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September 08, 2008

Comments

Paul, "Answer this for me: Surely Christians have noticed these things in the OT for hundreds of years, and yet have no problem following the God of the Bible -- do you think it's possible there is a good reason (other than blind, unquestioning allegiance)?"

The answer is that they do not follow these laws (although in some southern US states I'm sure they'd love to!). As I have already said, Christians do not murder homosexuals, lazy rebellious children and so on. These laws from god are out-dated and now immoral within the current cultural context. They were there to ensure survival of the tribe at the time, for pressures which no longer exist or have been dealt with in other ways.

>>Christians believe Jesus is God because of magic.

Not logic.>>

I don't know what this means. Everything a few of us have mentioned is evidence. If one rejects the whole of the body of evidence that suggests Jesus was right to make divinity claims, then they are "logically" subscribing to a belief that has LESS evidence behind it. We cannot prove Jesus is God. But we can demonstrate that every other possibility is even more absurd than the possibility that He may be telling the Truth.

We ought to believe that which has the most evidence behind it

We ought to also believe that which, given other possibilities, is least absurd.

Most evidence demonstrates that Jesus was telling the Truth.

Every other possible explanation makes even less sense.

Therefore, we ought to believe the claim that Jesus is God.

Logic.

Ryan, sorry to butt in. But the absurdity argument makes no sense to me. Take the bare facts: a young woman who finds herself pregnant, gets married to an older man because of it, whose son becomes a moral philosopher around whom a personality cult develops. The NT is written and compiled largely after the fact. The above statement is true regardless of whether you believe Jesus is God or not.

Now apply the absurdity rule. Now, this may offend some so I apologise, but leaving aside what is written by people, could Mary have not been a virgin, and Jesus not the Son of God, and whose status was exaggerated? Virgin-birth cults were rife over the world in the BC years and the OT predicts one to be the messiah, and the story in the NT conveniently fits this.

Is it less absurd to believe the uncorroborated divine story, than a more down-to-earth embellishment of facts?

Hi barelyEvolved

"Hi Louis Kuhelj, thanks for your comments. "


Hi where to begin. You honestly present some interesting challenges to respond to.


"I agree that I am judging Yahweh by the standards of our time, and that is exactly my point."

Well, the question is if it is appropriate to do so. But I will leave that alone for the moment.


" Why would, for instance, killing homosexuals be right for god and society then but not now?"


First of all why assume that what is immoral for us, is immoral for God? Allow me to use a short illustration to clarify my point. Would it be morally right for me to go to your closet without your permission and take your suit and keep it for myself or would it be morally wrong. I think you and I would agree that it would be theft and therefore morally wrong. Now, would it be morally wrong for you to take that same suite out of your closet and keep it for yourself? I think that we would both agree that this would not be theft since you own the suit in the first place and therefore, no breach of morality would occur.
Now...let's apply this principle to the example of God and His taking of life or commanding the taking of life. God, being the author of life, gave life to everything that lives. He was under no obligation of any kind to do so to start with and he is under no moral condemnation by taking that which is His anyway. Even today, it is God's right as the owner of all life to take it away or not as He wishes. This applies to all human beings regardless of any classifications they may be grouped into. However, that same right does not belong to us human beings and therefore WE CAN COMMIT MURDER by the unjustified taking of a human life.

"He set down the law, and as Paul says, Jesus did not overturn those laws."
"In other places the Bible says god's word is forever."

God's word is certainly forever and His laws fall under that as well. The question here is not if the law is forever, but if it actually applies to God or not. I think that my illustration shows that this it does not for a very specific reason.


"It just doesn't make sense for a deity to change his moral stance to suit the moral environment of the time. He was setting the moral environment surely?"

Ok...let's get back to the question of ancient history vs. today on the stance of homosexuality. It is quite clear that in the old testament God considered this something that was morally wrong. With the new testament and new covenant this has not changed. I am under the impression that the law you are referring to applied to a very specific people as the word of God came first to the Jew. Under the agreement between God and His chosen people who were a theocratic nation (talk about a unique political situation) the civil(if it can be called that in a theocracy???) law was orchestrated by God himself. Under the agreement with God, they were granted privileges, protection, guidance and promises that other nations did not enjoy. However, there were also obligations that came along with this as a package deal. One of the obligations was to keep themselves pure and separate from other nations. They were not to be like other nations around them in many ways that included abstaining from worshiping false gods and not engaging in a behavior that was inconsistent with the purposes that God created mankind in the first place. Of him to whom much is given much is required. Israelites benefited greatly from the covenants with God and therefore much was required of them. But more importantly, Jesus was to come out of the nation. Does it not make sense that a holy God would not have the scandal of homosexuality be attached to a nation from which His own Son would come into the world?
Do you think that the legal system in New York should have to enforce California state laws? If not, why would you think that laws that were imposed under a theocracy thousands of years ago under unique circumstances and for unique reasons should be applied today within governments that are fundamentally different from the ancient example and absence of those unique circumstances?


"The killing of first-born sons is a greatly-debated example of Yahweh's immoral acts. Is it like killing some innocents to save others from mere slavery? Then it is favouritism, and a non-condoning of slavery of one people over another."

God ultimately blessed other nations through the one He saved from slavery in Egypt. For it was through that nation that arose a Savior that made available to all a way to escape the consequences of their own rebellion against God.


"It's an eye for a tooth. "

This sits on reasoning that did not take the view I propose here into account. Now you have the opportunity to take another look at it in the light of that new information.

"On another point, if sin is only committed by the heart, then to use Paul's example, someone like Hitler can kill without sin if they believe they are right. That is a bit scary..."

The bible makes clear a distinction between killing and murder as does our language as we have two different definitions for them. One of what we term the ten commandments clearly states in the original tongue "Thou shalt not murder." We know that this distinction is necessary as not all killing is murder. Killing a rat is not murder, but it is killing. We know that we are created in God's image and because of that, we know that hatred of God's image to such a degree as to unlawfully take the life that we have no right to take, carries with it the ultimate penalty. This is because of the extreme nature of the offense against God as well as man. The punishment fits the crime. A life for a life. But along with it, it carries with it restrictions as well. Only the murderer's life is forfeit, not his family. You see, simply believing something is right, does not make it right in itself. Motives have to be examined to determine if murder has been committed. It is clear from the motive of "hatred of the Jews" that Hitler was guilty of the murders of millions of people. Simply because one believes that the Jews deserved the hatred poured upon them in the death camps, does not make it right. If one is a properly functioning human being, his moral intuition and conscience will inform him of this fact. Morality is not laid down by social conventions that are changeable as sifting sand based on human whim, but is firmly grounded in the consistent ontological justice, mercy and goodness of God.

The concept you propose is "a bit scary..." Fortunately, no such concept flows naturally from Christianity. What is more frightening than your example is a universe without a law-giver and therefore without laws from which reasoning it naturally follows that anything is permissible without any restraint or restriction or indeed accountability for their actions.


I hope that you will take some time to think on these things and carefully reflect on them before you assess their merit.



>>The above statement is true regardless of whether you believe Jesus is God or not.>>

Christians do not deny any of that. This is a common way for non-Christians to argue. Straw-men, bringing up irrelevant points, not answering the actual claims of Christ.

