A world(view) without morals

Imagine living in a world where you had absolutely no insight into good and evil, a world where you were completely incapable of seeing anything inherently wrong with assault, torture, rape, mutilation, and murder. Imagine being taught a morality so twisted and perverse that the only way you could be persuaded not to do such things is if you imagined some immensely powerful, magical being threatening to hurt you for a very long time if you did them.

Imagine living in Phil Robertson’s world(view)WARNING: Graphic rape/torture/murder fantasy, compliments of Christian hero Robertson, at the other end of that link.

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Your memes are trying to tell you something

I saw a couple interesting memes on Facebook recently. One was a guy saying something to the effect of “Complaining that God is silent when you don’t read your Bible is like complaining you don’t get text messages when you turn off your phone.” The other was a story about some kid who got shot in the eye, and survived, to which a believer added a caption giving God credit for his survival. Both memes were similar, in that they were inspirational, superficial, and rich in implications that betray the fundamental fraud of the Gospel.

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Gospel Disproof #55: The God who could not count to three

One of the differences between a true story and a made-up story is that the made-up story is not consistent with anything that actually happened in the real world. In fact, that’s the essence of what it means to be a made up story. As a consequence of that difference, the made-up story has something else that the true story does not: spontaneous inventions.

For example, let’s consider the curious incident of the Messiah in the tomb.

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Good without God

I like the phrase “good without god(s),” because it reminds us that morality does not come from supernatural sources. But there’s a flip side to that: if we can be good without God, then we can also be evil without the devil, as has been horrifically demonstrated in the Chapel Hill shooting.

The thing is, atheism is just a fact, like the speed of light or the law of gravity. We don’t get any moral impetus from the fact that we obediently accelerate towards the center of the earth at about 32 feet per second squared. Knowing the correct value for the acceleration of gravity may give us a scientific advantage over people who don’t know, or who choose to believe in erroneous values. But that give us no moral advantage.

And it’s the same with atheism. Seeing the absence of the gods, understanding the superstitions and rationalizations that lead people to believe in beings that aren’t there, knowing the history of religion with its triumphs and tragedies—these are all simply observations. They’re not a source of moral guidance or motivation.

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Objective Deliciousness

The NPR blog has a shortish post on “What If Heaven Is Not For Real,” written by self-declared agnostic Adam Frank. You can probably guess what he’s going to say, and I’m not going to say much for or against it. But I do want to take note of the comments, and this one in particular.

JW: That is a very profound verse. Do you believe that there is objective morality?

I’ve heard that argument so many times, and read it in so many books of apologetics (including C. S. Lewis et al), and of course it’s a huge red herring. But just for fun, let’s see how many ways we can come up with to try and make it clear, even to believers, that this is a bad argument. My entry: “Objective Deliciousness.”

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Truth-seekers and god-slayers

PZ Myers is annoyed by the fact that, when it comes core, fundamental, human values, many atheists are as bad as believers, if not outright worse. In the eyes of some, “atheism” means only “lack of god-belief,” which means atheism cannot imply anything more than that, which means that atheism implies some kind of amoral anarchy, above and beyond mere unbelief. So which is it? Does atheism imply nothing more than absence of belief, or does it imply that “they’re right and you’re wrong?” You can’t have it both ways.

In truth, atheism absolutely does have implications beyond mere absence of belief in supernatural father figures. A world without gods to take responsibility for everything is a world where we ourselves are responsible. Atheism implies that we have work to do, morally, socially, and scientifically. And maybe that’s the reason why some unbelievers would rather not acknowledge anything more than just the absence of gods. But I suspect it goes deeper than that. I think what we’re seeing today is the emergence of two broadly-defined tribes within atheism, two different types of atheists, whom I designate as truth-seekers and god-slayers.

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Everyone knows God is a myth—sorta

PZ Myers has a few words to say about Christians like Kevin Sorbo who blithely insist that all atheists secretly believe in God.

So when these loons make all this effort to tell me what I really believe, I wonder how they’d respond if I declared that they were all secretly atheists themselves, that in their hearts they were positive that this god they declaim never was, that Jesus was a deluded fanatic, that prayer is a complete waste of time. It’s a rather dishonest argument, don’t you think? I’m right, but everyone who disagrees is lying about their true opinion, therefore my support is unanimous?

He’s right, that would indeed be a dishonest argument. There’s one fascinating difference though. There’s a bright, clear line between the things an imaginary person can be given credit for, and the things you must be a real person to do. And with few exceptions, every believer knows where that line is, and knows that God will never cross it in real life. He can cross the line in stories and legends and hearsay, of course, but never in real life. In fact, Christians will be offended if you dare to suggest that He should. They will never admit, even to themselves, that they know God is a mythical being. But that line is always there, and they’re very protective about keeping God inside it.

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Hustling the Gospel

Writing for the Huffington Post, Pastor Rick Henderson explains Why There Is No Such Thing as a Good Atheist.

While it is true that there is no definitive atheistic worldview, all atheists share the same fundamental beliefs as core to their personal worldviews. While some want to state that atheism is simply a disbelief in the existence of a god, there really is more to it. Every expression of atheism necessitates at least three additional affirmations…

What follows is another one of those arguments where morality is supposed to come from God, and therefore without God there can be no good or evil, and therefore atheists can’t be “good” because they’ve denied the existence of good and evil. What’s interesting is the way Pastor Rick introduces this particular scam.

For those of you who are eager to pierce me with your wit and crush my pre-modern mind, allow me to issue a challenge. I contend that any response you make will only prove my case. Like encountering a hustler on the streets of Vegas, the deck is stacked, and the odds are not in your favor.

The atheist is talking with the pastor, but he’s being hustled, because the pastor has stacked the deck. I’ve seen believers pull this particular hustle before, but Pastor Rick is the first one to openly admit he’s using dishonest tactics to achieve his goal. But let’s lay all our cards on the table and check out his “three additional affirmations” and then see who deserves to win this particular hand.

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Ultimate authority

Whatever it may sell itself as to believers, presuppositionalism in practice usually boils down to a loose collection of contrived and superficial “gotcha” dialogs in which the entire skeptical worldview ends up “exposed” as self-contradictory and invalid. The catch is that creating this illusion requires that the unbeliever stick to some rigid and narrow constraints on what they’re supposed to say. It’s a schtick that works best with 1-dimensional bad guys, who oppose the hero only to make the hero look good.

Real skeptics don’t talk or think like cartoons, however, so when the presuppositionalist tries to interact with a real live skeptic, they end up floundering around trying to force the conversation back into the canned script. Sometimes they meet unbelievers who haven’t thought much about the topic, and are easily steered, but if the skeptic knows anything at all about philosophy, epistemology, and phenomenology, the result can be a series of exchanges so disjointed they border on the surreal. For example, here’s Murk trying to respond to my observation that religious beliefs are necessarily subjective perceptions rather than verifiable objective fact.

“you’d be walking by proof, not walking by faith.” not true- boils down to ultimate authority – we all have one – what is yours again?

His response seems only tangentially related, if not completely disconnected, from the observation he’s trying to respond to. But that’s because he’s trying to get back to a script in which rationalism is really the vain assumptions of a conceited heart. I didn’t say anything that would support such a conclusion, but that’s beside the point. He’s here to have the scripted conversation from his apologetics texts, no matter how the real-world conversation may be proceeding. [Read more…]