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Raising Children Without God?

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Kids

On a recent CNN iReport, a user named TXBlue08 provides seven reasons why she chooses to raise her children without belief in God. Her essay has already been viewed over 800,000 times. Given its popularity, I'd like to examine her seven reasons:

"1. God is a bad parent and role model.

Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them."

Parents discipline their children, but they don’t reprogram them to be mindless, obedient robots. If God eliminates all evil his children commit, will any of his children even be left? God loves his children so much that he allows them to exist, even if they disobey him.

"2. God is not logical. 

How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue."

While TXBlue08 says God is illogical, I think she really means humans are illogical. She complains, rightly so, about people who give trite answers for evils like the Newtown school shooting (i.e., “God is mad we banned prayer in public schools”). But Jesus says that God doesn’t cause evil in order to punish sins.

When they saw a blind man, Jesus' disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him" (John 9:1-3).

God can allow evil so that goods, such as love or courage, can also exist. Since God has made us our brother’s keepers, we have a responsibility to care for each other. If atheism is true, we can ignore problems in the world that don't move our conscience, since in a strictly material universe there is no objective fact that we ought to help others.

"3 – 4. God is not fair. God does not protect the innocent.

If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other serious requests to go unanswered?...Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent?"

These two reasons are essentially the perennial question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” I can’t fully answer this question in a blog post, but a few points may help shed light on this mystery.  First, God is fair in that he does not favor certain groups of people more than other groups. Jesus says God makes “his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).

Second, we are not in a position to know if God can bring more good from the evils he tolerates. The goods that result from evil may not emerge for hundreds or thousands of years.

Finally, God bears the sufferings of all people and redeems them with his sacrifice on the cross. Ultimately, good will defeat evil, and the innocent in God shall have their eternal reward.  But if atheism is true, then all suffering is pointless, and our deceased loved ones are nothing but worm food. For more on this important topic, I recommend C.S. Lewis's book The Problem of Pain.

"5. God is not present.

Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch, or hear does not make sense."

It makes as much sense as telling an adopted child his mother loved him even if the child cannot experience physically his mother’s existence. The fact that the child exists is evidence he had a mother, just as the existence of the universe is evidence of its cosmic creator.

"6. God does not teach children to be good.

It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children."

If God does not exist, then the concept of “good” is meaningless. Think about it: If there is no God, then we are just atoms in motion that came into existence as part of a cosmic accident. Morality deals with the way things should be. But if life is an accident, then there is no way anything should be, and morality is a feeling we can ignore like any other feeling.

Under Christianity, God teaches us to be good because he teaches us to be like him, the perfect Good, which we were made to follow. Scripture says, “Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

"7. God teaches narcissism.

Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter, because God is in control."

This is backward. It is atheism that encourages narcissism, because if everything is an accident then all that matters is how life turns out for you. The only alternative to narcissism for atheists is nihilism, or the belief that nothing really matters, since the universe has no plan or purpose.

If God exists and has a plan for us, then that is truly humbling, because the infinite creator of the universe wants us to cooperate with him to bring about good. And he will give us grace to help! If that doesn’t make you tremble with joyful fear, I’m not sure what will.
 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Answers. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: JChristoff.com)

Trent Horn

Written by

Trent Horn holds a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. He specializes in training pro-lifers to intelligently and compassionately engage pro-choice advocates in genuine dialogue. He recently released his first book, titled Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Follow Trent at his blog, TrentHorn.com.

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  • Just like a parent does not deprive a child of free will by telling them something is wrong, and more importantly why it is wrong, we expect God to have done this. Instead we have dreadful stories and rules about parenting in the OT and confusing guidance in the New Testament. Nowhere are we given guidance to steer us away from slavery and child abuse, or told why these things are wrong.

    Reducing the terrible suffering of innocent people on earth would do nothing to restrict free will. In fact, it may very well be that God IS interfering in this way, and of course we would never know about it. There could have been ten times as many Gods intervention. If that were the case would we be robots?

    • kuroisekai

      Why do we have to be hyper-specific, though? Would Christianity be better off if the Bible were a box-checked list of things of why we shouldn't do things? In my mind, the reason why God doesn't give us all the answers is twofold: He wants us to use the faculties He gave us (such as our minds to reason) and He wants us to come to our own understanding of why these things are the way they should be.

      For example, I'm a chemist and I teach chemistry from time to time. Many educators will tell you that chemistry is the hardest science to teach (well, discounting quantum mechanics) because kids don't really see atoms and molecules but they can picture plants and animals and moving objects. In my experience, the best way for a student to truly learn chemistry is to understand on their own why a reaction proceeds such-and-such or why a chemical behaves such-and-such. If I told them outright, the lesson is lost on them. The same is likely true with God: if He told us outright, what value will His morality be?

      • Andre Boillot

        I think the problem is how inconsistently hyper-specific the Bible chooses to be on certain issues, condemning some that seem relatively inconsequential (eg. money lending), while condoning and outlining others (eg. slavery).

        • ziad

          Andre, Some laws in the old testament need to be seen as you mention "outline" rather than condone. I would argue that there is a difference. For example, the "eye for an eye" was not meant to preach violence, but rather restricting violence. In the old times, it was not uncommon to strike harder and cause significantly more harm than the original offender. This law was put forth to make sure that no one goes beyond the original offense.

          I would argue that the same was with slavery. It was common to have slaves at that age, and in order to make sure that the slaves are not ill treated, they were given instructions to make sure they are treated better.

          I would argue that the reason behind that is the people of that time were not ready to comprehend mercy and tolerance. This is why Jesus corrects the "eye for an eye" law to say instead, "If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also"

          • Andre Boillot

            "Andre, Some laws in the old testament need to be seen as you mention "outline" rather than condone. I would argue that there is a difference."

            Absolutely, outline and condone mean different things. Unfortunately, as you can see in several parts of the OT, god appears to do both with regards to slavery. Hence my choice of "and" to connect the two.

            "I would argue that the same was with slavery. It was common to have slaves at that age, and in order to make sure that the slaves are not ill treated, they were given instructions to make sure they are treated better."

            I can't imagine the outlining concerning slavery did much to improve the treatment of slaves - except in the cases of Hebrew slaves. I believe the only thing masters were prohibited from doing to their non-Hebrew slaves was killing them:

            "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property." [Exodus 21:20-21]

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_slavery

          • Paul Boillot

            "An eye for an eye" was not given to the human race by Yahweh, or the Hebrews, but was absorbed and incorporated into their tradition from the code of Hammurabi.

          • ziad

            Yes I'm aware of that, but it is still mentioned in the Bible as a law for them to follow. I was explaining the difference ;)

          • Paul Boillot

            "some laws in the old testament" were "not meant to preach violence, but rather restricting violence."

            You make it sound like Yahweh is doing the best he can in the OT, curbing the natural ferocity of his chosen people, before the full revelation can take place.

            Societies vastly predating the Hebrews' realized this need, and we find it in the Bible because of the progressive nature of pre-existing mesopotamian civilization, not because the Jews had enlightened punitive practices as you seem to suggest:

            "In the old times, it was not uncommon to strike harder...this law was put forth to make sure that no one goes beyond the original offense...."

            Leaving off the ellipsis of "this law was put forth....by ancient pagan Babylonians who later made war on, and enslaved, the Hebrews" changes the emphasis of the origin you gave to seem Judaic.

          • felixcox

            It's a convienent dodge to assert "people of that time were not ready to comprehend mercy and tolerance."
            You have no evidence for that; instead, it certainly seems you are starting backwards from the premise that god is perfect, and therefore, that's the only explanation you can dream up to support the unsupportable. Cultures do change, but people do not. if god is all powerful, then he could have said, "well, you are not ready for this, but slavery is bad. but if you still have slaves...."
            and besides, nearly no culture on earth today is "ready" to turn the other cheek, yet that's what jesus is alleged to have said.
            Your post is not logical.

      • Geena Safire

        He wants us to come to our own understanding of why these things are the way they should be.

        If we were all like nicely scrubbed and dressed healthy children with decent homes and reliable meals and a promising future, then I'd be fine on having to discover why things are the way they should be.

        But since I live in a world replete with natural disaster, horrible diseases and mental illness and hideous injuries, starvation on a grand scale, wars and dictatorships, and all the many varieties of individual human evil, there is no possible way that I could understand that things are the way they should be. This is not any kind of world that a purportedly powerful creator would have caused, knowing how it would turn out, unless he's a sadist.

        • Micha_Elyi

          This is not any kind of world that a purportedly powerful creator would have caused, knowing how it would turn out, unless he's a sadist.
          --Geena Safire

          You are quite confident in your own personal omniscience, Miss Safire.

      • You no doubt you do not just give chemistry students a bunch of chemicals, and tell theme to experiment away and learn for themselves. Surely all the theory and reactions is spelled out in textbooks, scientific journals and the like. You also know all of this and are there present when they do classroom experiments. You answer any question they may have directly and the second they start doing anything that could endanger them, you would intervene immediately and stop them and explain the danger. You wouldn't let them learn for themselves that this reaction creates a deadly gas.

        God on the other hand gave the Jews a rulebook on how to keep slaves in specific detail. They experimented, and, I do not know how it worked out for the slaves of Jews in BCE Judea. However, God came back in human form and knowing that slavery was wrong and would go on for centuries and get very bad in America. He did not bother to say - "stop it, this wrong!". We figured it out, mostly, but at the costs of hundreds of thousands of lives and after the suffering of millions.

        • kuroisekai

          You misunderstand my analogy. I wasn't saying that I would be analogous to God and people were my students. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough... The analogy was that the lesson I am trying to impart - something complex and something both students and educators grapple with - is what God wants us to learn. Now, in my experience, a student better understands a particular concept if that student arrives at it using his or her own reasoning. If it's spelled out - and it is - the student has trouble appreciating and applying the knowledge. God likely knows that we are more open to the greatest change when we are at our lowest point. That's the thesis I've been pointing out.

          You seem to have much qualms over slavery and the Bible condoning it. By the same logic, the Bible condones divorce, something the Catholic Church is against. You are making stakes against Mosaic Law. Now, I'm not a biblical scholar or anything... But from my interpretation of Jesus's words when the Pharisees tried to stump him, a lot of what Mosaic Law posits (like divorce or slavery) are accommodated in the law just because the people at the time accommodated them... Not because God endorsed them. It's not God's law per se.

    • Nicholas Smith

      Oh please...you're saying that god has actually stopped school shootings...but he's not powerful enough to have stopped them all... ??? This is 100% wholegrain delusion! And I'm sure you'll say .."well god let him post that comment"...So HE doesn't have wifi,... wake up and smell the coffee.

      • No. I am proposing that there are no gods. I think you need to read my comment a little more carefully. It is a counter to the free will defense to the problem of evil/suffering.

        • BrianKillian

          There can't be any 'problem' of evil for atheistic materialists, since all evils are natural - just matter in motion.

          • Obviously. Though I see no reason to use the word "just" to modify "matter in motion". Nor would I agree that all evils are "natural".

            The problem of evil is "problem" for theists who believe in an all-good all-powerful deity.

            For me it is the reality of "evil" it is problematic, but not to my world view.

    • DannyGetchell

      There could have been ten times as many school shooting without Gods intervention.This is doubtless a great consolation to the parents of Sandy Hook and Columbine.

      • You are missing the point. The supposed consolation of Christians to the parents of Sandy Hook is that God didn't intervene to save their children because doing so would deprive humanity of free will.

        This is a hypothetical example to show that if a God exists and he may be very well intervening all the time and the scenario we experience IS the lesser evil designed to allow enough evil in the world to maintain our free will to chose good.

        But why end there? If he exists could he prevent all school shootings? All murder, rape, childhood disease? Of course he could and we would not know any different. We would still have free will.

        It is just a thought experiment to show that, even if you grant that there must be some evil in the world, to allow free will to chose good, god could still intervene and prevent most of the evil.

        Since he does not, the problem of evil stands and is not answered by the "free will" defense.

        • kuroisekai

          I'm not sure I follow your extension of logic. Your premise is that God might be preventing most evil and allowing some evil to exist in order to allow for free will. Then extending that logic, God could prevent all evil and still allow for free will. Am I getting this right? And if so, I'm curious as to how the extension works. The reason for evil existing in your first argument is dependent on the existence of evil. Then shouldn't the prevention of evil eliminate the necessity for free will?

          Allow me to counter your thought experiment with another thought experiment: could a coin exist with only one side? And if such a coin exists, then there is no reason to flip it to settle anything. A world devoid of evil will be like a one-sided coin that is flipped - there is no sense in flipping it since you'll win every time. Like if you were to write on a black sheet of paper with black ink, would you not have difficulty reading it? Evil is a contrast agent - it allows us to more fully appreciate what is good. I agree that saying "God gave us Free Will and this is what causes evil" is extremely weak and reductionist. But I can conclude (I apologize for doing an intuitive leap here, I'm not quite eloquent when it comes to explaining how I arrive at philosophies) from this thought experiment that Free Will does not cause evil - rather it necessitates it.

          • I am not being clear. I am not proposing a world free of good and evil. I am proposing a world without dreadful suffering such as that faced by the Sandy Hook parents. Perhaps a dialogue.

            Me: The existence of dreadful suffering in the world is inconsistent with an all-powerful, all good god. Therefore no such god exists

            Apologist: God could eliminate suffering, but then no one would "choose" to be good. God needs us to freely make the decisions not to murder children for example. Only in this way is the choice to be good "free".

            Me: By no means. What if God eliminated all murder of children, but did in such a way that we didn't know he did it. There would still be thousands of moral issues confronting humanity for us to express our morality.

            Apologist: but we would not have the freedom to choose to murder or not murder children, unless some children were murdered from time to time how can one say we made the decision? God simply cannot intervene at ALL without destroying our free will. This is why we have things like Sandy Hook.

            Me: Well, God is sounding rather sick, but I will play along. Could God not eliminate most murder of children then? Wouldn't this keep our free will intact?

            Apologist: I suppose so, but I think we would still know he was interfering.

            Me: How do you know that he isn't already doing this all the time? Perhaps humanity's nature is much worse than we feared and a dozen child murderers are getting premature heart attacks and hit by cars every week? We would never know right?

            Apologist: I suppose.

            Me: Then he could eliminate every child murder but one. If that were the case, we would think we still had the freedom to do it, and the choice. If we chose to do it, we could be plucked out without anyone realizing that is why we died.

            Apologist: yes

            Me: So even if I accept the twisted plan where dreadful suffering is necessary to maintain our free will, more than one child is being murdered is gratuitous. God could stop it, wants to stop it but doesn't. Such a god would not be all-good and the god described is inconsistent with reality.

  • What is the point of this article?

    • To examine the merits of TXBlue08's reasons to raise her children without belief in God. Surely that was made clear?

      • But why would anyone bother?

      • David Nickol

        To examine the merits of TXBlue08's reasons to raise her children without belief in God. Surely that was made clear?

        You said something interesting and important in an earlier thread, to the effect that one ought to answer the strongest arguments, not the weakest ones. I don't think anyone familiar with any of the issues implicit in TXBlue08's article would consider her to have made a strong case for her point of view.

        • kuroisekai

          agreed. TXBlue08 was a bit... lacking, to say the least. I would have been more impressed if she laid down theological arguments as to how she came to those conclusions of what God is and is not.

        • David, point taken. We aim to address the strongest, but also the most popular arguments here at Strange Notions, which is why we're equally happy to engage people like TXBlue and Christians who doubt traditional claims about Jesus (e.g., Dan Brown and the "Jesus Seminar" figures.)

    • David Nickol

      I don't wish to be unkind, but I am mildly embarrassed that I even responded to it. While TXBlue08 cannot be accused of being at all original or profound, implicit in her article are some of the toughest questions imaginable, and if anyone is helped by reading the same familiar, pat answers to them as we have seen time and again, I don't know who that would be.

      EDIT: The response I am embarrassed to have made earlier is not appearing.

      • Now you don't need to be embarrassed. :)

      • James Christopher

        You wrote: "implicit in her article are some of the toughest questions imaginable, and if anyone is helped by reading the same familiar, pat answers to them as we have seen time and again, I don't know who that would be."

        I reply: I'm a Catholic apologist for NewApologetics.com. I was invited here by Kevin Aldrich. My opinion is that you've stated the truth in your comment above.

  • "It makes as much sense as telling an adopted child his mother loved him even if the child cannot experience physically his mother’s existence. The fact that the child exists is evidence he had a mother, just as the existence of the universe is evidence of its cosmic creator."

    We are getting a bit of a Gish gallop in this piece, but the problems with this are pretty obvious. Only in rare cases would an adoptive parent know that the birth mother loved the child. If they did, they would be able to tell them how they knew. But in many cases the adoptive parent would be oblivious to what the birth mother thinks or even if she survived the birth. If they did not know it would be a lie to say they did.

    The analogy stands if God exists, loves us, wants to be in a relationship with us, we should expect some kind of direct communication, not little hints and coincidences and vague transcendent feelings.

    The existence of the universe is evidence only of its own existence. It tells us nothing about whether it was created by a being, it existed in some form forever, or was designed by aliens.

    • Vasco Gama

      Brian,

      Your comment

      «The analogy stands if God exists, loves us, wants to be in a relationship with us, we should expect some kind of direct communication»

      called my attention. It is something that really troubles people (not just yourself), I have heard it many times before, and I addressed it in the line that is very well formulated in the a previous post of Strange Notions, "If God is Real, Why Won’t He Show Himself?" ( https://strangenotions.com/if-god-is-real/ ). I hope it is helpful for you to understand that question.

      • Yes, I read that article and made some comments of my own. I understand that the invisibility of God can be "interpreted" by none of the interpretations are reasonable to me or seem consistent with the nature of the God proposed

        • Vasco Gama

          Brian,

          For me it is very clear that this "invisibilty" is the only rational possibility, regardless of how unreasonable and inconsistent it may seems to you (here I have to say that maybe you are not able to grasp the concept of God that Catholics share, which is not strange as you are not a believer)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I had to look up "Gish gallop." Wow. I've seen it in practice a thousand times but didn't know it had a name!

      I agree. The OP is that probably in being a reaction to the same thing in the original piece.

    • Andre Boillot

      Haha, I see my main men WLC and DD are "abusers of this technique". Couldn't agree more. I tried, it didn't work, I agree the same amount as before.

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Gish_Gallop

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If God exists, loves us, wants to be in a relationship with us, we
      should expect some kind of direct communication, not little hints and
      coincidences and vague transcendent feelings.

      I think you have the right to request and maybe even demand from God what would be sufficient evidence to enter into a relationship with him. But I would not limit it to "direct communication" because there might be other ways meaningful to you, like big hints, significant coincidences, specific transcendental feelings, or something else entirely.

      • What is it that I should be looking for that is distinguishable from there being no God at all? And do you have any idea why God is not interested in direct communication anymore? Am I not worth it?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That's three questions, BGA. In football, isn't that called a blitz?

          It is up to you to decide what is adequate evidence that God exists.

          You are worth it.

          The middle question is really the hard one. It is also loaded (more blitzing): "not interested," "direct communication," and "anymore."

