November 2007

Let me start with the second half of our conversation, that being the conversation on Morals:

(I’ll respond separately to the Origin statements for ease.)

Let me first clarify what I mean by “Objective Moral Values:”

Values which are right or wrong, whether or not anybody believes in them.

For example:

If Nazi Germany had been successful and won WWII, and had either wiped out or brainwashed anyone who did not agree with them, anti-Semitism would still be objectively wrong. Even if the Nazi’s had convinced everyone it was right.

A lot of atheist and theists actually agree on this point. I believe that the absence of God though, removes the objective moral values and leaves them all as subjective.

Nietzsche understood that the death of God meant the advent of nihilism, that is to say, the destruction of meaning and value in life. I think he was right.

Now, what I am not saying, is that you have to believe in God to live a good moral life. Nor am I saying you have to believe in God to know what good moral values are.

But what I am saying is, there are no objective moral values without God. Why would one deny that objective values exist? Most wouldn’t. Some things like, torturing innocent people, child abuse, rape and murder are objectively wrong. Similarly, things like, love, sacrifice, and equality are objectively good. If you don’t believe in God, do you think the inquisition was a good thing? Was it morally neutral to burn people at the stake for a difference in belief? No. Why? Who says so?

You seem to be saying that there is a metaphysically true “right and wrong” that we call morality — something that perhaps would exist even if humanity didn’t exist. If that is the case, how do you demonstrate it?

Not quite sure what you mean.

First off, if you need an example of something that exists metaphysically I will give you one; the laws of logic. Much of what you use to prove the lack of a metaphysical, is metaphysical itself. How is it demonstrated? My very contention in the above case, that even if Hitler had been successful in his cause, anti-Semitism would still be…wrong!

Do you disagree? Tell me: Are there not things that, even if society and government rule declared them ok, you would still find to be so morally reprehensible that you would never ok them? Child abuse? Torture of innocents?

You say that in my morality murder has “no moral absolute to call it wrong.” This is true in the sense that there I do not believe there is any master list of things we can compare our morality to in the same way there is a ruler we can use to measure the length of a board.

This is not so for the Christian. Christ and the life he led with the laws passed down through the bible is our measuring stick. These are the objective laws to which we abide.

However, I am not a moral relativist. I think that murder (defined carefully) can be shown to be immoral in any coherent set of morals, so in that sense it is a moral absolute. I see evidence that my system of morality is more than just my personal preference in the fact that my morality prohibits me from doing some things I might otherwise like to do

What “set of morals?” You have no internal morality. You didn’t evolve from amoral to moral…did you?
You say “my moral” over and over. You admit then that this is “your moral”?

What if I make different morals for myself? You cannot seem to explain what happens if we differ. Who then is right, and for what reason?

You ask what would happen if I met someone who thought that it would be okay to kill me because they didn’t mind if I killed them.

That example is not quid pro quo.

What I said was, “what if you met someone who said it’s ok to kill and you say “it’s not.”” Say that this person doesn’t buy your q2 system?

You say it’s not ok. I say it is. Who is right? Again why?

If we’re talking about someone walking up to me and saying this, then either they are reasoning dishonestly (for example, they say they don’t mind being killed because they think it is unlikely they will be killed)(By the way…wouldn’t this be a Darwinian scenario? Survival of the fittest? Remember, Darwin said the thing that bothered him the most about his theory was it’s very rise and ascension was done by way of violence and aggression) or they are not sane (and I’m guessing you would agree that both the reasoning and the moral sense of an insane person are proof of nothing).

What about those who enjoy stealing?

Maybe I like stealing from you, and therefore it’s ok to me. The fact that I would not “like” (feelings) you to steal from me, just because your system says that makes it contradictory may not matter to me. Who is right? Why?

