I got a response from my Christian friend who took the time to enter into a discussion with me about my stance on bible classes. Although I can’t agree with much of what he says, I do appreciate the time he’s taken to communicate.
Thank you for your letter. I appreciate you taking the time to write such an extensive response.
My first comment on your letter is that it seems I need to be more careful in accurately describing my point of view, as I have counted about six examples of where you seemed to have understood something different from what I intended. I will start my response by trying to correct and clarify some of these misunderstandings.
You wrote of me saying “I think religious faith is needed to consider other people and do good”. But in fact, like you, I do not agree with this and believe that anyone can and should do good. The point I was making was how can an atheist determine what good is, when their starting point for reasoning excludes the existence of good or evil by its’ very definition.
The same as we determine what is up and what is down. We create our own points of reference. There is no such absolute as “up” or “down”.
I had assumed that if you maintain the world made itself out of nothing, then you could not avoid coming to the same conclusion as the other atheists I quoted who stated that the universe had no meaning and therefore no possible standard of right or wrong.
Atheism is not the same as science and you confuse absolute meaning with relative meaning.
You write that the nihilistic view of our origin is irrelevant to daily life. My response to that is, it’s only irrelevant if you choose to ignore what you believe to be true.
Do you need to know the purpose of the stars that you see at night to appreciate their beauty? Believing that there is no plan for the universe does not mean that I cannot make a plan for myself.
It would be like calling myself a Christian, then ignoring the outworking of that belief in my daily life. People would call me a hypocrite for not practicing what I preach. And rightly so, but does not the same principle apply to atheists? Otherwise we become like vegetarians who eat meat. The glaring inconsistency means that either we’re describing ourselves wrongly, or we’re not living true to what we say we believe. And again, to be clear, I am not encouraging you to live a pointless or amoral life, simply pointing out your obvious inconsistency.
Atheists have no belief system. They simply don’t believe any gods exist. There is nothing to “practice”. You should understand that. You don’t believe in most of the gods that other people believe in either.
Your outward moral behaviour is disconnected from your inner atheist foundation that says morals don’t exist. Morals, in a strictly materialistic world, are just make-believe so if you’re employing them in your life, it can only be because you have borrowed them from a faith-based worldview, that you seem to despise. They certainly can’t come from evolution because it has no opinion on good or evil.
I’ve never said that morals don’t exist. I believe that morality is created by people, not bestowed upon us by “gods”. If morals don’t exist as created by man, how do you explain the shared morality Christians have with people who were never been exposed to Christianity? Human morality pre-dates Christianity and Moses. Biological evolution has nothing to do with societal development of morality.
When I quoted Dawkins and Blackmore as saying the universe has no meaning or purpose, they weren’t just voicing their personal opinion; they were reluctantly stating the unavoidable conclusion of atheistic reasoning.
You’d have to ask Dawkins and Blackmore if they were reluctant. The quotes you gave are simply statements.
It seems to me that probably you believe the above is true, and yet, in daily life try to live as though it is not true. Surely this a very awkward position to be in, operating from two opposite and conflicting points of view.
Why should I care whether or not the universe has a purpose? It’s an interesting idea to mull over but I don’t find it awkward or conflicting.
My arguments about your daughter using atheism to justify destructive behaviour is simple logic that is consistent with reality and historical experience (even my own experiences in China and Russia). The examples I used of Stalin and Mao, with their beliefs and behaviour, fit perfectly within the framework of evolution. You have not refuted my arguments except to say that they are laughable. The mega-millions that they carelessly slaughtered would not say it was laughable. I’m inclined to think they would agree with me that their deaths last century are proof that the non-religious worldview was more destructive than all the others put together.
This argument is laughable because I could use the same arguments to dismiss religious beliefs… and it would also be misguided. People dying because of the tyranny of a religious leader or an atheist leader says little about either religion or atheism. Do you really consider that a “winner” on the basis of who has managed to kill the most people means anything?
It is also true that religion can be very destructive. Notably, Islam and the Catholic Church have a lot to answer for. (For that reason, I am careful to promote Jesus, and not religion).
Stupid, irrational, selfish people can be very destructive. It doesn’t matter what it is they have faith in.
You asked me if I have ever read any history. Actually, I have, and it is one of my favourite subjects. Currently I am reading Winston Churchill’s extensive history of WW2, Volume 3.
You are also right in saying that Hitler, and many others, including so-called Christians, have committed outrageous crimes. (Though an atheist would have a hard time trying to justify their outrage if wrong doesn’t actually exist).