          If you mean why doesn't God do something like appear in the sky or text you, I think there are a whole lot of reasons that could be offered. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Christ basically said that a lot of people would not respond even if someone rose from the dead to communicate with them.

          • "I think there are a whole lot of reasons that could be offered"

            Please offer one.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I did offer one. Reason #1: It would not make any difference to you.
            I'll offer some other reasons tomorrow when I'm not so tuckered out. My meat machine is winding down.

          • I desperately want a God to exist, even the one described in the Bible. I really do want everlasting life and the promises of Christianity.

            Please don't presume what would make a difference to me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I apologize for that way that came out. I was giving *one reason* why God might not directly reveal himself to people on earth face to face: for some, perhaps for many, it would not make any difference. I'm thinking of Judas or the rich man in the parable about Lazarus.

          • No worries!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I could offer a list of ways that God does reveal himself, but as for why God does not do *more* here is an intriguing post from New Apologetics:

            Why does God not intervene in the world more directly?

            Answer: In creation, God has given of himself in a maximally
            radical way. His love is one of total self- gift for the sake of created persons. In offering himself totally to creatures, God has given power to those creatures made in his image to be co-creators. That is, real power in shaping the world is given to men and angels. That which can only be done by God (such as creation of the universe out of nothing, or the governance of the entirety of reality via omniscient providence) cannot be given over to creatures, but all other finite powers and roles of importance that can possibly be entrusted to created beings have been given to men and angels for the sake of imbuing maximal importance
            to each creature made in the image of God. This gift of power is so absolute that even many of those actions which can only be accomplished by God himself, such as the forgiveness of sins, or the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, have been entrusted to human beings as intermediaries through the sacramental ministry of the priesthood. According to God’s generosity, if something can possibly be done or mediated by a finite power, God creates a finite creature to do it rather than doing the thing directly.

            Quotes: “We can never give too great prominence to the Scholastic principle that God never does through Himself what may be achieved through created causality… For any result which does not require actually infinite power, God will sooner create a new spiritual being capable of producing that result than produce it Himself.” (Abbot Anscar Vonier, The Human Soul)

            “God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of
            power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1884)

            “For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but
            also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 306)

            http://newapologetics.com/catholic-apologetics-qa

          • Steven Carr

            None of that is in the slightest bit convincing to anybody.

            Just produce your god doing something or admit you worship an idol.

            We are sick and tired of listening to Christians confabulate.

            Where's the beef?

          • David Nickol

            We are sick and tired of listening to Christians confabulate.

            First, who is "we"?

            Second, it apparently makes you angry that Christians believe things you don't? Why get upset about it? Does it also make you angry that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews believe things you don't? If so, why? If not, why not?

          • Thanks Kevin,

            As I understand it, you have identified some qualities that identify God as God, universe-creating and changing water into wine. You have said that such powers cannot be given over to finite creatures such as me.

            There is no need for these powers to be given over, rather that the being possessing these powers show himself to exist. He has done this in the past and precisely in answer to doubt. I doubt, and I have good reasons to doubt, and I see no reason why he cannot part a sea, burn a bush etc , or just show up in my room right now clearly, unmistakeable.

            I want him to exist, I could even say I want to believe. (Though there are other proposed religions which I would much rather be the truth.)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know people this has happened to.

            When I was visiting a seminary a long time ago, I met a seminarian who in his early 20s had been in a seminary studying for the priesthood, but because of the craziness happening in the 70s he left, joined the Navy, and was a submariner for about ten years.

            One day, while on leave he was in a church praying. Suddenly, he felt someone put his hand on his shoulder and he heard the person say, "It's time to go back to the seminary." When he turned around there was no one there.

            I spent about a week with this guy and he never showed any signs of being crazy, dishonest, or credulous.

            The same thing could happen to you, or something else.

          • Mikegalanx

            Certainly. It could be a voice saying "time to really get into the teachings of the Dalai Lama/accept Mohammed as the Messenger of God/ really read that pamphlet the JWs gave you/get out of this church and join your crewmates for a beer/grab a semiautomatic and start taking revenge on all those jerks who laughed at you in High School"

            I don't think "Hearing voices in your head" is the kind of demonstrable evidence of God that was being talked about.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I wrote, "I spent about a week with this guy and he never showed any signs of being crazy, dishonest, or credulous." Lot's of saints have had "locutions" and they were not crazy.

          • josh

            If this were even remotely true we should see a world chock full of priests and holy men tossing off miracles left and right.

            "Your daughter has crippling polio? Luckily, God cannot deny us any conceivable gift so badabing!, a little laying on of hands and she's cured! Of course you can detect it with scientific studies!"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Where did this suggest that God has given human beings miraculous powers over the physical universe? Humans have human powers. Angels have angelic power. Ants have ant power.

          • Paul Boillot

            Ant power is really amazing.

          • felixcox

            "Christ basically said that a lot of people would not respond even if someone rose from the dead to communicate with them."

            Well, that didn't stop jesus from performing so many miracles that they couldn't fit into a book, according to the gospels...
            and it seems like you are saying that jesus just kind of gave up on the idea because some would not respond- well, I would respond! and i know thousands of other skeptical atheists would too. It would seem that he's not going to meet us half way (dying on the cross two thousand years ago doesn't suffice since i have no way of knowing any divine being did so). In the past I prayed and prayed, searched, read, and he most certainly never presented me with a good reason to believe.
            again, this picture of god being painted is not consonant with the idea of a benevolent omnipotent being.
            Christians would save themselves a lot of headaches if they'd just concede that maybe he's not all powerful. They get themselves deep in rhetorical doo-doo trying to reconcile these notions that do not explain this world.

    • Linda

      I think you may be mistaken about adoption, at least currently, as many are open, with the biological mother choosing the adoptive parents. I think it's quite fair to assume the biological mother loved that baby. It takes enormous love (and not a little bit of courage) to go through pregnancy and birth and then trust someone else to raise your child.

      • I expect every case is different. Why assume at all in the first place and how does this analogy help us understand God?

        • Linda

          Yes, I'd imagine every case is different. But again, it takes an amazing amount of love to go through an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy, face the questions and social criticism of the situation and then give that child away. For some reason society seems to judge those mothers harshly (how can you give your baby away?) when it should be more compassionate and supportive. It is an extremely difficult situation. I think it is fair to default to great love in these cases, particularly in this age of abortion.

          As to how it may be analogous in this way (though obviously I am speculating on Mr. Trent's intent): The Catholic Church considers all children gifts from God. They do not belong to the parents, they belong to God and are entrusted by God to their parents (biological or adoptive). God loves us; we are all His children. But like children who have been adopted, we were loved from the beginning, even though we are being raised by someone else.

          • Mikegalanx

            "They do not belong to the parents, they belong to God and are entrusted by God to their parents"

            Does this explain the flood of cases which has been revealed over the last decade or so showing the Catholic Church's complicity in using force or fraud to strip children from their 'unworthy' birth mothers and supply them to more 'suitable' Catholic parents. ("Fraud" here usually involved telling the mothers the child had died.)

            The reasons were varied: social class in Ireland, Australia and Quebec (children of poor single mothers); ethnic/racial in Canada and Australia (children of Indians and Aborigines); political in Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile ( children of leftists taken and given to supporters of right-wing dictatorships) : all with the aid and assistance of Catholic hospitals and religious organisations.

  • robtish

    This is the kind of thing that keeps atheists atheists.

    "If God does not exist, then the concept of “good” is meaningless...But if life is an accident, then there is no way anything should be, and morality is a feeling we can ignore like any other feeling."

    It's the glib straw man, the sort of blithe assertion, that makes me despair of any sort of deep exploration on this site.

    I'm traveling on business, and I can't participate fully today, but I can kick this off by sharing my own subjective experience that it's not possible to "ignore" feelings, especially on a long term basis without having them eventually rise up and swamp you (Google "repression.") Anybody else share that experience?

    In fact, if you're making decisions then you simply cannot ignore your feelings. Science is beginning to discover this is literally physiologically impossible, and that people whose ability to feel emotion has been impaired simply cannot make decisions, even simple ones, such as what to have for dinner.
    http://bigthink.com/experts-corner/decisions-are-emotional-not-logical-the-neuroscience-behind-decision-making

    At this point, contributors to this site should have realized that "If God does not exist, then the concept of “good” is meaningless" is incredibly offensive to atheists, so that if you want to make that case (and go ahead!) then you're need to do so with more substance and rigor than by tossing off a false, meaningless, and empirically debunked statement about the ease of ignoring one's own feelings.

    One last note: you can take God out of the moral picture by regarding moral philosophy as the cultivation of empathy and the application of reason to empathy. And empathy is all about feelings -- the very thing we cannot ignore when we make our choices.

    • "At this point, contributors to this site should have realized that "If God does not exist, then the concept of “good” is meaningless" is incredibly offensive to atheists, so that if you want to make that case (and go ahead!) then you're need to do so with more substance and rigor than by tossing off a false, meaningless, and empirically debunked statement about the ease of ignoring one's own feelings."

      Thanks for the comment, Rob! Hope you have safe travels. A few things in reply.

      First, I'm confused how the statement that goodness depend on God is "incredibly offensive." You may disagree with the statement, or the arguments supporting it, but I'm not sure how it deeply offends. As Catholics, that's not our intention at all.

      Second, I'll grant that Trent didn't make a strong case that goodness depends on God--he merely asserted it. But that was not the purpose of this article. In the next couple weeks, we're going to feature an eight-part debate between two philosophers, one Catholic and the other atheist, on whether morality depends on God. You'll have plenty of chances to analyze the Catholic position then.

      Third, perhaps we can save this for our upcoming morality debate, but I'm curious how you've empirically debunked the statement "goodness (or morality) depends on God."

      • robtish

        I haven't empirically debunked the statement that goodness depends on God. Rather, the OP made his case for that statement by asserting we can simply choose to ignore our feelings, and I provided empirical evidence which debunks that.

        I'm really looking forward to the eight-part debate. I think that's an excellent decision! Thanks, Brandon.

      • In the next couple weeks, we're going to feature an eight-part debate between two philosophers, one Catholic and the other atheist, on whether morality depends on God.

        Excellent!

      • Paul Boillot

        Brandon,

        You say "I'm not sure how it deeply offends," but I wonder if, given the vocality and thoroughness of your atheist contributors, that means no one has explained its offensiveness, or you haven't been listening.

        I have had religious people explain, patiently, to me that because I don't believe I am not a moral person.

        • "I have had religious people explain, patiently, to me that because I don't believe I am not a moral person."

          I agree that view can be offensive, but this isn't what Trent said. Trent never wrote that atheists are necessarily immoral. He wrote that if God does not exist, the concept of “good” is meaningless.

          I'm afraid you're claiming to be "deeply offended" by a strawman.

          • Andre Boillot

            Brandon,

            While Trent may not have said that "atheists are necessarily immoral", what he's seemingly implying is that moral atheists are at best piggy-backing off of religious notions of good - and that any secular attempts at morality are meaningless. Would you agree that is the gist of his comments? Can you really not imagine somebody taking issue with being told that they can not reason their way to morality without first positing god?

          • Quanah

            Andre,

            No on reasons their way to morality in a vacuum regardless or whether they first posit God or not. Rather than piggy-backing we can say that everyone is formed by the culture in which they grew up. The history of the world is religious. Regardless of whether or not notions of good originally came from religion, religions have played a massive role in the development of those notions. This door swings the other way too. While religion has played perhaps the largest role it is not by any means the only one. Our own culture and notions of good have also been influenced by atheistic "enlightenment" philosophies. Whether or not I agree with those philosophies, my notions of what is right and wrong is influenced by them. It is impossible to completely throw off the culture in which were formed.

          • Andre Boillot

            Quanah,

            Good points, all around. Sorry if I gave the impression that I (or any individual), all on my own, have reasoned my way to a moral system which does not rely on god(s). Obviously both secular and religious philosophies rely a great deal on the work of earlier generations.

          • Seculars can reason with their notions of morality, but will be hard for them to place the reason why they ought to be good somewhere else besides themselves or something that is subject of change trough time.

            God is placed first because He is the paradigm of good. That's all.

            I'll wait for the eight posts series of such debate that @bvogt1:disqus comment.

          • Mikegalanx

            Just like to point out that Nietszche was among those claiming
            that modern secular humanism/liberalism was piggybacking off Christian morality- the point of the Parable of the Madman

          • Paul Boillot

            Brandon,

            I am afraid that, in the middle of reprimanding me for engaging with an argument not made by the author, you are guilty of...engaging with an argument not made by me.

            Hoisted by your own petard!

            I was never "claiming to be 'deeply offended,'" I just pointed out that for a man who seems eager to engage with, and learn the viewpoints of, atheists, your claiming confusion on the question is...surprising.

            On the other hand, just because I did not claim to be "deeply offended" doesn't mean that I wasn't, haven't been before, or won't be again...simply that you are putting words in my keyboard.

            Now, back to the argument at hand: Mr. Horn managed, in between calling my ancestors worm-food, to call me a narcissist and a nihilist...and you're unsure why one would then take offense to the innocuous observation that my "concept of good is meaningless"??

            There are many atheists, and I am one, who would like to make that case that human morality is neither a facet of meaningless and purely individualistic relativism, nor of a platonic-absolute.

            You may disagree with the statement, or the arguments supporting it, but I doubt that you (and Mr. Horn) have never heard it before, and feigning confusion when atheists bridle at being insulted is an odd disconnect.

            Lastly, good sir, I'll have you and Mr. Horn know that all my relatives have been buried in lead-lined coffins.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think your point that feelings and desires (wants and needs) keep arising no matter what is valid. We desire and expect perfect happiness securely possessed forever. We keep trying to find it one way or another. Why would we even want to stop desiring what is truly good?

      I would add one thing, though, habits can form and even change our emotions and reactions. These habits can be good (virtues) or bad (vices).

  • Octavo

    "It is atheism that encourages narcissism."

    That statement is very rude, and it paints with a very broad brush all non-theistic philosophies, which include various shades of humanism, Buddhism, and existentialism - all extremely different philosophies that teach different ideas about the human condition in relation to the universe.

    "The only alternative to narcissism for atheists is nihilism, or the belief that nothing really matters, since the universe has no plan or purpose."

    The universe has plenty of plans and purposes. They're just located in brains. Finding a worthwhile purpose to follow isn't easy, but I don't think it's actually much easier for theists, either.

    "...if everything is an accident then all that matters is how life turns out for you."

    It matters to me how life turns out for me, my family, my friends, my state, my country, my species, and my planet.

    I started expanding the circle of people I cared about when I lost my faith.

    ~Jesse Webster

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Unfortunately, a lot of apologists don't just defend their side. They attack, sometimes unfairly, the other side.

      Do you now think there was something erroneous about the conception of the faith you lost since it limited who you cared about?

      • Octavo

        "Do you now think there was something erroneous about the conception of the faith you lost since it limited who you cared about?"

        I'm not sure that my variety of religion limited who I cared about. Losing that religion gave me a new perspective on human suffering, since I realized that there is no afterlife governed by justice and mercy.

        I don't think I would ever go so far to say that believing in gods or afterlives has a deleterious effect on human empathy. There are just too many permutations of belief, and I think that many religions do a good job of encouraging empathy and charity.

        If I'm being too wishy washy here, I can easily call out two belief systems that do discourage empathy: Ayn Randian Objectivism (atheistic) and Calvinism (theistic). Opposing those ideologies can definitely be something that brings atheists and theists together.

        ~Jesse Webster

  • Ben Posin

    While the original article doesn't seem to have gone into great detail, this article here is no great shakes either. I'm a little dismayed at the quick one-off answers to what really do amount to serious problems or issues. It doesn't really fit a spirit of good faith and discovery.

    On 1: the question is whether God (at least as described in the bible) gives the appropriate amount of correction, guidance, feedback, etc for a human parent. I don't think it's that much of a stretch to suggest God does not, but would rather not get bogged down in individual biblical examples. Could even a Catholic get behind the idea that human parents may not best be served by following the exact example of something non-human? I don't think that's out of the question.

    On 2: don't be a smarmy, smug...person who is smarmy and smug. I suspect when the original author suggested God does not behave reasonably or logically, that's what she probably meant. And as alluded to above, trying to wipe away the problem of evil with one reference to the new testament doesn't really fly. Do you really think a parent can (or should) get away with acting in what appears to be a capricious way towards his or her children, and then telling them that the reasons are a mystery, and they'd better go spend some time with parent-apologists who can try to explain the seemingly inexplicable actions of a parent?

    On 3-4: once again, the author here seems to declare victory in the debates concerning the problem of evil. Uh...good job? As with 2, I don't think even Catholics believe that parents should hand out the bad and good in their children's lives in such a way that we need complicated apologetics to attempt to explain it. So, yes, this is a way in which God is not a good role model for a parent.

    5: I would hope that on rereading this point, the author here is embarassed. As with the problem of evil, smuggling in the argument from design, as if that's a settled issue, is in pretty poor taste. If one has spoken with atheists at all on these sort of issues (rather than speaking at them), it should be obvious that atheists don't, in general, find the argument from design convincing. But even if one were to pretend for a moment that the existence of the universe implies some sort of creative being or force at the "beginning," this analogy actually works against the author's argument. Telling an adopted child that his birth mother loved him is just making something up if you don't actually know. Similarly...it seems odd that one should try to convince a child to love the creative force behind the univese without having more actual knowledge on the subject--it's going to involve a lot of making stuff up.

    6. Reading the comments here, it sounds like we're going to have a genuine discussion about the origins of morality at some point. So I won't belabor the issue too much here, except to note that 1) it has not been established that any sort of objective morality actually does or can exist 2) if there is such a thing as objective morality, it has not been proved that it has any need for or connection to a God and 3) the author needs to both be more introspective and get out more. Would you really start going on a grand theft auto like spree if it turned out that you were wrong about the existence of God? Do you see that kind of behavior in the atheists you have encountered? Your view of how morality works doesn't seem to really map on to what you can see in the world around you, and I hope it doesn't match your own introspections!!!

    7. Nuh-uh, the author here has it backward! This one may actually end up being a matter of perspective, but to my mind it's pretty humbling to get a visceral grip on our actual origins, whereas the idea that we live in a world created specially for us, made as something of a precursor and trial for our souls before we get to live forever in other places also made specially for us, overseen by a 3omni being who is not just totally awesome but also loves and cares about us, and has a cosmic plan we're at the center of---well, that doesn't exactly drip humility about man's place is the cosmos.

    My real point isn't that these are knockdown counter arguments to this article, but that the shallow article above tries to sidestep the fact that the original article had reasonable objections to wanting to raise one's child as a believer in a God, or using God as a role model in raising a child, at least as protrayed in western society. To join a commenter or two here, I found the original author's flyby a bit offensive, myself.

    • Quanah

      I too was surprised by the quick one-off answers. While there was a lot to respond to, it is possible to formulate a response that truly addresses the points made in the original article with a little more depth and, therefore, more appropriate to a site such as this. It's a small thing, but in response to your response to #2 above, I'd like to offer some food for thought or at the very least a clarification of the position of a believer (in my case Catholic).

