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« Rally for Reason | Main | Why Does God Let Us Suffer? »

March 21, 2012


I see that a lot. You can "believe" whatever you want as as long as every single statement, act or decision is made assuming their position so they don't have to be faced with knowing that you differ from their opinion.

We are entering the era of disagreement as hate crime.

I love it when Mr. Silverman makes claims such as "Some presidential candidates use their religious beliefs like weapons—waving their own values as swords, vowing to make everyone in this country follow the same religious dictates as what they believe." Really? Santorum vowed to make everyone in America believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Wow. I can't believe that didn't make the news.

If I went to a congressional session and they didn't open in prayer would I feel disenfranchised? No. Would I feel the government was being divisive? I don't think so.

How about examples from the abortion debate. In the past, the views of anti-abortion advocates were often dismissed because they were believed to be rooted in religious beliefs. I'm not sure that matters if the view is accurate, true, or reasonable. But the views were often dismissed out-of-hand.

I think Mr. Silverman needs to develop a thicker emotional skin.

As soon as they keep theirs private.

They want us to keep our religious convictions out of the voting booth?!!! Really??? As I see it, a religion, basically, is the sum of one's beliefs. If that is true, then atheism is also a religion, since the belief is that there is no God. Are they also going to promise not to carry their Atheistic beliefs into the voting booth? Doubtful! In reality, none of us can truly separate ourselves from our worldview. It effects everything in our lives. And it does(and should)effect how we vote. It's silly to me to suggest otherwise.

Oh, but theirs is merely a lack of belief. Not the same thing at all.

Keep lack of religion private.

If I'm supposed to stay quiet about what I believe, you stay quiet about what you lack belief in.

For starters "a religion, basically, is the sum of one's beliefs." Is a false statement. Religion by definition involves the belief in a deity and some form of after life. If atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Second the idea of divorcing religion from politics is a pretty clear idea. You can not tell someone how to live their life based on your moral view. I read the article linked to about homosexuality. The idea is that the religious belief gets to be an absolute truth. But there are societies that had homosexuality with no problem. The early Greeks and Romans had no issue with it. The Japanese practiced it for hundreds of years as part of their warrior class. Morality, being subjective, can not be stated as an absolute truth. The bible talks about the right to own slaves. Should that be considered an absolute truth as well? The are in the same book of the bible. Why allow one and not the other if god made his judgement on both?
How can some Christians be okay with homosexuality and others not? You are both reading the same book, so who is right?
Today, because of science, we know homosexuality is genetic and not a choice. We know that a fetus is not physically viable before the point of about 21 weeks (before this time it will definitely die if labor is induced). There are 33,000 forms of Christianity in the world today. Which one should we listen to as the moral law? And who is to say they are right? Why not agree with Islamic law, Buddhist law, The rules of Odin?
If you say that one religion has the right to speak up on morals all do. The idea of divorcing religion from politics is to ensure that laws are made in a way that everyone has the right to live their lives as freely as possible. I don't believe in god so why do I have to be governed by his law? You don't believe in Mohammed so why should you have to follow his law?
Legal abortion: Those who accept it will use it when necessary, those who don't want it will not be forced. Gay marriage: Those who want it will do it, those who do not will not be forced. Want to pray to god: those who want to can do it, those who don't will not be forced.
And why would there have to be laws prohibiting religion. No one ever said that you can't make your personal decisions based on your faith. But you can not make laws affecting others based on moral opinion. If you don't agree with my morals you should not be held to them as a standard of living. I should not be held to yours. Having gay marriage or pro-choice is not forcing you to live by anyone elses standard of morals. All it does is allow those who want to live that way to do so. You have the right not to do it. I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I feel it is fair to allow it so that those who wish to participate in hunting and self defense can do so. Those who wish not to should just abstain. Same goes with laws that would be deemed morally wrong. Abstain, no one said you had to go do it, but don't force others to follow what you want them to do. If you believe sin is a personal issue, then shouldn't someone have the right to choose whether or not they will be good or bad? By removing all things considered sinful then you're only option is good and that is a reduction of free will. God supposedly created satan and allows him to do what he does so you have the option to choose good or bad. No one ever said governmental law had to coincide with religious law. Be a good person, do your own thing, and if you don't agree something is right then don't do it, but don't tell everyone else that your personal beliefs have to apply to them as well.

"If atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby."