But let’s look at a situation in which two reasonable people agree to “have at it and see who kills who first.” Since you like to use the Nazis as an example, let’s imagine that you are an American commando who has been dropped inside Germany to sabotage a fuel refinery. On your way into the plant, a military guard spots you. No matter which one of you kills the other, neither is going to go to prison for murder, and neither of you would blame the other for pulling the trigger . Some would say that, if you killed the guard, God would not punish you. There may be situations in which one or the other of you is morally wrong due to special circumstances, but as a general example, this shows that it is true that under 2Q there are times when it may not be immoral to fight to the death. (By the way, I’d argue that World War II not being a moral war in the first place is not relevant to the situation.)

I asked you if we stood before a judge using your logic after I killed you, who would be deemed right? Why will you not answer that?

Speaking of straw men, this is one. You are talking about a situation of war. Totally different animal. What about your neighbor killing you simply b/c he doesn’t like you? Is it that just because you don’t like it he cannot? Do you take a vote? See what the majority rule is? Remember…according to law is was ok in Nazi Germany to murder. You and I both know they were wrong…why? Are we more educated? No. Is it that our rules as American’s are more superior? Hardly.

What made the allies right in stopping them?

Adolf Hitler said “I want to raise a generation of young people, devoid of a conscience; impervious, relentless and cruel”.

As an avid reader of Nietzsche, who as we said earlier even admitted that the removal of God from society meant the destruction of meaning and value in life, Hitler knew that if he could just remove God from his country, he could then build his own moral law. No objective law to say his was wrong. But still….he was wrong!!! This is what you are doing. Building your own moral law.

Now, I am very happy you are asking these biblical questions. I know that you have other readers and I hope that once you have these answers you can better represent the Christian faith. A lot of these are basic Sunday school lessons.

Sidestepping into the Bible, so far as I can recall you are right that nowhere in the New Testament are people commanded to go and kill someone. You mention God being displeased with people in the Old Testament who killed their own children. But what about people who killed the children of their enemies ( e.g. Psalm 137:9)? I don’t recall that being condemned. Slavery also does not appear to be condemned, but many people would consider it morally wrong.

If you know anything about the old testament, then you know that in our relationship with God, He is portrayed as the potter and we are the clay. If you read into scripture you will know that these were very vicious and mean people. God told Joshua to go in and wipe them out. Just as the flood of Noah was designed to wipe out the “bad”. As our creator he has that prerogative.” Think of Sodom and Gomorrah…same story. You are taking things out of context without knowing why.

You ask by what authority I use 2Q. Well, it’s based on two principles that I think all reasonable

Again, who defines what is reasonable? People who agree with you? People who have your belief system? How do you define it? This is a straw man in that you have to define reasonable. You are now making a moral judgment, from an illogical basis. If I were to disagree with you, you would say I am not reasonable. Thus, you are passing moral judgment on me.

people would agree upon — that we shouldn’t contradict ourselves and that we can’t blame others for acting as we do — so I’d say I am logically required to use it. What happens when two people arrive at totally opposite conclusions? If they both reasoned correctly, then they have to respect each others’ reasoning.

By who’s reasoning? You are using a world view based on an atheistic argument. I don’t accept that. And “reasoning” correctly to you is probably using your q2 system. I already said in my example I don’t like your system and want to use mine. Then what?

To keep us on track, I’d like to know a little more about your system of morality. So far, I understand that your morality is unchanging and that that it is linked to your conscience

Just to be clear, it’s not linked to my conscience…it’s God’s holy Word via the holy spirit dwelling within me. I am able to lean on my conscience, but only because it is one influenced by Christ…the Holy Spirit).

You say that God has given you a moral law. As an example, can you tell me when this moral law says that killing another person is justified? I’d also like to know if you believe that morality changed after Jesus. For example, the Old Testament seems to say that it is moral to execute someone for homosexuality, but I assume this is no longer the case.

Here is a terrific example of you taking verses out of context:

Let’s have a quick scripture lesson: When homosexuals and other sexual offenders were put to death, God was dealing with only the children of Israel.

