Summer 2011

Can We Be Good Without God?

By Craig J. Hazen

It’s been fascinating to watch the very vocal and prolific new atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, make a case for objective morality. The phrase “objective morality” is a way of indicating that some behaviors are right (truth telling, kindness, tolerance) and some behaviors are wrong (rape, murder, racism) — for real. Morality is not just a matter of personal preference and choice (akin to liking peanuts better than almonds), but rather laws that are real and true and binding no matter what one thinks about them or whether one chooses to follow them.

The reason it has been fun to watch the new atheists defend this idea is because atheists of an earlier generation (such as J.L. Mackie and Bertrand Russell) thought it folly to do so. Classic atheists from the mid-20th century were very reluctant to grant that there was an objective moral law because they saw that it was just too compelling for believers to take the easy step from the moral law to God who was the “moral law giver.” Accepting a real objective moral law would be giving far, far too much ground to the Christians and other theists.

In my view, this shift in attitude toward moral values among the new atheists is an indicator that our work in Christian apologetics and philosophy has had an impact. I can’t count the times when in forums on various college campuses more traditional atheists and agnostics have had to squirm under the questioning from me or my colleagues about basic moral questions.

“Is it wrong to torture babies for fun?” “Is it wrong to treat a person as subhuman because she has darker skin?” As you can imagine, if an atheist were to answer “no,” or “well, it depends,” or “I prefer not to do these things, but how can I judge others,” to these questions he would be running into some real trouble with the audience. Whether the audience is filled with conservative Christians or radical unbelievers, people in our culture have an aversion to those who waffle or dodge on such fundamental and obvious moral values.

I think the new atheists got tired of being in such a public relations conundrum, so they began embracing basic morality as some sort of natural feature of the physical universe. They now tend to maintain that there are objective morals, but that these morals did not come from God. Is it wrong to torture babies for fun? Of course it’s wrong, says the new atheist. Goal accomplished. No more looking like an uncaring monster on stage in debates with Christians.

On the one hand, I think the new atheists have been helped in public discourse by their recent adoption of rudimentary moral values. One rarely feels now like one is being addressed by an amoral scoundrel when a new atheist is speaking in public. On the other hand, the new atheist now suffers from a problem that the old atheists would have quickly warned them about: How in the world are we going to explain where these objective moral values came from?

The primary technique the new atheists have adopted for dealing with the issue of the origin or grounding of the moral law is obfuscation. The new atheists are very fond of saying, “We don’t need God to be good.” Indeed, they often say that atheists, agnostics and skeptics often lead more wholesome lives than lifelong professing Christians. Now, theists should not be fooled by this. Our response should be, “Of course you don’t need God to be good — we’ve never claimed that you do.” You see, it is not knowledge (epistemology) of the moral law that is a problem — after all, the Bible teaches that this law is written on every human heart. Rather, the daunting problem for the new atheist is the nature and source (ontology) of the moral law. Here are some questions you can ask Richard Dawkins the next time you sit next to him on a bus:

• If everything ultimately must be explained by the laws of physics and chemistry, help me understand what a moral value is (does it have mass, occupy space, hold a charge, have wavelength)?

• How did matter, energy, time and chance result in a set of objective moral values? Did the big bang really spew forth “love your enemy?” If so, you have to help me understand that.

• What makes your moral standard more than a subjective opinion or personal preference? What makes it truly binding or obligatory? Why can’t I just ignore it? Won’t our end be the same (death and the grave) either way?

The old atheists did not want to have to face questions like these, so they simply denied the reality of objective moral values. The new atheists have thrown the door open. Let’s not make it easy for them. Let’s ask the hard questions in a winsome and engaging way.

Craig J. Hazen is the director of Biola’s M.A. in Christian apologetics and M.A. in science and religion programs. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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  • Beverly Grafflin July 7, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    I am a Christian and believe the Bible. I find logic in your argument. What do we do with the response to this logic that "society, people living in community over time, gave rise to moral values -- sort of an evolution of society in line with its survival"?

  • David Rutledge July 7, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    Beverly,

    I didn't write this article, but I can say that the response you mention is not a response to this argument. That response supports the idea that morality is subjective (made up by a person/group and not necessarily applying to everyone), not objective (true whether we believe it or not).

  • Mark Dufresne July 7, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    All physical bodies on earth obey the law of gravity, but not all obey the objective law of morality. So it seems difficult to categorize the latter as a physical law.

  • Jim Marzano July 7, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    I think you definitely have the naturalists on their heels with this stuff. However, I struggle with understanding how God makes things any more objective. God is all powerful and omniscient, and he puts forth a standard that is set. But that seems subjectively objective. God is choosing to put forth what he deems good, but why does he get to decide? Is it because he can beat the puny humans up? Where does the "ought" come from in a theistic system? If it comes from "might makes right," I'm not so sure that makes more sense than the naturalist's claim of good equalling that which leads to survival.

  • Thilo Young July 7, 2011 at 11:25 PM

    @Jim- I would say that the moral law is not made, but rather an eternally existent reality in the nature of the eternally existent cause of all that is. It isn't good because God says it's good, God says it's good because it is good, being eternally consistent with His good nature. Further, any moral disagreement, with He being the cause and we the effect, leaves us in the deficit. No effect can contain what is not accounted for by the cause, and no effect can exceed it. Thus, God imparts and reveals His very essence in and to that which He has caused to be.
    @Beverly- I would first ask why survival is good. Because we deem it so? We deem it so because of this same evolutionary heredity? In such a case, why is that which one deems to be desirable any better or worse than any other? Next I'd ask if such a standard "what we agree on" is valid, and point to mutually adopted standards of the present and past that the opponent finds reprehensible. On what basis can we call them "wrong"?

  • Phil July 8, 2011 at 3:49 AM

    I would also want to ask if they were intending to claim to know such a godless person who had some relatively high degree of partial goodness or if they actually knew of someone who was completely good, apart from God. I would enjoy knowing about that person. In fact, as rare as that would be, it seems most people would want to know him or her. It would be quite newsworthy, I think. And I wonder how such a person would fit in with a generally not so completely good society. Would they be worshiped and idolized or mocked and scorned? "Really" I'd say. "You actually know of someone who is completely good? Or did you mean to say that a person who denies God still has the capacity to be completely good but falls short at times just like the rest of us?"

  • IncreasingLearning.com July 8, 2011 at 5:08 AM

    I am reminded of Benjamin Franklin's response to Thomas Paine's claim that he could be good without God.

    "You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion ... [but] perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself." (http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=58)

  • Sharon July 8, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Perhaps an atheist would answer these as follows:
    For number one: an atheist may think that there is something outside of physical laws but that something is not the God of the Bible. An atheist may state that the substance of ideas is knowable but not at this time in science. An atheist may state that the knowledge of the substance of ideas may be answered someday in the future as man progresses towards a microquantum universe.

    Love your enemy is probably not considered a moral objective by an atheist. An atheist may argue that objective moral values are part of self preservation of animals as they evolve into “knowing” creatures. They may look at creatures such as apes and denote moral objectivity in how these animals care for their young, each other, etc. Love your enemy is not even a practiced moral value by many Christians as we have see over time. Groups of Christians even today believe in capital punishment, abortion, and are ok with the killing of another human being in situations of war or self-preservation. Christians vary in how they apply Old Testament laws to New Testament salvation.

    An atheist may argue that what makes moral standards more than subjective or personal preference is biological and coded for by DNA. They may say that even morality is encoded and that is why certain objective aspects of morality are the same in all mankind, the concept that we are more alike than different.

    An atheist may argue that objective moral standards are not binding or obligatory to all mankind as in some cultures or persons they act against these standards: Killing children who are unwanted, female, deformed: stealing from someone because you want that thing, committing adultery because your spouse was unkind or not the right person, etc.

    An atheist would agree that death is the same either way, but again, our biological
    evolution has led to survival of species through mutual objective morality.

  • Debbie Wilson July 8, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    Re: the comment earlier that 'all bodies obey the law of gravity but not all obey the law of morality. C.S. Lewis begs to differ in Mere Christianity by his arguments about such. One would even look at Hitler. Some of us might say he didn't obey a moral law, but apparently he did--he thought the Jews, Gypsies, etc. were not the 'right' race. He obeyed some set of morality. Albeit, it was malevolent, but he had a sense of what was fair, or 'right' in his eyes.

  • Gabriel Porras July 9, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Dear Sharon,

    Nice try. "An atheist may think", "An atheist may say", "An atheist may state" ...then let me add this one to your list: An atheist may want to hide behind a hypothetical position. Are you the atheist in question? (Then have the courage to state YOUR position). Prior to committing the most atrocious crimes of the Twentieth Century, an atheist may hide behind a political party line (like Lenin). An atheist may claim he’s embarking on a historical drive for modernization (like Mao). An atheist may state an ideal to purify the party from rogue elements (like Stalin). An atheist may think that killing millions of his own fellow-citizens is necessary for the progress of Cambodia (like Pol Pot). An atheist may claim that starving Cuba and making it a pariah state will keep it as “the only free territory of the Americas” (like Castro). And these atheists and any others can then go and claim that this “is biological and coded for by DNA”. I could go on, and on, and on. But Sharon, the point of the article above is to demonstrate that WHATEVER an atheist (or a theist) may claim, think, say or hide behind, the only thing that allows us to praise any virtues or condemn any atrocities is the existence of objective moral values. And the ONLY way there can be such a thing as objective moral values (by which you can judge me and I can judge you) is if these values are grounded above and beyond our petty circumstances, our flimsy opinions, our fads and personal likes or dislikes. This is why only God (and only the God of the Bible) can fit the bill. Modern-day atheists may carry on thinking, saying or stating whatever they please. Their predecessors, like Russell and Mackie, knew better, and that’s why they simply avoided the issue of objective morality altogether.

