Thursday, March 5, 2009

Debates with Christians - If there is no God?

This is the second big debate thread I've had online (actually a friend started it). I thought I'd post it here for funsies.

If there is no God?
After a discussion I was having the other night a friend sent me this article by Dennis Prager...
Good reading.

We are constantly reminded about the destructive consequences of religion -- intolerance, hatred, division, inquisitions, persecutions of "heretics," holy wars. Though far from the whole story, they are, nevertheless, true. There have been many awful consequences of religion.

What one almost never hears described are the deleterious consequences of secularism -- the terrible developments that have accompanied the breakdown of traditional religion and belief in God. For every thousand students who learn about the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials, maybe two learn to associate Gulag, Auschwitz, The Cultural Revolution and the Cambodian genocide with secular regimes and ideologies.

For all the problems associated with belief in God, the death of God leads to far more of them.

So, while it is not possible to prove (or disprove) God's existence, what is provable is what happens when people stop believing in God.

1. Without God there is no good and evil; there are only subjective opinions that we then label "good" and "evil." This does not mean that an atheist cannot be a good person. Nor does it mean that all those who believe in God are good; there are good atheists and there are bad believers in God. It simply means that unless there is a moral authority that transcends humans from which emanates an objective right and wrong, "right" and "wrong" no more objectively exist than do "beautiful" and "ugly."

2. Without God, there is no objective meaning to life. We are all merely random creations of natural selection whose existence has no more intrinsic purpose or meaning than that of a pebble equally randomly produced.

3. Life is ultimately a tragic fare if there is no God. We live, we suffer, we die -- some horrifically, many prematurely -- and there is only oblivion afterward.

4. Human beings need instruction manuals. This is as true for acting morally and wisely as it is for properly flying an airplane. One's heart is often no better a guide to what is right and wrong than it is to the right and wrong way to fly an airplane. The post-religious secular world claims to need no manual; the heart and reason are sufficient guides to leading a good life and to making a good world.

5. If there is no God, the kindest and most innocent victims of torture and murder have no better a fate after death than do the most cruel torturers and mass murderers. Only if there is a good God do Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler have different fates.

6. With the death of Judeo-Christian values in the West, many Westerners believe in little. That is why secular Western Europe has been unwilling and therefore unable to confront evil, whether it was Communism during the Cold War or Islamic totalitarians in its midst today.

7. Without God, people in the West often become less, not more, rational. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed in the utterly irrational doctrine of Marxism. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed that men's and women's natures are basically the same, that perceived differences between the sexes are all socially induced. Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm.

8. If there is no God, the human being has no free will. He is a robot, whose every action is dictated by genes and environment. Only if one posits human creation by a Creator that transcends genes and environment who implanted the ability to transcend genes and environment can humans have free will.

9. If there is no God, humans and "other" animals are of equal value. Only if one posits that humans, not animals, are created in the image of God do humans have any greater intrinsic sanctity than baboons. This explains the movement among the secularized elite to equate humans and animals.

10. Without God, there is little to inspire people to create inspiring art. That is why contemporary art galleries and museums are filled with "art" that celebrates the scatological, the ugly and the shocking. Compare this art to Michelangelo's art in the Sistine chapel. The latter elevates the viewer -- because Michelangelo believed in something higher than himself and higher than all men.

11. Without God nothing is holy. This is definitional. Holiness emanates from a belief in the holy. This explains, for example, the far more widespread acceptance of public cursing in secular society than in religious society. To the religious, there is holy speech and profane speech. In much of secular society the very notion of profane speech is mocked.

12. Without God, humanist hubris is almost inevitable. If there is nothing higher than man, no Supreme Being, man becomes the supreme being.

13. Without God, there are no inalienable human rights. Evolution confers no rights. Molecules confer no rights. Energy has no moral concerns. That is why America's Founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed "by our Creator" with certain inalienable rights. Rights depend upon a moral source, a rights giver.

14. "Without God," Dostoevsky famously wrote, "all is permitted." There has been plenty of evil committed by believers in God, but the widespread cruelties and the sheer number of innocents murdered by secular regimes -- specifically Nazi, Fascist and Communist regimes -- dwarfs the evil done in the name of religion.