That only applies if you don't go to stamp collecting sites and explain why stamp collecting is stupid, produce podcasts about why stamp collecting is stupid, write books on why stamp collecting is stupid, sue because someone want to promote stamp collecting, or hold rallies to celebrate non-stamp collecting.

"You can not tell someone how to live their life based on your moral view"

So I can own slaves and kill them when they aren't useful any more? Just because you think it is immoral to harm other people, why should you be able to tell me to live my life that way? Because it is the law? Please. You just expalined that it shouldn't be.

"Today, because of science, we know homosexuality is genetic and not a choice."

Really? An assertion is not proof.

Atheism is like not stamp collecting?

For a group that is supposed to include all the brightest minds, that is a stupid analogy.

Do non-stamp collectors form non-collecting associations to further the acceptance of non-stamp collecting?

Does not forcing your morality on other people extend to telling me it isn't moral to try to force my morality? What if I don't like your moral stance on respect for other's lives? What if I don't like your position on beating my kids?

How are you able to tell me that I should or shouldn't do anything?

Banning Murder is a moral stance. At one point it was considered a finable offense (pre-US) according to an English history book I once read. What if I think we should go back to that? Are you going to force your moral views on me that a a persons life shouldn't have a dollar value and it is not OK to take it as long as you can cover the cost?

Exactly what are the boundary conditions to this position you have to morality? What if I don't agree with it?

If you don't approve of racism, don't be racist.

If you don't approve of drunk driving, don't drive drunk.

if you don't approve of randomly firing a gun in public places, don't fire randomly.

If you don't like raping and pillaging, don't rape and pillage.

Are you saying there is an inherent intellectual deficiency in people who collect stamps?

How intolerant!

Sounds like anarchy.

Judges 21:25

See how well that irked out.

I mean worked out.


You are not for weregild, are you? From a purely materialist view, it seems quite practical.

Getting rid of that is at least one good thing the spread of Christianity did.

What is the current value of 200 Saxon Shillings?

A shilling was the price of a sheep.

200 Sheep @ an average of $150/sheep= $30,000.

According to Wikipedia.

In 9th century Mercian law a regular freeman (churl) was in fact worth 200 shillings[5] (twyhyndeman), a nobleman was worth 1200 (twelfhyndeman). The law code even mentions the weregeld for a king, at 30000, composed of 15000 for the man, paid to the royal family, and 15000 for the kingship, paid to the people. An archbishop is likewise valued at 15000. The weregild for a Welshman was 110 if he owned at least one hide of land, and 80 if he was landless.


Freeman = $30,000
Nobleman = $180,000
King = $ 4,500,000
Archbishop = $ 2,250,000
Welshman with land = $ 16,500
Welshman without land = $ 12,000

So, if you are going to murder someone a Welsh apartment renter is the way to go.

This turns murder into a purely financial restitution situation, and takes morality right out of the picture of being forced on anyone. It might also clear up the abortion debate, as a dollar value could be assigned, and rape could be discounted as no one is actually killed but rather simply damaged.

We could get rid of jails, and for offenders who cannot pay we can turn the case over to the folks who hunt you down over student loans.

"We could get rid of jails, and for offenders who cannot pay we can turn the case over to the folks who hunt you down over student loans."

Good call, Trent. I sleep well at night knowing that if I ever were lost at sea and missed a payment, they'd find me before I died of thirst. I might not even have time to crack the first coconut.

Social laws that are reasonable arrived at by a society aree different from social aws arrived at by the reading of mythology. Why are you so sure the god of Abraham is the right god? By the idea of Pascal's wager would'nt it make the most sense to believe in all gods and hedge your bets accordingly?
Homosexuality is genetic: that is not a statement it is as fact. There are countless research studies by psychologists to prove this.
You are right that non stamp collectors are not speaking out against those who do. But stamp collectors aren't trying to force their hobby and trade on others.
You have all the right you want to follow your book as moral, and I have a right to say that through scientific evidence your book is proven historically and scientifically inaccurate.
Atheists don't want people to go around killing, raping, or harming others. There is research, done by a Christian peer reviewed journal, that shows atheists are less likely to commit crime or divorce. If we are so immoral why are we the ones not doing wrong?
I lead as good life, love my family, and help my community. Why do I legally need to follow your morality when I'm already a good person?
My point on slavery and the such was to show that as a modern society we have come to understand things as morally wrong that god deemed good. Why continue to harbor hatred for others, such as pro-lifers and homosexuals, when you don't accept other laws of the bible (from the same book) as good? You cherry pick the parts that make you comfortable and say the rest is parable or archaic. Is the law of god eternally good, or are there parts that we can omit?

