God Loves you and …

As I read the Christian Post article Obama Points to Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes as Models for Faith-Driven Action I began thinking about how much the church and its focus has changed since the time I accepted Christ. Barack Obama sees segments of the church as aligning with him and his views of faith:

From Willow Creek to the ‘emerging church,’ from the Southern Baptist Convention to the National Association of Evangelicals, folks are realizing that the four walls of the church are too small for a big God. ‘God is still speaking’

He mentioned his friends, Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes. Warren to my knowledge embraces the doctrine of the Trinity and is opposed to Word Faith theology. Jakes is a Oneness Pentecostal (a Foruth Century heresy) and Word Faith teacher. What they both seem to share in common with Barack is placing essential doctrine aside in order to satisfy “man’s need.” The article also outlines the denominational views of Obama’s church:

The UCC, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday, is holding its biennial General Synod in Hartford, Conn., June 22-26. The liberal denomination, which prides itself on being the first denomination to ordain openly gay and lesbian ministers, emphasizes progressive causes and also began to endorse same-sex “marriage” starting in 2005 – a decision which caused a rift in the denomination and the departure of about 100 churches from the UCC.

These strange alliances are made possible through a gradual shift in the view of the gospel. In the 1970’s, although much of the church teaching had been gravitating toward an anthropocentric (man centered) theology there still remained the understanding that we are sinners separated from a holy God. One of the popular tracts of that time was titled “Steps to Peace with God.” It was clear that God loved us individually but sin separated us from Him. Jesus Christ Who was fully God incarnated and was fully man in order to live, die and be resurrected and become the bridge between us and God. Redemption was promised by calling on His name. There were no promises of an easy life and, at least in some circles, there was a caution that life may actually be more difficult.

Today the claim is that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” The way that is heard and acted on is that God is primarily concerned about our personal happiness and fulfillment. But is that true?

It is true that God loves us. The Apostle John writes:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The Apostle Paul makes a similar statement in Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Earlier the Apostle emphasized that our justification is by faith and through faith in Jesus Christ we have peace with God. The theme of the preaching of the gospel is Shalom or peace with God. In other words it is God centered and not a matter of what do I get out of it in this life. Paul makes another very interesting observation which bears on the second part of today’s claim “God has a wonderful plan for your life”? He wrote:

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;( Romans 5:3)

Wait a minute!! “Exult in our tribulations”? What sort of a “wonderful plan “is that???? It surely doesn’t sound like ending poverty and AIDS in this lifetime. It certainly doesn’t come across as speaking wealth or physical healing in to existence. Tribulation sounds an awful lot like suffering and that doesn’t sound too wonderful but there it is in holy writ. In 2nd Corinthians Paul gives an overview of his life after coming to faith:

Are they servants of Christ?–I speak as if insane–I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

As he continues he talks about his “thorn in the flesh,” his asking God to remove it and response:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

God’s “wonderful plan” may well include suffering on our part. There clearly is no guarantee of the abolition of sickness, poverty or even peace between countries. There are does not appear to be allowances to make alliances with others who endorse and promote the very sins (homosexuality, abortion, etc) which cause separation from God in order alleviate suffering and replace it with personal comfort. Oddly, the heroes of faith are described in terms that most Christians today would not only not recognize but would abhor:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:32-38).

“Men of whom the world was not worthy” It is difficult for me to read these words much less type them without weeping. Clearly God’s idea of a wonderful plan for our lives is very different from what is being promoted by much of the church today.


Comments

God Loves you and … — 10 Comments

  1. I believe that there is no God. I’m beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy — you can’t prove a negative, so there’s no work to do. You can’t prove that there isn’t an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again.

    So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.

    But, having to write this here seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life’s big picture, some rules to live by. So, I’m saying, ”This I believe: I believe there is no God.”

    Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I’m not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it’s everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I’m raising now is enough that I don’t need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

    Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

    Believing there’s no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I’m wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don’t travel in circles where people say, ”I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.” That’s just a long-winded religious way to say, ”shut up,” or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, ”How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.” So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that’s always fun. It means I’m learning something.

