Debate:Bigotry towards Christians

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Christian Bigotry[edit]

I notice you're disappointed with the level of bigotry towards Christians here... but compare this to what's said about us at Conservapedia, by people who claim to follow someone who instructed them to "turn the other cheek".

Even considered in isolation, most of what we say about Christians is fair. Your faith has inspired a lot of awful atrocities in the past. I would have no problems with people following, for example, the Jefferson bible, but so long as your holy book looks approvingly on incest rape, genocide and human sacrifice, I'm not too comfortable with believers therein being in effective control of the world's largest nuclear arsenal and a lot of multicultural societies. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 08:51, 12 December 2008 (EST)

You don't have to tell me that some on CP are unfiar towards certain other people...

Idk about the bible looking approvingly on those three things. The only examples of incest rape i can think of certainly weren't treated approvingly, nor was the only example of human sacrafice that leaps to mind (that story about the guy who rashly promised to sacrafice the first thing that came to meet him on his return home.)

As far as genocide, God does instruct the israelites to wipe out at least one of the peoples they conquer. God, however, is God. He is the one person in a position to justly give such a command. I wouldn't say that the bible looks approvingly upon human initiated genocide, but God can do what he wants.

As I've argued before (on CP) People usually forget that God has etternal perspective. He is omniscient and knows what is best. There is a scripture (i forget where) from which you can make a decent case for those caananites going to heaven. --BenjaminS 09:23, 12 December 2008 (EST)

Let's see... one of David's sons raped one of his daughters at the instigation of God (and causing it implies approval) as a punishment for David. Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his son as a test of his faith, and the fact that he was prepared to do it is looked upon as a good thing. And a tribe who were willing to be circumcised in order to validate one of their members' marriage to an israelite were murdered totally, apparently at human instigation. In any case, why should God be allowed to violate his own moral rules? Aren't they absolute? WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 09:27, 12 December 2008 (EST)

Any religion tends to divide the world into 'True Believers' and 'Infidels', us and them. Furthermore any 'True Believer' should feel that the moral rules imposed by their version of 'The Truth' are absolute and universal. As such a 'True Believer' cannot tolerate the views of others. Typically we see intolerance of homosexuals because it is forbidden in the Bible. As such the more fervently one takes one's religion the more one is forced to believe that those with other views are 'wrong'. From my viewpoint it would appear that all religions are, by their very nature intolerant of opposing views and, as such bigoted. Silver Sloth 09:51, 12 December 2008 (EST)
Couldn't you make that exact same point about arguments like Wazza's just above? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 10:02, 12 December 2008 (EST)
I'll just note that Old Testament God was a mean old bastard and that Judaism was going nowhere fast. God 2.0 ditched the personality disorder and Christianity ended up selling like hot cakes. Go figure... --Robledo 11:58, 12 December 2008 (EST)

Response to Wazza

Amnon's rape of Tamar: I don't know where you got the bit about God's "instigating" this. I just read the passage, and Amnon's action doesn't seem to have been caused (or approved) by God.

Abraham and Isaac: God kept Abraham from sacraficing Isaac. This isn't condoning human sacrafice. Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that God was testing Abraham's faith in his promise of countless decendants through Isaac, and that Abraham believed that even if he did sacrafice Isaac, God would raise him from the dead. Abraham didn't believe that he would be permanently killing Isaac. I don't think that's quite the same thing.

Dinah and Shechem: The Bible doesn't condones neither this rape or the ensuing massacre. In fact Jacob berates his sons for their actions.

God violating his own moral rules: God's moral rules are a product of his chracter. In fact, God's character is the one true standard for morality. He therefore can't (or will not) violate his own ablsolute moral rules. I'll take the example of God's "genocide" for this argument.

The bible says, "The wages of sin is death", and "'vengence is mine' says the Lord." God can justly deal punishment without violating his morality. --BenjaminS 12:18, 12 December 2008 (EST)

Response to Silver Sloth

Are you saying that there is no absolute moral truth?

If yes:

What's wrong with being intolerant towards gays? What's wrong with rape? What's wrong with human sacrafice? What's wrong with genocide? What's wrong with believing in absolute truth?

In fact, how can it be true that there's no absolute truth if there's no absolute truth? How can you disagree with me on anything?