      Sometimes parents act quite reasonably rather than capriciously, but they appear capricious to their children because their children do not have the whole picture. I abhor the idea that something "is not for us to understand," but that is not the same thing as saying that something is a mystery, which is a proper answer. By saying something of God or the reason for His action is a mystery I affirm two thing, one about myself and the other about Him: 1) the limits of my own intellect, and 2) that while I may not ever fully comprehend what I seek to know it can be known.

  • R Bonwell parker

    Mr. Horn can and should express his views as a Christian, but he should not speak for what atheists believe, as he does in response to point 7. Nobody, including atheists, believe what he claims they believe.

  • DannyGetchell

    It should be reasonably easy to look at some different nations/cultures, comparing them according to their degree of expressed belief (via surveyed opinion) in the Christian God, and then graphing that belief against the rates of crime/divorce/corruption/poverty, to see whether bringing children up to believe in God has a measurable benefit. If anyone is aware of such a study, I would like to be pointed to it......

  • Casey Braden

    "This is backward. It is atheism that encourages narcissism, because if everything is an accident then all that matters is how life turns out for you. The only alternative to narcissism for atheists is nihilism, or the belief that nothing really matters, since the universe has no plan or purpose."

    I think that Mr. Horn is presenting a false dichotomy here, as I simply can not see how nihilism is the only other option to "narcissistic atheism." Even if there is no ULTIMATE purpose or plan, that does not mean that nothing matters to me. My life holds a great deal of meaning and purpose for me, despite not feeling that there is a divine plan for it.

    • Lionel Nunez

      You're completely right; he forgot that there are two other possibilities; that a person can suspect God exists but be indifferent to the knowledge for the sake of pure hedonism or that someone might just be stupid and engage in severe cognitive dissonance where they profess an ideology where the only intellectually honest lifestyles would be disgusting narcissism, dull hedonism, or depressing nihilism, but choose none of the three.

      • Geena Safire

        a person can suspect God exists but be indifferent to the knowledge for the sake of pure hedonism

        That fallacy is a story believers tell themselves -- and that preachers like to repeat -- so they feel righteous about their abstemious lifestyle.

        I suppose some atheists have a residual nagging doubt for a while, due to the threats since early childhood of an eternity in horrible anguish in hell. But the feeling fades, like the fear of an abusive husband who has died.

        someone might just be stupid and engage in severe cognitive dissonance where they profess an ideology where the only intellectually honest lifestyles would be disgusting narcissism, dull hedonism, or depressing nihilism, but choose none of the three.

        Oh pahleeeze! First, the average atheist is more intelligent than the average believer.

        Second, the less educated someone is, the more likely they are to be a believer.

        Third, if you define narcissism as "someone who has a very difficult time believing in anything greater than themselves," then tautologically you can claim victory. But you'd be wrong.

        Fourth, if you define hedonism as having a lifestyle that is not as restrictive as that of people who feel called to severely restrict their behavior for no good psychological or sociological reason, then tautologically you can claim victory. But you'd be wrong. (Plus, if that were the proper definition of hedonism, it's not dull.)

        Fifth, nihilism is not inherently depressing. There's some depression as you deprogram yourself from all the sermons from a lifetime that drilled into you that eternal life, becoming perfect, and serving a deity were the only true goals a good life could have. The fear fades first, then the depression, and then eventually the anger at the lies and the wasted years.

        Lionel, if you're going to play in this sandbox, you'd better bring better toys.

        • Lionel Nunez

          Abstemious? I'm happy to let you know that there's nothing abstemious about my lifestyle or that of any christian; we reject what is bad and indulge, very much, in what is good and will make us happy forever. And you made a lot bold claims; evidence please? And lets save my fingers some effort now shall we?

          http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/narcissism?s=t

          http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hedonism?s=t

          http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nihilism

          • Geena Safire

            Religiosity and Intelligence

            Narcissism: "inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. Synonyms: self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism."

            This is not"someone who has a very difficult time believing in anything greater than themselves"

            Hedonism: "the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good.devotion to pleasure as a way of life."

            This is not "having a lifestyle that is not as restrictive as that of people who feel called to severely restrict their behavior for no good psychological or sociological reason."

            Nihilism at Wikipedia - Note: The view that some atheists hold is existential nihilism. "Existential nihilism is the belief that life has no intrinsic meaning or value." There are other kinds that are not relevant.

            As to this view, I'll close with a quote from Bertrand Russell:

            "Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own."

      • Mikegalanx

        "...someone might just be stupid and engage in severe cognitive dissonance where they profess an
        ideology where the only intellectually honest lifestyles would be
        disgusting narcissism, dull hedonism, or depressing nihilism, but choose
        none of the three."

        Sounds like 'sincere and respectful dialogue' to me

        • Lionel Nunez

          Hence, why it was omitted from article(in regards to being respectful it doesn't quite mesh), but if you disagree that this is a valid claim respecting what are the only intellectually viable positions for atheism, then by all means, correct me. I am not in the business of stroking my ego, I am in the business of truth. Tell me what is true and what is not.

          *To clarifiy; why do say "disgusting narcissism, dull hedonism, or depressing nihilism" aren't the only intellectually honest positions for atheists and what do say are?*

          • Casey Braden

            I'll just ignore your insulting and misinformed notion of the only intellectually honest lifestyles an atheist could hold to, as I really don't think it needs a response. Let's assume for a minute that I hold to "weak atheism," which is the disbelief in claims of the existence of God (as opposed to strong atheism, which is the assertion that there are no gods). How is this intellectually dishonest? I am not asserting to know anything that I don't. In fact, I am withholding belief until there is enough evidence for me to believe something. When I don't know something, I am perfectly okay saying "I don't know." I'm pretty sure this is the definition of being "intellectually honest."

            And, to be clear, with your question about what is true, are you looking for a moral philosophy? I don't see how an atheist would need to have a "philosophy of everything," since we continue to learn more and more about the universe every day. I don't think I need to have a philosophy to explain everything, since it would really just be a brain exercise without evidence to support it.

  • Geena Safire

    With regard to the CNN article author's fourth point, "God does not protect the innocent."

    If God created the universe, with its hundred billion galaxies, each of them with a hundred billion stars, most of which have planets, God could have put each real person on their own planet, populated with other artificial people acting very real, as in The Truman Show. This way, all the necessary challenges could be presented to the person to develop spiritually without the person having to suffer at the hands of other real people who act with great evil because God feels the need to give them free will.

    Or, in the words of Tracie Harris on The Atheist Experience, "If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That's the difference between me and your God. He watches and says, ' I'm shutting the door and you go ahead and rape that child and, when you're done, I'm gonna punish you. ' If I did that, people would think I was a freaking monster."

    • Vasco Gama

      Then Geena, maybe God expects that each and everyone finds reason to chose not to harm the innocent, rather protect him.

      • Geena Safire

        If God exists and is all-knowing, then he knows that he cannot expect that, because he knows what they will actually do and what humans have been doing for 300,000 years. He knows and knew in advance and allows it to happen.

        If I put a person in a cage with a hungry lion and a short sword, I could say that I expect the lion to sit calmly in the corner. But nobody would believe me, nor should they.

        • DannyGetchell

          Got that right Geena.

          I have heard all my life that we need a God to give us a moral code, and that code is all that keeps us from robbing, raping, and killing because there's literally "no tomorrow".

          The problem is that a world with the uninhibited "free will" and propensity to sin (provided us courtesy of the same God) featuring millions of robberies, rapes and murders every year, sometimes turning up the wick in cataclysms like World War I, the Ukrainian famine, and the Holocaust, is scarcely distinguishable from a world in which no God-given moral code had ever been given.

          • Horatio

            Outside of a religious morality --let's table specifically Christian morality for now-- , what basis is there for the humane treatment of the Other? If there is not a beneficent, transcendent, transuniversal Mind, Person or Love of some form, why should we aspire to more than our basal behaviors? Why not be kind and good to people who are close to you and do whatever you fancy to those you don't? Surely Nature is not a source of moral instruction; but if only the mind is the source of moral Truth, then if in 400 years slavery is acceptable would it then be "ok?"

            I'm not just being rhetorical; I am genuinely interested in hearing a defense of our moral code in the Christian (or post-Christian West) that holds up if there is in fact No God. It seems to me that if there isn't, then our modern moral notions of Liberalism, Humanism, and Egalitarianism are on rather shaky ground, which worries me greatly.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I'm not just being rhetorical; I am genuinely interested in hearing a defense of our moral code in the Christian (or post-Christian West) that holds up if there is in fact No God. It seems to me that if there isn't, then our modern moral notions of Liberalism, Humanism, and Egalitarianism are on rather shaky ground, which worries me greatly."

            I'm not sure I understand your question. Perhaps there was a typo? Did you mean to say:

            "I am genuinely interested in hearing a defense of our moral code in the Christian (or post-Christian) West that holds up if there is in fact No God."

            Also, I'm not sure that the foundations of Liberalism, Humanism, and Egalitarianism are especially (if at all) reliant on the existence of god(s). On the other hand, I would worry plenty about how the "Christian West" (essentially, USA) would react were the underpinnings of Judeo-Christian tradition to be compromised in some way.

          • Horatio

            No typo that I notice. Rephrased, my question is: how can our modern moral traditions hold without axioms which were or are religiously inspired?

            Let's take Egalitarianism. What basis is there for universal human equality beyond an axiomatic religious assumption? There are smart people, dumb people, people who are dishonorable, people who are upright. Why should two adversaries be treated equally before the Law, especially if one is a pillar of the community?

            I would find a compelling, nonreligious justification immensely reassuring for the future.

          • Vasco Gama

            Andre,

            I guess that "Natural Law Theory" doesn't rely on the existence of supernatural commandments.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm not sure what you mean.

          • Vasco Gama

            Moral and ethics (in modern societies) doesn't rely on supernatural commandments (although I guess that that is the case in theocracies). Usualy they are suported rationality without the appeal to any sort of divinity.

            In religious communities, however there is a supernatural support for the moral norms.

          • David Nickol

            I guess that "Natural Law Theory" doesn't rely on the existence of supernatural commandments.

            Although there are apparently some atheistic theories of natural law, I think for the most part the idea rests on determining purposes in the world, and for most natural law theorists, I think they look to the idea of God as the one who determined what those purposes are. For example, the argument against lying is that the purpose of speech is to tell the truth. The argument against almost every sexual practice you can think of is that the purpose of sex is procreation. And of course for Christian conceptions of natural law, "real" human nature is taken to be what humans were supposed to be like if there had not been "the Fall." So I think Christian natural law theories actually boil down to "what God wants."

          • Vasco Gama

            I would say that the idea suported by NLT is that the laws (or moral norms) can be deduced from "human nature", here of course the norms have to conform to what we define as "human nature", it is problematic to the extent of what is to be considered "human nature" is (in any way it doesn't rest of supernatural claims, but on what it is found to be human nature). In any case, the grounds for morality doesn't rest on supernatural claims, that would be unacceptable (I guess, however it may well be that I guess to much and that I am completely wrong )

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think natural law theories boil down to an adequate understanding of human nature.

            As the pagan philosopher Cicero put it:

            For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense.... To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.

          • Horatio

            I'm not sure why we should care that Cicero was a pagan for the sake of this particular discussion. "Pagans" can have religious sentiments, too. Clearly, Cicero and many great Romans had strong religious beliefs, including a particularly numinous view of The Law.

            I think natural law theories boil down to an adequate understanding of human nature.

            How do we square this notion with the ubiquity of ritual human sacrifice in disparate high cultures? Of slavery? People in various places were comfortable with them for millennia. Why should we place a moratorium on them now? Why is "our version" better? In what sense is it better?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The reason that I mentioned that Cicero was a pagan is that David had just said that Christian natural law theories boil down to 'what God wants.'

            I would square the notion that natural law boils down to an adequate understanding of human nature (or Cicero's term "right reason") with long-accepted evils like slavery or human-sacrifice due to the fact that many individuals and cultures do not have adequate notions of human nature or do not care not to live by them.

          • Andre Boillot

            Let's leave aside whether or not religion provides the strong basis for egalitarianism you see to think it does. You mean to tell me you can't think of reasons (independent of the existence of god) that it's better for individuals to be treated equally under the law?

          • Horatio

            You mean to tell me you can't think of reasons (independent of the existence of god) that it's better for individuals to be treated equally under the law?

            Truthfully, I can't think of compelling ones. However, as in all things, I am willing to be convinced otherwise.

            Addendum: I suppose it's not obvious that I'm not talking about "supernatural commandments" (i.e. the Ten Commandments/Talmudic Law/whatever rigid commandments you may be thinking of), but rather religious sentiments re: the equality of all Men before God. In what other sense are all Men equal?

          • Andre Boillot

            "Truthfully, I can't think of compelling ones. However, as in all things, I am willing to be convinced otherwise."

            You don't see how it's worse for society if, as you put it, a "pillar of the community" enjoyed explicit legal advantage in a dispute with another? You can think of no negative outcomes if a justice system were warped so as to favor one group over another?

            I'll use an example of a fairly recent case in the US: the discrepancy between mandatory sentencing for crack-cocaine vs. powder-cocaine. If you're not familiar, sentencing for crack-cocaine (primarily Black users) was far more severe - both in length and amounts needed to trigger penalties - than sentencing for powder-cocaine (primarily White users). In the lead up to the passing of the 'Fair Sentencing Act', former head of the DEA, Asa Hutchinson, had this to say:

            "As I talked to front line agents and drug task force officers, there was recognition that the current disparity was undermining confidence in the fairness of the criminal justice system. This makes it harder for the street agent to receive cooperation from informants and cooperating individuals. It also erodes the credibility of law enforcement and diminishes the ability to get jury convictions. The strength of our system of justice is totally dependent on the perception of fairness and the acceptance of penalties by the general public as being largely just."

            http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/pdf/09-047-29HutchinsonTestimony.pdf

            Hopefully this helps illustrate why we need to equality under the law.

          • Horatio

            It also erodes the credibility of law enforcement and diminishes the ability to get jury convictions. The strength of our system of justice is totally dependent on the perception of fairness and the acceptance of penalties by the general public as being largely just."

            But even our sense of justice has been malleable through time. In Old Mexico, there's no evidence that a common Mexica expected equal treatment as a Lord as a matter of justice. Yet, that society was fundamentally stable for hundreds of years (until it was destroyed from without).

            But I'll assume (for the sake of argument) that there is a stabilizing role of egalitarianism from the standpoint of social mechanics.

            Having said that, consider some reductio ad absurdum: if the Emperor steals a baguette from a street vendor, it would more disruptive to imprison the Emperor than to apply a double standard in judging him? Shouldn't men and women be judged and sentenced based on their importance to that society? From a purely teleological standpoint, there'd be no reason not to. But clearly, there's something emotionally distasteful about allowing such double standards which is more important than the social mechanics at play. I hold that such emotion stems ultimately from religious sensibilities that are our cultural heritage. In this sense, even a professedly nonreligious person can possess those emotions, but how long with they last unmoored?

          • Andre Boillot

            "But even our sense of justice has been malleable through "time. In Old Mexico, there's no evidence that a common Mexica expected equal treatment as a Lord as a matter of justice."

            You're only outlining an expectation of injustice, not that the common man of Old Mexico was unaware of what justice should be.

            "if the Emperor steals a baguette from a street vendor, it would more disruptive to imprison the Emperor than to apply a double standard in judging him?"

            Look, you kicked this off asking why Egalitarianism was good in the context of "modern moral traditions". If you want to start transposing modern humanist ideas onto imperial systems, yeah, it's going to get messy.

          • Horatio

            That's fair enough. But change "emperor" to "great scientist" "great engineer" or "critical bureaucrat", or whatever. It would be more advantageous for that society to give him or her incredible legal leeway.

            You're only outlining an expectation of injustice, not that the common man of Old Mexico was unaware of what justice should be.

            Without invoking any religious qualities, why is our perception of how Law should work more correct than his?

          • Andre Boillot

            "Without invoking any religious qualities, why is our perception of justice more correct than his?"

            At this point, I suppose I should challenge you as to how you believe religious qualities remedy this.

          • Horatio

            A religious assumption most of us hold (most of us Humans on planet Earth, I'd wager) is that all people are equal as creatures before God, deserving of consistent regard regardless of our social importance, which may as well be Zero when compared to the Infinite. Additionally, most of the Enlightenment thinkers from whom we inherited zeal for the notion of Egalitarianism were professed theists.

            Again, in what other sense are all Men equal? How can we justify the statement materially?

          • Andre Boillot

            The problem, for me, is that history would tend to dispute this claim - that religion is where we see a movement towards the notion of equality for all men. For ages, concepts like the divine right of kings elevated certain groups of men over others - not to mention men over women.

            Claiming that most Enlightenment thinkers were theists does nothing to show that they based their philosophy on religious foundations.

          • Horatio

            The problem, for me, is that history would tend to dispute this claim - that religion is where we see a movement towards the notion of equality for all men. For ages, concepts like the divine right of kings elevated certain groups of men over others - not to mention men over women.

            Consider Europe, specifically. I don't think any serious historian would argue that the Church wasn't a humanizing influence in the ruins after the downfall of Antiquity. It also endorsed some practices which promoted inequality and brutality, to be sure. But it also rejected the casual brutality of the day as inferior to Love. It was that religious underpinning which led us, ultimately but circuitously, to the moral institutions of today.

            Claiming that most Enlightenment thinkers were theists does nothing to show that they based their philosophy on religious foundations.

            Well, Thomas Jefferson argued so in the American Declaration of Independence. Later on, so did John Brown and Martin Luther King, in opposition to inequality.

            Addendum: Again, how else can we argue the equality of all Men? It seem that it must begin with an axiom that is contrary to nature. I invite correction in this regard.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Well, Thomas Jefferson argued so in the American Declaration of Independence."

            Jefferson was more deist than theist, so I'm not sure it would be accurate to say that -- as the man who's version of the bible was devoid of any supernatural aspects -- Jefferson based his notions of equality in religion. He certainly assumes a Creator, but argues that the equality of men is self-evident.

          • Horatio

            Jefferson was more deist than theist,

            Please illuminate the importance of this distinction here. A deist yet believes in a creator God.
            He argues that they are created equal, and then "endowed by their Creator" with rights as a justification of Liberalism. Is this different from the same axioms from any Christian? If so, how so? The Jefferson Bible was indeed removed of magic or mysticism, but neither of those things is required by belief in God per se.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Please illuminate the importance of this distinction here. A deist yet believes in a creator God."

            You're arguing that we get our notions of equality from religion, and using Jefferson as an example of a theist basing equality in religion. I'm saying that Jefferson's deistic beliefs don't constitute religion. Further, mere belief in a creator god doesn't explain why Jefferson thought all men were created equal.

          • Horatio

            If you don't like my using the word "religion" here, and think I used it incorrectly, well, fine. We'll say "faith in God" or "belief in a God or Gods", or whatever you like. It's all synonymous to me anyway.

            At this point, I've put my share on the table. Now, it's your turn. Please explain what else Jefferson may have meant, despite his explicit use of theistic language.

          • Andre Boillot

            "If you don't like my using the word "religion" here, and think I used it incorrectly, well, fine."

            Err, ok?

            "We'll say "faith in God" or "belief in a God or Gods", or whatever you like. It's all synonymous to me anyway."

