Home > Apologetics, Atheism > Why Should I Renounce My Faith?

Why Should I Renounce My Faith?

I think this is a good question. Let me get into this a bit by explaining what I do and don’t do.

I am a Christian.
I do not kill people.
I believe in God.
I do not reject science.
I love human beings for the purpose of people deserving to be loved.
God also commands me to love people.
I don’t sacrifice animals… I don’t really kill animals at all.
I work hard when I work.
I believe in a hierarchy of ethical values. (murder is worse than lying).
Actions have consequences.
I believe in hell.
I do not have to define hell the same way you do, or preach it to everyone I meet.
I do not want to impose my beliefs on those who do not share them.
I do want people to have well thought out beliefs either way.
I do want every persons beliefs to be ethically and logically accountable.
My future marriage will be for life. (by the way, to disagree with this is stupidity. I mean, it’s clearly in the wedding vows. Both parts of the marriage agree to be with each other forever no matter the circumstance. It’s a matter of basic moral integrity, not religion. The only exception is if the vows are changed, kind of like in the Invention of lying. But then, it would not be marriage at all.)
I do not permit people to emotionally, physically, or in any other way, abuse people or animals or things. Define abuse for yourself.

So, why should I renounce my faith? What would I gain? I am a moral being. I do not live under a rock. I do not do things because God said to do them (though this would take some explaining to talk about in depth). My ethical code makes sense. The only problem an atheist could have with my ethical practice is the a priori, and often irrelevant, confession of Christ. All ethics mentioned are virtuous not only to religion, but to humans. So, I ask again, why should I renounce my faith?

Categories: Apologetics, Atheism
  1. December 4, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    Because it’s almost certainly not true. And because it’s almost certainly not true, you are free of its claims about heaven and hell. Remove those from your ‘world view’ and you become an autonomous free agent able to respect, and be accountable to, reality. Your morality and ethical codes of conduct become your own and you are fully responsible for them. You take back ownership of your life and accept all that this means, granting to yourself authority to be responsible for yourself. It’s a very grown-up notion, I know, and quite scary at first but losing the fear of some eternity – whether heaven or hell – is liberating.

    Out of the list you make, what you’re losing is only the made-up stuff. If you happen to agree with a value expressed by a Jesus or Buddha or a Lincoln or a Gandhi, then you may support it not because you are commanded to do so by some imaginary authority (if you want to be on its team) but because you determine that it has merit for its own sake. You become the responsible agent and it is through this acceptance of your honest role in your personal authority over your own life that grants in equal measure this freedom and autonomy to live as you see fit for reasons you think are good ones in ways that you are accountable for. You do good, for example, not for some later brownie point reward in an imaginary eternal setting but because you wish to cause good to occur right here, right now. You are the responsible agent for your actions. Likewise, you are free to choose not to do good but you must also accept personal responsibility for your part large or small in creating the consequences that stem from this choice.

    By renouncing one’s faith, one undertakes a journey into real life armed only by one’s own honesty and integrity malleable only to what’s demonstrably true in the real world, and from which the fruits when exercised regularly are profound.

    This is what one generally gains by giving up faith: the potential for a full measure of honesty, integrity, and responsible autonomy in one’s relationship with life as it unfolds.

    But its also has a similar effect in one’s private life, specifically in personal relationships and no more important than with a mate. You as an atheist make commitments to another person not because some imaginary authority tells you you must but because you choose to accept responsibility to maintain the commitments you freely undertake to that other person FOR that other person. This creates a third entity in a bonding called the relationship and undertaking this self-appointed commitment to the other frees you to be yourself within that relationship. This means that you are responsible for your half to maintain the health and welfare of the relationship. Again, this requires no belief in made up stuff, no external authority placing demands on each half of the partnership but an undertaking of responsibility and commitment freely made by you to another – and from another to you – to the realistic extent of which part of the relationship each actually inhabits. You own that part that is yours and recognize that the other person owns the other half. Decisions about the partnership like any assets and liabilities within it are owned mutually and any relationship that favours the power of one partner more than the other for whatever reasons is less than what it could and should be. Inserting god-sanctioned rules and regulations into this partnership means the partners grant their authority to this other intrusive notion at the direct cost of their part in the relationship, their responsibility for its maintenance, their portion of the relationship. Religious faith, in this sense, is an unnecessary intruder into what personal relationships could and should be. Mates are usually attracted by demonstrated responsible autonomy, which allows one to truly able and capable to give up significant parts of his or her freedom to truly commit to another; an absence of religious faith makes the undertaking of this commitment much more honest and real and personal a commitment of honesty, integrity, and in full possession of granting to another a portion of one’s responsible autonomy.

  2. December 4, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    Tildeb, assume that I “do good, for example, not for some later brownie point reward in an imaginary eternal setting but because [I] wish to cause good to occur right here, right now”. and that my “morality and ethical codes of conduct become [my] own and [I am] fully responsible for them.”
    If I happen to agree with a moral value just assume that I find some merit for it’s own sake, not taking on the appeal to authority.
    What I wanted to say in my post is that if I didn’t believe in God all my actions and morality would be the same. [actually that’s not true. I would have a lot more sex. But being horny is an illogical reason for adopting a worldview. And that does not mean I don’t believe it’s destructive in many ways. It means that I’m irrational]. So, then, why should I renounce my faith, Tildeb?

  3. December 4, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Well, I’ll reiterate why you should give up your faith: to develop fully into an autonomous responsible adult.