If no:

There has to be truth. It isn't bigoted to believe in truth. I boldly state on my user page that homosexuality is wrong. Am I then bigoted? I don't think so. Bigotry is where you hate the person. Righteousness is where you hate the sin. I'm just as much of a sinner as any homosexual out there. The difference between him and me is that I have accepted Jesus' sacrifice and forgivness. --BenjaminS 12:18, 12 December 2008 (EST)

First off, may I say what a pleasant challenge it is to talk to a believer who actually knows their scripture? Half of the Christians I argue with seem completely unaware that the Bible has two parts...

The example of Amnon and Tamar was perhaps a little weak in direct connection to God, but many interpret it as a continuation of the punishment God meted out to David for killing Uriah. In any case, God has intervened so many times in the Bible; why didn't he intervene now?

I'd like to know why you think Homosexuality is absolutely wrong. Can you point to anything other than the word of God? WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 19:01, 12 December 2008 (EST)

Eurgh, scratch that last one... this discussion is supposed to be about what you see as bigotry towards Christians, not about why I believe any bigotry is justified... Back to topic? WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 20:26, 12 December 2008 (EST)
If I may interject (and then run away), rape is sexual violation of another person against their will, human sacrifice is murder of another person against their will, genocide is murder of lots of other persons against their will, homosexuality is a relationship between two people of the same sex voluntarily entered into by both parties and doesn't harm any one else. Surely you can see there is a difference here? Redchuck.gif ГенгисOur ignorance is God; what we know is science. 20:40, 12 December 2008 (EST)

Responseto Genghis Khant Of course there's a difference. My point is that if there are no moral absolutes, nothing can be absolutely wrong. --BenjaminS 23:45, 12 December 2008 (EST)

Response to Wazza I won't point to any Moral standard other than the Character of God, because that is the only true moral standard. God's Character is revealed to us in the bible , so no. --BenjaminS 23:45, 12 December 2008 (EST)

Amnon & Tamar cont.: I don't really know whether God intended this as a punishment for David, however I do know that God sometimes allowes "bad" thngs to happen (one has only to look at the example of Job). You ask why God didn't intervene in this particular instance? I can't say. While He's omniscient, infinitely wise, and infinitely just, I'm none of the above; I can't always give you his motives.

EZ Edit Button[edit]

God's character? You mean the jealous god or the merciful god?


Also, can you point me to some bigotry towards Christians? WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 23:48, 12 December 2008 (EST)

God's Character: God only has one Character. You have, however, pointed out two legitimate ascpects thereof. I'm guessing you're trying to make a point that God's Character isn't consistent? Why is jealousy usually regarded by Christians as a vice if God is a jealous God? The Answer is this: Jealousy isn't in itself right or wrong; it needs an object. Jealousy is a virtue if you are jealous for those things for which God is jealous. Other forms of jealousy are indeed wrong.

Bigotry: Yes, I can. I ran across some a couple of days ago. I'll try to find it tomorrow morning though. Idk what time zone you're in, but I live in New Jersey and it's past midnight. I'm going to bed. :) --BenjaminS 00:20, 13 December 2008 (EST)

God's Character is schizophrenic. SETTING BEARS ON KIDS FOR MOCKING A BALD GUY is not the sort of character I want for any arbiter of absolute morality. And in any case, absolute morality is hard to argue when, at some point or other, just about everything prohibited in the Bible has been allowed or even instigated by God. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 01:04, 13 December 2008 (EST)

As I said before, God is omniscient and we are not. We see the bear-maulings as bad, but we don't know what would have happened if he didn't allow them. What seems harsh to us may very well be a blessing in disguise. (though it's still not much fun for the kids). There is an instance in the book of first kings where God allows the son of Jeraboam to die as a young child. The bible makes it clear that this was an act of mercy to save him from what God had coming to Jeraboam (and probably also to get him out of Jeraboam's influence while his heart was still "inclined towards God"). This sort of thing is not a judgment anyone but God could make.--BenjaminS 10:42, 13 December 2008 (EST)