    Believing there is no God means the suffering I’ve seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn’t caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn’t bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

    Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

  2. People who do believe in God also read ideas from all different people from different cultures. They can also agree on reality, keep adjusting and communicating. I don’t think it’s belief in God or lack of same that prevent those things. I think it’s an attitude of, “I and my beliefs will be right at any cost” that causes those things.

    Listening doesn’t mean agreement however. I hear you when you say you don’t believe in God. I can’t change your mind one way or the other on that, nor can you change mine. I don’t have a problem with your non-belief as long as you don’t try to impose it on me. I promise I won’t try to impose my belief on you. I will listen though. In fact, I think that’s one thing those who profess a belief in God should do more of.

    There was one thing you said though that struck me as … hypocritical. You said, “I don’t travel in circles where people say, ‘’I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.’’ That’s just a long-winded religious way to say, ‘’shut up,'”
    Your post struck me as though you were saying, “I DON’T have faith, I DON’T believe this in my heart, and nothing you can say or do can shake my LACK of faith.” Isn’t that also a long-winded NON-religious way to say, “shut up”? Doesn’t that prevent you from “learning and communicating”? I certainly don’t mean to be offensive. I’m just asking. :)

  3. Denis:
    “Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.”

    Denis, without God, where do you get your ideas of right and wrong from? Because your words make it obvious you have some moral beliefs. How do you distinguish good from evil, and what is your basis for doing so?

  4. Denis wrote:

    “I believe that there is no God. I’m beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God.. Not believing in God is easy — you can’t prove a negative, so there’s no work to do You can’t prove that there isn’t an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again.”

    Don Responds

    Actually, atheism isn’t a lack of belief in God, that would be agnosticism. The word “atheist” comes from the two words “A” meaning “No” and “theist” meaning “god.” So the correct definition of an atheist is someone who claims there is no god. The current group of popular authors have chosen to attempt to substitute the definition for agnosticism to the term atheism precisely for the reasons you outline. They cannot prove their claim but still want to call themselves atheists so it is far easier (and basically dishonest) to use a definitional slight of hand.

    Denis wrote:

    “So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.

    But, having to write this here seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life’s big picture, some rules to live by. So, I’m saying, ”This I believe: I believe there is no God.”

    Don responds

    That is fair and by using the correct definition you are an atheist.

    Denis wrote:

    “Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I’m not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it’s everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I’m raising now is enough that I don’t need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

    Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.”

    Don responds:

    But of course, if we are simply winners of the “huge genetic lottery,” are simply evolutionary accidents in a meaningless world, coming from no where and going in to nothingness, then good is only defined personally. There is no objective good. And if that is the case than for you “love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards” are good and for another winner of the “genetic lottery” raping women, molesting children and murdering the elderly are good. After all there is no objective morality nor anything to really be forgiven. Nothing that we have done really matters a hoot anyway for it will all go up in a firey burst if the universe retracts on itself or all will die a heat death if the universe continues its expansion and all goes in to forever deep freeze.

    Denis wrote:

    “Believing there’s no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I’m wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don’t travel in circles where people say, ”I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.” That’s just a long-winded religious way to say, ”shut up,” or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, ”How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.” So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that’s always fun. It means I’m learning something.”

    Don responds:

    But of course, learning is meaningless. After all you came form nowhere, are just a meaningless accident in the history of evolution and will die and go in to nothingness and nothing you have done will matter a whit.

    Denis wrote:

    “Believing there is no God means the suffering I’ve seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn’t caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn’t bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.”

    Don responds:

    But why would suffering be a bad thing. After all, isn’t that just how the genetic lottery works?

    Denis wrote:

    “Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.”

    Don responds:

    But what is the point? They too are simply meaninglessness. Or as Solomon called it “Vanity.” Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes expressly to figure out if life has any meaning if there is no god. He approached the question proposing to use only his five senses to see if there was meaning to “life under the sun.” He concluded that if there is no god that life is meaningless. Eat, drink and be marry for tomorrow we die and cease to exist. So, the meaning you have made up is only pretend for it is in reality all meaningless based on your starting assertions.