He picked them as his “chosen” people. They accepted. They then made a Covenant with God to obey his laws. They then carefully outlined these laws. This was done to separate them and show the difference between them and the Gentiles so they could have a relationship with Him. The old testament is a love story. All the laws about hair length, sacrifices, certain ceremonial requirements were all put into place by which to differentiate them as a people!

I say this kindly, but you would only know that if you sincerely read through the entire history of the old testament. He did not require these laws of everyone…just his chosen.

Now, he did not require them to have a relationship with Him, but if they choose so they needed to obey a certain way. He was creating a new relationship with his people. Making them Holy, which means “separate or apart from others”. Now many of these ceremonial and traditional laws were abolished with the birth of Christ and when God’s offer of salvation became available to all. There is nothing we can do, no good works to save ourselves. It is simply by the very mercy of God and the sacrifice of His son and admitting you need Him. That is why you see the New Testament as very different, and why you may not be quoting it with examples.

You say that your conscience (my understanding of write and wrong…not my conscience) comes from God. Am I correct in saying that if that is the case, you would also say that your complete moral sense comes from God? The reason I ask is that some people’s moral sense is offended by acts attributed to God — such as allowing babies to die in a disaster in which some bad people survive I understand that there are perfectly reasonable explanations for why a benevolent God would allow such a thing to happen, but why should such explanations be necessary? If our moral sense comes from God, then shouldn’t we sense that babies dying in a disaster isn’t evil?

Now this presents an interesting point. When you or any other person asks a question like “How can there be a God with such evil in the world”? you Evoke a moral authority. When you say that there is such a thing as evil, are you not also saying that there is such a thing as Good? And if you say that there is such a thing as Good and Evil, are you not evoking a moral authority by which to differentiate the 2? This is where an objective moral authority comes into play.

I would say that people who are offended by the death’s of innocent need to know that due to the fall of man, we live in a world of sin and suffering. Christians understand that as children of God, his lone and single destiny for our lives is not to make us always happy or devoid of difficulty. It is to have a relationship with us…His created. In fact, I would say persecution and suffering go a long way to furthering his message. Look in places like Iran or China: Christianity is outlawed here, and yet churches are growing at an unbelievable rate. What is the church like in the west where we are fat and happy? It is very stagnant.

You say that Christ is a basis on which to judge morals. I agree that for the most part Jesus (as presented in the Bible) is an excellent example of a moral individual. But there are three reasons I think you can’t say that Jesus is your complete source of morality. 1) The vast majority of Christians seem to not follow Jesus’ example. I understand that everyone must fall short of perfection, but I don’t even see most people trying. Few people give up their possessions and leave their family to follow Jesus’ example.

You display a certain lack of understanding here, in that the illustration of ‘give up your possessions and follow me’ is symbolic. It’s a message of materialism and it’s crippling effect on the human heart. It is not in a literal sense.

Your argument about not seeing people try is an unfair one. Again, to quote Augustan, “do not judge a belief by it’s injustices”

Look, I understand your frustration in that there are plenty of Christians who sin. I am one of them. We are all faulty. Does that prove or disprove the existence of a moral law?

Conversely, when people focus on the bad in our world, they miss all the good.

What about Mother Theresa? What about charity organization like the salvation army and red cross? What about group homes and battered women’s rescue shelters?

2) Jesus does not offer solutions to all moral problems. He doesn’t address slavery very well, for example, and was in no position to comment on stem-cell research.

Jesus’ moral values can be extrapolated into many things in life in a pertinent way.

Basically, Christ said that we are supposed to make our station in life the best we can. If we are a slave, then we are to respond to our master by doing the best we can. He also talks about masters treating their slave as brothers. You have to remember, in slavery back then, people went to other people and asked to be slaves for a certain number of years for many reasons (for money, a daughter to marry, etc) and every 7 years (year of jubilee) you could get out of it. It’s not the invention we see today, the kind you are speaking about. This is why he rescued the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt (read the whole book of exodus).