Homosexuality is wrong, but a few lines later so is eating shell fish. Are we going to hell for enjoying shrimp cocktail?


Just a suggestion, but you might have better luck in getting satisfactory answers and stimulating substantial, focused debate if you limit the breadth of your posts. You've broached Levitical law, Pascal's Wager, polytheism vs. monotheism, the origins of homosexuality, the morality of Atheists (assuming they all even belong in one lump group), slavery, the validity of holy texts, and probably a few other controversial points I missed in the wall of text. Any one of those is enough for a thread unto itself (and many have had multiple academic-length books and treatises written upon them). Perhaps just pick one that's most pertinent to the subject at hand, and focus there? Otherwise it becomes a bit of a steamroller effect, and you're unlikely to benefit much from the responses you get--nor are others going to glean much from your argument.

Where did I say I hate pro-lifers and homosexuals?

I'm also not the one who compared atheists to nonstamp collecting. Why give an analogy and then backpedal once someone points out how blatantly stupid the little canned atheist slogan is?

Your understanding of Christian theology seems so superficial I don't think you have a clue what you mock. If you truly believe that Christians believe they will go to hell for eating shrimp, you should learn about context, and how that particular book fits into the whole model.

Please post the studies that show that Christians commit more crimes that don't assume the fact that many prisoners find Christ in jail means they were in jail because they were the type of people who find Christ. If you are to dismiss us because of scientific evidence, present the scientific evidence to back your claim, understanding of course single studies are useless because unless you can prove that the results can be replicated by anyone doing a similar study and get the same answer it isn't scientific.

You said no one should be able to tell anyone what to do based on their beliefs. Based on that, why should I care what you believe as you've closed the door on that. You have even closed the door on being able to tell me I can't tell other people what I think they should to, should I choose to.

I keep hearing about what atheist do or do not do, and in other places I hear that except for a lack of belief there is absolutely no similarities between atheists. If there is no other connection than lack of belief, how can you say anything about atheists as a group, good or otherwise?

You are correct. It is sometimes difficult to separate those points from one another. In that case my main argument would be my last statement.

If the bible is the law that we should follow which parts of it should we accept? Should we follow the laws laid out in the old and new testaments, or can we cherry pick like most people do? Orthodox Jews follow very closely to the old testament laws given to Moses by god. Should everyone Christian have to follow these or just the ones they feel are valid? Christianity as a whole can't decide which laws are to be followed. If it is the same god and the same book shouldn't there be a consensus on his what should be law?

Each person here has views they feel are backed by the bible that everyone else here would disagree with. Which one of you follows the correct god?


You suggest that people "cherry pick" which rules to follow. This is actually not an invalid claim, vis a vis the behavior of Christians in practice. Even Catholics, who are bound under Magisterial authority to a common set of canon laws, will often at an individual level disregard this teaching or that one, if it doesn't suit them. Use of contraception is a pretty common example of that.

Does it surprise you that out of 2.1 billion Christians worldwide, or even the appx. billion or so Catholics, there's some variation of opinion when it gets down to individual people deciding which parts they want to obey?

It certainly doesn't surprise the writers of the Bible. They mention time and time again how men want to be a law unto themselves. It's the original sin, in fact.

If you'd like to know specifically why Christians don't follow all the 436 laws laid out by Rabbinical Judaism, that would have to do with the New Covenant/Old Covenant distinction. You're actually not wrong that holding shrimp-eaters, among others, sinful "because it's in Leviticus" is invalid.

However, I would in turn ask you why the question of the New and Old Covenants has a bearing on who follows the 'correct god', and even further, does following the 'correct god' prove whether or not there is, in fact, such a person as God?

Then if the New Covenant says you don't have to follow the laws of the old testament why follow any of the old testament commandments? (Especially the more harsh ones.)

With 2.1 billion Christians in the world, and each having his/her own way of viewing the bible, doesn't it seem strange that the true word of god would be so vague that no one could understand it? You would think an all powerful deity would be able to write laws and information that were clear and could be verified.