  • Sharon July 9, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    Dear Gabriel: What do you mean by a hypothetical position? An assumption of truth for argument sake? One can “hide” behind a hypothetical position as readily as one can be revealed using a hypothetical position. I am not an atheist, I am a bold and loving Christian. My point was that people who denote themselves to be atheist argue against the existence of God by using the claims I suggested. Obviously, it made you angry and accusatory towards me; someone you don’t know in the least and someone whom by my comment to the article, you associated with having a flimsy opinion and fad-driven personal likes and dislikes. I refer you to Matthew 7: 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

  • Roger July 11, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    The fact is belief in God leads to immoral behavior of the worst kind in some cultures. Childish behaviour as, my god is better than your god, or even, my god is the same as your god but my savior is better than your savior. Imagine persecutting a Christian woman for drinking from a well that Muslim people drink from, just because she doesn't believe in Muhammad, or persecutting the Jews because they don't believe in Jesus. I could go on. Please let’s not contribute to the hate mongoring.

  • Angel July 11, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    What's immoral is when one snidely, haughtily judges/condemns an entire body of people for not thinking exactly as they do.

  • Michael July 11, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    "Can we be good without God?" The answer to that is "Yes," and it's been widely acknowledged by theists and atheists. The question I would put forward is "Can we be good WITH God?" Can we be good by relegating ourselves to the status of ignorant, lowly creatures who can't possibly figure right from wrong on our own, relying entirely on some unproven deity to tell us what to do? Can you REALLY take credit for being "good" if you have ZERO judgement yourself and are merely taking orders from someone else? I would argue NO; you can't be genuinely good if you're relying on a god to guide your way.

  • John July 11, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    The God of the bible is sexist, homophobic and extremely violent.
    ...and many of his followers mimic his behavior.
    It is much healthier to base what is good or bad (morality) on what is healthy or unhealthy for a society.

  • dr. satan July 11, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    I love it when Christians invent concepts like "objective morality" and then force atheists to explain their existence.

    Atheists can't explain how Jesus rose from the dead without God either.

    Check mate.

  • Tyler July 11, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    I find it disturbing when the people responsible for the education of young adults has no scruples when speaking of a subject in their own field.

    You must be aware there there are a myriad of ethical systems that are objective that function without the concept of god.

    I am an atheist. I do not think there is a objective moral law like the "law" you wish to fiat. I do however know that humans are hard wired a certain way. We all tend to think in similar ways and have similar experiences. This commonality gives us our sense of morals. Much like the mind, morals are just an emergent property of the brain, real, but apart of our biology and a product of evolution.

    So in this sense, you can have a objective morality as an atheist, but when you consider your idea of an objective moral law with a supreme moral law giver, you have a far greater leap across the ontological gap than any skeptic.

  • Scott Wildey July 11, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    I thought Philip Yancey had a good article on this, from a slightly different perspective: http://taomon34.tripod.com/yancey.htm

    As a Christian (Theist), I also think that the skeptic has a far greater leap to explain first cause, whether by morality or physicality...

  • Annette Homewood July 11, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Just when I thought we might be getting past this, the argument of infinite regression continues: all there is had to come from somewhere; and that somewhere also had to come from somewhere; and that somewhere . . . you get the idea. Theists think they've come up with the answer to that somewhere: God. How do they know? Faith. Oh, well my faith in the classic invisible flying spaghetti monster is just as non-falsifiable. I think Hazen's questions are fun, and they do not, at all, disprove the atheist's position.

    Not all creatures on Earth have the same moral values as humans. That does not make them good or evil; it just means that, according to the needs of each individual, certain sets of values are more desirable for some than for others. For example, a spider survives better by working alone, so it is to the spider's benefit not to have empathy for other creatures—especially for those it must eat. This trait does not mean that the spider is good or bad. For humans, we work better in groups, so the ones who have had empathy for others have survived better and passed down this trait. (I got this idea from Philip K. Dick's Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep.) What this all means is that "good" and "bad" are human concepts or constructs. It is one thing to look at good and bad from a philosophical point of view--to question, ponder, and attain an intellectual grasp of it--it is quite another thing in its practical applications. It is only partly because we are afraid of getting into trouble that we refrain from immoral acts. This would include fear of God and the devil, as well as laws. But ultimately, we cannot cut out that part of ourselves which naturally gravitates toward being empathetic because, for those of us born with consciences, perpetuating indifference and selfishness would drive us insane. It even comes down to a matter of common sense. We have eyes and ears to see and hear when something else is in pain, and our intelligence allows us to understand this pain and see things from another’s point of view. Why do we want to put away "evil doers"? (The most recent Casey Anthony trial comes to mind . . . speaking of torturing babies.) Not only to protect ourselves and those we love, but because that empathetic part of us is angry at the hurt that person committed.

  • Annette Homewood July 11, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    As for the "chance result in a set of objective moral values," who says that we're SUPPOSED to be here? Given a universe of infinite possibilities, why do we presume that the way things are are the way things are SUPPOSED to be? By that logic, no matter how things had turned out, we would have justified that things are SUPPOSED to be that way. This is what’s known as philosophical optimism: all that is is for the best. Voltaire poked fun at this concept in Candide with the character who said that noses were created to support spectacles and legs were so that britches could go around them. I, for one, am not particularly satisfied in this "meant to be" result--an idea which is transparently anthropocentric. Oh, but Abrahamic religions also made up an answer for the undesirable state of affairs: original sin--which partially (pun intended) addresses the “problem of evil.” Remember, mythology is AN answer. Is it not more honest to admit ignorance during the continual search for answers than to perpetuate ignorance with authoritative made-up answers? To quote Christopher Hitchens, "The world looks as if it would look if there were no God."

  • Scott Wildey July 11, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    Who says there are infinite possibilities? Why are we here rather than not? An Atheist's faith is simple: we just are, it's mute. For that matter, why are there physical laws to the universe in the first place?--there doesn't have to be. Again, the atheists faith suggests it's mute, by chance, so be it. At least a lottery winner implies some kind of intentionality (I bought a ticket, and my number came up). That is a lot of faith for the atheist, but to suggest that this brings us any closer to purpose beyond mechanics and functionality is too much for the average person with common sense to swallow. And, we don't live that way. Our motives point to a purpose beyond matter.

    I can understand why someone can come to these conclusions is they begin with the faith proposition that there is no God--because no other explanation will do--the decision has been made before the evidence is weighed--it's a narrow scope (compared to a more diversified field of knowledge which encompasses all aspects of human personality, identity, capacity, makeup). Thankfully, though the utilitarian sentiment still persists, people are seeking answers to their inner longings more and more as evolutionary philosophy continues to come up dry.

    Moreover, the atheist presuppositions above bring two HUGE assumptions: (1) the human race is getting better/progressing, morally and otherwise; and (2) that the values we enjoy and live with now could have come into existence apart from Christianity (though the world before Judeo-Christian monotheism suggests differently in spite of Thomas Payne and his adherents.

  • Roxanne July 11, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    I think the answers lie in sociology, psychology, chemistry and anatomy.

    Are the human responses similar in society when a person lies? Cheats? Rapes? Do their hearts increase in pace? Do their eyes dilate? Do they sweat?

    What are the chemical responses/triggers in the human body to a lie? To adultery? To aggravated assault?

    We can track the neurological disorders and compare brain composition in psychopaths and seriously aggressive people. Can't this be used as evidence of bad behavior thus establishing a cause of bad morals?

  • Annette Homewood July 11, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    Scott, quantum physics says there's infinite possibilities, and there is much empirical evidence which overwhelmingly supports that this is so. Pick up any basic read on quantum physics if you want to understand it from scientists smarter than me.

    Also, it is actually the domain of religion to seek out evidence of preconcieved answers. This is known as pseudoscience. Real science takes a look at evidence first and comes up with likely answers based on where the evidence is pointing. It does not presuppose answers before evidence, as you suggested. Though it is not afraid to speculate, theories go through a rigorous process of being hypotheses first before butterfyling into theories and then perhaps fact. Like I said, it is religion that presupposees answers first. Otherwise we would not have creationists trying to prove their preconcieved answers, nor would we have intelligent designers trying to also prove their preconcieved answers.

    And you're on to something in that philosophy may be drying up (though, I think there will always be new potential). The more science tells us about how life works, the less we rely on groping in the dark.

    Last note, on you're point "2) [atheists have the assumption]that the values we enjoy and live with now could have come into existence apart from Christianity." Daniel Dennett calls this aspect of religion a "nurse crop." I would even compare religion on the same level as folktales and fables we tell children in a way they can understand so as to behave. Of course, when we grow up, we come to understand life in an adult way.