  5. >

    With all due respect, you can? Far from it. Im sorry but you people always look for something that you claim is a “chink in the armor” and then you expect the world to default to “Answer is God” if no one can give you an answer fast enough or if science hasn’t been able to answer it just yet.

    >

    Ah yes, you continue to prove my point. Evolutionary accidents? Christians really need to start reading real science and understanding Darwinian evolution. While you like to insert words like “accidents” and another favorite like “random mutation”, natural selection is far from that and is not defined as such.

    >

    Ah, so here is the great answer. (bonus points cause you used the word “accident” again too…just like you’re taught to do…and even though thats not what evolution is) If there is no God, throw it all away and just give up? Why do Christians always resort to extremes in all their answers? It has to be this or that. It can’t be anything else. Yet, it can be. In all the answers that Christians provide, they jump to massive conclusions with no evidence to support it. You just use arguments that say “you can’t disprove God…therefore…God.”

    >

    You mean by denying scientists the ability to explore the rich depths of stem cell research so that millions of people the world over can continue to suffer even though the embryo will be discarded anyway? Thats Christians looking out for the world again. You mean like how Christians were trying to stop suffering when Ted Haggard lobbied the President not to allow a vaccination to the HPV virus because it would condone promiscuity? You mean the same Christians who care about human suffering yet “their god” committed some of the most barbaric acts ever accounted for in the old testament. You surely don’t want to bring up suffering when you people are responsible for much of it and defend a “version of god” that makes serial killers look like saints.

    So let’s get this straight….a world without god would be meaningless…so therefore, god has to exist? Sir, please give me more than simplistic arguments and word games. Some real evidence and rational reasoning would be good at some point.

    thank you for your time

  6. Hello Lynn

    Thanks for writing back regarding “good and evil”. Actually, I have believed this to be an easy one to answer.

    “A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.”- Albert Einstein, in an article which appeared in New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930.

    Is it standard operating procedure for Christians to point out that all ethics and morals come from God? Yet, It is the Christian who admits that the difference between right and wrong is unclear; all the Christian knows is what is sin according to God and what is not sin. What a pity that the only reason you, a Christian, do not steal is because your god threatened you with horrible punishment if you do. I’m sorry you don’t know that stealing is wrong. It causes innocent people to suffer and the inflicting of needless pain is the worst of all crimes.

    Yet, here is a new way to think about it. It’s so simple that some will wonder why something so obvious is not brought up more often.

    Let us imagine a particular person. Now Madalyn has never had religion. By this Christian definition Madalyn is without morals of any kind. Along comes a missionary and tells Madalyn all about Yahweh and Jesus. He tells bible stories that illustrate what wonderful, upright examples they set for sinful mankind. He tells about the ten commandments and how all morals come from the deity.

    Here is the quandary:

    How is Madalyn, whom we agree has no morals, able to judge if this deity is a moral god? We might observe that one should not worship a god unless that god is worthy of worship. Surely, one would not love a god unless that god was worthy of love.

    In other words, Madalyn must first make an independent judgment — based upon Madalyn’s own godless moral values, that God is worthy of love and worship. Until that independent value judgment is made, Madalyn’s conversion to Christianity or any other religion is — to use a very old expression — putting the cart before the horse.

    So, if we assume what you say is true. Since I have no knowledge of morality, how is it possible for me to understand what you are saying? Since you just now pointed out to me that I can have no morals without God, what standards do you suggest I use to make up my own mind that your god is a good god and aught to be my god?

    Fundamentalists are fond of saying that humanist morality isn’t “universal”. They argue that we humans cannot distinguish right from wrong without divine guidance, so humanist ethics are essentially a rudderless ship, with each person defining his own version of morality to suit his convenience. The problems with this argument (apart from its bigoted attitude) are easy to see, because they fail to ask the obvious question: to paraphrase Socrates, is something righteous because the gods deem it so, or do the gods deem it so because it is righteous? Fundamentalists argue the former, while humanists (not to mention most polytheistic religions) argue the latter: that morality transcends even the gods. If you are fundamentalist and you lean toward the former, then answer this: since your religion is not universal, then how can a system of morality which requires your religion be universal?