Omnibenevolence kind of hits a snag when the deity in question is the vicious tyrant seen in the Old Testament. At some point, any explanation for His behavior ends up sounding like "God is Good because HE SAID SO, so ANYTHING He does is Good." --Gulik 14:05, 14 December 2008 (EST)
which bears a disturbing but non-coincidental similarity to "The United States is Good because WE SAID SO, so waterboarding those prisoners was Good!". --Gulik 14:05, 14 December 2008 (EST)

Barnstar[edit]

Goat.jpg Barnstar
For your tireless contributions to RationalWiki, I award you this barnstar.

bigotry against Christians--another perspctive.[edit]

People don't choose to be black, say, or Italian or Native American or Spanish or handicapped; many people also hold that people don't choose to be gay, but let's leave that aside for a moment. People do, however, choose to be Christians. So while it's obviously wrong--i.e. "bigoted" to criticize and judge someone based on race, nationality or physical/mental disability, I'm wondering to what extent belief--creed in the old-fashioned terminology--should be afforded the same protection. We chastise people because they hold particular beliefs all the time without the fear of being called bigots: communists, fascists, people who believe in Santa Claus or that Elvis is alive, say. Many people hold racists, sexists, 9-11 conspiracy theorists, Scientologists, Raelians, vegetarians, meat eaters, radical feminists, Republicans, Democrats and Celine Dion fans in varying degrees of contempt because of their beliefs without fear of being called "bigots." Why should your beliefs be afforded a special amount of protection from scrutiny and criticism? Just a bit of a talking point...PFoster 00:03, 13 December 2008 (EST)

That's a good point. I'm not 100% sure bigotry is the right term. --BenjaminS 00:07, 13 December 2008 (EST)

Celine Dion fans kinda deserve it though. Hey Americans, you want her? She's yours! --Kels 00:14, 13 December 2008 (EST)
No thank you! JazzMan 02:14, 13 December 2008 (EST)
Well, can we have Michael J. Fox back, then? --Kels 10:30, 13 December 2008 (EST)
He's still working on that stem cell thing. While I'm fairly sure Canada is a bit better on that topic, we still need some work on it down here from multiple sides of the political spectrum. Nancy can't do it by herself. --Shagie 01:44, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Don't you think there is a considerable difference between "scrutiny and criticism" and bigotry? It's certainly possible to criticise something while still being fundamentally tolerant of it - bigotry on the other hand is more or less by definition intolerant. Bigotry also implies a degree of prejudice, which I'd say is practically the opposite of scrutiny. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 10:48, 13 December 2008 (EST)
What I'm trying to get at is that it's apparently totally acceptable to hold people in scorn for their beliefs and not to tolerate those beliefs because they're harmful or just plain silly--we do it all the time. What gives this set of beliefs special status? PFoster 10:58, 13 December 2008 (EST)

Basically the way I see it is this: In a philosophcal debate between beliefs, the participants should view the discussion as belief 1 vs. belief 2; not You vs. Me. It's bigotry to bring the discussion down to a personal level and start attacking the other individual for their beliefs instead of attacking the beliefs on their own merits. --BenjaminS 11:06, 13 December 2008 (EST)