Hi Louis, thanks for a very informative post! It's nice not to get the usual unconsidered responses I normally get asking these questions to Christians. I (obviously) have a few more questions :o)

"God's word is certainly forever and His laws fall under that as well. The question here is not if the law is forever, but if it actually applies to God or not. I think that my illustration shows that this it does not for a very specific reason." - I fully appreciate how you arrive at this conclusion. Is this scripturally determined or is this a theological interpretation?

"Does it not make sense that a holy God would not have the scandal of homosexuality be attached to a nation from which His own Son would come into the world?" - hmmm, if he deemed it scandalous I guess not. However, my concerns are that he condemns any man born with an urge for the 'wrong' sex to a life of misery, when in the modern world they are free to function in society as equals, and their private matters are just that. I would also call into question god's view of Job as a moral man, when he offered up his daughters to the Sodomites. This is entirely in the context of god's view of women as unequal possessions of men, so it is to be expected. As they declined, god destroyed them all, men women and children, turning Job's wife into a pillar of salt along with it. Now far from me to criticise a supreme being, but I find it all a little distasteful!

"Do you think that the legal system in New York should have to enforce California state laws? If not, why would you think that (god's) laws...should be applied today...?" - So, as I must be misunderstanding the Bible on this, as has been said previously there are laws for the Jews and laws common for all humans then. Which ones are which? Which still hold in our modern world, to those not born of Jewish descent?

"God ultimately blessed other nations through the one He saved from slavery in Egypt. For it was through that nation that arose a Savior that made available to all a way to escape the consequences of their own rebellion against God." - I don't quite get this sorry. Yes, Jesus was born and died as a scapegoat for our sins, yet in between then and now most people born have either not heard of him or have been born into another faith. It doesn't seem like the best strategy to me (incredulity, I know).

""It's an eye for a tooth. "
This sits on reasoning that did not take the view I propose here into account. Now you have the opportunity to take another look at it in the light of that new information." - yes, now that god can take away what is rightfully his. Thankfully Jesus set this straight however and proposed confession, repentance, and forgiveness to stop the merciless killing of wayward teens, gays, innocent first borns? Prior to JC it seems that life wasn't as sacrosanct as it was afterwards.

"The punishment fits the crime. A life for a life. But along with it, it carries with it restrictions as well. Only the murderer's life is forfeit, not his family." - 2 Samuel:12-13, Yahweh punishes David's wives by making them sleep in public with others, kills his son after 7 days of grave illness, then his son rapes his daughter (there is no explicit mention of this being Yahweh but comes under his threat of his house being always "under the sword"), leading to David killing him. Not a bedtime story.

"What is more frightening than your example is a universe without a law-giver and therefore without laws from which reasoning it naturally follows that anything is permissible without any restraint or restriction or indeed accountability for their actions."

A supreme law-giver that had immediate authority, adequate deterrents and rational and transparent morals is certainly better than none, and I put it to you that society can achieve all such things. It should be our goal to achieve this in ourselves and for each other. Ultimately, you will no doubt believe that god exists and that he performs that function. However until proof of the Christian god exists for all I cannot agree with you on the truth of the matter. Certainly within the paradigm that yourself and Paul have explained to me it all works, but like all unproven things, I have to remain sceptical I'm afraid. I'd appreciate more comments however!

Hi barelyEvolved,

You can send an email to me at dsbikes at gmail. I am also enjoying the discussion, and it's probably useful for others to be able to read it here, so in general I like keeping them public, but sometimes they get too lengthy to hold the interest of others.

You wrote:
"Though this leaves certain contradictions throughout Jewish/Christian/Muslim etc history to be resolved, as they suggest non-omniscience (off-topic)."

I'm not sure what history you're referring to, but (in general) I would say that it's possible for something to appear to be a demonstration of a lack of knowledge and for it to actually be something different. When God said to Adam "where are you", I don't think it meant that God wasn't able to physically locate him, otherwise that's a pretty weak god.

"Regardless, the laws in the OT are not being followed,"

Some aren't, but then they weren't meant to be.

"As for rape, for humans it is not a good reproductive tactic. ...(snip)... Hence rape is immoral to the victim and their group."

If rape turned out to be a good reproductive tactic, would it then be moral? Is the morality of the act based only upon its utility?

"When the rapist is a part of the tribe, they should contribute their resources to the child to make good."

Why should the rapist do that? Can you give a "rational" argument that isn't based (at some point) upon a moral intuition? Also, define "good".

"This is what can lead to the OT law of the rapist forced to marry their victim."

I'm not aware of that law -- can you cite it for me?

"Moral relativism comes into play here, as in ancient tribal systems ... it could be better for the child to be brought up by the rapist .... In the modern day, the victim has a choice."

Again, this is not the definition of moral relativism. You presented two different situations with distinctly differing circumstances, so the moral equation is different for each, leading to different conclusions on the morality of the act in question.

"Essentially Christianity has one moral code that is said to be God-given, but in reality constituted the moral outlook of the day,..."

I think you still have a misunderstanding of the different moral commands given by God. Some commands were given to all people, for all times (e.g., don't murder, don't steal), and others were specific commands to specific people or people groups within a confined time. A most straightforward example of this would be God giving marching orders to Moses -- Moses was morally obligated to follow the decree, and we all understand that the decree was specific and directed only toward him (and not to anyone else, either in that time period or this one).

barelyEvolved --
You wrote: "However until proof of the Christian god exists for all I cannot agree with you on the truth of the matter."

Can you tell me what would suffice for "proof"?

I'm not saying you're doing this, but many atheists use this as a dodge, since it really turns out that nothing would satisfy them. As one person put it, "if God appeared to the atheist, he wouldn't go find a priest, he'd go find a psychiatrist."

Having "proof" doesn't mean that there's no possibility that we could be wrong. I think I have adequate "proof" that I'm sitting at a computer typing a message, but it's possible that my senses are deceiving me, and that I'm mistaken. Most of science (apart from pure mathematics, logic, etc.) is like this -- we devise experiments and examine results, and draw reasonable conclusions about the world around us, though we should recognize that it is possible that our experiments are flawed and not accurately confirming or refuting our hypotheses.

Sorry for the triple-post...

barelyEvolved wrote:
"The answer is that they do not follow these laws."

That doesn't answer the question as to why Christians would follow a God that (to paraphrase you) commanded/endorsed such moral atrocities (based on the moral system of either our time or the OT).

"These laws from god are out-dated and now immoral within the current cultural context."

The "cultural context" has nothing to do with it. God gave the commands to specific people for a specific reason.

"They were there to ensure survival of the tribe at the time, for pressures which no longer exist or have been dealt with in other ways."

I'm sorry, but this is simply not accurate. I (and others) have explained several times why this is so, so I'll not repeat it here. :)

barelyEvolved,

Nothing follows from your precis narrative, "A young woman who finds herself pregnant..." Simply retelling the overall narrative of Jesus' life (I see you left out His coming alive after being dead for three days, and appearing to hundreds of people who were still alive when the NT letters were circulated throughout Israel) does not establish either that He was merely human or that He was God incarnate.

Of course, you've excluded all of the supernatural elements from your narrative. How do you justify doing this? Personal predilection? History gives us no reason to do this; neither the ancient Biblical texts (our primary source), nor Josephus nor the Church Fathers nor Tacitus nor Pliny the Younger, none of them dispute the claims of miracles and resurrection, but actually corroborate them. These elements were clearly a part of the story of Jesus' life from the very beginning.