    As for the rest of your comment, I’m confused what it is you are trying to say: without faith your morals and ethics would be the same but actually they wouldn’t? Can you clarify?

    • December 6, 2011 at 2:32 PM

      I like your idea of rejecting faith to become an “autonomous responsible adult”. This can never happen as you are still bound by the restrictions of society.

      • December 6, 2011 at 4:35 PM

        Autonomy in the philosophical sense, meaning the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed decision for determining moral responsibility for one’s actions, versus the religious sense of giving up one’s own authority over such matters to god (and various scriptures that supposedly reflect his/its/her pronouncements) to determine what is and is not morally permissible. This can certainly happen within societies that impose restrictions on all equally.

  4. December 4, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    What would be different in my life, practically if I were an autonomous responsible adult rather than a Christian?

    • December 4, 2011 at 10:15 PM

      Again (are you even reading my comments?) you gain the potential for a full measure of honesty, integrity, and responsible autonomy in one’s relationship with life as it unfolds.

      But its also has a similar effect in one’s private life, specifically in personal relationships and no more important than with a mate. I have already explained how this works.

      • December 5, 2011 at 10:18 AM

        Okay. The only problem is if I were to “gain the potential for a full measure of honest, integrity, and responsible autonomy in [my] relationship with life as it unfolds” nothing I do would be any different than if I were to remain a theist. So, why renounce my faith if nothing would change, pragmatically speaking of course. The only thing that would change is some abstract belief-> all the practical morals of my otherwise abstract belief would not vanish, because I have determined them good through a measure of honesty and integrity I have obtained by being a responsible adult who submits my autonomy to what I call God. From a nonbeliever’s perspective, based on my definition of the God I submit to, I would be submitting to the ultimate manifestation of love. Perhaps I made the abstract idea of Love the divinity I submit my life to. Is that not virtue? Am I not autonomous in that I have the opportunity to submit or not to the idea of love? Do I not chose to out of my own will? No one is forcing me. I chose to, because I find it good.

      • December 5, 2011 at 11:51 AM

        You assume nothing would change pragmatically but is this true?

        Well, yes and no. Actions that look the same and achieve exactly the same objective can be undertaken for very different motivations, which deliver entirely different meaning for their undertaking.

        This is the kind of change one experiences when one changes the motivation for doing something. We are pretty good at determining if someone is doing something for us so that we feel better (let’s say) and doing exactly the same thing so that they feel better. The pragmatic difference isn’t the ‘help’ itself ; the difference is all about understanding, categorizing, and honouring the motivation of why the help was undertaken.

        The first is some kind of empathy and compassion and perhaps altruism in action, which is a real and honest connection between real people, while the second is a selfish and self-centered action where the person being helped is simply the handy recipient of ego-boosting largesse. We call this kind of help a ‘hand-out’. There is no personal connection in this second kind of help and the motivation is self-aggrandizing – I’m higher and you are lower kind of statement – which comes about at your expense. Receiving such help is an admission of being lesser and nobody like that. It reduces the quality and honesty of the relationship because it sets forth an unequal balance of hierarchical power.

        The first kind of help offered freely to aid one in need of help is a different kind of help, what we call a ‘hand-up’, that recognizes the need for help to be a reflection of circumstance rather than as a statement of hierarchical power. This kind of motivated help builds relationships between equals while the hand-out reduces status and harms relationships even though the action of the actual aid, comfort, help is identical. Helping someone who aids to honour god is the kind that reduces people to hierarchical sheep in need of shepherding, whereas helping someone because you want to is the kind that builds respect and trust among equals.

        If you can’t grasp the pragmatic difference, then you have a very long way to go in understanding human relations.

  5. December 5, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Also, you might want to take into account the negative effect religious belief has on scientific understanding:

    “The gap between sectarians and fundamentalists and other Americans is quite substantial. Indeed, only education is a stronger predictor of scientific proficiency than are religious factors. . . .Scientific literacy is low in the United States relative to other developed nations, and this research suggests that religious factors play a substantial role in creating these deficits. This study adds to a growing body of research demonstrating the importance of religious commitments for structuring stratification outcomes, and pointing to the negative impact of sectarian Christian commitments for life chances.

  6. December 6, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    tildeb :Autonomy in the philosophical sense, meaning the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed decision for determining moral responsibility for one’s actions, versus the religious sense of giving up one’s own authority over such matters to god (and various scriptures that supposedly reflect his/its/her pronouncements) to determine what is and is not morally permissible. This can certainly happen within societies that impose restrictions on all equally.

    So it does not matter if the acts are illegal or frowned upon, as long as they came from you and not another source? You want the person to decided their own morallity apart from any outside influences?

    • December 6, 2011 at 7:15 PM

      Autonomy means accepting responsibility for exercising one’s morality… whatever consequences that may entail.

      Put another way, it’s not society that determines your morality according to various sanctions (although various spokespeople may try to convince you that certain laws and legal penalties are for your own moral good); it’s you as the final arbiter… as long as you accept moral responsibility for the actions you undertake (including breaking the law when you think it right to do so – like speeding to the hospital, for example). Of course you are going to be influenced by many factors, which is why morality is not a fixed set of objective rules but subject very much to circumstance and intent. In other words, exactly the same action can be morally defensible here but not there… like speeding in the previous example or killing another person to break a specific commandment considered by many to be sacrosanct. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do, sometimes the wrong thing to do. It is up to each of us to figure out which is which and be responsible for acting on that moral decision we make… whatever may ensue. Sometimes that may present us as the hero and at other times the villain.