While I fully agree with you that it's better to criticize beliefs rather than people, I'm not sure that criticizing people for their beliefs is "bigotry". If somebody were to make disparaging remarks about people of another ethnic group, gender, or people with a particular sexual orientation then that person would be a be a bigot if the only reason for making the remarks were the person's ethnicity etc. On the other hand, if somebody were to suggest that people who believe stupid things are stupid, then they would be impolite or possibly engaging in an Ad hominem attack. But I'm not sure that I would use the word "bigoted" in such a case. Incidentaly, it's interesting that calling someone "bigoted" could be an ad hominem itself.--Bobbing up 11:50, 13 December 2008 (EST)
At the very least, I'm sure you'll agree that when people use language such as calling religion "a disease" or "evil" or something similar, we have moved well and squarely away from an enlightened and democratic discussion and into the realm of bigotry? And I'm sure you'll also agree that such a level discourse is perhaps not exactly desireable in an open-minded democratic society? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 12:02, 13 December 2008 (EST)
You would accept, I suppose, that somebody using such language as you have phrased it would be criticizing the idea and not the person?--Bobbing up 12:54, 13 December 2008 (EST)
Actually, I don't quite see how you would argue for that. Logically, if you're making a statement about a belief, you're also making a statement about the people who hold that belief, since it can't exist on its own. Besides, it is my experience that people who employ such language tend not to be too bothered about such fine distinctions in the first place. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 13:15, 13 December 2008 (EST)
AKJ--is it wrong in and of itself to criticise people because of their beliefs--and not the beliefs in and of themselves? I have no problem thinking less of racists and sexists, for example.Some beliefs speak to the kind of person that holds them and what kind of human being they choose to be. Where do we draw the line on what beliefs we can criticise people for having and still not be bigots? PFoster 14:01, 13 December 2008 (EST)
I don't really think it's possible to draw a clear line, but you can look at a number of factors to "test" an opinion, so to say. For instance, how informed is the opinion? How open is the opinion-holder to opposing viewpoints, and to being proven wrong? Is the target group consistently defined and homogeneous enough that it actually makes sense to say something collectively about it, or are looking at individual members so disparate that it usually woulod make little sense to compare them? And is the opinion part of a discourse that promotes "good, civic virtues", such as tolerance, responsibility and an atmosphere of mutually respectful debate, or is it one that promotes divisiveness and intolerance?
Of course, one problem is that the term "bigotry" refers inherently to a value-judgement, so any definition is by nature subjective, but much like pornography, you usually recognize it when you see it. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:52, 13 December 2008 (EST)
Oh, one more: Are you criticising something that actually has a measurably harmful effect on yourself or society, or are you criticising it simply because it exists? And is such a harmful effect actually evident or at least reasonable, or is merely asserted? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 15:24, 13 December 2008 (EST)

(unindent) FROM WHAT I HAVE SEEN (being the distillation of many years of being an atheist around Christians). Fundamentalists do indeed display a high level of homogeneity (one of the most amazing thing is that you can move to a different website, argue with different people, in different countries, and still see exactly the same attitudes. They even have the same arguments!). Their faith is causing measurable harm whenever they are allowed to have power. Moderate Christians don't cause any harm beyond allowing to exist a scale with fundamentalists at one end. I'm not sure faith is a choice, but I am sure that the type of faith is. A friend of mine was raised in a fundamentalist family, and still believes with all her heart in God and Jesus, but in no way at all supports any of the fundamentalist agenda. Since choosing that hateful doctrine is a choice, criticizing it is valid, especially considering the harm it does to our society. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 18:59, 13 December 2008 (EST)

Okay, so it's not bigoted to criticise fundamentalism. I agree. Let's try "Christianity" next, and after that, once we've warmed properly up, "religion". --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 19:40, 13 December 2008 (EST)

Now, wait a minute, we're not allowed to criticize an idea we disagree with? I mean, that's all a religion really is, an idea. Criticizing Communism is considered perfectly fine and not bigoted at all, and that almost has the status of a religion to its followers... WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me...

I missed something. Is someone seriously claiming that Christianity, the dominant religious belief in the US, is somehow being discriminated against in the United States? In Saudi Arabia, maybe. --Gulik 21:46, 13 December 2008 (EST)

OK, I've changed my mind. I think I now agree w/ AJK : "Of course, one problem is that the term "bigotry" refers inherently to a value-judgement, so any definition is by nature subjective, but much like pornography, you usually recognize it when you see it."

I hate to keep picking on you Wazza, but I still don't see how Christianity is "hateful" or "causes measurable harm." (I know that through the ages, many people have done evil things in the name of christianity, but that doesn't count.) --BenjaminS 00:10, 14 December 2008 (EST)