You are a bright man, so I am guessing you can see the moral issue Christians take with stem cell research. It is playing God with human lives and in a sense rationalizing and making something good out of an awful thing in abortion.

There has been great advance in science over the past year or so and it has been found that the umbilical cord for example is very rich in stem cells and has been used in some amazing advances. If we are patient, there is a way around this emotional moral issue.

3) Those who say that they are following Jesus when what they mean is that they are following feelings informed by Jesus need to demonstrate why their feelings contain more moral information than my own.

Because if God is truly the beginning and the end, and we know right from wrong, wouldn’t you want to do what is right? As Christians we know it is pleasing to Him. Are you talking like this is a bad thing? Look, as I stated earlier, you don’t need to be a follower of Jesus to live a good moral life or to know what good morals are. Remember, I am arguing for an objective moral authority.

You are definitely correct, by the way, that a philosophy can’t be judged by its abuse.

You ask again why Germany was wrong. I think I’ve covered that. But let me ask you, if a country’s leader believes that God has destined his people to take over another land by invading and killing (or, perhaps, enslaving) its inhabitants, do you think that leader is morally justified in leading his country to war? (By my 2Q system, I’d say he is not.)

It depends. What if it is going into Darfur or Uganda? Is that wrong?

If a country has the ability to save people in Africa, should they?

Or Bosnia when the Serbs were killing Christians? I’m guessing you are opposed to the war in Iraq, but would those people we are freeing be ok with war?

Popot in Cambodia? Wrong? If we are invading peaceful loving people, then yes, war is wrong.

You ask about Bundy, the Menendez brothers, Dahmer, Hitler, Stalin, etc. None of these people would pass 2Q, even if we could pretend that they were sane.

Who says that Q2 has to align?

Let me ask about another person– Abraham. Abraham was willing to kill his own son because God asked him to, and — I assume — would have gone through with it had God not stopped him.

Lesson: Abraham had a relationship with God. He knew he was being tested, and he even thought that God would bring his son back had he killed him, so he was going to obey. This is because God had promised him that his son was going to be the start of a new generation of believers. He trusted him implicitly.

Would you say that it’s moral to kill someone at God’s command? If so, would you hold innocent someone who killed another because they were sure God wanted them to? (By the second question of 2Q, killing at the command of God would not be allowed.)

God tells us not to murder. Though shall not murder. Read the old testament in Context. He doesn’t tell you to kill innocent. Show me where he says to kill the innocent and we’ll discuss it. God only ever commanded the killing of sinful.

Someone who says “God told me to Kill”, is wrong and misrepresenting God.

I can only say that, because of the objective moral authority outside of myself

By which to measure right from wrong.

I hope some if this of help. From many of your comments referencing ill-advised behavior from followers of Christ, it is my guess that you are somewhat jaded and cynical. You’ve probably received some disgusting hate mail, you’ve probably seen the man on the corner saying “repent or go to hell”. These are all results of a sinful and fallen world and are no design of God. Whatever your reasons for lack of belief, don’t let them rest on the shoulders of those who day in and day out fail Christ (and that includes me) but still love him as best we can. If you truly believe Augusta when he says that a philosophy cannot be judged by it’s abuse, then let that go.

Finally:

You end by saying that you believe God has left us with a longing that only He can fill. That’s possible, and it has a certain poetry to it. It’s also possible that some people have such a strong emotional need to be taken care of that they need to believe in a caregiver, whether he exists or not, and only give that belief up when presented with overwhelming evidence.

How would you explain the following? I believe You, yourself, give very evidence in this longing with all the time and effort you spend in trying to convince others there is no God. Why would you spend money, time, and effort? Why keep emailing me? Why would you spend the time to keep up a website? I am not saying any of these things are bad. All I am saying is it is evidence that we all want to make some kind of impression. My guess also is that you would like to convince yourself that your actions will not be judged by a supreme being so you may live your life as you choose. That however, is between you and…well…no one.

