Sunday, 19 April 2015

Where do atheists get their morality?

 

This is usually the first question asked when you come out as an atheist. If believing in God is what is stopping you from committing murder, stealing your neighbour’s ass, his wife, or the balance in your company’s bank account, then you have a pretty bad idea of what morality is.

Oxford Dictionary defines it as: 

principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour;

and

a particular system of values and principles of conduct.

Wikipedia says:

Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good or right and those that are bad or wrong. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion, or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal.Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or “rightness."

Christian Apologetics describe it as:

…the distinction between right and wrong. It is the determination of what should be done and what should not be done. Morals deal with behaviors as well as motives.

I think that most of us understand morality to be that which is right, and which serves to further positive outcomes for our society. This seems to be what the definitions imply:

  1. The distinction between right and wrong;
  2. A system of values;
  3. Intentions, decisions, and actions that are good and right.
  4. What should and what should not be done.

Where exactly do God and the laws of the Bible come into this? And how do people who belong to religions other than those of the Bible, or people who haven’t heard of Judeo-Christian religions know what is right and what is wrong?

Paul's Epistle to the Romans says:

Romans 2:12-16    For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Thus even Paul, when writing to the Romans, acknowledges that people are able to be moral without “knowledge of the law.”

Conservapedia, a conservative religious website that mirrors Wikipedia claims that the “immorality of atheism” leads to hedonism:

If God does not exist, shouldn’t atheists just relax and seek a good time before they become plant food? Why should it matter if people believe in God? Nothing matters if atheism is true.

The website quotes Aldous Huxley, saying:

“I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning … the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”1

 

Like Huxley, some people don’t like God because they don’t like moral constraints—you can make up your own rules, or have none at all, if God does not exist. They hate God and Christians because they are actually not confident that God does not exist and seeing Christians may remind them that they are ‘suppressing the truth’ (Romans 1:18).

There are issues with this statement. Firstly, atheism is neither “true” nor “false.” It isn’t a philosophy, or a belief system. It is a non-belief. Therefore the same rules of behaviour apply to atheists as they do to theists. The only difference being that people who do not believe in God or the afterlife, do not seek a reward. They obey the rules because it is the right thing to do. 

Secondly, the claim that nothing matters. This is simply false. Everything matters, morality, or obeying the rules of society does matter as Richard Dawkins explains, in The God Delusion,

There are indeed many circumstances in which survival of the individual organism will favour the survival of the genes that ride inside it…There are circumstances…in which genes ensure their own selfish survival by influencing organisms to behave altruistically.

Thus, morality, or altruism, is necessary for the survival of the individual. To behave “immorally,” or against the moral code of our society, will not ensure the future of that society. You can’t be successful if you spend your life in prison.

Dawkins calls this “reciprocal altruism” saying that it is the “principle behind trade and barter.” Of course, it makes complete sense. If we deny other humans their share of our resources, and take all the resources for ourselves, not only do we lay ourselves open to negative outcomes from the deprived group, but we also reduce our chances of successfully passing on our genes if the rest of our society should disappear due to lack of resources. Thus reciprocity is a moral value, something we do, and something that is necessary for the survival of our species. 

He summarises Darwinian behaviour as “good reasons” for “moral” behaviour: genetic kinship, reciprocity, anticipation of payback, and generosity as buying “advertising.” He claims our morality is hard-wired into us by evolution: “Darwinian,”  demonstrating that our natural inclination is to behave morally, not because we fear punishment, or because the law expects moral behaviour, but because it is good for the perpetuation of our species.

In short, we are moral animals, and evolved to be that way, because it ensures the perpetuation of our species. We do not need ancient holy books to teach us morality. It evolved with us as we travelled along the road of evolution from ape to human.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Do atheists hate God

Ray Comfort, employing the logical fallacy of “analogical inference” says,

Atheists don't hate fairies, leprechauns, or unicorns because they don't exist. It is impossible to hate something that doesn't exist. Atheists, like the painting experts hated the painter, hate God because He does exist.

He sees the shared properties of a critic hating a work of art, and an atheist hating the violence in the Old Testament, and makes an inference that because the critic may “hate “ the artist, it should follow that the atheist must “hate” God.

CS Lewis, the author of several rather fun children’s stories says, that even though an atheist doesn’t believe God exists, we nevertheless hate him.

I think “hate” is a very strong emotion to express about something, or someone, that doesn’t exist. 

With this accusation that “atheists hate God” they add that atheists are “angry” at God, and that we want to take away their religion.

Christian apologetic sites tend to support this claim, so I’ll quote them, then rebut their arguments.

Christianity Today admits that Christians often hate God.