      Those who turn to an outside source for their moral rules to validate their actions are a huge problem for the rest of us in an enlightened western liberal democracy based on legal respect for the individual. Such simple and naive folk are easily manipulated into performing atrocities in the name of something else. That’s why a totalitarian state is a tyrannical state regardless of whether its in the name of Hitler or the name of the Motherland or in or the name of Allah. All are the same thing: a totalitarian state that tells its people what moral rules are to be imposed. Religious allegiance is particularly vulnerable to this abuse, from small numbers of people that allow for the development of a cult to large numbers that allow for the development of tyranny. Notice how the identical path is used by leaders wishing to replace some divine figure of moral authority – the Law Giver – with themselves simply taking the place of the divine figure and becoming the divine Law Giver in the process… but note the process itself is identical: individuals abdicate their personal moral autonomy and their personal responsibility in the name of something else. It’s a moral capitulation to do so.

      • December 7, 2011 at 10:48 AM

        I feel like your setting up an ideal world that can never exist. For a “enlightened western liberal democracy based on a legal respect for the individual” the legal considerations have to be almost non-existent. Using your example of murder, in your world, it would be legal to euthanize a person but not to kill someone randomly just because you felt like it. The legal respect for the individual is lax enough that it will permit this, but what is the line for what is considered euthanasia and what is murder? Sexual freedoms are liberated, but when does it become consensual and when is it abuse?

        We should all take responsibility for our actions, regardless of if we use a higher power as the base or our own feelings and whims.

      • December 7, 2011 at 11:35 AM

        Xander, you confuse what’s legal with what’s moral. There is a great deal of need in and an essential respect forthe rule of law in a functioning civil secular society. Breaking the law, however, is in fact your choice because you have the legal autonomy to commit these contrary acts. But you also get to ‘enjoy’ the legal consequences for doing so. By committing the first, you accept repsonsibility for the second.

        My argument is about recognizing what’s true in reality, that we are moral autonomous agents. I think we should accept that reality rather than pretend we are the moral equivalents of sheep following god as the One True Moral Agent. This is bunk, as our evolving moral norms by believers show very clearly.

        Your position on euthanasia doesn’t surprise me in the least; religious believers have long been the mainstay at promoting and excusing unnecessary human suffering in the name of pleasing the desires of their god by abusing secular law to prohibit sound and humane euthanasia policies and practices. This is changing, although the battle is far from over. At its core, the issue is who owns your life? You give lip service to allowing us to take responsibility for our actions, but when push comes to shove, you honestly believe my life belongs to your god and you will abuse our secular law to impose your beliefs on me legally. It’s morally despicable and ethically repulsive to enable additional human suffering in the name of appeasing your beliefs about such a vile and bankrupt god. Fortunately, your god doesn’t exist and so these laws will be righted by the removal of your belief from them and the last pillar standing against compassionate euthanasia will crumble.

      • December 7, 2011 at 12:36 PM

        I am quite clear on moral vs. legal. What is odd is that we can do whatever we want now, regardless of the religious prejudices of a society and still have to deal with potential legal consequences for doing that. Your arguerment for a different world is kind of invalid, because we have what you want now. The only difference is you are in the minority and not the majoirty. The legal world you describe though, has to be lax enough to allow the morality of people the right to exist if it going to be respecting of the individual. Laws are still in place, but they must be less restrictive in order to allow the ever changing morality the room to be respected. It is kind of organized chaos. Do what you want within limits. But what are those limits?

        What is my position on euthanasia since I didn’t offer it? You are jumping to conclusions because you can not admit that the reality of your world allows new abuses and still try and keep your moral high ground. My stance was that you will have issues when one child kills a suffering parent and another child will claim that it was never the parent’s will to die. You will have people taking advantage of the law for financial gain, but realities do not fit within you legally relax world. We have more laws now than when Christianity was as its peak because we know people will take advantage of the legal system to fulfill their own desires. Your world sounds nice, but like religion is it is based on a philosophy and not a reality. Your view does not take into consideration the fact that people will do whatever they want. It does not always have to be about religion. People will abuse their fellow man with or without religion as you have stated before. Your position still allows for people to be “morally despicable and ethically repulsive” so not much is different in our two stances are there?

        I believe your life does belong to God, but I also believe it is your choice to follow or not. No lip service is ever given because you are responsible for accepting salvation. No one can force it upon you and I will defend that right for you.

      • December 7, 2011 at 1:18 PM

        Does it surprise you, Xander, that we live in a secular liberal democracy? Just because the law recognizes you as an autonomous agent in legal terms (responsible for actions mitigated by circumstances and intention) means that this is not a pie in the sky idea like you describe my views, but a fact on the ground here in reality. The point I was making for CJ is that we gain the possibility for developing into embracing this full measure of moral autonomy when we see ourselves as we truly are rather than have this development blunted as followers of some other moral agency. What you have written does not successfully argue this point because I am not arguing for a different world at all as you seem to think I am doing but arguing that we benefit by accepting the reality of the one we actually inhabit now.