Let me give you a few examples that I find interesting:

C.S. lewis, who was born into a religious family, fell away from the faith and became agnostic. He later re-converted, writing such great books as Mere Christianity (arguing for the objective morality we speak of). He was often challenged by the famous atheist Anthony Flew, who argued “that one should presuppose atheism until evidence of a God surfaces.” A few years ago, Flew in an interview said “While reason, mainly in the form of arguments to design, assures us that there is a God, there is no room either for any supernatural revelation of that God or for any transactions between that God and individual human beings.” Flew stated that certain philosophical and scientific considerations had caused him to rethink his lifelong support of atheism.

Outraging the atheist community (so much so that the ultra liberal New York times review of his book, stated that he must have been crazy or insane when writing it). Flew went even further in his conversion.

What now? Flew has recently written a book entitled “There is a God”.

This story is similar to great minds like Hubble and Einstein.

(Wikipedia Flew’s story…it’s interesting).

Such a thing would explain why so many Holocaust survivors became atheists or agnostics — they got their evidence that they weren’t being cared for

If these people stopped believing in God b/c of their experience, (if what you say is true, I don’t know ) it may come from a lack of understanding. Nowhere does God promise us freedom from heartache or difficulty. Conversely, I can you show you hundreds of stories of men and women who because of their pain and suffering became believers, or in fact, closer to God.

You cannot deny that there are cries of the heart, and a longing for all to have their life infused with meaning and relevance. You are trying your best through efforts such as these to make your mark on man. Why? Because you want to make a difference and be noticed. Maybe not fame or fortune, but simply to have made a difference. Why else would you write a book of all things? If everything of this world is just going to fade away to dust, your time may be just as well spent at the local watering hole. If there is no God, no moral authority, no after life, then what you do here is of ill-consequence. Do you ever, even in the weakest moments of life ask…why?

I accept your definition of objective moral values, and I agree with it. I also agree that some objective moral values exist. Where we differ is that I believe these values exist with or without God, because they can be shown to be logically required.

You ask by what authority I would say that the Inquisition and burning people at the stake for religious reasons were morally wrong. I’d say that I can show that any moral system that included these things is illogical and therefore invalid.

When we discuss metaphysics, I think you misunderstand how I am using the word. I do not use it as a synonym for supernatural.

Something is metaphysically true if it is true whether or not humans are able to perceive it as true. For example, you and I disagree on a number of topics in science, but there is a metaphysical truth to all our questions, whether or not you and I can discover that truth. I agree that the laws of logic are metaphysically true. I would say that the statement “murder is wrong” is metaphysically true by definition (if murder is defined as considered, unjustified killing). However, I’d say that “honoring your parents is morally required” is not a metaphysically true statement since there may be places in the universe where it is untrue.

You say that I have no internal morality. That is a very harsh statement, and I can only assume that you mean something other than what it sounds like you are saying. I have a very strong personal morality, and I suppose you could say that I evolved from amoral to moral in that my morality has developed over many years.

When I say “my morality” I do indeed admit that this is my morality and not yours. It would be rather presumptuous for me to do otherwise. Also, morality does vary from person to person and from culture to culture on some issues (relatively minor issues, of course). If you see a penny on the sidewalk, is it moral to pick it up and keep it? Is it moral to eat meat? Or for a woman to appear shirtless in public? Or to get a divorce? Or to drive a car? I don’t think you can demonstrate that there is a single correct moral opinion on all of these issues.

What if you make different morals for yourself? Well, if they are well reasoned and logically consistent then I have to respect them — but that’s a pretty big “if”.

You ask “what if you met someone who said it’s ok to kill and you say ‘it’s not.’ Say that this person doesn’t buy your q2 system.” and follow by asking who is right and why.

I’m right. He’s wrong. Here’s why: If someone doesn’t agree with my 2Q system, then I have no reason to respect their beliefs. Yes, that’s a pretty strong statement, but I contend that all rational people agree with my 2Q system — and I include you in this statement.

To reiterate, 2Q states that any person’s beliefs must at least have these two properties:

1) You must not contradict yourself.