Including in Jesus' earliest known personal narrative miracles, healings, personal claims to deity, and resurrecting from the dead, the question becomes: Is there more evidence that Jesus told the truth, that He was in fact God, or more evidence that these claims were fabricated or exaggerated by His followers? Contrary to the conspiracy theorists who believe wild rumors without any factual evidence, I see nothing supporting the latter in all of history.

Ryan,

You should go reread what he listed:

- archaeological evidence
- complexity
- guilt
- oral information
- ultimate evidence is the testimony of the Holy Spirit

All of those first 4 may indicate a creator of the universe. NOT that he is Jesus.

As he indicates in his 5th citation, it is magic that seals the deal.

Hi Sage S.

Ancient biblical texts are essentially a secondary source, historically, which does limit it's use to any historian. Pliny the Younger and Tacitus do not back up any miracle stories, Josephus wrote after the event and therefore becomes a secondary source too.

Essentially as there is no extraordinary evidence to back up the events posited in the Bible, I am doing the same as Jefferson did. Put it this way, do you also believe in the Book of Mormon and the account of Joseph Smith Jr?

barelyEvolved,

---snipped for sake of brevity----

""It's an eye for a tooth. "
This sits on reasoning that did not take the view I propose here into account. Now you have the opportunity to take another look at it in the light of that new information." - yes, now that god can take away what is rightfully his. Thankfully Jesus set this straight however and proposed confession, repentance, and forgiveness to stop the merciless killing of wayward teens, gays, innocent first borns? Prior to JC it seems that life wasn't as sacrosanct as it was afterwards.

"The punishment fits the crime. A life for a life. But along with it, it carries with it restrictions as well. Only the murderer's life is forfeit, not his family." - 2 Samuel:12-13, Yahweh punishes David's wives by making them sleep in public with others, kills his son after 7 days of grave illness, then his son rapes his daughter (there is no explicit mention of this being Yahweh but comes under his threat of his house being always "under the sword"), leading to David killing him. Not a bedtime story.

"What is more frightening than your example is a universe without a law-giver and therefore without laws from which reasoning it naturally follows that anything is permissible without any restraint or restriction or indeed accountability for their actions."
A supreme law-giver that had immediate authority, adequate deterrents and rational and transparent morals is certainly better than none, and I put it to you that society can achieve all such things. It should be our goal to achieve this in ourselves and for each other. Ultimately, you will no doubt believe that god exists and that he performs that function. However until proof of the Christian god exists for all I cannot agree with you on the truth of the matter. Certainly within the paradigm that yourself and Paul have explained to me it all works, but like all unproven things, I have to remain sceptical I'm afraid. I'd appreciate more comments however!

I suppose that I could respond to every point that you raised in your post and no doubt that would appreciate how I arrive at the conclusions. However, this would have several negative effects that I am trying to avoid. It would upstage the truth and highlight my self-aggrandizement. It would also wrongly give greater weight to knowledge over wisdom. I have no interest in self promotion or eclipsing the truth and because of that, I will take another path.

Throughout your response you have shown that you have a deep concern for and commitment to justice. I applaud you for this stance, even though I think it is misdirected. In fact, the depth of that commitment suggests a fundamental understanding on your part of what it would take to satisfy your sense of and need for justice. Putting it plainly, nothing short of perfect justice could satisfy this need. That is why it is so terribly baffling to see you go from that position to this statement:

“A supreme law-giver that had immediate authority, adequate deterrents and rational and transparent morals is certainly better than none, and I put it to you that society can achieve all such things.”


I don’t for a minute believe, based on your obvious laudable sense of the need for perfectly just justice, that you would find the imperfect and terribly flawed justice system of humanity adequate to the task of meeting that need. All you have to do is examine how many times people wrongly accuse each other (and I confess that I am as guilty as the next man on this) of things that they are in no way guilty of. I don’t need to tell you examples of men who were wrongly convicted of crimes and spent decades in prison because of the imperfect human justice. I am sorry, but you would be a very miserable person indeed if you had to live in a world in which society, rather than a ontologically perfect God, was the one making arbitrary decisions on morality and handing out decisions on what was just and what was not. The reason this is so is that your moral intuition would be in conflict with such a society and indeed such a world. That intuition would constantly be telling you that the world was unjust and based on your demonstrated commitment to a just world, you could never be satisfied in such a world. Only a world in which there is hope for justice to prevail in the end, can you find fulfillment and satisfaction for you need for justice. Such a world can only exist if God of Christianity does.

barelyEvolved, I don't blame you for not having an understanding about issues of the OT Law, etc. in Christianity (you also have some of your stories jumbled a bit, there). Christians haven't done the best job of training even other Christians to think about these things.

You all have been having a great conversation here. I just wanted to point you to a couple posts that might be helpful. The first, Why Is it Okay to Wear Mixed Fibers, explains why we are not under the Old Testament Law. The second is The Law and the Christian. Commenters here have covered a lot of the points in those posts already (thanks!), but those posts also offer a couple other links, if you really want to look into the Christian position on this subject.

barelyEvolved,

A secondary source is one written about previously printed material. The Bible is a primary source, as is Josephus.
"The term 'primary source' is often used about a document, recording or other source of information that was created at roughly the time being studied, by an authoritative source, usually one with direct personal knowledge of the events being described." Everyone (yourself included) accepts the Bible and Josephus as historical documents. If not, how could you say, "Take the bare facts: a young woman who finds herself pregnant, gets married to an older man because of it..." How do you know these are the facts of what happened?

The burden of proof is on you for excising all the supernatural elements out of Jesus' life story. On what historical basis do you justify this decision? The fact is, the earliest documentary evidence (listed above) corroborates rather than denies these elements. I'm at work now - when I get home I'll post some quotations to this effect.

ToNy,

I didn't respond to your claim of the Holy Spirit being a form of magic because Ryan was doing just fine on his own. But your claim is circular, and presupposes God is make-believe. If God exists, there is nothing magical about anything He does.

Archeological finds in the Middle East (as many as I know about) have all corroborated the Biblical accounts. Yes, the Hebrews kept meticulous records in their Scriptures, but the archeological evidence assures us of more than this. 1) The events they record were rooted in real places and real historical events. This then makes it believable that the events actually happened as recorded. 2) It shows a Hebraic concern for truth in thier writings. 3) Since the OT prophesies the NT and precludes it in historical narrative and theological foundations, archeology indirectly substantiates the claims of Jesus Christ.

Nature suggests a Creator. Obviously this is the briefest answer to a vast domain of study, but we can say the attributes of the Creator would necessarily coincide with Jesus (as opposed to a universe-making machine or an impersonal creative force).

Your challenge was not to offer the best, most concrete and reliable evidence for Jesus' divinity. Taken in context, my examples answer your challenge. They offer corroboration for the primary source.

Also listed was the persistence and uniformity of the Church over time, throughout cultural and geographic boundaries. One message uniformly persisting despite hostile opposition (persecution) met with nonviolent resistance, cultural differences, global changes, competing ideologies and internal schisms.

While all these things might not convince you of Jesus' truth claims, they do serve to corroborate and support them.