As noted at the beginning, none of this proves, or even necessarily argues for, God's existence. It makes the case for the necessity, not the existence, of God. "Which God?" the secularist will ask. The God of Israel, the God of America's founders, "the Holy God who is made holy by justice" (Isaiah), the God of the Ten Commandments, the God who demands love of neighbor, the God who endows all human beings with certain inalienable rights, the God who is cited on the Liberty Bell because he is the author of liberty. That is the God being referred to here, without whom we will be vanquished by those who believe in less noble gods, both secular and divine. Written 7 hours ago - Comment - LikeUnlike - Report Note
Michelle at 5:58pm March 5
Good article. Don't forget to credit the author. :)
Andrea at 7:19pm March 5
oh yeah I meant to do that... busy busy day here.
author Dennis Prager
Kellie at 8:08pm March 5
Although I had to look up the word "hubris", I like # 12. I already hear it in the conversations I have had on this topic.
Andrea at 8:10pm March 5
amen to that sister! (listen to me preaching lol)
Faithinate at 8:58pm March 5
Oh my word, my head hurts....I will reply...
Kellie at 9:02pm March 5
ha-ha-ha. Is this round 2 or 3? I am losing count :)
Faithinate at 9:07pm March 5
Replying to the conclusory paragraph first: God is not necessary. The God of Israel "endows all human beings with certain inalienable rights"? Let's start with the right to life, and talk about the vast numbers of people God condemned to death, EVEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. A few examples:

1 Corinthians
- If you defile the temple of God, God will destroy you. 3:17
- Paul claims that God killed 23,000 in a plague for "committing whoredom with the daughters of Moab 10:8
- If you murmur, you'll be destroyed by the destroyer (God). 10:10
- God will not forgive us unless we shed the blood of some innocent creature. 9:13-14, 22
- Those who disobeyed the Old Testament law were killed without mercy. It will be much worse for those who displease Jesus. 10:28-29
- The Israelites kept the passover and sprinkled blood on doorposts so hat God wouldn't kill their firstborn children (like he did the Egyptians in Exodus 12:29).
11:28 Faithinate at 9:13pm March 5
That's just for starters, but you get the idea. Even by NT standards, this is not a loving God, but still a bloodthirsty God.

To address something that stands out in EVERY religious discussion I had; whether or not Hitler was an Atheist (I need to find the article explaining his actual beliefs, he did believe in God), his loony ideas and despicable actions in no way reflect a godless society, but rather a very disturbed and overly powerful man who came to power in a desperate place at a desperate time. HE WAS A BLOODY LOONY, HE'S NOT ONE OF US. We've agreed before, Andrea, that in any sufficiently large group, there will be the crackpot end of the spectrum that are capable of doing horrible things. I further posit that ANY philosophy, theology, methodology, given enough time and popularity, can enable mankind's inner demons (so to speak). The question is whether that philosophy etc TENDS TO ENCOURAGE evil behavior. I believe that most major religions do, whereas Atheism.....
Kellie at 9:15pm March 5
God gives life, but He is the ultimate creator and also has the ability to take away as He deems necessary. Also, we can pick verses out of the Bible all day to lend credence to our own beliefs, just as we could disect each others sentences (completely out of context) to make our own meanings.
Faithinate at 9:19pm March 5
...and the Atheist movement (can we call it that?) tends to encourage humanity, equality, progress, etc. Does religion do NO good? No, of course not. There's a mission house just up the street that feeds, clothes, and gives medical attention to the homeless. We have that capacity for good in us, and as time goes on I think we will see an increase in "godlessness", and more secular charities and programs.
But I digress. For #1, I've already discussed how there IS good and evil without gods; you're essentially arguing that we're too stupid to naturally come to the conclusion that you should be kind to kids, you should condemn things like theivery, murder, and rape because you wouldn't want those things to happen to you, etc etc. Humans have evolved, society has evolved, and we can clearly see (even in the Bible) that morals have evolved.
Kellie at 9:20pm March 5
Hey Jen, I don't think that its major religions that encourage evil behavior, but rather, they are the perfect tool to manipulate people.
Faithinate at 9:21pm March 5
Put those verses in context, Kellie, and see how many of them come out the exact same way; God condones killing, God metes out eternal punishment (that's a Biblical reference to a very real hell, Andrea!) for nonbelievers, God has again and again ordered the slaughter of entire cities, including women and babies. This isn't picking and choosing, this is your book, and your God. You begin to see why this is upsetting to me.
Faithinate at 9:26pm March 5
"Without God, there is no objective meaning to life." As an Atheist, I have the joy of making my life mean what I want it to mean. I realize that Xtians have some latitude there, but ultimitely your life is about serving God and going to Heavan. I'll leave it there for now, lots more points to go.

"Life is ultimately a tragic fare if there is no God." Sure, you can think of it that way. There's certainly a lot of suffering; I still say it's better than well more than 9/10 of the population of the Earth burning for all eternity because they believed in Zeus, or Allah, or were born Jewish.