    Thanks for playing :)

  • Juan July 12, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    Asking what a moral value is, as does Mr. Hazen, is to get off on the wrong 'conceptual' foot. Values, including moral values, do not exist as separate entities or realities. Values come about when you have a agent who values something. The term "values" just refers to an abstraction that we posit when we talk about the valuation by someone or other. The act of valuation, just like acts of perception, thought, imagination, analysis, etc., is something done by human person. You explain values by explaining valuation; and you explain valuation by explaining how a agent capable of value-ing something arises. This explanation can be done by way of the biological sciences and the cognitive sciences. No need to get confused with the idea that the entity 'value' cannot have mass or a wavelength.

    One does not have to get confused, or inject confusion, into the discussion by asking, as Hazen, whether a value has mass, occupies space, holds a charge, or have wavelength? Asking that question is either a crude category error (see Gilbert Ryle) or a debater's cheap trick. Whether we're dealing with an honest error or a debater's trick, I would not let the likes of Mr. Hazen take up too much of my time.

    Juan Bernal

  • Paul R July 12, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    I would agree with Juan's analysis of moral values but with a slightly different emphasis. Whereas Juan suggests moral values do not exist as separate entities, I woud modify that to read: values don't exist as material entities. They fall into the same category as other concepts such as charge, mass, wavelength, or just tree. Naturalistic Humanism doesn't have to insist that the only things that exist must have weight, mass, charge,etc. That only reflects a naive materialism it seems to me. The latter exist as concepts only and --Juan is correct -- to claim they must be explained in terms of physical concepts is just confusing to say the least.
    I suspect --though I could be wrong --That Hazen wants to claim that moral values are not only non-materialistic, but that they must have some external, supernatural source. Of course, he is wrong about that as he is about what (some) naturalists believe.
    To re-emphasize, as Juan has stated below, moral values have no existence outside of their use by human agents. They don't float around in space as Platonic forms or in the mind of God. They have no external existence and can be explained naturally; there are a number of theories as to how moral values might have evolved in humans.

    Juan might even be corect that they have no existence at all except that they do seem to refer to something valuable in human life as M.M. O'Hair mentioned in the quote below. If they had no existence at all, they would have no reference and they wouldn't be communicable.
    Let's just say they have a conceptul existence only and let it go at that. But my few cents worth has expanded to a dime's worth (at least) by now but then what would you expect from a philosopher?

  • Mary July 12, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    I think atheists -- and sometimes Christians -- miss the whole point when it comes to a discussion of goodness apart from God. There is a huge difference between doing good and being good. Nobody denies that a person can do good deeds be he atheist, Buddhist, Christian or whatever. Anybody can give to charity, help out his next-door neighbour and be kind to children no matter what his worldview is.

    However, the real issue is the fact that none of us are good in nature. Ontologically-speaking, we're all sinners, born that way and incapable of making ourselves sin-free. As Ravi Zacharias puts it, Jesus didn't come simply to make bad men good. He came to make dead people alive. We are all dead in sin and remain that way unless we accept Christ's offer to take our sins in exchange for his righteousness.

    And what's exciting about being a Christian is the fact that, when we are reborn in Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit who gives us the very power of God to help us to resist temptation and overcome sin. While the non-Christian tries to improve himself in his own puny human power, the Christian can tackle life in the power of God. How great is that?!!! Of course, there are no perfect Christians, just Christians being perfected by God, as this sanctification is a process that goes on throughout our lives.

    If there is no moral absolute from God, then we are indeed left with morality as a matter of opinion. If we are the results of random evolution, then what makes one person's idea of morality right and another person's wrong? Even Dawkins has admitted that, with a Darwinian worldview, there is no "ought" just "is" and there is no reason to belive that one "is" is any more right or better than another. As Sartre put it, whether you help a little old lady across the street or run her down with your car, there's nothing to say that one act is right while the other is wrong.

  • Roger July 12, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    Ethics/Morality is not some such complex concept that any being of higher conciousness cannot understand without the help of some metaphysical God. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_rule

  • Benito Franqui July 12, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    Non-theists should not let themselves be dragged into endless, unproductive discussions with theists on the issue of whether it's possible to be "good without God" ( issue #1 ). Instead, we should be talking about issue #2, which is the REAL reason why theists want to talk about issue #1: namely, their desire for immortality. The real issue is not IMMORALITY -- it is IMMORTALITY. :-D

  • Paul Manfrini July 12, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    What distinguishes us humans from other animals is the ability to formulate our own morality through the use of reason. To abdicate this ability and revert into a perennial state of intellectual infancy in which we need someone else to tell us what is right and what is wrong is the real sin, and the most devastating one. Then, to voluntarily submit to morality dictators who claim to receive their authority from an invisible being and from ancient writings filled with incongruence, glorifying hatred, whimsical genocide, infanticide, rape, and self-destruction, well, that's just pure madness.

  • Jan July 12, 2011 at 8:53 PM

    Annette,
    To quote Christopher Hitchens, "The world looks as if it would look if there were no God."

    How do you know that? Or Hitchins...how does he know that?

  • Cary Cook July 13, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Theists are right about where objective morality comes from, and wrong to claim to have it written down. Values exist only in the minds of evaluators. If objective values exist, they exist in the judgment of an objective evaluator. A personal Supreme Being is the only legitimate candidate for that slot. But that’s as far as it goes.

    If the Supreme Being and our Creator are identical or in moral agreement, then either we are created with knowledge of objective morality, or our Creator has no moral right to punish us for failure to act in accordance with objective morality. If we are wrong about some of the particulars, a just and righteous God would judge us by the degree to which we acted in accordance with what we believed to be objective morality – whether we believe in him or not.

    A problem arises when theists claim that the Supreme Being is accurately represented in some body of allegedly holy scripture, and that this scripture tells us what acts are objectively moral and immoral. All existing forms of monotheistic scripture present a God who is intellectually absurd and morally repugnant. No righteous God could possibly blame anyone who, for example, rejects a God who tortures people forever because they believed the wrong set of scriptures – or no scriptures, least of all, the God who allegedly created human minds in the first place. Unfortunately people fail to distinguish between monotheism, religion, and scripturalism. In sensibly rejecting scripturalism, they unfortunately reject monotheism, thus forfeiting its benefits including a grounding for objective morality. Scripturalists create atheists. My position, non-scriptural monotheism, offers grounded objective morality and at least a reasonable possibility of a sensible God, and a just afterlife, minus the dogmas of religion.

  • Benito Franqui July 13, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    My moral compass is my own conscience. Perhaps it is nothing more than con science -- who knows? :-D

    As for the possibility of a blissful afterlife, I don't rule it out. But if it exists, I regard it as a sort of extra bonus, as a frosting on the cake of existence. Knowing that one has acted properly should by itself constitute enough reward. One should NEVER base his/her actions on the expectation of being rewarded in an afterlife. That sort of ideology can lead, in extreme cases, to people flying airliners into buildings... :-(

    Some kind of God might exist. But until such a God makes Him/Her/Itself and His/Her/Its wishes unambiguously known to me, I find the concept of "God" completely useless as far as a moral compass is concerned.

    I find books such as Edward O. Wilson's "Consilience" to be much more useful guides than any of the traditional religious scriptures on the issues of (1) how we got into our current unhappy predicament, and (2) what we can reasonably be able to do to ameliorate that predicament. :-)

  • Benito Franqui July 13, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    In "Consilience", Edward O. Wilson has this to say at the beginning of chapter 11, titled "Ethics and Religion":



    CENTURIES OF DEBATE on the origin of ethics come down to this: Either ethical precepts, such as justice and human rights, are independent of human experience or else they are human inventions. The distinction is more than an exercise for academic philosophers. The choice between the assumptions makes all the difference in the way we view ourselves as a species. It measures the authority of religion, and it determines the conduct of moral reasoning.

    The two assumptions in competition are like islands in a sea of chaos, immovable, as different as life and death, matter and the void. Which is correct cannot be learned by pure logic; for the present only a leap of faith will take you from one to the other. But the true answer will eventually be reached by the accumulation of objective evidence. Moral reasoning, I believe, is at every level intrinsically consilient with the natural sciences.

    Every thoughtful person has an opinion on which of the premises is correct. But the split is not, as popularly supposed, between religious believers and secularists. It is between transcendentalists, those who think that moral guidelines exist outside the human mind, and empiricists, who think them contrivances of the mind. The choice between religious or nonreligious conviction and the choice between ethically transcendentalist or empiricist conviction are cross-cutting decisions made in metaphysical thought. An ethical transcendentalist, believing ethics to be independent, can either be an atheist or else assume the existence of a deity. In parallel manner, an ethical empiricist, believing ethics to be a human creation only, can either be an atheist or else believe in a creator deity (though not in a law—giving God in the traditional Judaeo-Christian sense). In simplest terms the option of ethical foundation is as follows:

    I believe in the independence of moral values, whether from God or not,

    versus

    I believe that moral values come from humans alone; God is a separate issue.