Speaking of being fair, let's. I wonder if our fascination with atheism is well-focused. If Lent, the season we are currently slogging through, reminds us of anything, it reminds us that Christians are often practicing atheists. As I said, philosophical atheists cannot hate God. Christians, on the other hand, know God exists and therefore can and do hate him. One thing you do with persons you hate is pretend like they don't exist.

“Christians are often practicing atheists?” and then the writer goes on to admit that “Christians know God exists and therefore can and do hate him.” 

With that sentence, the writer is making my argument for me. I don’t know that God exists, I also don’t know that he doesn’t exist. I simply don’t believe that he exists, therefore I am indifferent to him. I neither hate nor like him. How can I? I can only feel emotion towards something I know to exist. To me God is merely a character in the Bible. Not a very nice character, but I don’t invest emotion in fiction.

The writer continues:

We dutifully say our prayers in the morning, but then go about the day hardly giving God a thought, making decisions and engaging the day as if we had left him at home. At the end of a whirlwind day, we fall exhausted into bed, and, if we are particularly devout, we offer up another prayer. But the picture at the center of this prayer-framed life is often blank.Take simple moral choices. Jesus tells us not to lust. But that doesn't stop the occasional peek at porn. We are told to speak the truth in love, and yet we tell so many white lies, we need an Excel sheet to keep track. We know we should turn the other cheek, but we delight in imagining rituals of revenge.There are unconscious sins — the thoughtless word or angry gesture that comes out of nowhere. But then there are the deliberate sins: we have a moment to ponder our duty, which lies clearly before us. No question what God is calling us to do. And we do the opposite.If this isn't a form of atheism, even of hating God, I don't know what is. No wonder Jesus uses stark language to describe faith: We either hate Jesus (John 15:23-24) or we hate ourselves (John 12:25). That's what it comes down to. And we often know who "our first hate" is.

I understand what he is saying. He seems to think that all it takes to be an atheist is to behave as if God doesn’t exist. This is very strange. And it’s wrong.

Personally, I don’t think about God unless I’m writing something about religion. God has about as much influence in my life as any character in any book - he’s only relevant when I’m analysing Bible verses, or having a discussion about the Bible on the internet. I don’t become a believer when I do this, I’m still an atheist. 

Another creationist website, Creation Ministries claims the following, 

Many express a strong hatred of God. I have been at a loss to explain this. How can you hate someone you don’t believe in? Why the hostility? If God does not exist, shouldn’t atheists just relax and seek a good time before they become plant food? Why should it matter if people believe in God? Nothing matters if atheism is true.

He makes my point. I can’t hate something that I don’t believe exists, then he continues with:

Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), the brother of the atheistic evolutionist Sir Julian Huxley, advocated a drug-fuelled utopia. He gave the reason for his anti-Christian stance: “I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning … the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”1Like Huxley, some people don’t like God because they don’t like moral constraints—you can make up your own rules, or have none at all, if God does not exist. They hate God and Christians because they are actually not confident that God does not exist and seeing Christians may remind them that they are ‘suppressing the truth’ (Romans 1:18).

I shall deal with the question of morality in another post.

"The world" has a lot of meaning to me. I have made meaning in my life. I have become educated, I have a wonderfully happy marriage, successful and happy children, intelligent and fun grandchildren, a pet, and loads of other pleasures that make every day worthwhile. I take care of my health, exercise regularly, keep my weight down, have regular checkups, all because I want meaning in my life. I don’t need religion, or a crutch to give value to my life. It has more value than I need. 

I also don't hate Christians, and a certainly don’t want to tell someone else not to practise their religion if it makes them happy, as he claims here:

What about atheists who had a church/religious upbringing? Some of them hate God because of evil things done to them by teachers in religious schools or by church leaders—people who on the face of it represented God. Antipathy towards God is an understandable reaction, sadly (although illogical).

Of course that’s illogical. I had horrible teachers, and I had wonderful teachers. Some were cruel, and unkind, but they were out of my life long before I made the decision to stop attending church. That decision was made after weighing up the value of religion, and finding none, my decision had nothing to do with my teachers.

Many complain about hell; they are angry at God because of hell. I understand that teachers in certain church-based schools, and parents in some ‘religious’ homes, commonly used the ‘fear of God’ to make children behave. “You are bad; you will burn in hell if you don’t behave.” But such a simplistic works-oriented approach not only trivializes this most serious of subjects, it negates the Gospel of God’s grace. (We are all ‘bad’ in God’s eyes, and ‘behaving properly’ will not save us—only Jesus can.)

This threat didn’t make me behave any better, nor did it cause me to “hate” God. Also the idea that Jesus was going to save me if I was better behaved, didn’t influence my behaviour either way. Children do the things that children do. Telling them about burning in hell is child abuse. I don’t agree with abusing children.

A child who is having difficulties may well conclude that there is no way out for them, leading to years of nightmares about suffering in hell. Such a troubled teenager hearing an atheist say that evolution explains how we got here and that God is a myth could find this to be a liberating message, a release from their fears.

