe you are no doubt wrong. I also find it interesting that someone who styles himself ‘the atheist’ is defending and idealising a culture which is clearly suffused with supernatural belief at every level!

  22. Randy the Atheist Says:

    Umm.. I think I’m not getting my message across. Lets try a different culture.

    WHAT WOULD YOU BE
    if you were born FOUR THOUSAND YEARS AGO
    near the shores of the Gulf of Mexico
    and into the tribes of

    T H E H U A S T E C I N D I A N S

    Would you be a Baptist? a Quaker? a NeoPagan? or a Lutheran?
    Would you be an Episcopalian? an Adidamist? a Discordian? or a Hare Krishna?

    No. You would be born much too early to be practicing the above religions. There would be no such things and no such signs in the jungles or on the beaches to indicate that such religions existed. You wouldn’t have been able to know such things because they weren’t even invented yet. It would be some three thousand five hundred years into your people’s future before the people of those continents would begin arriving in Spanish or Portugese exploration ships.

    Would you live in despair and destitution because you were not able to hear of the Christian or Muslim doctrines?

    No. You would live in a very sexually oriented society as the Huastecs believed strongly in sexual pleasures of the body. You would also laugh and play with your children, teach them to hunt and grow crops for harvest, and form massive irrigation projects and flood control techniques that would be admired by engineers to this very day. You would invent your own language, your own calendars, and the world’s first algebraic system that included the concept of zero. You would die peacefully amongst your family, believing in your gods, and surrounded in celebration by your entire tribe.

    Would your people be forsaken for blasphemy and punished with bad luck for not allowing christian prayers in your schools or facing mecca during specific times?

    No. Your people would endure one of the longest periods of organized civilization in the history of mankind. Your community would still be in existence today and embrace modern technology and very high levels of college education.

    Would you somehow feel that you were worshipping the wrong ideals, the wrong gods, or the wrong idols?

    No. Those other religions were not yet invented. Many of their icons were not even born yet. Who you are and what you believe in is accidental – a function of time, geography and circumstance. Like the bullet in a game of the Russian Roulette, your religion must be taught to you by someone who was taught in much the same ways.

    Do you feel that the Huastecs were born

    IN THE WRONG PLACE

    AT THE WRONG TIME?

    ANCIENT HUASTEC INDIANS
    2000 BCE

    The Huastec Indians were an indigenous people of the Panuco River Basin in Eastern sectors of modern day Mexico. They spoke a Mayan language but were isolated from the rest of the Mayan tribes. Their culture did not develop along with that of the Maya. They remained isolated from the later civilizations of the central plateau, like the Aztecs, until modern times.

    In religious customs, the Huastec Indians practiced skull deforming techniques similar to the Mayans. In worship, they observed a fertility goddess and were heavily interested in sexual pleasures of the flesh rather than building splendiferous monuments to the gods and sacrificing humans.

    First contact with the Huastec Peoples occurred in 1520 AD by an explorer named Alonso Alvarez de Pineda who was killed in a fight with the Huastec Indians. Conversion of the Huastecs to Christianity began fourteen years later under heavy oppression and slavery at a mission in Tampico.

  23. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks for persisting with me even if I’m slow on the uptake. Of course even 4,000 year ago does not predate Abraham (but that may be irrelevant to your point- which I must confess I’m still struggling with). The aim of Christian doctrines is not deliverance from destitution and despair. Rather it is the message that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, that he is Lord and salvation is found in no-one else. Whether or not we are content with our lives (or our religious practice) is another issue entirely.
    Whatever the subjective religious experience of the Huastecs they were engaged in what the Bible describes as false worship. A worship which ultimately enslaves rather than liberates. Furthermore I think you are once again idealising a culture if you are suggesting that their religious practices were ‘tolerant’.
    Do I think they were born in the wrong place/time? Not at all. What the Bible teaches is the message of the progressive revelation of salvation across history culminating in the Lord Jesus Christ. A message that must now be proclaimed to all peoples everywhere. As for those who lived prior to the advent of Jesus Christ the Bible teaches that God will judge them in accordance with how they have lived in accordance with their own moral laws.
    As I noted before I have no desire to defend forced conversion on the grounds of Christian belief. I do not accept that it has anything to do with true Christianity. True Christianity has usually, as it often does today in many parts of the world, remain a minority faith that is the subject of persecution. In many parts of our world those who convert to Christianity do so in the knowledge that conversion will bring at the very least discrimination and very possibly imprisonment, the loss of family, livelihood and often death. There were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than there were in the previous 1900 years combined.
    If I still don’t get the point maybe you should just spell it out- minus the historical allusions!

  24. Randy the Atheist Says:

    Yes I’m being a bit of a drama queen but I felt that these narratives answered two things that you are struggling to understand here. The first one is that a monotheistic god would have to judge people differently based on criteria that doesn’t make a difference to what they deserve – namely – being born in the right place at the right time. It doesn’t matter that the Apache and the Huastec were born after Abraham. They never heard of him period. And then there are the predecessors such as the Clovis People and the Athabaskans. These cultures are so incredibly old (approaching 20,000 BCE) that it is believed they predate the spoken language. Is it their fault for being born too early in a land much too far away? Or is it a blessing? Mayans would get a free pass but Americans must pay their dues. The Galatians can collect 200 but the Japanese must pay for parking. This is not just discrimination, it isn’t even a coherent belief system.