  • Sharon July 14, 2011 at 4:54 AM

    The following is from an article entitled: If Grace is Received, It Must be Given by
    Dr. Robert Petterson
    If we can’t love others the way Christ loves us, then perhaps our faith is illusionary. There is the frightening possibility that it is not real. The writer of this gospel later warns us in 1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” If it is not illusionary, it is certainly impotent. Love that lacks the power to transform our relationships will never convince the watching world that it is divine love. Therefore it becomes irrelevant to those outside the Church. Unless our relationship with Jesus Christ has the power to transform marriages, families, and every other relationship it will be rejected as illusionary, impotent, and irrelevant. All men will only believe that Christ has made a difference in our lives when they see a difference in our relationships with one another.


  • Sharon July 14, 2011 at 5:11 AM

    Nice reflection by our Lord Jesus in regard to moral issues:

    Mark 2:3 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ 4Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. 5He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.


  • Benito Franqui July 15, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    If I had the power to instantly heal somebody's withered hand ( Sabbath or no Sabbath ) merely by wishing it to be so, I would do so. But I have no credible evidence that ANYBODY has ever been able to do that. Hearsay (even written hearsay) is not evidence -- no matter how much we may wish such healing power to exist. Jesus is just one out of MANY people who have been credited throughout history with extraordinary healing powers. But where are the people who have supposedly been healed through the exercise of those extraordinary healing powers?
    .....
    If we want to help people with withered hands (or any other ailment), in my opinion it is MUCH more effective to make use of scientific discoveries to develop prostheses, medicines, or surgical interventions which compensate to some degree for the ailments, allowing the afflicted to live more normal lives. :-)

  • Benito Franqui July 15, 2011 at 6:03 PM

    Even if Jesus actually walked the Earth at one time and actually did then heal people with withered hands, I'm pretty sure that we all agree that none of us have that power.

    So what should we do instead? Besides people with withered hands, there have been millions of humans whose limbs have been chopped off, broken, burned, or blasted away by other humans. Should we be concerned about that? Should we do anything about that? Like what, for example? :-) :-) :-)

  • Benito Franqui July 16, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    As somebody may have noticed, I'm trying to ask the hard questions in a winsome and engaging way. ;-)

  • Sharon July 17, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    Dear Benito: Please reread my comment from a point of view not of miracles, but of moral law. This discussion is on objective morality. Jesus points to the Pharisees adherence to prescribed moral law inspite of what is the obvious (intuitivel) right thing to do. To save a life or to kill just because it is the sabbath is close minded and rigid. I don't know what you should do about harm befalling others, but I know what I do; I know my gifts and I use them. I do heal the sick and care for the wounded and I think you can do this as well. The sick and wounded are all of us. First you pray, then you listen, then you do the work you have been given to do.

  • Benito Franqui July 18, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    It's quite likely that both of us are already doing what our consciences tell us to do -- which is also what we should be doing. All I'm saying is that I'm not convinced that Christians ( or any other theists ) enjoy any advantages over non-theists in this respect. :-)

  • Benito Franqui July 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    Do we have the power to heal others? I do believe that we have the power to surrender to something much greater than our puny selves. And that when we do that, healings do sometimes occur. Some like to call that something "God". I prefer to call it "the laws of Nature". :-)

  • Sharon July 19, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    Benito: You are on your way and you will get there. Don't get hung up in semantics and words. PS it is not our consciuos minds that really direct us!

  • Sharon July 19, 2011 at 4:44 AM

    Acts 14:15‘Friends,* why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; 17yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.’

  • Randall Rapetti MA MFT, B '79, T '80 July 19, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    Over the decades since my Biola experience I have observed Christians doing battle with the atheists; both using philosophical swords. I think the battle has been changing and increasingly it is the the evangelical Christians holding the sword of philosophy/theology and many (not all) the atheists/agnostics wielding the sword of science and research. Having recently attended a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference focusing on the science of compassion, it is apparent to me that most of those "on the other side" are not really interested in dismantling theism or even reacting to trivial theistic debates. PEOPLE are seeking answers to perplexing problems in a dangerous world and are looking toward science/research to find solutions that work. Arguing the existence of God has done little, if anything, to institute repair. When comparing the most miraculous developments over the last few centuries, physics, biology, chemistry and other "hard" sciences beat theology and philosophy by light years. It is time to apply these sciences to all aspects of human and social development, including morality. Much is being learned about personal mental and spiritual health through neuroscience, the study of social sciences is providing insight into the importance and utilization of moral values (such as compassion) on a culture, anthropology and biology are revealing amazing insights into who we are as humans. This does not negate God or Christianity but helps us as human beings know what will truly help resolve the issues we face personally and collectively.

  • Benito Franqui July 19, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    Unfortunately (in my opinion), when discussing the theist/non-theist philosophical divide, many people (on each side) adopt a militant rhetorical style. They speak of a battle being waged and decisively won by their respective side. Adoption of such a militant rhetorical style decreases the probability that the two sides will find common ground, increases the distrust between the two sides, and increases the probability of misunderstandings taking place, misunderstandings which may lead to physical confrontations which will benefit no one.



    For that reason, instead of describing Christians and atheists as doing battle with philosophical swords, with philosophy/theology on one side and science and research on the other side, I prefer to call their intellectual equipment TOOLS. The ordinary purpose of a tool is BENEFICIAL. The ordinary purpose of a sword is INJURIOUS (to kill and maim). Sure -- a tool such as a hammer can be MIS-used as a weapon, and used to kill someone. And some Eastern philosophers talk about the "sword of discrimination", which is to be wielded against IGNORANCE -- not against any sentient being. But unless it's PERFECTLY CLEAR to everybody in exactly what context we're speaking, it's better to make use of words whose ORDINARY meaning is closer to the idea we want to share. Otherwise, we risk having our intentions misunderstood as attempts to INTIMIDATE others into accepting our viewpoints, rather than seeking to develop more enlightened viewpoints which will benefit all. :-)

  • Randall Rapetti July 20, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    What a sweet suggestion. Thank you. Please see my swords above in the Eastern sense; as swords of discrimination. I like that suggestion. I learned something I did not expect.

  • Benito Franqui July 20, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    Thank you. I'm looking forward to learn something from you too. Something which, chances are, will also be rather unexpected! :-D

  • Benito Franqui July 21, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    In view of the numerous atrocities committed throughout history by people afflicted with some of the countless obsessions about what the "right" nature of "God" or "gods" is, should non-theists be criticized for their choice to remain neutral on this issue? Should non-theists be criticised for their choice to focus instead on what the right behavior of human beings should be, independently of any non-falsifiable hypotheses about the existence or non-existence of "divinities"? :-)

  • Benito Franqui July 22, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    The conscientious investigator of the value of each instance of religious expression asks him/herself: "Is religion in this particular instance being used to further genuine understanding, or is it being used to discourage questions which might contribute to further genuine understanding? Is it being used as a tool, or as a weapon? :-)

  • Damien August 3, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Faith in man even yourself without conversation is misguided. Man is good if he makes you sense good. Then, I'd go with go with such at that moment. That is faith. Too many look for strength.

  • Frederick Marsland August 6, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    The simple answer to the question is "of course you can". That's it. It doesn't get any more complicated than that. This article however? What a horribly twisted, broad and sweeping set of inaccurate, judgemental, and self righteous claims and statements. Very offensive to me.

  • Benito Franqui August 7, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    I certainly hope that nothing that I have said has offended you, Frederick. If so, that was not my intention, and I do apologize.

    On the other hand, I do not feel offended by anything that has been said here. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 7, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    My own personal plan to be good without God:

    Step number 1: I will not feel offended because somebody claims that I cannot be good without God. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 7, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    If somebody were to claim that I cannot be good without God, I would first acknowledge that anybody is entitled to have that opinion. Then, I would point out that the burden of proof squarely rests on the shoulders of anybody who makes that claim. The person making the claim is responsible for providing the evidence required to prove his/her claim beyond a reasonable doubt. :-)

  • Jesse Renteria August 8, 2011 at 2:00 AM

    When the Lord said that He would frustrate the "wise" and confound the "intelligent" He wasn't kidding. Take love and grace for example. Stick that in your test tubes and try to quantify it! God is LOVE. He graced us with His Son Jesus to show ultimate love by separating Himself from the Father for the first time in eternity on the cross. He took our sins into Himself and buried them with Himself and He rose from the grave triumphant over sin and the death it brings on the third day. Now what part of that is so hard to understand? We should be grateful that the Gospel is so simple yet we complain that it isn't "sciency" enough. He was right when He said that we must be like little children to receive the Kingdom.
    So I could expound on creative design fact and explain to you why the theory of evolution is dead til I'm blue in the face. We could go back in forth til Jesus comes back and get nowhere. But really what it comes down to is LOVE! Not science and philosophy mumbo-jumbo that changes like the shifting sands. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit=LOVE! The Lord turns our little theories and philosophies on their head. His thoughts are not His thoughts and our ways are not His ways. Good thing, because I would have no hope at all!

  • Benito Franqui August 8, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    Whether they acknowledge it or not, every person picks and chooses whichever Biblical passages he/she feels inclined to agree with, and ignores the rest.