            It's also not particularly helpful when attempting to make the argument that religion leads to equality, as evidenced by countless religious societies having practiced slavery, for example.

            "At this point, I've put my share on the table. Now, it's your turn. Please explain what else Jefferson may have meant, despite his explicit use of theistic language."

            I'm not sure what you mean here. It's clear that Jefferson believed in a Creator - though what that implied, or how that explained his notion of equality, I don't know. It should be noted that Jefferson is a complicated example for anyone to use in terms of religion or equality. Despite writing that all men are created equal, he was a slave-owner. Despite lack of belief in the Bible's supernatural claims, he was part of the local Episcopalian leadership.

          • Horatio

            I'm not sure what you mean here

            Please explain how you think Jefferson would have established his belief in equality, if not from an appeal to our relationship to a common Creator God.

            Jefferson is a complicated example

            Indeed, he and other great intellects are often difficult to pin down. I can't trust a fanatic of any stripe.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Please explain how you think Jefferson would have established his belief in equality, if not from an appeal to our relationship to a common Creator God."

            I don't know how Jefferson arrives at his notion that because we are created by god, we are created equally -- just that he asserts it. This leaves me ill-equipped to tell you how he would establish this without assuming a creator god.

          • Horatio

            Or pick anyone: from the Enlightenment, from before, from after --I don't care. I am interested in reading and considering a defense of the notion (or of Humanism, or Altruism, or Liberalism) which can stand without a theistic axiom. Walk me through their reasoning.

          • Andre Boillot

            You could try Kant, for starters.

          • Horatio

            And what does Kant say?

          • Andre Boillot

            A gross distillation of his philosophy would be:

            "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law"

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundwork_for_the_Metaphysics_of_Morals

          • Horatio

            "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law"

            But why should we act this way?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G...

            Why not distill the argument(s) and put them succinctly in your own words?

          • Andre Boillot

            "Why not distill the argument(s) and put them succinctly in your own words?"

            Mostly because everyone hates reading Kant, as he's especially dense and complicated.

            Basically: act in ways that you would want everyone to act.

          • Horatio

            I'm not interested in debating with against a Wikipedia article. I guess we're done, then.

          • Andre Boillot

            Horatio,

            I hope you aren't taking my links to Kant as wanting to cut the discussion short, or dismissing you in some way. You were asking me to summarize some pretty complex moral philosophy that's widely considered some of the most demanding / rigorous reading there is. My links were an effort to ensure that my poor summary of material I haven't studied in depth since college were not all that was presented.

            I'm surprised that you seem unfamiliar with Kant though, considering the sweeping statements you made concerning enlightenment thinkers, and Kant's massive influence in this area.

            PS. In reviewing our conversation, I've noticed that you continue to make significant edits to your statements without any notation. A reminder that this is considered bad form.

          • Horatio

            I'm surprised that you seem unfamiliar with Kant though, considering the sweeping statements you made concerning enlightenment thinkers, and Kant's massive influence in this area.

            Of course I'm familiar with him, but that doesn't make me a Kant scholar, nor does it make anyone. I'm asking you to distill his argument and rephrase to prove it is intelligible and defensible. If it takes tracts and tracts to prove his point, I'm still pretty worried about the future of Egalitarianism as a concept: in science at least, it's axiomatic that the more complex a theory is, the less likely it is to be true.

            Re: edits: I'm sorry.

          • Horatio

            I'm surprised that you seem unfamiliar with Kant though, considering the sweeping statements you made concerning enlightenment thinkers, and Kant's massive influence in this area.

            Of course I'm familiar with him, but that doesn't make me a Kant scholar, nor does reading a Wikipedia article. I'm asking you to distill his argument and rephrase to prove it is intelligible and defensible. If you can't do that, how can you be so sure he avails you?

            Re: edits: I'm sorry.

            (Repost)

          • Andre Boillot

            "I'm asking you to distill his argument and rephrase to prove it is intelligible and defensible."

            I've already attempted a distillation of his categorical imperative.

            Act in ways that you would want everyone to act.

            You apparently didn't see why this has merit (which I find strange).

            I suppose I could try offering a few examples:

            -Why shouldn't we steal? Because if everyone did then property would be meaningless.

            -Why shouldn't we lie? Because if everyone did, then contracts, agreements, and trust in general break down.

            If you still don't see merits of his argument, I don't know what to tell you. That's not to say that it's a perfect system, but I feel like I've answered your questions honestly.

          • Horatio

            "I'm asking you to distill his argument and rephrase to prove it is intelligible and defensible."

            I've already attempted a distillation of his categorical imperative.

            Act in ways that you would want everyone to act.

            You apparently didn't see why this has merit (which I find strange).

            I simply ask you to justify the statement--to follow the reasoning back to its axioms, so we can both see how Kant arrived there. You implied that you understood his argument, so I think you should be able to defend it in modern English. (Also, a tip: you can't presume to know what I feel about the statement simply because I want to see how you justify it).

            I'd like to address the below points in a bulleted fashion. Again, please don't make the assumption that I feel a certain way based on these questions, or that I haven't thought of my own answers to them. Pretend that I am an idiot child inquiring with no preconceptions or prejudice.

            -Why shouldn't we steal? Because if everyone did then property would be meaningless.

            (a)Why is having property better for the society than not having property? Why support institutions which protect the concept of private property?

            (b)If private property is desirable (pending justification), why should an unproductive town reprobate be allowed to have property, if it could be but to better use for that society as an orphanage or as laboratory space or cheap housing for workers? How can we justify not relieving him of his property for more productive uses?

            -Why shouldn't we lie? Because if everyone did, then contracts, agreements, and trust in general break down.

            Unfortunately, I'm going to avoid this one for now and keep the argument strictly to justifying egalitarianism and related concepts --not that I don't think it's worth addressing.

            That's not to say that it's a perfect system, but I feel like I've answered your questions honestly.

            Honestly, but superficially. Let's see were the rabbit hole goes.

          • Andre Boillot

            At this point, I'm starting to regret giving you an example of an Enlightenment thinker that didn't rely on theistic axioms, and/or of choosing Kant as that example. :)

            You say you're familiar with Kant so, rather than have me go through the lengthy process of clumsily exploring every last aspect of his philosophy, perhaps you could just tell me either where you think his ethics ultimately ground themselves in theistic axioms, or if not, how they fail as a result.

          • Horatio

            I am familiar with Kant, but that doesn't mean I'm educated enough on his philosophy to satisfactorily present his rationale, which I would need to do before I can deconstruct it. Yet, you again invite me to both present and deconstruct his argument, in which case you could just say: "Well, you don't really understand what Kant means." I therefore skip that distracting step, and ask you to explain his reasoning and present his axiomatic foundation. You presented him, so I assumed you understood his argument well enough to communicate it effectively. If you can't do that, you can choose someone else, if you like. I don't care who the argument comes from.

          • Andre Boillot

            "You presented him, so I assumed you understood his argument well enough to communicate it effectively."

            I guess we're both asses.

            I suppose I knew just enough to be dangerous - though from what I do recall, the categorical imperative doesn't rely on any theistic axioms, but always comes back to the following:

            - Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.

            - Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.

            - Therefore, every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends.

            Whether or not you find these compelling, they seem to meet the criteria of not relying on the existence of god, and I'm unaware (for what little that's worth) of him ever making theistic appeals for grounding any of these concepts. As for explaining his reasoning in detail - well that's a semester of college I've largely forgotten.

          • josh

            In practical terms, equality isn't an axiom, it is a principle of Law: all people are to be treated equally before the law. It is also a social goal: all people should be treated fairly by society. Although obviously that leaves a lot of argument about what constitutes fair treatment.

          • Horatio

            Law: all people are to be treated equally before the law. It is also a social goal: all people should be treated fairly by society

            Why?

          • josh

            Well that depends on who you ask of course, but what it boils down to for me is two things: 1) I want people to be treated fairly because I care about what happens to other people. 2) As a practical matter, who would sign up for a society that treated them as less before the law? We might like preferential treatment for ourselves, but the only thing you could hope to get everyone to agree on is equality.

          • Horatio

            to (1) Fair enough, but what if you're the only one who feels this way? How do you justify your mindfulness to other people who are only kind or fair to those close to them?

            to (2) No one signs up for society, you're born into it. Thankfully, you and I were born into societies where our autonomy and rights are respected, which is a historical anomaly.

            If an explanation relies to any extent on social mechanics, why should the Great Minds and Great Producers of a society be treated with the same regard as Have-Nots and Charity Recipients in matters of law? That society should have more to lose by disciplining such people and potentially driving them to societies where they will be given carte blanche for their talents. Such aristocracy is much more the norm for human beings, historically.

          • josh

            1) If I'm really the only one who cares about other people then I'm screwed, although I can try to leverage other people's self interest to mutually respectful ends. I don't need to justify my concerns, but if I want other people to adopt them I have to appeal to a common point. Most people do, at least potentially, have some sense of empathy even with outsiders, but it is an issue of persuasion and of taking down artificial barriers. (e.g. I can't rationally compel you to not hate Jews but I can rationally argue that adherence to Islam is not a reason to hate Jews). Against a true sociopath you have to threaten their own self interest.

            2)I agree, we are born into societies. But societies change over time so there is pressure to change depending on how content people are. The American revolutionaries wouldn't have had much of a motto in 'even less representation than before!' Historically, most society was small-scale hunter gatherer groups, which tend to be pretty egalitarian (although gender roles are still an issue). With the development of agriculture and large society you have the potential for big power differentials to develop. But I think those are kind of unstable in the long run. Which, unfortunately, doesn't rule out that we could have a succession of robber barons with occasional revolutions.

            We do give some special privileges to those in important positions, even putting aside what wealth can get you. That's why we have diplomatic immunity and Air Force one and presidential authority to take military action, but that last is a case in point where many of us are extremely wary of giving anyone that kind of power. Maybe I think I would use it wisely, but I don't trust others to have that power over me, so the stable solution is one that tends toward equality. (Or at least checks and balances).

          • Horatio

            Most people do, at least potentially, have some sense of empathy even with outsiders

            But nothing in Man has changed in the last few millennia years to account for the benignity of our current society. Through most of history, what empathy humans are capable of hasn't been enough to prevent the kinds of casual brutality which has been the historical norm for thousands of years; by one estimate, there is a 10% homicide rate in primitive cultures. Are people in Papua New Guinea on whom that estimate is based just less capable of empathy? If it's just a matter of social organization, what about Imperial China? There is a supremely stable civilization with a history of strict, brutal and distinctly un-empathetic Legalism. Clearly, there is a need to justify altruism and egalitarianism to others for the sake of their preservation.

            We do give some special privileges to those in important positions,

            Yet we still believe the Rule of Law applies to such individuals.

          • Mikegalanx

            One thing that has changed is the creation of enough wealth that we can be less violent because we know that there is, by and large, enough to go around- that is why, in democratic Third-World countries,elections are fought so fiercely and the results are challenged with violence. Losing often means you and your family lose their means of livelihood, and there aren't enough available alternatives outside of government patronage.

            Since you are using a capital "L" for Legalism, I assume you are speaking of the specific Chinese philosophy; in that case you are incorrect. Legalism was rejected as official political philosophy with the fall of the Qin (Chin) Dynasty in 207 BC; every subsequent dynasty was based on Confucianism, the heart of which is humaneness or benevolence (again,as in Christendom, the Golden Rule was more often paid lip service). The fact that China flourished for so long was due in some part to this ideal. The only hereditary position was that of Emperor; everything else was officially open to anyone through the examination (though like our present day society, it helped if your family was wealthy enough to for a good education)

            The idea that China was some vast slave empire ruled by cruel tyrants and populated entirely by groaning oppressed peasants ground into the mud is a fiction of Western imperialism.

            As Bertrand Russell supposedly said of Hegel's Theory of History "the only thing he knew about China was it existed,so he assigned it to the realm of Pure Being."

          • josh

            "But nothing in Man has changed in the last few millennia years to account for the benignity of our current society." I agree that it is a social change, not an issue of inherent capability. Steven Pinker attributes this to an expanding sphere of 'who is like myself' I think; who counts as similarly human or part of the group, which tends to grow with exposure to more cultures and a bigger picture of the world. I would say this reduces individual violence of the tribal type, although it also means that clashes between different large systems are devastating in the short term, hence the horrors of the World Wars.

            When I mentioned stability I was talking about the long term, and you could argue that we don't have a long enough experience to say if modern liberal democracies will last. But Imperial China was a series of dynasties ultimately overthrown by populist revolutions. (Colonialism played a role too but that was also repudiated.)

            "We do give some special privileges to those in important positions,"

            "Yet we still believe the Rule of Law applies to such individuals."

            Exactly. We've done away with the notion that some individuals are just divinely ordained for superiority. If we find it useful to put someone in a powerful position we want that position to be strictly governed and constrained.

          • josh

            From a Biblical perspective, God can reward and smite whom he pleases, regardless of dessert. C.f. the book of Job. Or, if you prefer, the New Testament view that only a select few righteous can even hope to get into heaven. Historically, this is how we see it used: King's and slave-masters were ordained as such by God. Women were inherently corrupt and weak by their intrinsic natures. Enlightenment thinking was partly a reaction against this, but still enmeshed in the culture it was modifying. Hence the fact that despite the noble sentiments most Enlightenment
            thinkers were nominally religious, as well as sexist, racist, and
            aristocratic.That's why the phrase is 'all Men were created equal'.

          • Guest

            That's fair enough. But change "emperor" to "great scientist" "great engineer" or "critical bureaucrat", or whatever. It would be more advantageous for that society to give him or her incredible legal leeway.

          • Andre Boillot

            No, not in modern, liberal societies.

          • Horatio

            This was me, while logged in, and it was deleted. Why it's still here as Guest, I don't know.

          • DannyGetchell

            Why should two adversaries be treated equally before the Law, especially if one is a pillar of the community?

            Well, if you are arguing that a "pillar of the community" should be punished more severely for a legal transgression than should an ordinary citizen, I think I might be able to come up with a rationale for agreeing with you.

          • Horatio

            Whichever way you want to play it, I suppose.

          • Mikegalanx

            As far as I'm concerned, Horatio this is a very valid point that hasn't been adequately answered. As I pointed out above, it was a main point of Nietszche's as well, who said that liberalism/humanism was simply a continuation of the "slave' morality of Christianity,and couldn't be maintained without God as a foundation. I also tend to disagree with a lot of my fellow atheists in that I believe atheism was contributory to the horrors of communism and fascism. After all, if you believe (as Fidel's speech at his trial was entitled) "History Will Absolve Me", you don't have to worry too much about absolution here and now.

            I can accept the origin of morals from our evolution as social animals,but this doesn't necessarily give an acceptable foundation for morality- in fact, it may make it harder. After all,if I know the reason I'm tempted to donate to famine relief for people I don't know is that back in the EEA if I gave a gazelle shinbone to somebody in the group they'd give something back later- doesn't that make it easier to justify walking on by?

            I've been an atheist for 47 years now (except for an immersion in Zen in my 20s- if that counts as religious) and this is the question I still don't have an answer for- why should we be moral?

            (Though I don't think theists have an answer either.)

        • Vasco Gama

          Yes, there you are right Geena.

          That would be very difficult to accomplish (if not impossible) if we had to do it just on our own. But God is not absent (and we rely on His assistance to help us).

          • Geena Safire

            [W]e (those who believe) rely on His assistance to help us.

            To help you out of an awful, difficult situation into which he put you. Plus you feel unworthy of his assistance, and you deserve the situation (into which he put you) because of your sinful nature. In fact, you are grateful for the situation which gives you the opportunity to become spiritually stronger and experience his love through it. Even if you die from the situation, it must be for his glory. You appreciate any assistance he offers, even if only the feeling of not facing it alone. That situation has so many of the signs of Stockholm Syndrome.

            (that so is not impotent or doomed to failure)

            The nine million children under five who die each year from preventable causes are impotent against their situation. The million people who commit suicide each year are doomed. The six million people who die of cancer every year deal with more than an apparent "impossibility." The quarter-million victims of natural disasters...

          • Vasco Gama

            Geena,

            I will try to address some of your misconceptions and perplexities, but I will not try to enter in detail in the discussion of the problem of evil that has been treated carefully by a variety of people, much better than I could do it. Plus these issues are not new and they have been discussed and subject of debate since antiquity, even before the creation of the Catholic Church.

            When the Catholics refer to God, it is not the tyranic entity that one may consider in a simplistic and naïf approach, in reality God is the first cause of existence, or being itself, with a variety of attributes (omnipotence, omniconscience, omnibenevolence…). God created everything that exist (existed or will exist), and created man in his image, giving us free will, reason and the ability to love (plus a variety of other attributes that made us what we are), in such a way that we could be able to enter in relation with Him. The world that God created is intelligible and we (as intelligent creatures) are able to grasp this intelligibility. And our purpose as human beings is in being in relationship with God, and our nature is fulfilled in this relationship.

            As Catholics we understand that there is one truth that is above everything and that is the love of God. Although we know that we don’t deserve it, we know that God loves us anyway. And even if could not rely on anything else, we can rely on His love.

            In making us in His image God allowed us to do good and evil, according to our will, and reason assists us on doing this one way or the other. In fact human beings have been able to find reasonable a variety of things, in what concerns to God, all along human history we found reasonable to attribute divinity to a variety of manifestations of nature, we found reason to create a number of false gods, we found reason to say that God doesn’t exist, we found reason to say that some human is divine, we may find reason to say that that is no god, besides ourselves and that only our desires matter. But, in spite of our free will and our reason may mislead us in finding reason where there is none, and in doing evil things instead of good ones, deep inside us we know this distinction. And we know that if we intend to direct us to do good we can do it, for that we rely on the assistance of God that can be consubstantiated in variety of ways, apart from our conscience that guides us, as the help of others (people we respect in our community), or the Church, or in pray.

            Considering human suffering, the harming and killing of the
            innocent, there is one thing that we find reasonable to do (without pretending that we are excluded from those errors) that is to oppose ourselves to those evil things that results from the exercise of free will in human activity.

      • Lionel Nunez

        God doesn't expect people 'find their own reason' to be good. He gives them the good things in their lives because to take things away to prevent them from doing evil would be to love us "less than could" and that would be inconsistent with God being perfectly good so he gives us the good things in our lives as if he didn't know what they were going to do. Now that said, God is powerful enough to compensate for the bad he knows will happen because of his defiance against evil but that doesn't change the fact the there will be bad people. Simply put blame human, who isn't perfect, for failing his divine purpose not God, who is perfect, for loving all of us infinitely so, in spite of the fact we don't deserve it.

    • Lionel Nunez

      That excludes the fact that such a reality would render personal choices irrelevant and thus violate free will. It also excludes the fact it would preclude anyone from receiving love from anyone else. And your quote, and the suggestion that goes with it, assumes that, if the God of the Christians were real, you would understand him perfectly and be capable determining how he functions and acts in each particular instance, including ones where you aren't present and don't have complete knowledge of the circumstances. It would, in effect, require that you be God, and I think everyone on this website can agree that neither you nor the person you quoted has Divine power or is omniscient.

      • Geena Safire

        That excludes the fact that such a reality would render personal choices irrelevant and thus violate free will.