    The second modus for these narratives deals with morals. Basically, morals are rules generated by the consensus of like-minded individuals. It evolves over time as the structure of the social network evolves. It does not “improve” over time – it simply changes based upon the shifting desires of a given social system. Morals do not exist in some aether of matter nor does it exist in the stars or the trees. It also does not exist when a human being is alone. It emerges when humans form a group. Thus, morals are not imbedded within us. It is entirely a social phenomenon.

    Keep in mind that Moral Relativism does not deny “Local” rights and wrongs. It only denies “Universal” rights and wrongs. In fact, it explicitly implies that morals are local – that there are individual spheres of moral standards – but none of them being contained in an absolute sphere of morals. So while there are no concrete absolute morals, there are consequential ones created by the society one wishes to participate in.

    So even though we have abolished slavery for now, it is easily possible that it will emerge again at some far away future point in time as society deems its legitimacy again. Some people say that slavery has never really gone away – that it still exists in the corporate exploitation of immigrants or unskilled citizens. And that brings us to a more interesting point – that morals themselves change in identity. In ancient Egypt for instance, slaves were not the same as slaves in America. They were free to come and go at will, own property and even enslave others who owed them debt. Slavery to them was a caste status – not a commodity – a form of constructive jail time that could be pardoned by your free labor. The only difference was that you could be sold to another owner at will and killing you was not a crime until your caste status was promoted.

    When we look back into history, it becomes entirely clear that religion is man-made and can be nothing else. Every society struggled to express their ideas of the unknown with what they had. Sometimes it would lead to gods that could change forms. Other times it would lead to gods that could change sex. Others still, would lead to gods of sex itself. Sometimes it would lead to gods of war. Othertimes it would lead to gods of peace. Today, we are led to believe in a god of favoritism and malice.

    I would like to close by saying that the idea of god itself is not irrational. But the idea of knowing a “one true god” – is.

  25. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks randy for another post and for carefully spelling out the issues. They are important issues and I’m glad of the opportunity to respond (sorry indeed for the delay as I have been away for a few days).
    The first thing I think I should point is that the Bible’s teaching is that each person is judged by God not with respect to what they don’t know but the knowledge of revelation that they have and what they have done with that. So the Husatecs of 4,000 years ago are judged in accordance with how they have lived in the light of their own consciences. And the Bible makes clear that even then they will fail to have lived by their own standards let alone God’s standard. On the other hand a 20th century western who rejects the revelation of God in Jesus Christ will face a different kind of accounting. The Bible tells us that to those much is given much shall be required.
    Secondly, as I have stated elsewhere in this blog I do not accept moral relativism. If we accept moral relativism confines every judgement on morality to a specific time and place. The example I have used is that on this reasoning the holocaust can be judged moral because a whole society accepted that anti-semitism was correct. Or morality is defined by what the Supreme Court is prepared to accept or not accept. I do not accept that this is morality at all.
    Thirdly, you state, ‘it becomes entirely clear that religion is man-made and can be nothing else.’ To whom is this clear? Why when ancient societies were as sophisticated as the Husatecs and Apaches did they resort to the supernatural to explain the world in which they lived? And why are atheists such a tiny minority of the world’s population today? I think it is far form clear that religion is simply a man-made phenomenon.
    Fourthly, you state, ‘Today, we are led to believe in a god of favoritism and malice.’ Who is this God? he is certainly not the God whom Christians worship who is variously described as good and upright. A God of love, mercy and grace. A God of holiness and justice.
    Fifthly, I find your statement intriguing, ‘the idea of god itself is not irrational.’ Why is the idea of god not irrational if God does not exist?
    Sixthly, you say, ‘the idea of god itself is not irrational. But the idea of knowing a “one true god” – is.’ Why is the idea of knowing one true God irrational? If one true God exists and reveals himself to us why is it irrational to say that we can know him?
    Thanks for your stimulating post.

  26. Randy the Atheist Says:

    Hi Sibbesian ~

    Firstly, if only those who hear the gospel and then later reject it are condemned, then the spread of these gospels are not meant to save us but rather – to imperil us. This is more irrational than all of the other beliefs that were once practiced in human history.

    Secondly, moral relativism (I responded to your post on that as well) is actually a fact of human history. We know it exists because we have recorded it for the past 10,000 years. Absolute morals fall victim to the same thing that monotheism falls victim to – being born in the Right Place at the Right Time. The reason you cannot invoke the holocaust as a counter-argument is because 1941 Earth had already established a globalized moral system. Germany can be judged through the eyes of others for two reasons – the first is that they agreed to abide by global standards of morals through their numerous Treaties. The second and most important reason is that they lost the war. They do not get a victor’s justice. MIGHT MAKES RIGHT as it did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan. This is the only standard of establishing morals in the world – yesterday, today and tomorrow.