    Also, if one must depend on knowing about the Bible in order to have any hope at all, how about all those millions ( possibly billions ) of people who never heard anything at all about the Bible? :-)

  • Jesse Renteria August 8, 2011 at 7:44 PM

    That may be true yet the simple Gospel (the death, burial and resurrection of Christ-1 Cor 15:3-4) is of utmost importance. In fact, before any of the New Testament scriptures were penned that was and is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. If that was the only thing I knew then that would be enough to put my faith in the Lord Almighty. Love and the response of gratitude for that love changes a person and those who have been graced with salvation know this and there lives reflect it. Are they perfect? Not by their own effort! It is by God's Grace and what a gift if one is willing to receive it! No karma and it's scales. No works so that one can boast on their own or try to endlessly slave away to become "good". His Grace is true freedom. So what about you Benito? Why do you hide behind statements that seem so logical such as the sentence you ended with? Stop worrying about other people and start with yourself. Where is your excuse? Why don't you pick up a Bible and look at it with new eyes. Not with haughtiness but with humility and a willingness to understand. You may want to read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Heck, read the whole Bible! What have you got to lose! After all atheism offer no hope at all.

  • Benito Franqui August 9, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    According to 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, the wisdom of this world is actually foolishness. So what is the real wisdom? Is it enough just to be willing to receive God's Grace? :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 9, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    What does the "wisdom of this world" consist of? Is it any knowledge not explicitly found in the Bible? How about the knowledge required, for example, to treat diabetes? Is that knowledge found in the Bible? If not, is it part of the "wisdom of this world"? If so, is that knowledge foolishness in the eyes of God? If so, does it follow that a Christian diabetic should not take insulin, but should instead trust exclusively in the power of prayer in order to get healed? :-)

  • Frederick Marsland August 9, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Atheism most certainly does offer hope. When people make conscious decisions, based in reality, in self, in relation to their fellow humans, and not in fiction or blind faith - when real good comes out of this - compassion, consideration, understanding, help, caring, friendship - it makes me smile, and definitely offers promise and hope. None of this requires a belief in a god. You can just do it. The Bible, or any book like it, was written by men. It is an outdated, and dangerous text that is completely open to interpretation. Further, interpretation or not, some of the text is simply wrong. Wrong in the sense that it contradicts - negates that which many people recognize today as being "good to one another" just for the sake of being good. When someone does something good because of their very real interactions with their fellow humans and nature - that offers far more hope and substance than someone who does something good, simply because they are obeying or worse, if they are in fear. Further, when someone is following such fiction or blindly following any leader, they can be led off course very easily. Sure, this may *not* happen, but quite often it does. Organized religion is mostly about control, power, and wealth. Why not get to the heart of the matter, and just be good for goodness sake? Think for yourself.

  • Sharon August 9, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    Benito: How are you doing?

  • Benito Franqui August 9, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    I'm fine, thank you. Even though I no longer drive a car, I'm still looking for ways of staying active and at the same time being of some help to others. What have you been up to lately? ;-)

  • Benito Franqui August 9, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    Guess the answer to my question should be pretty obvious by just reading the rest of this blog! :-D

  • Benito Franqui August 10, 2011 at 2:16 AM

    Believe it or not, I'm helping to make the Biola University Christian Apologetics training more robust. :-)

  • donna August 12, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    Might the reason for the argument be as simple as those who have stepped across the line in faith and acceptance of the gift of life everlasting have received the Holy Spirit? Those who are still searching for an answer other than God and ultimately Christ is missing that which we have living inside of us? The Truth of the Holy Spirit. I do believe non-believers can be "good", can help others, can give of themselves and etc., however in my opinion they are not being led by the teachings and glory of the Holy Trinity. Hopefully, as Christ followers, our service is given because of love, not for recognition or to boast about, not to defend, nor to argue about, and certainly not to put others down; but rather because we "have to" because it is almost impossible not to. We are changed from the inside out when we accept the gift of salvation; this is why we live to share our faith, to help others, to live so others are aware of our difference, to answer truthfully why we can find joy when others can't and peace beyond our own comprehension in any situation. Otherwise what would make us different than a non believer? Just my opinion.

  • Benito Franqui August 13, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    How do we stop being good (whether believers or unbelievers?) In my humble opinion, we often stop being good when we start being untruthful. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 13, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    Perhaps being good can lead unbelievers to become believers. I do not rule out that possibility. I very much prefer that route to one in which one claims to be a believer while behaving unjustly. :-)

  • Jesse Renteria August 13, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10 NIV
    "God delights in concealing things; scientists delight in discovering things." Proverbs 25:2 Just some food for thought. :)
    @Frederick Marsland- Okay, so you have read the Bible, lived it out and found this to be true? Another words, you've done your due diligence and investigated the claims you are making. If so, I have respect for you for whatever it's worth. Time and again I read or hear someone's opinion about the Bible and their theories(usually someone else's theory) of how it is irrelevant or archaic, etc. So Frederick, what is the foundation by which you live your life and base your knowledge of "good" upon?
    So if I follow this line of logic... There is no god. We are humans on a planet within a solar system within a galaxy within a universe that was formed over billions of years(according to the latest in science) from a "primordial soup"(basic building blocks, and forget how those "blocks" came to being!). There is no Heaven or Hell, good or evil, just chemical reactions. There is no creation. Not even "art", "architecture" or songs are "created", just chemical reactions. Your five senses are simply to navigate around your space so you can survive. Forget that they can actually bring pleasure or delight because these are again, just chemical reactions. Witness the birth of your child, hold that baby in your arms. Fuzzy feelings? Love? No, just chemical reactions. A man has something you want but he won't let you have it so you strike him, kill him and take his possession. It's okay! It's all just chemical reactions. No big deal. Societies? Rules? Freedom? Slavery? No, just chemical reactions. Forget logic and throw it out the door! Who needs it after all, it's all just chemical reactions. DNA? Complex coding and programming? C'mon. Gravity being just the right setting to support life as we know it? The Earth having just the right "settings" to support life. I don't believe it! It's all just chemical reactions. Take a machine that can spit out an almost infinite number of universes and blamo! You get our universe! Yeah, that's the ticket! A "Creator"? Nah, too far fetched. I'll go with primordial soup and evolution. Hey the odds may be in the trillion upon trillions but who cares? See, if something was formed from accident then it has no meaning because it was never "intended" to exist. That would imply creation and there is no Creator, right? True logic could only come from a Creator because there would be intention behind it all. So given that there is no Creator, there is no logic and everything anyone does or says means absolutely nothing. I fail to see the "hope" in that. I'll go with "blind faith" in Jesus Christ and the "life to the full" that He brings. I'll build my life on His foundation and we can check back later and see who's foundation can withstand the storms that this life brings.

  • Benito Franqui August 14, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Fear is a bad counsellor. More often than not, fear makes us behave badly. Fear allows others to manipulate us, against our own best interests. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 14, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    Empathy is a much better counselor than fear. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 14, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    Reason counsels me that nobody likes to feel afraid. Empathy counsels me not to make others afraid, UNLESS I am certain that that fear will actually keep them away from harm -- for example, the fear of a child to venture unto a busy street. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 14, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    The claim that fear helps one to withstand the storms of life simply does not compute. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 14, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    In order to withstand the storms of life, instead of being afraid, wouldn't it be much better to try to understand them as well as we can? What are the storms of life? How do they arise? What laws do they obey? :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 14, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Some of the storms of life are man-made -- others are not. Wars and genocides are particularly destructive forms of man-made storms. How do they arise? A big cause is fear -- the fear of THE OTHER. The fear of those who have different customs, speak other languages, worship other gods. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 15, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    This life is fearful enough as it is. No need to invent imaginary bogeymen. :-D

  • Jeffrey August 15, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    For Christ's love compels us...(2 Corinthians 5:14); we engage and bring forth the Gospel so that others may hear as well and have a life with meaning and purpose. A life lived to the full. If not for that, I know not of any other reason why the followers of Christ would endure lengthy discussions and arguments such as this (not to mention, life-threatening Christian work, and persecution from authorities). We do what we do, because we want to shout, proclaim and share Christ's love, period.

    What's the atheists' excuse? If everyone would eventually die and become nothing, then happiness, loneliness or sufferings mean nothing, right? Why even bother to understand life? What's the use? Why obey rules, norms and morals? For survival? Doesn't everyone die, eventually? If so, then survival is an even weaker reason to do what you ought to do.

    Lastly, wouldn't a person without fear, reason or purpose be more dangerous than someone who knows and believes that after this life, comes judgement and reckoning?

  • Frederick Marsland August 15, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    @Jeffrey: " What's the atheists' excuse?" Atheists don't need an excuse. THAT is precisely the point.

  • Frederick Marsland August 15, 2011 at 10:03 PM

    "If everyone would eventually die and become nothing, then happiness, loneliness or sufferings mean nothing, right? Why even bother to understand life? What's the use?"

    What a horrible and hopeless outlook.

    Why bother? Really? Just because it feels good to live life. That's it.

    To say that my life does not, cannot, have meaning, or a point - or that I am some how incapable of being a good person because I don't share your belief, is simply wrong. And it is one thing to have that thought and keep it to yourself, but as soon as it is preached aloud, then - it's a problem. It's divisive, destructive, and just plain not nice.



  • Jeffrey August 15, 2011 at 10:34 PM

    @Frederick-"Atheists don't need an excuse. THAT is precisely the point." I understand. So you do what you do, period? Regardless of consequences?