        We have excellent models for compassionate and caring euthanasia that does not create or allow for the kind of slippery slope argument you present. What’s disturbing is that you would prefer to allow for unnecessary and intolerable suffering that is very real for real people today on behalf of your fear of such a slope developing. It’s not the job of those living with intolerable suffering to soothe your fears; it’s your job to be at least as compassionate for another human being as you would for a dog in the same state of suffering. The only difference in fact is the belief that some supernatural critter judges you differently based on the object of your compassion. Losing the belief allows you to deal honestly with the reality of suffering and clears the moral decks for an honestly compassionate response.

      • December 8, 2011 at 3:45 PM

        What I am arguing is that we have a similar view now of accountability and autonomy, whether realized or not, as you are suggesting. I will bite and ask you to show me the benefit of developing your version of an autonomous moral structure. I must be missing your point as you keep assigning to me stances that I am not making. I have not brought religion into the mix once, yet you seem determined to keep taking it there.

        As for your euthanasia view, is it really more humane to end the suffering of a person who you care about? What happens when the cure to what they were suffering from is discovered the following week or month? What is humane really depends on the perspective in which you look at the situation. What you consider to be humane now might not be the following month. Not being able to see them deal with the suffering inadvertently cost them many future years of a pain free life. Not very humane is it? We can not know the future for you to claim that once stance is more or less wrong is about the same as me claiming there is a God. No real proof except what we are feeling at the time. Maybe you are more religious than I first thought.

      • December 8, 2011 at 8:00 PM

        As for your euthanasia view, is it really more humane to end the suffering of a person who you care about?

        Again, you miss the point: it’s not up to me or to you to allow someone who claims intolerable suffering the right to die with assistance. That is up to each of us to decide for ourselves.

        I will bite and ask you to show me the benefit of developing your version of an autonomous moral structure.

        See comment #12 where I point out the essential difference: morality is not a fixed set of objective rules but subject very much to circumstance and intent. The benefit is to all of us, allowing each of us to be responsible for our actions. When we OWN our morality, we are responsible for its exercise. When we assume it derives from elsewhere, we open ourselves to become agents of their tyranny.

  7. December 7, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    Perhaps autonomy isn’t filled with the same grandeur it’s been supposed.

    • December 7, 2011 at 5:41 PM

      Perhaps not, not when personal responsibility is factored into it, but isn’t that what growing up is all about: freedom coupled with personal responsibility? At least, CJ, autonomy has the benefit of being true in fact… if what’s true in reality matters to you. That’s really the question you have to answer for yourself.

      • December 8, 2011 at 2:13 AM

        What does this idea of personal responsibility mean. Let me explain: whether someone accepts responsibility or not, it doesn’t change the consequences of their actions. In then end even one submitting to authority makes the choice to submit, which that person is inevitably responsible for. Moreover, no one is truly free. We all live in constraints of government and society. Both entities enforce its ideals or laws with various and very real consequences. I pay my taxes not because I made the responsible autonomous decision to do so, but because if I don’t I will receive hard consequences. I don’t have a choice. That’s true in reality.
        So, in conclusion, I have a moral code. God not only agrees with my independently decided morality, but commands it. Through the bible and relationship with God I have explored my moral code, and defined my ethics more clearly than I could independently. It also helps me give time and consideration to difficult moral issues.
        I do not accept morality from God or the bible blindly, or even with any obscured vision.
        Saul is ordered by God to kill all of the Amalekites at one point including the women children, and livestock. I disagree strongly with killing children. I don’t think there is a circumstance that warrants it outside of inevitable illness that induces unrelievable suffering. I have since theorized on how this could possibly be in the bible and sought reconciliation for such atrocities. I am not satisfied at present with my research, nor am I done. It is my job as a man of logical integrity to work though these issues, not to avoid them by either renouncing my faith or playing the stupid christian. I am responsible and autonomous in that I have not done either of the two afore mentioned methods of ignoring the issues. Isn’t that what matters?

        Also, I do not understand what you mean by saying “autonomy has the benefit of being true in fact.”
        How could an idea like autonomy or perhaps oligarchy or metaphors be false, in fact?

  8. Charlie
    December 7, 2011 at 9:24 PM

    I am married. I love being married. I would not have the same marrage or even be married right now if it were not for my wife’s and my relationship with God. Having a basis of the same belief that we both pull from is key. Having a moral common ground on which to raise our future children is crutial. Nether my wife or I left divorce on the table at the altar. We are stuck for life through thick and thin. Unlike what many athiest now believe. This is evedent in the reduction in marages among the US population. More people are leaving together instead of being married and marriage is often times looked at in a negative light (http://theviewspaper.net/marriage-vs-live-in-relationship/). This is why my belief in God is crucial to the way I live today.
    Also tildeb to the idea that “You do good, for example, not for some later brownie point reward in an imaginary eternal setting”. The idea that a christian does anything for the “brownie point” to be recieved in some other place is crazy. Heaven is the same for everyone. You don’t get anything by doing something more than just accepting and submitting to Christ. I and all other Christians believe that we are saved by grace and not works. Any Christian who thinks that their afterlife will be better because of the works they do is like any teacher believing that they will be paid more if they are better than their peers. Both would be wrong. I know my God. I think that you should look up some medical evedences that would help to clear up the notion that God is a real, active and living being.
    Another thing, I always love that if a Christian proclaims to be a Christian non-believers are quick to judge and say how stupid we are, and society accepts this. On the other hand, if a Christian bashes a nonbeliever than the Christian is quickly shund by society. I just think that the double standard is interesting.
    Tildeb believe what you want to; I don’t care. I believe in God and I believe in heaven and hell. I also think that we will be surprised by how much we, all of us, were wrong.