With these two points, you're essentially saying that life's no good if you can't believe in God, much like a child might consider Christmas sucky if there weren't a Santa Clause. Is it really that bad to learn that it was only people all along? Moving right along to...
Kellie at 9:32pm March 5
Jen, so what do you believe happens after death? Is it just over? This is a serious question, it isn't meant to be sarcastic...
Faithinate at 9:33pm March 5
"4. Human beings need instruction manuals." We might be able to agree on this, but I gotta say, the Bible is the WORST instruction manual ever. It's uninclusive, contradictory, ambiguous, and filled with cruelty and horrors almost too great to discuss. Talk about cherrypicking; "love thy neighbor", absolutely. But I say again; society evolves, morals evolve. You grow and learn your own personal code. Let's write a new manual, and update it as the times evolve. In Version 1.0, let's be sure to include equality for women, all the races, protection for children, and warnings against unneccessary violence. The heart and reason, and personal reflection in the context of global societal morals, ARE sufficient guides to leading a good life and to making a good world. -----------------------------
Faithinate at 9:36pm March 5
Kellie, I think it's highly likely that there's nothing after death. I like to think that there's so much about the world and universe we don't yet understand, who knows? Maybe an afterlife is possible, but I think the reward/punishment dynamic is so far unlikely as to be nigh well impossible.
Kellie at 9:44pm March 5
God has the ability to do as He pleases, He is the creator of us all. However, that right is not given to mankind (unless specifically commanded by Him). It has been and always will be abused by some individuals, regardless of what religion or lack of. For Pete's sake, the Catholic church use to sell "salvation" because they wanted more money. These are not acts of God, but rather of man left to his own devices. We can argue religion all day and never have any impact on each others stances. However, I don't think that any of us can argue that mankind is capable of an absurd level of cruelyt and greed.
Kellie at 9:45pm March 5
I also don't think that we can argue with my amazing gramatical capabilities (seriously, can I spell anything right today :)
Kellie at 9:47pm March 5
Thanks Jen. I didn't know what an Athiest's beliefs were about death and I never have time to look anything up anymore.
Kellie at 9:47pm March 5
Goodnight all. Have fun with your conversation.
Faithinate at 9:51pm March 5
#5 says that we want there to be ultimate justice; while yes, I agree that would be wonderful, it's a fairy tale. Life can be random and cruel, absolutely. The god of the Bible is purposefully cruel, which is infinitely worse. If we're looking to god for justice, why do we need a justice system? We've grown to the point where we have an organized system in the quest for justice; as time goes on, the system will improve worldwide. We'll never make life fair, but it shows the relative sophistication of the human spirit that we make the attempt and put so much weight on justice.

I think #6 shows a very cursory, almost flippant, understanding of Wester European history, and it makes my head hurt to think about trying to address it. The single-cause theory of history is ludicrous, like a single-cause theory of behavioral analysis. My head hurts, ouch. ONWARD!!!
Faithinate at 9:52pm March 5
Atheists don't have a unified belief in anything, necessarily. We're united by the understanding that gods don't exist. After that, you really have to ask the individual what he/she believes.
Faithinate at 10:03pm March 5
"Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm."

This makes me want to cry. I'm guessing that Christians (or at least the author) thinks that irrational thought is good, as long as it's about God?!

That express your non-rationality in religion, which NEVER EVER EVER impacts society (WTF??). You believe in an invisible guy in the sky that tells you to hate gays, shun nonbelievers, etc etc. Whereas if I as an atheist want to indulge in the non-rational, I can argue with my husband about whether or not he should bring me flowers because I got the disposal fixed. Or go on a ghost hunt. Or see a freakin' movie, for dog's sake.

Faithinate at 10:15pm March 5
"8. If there is no God, the human being has no free will." *Sigh* Nice guys were sick of the rest of us saying that the existence of God would mean no free will, eh? Sure, genes can predispose some behavior (you're saying that's not true if you believe in God?) And environment definitely does; otherwise, children of Christian parents would randomly turn out to be Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, etc. from a very young age. Predisposition and environment affect a person, surely, but it doesn't take away free will. People think, grow, change, experience...we're people, we have freedom of choice.

It becomes ridiculous, the things you have to say out loud.
Faithinate at 10:20pm March 5
"9. If there is no God, humans and "other" animals are of equal value." The joy of having, by an insanely tiny chance, even begun to exist should be quite enough to make you feel special. No? Okay, well, how about being able to write? The ability to use tools, travel internationally, go to space? Not ringing any bells? You seriously can't come up with ANYTHING to say to your kids when (God forbid, hah), they ask you "Hey Mom, am I better than a dog?"

And by the way, I think the Bible devalues animals far too much. They're there for us to eat and use and sacrifice whenever god gets pissy, or hungry, or something. PETA should be secular, if they're not.
Faithinate at 10:41pm March 5
"10. Without God, there is little to inspire people to create inspiring art." I'm not artist, and already I can think of a myriad of inspiring things that I'd love to paint, or sculpt, or communicate through art. My love for my children (and theirs for me), the incredible beauty of the world and universe, the mysteries of same, the complex relationships of my friends and family, my dreams and goals, on and on and on. Just because a few people made blasphemous or disgusting art pieces, that doesn't invalidate secular art.

