Right, Wrong, and God

Question from Adam:
Without God, is there right and wrong?

Answer by SmartLX:
Even with a hypothetical god around, would there be there right and wrong?

If God decides what is right and wrong, they are His opinions only, and subject to change. And change they apparently have, because there are all sorts of holy rules in the old Mosaic Law that had been superceded or forgotten as early as the first century AD (or CE). Shellfish, mixed fabrics, working on Sundays, that sort of thing. Therefore God’s sense of right and wrong is arbitrary, and useless to us except in the sense of trying to keep up with the whims of a tyrant to save our necks. That’s if we think He’s there at all.

Without a God imbuing the entire universe with an ethereal sense of right and wrong, there is only what we humans decide, as no other animal has ever set down a code of ethics or morality. (Some groups of apes and monkeys have developed simple moral systems, but purely in practical terms rather than the abstract.) The consensual ethics agreed upon by large groups of people are far less arbitrary than the will of an all-powerful, invincible being, because the way we want to be treated – and therefore the way we treat people – has a comprehensible effect on our wellbeing. For example, a general aversion to killing (except in some extraordinary cases) potentially prolongs everyone’s lives.

So we say that certain things are right and others are wrong, and if these judgements eventually show themselves to be flawed we change them. Regulated slavery was right and good for a very long time, but now we find it reprehensible. We’re entitled to admit mistakes and change our positions when new information comes to light, because we’re only human and we’re doing the best we can. A god has no such excuse; if He ever had to correct himself, He’s not much of a god.

40 thoughts on “Right, Wrong, and God”

  1. Adam, think of this as a logic/common sense problem.

    Here are the statements:
    1. A god exists.
    2. This god defines morality (what is right and wrong) and humans understand morality through this god, and can only be moral by following the moral code defined by this god.
    3. Several moral societies in this world function very well with little to no knowledge of this god or its moral code.

    It should be pretty obvious that the 3 statements above form a contradiction, so at least one of these statements must be false.

    if statement 1 is false, then statements 2 must be false. But we cannot prove that statement 1 is false.

    If statement 2 is false, well then that doesn’t really tell us much about statement 1 or statement 3.

    If statement 3 is false, then both statement 2 and statement 1 still have a chance at being true (in the context of this argument).

    If statement one is true, this does not tell us much about statement 2 or statement 3.

    If statement 2 is true then statement 3 must be false. So statement 2 can only possibly be true if the societies described in statement 3 are amoral. However, it seems to me that common knowledge points to statement 3 being true, therefore statement 2 cannot be true as (2) is mutually exclusive with (3).

    My argument is basically asserting that statement 3 is true, therefore statement 2 cannot possibly be true.

    Sorry for the sloppy logic, but I hope that makes sense.

  2. I realize that this question was asked a long time ago. But I just stumbled across it and felt it necessary to respond to SmartLX.

    “Even with a hypothetical god around, would there be there right and wrong?If God decides what is right and wrong, they are His opinions only, and subject to change.”
    First of all, God doesn’t change (see Numbers 23:19-21). I am going to assume for the sake of argument that this “hypothetical god” is the God of the Bible. Because God Himself doesn’t change, neither does what He has decreed to be right and wrong. Morality, isn’t arbitrary in the sense that it has no foundation or basis. Morality comes from and is defined by the very being of God.

    “And change they apparently have, because there are all sorts of holy rules in the old Mosaic Law that had been superceded or forgotten as early as the first century AD (or CE). Shellfish, mixed fabrics, working on Sundays, that sort of thing.”
    First of all, I want to point out that morality has never changed. Asserting that the Bible says it does change, is a straw man fallacy. Murder, lying, rape, etc. were just as wrong then as they are now. That being said, there were many different rules and regulations in the Mosaic Law (circumcision, animal sacrifice, resting on the Sabbath, etc.) that the Jews were to follow. These laws didn’t all include morality. The reason for these laws was to show that the Jews were set apart from other nations. Morally wrong actions (lying, murder, and the like) are just as wrong today as they were then. After the death and resurrection of Christ there is no more need for the Mosaic law and there is no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile.”

    “Therefore God’s sense of right and wrong is arbitrary, and useless to us except in the sense of trying to keep up with the whims of a tyrant to save our necks. That’s if we think He’s there at all.”
    I already touched on this above but I will reiterate. The word “arbitrary” can mean several different things. I assume you are using the word to mean random or foundation-less, or “on a whim”. Morality stems from who God is. And since that doesn’t change, neither does morality.

    “Without a God imbuing the entire universe with an ethereal sense of right and wrong, there is only what we humans decide, as no other animal has ever set down a code of ethics or morality. (Some groups of apes and monkeys have developed simple moral systems, but purely in practical terms rather than the abstract.)”
    You are correct when you say that animals don’t really have a set of morals. On the other hand, God has imbued humans with a sense of morality because humans were created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:27). Why do you think children tend to feel guilty when they do something wrong? Is it because this trait was seen as “useful” to survival in the past? I can’t see how this would contribute any survival value; if anything, this would be a hindrance to survival. For example, if somebody was hungry and killed someone else (who was less fit) to steal his food, would a sense of guilt for doing wrong aid in this person’s survival? Certainly not. The very fact that humans do, instinctively, know right from wrong, is evidence of a God who created us that way.

    “The consensual ethics agreed upon by large groups of people are far less arbitrary than the will of an all-powerful, invincible being…”
    I have already explained why God’s morality is not arbitrary (see above).

    “…because the way we want to be treated – and therefore the way we treat people – has a comprehensible effect on our wellbeing. For example, a general aversion to killing (except in some extraordinary cases) potentially prolongs everyone’s lives.”
    First off, treating others the way we want to be treated is a biblical principle (in the Old Testament: Leviticus 19:18; in the New Testament: Matthew 19:19). Secondly morality was also “borrowed” from biblical ideas. I think you would agree that stealing is morally wrong (you wouldn’t be happy if I took your wallet). But why is it morally wrong? From an atheistic/evolutionary viewpoint, we are all just the results of millions of years of chemical reactions. People don’t get upset when Mentos react with Diet Coke, how is stealing or murder any different? Arguing that rules against murder prolong people’s lives doesn’t quite cut it. Isn’t murder just another example of survival of the fittest? If we are just animals, then what is the reason for us having a set of morals? By allowing the “unfit” to survive, aren’t we actually hindering the evolution of our species?

    “So we say that certain things are right and others are wrong, and if these judgements eventually show themselves to be flawed we change them. Regulated slavery was right and good for a very long time, but now we find it reprehensible. We’re entitled to admit mistakes and change our positions when new information comes to light, because we’re only human and we’re doing the best we can.”
    Morality doesn’t change based on the whims of mere men. Because slavery was practiced and accepted for some time, has nothing to do with whether it is moral or not. If I set up my own society on a secluded island I there were no standards of morality, would that mean that morality has changed? No, I think it is easy to understand that just because people are doing it doesn’t make it right.

    “A god has no such excuse; if He ever had to correct himself, He’s not much of a god.”
    That is 100 percent accurate. Thankfully, the God of the Bible has never and will never have this problem.

    I look forward to hearing from you,
    ~Schafe~

    1. Jordan, if there was a society on a secluded island, it would very well form its own moral standards. Such as…. perhaps it is acceptable to walk around naked and have sex in public, or perhaps it is acceptable to challenge somebody into a formal mortal duel over a quarrel.

      Let’s make it an extreme example, and say this secluded island had no knowledge of other societies elsewhere, and no way of EVER receiving knowledge of other societies (maybe World War III wiped everybody else out, who knows). In this example, this secluded society would still have its own set of self-crafted morals. That is, its own guidelines and standards on what is considered right/good/acceptable and what is considered wrong/bad/unacceptable. Morality IS these guidelines. On a culture by culture basis, morality is the rules that define how people may interact with one another.

      If you are endorsing your (or “god’s”) morality as the only morality, the word for that is ethnocentrism, not this mythical ‘objective morality’ that you seem to be grasping at.

      1. Does the fact that something is accepted make it right?? In other words, is there such a thing as absolute truth or do right and wrong change? Obviously, what is accepted changes. This doesn’t change what God has decreed as right and wrong.

        1. What I think is right, isn’t what a tribe in Africa thinks is right. No, there is no absolute, ultimate, or objective truth. I think most of the “barbaric” practices will eventually get weeded out of a successful society because of how detrimental they are to overall societal growth.

          I understand your desire for their to be an objective right that is a blanket across all of humanity. But history has shown us that different groups have chosen their own rights and wrongs. I suppose the only argument I can think of for an objective right and wrong is human nature. How we emotionally handle murder/betrayal/thievery seems pretty consistent from person to person. Morals concerning these things tend to be fairly universal.

    2. Jordan, the moral positions on which the Bible is consistent are the moral positions on which civilisations the world over have a near-universal consensus, and not just the parts of the world with lots of Judeo-Christian influence. Murder is always wrong, lying is always wrong, rape…well, the New Testament is awfully quiet about the Old Testament’s attitude towards female rape victims…and of course slaves. What did God think of slavery in the time of King David, and what does He think of it now? Did godly people who kept slaves go to Heaven if they died without atoning for it in Biblical times, and do they now?

      Guilt is useful to survival in a social group, because doing wrong by your family and friends does you few favours. It encourages individuals to consider the groups with which they live, and benefit the entire group by not being selfish in all things. If guilt and the associated urge toward altruism were to vanish from the planet, society would collapse very quickly and billions would likely die in short order as the whole world went full “every man for himself”. That’s one way to be able to tell that a characteristic has survival value, and therefore an evolutionary benefit which would have reinforced it. Just because you personally don’t know how something is possible doesn’t make it impossible; this is an argument from personal incredulity, a particularly transparent version of the argument from ignorance.

      Do you really think the Bible invented reciprocity? Confucius mentioned it around 500 BC without ever having heard of the Jewish God. A recognisable version appeared in an Egyptian story “The Eloquent Peasant” that dates back to 1650 BC at the latest. The Bible is indeed a central source of cultural memes, but the most self-evident precepts were borrowed from other places first. You could claim that God bestowed these same precepts all over beforehand, but this would be nothing more than an assertion.

      People get upset about murder and not about bubbling Diet Coke because one affects lives and one doesn’t. We help the “unfit” to survive because we feel for them and we don’t care to practice eugenics. Darwinian natural selection and other areas of science are explanations of why things are the way they are, not a set of instructions for how to feel or conduct ourselves. Just because your explanation of the world and your moral instructions come from the same source doesn’t mean this is the case for everybody.

      1. Thanks for the reply.

        “Jordan, the moral positions on which the Bible is consistent are the moral positions on which civilisations the world over have a near-universal consensus, and not just the parts of the world with lots of Judeo-Christian influence.”
        That is very true. Why is this? Is this simply because these “morals” have some kind of survival value? Why are they so universally accepted (I realize that there are exceptions [like societies that practice canabalism] but there is certainly a general agreement on what is moral and what isn’t)? Wouldn’t different societies have developed drastically different morals? I believe that this general sense of morarlity is God-given.

        “Murder is always wrong, lying is always wrong…”
        Wow, I’m glad to hear that you believe this, although I’m not sure that this view is very consisten with the rest of your worldview. In your response to the original question on this post, you said that right and wrong can change. If moralality can change (which is very consistent with an atheistic worldview) how can murder and lying always be wrong?? Maybe sometime in the future our views of morality will change and murder will become acceptable and agreeable.

        “…rape…well, the New Testament is awfully quiet about the Old Testament’s attitude towards female rape victims…”
        I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. It sounds as if you are saying that rape is always wrong, then implying that by not discussing rape scenes in the Old Testament, the New Testament is somehow condoneing rape. If this is what you meant to communicate, then I would again ask why you believe rape is ALWAYS wrong. As I said earlier, it sounds as if you can’t decide whether to accept absolute truth or reject it. In addition, niether the Old, nor the New Testament condone rape of any kind. (If I have missunderstood what you said, I appologize. Please correct me in your reply)

        “…and of course slaves. What did God think of slavery in the time of King David, and what does He think of it now?”
        Good question. First of all, slavery is not part of our culture anymore. It would probably be frowned upon if somebody decided to have slaves. Now, with that understood, is having slaves always wrong? In Biblical times slaves were often aquired after defeating an enemy. I think that it would actually be an act of mercy to take these people as slaves instead of killing them. Also, the way a master treats his slaves also has a huge part in whether it was wrong or not. Slavery as we imagine it, involes the slaves having no rights, being beaten without cause, and being thought of as less than an animal; this would obviously be morally wrong. However, that was not how slavery has always been throughout history. Nor is it the kind that would be right. As I have said before, God doesn’t change, so having slaves in a sinful way has always been wrong.

        “Did godly people who kept slaves go to Heaven if they died without atoning for it in Biblical times, and do they now?”
        In response to this question about whether people would go to heaven if they had slaves (in an immoral way) and didn’t atone for it: You are confused as to what the Bible teaches. The animal sacrifices and all of the rituals in the Old Testament were simply temporary. The whole Old Testament is looking forward to when Christ would come and pay the penalty for sin. Animal sacrifices where a shadow of Christ’s sacrifice. Believers after Christ’s death, are all looking back and remembering what He did for us. You see, there is nothing we can do to earn our way to heaven (our atone for our sin). Nobody deserves heaven because nobody can be good enough to reach God’s perfect standard. Because God is just, the penalty for sins had to be payed. That is why Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life: to pay OUR penalty on OUR behalf. So you see, whether somebody atones for their sin is irrelevent, Jesus has already done it! All we have to do is realize that we can’t make it to heaven on our own and accept God’s gift of salvation (which was payed for by Jesus Christ). Even the most evil of slave masters can be saved simply by believing on The Lord Jesus Christ accepting God’s gift of salvation.

        “Guilt is useful to survival in a social group, because doing wrong by your family and friends does you few favours. It encourages individuals to consider the groups with which they live, and benefit the entire group by not being selfish in all things. If guilt and the associated urge toward altruism were to vanish from the planet, society would collapse very quickly and billions would likely die in short order as the whole world went full “every man for himself”. That’s one way to be able to tell that a characteristic has survival value, and therefore an evolutionary benefit which would have reinforced it.”
        Evolution requires something quite different than the scene you have just described. The whole theory relies on the idea that animals DON’T try to save or help other animals. It relies on billions dying and only the fittest surviving. You see, God given traits like guilt actually work contrary to evolution and thus should have been weeded out. What if the lion developed a sense of guilt for killing the gazelle? It might help prevent countless gazelle from being eaten, but this would make it much harder for the lion to survive. (By the way, if we are all just animals, why is one animal killing another animal any different than one human killing somebody else?)

        “Just because you personally don’t know how something is possible doesn’t make it impossible; this is an argument from personal incredulity, a particularly transparent version of the argument from ignorance.”
        The reason I worded my sentense that way was to avoid sounding arrogant. I was not implying that because I didn’t see how it was possible, it therefore wasn’t possible. I was implying the opposite: That I can sometimes make mistakes and might be missing something. In other words, “I don’t understand how this is possible. Either it isn’t, or I’m missing something.” I appologize for confusing you.

        “Do you really think the Bible invented reciprocity?”
        This is a straw man fallacy. I nowhere said that the Bible “invented” it. In addition, that statement is a kind of reification fallacy. Evolutionist commit this fallacy often by saying that “science has proven…”, or “science has revealed…” Science itself doesn’t prove anything. Scientists use it to support ideas, but refering to it as if it is some unbiased machine that proves things is simply not true. Similary, the Bible can’t invent anything. Invention is not something a book can accopmlish. The Bible is God’s Word, so it would not be fallicous to say that God invented the idea, “do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

        “Confucius mentioned it around 500 BC without ever having heard of the Jewish God. A recognisable version appeared in an Egyptian story “The Eloquent Peasant” that dates back to 1650 BC at the latest.”
        As I stated above the idea is from God, who existed even before time.