2) You must not condemn those who reason the same way you do.

I assume that you would not disagree with either of these requirements, and I assume that your moral system complies with them. You ask how I define “reasonable.” I use this word in a very broad way, largely to rule out considering the thinking of the mentally ill and sociopaths. I think that a reasonable person can disagree with me. I consider you a reasonable person. (Considering this more, I also think I should probably stick to “rational” and avoid “reasonable” — just for the sake of clarity.)

Now, complying with these two rules does not prove that a system of thought is correct, but not complying with them shows that the system is flawed. I don’t see how a rational person could have a moral philosophy that allows random killing of humans and doesn’t violate 2Q.

Sorry I didn’t answer your question about who would be deemed right if we stood before a judge. Perhaps I’m missing the point, but isn’t that a matter of law and not morality? If someone says they are going to kill me because it would be fun, a judge would (I assume) say that the person was acting illegally, no matter what the outcome of the battle. For what it’s worth, I would agree.

You are right that war and murder are two totally different things, but that is part of my point. My point is that there are situations in which two people can effectively agree that they will fight to the death and the victor will be held blameless.

You talk about my neighbor killing me because he doesn’t like me and ask, “Is it that just because you don’t like it he cannot? Do you take a vote? See what the majority rule is?” No. My opinion on the matter isn’t relevant to whether it’s immoral for my neighbor to kill me. If my neighbor thinks it’s morally allowable to kill me because he doesn’t like me, then he must think it’s moral for someone to kill him because they don’t like him. I don’t think a rational person can honestly have that opinion. So he proves himself to be wrong and acting on his desire to kill me is immoral.

You point out that in Nazi Germany it was legal to murder. Many people would say that in the United States it’s legal to murder (on a much smaller scale, of course). It’s almost trivially easy to show that the law in Nazi Germany violates the second part of 2Q. But even without worrying about the legality, we can show that the Allies were right to stop Germany because it’s easy to demonstrate that self defense is morally allowable. The case for the death penalty in the U.S. is much more complex, and it does come down to personal opinion in some areas of discussion.

I should also point out that many religious systems of morality completely comply with 2Q.

On to the Bible.

I think you are a being a bit condescending when you say that a lot of my questions are “basic Sunday school lessons.” I agree that you must know more about this subject than I do, but I do have a bit of knowledge in this area.

Quoting you in full: “If you know anything about the old testament, then you know that in our relationship with God, He is portrayed as the potter and we are the clay. If you read into scripture you will know that these were very vicious and mean people. God told Joshua to go in and wipe them out. Just as the flood of Noah was designed to wipe out the ‘bad’. As our creator he has that prerogative.’ Think of Sodom and Gomorrah…same story. You are taking things out of context without knowing why.”

I don’t think I am taking these items out of context. You say that God has the prerogative to destroy what he created, and I’ll grant that for the sake of argument. You also imply that God ordering the killing of evil children is morally equivalent to God killing evil children directly. Four questions still remain:

1) Did those God ordered to carry out the killing have no problem with conscience? (I assume not.)

2) Do you agree that killing children under orders from God is not immoral? (I assume so.)

3) Do you think it is morally consistent to believe that a baby deserves death for any reason? (I assume yes, if we include divine will as a reason.)

4) Would you condemn as immoral someone who killed a child because he thought God wanted him to? (I’m not sure what you’ll say here.)

Regarding conscience versus the word of God via the Holy Spirit: I need more information on this. How can you tell that your conscience is informed in this way? And if two people say that they are hearing the word of God, how do you tell who is right and who is wrong?

In the discussion of executing someone for homosexuality, you say that I am taking a verse out of context. I don’t believe I am. I also think you may be misrepresenting the Bible a tiny bit, but you can correct me on this.