  • Jeffrey August 15, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    "What a horrible and hopeless outlook. Why bother? Really? Just because it feels good to live life. That's it."-I agree, but why is it good to live life or on what basis do we get off on saying that life is good to live? Don't get me wrong, I want to know as well. If we are a product of random events, and if the feelings we have are just an effect of enzymes and chemical reactions; what would determine a good life from a bad one? Jesus Christ provides an answer, a different view on things; and this is what we share, this is why we engage with others.

  • Frederick Marsland August 16, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    @Jeffrey - "So you do what you do, period? Regardless of consequences?

    Certainly not. Consequences and benefits are simply experienced in life. Live according to those experiences.

    Random? I didn't say anything about random events :) Life happens because of life. Things happen because other things happen. Energy.

    "what would determine a good life from a bad one? Jesus Christ provides an answer, a different view on things; and this is what we share, this is why we engage with others."

    The problem I have with this statement, is that "the answer" you are referring to, your answer, is still based in humanity. If Jesus did exist, he was still, only human like the rest of us. The Bible was written by men to provide the answer to the very question you just asked. Ancient, misguided and corrupt motives aside, it is simply outdated, and has some very barbaric and poor advice; it is completely open to interpretation. Further, justification and excuse are often based in irrational thought, propgated fear, and fiction.

  • Jeffrey August 16, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    @Frederick-If consequences and benefits are simply experienced in life and that he or she should live according to those experiences, would it be better for a public official to live a life of corruption if it means a better life experience for him? "Life happens because of life. Things happen because other things happen. Energy."So things are, because they just are; am I getting you correctly? Then, where did life come from? How was the Earth formed?

  • Jeffrey August 16, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    @Frederick- "The problem I have with this statement, is that "the answer" you are referring to, your answer, is still based in humanity. If Jesus did exist, he was still, only human like the rest of us." I find your reply interesting, what particularly in Jesus' humanity do you find problematic? "The Bible was written by men to provide the answer to the very question you just asked. Ancient, misguided and corrupt motives aside, it is simply outdated, and has some very barbaric and poor advice; it is completely open to interpretation." And this makes the Bible unreliable? If this is the basis for judging what to believe in, even atheism will fail the test.

  • Frederick Marsland August 16, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    "If consequences and benefits are simply experienced in life and that he or she should live according to those experiences, would it be better for a public official to live a life of corruption if it means a better life experience for him?" Obviously not. You are twisting my viewpoint to imply that just because a human does something that feels good to them, means it feels good to everyone. Which is obviously not the case. As far our origins? Sure I am curious. I often wonder "where" the universe is, or "when" it is. I believe science has answered many questions. The point is though, if you "don't" have the answer, you can't just make things up, fiction, and accept them as absolute truths.

  • Jeffrey August 16, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    @Frederick-"Obviously not. You are twisting my viewpoint to imply that just because a human does something that feels good to them, means it feels good to everyone. Which is obviously not the case." I only illustrated what you presented in your argument. Maybe you can enlighten me further on how a person should determine his or her actions based on life experiences.

  • Frederick Marsland August 16, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    @Jeffrey: If you see someone fall, do you help them up? Why? Only because you feel you are instructed to do so by your god? What if your god told you to push them down again?

  • Jeffrey August 16, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    @Frederick-I will help the person not only because I am commanded to do so; I will help the person because of how the God of the Bible sees me and that person. Who we are intrinsically, determines how we act practically. Now, I would like to ask the same questions, what would an atheist do in the same situation? Would he help him up? What would prevent him from pushing him down?

  • Benito Franqui August 16, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    In one word: EMPATHY. Our ability to emotionally identify ourselves with the predicaments of others.

    Or also: our conviction of the wisdom of the Golden Rule, in its various forms.

    Another possible answer could be: our belief in the Law of Compensation (karma). :-)

  • Frederick Marsland August 16, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Well put Benito.

    Jeffrey, so you would not help the person just because you, yourself, felt like doing so? You have to be commanded? And you didn't answer my other question, "what if your god told you
    to push them down"?

    This atheist, in the same situation, would simply help them up. And I would not push them down, because I know that would not be nice. Mostly it is due to a great upbringing and what I have learned along the way. Refer back to Benito's last response :)

  • Benito Franqui August 16, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    Thanks, Frederick. I would like to add that even elephants exhibit the symptoms of grief when their close relatives die. Is this not an example of inborn empathy? To my knowledge, nobody has yet claimed that elephants behave that way because they have studied the Bible!!! :-D

  • Frederick Marsland August 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Excellent point Benito. Excellent. I love elephants.

  • Benito Franqui August 16, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    Seems to me that rather than arguing about WHY we should be good towards our fellow human beings (and perhaps even elephants!), it would be more productive to discuss what "being good" really means, and what steps we can follow in order to become better at "being good". :-)

  • Jeffrey August 16, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    @Benito: What does empathy do? And how do you gauge whether you're empathizing enough? Elephant's grieving over their dead does not make them humans, or does it? A person does not learn to grieve just because he or she has read the Bible, either. Lastly, I agree that we need to know what being good really means, but equally important is the yardstick at how we determine good from bad.

  • Jeffrey August 16, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    @Fredericl: "Jeffrey, so you would not help the person just because you, yourself, felt like doing so? You have to be commanded?" I thought I answered this clearly; here it is again: -I will help the person NOT ONLY because I am commanded to do so; I will help the person because of HOW the God of the Bible sees me and that person. Who we are intrinsically, determines how we act practically.
    "And you didn't answer my other question, "what if your god told you to push them down"? "-Before I answer this, I would like to know how you think God communicates to us?
    "This atheist, in the same situation, would simply help them up. And I would not push them down, because I know that would not be nice. Mostly it is due to a great upbringing and what I have learned along the way." So are you saying that culture and upbringing would be your basis to do such an act?

  • Benito Franqui August 17, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    @Jeffrey: I cannot see any difference between knowing what being good really means, and the yardstick for distinguishing between good and bad. :-)

  • Frederick Marsland August 17, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    I'm out. :) The answer to the original question "can we be good without God?" is a resounding "YES". To answer "NO" is to say that I am incapable of being good. And to that I strongly disagree. As an atheist, it does not mean there is something "wrong" with me. It does not mean there is something that needs to be forgiven or "fixed". And it certainly does not mean that there is anything that needs to be "controlled". I am not trying to convince you there is no god. I am simply pointing out that which is fact, and that I don't believe in one, nor see the need to concern myself with one. Religion is personal. You can believe whatever you want, on your own time. You can believe whatever you want of me. I may not agree, just keep it to yourself. BUT, the moment one starts propagating, preaching, or, forcing beliefs upon others, or judging them in light of those beliefs, it becomes a problem. Are there religious people who are "good"? Of course there are. But I would say the more natural question is: "do you need a God to be good?". And the answer to this question, is a proven and factual "NO".

  • Jeffrey August 19, 2011 at 8:22 PM

    @Frederick-I respect you and your opinion. I'm not here to impose my beliefs on anyone, nor do I say that there is something wrong with you if you don't share the same beliefs. I am merely engaging you in a good and healthy discussion. As I have mentioned, I too, seek for what is true. That is why I always put my beliefs to the test and see if it will stand.

  • Jeffrey August 19, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    @Benito-to some extent you are right; what i meant was, what will be the basis of your knowledge of good and bad?

  • Benito Franqui August 20, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    The basis of my knowledge of good and bad is, first of all, my own personal life experiences. I take note of those events which have made me feel bad, and those events which have made me feel good IN THE LONG RUN. What I mean by that is, for example, that getting intoxicated may make me feel good for a while, but as a result I may have to pay later for that temporary happiness by experiencing a hangover, terrifying hallucinations, liver failure, or a bad accident. I call the simplistic hypothesis that "if it FEELS good, then it IS good" the hedonistic fallacy, and I try to be always on guard to avoid falling into that trap. Life events are interconnected -- there are many complex cause-and-effect relationships involved. Some of those relationships are quite difficult to recognize. The more I know about those relationships, the higher the probability that the good experiences in my life will outweigh the bad ones.

    Secondly, I take note of what others have said about cause-and-effect relationships. I consider, for example, the hypothesis that merely holding certain beliefs can eventually lead to my having a perpetual bad experience (eternal damnation). I note that I have no way of verifying that hypothesis. I also note that nobody has ever furnished any evidence supporting that hypothesis which would be acceptable in an impartial court of law. All that has been said in that respect is legally considered to be just hearsay, and therefore inadmissible as evidence.

    In connection to that one and other similar hypotheses without any supporting evidence, I consider other related cause-and-effect relationships: what causes can make certain individuals make such unpleasant but completely unverifiable allegations? Such an investigation can lead to some interesting conclusions.