However, bad behaviour from people who claim to know better doesn’t prove that there’s no God, or that the people who called themselves Christian were genuine Christians, just because they use that label. I guess you already know that.
No one has been able to prove the existence or lack of gods. But the lack of evidence implies they don’t exist.
Jesus said you can tell a tree by the fruit it produces, so if the lifestyle doesn’t match up, clearly they are not who they are pretending to be. Hitler may have invoked the name of God to endorse his agenda, but clearly his behaviour was totally inconsistent with Jesus. In fact, he couldn’t have been more opposite to Jesus and yet you try to use Hitler as an example for discrediting Christianity, even though you are aware of this obvious discrepancy.
Jesus wasn’t all peace and light… “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. – Matthew 10:34“
On the other hand, Hitler’s life and behaviour regarding eugenics and genocide are totally consistent with atheistic evolution, and the evidence is so well established that I must ask, if you are the one lacking in history.
There is no such thing as atheistic evolution. There is evolution and there is the lack of belief in gods. But combining the two and trying to relate it to Hitler is a classic example of Godwin’s Law.
My reason for writing is because this issue is not simply an academic argument about history. It is about the foundation truths that our future will be established upon. A century ago communist leaders threw off religious restraint and aimed to create a secular utopia of freedom, equality and prosperity. Probably no human experiment in history has started with such high idealistic aims and ended with such a tragic nightmare of fear, oppression and death. What people believe, will ultimately be manifested in their lives. Hence my original concern for the removal of Jesus’ example from state schools and being replaced with a worldview that has the potential for such destruction. If the communist leaders one hundred years ago could see the monumental disaster they were about to unleash, they would have acted differently. (Trotsky did, but too late to save himself.)
Is this the same religious restraint that prevented scientific advancement, oppressed women and supported slavery?
The definition you use for atheism seems a little awkward. You state it in terms of what you don’t believe, i.e “lacking a belief in gods”. This is actually much closer to agnosticism, where people don’t know if there is a God. However, atheism means “without god” which is a positive statement affirming there is no god. It is the obvious definition for atheists to use and yet I’ve found that atheists tend to shy away from it, and instead prefer the softer option of using the negative expression. Possibly because challenging an atheists’ lack of belief in something is much harder, since by definition it lacks substance to attack. Whereas, if an atheist tries to assert that there is no god, then that’s probably an impossible position to defend.
You’re quite right. It is awkward as there is no need for a label. It was a word invented by theists and atheists have redefined it to suit their ideas. Dictionaries are still catching up. What is the term for someone who doesn’t believe in unicorns? Atheists generally explain themselves as believing that there is no evidence for gods (pretty easy to defend), whereas Agnostics don’t believe it is possible to know one way or the other. It’s a subtle difference. Agnostics are fence sitters! It should be noted that Christians are quite happy to dismiss all of the gods that the majority of the earth’s non-Christian population worship. It should be quite easy to relate to Atheism.
Children are born with a strong spiritual awareness and do not become antitheists until people convince them otherwise. This is obvious from the fact that all of known history has been with some form of spiritual context. That was, until last century when secularism became widespread, mostly through enforced indoctrination in China and the Soviet Union. Now that communist ideology has weakened, both Russia and China have experienced an enormous resurgence of spirituality, and especially the Christian faith.
Given our inability to converse with newborns (I assume that you’re not claiming some sort of baby-whisperer gift?), I find your statement a little hard to accept. Anti-theist is not the same as A-theist. Yes, there is significant spiritual context in history. It also manifests as belief in astrology, crystal healing, psychic powers and alien abduction. Mostly superstitious nonsense, except perhaps the aliens. Secularism hasn’t been widespread, mainly because Christians had a habit of torturing and killing the secularists as heretics.
The Chinese (unofficial) bestselling book for some years now is the Bible, even though Mao swore to destroy every copy and Christianity. You may be aware of the prediction that, because Christianity is growing there so fast for so long, it is expected to reach the tipping point of becoming a Christian nation in 30 years.
Fortunately, the popularity of something is no indication of it’s worth. Take Donald Trump, please.
However, I am also aware that Britain is heading towards being an Islamic state, while we in New Zealand are heading towards being a secular state.
Britain will have to give up pork pies first and I can see them fighting on the beaches to keep those. New Zealand has always been a secular nation.
Secularism in schools is not neutral, but simply a soft option for atheism, as one leads directly to the other. A truly neutral option would be to teach in an environment where an original cause for our existence is not stated. And yet, the default position for secular education is always atheistic evolution. How can that be neutral? At least Christianity’s bias is obvious and stated up front. Secularism is claimed to be neutral but its’ proponents have no intention of that being so, and instead use it as a cover for atheism, as it always leads in that direction and never to faith-based options. How can that be unbiased?