    The world has many religions. If there is no morality without God, then should we believe that morality doesn’t exist in any part of the world until it converts to Judaism or one of its offshoots? The ancient Chinese religious triumvirate of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism wasn’t based on Christianity. The Greeks had democracy, civilization, philosophy, and science long before Jesus was born. The Egyptians built a thriving civilization more than four thousand years ago. The Romans built an Empire without any help from Jesus or his God. Tribes and civilizations flourished throughout Africa, Australia, South America, North America, and islands all over the Pacific Ocean. All these places had different religions, different customs, different languages … but they still shared certain moral concepts. Murder was considered immoral. Theft was considered immoral in all societies too large to function as tribal collectives. It was considered noble to help another, and contemptible to hurt others for the sake of personal gain. Honesty was praised. Deception and betrayal were vilified. Governments and gods didn’t always obey these laws, but philosophers in all these places somehow found a way to come to similar conclusions. The question that fundamentalists ignore is: if morality flows from God and God alone, then how did this happen? Given the enormous differences in religious beliefs between all these cultures, how did people independently arrive at similar conclusions all over the world, with regard to murder, betrayal, theft, and altruism? Could there (gasp!) be a moral standard out there which doesn’t require God?

    Thousands of years ago, the Chinese philosopher Confucius laid down his laws of morality. Love others. Honour your parents. Don’t do to others what you would not want done to you. Rulers should be benevolent, leading by example instead of force. Temper your self-interest with concern for your neighbour. Does any of this sound familiar? Confucius himself was not a particularly religious man (he believed in an impersonal “Heaven” but showed little regard for the gods themselves), and he certainly didn’t worship the Christian god (never mind Jesus himself, who wouldn’t be born for another five hundred years), yet he somehow came up with many of the same moral concepts that fundamentalists regard as the exclusive property of their religion. He also got a few things right which Jesus missed, such as his assertion that moral authority is a two-way street; the people must obey their leaders, but their leaders must behave in such a manner as to be worthy of obedience, or they lose their moral mandate and their claim to power. Even the gods were not immune to such judgements, and could actually be demoted if they were felt to be morally inadequate. Contrast this with the Judeo-Christian ethos, in which moral authority flows down, not up, ie- God can judge us, but we can’t judge God.

    Is there a such thing as universal morality, that sufficiently philosophical humans will independently arrive at without any need for belief in the Christian God? The evidence seems to suggest that despite some minor variation and the shrill, bigoted objections of fundamentalists, there most certainly is. There are certain truths which really do appear to be “self-evident”, and which philosophers have discussed for thousands of years in various places all over the world, reaching similar conclusions with or without Christianity. So is “universal morality” dependent upon faith in the Christian god? Are we morally rudderless without Christianity? Certainly not!

    Thanks for listening Lynn.
    Denis W

  7. Denis wrote:

    “With all due respect, you can? Far from it.”

    Don responds:

    I am unsure what you are attempting to communicate on this one.

    Denis Wrote:

    “Im sorry but you people always look for something that you claim is a “chink in the armor” and then you expect the world to default to “Answer is God” if no one can give you an answer fast enough or if science hasn’t been able to answer it just yet”

    Don responds:

    It is a bit difficult respond to a statement that seems to be predicated on a bigoted stereotype of a group titled “you people.” I didn’t “expect” anything but simply asked questions. Your initial post was pretty unrelated to the blog article and I was interested in trying to understand what you were saying and the basis of the view you have attempted to evangelize for on the MOCI site.

    Denis wrote:

    “Ah yes, you continue to prove my point. Evolutionary accidents? Christians really need to start reading real science and understanding Darwinian evolution. While you like to insert words like “accidents” and another favorite like “random mutation”, natural selection is far from that and is not defined as such.”