    I consider the preceding ideas to have been motivated by my own self-interest, and arrived at through the exercise of reason. But this isn't enough. After all, I share this planet with many other human and non-human sentient beings. My behavior affects the well-being of others, and the behavior of others affects my well-being. I have no a priori reason to consider my well-being to be any more important or any less important than that of others. And this is where it gets really sticky. Life presents us with many occassions which seem to demand that we sacrifice part of our own well-being for the benefit of others. This is where something other than reason (feeling genuine empathy towards those needing our help) can come in handy. I don't have a complete answer. I try to handle each occasion as it presents itself, trying to be as fair as I can. :-)

  • Jesse Renteria August 21, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    First off, sorry guys for being so sarcastic. That is not Christ-like. I am really a guy of average intelligence at best and what I think I know is ultimately of little importance compared to the riches of wisdom and love that the Lord reveals to those that choose to humble themselves before Him and accept His simple gift of wanting to love us. @Benito-Fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of wisdom not the end of it. Who would not respect a being who is all powerful. That's the meaning of fear in regard to the verse I quoted. Respect. It's the respect that eventually brings you to His love. I find nothing wrong with being in awe of the Almighty Creator. He transcends the "rules" of this universe because He created the "rules". "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Psalm 19:1 The Bible says that Heaven and Earth flee His presence because He is so awesome. Who would not have both respect and awe of a being such as He? It's no wonder that humility is another key component. Fear leads to humility. One would think fear and humility would be enough, after all His the potter and we are the clay, but He goes much farther than that. He defines love for us by lowering Himself to serve us! Philipians 2:5-11 Why He did this is not entirely clear to me and probably never will be. Just even the concept of the the Cross boggles my mind! He chose to take the long hard road to salvation: to become like one of us (read the Gospel of Luke). He became the example of examples I believe. That is why I choose to build my foundation on Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is the cornerstone. And yes that includes wisdom and love, along with a great many other good things. :) I really pray sincerely that all of us will come to a greater knowledge of how long, deep and wide is the love that the Almighty Father lavishes on us! Peace, Love and Joy in abundance to you all!

  • Benito Franqui August 22, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    I do agree that the fear of some omniscient being who is aware of even our own most intimate thoughts may help some people to behave ethically. On the other hand, the instances in history in which the "fear of the Lord" motif has been used to persuade people to behave in VERY unethical ways are so numerous and so well known that I don't think that I need to elaborate on that point. I therefore prefer to depend on my own innate empathy and sense of fair play to insure that I behave as ethically as possible. Also, I have been so far unable to reconcile the idea that (1) I should be afraid of some entity, with the idea that (2) that same entity loves us, and therefore has only our own best interests in mind, and (3) that same entity is able and willing to mete out infinite punishment (eternal damnation) as a response to finite infractions (or even no infractions at all, if we are to accept the Calvinist doctrine of predestination). What kind of love is that? What kind of justice is that? In psychological parlance, those contradictions are known as "cognitive dissonance". Why get entangled in such cognitive dissonance, when it is so easy to avoid getting entangled in it in the first place? :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 22, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    You say that I should interpret "fear of the Lord" as meaning "respect for the Lord". What should "respect for the Lord" mean, then? If we hypothesize that "the Lord" is the creator of the Universe, then "respect for the Lord" could be interpreted as "respect for the Lord's creation", i.e., respect for the Universe. And that would imply respect for every sentient being according to their degree of sentience, and respect for the environment which allows sentient beings to remain sentient. Obviously, mankind has displayed a lot of DISRESPECT for both sentient beings and their environment. Perhaps we should try to do better in this regard, instead of preaching about an unverifiable Rapture which according to some is just around the corner, or even trying to bring on Armageddon by provoking yet another World War. Sorry -- but for me, the latter behavior constitutes the ultimate disrespect for the Creation! :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 22, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Also, if what is really being meant in the Bible by "fear of the Lord" is "respect for the Lord", why don't modern English translations of the Bible read that way? Why risk confusion and misunderstandings if the experts know better? Could it be that the promoters of the traditional Judeo-Christian religion have a heavy vested interest in intimidation? :-)

  • Jeffrey August 24, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    @Benito:It's interesting that you look at life as such; the way you emphasize on being good is admirable. But how does your atheism help you with that? Does it require you to be good the way you want good to be? If I were to be an atheist, will it teach me the same things? Or do I choose my own way?


  • Benito Franqui August 24, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    Atheism neither helps me nor hinders me as far as determining how I should behave towards other human beings. I have no problem with religious beliefs as long as the latter allow people to behave ethically. In my opinion, each one of us chooses our own way, even though sometimes we may not be either consciously or subconsciously aware of it -- perhaps because of fear of questioning the opinions of some people who we have been told are infallible. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 24, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    In a nutshell, Jeffrey: please don't be afraid to question anybody who claims to be infallible, irrespective of the field of expertise involved. Yes, even in the field of Theology. :-)

  • Jeffrey August 24, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    @Benito: So technically speaking, another atheists may think differently from how you perceive goodness is, right? If this is the case, what would be the outlook of society if we all turned to atheism as our beliefs? Based on your explanation above, reason alone cannot answer everything; so that's when feelings come in. But a fundamental problem with that trusting our feelings is that, we all feel differently. Some would feel love for their neighbors, and some would feel like eating them. What should be our preference?

  • Benito Franqui August 25, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    I have no reason to doubt that in our particular cases, our preferences as far as how we should treat our neighbors are quite similar. In my opinion, neither feelings by themselves, nor reason by itself, are sufficient to insure that we behave ethically. But feelings working harmoniously with reason can accomplish that task. Perhaps we can look at reason as a sort of gatekeeper who allows positive feelings such as love, empathy, and compassion to get through, but blocks negative feelings such as fear, anger, and hate. On the other hand, being a theist surely does not guarantee ethical behavior. Consider for example the American Civil War. Should most of the more than 600,000 violent deaths which occurred during that war be attributed to atheism? :-)

  • Jeffrey August 26, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    @Benito: But isn't modern reason that gave us the concept of relativism? And relativism says that there is no absolute truth? How then, can we have similar preferences in a world where there is no absolutes?

  • Jeffrey August 26, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    "On the other hand, being a theist surely does not guarantee ethical behavior. "--Sir, believing in the God of the Bible will certainly not guarantee an ethical behavior.

  • Jeffrey August 26, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    "Consider for example the American Civil War. Should most of the more than 600,000 violent deaths which occurred during that war be attributed to atheism? :-)"--Yes, maybe atheism did not do that. But allow me to present what we can attribute to atheism. How about Auschwitz, Rwanda, Cambodia, China and Russia (to name a few)?

  • Benito Franqui August 26, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Hitler was not an atheist. He was always considered by the Vatican to be a Catholic in good standing. German soldiers during WW-2 carried the inscription "Gott mit uns" in their belt buckles. In "Mein Kampf", Hitler repeatedly affirmed his faith in God: http://nobeliefs.com/Hitler1.htm :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 26, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    As for Rwanda, Cambodia, China, and Russia: yes, atheists can and do commit atrocities as horrible as those committed by theists. But to attribute those atrocities to their atheism would be to imply that, had they NOT being atheists, those atrocities would not have occurred. But I have already shown that the theistic beliefs of a group do not guarantee that that group will not commit atrocities. The main causes of those atrocities were: in the case of Rwanda, ethnic tensions aggravated by overpopulation, and in the other cases, famine. When people are starving, it makes little difference on their behavior whether they believe in God or not. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 26, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    Correction to typo in preceding post: "had they NOT being" should be "had they NOT been". :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 27, 2011 at 8:31 AM

    If a hungry theist steals a loaf of bread, other theists will be quick to point out that the theft should be attributed to hunger rather than to theism, and I would agree. If a hungry non-theist steals a loaf of bread, would it be fair to attribute the theft to non-theism, rather than to hunger? :-)

  • Jeffrey August 28, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    @Benito-There are scores of materials out there for and against Hitler's beliefs. We just need to type it in Google. I won't dwell on it; rather I'll leave a question on the matter (you may or may not answer it), "was Hitler's life reflecting of a person who believes in the God of the Bible? Also, the American dollar bears "In God We Trust", does that make all Americans theists as well?

  • Jeffrey August 28, 2011 at 7:04 AM

    @Benito-"If a hungry theist steals a loaf of bread, other theists will be quick to point out that the theft should be attributed to hunger rather than to theism, and I would agree. If a hungry non-theist steals a loaf of bread, would it be fair to attribute the theft to non-theism, rather than to hunger? :-)"--Here's something we agree on. Let's work on this one. I assume you brought this up because of the examples I gave above; which I only did so to make a point regarding your example on the American Civil war. We can drop that altogether. Do you agree then, that what we do are primarily driven first by our motives?

  • Benito Franqui August 28, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    For me, the God of the Bible is very ambiguous. Depending on the particular passage I choose, He may seem to be very merciful, or He may seem to be a merciless, revengeful, petty tyrant. I therefore find the question of whether Hitler's life reflected a person who believes in the God of the Bible to be too ambiguous to answer. What seems to me much clearer is that the Bible reflects the conflicting thoughts of the human beings who wrote it. The fact that the American dollar bears the words "In God we trust" certainly does not make all Americans theists. Printing some words on currency doesn't make the ideas represented by those words true, any more than writing any scriptures makes the ideas expressed in them true. I believe that what we do is primarily driven by our fears and our desires. Our fears and desires then become motivations for our actions. For example, the fear of Bolshevism motivated the addition of the words "In God We Trust" to the American currency in 1956, during the height of the Cold War. Much of what is written in scriptures is also ultimately motivated by some kind of fear such as fear of starvation or of lack of some other essential resources. :-)

  • Jeffrey August 28, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    @Benito:""For me, the God of the Bible is very ambiguous. Depending on the particular passage I choose, He may seem to be very merciful, or He may seem to be a merciless, revengeful, petty tyrant"--I'm just curious how you arrived at that conclusion; may I dare ask? "I therefore find the question of whether Hitler's life reflected a person who believes in the God of the Bible to be too ambiguous to answer."--Then we cannot assume he is a theist as well, right?"The fact that the American dollar bears the words "In God we trust" certainly does not make all Americans theists. Printing some words on currency doesn't make the ideas represented by those words true"--same goes with this,"German soldiers during WW-2 carried the inscription "Gott mit uns" in their belt buckles."