If you believe that “Bert and Mabel” from the local church not being allowed to teach about god in schools leads to atheism, you might want to reconsider your views on god’s all-powerful omnipresence. I don’t believe that there is any mention of gods or lack thereof in evolutionary theory. The Catholic church now agrees with evolution but panders to their beliefs by suggesting that God set the whole thing in motion. An acceptable compromise I suppose. If it were biased toward atheism, someone would be in the school teaching kids to avoid superstitious religious beliefs but that wouldn’t be secular, would it? If you really believed in God, then you would say that no teaching about gods or lack thereof, would be biased towards Christian faith as “God is everywhere”.
You are right in saying Christianity cannot claim morality as its’ own, and I was careful not to say that. I think this is an example of the “Straw man” argument where you have reframed what I said in your own words. It makes my argument look so weak that it can be easily knocked down. Anyone reading it could not help but agree with you and wonder why I would suggest such a ridiculous argument. However, what you wrote is not what I said nor implied. In fact, it didn’t occur to me you would misinterpret it that way or I would have pre-empted it by clearly stating it was not so. You have done this several times throughout your response, and so I cannot allow you to quote my writing until I can be assured you will not represent my argument so carelessly.
I’m not sure who you are claiming morality for then? God, with Christians as his messengers? It’s the same thing.
At the start of this letter, I have already referred to another such example of misrepresentation, regarding faith being needed to do good. I did not write this and do not teach this to my children, as you suggest. Clearly you are able to act in a way that I would regard as good and I did not write anything to the contrary.
So, no need for religious faith teaching to teach values in primary school then…
Regarding your offer to rescue me from being mugged; of course I would be grateful for your help and would regard it as a good thing to do from a moral point of view. But you are writing from a viewpoint that rejects the idea of “good” from its’ foundation. So, once again, how can you sincerely affirm the importance of moral behaviour while also sincerely denying the only framework that can justify the existence of morality. Hence the reason why I described morals in a secular context as fake, because it has no objective standard to describe their meaning or value. You can, of course, make up your own but then they are just your personal preferences, not genuine morals.
No, I don’t reject the concept of “good”, just your belief that it stems from some divine being. If you believe that there is no justification for good without the framework of religious faith, then it follows that you yourself would have no morals if you lost your faith, would it not? Your argument depends on the premise of god to be “truly” good, whereas most people just go out and be good anyway, without your beliefs.
I agree with you saying that many modern Christians mock other religions and cultures and choose their beliefs merely for the sake of convenience. Clearly they fall well short of Jesus’ example and teaching. But again, this does nothing to prove that God doesn’t exist, only that their failures or hypocrisy are all too obvious. Jesus even said ahead of time that it would happen, so there are no real surprises there.
Your last paragraph just mocked people as “fake” who do good without faith in God.
You are also right in saying that there are shocking and cruel things recorded in the Bible. However, I should explain that a Christian’s aim is to emulate Jesus and not indulge in the extreme behaviour recorded in the Bible.
You mean this shining example of Jesus’ values?
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace on earth! No, rather a sword lf you love your father, mother, sister, brother, more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. “The real beauty of this verse is that Jesus demands people truly love him more then they love their own family. I ask you how can we love someone that we can not see or interact with? Love is an emotion pertaining to physical existence not to faithful ideologies, yet God threatens you with death just because your love for your mother maybe stronger than your love for him.” (Matthew 10:34)
“Brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.” (Matthew 10:21)
I suspect you are also right in saying that most Christians have very little understanding of biblical morality. Possibly because they’re more interested in superficial respectability than following Jesus. Having said that, Dawkins has no idea either. He admitted he was not an expert on the Bible and even regarded it as a “non-subject”. The Bible is, however, the number one, all-time, bestselling book in the world, containing the most profound collection of wisdom regarding the life and human experience. Dawkins would do well to at least read it fully before so casually dismissing it. After all, it is arguably the most influential book in the world.
The bible does have a head start on most other authors. Unfortunately popularity and influence still have no bearing on actual value. Take Donald Trump… and Justin Beiber. I believe that Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Grey have outsold the bible at various times. I may convert to them because they are really popular, so obviously true.