This is too simplistic. Teaching children about evolution doesn’t turn them away from religion, education and reading the Bible possibly will. 

Although most of my friends are atheists, and I frequent atheist discussion forums, I cannot see into the minds of other people. We don’t have a church that we attend, with preachers telling us what to think, or books dictating how we should think, so any opinions that we express will be from our own perspective, supported with well-researched and documented evidence. 

In my opinion when apologists accuse us of “hating” God, they’re conflating the character “God” in the Bible with what they believe to be a real being. Atheists may hate the character because of his personality traits, but they do not hate a being that they don’t believe exists.

When it comes to “taking away” religion, atheists mostly want to see it removed from public discourse, but we have no control over what people do in the privacy of their own homes. Therefore the idea that we “want to take away their religion” is nonsense.

The Friendly Atheist says, in his video:

Believe it or not, I don't hate God. I just don't think God exists. 

He also says about the claim that atheists are against people of faith, or even “hate” them:

That's not the case. I love the truth more than I disagree with your God. It's my goal to try to prove that things are mostly natural, and there really isn't anything out there that's supernatural, that's criticism.I might be upset at the way people go about handling their religious belief, but I don't hate God. I just don't believe God exists, just like I don't hate Santa Claus and I don't hate the Flying Spaghetti Monster.Just because I don't believe in your God it doesn't mean I hate your God, There's just no evidence.

 

 
 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Atheism is not "Satan" worship

 

Along with that we want to take away their religion, eradicate it from the earth, and that we hate God. It seems that atheists hate God because they worship Satan and want to remove the worship of God, and to replace it with the worship of Satan.

The answer to the claim that atheists worship Satan is easily rebutted. Satan was created in the same book that created God. If someone doesn’t believe that God exists, and that biblical creation is merely a myth, then it naturally follows that they also don’t believe in Satan. 

Who is Satan?

The opposite of God. According to all religions, the worshipped deity, who I call “God” is the positive influence, and Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, the snake in the Garden of Eden, the negative one.

The Old Testament mentions “Satan” directly, in only a few instances in the Bible.

In the book of Job [19 times], in Zecharariah 3: 1-2  [3 times] in 1 Chronicles 21:1, Psalm 109:6.

That’s a total of 23 times that this evildoer is mentioned by name in the Old Testament.

There are other references to characters who might or might not have been intended to be Satan, and who theists claim are, especially the tempter of Jesus in the New Testament.

In Matthew 4, Satan is referred to as  “the tempter” and “the Devil.” 

Further references are:

Matthew 12:24: the ruler of the world

Luke 22:31 …Satan has asked to sift you as wheat

Acts 5:3 …how is it that Satan has so filled your heart…

2 Corinthians 4:4: the god of this world

2 Thessalonians 2:9 …whose coming is after the working of Satan…

1 Timothy 1:20 …whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme…

Revelation 12: 7-9 describes his expulsion from heaven, where he is also called “the Devil.”

And there was war in heaven:Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world:he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

For theists to claim that atheists “worship Satan” indicates a very poor understanding of atheism, and how weak the evidence for the existence of an evil anti-God character is.

If Satan, or whatever other name they use for this character, is the source of all evil on the earth, and this evidence is all they have for him, then they’re claiming that their god is the source of all good.

Is Satan the source of all evil?

In 1 Chronicles, he incites David to take a census. God says he will never break his covenant with his people, yet he sends them into exile, sends the Greeks and the Romans to rule them, and ultimately scatter them. How is this keeping a covenant?

In Job, he afflicts Job with sores, after God told him to just stop short of killing Job.

In Zechariah 3:1  Joshua is standing before God, and Satan is his accuser. God rebukes him. What for? Satan was within his rights to accuse Joshua.

In Matthew 4:1  Jesus is tempted by the devil. He is offered a world of wealth and power if he would only fall at Satan’s feet and worship him. He declines. How is this any worse than God bribing Abraham and his descendants to cut off pieces of their reproductive organs into all perpetuity in order to demonstrate that they worship him? I can’t see the difference here. Maybe I’m missing something.

In Luke 22:31  Simon is being told that he will betray Jesus by denying knowledge of him. 

In Acts 5:3  Ananias sold some land, the proceeds of which he was supposed to give to the church. Instead he and his wife pocketed some of the money, for which they were punished with death. I hardly think it’s something horrific that should be blamed on Satan. Maybe he wasn’t even there. Maybe he was inciting someone to kill his brother, or his parents because they weren’t Christians, while Ananias was skimming a little off the top. 