    • December 8, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      Charlie, as far as I’m concerned you are welcome to believe whatever you want but unlike you, I do care what you think and why you think what you do. I especially care if it differs from my own because maybe you know something I don’t but should. That said, if you fail to respect reality less than you do your beliefs about it to inform your differing opinions, don’t be surprised that others respect your opinions about reality less for it.

      Note, for example, how much emphasis you put on the importance of your spouse and you holding to the same religious faith assuming it translates in a holding a similar moral code and that it this moral code upon which that you will raise your children. You assume this translates into doing an excellent job of parenting. It doesn’t, I’m afraid to point out. You’re statistically more likely to beat, starve, and even kill your children when you and your spouse hold to the same religiously inspired moral code. Bummer, eh?

      Of particular note is how you relegate your children’s well-being to that of an afterthought in this hierarchy rather than the primary goal of your child rearing practices. Whether you believe it or not, raising healthy, happy, well adjusted children into fully autonomous and responsible adult citizens is a task not enhanced but hindered by imposing religious authority into your parenting task. No doubt you will disagree, which you are welcome to do, but perhaps increasing your education about child development and how to aid rather than impede this process will help correct your assumptions to better reflect reality in this matter.

      And, of course, I’ll bite: please refer me to the ‘evidence’ you have that god is a real, active, and living being. It will be news, let me assure you.

      We live in a god-soaked culture so much so that it affects every activity in some way or another. Any criticism of this affectation – regardless of the truth of its pernicious influence when pointed out – is seen by far too many apologists and accommodationists and sympathetic believers as an attack rather than as the legitimate criticism it is. With the rise of gnu atheism confronting religious intrusions into the public domain far more vocally than ever before, it is understandable that you would interpret the atheist contribution to remembering our enlightenment values this way. But the sad fact of the matter is that ‘society’ in the last part of 2011 still ranks atheists to be equivalent in moral terms to that of a rapist (here)… not because atheists go out and rape but because they dare to ask the questions of religious adherents Is this claim you make true and how do you? Your beliefs about the matter of religious acceptance in our society do not align with reality.

      Does that misalignment between your beliefs and reality even matter to you? I suspect not.

      • December 8, 2011 at 6:16 PM

        Tildeb, did you really point vaguely to a statistic that Christians are more likely to beat, starve and kill their children?
        Let me make quick work of this. I realize you didn’t say Christianity, so you left yourself an out if it comes to it. But, you’re talking to Christians, me and Charlie in particular.
        Jesus Christ is the one who clearly defined moral code for modern day Christians. To be a Christian is to literally imitate Jesus. Jesus said to love each other. This includes forgiveness, patience, and sacrifice of our own comfort for those we love. He also, according to the gospels, emulated those ideals perfectly. He loved children, and was tender to them. The early Christian writers, most namely Paul, wrote of virtues Christians are to put on. He said, compassion, patience, gentleness, kindness- FORGIVENESS – “and over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity” I believe that’s from Colossians 3:12. He also gives many other lists like this of virtue that Christians should base their live on. James tells us whatever is true, right, admirable and pure, think about such things. So, if the Christian does these things imitating Christ, then beating Children is never even an option, sir. To do something that monstrous the Christian is a liar, and the truth is not in him. I am not arguing for theism, that would be stupid. I am arguing for Christianity which is exclusive, and I can say the same for Charlie. We are arguing for Christ, and for his followers to actually live like he did. And in that sense, neither Charlie or myself consider you even close to a rapist. (I am speaking a lot for Charlie, I hope he doesn’t mind). I question religion, Tildeb. That’s what this blog is all about. So if what you say is true, I am, in society’s eyes, the moral equivalent of a rapist.

        Does that misalignment between statistics and reality even matter to you? I’ll let you decide.

      • December 8, 2011 at 8:13 PM

        Your answer, CJ, is know as the Not a True Scotsman fallacy. You think no true christian would abuse children under the guise of religious teaching. You’d be wrong. Many christians do exactly that, and far more frequently than non theists. It’s a problem right across the religious spectrum but vastly understudied for fear of religious backlash presumably:

        “In studies of parenting practices, Jackson, Law, Thompson, Christiansen, Colman, and Wyatt (1999) found that religious ideology was a critical factor in predicting proneness to abuse, and Neufeld (1979) found similarities in parental attitudes between abusive parents and parents who hold fundamentalist Christian values. Shor (1998) determined that religious values may be related to child maltreatment in ultra-orthodox Jewish families. Others have drawn similar conclusions about the connection between religion and beliefs in corporal punishment (e.g., Ellison et al., 1996a, 1996b; Ellison & Sherkat, 1993; Flynn, 1996; Maurer, 1982; Nelsen & Kroliczak, 1984). Although there has been little research on this topic, the relation between religion and abuse does not go unnoticed, even among the devout: A church-funded survey of nearly 650 members of the Christian Reformed Church revealed that while church attendance was inversely related to reported perpetration of child abuse, a majority of members believed “the church does little to prevent abuse,” that “Christians too often use the Bible to justify abuse,” and that “Church leaders are not prepared to help members of their churches who are victims of abuse” (Rice & Annis, 1992).”

        From the pdf here.

        Reality really does tell us what’s going on in it if we just open our minds to it rather than imposing our belief on it.