Sage,

I appreciate your detailed response, which is helpful in many ways, but I feel like I still don't understand how moral blame attaches to someone who is ignorant of the existence of God. If I can try to summarize the key points that you stated, to make sure that I'm understanding them correctly:

1. There is one and only one God.
2. He wants us to believe in Him, because that is what's best for us.
3. It is moral to worship Him, because He deserves it for all the good things that he's done.

I understand what you're saying with #3 (although don't agree of course, as I don't even believe in #1). I realize that Amy is dealing with #3, but my question is really with a related but distinct #4:

4. It is immoral to not worship God, or to worship other gods.

#4 is really what I don't understand, and I should have stated that more clearly, but I only just realized it now. My problem is that #4 typically arises due to ignorance, and generally, if someone has incorrect beliefs, I might think that they're not very smart, or that they're overly stubborn, but not that they're immoral. I understand your explanation (regarding #3) that it would be immoral to say "Yes, there's one God, who made all of existence, but I'm not going to worship Him." But I'm thinking of the much more common case of a person who doesn't worship God because he/she doesn't belive in Him, or who worships other gods because he/she believes in them instead. Why it it immoral to not be smart enough to figure out that there's one and only one god? To use your example, if I never wrote my parents because I mistakenly thought that they were dead, it would certainly be tragic, but no one would think I was immoral.

Similarly, I think I understand your point #2, and why it would be in person's own self-interest to worship God. But I don't see how that makes failure to do so due to lack of belief immoral. For example, I know people who went jogging on asphalt daily, thinking they were doing good for their body, but actually, they were hurting their knees. I think this is sad, but not that they were immoral.

Sage,

BTW, thanks for the book recommendations. I've already enjoyed C.S. Lewis' apologetic works, but I'm afraid I was never really able to get into Strobel.

OT precedes (not precludes) the NT. Sorry.

Thank you, Amy. I remember somewhat of those posts. (BTW, I think you thoroughly nailed Hitchens' rhetorical game. Since we have all splintered into discussing various angles on belief, perhaps this is a testimony to the efficacy of your rebuttal - we were able actually to engage reasons for belief beyond Hitchens' outright dismissal.)

barelyEvolved -

Josephus: "About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man...For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly." (Miracles)

Tacitus, AD 115: "Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea...but even in Rome." (After Jesus' death, belief in him again sprung up throughout the empire. This is to say that, in AD 64 at the time of Nero, people really believed Jesus had come back to life.)

Josephus, writing in AD 93: "Jesus, who was called the Christ." (After Jesus' death, people still spoke of him as the Christ - the Messiah.)

Pliny, c. AD 111: "They had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god." (Sunday morning worship of Jesus as God nearly 80 years after he had been crucified.)

Any early historical records of Jesus outside of the Bible (and there are many) all agree with and support the Biblical claims that Jesus performed healings and miracles, rose from the dead, was called the Messiah, and was worshipped as God after having been publicly executed. Thus the supernatural aspects of Jesus' life are present in ALL of the very earliest writings about Him - both in the Bible and in other texts.

Sage,

>> If God exists, there is nothing magical about anything He does.

Acts of god break the laws of physics. i.e. parting the red sea. = Magic.

>> The events they record were rooted in real places and real historical events. This then makes it believable that the events actually happened as recorded.

If I write a book about Zeus that takes place in a city called Orange County which we find really exists, does this mean Zeus is God?

> archeology indirectly substantiates the claims of Jesus Christ.

Provide some archeological evidence that indicates Jesus is God.

>> we can say the attributes of the Creator would necessarily coincide with Jesus (as opposed to a universe-making machine or an impersonal creative force).

Or Allah?

>> One message uniformly persisting despite hostile opposition (persecution) met with nonviolent resistance, cultural differences, global changes, competing ideologies and internal schisms.

Just because a message is old and persistent, doesn’t make it necessarily true in any way. Example: Karma and reincarnation.

Autumnal Harvest,

Strobel's style is admittedly not for everyone. It took me awhile to warm up to it. But there is a lot of solid information buried in there. Lewis, however, is just my favorite apologist. He's sort of a philosophical artist with how he gets very deep with very few words. He seems almost like a friend...

I'll start by explaining a bit more what I mean by saying God deserves our appreciation and reverence. I thought about this a lot today, and there's more that just paying a debt of gratitude. God deserves our respect in the same way a President or a King deserves a certain measure of respect, by virtue of the position of authority they hold. So there is an honor due to God by virtue of His position as Lord of the universe, governing all things. He also deserves our admiration for His power, wisdom, intelligence, creativity, and skill in crafting and sustaining such a marvelous universe. This gets into awe and a humble reverence at His superiority (from my position of faith). Then there is the aspect of His perfect morality - the holiness of God. Here there is a mortal dread and "fearful trembling" before One who is faultlessly pure. Finally, He deserves our respect because He is our Judge, and the authority He holds extends even to our private thoughts and attitudes, so that His jurisdiction is all-inclusive. Such authority requires our total submission.

All this is to say that the moral imbalance in the universe extends to us not only as a debt of gratitude (like child to parent), but by our position as creature to Creator. It is incumbent upon us as creatures to render ourselves back to our Creator. Literally, we owe him our lives. We are his, and he deserves our devotion.

Now all of this is true whether we believe Him or not. As far as getting to a place of belief, or overcoming ignorance, this boils down to personal response. God desires everyone to come to know the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Hank Hanegraaf said, "If we respond to the light we're given, God will give us more light." God is not culturally biased; He loves everyone equally. So birthplace will not necessarily privilege nor hinder anyone in their spiritual journey. "The righteous will live by faith." So regardless of where we start from, if we accept what God reveals to us as true, thereby affirming God's existence, His attributes and His authority, we begin to repay to Him our debt of honor as his creatures whom he made. When we do our sacred duty of believing our Creator, then He reveals more of Himself to us, and the process continues. (All of this says nothing of repentance and forgiveness, but is the basic process of growing in faith.)

ToNy,

The right word is supernatural. Magic is either smoke and mirrors or a fanciful literary device.

Everything else you've misconstrued and taken out of context. Re-read my previous post.

The only exception might be your comment about Allah. I do not know enough about the God of the Koran to comment. Even so, it would only prove to support the God of the Bible AND the God of the Koran (not exclusively one or the other). This would also meet your challenge.

Sage,

Recall my appeal was for evidence that JESUS is GOD.

If you reread the entirety of the posts here, you'll see that about 85% of the offered evidences are indicators of a sentinent creator of the cosmos. NOT evidence that Jesus is God.

Another 10% were iffy, and the remaining 5% were somewhat debatable.

I did this thought exercise to make a point that i've noticed in Christian circles. The evidence for a creator of the cosmos is, i think, actually quite good. The majority of christian vs non-believer debates seem to focus on these: eg: the flaws in evolution, objective morality, epistemic challenges to materialism, existential angst, biblical historicity, etc...

However, i've noticed that VERY little time is spent offering evidence that christ himself was the god that we debate about.

I think you should ask yourself if you really have enough evidence to support that ONE statement. IS jesus christ god?

I think you'll find that if you make a list, as i tried a few years ago, most of the evidence isnt that great. I thought the Shroud of Turin showed promise, but the last documentary I saw on it made a pretty good case that it's probably an elaborate forgery.

Consequently, though I was Christian from age 5 - 22, I am now no longer a believer.