So, was Pablo Picasso a religious artist? Most of Manet's career was of non-religious matter. Ditto Monet. Michelangelo was commissioned by the church to do the Sistine Chapel and others, and it is well believed he was gay. There's plenty of beautiful religious art, and plenty more secular.
Faithinate at 10:41pm March 5
More later, I'm done for tonight. Good times, in all.
Aimee at 10:55pm March 5
Intersting article. On the whole atheist vs. believers topic, I was very interested to read what the ATheist code (or whatever it was called) was that Nicole posted. I feel these values are much the essence of Christianity-of what Jesus taught. Isn't that ironic?

I don't feel I can argue (nor am I really interested in trying to convince anyone else that feels as passionately as you do Jen)that there is no God, because honestly I'm not that talented. I'm no biblical scholar. However I do find the discussion fascinating from the standpoint of what people that have differing beliefs from me think, feel and believe on this and other topics. I know there is a God. I can't say how, I just do. Of all the things in my life I have been unsure about, my belief in GOd has never been one of them. I am certainly glad I live in a country that protects the rights of atheists and christians, etc. alike. I truly believe that people HAVE be able to choose to believe in God ...
Faithinate at 11:01pm March 5
It's cool Aimee, I don't have to debate EVERYone :}

So there is a God. Why THIS one? And why do you get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible are relevant, and which ones God thinks it's okay for you to ignore? You don't have to answer, I just want you to think about it.

And I agree; I think it's wonderful, and we're very lucky, to live in a country where you and I can beleive whatever we damn well want to and talk about it when/wherever we want. Incredible, wonderful.Aimee at 11:04pm March 5
or not in order to have a personal relationship with him. It is funny even to myself how much faith I have that there is a God because I grew up with a Catholic mom who still holds fast to the thinking that she's a Catholic and how important that is based on two things #1 her devotion to her Catholic mom and #2 the guilt she was raised with in the church. Honestly, she's a Catholic in word much more than deed. I would say she is a Christian, by deed for sure. We went to church sporadically, I don't think I ever heard my mom pray to God other than the prayers you are taught in Catholic church, etc. I don't attend church regularly although I don't think it is a bad idea to do so. I don't take the bible word for word, for the most part. I just think of it as a guidebook to life written by man, therefore some parts I think of as more a product of the times in which it was written. I don't believe the Bible is to be worshipped. I'm not really religious but I am deeply spiritual.Aimee at 11:10pm March 5
It seems to me (and I am counting on you setting me straight here it I am interpreting this wrong, Jen.) that most of your problems lie with religion. Do you see God and religion as the same?

An Jesus Christ (that "some invisible guy in the sky") does not tell me to hate anyone nor to shun anyone. It is quite the opposite. Jesus spent his adult life embracing those that were being shunned.

I can tell you why I get to pick which parts are relevent and which parts to ignore...because He gave the me free will to do so just as He has given you the free will to not believe in Him. I may be right and I may be wrong in being so picky-choosy, but for now & where I am in my journey, this IS what I do. -----------------------------
Faithinate at 12:22am March 6
"most of your problems lie with religion." Sure, I'd say that's accurate, especially since I don't believe in God, or god, or gods. I don't have a problem with God any more than I have a problem with Allah, or Ra, or angry purple unicorns. You can't be pissed off at a concept (not rationally anyway). God is not the same as religion, God is the concept around which religion is based. I think religion causes a lot of problems; I think God is ridiculously unlikely.

Jesus is your friend, your savior, your personal messiah, right? And he's perfect, he's everything you'd want in a friend/savior. He listens to everything you have to say, knows everything about you, loves you unconditionally, would (and has) give his very life for you. And there's a book about him (several, in fact, bound into one), but only some of it applies, and the deciding factor in what applies and in what doesn't is your existing moral code and intuition. If we changed the word "Jesus" for "talking goat" or
Faithinate at 12:28am March 6
"leprachaun", then we'd call it an interesting fantasy life (for a kid) or a delusion (for an adult). Why does everything about Him get to be completely subjective? Why does the OT not count for some people? Why do people get to interpret passages any which way they want to? That's not religion, that's art.

Jesus are 2 examples from Matthew (there are lots more): Jesus tells his disciples to keep away from the Gentiles and Samaritans, and go only to the Israelites. 10:5-6

Cities that neither "receive" the disciples nor "hear" their words will be destroyed by God. It will be worse for them than for Sodom and Gomorrah. And you know what God supposedly did to those poor folks (see Gen.19:24). 10:14-15
Faithinate at 12:29am March 6
There's lots more at

Anyway, I know you didn't want a big debate, just replying. And I can't stress enough that I don't...necessarily...MIND that you guys believe in God. You have different experiences and different mindsets. But little of it makes sense to me.

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