      • December 13, 2011 at 5:19 AM

        Tildeb, you point to an informal ad hoc logical fallacy. I’ll point to one of the foundational laws of logic. The law of non contradiction. A cannot be both A and non-A. By definition Jesus cannot abuse children. Therefore to abuse children is to be other than Jesus. I’m not arguing about reality or non reality or whatever. It’s a definition. Take the statistics and the definition into consideration, does it not change the conclusion?

  9. December 13, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    Jesus is the one responsible for introducing us to heaven and hell. Jesus. Christians raise children today to believe in these terrible places as if they were real because of Jesus. They continue to try to warp young minds to live in dread about gaining entrance to one or the other. Even children’s most private thoughts are subject to god’s review on the Great Cosmic Tally Sheet, as some kind of divinely powered Thought Police, and are told by believers that even their thoughts can affect one’s eternal placement and those of one’s loved ones.

    You don’t see any of this as child abuse, terrorizing children into religious submission? You think the stamp of ‘JESUS’ on any human activity is an automatic exemption from being labelled as abusive, that it must be all about love if it includes the name, and just gloss over any pernicious effects directly attributable as if it couldn’t possibly be related?

    You call Jesus’ love of children ‘A’ and abuse of children ‘Not A’. This may surprise you, CJ, but abuse happens all the time under the label of ‘love’. Bestowing the gift of fear, of god, of heaven and hell, of eternal torment is pretty weird way to show love. To me, it smacks of emotional manipulation of those most vulnerable.

    • December 13, 2011 at 10:10 AM

      If they were being terrorized, then yes I see an abuse. It does not matter if it was due to religious persuasion or something else. The atheist view that there is no point to an individual’s life can also be construed as abuse. With no real purpose to live, why shouldn’t one just take their own life and end a life of suffering?

      • December 13, 2011 at 12:45 PM

        Xander, you seem to really enjoy trotting out this old trope that atheists don’t value life because they don’t believe in your version of god’s meaning for their lives.

        This has it exactly backwards: atheists (by and large) carry a great deal for respect for rights and freedoms that are inherent rather than bestowed. Your life without such rights and freedoms is reduced in scope, which adversely affects your ability to make your own meaning. The same goes for purpose; an atheist does not believe that the purpose of your life is dictated by god. The atheists believes you have the inherent right to determine whatever purpose you think is worth pursuing. It is because of this deep respect for our shared human rights and shared human freedoms that informs our shared respect for human dignity of personhood.

        The focus of so many religions to live this life for the next one we atheists think makes living it religiously – filled to overflowing as we are told with god-soaked meaning and god-soaked purpose – to be the antithesis of living an honest and authentic one. That’s why someone like a Craig can think it rational to argue that the murdering of babies isn’t so bad because it sends them ‘home’ to god. I mean, seriously, Xander, you know perfectly well the emphasis the hereafter plays in your faith.

        Now ask yourself, what if all these attributions of meaning and purpose and promises of eternal life (talk about incoherent!) you believe derives from god and informs your life is in reality wrong? How can you know?

      • December 13, 2011 at 2:04 PM

        I admit that I know people who have been tormented about the aspect of going to hell. I have seen the serious mental torment in which they have gone through and I have seen those who embrace the idea and glorify themselves in doing whatever they want. I have also seen several people take their own life because their life had no meaning outside of an eternal existence. When you face the fact that as a human, your life has no more meaning that an insect or animal that you watch on the Discovery channel, finding a purpose that has any meaning is tough to do.

        I never claimed that atheist do not have a respect for life nor was that intended. I know several atheists and agnostics who are better “moral” people than most Christians that I have encountered. You see, I was an atheist before I became a Christian. I did not find religion until after I realized the truth that living life without a real purpose made absolutely no sense. I thought about being famous as a purpose or making a difference would be good, but in the end it never really matters. Once you are dead it is all for naught. Why should I care if I make someone happy? Why should I care if I see someone suffering? In the end, it doesn’t really matter if someone suffered or not. That is what I left when I felt like there had to be more to life than just surviving a day with what ever activities I put into to give me a sense of value. I became pagan well before being Christian, so it was not a fear of hell that made me convert. It wasn’t until after I felt the presence of God that I knew why I lived. And if I am wrong, then it really doesn’t matter because I will be dead.

        I am glad that you have found a purpose that has given meaning to your life. I am glad to see people who have value and know that their life will make a difference. I am glad because I know what it feels like when you realize you are just another animal trying to survive until tomorrow.

  10. December 17, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Xander, you write I realized the truth that living life without a real purpose made absolutely no sense. But that admission does not indicate why you would then become a believer in Jesus the Redeemer, other than to capitulate your own responsibility to create meaning and purpose in your life and settle for one supposedly created for you. This is a moral abdication, transferring ownership to an imaginary friend.

    You continue Why should I care if I make someone happy? Why should I care if I see someone suffering? Why indeed… other than the FACT that you do. Funny, that. You yourself indicate moral concerns precedes religious belief, which is borne out in study after study.