Hi Amy, thanks for the links. I'll read through them in a couple of days when I've stopped crying over my soccer teams' dire straits. Yes, I realised for instance I'd put Job instead of Lot (my head's like a crossword puzzle: dude from the Bible, 3 letters, -O-, not God...) :o)

Thanks for your comments Louis and Sage S, I'll be coming back to those when I have more time.

Dave

Sage, I know at this point it will seem like I'm looking for an argument, rather than trying to understand your position, but it doesn't seem your post relates to the issue of why ignorance is immoral. The first three paragraphs of your post deal with why it's morally right to worship God. I'm willing to accept this as a premise. But it doesn't follow that it's immoral to be unaware that there's one and only one God. Can you give an analogous example of where it's immoral to be ignorant of something? As I've said in my previous posts, in other cases where someone believes something false (in a flat earth, that his/her parents are dead), it might be tragic, or stupid, or frustrating, but not immoral. If we knew someone who mistakenly thought that his/her parents were dead, we would all find their failure to call their parents tragic, and feel sorry for them, but we wouldn't think that they were immoral. If you could give a non-religious example where not knowing the truth of a factual statement is a immoral, that would be helpful for me to see where you're coming from.

Your last paragraph deals partially with ignorance, by saying that anyone could come to realize that there's one and only God. That may be true, but that doesn't explain why it's immoral to not come to realize that. I'm not sure what you mean when you say that "God is not culturally biased," or that "birthplace will not necessarily privilege nor hinger anyone in their spiritual journey." Unless you think that people in the European and American land masses are smarter, more intellecutally curious, or more moral than those in other land masses, it's statistically clear that birthplace and culture have huge effects ("biases" and "hinderances," if you will) on the likelihood of believing in the Christian God. My grandparents in Taiwan died with only minimal exposure to Western culture and beliefs, and I don't think they knew any Christians. They just had a vague sense that Christianity was a major Western religion; I'd be surprised if they even knew that the belief that Christ died for their sins was a tenet of Christianity. Admittedly, they could have taken time out of their busy lives to seek out Christian missionaries, or find and read a Bible, but why would they? Most Americans don't seek out Mormon missionaries, or find and read the Dhammapada. You could maybe claim (although I would strongly dispute these things) that my grandparents should have been intellectually curious enough to do these things, or that they should have been smart enough to deduce monotheism from observations of the natural world. But even if I granted these things, I would find it bizarre to find a lack of intellectual curiousity or a lack of intelligence to be immoral. If you could pin down for me exactly what it is my grandparents did that is immoral (keeping in mind that these are my grandparents, so try to be tactful), that would maybe make your beliefs clearer for me.

ToNy,

“Name a piece of evidence that Jesus is God, that you did not receive via paper.”

Obviously if you exclude the Bible from your study of Jesus you are left with cosmology, archeology, biology - disciplines that can only give natural evidence for a Creator (a personal Being) or evidences that corroborate Scripture. That is the whole point of such an exercise! To fault the sciences for being too inconclusive about Jesus of Nazareth is frankly preposterous. If we look under a microscope, we can't except to see "made by Yeshua" stamped on the molecules.

So I see no point to your complaint. If you wanted to investigate derived beliefs about Alexander the Great, yet you excluded from your research ALL DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE, this academic exercise would get you the same categories of information - indirect corroborations of textual claims. Eventually you MUST regard the Bible as your primary (preeminent, prevailing) source of information about Jesus.

That being said, the extra-Biblical evidence supporting the Bible is remarkable in the faithfulness with which it does corroborate Scripture. That is the thrust of my points - whatever discipline we delve into, rather than finding serious discrepancies, we find overwhelming agreement with everything the Bible says. The fact that the world tablet of information (which archeology, biology, and cosmology uncover) overwhelmingly coincides with the Biblical records only strengthens their reliability and trustworthiness. But it is the latter that is the real battleground over the faith.

Autumnal Harvest,

I do not understand you to be argumentative, only to be seeking clarity. This is a genuine virtue.

I've tried to show how knowing God is an absolute, universal moral duty rather than a mere problem of information. For the sake of argument, suppose He exists, and that He has put enough evidence of Himself in nature that everyone has equal opportunity to recognize a Creator. Now because He made us, He has real authority over us. His authority and divine attributes really do obligate us to know Him and honor Him. Failing to fulfill these obligations constitutes a real moral failure on our part (actually the greatest moral failure). So if we suppose it is true that God exists, then believing Him would necessarily be a moral obligation rather than merely academic (according to the Christian definition of a good, wise, loving Creator worthy of honor).

So if we grant this to be true (hypothetically), then your grandparents would have behaved immorally to the degree they did not make every possible effort to believe and honor God, based on the information God gave them strictly in nature (and anywhere else). When you characterize your grandparents as merely lacking intelligence or curiosity, you assume what you are trying to prove - that religious belief is just a problem of getting one's facts straight. However, it necessarily follows from the existence of a Creator that His creatures are obligated to fulfill whatever purpose He made them for - and to know and honor their Creator as much as they can.

Because this is a moral issue it supersedes our knowledge and our interests - something is right whether or not we know or care. So the whole burden of fulfilling moral duties is basically on our shoulders. Otherwise, ignorance would be a valid excuse for every immoral act, no matter how severe.

Suppose you do not know whether your parents are alive or not; would it not be immoral to make almost no effort to find out?

Sage,

>> To fault the sciences for being too inconclusive about Jesus of Nazareth is frankly preposterous.

I don’t fault the sciences. I fault the lack of physical evidence other than paper and oral tradition.

>> If we look under a microscope, we can't except to see "made by Yeshua" stamped on the molecules.

Yes this is precisely what I would like to see. I would like to see much much much much more “Shroud of Turin-style” evidence. But there is just so little evidence at all that Jesus is God. A monolith with his name on it - that could not be made by man – eg 2010 the space odyssey, would be nice. Also putting a Jesus hologram every 100 miles so that Christians could go ask him questions if they had a theological nut to crack. The “Bible Code” dudes looked like they were on to something interesting but it doesn’t seem to have panned out. Or if Jesus would simply show up at debates, this would help to.

>> If you wanted to investigate derived beliefs about Alexander the Great, yet you excluded from your research ALL DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE, this academic exercise would get you the same categories of information - indirect corroborations of textual claims.

Yes. And Alexander the Great isn’t telling me that if I don’t believe in him, I’ll go to hell. Amazing claims require amazing evidence.

>> whatever discipline we delve into, rather than finding serious discrepancies, we find overwhelming agreement with everything the Bible says.

I think I know a couple people who would disagree. Like Darwin, Freud, and Galileo for starters.

In regards to this comment:

"Theist: God exists.

Atheist: No he doesn't.

Theist: Yes he does.

Atheist: Oh yeah? Well name me one vegetable that can fly!

Theist: Uh...I can't think of one.

Atheist: There! See!"

Good show! Although it's usually pasta and not vegetables that they bring up!

--Sirius Knott

Suppose you do not know whether your parents are alive or not; would it not be immoral to make almost no effort to find out?