        “The Bible is indeed a central source of cultural memes, but the most self-evident precepts were borrowed from other places first. You could claim that God bestowed these same precepts all over beforehand, but this would be nothing more than an assertion.”
        These ideas were not borrowed. They originated with God and then written in His word.

        “People get upset about murder and not about bubbling Diet Coke because one affects lives and one doesn’t.”
        This avoids the my question. How, from an evolutionary/atheistic worldview, is one chemical reaction worse than another? If we all started out as matter, and we are all still made of matter, and this matter has magically come together in a chemical reaction (that somehow defies the Law of Biogenesis), how is life any different than a complicated chemical reaction?

        “We help the “unfit” to survive because we feel for them and we don’t care to practice eugenics.”
        What is a “feeling” but simply electrical impulses in one’s brain? And why don’t we practice eugenics? Why stop with survival of the fittest if it has worked so well in the past?

        “Darwinian natural selection and other areas of science are explanations of why things are the way they are, not a set of instructions for how to feel or conduct ourselves.”
        True, however understanding why things are the way they are, should have a huge impact on how we conduct ourselves. Products of chance, should have a basis to act much differently than products of divine creation.

        “Just because your explanation of the world and your moral instructions come from the same source doesn’t mean this is the case for everybody.”
        This is only true if you assume that I am wrong. But it is begging the question to try to prove I am wrong by assuming I am wrong. In other words, if there is a God who created everything, then His moral instructions should indeed be followed by everybody. If there is not (as you have assumed), then yes, you would be right and it wouldn’t be the case for everybody.

        Finally, I’m curious as to what you think of the following statement by Albert Camus: “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.”

        Thanks for your time,
        ~Jordan~

        1. As I said, you can claim God gave us all the same morals, ignoring those instances were our morals differ even in a single society (e.g. on abortion), but this turns your argument into a mere assertion. You’re free to believe it, but it won’t convince anyone else.

          I meant that there is always a law against murder and laws against perjury and fraud in every system of laws ever devised. It’s not hard to imagine situations where killing or lying may be the best thing for all concerned, but these are seen as exceptions to rules which are not quite universal, but universal enough to live by. That’s why murder is illegal but self-defense usually results in acquittal.

          The Old Testament never explicity commands rape, though it allows it to happen very easily (see Numbers 31:7-18 NLT). My point, however, was the consequences of being raped for young women (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Whether the pre-marital sex is consensual or not, she’s stuck with the man. Perhaps this was a rule only for the Jews, but in this case that means the men of God’s chosen people had immoral privileges: shag her once and she’s yours forever.

          Congratulations, you’ve come to defend slavery to justify your beliefs. Englishmen in the time of William Wilberforce used much the same arguments to justify attempting to preserve slavery into the modern era.

          I am aware of what is taught about salvation through Christ, and it speaks directly to a larger point to say that “even the most evil of slave masters can be saved simply by believing on The Lord Jesus Christ accepting God’s gift of salvation.” That doesn’t help the poor slaves one bit, and the masters can get away with anything.

          A lion wouldn’t feel guilt for killing a gazelle any more than most of us would feel guilt for eating fried chicken, but a lion will not go out of its way to kill members of its own pride. It’ll fight for alpha status, sure, but it won’t go and murder all its rivals in their sleep because a larger pride is a stronger pride. This ancient instinct to protect one’s own (and therefore one’s own DNA) is the evolutionary precursor to the feeling of guilt you get from slighting your fellow humans. It extends outside humankind to cats and dogs, whom we cherish. It weakens beyond that, but it still applies to animals like sheep and cows, whom we like to think are treated well and killed humanely for their meat. It usually fails when considering alien-looking animals like mosquitoes, whom we casually attack.

          Generally speaking, you are arguing for both the existence and the righteousness of the Christian God. I apologise if I incorrectly see something you say in that light. For instance, I believed that you were using the fact that the Golden Rule is a “biblical principle” to directly argue that God is responsible for it. You do believe this of course, but if you weren’t actually arguing for it at the time I’m happy to take it as part of the greater unsupported assertion instead of a flawed independent argument. I’d like to know how you actually do support this idea of God-given morals with evidence, besides their apparent ubiquity which has other possible explanations.

          Human beings decide which chemical reactions, or actions in general, are “worse” than each other. We punish people for some actions and not others because we share common values, whether they evolved or emerged through socialisation or were divinely bestowed. If there is an absolute morality we have no way of knowing it for certain; the only way to convince ourselves we do is to make one gigantic assertion (e.g. God) which supports all others, and then forget that we’ve only asserted it so that it becomes a premise. Without this assertion, we simply use whatever laws appear to work best, and because they are routinely tested in law courts they end up working pretty well. (Incidentally, since you mention it in the section I’m responding to, see my earlier piece on the “Law of Biogenesis”.)

          “Survival of the fittest” has not worked well in the past, by all but the most pragmatic, heartless human standards. It has resulted in boundless suffering and brutality for billions of years. We accept that it happened and continues to happen, but we aspire to a kinder world and we search for kinder ways to prosper.

          I think you read too much into my statement about explanations and instructions. I simply meant that while science explains many things for an atheist, morality is free to come from other sources. We know we’re animals, but we don’t have to behave like them all the time.

          To paraphrase Camus very liberally, I would rather live my life as if there isn’t a god and die to find out there is, than live my life as if there is a god and die to find out there’s a different, jealous god. The chances of picking the right version of the right god, and the right set of instructions for pleasing that god, are hopelessly small without any available substantive evidence for any gods at all, so backing any horse is a bad bet. If in fact there is good evidence for a particular god, then this evidence should be presented to remove all doubt, instead of trying to sow vague doubts with a what-if.

          1. Thanks again, for taking the time to respond.

            “As I said, you can claim God gave us all the same morals, ignoring those instances were our morals differ even in a single society (e.g. on abortion), but this turns your argument into a mere assertion. You’re free to believe it, but it won’t convince anyone else.”
            God gave everyone a conscience. People instinctively know right from wrong in most cases. This is not to say that one’s conscience cannot be suppressed. Not only can this happen, it is quite common. People will keep ignoring their consciense until it stops bothering them anymore. Sure people dissagree on aspects of morality, but this is due to what they want to believe. It would go something like this: sure murder and stealing is wrong, but lying is so convieneint that I am going to pretend that it is right.

            “I meant that there is always a law against murder and laws against perjury and fraud in every system of laws ever devised.”
            First of all you have no way of knowing this. The only way you could assert this would be if you have studied “every system of laws ever devised”. But that is besides the point. The idea that morality is only defined by what people agree on is a hard position to defend. Hitler convinced a large group of people that what he was doing was right. By your own proffessed standards, everything Hitler did was morally right if it was considered right by the rest of the Nazis. Now, if somehow you still decide that Hitler was wrong, after all, he MUST be wrong (or so it may be tempting to think); you could argue that your standards of morality are better. But this would leave you in the same place as Hitler, with a position of equal arbitrariness. Your own professed morality is based on your own personal opinion (or the opinion of your society) that Hitler’s actions are wrong. In the same way, Hitler’s morality is of equal validity because it is defined by what a different group of people believe.

            “It’s not hard to imagine situations where killing or lying may be the best thing for all concerned, but these are seen as exceptions to rules which are not quite universal, but universal enough to live by. That’s why murder is illegal but self-defense usually results in acquittal.”
            By “universal” do you mean what is generally accepted in your area? You have already said that morality can change when people decide it should.

            “The Old Testament never explicity commands rape…”
            The OT never even implicitly commands rape or even say that it is okay to do.

            “…though it allows it [rape] to happen very easily (see Numbers 31:7-18 NLT).”
            That passage never condones rape. It says to keep the virgins (that had survived after the Israelites had defeated an enemy) alive. This was so that they could intermarry with the Jews. You would have to impose “rape” onto the text where it doesn’t mention it.

            “My point, however, was the consequences of being raped for young women (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Whether the pre-marital sex is consensual or not, she’s stuck with the man. Perhaps this was a rule only for the Jews, but in this case that means the men of God’s chosen people had immoral privileges: shag her once and she’s yours forever.”
            Muslims often use this passage to condone rape. Here is a a link to a commentary on the passage: http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/ot_and_rape.htm. I have a feeling that you won’t read this (if you do that would be great), so I will sum up what it says. This passage does not condone or encourage rape. It doesn’t even use the word. In translating it to english, “rape” can (understandibly) be implied. However there is a strong case that this passage is reffering to a mutual, immoral relashionship between a man and a woman. You seem to have realized that this might be the case. If people mess around with sex before marriage, there were consequenses: those people were to marry whom they had willfully joined themselves to.

            “Congratulations, you’ve come to defend slavery to justify your beliefs. Englishmen in the time of William Wilberforce used much the same arguments to justify attempting to preserve slavery into the modern era.”
            If you had read my reply to understand what it meant and not what you wanted it to mean, you would have seen that I believe most forms of slavery are without question, wrong. Just because we imagine slavery as it was in the South before the Civil War, doesn’t mean this is how all slavery has always been. I said that depending on how you treated them, it was not necessarily morally wrong to have slaves. Similarly, you have openly addmitted that because slavery was agreed on as okay during this time, it was actually morally acceptable. I could reply, “Congratulations, your belief system requires you to defend all kinds of slavery as long as it is generally accepted,” or, “Congratulations, you’ve come to defend the Holocaust in order to save your worldview.”

            “I am aware of what is taught about salvation through Christ, and it speaks directly to a larger point to say that “even the most evil of slave masters can be saved simply by believing on The Lord Jesus Christ accepting God’s gift of salvation.” That doesn’t help the poor slaves one bit, and the masters can get away with anything.”
            It is true that Christ’s sacrifice was enough to save even the most hardened of sinners. However, salvation requires repentance. If somebody’s life didn’t change after they claim to be saved, they probably haven’t really repented and turned to Christ. This is not to say that Christians are perfect, their far from it; but Christians are forgiven, and that is what matters. Paul deals with the idea of using Christianity as a “life-line” to heaven, where people claim to be saved, and then act as if they are still slaves of sin. I encourage you to check it out. It is in Romans chapter 6.

            “A lion wouldn’t feel guilt for killing a gazelle any more than most of us would feel guilt for eating fried chicken, but a lion will not go out of its way to kill members of its own pride. It’ll fight for alpha status, sure, but it won’t go and murder all its rivals in their sleep because a larger pride is a stronger pride. This ancient instinct to protect one’s own (and therefore one’s own DNA) is the evolutionary precursor to the feeling of guilt you get from slighting your fellow humans. It extends outside humankind to cats and dogs, whom we cherish. It weakens beyond that, but it still applies to animals like sheep and cows, whom we like to think are treated well and killed humanely for their meat. It usually fails when considering alien-looking animals like mosquitoes, whom we casually attack.”
            I understand what you are tying to say about a lion and a gazelle. Is the only reason we should not kill another animal as follows: if it is of the same species as us (human), or if we don’t mind how it looks (we could care less about mosquitoes, but generally want cats and dogs to survive)?

            “Generally speaking, you are arguing for both the existence and the righteousness of the Christian God. I apologise if I incorrectly see something you say in that light.”
            No need to apologize, I do believe in both the existence of and the righteousness of the God of the Bible.

            “For instance, I believed that you were using the fact that the Golden Rule is a “biblical principle” to directly argue that God is responsible for it. You do believe this of course, but if you weren’t actually arguing for it at the time I’m happy to take it as part of the greater unsupported assertion instead of a flawed independent argument. I’d like to know how you actually do support this idea of God-given morals with evidence, besides their apparent ubiquity which has other possible explanations.”
            First off, I believe that God is the originator of the Golden Rule because he chose to include it in His Word, the Bible. If the Bible is true, then it would follow that what it says is true. Since you asked for proof here ya go:
            Manuscript evidence. One way historians decide if a manuscript should be trusted or not is based on the number of original manuscripts. The NT alone has over 5600 original language manuscripts, making it the best attested ancient work. Homer’s Illiad comes in second with 2200+ original language manuscripts. For comparison, the original language manuscritps of any one work of Aristotle is 7. Based on how historians determine the historical accuracy of ancient manuscritps, even those who reject the Bible agree that it “passes the test with flying colors”. To reject the Bible would cast serious doubt on many other generally accepted ancient works (I could go on, but I think you get the point).
            Archaeological evidence. Archeology confirms the Bible. One example is the five cities that are mentioned in Genesis 14:2. In the past, those who reject the truth of the Bible argued that these places never existed. Ancient manuscripts have now been discovered that mention these cities. Other examples of archeology confirming scripture include: the House of David Iscriptions, the Seal of Bruch, the Pilate Stone Inscription, the Skeleton of Yohanan, the Magdalene Papyrus, and much much more.
            Prophetic evidence. The Old Testament contains extremely specific and detailed (in other words, they aren’t vague guesses like fortune telling) prophecies. Not a single one has proven inaccurate, despite impossible odds. One example (there are literally dozens if you wish to study this further) is the prophecy in Daniel 2 of the next three (specific) world empires and their eventual fall.
            Scientific evidence. Critics of the Bible used to believe that humans couldn’t sweat blood as recorded in Luke 22:44. Not surprisingly, it is now known that under extreme stress or agony, it is possible for a human to “sweat blood.” As far back as 2000 B.C. Job implied not only that the world seemingly “hangs on nothing” (Jobe 26:7) in space but also that the world is circular or spherical (Job 26:10)
            Internal consistency. The Bible was written over a period of over 1500 years by over 40 different authors and somehow it all fits together without contradiction (every alleged contradiction can be answered by correctly interpreting the text and using some logical reasoning).
            I could go on, but I digress… 🙂

            “Human beings decide which chemical reactions, or actions in general, are “worse” than each other. We punish people for some actions and not others because we share common values, whether they evolved or emerged through socialisation or were divinely bestowed.”
            I have already discussed the problems with accepting such an arbitrary standard for morality. In addition, why should any chemical reacitons get to decide what happens to other chemical reactions. Words like “should” are hard to explain from a purely evolutionist/atheistic worldview.

            “If there is an absolute morality we have no way of knowing it for certain, the only way to convince ourselves we do is to make one gigantic assertion (e.g. God) which supports all others, and then forget that we’ve only asserted it so that it becomes a premise.”
            Perhaps, but then again, two people can both claim to “know” something that is quite contradictory. So without revelation from someone with limitless and exhastive knowledge, nobody can know anything “for certain”. Even with such a revelation, it requires faith that this revelation is from somebody who is indeed, limitless. A faith that I find much easier to believe than the staggaring amount of faith that evolution requires.

            “Without this assertion, we simply use whatever laws appear to work best, and because they are routinely tested in law courts they end up working pretty well.”
            I’ve covered this above.

            “(Incidentally, since you mention it in the section I’m responding to, see my earlier piece on the “Law of Biogenesis”.)”
            Ah yes. I’m glad you mentioned it. It just so happens that I read every comment and reply on that post before I decided to mention it. The reason I brought it up was because of the great faith it must require to believe a scientific theory that directly contradicts a scientific law. Asserting that, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the god-like attributes of time and chance can create life from nonlife is almost pathetic (for lack of a better word). Let us imagine, for the sake of argument, that some time in the future, science has advanced tremendously. All of the worlds greatest minds come together and somehow devise a way to make life from matter. Would it not be almost comical for these scientists to then proclaim that they have proved, that life can come about without any intelligence whatsoever?
            Joking aside, are you bothered by the Law of Biogenesis (even in the slightest) due to it’s blatent contradiction of your worldview?

            ““Survival of the fittest” has not worked well in the past, by all but the most pragmatic, heartless human standards. It has resulted in boundless suffering and brutality for billions of years. We accept that it happened and continues to happen, but we aspire to a kinder world and we search for kinder ways to prosper.”
            What do words like “kinder” even mean in your worldview. Does it imply the tendency for certain “rearranged pond scum” to look after and protect, other “rearranged pond scum?”