    Thirdly, religion is clearly man-made to those tho look back upon human history including the history of christianity itself. Its rise to popularity is not something out of the ordinary nor is it the first one to do so under the same circumstances. Let me show you an example:

    He was the son of the Holy God. Born, on 25th December (Sol Invicta), of a virgin mother. In a manger in a stable. Was visited by three wise men. He was known as the Light of the World. He had twelve disciples. He had a last supper with those disciples before his death. Some Hebrews called him Cristos or Messiah. His death was an atonement for the sins of Mankind. His name was Mithras of Persia and he lived 2000 years before Jesus was even a twinkle in the Emperor’s eye.

    Also under Thirdly, Atheism is not a “tiny minority”. In fact, it never was. There was once upon a time when the CHRISTIANS were considered to be Atheists in the Roman empire for they didn’t believe in the 32 different Pagan gods. Modern day Atheists are no different. We simply observe one less god than you do.

    Fourthly, the god of favoritism and malice is the god of Abraham of which various forms are still with us to this day. As we can see in the bible, Abraham’s god was an unlikeable god – a god of favoritism and jealousy. He would become a commander of many attrocities and was often viewed as a brutal, partial, and murderous god – a god of war whose name became known as Yahweh Sabaoth – the God of the Armies – and had little compassion for anyone but his own favorites. And it is not so difficult to see why he was as such, for Abraham was a retired mercenary, a skilled assassin for the King of Sodom. Thus, the god perceived by Abraham would natrually be a god of war and vengence. A god of love, mercy and grace? Of holiness and justice??? BEHOLD:

    “7 year old Tracy was beaten with a metal pipe on Tuesday and then beaten to death six hours later when the suspect returned and discovered her leaning up against a tree struggling to stay alive . . . ”

    “Rescuers frantically bashed holes through brick walls to try to save trapped children as a fire engulfed a school in southern India on Friday that claimed the lives of 77 pleading children…”

    “A 6 year-old child was found dead and tied to his bed in an abandoned apartment that was rented by his mother who is addicted to several types of drugs. Forensics determined the child died of thirst.”

    “An 8 year-old California girl, disappeared while playing in her father’s front yard. Her body was discovered stuffed in a tiny suitcase in the bedroom closet of an apartment across the street. The girl was sexually molested and died in the suitcase from asphyxiation and a large fracture in her skull.”

    “A 5 year old girl was found on Sunday in a plastic storage bin, just one day after her two brothers were found severely burned and starving for nearly a decade in a locked basement. An autopsy found she died of starvation and repeated trauma to her head and stomach.”

    “Millions prayed for Paul Johnson, an American Apache helicopter mechanic who was abducted in Riyadh last Saturday. He was found decapitated on Friday in an abandonded office. Johnson’s family in the United States, including his son, daughter, brother and sister, has asked for privacy.”

    Fifthly and Sixthly, the idea of god is not irrational because the human mind automatically invents the concept once we become aware of death and the dying. The only thing irrational is a personalized god that the world needs to adhere to. So while you believe that a “one true god” has revealed himself to YOU – he did not for the billions of OTHERS out there such as the muslims, hindus and buddhists. This definitely sounds like favortism to me. Add in the eternal damnation clause and we have the malice. Why does the “one true god” reveal himself to YOU but not your next door neighbor – the devout mormon – whom also claims to have been revealed by a “one true god” as well? Are both of your “one true gods” real?

    Think about it. But don’t think too long or you might find yourself as an Atheist one day. : p

    Cheers ~
    Randy the Atheist

  27. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks Randy for another detailed and provocative post. I have of course thought long enough not to be an atheist!
    First, you are of course right that those who hear the gospel and then reject it are more imperiled than the rest of us. Since the gospel is that Jesus is the only way of salvation those who hear that message and reject it are accountable. Greater knowledge brings greater responsibility and great accountability.
    Secondly, your point on moral relativism holds no water at all. You simply reduce morality to a series of international agreements. The Nazis were wrong because their gassing of 5 million Jews broke international agreements! The Jews right to exist in your world rest upon the good will of the international community.
    Thirdly, the problem with Mithraism is that it is mythological, Jesus Christ is indisputably an historical figure. Why does Jesus have a worldwide following today and not Mithras?
    Fourthly, recent statistics show that atheists make up less than 3% of the population of the world.
    Fifthly, I think your Bible offers a different portrait of God and his relationship with Abraham than the version I am familiar with.
    You should note that five of your six examples of brutality involve what one individual did to another. None of them involve what God did. Indeed all of them involve behaviour contrary to what God has commanded.
    Sixthly, why should people invent god because of death or dying if that is simply part of the cycle of life?
    God has not revealed himself to me exclusively. Rather he has revealed himself in the world that he has made, he has revealed himself by his acts in the history of Israel and he has revealed himself in his son. it is a message god has promised will be proclaimed to the ends of the earth and will result in the salvation of those from every people, tribe, language and nation, a number that no man can number.
    All good wishes to you Randy.

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