    Don responds:

    I am a little surprised that you blame my use of the word “accident” on being a Christian. That really is an uninformed bigoted position. In actuality it the term came from the evolutionist, the late Stephen J. Gould from Harvard in the documentary on him titled “A Glorious Accident.” I looked back through what I wrote and for the life of me could not find where I used the phrase “random mutation.” Perhaps you could point me to where I did.

    Denis wrote:

    “Ah, so here is the great answer. (bonus points cause you used the word “accident” again too…just like you’re taught to do…and even though thats not what evolution is) If there is no God, throw it all away and just give up? Why do Christians always resort to extremes in all their answers? It has to be this or that. It can’t be anything else. Yet, it can be. In all the answers that Christians provide, they jump to massive conclusions with no evidence to support it. You just use arguments that say ‘you can’t disprove God…therefore…God.’”

    Don responds:

    Again, I didn’t attempt answers at that point but rather asked questions. I haven’t even implied that there isn’t a temporal meaning to life, one which individuals or even cultures make up and pretend is meaningful but rather pointed out that if we came from no where, for no reason but are as the late Stephen J. Gould called it, glorious accidents we will simply die and nothing that we have done means anything for the universe will cease to exist. It may be that you can prove Christianity untrue but that doesn’t make your views true by default. Something else may be true instead. All I am looking for is a positive defense of your claims if there is any.

    Denis wrote:

    “You mean by denying scientists the ability to explore the rich depths of stem cell research so that millions of people the world over can continue to suffer even though the embryo will be discarded anyway? That’s Christians looking out for the world again. You mean like how Christians were trying to stop suffering when Ted Haggard lobbied the President not to allow a vaccination to the HPV virus because it would condone promiscuity? You mean the same Christians who care about human suffering yet “their god” committed some of the most barbaric acts ever accounted for in the old testament. You surely don’t want to bring up suffering when you people are responsible for much of it and defend a “version of god” that makes serial killers look like saints. “

    Don responds:

    Again, I am not sure on your view why any of the above would be considered wrong. As we look at the other forms of life we find they prey upon the weak, kill the infirmed or abandon them to die and that’s it. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood was a Social Darwinist who founded the organization in order to weed out and breed out the “inferior plants in the human garden.” She also promoted infanticide for she thought that was the best thing a family could do with the weak and “useless eaters.” Now I haven’t stated any position on evolution itself for there are Christians who hold to a theistic evolution. Others hold to a progressive creation. Still others hold to a young earth creation view. As important as this may be it is a secondary issue. It was you who stated that you believe there is no god. I accepted that and asked other questions about your view predicated on your claimed belief. If you cannot make a positive defense that is fine

    Denis wrote:

    “So let’s get this straight….a world without god would be meaningless…so therefore, god has to exist? Sir, please give me more than simplistic arguments and word games. Some real evidence and rational reasoning would be good at some point.”

    Don responds:

    I haven’t stated any position on evolution itself for there are Christians who hold to a theistic evolution. Others hold to a progressive creation. Still others hold to a young earth creation view. As important as this may be it is a secondary issue. I haven’t suggested a default to god, that was Solomon’s conclusion. Perhaps there is some reason you have a right to your belief and he doesn’t but I am not sure what that would be. It was you who stated that you believe there is no god. I accepted that and asked other questions about your view predicated on your claimed belief. If you cannot make a positive defense for your belief, that is fine. Making ad homonym attacks predicated on a bigoted stereotype you hold about me isn’t the same as actually making a defense of your position.

    Denis wrote:

    “Thanks for writing back regarding “good and evil”. Actually, I have believed this to be an easy one to answer.

    “A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.”- Albert Einstein, in an article which appeared in New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930.”

    Don responds:

    That is a fine utilitarian statement but still begs the question. Why be sympathetic and who decided that education is better than not being educated? Why should I be concerned about any one else’s needs? Again, the late Stephen J. Gould was very clear that morals are about oughts and there is nothing in science and evolution which provides a basis for morals. Of course, you may regard the celebrated Harvard professor a country bumpkin who knew nothing about evolution, I don’t really know.

