God’s forgiveness = self-forgiveness


From the world of phony sports — to which I customarily pay zero attention — comes this grisly tale of professional wrestler Chris Benoit, who murdered his wife and child and then killed himself. After killing his family, he placed a Bible next to their bodies.

This isn’t going to be another of those posts full of “religion kills” bromides. In this case, the possible reason for Benoit’s rampage may be linked to his use of too much of what the bodybuilding world calls Vitamin S. But the role the Bible plays here is interesting. Having no expertise in the mental health field at all, my built-in atheist’s “skepdar” (a wonderful term someone on the ACA’s Yahoo group came up with) tells me that Benoit was using religion as many people do in life: a forgiveness quick-fix, the moral equivalent of using Fix-a-Flat to pump up a punctured tire.

While Christians go on about how no one without religion can possibly have a moral compass to follow, what they never talk about is the way in which people who do embrace religion, however fervently or casually, typically behave no better than unbelievers, and oftimes worse. And when they do behave worse, they use religion as a convenient thing to fall back upon, either to justify their actions, or to showboat a fake display of remorse.

Many Christians will respond to this by agreeing wholeheartedly, then by attacking those people for moral hypocrisy and not being “true” Christians. This misses the point. I think Christianity unintentionally sets itself up to be used in this way by giving people a poor understanding of morality, and of the difference between right and wrong in the first place. As Stephen has pointed out here, Christianity paradoxically wants people to be good, then gives them bad reasons to do so. Christian morality is entirely tied in to how well one obeys divine rules and commandments. One should not kill or steal because it will anger God (except in those cases where it’s okay) and could doom you to hell. That killing takes a life, which is in and of itself bad, and that stealing involves taking something that isn’t yours and that you haven’t earned from someone who has earned it, which is in and of itself bad, is significantly less relevant to Christian thought. The only consequence to be feared is the displeasure of God. All of us have heard (and if you haven’t yet, it’s quite sobering to hear it for the first time) some Christians say that if there were no God, then they’d see no reason whatsoever not to just go off on a wild murder rampage, wreaking merciless havoc with gleeful impunity. Whether or not they actually would if presented with the chance, or whether it’s all just talk, is immaterial. That a Christian would even say such a thing with a straight face underscores the darkly ironic fact that many of the people who consider themselves to be the world’s poster children for all things righteous and moral simply do not comprehend what the terms “right” and “wrong” even mean.

But what of the believer who does go off on that rampage. Well, then, there’s God’s “forgiveness”. Since praying is really nothing other than glorified talking-to-yourself, how easy it must be for a person who does something really horrible to tell themselves, “Hey, it’s not that big a deal after all,” simply by praying, and enjoying a little delusional exchange in which they themselves, playing the role of creator and ruler of the universe, bestow instant “forgiveness”. Occasionally, the display is brazen, as in Kent Hovind’s bizarre dialogue with God in which Kent reinforces his belief in his own martyrdom and heroism to a degree that bespeaks genuine mental illness.

But other times, the self-forgiveness is more subtle and cynical. Benoit’s is a perfect example. I suspect he placed the Bible next to his murdered family either in the effort to convince himself that it wasn’t such a bad thing, what he did and all, because his wife and child were in Heaven now, or simply to assuage his own sense of guilt about the murders through a feeble gesture that he hoped would placate his invisible friend. Or both.

Either way, religion made it easier for him to carry out his crime, rather than giving him the intellectual and moral tools to stop himself from carrying it out. Because Benoit lacked the ability to make rational decisions in life — perhaps a combination of steroid use, religion, and too many blows to the head — he and his family are now dead. And all the little gestures of piety in the world don’t change that.

Comments

  1. says

    I find things like this repulsive. If his family were sinners, the Bible will not help them into heaven, and if they weren’t sinners it wouldn’t matter. Benoit surely didn’t think he had a better chance at Heaven because he put a Bible next to them! People don’t make sense sometimes.

  2. says

    For someone who understands Christianity, the placing of the Bibles seems absurd – but I’m convinced that most people who would put a checkmark next to the ‘Christian’ box on a religious poll have no real understanding of the religion.To them, it’s all a mystery. It’s something they feel the *should* believe, even if they never really do.Placing a Bible near the bodies may be their way of saying “I don’t understand any of this, but I still believe it or want to believe it…so I hope this shows my sincerity and actually does some good.” It’s more ritual than religion and more bet-hedging than belief. (And I’m betting, given the ritualistic aspect, he was probably Catholic.)I used to be a serious wrestling fan, though I haven’t watched much lately. Benoit was skilled and entertaining and seemed to be one of the more responsible and reliable guys on the card.Something went horribly wrong, but I won’t be jumping on the steroid bandwagon. The authorities found only prescription drugs, his last test was clean and we know that this sort of thing happens with people who don’t take steroids.Whatever the cause, I think there’s something important here. I won’t go so far as to say that religion *caused* their deaths – but a mind that grasps at religion (in the way Benoit’s did) during or after those events is a mind that has been rendered ill-equipped to deal with reality, by religious/magical thought.I have to wonder, if Chris had been better equipped to deal with reality without magical thinking – would this have ever happened?I have my doubts.

  3. says

    That a Christian would even say such a thing with a straight face underscores the darkly ironic fact that many of the people who consider themselves to be the world’s poster children for all things righteous and moral simply do not comprehend what the terms “right” and “wrong” even mean.“This is a fine point, and it is underscored by the fact that the second and third chapters of the Bible frame seeking knowledge of “right” and “wrong” as the first and most wrong thing that mankind has ever done. God really doesn’t like moral consciences, apparently. Of course, the rest of the Bible seems to explain why this is: the God character appears to be deeply immoral. The Bible contains more than enough irony to throw off the reading of whatever moral compass a person might have. That seems to be by design. Not particularly intelligent design, though. Intelligent design would require “man’s thinking” or “human reason”, which, as Ken Ham and the like make ever so clear, is not even remotely similar to God’s thinking. God’s thinking is irrational and immoral, so of course we mere rational, moral beings can’t make sense of it. So, the argument goes, we have to let go of our minds and consciences and put our faith in God, the Great and Supreme Haberdasher of Asses. Ugh./rant

  4. says

    First, atheists can and do recognize moral values and act on them, just like Christians. Both also fail morally.What’s interesting is that moral values are objective and incumbent upon all of us. We seem to be in touch with something beyond us morally and we hold individuals and societies to these moral values.In fact, your article points to a “better” or “worse” morally. And that requires objective standards.Several objections to Christianity are in your article. Among them:1). Christians must appease an angry God by “towing the line”.2). Christianity promotes moral irresponsibility by teaching forgiveness of sin – to the extent that one can sin without consequences (just ask forgiveness).3). Moral intuitions would be abandoned were one to conclude God does not exist.The first two are disputed by the New Testament. The third is a hypothetical question that says “keep things exactly the way they are with regard to moral intutions but now pretend God does not exist”.It may well be that things are the way they are, morally, because God exists.Kevin H

  5. tracie harris says

    >Something went horribly wrong, but I won’t be jumping on the steroid bandwagon. The authorities found only prescription drugs, his last test was clean and we know that this sort of thing happens with people who don’t take steroids.I saw a mental health “expert” on TV on a news show being interviewed about the potential of a steroid connection. I have no idea who the guy was or if his commentary was valid; but he said that the best tests he was aware of indicated that while some types of steroids can cause mood changes (in the form of increased anger), that there was no study showing that it impaired someone’s judgement or ability to control themselves any more/less than when they are not using steroids. He indicated that it would take another drug to relax inhibition–like alcohol or something similar–to explain a lack of control, even in the face of the potentially increased anger.My husband, who used to be involved in body building (as a judge and trainer–not a competitor), made a comment that he wondered what types of people were used in the studies this expert was describing. He said that many people he was aware of were using extremely elevated doses.Myself, I just wonder if it isn’t about personality to begin with. It appeared there was a history of abuse (if I’m not confusing this with another story?)…and so there may have been predispositions to disrepectful behavior regardless of drugs or steroids.Who knows what happens in someone’s house when the doors are closed, really?

  6. Martin says

    KevinH wrote: What’s interesting is that moral values are objective and incumbent upon all of us. We seem to be in touch with something beyond us morally and we hold individuals and societies to these moral values.The something that is “beyond us” can simply be understood as our shared need for species survival. We aren’t great white sharks. Ours is a social species, and thus group cooperation is essential for our continued success and survival. It’s nothing we need to call upon the supernatural to comprehend. We’re genetically predisposed to it. The first two are disputed by the New Testament. The third is a hypothetical question that says “keep things exactly the way they are with regard to moral intutions but now pretend God does not exist”.All three examples are things many Christians actually believe, and that I have heard them say. It may well be that things are the way they are, morally, because God exists.You ought to bone up on the Euthyphro Dilemma. I fail to see how the mere existence of a God would itself establish moral standards, other than those based upon example #1 you gave, and which you evidently object to. If you wish to argue that the moral standards under which we live are “objective,” then they would be objective for God as well. God would have to have reasons for coming up with the moral precepts he gives humanity, and those reasons would be independent of God and based upon the observable consequences of actions, which, in turn, are capable of being understood purely through the application of reason, rendering God a superfluous player in the proceedings. The alternative is that, for God, morals may be subjective, and therefore morality is simply whatever God says it is. The Old Testament is full of bizarre divine mandates in which capital punishment is decreed for offenses no sana modern society would agree with, like collecting sticks on the Sabbath. If one accepts a concept of morality that’s simply based on blindly following rules handed down by a lawgiver, then not only would that be a moral system lacking a rational, objective basis (rooted as it is in divine capriciousness rather than the observable consequences of actions), but one that didn’t give its followers the tools to understand it either. Which has a lot to do, I think, with why we see so many religious fundamentalists falling off the moral wagon as easily as they do.In a rational culture I don’t see that religion or belief in God really brings anything to the table when it comes to helping people understand moral precepts. The few common sense moral precepts religion endorses (against killing, stealing, etc.) are just as easily obtained simply by choosing to behave rationally.

  7. says

    Hmmm, I just approved a long-winded comment from a Christian before I realized that it was copypasted drivel from Ray Comfort. To save space, I’m just going to include a link to the original drivel and let people go read it if they want to. I am deleting the comment, which was posted by “anonymous” anyway.

  8. HappyClam says

    “After killing his family, he placed a Bible next to their bodies.”Clearly, they were bad and it was required that their bodies ceased living so they could be tormented in hell.Is that so hard to understand?

  9. Happy Clam says

    “To save space, I’m just going to include a link to the original drivel”thank you for providing a link that does not work so I didn’t have to read the drivel anyway.

  10. Martin says

    Clearly, they were bad and it was required that their bodies ceased living so they could be tormented in hell.Is that so hard to understand?Well, it is to me, but then I don’t have a Crazy-to-English Dictionary lying around.

  11. says

    Martin,If morality is just Darwinian “herd instinct” or social convention, why ought I be moral? Why ought I obey my instincts or society? Describing what “is” does not prescribe what “ought” to be. And morals are prescriptive.Second, that you’ve “heard” Christians say those things does not make them in keeping with what the New Testament says.Third, I am up on Euthyphro’s Argument. The third option was seen by Plato himself. That is, God is the Good. His very nature is ontologically ultimate and he is in keeping with his nature and/or self-consistency. Therefore, the nature of God is the standard for good. And he expresses that in various commands, etc. This also accounts for our intuitive sense of objective moral values. We are created in the image of God.That we apply objective moral values subjectively, or often fail them, is beside the point.Kevin H

  12. Martin says

    If morality is just Darwinian “herd instinct” or social convention, why ought I be moral? Why ought I obey my instincts or society?In other words, “What’s in it for me?” This is a very common refrain we hear from Christians when it comes to morality. Moral behavior is rarely seen by Christians as desirable in and of itself. Morality is only seen to have worth if it comes from a divine source willing to dole out rewards for compliance or punishments for non-compliance. I suppose I could say something to you about virtue being its own reward, but I suspect that wouldn’t get very far. I was going to say: Why not answer your own question? Just think about what kind of life you’d have, right here, right now, if you chose a pattern of immoral or amoral behavior as opposed to moral behavior. How do you think society and other people would respond to you, treat you, think of you? Then I realized that was a really bad example to give. Because we live in a broken world rife with religious fundamentalism, likely you’d enjoy raving success, as have Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter, Donald Wildmon, and countless others in the Christian Right who have ridden a wave of hate, ignorance and prejudice all the way to the bank. And I’m not even mentioning the crazy Islamists.So frankly, I see quite a lot of evidence in the world around me that religion in general and Christianity in particular rarely lead to a greater tendency toward morally upstanding behavior, let alone a comprehension of what morality is for in the first place.Second, that you’ve “heard” Christians say those things does not make them in keeping with what the New Testament says.It’s hardly my problem if Christians can’t get their storybook straight. Then again, give people a system of “morals” that provides them with a list of rules to follow but doesn’t give them the tools to understand why said rules should be followed short of “You’ll go to hell if you don’t,” and yeah, expect to see lots and lots of morally confused people out there.The third option was seen by Plato himself. That is, God is the Good. His very nature is ontologically ultimate and he is in keeping with his nature and/or self-consistency. Therefore, the nature of God is the standard for good. And he expresses that in various commands, etc.All of which would mean something if Plato or anyone else were actually capable of demonstrating God’s existence. Otherwise, the above passage could be rewritten with “Harvey the Invisible Rabbit” substituted for “God” and have just as much meaningful content.In any case, I fail to see how a being who punishes people with an eternity of torture in hell for not worshiping him to his satisfaction could possibly be thought of as setting the “standard for good” by his very nature. Unless you pervert the very definition of what it is to be “good” out of all recognition. Bizarrely, Christianity wants me to consider a being morally inferior to myself as the “standard for good,” after whose behavior I am meant to pattern my own and whom I need to please if I wish to guarantee my heavenly reward. Er…no thanks.This also accounts for our intuitive sense of objective moral values. We are created in the image of God.Well, the burden of proof for this statement is upon you, and I don’t see you meeting it, unless you’ve got some slamdunk proof of God’s existence up your sleeve. For me, it’s much more rational to conclude that our objective moral values are based upon something tangible that I know exists (the observable consequences of actions and the need for our species to maintain cooperative behaviors to survive — plus it’s just nice to be nice) rather than on something I don’t (an invisible deity in the sky). Seriously, why even attach a god to any of this when a fully functional system of morals can be achieved simply by behaving rationally? It’s not exactly rocket science to figure out, “Hey, be nice to people, don’t hurt anybody.” Like, duh.

  13. says

    I didn’t ask “what’s in it for me”, I asked, “why ought I be moral?”. This shows the prescriptive nature of ethics. Reduction to genetic proclivities or social convention is not a good moral theory. The butchers of the world need only ask why they should obey their skin or a bunch of people’s idea of “good” society. Which instinct do I engage, the one to fight or the one to flee if a child is attacked by thugs? Both of us represent the “herd”. Which do I preserve?Before I continue, I’d like to ask if you have a favorite forum we could continue this on. Also, do you do any formal debates?Thanks,Kevin H

  14. Martin says

    I didn’t ask “what’s in it for me”, I asked, “why ought I be moral?”. This shows the prescriptive nature of ethics.Well, when most Christians ask “Why should I be moral (if it doesn’t come from God)?” (or some variation thereof), that’s usually exactly what they’re asking. But if you’re just asking “why” in a rhetorical sense, well heck, why do you need to ask? Put it to the test yourself. Tomorrow, when you go to the grocery store, instead of being friendly and smiling, just walk up to a total stranger and punch him in the face. See what reaction you get. By then you ought to have your answer.Reduction to genetic proclivities or social convention is not a good moral theory.And “morals are what God says” is? Again, where does God get his moral precepts from? Why these precepts and not others? And so on and so on. Honestly, I thought this one had been dealt with. How is “just follow this list of divinely mandated rules” any kind of a good moral theory?As for social conventions, while that’s certainly a simplified way of putting it, don’t social conventions become conventions because they have been demonstrated over time to be what works for the greater good?And why isn’t the fact that we’re genetically hardwired toward group cooperation a good foundation for a moral theory? We know that ethical behaviors exist not only in humans but in other species of primates. So if our genes are responsible for developing just about everything else that makes us “us,” why wouldn’t they play a role in determining our behaviors, and which of those behaviors were the most beneficial in the interest of species survival? I’m not going to pretend that’s an easy one to answer, as the whole “nature vs. nurture” question is still one area that’s undergoing vital study. But the way in which the religious like to pull God out of the hat to explain it all just strikes me as far too simplistic. I’m just not sure why you seem to think morality is such an extraordinary and inexplicable concept that you have to fall back on magic to explain it.The butchers of the world need only ask why they should obey their skin or a bunch of people’s idea of “good” society.Need I mention that over two millennia of human civilization’s being immersed in religion and theology and the concept of this, that, or the other god has done exactly jack to stem the worst impulses of the world’s butchers? It also should be noted that many (no, not all, but a healthy number) of said butchers have worn the mantle of religion quite openly and have justified their butchery as their Lord’s work. Everywhere there exist psychologically dysfunctional people, and religion or the lack thereof will hardly quell their actions. After all, couldn’t even religion be thought of as “a bunch of people’s idea of a ‘good’ society”? Butchers would basically ask the same questions regardless.Which instinct do I engage, the one to fight or the one to flee if a child is attacked by thugs?Well, I can’t speak for you, but I’d fight. From what Christians tell me, that would put me one up on God.Before I continue, I’d like to ask if you have a favorite forum we could continue this on.Sure. This one. I used to do a lot of others (alt.atheism and the like) but had to pare them down because there just wasn’t enough time. Also, do you do any formal debates?Formal ones I haven’t done since high school tournaments, and when I was on the TV show, those were of course informal. Anyway, I’m enjoying this, so please, feel free to stick around if you’re the kind of guy who likes a healthy verbal wrestling match.

  15. True Christian says

    Several objections to Christianity are in your article. Among them:1). Christians must appease an angry God by “towing the line”.2). Christianity promotes moral irresponsibility by teaching forgiveness of sin – to the extent that one can sin without consequences (just ask forgiveness)….The first two are disputed by the New Testament. …… that you’ve “heard” Christians say those things does not make them in keeping with what the New Testament says.“These comments were obviously written by someone who was very, very rusty on the actual contents of the New Testament. Those two points are supported by a host of prominent verses: Matt. 5:17-20,22,29-30; John 3:16,18; Romans 3:28, 6:23, 8:1, Eph. 2:8-9, etc. These are hardly obscure or out-of-context references; they just happen to be among the handful that I can still pop off the top of my head, decades after memorizing them for Sunday School.If you sin (and supposedly, everyone does), the New Testament clearly states and frequently reiterates that you will go to hell–unless you appease God’s anger by “towing the line”: believing in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Also, no matter what you may have done or failed to do, so long as you believe, New Testament theology says you are forgiven. This is core Christian doctrine, straight out of the New Testament.It seems pretty clear to me that Kevin H. is not familiar with what the New Testament actually says. If he can so casually deny words attributed to the very founders of the faith, and even to Jesus Christ himself, he cannot have any meaningful understanding of the Christian God from whom he claims to receive his allegedly objective sense of morality.Kevin, please read your Bible more carefully before you accuse your fellow Christians again of failing to stay in keeping with what it says. (Matt. 7:1-5, 21-23) If you want the participants here to take your beliefs seriously, you will first have to start taking them seriously yourself.

  16. tracie harris says

    >If morality is just Darwinian “herd instinct” or social convention,Small point to clarify: Herd animals are not the same as pack animals. The herd interaction of cattle, for example, is not equated with the interaction of, say, a wild dog pack.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_behaviorhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_societyThe social structure of pack animals includes multiple hierarhies and intricate and complex rules governing behavior (which we refer to as “morals” in human society).>Why ought I obey my instincts or society? Describing what “is” does not prescribe what “ought” to be. And morals are prescriptive.Stephen Covey makes an excellent point with regard to “fairness.” No matter where you go, you will find that a person can have a feeling that he has or has not been treated fairly in a particular interaction.However, you will be hard pressed to find a unanymous consensus for what constitutes “fair” in any particular interaction–sometimes even when asking individuals within the same culture.People have the pack-animal base of morality–that we share with all other pack animals–as can be observed in their societies as well as in our own; however, people do not agree on what constitutes “moral”–because it _is_ partly personal decision and partly prescribed by external experiences and socially learned norms.Why should _you_ be moral? Most people are moral because morality is the personal sense of “right” and “wrong” behavior. And it doesn’t make sense, in most cases, for a person to want to violate their own code of “right” conduct. However, if a person lacks moral direction, there are social penalties that might be incurred if one doesn’t conform to socially accepted mores and laws (which I don’t like to use as interchangeable with “morality”–but mores certainly can be–and often are–used that way).Sometimes the social more and law conflicts with the individual morality–such as in cases of helping slaves escape in Civil War America, or helping Jews get out of Germany during WWII. Both of these things put people at great personal risk, because they felt compelled to follow morality rather than mores or laws.I define morality as whatever the individual feels is “right” or “wrong” conduct. And this makes it a personally developed structure created by each person.With regard to religion, it doesn’t impart morality. I tends to impart ideas and sometimes rules.As far as what creates a personal sense of “right” and “wrong” conduct, there is no reason to disregard that it is an inherent part of pack behavior due to brain biology. But it is clear that if a god imparted the ability, inherently, to feel some conduct is “right” and some is “wrong,” this god does not appear to have been interested in exactly what people ultimately labeled as “right” or “wrong” conduct–as we appear to completely lack any inherent consensus among humans on that point.It’s easy to say cultures recognize wrongful killing–but it’s harder to prove they all agree on what constitutes a wrongful killing, because they don’t. Same with stealing, lying, adultery, and just about any other “moral” or legal infraction anyone cares to name.

  17. says

    umm no offense intended to Mr. Wagner but you are horribly off on your interpretation of scripture. If you are going to attempt to summarize or explain Christianity please have some type of understanding about it. The Benoit case is a horrible tragedy. Anyone who says that the only reason they don’t committ sin is because God put it in a book isn’t that in tune with what they believe in. After all how does sin effect God? Why does He care if we sin? He doesn’t get upset with what is does to Him but rather what it does to us and eachother. I don’t committ sin because of the effect is has on myself and those around me. God’s commandments are just a guide to those things. For instance, it isn’t going to physically hurt a mom whose child runs out in the street. She may be grieved but the car doesn’t directly effect her health. She advises her child not to run into the street because she knows the effect it would have on them (death/injury) and because she would be grieved to see a loved one in a state of pain/death.I hope you understand the difference between murder and killing. Murder is unlawful, killing can be done in self-defense, getting food etc. If you struggle with a difference between the two consult your nearest Websters.If you believe the only thing to be feared is displeasing God then you don’t have any understanding about Biblical commandments. For example, if everyone were faithful to one spouse for a lifetime and entered into that union with there virginity in tact what do you think would happen to STDs? Or what about the commandment to love your brother as you love yourself? Wouldn’t that decrease crime rate and murders if people upheld it? These aren’t specific to Christianity period but please don’t misrepresent Christian commandments as being non-beneficial to anyone.Repentance isn’t just an “I’m sorry” and you’re done. I hate it when people misrepresent something. Research Biblical repentance and it actually means to stop doing something altogether and turn away from it. If that isn’t the intention of repentance than God doesn’t truly forgive. That person is delusional.You present a common flawed argument of attributing the characteristics of one to the character of the whole. Benoit was jacked in the head along with Hitler who also claimed he was Christian. Well hey since we’re doing that let’s through in Socrates and him being a pedophile, I guess everyone that uses the Socratic method must also like little boys. Please let’s call Benoit what he is, a loon and nothing more.

  18. Martin says

    Actually, Deacon, you have entirely misunderstood my post. I wasn’t making any interpretations of scripture. I was discussing the way in which a great many Christians actually think and behave. It may not be how you practice your Christianity, but one thing you find when you’re on our side of the fence is that believers tailor their belief and the practice thereof to their predispositions. I was speaking the truth when I wrote I have actually heard Christians say, “if there were no God, I’d just go and do whatever horrible thing I wanted.” So if they’re not understanding Biblical commandments, tell them, not me.Also: You present a common flawed argument of attributing the characteristics of one to the character of the whole.I do nothing of the kind. Nowhere in my post is the argument made that “This is how religious people behave.” The point is that Christianity (and other religions, like Islam) allows people to latch onto justifications for their bad behavior, or at the very least, gives them the feeling that it’s a relatively simple path to “forgiveness” from God…who almost always is created in the believer’s image.

  19. says

    Martin, you wrote:Well, when most Christians ask “Why should I be moral (if it doesn’t come from God)?” (or some variation thereof), that’s usually exactly what they’re asking. But if you’re just asking “why” in a rhetorical sense, well heck, why do you need to ask? Put it to the test yourself. Tomorrow, when you go to the grocery store, instead of being friendly and smiling, just walk up to a total stranger and punch him in the face. See what reaction you get. By then you ought to have your answer.KH> Once one realizes that moral values are nothing more than social convention and “herd instinct” they are reduced to illusions of nature. Therefore, they are descriptive and not prescriptive, and the only reason one should rationally be “moral” is for manipulation (at the grocery store). In addition, if one got control of the society, one could punch whomever one wanted. Especially “undesirables”.Reduction to genetic proclivities or social convention is not a good moral theory.And “morals are what God says” is? Again, where does God get his moral precepts from? Why these precepts and not others? And so on and so on. Honestly, I thought this one had been dealt with. How is “just follow this list of divinely mandated rules” any kind of a good moral theory?KH> Third option of the EA: God is the Good. His ultimate nature enjoys the ontological status which anchors morality.As for social conventions, while that’s certainly a simplified way of putting it, don’t social conventions become conventions because they have been demonstrated over time to be what works for the greater good?KH> Is/Ought Fallacy. And you need an objective standard to guage “greater good”.And why isn’t the fact that we’re genetically hardwired toward group cooperation a good foundation for a moral theory? We know that ethical behaviors exist not only in humans but in other species of primates. So if our genes are responsible for developing just about everything else that makes us “us,” why wouldn’t they play a role in determining our behaviors, and which of those behaviors were the most beneficial in the interest of species survival? KH> Because it amounts to delusion. I’m not going to pretend that’s an easy one to answer, as the whole “nature vs. nurture” question is still one area that’s undergoing vital study. But the way in which the religious like to pull God out of the hat to explain it all just strikes me as far too simplistic. I’m just not sure why you seem to think morality is such an extraordinary and inexplicable concept that you have to fall back on magic to explain it.KH> First, “magic” is a category mistake. Second, meta-ethical arguments consider the nature of moral values and what anchors them. Theism is, in my opinion, the best explanation for why moral values are objective, personal, prescriptive, and transcendent.The butchers of the world need only ask why they should obey their skin or a bunch of people’s idea of “good” society.Need I mention that over two millennia of human civilization’s being immersed in religion and theology and the concept of this, that, or the other god has done exactly jack to stem the worst impulses of the world’s butchers? It also should be noted that many (no, not all, but a healthy number) of said butchers have worn the mantle of religion quite openly and have justified their butchery as their Lord’s work. Everywhere there exist psychologically dysfunctional people, and religion or the lack thereof will hardly quell their actions. After all, couldn’t even religion be thought of as “a bunch of people’s idea of a ‘good’ society”? Butchers would basically ask the same questions regardless.KH> First, history is marked by the abuse of religion (namely, Christianity).Second, that there are those who abuse it says nothing necessarily of the view itself.Which instinct do I engage, the one to fight or the one to flee if a child is attacked by thugs?Well, I can’t speak for you, but I’d fight. From what Christians tell me, that would put me one up on God.KH> I’d fight, because it’s right! Why would you do it?As to Euthyphro’s Argument, please don’t move the goalposts on me. The question is an internal one. I answered it and you said (paraphrase), “Yeah, but you can’t prove God exists!”. That wasn’t the question.I’m trying to get some public debates going and perhaps there are some ACA members willing to participate.Kevin H

  20. says

    Christianity actually does nothing of the sort. Its doesn’t allow Christians to justify their immoral behavior. Although you have to be on my side of the fence to see that. I understand what some Christains state but that is not true for all. Whenever you say “Christians” or “christianity” without putting a limiting statement before it such as “some”, “many”, etc. than you are generalizing.Study Biblical Christianity and you’ll actually find a exhortation to hate sin, not justify it. Now whether or not you speak to people that state that or not, I don’t know. The fact still remains that the Bible, if nothing else, doesn’t give room for justification of sin. It allows for forgiveness but the forgiveness is based upon a changed lifestyle or mindset, not just saying “I’m sorry”.Your misinterpretation of the Biblical forgiveness came by you saying the following:”Hey, it’s not that big a deal after all,” simply by praying, and enjoying a little delusional exchange in which they themselves, playing the role of creator and ruler of the universe, bestow instant “forgiveness”.You presented that as what Christians perceive as forgiveness when it’s biblically flawed.You can’t determine what Biblical forgiveness is without having an understanding of the Bible first. Christians also make a flawed conclusion on what God’s forgiveness really is so you’re not the only one that’s in error, so I’m not just addressing you but anyone that believes that. Forgiveness is not an apology alone.

  21. tracieh says

    Deacon:>Anyone who says that the only reason they don’t committ sin is because God put it in a book isn’t that in tune with what they believe in.Martin speaks the truth when he says a great many Xians come to tell us that you’re wrong about this. And they say _they_ are true Xians and that their Xianity is based on Biblical teachings.In fact, they tell us that one can only be moral if one has the Bible (god) to tell them what to do. Kevin H is making this same argument (more below). They have even said that it is the only thing that keeps them from rape and murder. I have, personally, responded to these people that if that’s true, then I’m very glad they have a religious belief of some sort-—since they obviously lack the basic biological social skills of even a dog (who is able to conform to social mores without a Bible).As Martin points out, if you think this isn’t right—that’s an internal Xian squabble. It’s not up to atheists to sort out Xian doctrine between Xians with differing ideologies. Xians say this. And, no, that doesn’t constitute a generalization to say “Xians say this,” any more than saying that horses run in the Kentucky Derby could be interpreted to mean that all horses compete in the Derby.>Repentance isn’t just an “I’m sorry” and you’re done. I hate it when people misrepresent something. Research Biblical repentance and it actually means to stop doing something altogether and turn away from it.Again, some Xians argue that a true Xian is “transformed” and never sins again–but I’ve met _many_ who disagree with that idea–who say Xians _will_ continue to sin. The idea is so popular that it is even immortalized on a bumper sticker that reads: “Xians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” There are MANY Xians who accept that they not only _can_ go on sinning and still be a true Xian (they will say they “try” not to sin, but “they’re not perfect”), but that they have no choice in the matter–that to be human (Xian or otherwise) means one _will_ continue to sin.There was one apologist here recently who posted BOTH ideas with regard to himself: That as a true Xian he was transformed and no longer could go on sinning, and also that he, as a true Xian, sometimes “falls short.” As a Xian then, does he continue to sin or is he magically transformed so that he no longer sins? He claimed both. But both options are not possible in one human being.There are Xians who absolutely DO believe that saying “I’m sorry,” means all is forgiven—-no matter how many more times they have to come to god to ask for forgiveness. And they claim Biblical support for their doctrine; just as those who say one must turn away from sin and not sin again. And again, this seems to be an internal Xian doctrinal issue and _not_ the problem of atheists to try to sort this out for the Xians.When atheists respond to Xians who claim the Bible supports their stance, and who provide verses to back it up, it only illustrates the inherent illusive and often contradictory messages within the Bible when we then find many other Xians who claim the exact opposite–also with verses to back them up. _YOUR_ interpretation of the Bible is the right one, though. I’ve also heard this claim from innumerable Xians–many who would not accept _your_ interpretation. And the next thing they all say, as well, is that _they’re_ not “interpreting” the Bible–_they’re_ reading it “literally.” So, we now have innumerable contradicting Xian ideologies put forward by Xians who all claim they’re ideology is supported by Biblical authority, and who claim they’re not putting their own personal spin on it.I’ve read the Bible myself. And I’m pretty sure most Xians wouldn’t agree with _my_ interpretation of it. So the “why don’t you read it yourself and see who’s right” doesn’t go too far because in many cases I can (1) see all competing sides as having justifiable support and (2) honestly disagree with most Xian interpretations–even as varied as they are.Kevin H:>As to Euthyphro’s Argument, please don’t move the goalposts on me.You actually addressed Euthyphro already in your post. You chose: Whatever god dictates is what is defined as moral. It’s not a third option–it’s one of the two Euthyphro options already put forward: God IS good. You have failed to elaborate on how your statement below differs from that:>KH> Third option of the EA: God is the Good. His ultimate nature enjoys the ontological status which anchors morality.If god is good because good is god, then “good” is meaningless in any rational way. Since this claim means that no rational evaluation can result in knowing what is good or not good, then good simply means “anything this god being dictates is automatically ‘good’—even something like child rape.”We can’t fall back on the idea that “god wouldn’t dictate child rape because it’s ‘not good,’” since ‘not good’ is only the opposite of god (which is good). And “harmful” (or any other rational basis) doesn’t define “not good” in that case—since “bad” could only then be defined as whatever god is not (since god=good). And if god is about child rape, then child rape is “good.”We lack any basis now for comparison–no measure to put god up against to determine if what he tells us to do is “good” or “not good”–since by definition there can be no “not good” actions–except whatever god decides is “not good”–and we have no way to know why he’s saying X is good or X is bad–or X is good most days, but you’ll be stoned to death if you do it on a Saturday.So, we can’t look at god and say “we know he’s good since we can recognize good, and see that god fits that bill.” In this case, we have no way of knowing _what_ is good, except what god dictates—in which case no act is _rationally_ any better or worse than any other act (and, in fact, has no bearing whatsoever with regard to human interaction, and only carries significance with regard to god’s personal evaluation of it); however, if we DO actually have a rational basis for “good” or “bad” behavior (outside of “whatever god says”), then “good” is not “good” _because of what god says_ or _because god is good_–it’s good for actual, discernable “reasons.”Saying “god” constitutes “good,” means that what is “not good” is not actually wrong due to any reasonable, observable, harmful consequences–it’s only “not good” because god said it was not good.On the other hand, if it is at all possible that we _can_ work out what is “not good” on our own–by actually observing the problems caused by certain behaviors–and _that_ is our basis for judging actions as “good” or “not good”–then it’s absolutely _not_ the case that a thing is “good” or “not good” because god labels it so. It’s “not good” because of the damage we can observer that it causes. In which case Martin is correct: We do not require a god to tell us what is wrong, since we can plainly see it for ourselves.Euthyphro is not a sideline—it’s an inherent part (the very basis, in fact) of this discussion, since one must choose what constitutes “good.””Good” is either “good” because it constitutes helpful, beneficial outcomes; OR it’s good only because a god says it is so. God is either subject to the definition of “good” (in which case we can know he’s good or evil by observing his nature and comparing it to “good” and “not good”), or he IS the definition of good (in which case we have no basis for comparison for calling god “good”—in which case, calling god “good” becomes as meaningless as saying blue is blue because it is blue. There are vastly different implications for either choice, and I fail to see how any discussion about god’s presumed role in morality can be divorced from this choice or these implications.Ultimately, however, I agree with Mart
    in that it is vastly more rational to claim behaviors are the result of observable mechanism that we know exist and dictate behaviors in biological beings, rather than claim they are caused by mechanism that have not been demonstrated to exist. It’s the same as saying “fairies cause it.”And the idea that you would claim to understand the attributes of something no one can show exists or can even examine is like coming onto the forum to debate the family social interactions of the Big Foot primates or the mating habits of Loch Ness monsters.

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