Acts 5:5-8 Ananias is struck dead, for taking a little money from the church. The horror of smiting Ananias and his wife, seems a little harsh for merely taking a little of the money meant for the church, or rather for Peter, for themselves. The moral of this story is, if you’re going to sell all your possessions to give the money to the church, do not take any of the money for yourself, even to buy food on the way home from collecting the money, on pain of death. Harsh, harsh punishment for being human.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

I have to yet be convinced that this Satan character is really a bad guy. He’s inflicted some pain on Job, judged Joshua, tempted Jesus with wealth, caused Peter to deny Jesus, incited Ananias to embezzle some money. How are these terrible crimes compared with the flood that God brought down on the entire race of men, or the plagues of Egypt, or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Finally, we come to 1 Timothy 1: 20 and Satan teaching blasphemy. Really, blasphemy, is this the worst they could come up with?

Is God the source of all good?

Now let’s take a look at the crimes committed by God:

The enslavement of women:

Numbers 31:18, Deuteronomy 22:22; 22:24; 25:11-12, Judges 19:22.

 Women are naturally evil:

 Ecclesiastes. 25:13; 25:22; 25:22; 25:26; 26:9-10; 26:14-15; 26:25; 42:13-14, Hosea 13:16; I Corinthians 11:3, 8-9; 11:34-35; 1 Timothy 2: 9, 11-14; Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Revelation 2:22. 

He hates children:

 Leviticus 26:27; Numbers 14:33-34, Deuteronomy 21:18, 28:53 & 57, Judges 11:30, 2 Kings 6:28-29; Proverbs 22:15; 23:13; 29:15, Isaiah 9 19-20; 13:15, Jeremiah 19:9, Ezekiel 5:10, 1 Timothy 3:4,  Revelation 2:22-23. 

Hes violent:

Leviticus 10:1-2; 24:16, Deuteronomy 13:6-15; 17:3-5; 20: 10-14; 20:16-18; 28:27,  Joshua 10:11, I Samuel 5:6, 9, 11, 19, I Kings 18:38,  2 Kings 19:35,  Psalms 139:21, Proverbs 8:13,  Isaiah 29:14; 45:7, Jeremiah 9:4-6, Galatians 5:12.

He’s a god of war:

 Genesis 9:5-6, Exodus 12:29-30; 15:3; 21:29, 34:14-16, Numbers 16:32-35; 21:8; 21:2; 25:3-4; 31:16-18; Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:3, 6-7; 7:2; 12:2-3; 13:6, 8-9, 15; 20:16, 17; 23:1-2, 25:19; 28:63, Joshua 6:21; 7:24-25; 8:25; 10:28, Judges 4:16, 21, 23; 8:7, 10; 21:11; 1 Samuel 6:19; 15:9, 16:23; 18:10; 19:9; II Samuel 12:11, 31; 24:1, 1 Kings 20:42, 2 Kings 9:9, 1 Chronicles 18:1; 20:3; 21:12, 14, Psalms 18:7-11; 58:10; 68:21-23; 137:9, 1 Chronicles 20:3; 21:12, 14, Psalms 18:7-11; 58:10, 68: 21-23, 137:9, 140:4, 10; Isaiah 13:15-16; 19:14; 45:7, Jeremiah 11:11; 12:17; 18:11; 25:9; 32:42; 40:2; 44:2; 45:5; 49:37; 50:21, 26;  51:3  Lamentations 2:5; 3:38-39, Ezekiel 6:5; 9:5-6

Daniel 11:44, Hosea 13:16, Amos 3:6; 9:8, Micah 1:12, Malachi 2:3, Matthew 5:39; 7:15; 10 34-36; 12:30; 15:20; 16:18 & 23; 19:16-17; 27:25, Mark 6:11;13:7-8, Luke 4:8; 12:49, 51-53;16:19-31; 19:27, 2 Chronicles 20:23, John 2:14-16; 18:36; 5:8-14, 2 Timothy 3:16, 

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. 

Then, when his followers have lived their lives, in obedience, and subjection, he chooses only a few of them for eternal bliss:

Revelation 14:3-4...the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.  

Now, should I go back and repeat how bad Satan really is? Or does the reader get the message?

Finally, remembering again, that atheism is merely the rejection of God, and all other gods, it goes without saying that all the hangers-on, the people surrounding God, including Jesus, and all the angels, saints and devils, are also rejected. Ergo: if the atheist does not believe in God, he/she also does not believe in Satan. 

I think I’ve demonstrated that the claim that atheists “worship” Satan, is refuted, and even if someone does worship this fallen angel, who incites people to judge murderers, brings boils down on someone under instructions from God, encourages someone to deny his friend when he’s in trouble, or looks the other way when someone embezzles money, is really not such a bad “god.” He’s certainly more worthy of respect than the maniacal, misogynistic murdering, narcissistic god, who deliberately sent his own son to be killed in a horrific way for a sin that he caused by tempting his creatures in the first place.