Sage, at this point I think I understand your viewpoint, but I'm afraid I have to say that I think it's biased towards the Christian viewpoint to the extent of being unreasonable. You're not just assuming that Christianity is true (which I'm willing to take as a premise), but that non-Christians can see that it's self-evidently or likely true, to the extent that they have an obligation to investigage it. My grandparents lived in an environment where Christianity was such a minor concern that they had no reason to think it to be true, so why would they make an effort to find out if it's true? To use your analogy, it's not that they were unsure whether their parents were alive---they knew that they weren't, and weren't going to spend time investigating it any more than I'm going to waste my time checking to see if I have a brother that my parents never told me about. You're faulting them for failing to seek out Christian missionaries or read the Bible. But you say that you're not familiar with the Koran, and I doubt that you've been seeking out Mormon or Hare-Krishma missionaries, or read the Bhagavad-Gita, Dhammapada, or any of the other the myriad other religious texts out there. If you haven't done any of these things, why do you expect my grandparents to read the Bible? Even granting that the Bible is true, and the Bhagavad-Gita is not, how are my grandparents supposed to know to read one and not the other? And if you haven't read the Koran, how do you know that it's not actually superior to the Bible, and that you're not failing your obligations to God by not learning about Islam?

If God is "not culturally biased," and birthplace is "not a hinderance" to belief, how do you explain the high percentage of Americans that are Christian, and the low percentage of Taiwanese that are Christian?

So the whole burden of fulfilling moral duties is basically on our shoulders. Otherwise, ignorance would be a valid excuse for every immoral act, no matter how severe.

Generally, most people I know, including Christians, do think ignorance is a valid excuse for immoral acts, so long as the ignorance is not intentionally self-created to justify the immoral acts. To switch analogies, you've been explaining why it's immoral give babies poison, which I'm willing to take as a premise. But suppose Tim, running the a vaccine factory, mistakenly produces poison, thinking it's vaccine. Then, Bob the truck driver transports it, thinking it's vaccine, and Jenny the doctor injects it into babies, thinking it's vaccine. Bob and Jenny have participated in giving poison to babies, but I would not characterize their actions as immoral, since they both honestly and sincerely thought they were doing good. I might or might not find Tim's actions immoral, depending on how reasonable I thought his mistake was. It seems that you essentially put all non-Christians as analogous to an evil Tim, who was in a position to realize his error, and willfully chose to overlook his error? Is this correct? I can see how I might be analogous to an evil Tim, as I live in America, and have read the Bible, but not believed it. (Although my motivation for willfull ignorance is still unclear; evil Tim is presumably doing it for profits, but I'm being willfully ignorant for a loss, as the "obligations" that I'm avoiding are actually a giant net benefit.) But I can't see how my grandparents are analogous to anything other than Bob and Jenny. For you to think that my grandparents should have known to read the Bible is analogous to saying that Bob should have known to read medical texts, and then figure out how to run tests on the drugs he was told to transport.

If we look under a microscope, we can't except to see "made by Yeshua" stamped on the molecules.

Why not? I understand that we don't, of course, but God could have done this if he wanted to. And this would have made the evidence much more accessible for my grandparents.

ToNy,

To fault the lack of physical evidence other than the oral tradition (i.e. the information that the sciences provide) for being inconclusive is simply preposterous. What we do find by way of physical evidence is exactly what we would except to find IF the Bible was true.

Even though it is tragically absurd, I can't help but laugh about the holograms and monoliths idea. The burden of proof is entirely yours on this:

Why would you expect to see these dynamic physical manifestations if Jesus of Nazareth really is God? Why would you require this of any belief system?

(Remember that part of the Christian belief system is that God reveals more and more of Himself to those who believe Him. If the evidence left no room for personal choice to assent or reject the evidence, then there would be no possibility of faith. Faith is central to the tenets of Christianity - so you'll have to address this as part of handling Christianity.)

Autumnal Harvest,

Because basically we can't obligate God to do anything just because we'd prefer it. Besides, this would create more barriers than it would overcome; what about the thousands of years before microscopes were invented? What about the language barrier? What about children or mentally challenged people who wouldn't grasp the explanation? God's evidence is far more egalitarian than this.

Regarding your previous post: great comments. I'm in the process of moving today, so I'll try to get back to you this evening.

Cheers!

Autumnal -

You've raised many points. I'll list my responses:

- I have not been defending the Christian religion per se, but rather belief in a Creator. This was the thrust of the original post (belief in God vs. atheism), so that's been my focus as well. Christianity is not "written in nature" in the same manner as the existence of a Creator. This was my point with ToNy. (Christians call this difference general revelation vs. special revelation - God reveals Himself to everyone generally through nature, and to individuals particularly through the Bible.

- Your grandparents had the same access to the general evidence of nature that we all do.

- Not all who call themselves Christians in America are actually Christians in any genuine sense. Cultural Christianity is a loose, broad term encompassing multitudes with no personal commitment to the doctrines and practices of the Bible. Being a Christian means something in particular, and not "a Western worldview, belief in God and Jesus, and celebrating Christmas."

- I have read translations of (and practiced the teachings of) several Eastern religious texts (The Tao Te Ching, Bhaghavad Gita, Upanishads) specifically because I was seeking to know the truth. When I encountered Jesus Christ as a living Being, and believed in Him, I found what my previous religious devotions had lacked - substance; a real something other than myself that acted in my own life precisely how His sacred text said He would act, and which was corroborated by the physical sciences. Now I no longer look for God; I interact with Him as a child to a Father, a servant to his Master, an artist to his Muse.

- You described accidental or inadvertent "evil," which I completely agree is not immoral. Our justice system recognizes the distinction between intentional wrongdoing and behaving lawfully yet accidentally causing harm.

Ignorance of the law is no defense against it. It's not that someone might say, "I didn't know the vaccine was really poison," but that they say, "I didn't know it was wrong to kill babies." The first is accidental homicide, the second is murder. Ignorance of the law is no defense - even if for some reason they really didn't know murder was wrong (maybe a hillbilly raised with minimal contact with society).

- I believe everyone should at very least believe God exists. The natural evidence is abundantly sufficient to convince us of this reality. After believing, we should do whatever God leads us to do next. God will judge your grandparents based on what they did regarding His revelation to them. I cannot presume what His judgment is.

If I may ask, why don't you believe God exists? You've been truly patient reading my explanations and candid in sharing your story, and you seem a very reasonable and sincere person from your comments. But I wonder why you don't believe that God is real.

You say that the natural evidence is sufficiently abundant that anyone, in any culture, should easily be able to deduct monotheism from nature. You don't say what that evidence is, so I'm not sure why you think monotheism can be deduced from nature. But regardless of what arguments you're thinking of, and even assuming their validity, it's clear that it is in fact not easy for people to deduce monotheism from nature on their own. It's not reasonable to act as if it's a simple thing for people living in a polytheistic or non-theistic society to look around at nature, and deduce monotheism. It's quite clearly not a simple thing, based on the bare fact that virtually no one does it. If such a task were easy, monotheism would have been reinvented and spread hundreds of times, in hundreds of areas around the world. But in fact, historically monotheism has only been "discovered" a small number of time, and then spread, not through people individually deducing it through nature, but through childbirth in monotheistic communities, and conversion of people in close proximity with monotheists. To expect an Chinese peasant, or Indian prince, raised in a local community that emphasizes ancestral worship, or ritual devotion to a multiplicity of deities, to suddenly deduce on their own from nature that the basic beliefs of everyone around them are incorrect, is not a reasonable expectation. People who independently develop and maintain beliefs so wildly different from their local communities may be great visionary prophets, or insane madmen, depending on what you think of their beliefs, but they're undeniably rare.