    University professors and evolutionists Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer argue in their book A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion that rape is simply a part of the evolutionary process. It wsa the process whereby the less desireable males continued their genes in the gene pool by forcing unwilling females to mate with them. Thornhill and Palmer are being consistent with their belief in Darwinism as an unguided process and no god. So, what would the basis be for rape being wrong? Because it is taking advantage of someone who is not able to protect themselves? So? That is just evolution at work. Is it that a particular culture has deemed it wrong? In other words, it is predicated on mob rule and which ever mob is in control rules? In Greco-Roman culture child molestation was part of the social fabric. A catamite (a boy about 12-14 years old) being used for sexual gratification by an adult male was a right of passage into manhood. That was the rule for that mob. The wife and children were property of the father and he had every right to sell them or kill them off if he so chose. That was the rule for that mob. Hitler (also a social Darwinist) decided that Jews, gypsies, informed, elderly, mentally disturbed, etc. needed to be eliminated. That was the rule for that mob. In India widows are Shunned from society, widows flock to city to die . The mob there has decided the proper ethical and moral behavior is to abandon widows to starve and die alone. I am unclear about any basis you may hold by which any of these things would be wrong.

    Denis wrote:

    “Is it standard operating procedure for Christians to point out that all ethics and morals come from God? Yet, It is the Christian who admits that the difference between right and wrong is unclear; all the Christian knows is what is sin according to God and what is not sin.”

    Don responds:

    Which Christian is that?

    Denis wrote:

    “What a pity that the only reason you, a Christian, do not steal is because your god threatened you with horrible punishment if you do. I’m sorry you don’t know that stealing is wrong. It causes innocent people to suffer and the inflicting of needless pain is the worst of all crimes.”

    Don responds:

    And exactly when did I give a reason such as this? Please produce it or is this simply something you chose to make up about me? Is your lying about me somehow less bad than you consider stealing to be?

    Denis wrote:

    “Yet, here is a new way to think about it. It’s so simple that some will wonder why something so obvious is not brought up more often.

    Let us imagine a particular person. Now Madalyn has never had religion. By this Christian definition Madalyn is without morals of any kind. Along comes a missionary and tells Madalyn all about Yahweh and Jesus. He tells bible stories that illustrate what wonderful, upright examples they set for sinful mankind. He tells about the ten commandments and how all morals come from the deity.

    Here is the quandary:

    How is Madalyn, whom we agree has no morals, able to judge if this deity is a moral god? We might observe that one should not worship a god unless that god is worthy of worship. Surely, one would not love a god unless that god was worthy of love.

    In other words, Madalyn must first make an independent judgment — based upon Madalyn’s own godless moral values, that God is worthy of love and worship. Until that independent value judgment is made, Madalyn’s conversion to Christianity or any other religion is — to use a very old expression — putting the cart before the horse.

    So, if we assume what you say is true. Since I have no knowledge of morality, how is it possible for me to understand what you are saying? Since you just now pointed out to me that I can have no morals without God, what standards do you suggest I use to make up my own mind that your god is a good god and aught to be my god?”

    Don responds:

    Again, where have I said a non-Christian is without morals? Please produce my statement to substantiate your claim or is this simply another invention? My question was what is the basis of morality in your worldview not whether non-Christians have morals.

    Denis wrote:

    “Fundamentalists are fond of saying that humanist morality isn’t “universal”. They argue that we humans cannot distinguish right from wrong without divine guidance, so humanist ethics are essentially a rudderless ship, with each person defining his own version of morality to suit his convenience. The problems with this argument (apart from its bigoted attitude) are easy to see, because they fail to ask the obvious question: to paraphrase Socrates, is something righteous because the gods deem it so, or do the gods deem it so because it is righteous? Fundamentalists argue the former, while humanists (not to mention most polytheistic religions) argue the latter: that morality transcends even the gods. If you are fundamentalist and you lean toward the former, then answer this: since your religion is not universal, then how can a system of morality which requires your religion be universal?