        In what way would one's personal choices be irrelevant? The real person on each planet could either act with good will toward others, or could lie and steal and rape and kill (or at least believe he's killing). But the other 'people', not being real, would not actually suffer do to the real person's bad acts. Complete free will.

        assumes that, if the God of the Christians were real, you would understand him perfectly

        The morality inside of me is the only morality from which I can make a decision about whether something is good or bad.

        If you want to worship a deity that you think loves us all and wishes us well but in actuality created and allowed a world with this much evil and suffering, you are free to do so. Even if that deity did exist, I wouldn't worship it. I'd have to redefine love as allowing horrible, painful lives and great tragedy. I don't redefine up as down for anyone, and I won't redefine love that way.

        • Lionel Nunez

          Yes...that's why destroying a robot is punished in the same manner as killing a human...because the only important metric in Christian morality is the belief of the wrongness of the act...and if you're going to criticize a religion for being inconsistent then you need to first know the genuine position of that religion, as opposed to throwing out "what if" scenarios for a religion and then blithely applying your personal moral standards to it as proof it isn't real(i.e Question:"wouldn't putting one real person with a bunch of psuedo-people to test a person's goodness be better than putting a bunch of real people together when they might hurt each other?" Short answer according to RCC: "No") And really?! You were the one who asked the 'what if' question of "if God is real; then why child rape?" then when I raise a criticism about how you could possibly know if God was being 'less than perfectly good' in this circumstance you say "God isn't real; tool." (paraphrased) Either you actually address my criticism and argue from a place of good faith and intellectual honesty or you go home, simple as that. (metaphorically)

          • Geena Safire

            [Geena asked:] "wouldn't putting one real person with a bunch of psuedo-people to test a person's goodness be better than putting a bunch of real people together when they might hurt each other?" Short answer according to RCC: "No"

            I didn't make any proposal about what position the church should take. I just made a proposal that I thought would cause less misery and devastation.

            blithely applying your personal moral standards to it as proof it isn't real

            I never said it was proof of anything. And I don't talk about morality or great suffering 'blithely.'

            when I raise a criticism about how you could possibly know if God was being 'less than perfectly good' in this circumstance you say "God isn't real; tool." (paraphrased)

            No, I didn't.

            First, I know you believe in a deity and you know that I don't. I know you can't talk about him as if he didn't exist without saying "if." I can't talk about it as if it did exist unless I say "if." That's why I said, "if that deity did exist."

            Second, you asked whether I could assume that I would understand that deity perfectly. I replied to that question. I said that I can only evaluate the deity based on my morality and the information available to me.

            I understand that you believe that this deity is beyond human understanding and we cannot know why it does what it does, and you think that this situation is fine.

            I don't care if I can't fully understand it. I don't care if its complete knowledge is beyond me. Why? Because I can only make my moral evaluations based on my understanding and my knowledge. That's why I addressed your criticism that way.

            Either you actually address my criticism and argue from a place of good faith and intellectual honesty or you go home, simple as that. (metaphorically)

            First, I did address it. Second, I'm not down with the whole 'faith' thing; that's kind of the point.

            Third, I am being honest; you just seem to think I have to reply word-by-word to your comments. Not gonna happen. Just because you think a particular argument is hugely significant and should be persuasive doesn't mean I will find it to be so.

            Fourth, it is not your place to tell me whether I can participate in dialogue at Strange Notions. You are completely welcome not to reply to my comments if you don't like my replies to you.

          • Lionel Nunez

            Breaking it down...

            1.) The point isn't that you made a claim that isn't consist with the RCC. The point is that you made a claim inconsistent with theology...to disprove theology with theology...

            2.) 'blithely' in the sense your argument is lazy and lack intellectual rigor, not that you don't care about morals or people.

            3.) Your argument was about what you think would happen if God was real and why you thought that that intellectual inconsistency proved that he wasn't real. My question was in respect to how, what you thought God would have be like, couldn't be consistent with the qualities God was claimed, by Christians, to have. So either we're talking about different gods or you were just crafting a lazy argument that essentially just asserted "God isn't real" all over again. You then countered my criticism with the assertion that God isn't real.

            4.) And no, you didn't address my criticism, except in the most basic sense that you acknowledged that I wrote it. I mean 'addressed' as you either admit I'm correct or you present a counter-example, or admit you have no refutation.

            5.) 'Good faith' means you argue believing what you say and with the intention presenting evidence to support what you believe; as in, I can take it on 'good faith' that you're not dicking around with me

            6.) "go home" as in; if you are dicking around, you should leave, it's not helping you or me for you to stay if this is true.

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 1 of 5

            Geena (a
            few comments back)
            : "If God created the universe, with its hundred billion galaxies, each of them with a hundred billion stars, most of which have planets, God could have put each real person on their own planet, populated with other artificial people acting very real, as in The Truman Show. This way, all the necessary challenges could be presented to the person to develop spiritually without the person having to suffer at the hands of other real people who act with great evil because God feels the need to give them free will."

            1.) The point isn't that you made a claim that isn't consist with the RCC. The point is that you made a claim inconsistent with theology...to disprove theology with
            theology...

            I didn't make a claim at all. I didn't try to disprove anything. I just made a proposition: "If God did X (i.e., is powerful enough to have done that), then God could have done Y."

            It was meant to propose that if God had wanted people not to suffer, God could have made the universe in such a way that people didn't suffer in a way that doesn't violate free will. "Free will" is not a valid argument against "the problem of evil."

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 2 of 5

            ...as opposed to throwing out "what if" scenarios for a religion and then blithely applying your personal moral standards to it as proof it isn't real

            I don't talk about morality or great suffering 'blithely.'

            2.) 'blithely' in the sense your argument is lazy and lack intellectual rigor, not that you don't care about morals or people.

            Blithe: Showing a casual and cheerful indifference considered to be callous or improper. synonyms: casual, indifferent, unconcerned, unworried, untroubled, uncaring, careless, heedless, thoughtless

            'Blithely' has nothing to do with 'laziness' or 'lack of intellectual rigor.' It has to do with being callous and thoughtless.

            I repeat, "I don't talk about morality or great suffering 'blithely'."

            (You can google the definitions for words before you use them.)

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 3 of 5

            Lionel: That excludes the fact that such a reality would render personal choices irrelevant and thus violate free will.

            Geena: In what way would one's personal choices be irrelevant? The real person on each planet could either act with good will toward others, or could lie and steal and rape and kill (or at least believe he's killing). But the other 'people', not being real, would not actually suffer do to the real person's bad acts. Complete free will.

            3.) Your argument was about what you think would happen if God was real and why you thought that that intellectual inconsistency proved that he wasn't real. My question was in respect to how, what you thought God would have be like, couldn't be consistent with the qualities God was claimed, by Christians, to have. So either we're talking about different gods or you were just crafting a lazy argument that essentially just asserted "God isn't real" all over again. You then countered my criticism with the assertion that God isn't real.

            In my original comment, I didn't make an argument about what I thought would happen if God were real. I didn't write anything about intellectual inconsistency. I didn't write that anything proved God wasn't real nor did I assert that God isn't real.

            In my reply, also, I did not make an assertion that God isn't real. I did say: "I know you believe in a deity and you know that I don't. I know you can't talk about him as if he didn't exist without saying "if." I can't talk about it as if it did exist unless I say "if." That's why I said, "if that deity did exist."

            In my original comment, I proposed a scenario, a way God could have created the universe, in which free will could be preserved and the suffering of one person at the hands of another could be avoided. "Free will" is not a valid argument against "the problem of evil."

            In what way did I say anything about what God would have to be like?

            In what way is the deity in my proposition inconsistent with the "qualities God is claimed, by Christians, to have"?

            Lazy: Not liking to work hard or to be active. Not having much activity. Moving slowly.

            In what way do you consider my proposition to be 'lazy'?

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 4 of 5

            4.) And no, you didn't address my criticism, except in the most basic sense that you acknowledged that I wrote it. I mean 'addressed' as you either admit I'm correct or you present a counter-example, or admit you have no refutation.

            Your initial reply first said that my proposition "would render personal choices irrelevant and thus violate free will." I replied, "The real person on each planet could either act with good will toward others, or could lie and steal and rape and kill (or at least believe he's killing). But the other 'people', not being real, would not actually suffer do to the real person's bad acts. Complete free will."

            I directly addressed your criticism.

            Your initial reply then said that the quote I used assumes that I would understand God perfectly and would be capable of determining how God functions and so forth. You said that I would have to be God in order to validly judge God. I replied, "The morality inside of me is the only morality from which I can make a decision about whether something is good or bad." That is, I wasn't assuming that I could understand God or God's ways; I was writing based on my own morality.

            Based on the only morality I have, I wrote that it doesn't seem to me that God -- as Christians claim God to be, if extant, and the world the way it is -- would be a being worthy of worship. If I can't judge God, as described, to be evil without being God myself, how can you judge God to be good without being God yourself?

            I directly addressed your criticism.

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 5 of 5

            5.) 'Good faith' means you argue believing what you say and with the intention presenting evidence to support what you believe; as in, I can take it on 'good faith' that you're not dicking around with me

            No, that's not what "good faith" means.

            Good faith Honesty or sincerity of intention.

            Is there anything I have written that leads you to believe that I am not writing with honesty or sincerity of intention? In all that I have written, do you see an intention for me to 'dick around with you'?

            And if you can require me to present evidence to support what I believe, I can require you to do the same, starting with presenting evidence for the existence of your God. No? I didn't think so. Stop dicking around with me.

            6.) "go home" as in; if you are dicking around, you should leave, it's not helping you or me for you to stay if this is true.

            If you don't want to converse with me, then don't reply when I comment. Conversation over! See how easy that was? You can be here and I can be here and you can ignore me. "Simple as that."

            It is not up to you whether I stay or leave SN nor is it your place to tell me what or how to write.

  • Nicholas Smith

    We should all be raised with no religious instruction. The thing called god would never ever manifest itself..because it doesn't exist. All that exists is man's need for some kind of "answer" to a question that most of do not need to pose. There is not one shred of evidence....NOT ONE... that scientifically proves the existence of a thing called god. NOT ONE SHRED OF SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE. Let our children be raised just appreciating the world around them without being brought up "in fear" of some tyrannical force.

    • Quanah

      There also is not one shred of scientific evidence that disproves the existence of God. If one is going to posit religious or atheistic education based on scientific evidence then they have no real argument at all. As for fear, that is not necessarily a reflection of religion so much as it is individuals. I was raised a Christian and I was never taught to fear God as if He was some kind of tyrannical force. I also teach religion and I teach the opposite of fear to my students. Your argument about fear like your argument about scientific proof can also be turned on its head. In atheistic Russia children were raised in fear, not of God but of their own neighbors and a tyrannical government. Should I then say that if someone raises their children as atheist they are bring them up in fear of some tyrannical force? Of course not.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think you are correct that scientific evidence cannot prove the existence of God, because the aims of science are to explain how physical things behave and to harness that knowledge. Not being a physical thing, God cannot be studied by science.

      However, scientific evidence can be used as evidence in philosophical arguments for the existence of God, as Robert Spitzer does in "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of contemporary physics and philosophy."

  • Martin

    This is an interesting back-and-forth between atheists and theists, but I don't think we really understand each other's point of view. When I was agnostic, I, too, may have been offended if a theist told me that I held a nihilistic world view -- I certainly did not think I did. However, as a theist now, I can't see how I can have any free will without being given it from some being outside of the material universe. If atheists are right (and I'll acknowledge they could be), any philosophies we have (Christianity, Humanism, Buddhism) are purely stochastic accidents the material particles that comprise our brains. Our beliefs, morals, desires, and even our "ego-selves" are all illusions without virtue or vice. I really don't intend that to be offensive. If atheism is true, then it applies to all of us -- theists and nontheists alike. I just can't see how it could be any other way -- it is a corollary of a materialist world view. I could say that I hope it isn't true, but that "hope" would only be an illusion.

    • Steven Carr

      MARTIN
      However, as a theist now, I can't see how I can have any free will without being given it from some being outside of the material universe. If atheists are right (and I'll acknowledge they could be), any philosophies we have (Christianity, Humanism, Buddhism) are purely stochastic accidents the material particles that comprise our brains.

      CARR
      How terrible.

      Never let it be said that Christians let their brains determine their thoughts.

      They are not going to let mere material objects like their brains tell them what to do!

      • Martin

        CARR, If you are correct, any thing your brain tells you to do is a completely deterministic thermodynamic consequence without any value. That is nihilism.

  • Nicholas Smith

    "If God exists and has a plan for us, then that is truly humbling" How brainwashed do you have to be? For me this thing called god does not exist. I have a plan for me. Not some imaginary being. How did I end up on this page? You guys are off your rockers. Off your complete rockers. YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!! Not some ridiculously convenient book that "seems" to answer all of your questions. But actually throws up more doubt and confusion. Is slavery ok? Yes...in the OT. Does anyone rebuke it later on...ermm,.give me am moment on that one.. what a great book huh? On the,was it the fourth day? he (she) ((it)) created the sun...so..erm..how were there days before? WRITTEN BY MEN. TO CONTROL THE PLEBS...THE WOMEN...and you. 2000 year old rhetoric. You're a brainwashed idiot if you think it has value today. Spend your Sunday walking dogs in a shelter...make better use of your time.

    • Mikegalanx

      Same reply as to Lionel Nunez- insulting your opponents does not advance the dialogue. And all caps makes you sound like the guy at the end of the bar ranting and raving

  • Geena Safire

    It is atheism that encourages narcissism, because if everything is an accident then all that matters is how life turns out for you. The only alternative to narcissism for atheists is nihilism, or the belief that nothing really matters, since the universe has no plan or purpose.

    That is so completely untrue. Humans are both with a drive to care for and connect with others. It's innate, and it genetically developed from the first mammals who cared for their young.

    If a human is not able to feel affection and compassion, he's not lacking God, he's lacking empathy, and we call them sociopaths, and they make up only about one percent of the population.

    If a person believes that the universe has no objective meaning or purpose -- that is, the person is an existential nihilist -- that does not imply that the person believes that nothing really matters. Atheists discover and develop meaning and purpose for their own lives.

    Separately, some people believe that "nothing really matters" -- that's the definition of depression, a medical condition found in a modest percentage of both believers and atheists.

    There is a significant difference between existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning or purpose, and moral nihilism, which holds that morality does not inherently exist. Since it is a fact that all human social groups have moral rules (as do our social relatives such as baboons and bonobos), there is no objective support for the latter position. But many people believe things that have no objective support or sufficient evidence, so that's no surprise. Even so, few atheists are moral nihilists. (The percentage of atheists in jail is actually much smaller than their percentage in the population, so we are, on average, actually more law-abiding than Christians, even if the author believes we must be moral reprobates.)

    Most Catholics I speak to are appreciative when I don't lump them in with various extant Christian beliefs and say, "All Christians believe..." or "All Christians must be..." I even try not to lump all Catholics together, usually saying "The Catholic church teaches..." rather than "All Catholics believe that..."

    Gosh, wouldn't it be nice if this site -- designed to foster dialogue between Catholics and atheists -- didn't make such awful basic Philosophy 1a mistakes (such as lumping existential nihilism in with moral nihilism) and imply that all atheists must be sociopaths. Pope Francis even specifically stated that atheists can be good, and the Catholic catechism also says so. So please stop saying that.

    • Lionel Nunez

      Your argument doesn't preclude the possibility that people will "drive to care for and connect with others" simply as a self-indulgent mechanism to improve how they feel about themselves. (i.e When people think "I'll have sex with you because it makes me feel good" or you give homeless people money because you like having a pretext for thinking you're awesome)

      • Geena Safire

        Look up 'oxytocin' and 'vasopressin.' Read Patricia Churchland's 'Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality.' Our brains (and the brains of other social mammals) give us the same 'feel good' message when we care for others as when we care for ourselves, and give us the same 'feel bad' message when we are socially excluded/rejected as when we fail at a task. The same parts of the brain light up.

        All humans have to develop ways to balance their self-care and their other-care. Some are more successful than others at getting personal needs met and meeting the needs of loved others. Some people are too other-directed, and some people are too self-directed.

        • Lionel Nunez

          This isn't a science fair and this isn't a criticism of what is scientifically true; it has to do with semantics and it's a criticism of philosophy and intellectual rigor. If Atheism is true, then there is no distinction between self-help an other-help there is only self-help. If one takes the tenets of atheism and orients their worldview around them; you arrive at solipsism and nihilism; but solipsism is what applies here. Since all atheists would agree that there is no soul, then there exists no mechanism to know if other unconscious's exist. The only intellectually honest answer you can arrive at is that other people respond to stimuli via action potentials in nervous tissue; you can't know another mind the way you know your own. If only your mind can be sure to exist then every action and instance in the world must be organized around your perception of them and how they relate to you. There is no helping other people the way there's no helping rocks because there's no real practical distinction between rocks and people except in chemical make-up and the ability to respond to stimuli. What you have left is how you feel about spending your time and whether you prefer to "help" rocks or people. And no, responding to stimuli isn't the same as having a mind; even trees respond to stimuli.

          • Horatio

            If Atheism is true, then there is no distinction between self-help an other-help there is only self-help.

            I second this. The paradigm of morality from evolutionary biology is one of informed self-interested, by way of inclusive fitness and group selection. However, in all cases the beneficiary is the individual. This is where biology fails to justify (in an evolutionary sense, and I'm being teleological only for the sake of argument) such modern moral notions of Universal Humanism, Egalitarianism, Altruism...etc etc. In the biological paradigm there can be no true altruism --any anecdotal examples will just be misplaced kin selection. This leaves the above mentioned moral concepts as mere memes (either random or Divinely inspired), and not as adaptations in the biological sense.

          • Mikegalanx

            "The beneficiary is the individual"; no,as Richard Dawkins got famous for pointing out, the beneficiaries are the genes.

            Certainly biology fails to justify universal moral systems;it also fails to justify the Taj Mahal or Botticelli's Venus. Our marvelously flexible big brains have enabled us to go beyond the programming in our genes, and take off in all kinds of different directions.

            And thanks to those brains,we do live in more humane times- but of course the collapse of the modern world system could lead to a regression to the harsh inhumanity of Leviticus. Anxiety over that is why zombies are so popular.

            And don't thank God; thank people.

          • Horatio

            The beneficiary is the individual"; no,as Richard Dawkins got famous for pointing out, the beneficiaries are the genes.

            Ugh.
            No, you're wrong.
            First of all, Dawkins was absolutely not the first biologist to put forward a gene-centric view of evolution. The fact that he is famous for popularizing that view has no bearing on this argument. And you do realize that those ideas are controversial within biology, right? Well, they are. I can provide you with a list of its serious academic critics, if you like.
            In fact, evolution happens at multiple levels of organization, simultaneously. The term "individual" in both inclusive fitness AND group selection can be applied to genes as well as whole organisms. It's a matter of the level or organization you are considering.
            Your counterargument in this area amounts to: "It's the genes, stupid." That is what a sophomore understands of evolutionary biology.

          • Horatio

            Anxiety over that is why zombies are so popular.