Wait, what? People inspired by Christianity to do horrible things "doesn't count" as evidence that Christianity inspires people to do horrible things? How does that work? And yet, atheism and evolution ARE to blame for horrible things done in the name of atheism and evolution? You may need to rethink your argument here. DeadHead 00:16, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Just because someone does something in the name of Christianity, does not mean that Christianity condones it. Its like if I were a liberal, and I went to the RNC with an AK-47 and shot everyone up in the name of liberalism, and then someone said, "liberalism is in favor of murdering republicans" --CPAdmin1 00:33, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Have you read Conservapedia's pages on evolution, atheism, and their links to Hitler and the Holocaust? Being Admin#1 over there, I assume you're at least somewhat in agreement with them? 'Cause that's pretty much exactly what you guys argue.DeadHead 00:37, 14 December 2008 (EST)
If you haven't been watching my contribs over there, then don't make accusations that you can't back up. --CPAdmin1 00:44, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Sorry-I didn't mean to make this about you, personally. But that is pretty much the accepted party line at CP-atheism and evolution caused the Holocaust and Stalin's crimes; but whenever horrors are done "in the name of Christianity," it's some sort of freakish exception and doesn't count. Burning witches? Priests buggering little boys? Pogroms? Antisemitism? nothing to do with the church. Benjamin seems to want to bring the same argument over here, and i just wanted to challenge him on it. DeadHead 00:49, 14 December 2008 (EST)
There is a difference. The things that you list of horrors done in the name of Christianity, are in direct contradiction to Christianity and the word of God. The Holocaust and Stalin's crimes are not in contradiction to the beliefs of atheism and evolution. A reasonable argument can be made that they are the logical result of taking those beliefs to their extreme. --CPAdmin1 00:54, 14 December 2008 (EST)
No, no it can't. "there is no God" =/= "Let's kill all the Jews." (i would argue that religion AS RELIGION has killed way more people in human history than atheism AS ATHEISM--as opposed to political ideologies that embraced atheist worldviews; there is an important difference, you'll agree. communism is about way more than atheism, and many communists (think of liberation theology or the ways in which Confucianism has been assimilated into Chinese communism) have managed to bridge the gap between the two...) "Life forms evolve through a process of gene mutation caused by natural selection" =/= "let's starve the Ukrainians." (Sorry to be flip--it's late...but one's about scientifically explaining nature, the other is about power) There is as much a link between atheism and the crimes we're talking about and religion and the things that get blamed on it. obviously, we're not going to convince each other of anything here, but Benjamin needs to sharpen his arguments a bit. DeadHead 01:04, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Can I plug my own blag here? Rather than retyping the arguments I made there, about the whole evolution = murder thing, could you read this, CPAdmin, and pretend that I said it again here?-caius (spy) 01:10, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Evolution says that everything evolved. When one member of a species gained an advantage, its survives, and the others die off. If humans are just a result of that process, then it is perfectly logical for someone to believe that his kind of human is better (more fit) then another kind of human, and therefore should be the one to survive. He is justified in killing off the "weaker species" in order to help the progress of evolution towards a more perfect form of mankind. --CPAdmin1 01:27, 14 December 2008 (EST)
You really belive that? You've been reading too much Ken and not enough Grade 9 science. That's a pretty big and stupid leap from "natural selection" to "it's okay to kill the inferior." That's why we see so many biologists running around with largely defensive weapons of gun exterminating the weak, I guess...Get off your high horse, son, the Godbotherers don't have a monopoly on morality, and you don't have a clue what you're talking about. DeadHead 01:33, 14 December 2008 (EST)

(undent) If you deny the existence of God, then you no longer have a basis for absolute moral truth. If there is no moral truth, then it is not wrong to murder millions of innocent people. While atheism =/= "lets kill all the jews," Atheism does = "There is no real reason not to kill all the Jews." It is not a contradiction for an atheist to do something like that. On the other hand, it is a contradiction for a Christian to do so, because it is against all Christian Biblical teaching. --CPAdmin1 01:14, 14 December 2008 (EST)