            “I think you read too much into my statement about explanations and instructions. I simply meant that while science explains many things for an atheist, morality is free to come from other sources. We know we’re animals, but we don’t have to behave like them all the time.”
            Thanks for the clarification. If I am correct, this “other source” would be majority opinion, right?

            “To paraphrase Camus very liberally, I would rather live my life as if there isn’t a god and die to find out there is, than live my life as if there is a god and die to find out there’s a different, jealous god. The chances of picking the right version of the right god, and the right set of instructions for pleasing that god, are hopelessly small without any available substantive evidence for any gods at all, so backing any horse is a bad bet.”
            Do you really believe that there is no evidence for the accuracy of the Bible? Are you willing to reject recorded history, in favor of an arbitrary, assumption-full, faith in Evolution?

            “If in fact there is good evidence for a particular god, then this evidence should be presented to remove all doubt, instead of trying to sow vague doubts with a what-if.”
            There is no proof that can remove ALL doubt. This is a common misconseption among Evolutionists. They assert that they have proven certain things. It is true that science and other things can offer tremendous evidence in support of an idea, however, this idea cannot be proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, by these methods. Just as it used to be the common belief that rotting meat “proved” spontaneous generation, this was due to many faulty experements performed by mistake-prone humans.
            I believe that there is proof beyond a resonable doubt, from the evidence alone, that there is a Creator. Romans 1:20 explains how creation itself proclaims that there is a God.

            Whew, that was a lot of info, thanks for taking the time to read it.
            ~Jordan~

            1. This discussion has expanded somewhat, hasn’t it? I’ll try to condense, but it’s gone a bit far now.

              Human morality does not come about by simple local majority opinion, but by sustained near-universal consensus among all those involved. Hitler’s moral stance was genuinely picked up by some people, but forced upon a great many others (e.g. Jews and sympathisers) and unknown to many more. The world at large, when the Holocaust was fully revealed after the war, was almost uniformly horrified. Now that the truth has come out it is safe enough to say that the Holocaust was wrong. Those who argue with you will for usually object to the apparent absolutism in the statement, not argue that it was right. Sometimes a thing is close enough to being certain (or vanishingly unlikely) that you can happily live your life as if it is, and that’s all you need. Do you check for falling meteorites every time you step through your front door?

              Numbers 31:7-18 NLT is a translation which doesn’t use the word “rape”. I could have easily used one which does, but regardless of initial consent the man and woman are commanded to stay married for life. The law may have been intended to punish wilful premarital sex, but it had the further effect of binding any known rape victim to her rapist.

              Perhaps slavery was very different in the time of the Old Testament, but the story of Moses seems to indicate that it was still something slaves would do everything in their power to escape. And if the slaves themselves had had a say in government on whether slavery was acceptable, I doubt that it could have claimed nearly as much acceptance. Like the Nazis, slave owners imposed their morality on others and made it look like the universally accepted norm by silencing those who would object most.

              I know that being “saved” doesn’t count if you keep on sinning. That’s why the optimum strategy is to be “saved” on your deathbed, if you have the presence of mind to do so. You don’t have to change anything but your mind, and you still go to Heaven, and your victims do not receive anything they would regard as justice.

              My lion-and-gazelle analogy is to demonstrate things as they are, not as they should be. We empathise with humans the most, but still a great deal with certain mammals, and the amount drops as creatures become more and more foreign to us. This is not why we SHOULD look after cats, dogs and other humans, it’s why we generally DO. We don’t have to be ordered to do it, by a god or anyone else. An absolute “should” is unnecessary when we naturally tend to do the right thing.

              I’ll address your evidence very briefly, because I’ve written other pieces on ATA which delve into most of these points.

              – You have not compared the manuscript of the Bible to the manuscript of any other book which makes supernatural claims which we are supposed to believe, and do believe. This is because there is no standard among historians for a credible supernatural claim. This is an oxymoron in practice, because historians (as opposed to theologians) generally reject the authority of supernatural claims on the basis that they ARE supernatural, unless they believe in specific supernatural phenomena a priori or they fear repercussions from believers.

              – The Bible undoubtedly mentions many real people, places and events. It is set in the real world after all, but then so is Forrest Gump. Just because Gump shook hands with Nixon in the White House shortly before Watergate does not mean Gump was real.

              – Please refer to my piece on prophecies directly. The same piece covers the claim of scientific evidence. If you have an example of a prediction or scientific foreknowledge which cannot be explained by any of the possibilities I’ve listed, put it in the comments there and we’ll take a look.

              – There’s a reason why the Skeptics’ Annotated Bible includes prominent links to multiple refutations of each of its contradiction claims, whereas you’d think it would be worried for its credibility. Each refutation relies on a particular interpretation of the text which makes it come out all right, but there is a common assumption among the responders that because an interpretation resolves the contradiction, it must be the correct one. The alternative possibility that another interpretation was intended and the Bible is just wrong is seldom discussed.

              I put “Law of Biogenesis” in quotes because it’s not a scientific law at all. It’s an observation by Louis Pasteur which he never codified, and it’s now only referred to as a law by creationists. It was an important thing to state in Pasteur’s time because people believed life was newly generated all the time. Pasteur did not demonstrate that life CANNOT come from non-life, only that it doesn’t happen at the drop of a hat. Genetic and geographical evidence now indicate that a single event of abiogenesis was responsible for all modern life; one event in 3.5 billion years is hard to track down, but it’s entirely consistent with Pasteur’s failure to observe another.

              If you want to refer to us as “rearranged pond scum”, you are not degrading us but rather elevating the status of pond scum. When sufficiently rearranged, pond scum can write poetry, form governments and fly to the moon, so it’s not too surprising that it can learn to look after its fellow scum.

              To summarise some of the above, there is no available, substantive evidence for the supernatural claims in the Bible. Even if there were plenty, and we knew the Christian god was real, there are enough mutually exclusive denominations of Christianity that you’d still have Buckley’s chance of picking the right one. Thinking that the important thing is a personal relationship with Jesus won’t help you if the truly important thing is total adherence to Southeastern Baptist doctrine or whatever, so being general about it is still a bad bet. Maybe God’s a real stickler.

              You’re right, science can offer tremendous amounts of evidence in support of a hypothesis. Evolution is one such hypothesis which has that beyond-reasonable-doubt level of support. Absolute proof is indeed difficult-to-impossible, and if anyone says evolution has been proven absolutely they should reword the statement, but the evidence is such that if evolution did not contradict religious doctrine no one would have any reason to challenge the theory. The Bible, on the other hand, presumes that the world has been “made” in the process of arguing for a maker (if Romans 1:20 is even interpreted as an argument rather than a reassurance for the faithful). I’ll let you work out which logical fallacy that is.

              1. Indeed, we are discussing a bit more than the original question now. For time and space constraints, I am not going to reply in a point-by-point style. I’ll try to to be succinct.

                It seems as if your view of morality has evolved quite a bit since we have been discussing it. If you will recall, earlier, you said, “Regulated slavery was right and good for a very long time, but now we find it reprehensible. We’re entitled to admit mistakes and change our positions when new information comes to light.” Obviously, this slavery that you describe as “right and good” was considered as such by large groups of people (namely slave owners), and considered “reprehensible” by other large groups of people (namely, slaves). When I pointed out how hard this view was to defend (with the Hitler example), you changed the basis for morality from “large groups”, to nearly universally accepted ideas. Here is how your argument has changed: “Human morality does not come about by simple local majority opinion, but by sustained near-universal consensus among all those involved.” and later, you say, “Like the Nazis, slave owners imposed their morality on others and made it look like the universally accepted norm by silencing those who would object most.” Hmmm… certainly this, “right and good”, slavery was not considered right and good by “near-universal consensus.” Thank you for pointing this out for me.
                I think I have shown the difficulties with the “majority rules” morality that you originally backed. Let’s discuss the idea of “sustained near-universal” morality. I think you would agree that what people define as right and wrong, differs from person to person (e.g. abortion, lying, capital punishment, etc.). On issues such as these, is there any standard for morality, or are people free to do as they please as long as the general consensus hasn’t become “near-universal?” When Europeans started settling in America, whose morality was the “real” one? What if the Native Americans had adopted a standard of morality that was much different than the Europeans? Even, your fellow ATA writer, Adam, would argue that a society could adopt different morals if it didn’t have contact with the rest of the world.

                Most versions don’t use the word “rape” because the word isn’t there. The passage sounds as if it is talking about rape, but this is not necessarily the case. In addition, the NLT (though it is technically a translation) is considered by many to be closer to a paraphrase. While this is convenient to read. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are actually going to study a passage. Other versions such as the NASB, ESV, NKJV, and others, will usually avoid sacrificing the literal translation for the flow of the passage.

                Fortunately for us, sinning after we are saved does not cause it to “not count.” While it is true that people can be saved on their deathbed (like the thief on the cross), this is not the optimum strategy. If somebody purposely waited until they were about to die to be saved, it would hardly be genuine repentance. I don’t think it takes a scholar to understand that.

                Would you agree that, from your worldview, morality isn’t something we SHOULD do, just something that we DO do? If so, why be moral at all (if you can get away with it), if the only reason to be moral is to obey the opinion of others?

                It sounds as if you would agree that the Bible is historically correct (from the accepted methods of testing historical documents) on everything except when it records miraculous events. It even sounds as if you believe that the prophecies were true (why would you try to prove that they aren’t miraculous when all you have to do is prove that they were false?) Would this be a correct statement of your views? If it isn’t, what reasons do you have (besides personal incredulity to the Bible) to assert that it is historically inaccurate?

                Wow, I was impressed by your post on the prophecies of the Bible. I believe it does as good a job as possible at trying to explain how numerous, specific prophecies could be correct without miraculous help. If I have time, I will post a more detailed comment there, in the meantime let me make a quick point. Let’s assume for the sake of argument, that all the prophecies fall under one of your categories and can be individually explained to have a somewhat high probability of being right. (This is being extremely generous. Most prophecies have a very low probability of being right. Your example prophecies were handpicked to make your point). Bible scholars have estimated that there are over 2,000 prophecies in the Bible (though a portion of these are for the future). It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the chances of getting EVERY prophecy right (despite this alleged high probability of getting a single prophecy right) is unimaginably low (perhaps even lower than the chances of life coming from non-life). So although you can attempt to make one or two prophecies sound as if they were no big deal, it is another thing entirely to make dozens and dozens of them all coming true, sound as if it was no big deal.

                Your defense of spontaneous generation can be likened to trying to defend the tooth-fairy by saying, “Well you can’t prove that she doesn’t exist!” Spontaneous generation has NEVER been known to happen in the same way that the tooth-fairy has never been known to exist (except by children, of course). I know that you would argue that evolution isn’t random (due to the un-randomness of natural selection). This is why you don’t buy into analogizing the likelihood of evolution creating what we have today to the likelihood of a tornado in a junkyard creating a Ferrari. I think that we can agree that no matter how long you give it (1 Billion years, 100 Billion years, or more), even with the right supplies, the randomness of a tornado is never going to create a Ferrari. This being said, why couldn’t this analogy be applied to spontaneous generation? A Ferrari is much, much simpler than even the simplest of life forms. Thus, the likelihood of a tornado creating a Ferrari is HIGHER than the likelihood of life forming from the random movements of chemicals. Am I wrong in assuming that the first life-form came about in an entirely random fashion?

                On a slightly different note. God could care less what denomination you are in. What matters, is if you accept his offer of salvation (presented in His Word). I don’t know who told you that total adherence to some denomination is what is required for salvation. God is a stickler when it comes to believing on The Lord Jesus Christ, however there are many other non-salvation issues that people differ on.

                Romans 1:20 isn’t an argument or an assurance to the faithful. It is just a statement. Obviously, if you reject the authority of God’s Word then you are going to disagree with it. I, however do not reject biblical authority and thus have no problem with this statement.

                ~Jordan~

                1. If you look at my previous writings on morality (just search the site for “morality”) you’ll find that they’re pretty consistent with what I’m currently trying to get across to you. The standard of near-universal consensus is my standard in general, and when I point out minority support or even unclear majority support for a morally questionable stance, it’s because it falls short of this standard. My position is not evolving that much during this conversation, trust me, because I’ve had almost this exact conversation right here several times already.

                  On some issues there is no near-universal consensus, even when the whole world is part of the discussion. In the case of when an abortion is justified (always, never or in certain cases) the reason is that there are so many things to consider: the rights of the mother and father, the medical and social status of the foetus/embryo/blastocyst, the potential benefits and/or suffering for all parties, and on top of all of this the decrees of various religions and other ethical approaches. When faced with disagreements in such grey areas we can only look for common ground, for example a shared concern for the mother’s wellbeing. We can proceed very carefully from there, but we must be content with finding a solution which is “good enough” because one which completely satisfies all parties will probably not be found. We must learn to live with ambiguity because it is not going away.

                  We don’t have to hypothesise about isolated populations with different morals, because it happens all the time. Groups of Muslims and other unrelated tribes practice “female circumcision”, and believe it to be not only right but absolutely crucial for every woman. It’s only made the news in the last few years, but now the whole world knows about it and the rest of the world is shocked. I think we have the requisite near-universal consensus to declare it “wrong” because not only have other groups not been the least bit tempted to adopt it, but there is vociferous opposition to it even within the groups that practice it (otherwise we’d never have found out). Before this wide exposure, the communities involved had people calling it right and people calling it wrong, and the most a neutral outsider could have called it was contentious. Exposure and accountability is very good for ethical behaviour.

                  I agree that the Numbers passage – as recently interpreted – doesn’t focus on rape, but this is irrelevant because it applied to rape victims living in communities that held to these rules, and whoever wrote it would have known that it would. Is there any translation which would have resulted in different consequences for a woman who was raped by a man who was then caught?

                  Of course there are practical issues with deathbed conversions, but such late salvations can happen and the converts’ victims get nothing. The promise of heaven and the threat of hell are not a reason to behave morally, but merely a reason to get right with God before the end, which is not the same thing at least from the victims’ perspective. People behave morally for other reasons, even Christians.

                  “Should” doesn’t work in a vacuum. Should you eat less? Yes if you’re overweight, no if you’re underweight. It all depends on your goals. There are plenty of reasons why we should behave ethically towards one another: to encourage people to do the same to us, to improve the world we live in, to make ourselves happy just to be helping, to compensate for the selfish things we all do and so forth. There is no universal “should” which works in every conceivable situation, but when there are plenty of reasons to do something and no immediate reasons to do the opposite, using the word “should” out of context can be a good shorthand. That’s the philosophical approach. The evolutionary perspective is that we have well-developed altruistic instincts which helped our ancestors all along the way, and there’s no good reason to reject these instincts now.

                  All I’m claiming about the Bible is that just because some elements of the stories are true (the existence of Rome and Tiberius Caesar is an obvious one), not all of them are, even the natural events. Aside from the supernatural aspect, the manuscript-accuracy argument is misleading because the factual accuracy of the accounts is not the only or even the most obvious reason for more accurate copying and transcription in this case. A belief among the copiers that the words were divinely written or inspired, and contained specific messages from God, would cause a greater effort to proofread and be precise. If you want a specific example of historical inaccuracy besides the scientific evidence against Genesis, I would point out that if Moses’ people were that many and they walked into the Sinai Peninsula, they would have spanned it and got out in a few weeks. The most extraordinary claims of the Bible require the strongest evidence, and the strongest evidence for anything in the Bible is for its most ordinary events, like the existence of a city.