            You touch on something very real here! Compared with the techno-optimism of the late 19th and 20th centuries, our folklore now suggests that the only future we can believe in for our civilization is an unraveling and/or collapse. Despite the lip service we continually pay to our institutional Reason and Humanism (good and vital things), we're losing faith in the ability of those institutions to preserve our high culture. I find this depressing, and I hope the trend reverses. It's as the great Kenneth Clark said: "It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation", "We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs."

          • Geena Safire

            This isn't a science fair and this isn't a criticism of what is scientifically true; it has to do with semantics and it's a criticism of philosophy and intellectual rigor.

            When it was proven, scientifically, that the Earth is not the center of the universe, that invalidated all the philosophy, no matter how rigorous, that was based on the Earth being the center of the universe.

            When it was proven, scientifically, that germs cause most disease, not bad air or evil spirits or bad karma or a witch's curse or guilt, that invalidated all the philosophy, no matter how rigorous, that was based on these other things being the causes of disease.

            If Atheism is true, then there is no distinction between self-help an other-help there is only self-help.

            First, atheism is a position regarding a god claim, the position of not believing the claim. Therefore makes no sense to talk about atheism being "true" or "false." The only thing that can be said to be "true" about that position is that atheists hold it. That is, atheists are not convinced by the god claims they have considered or been presented with. Specifically, atheism is not a claim made by atheists. It is the lack of belief in claims made by theists.

            Second, it has been proven, scientifically, that care for close "others" has the same effects in the brain as care for self. This is how our ancestors were able to become a social species: because our minds extend our self-care to include care for close others.

            That invalidates all the philosophy, no matter how rigorous, that was based on the idea that self-care and other-care are distinct, or the idea that atheists could have only self-care. So here's the message: You should stop saying that because it is factually wrong. (Also, even Pope Francis says atheists can be good and the Catholic catechism says that atheists can be saved.)

            If one takes the tenets of atheism and orients their worldview around them; ....

            There are not tenets of atheism. As noted above, atheism is only the lack of belief in god claims. If you need it to be a tenet, I suppose you could say, "We don't believe any god claims." But that's it.

            By the same token, there isn't an "atheist worldview." Every atheist's worldview is different. The only thing their worldviews have in common is the absence of a deity.

            If one doesn't believe something, one doesn't orient a worldview around it. I don't orient my worldview around not believing that pigs have antlers, nor do I orient it around not believing that the moon is made of cheese. I orient it around what I do believe, not what I don't believe.

            Let me try to explain it this way. You could claim that the most important feature of every other galaxy in the universe is that it is not the Milky Way galaxy. It happens to be true. But it is also irrelevant. No astronomer or cosmologist builds their concept of galactic structures based on all other galaxies not being the Milky Way galaxy. That 'non-feature' is not on their list.

            ...you arrive at solipsism and nihilism; but solipsism is what applies here

            What gives you that idea? Philosophically, solipsism could be true. That is, it could be true that I am just a brain in a vat, imaging the entire universe. But even if I am, there's no way I could tell.

            So the only reasonable thing I could do, either way, is live my life based on the assumption that the world I experience actually exists. Every atheist I have met has the same point of view. There may be solipsistic atheists out there; I'm not aware of any.

            But the more important point is that solipsism is not a natural consequence of atheism. Just because someone lacks a belief in a deity, that doesn't mean they also lack a belief in the world around them and the people in it.

            Since all atheists would agree that there is no soul, then there exists no mechanism to know if other unconscious's exist.

            Actually, atheists are not in agreement about the lack of a soul or spirit or something non-material about humans. (See the first point, above, about the only thing that atheists have in common.)

            In any case, we actually do have a mechanism to make reasonable predictions about the thoughts of others. It's called the theory of mind.

            Humans develop this ability at about age 3-4. All social mammals have this also. So do some birds, particularly corvids (crows, ravens, jays, etc.)

            The only intellectually honest answer you can arrive at is that other people respond to stimuli via action potentials in nervous tissue; you can't know another mind the way you know your own.

            First, it's rude to tell someone "the only intellectually honest answer" they can have.

            Second, again, some atheists believe in a spirit/soul kind of thing. But even if we consider the subset of atheists who are philosophical naturalists...

            Third, the evidence I have that another person has a mind is all of my interactions with them. Also, they have heads and walk and talk. I've studied some anatomy. People don't walk and talk without a brain in their head.

            In my opinion, and in the opinion of most naturalistic atheists, the mind is what the brain does. If their brain is functioning enough to walk and talk, then they have a mind.

            Fourth, nobody, theist or atheist, can know another mind the way they know their own. That has nothing to do with atheism. We're not Vulcans; we can't mind-meld. We can't know any other mind like we know our own.

            As to the rest of your solipsistic fantasy, I already noted above that no atheists I know of are solipsists. Plus, I'm not sure your take on solipsism is right either. So I'll just stop here.

          • Lionel Nunez

            Let me break this down for you;

            1.) I'm criticizing the way you phrased your argument and the implications that follow from applying it fully.

            2.) I'm not criticizing science, I'm not talking about science, and I don't care about whatever science you say supports your worldview because what I'm criticizing is not science in respect, either in terms of things that have been discovered nor the method used to discover things, because I'm criticizing how you describe two things as separate when, according to the only things you can believe, they have to be one and the same. You even admitted it yourself without realizing it; "Our brains...give us the same 'feel good' message when we care for others as when we care for ourselves, and give us the same 'feel bad' message when we are socially excluded/rejected as when we fail at a task. The same parts of the brain light up." Key word here being the same. As in, if an action elicits the same effect then aren't they the same? (i.e chewing and swallowing food is practically indistinguishable from having the same food pumped into your stomach; you are still eating just like you are still only caring about yourself)

            3.) atheism is "true" or "false" in the sense of "objectively reality" vs. "objectively not reality"; quit projecting different meanings onto terms to make arguing a "false" position less difficult.

            4.) Since I'm talking about semantics and the logical implications of your assertion from your position; references to science = red herring, in your post.

            5.) Uh yeah, there is an atheist worldview, one where there is no God/god(s).

            6.) Red Herring

            7.) I wasn't arguing from a philosophical school I was arguing against the implications of your philosophy/worldview/assertions (bunch of synonyms to drive the point home) so even if science does invalidate all philosophical schools of thought, then so what? And Red Herring.

            8.) Solipsism is not the belief that only you exist, it's the belief that you can only be sure that you have meaningful experience(colloquially understood as a mind) therefore only your experiences matter, because you can never really be sure that anyone else isn't anything more than a really realistic robot (i.e soulless; not literally robots)

            9.) Either the word 'Atheist' has a concrete meaning, meaning something between 'there is no God/god(s)' and 'there is no God/gods nor a spirit/spiritual life' or you agree to stop referring to yourself as an atheist and just as a hedonist, because the way you described 'atheism', the descriptor, it seems to mean whatever makes you feel the best.

            10.) there's already a word for "Atheists who believe in spirits" they're called spiritualists not "philosophical naturalists" and they're colloquially understood to be very distinct from atheists.

            11.) It doesn't matter if what I said was rude or not(hint it wasn't); but either have a legitimate argument against my assertion or accept it as true.

            12.) Theory of the mind = lots of neurons firing to make some really fancy responses to stimuli(still no clear proof for meaningful experiences beyond yourself).

            13.) Red herring

            14.) You demonstrate, yet again, how you completely misunderstand the claim of solipsism.

            15.) If you cut up an argument, take select quotes out of context, and address them outside of chronological order, you're responses aren't going to be very good...

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 1 of 15

            1.) I'm criticizing the way you phrased your argument and the implications that follow from applying it fully.

            Translation: "If you just agreed with all my premises and all the definitions I like to use for words, you'd have to agree with my conclusion. I don't like it when you argue with my premises or definitions, especially by using facts and science, instead of just disagreeing with my conclusion, which would be intellectually dishonest of you. So I'll criticize you by repeating myself."

            Bring it on.

            --------------------------------------------

            By the way, Lionel, It was hard to follow what I had written that you were replying to in each of your 15 points. Here's how you quote text so that, in your reply the person you're relying to – and other SN readers – can know what you are replying to instead of having to scroll back up and down.

            Add the following HTML tags before and after the text you want to quote:

            <blockquote>The text you want to quote</blockquote>

            To double quote, just use the blockquote tags twice.

            ( For those asking 'How did you make the HTML tag appear here instead of it getting turned into a blockquote?' I used the HTML code for each left angle bracket (or 'less than' sign): &lt; )

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 2 of 15

            2.) I'm not criticizing science, I'm not talking about science, and I don't care about whatever science you say supports your worldview because what I'm criticizing is not science in respect, either in terms of things that have been discovered nor the method used to discover things, ...

            When you make claims that disagree with scientific findings, Lionel, I'm going to comment on your error using the scientific findings. As I wrote, scientific fact trumps armchair philosophy or rhetoric.

            Our brains (and the brains of other social mammals) give us the same 'feel good' message when we care for others as when we care for ourselves, and give us the same 'feel bad' message when we are socially excluded/rejected as when we fail at a task.

            ...because I'm criticizing how you describe two things as separate when, according to the only things you can believe, they have to be one and the same. You even admitted it yourself without realizing it;

            "Our
            brains...give us the same 'feel good' message when we care for others as when we care for ourselves, and give us the same 'feel bad' message when we are socially excluded/rejected as when we fail at a task. The same parts of the brain light up."

            Key word here being the same. As in, if an action elicits the same effect then aren't they the same? (i.e chewing and swallowing food is practically indistinguishable from having the same food pumped into your stomach; you are still eating just like you are still only caring about yourself)

            Do you really not understand that the word 'same' has several kinds of uses? Two things having some similarities
            does not mean they are the same thing. If you have the same car as me, for example, that does not mean you are me or that your car is my car.

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 3 of 15

            3.) atheism is "true" or "false" in the sense of "objectively reality" vs. "objectively not reality"; quit projecting different meanings onto terms to make arguing a "false" position less difficult.

            Atheism: A disbelief in the existence of deity.

            You are using English in ways that are strange to me. I'd agree that is either objectively true or objectively false that a deity exists; that is, a deity either does exist or does not exist.

            But atheism is the absence or lack of a belief. (Some atheists also think that no supernatural deities exist; but that is not the position of atheism per se.)

            Here's an analogy that may be helpful:

            Let's say you tell me, "That lawn has an even number of blades of grass." I might reply, "I don't believe you." That doesn't means I am claiming that the lawn has an odd number of blades of grass. It just means that I am not convinced of your claim. You could say I'm an a-evenist. But I'm also, equally, an a-oddist.

            In this example, it is either objectively true or objectively false that the lawn has an even number of blades of grass.

            But it is also true that I don't believe that and it is false that I do believe that.

            In the same way, when you say 'atheism is false,' what this means is 'people who say they don't believe in a deity actually do believe in a deity.'

            So you might consider instead saying 'if atheists are right' or 'if atheism's position is true' or, more simply, 'if God doesn't exist.'

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 4 of 15

            4.) Since I'm talking about semantics and the logical implications of your assertion from your position; references to science = red herring, in your post.

            Red herring: "Something unimportant that is used to stop people from noticing or thinking about something important"

            As I wrote above, if your semantic or logical claims are factually scientifically false, then it is not a red herring to refute your semantic or logical claims with scientific facts.

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 5 of 15

            [T]here isn't an "atheist worldview." Every atheist's worldview is different. The only thing their worldviews have in common is the absence of a deity. If one doesn't believe something, one doesn't orient a worldview around it. I don't orient my worldview around not believing that pigs have antlers, nor do I orient it around not believing that the moon is made of cheese. I orient it around what I do believe, not what I don't believe.

            Let me try to explain it this way. You could claim that the most important feature of every other galaxy in the universe is that it is not the Milky Way galaxy. It happens to be true. But it is also irrelevant. No astronomer or cosmologist builds their concept of galactic structures based on all other galaxies not being the Milky Way galaxy. That 'non-feature' is not on their list.

            5.) Uh yeah, there is an atheist worldview, one where there is no God/god(s).

            Worldview: 1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. 2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.

            A worldview is an overall perspective or collection of beliefs. It is silly to say, "Your worldview is that you don't believe in mermaids." Something I don't believe is obviously not going to be any part of my worldview, much less be my worldview.

            Please reread the examples in my previous comment. Please learn the actual meaning of 'worldview.'

            There are many, many, many kinds of worldviews that do not include a belief in a deity.

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 6 of 15

            6.) Red Herring

            It's kind of strange for you to just write "6.) Red Herring" when there are no numbers in my comment to which you are replying and you don't provide any quotation. What are you proposing is a red herring in what I wrote?

            (Now this is a red herring: In an outline, you should either use a period or a left parenthesis after the number, but not both. Example: 6) or 6.)

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 7 of 15

            7.) I wasn't arguing from a philosophical school I was arguing against the implications of your philosophy/worldview/assertions (bunch of synonyms to drive the point home)...

            'Philosophy' and 'worldview' and 'assertion' are not synonyms. They are each quite different terms, and those differences are significant for this kind of discussion.

            Philosophy: The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline.

            Worldview: 1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. 2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.

            Assertion: A confident and forceful statement of fact or belief.

            Atheism isn't a philosophy. Atheism isn't a worldview. Atheism isn't an assertion.

            Also, your definition of atheism is wrong. Further, the implications you assert about atheism are wrong, as discussed in these various replies.

            ...so even if science does invalidate all philosophical schools of thought, then so what? And Red Herring.

            First, I never said science invalidates all philosophical schools. What I said was that if a philosophical argument is based on some assumption, and science shows that assumption to be false, then that assumption can no longer validly be used to support that argument.

            For example, old chemical theories that were based on a purported chemical element, a kind of fire-element called 'phlogiston' that was said to be present in all substances that could burn or rust. Now we understand about combustion and oxidation, so we don't talk about phlogiston any more nor any of the arguments that were based on it.

            The significance of this, the 'so what', is that if you make an assertion that "All A are X" and there is scientific evidence that "Some A are Y," then that is a valid argument against your assertion. No matter how long you have believed it and no matter how much you want it to be true. Even if your argument is not based on some philosophical school. It's not wrong because it's philosophical; it's wrong because it's wrong.

            No matter how much you want to "drive the point home," you have no point. Regarding atheism and everything you have said regarding its implications, you are fractally wrong.

            Fractal wrongness:

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 8 of 15

            Philosophically, solipsism could be true. That is, it could be true that I am just a brain in a vat, imaging the entire universe. But even if I am, there's
            no way I could tell. So the only reasonable thing I could do, either way, is live my life based on the assumption that the world I experience actually exists. ... [S]olipsism is not a natural consequence of atheism. Just because someone lacks a belief in a deity, that doesn't mean they also lack a belief in the world around them and the people in it.

            8.) Solipsism is not the belief that only you exist, it's the belief that you can only be sure that you have meaningful experience(colloquially understood as a mind) therefore only your experiences matter, because you can never really be sure that anyone else isn't anything more than a really realistic robot (i.e soulless; not literally robots)

            Atheism: A disbelief in the existence of deity.

            Solipsism: Solipsism (from Latin solus, meaning "alone", and ipse, meaning "self") is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure.

            I know what solipsism is. I replied based on what solipsism is. "Brain in a vat" is a common slang term about solipsism.

            Read again what I wrote: "Just because someone lacks a belief in a deity, that doesn't mean they also lack a belief in the world around them and the people in it."

            Atheism does not imply solipsism.

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 9 of 15

            9.) Either the word 'Atheist' has a concrete meaning, meaning something between 'there is no God/god(s)' and 'there is no God/gods nor a spirit/spiritual life' or you agree to stop referring to yourself as an atheist and just as a hedonist, because the way you described 'atheism', the descriptor, it seems to mean whatever makes you feel the best.

            Atheism: A disbelief in the existence of deity.

            Atheist: A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods. synonyms: nonbeliever, disbeliever, unbeliever, skeptic, doubter.

            First, if something is "concrete" then it doesn't have a "meaning something between A and B," because the latter is the direct opposite of a solid meaning.

            Second, 'atheist' is not the same as 'atheism.'

            Third, that's not what atheism means. Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of a deity. Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of a deity. Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of a deity. Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of a deity.

            Fourth, saying "Either X means A or you agree to Y because the way you describe X it seems to mean B" makes no sense. You seem to be saying "Either atheism means what I think it means or you have to call yourself something else because it means what I think it means and what you think it means means something else, which is even worse." I think. It's hard to tell.

            Fifth, please show me where in anything I have written that indicates that I think that 'atheism' means 'whatever makes [me] feel the best.'

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 10 of 15

            Lionel: "Since all atheists would agree that there is no soul..."

            Geena: "[A]theists are not in agreement about the lack of a soul or spirit or something
            non-material about humans. ... [S]ome atheists believe in a spirit/soul kind of thing. But even if we consider the subset of atheists who are philosophical naturalists..."

            10.) there's already a word for "Atheists who believe in spirits" they're called spiritualists not "philosophical naturalists" and they're colloquially understood to be very distinct from atheists.

            No, people who believe in soul or spirits are not necessarily spiritualists. Plus, even if 'spiritualist' were the right word, it doesn't convey the information that this particular group are atheists who lack a belief in a deity. In fact, I'm pretty sure that a large percentage of spiritualists also
            believe in one or more deities.

            Spiritualism: 1.a. The belief that the dead communicate with the living, as through a medium. b. The practices or doctrines of those holding such a belief. 2. A philosophy, doctrine, or religion emphasizing the spiritual aspect of being.

            Spiritualist: 1. An adherent of spiritualism. 2. A person who is concerned with or insists on the spiritual side of things.

            English doesn't have a single word for a person who does not believe in a deity and does believe in souls or spirits. So we have to call them "atheists who believe in souls or spirits" or perhaps "atheists who are not philosophical naturalists."

            Further, I was making a distinction between "atheists who believe in souls or spirits" and "philosophical naturalists." That is, I was saying, "Some A believe in X, but if we consider the subset of A that do not believe in X..."

            That is, I was saying "Despite your partial error, let's continue as if you had just said the part you were right about."

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 11 of 15

            Lionel: "Since all atheists would agree that there is no soul, then there exists no mechanism to know if other conscious's exist. The only intellectually honest answer [an atheist] can arrive at is that other people respond to stimuli via action potentials in nervous tissue; you can't know another mind the way you know your own."

            Geena: "First, it's rude to tell someone 'the only intellectually honest answer' they can have."

            11.) It doesn't matter if what I said was rude or not(hint it wasn't); but either have a legitimate argument against my assertion or accept it as true.

            Rude: Not having or showing concern or respect for the rights and feelings of other people : not polite

            First, yes, being rude does matter, and yes, it was
            rude
            . That phrase is constructed to be rude; it intends to convey, "The only possible reason you could believe what you said is if you aren't being intellectually honest with yourself." That is, "You're not only wrong; you're lying and stupid, too." Yes, Lionel, it's rude.

            Second, I did provide arguments against your assertion. Your definition of atheism is factually wrong and I told you why. Your assertion that no atheists believe in souls is factually wrong and I corrected you, but I even continued responding to your discussion on the proviso "If we consider only atheists without supernatural beliefs". Your assertion that atheists must be solipsists is wrong and I described why. Therefore, all of your subsequent conclusions based on that erroneous assertion are also wrong. But instead of just saying you were wrong, I described, at each assertion, how atheists (or humans) actually think.