    The world has many religions. If there is no morality without God, then should we believe that morality doesn’t exist in any part of the world until it converts to Judaism or one of its offshoots? The ancient Chinese religious triumvirate of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism wasn’t based on Christianity. The Greeks had democracy, civilization, philosophy, and science long before Jesus was born. The Egyptians built a thriving civilization more than four thousand years ago. The Romans built an Empire without any help from Jesus or his God. Tribes and civilizations flourished throughout Africa, Australia, South America, North America, and islands all over the Pacific Ocean. All these places had different religions, different customs, different languages … but they still shared certain moral concepts. Murder was considered immoral. Theft was considered immoral in all societies too large to function as tribal collectives. It was considered noble to help another, and contemptible to hurt others for the sake of personal gain. Honesty was praised. Deception and betrayal were vilified. Governments and gods didn’t always obey these laws, but philosophers in all these places somehow found a way to come to similar conclusions. The question that fundamentalists ignore is: if morality flows from God and God alone, then how did this happen? Given the enormous differences in religious beliefs between all these cultures, how did people independently arrive at similar conclusions all over the world, with regard to murder, betrayal, theft, and altruism? Could there (gasp!) be a moral standard out there which doesn’t require God?

    Thousands of years ago, the Chinese philosopher Confucius laid down his laws of morality. Love others. Honour your parents. Don’t do to others what you would not want done to you. Rulers should be benevolent, leading by example instead of force. Temper your self-interest with concern for your neighbour. Does any of this sound familiar? Confucius himself was not a particularly religious man (he believed in an impersonal “Heaven” but showed little regard for the gods themselves), and he certainly didn’t worship the Christian god (never mind Jesus himself, who wouldn’t be born for another five hundred years), yet he somehow came up with many of the same moral concepts that fundamentalists regard as the exclusive property of their religion. He also got a few things right which Jesus missed, such as his assertion that moral authority is a two-way street; the people must obey their leaders, but their leaders must behave in such a manner as to be worthy of obedience, or they lose their moral mandate and their claim to power. Even the gods were not immune to such judgements, and could actually be demoted if they were felt to be morally inadequate. Contrast this with the Judeo-Christian ethos, in which moral authority flows down, not up, ie- God can judge us, but we can’t judge God.

    Is there a such thing as universal morality, that sufficiently philosophical humans will independently arrive at without any need for belief in the Christian God? The evidence seems to suggest that despite some minor variation and the shrill, bigoted objections of fundamentalists, there most certainly is. There are certain truths which really do appear to be “self-evident”, and which philosophers have discussed for thousands of years in various places all over the world, reaching similar conclusions with or without Christianity. So is “universal morality” dependent upon faith in the Christian god? Are we morally rudderless without Christianity? Certainly not!”

    Don responds:

    The first thing that strikes me here is this reads like you just read Dawkins The God Delusion. Although he is brilliant in his other works he set up a number of strawmen in that one as well as made some monumental illogical leaps. But perhaps you didn’t read Dawkins work but came up with the above on your own. That is also possible. It misrepresents the view of Fundamentalists and Evangelicals as well. That doesn’t mean you haven’t met some Christian who has made this claim but I have not met any who have held this view. The view that morality comes from God comes from the book of Romans in the 1st chapter and other places. It is something humans were created with and other creatures on the planet were not. Believers and non-belivers alike share a common morality but as Dr. Francis Beckwith argues in Politically Correct Death not all cultures work it out in the same way and even though they may agree they may not live consistently with what they believe to be true. For the most part the atheists, Wiccans, Hindus and others I know are moral people. I have never said other wise. My question to you was and remains to be, what is the o0bjective basis for morality or is it simply mob rule?

  8. Denis, regarding Confucius:
    “yet he somehow came up with many of the same moral concepts that fundamentalists regard as the exclusive property of their religion. He also got a few things right which Jesus missed, such as his assertion that moral authority is a two-way street; the people must obey their leaders, but their leaders must behave in such a manner as to be worthy of obedience, or they lose their moral mandate and their claim to power.”