                  It’s too late now to “prove” that many of the prophecies were false because we no longer know what really happened. Some of them were indeed unambiguously accurate according to later accounts, but if the apparent reason for these was #1, #3 and/or #5 then it is rather unremarkable that they were accurate (because, respectively, they were no-brainers, or lots of people worked to make them come true, or the results were recorded specifically to match) and they are not good evidence for divine assistance, even cumulatively. That leaves the prophecies that fall under #2 and/or #4, where through pure ignorance or ambiguous interpretation we don’t know whether they came true or not. If any of the 2,000 are left after all that, with no acceptable alternate explanations and a very low chance of being right by fluke, that coincidence must still be compared to the probability than an inexplicable entity with no direct evidence for it at all happened to slip one or two good predictions in amongst the dodgy ones.

                  That said, I handpicked my examples not because they were easy to explain away but because they were thrown at me and others. (John Lennox tried the one about the universe’s beginning on Richard Dawkins in a debate.) They were the BEST that some Christians had to offer. Still, if you respond to my other piece, I invite you to handpick a prophecy or two specifically to contradict my point.

                  The reason a Ferrari can’t assemble in a tornado is that it has custom-made parts which only fit together at specific angles, and usually not at hundreds of kilometres per hour. If tens of thousands of teddy bears were dismembered, the bodies and limbs fitted with velcro and the whole lot loaded into a giant washing machine, you’d see a lot of mutant teddies coming together but you might well get a few properly formed bears by sheer luck. Similarly, if the right building blocks (really just the right nucleotides and a membrane to put them in) were smushed together in agitated water or mud in sufficient quantities for long enough, a primitive cell might emerge that could break off part of itself to combine with the surrounding materials and make another cell – in other words, a self-replicating organism. From there, evolution takes over.

                  That’s the basics of one hypothesis of abiogenesis. Mathematically speaking, the low probability of any particular ribozyme or protein forming is balanced out by the enormous number of possible ribozymes and proteins that could have done the same job, and the sheer amounts of materials and time that were available. It’s still unlikely, but that’s expected to be since we only have evidence that it ever happened once. A god only seems like a likely alternative if you already think there’s a god, because otherwise the spontaneous assembly of a simple cell structure is in direct competition with the past-infinite existence of a fully-formed, fully-educated, all-powerful biochemist.

                  Ever been to Northern Ireland? I made up “Southeastern Baptist”, but there are plenty of Catholics who think all Protestants are going to hell just for being Protestants and vice versa. If any group of these ardent denominationalists is right, you’re probably just as screwed as non-believers, and since you and they are working from personal interpretations of the same scriptures you have no way of arguing the point with them besides bald assertion. Christians often claim to know relevant parts of God’s mind (what he’s a stickler for, for example) but all but one group – at most – must be wrong in some respect.

                  1. Would you mind giving me a link to your previous discussions on morality? I wasn’t able to find them but I would like to read them. I searched the site for “morality” and read about a dozen different articles but couldn’t find it. Thanks.

                    When isolated parts of the world develop different standards for morality, are they both, technically correct? In other words, would you agree that there can be two contradictory standards of morality, that are both considered moral? Wouldn’t a cannibalistic society be considered moral? If the cannibals converted enough people to their mentality, would not cannibalism be completely moral?
                    In addition, can you not see the arbitrariness of your view in morality? How arbitrary is it to assume that if enough people agree to a certain standard for morality, then this is the true standard? Morality can and will change if this is the standard (by your own consent). Maybe a past or future standard is better.
                    Furthermore, while “near-universal” consensus is your standard for morality, another atheist could have a completely different standard. You could argue that your standard is better, but on what grounds? A completely different idea of morality is just as justified as your idea of morality (in your worldview, of course).
                    Also, (I touched on this already) anything that has not reached this arbitrary “near-universal” standard of yours is fair game. As long as I can find a relevant number of people who would agree with me, I could do whatever I want.
                    Finally, there will always be (huge numbers) of those who don’t feel it necessary to follow a certain moral standard. Murderers, rapists, and thieves will always be around. These people apparently don’t care about (at least some portion of) a moral standard. How could you argue that these people are doing what is really wrong? You may argue that it is wrong because they are hurting and taking advantage of people but who are you to argue this. This is only based on your arbitrary opinion of morality. The murderer either doesn’t care about morality, or has a totally different standard for morality (which is just as arbitrary as your’s, but no less valid).

                    If the passage doesn’t talk about rape, then why should it applied to rapists? I have never studied this particular passage, but if it is only referring to willful premarital sex, then rape has nothing to do with it.

                    That is a good point. The reward of heaven and the threat of hell are not why one should behave morally (though, this is undoubtably the reason some people behave morally). The reason a Christian should behave morally is to glorify God. Not only is He our Creator, He is our Savior. That, in and of itself, is reason to behave in a way consistent with His moral standard.

                    True, the only thing the number of original manuscripts prove is that the message has remained basically unchanged from it’s beginning. Not surprisingly, this is an important factor historians consider when testing the truthfulness of a historical account (once it is history, it can’t change). Do you have any evidence that might suggest that any of the natural events in the Bible are fictitious. It is easy to claim as much, do you have any good reason (besides your general dislike for the Bible) to back up this claim? Yeah, it would take 3 million people weeks to cross anything–if they all walked in a single file line. This, of course, is a ridiculous idea. Spread out over a large distance, the time it would take to cross something is greatly reduced.

                    Okay, lets go with the teddy bear example. Do you really believe that, given enough time in a washing machine, a bunch of velcro clad teddybear parts will form a full teddybear? Randomness, is a very poor creator, the more time you give it, the more mixed up things become (obviously). Let’s simplify things. Imagine dumping a bag of thousands of scrabble tiles out on a table. After a billion or so tries, you might be lucky enough to get a few tiles to fall in a row to make a simple phrase (ANY phrase). Now, imagine trying this for a trillion years. Will these tiles ever form, say, 2 pages of coherent writing (ANY writing)? No, the probability is mindbogglingly low. To make matters worse, the simplest life form is so much more complex than a teddy bear or a couple of pages of writing, that even the worlds greatest scientists can’t come close to reproducing it. Honestly, I don’t have enough faith to accept what you are asserting as fact, and spontaneous generation is just an example. What about the lack of intermediate fossils? How could a dinosaur evolve into a bird? If the first life form was asexual, how did two different cells develop male and female sexual organs at the same time and in the same place? Why is carbon-14 still found in diamonds? The faith of an atheist is truly great.

                    What any denomination believes doesn’t change what the Bible says. The Bible is clear about salvation. Many people twist and add to the Scripture to make it fit their needs, but that is irrelevant to its truthfulness. Let me explain it this way, I could say, “There is no football game today.” You could interpret this to mean a variety of things (some are obviously more of a stretch than others): maybe I play football, and my game got canceled; maybe my favorite football team isn’t playing; maybe there are no football teams playing; maybe I live in Europe and am actually talking about soccer. You see, you can interpret what I say to mean whatever you want. However, if you actually care about what I mean (not just what you want me to mean), with a little context, my meaning becomes clear: every Saturday I play football with my friends, this particular Saturday, my dog popped my football and there is a blizzard outside. Now, when I say, “there is no football game today”, what I say is clear. Interpreting the Bible is the same way, and sometimes people will interpret things differently (whether purposely or accidentally) due to lack of context, or vagueness. On salvation issues, however, the Bible leaves little room for wrong interpretation if one is honestly searching for the truth. The problem many people have is when they try to make the Bible fit with what they want it to fit (e.g. traditions, human authority, other books, personal preferences, etc.). I hope you realize that saying people disagree with me, this has no affect on the truthfulness of what I believe. Also, when you say, “A god only seems like a likely alternative if you already think there’s a god,” you have done nothing more than assert your opinion. I could just as easily assert that the only reason you don’t believe in God is because you don’t want to accept the ramifications of justice for sin (which may be true, but just asserting this proves nothing).

                    1. Honestly, the simplest search (click here) is the best. The link starts you off on the second page, and I encourage you to keep going because this is a common topic. Some of what I’ve written may have been comments on other sites as well, so I’m afraid you may never get it all in one place. However, one of my Great Big Arguments pieces directly addresses the idea that shared morals are evidence for a divine lawgiver. There’s also a piece on moral absolutism and relativism, which brings me to your next point – and mine.

                      Of course morality can change, as far as humans are concerned at least. What was “right” in Biblical times is not necessarily “right” today and vice versa, and it’s because of the differences in the people and the societies examining each issue. It is indeed literally arbitrary, but arbitrary isn’t the same as completely baseless. The values of a society inform its morals. For instance, since people have always valued personal property all known systems of law have included laws against theft. Individual liberty and equality are valued far more than they were in past centuries, so instead of being unanimously condemned as abomination, gay marriage is merely a contentious issue and interracial marriage raises few eyebrows. There are always a minority who either deny or ignore the morality of the day, as is human nature, and as you’d expect some laws eventually come to be seen as unjust, but mostly the laws in place prevent the “immoral” minority from upturning the whole society.

                      To move to the heart of the matter: you are challenging me to produce an absolute, unchallengeable basis for morality equivalent to divine edict, and I don’t have one, but nor do we need one. The morality of a society is set and enforced by the rule of law and a social contract between people. If you found enough people who agreed that murder wasn’t condemned by a near-universal consensus then maybe you could make a point in an argument with me, but you’d still be arrested if you killed someone for selfish ends. Even if you got away with it but people knew, you’d be shunned. A system of laws and ethics agreed upon by the vast majority gives us enough confidence to declare things “right” and “wrong”, knowing full well that these are not absolute judgements. It all works. Even if it didn’t work, and countries like Japan and Norway with a minority of theists inevitably descended into moral chaos (instead of the reality, which is that there is far less crime there than in the US), it would not go far toward proving any point. If belief were the only decent source of morality and non-believers were demonstrably amoral, it would speak well for religious instruction but say nothing about whether any god was real. Finally, divine edict is only absolute and unchallengeable if the god is demonstrably real, so it only has real power in a society made up entirely of believers.

                      Rape, to put it simply, is a type of wilful premarital sex. If a man raped a single woman, then under the law in Numbers (according to any translation) he was forced to marry her for life, regardless of whether the woman wanted to become the property of a rapist. The question of why the word in the passage was inconsistently translated to “rape” is an interesting moot point, but if this law was ever enforced it caused a lifetime of undeserved suffering to many women.

                      Wikipedia has a pretty good section on the historicity of the Exodus (or lack thereof) which discusses the improbability of 3 million people staying on the move and yet lost in a relatively small desert for forty years. Another example of a mistake is Jesus’ birth, which was “in the days of Herod”, who died in 4 BC, and in the year of a Roman census, which didn’t happen until AD 6 or 7 and didn’t reach Galilee. (The Skeptics’ Annotated Bible missed those two.) But suppose every non-supernatural event in the Bible were impossible to authoritatively contradict; why would that be a good reason to believe any of the supernatural ones, without first accepting the existence of the supernatural for other reasons? Nikola Tesla understood the principles of electricity better than anyone else for decades, but no one had any reason to believe him when he said his favourite pigeon shot light out of its eyes. (I’m not kidding.)

                      I would carry on the argument about the teddy bears, but it’s clear you’re not looking for a discussion on the topic of evolution, only a “win”. You’ve done a Gish Gallop and thrown out as many old creationist challenges as you can find. The questions are all arguments from ignorance, and it’s wilful ignornace because good answers to all of them are readily available no more than three clicks from Google. If you want a discussion, pick just one of these questions, find a full answer to it by a non-creationist scientist, and tell me exactly why you find it unconvincing. And then tell me why you didn’t look for the answer before you asked the question.

                      Is it possible, in any way, shape or form, that you and many others like you have twisted the Scripture to fit your own needs as well? That you wish to take away only the message of salvation through Christ so that you don’t have to worry about the million and one other requirements that the Bible places upon Jews and later Christians? If just one of those other laws is still legitimate and you’re not following it, your soul is in grave danger. Regardless, for someone who is unconvinced of the likelihood of one god over another, worshipping any one version of any one god at the risk of incurring the wrath of the real god is a ludicrously dangerous idea. It’s the exact opposite of hedging one’s bets.

            2. Although I do not have the composition skills necessary to argue against Jordan’s points (the rest of you are doing a great job), I have to comment on one point you make concerning Manuscript evidence.
              You say:
              “Manuscript evidence. One way historians decide if a manuscript should be trusted or not is based on the number of original manuscripts. The NT alone has over 5600 original language manuscripts, making it the best attested ancient work. Homer’s Illiad comes in second with 2200+ original language manuscripts. For comparison, the original language manuscritps of any one work of Aristotle is 7. Based on how historians determine the historical accuracy of ancient manuscritps, even those who reject the Bible agree that it “passes the test with flying colors”. To reject the Bible would cast serious doubt on many other generally accepted ancient works (I could go on, but I think you get the point).”

              I believe this to be a point for Textual Criticism. However, this technique does not prove the truthfulness of the manuscript but simply states how closely the current writings represent the original work. You are successful in arguing that the current Bible is what was originally written but your point does not prove whether it was true.

              1. Tomas, thanks for commenting.

                You are correct that the number of manuscripts only shows that the Bible has remained unchanged. This is one of the three primary tests that a historical manuscript must pass in order to be considered accurate. This is known as the bibliographical test. The other two tests are the internal evidence test and the external evidence test. The internal evidence test deals with whether the manuscript contradicts itself. Obviously, when there are two statements that cannot be harmonized, one or both are necessarily false (the Bible also passes this test, by the way). The external evidence test deals with whether the manuscript is compatible with other known historical facts. I touched on the internal and external tests in my response to SmartLX.

                If you don’t believe that the Bible is true, it is hard to justify believing in the accuracy of any other ancient manuscript.

                I hope that helps.

              2. (I think we maxed-out the number of relpies possible. So this is a reply to SmartLX)

                Sorry for the long break without a reply. I’ve been busy with work, school, and just life in general.

                Thanks for the link.

                You say: “To move to the heart of the matter: you are challenging me to produce an absolute, unchallengeable basis for morality equivalent to divine edict.” That is not correct. The reason I am challenging you is because I know that you don’t have a basis for morality. I’m not trying to get you to produce one, I’m trying to get you to understand the ramifications of not having one.

                I would agree with you when you say that your view of morality is technically arbitrary but not completely baseless. It is arbitrary because its only basis is an opinion.
                This brings me to a question that I have already asked, but you did not answer it in your reply (I’m not sure if it is because you missed it, you didn’t have time, or didn’t want to answer it). Your idea of how morality is defined is simply YOUR OPINION. While you think that morality is defined by near-universal consensus, Sasha thinks that it is defined by the golden rule. What if another atheist wanted to define morality based on his emotions? If he decided that this was his standard of morality, murder would be justified if he felt like it. How could you argue that he is doing what is really wrong? You may argue that it is wrong because he is hurting and taking advantage of people, but who are you to argue this? This is only based on your arbitrary opinion of morality. The idea that morality is based on one’s emotions is just as arbitrary as your view of morality, but no less valid. You could argue that it wouldn’t technically be wrong, but he will still go to jail or at least be shunned if he is caught. But if you argued this, there would be no reason to avoid murdering someone if you knew you could get away with it. You could argue that if everybody based their morality on their emotions, society would collapse. This, however, has nothing to do with whether murder is moral or not. This just happens to be something that people tend to “not want.” Also, if the collapse of society was your only reason to behave morally, you would have to provide a reason why the collapse of society would be bad. From you worldview, humans are simply complex chemical reactions, and everything that happens is nothing more than matter reacting with other matter. Ideas like “bad” can’t really be defended.

                To go back to what I said earlier, I’m not trying to get you to provide a universal, unchanging standard for morality. I’m trying to get you to see how absurd your standard for morality is.

                You say, “divine edict is only absolute and unchallengeable if the god is demonstrably real, so it only has real power in a society made up entirely of believers.” Truth has nothing to do with how many people believe it. The earth was round despite what many people used to think. In the same way, absolute morality from an unchangeable God is not changed because people don’t believe in God.