I am honest about my beliefs. Any honest atheist will say that they are agnostic about the existence of god. We can't disprove god, just as believers can't prove god. Having a book that says someone existed does not prove their existence. Time and again science and archeology have found no evidence to support the claims in the bible. We can prove the age of the earth well beyond what young earth creationists believe. We can prove there was never an Adam & Eve, or Noah's flood. Archeologists have found proof that the cities reportedly destroyed by Joshua and his armies were actually destroyed over a 1200 year period by the very Canaanites who lived there (social upheaval apparently). When so much evidence points to the fact that the book is inaccurate it is hard to believe it.

This does not mean that there is no deity that began everything, because again we can't 100% prove that, but with the lack of evidence it is reasonable to say it isn't the god of Abraham.

Quick side note:


I would like to thank you for the calm and reasonable discussion. It is a rare thing no matter which side of the line you stand on.

Thank you.


First off, I'm also very pleased to have a calm and reasonable discussion. Rest assured, I'm as glad to be pleasant as you are to have me thus ;) Thank you, as well!

Now then, let's have a look at the points of contention here.

I don't think we should follow the harsh Levitical laws. The Church seems to agree with me. The reason the 10 Commandments were considered part of the New Covenant, unlike the stuff about rounding your beard and so on, is because Jesus explicitly said so.

But here's the thing. There's some wiggle room in Biblical exegesis--if you read Mortimer Adler's "How to Read a Book" (which is a great scholarly resource, despite the kinda funny title, and well worth having regardless of secular/religious affiliation), you'll find that when faced with challenging or complex reading, it's an ongoing process to glean all the meaning out of a text. Furthermore, we do all bring our own biases, especially with relation to cultural context. Just watch kids try not to snicker when they find out what "Place your hand under my thigh and swear it" actually refers to.

But that's like noting that there's a few words in there that were mistranslated. It's usually stuff like "maybe it means staff instead of rod, but it could just be a stick," or saying "heart" rather than "soul" or "innermost being." It's hairsplitting, at best. You say "to-may-to", and all.

Likewise, Christians can disagree on whether electric guitar is okay in Church, or whether crucifixes must bear an image of Christ, or whatever. But certain things are non-negotiable, and people who disagree are plainly wrong. Their disagreement, then, is a potential schism, but it's not really a sign that the other party is equally wrong. That's the Gray Fallacy, unfortunately, and very easy to fall into as an outsider. (I will note, by the by, that the existence of 33,000 Protestant sects is an excellent advertisement for the Catholic or Greek Orthodox churches, but by the same Gray Fallacy token, is no sort of evidence against there being a single correct doctrine).

The things which Christians absolutely must believe in order to be Christian are actually fairly concise. The Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds are essential statements of belief, even for Anglicans and Protestants. And then Christ issued two major commandments--"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, body and strength and the second is like it--love your neighbor as yourself." (I'm paraphrasing from memory there). If anyone disputes those creeds or commandments, then they are in no real sense Christian. And believe you me, if you just take the Creeds and those two higher commandments, you've got plenty to chew on without worrying about what happens when you eat meat on a Friday (which I still won't, this being Lent and all, but I'm not too worried about being Hell-bound if I did. It's a ritual designed to stimulate thought and devotion, not make me miserable or provide yet another excuse to send me to the fiery bowels of Satan.)

I agree that it sounds like Josh hasn't got the basic foundations to understand the position ho so publicly argues against.

"This does not mean that there is no deity that began everything, because again we can't 100% prove that, but with the lack of evidence it is reasonable to say it isn't the god of Abraham."

How so?

That is a bit of a jump to a conclusion.

As a atheist he has no burden to prove any assertion.

Speaking of not-facts:

There is research, done by a Christian peer reviewed journal, that shows atheists are less likely to commit crime or divorce.

Josh, could you please show your source before we go to the trouble of freeing you of this false belief?
Like RonH, I am leaving momentarily, so don't have the time to present the truth right now, but will this evening.
Have a great day.

Let's not all hop on Josh at once, especially if it's just to say something negative. He's made some misinformed assertions, but I think that's all they are--misinformed. I don't get any sense that he's here to be snide or antagonistic. So let's all be charitable. I'd hate to go to an atheist blog and be upbraided in four directions at once. Not the best way to learn or make friends.

You are correct, Bennett, to admonish us Christians to be charitable.
But these false claims make the internet rounds and are even repeated as facts by Christians. So unless Josh has no new information to add (from the peer reviewed journal he mentioned) I am going to debunk the claim as I have seen it - with Barna as its usual source on the divorce claim.