You seem to be saying that the execution of homosexuals was only a rule for the Israelites. I agree that Leviticus lists it as a rule for the people of Israel. I believe it also says that the rules apply to non-Israelites in the land of the Israelites (I looked that one up — Leviticus 18:26). So it remains that you are saying that there is (or was) a situation in which it is moral to kill someone because they are homosexual even if they don’t have a covenant with God prohibiting homosexuality. Is that correct?

As an aside, you say that “He did not require these laws of everyone…just his chosen.” But you would still consider some of these items immoral today, right? (Bestiality is an obvious example.)

As another aside, I don’t quote the Bible often because I am not a Bible scholar. I’ve only read it a few times, so I don’t have any citations memorized. I’m relying on your Biblical expertise here.

We discuss the argument of evil next. Just to be clear, I don’t ask the question of how a good God can allow evil, because I understand the answer. I also don’t believe in a metaphysical standard of “good.” I would insist, though, that any Christian who believes in an absolute standard of good define it such that God letting babies die is good. Many Christians do this, and that’s fine.

But returning to the question in my previous post — am I correct when I assume that your sense of right and wrong, informed by the Holy Spirit, does not twinge at the thought of innocent babies dying in a disaster? Just curious.

Also, you say, “I would say that people who are offended by the death’s of innocent need to know that due to the fall of man, we live in a world of sin and suffering.” But if the sense of what is right comes from God, why is any explanation necessary? Shouldn’t people (at least Christians) know this already?

Moving to Jesus as an example of morality: I agree that you can’t judge a rule by those who disobey it, as we discussed before. My pointing out that few people seem to follow Jesus’ example was a mistake. What I intended to imply was something more along the lines that people don’t agree about what Jesus’ example was and that this ambiguity makes him a less-than-perfect standard of morality.

Your comment on my “lack of understanding” is just an illustration of my point. Are people supposed to act like Jesus or act as they think he wants them to act? How does someone who is not a Bible scholar tell when Jesus means something literally or figuratively? For example, Jesus may be speaking symbolically when he tells people to give up their possessions, but he sounds pretty literal when he tells his apostles to do this (in all four Gospels — http://www.gospelsinparallel.com/gospels/g-3-12.html).

An aside — you mention Mother Theresa as an example of good, but didn’t she disagree with your moral philosophy? For example, as a Catholic she likely didn’t think that faith in Jesus was the only way to Heaven and that good works were significant. (Pardon me if I’m misrepresenting your beliefs here.)

You say that Jesus’ moral values can be extrapolated. But why is any extrapolation necessary if there is absolute morality? Shouldn’t you just know what is right and what is wrong? I’m really unclear on this.

I’d be interested to hear more about slavery in Old Testament times. I understand that people could sell themselves into slavery for a limited period of time, but the Israelites also took their enemies as slaves (I believe that’s in Kings somewhere), and I think the Romans had slaves in Jesus’ day. It might have been good for Jesus to discuss the second two cases if he thought that they were immoral.

Regarding stem-cell research, you are right that I see the moral issue some Christians have with it. But I don’t see that Jesus is much help on the issue. This may be why some Christians support stem-cell research and some don’t. Some Christians also believe that blood transfusions are “playing God” and therefore immoral.

I think you misunderstood my question when I said, “Those who say that they are following Jesus when what they mean is that they are following feelings informed by Jesus need to demonstrate why their feelings contain more moral information than my own.” I understand that you want to do what is right and agree that I do as well. My question is, if you and I disagree on what is right, based solely on how we feel on a subject, how can you demonstrate that your feelings are informed by Jesus (perhaps through the Holy Spirit?) and therefore correct, while mine are wrong? Or, from my perspective, why should I prefer how you feel about a subject to how I feel about it?

War and destiny is next. I asked if you thought someone would be justified in going to war if they thought God had destined them to go to war. You then gave various examples of what might be good reasons to go to war. But I am not asking about whether war is ever justified — I’m asking whether the belief that God wants a war is morally sufficient for a leader to start a war. If it’s not — if you need more than God’s will to go to battle — then I’d argue that you are appealing to a moral authority outside of God.