                You are confused when you say, “Rape, to put it simply, is a type of wilful premarital sex.” “Willful” means having a stubborn intention to do as one wants. So rape is only “willful premarital sex” from the view of the rapist. It is not willful for the one being raped. That being said, even if the passage did require somebody to marry the person that raped her, why would you consider this wrong? You have already told me that you believe morality was different in biblical times. I have told you that I don’t believe it is talking about rape, so I have no problem with it. You do believe it is talking about rape, but from your own worldview, you can’t condemn it as wrong.

                The Israelites were not technically lost. God was leading them. Also, they kind of walked in circles around Mt. Sinai until the disobedient generation had all died. It wasn’t as if 3 million people all walked around in this relatively small wilderness and never were in a place they had previously been.
                Regarding the census recorded in Luke: good answers “are readily available no more than three clicks from Google.” There are a couple of reasons that could explain this alleged discrepancy. Here is a link that discusses the subject: http://www.comereason.org/bibl_cntr/con100.asp .

                “But suppose every non-supernatural event in the Bible were impossible to authoritatively contradict; why would that be a good reason to believe any of the supernatural ones.” In other words, you are saying, “Not only is there substantial evidence for the non-supernatural claims in the Bible, I can’t disprove any of them either (this, by the way, is amazing, considering the huge number of claims the Bible makes). But evidence for the non-supernatural events isn’t a good reason to believe the supernatural ones (despite evidence for many of the supernatural claims of the Bible as well).”

                I hope you don’t honestly believe that those are the only creationist arguments that I could think of. Because that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In addition, I have read non-creationist articles addressing those subjects and evolutionists usually resort to their imagination, in order to find a rescuing device (eg. comets: the Oort Cloud; C-14 in diamonds: contamination; lack of intermediate fossils: either, we just haven’t found them yet, or, evolution happened really fast and few intermediate fossils were formed; etc.). The only evidence for these rescuing devices is that, without them, their theory would fall apart.

                You ask, “Is it possible, in any way, shape or form, that you and many others like you have twisted the Scripture to fit your own needs as well?” Let me answer with another question: Is it possible, in any way, shape or form, that I am an atheist and you have totally misunderstood what I am saying? Of course not, I’ve made it clear that I think atheism is false. Similarly, although the Bible is more vague on some issues as opposed to others, when it comes to salvation, the Bible is not vague at all. So while I know that I could be wrong in some things, I know that I am not wrong when it comes to what the Bible says about salvation.

                Finally, you make this comment, “Regardless, for someone who is unconvinced of the likelihood of one god over another, worshipping any one version of any one god at the risk of incurring the wrath of the real god is a ludicrously dangerous idea.” This is only true if every religion’s god was supported with equal evidence. I know that Zeus isn’t real because Greek mythology is full of contradictions on top of the fact that the evidence is lacking. On the other hand, not only is the Bible contradiction-free, there is incredible evidence that the Bible is true.

                1. “Your idea of how morality is defined is simply YOUR OPINION. While you think that morality is defined by near-universal consensus, Sasha thinks that it is defined by the golden rule.”

                  I don’t think that what he and I mean by “morality” differs much. On the big issues, people have a near universal consensus (his definition) on how they’d want to be treated by others (my definition). Where we disagree, if we disagree at all, is probably in details that aren’t relevant to this discussion.

                  “What if another atheist wanted to define morality based on his emotions? If he decided that this was his standard of morality, murder would be justified if he felt like it.”

                  Our attempts to define morality is our attempt to describe something. It’s not an exercise in arbitrarily coming up with any definition that we want to. If an atheist wanted to define “moral” as doing whatever he felt like doing, then I’d say that’s a very poor description of what we mean when we say “moral”.

                  “It is arbitrary because its only basis is an opinion.”

                  Our definitions of morality are not arbitrary. They’re judged based on accuracy. If they accurately describe what we mean when we say that something is “moral”, then they’re a good definition. If they don’t, then they’re a bad definition. That’s how all definitions are judged. You’re conflating disagreements about descriptions and semantics with disagreements about something much more fundamental.

                  While defining atheist morality thoroughly is tricky, so is defining theistic morality if you look at issues like the Euthyphro dilemma. Either way, the topic becomes tricky when you get into the details, and you’ll find people with different opinions.

                  1. “I don’t think that what he and I mean by “morality” differs much. On the big issues, people have a near universal consensus (his definition) on how they’d want to be treated by others (my definition). Where we disagree, if we disagree at all, is probably in details that aren’t relevant to this discussion.”
                    Your view of morality and SmartLX’s view are indeed similar (in fact, most people’s views on morality are similar). My point was that atheists have no ground to criticize ANY other form of morality because their own morality is founded on a definition that is rooted in an opinion (and to make things worse, this opinion, can and will change with time).

                    “Our attempts to define morality is our attempt to describe something. It’s not an exercise in arbitrarily coming up with any definition that we want to.”
                    I would beg to differ. Your attempt to define morality is precisely, arbitrarily coming up with any definition that you want. Without a divine Creator, any law you try to create, will necessarily be an arbitrary opinion of anything that you feel like.
                    “If an atheist wanted to define “moral” as doing whatever he felt like doing, then I’d say that’s a very poor description of what we mean when we say “moral”.”
                    It is your opinion that another atheist’s definition is poor. But it is his opinion that your definition is poor. It is kind of like two people with exactly the same strength, trying to defeat the other in an arm-wrestling match. They both may think that they are stronger than each other, but when the arm-wrestling starts, neither can win. In the same way, any other view of morality is just as justified as any other view of morality from your worldview.

                    “Our definitions of morality are not arbitrary. They’re judged based on accuracy. If they accurately describe what we mean when we say that something is “moral”, then they’re a good definition. If they don’t, then they’re a bad definition. That’s how all definitions are judged.”
                    That is a great point. However, you are forgetting to take into consideration that a definition is simply a meaning that is agreed upon by two or more parties. If another party has a different definition, his definition accurately describes what he means (regardless of other definitions). The situation is similar to this: suppose that two different languages had a certain word that shared a common pronunciation and spelling, but had a different definition. Is one definition more correct than another definition? Of course not. Both definitions are equally valid because both definitions are nothing more than the opinion of those that hold to them.

                    “Either way, the topic becomes tricky when you get into the details, and you’ll find people with different opinions.”
                    While I think the topic is very simple from a biblical standpoint, I’m glad that you would agree that different atheists can and will have different opinions.

                    1. Morality has both objective and subjective sides to it, and the further one goes into the topic the messier it gets. However, you’re criticize atheist morality without putting your own under any scrutiny. You’re acting like yours is somehow a magic bullet. Your morality isn’t less messy simply because you choose not to look at it too closely.

                      1) When someone refers to morality as objective or subjective, they could actually be referring to several different questions. Can we objectively define what we mean by “morality”? Do we have an objective criteria by which we can determine what’s moral? Once we have such criteria, do we choose to be moral based upon objective reasons? I’d answer the first two questions with yes and the last one with no.

                      You’re criticizing the first for being subjective. Yet, it’s clearly more objective then subjective. The question boils down to- is there an objective criteria by which we can judge whether one definition is better than another. And there is such a criteria: accuracy. The definition that most accurately sums up what we mean when we say “morality” is objectively better then others. All definitions are necessarily more objective then subjective. Otherwise language would become useless and we would have no way of communicating with each other.

                      You disagree. You say that it’s subjective because my definition is just my opinion. Well, that’s true, but that’s true of you too. It’s your opinion that God exists, that there’s an objective morality, and that the objective morality is what you think it is. There’s no possible definition of morality that doesn’t involve opinion. If you’re going to define subjectivity so broadly… if you’re going to attack morality with as broad a brush as possible… then you have to accept the consequences to your own position as well.

                      I’ve already brought up the Euthyphro dilemma several times (ie- is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it’s good). What this question gets at is that God (presupposing his existence for the sake of argument) must have some reason for considering an action good or bad (otherwise it’s completely arbitrary), and to have a reason means that he must be using some criteria to distinguish a good action from a bad action. But if this is what he does, then he’s not the true basis of morality; the criteria he uses is. In other words, morality doesn’t come directly from God, but from the criteria he uses to make moral judgements.

                      1) Now, the first leg of the dilemma (something is good because God commands it) means that there’s no such criteria. It means there’s no reason why God decided that rape is bad instead of good, or why loving your neighbor is good instead of bad. Not only is there no reason why he chose one over the other, but had he chosen to make rape good, then raping people would be good and you would be morally obligated to rape people.

                      Furthermore, it would make the phrase “God is good” meaningless. The purpose of saying “God is good” should be to describe something about God. Yet, you can only do that if your definition of “good” is based on some criteria external to God. If “good” just means “whatever God wants”, then saying “God is good” just means “God does what he wants”. I doubt that’s what theists mean when they call God good. God is supposed to be all good, all powerful, and all knowing according to Christianity. If the definition of “good” is meaningless when applied to him, then why even describe him as such? And if it’s meaningless when applied to him, then what characteristic does he have that could distinguish him from an all powerful, all knowing demon?

                      Many theists try to answer the Euthyphro dilemma with a third option (Good isn’t independent of God, nor is something good just because God commands it. Things are good because they reflect God’s nature). However, all the criticisms of the first leg can be applied to this argument.

                      I said before that God must have a reason for deciding that an action is good or bad, otherwise it’s arbitrary. If the reason is because it reflects his nature, then there must be a reason why an action reflects his nature or doesn’t reflect his nature. Otherwise it’s still just as arbitrary. Furthermore, if an action is good because it reflects God’s nature, then what does it mean to describe God’s nature as good? It would just mean “God’s nature is God’s nature”, or “God’s nature is whatever it is”.

                      One of the major problems with theist morality (the purpose of this dilemma is to point this out) is that what people call morality can refer to one of two things: obedience to an authority (tradition, a leader, God, etc) or it can be treating others the way you want to be treated. Now, for practical purposes, there doesn’t have to be a contradiction between these two things. If your authority tells you to follow the golden rule, then you don’t have to make a choice. But hypothetically what if your authority were to tell you to violate the golden rule? If you chose to comply, then your morality was never really based on the golden rule in the first place, was it? If you chose not to, then your morality was never really based on the authority. Therefore, it’s possible for morality to be based on both authority and the golden rule for practical purposes, but not in principle.

                      If theists say that morality comes from a criteria external to God (the dilemma’s 2nd leg), then they’re in no position to criticize atheist morality since they’d be agreeing with us. If they don’t, then they face the problems that divine command theory presents or the problems of having a philosophically inconsistent moral basis. What you can’t do is critique atheist morality as harshly as possible, while holding up your own as some easy answer that you don’t critique at all.

                      3) I have one other major criticism of theist morality and defense of atheist morality. I think we define morality objectively, and that we come up with an objective criteria to determine what’s moral, but I think that when it comes to actually choosing to be moral, we do so for subjective reasons. We make our choices based on how much we value being moral, and I think that valuing something is inherently subjective. Something is only valuable in the sense that it’s valuable *to someone* (a subject). Furthermore, I don’t think objective value would matter to us even if such a thing were coherent and existed. However, I’m not going to keep going on about this. The main point that I’m trying to make is that you haven’t examined your own moral philosophy with the type of hyper critical lens that that you apply to others.

                2. Yep, we hit the maximum and I’m surprised we didn’t do so earlier.

                  You do realise that your concept of morality is based on an opinion as much as anyone else’s, right? Yours is an opinion that a specific god exists and has very specific rules for everyone to follow. No matter how powerful the god is, no matter how unanswerable His decrees, unless the actual existence of the god can be not only established but agreed upon by everyone in a society, it is in practice a useless basis for morality until everyone believes what you do. Atheists fully accept that their morality is invented by people and subject to some disagreement if not thought through, but it works anyway. That’s not absurd, it’s just practical, and constantly being demonstrated by the fact that non-theocracies do not descend into chaos.

                  Of COURSE rape is only wilful premarital sex for one party, but marriage requires two parties – and it’s hard enough for female rape victims today to convince people that they didn’t ask for it, let alone back then. The passage to applies to rape, and forces the victim into a lifelong marriage. If you don’t accept my morality, would you mind telling me why you think this is right?

                  Again, your explanations of both the Sinai walkabout and the Herod-census discrepancy each rely upon one interpretation which, if true, explains how it could have happened as written. This is not evidence that the Bible is accurate, it’s suggestions of how it might not necessarily be wrong. The supposed total consistency of the Bible hangs upon thousands of these rationalisations, and aside from all of this, a book can still be consistent and wrong. It’s no reason to believe it’s all true, any more than the impossibility of proving the absence of a god is reason to believe in one.

                  Of course you have an arsenal of creationist arguments beyond what you initially wrote. There are hundreds of variations on the one basic argument: “I personally do not understand how X has happened without a god, therefore my God did it.” But it was still a Gish Gallop: you throw out a huge list of claims all at once that would take too much time and space to address individually, so that when the exchange ends you appear to be “ahead” by a few. The two supposed explanations for the lack of transitional fossils you mention are completely unlike any I’ve ever heard (except as creationist claims of what “evolutionists” believe), so I doubt you went and read anything specific like I asked.

                  Let’s look at this another way entirely: do you know of anyone who has been convinced of the falsehood of evolution and the existence of the Christian God by any of these creationist claims? Anyone for whom there is evidence of their prior “evolutionist” position? (That rules out Kirk Cameron, for one.) Or is the sole purpose of all this apologetic to reassure yourself and the other faithful and make Christianity look like it’s winning, or simply put atheists down? Or are you directly earning brownie points with God by spreading the Word, regardless of whether it sticks?

                  I’m not saying the Bible isn’t clear on salvation. I’m saying that where the Bible is (you admit) vague, there could be something crucial and additional to that you and 99% of other Christians are missing, which might rob you of your reward even if you do everything else right – some mortal sin you don’t even think is a sin. Why doesn’t that terrify you?

                  Not being convinced at all by the “incredible evidence” specifically for the Christian god, choosing that god looks just as dangerous as any other. Even if it did have the very best evidence, it’s still up against an infinite number of possible alternatives. It would be like betting that a random number generator would pick the integer 3 from the range 1-10, if it were free to add any number of decimal points. 2.999 or 3.0000000000017 would still lose.

                  1. Thanks for the reply.

                    “You do realise that your concept of morality is based on an opinion as much as anyone else’s, right? Yours is an opinion that a specific god exists and has very specific rules for everyone to follow.”
                    So we have established and can agree that your morality is based on an arbitrary opinion. After finally admitting this, you try to justify your own view by arguing that my view has the same problems. However, my view of morality is not based on an opinion, let me explain. By asserting that biblical morality is based on an opinion, you are have begging the question (that is, assuming something is wrong in order to prove that it is wrong). If the Bible is true, then morality isn’t based on my opinion. It isn’t even based on God’s opinion. It is based on who God is; that is, His very nature. The only way to assert that biblical morality is an opinion would be to assume that it is wrong. If you assume that it is wrong, then of course it is nothing more than an opinion. But you can’t assume something is wrong in order to prove that it is wrong. In other words, if the Bible is true, then morality is not based on an opinion. However, if atheists are right, then morality is based on an opinion.

                    “No matter how powerful the god is, no matter how unanswerable His decrees, unless the actual existence of the god can be not only established but agreed upon by everyone in a society, it is in practice a useless basis for morality until everyone believes what you do.”
                    Not at all (Because you are making essentially the same argument as Sasha, I will repeat some of what I told her). Truth, is not altered by the number of people who believe in it. If everybody believed that a triangle had four sides, this would not change the truth that a triangle has three sides. In the same way, people can believe any standard for morality that they want, but this will not change what is truly right and wrong.

                    I have explained why I don’t think this particular passage of scripture applies to rapists. Thus, I don’t have a problem with this passage. I am not going to explain why I think it is right for a someone to be forced to marry their rapist. I don’t think it is right, and I don’t think this passage requires it. However, you obviously disagree. Why don’t you explain why you think it would be wrong for someone to marry her rapist. After all, you have admitted that, in your worldview, morality is nothing more than an ever-changing opinion. How could this possibly be wrong, if it is the rapist’s opinion that it is right?