Christian morality is based on the belief that Jesus accomplished it for us through his sacrifice, and that we’re made acceptable to God simply by our faith in Jesus and what He did for us. All other religions are about keeping religious rules to work your way up to heaven by doing good. Christianity is just the opposite. It is about a God who came down to earth to do for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. The Apostle Paul sums this up by saying “It’s God’s grace to us that enables us to be saved by faith in Jesus. It is not the result of our own effort but God’s gift to us, so that no one can boast about it”. Ephesians 2 :8 and 9.
I have always wondered how Christians manage to blindly follow a religion based on using a scapegoat in the form of a human sacrifice and somehow still consider themselves morally superior. They are in a relationship with an imaginary being who they consider to be loving at the same time as having the threat of eternal hell and damnation hanging over their heads by the same being if they don’t do as they’re told. That sounds more like an abusive, dysfunctional relationship to me.
I realise that this is quite different to what many Christians believe, especially the Catholic Church. Their doctrines expressly reject this idea and instead require people to join their church and fulfill their rules. Martin Luther’s opposition to this doctrine in the 1500’s was the beginning of the Great Reformation.
That’s because all the others weren’t “Real Christians”.
The outworking of this belief for me is that all my service or devotion should be motivated only by love and gratitude for what He has already achieved for us, and not in any way rely upon my own effort to make myself acceptable to God. Paul even warns that if we try to justify ourselves by keeping even one law, then we actually become further from God, not closer.
That’s nice but doing good without the promise of heavenly reward is nicer.
Dawkins’ comparison to apple-polishing may be typical for many Christians but it simply reveals how misinformed they are, compared to what the Gospel says. I encourage you to read it for yourself. You will be amazed at how many of your misconceptions disappear.
Oh, don’t you worry, I have discovered a lot from reading the bible.
I would also encourage you to use a little more discernment when evaluating people’s claims regarding God, as everyone’s opinion is not of equal value. I presume that you are already aware of that, but that it suits you to lump all the genuine and the fakes together as an excuse to reject the lot. It may be convenient, but you cannot do it without injuring your own sense of integrity.
I think all claims to knowledge of god are of equal value. They are equally hubristic.
You commit the same injustice when writing of your complaints against the CEC teachers. You confidently assert your accusations against them as though they are all equally guilty. Yet it is impossible for you to be certain if all your accusations of all the teachers are all true. You can not know all of their motives unless you’re God. To write such an unfair and sweeping blame-statement shows you are more focused on expressing your resentment against them, than any objective statement of truth.
They are all equally guilty of imposing their beliefs on children who are unable to effectively debate with them, in a school that should be secular, at a time when they should be educated, not indoctrinated.
Another example of taking what I have written out of context is your assertion that I and CEC teachers care nothing for values and would only teach the faith aspect or nothing. I won’t speak for CEC teachers, but for myself it should be obvious that morals and values are very important to me, as it forms the bulk of my writing to you.
I think they believe they are there to teach values. However, it was you that said; “I agree with your statement that, if CEC Teams had to teach values only with no religion, then they probably wouldn’t do it. And, in that situation, neither would I.”. Therefore, teaching values without being associated with faith is not their main motivation.
The reason why I stated that I would not teach values in a secular context is that they would be meaningless, given a foundational paradigm where they don’t exist. Otherwise, if you think they do exist, you need to explain where they come from, what are they made of , and what is their source?
Not sure why you keep reiterating this. I would have though it was obvious without any explanation.
- Values come from our need to coexist safely and harmoniously with others.
- They are made of mutually accepted and understood patterns of behaviour.
- Their source is us.
Unless you’re using my Dad’s computer, you’re probably looking at a device that wasn’t in existence 100 years ago. Does that mean that is it not real, has no value and can’t be named because we invented it?
You have said that it is sad I think morals can only come from God. You even describe my argument as a rant, and yet you have not refuted my logic or provided an alternative explanation of where morals come from, if there is no God.
Atheist writers also agree with me and yet you have not refuted them either. Your only defense has been that you can act in a way that appears moral (which I agree with), whilst at the same time maintaining a foundational belief that denies they are real.
You didn’t quote any atheists saying anything that I disagreed with. I only disagree with your interpretation of what they said. Non-Christian people’s morals are only unreal to you because your world view precludes morality without (your) god. Conversely, I may consider your morals as worthy as mine despite beliefs I consider superstitious because I am more concerned with the practice than the beliefs. If the same bible teachers I’ve criticised taught values without religious reference, I would have no problem with them.
I have covered most, but not all, of the issues you raised and no doubt have provided materials for you to respond to.
You didn’t answer… If everything is part of god’s plan, why are you bothering to protest this?
Let me know what you think!