To maintain that it's simple for people to independently deduce monotheism from nature is akin to me arguing that it's easy for people to independently deduce Newton's laws on their own. I can argue at great length how obvious the laws are, and point out how simple the experiments to verify them are. But at the end of the day, my arguments fail in face of the fact that most people cannot derive Newton's laws on their own. Many people can understand them, and the evidence for them, once that evidence is laid out in front of them. But only a great mind (such as Newton) can deduce those laws from nature on their own. Similarly, people can be converted to monotheism by powerful missionary presences, but not one person in a million can deduce monotheism from nature on their own.

At any rate, now I really am just arguing. I think I understand your beliefs pretty well, which is what I was going for, and I doubt the arguing will be too fruitful. I appreciate your willingness to lay out your beliefs in such detail. I want to answer your question in equal detail, but in some ways I can't, not because it's hard, but because it seems to assume a starting point that I don't hold. When you ask me "Why don't you believe God exists?," my reaction is much the same as if you asked me "Why don't you live in Topeka, Kansas?," or "Why don't you believe in reincarnation?" My only answer is "Huh? Why would I?"

Autumnal Harvest,

I did list several things earlier from mere observation of nature that seem to indicate a Creator - ordered complexity, balance or harmony (ecosystems and precipitation cycles and seasons and the food chain all operating together to form a large-scale, interdependent network of self-sustaining systems that propagate life), the human conscience, an inescapable sense of significance, value, and purpose to human life, even the grandeur and beauty of nature. One conclusion that readily explains these basic observations is that a God did all of this.

As far as the millions upon millions who do or do not deduce a Creator - I have always shied away from speaking for the greater portion of humanity simply because I cannot possibly be speaking from any actual knowledge. Whether it is easy or monumental to deduce a Creator, we cannot tell simply by glancing over the prevailing religions throughout world history, for reasons you've alluded to.

If society enforces one religious methodology from an early age, then looking at religious demographics does not tell us how easy or reasonable it is to deduce a Creator - nor how frequently such belief actually develops. Public observances do not equate to private convictions. Anyone can attend religious services without acquiring any religious persuasion. So looking at demographics or religious roll calls speaks to the masses, but gives little information about real people.

"People who independently develop and maintain beliefs so wildly different from their local communities... [are] undeniably rare."

I see this as frankly rather common, requiring not a revolutionary genius, but merely a personal identity. This might be due to my experience within a pluralistic society as opposed to a regimented culture.

BTW - I don't live in Kansas due to personal preference. I don't believe in reincarnation because the reality-claims it makes are thoroughly unverifiable, they find no support in the physical sciences, and they don't sensibly explain my personal experience.

I do believe in God because the premise that God exists makes the best sense out of the diverse information I find in the various disciplines:
- Cosmology, archaeology, biology, history, philosophy - ethics, logic, metaphysics, et al.
- People who demonstrate genuine virtue, morality, integrity.
- The functioning of authority within human societies.
- The creative processes of art, invention, and discovery.
- Biblical record, including: textual reliability, corroborating historic documents, fulfilled prophecies, and the impact of the Bible on the world.
- Personal experience: conscience, sense of purpose and significance of life.

BTW - I don't live in Kansas due to personal preference.

My point is that the question "Why aren't you living in Topeka, Kanasas?" presupposes that the person you're talking to has some reason that they were thinking of living in Topeka. If you ask the question of someone who has no family or friends in Topeka, no job connections there, and has never thought about living there, the question is a little odd, and it's not clear how best to answer it. The question "Why don't you [Autumnal Harvest] believe in God?" strikes me in much the same way. I understand, of course, that you have many reasons that you think God exists, but I've never heard a reason that struck me as at all plausible.

Unless you have something you wanted to discuss, it seems we're at a natural stopping point. It's been nice talking with you. Cheers.

Likewise - I think we've wound down the discussion.

I will just add that the question of living in Topeka is of no ultimate significance, but the question of whether or not God exists has the most extreme implications for your personal welfare. This fact alone makes it supremely important for you that you come to the right conclusion - and this is true whether or not God exists. (You might have heard of Pascal's wager - it would be better to believe and yet God be false than not to believe and yet God be real. This doesn't necessarily support His existence, but it underlines the importance of this issue.)

It's been a pleasure sharing my beliefs - thanks again for your openness. Best wishes.

Sage,

>> What we do find by way of physical evidence is exactly what we would except to find IF the Bible was true.

Nah. The bible is full of Hollywood-style miracles. I’d expect to see some of those. They seem to have gone away.

>> Why would you expect to see these dynamic physical manifestations if Jesus of Nazareth really is God? Why would you require this of any belief system?

It’s just a level of proof that I would require to believe amazing claims such as those made by Jesus. Obviously, you don’t require as much. Ok by me.

>> If the evidence left no room for personal choice to assent or reject the evidence, then there would be no possibility of faith.

Yes it is indeed a pity. I simply don’t know why he doesn’t provide something more concrete. I’ve evaluated the evidence thoroughly and have concluded that there simply isn’t enough to indicate that Jesus is God.

>> Faith is central to the tenets of Christianity - so you'll have to address this as part of handling Christianity.

I had a lot of faith. I was a pretty devout bible thumper.

It’s all gone now.

ToNy,

The Biblical miracles accompanied divinely appointed prophets to authenticate their messages. If God sends a prophet today to deliver a message, then we could expect them to perform miracles (according to the Biblical pattern - Moses, Elijah, Jesus). The absence of miracles doesn't prove God is a fiction and the Bible is false. According to the Christian tradition it would mean that there are no prophets living today. The Bible doesn't promise miracles then fail to deliver.

The lynchpin miracle upon which Christianity stands or falls - Jesus rising from the dead - has substantial authority within the Bible and the extra-Biblical ancient histories (see my above posts). Jesus even said as much when the Pharisees demanded that He perform some miracle to prove His deity (just as you are doing). "A wicked and adulterous generation requires a sign. But no sign will be given it other than the sign of Jonah." Jonah spent three days in a whale and was restored back to safety, which Jesus is using to refer to his three days in the grave and return to life ~ the resurrection. This is the miracle that you have for your proof. Jesus said He won't be giving another.

Sage,

>> The Biblical miracles accompanied divinely appointed prophets to authenticate their messages.

Nah, not all miracles authenticate a prophet’s message. Many are just communication vehicles to individuals. For example: The burning bush.

I would like to see such a communication.

>> The lynchpin miracle upon which Christianity stands or falls - Jesus rising from the dead - has substantial authority within the Bible and the extra-Biblical ancient histories (see my above posts).

Yeah lots of paper.

I would need more.

"The highest moral good a person can do is to worship the living, true, sovereign God--to love Him with all one's heart, soul, mind, and strength."

Morality is not a requirement for the worship of religion.

To claim that the highest illustration of morality involves religious worship is absurd on its face. The worship in any religion is, if it's not coerced, one of duty, obligation mixed with one's personnel needs, desire and love for that religion and it's teachings, not morality.


Passerby, if you go back and read my post, you'll see that you've made my point by disagreeing that worship is a moral good.