                    You try to disprove the Bible with the best evidence you can come up with. I then, explain how this evidence can fit with the Bible, and you revert to arguing that compliance with evidence doesn’t prove the Bible is true. Due to a lack of knowledge about the past and an inability to return there, there are always going to be parts of historical records that require extra information to fully understand. Historical documents that aren’t this way, are most likely forged.

                    I was not trying to overwhelm you with evidence for creation, I was trying to make a point about the great faith of an evolutionist.

                    You write, “Let’s look at this another way entirely: do you know of anyone who has been convinced of the falsehood of evolution and the existence of the Christian God by any of these creationist claims? Anyone for whom there is evidence of their prior “evolutionist” position? (That rules out Kirk Cameron, for one.)”
                    Actually, I personally know someone who used to to be a firm evolutionist and is now a creationist. Here is a quick biography: Dr. Jerry Layton used to be science teacher at a secular school. He dogmatically preached evolutionary thinking for years. One day a student loaned him a book about the evidence for creation. Because of this book, he finally tried to look at the evidence in an unbiased way. Amazingly, Dr. Layton realized the foolishness of evolution and became a creationist. Now, he goes around talking about creation with his wife, Donna. I’ve heard Dr. Layton explain this story multiple times (usually he gets emotional about it). It just so happens that his son is the pastor of the church I go to.

                    “Or is the sole purpose of all this apologetic to reassure yourself and the other faithful and make Christianity look like it’s winning, or simply put atheists down? Or are you directly earning brownie points with God by spreading the Word, regardless of whether it sticks?”
                    1 Peter 3:15 says, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” That is the reason for Christian apologetics. The purpose is to defend the truth of God’s word against those who seek to undermine its authority. But as you can see, as in the case of Dr. Layton, it can also be what God uses to convince somebody of the error in evolutionary thinking.

                    “I’m not saying the Bible isn’t clear on salvation. I’m saying that where the Bible is (you admit) vague, there could be something crucial and additional to that you and 99% of other Christians are missing, which might rob you of your reward even if you do everything else right – some mortal sin you don’t even think is a sin. Why doesn’t that terrify you?”
                    The reason God gave us the Bible was to show us His plan for salvation and our need of a savior from sin. The Bible isn’t some sick joke that God is playing on humanity. This question could easily be turned around: Why doesn’t the fact that you could be wrong about God and have to pay the punishment for your own sins instead of accepting Christ’s sacrifice terrify you?

                    “Not being convinced at all by the “incredible evidence” specifically for the Christian god, choosing that god looks just as dangerous as any other. Even if it did have the very best evidence, it’s still up against an infinite number of possible alternatives. It would be like betting that a random number generator would pick the integer 3 from the range 1-10, if it were free to add any number of decimal points. 2.999 or 3.0000000000017 would still lose.”
                    Let me take this same argument and apply it to something else. “Even if there is great evidence that 2+2=4, it’s still up against an infinite number of possible alternatives. It would be like betting that a random number generator would pick the integer 4 from the range 1-10, if it were free to add any number of decimal points. 3.99999 or 4.000000017 would still lose.” Obviously this is a ridiculous argument due to the fact that there is always an infinite number of possible alternatives to any one claim.

                    1. Oh dear, this is getting nasty.

                      Until God is established as real, that the Bible is divine edict is an assertion and an opinion, and any morality that’s taken from it is taken on the authority of someone who for all practical purposes is not there. Even if it’s all true, that just makes it a luckily CORRECT assertion or opinion until persuasive evidence emerges. The thing about secular morality is that it’s based on near-universally-shared opinion with its own non-authoritarian reasons for persisting, which is much better from a practical point of view.

                      I do agree that the truth is the truth regardless of what people think, but we don’t know the truth about gods. Even if there is a divine morality baked into the very fabric of the universe, we have no way of knowing for certain what it is; only the option to ignore the uncertainty and assume that it’s what a particular book says. Atheists accept the unavoidable uncertainty and make the best of it, and life goes on just fine.

                      If you really don’t think that the Numbers passage was ever correctly applied to a rapist and his victim, I have no idea how to convince you at this point. I can however see why you would not want to admit that it has ever been righteously applied to a rapist and his victim, because that would mean that a divine command was directly responsible for an act you think is wrong. As for the act itself, I call it wrong simply because the victim suffers further, and one major practical purpose of morality and ethics is to prevent harm.

                      I was making three separate arguments about the Bible: that it cannot be established as both entirely consistent and entirely correct, that even total consistency is not evidence enough for total accuracy, and that the supernatural claims put it entirely outside the shared criteria of historians. The counter-evidence I gave you wasn’t the best there is, it was just the first things I found which aren’t in the Skeptics’ Annotated Bible and would therefore send you farther afield for pre-packaged replies by evangelists.

                      I haven’t heard of Dr Layton before now and I’d like to read more about him, and to know what book convinced him (and why you haven’t simply told us to read the same book), but that’s one. Shouldn’t this undeniable truth backed by God’s power be tearing down unbelievers in their millions?

                      I am occasionally saddened about the uncertainty of the divine, actually, because if there is a god you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You pick the most popular version of the most popular god of your own era and locale, hoping it’s actually the real one, and probably die before it fades in favour of another. None of it is any assurance that you’re right, and if you’re wrong you’re a heretic. Even if you do get it right, and the god is something like the Christian one, you are living under a tyrant whose only reason for mercy and salvation is its own prior condemnations and punishments. The reason this doesn’t sadden me more often is that I think the probability of any theistic god existing at all, let alone that kind, is extremely low.

                      Indeed there are infinite alternatives to any claim, but all but one are wrong, and sometimes we can be justifiably confident in an answer to the extent that we live our lives as if it is certain. All of mathematics, and everything to which mathematics has been applied, supports the idea that 2+2=4, so even if it’s somehow wrong reality appears to behave as if it’s right. No god has anything like this level of evidential support, and yet we are told to have faith enough in a particular god to BET our lives on it.

        2. My personal take on : Albert Camus: “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.”

          To me, that looks like just a different form of Pascals wager. My main problem with wagers of these kinds are misrepresentations of the probabilities (which admittedly are ultimately unknown). But, to say that the probability of there being a god is as likely as the probability of there not being a god is not a fair statement, given the lack of evidence for a deity. For arguments sake lets just give it some arbitrary–yet high–percentage of 1. If there is a 1 percent chance of there being a god, and a 99% chance of there not being a god, where should I put my bets? Should I bet my life on that 1%, and live in a cultish, shackled, and fantasy-minded state (where I’m almost certainly wrong)? Or should I bet my life on the 99%, and live as I would like to live? I choose to live how I would like to live. And note that I am NOT saying that I am denying god so I can sin or act in my own selfish ways, I am just saying that I am currently living a good life, if an unsubstantiated proposition (e.g. accept supernatural Jesus and god or burn in hell when you die!) comes into my life and tries to change it, I think it is safe to ignore.

          Now I say that 1% is a high probability for god’s existence, and I do mean that. I believe that the probability of such a being is much, much, much close to zero. The only chance I’m giving to such a being is for the human mind’s limitation of comprehending such a being that can defy the laws of physics and magically do as it likes. In other words, the only argument for god’s existence, IMO, is the our imperfect knowledge as humans. We will never know everything, so there may very well be things out there that we discover that seem impossible to us now. But as far as I see now, there has not been a single discovery or established fact that is in support of a deity existing. All I see are discoveries of peoples trying to assert the existence of deities.

          Being concerned about what happens to me after I die isn’t an issue because nothing happens (from the POV of the dead) after death. I’ve accepted that all living things die, and when they die, they are gone forever. No amount of wishing otherwise will change that.

        3. Hello Jordan.

          1) You say that morality comes from the bible. When others point out that many moral prescriptions are found worldwide, you think that supports your position. That’s purely the result of your Christian bias. If many religions (as well as societies without religion) all point to the same moral prescriptions, why would that be evidence that any one religion is the source of those prescriptions?

          2) The reason you think the biblical God is moral and that his morality is consistent is because the Christian religion tells you that it is, and therefore that’s what you see it as. Take away your Christian bias and you wouldn’t see it that way, but because you’re a Christian you will simply rationalize away anything that doesn’t fit Christian teaching so that it does.

          3) At times you’ll say things like- the bible explains why creation is proof of God. In other words, you’ll use the bible as evidence that Christianity is true, but the reason you believe in the bible is because you’re a Christian. If you can’t see the problem with this right away, then there’s no point in you even debating the issue.

          4) You don’t know anything about science and you’ve made up your mind about it anyway because of your religious bias.

          5) As far as your Camus quote, look at this video- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZpJ7yUPwdU

          6) While there are some situations when a sense of morals can be disadvantageous, any society that didn’t have them would have been wiped out long ago. The individuals would have turned on each other, the children would have been traumatized, etc.

          7) Morality’s a complex issue. Discussions of morality have to start with a definition of morality. Christianity hands people an easy justification/ explanation for morality. Christians often think that this means that their explanation is a good one, and that there’s no other explanation. I think they’re wrong about both assumptions. I think that as soon as Christian morality is defined in a coherent way, it can no longer be defended.

          1. To quickly sum up what I think that biblical morality does:

            It tries to replace organic morality, the kind that grows and changes over hundreds or thousands of years, with a “snapshot” of moral values at a specific time (even though I’m sure many of these morals were specifically crafted for the purpose of control). Using this snapshot, the Bible takes morality from being organic and socially owned, to it being static and dictated. This moral dictatorship is not the natural form of morality. An especially horrible potential (and historical) misuse of this moral dictatorship, is where the leader will “interpret” the book to be asserting specific morals in order to push their cause.

            Personally I think the notion that morality comes from the Bible absolutely ridiculous.

          2. Hey, Sasha. Welcome to the discussion 🙂 I’ve decided to respond to each of your points.

            “1) You say that morality comes from the bible.”
            Actually I say that morality comes from God (God has revealed Himself in His Word, but morality doesn’t “come from” the Bible in the sense that it originated there).

            “When others point out that many moral prescriptions are found worldwide, you think that supports your position.”
            Close. What I actually think is this: the fact that there is a general sense of morality in all humans is consistent with what the Bible teaches. So it does support my position that the Bible is true.

            “That’s purely the result of your Christian bias. If many religions (as well as societies without religion) all point to the same moral prescriptions, why would that be evidence that any one religion is the source of those prescriptions?”
            If the Bible teaches that humans have a general sense of morality, and that is what we find in the world, then that supports the Bible. Of course, it could also be consistent with different world views.

            “2) The reason you think the biblical God is moral and that his morality is consistent is because the Christian religion tells you that it is, and therefore that’s what you see it as.”
            Again, you are somewhat confused. I would recommend reading my comments again. The Christian religion has never told me anything (unfortunately it can’t talk). I can read God’s Word, however. So it would be more accurate to say that the reason I think God is moral and consistent is because the Bible tells me so.

            “Take away your Christian bias and you wouldn’t see it that way, but because you’re a Christian you will simply rationalize away anything that doesn’t fit Christian teaching so that it does.”
            Now you are just asserting things without offering any examples or proof. However, you have brought up a good point. Let me explain. If you saw a magician perform a magic trick that you didn’t understand, would you change what you thought you knew about the world and conclude that people really can levitate, disappear, be sawn in two and still live, etc? Probably not. You would appeal to a rescuing device to save your worldview and explain how the magician performed the trick (e.g. invisible wire,, mirrors, and the like). In this case, a rescuing device would be logical. In other cases, rescuing devices aren’t as logical. If you think that evolutionists are immune to this you would be wrong. Everybody does this. For example, comets can’t last billions of years. So if the universe was billions of years old there shouldn’t be any more comets left… but there are. And people still believe in evolution. This is due to a rescuing device (usually an appeal to the unknown). In this case it is the Oort Cloud. Despite advances in science and our knowledge of the heavens, this Oort Cloud is suspiciously elusive. The evidence for it is sorely lacking. So you see, rationalizing something with what you already believe to be true, isn’t necessarily bad (in fact, unless you know everything, rescuing devices are necessary). However, the more rescuing devices you must use to defend your worldview, the less likely your worldview is to be true.

            “3) At times you’ll say things like- the bible explains why creation is proof of God. In other words, you’ll use the bible as evidence that Christianity is true…”
            I’m beginning to think that you read my comments for what you wanted them to say, not what they actually said. I wasn’t using the Bible as evidence for Christianity, I was using creation as evidence that there is a God.

            “…but the reason you believe in the bible is because you’re a Christian.”
            You got it backwards (why am I surprised?). The reason I am a Christian is because I believe in the Bible… not vise-versa.

            “If you can’t see the problem with this right away, then there’s no point in you even debating the issue.”
            Nice try. 😀

            “4) You don’t know anything about science and you’ve made up your mind about it anyway because of your religious bias.”
            If you decide to attack me personally instead of my beliefs, at least provide some evidence. I happen to be pursuing a degree in science.

            “5) As far as your Camus quote, look at this video- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZpJ7yUPwdU
            This video is about a quote from Blaise Pascal, not Camus (however, the ideas are similar).

            “6) While there are some situations when a sense of morals can be disadvantageous, any society that didn’t have them would have been wiped out long ago. The individuals would have turned on each other, the children would have been traumatized, etc.”
            Without morals, the world would be a dog-eat-dog world where the weak would die and only the fittest would survive (sound familiar?).

            “7) Morality’s a complex issue. Discussions of morality have to start with a definition of morality. Christianity hands people an easy justification/ explanation for morality. Christians often think that this means that their explanation is a good one, and that there’s no other explanation. I think they’re wrong about both assumptions. I think that as soon as Christian morality is defined in a coherent way, it can no longer be defended.”
            I’ll make this an easy argument for you to win. I’ll define biblical morality and then you can show how defenseless it is: morality stems from the very nature of who God is. God is completely good and righteous and He has given us His Word were we find what His standard for morality is.
            We already know what SmartLX’s definition of morality is. Do you have a different definition?

            1. “2) The reason you think the biblical God is moral and that his morality is consistent is because the Christian religion tells you that it is, and therefore that’s what you see it as.”
              “Again, you are somewhat confused. I would recommend reading my comments again. The Christian religion has never told me anything (unfortunately it can’t talk). I can read God’s Word, however.”

              The Christian religion is composed of a number of beliefs and these preconceptions influence what you see when you read the bible. When I first read the old testament, I found it morally outrageous and morally absurd. I was around 14 and was quite surprised because I didn’t expect it to be that way, but I saw it that way because I didn’t have any preconceptions. I’ve heard from former Christians who say they became aware of the same things only after they deconverted. In other words, reading the bible as a Christian was a radically different experience from reading it as a non Christian. I’ve watched many arguments online between Christians and atheists concerning the morality of certain passages of the bible, and I’ve been struck by how dogmatically Christians will insist that a passage is moral even when they’ve been argued into a corner. My contention is that Christians will interpret the bible so that it matches Christian teachings. When a Christian says that the biblical God’s morality is consistent, it usually just means that he interprets it as consistent simply because he’s a Christian. He carries the preconceptions that the bible must be true and that the biblical God’s morality must be consistent, so that is what he sees. I think your views on most of the issues you discuss here are shaped almost entirely by your bias as a Christian.

              “…but the reason you believe in the bible is because you’re a Christian.”
You got it backwards (why am I surprised?). The reason I am a Christian is because I believe in the Bible… not vise-versa.

              The two go hand in hand. The bible shapes Christian beliefs, but Christian beliefs shape what one notices in the bible and how one interprets it.

              “What I actually think is this: the fact that there is a general sense of morality in all humans is consistent with what the Bible teaches. So it does support my position that the Bible is true.”
              “I wasn’t using the Bible as evidence for Christianity, I was using creation as evidence that there is a God.”