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter if someone suffered or not. Well, it matters a very great to the person suffering and matters a very great deal to those in a caring relationship with the sufferer. Why assume a cosmic perspective and think that its indifference to you somehow alters reality? The river eroding the earth under your house is likewise completely indifferent to your housing situation. Does that mean people in such precarious living conditions should become believers in imaginary friends… as if that belief alters one iota the river’s indifference or is somehow the green light necessary that only when assumed allows you to take appropriate action? Does it somehow justify the people living there to soak themselves in beliefs about some imaginary downstream utopia for those who believe the spirit of the river is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent as well as benevolent… in spite of no evidence that the river is anything more than a liquid responding to gravity? Your argument here is deeply problematic if you assume faith-based belief in Oogity Boogity matters any more than a tinker’s damn to providing you (rather than you simply assuming) meaning and purpose to your life. The universe, like the river, is still indifferent. And beliefs do nothing to alter the fact that you really are merely one of billions of mammals from a bipedal branch of the primate family living on a speck of cosmic dust for a brief moment. Whatever meaning and purpose you assign to that existence really is your affair. All I’m suggesting is that you take ownership of it rather than pretend they are magically bestowed on you by your beliefs about the universe.

    • December 18, 2011 at 7:26 PM

      I agree that morality preceded a religious belief. The Bible states that prior to the studies, so I have no issue at all agreeing with that conclusion. When I forgo being an atheist, it was under the impression that there was more to life than just living it. I thought there was a spiritual connection, something that went beyond the physical, so I became a Wiccan after talking with my friends who practiced it. I did not rush to Christianity nor jump on anyone else’s moral band wagon. I have always known that what I have done is a result of my action or inaction. I have always taken responsibility for my own choices. No abdication, but I do enjoy the argument your trying to make.

      Look at your comparison. In order to show that there is no meaning to life, you have to remove the human aspect. The universe does not care. That is true. The river does not care. That is true. They live according to their natures. For some reason though, humans care. Humans defy the natural aspect of animal and plant life and care about those weaker than them. Humanity has a quality that is not duplicated in evolution of any other species, but you want to assign that up to a coincidence and I say it is a result of design. We are both fully aware of our choices.

      Christianity is not about abdicating my choices away to someone or something else. Christianity says follow if you choose. If you do so, then yes, some of the choices will fly in the face of rational thought, but you are still choosing to follow. The choice and you hold on to a sense of morality despite the illogical need for it is more of an abdication to me. I am not saying that you should follow any religion or mystical murmurings in order to be moral. I am still just curious as to why you feel like you should be moral. That is the mystery to me.

  11. December 18, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    Xander, you write Humans defy the natural aspect of animal and plant life and care about those weaker than them. Humanity has a quality that is not duplicated in evolution of any other species, but you want to assign that up to a coincidence and I say it is a result of design.

    This claim, that humanity alone has a quality of caring, is blatantly wrong. Across the board, mammals do indeed show behaviour towards others contrary to their best interests. There are hundreds of examples, the latest I read earlier today:

    “Researchers in Montreal found that rats will act against their own best interest to help out fellow vermin in need. The study showed the rodents would release trapped rats from a cage and share chocolate with them, even if it meant giving up some of their own share.”

    Even Nile crocodiles will line up and take turns feeding on a carcass.

    Your assumptions are striking in favour of your belief. There is zero evidence – absolutely zero evidence – for design. Yet you maintain this notion not just because you believe it is so, but in the face of overwhelming evidence against it. If you made even a slight effort to understand evolution you would not state such an obvious error: that evolution is ‘by coincidence’. This repeated mantra by the religious apologist reveals the desire to maintain ignorance solely in the service of maintaining a belief contrary to what is true in reality. For once you realize that all mammals show empathy, you have to now account for it. And once you undertake this task, you realize that what you call morality is based not on some supernatural delivery service from Oogity Boogity’s residence in some other realm to humans in this one by magical means, which makes no coherent sense, or that it is one of many such evolved traits that confers reproductive benefit. In other words, from our biology. This we can show without calling on supernatural explanations that have no evidence but that stand contrary to the evidence we do have. Once you understand that humans are born with a sense of morality, perhaps you can begin to honestly answer your own question about why we should be. In this way the ‘mystery’ evaporates as it always does once you allow reality and not your beliefs to dictate what is true about it.

    • December 19, 2011 at 10:29 AM

      I noticed on the Montreal study that the authors and some evolutionary anthropoligists suggested that there is no proof that the empathy displayed was not an attempt to reduce their own pain and suffering.

      Nile crocodiles will also kill and eat those who are weaker than they are. Even domesticated animals, will kill their own young. How many runts do you see surviving without human intervention?

      I will agree that animals seem to display emotions. They feel pain and protectiveness over each other at times, but you do not see the animal society taking an interesting in making sure that those who are not able to provide for themselves are kept alive and healthy.

      But why are humans born with this sense of morality that is basically universal for all people? The Bible says that we were created that way and the studies you mention seem to agree with that notion.

  12. December 19, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    why are humans born with this sense of morality that is basically universal for all people? The Bible says that we were created that way and the studies you mention seem to agree with that notion.

    This will be news to religious apologists like Albert Mohler and Bill Craig who insist that we derive our morals only from a moral law giver. Which part of the bible explains we inherit our morality?

    • December 19, 2011 at 12:42 PM

      Romans 1:19-32

      It is basically saying that although people did not have the direct knowledge of God, as did the Jews, the aspect of God could be apprehended by people. Philosophers and the great number of religions with many common traits, go to show that there is a universal aspect of God that can be seen from nature itself. People are naturally created knowing right for wrong, but their denial of God directly or even an aspect of God lead them down the path were they did what ever felt good to them and thus their sense of right and wrong deviated from that of God.