    Denis, have you read the Bible? Or anything else Don has written? The Bible itself says that morality and the understanding of right and wrong is not the “exclusive property” of the Christian religion, but that the sense of right and wrong is a universal human trait in the sense that it is seen in all cultures in all times. This is in the first part of Romans.

    Regarding Confucius and Jesus and Christian understanding of authority — you have missed Don’s point about those in Christian leadership being in a much wider circle of accountability (ie- to those under them).

    You evidently haven’t read VanVonderan, who claims that those who are abusive of their roles in Christian leadership have *forfeited* their authority, because they are no longer operating from Biblical authority.

    More importantly, in your comment about what Jesus “missed” but Confucius taught, you ignored Jesus’ words about the Gentiles wanting to lord it over people, but it must not be so among his followers. Jesus said greatest of His followers must become the servant of all.

    From Matthew:
    “But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. “It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.'”

    You also ignored Paul’s and Peter’s writing that elders must be of proven character, and must not lord it over the flock.

    You have not read III John, where the apostle upbraids a man who “loves to be first” among them, and is abusive to others.

    Those who do such things are to be considered, as the Bible says, “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

  9. Hello

    Sorry for the lateness of my response but my job calls. These points are pretty easy to respond to and will do so in the next couple days when time opens up to allow me to respond point for point.

    thank you
    dw

    PS-Lynn, thank you for taking the time to write as well. But, in answering briefly, I have read the New Testament multiple times and more than half of the Old Testament . I am talking about the idea that Christians and other “spiritual” people like to keep dredging up. That being morality has to come from god. But to keep things specifically to your group, I invoked your book….which, btw, falls apart at the seams due to its contradictions and errors. The same thing Christians say of all the other books is just as true of theirs. I believe all spiritual people are wrong on where it came from and that we don’t need spirituality to stay within the lines. Atheists and agnostics don’t start running around screaming “we can do whatever we want and just rape and pillage if we don’t have god.”

    Anyhow, will get back in the next few days as work winds down. Thanks. I value your opinion and feedback and you guys have been good sports thus far.

  10. Denis:
    “That [idea] being morality has to come from god. . . . I believe all spiritual people are wrong on where it came from and that we don’t need spirituality to stay within the lines. Atheists and agnostics don’t start running around screaming ‘we can do whatever we want and just rape and pillage if we don’t have god.'”

    Lynn:
    Denis, I am trying to find some common ground, because there is an awful lot of territory where we are miles apart in belief, perception, and understanding.

    I very much agree with you that atheists and agnostics and people who are stridently opposed to Christianity, such as many Islamic groups — they all are characterized as being people with innate moral understanding — a conception that there is a right and wrong — even if they do not always live by it. I think this is universal to humanity. Of course there are exceptions, but we recognize them as being damaged (brain injured, for example), or deranged (such as psychopaths and sociopaths, and even these could involve brain damage of some kind).

    In addition, because I believe there is a God does not make it an objective fact, just as the fact that you (I forget) either believe there is no God at all, or else you are an agnostic, does not make your belief a true fact.

    Just for the sake of discussion, I could claim my morality came from being created by a moral being. I could be right. You come along and say, I don’t believe in God, and I am a moral person. Meanwhile, I think, just because he doesn’t believe in God doesn’t mean there is no God, and if it is true that there is a God, then Denis’ conception of right and wrong came from God whether Denis believes it or not. I have to recognize the above is a possibility here that needs to be considered. Just as I am willing, for the sake of discussion, to ask where right and wrong came from if there is no God as its source.

    Right now, my understanding is that if there is no God as creator, then right, wrong (ie, good and evil) are devoid of meaning.

    I think we are agreed that humanity is characterized by an innate perception that there is a right and wrong — that we are endowed (I know that is a loaded term you might not use) with a conscience.

    I guess my question to you, then, as an atheist is, do you think there are some things that are universally wrong (objective morality)? Do you think morality is an aspect of evolution, which was void of a designer and creator which started the process? And what is morality based in, in your understanding?

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