  • Benito Franqui August 29, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Indeed. Human beings are very deceitful. We should take everything we read with a big grain of salt. And that includes the Bible. :-)

  • Benito Franqui August 29, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    Actually, there are two different issues involved:
    1. Do words accurately reflect the beliefs of those who use them?
    2. Do words accurately reflect reality?
    For example, it could very well be that the German soldiers who wore the words "Gott mit uns" on their belt buckles honestly believed that God was with them. They would then fit the definition of theists. On the other hand, the reality could have been far different. :-)

  • Jeffrey August 29, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    @Benito:"Indeed. Human beings are very deceitful. We should take everything we read with a big grain of salt. And that includes the Bible. :-)"--I most definitely, agree. It's interesting you mentioned that human beings are deceitful. Is that scientifically explained? What made you arrive at that conclusion?

  • Benito Franqui August 30, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    I arrived at that conclusion via personal observation. The process of discovery began when I was 12 years old, on the morning of January 6, 1944, as I was reading a newspaper article titled "La Dulce Mentira" ("The Sweet Lie"). That article described the custom in Latin America (I lived then in Puerto Rico) of giving toys to children on Jan.6 under the pretense that they came from the Three Wise Men (the equivalent of Santa Claus in the U.S.) As I read the article, it dawned on me that I had been deceived. Up to then, I had completely trusted everything that I had been told. Even so, after that initial experience I still tended to trust people more than I should have. It took me several other unpleasant experiences in order to completely wake up to reality. I also took me a while to realize that white lies such as those connected with the Three Wise Men or Santa Claus are really not a big deal. As for scientific explanations, here's an article you may find to be of interest: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/4072816/ns/today-today_health/t/why-people-lie-how-tell-if-they-are/ :-)

  • Jeffrey September 2, 2011 at 6:42 AM

    So you didn't like it when you were lied to? Have you asked yourself why it is not right to lie and deceive others? Isn't it, that in an atheistic worldview, we do what we do to survive; the survival instinct within us triggers chemical reactions that enable us to do such things? In an atheistic worldview, would you consider a person lying or deceiving others so that he or she can survive, commit a bad thing?

  • Benito Franqui September 2, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Whether theists or not, everybody experiences strong urges to do whatever they need to do in order to survive. In either case, the survival instinct manifests via chemical reactions which trigger psychological impulses. Theistic beliefs do not necessarily insure a more ethical response to those psychological impulses. :-)

  • Benito Franqui September 2, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    "How to survive while behaving ethically" is for me a very important subject. :-)

  • Jesse Renteria September 2, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    @Benito-You found out you were deceived so this prompted you to distrust. This distrust has opened your eyes to question what is put in front of you. That is a good thing. :) I was once involved (unbeknownst to me of course) in a cult disguised as Christianity (at least the upper leadership). I was deceived big time and for a long time I chose to become a God and Christian hater. I became an atheist and decided to live life to the full my way. After several years, I got married and welcomed my son into the world. It wasn't long after that there was a tugging in my heart to nurture my family and become a good husband and father. I gave up the bad habits that had been destroying my marriage, and with it, my family. Before all that, my Mom had been going through tough times and she turned to the Bible for comfort and answers. She asked me to read it too but I told her, "The Bible was written by men to control other men (my experience to that point)". After I had the change of heart, I decided to look at the Bible once again but this time I challenged God to reveal His true nature to me in a short prayer. I asked Him to help me see with new eyes what His Words really meant. I decided to read the Old and New Testaments in parallel: Genesis and Mathew. To make a long story short, it didn't take me long to experience His love and grace through the history of the Israelites and of Jesus Christ through the Gospels. I believe that tugging of my heart was the work of the Holy Spirit. I know this sounds so supernatural but it is the truth based on my changed life. No, I am far from perfect! What I try to do each day is take up my cross daily and follow my Savior. I live my life in gratitude for what He has done: the death, burial and resurrection.

  • Jeffrey September 3, 2011 at 2:27 AM

    @Benito:again, I never claimed a theistic worldview would assure an ethical response. What it can do, however, is give one a clear view of what is good and what is evil.it's good that you prefer to survive while behaving ethically. But in an atheistic wordlview, what would be the point of reference for ethical and unethical behavior. As I have mentioned, if we are living in a survival mode, would it be wrong to do everything possible to survive; such as lying and deceiving others?

  • Jesse Renteria September 3, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Based on my experiences and my witness, I believe there is much more than survival at stake for humanity. I do agree though, that survival is important. I just don't think it is of utmost importance. From what I've seen of life experience, science and the unexplained, I truly believe there is much more in store for us after this life. This not blind faith but it is faith none the less. I do confess there is so much I cannot see but that is true for scientists as well. The more answers we get the more questions we uncover. Life is not boring that is for sure!

  • Benito Franqui September 3, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    @(Jeffrey&Jesse): You seem to have found what works for you as far as giving you valid reasons for living this life. Yes, indeed, there's much more to be discovered! :-)

  • Jeffrey September 4, 2011 at 6:24 AM

    @Benito: Yes, I have; and it has freed my mind to think and discover in so many ways (contrary to what is being said to us Christians :). I urge you to keep on seeking why you feel you want to live an ethical life; there's more to it than preference. If you want the truth, the Judeo-Christian worldview has answers; but if you want excuses, anything will do.

  • Jesse Renteria September 8, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    I've been thinkiing about the upcoming 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Why did the fire fighters and policemen go up the WTC towers to try and rescue folks knowing there was a strong possiblity that they would not survive? Is this life merely about survival or is there possibly much more?

  • Jesse Renteria September 8, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    Do any of you have heartfelt emotion when you think about the 9/11 tragedy? If so what do you make of it? Is it easily explained? Could it be more than chemical reactions? Just things you might want to think about...

  • Benito Franqui September 10, 2011 at 8:41 AM

    I think 9/11 is an excellent example of the insane atrocities which people motivated by religious extremism can commit. An excellent reason to cultivate reason rather than unreason. :-)

  • jobo December 31, 2012 at 2:09 AM

    If the Supreme Being and our Creator are identical or in moral agreement, then either we are created with knowledge of objective morality, or our Creator has no moral right to punish us for failure to act in accordance with objective morality.
    ------------------

    I believe we are created with a knowledge of objective morality. Whether we want to abide by that is entirely up to the individual.

    God didn't set rules to which we would have no choice other than to follow them. God simply showed us the way.

    Read the parable of the Sower - in life, we all go down different routes but it is a choice, a free will as to whether we choose the right path.

    Therefore, we have an objective morality but a subjective approach to its teachings. Hence why judgment comes after death. How well do we live by our morality ?

  • asdf May 3, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    It's not hard at all to turn the question of justification around on the theist. Their justifications are not sufficient and they are brought back exactly in the same place as the atheist. If you're knowledgeable in this area then surely you're aware of Euthryphro.

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  • Robert L. Olson November 8, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    GK Chesterton, an atheist who first converted to Christianity and later became one of the greatest Catholic apologists of all time (putting him in some very brilliant company) said that he was not convinced of God's existence by Christian apologists. He said that what convinced him was reading atheists try to explain the non-existence of God. After reading the usual dribble by the atheists here, I now understand what he meant. I think that I will stick with GK Chesterton and Christianity. Like Chesterton once said, "If there were no God, there would be no atheists." Additionally, Chesterton said that "It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It is that Christianity has not been tried and not been wanted." If I die and found out that there is no God before whom I must be held accountable for what I have done and what I have failed to do, I won't know about it. However, if I am, I wish to be prepared. It actually takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a theist.

  • Brian November 25, 2013 at 5:29 AM

    Moral's for me are based a lot on the survivability and stability of a group. Morals are developed through self-interest (we're alive ~ duh), empathy and through influential thinkers and speakers; which is what made Confucius, Jesus and Martin Luther King have such a profound impact on their societies and helped shape a more refined and superior moral code.

    Today's moral code is influenced by a variety of religious and non-religious contexts. When one hears about social structure or moral decay, what they really mean is that an aspect of the old code is being replaced with an aspect that is better. This ever evolving moral code is what allows us as a species to not only thrive, but also lead to a more tolerant and understanding society.

  • Brian November 25, 2013 at 5:34 AM

    @Robert L. Olson

    "If there is were no seas, then there would be no land" - Flawed Logic.

    Quote: "If I die and found out that there is no God before whom I must be held accountable for what I have done and what I have failed to do, I won't know about it. However, if I am, I wish to be prepared. It actually takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a theist".

    That's Pascal's wager. Disproved over 50 years ago.

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