      • December 19, 2011 at 4:16 PM

        Methinks thou art slightly confusedeth: the ‘righteousness of god’ is revealed from faith to faith as it is written and that god’s wrath is shown against all unrighteousness and ungodliness. Lovely little circular argument, n’est pas?

        When the ‘universal aspect of god’ looks exactly like species-wide biological inheritance, then once again religion aligns itself to what is necessarily so and claims it for its own. The problem here, however, is that it does not align with a moral bequeath through faith. And the evidence is overwhelming that non believers – ‘covenant breakers’ in Paul’s lingo – are perfectly capable of behaving morally, revealing Paul’s injunction that we should be put to death to be ignorant and shameful bullying. Gee, thanks but no thanks Paul; I have no need for your kind of god-besotted ‘moral’ advice. It looks to me to be identical to tyranny.

      • December 22, 2011 at 6:07 PM

        Tildeb, all of this talk of heaven and hell terrorizing (abusing) children rest solely on the spin of the teaching, and the existence of heaven and hell.
        If heaven and hell is taught the way it is in the bible, it could not possibly be terrorizing. It must have a dramatic spin. Jesus said there are eternal consequences for sin, the way he said so was vain. He mostly talked in earthly metaphors and used the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Neither direct nor detailed. Also, Paul extensively writes in his letters, which have practically formed Christian theology for us today, on the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection as a means of grace to cover our faults. This teaching eliminates the Great Cosmic Tally Sheet idea you basely threw out earlier. This means children don’t have to be freaked out of their minds because of some divine thought police… another baseless idea… They can rest assured in salvation.
        The idea of hell is terrifying, sure, but if taught like it is in the bible then it’s hardly terrorizing or abusive.

        Also, I mentioned existence. Hurricanes, tornadoes, malaria, serial killers, rapists, nuclear war. If hell is false, and is taught poorly, then yes it is terrorizing/abusive. But if it is real, then shouldn’t it be made aware, warned against, and provisions made?

        Let me go back to my old argument about A and nonA. If Christianity is Christianity from the bible then it is not terrorizing or abusing. If Christianity is perverted by holy men or jerks or whoever, then it can be abusive, but then it is something other Christianity. You redefine it. It’s nonA. I’m not arguing for every idiot who perverted Christianity to do evil, I’m arguing for true Christianity.
        Let me explain with a cute little example. Imagine a conservative congressman who proposes a bill to fund abortion clinics… wait a minute! He’s not conservative! Right?

      • December 22, 2011 at 7:55 PM

        CJ, you raise exactly the point held to be the central problem with religious belief based on some holy scripture:

        If Christianity is Christianity from the bible then it is not terrorizing or abusing.

        The question then becomes: what exactly is christianity ‘from the bible’? Well, this may help explain to you why there are tens of thousands of christian sects… and each one claiming to be the real christianity! So… on what mind-independent basis can we determine which one – if any – is true christianity that clearly shows how all the rest are wrong? If you have an answer to that, then I think there may be prizes and accolades to be had. But if you – like so many before you – have no means to do so other than a personalized interpretation, then I’m afraid your notion of a ‘christianity from the bible’ will continue to be a source of division. Fortunately, that your problem and not mine.

        You then assert the most astounding claim, that This means children don’t have to be freaked out of their minds because of some divine thought police… another baseless idea…

        Baseless? Oh my, CJ, and here I thought you knew at least the basics: it’s bad to covet. It says so right there in Exodus and Deuteronomy. It breaks a commandment. Not an action, mind you: a thought. Just thinking of desiring what someone else owns breaks a commandment. And here we live in a world that operates its economies by desiring objects we do not own, objects owned by others that we would like to have.

        Regardless of how willing you are to apologize and excuse this horrific notion of a god who can police your thoughts and assign you to eternal torment for just thinking about stuff, the fact of the matter is that millions of children ARE deeply abused by being told these lies and assured that these lies are true in fact. I hear religious folk ALL THE TIME claim to fear their god, that they are god-fearing people, that it is right and proper and healthy for people to fear their god. Going back to the commandments, we can read that god is a jealous god (meaning that even god recognizes that there are other gods… so much for biblical support for monotheism!), that he is a spiteful and capricious god who visits iniquity over several generations as if this is somehow a good basis for teaching children fairness and equity and respect and holding individuals to account for their actions when this god is willing to take out his jealous wrath on the children! And you respect this kind of god and think him the giver of moral laws?

        Good grief, CJ; but maybe this a good time for some honest evaluation, and I am willing to bet that you yourself hold yourself to a much higher moral standard than this god seems capable of doing. And doesn’t that say something important?

      • xander
        December 28, 2011 at 9:43 PM

        your confusing righteousness with morality. the two are not the same. morality changes with each generation and varies for society to society. to be righteous means you are in right standing with God and that can only be done through faith.

      • December 29, 2011 at 12:03 AM

        Yes, well then we’re into the problem of divine command theory, aren’t we?

        You assume we have access to know of god’s wishes about what is right but we do not know if any assertions are justified, which is rather problematic if we have no evidence that there is any such critter. All we have access to is human morality.

  13. December 19, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    BTW, there is no design option in the theory of evolution by natural selection. The words ‘natural selection’ rule it out. You cannot have it both ways; you either accept or reject the theory of evolution. If you accept it, you are intellectually honest and reasonable. If you reject it, you are intellectually dishonest and unreasonable. There is no middle ground and no compatibility between them.

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