            Third, even if I didn't have a valid argument against your assertion, that is not a reason to accept your assertion as true. It doesn't work like that. The person who makes the assertion is the person who has the burden of proof to support their assumption.

            This is a common mistake that theists make. They say, likely because they have often been told, "If you don't have proof that God doesn't exist, then you should believe in him."

            An analogy:

            Imagine if I said, "I can fly. Go ahead, try to prove that I can't. If you don't have a legitimate argument against my assertion, you have to accept it as true."

            Your reply would be along these lines: "I don't believe you. No, I don't have to accept it as true just because you say so. You're the one making the claim. The burden of proof is you to show me that you can fly, not on me to prove that you can't."

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 12 of 15

            Since all atheists would agree that there is no soul, then there exists no mechanism to know if other unconscious's exist.

            In any case, we actually do have a mechanism to make reasonable predictions about the thoughts of others. It's called the theory of mind. Humans develop this ability at about age 3-4. All social mammals have this also. So do some birds, particularly corvids (crows, ravens, jays, etc.)

            12.) Theory of the mind = lots of neurons firing to make some really fancy responses
            to stimuli(still no clear proof for meaningful experiences beyond yourself).

            Lionel, the reason I provided the link in my comment was so that you could easily click to see the well-known psychological/philosophical concept of 'theory of mind.'

            Theory of mind: "Theory of mind (often abbreviated "ToM") is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one's own. It is typically assumed that others have minds by analogy with one's own,and based on the reciprocal nature of social interaction, as observed in joint attention, the functional use of language, and understanding of others' emotions and actions. Having a theory of mind allows one to attribute thoughts, desires, and intentions to others, to predict or explain their actions, and to posit their intentions."

            'Theory of mind' is not just 'lots of neurons firing.' In fact, philosophers discussed the idea we call 'theory of mind' thousands of years before anyone knew what a neuron was.

            In addition, there is no proof against solipsism. So, Lionel, you have no proof that you and the universe you see are anything more than your mind either. Nor does anybody.

            As I wrote previously, "[I]t could be true that I am just a brain in a vat, imaging the entire universe. But even if I am, there's no way I could tell. So the only reasonable thing I could do, either way, is live my life based on the assumption that the world I experience actually exists."

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 13 of 15

            Lionel: "The only intellectually honest answer you can arrive at is that other people respond to stimuli via action potentials in nervous tissue; you can't know another mind the way you know your own."

            Geena: "[T]he evidence I have that another person has a mind is all of my interactions with them. Also, they have heads and walk and talk. I've studied some anatomy. People don't walk and talk without a brain in their head. In my opinion, and in the opinion of most naturalistic atheists, the mind is what the brain does. If their brain is functioning enough to walk and talk, then they have a mind. [N]obody, theist or atheist, can know another mind the way they know their own. That has nothing to do with atheism. We're not Vulcans; we can't mind-meld. We can't know any other mind like we know our own."

            13.) Red herring

            I fail to see how my replying directly to your assertion is not directly relevant or is "Something unimportant that is used to stop people from noticing or thinking about something important."

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 14 of 15

            14.)You demonstrate, yet again, how you completely misunderstand the claim of solipsism.

            Yet again, I know what solipsism is, as described above (in Reply 8).

            But, again, more significantly, few atheists are solipsists and atheism does not imply solipsism, as I said above, so your argument is irrelevant. SN isn't the place to debate the relative merits of solipsism (if there are any).

          • Geena Safire

            Reply 15 of 15

            Lionel: This isn't a science fair and this isn't a criticism of what is scientifically true; it has to do with semantics and it's a criticism of philosophy and intellectual rigor. If Atheism is true, then there is no distinction between self-help an other-help there is only self-help. If one takes the tenets of atheism and orients their worldview around them; you arrive at solipsism and nihilism; but solipsism is what applies here. Since all atheists would agree that there is no soul, then there exists no mechanism to know if other conscious's exist. The only intellectually honest answer you can arrive at is that other people respond to stimuli via action potentials in nervous tissue; you can't know another mind the way you know your own. (Lionel wrote 100 more words after this to which Geena did not explicitly reply.)

            (Geena quoted Lionel and replied, in order, to each statement Lionel made (above), up to the point where Geena wrote, "As to the rest of your solipsistic fantasy, I already noted above that no atheists I know of are solipsists. Plus, I'm not sure your take on solipsism is right either. So I'll just stop here."

            15.) If you cut up an argument, take select quotes out of context, and address them outside of chronological order, you're responses aren't going to be very good...

            First, I replied to the points of your argument in the order in which you wrote them.

            Second, I quoted every word you had written before I replied to it, so they are not out of context.

            Third, I replied to your entire comment up to the point where I just gave up.

            Fourth, if you make an argument that is based on several parts, and I have an issue with each part, then it seems relevant to address them part by part.

            I could have just said, "You're wrong about atheism. You're wrong about science. You're wrong about equivalence. You're wrong about red herrings. You're wrong about 'true' and 'false' wrt atheism. You're wrong about worldviews. You're wrong about philosophy. You're wrong about psychology. You're wrong about synonyms. You're wrong about 'spritualist.' You're wrong about not being rude. You're wrong about my replying 'outside of chronological order'."

            But that doesn't seem like a good response to me.

            What kind of response would be a "good response" for you if I disagree with nearly everything you said?

  • Geena Safire

    "The fact that the child exists is evidence he had a mother, just as the
    existence of the universe is evidence of its cosmic creator."

    We know the child is evidence of a mother because we have seen millions of children and mothers and we know our "birds and bees."

    We don't have millions of "nothing" out of which cosmic creators have created universes, or even two others, in order to feel confident that, if we saw another universe, we could reasonably assume that it had been created by a cosmic creator also.

    Completely fallacious analogy.

    • Lionel Nunez

      Analogy's aren't meant to be direct comparisons (i.e The fact the spider is venomous is proof he's deadly to at least some animals, just as the venom in the snake is evidence that it is deadly). It is clear here that Trent Horn does not assume you believe in millions of universes, in an architect of the universe who created it out of per-existing parts, or that anyone would be capable of scientifically testing who created each universe should more than one exist. Just like how my example has nothing to with the genetic or biological similarities between snakes and spiders but simply the shared qualities of potency of venom and deadliness; Trent Horn's example exists solely to convey that each object has a cause and since the universe is an object it must have a cause too (my words not his).

      • Geena Safire

        That is not true. First, not everything has a cause, even in our universe. Second, the universe is very much not an object.

        Third, even though most of the things we see have a cause, they don't come into being from nothing. They all come into being from something.

        If the universe came into being from nothing, then you can't extrapolate what it must be like if your only examples are things that come from something.

        How could there be anything more different than something and nothing?

        That would be like saying, "All dogs have fur. Therefore gravity must have fur."

        Horn's analogy was also, as I explained, invalid. It is not that he didn't use a direct comparison. He used the most completely nothing-in-common comparison possible.

        If you want to explore all the finer philosophical points, check out Scott Clifton's latest takedown of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

        • Lionel Nunez

          Red Herring much? I was criticizing your characterization of the analogy not your conclusion about the argument. For all you know you and I share the same position but you just assumed we don't because I didn't share my position and I found your characterization of the analogy misguided. Either respond directly against my criticism(i.e no shallow references to the universes having fur) or accept it.

          • Geena Safire

            My fur reference is as valid as your poison reference. You were proposing that the author's analogy was valid, with an example. I was indicating the author's (and your) analogies were invalid, with an example.

            And the Kalam Cosmological Argument is the entire basis of this comment thread, not a red herring.

  • Geena Safire

    Morality deals with the way things should be. But if life is an accident, then there is no way anything should be, and morality is a feeling we can ignore like any other feeling.

    Morality deals with a harmonious society and the well-being (eudaimonia) of all its members, and how members are expected to behave to support these. Every society has moral rules. Every individual grows up learning these rules and developing successful strategies for meeting their own needs and the requirements of their society.

    Each individual is motivated to act according to these rules based on innate moral drives -- a desire to care for others and a desire to be accepted/included. Our brain's reward and punishment system rewards us for acting with care and punishes us if our actions cause us to be excluded from the group.

    • Lionel Nunez

      How does this explain a society of murders, rapists, and thieves and how does it explain why we didn't end up as an 'evil' society; where everyone is at least at little bad* because evolution selects for the traits that lead to reproductive success? And I know you're just going to say "well negative personality traits and anti-social behaviors just don't lead to reproductive success over people who are the opposite of the aforementioned" but that doesn't explain away the reality that there has had to have been, in the billions that have lived before, some who were clever enough to be 'bad' and cover up their crimes sufficiently that they only reaped reproductive benefit over those who were 'good' (i.e one man kills another and seduces his widow while maintaining a polygynous lifestyle without getting caught for either; clear reproductive advantage, also, this happened before contraception and the man and at least some of the women were fertile). If some people have been bad and clever enough to get away with it (not get caught and keep the benefit) then how come we don't live in a dorky, 'evil', universe like you see in some bad comic books?

      • Lionel Nunez

        *A little bad, meaning virtually everyone will lie, cheat, steal, be promiscuous, kill, simply if presented with an opportunity where they feel comfortable to not getting caught and reaping some tangible benfit. As opposed to how our world is "a little bad" now.

        • Geena Safire

          virtually everyone will lie, cheat, steal, be promiscuous, kill, if presented with an opportunity where they feel comfortable to not getting caught and reaping some tangible benefit

          Perhaps you have a messed-up internal morality and you hang around with a bad bunch. So perhaps it is better for the rest of us that you remain a Christian, since that may be the only thing keeping your evil drives in check.

          But I have opportunities to do all those things and I don't (except an occasional lie, and I strive to improve). And the folks I hang around with also don't and don't feel strongly drawn to. As comedian and atheist Penn Jillette said, "As an atheist, I commit all the rape I want to. And the amount I want is zero."

          • Lionel Nunez

            Well I hate to burst your bubble; but this post was intended as a clarification a statement made above, hence the asterisk* in my original post after "a little" and another in the one you commented to at the beginning. But kudos to you, you agree atheism isn't a one size fits all boot like many other atheists claim. Now I suppose the only intellectually honest position left to take is to agree that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and any other New Atheist who claims the world would be better without religion and that science proves God doesn't exist, should shut up because regardless of whether or not atheists are right about their claim, religion serves a valuable purpose and it would be impractical and unwise to remove it from society.

          • Geena Safire

            Wow, 72 words in one sentence!

            Plus you completely missed the message from my comment. Try reading it again. (Hint: I disagreed with your premise that religion is the only thing that keeps people from raping, stealing, and murdering a lot.)

          • Lionel Nunez

            Quit with the desperate ad hominem attacks and re-read my first response to your original post. I never explicitly state state that "religion is the only thing that keeps people from raping, stealing, and murdering" and, considering how my response is a criticism of how your definition of morality is irreconcilable from reality, it is never implicit in it that "religion is the only thing that keeps people from raping, stealing, and murdering". And you didn't address, neither agreed no disagreed, with my observation that the only intellectually honest position left for you is to stop arguing against religion irrespective of whether or not their theistic or supernatural are true and only argue against religion when it doesn't serve a practical, social, purpose. Just to cover my bases, I'm sure that when you said it would be "better for the rest of us that [I] remain a Christian" because "religion is the only thing that keeps [me] from raping, stealing, and murdering" was made in good faith, in spite of the fact that you misguidedly projected your assumptions on to me.

          • Geena Safire

            It was a tongue-in-cheek reply to your unfounded assertion.

            In any case, it is absolutely my right to have any opinion with regard to the existence of a deity or with regard to the relative social benefits and detriments of any religion.

            And I would have thought it obvious that my reply indicated that I was not in agreement with your premise.

      • Geena Safire

        In the 300,000 years of our species, and the ~4 million of our hominim ancestors, and the 350 million years of our mammalian heritage, in small groups and bands, it was more difficult to hide one's negative behavior.

        Even in our social mammal cousins, rape and random violence rarely occur. (The nature documentaries tend to focus on the 1% or less of animal lives that are dramatic.) If unwelcome rape is attempted, the females fight back and their cries bring other members of the group and there is retribution.

        If social rules are broken, the group will punish or shun the offender, and will kill or exile him if the breech is serious or oft repeated. Being strong isn't sufficient to succeed in social animal groups; social skills such as grooming others, reciprocity and fairness are important.

        As with our mammal cousins who do pair bond for attachment and raising young, sexual fidelity is usually not part of the arrangement, (although the rendezvous occurs away from the group, if they can get away). (In the US, in the 1960s with blood-type testing and starting in 1988 with DNA testing, we discovered about 10% of children were not related to their mother's husband at the time of their birth,) So there was always a great deal of gene mixing. But not much by rapists. Female choice is significant.

        It has only been about 10,000 since some of us began living in one place, due to agriculture. That's not enough time for evolution to have responded much to the change in environment. But, as Steven Pinker notes in his "The Better Angels of Our Nature," the statistics indicate that humans have been getting less violent over time.

        There are always some sociopaths just as there are always some schizophrenics and always some with Down's Syndrome. And some of the sociopaths are self-controlled enough not to get caught, or to reproduce before they do. But the fact that only about 1% of the human population are sociopaths, indicates that it's not a good reproductive strategy.

        How does this explain a society of murders, rapists, and thieves

        Ours is pretty much not a society of murderers, rapists and thieves. Folks are, on average, mostly law abiding.

        Violent crimes against women are, unfortunately, more common, especially in developing countries. But this is because some men have the opinion that they are entitled to take advantage of or abuse women.

        • Lionel Nunez

          This isn't a response to my question so let me elucidate for you; the first part asks what place your definition of 'morality' has in a society of people for whom a " harmonious society and the well-being (eudaimonia) of all its members" isn't supported, expected, or even possible due to the nature of the members of that society(i.e a society of murderers). The second part you essentially answered with a long-winded variation of "Gee, well that's not the way things are now so that's not the way things must've happened". I want to know why, if what you asserted in your original post is true, things commonly associated to be immoral are considered immoral if reason suggests they would be naturally selected for. The assertion about children not being related to their mother's husbands is irrelevant because I sincerely doubt it took into account widow's, and divorcee's children from previous marriages at a minimum. Worst case scenario it didn't even take into account adoptions of nieces and nephews on the mother's side.

          • Mikegalanx

            "This isn't a response to my question so let me elucidate for you; the first part asks what place your definition of 'morality' has in a
            society of people for whom a " harmonious society and the well-being (eudaimonia) of all its members" isn't supported, expected, or even possible due to the nature of the members of that society(i.e a society of murderers)."

            It doesn't, though it depends on what you mean by "a society of murderers". Even members of violent criminal gangs have a code of conduct, though often honoured in the breach.

            " I want to know why, if what you asserted in your original post is true, things commonly associated to be immoral are considered immoral if reason suggests they would be naturally selected for."

            Like what? Lying, stealing,murder and rape are considered immoral. They might lead to reproductive success if they were cost-free, but of course they aren't. People will insist on everybody living by the rules for the sake of their own interests, and they will unite to punish known rule-violators.

            Of course,in the history of the world the powerful often do get away with it- about one in every 200 people in the world today are direct descendants of Genghis Khan:

            "The existence of these Y chromosomal lineages, which have burst upon the genetic landscape like explosive stars sweeping aside all other variation before them, indicates a periodic it “winner-take-all” dynamic in human genetics more reminiscent of hyper-polygynous mammals such as elephant seals. As we do not exhibit the sexual dimorphism which is the norm in such organisms, it goes to show the plasticity of outcome due to the flexibility of human cultural forms."

            http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/08/1-in-200-men-direct-descendants-of-genghis-khan/#.UmY1s1NjInY

          • Lionel Nunez

            Violent criminal gangs do not fit into geena's moral paradigm because they are merely facets of a cultural social group and these groups do not fit either because they are part of a greater society known as humanity in general. So you have groups, within groups, within a group, each forming a society and each a part of a society where each of them form a progressively less " harmonious society [that seeks] the well-being (eudaimonia) of all its members" (geena) as they are viewed in the context of a larger society. Hence, my question and why I asked how you reconcile this with evolutionary biology. And I clearly accounted for the "cost-free" principle when I framed my question in the context of those who are bad and able to mitigate the cost's of being bad to the point where they have a reproductive advantage over the good. Furthermore, you cite Genghis Khan as anecdotal evidence, without establishing how he's 'bad' from geena's moral standard, since that is what I was critiquing in the first place.

          • Geena Safire

            The assertion about children not being related to their mother's husbands is irrelevant because I sincerely doubt it took into account widow's, and divorcee's children from previous marriages at a minimum. Worst case scenario it didn't even take into account adoptions of nieces and nephews on the mother's side.

            No, actually, as I wrote, "not related to their mother's husband at the time of their birth," who would also be the person listed as the father on the birth certificate. Not adoptions, not previous relationship of woman, not relatives.

            This isn't a response to my question

            Yes, it is. You asked about genetic trends in human history, something about which I know more than a bit. You asked why a propensity to rape, steal and murder isn't more widespread. I explained why it is not a successful strategy for reproductive success either in humans or our closest cousins..

            But just because a society has an explicit or implicit moral code, that doesn't mean everyone is going to abide by it all the time. Are you going to tell me no Catholics commit crime because they have the world's most extensive, explicit moral code?

          • Lionel Nunez

            Well I'll admit that I didn't read it closely enough, but my fundamental point hasn't changed; the circumstances that lead up to that situation aren't documented so any manner of reasonable explanations could justify that report(i.e A woman was raped but was opposed to an abortion). And genetics hardly reflects the questioned I asked; your response reflects either a fundamental failure to appreciate what my question is asking or a red herring, so let me state it against and more clearly one more time. (and I'll even number the parts you have to address, just to make it easy for you)

            How do you reconcile your definition of morality as how to "with a harmonious society and the well-being (eudaimonia) of all its members" if;

            1.) There exists people who gain a severe reproductive advantage by going against society's well-being

            2.) Who have to ability to remain a part of society while because they can't be caught (their undermining can't be attributed to them)

            3.) Why more people don't undermine society when they have the ability to not be caught and it's to their own benefit

            4.)And why, If people don't act towards their own maximum benefit at the expense of others, these people aren't selected against and cease to manifest in populations

            5.)How come today's demographics can't be reconciled with your definition of morality if morality has no objective foundation, as you claim, and is purely relative to what bestows reproductive success.

            6.) How come morals simply don't change as people find them advantageous to be changed.

            7.) In this scenario, wouldn't we have an entirely different standard of morality, and one that more adequately reflects what enhances reproductive survival most as opposed to what we have now?

            Caveat;

            This question is in respect to social behavior not genetic traits. In order for me to be satisfied that you have answered in good faith, the answer must reflect how the subjective morality you presented could be reconcile with the objective moral standards people hold others accountable to. Moreover, it should at least address every point I've made.

          • Mikegalanx

            Does Disqus have a quote function? Anyway...

            "How do you reconcile your definition of morality as how to "with a
            harmonious society and the well-being (eudaimonia) of all its members"
            if;"

            You seem, over this very long (and often abrasive) stream of comments to be demanding why a naturalistic evolutionary-based social system has not produced world-wide utopia. Simple answer, there's always conflict between individuals; moral systems are set up to resolve them- and none of them, including Christian ones, have succeeded perfectly.