              Man made religions are made, in part, to explain why the world is the way it is and to answer questions that we don’t have the answers to. You’re saying that the fact that it contains such answers and explanations is evidence that Christianity is true, even though other religions do as well, and even though we would expect it to contain such things even if it were false.

              My biggest criticism of you is that you’re taking the easy answers that your religion offers and using that as evidence for Christianity, accepting at face value that those are good answers and that there aren’t better answers. That’s flat out not how we reach conclusions about what’s true.

              “Without morals, the world would be a dog-eat-dog world where the weak would die and only the fittest would survive (sound familiar?).”

              Those with qualities that give them an advantage in surviving and reproducing are more likely to survive and reproduce. It’s easy to see how being able to cooperate and trust one another can be one such advantage and why completely anti social behavior would not have been selected for, especially in a species where 1) one of our biggest advantages against external challenges is our ability to cooperate, and 2) our young must be protecting and nurturing for years before being able to fend for themselves.

              “I’ll define biblical morality and then you can show how defenseless it is: morality stems from the very nature of who God is. God is completely good and righteous and He has given us His Word were we find what His standard for morality is.”

              So is an action good because God commands it, or does God command it because it’s good? If the former, then your statement that God is good is a meaningless tautology. If the later, then God isn’t the standard of goodness.

              The definition of morality must be such that it can be used to identify and categorize things as moral or immoral. The problem Christians have is that they want to say that morality is determined BOTH by an authority and by treating others the way we’d want to be treated. The two can be consistent in practice, but not in principle.

              Also, when I refer to someone as moral, what I mean is that they treat others the way they’d want to be treated out of intrinsic motives. That’s my definition. I don’t think Christianity can provide a more accurate explanation for what I mean by “moral”. At best, I think their definitions only describe what they mean, while mine describes what most people mean most of the time (excluding only various societal and religious prescripts).

              1. “The Christian religion is composed of a number of beliefs and these preconceptions influence what you see when you read the bible.”
                Actually, you have it backwards. The Bible affects what a Christian believes… not the other way around. It is important not to elevate man’s wisdom above God’s wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1:25 says that even “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.”)

                “When I first read the old testament, I found it morally outrageous and morally absurd. I was around 14 and was quite surprised because I didn’t expect it to be that way, but I saw it that way because I didn’t have any preconceptions.”
                By what basis, other than your own opinion or the opinion of others, do you have to condemn anything as “morally outrageous”?

                “The bible shapes Christian beliefs, but Christian beliefs shape what one notices in the bible and how one interprets it.”
                Again, this is just a baseless assertion. You have asserted this without any evidence or examples. Besides, why are you arguing with me about what I believe? I tell you something that I believe and instead of trying to show that what I believe isn’t true, you try to argue that I don’t actually believe what I claim to believe.

                “…when I refer to someone as moral, what I mean is that they treat others the way they’d want to be treated out of intrinsic motives. That’s my definition. I don’t think Christianity can provide a more accurate explanation for what I mean by “moral”. At best, I think their definitions only describe what they mean, while mine describes what most people mean most of the time (excluding only various societal and religious prescripts).”
                I’m not trying to explain what “you” mean. I am explaining what morality actually is. From an atheistic viewpoint, morality is nothing more than what any particular person means when they refer to it (as you just said). From a Biblical standpoint, morality doesn’t change on the whims of men and therefore stays consistent despite different opinions.

  3. I keep running out of “reply” buttons so I had to start a new comment. This is in response to Sasha.

    “Morality has both objective and subjective sides to it, and the further one goes into the topic the messier it gets.”
    In your worldview, yes. Biblical morality, on the other hand, is simple and logical (I’ll explain in more detail below).
    “However, you’re criticize atheist morality without putting your own under any scrutiny. You’re acting like yours is somehow a magic bullet. Your morality isn’t less messy simply because you choose not to look at it too closely.”
    This is just a baseless assertion. In reality, I have taken a very close look at biblical morality and have found that it makes much more sense than the morality that an atheist is forced to believe in. Also, I’m surprised to see you write that biblical morality “isn’t less messy” than your morality. In another response to me, you write, “My biggest criticism of you is that you’re taking the easy answers that your religion offers…”. I’m confused as to your opinion of biblical morality. Is it a much simpler answer to the question, or is it just as messy as your answer?

    “1) When someone refers to morality as objective or subjective, they could actually be referring to several different questions. Can we objectively define what we mean by “morality”? Do we have an objective criteria by which we can determine what’s moral? Once we have such criteria, do we choose to be moral based upon objective reasons? I’d answer the first two questions with yes and the last one with no.”
    Objective means “not influenced by personal opinions or feelings.” Your definition of morality is based on your personal opinion that one should do unto others as he would have them do unto himself. Please explain to me how this isn’t your opinion (and therefore objective). While you are at it, you might as well explain why every other opinion is wrong. As for your second question, you say your answer is yes. I’m curious what your objective criteria for your morality is? So far, you have explained it to be accuracy to what you personally feel the word should mean. You say, “The question boils down to- is there an objective criteria by which we can judge whether one definition is better than another. And there is such a criteria: accuracy. The definition that most accurately sums up what we mean when we say “morality” is objectively better then others. All definitions are necessarily more objective then subjective.”
    I think you are confused as to the meaning of objective (I gave the definition above). You are confusing the definition of a word and the definition of what is actually right and wrong. Definitions of words are completely subjective (their basis is the opinion of those that hold them). I explained this in my previous response to you. If right and wrong are to be objective, they have to be based on something other than an opinion.

    Why did you spend all that time arguing about how objective your view of morality is just to agree with me in the next paragraph? You assert that your morality is objective and then you write, “You disagree. You say that it’s subjective because my definition is just my opinion. Well, that’s true, but that’s true of you too.”
    I’m glad that we agree that your definition is just your opinion (maybe I shouldn’t have taken the time to explain something you already understood). I will explain how my view of morality is not based on an opinion in a moment. First, here is how you continue, “It’s your opinion that God exists, that there’s an objective morality, and that the objective morality is what you think it is. There’s no possible definition of morality that doesn’t involve opinion. If you’re going to define subjectivity so broadly… if you’re going to attack morality with as broad a brush as possible… then you have to accept the consequences to your own position as well.”
    Just because you can’t come up with a view of morality that isn’t based on opinion, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. I have already explained to you that I believe that morality is based on the very being of God. God is completely good and right. Anything not in line with God’s nature is necessarily wrong. So while it is my opinion that God exists and that morality is objective, my view of morality is not based on my opinion. It isn’t even based on God’s opinion. It is based on who God is.

    Okay, now lets talk about this alleged “Euthyphro dilemma”. “Is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it’s good?” This is a textbook example of the either-or fallacy (sometimes called a false dilemma). It appears as if you aren’t very familiar with logical fallacies so here is a quick explanation of a false dilemma: This is a logical fallacy where a person asserts that there are only two possibilities when in fact, there are three or more. It is usually presented as you have presented it where either X is true and Y is false or Y is true and X is false. In reality, X and Y could both be false, or there could be a third option, Z, that is true instead. For example, I could say, either 2+2=3 or 2+2=5. Obviously this is a false dilemma; in reality, 2+2=4.
    The problem with saying that something is good simply because God commands it, is that this implies that goodness is arbitrary and based on God’s whim. The problem with asserting that God commands something because it is good is that this implies that there is another basis for goodness outside of God. The truth of the matter is that something is good, because God is who He is. In other words, goodness isn’t based on the whim of God or something outside of God, it is based ON God. Something is good because it is consistent with the nature of God. Biblical goodness isn’t arbitrary, or subjective, because it is based on the unchanging, all-powerful, Creator—not the opinions of fickle, finite, mutations.

    You argue, “I said before that God must have a reason for deciding that an action is good or bad, otherwise it’s arbitrary.” Arbitrary means that something is based on random choice. Goodness is not based on random choice, it is based on who God is.
    “If the reason is because it reflects his nature, then there must be a reason why an action reflects his nature or doesn’t reflect his nature. Otherwise it’s still just as arbitrary.” An action reflects God’s nature if it is consistent with His nature. By definition, this is the opposite of arbitrary.
    “Furthermore, if an action is good because it reflects God’s nature, then what does it mean to describe God’s nature as good? It would just mean “God’s nature is God’s nature”, or “God’s nature is whatever it is”.” Describing God’s nature as good is kind of like defining a word by using the same word. The statement is true although it may be somewhat redundant. On the other hand, goodness is not the only attribute of God. God is completely good, but He is also just, and merciful, and loving. So describing God as good is only naming one of his attributes.

    “One of the major problems with theist morality (the purpose of this dilemma is to point this out) is that what people call morality can refer to one of two things: obedience to an authority (tradition, a leader, God, etc) or it can be treating others the way you want to be treated.”
    Another false dilemma. Morality has nothing to do with whether people follow it or not. A triangle would still have three sides even if everybody believed it had four sides. It is true that God (an authority) commands people to be moral. However, if He hadn’t commanded people to be moral, this wouldn’t change the standard for morality.

    In conclusion, the Euthyphro dilemma is no problem for biblical morality. I think that you and I would agree that biblical morality is the simplest answer. When you embrace atheistic morality (whatever that even means), morality is degraded to the point of pure opinion. Its basis can be whatever a person wants because there is no ultimate standard. Two atheists with two different standard for morality would be at a stalemate—both moralities would be equally justified. Is this proof that there is a God? No, but it does show that from an atheistic worldview, murder is only wrong as long as the murderer believes it is wrong. You may be mad if someone stole your wallet, but you would have no basis to condemn that person. Right and Wrong become nothing more than figments of the imagination.

    1. “Also, I’m surprised to see you write that biblical morality “isn’t less messy” than your morality. In another response to me, you write, “My biggest criticism of you is that you’re taking the easy answers that your religion offers…”. I’m confused as to your opinion of biblical morality. Is it a much simpler answer to the question, or is it just as messy as your answer?”

      It’s just as messy when looked at thoroughly and with a critical eye. However, most Christians just use it as an easy answer.

      “Objective means “not influenced by personal opinions or feelings.” Your definition of morality is based on your personal opinion that one should do unto others as he would have them do unto himself. Please explain to me how this isn’t your opinion (and therefore objective).”

      I was saying that to address the subjectivity/ objectivity argument, you have to break it into three questions: 1) how do we arrive at a definition, 2) can we use this definition to distinguish which actions fit that definition and which don’t fit, 3) given a particular definition why does it have prescriptive power.

      “Your definition of morality is based on your personal opinion that one should do unto others as he would have them do unto himself.”

      No, my definition of morality is based on my understanding of what myself and others mean when they use the word “morality”. You’re confusing question #1 with question #3.

      “You are confusing the definition of a word and the definition of what is actually right and wrong. Definitions of words are completely subjective (their basis is the opinion of those that hold them).”

      No, you’re confusing the definition of “morality”/ “right and wrong” with what motivates us to act in accordance with that definition. What I’m saying is that the way that I reach my definition of “morality” (or “right and wrong” or whatever you want to call it) is the same way that I arrive at any definition. I just figure out what people mean by that particular word. I find that I myself mean the golden rule, and that most other people, most of the time also mean the golden rule. If you want to examine why I and other atheists act moral, you first have to define “moral”. I’m naturally using the definition that I think most accurately describes what I, atheists, and what people in general mean. Now, you can agree or disagree with it, but what’s strange about your approach is that you seem to be trying to criticize what reasons I have for acting in accordance with my definition, but your attacks are all aimed at my choice of definition instead. The biggest cause of our disagreement is your inability to separate the two issues.

      “I’m glad that we agree that your definition is just your opinion (maybe I shouldn’t have taken the time to explain something you already understood).”

      My definition is an opinion to the same degree, and only to the same degree, that any definition is. It’s simply an attempt to most accurately describe what we mean by a word.

      You know, over the course of our argument, I’ve done little to address issue #3, which I think is really the heart of what you’re trying to argue about. If I don’t tire of this debate, I’ll get to it, but I’ll probably address your Euthyphro rebuttal first.

      1. I just have one more thing to say about #3 and #1. Something occurred to me just now. Even if you did have a better reason to behave according to your definition of morality then I had to behave according to my definition of morality, I still don’t see how that could convince me to change my definition. I see no way one could make a #3 argument reach a #1 conclusion. My definition is based on how accurately I describe what I mean by “moral” and the criteria I use to determine whether I label something moral. “Consistent with God’s nature” does not describe that at all. So even if Christians had a better reason to behave consistently to their morality then I did to mine, that still wouldn’t be a good reason for me to change my definition to the one they use.

    2. “Okay, now lets talk about this alleged “Euthyphro dilemma”. “Is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it’s good?” This is a textbook example of the either-or fallacy (sometimes called a false dilemma)…. The truth of the matter is that something is good, because God is who He is.”

      I already addressed this third option and explained why it doesn’t work, but I’ll do so again, and perhaps I can give a more eloquent answer this time. The original dilemma states, “is something good because God commands it, or does God commands it because it’s good”. Rather then solving this dilemma, your answer actually just delays it a step. You say that something’s good if it’s consistent with God’s nature. Ok… fine. However, as soon as you’ve solved that question, the dilemma can just be rephrased- “Is something good because it’s consistent with God’s nature, or is it consistent with God’s nature because it’s good”. You’re immediately back to where you started. The two options and their consequences are almost completely equivalent to the original two options and their consequences.

      “You argue, “I said before that God must have a reason for deciding that an action is good or bad, otherwise it’s arbitrary.” Arbitrary means that something is based on random choice. Goodness is not based on random choice, it is based on who God is.”

      Yes, this is how you answered the original dilemma. Now lets take a look at how you answer the rephrased dilemma.

      “”If the reason is because it reflects his nature, then there must be a reason why an action reflects his nature or doesn’t reflect his nature. Otherwise it’s still just as arbitrary.” An action reflects God’s nature if it is consistent with His nature. By definition, this is the opposite of arbitrary.”

      I asked if there was a reason why an action reflects his nature or doesn’t reflect his nature. You responded by saying that an action reflects his nature if it’s consistent with his nature. That’s not what I was getting at. Let me rephrase this. Is there a reason why some actions are consistent with his nature and other actions are not? Is there a reason, for example, why God’s nature is to be loving rather then sadistic?
      *
      Now, most Christians would find this an easy question to answer. They’d say that being loving is good, being sadistic is bad, and God is good. Therefore, he’s loving rather then sadistic. However, that option isn’t available to you. You can’t define God’s nature in accordance with what’s good because you’ve already defined what’s good in accordance with God’s nature. Hence, the dilemma.
      *
      If you don’t think there’s any reason at all why God’s nature is loving rather then sadistic, then you’re saying that morality is whatever God’s nature is, and there’s no reason why God’s nature is what it is. That seems to be only trivially different from the first horn (good is what God commands, and there’s no reason why he commands what he commands).
      *
      On the other hand, if you do think there’s a reason why God’s nature is loving rather then sadistic, then congratulations; you’ve just fallen on the second horn of the (now rephrased) Euthyphro dilemma.

      ““Furthermore, if an action is good because it reflects God’s nature, then what does it mean to describe God’s nature as good? It would just mean “God’s nature is God’s nature”, or “God’s nature is whatever it is”.” Describing God’s nature as good is kind of like defining a word by using the same word. The statement is true although it may be somewhat redundant.”

      The statement isn’t *somewhat* redundant. The statement is *completely* redundant. In any case, we agree that it’s redundant, so lets just agree to agree.

      “On the other hand, goodness is not the only attribute of God. God is completely good, but He is also just, and merciful, and loving. So describing God as good is only naming one of his attributes.”