(I am not against the war in Iraq, by the way.)

You ask, “Who says that Q2 has to align?” I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the question. Could you rephrase it?

Abraham: I understand the story of Abraham, but I don’t think you answered my question. Can a person who trusts God implicitly morally kill (or attempt to kill) their own child at God’s command?

You say, “God tells us not to murder. Though shall not murder. Read the old testament in Context. He doesn’t tell you to kill innocent. Show me where he says to kill the innocent and we’ll discuss it. God only ever commanded the killing of sinful.”

I feel like you’re avoiding the question a bit. I didn’t ask if God would ask you to kill someone innocent. I asked if it was moral to kill someone at God’s command.

You also ask me to show you where God says to kill someone innocent. Personally, I’d say that the babies of sinful people are innocent, but you seem to disagree. So that takes us back to Abraham. Wasn’t Isaac innocent? Sure it was a test, and Abraham likely knew it was a test, but that leaves us with the fact that God ordered the killing of an innocent person.

You say, “Someone who says ‘God told me to Kill’, is wrong and misrepresenting God. I can only say that, because of the objective moral authority outside of myself.” But God used to tell people to kill other people, right? So how does this fit with your statement that a moral authority must be unchanging?

You ask me to respond to, “I believe You, yourself, give very evidence in this longing with all the time and effort you spend in trying to convince others there is no God. Why would you spend money, time, and effort? Why keep emailing me? Why would you spend the time to keep up a website? I am not saying any of these things are bad. All I am saying is it is evidence that we all want to make some kind of impression. My guess also is that you would like to convince yourself that your actions will not be judged by a supreme being so you may live your life as you choose. That however, is between you and…well…no one.”

Just to clarify, I have no interest in convincing people that there is no God. I don’t think I’ve ever said to you, “You shouldn’t believe in God because…” Rather, I am trying to understand other people’s reasons for believing in God so that I can see if they are compelling to me. Sometimes, people come to me with their reasons for believing in God, and through our conversation find that their reasons are insufficient. Sometimes this leads them to atheism. More often, it leads them to a better understanding of their own beliefs. I’m happy with either result. I am also happy if the person’s reasons are sufficient, because then I can learn from them.

Why do I keep e-mailing you? Because you are interesting to converse with, because I would like to understand your viewpoint, because I hope to convince you that there can be rigorous morality without theism, because it’s good for me to constantly test my philosophy, and because others may benefit from our conversation. You’re right that I want to make some kind of impression. I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I entered it. This is my way of giving meaning to life. Ultimately, so far as I can tell, it makes no difference. I have no control over that, so I do what I can.

I do not know if I will be judged by a supreme being. All I can do is live my life to the best of my ability and hope that, if there is judgment, this will be taken into account. I understand that under most Protestant beliefs my intent is not relevant to my ultimate judgment. Even so, I can’t help but be who I am and must be true to my nature. I can’t choose to believe in God. My brain doesn’t work that way.

Regarding Anthony Flew, I am familiar with his philosophical journey, and I understand that he is essentially a Deist (which would put him at odds with Christianity). Personally, I think he’s giving short shrift to science, just as Einstein did (he couldn’t deal with quantum physics). Time will tell.

In your conclusion, you speculate that I may be jaded and cynical. Fortunately, this is far from the case. Even those “repent or go to Hell” Christians are, in my view, trying to do what is right, so I don’t look unkindly on them. I think the world is getting better every day, and I think people like you and I can help it on that journey.

I am actually a very hopeful individual. I think that encouraging people to examine their own beliefs — my 2Q system — is a great way to make the world a better place. It won’t turn a Christian into an atheist, or an atheist into a Christian, but it will help assure that everyone is making the best decisions they can and should make people more tolerant of differences in opinion.

For what it’s worth, I call myself a Moral Atheist because, for me, morality comes first. Atheism is not the centerpiece of my life.

Posted on November 14, 2007 at 1:06 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q, About atheism, Discussion, Evidence

Leave a Reply