It's moral to worship a being who deserves it because that's the right thing to do. That's the definition of morality--the things that are the right things to do. (And by the way, there's no such thing as "coerced" worship. Worship is done out of love for God. The Bible says specifically that God doesn't consider it to be worship if you don't really love Him.)

Therefore, if Hitchens is wrong and God exists, then there is a true answer to the challenge--worship. However, even if that's a true answer, Hitchens by definition won't accept it. In this way, no true answer that may exist would be accepted by definition because the answer MUST be something that only religious people consider to be moral. If it's a logical impossibility (not just an actual one) for a question to be answered, it's a meaningless question. Get it?

By a logical impossibility vs. actual impossibility, I mean the difference between these two statements

Logical impossibility: "What does a square circle look like?" There is no logically possible answer for this.

Actual impossibility: "What color is a unicorn?" There are possible answers to this--white, black, brown, etc. However, there is no ACTUAL answer because unicorns don't exist.

In the first case, one can't answer because it's logically impossible--there are no possible answers. In the second case, one can't give an answer because the answer doesn't exist, even though, logically, there are many possible answers that would be acceptable.

Hitchens's question cannot be LOGICALLY answered to his satisfaction because he rules out any POSSIBLE answers by definition.

"Morality is not a requirement for the worship of religion"

Amy, what I meant to say in the above comment with respect to the quote I used from you was that morality does not require religious worship. In your view, the highest form of morality must include worship and that anyone seeing themselves as moral must come to religion at some point if this 'highest form' is to be reached, correct?

I contend that the ethics of morality can be fashioned and that it's not dependant in anyway to the divine to hold true. I can be a moral atheist.

I just wanted to clear up my slight twist of words in my previous post.

>>Amy, what I meant to say in the above comment with respect to the quote I used from you was that morality does not require religious worship.

Thanks for the clarification. But again, you're making the point of my post. You don't accept worship as being demanded by morality. That is my point. Hitchens asked for something moral that only religious people could do. The only understanding of this question is that Hitchens is asking theists to name something that he (and you) thinks is moral that only thiests think is moral. That's completely contradictory. Any possible answer will be rejected by you as not moral, even if a true answer--especially if a true answer--exists. The fact that you do not accept the answer given by theists doesn't mean the answer is wrong. Your not accepting it could be evidence that we've actually found something moral that you can't accept as moral--something moral that only religious people can do because they're religious. Do you see the problem with the question now? It doesn't prove anything, or move the debate anywhere.

>>I contend that the ethics of morality can be fashioned and that it's not dependant in anyway to the divine to hold true.

But do you see that this is the very thing in question? Hitchens is using circular reasoning--assuming what he's trying to prove with his question. It would be fine for Hitchens to simply state what you said above, but as soon as he asks me to prove that a theist morality is better by giving examples of moral things in it that he'll recognize as being moral but that atheists reject as moral, he's asking for something logically contradictory.

Now, all that is simply responding to Hitchens's question. Obviously, Hitchens's claim that there is no morality that exists outside of atheism should be debated and discussed. It's just that the way Hitchens decided to make his point is contradictory and circular--merely a way to illegitimately win points because he logically can't accept any answer the way the question is asked. Does that part make more sense now?

>>In your view, the highest form of morality must include worship and that anyone seeing themselves as moral must come to religion at some point if this 'highest form' is to be reached, correct?

Actually, my point was only to point out the illegitimacy of Hitchens asking this question in a debate. Let's go deeper for a moment now to address the question you just asked. It's important to understand that Hitchens's question is based on a misunderstanding of the objection against atheism. The objection is not "atheists can't be moral." The objection is that morals don't really exist at all in a world without God. In other words, in a world of random chance, there is no ultimate good and bad, there is only what exists. There are our preferences, society's decisions, etc. But there is no real standard that exists outside of us by which we can measure what we're doing. There's no "way things ought to be."

Now, I think atheists can do moral things, but that's because I believe a standard of good and bad really exists. We have god-given moral intuitions that recoil at evil and praise the good, but even that can be easily manipulated by the group. Those who believe in an objective standard (there's a real good and a real evil--a standard that exists outside of any created person or society) can measure the group by the standard. Those who believe we create our own morality have no way to ground their condemnation of societies that decide they like to kill a certain class of people. That's the morality they created--the "morality they fashioned," as you said. Who are you to say that your ideas about morality are better? You know it's wrong (because it really is wrong because theism is reality), but you don't have the intellectual grounding to prove that it's wrong. Theism, on the other hand, can explain why certain things can still be wrong even if the whole world decides to accept those things as being right.

That is an extremely simplistic way of describing it, but hopefully that will give you a better idea of the objection.

I have to just say, you've twisted the premise of the question, the significance of moralistic behaviour is the act. The objection that Hitchens sets up, whether rightly or wrongly, is that atheists can do moral acts, a moral act doesn't logically imply an appeal to divinity. If you find Hitchens' belligerence too much, then read Richard Holloway's Godless Morality, hecomes from a religious stripe and passionately denies moralistic behaviour emenates from fear or idle worship.

What you are answering is the question does an atheist believe in moral acts, in the part when you say an atheist can do moral things, who couldn't, but does he believe them to be moral, which is your level of difference. Well, a moral act is judged from the outside, and I don't mean by divinity, but rather it is judged by its objective root. For example, if I give up my seat for someone it may look jolly moral but I want to sleep with them, yet this really doesn't disturb the fact that this is a moral act.

I think the final word is something you will agree on, Hitchens' task is too vague and is obviously set up so that any objection is futile, of course anyone can do a moral act. I think my objection to Hitchens - and I'm an atheist - is that its not the case that, for example, anyone could have set the ball rolling for the end of slavery, it is that Wilberforce did set that ball rolling, and he did that with religious conviction, in other words he did that with a set of ethical imperatives that we need to realise today.

An atheist could have done the same thing, but a Christian did do that, and that is my field of logic.

I agree with you that there can not be an answer to the challenge that Hitchens could not easily reduce to the type:
"Let [a] be an action that is only considered ethical by believers in the first place."

In that sense, the challenge really is hardly more than a rhetorical trap. But there is more to it. The challenge can be put to absolutely any and all systems of belief:

"Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer [in A] that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer [in A]" and the only way out for the believers in [A] is the trivial one given above that will not impress anybody but themselves.
Try it by substituting [the values of the secular enlightenment as held by Paine and Jefferson] for [A].

No system of belief can meet the challenge in a non trivial way.

That seems to turn the tables on Hitchens, but there is a crucial difference:
We atheists usually do not claim that any part of whatever we derive our ethics from and is held exclusively by us in general or by our faction in particular is necessary for either the definition or the knowledge of what is good or ethical. We are usually content if it is sufficient.
(In the case of the ontological status of the good, one has to abandon certain concepts of analyticity in order to make room for the possibility of a sufficient but not necessary definition of the good)

The challenge is intended to prove that no system of belief (or part thereof) is necessary for ethics. Basically, the challenge answers the famous argument in Brothers Karamazov. No more, no less. Hitchens certainly goes on to argue for a lot more than that in his attacks on religion, but he does not (or at least: should not) rely on the challenge to do that.

It should only trouble you if you wish to claim that one necessarily has to believe in God in order to either know what is right or even just to understand the idea. Any religious person who is willing to concede that atheists can have proper ethics does not need to worry about Hitchens challenge.

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