      But according to your position, there’s no reason why being just, merciful, and loving are preferable to being unjust, sadistic, and hateful (beyond that God’s nature happens to be the former for no reason). According to your position, if God had been unjust, sadistic, and hateful, he’d still be God, he’d still be “good”, injustice, sadism, and hate would all be good, and justice, mercy, and love would all be bad. That’s according to your position. Your definitions of morality and God would make an all powerful, all knowing, eternal demon indistinguishable from God. Such a demon would fit the definition of being all powerful, all knowing, and eternal. It would fit the definition of being “good” because you define “good” to mean that it’s nature is whatever it’s nature is. It wouldn’t be just, merciful, and loving, but that wouldn’t matter because according to your definitions, those things only matter in so far as they’re the characteristics that God has. Do you see how I can take a common criticism of the first horn of the Euthyphro dilemma and apply it to your position?

      ““One of the major problems with theist morality (the purpose of this dilemma is to point this out) is that what people call morality can refer to one of two things: obedience to an authority (tradition, a leader, God, etc) or it can be treating others the way you want to be treated.”
Another false dilemma. Morality has nothing to do with whether people follow it or not. A triangle would still have three sides even if everybody believed it had four sides. It is true that God (an authority) commands people to be moral. However, if He hadn’t commanded people to be moral, this wouldn’t change the standard for morality.”

      I think I wasn’t clear enough about what I meant here. You define morality as acting in accordance with God’s nature. I would put that firmly in the “obedience to an authority” category. It means that if God’s nature is just, merciful, and loving, then it’s good to be those things, but if it’s unjust, sadistic, and hateful, then it’s good to be those things instead. This type of morality can be consistent with a golden rule type of morality for practical purposes, but the two can’t ever be philosophically consistent (there are situations in which they could contradict and force an individual to choose between them). The Euthyphro dilemma (both the original and the rephrased versions) draw attention to this inconsistency.

      “I think that you and I would agree that biblical morality is the simplest answer. When you embrace atheistic morality (whatever that even means), morality is degraded to the point of pure opinion…. it does show that from an atheistic worldview, murder is only wrong as long as the murderer believes it is wrong. You may be mad if someone stole your wallet, but you would have no basis to condemn that person. Right and Wrong become nothing more than figments of the imagination.”

      It’s the simplest answer if you don’t fully explore these issues. I’ve tried to show that I have good reasons for having the definition of morality that I have. I’ve tried to use the Euthyphro dilemma to show that your morality has to either be arbitrary or indistinguishable from secular morality. (And yes, if your definition of morality is what ever a super natural being’s nature just happens to be, and there’s no reason why it’s nature is what it is, then that’s arbitrary.) What I still haven’t addressed is what I labeled “question #3” (given a particular definition of morality, for what reasons do we act in accordance with it). That I haven’t gotten to.

      1. Thanks for the reply.

        “”Is something good because it’s consistent with God’s nature, or is it consistent with God’s nature because it’s good”. You’re immediately back to where you started. The two options and their consequences are almost completely equivalent to the original two options and their consequences.”
        This new question is great, although it is different than the original question. In the original dilemma, the problem with arguing that God commands something because it is good, was that this implied that there was a standard outside of God that determined right from wrong. This was easily answered by replying that there is not an outside standard for right and wrong, the character of God (who He is) is the standard. In the rephrased dilemma, there is not a problem with morality being based on something other than God. The heart of the matter is that you are asking me to provide reasons for my reasons. This is good. We should all have reasons for what we believe. I could claim that humans need food to live. Why? The human body converts this food into energy. Why (what is the reason for the reason)? Energy is required for muscles to function. Why? This process of giving reasons for what we believe could go on for a very long time. However, we are not infinite creatures. The very nature of humanness is finite. Eventually this process has to end. When it does finally end there are a couple of things that could happen. To illustrate, let me give an example in general form: I believe that A is true (A is referring to some claim). Why? I believe A is true because I believe B is true. Why? I believe B is true because I believe C is true… etc., etc. This could go on until you get to Z. Then, the question becomes, Why do you believe Z is true? One possible answer is this: I believe Z is true because I believe A is true. Obviously, however, this is just reasoning in a giant circle (circular reasoning). What one needs is an ultimate reason. An ultimate basis for everything he believes. This ultimate basis MUST be presupposed to be true. So when you ask the reason for believing that morality stems from the nature of God, my answer is: I don’t have a reason. God is the ultimate basis. Now, you may think this is absurd, but this is mandatory for any worldview. If I gave you another reason, you could simply ask, “why?” again. Biblically, the ultimate reason for everything, and the first Uncaused Cause is God. This is not to say that once we have presupposed God to be true, we must accept this with no evidence. In fact, if God is who He claims to be in the Bible, then we can make sense of the world around us. He is the reason that the laws of logic work and the reason why we can even debate on this subject. He provides the basis for the reliability of our senses, morality, and the uniformity of nature. Now that we are on the subject, I’m curious as to what your ultimate basis is for what you believe. If I asked you “why” enough times, when would we reach the ultimate basis that you have presupposed to be true?

        “I think I wasn’t clear enough about what I meant here. You define morality as acting in accordance with God’s nature. I would put that firmly in the “obedience to an authority” category. It means that if God’s nature is just, merciful, and loving, then it’s good to be those things, but if it’s unjust, sadistic, and hateful, then it’s good to be those things instead.”
        I apologize, I misunderstood what you were asking before. Here are my thoughts: Justice, mercy, and love are good because of who God is. If God was unjust, sadistic, and hateful, I suppose you could label these things as good, but then “goodness” would have a completely different meaning and wouldn’t be relevant to the discussion. By changing the definition of “good”, it no longer applies to what we are talking about. So when you ask what it would be like if God was the opposite of being loving, just, and merciful, the answer is, “He isn’t.” Because he is the ultimate basis, there can’t be another reason to give you (if there was, then that would have to be the ultimate basis).

        I think I have answered everything that you brought up. If I missed something, let me know and I would be happy tell you what I believe and why I believe it.

        You write, “What I still haven’t addressed is what I labeled “question #3” (given a particular definition of morality, for what reasons do we act in accordance with it). That I haven’t gotten to.”
        If you have the time, I would like to hear your answer to this question. If I had never heard of your morality before, how would you convince me that I should follow it?

        1. I wanted to clarify something about an ultimate standard. An ultimate standard is not something that we accept with no evidence. The only way for an ultimate standard to be plausible is if it provides a basis that makes sense of the evidence that we have. It is similar to arguing that the laws of logic are true. One must presuppose the truth of the laws of logic in order to argue for them. Ironically, one would have to use the laws of logic in order to ague that they aren’t true. The same is true with God and His Word. It provides the basis for things like morality, logic, the reliability of the senses, and so on. From an evolutionary viewpoint, there is no basis to believe that murder is always wrong, or even that 2+2 always equals 4. Why would a chance universe follow orderly laws? Why should we trust the law of noncontradiction? How can you accuse something of being arbitrary when you have no basis to assert that being arbitrary is wrong? When one accepts an atheistic viewpoint, there is no basis to believe in ANYTHING.

          The most common answer from an atheist/evolutionist when told this, is that we can know that things like logic are true because they work. However, the fact that the laws of logic work is not in question, therefore this statement is irrelevant. The point is that an atheist has no basis for the laws of logic to work. The Bible provides the basis for things like logic and morality while the atheistic worldview cannot. Arguing that the Bible isn’t true is similar to arguing that the laws of logic aren’t true. The very act of asserting that it isn’t true is only possible of it is true.

        2. “This new question is great, although it is different than the original question. In the original dilemma, the problem with arguing that God commands something because it is good, was that this implied that there was a standard outside of God that determined right from wrong…. In the rephrased dilemma, there is not a problem with morality being based on something other than God.”

          Actually, there’s the exact same problem, which is the whole point. In the original dilemma, one of the options is that God commands things because they’re good. In the rephrased dilemma, one of the options is that God’s nature is what it is because it’s good. Both versions of the second horn imply that there’s a standard outside of God that determines what’s good. Both versions of the first horn also have the same exact implications. If things are good solely because God commands them, then there can’t be a reason why he commands what he commands. If things are good solely because they’re consistent with God’s nature, then there can’t be a reason why his nature is what his nature is. Thus, both versions of the first horn imply that morality is arbitrary (and I’ve already gone into great detail about why this is.)

          “The heart of the matter is that you are asking me to provide reasons for my reasons”

          I can’t give reasons for my reasons ad infinitum and I wouldn’t ask you to either, but I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. You said that morality comes from God’s nature, and I asked, “is it good because it’s God’s nature, or is it God’s nature because it’s good”. I think Christians should be able to answer that question. If they can’t answer it, then that implies that they don’t know what the source of their morality actually is (whether it’s God or external to God).
          *
          That being said, if you can’t answer this question, that’s fine. Ultimately there are only two possible answers anyway and theistic morality has to fit one of those answers, even if you can’t identify which one. Put simply, either theistic morality is really based on something other then God or it’s arbitrary. Both options are problematic for Christianity. I would argue that the second horn is less problematic, and that therefore having a secular moral basis is the best that Christians can hope for. In any case, when we started this discussion, you said that theistic morality isn’t messy or problematic. I think this demonstrates that it has to be.

          “So when you ask what it would be like if God was the opposite of being loving, just, and merciful, the answer is, “He isn’t.” Because he is the ultimate basis, there can’t be another reason to give you (if there was, then that would have to be the ultimate basis. Now, you may think this is absurd, but this is mandatory for any worldview. If I gave you another reason, you could simply ask, “why?” again.”
          *
          I agree with you that no world view can provide a reason for every reason, and that eventually they all arrive at a point where we just have to say “I don’t know”. However, this isn’t one of those points. You *do* know the answer to my question. You know that it’s either “things are good because they’re consistent with God’s nature” or “God has his nature because it’s consistent with what’s good”. Even if you don’t know which answer is true, you know that one of them has to be true. That alone makes my case.

          “If God was unjust, sadistic, and hateful, I suppose you could label these things as good, but then “goodness” would have a completely different meaning and wouldn’t be relevant to the discussion. By changing the definition of “good”, it no longer applies to what we are talking about.”

          You gave me your definition of “good”, and I wanted you to answer the dilemma in order to clarify that definition. I then went through the implications of either possible answer. One of the implications of the first horn’s definition is that an unjust, hateful, and sadistic God would still be God and he’d still be good. To point this out isn’t to change the first horn’s definition, but rather to show it’s flaws.

  4. (This is in response to SmartLX)

    “Until God is established as real, that the Bible is divine edict is an assertion and an opinion, and any morality that’s taken from it is taken on the authority of someone who for all practical purposes is not there.”
    That is only true if the Bible is wrong. If the Bible is true, as the evidence suggests, then morality is not based on an opinion. As I said before, to assert otherwise is to beg the question. In essence, you are saying, “I think you are wrong, and because of this, I think that your morality is based on an opinion.” You are basing your conclusion on a proposition that assumes what you are trying to prove.

    “As for the act itself [rape], I call it wrong simply because the victim suffers further, and one major practical purpose of morality and ethics is to prevent harm.”
    But in your worldview, the chemical reaction that we call suffering is no different than the chemical reaction that occurs when baking soda reacts with vinegar. What basis do you have to assert that suffering is bad? As much as atheists hate to admit it, if there is no God, morality is nothing more than electrical impulses in one’s brain (and one’s brain is nothing more than rearranged pond scum). I’m not telling you this to be rude, I’m trying to get you to see the futility of a standard for morality when you accept atheism.

    “I haven’t heard of Dr Layton before now and I’d like to read more about him, and to know what book convinced him (and why you haven’t simply told us to read the same book), but that’s one.”
    Dr. Layton isn’t famous, he just happens to be somebody that I personally know, who realized the foolishness in the assumptions of evolution. As for the book he read, I couldn’t remember the name of it so I asked him today. The book is called Evolution: The Fossils Say NO! by Dwane Gish. This book was written in 1973 so I wouldn’t recommend it if you are curious about the modern fossil record. Here is a link to a more recent article on the fossil record and how it most easily fits within the biblical models: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/ee2/fossil-record .

    “Shouldn’t this undeniable truth backed by God’s power be tearing down unbelievers in their millions?”
    Romans 1 talks about why this isn’t the case. If people accept that the Bible is true, then they also have to accept that there is a God of justice who will punish their sin if they don’t repent. Unfortunately, most people are blinded by their love of sin and their reliance on self.

    “Indeed there are infinite alternatives to any claim, but all but one are wrong.”
    Exactly. Therefore, you can’t argue that something is wrong based on the number of erroneous alternatives. For some reason, you tried to make this argument earlier: “Even if it did have the very best evidence, it’s still up against an infinite number of possible alternatives. It would be like betting that a random number generator would pick the integer 3 from the range 1-10, if it were free to add any number of decimal points. 2.999 or 3.0000000000017 would still lose.” My point was that while this argument is true, it is irrelevant because it can be applied to any claim. I think that we can agree on this particular issue.

    1. Even if the Bible is true, God still has no observable, attributable influence on us or the world today. For all intents and purposes He is hiding from us and disguising his actions as natural occurrences, from the geological to the neurological. Without clear evidence, one can only assert that He is real, even if it’s true. One can’t know, one can only suspect and believe. No one said an opinion has to be wrong. Point is, Biblical morals have no known authority until you make a theist assumption. They’re useless to non-believers unless they make sense on their own merits.

      The physical facts of naturalistic morality don’t make it as futile or depressing as you seem to think. In this view morality is indeed the product of chemical reactions and electrical impulses in brains, but the entire identity of a human being is also just chemical reactions and electrical impulses in a brain (let’s just call it CR-EI-B). CREIB has incredible, demonstrated potential, and is responsible for every deliberate action ever taken. Purely CREIB morality is entirely adequate for CREIB people because it’s by CREIB and for CREIB; it gives us CREIBs everything we need to lead happy CREIB lives. We do good deeds and we achieve great things from the perspective of a CREIB, we are remembered by other CREIBs, and our lives have meaning to ourselves and to other CREIBs. We don’t need or seek the approval of a non-CREIB entity we never hear from. CREIBs tend to get angry when a fellow CREIB suffers for no good reason, like a hypothetical rape victim forced into marriage. Quite simply, we feel for her because we know what it’s like to be a frightened CREIB.

      Funny that Dr Layton was swayed by Duane Gish, given your earlier Gish Gallop. Perhaps you learned it from Layton. Anyway, the AiG article presents the well-known way to reconcile the geological and fossil evidence with a 6000-year-old earth using Noah’s flood. The evidence it reconciles is highly selective; for instance they must completely disregard every radiometric dating ever done on a fossil. The particular claims of evidence contradicting evolutionary theory are long-discredited, including one claim about polystrate trees that was explained in the 19th century. The worst thing is the attitude that the proper thing to do is to apply one or another gigantic prior assumption to all the evidence; this is exactly what science does its best to avoid.

      So your explanation for the general failure of religious apologetic is that atheists won’t accept it because they’re afraid of God’s “justice”. Do you understand that one has to think something exists, at least at the time, in order to be afraid of it? Do you think the vast majority of atheists are only pretending? Do you even think there’s such a thing as an atheist, defined as someone who genuinely does not believe in God? It appears you have the perfect way to reassure yourself that it’s not a failure on your part when your preaching falls on deaf ears again and again. Well, whatever makes you happy.

      I agree, you can’t argue that something is wrong based on how many other possibilities there are. You can however argue that something is LIKELY to be wrong, if you determine that the probabilities of the alternatives add up to more. There is about as much evidence for any other god as for the Christian god from my perspective, having worked through the Great Big Arguments, so even if there is a god the probability of it being that one is very close to 1 divided by infinity. This makes me confident that the real god, if any, is not yours. In entirely different situations, clearer evidence raises the probability of one claim above the probabilities of every other possible claim put together. That’s how some things can be justifiably taken as true for practical purposes, and a god – especially a particular god – can’t.

Leave a Reply to Sasha Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *