The Crazy Things We Believe Introduction

Posted on 06/11/11 28 Comments

Here’s the introduction for my book The Crazy Things We Believe, a book that was declined by several Christian publishers for all sorts of lame reasons including that they didn’t know how to market it or because it was too edgy for their publishing house. The only thing I have to say in response is that Christian publishing is pretty lame, almost as lame as mainstream publishing.

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  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

    Thanks for posting. Love the Braveheart reference.

    Clearly if a Christian wants me to take Christianity seriously, he cannot ignore my intuitive sense that the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is both immoral and downright nonsensical.

    Does God bury mountain villages and torture little girls? You don’t need a whole chapter to answer that one. If he exists – yup.

    • chris

      TAM I’m sure you’ve already answered this before, but if you’d humor me I’d appreciate it.

      What do you base your moral standard off of ?

      And

      How to you justify calling anyone else’s actions immoral?

  • http://badchristian.org Sean R Reid

    Isn’t saying that “Christian” publishing is lame rather redundant?

    It could be inferred by the “Christian” label.

    Honestly, I’m not sure that anything of real substance has been marketed under that label since DaVinci painted chapels. How that devolved into a myriad of “Jesus Junk” is anyone’s guess.

    Seeing how that is the state of affairs, it’s no real surprise that they would pass on your book. The idea that it might be challenging, thought provoking, or more difficult to comprehend than “Dick and Jane go to church to protest the gays who support evolution,” probably isn’t really welcome in those spheres.

    (Too harsh? I’m trying to make up for lost time while I’ve been buried under work.)

  • The Atheist Missioanry

    Chris, I wrote something about this a couple of years ago which set out my thoughts at that time: http://www.atheistmissionary.com/2010/04/mr-atheist-please-explain-why.html

    Since writing that article, I have been introduced to the concept of desire utilitarianism (propounded by Alonzo Fyfe) which suggests that desires lie at the root of all our actions. If this issue interests you, check out the podcast Morality in the Real World – free on iTunes.

    I am looking forward to reading Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape which is currently sitting at about #50 in my unread library.

    I don’t propose to have all the answers. About all I am fairly certain is that my sense of right and wrong was not instilled in me by Zeus or any other divine agency. I also have concluded is that divine command ethics is bunk.

  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

    [This is the second time I have posted this comment. I entered the first one from my blackberry Torch, I saw it entered on this thread complete with the hyperlink below and then it disappeared]

    Chris, I wrote about this issue a couple of years ago: http://www.atheistmissionary.com/2010/04/mr-atheist-please-explain-why.html This set out my thinking at that time.

    Since then, I have been learning about desire utilitarianism (propounded by Alonzo Fyfe) which suggests that desires lie at the root of all human action. If you are interested in this theory, please check out the podcast Morality in the Real World – free on iTunes.

    I am looking forward to reading Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape which is currently about #50 in my unread library.

    I don’t propose to have all the answers on this. All I am fairly certain of is that my sense of right and wrong was not breathed into me by Zeus or any other divine agency. Divine command ethics is bunk.

    • chris

      TAM,

      Your post did not answer my question.

      I asked:

      How to you justify calling anyone else’s actions immoral?

      You say “my intuitive sense that the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is both immoral and downright nonsensical.

      And this is the closest thing I can find to answer it in your post:
      The best explanation I have found for a secular, subjective sense of right and wrong is provided by Australian psychologist and social researcher Hugh Mackay in Right & Wrong. Mackay makes a strong case to suggest that true moral mindfulness amounts to each individual deciding what is right and wrong for themself

      But then you call someone elses actions immoral. By your standareds shouldnt you say that it is really just an opinion that is just as right as yours?

      Then you say “The learning part is easy – being kind to others is a behavior which has been ingrained in me since birth.

      But I’m wiling to bet that just the opposite is true! I would bet my life that started life being completely self-consume and thinking the world revolved around you. Your parents had to tell you it was wrong to lie. Im sure they didnt have to teach you to snatch your toys away from other little kids and say “Mine!”

    • chris

      You also say:

      Undoubtedly, there are individuals who take the view that indiscriminate killing is amusing and, by their standards, “right” – we commonly refer to such individuals as sociopaths. Sociopaths provide an excellent example of why there is no such thing as an objective right and wrong. The concepts of right and wrong only make sense from the perspective of an individual who has subjectively determined their own personal morality.

      And you unknowingly prove yourself wrong! The reason we call those people sociopaths is because we all accept that there is a absolute standard of morality! We wouldn’t have a special name for those type of people if the vast majority truly believed that they are just meat puppets dancing to their DNA or that morality is completely subjective and open for individual opinion.

      You can say what you want, but the TRUTH is that you EXPECT all other people to treat you according to YOUR morals, to what you deem right and wrong. When push comes to shove, you will FORCE your beliefs on others and see that others obey what you have determined to be right and wrong. I can promise you that if my morality disagrees with yours and it creates a personal conflict between the two of us, you will always side with your morals.

      You can claim to not believe in the absolute, but you dont live by it. You are a walking contradiction.

  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

    Chris wrote: The reason we call those people sociopaths is because we all accept that there is a absolute standard of morality!

    No, the reason why we call those people sociopaths is because they have no conscience. We don’t all accept an absolute standard of morality. Most of us (the non-sociopaths), now believe that killing children is wrong but I can point you to civilizations in the past that had no compunction towards the practice. Of course, the prohibition of killing is easy. There is no absolute standard of morality that tells us whether abortion, euthanasia, smoking a doobie or fudging your golf scorecard is right or wrong. What does your “absolute” standard of morality say about these things?

    FYI, I have blogged about sociopathy here: http://www.atheistmissionary.com/2009/05/sociopathy-is-fascinating-condition.html

    Chris continues: You can say what you want, but the TRUTH is that you EXPECT all other people to treat you according to YOUR morals, to what you deem right and wrong. When push comes to shove, you will FORCE your beliefs on others and see that others obey what you have determined to be right and wrong. I can promise you that if my morality disagrees with yours and it creates a personal conflict between the two of us, you will always side with your morals.

    I only expect other people to treat me according to my morals because most of the time they do (i.e. most people, gladly, would be wonderful neighbours because they live by the Golden Rule). Society imposes laws to convince those who might choose to treat me in a less wholesome manner.

    • chris

      “Most of us (the non-sociopaths), now believe that killing children is wrong but I can point you to civilizations in the past that had no compunction towards the practice. Of course, the prohibition of killing is easy.

      Then why are these people called sociopaths? I thought there is no absolute standard of morality and so the child sacrifices they do is right, merely because it is their opinion, and their opinion is just as valid as yours?

      Would you be opposed to allowing child sacrifice in your own country, or would you try and force your morals on anyone who thinks child sacrifice is OK?

      ” There is no absolute standard of morality that tells us whether abortion, euthanasia, smoking a doobie or fudging your golf scorecard is right or wrong. What does your “absolute” standard of morality say about these things?”

      Abortion is wrong because it is taking a life. Everyone agreess, except the few who are truly distorted in their thinking that murder of humans is wrong. But in the case of abortion one red herring or another is always thrown in whether its about a woman’s right to choose to or when life starts. The fact is that the there is never a point in the pregnancy in which it is NOT life. Even before the cell divides it is life.

      Euthanasia is also murder. If people want to kill themselves, then let them do it completely on their own.

      Smoking a doobie – the only purpose to smoking a doobie, which I did for 30 years before being a Christian, is trying to change your state of mind. I no longer have any enjoyment in doing it because I have a relationship with the living God so I no longer need to depend upon substances for changing my state of mind. And since the government says it is illegal, we are to obey the government, unless their law tries to overrule God.

      Fudging on your golf score card – a lie is a lie is a lie. Big, little, white or black. If you need to change your score, then there is a problem.

      All of these stem back to very basic standards. But people try to argue from the lowest common denominator to justify their actions.

      If lying about your performance on the golf course is acceptable then what about lying about your performance at work or school?

      If smoking weed is OK then why not any other drugs?

      If abortion is OK then why not child sacrifices?

      Once you start compromising, where does it stop?

      You say I only expect other people to treat me according to my morals because most of the time they do (i.e. most people, gladly, would be wonderful neighbours because they live by the Golden Rule). Society imposes laws to convince those who might choose to treat me in a less wholesome manner.

      So if people didn’t treat you according to your moral standards most of the time, you would be OK with that?

      And if i come over to your house and I sincerely believe that it is morally right for you to give me all the electronic devices in your house so that I can sell them to feed people who were laid off from jobs due to downsizing, will you honor my morals give me all your electronic devices, or will you force your morals upon me?

      Since you live by the Golden Rule then doesnt that make the answer to all the questions you asked me very clear?

      And since you live by the Golden Rule, shouldnt you then accept my morals and treat me the way my morals say things should happen, because you also want to be treated the same way?

      • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

        Chris, it must be nice to have somebody or something give you rules to decide that abortion, euthanasia, smoking weed and cheating on your golf score are wrong. I have no such convenience. I have to try and figure these things out myself.

        [Chris’ questions are reproduced below in italics]

        If lying about your performance on the golf course is acceptable then what about lying about your performance at work or school? Well, unless you apply some kind of bizarre Kantain reasoning that you couldn’t even lie to a murderer, almost all of us appreciate that lying is sometimes justified. The devil is in the details.

        If smoking weed is OK then why not any other drugs? I never said that I thought smoking weed is ok but would you deny medical use of marijuana to a cancer patient? The devil is in the details my friend.

        If abortion is OK then why not child sacrifices? I never said that abortion “is ok”. In fact, I would do everything in my power to dissuade a woman from having an abortion short of making it illegal for her to do so. Would you deny the woman a right to have an abortion if her life was being endangered by continuing the pregnancy? Would your answer change if the baby had virtually no chance of surviving a few days beyond birth? The devil is in the details.

        Once you start compromising, where does it stop? Aha! Making moral decisions is incredibly difficult. Please don’t throw the slippery slope at me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope You’re better than that.

        So if people didn’t treat you according to your moral standards most of the time, you would be OK with that? Of course not. “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”: Oliver Wendell Holmes.

        And if I come over to your house and I sincerely believe that it is morally right for you to give me all the electronic devices in your house so that I can sell them to feed people who were laid off from jobs due to downsizing, will you honor my morals give me all your electronic devices, or will you force your morals upon me? No, I won’t force my morals on you. However, the police will impose societally imposed rules on you.

        Since you live by the Golden Rule then doesnt that make the answer to all the questions you asked me very clear? Actually, I don’t see how my reliance on The Golden Rule assisted me in answering any of the questions listed above.

        And since you live by the Golden Rule, shouldnt you then accept my morals and treat me the way my morals say things should happen, because you also want to be treated the same way? Only if you treat me the way I want to be treated. I suggest that you do some reading on the effectiveness of the “tit for tat” strategy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tit_for_tat) and the prisoner’s dilemma: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterated_prisoner%27s_dilemma#The_iterated_prisoner.27s_dilemma

        • chris

          I ask:
          “And since you live by the Golden Rule, shouldnt you then accept my morals and treat me the way my morals say things should happen, because you also want to be treated the same way?

          And you say:
          Only if you treat me the way I want to be treated. I suggest that you do some reading on the effectiveness of the “tit for tat” strategy”

          So you don’t live by the golden rule, you treat people based upon the arbitrary feeling they give you? That’s really about what I would expect.

          I ask:
          And if I come over to your house and I sincerely believe that it is morally right for you to give me all the electronic devices in your house so that I can sell them to feed people who were laid off from jobs due to downsizing, will you honor my morals give me all your electronic devices, or will you force your morals upon me?

          And you say:

          No, I won’t force my morals on you. However, the police will impose societally imposed rules on you.

          1. notice I didnt say anything about committing any illegal activity.
          2. we already established that you only treat people based upon the way they make you feel – so no need to point out that basically have the mentality of a dog – you pet me im nice, you step on my tail I bite you… Nice
          3. So now you appeal to societal law to determine your right and wrong? I wont even go down that road because you know how ridiculous that is.

      • http://badchristian.org Sean R Reid

        Chris, I’m a Christian and I don’t think I could disagree more with most of what you said in this response.

        While I don’t agree with TAM’s assessment re: absolute morality, I also cannot find myself among your extreme.

        It seems that you are both different ends of the same spectrum and leave little room for shades of gray in your black/white false dichotomies.

        However, I must add that I would be MUCH more likely to think I’ll find God, happiness and peace living in the world proposed by TAM. At best you’re describing a benevolent dictator. TAM at least offers a kind of libertarianism.

        • chris

          Sean,

          Id love you hear your responses to the questions.

          • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

            chris, I’m waiting for you to answer whether it is wrong (and how you decide whether) to lie to the murderer, to deny the cancer sufferer cannabis and to abort a fetus whose birth will endanger the life of the mother (and whether the likelihood of the baby dying soon after birth would factor into your decision).

            • randal

              Your questions concern moral epistemology. But the bigger question is one of moral ontology. What is it that makes certain acts right and others wrong?

              • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

                Randal, I agree with Richard Carrier that individual desire remains therefore the ontological root of all value: http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2011/03/moral-ontology.html

                • randal

                  If you agree with him then I take it that you can summarize for us what that view is and I can then cross-examine your summary.

                  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

                    Much greater minds than mine have wrested with the ontology of morality. I haven’t even read the Nicomachean Ethics. In any event, I think I am sufficiently equipped to summarize Carrier’s throughts on the matter (which I agree with but am not wed):

                    Moral realism accepts that there are moral statements which are true, independent of opinion or culture. therefore the existence of moral facts must be ontologically grounded on something other than opinion/culture. Carrier believes that everything which exists is caused by physical things/events. Absent evidence to the contrary, I agree with this view.

                    Carrier then observes that the scariness of a bear “is a physical property (it reduces entirely to the physical facts about bears and people and what the one can physically do to the other). Thus physical systems can have properties that their parts alone do not, yet that are entirely reducible to those parts and their physical arrangement“.

                    He then addresses the ontological status of moral values. “To ask for something’s ontological status is to ask for what actual features of the universe a word or phrase refers to”.

                    Discussion proceeds to the ontological status of cows, dragons, democracy and monetary value. He explains that moral realism is more akin to utility value than monetary value because moral value “is a product of what you need and what can achieve that“.

                    Now, to the money lines: Ultimately, however, all value reduces to what you want, such that if you no longer want something, it no longer has value for you. Individual desire remains therefore the ontological root of all value: just as real dragons only exist when atoms are arranged in such a way as to produce a living dragon, so values only exist when people’s brains are arranged in such a way as to produce desires for certain outcomes.

                    So how does Carrier overcome Hume’s suggestion that it is impossible to move from an “is” to an “ought”?

                    “For example, “you ought to change the oil in your car” means “if you knew your car was running low on oil, and you don’t want your car’s engine to seize up, then you would change the oil in your car (as long as you were able to without harm).” If you want your car’s engine to seize up, then “you ought to change the oil in your car” is false. But if you don’t want that, then “you ought to change the oil in your car” would be objectively true, i.e. it would be true even if you believed it was false. Your opinion of the matter, what you liked or thought, would be irrelevant to its being true. In that case if you said it was false you would simply be mistaken about what you ought to do.

                    What distinguishes a “moral” imperative from other imperatives? (like changing your car’s oil) Moral imperatives are imperatives that supersede all other imperatives. In other words, the moral thing to do is whatever it is that you ought most to do. So by definition the moral thing to do on any occasion is what you ought most to do above all else (on that occasion). Putting these definitions together we get two senses of “moral value” whose ontology I’ll now discuss:

                    Type 1 moral values are the moral values we actually have (which constitute descriptive ethics: that which we believe we ought to do above all else, e.g. Muslim moral values, Christian moral values, Communist moral values, Secular Humanist moral values, etc.), which are just structures in the brains of people sharing a common moral culture or worldview. But Type 2 moral values are the moral values we ought to have (which constitute prescriptive ethics: that which we ought to do above all else, regardless of what we believe that is, i.e. the true moral values). Which are like bear-scariness: they are not just structures in our brains, but structural properties of the whole system in which those brains reside.

                    Given my definition of “ought,” the “true” moral values are those you would actually have if you were reasoning logically and understood all the relevant facts of the world. So if you aren’t reasoning logically or are ignorant of key facts, the actual Type 1 values in your brain will differ from the Type 2 values, which are the values you would agree you should have adopted (had you known better). In which case you would agree your Type 1 values were mistaken, and not in the sense that you misapprehended which values were programmed into your brain (you can be entirely correct about what those values are), but in the sense that (a) those values are out of alignment with the external facts of the world, and (b) you will replace them with Type 2 values as soon as you perceive this fact.

                    The Ontology of Moral Values

                    The ontological basis of moral values is thus exactly the same as ordinary values, only by definition moral values supersede all other values, so we are then just talking about the sub-category of “supreme” values. This means we have two kinds again. Type 1 moral values exist as physical arrangements of synapses in your brain which cause you to assign a supreme value to something. But Type 2 moral values exist as a physical relationship between those Type 1 values and the actual arrangement and behavior of the physical world.

                    Therefore, to say that compassion is a moral value is to say that when you are reasoning logically and understand all the relevant facts, then you will assign compassion a supreme value. It will be more valuable to you, for example, than the monetary value of a diamond ring. And there may be other moral values that supersede each other in hierarchies of supremacy, such as perhaps reasonableness over compassion: e.g. in any conflict between reasonable compassion and unreasonable compassion, you might conclude the former would supersede the other (because, on full and sound reflection, when you have to decide between them, you want the one more than you want the other), and this would then be the true order of moral values.

                    Type 2 moral values are thus the “true” moral values, if your brain pattern (which is assigning supreme value to something) correctly reflects the real nature of things external to your brain–such as the actual, physical consequences of assigning that value. If those actual consequences are the consequences you would want above all other consequences that you can obtain (i.e. if these are the consequences you would want most when you are reasoning logically and understand all the relevant facts), then, by definition, a value for the things that have those consequences will supersede all other values. And such values are by definition moral values.

                    So just like the imperative to change your car’s oil, which is a true fact of the world, ontologically grounded in the physical facts of cars and physics and your desire to have a functioning car (and thus a physical property of the whole car-person system), moral imperatives are true facts of the world, ontologically grounded in the physical facts of the way the world works (including the way people and societies work) and your desire to live in this system efficiently and happily. And thus moral facts are a physical property of the whole world-person system.

                    Sorry for the length of this comment. I distilled Carrier’s article as best I could and, to be frank, I may not possess the intellectual ammunition to defend it. However, I trust you noticed that his thesis will be a featured chapter in Loftus’ forthcoming The End of Christianity.

                    No place so sacred from such fops is barr’d … Nay, fly to altars; there they’ll talk you dead; For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Alexander Pope.

            • chris

              TAM,

              I already answered your first round of questions.

              But now you want to try and argue from the lowest common denominator.

              It’s funny how you continue to twist the conversation, as Randal pointed out.

              Why don;t you share with us your answer to your own questions as well the question Randal asked.

          • http://badchristian.org Sean R Reid

            Well, my answers are both very simple and extremely complex. I’ll jump in where you left off:

            Abortion is wrong because it is taking a life […] Even before the cell divides it is life.

            So, are all cells life? If so, then are you a murderer if you undergo surgery and they cauterize the wound? What if you cut yourself? Is this merely limited to humans? Or do all cells contain life? If so does eating, plant or animal, make oyu a murderer? Does cutting your grass??

            The scientific evidence seems to be pretty strongly in favor of the embryo not being a viable “life” until a certain point (although that moment escapes me at the moment). As such, at times the act of terminating a pregnancy is not much different than removing a cancer from the system. In the case of the mother being unable to give birth to a healthy child (ie. she’s afflicted by a disease which would condemn the child at birth or surely cause her to die during the process) it is VERY much like removing cancer.

            That you’re so flippant about it indicates that it’s not a decision you’ve ever had to make nor one that you’ve seriously devoted any thought toward.

            For me personally, I don’t think abortion should ever be the first option. But I also would not force, at gunpoint (which, if we proposed legal restrictions, is exactly what would happen) a woman to give birth to a child that will not live, will not be healthy, or was conceived in a moment of sexual assault or rape. If you truly believe that God uses that -rape- as a viable means of creating life then I would honestly wonder if you weren’t quite mad.

            Euthanasia is also murder. If people want to kill themselves, then let them do it completely on their own.

            This is, again, far to black and white. That would you allow someone to suffer so that your own conscience is clear -although how that could be is beyond my understanding- is, again, very disturbing. It is an amazingly complex issue that, like abortion, requires a decision be made ONLY in light of the current circumstances. There are no universal answers or solutions to problems like this. To assume, or claim, that there are demonstrates a significant lack of compassion for the suffering of others.

            To turn it back on you, do you support capital punishment? Do you think there is such a thing as “just war?” If you agree with either of those I would examine your intellectual consistency. For the record, I’m in favor of neither. I’m anti-war and anti-capital punishment. Killing someone almost *never* brings about justice, in my opinion.

            Smoking a doobie – the only purpose to smoking a doobie, which I did for 30 years before being a Christian, is trying to change your state of mind.

            There is nothing immoral or unethical about getting/being high. Your actions while high might be immoral but there’s nothing inherently immoral about being stoned. I say this as someone who has smoked pot a whopping 2 times in my entire life and who currently doesn’t drink more than a single beer every few weeks nor do I smoke cigarettes.

            However, I am on prescription mood stabilizers and amphetamines. This will mostly be the case for the rest of my life. Without them, I simply cannot function to the best of my God-given abilities. Incidentally, it was AFTER becoming a Christian that I was put on the medications. I live for over 30 years struggling to just feel “normal” before I realized that no amount of desire and wishful thinking would change the problems with my brain chemistry. I am thankful to God for the doctors who have helped me live a healthy, normal and productive life. All through mind-altering substances.

            Again, it’s not black and white. You’re overlooking the shades of gray.

            Fudging on your golf score card – a lie is a lie is a lie. Big, little, white or black. If you need to change your score, then there is a problem.

            Yeah, you’re a bad golfer. That’s the problem. You’re also dishonest about being a bad golfer. Which doesn’t amount to much. To be honest, this is hardly even worth the rejoinder. If fudging your golf score is a gateway drug to deceit and murder, then we truly are all damned. Life isn’t golf and extrapolating from a golf-scorecard is nothing short of silly. It’s a correlation built on nothing.

            All of these stem back to very basic standards. But people try to argue from the lowest common denominator to justify their actions.

            What lowest common denominators?

            If lying about your performance on the golf course is acceptable then what about lying about your performance at work or school?

            Oh, are those the LCDs to which you’re referring? The gateway drug theories?? If a person is so weak willed that pot, golf and medical procedures are going to drive them to become a sociopath then chances are pretty damn good that they were ALREADY a sociopath.

            The idea that we will only be good by being told not to do what’s bad never has been, nor will it ever, be a convincing argument for morality. Sorry, we’re not automatons (although, I imagine Randal may have a pithy retort that would challenge that fact).

            Once you start compromising, where does it stop?

            If you would logically go to the absurd ends then I have to wonder how you’ve managed to function in society this long. I don’t say that as an attack, but you speak of sociopaths and then espouse a set of values that do little to differentiate yourself from them. That you seemingly can’t make a moral decision without someone making it for you is truly disturbing, if not just painfully immature.

            • chris

              The scientific evidence seems to be pretty strongly in favor of the embryo not being a viable “life” until a certain point (although that moment escapes me at the moment).

              There is no doubt the cell is alive before it divides. If you want to try and redefine what “viable life” is then go ahead. But I can promise you that anyone who believes in evolution will jump for joy if someone can create a cell that divides through natural process and organic matter.

              I can’t possibly address every possible situation, but that doesn’t keep you from making laws and having moral values.
              But the question remains, who gets to determine when a situation is in the grey area? Isn’t it really just one big grey area?

              This is the approach to the lowest common denominator. If you can think of one single reason why abortion might be bad – say any of the examples you cited – then you use that reason to justify all of it and make no legal laws.

              Euthanasia is also murder. If people want to kill themselves, then let them do it completely on their own.

              This is, again, far to black and white. That would you allow someone to suffer so that your own conscience is clear -although how that could be is beyond my understanding- is, again, very disturbing. It is an amazingly complex issue that, like abortion, requires a decision be made ONLY in light of the current circumstances. There are no universal answers or solutions to problems like this. To assume, or claim, that there are demonstrates a significant lack of compassion for the suffering of others.
              I surely have been in this situation.
              But if you think that morals are to be determined on a case by case basis, in the heat of the moment, using your emotions than Im not really sure how you can call yourself a Christian.

              A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ and His deity. He has made his laws of right and wrong pretty clear. But you seem to want to try and reinterpret them and play God.

              You ask To turn it back on you, do you support capital punishment? Do you think there is such a thing as “just war?” If you agree with either of those I would examine your intellectual consistency. For the record, I’m in favor of neither. I’m anti-war and anti-capital punishment. Killing someone almost *never* brings about justice, in my opinion.

              Yes, I absolutely am in favor of both.

              As a Christian when there are subjects that I am not sure on, where my emotions take me in different directions, I have to appeal to the word of God. That’s what being a Christian is – following the revealed will of God even when you don’t want to.

              Once you start compromising, where does it stop?

              If you would logically go to the absurd ends then I have to wonder how you’ve managed to function in society this long.

              Thats just the problem – you admit you have no divine authority as your absolute standard. You want to make up right and wrong as you go. The question will remains – where do you draw the line. Who gets to draw the line? Society? The law makers? Surely you wont go there….

              • http://badchristian.org Sean R Reid

                In fact, I did *NOT* admit I had no divine authority. I defer to C.S. Lewis’ interpretation that I know of morality at birth as part of my soul and being. I believe that this idea of right and wrong is put there by God.

                However, what I do not do is presuppose that I know what is right in all situations and then claim that it’s God’s will. Furthermore, I *refuse* to use the force of law to impose my will on others, whether it be what I think is best or not. Law is a societal/cultural construct. Where morality and law intersect is beneficial but not required. Religion has no place in the public sphere with regards to the government. Period, full stop. Theocracy is bad for all involved.

                • chris

                  Shawn you said:


                  however, what I do not do is presuppose that I know what is right in all situations and then claim that it’s God’s will.

                  I do not presuppose that I know what is right in all situations either. Actually I presuppose just the opposite because of my depraved nature. But lucky for us God has revealed His will in the bible.

                  Furthermore, I *refuse* to use the force of law to impose my will on others, whether it be what I think is best or not. Law is a societal/cultural construct. Where morality and law intersect is beneficial but not required.
                  Religion has no place in the public sphere with regards to the government. Period, full stop. Theocracy is bad for all involved.

                  Shawn If you are a Christian then you are an ambassador for Jesus Christ. That means you live by and are under the authority of His expressed will.
                  If you are an American citizen, then you have the responsibility of casting your vote for people who will promote the revealed will of God. That’s what being an ambassador means. You cannot say you are a follower of Jesus and then vote for people who desire to make laws that are contrary to His revealed will.

                  • http://badchristian.org Sean R Reid

                    What you are arguing for is the ability to force someone, at gunpoint, to submit to your interpretation of a centuries old English translation of a collection of middle-eastern, Greek and Roman texts.

                    Sorry, not gonna do it. I don’t have the ego for it.

                    However, I can see that there really is no reason to go further with this “debate” seeing as how we parted intellectual ways quite some time ago.

                    But, allow me to add on more thing:

                    It’s SEAN. At least do me the courtesy of getting my name right.

                    • chris

                      Sean – my apologies on your name. I am sorry – it was no intentional – I was talking with another “Shawn” but even my brother spells is “Sean.”

                      You said:


                      What you are arguing for is the ability to force someone, at gunpoint, to submit to your interpretation of a centuries old English translation of a collection of middle-eastern, Greek and Roman texts.

                      I don’t mean to be rude but your broad description explains your viewpoint. You call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ(the one described in the collection of middle-eastern, Greek and Roman texts, but then appear to pick and choose what pars you obey, what parts you believe and what parts can be interpreted correctly.

                      Unfortunately that is the danger of this post-modern culture.

                      I am curious as to what you believe about interpretation of the bible. I surely have some opinions based upon what you have said, but I’d rather you explain it.

                      If you want to make statements on a public forum, and then not substantiate them for whatever reason, then say it is because we have parted “intellectual ways” thats your option.
                      Nobody is talking about making people do things at gunpoint.

                      What I am talking about is being a follower of Jesus Christ. I am talking about voting for lawmakers who want to follow the teachings of the God you claim to have loyalty to.
                      If you think that you should vote for lawmakers who vote contrary to the will of God, then you are sadly mistaken about what it means to be a Christian.

                      Im curious as to what it means to you, to be a Christian. I mean I can say I am car – because I go to my garage several times per day, and thats where cars go. But we know I’m not a car because we know what a car is. But when you call yourself a Christian, and then say the things you have said, we then have to ask what it means, in your opinion, to be a christian.

                      In regards to the translation – I absolutely believe that understanding the text in it’s original language is crucial. There are far too many examples where the english language is just too limited to express what was written in the original language.

            • chris

              If lying about your performance on the golf course is acceptable then what about lying about your performance at work or school?

              Oh, are those the LCDs to which you’re referring? The gateway drug theories?? If a person is so weak willed that pot, golf and medical procedures are going to drive them to become a sociopath then chances are pretty damn good that they were ALREADY a sociopath.

              You are misunderstanding my point, and that’s OK. Ill try to make it clear. The lowest common denominator means that when I say lying is wrong – you come up with an absurd example to try and argue the opposite. So lying on your scorecard is not immoral. OK, then where is the line drawn? And who gets to determine where it’s drawn? Why do they get to determine it?

              Im not at all saying doing any of the things you mentioned will make or lead to you doing other things. That should be pretty clear.

              • chris

                Shawn – my editing in bold is all screwed. I’ve merged some of my words with yours – Im sure you can figure it out

  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

    Chris concluded: You are a walking contradiction.

    Tell me something I don’t know.