            "1.) There exists people who gain a severe reproductive advantage by going against society's well-being"

            Which people,and which society? Rapists? Powerful males in polygynous societies? Serial monogamists like Newt Gingrich?

            Warriors who indulge in rape during conflicts? Smooth-talking adulterers?

            "2.) Who have to ability to remain a part of society while because they can't be caught (their undermining can't be attributed to them)"

            Yep. People cheat. People break moral rules. How many in any given society is the question. Too many and the society breaks down.

            "3.) Why more people don't undermine society when they have the ability to not be caught and it's to their own benefit"

            Most people do get caught. It's easy to be a crook,it's hard to be a successful crook- depending on the society you're in. As well, the original point is we do have an inherited moral sense that comes down to us from our small-group dwelling ancestors. It's just not infallible.

            "4.)And why, If people don't act towards their own maximum benefit at the expense of others, these people aren't selected against and cease to manifest in populations"

            See the above, plus all the game theory that's been done on altruism. Your benefit often comes from cooperating with others- and getting a reputation for fair play.

            "5.)How come today's demographics can't be reconciled with your definition of morality if morality has no objective foundation, as you claim, and is purely relative to what bestows reproductive success."

            Different animals have different reproductive strategies; humans have a tendency to invest in a few offspring; the flexibility of the human brain allows us to make decisions that our genes wouldn't like (metaphorically speaking)- see priests,nuns,monks.

            "6.) How come morals simply don't change as people find them advantageous to be changed."

            Some do- gay marriage, slavery, equality etc.

            The basics- don't steal,don't lie,don't murder-have been established as advantageous within society.

            "7.) In this scenario, wouldn't we have an entirely different standard of morality, and one that more adequately reflects what enhances reproductive survival most as opposed to what we have now?"

            For all the above reasons,no. You don't appear to have grasped the original argument .

            "This question is in respect to social behavior not genetic traits. In order for me to be satisfied that you have answered in good faith, the answer must reflect how the subjective morality you presented could be reconcile with the objective moral standards people hold others accountable to. Moreover, it should at least address every point I've made."

            William Lane Craig, is that you?

          • Geena Safire

            1.) There exists people who gain a severe reproductive advantage by going against society's well-being

            As I said, I already answered that. They don't gain "a severe reproductive advantage." They don't. If they did, nobody could live in cities.

            So I cannot reply to the rest of your points because your proposition fails at the first one.

            This question is in respect to social behavior not genetic traits.

            When you say "reproductive advantage," you are explicitly talking about genetics.

            ...subjective morality ... objective moral standards...

            We weren't having that discussion.

      • Steven Carr

        'How does this explain a society of murders, rapists, and thieves ....;'

        Easy.

        Most people throughout history have believed in a god.

        That explains a society of murders , rapists and thieves.

        Because believers never cease telling atheists that they are a very small minority, and the overwhelming mass of people believe in a god.

        • Lionel Nunez

          Counter-argument

          Religions have different beliefs and different moral standards.

          That explains why you're wrong.

          Because if all religions were the same; Atheists and Catholics wouldn't have a problem since they'd be practically the same thing. (religion here, being, any philosophy regarding the spiritual and moral life)

  • cminor

    I have to assume her children are young. Having gotten four to adulthood, I find points 1-4 a bit naive.

  • Steven Carr

    'God can allow evil so that goods, such as love or courage, can also exist.'

    What god?

    Why do you need courage to live in the world your hypothetical god allegedly designed?

    Easy, silly atheist. Our god has designed a world of such suffering that only the truly courageous can live in it....

    'If God exists and has a plan for us, then that is truly humbling, because the infinite creator of the universe wants us to cooperate with him to bring about good'

    No, your hypothetical god can't a) allow evil and b) bring about good.

    Your god has chosen.

    He has chosen to bring about evil by creating smallpox, rabies, cholera, malaria, cancer.

    For who else can create such things? We puny Earthling can create leukemia? I think not.

    It takes a god to create a flu virus that can kill tens of millions.

    • Quanah

      Mr. Horn was incorrect to state that God allows evil so that love or courage can also exist. Evil does not need to exist in order for love and courage to. It was a very poorly worded statement that does not reflect actual Christian thought. I have a feeling that if Mr. Horn explained himself on this it would come out differently (I hope anyway).

      Concerning good and evil though, please criticize Christian thought within the bounds of it's actual teachings. God did not create smallpox, rabies, cholera, malaria, cancer, etc. These are all fruits of the Fall. Now you may think the Fall is a silly doctrine, but that doesn't change the fact that within the framework of Christian doctrine God did not create these things. This also connects to allowing evil and bringing about good not being a contradiction. God created us with free will. It is only possible to love and cooperate in bringing about good if one is free. If I am free that also means I can say "no." If God doesn't allow us to screw up then we are not free; we are programmed and moved by compulsion. This also means that I do not love nor do I do good. I would be nothing, but a tool.

      • Casey Braden

        Even if things like disease were the fruits of the fall, doesn't that mean that God had to create them? Things don't just come into existence against the will of God, right? Especially since God created the laws of the universe, created the scenario where the fall was possible, and created the effects that would occur should the fall happen. I just don't see how you can claim that he didn't create disease.

        Speaking of the fall, doesn't he Catholic Church teach that the Genesis account of creation is not to be taken literally? Wouldn't this mean that the account of the fall is not to be taken literally? I am also curious as to what the Catholic Church's reasoning is for the fact that all of humankind is held responsible for the actions of the first man and woman. Doesn't this seem a bit odd? I would never hold a child responsible for the actions of his or her parent...

        • Quanah

          Casey and David,

          Thank you for your replies. They certainly give me an opportunity to reflect on some things I had not previously been aware of. In the post I responded to, disease and evil were equated and I fell into the trap of equating them myself in my response. Diseases are amoral. A disease in itself is not evil. How diseases fit into the doctrine of the Fall is something that I will have to look into, not just for you but for myself as well. This is one of those examples of how science can help a Christian come to a deeper understanding of their faith.

          Casey, my initial response to David was to point out that the first few chapters of Genesis fall under the literary genre of myth and, therefore, are not historical. You beat me to it. Unfortunately, I have to pick up my wife so I'll have to answer your two questions later. Thanks again.

        • Quanah

          My initial response was concerning the introduction of evil in the world and its allowance by God. I, unfortunately, slipped and identified evil with disease. (Still feeling sheepish about that). What I should have said is that God did not create evil, rather it is a fruit of the Fall. That animals before the existence of man would have diseases is just common sense. All things in that they exist are good. Evil in and of itself is not a thing. It is the absence of a good or the twisting of a good. This is evidenced in our world. While I have witnessed amazing acts of good without being able to see the presence of evil, I have never seen an evil without a good first being twisted. Let's take Hitler for instance. He was only able to commit the horrible atrocities that he did because there was first a good for him to twist such as an intellect, a desire for an economically strong nation that had been greatly weakened after WWI, the solidarity of a people (short-lived as it was; I believe it was lost before the war began), etc. For as evil as his actions were, they were only possible because there was first a good to be twisted and deformed. Though we are now talking about actions rather than things this still applies to your question concerning the existence of something being tied to God since it can't exist without His willing it. In this I defer to Fr. Barron in his article on YouTube heresies. He mentioned a poster on YouTube stating that the atomic bomb was possible because of Einstein's discoveries (which are good), but that doesn't mean Einstein is responsible for how others used it (which are evil). If one wants to maintain that things (such as diseases) and not just actions are evil the answer requires a different angle. But I'll not go there right now because this post is already quite long enough.

          • Casey Braden

            Einstein is also not the omnipotent creator of the universe. If God creates the world with a set of possible actions that humans can take, and then also creates the outcomes those actions could potentially have, then those outcomes are God's creation, right? Evil was one possible outcome for the actions of Adam and Eve according to the laws and possible actions that God made available. Being all knowing, he absolutely knew that the creation of evil would occur, right?

          • Quanah

            Just because He knows what will happen doesn't mean that He makes it happen. He certainly creates those things, namely, intelligent beings, who can commit evil and, therefore, creates the potentiality for it, but He does not directly cause it. He does this because in order for us to truly love we have to be free. In order for us to have true knowledge we have to be free. Now He does have the power to stop someone from committing an evil act, but to do so He would have to violate our free will (making Him an absolute tyrant and us slaves), which He will never do. This, however, does not place blame on Him. If I have a son or daughter who despite all my best efforts is just cold-hearted, and I know that they will cause great harm to themselves and others if I let them leave the house and live on their own when they are 18, should I let them leave? Would it be right for me to restrain them against their will? If I respect their freedom and do not restrain them, am I responsible for their actions? Of course, not.

        • Quanah

          A quick response to your second question: It is indeed wrong for children to be held responsible for the sins of their parents. What happens to us though is not a case of this. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve we all have original sin. Original sin is not a thing (that's why I'm not a fan of "stain" language), but rather than lack of a thing, namely, God's life. Adam and Eve were created with God's divine life in them. When they sinned they separated themselves from Him and, hence, lost His life. They cannot pass on to their children what they themselves do not possess. Hope this helps.

          • Casey Braden

            I think that's splitting hairs a bit, don't you? Ultimately, due to this original sin, we are all destined for hell unless saved by God's grace. So it would appear that the default state we are born into is that of punishment, unless saved by some future actions. I'm not sure how this is different than being punished for the sins of Adam and Eve.

          • Quanah

            It's an important distinction. One is a consequence with a ripple effect that affects other people which is an unavoidable reality of being in relation with others. The other (punishment) is an act of injustice. For example, a father owns a piece of land which he intends for his son to inherit. The father takes risks to increase the land; risks that he doesn't need to take. However, he is reckless in doing so because he takes risks that have very little chance of working, but will almost certainly result in the loss of the land if they do not work. As to be expected the risk does not pay off. He loses the land that had been producing a fine income for him and he is not able to pass it on to his son. The son who was expecting to inherit this land and to earn his livelihood from it is now left with nothing. As unfortunate as that is, no one is punishing the son. The son is simply suffering the consequences that came with his father's foolishness. The land is no longer possessed by the father to be given.

          • Andre Boillot

            I think where this analogy breaks down is that the son in your example is not inherently weakened by his father's loss of the land. In theory, he should have the same chance to acquire land as his father did.

          • Quanah

            Of course, no analogy is perfect. My intention with this one was only to illustrate the distinction between a consequence and a punishment in the particular case of original sin. You are right though, the son should have the same chance to acquire land as his father did. We too are given this chance because of Jesus Christ. So like the son in the analogy, not all is truly lost.

          • Andre Boillot

            "We too are given this chance because of Jesus Christ"

            Yes, though crucially, only after being born into sin, and of course subject to having heard of Christ, and being given and having accepted of ' the gift of Grace'. All in all, not a fair trade, if you ask me.

          • Quanah

            Not subject to having heard of Christ. Anyone who sincerely seeks truth whether they have heard of Christ (which means a whole lot more than someone saying, "Hey, Jesus Christ is your savior. Accept him.) or not may attain heaven. This is possible through the redemption of all men by Christ's sacrifice, the prayers of the Church for all people, and a true openness to truth (which is openness to God since He is truth) on the part of the individual. While there are certainly some Christian traditions that do not agree with this, it is most certainly the teaching of the Catholic Church. The teaching can be found in paragraphs 847-848 and 1259-1261 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in case you'd like to read the wording for yourself. While the Church does not teach one way or the other concerning numbers, as a private theologian it is my belief that the majority of people go to heaven. Not a one way ticket of course (there's always purgatory), but the majority nonetheless.

          • Andre Boillot

            I was talking of removal of 'concupiscence', not the possibility of redemption. As I understand it, 'grace' may help one to resist sin - but doesn't return us to the same state as prior to the fall.

          • Quanah

            One more quick note for clarification. The Church teaches that that grace was won for us through Jesus Christ's death and Resurrection. That is a grace for all people. The issue is more complex, but for the sake of brevity I just want to be clear that the Church's teaching is that it is possible for non-Christians by this grace to attain heaven. So we are not necessarily born with a condemnation to hell by default.

      • David Nickol

        God did not create smallpox, rabies, cholera, malaria, cancer, etc. These are all fruits of the Fall.

        Cancer has been discovered in the fossilized remains of animals that lived before human beings existed on earth. In terms of predation, disease, natural disasters, pain, death, and decay, the world before the existence of human beings was the same as the world after the appearance of human being.

        If smallpox, rabies, cholera, and malaria sprang up as the result of "the Fall," how did they do so? Did viruses, bacteria, and parasites simply pop into existence at the moment of "the Fall"? Or if you believe in evolution, did they somehow evolve as the result of "the Fall"?

        I tend to think the idea of religion and science having "nonoverlapping magisteria" has a good deal of merit to it, but it seems to me that a claim that diseases are a result of "the Fall" is one that is to a large extent empirically testable. If disease can be shown to precede the earliest possible date for "the Fall"—and they can—then the claim is falsified.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It has been Catholic teaching from the beginning--long before the idea of evolution--that human beings were immune from physical evil before the fall through preternatural gifts. After the fall, those preternatural gifts were removed. So, for human beings, it can be said that physical evils are a consequence of the fall.

          That, of course, does not explain the connection between God and the physical evils you describe.

          • David Nickol

            As I think you imply with your last sentence, it is one thing to claim that Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were protected from diseases, injuries, and natural disasters, and quite another thing to say

            God did not create smallpox, rabies, cholera, malaria, cancer, etc. These are all fruits of the Fall.

            If God did not create the smallpox and rabies viruses, the cholera bacteria, and the malaria parasite, then he didn't create any viruses, bacteria, or parasites.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you consider these things evil in themselves or that they have no place in a natural order?

          • David Nickol

            Do you consider these things evil in themselves or that they have no place in a natural order?

            I suppose we would have to define evil to give a truly meaningful answer to that question. Certainly the smallpox virus cannot be considered a moral evil. But I would say smallpox, rabies, cholera, and malaria all cause suffering and serve no useful purpose. Although the smallpox virus has been preserved in the lab, I don't believe anyone questioned the effort to eradicate it from the natural environment. I think the same would probably hold if it were possible to eradicate rabies, cholera, and malaria. It would of course be extremely harmful (and probably fatal) to life on earth to eliminate all bacteria and viruses. But it seems to me that smallpox, rabies, cholera, and malaria could and should be eradicated from the environment. It would be an improvement for the human race. So in a very real sense, they are evil. If they didn't exist, and, say, the US military created them and let them lose, it would be a heinous crime against humanity. I think it would be foolish to accuse God of crimes against humanity, but if God is the creator, he created smallpox, rabies, cholera, malaria, cancer, bubonic plague, the ebola virus, HIV, and any other horrifying disease-causing microorganism on earth that anyone can name.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If they didn't exist, and, say, the US military created them and let them lose, it would be a heinous crime against humanity. I think it would be foolish to accuse God of crimes against humanity, but if God is the creator, he created smallpox, rabies, cholera, malaria, cancer, bubonic plague, the ebola virus, HIV, and any other horrifying disease-causing microorganism on earth that anyone can name.

            I think you are right that these physical evils are crimes against humanity.

            If I use my knowledge of Catholic dogma, I know that God is entirely good, cannot do evil, and is completely opposed to others doing it. While God *permits* evil because he can bring a greater good out of it, God would be entirely wrong to will something evil into existence for some good he could make of it.

            If he did that he would be violating a most fundamental moral principle: Do not do evil that good can come of it. Therefore, it cannot be true that God is responsible for those evils.

          • David Nickol

            Therefore, it cannot be true that God is responsible for those evils.

            Are you saying that life forms evolved on earth that God did not intend and does not approve of, but he must sit back and let evolution take its course? And what, then, has "the Fall" to do with "evil" viruses, bacteria, and parasites. And what about cancer?

            One thing that I find disturbing about the world is that prolonged pain is much more possible that prolonged pleasure. Say that peak pleasure is sex or orgasm. It can hardly be sustained for any significant length of time. But agony can go on for hours, days, weeks, months, or years. I have always liked this Rita Rudner joke: "I want to have children, but my friends scare me. One of my friends told me she was in labor for thirty-six hours. I don't even want to do anything that feels good for thirty-six hours."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Are you saying that life forms evolved on earth that God did not intend and does not approve of, but he must sit back and let evolution take its course?

            Consider these quotes:

            “We can never give too great prominence to the Scholastic principle that God never does through Himself what may be achieved through created causality… For any result which does not require actually infinite power, God will sooner create a new spiritual being capable of producing that result than produce it Himself.” (Abbot Anscar Vonier, The Human Soul)

            “God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of
            power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1884)

            “For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 306)

            If God really did hand over real powers to angels to direct the course of evolution, and some of them refused to do the good they ought to have done, then we could expect to see much disorder in the universe.

            He must sit back and let evolution take its course?

            It can be said that he *must* in the sense that he has given those persons real power and he will not revoke that gift.

            God's way of fighting the evil will be love, not power.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rather I should say "God brings a greater good out of every evil but does not permit it because of that."

        • Horatio

          You are here being more a Biblical literalist than most religious people I know.

          • Mikegalanx

            That is, he's following Catholic beliefs to their conclusions, while Catholics try to dodge this.

            Were Adam and Eve newly created? Or were they hominds who were ensouled- but only the two of them? Did ensoulment cause them to be immune to all diseases until such time as they rebelled against God? Did they then revert to the level of susceptibility of their fellows?

          • David Nickol

            You are here being more a Biblical literalist than most religious people I know.

            I am curious to know why you say that. I personally do not believe in "the Fall" (at least as a historical incident), but the Catechism says

            390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

            That clearly implies that "the Fall" took place at a specific time in history. It also clearly implies that there were two individuals who are the parents of the human race, whether you want to call them Adam and Eve or not.

            If diseases caused by microbes and afflictions such as cancer are "fruits of the Fall," how could they have existed before the Fall? I am criticizing biblical literalism, not exhibiting it.

          • Horatio

            I am criticizing biblical literalism, not exhibiting it.

            This is quite obvious. I am criticizing your choice of target: a fundamentalist reading of Genesis. I don't think many (if any) of the Christians or other theists who read or comment here frequently are literalists in this respect, so why trot it out and flog it? The language in the Bible and indeed the language you cite in the Cathechism can certainly be interpreted a number of ways. You say that that the Fall happened at a Specific Time in history; perhaps that Specific Time was not a moment, but a span of hundreds of thousands of years in the evolution of Man from animals we would not consider Man.

            Addendum:

            It also clearly implies that there were two individuals who are the parents of the human race, whether you want to call them Adam and Eve or not.

            Yet, this may be literally true. I remind you that the current thinking in molecular paleoanthropology is that we did all descend from at least the same individual mother, and consequently the same grandmother-grandfather pair. You can follow that principle back to the first protohuman who gave rise to those individuals, too. The only alternative to this is multiple separate "evolutions" of humans from those pre-human precursors, with later admixture. This is less parsimonious, and not supported by the molecular data available from highly-conserved loci regions in mitochondrial and ribosomal DNA.

    • Horatio

      There you have it; religion is undone.