The Church is not doing the best job on the issue of divorce, but a critical thinker should raise his eyebrows when he hears the claims. What Barna reports is that in the population an atheist is a likely, or less likely, to be divorced than a Christian. What this doesn't take into account is that the atheist is also far less likely to have ever married.

The data in Exhibit 8 underscore the accuracy of conventional wisdom in the main: those who identify with one or another of the main religious groups are considerably more likely to be married than those who have no religion. Particularly the “no religion” group was far more likely to be either single, never married or single, living with a partner than any other group. Indeed, the “no religion” group shows the lowest incidence of marriage (just 19%) of all twenty-two groups. In sharp contrast, those identifying with the Assemblies of God or Evangelical/Born Again Christians show the highest proportions married, 73% and 74% respectively.

A sampling of the stats at

NO RELIGION 29,481,000
19% married 5,601,390
9 % divorced 2,653,290
47% divorce rate per marriage

CHRISTIAN 14, 190,000
56% married 7,946,400
9 % divorced 1,277,100
16% divorce rate per marriage

CATHOLIC 50, 873,000
60% married 30.523,800
9 % divorced 4,578,570
15% divorce

Assemblies of God 1,105,000
73% married
10% divorced

Evangelical 1,032,000
74% married
7% divorced

Total US
59% married
9% divorced

Another Christian site took this up once:
In the comments of a recent post, a discussion arose about Christian divorce rates. One of the commentors insisted that Christian divorce rates were no different than anyone else’s divorce rates. I pointed to the recent, extensive polling data developed by Gallup and Baylor University on the issue, as presented by one of the leading sociologists in the United States, Rodney Stark, in the book What Americans Really Believe.

R. Stark does not provide data on divorce rates by belief, but he informs as to divorce rates correlated with attendance at religious services. “The average person is 50 percent less likely to be divorced or separated if he or she attends religious services at least twice a month.” Stark, Ch. 23, What Americans Really Believe. On the other hand, “[t]he divorce rate among those who never attend religious services is close to double that of weekly church-goers.” Id.

[citing another source]
We find the following divorce rates by religious group:
1) Christians reporting a born-again experience: 36%
2) Christians not reporting a born-again experience: 34%
3) Members of other religions: 37%
4) Individuals with no religious beliefs: 52%


B. Wright, using GSS data, reinforces this point. Here is the GSS data (2000-2004) comparing divorce rates by frequency of church attendance:

49% Never attend church
46% Less than once a year
46% About once or twice a year
42% Several times a year
42% About once a month
41% Two or three times a month
31% Nearly every week
27% Every week
28% Several times a week

Regarding atheists and crime, I will presume this is based upon the false claim about the lower incarceration rate of atheists versus Christians.
Here's one posting on the subject, as well as enumerating many benefits of religious observance.

Yowch. That Catholic divorce rate. I might note, with tongue in cheek, that they were only *secular* divorces! In the Church, they were annulments. ;)


Several questions along these lines have been raised...

What if I don't like your moral stance on respect for other's lives? What if I don't like your position on beating my kids?

Speaking as a Christian, my humble thoughts (for whatever they're worth) would include...

1. It really is difficult one's beliefs (whatever they may be) from how one votes. I'm not sure how one would do that.

2. That point notwithstanding, I think our laws should be based upon reason, not one's opinions about God's opinion. Generally speaking, one should have the liberty to do what one wishes, as long as your behavior isn't harming or (reasonably) potentially harming another.

For instance, as a Christian from the anabaptist tradition, I am opposed to saying a pledge of allegiance or taking an oath. That being the case, I don't do those things. At the same time, there is no immediate harm in others doing so and so I would not try to regulate or criminalize oaths or pledges. Individual folk can make up their own mind as to the morality of such actions.

For another example, as a Christian, I am opposed to murder, but even aside from my Christian beliefs, we ought to criminalize murder because of the harm to another person. I have the right to fire a gun, I don't have the right to fire a gun in a way that might harm someone else.

So, while my opposition to murder may stem from my Christian belief, there is also a rational reason to be opposed to it.

As a general rule, "harm" should be the measure for creating laws, not one's religious opinions about what God wants.

One man's thoughts...

And the beauty of my approach is that I think theists and non-theists should be able to agree. It is a workable solution is a secular society and a desirable solution, in a free society (secular or not), it seems to me.

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