Empirically disproven by my lack of a criminal record.-caius (spy) 01:20, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Wrong. I did not say, "all atheists are criminals" I explained that it is not a contradiction for an atheist to kill people. Atheism simply allows people to do things like that, it does not force them to. --CPAdmin1 01:29, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Right, CPAdmin1. Which explains why the majority of Nazi perpetrators of the holocaust, from the top Nazi brass to the camp guards who did the dirty work to the guys who drove the trains, the people who turned in their neighbours, and the bankers who profited from the seized property, as well as the hundreds of thousands of people outside of Germany who knowingly collaborated in the campaign to exterminate the Jews were lifelong members of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches, which they attended regularly, got married in, baptised their children in, took the last rites in, and whose graveyards they were buried in. Because they "weren't really Christians." That makes perfect sense. An entire continent of Christians--a continent in many ways founded on Christian ideals--turns on its own neighbours, but NONE OF THEM really "count" as Christians, and their Christianity had nothing to do with it, even though--as Hannah Arendt laid out a half a century ago, read her book, Christianity was a well-spring of antisemitic rhetoric and practice...DeadHead 01:24, 14 December 2008 (EST)
If I call myself an atheist, but pray to God, and believe that he is going to answer my prayer, will you consider me to be a "real" atheist? The same concept applies. --CPAdmin1 01:33, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Ah, "No True Scotsman," eh. YAWN. Call me back when you've got some new arguments. These ones bore me. They, and I, are getting tired...DeadHead 01:36, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Ok, so you have a name for it. That doesn't make the argument any less valid. --CPAdmin1 01:40, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Unfortunately, one CAN argue directly from "there is a God" to "let's BRUTALLY MURDER evryone who believes in a FALSE God so that they can't infect OUR innocent children".
Not Biblically. --CPAdmin1 01:34, 14 December 2008 (EST)
One thing various Bad Things Done In Jesus's Name have in common: Jesus didn't STOP any of them, or even Smite the perpetrators for making Him look bad. And as for there being no Biblical endorsement, well, I can start with the Great Flood, an act of divinely-caused genocide that makes Hitler look like a piker, and move on to Moses's endorsement of mass murder and rape. If you REALLY want me to, I will, but it's been gone over a million times by better than me. --Gulik 01:22, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Jesus did not stop any of them because God gives us free will. The option to choose to be evil. Perpetrators are punished. (Hell anyone?) God has the moral authority to judge mankind (flood). Moses does not condone rape or murder. --CPAdmin1 01:38, 14 December 2008 (EST)
And you know, it doesn't say anything charitable about your opinion of human nature to insist that the ONLY reason you aren't a total psychopath is a belief in a gaseous vertebrate of galactic heft monitoring your actions 24/7. Most of the Atheists I know haven't murdered a Jew in MONTHS! --Gulik 01:25, 14 December 2008 (EST)
I do not believe in any inherent "goodness" of mankind. Human nature is fallen. I did not say that all atheists are psychopaths. you people keep twisting my words. I am saying that an atheist does not have a basis for absolute moral truth. And for someone who has no moral grounding, such things as murder are not inherently wrong. --CPAdmin1 01:46, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Also, the morality argument assumes that religion is the only source of morality. If one truly studies evolutionary biology, however, it quickly becomes clear that morality is an evolutionary adaptation necessitated by humanity's social nature. So, being an atheist arguably rids oneself of the unneccessary shackles of absolute morality and allows one to make optimal decisions on a case-by-case basis. I hate to make such an inflammatory claim, but religious morality is likely an off-shoot of evolution (please read Michael Shermer if you don't believe me). --Thinker 01:28, 14 December 2008 (EST)
(EC) Not to mention Joshua's big ol' genocide list. The examples are endless. When your source for morality is the magic man in the sky who, it is said, makes his will known to people seemingly at random and by soopa seekrit unverifiable means, you have justification to do anything. One can scarecly argue that ordering genocide isn't within jolly funtime YAWEH's remit. He apparently does it all the time. So if Hitler were to have claimed divine inspiration for killing the Jews, would that have made it right? From the perspective of my own purely humanist morality, clearly not. --JeevesMkII 01:32, 14 December 2008 (EST)
This is one long No True Scotsman fallacy, CPAdmin1. Your version of Christian is so redefined and hypothetical that it doesn't exist. Historical practice of the religion isn't something you can hand-wave away that easily.-caius (spy) 01:41, 14 December 2008 (EST)
No, it isn't. I am not saying that Christians are perfect, or that Christians are incapable of such atrocities. All men are fallen, and capable of evil. That includes Christians. I am saying that if/when a Christian does do something like that, it is in opposition to Christianity, while if an Atheist does something like that, it is not in opposition to atheism. --CPAdmin1 01:50, 14 December 2008 (EST)
That's Bullshit though, isn't it. You're simultaneously appealing to God as the ultimate source of "moral truth", whatever that is while at the same time holding up the Bible as the standard by which people can be judged as good or not. Which is it? Is God the source of morality, or is it the Bible? These two definitions are mutually exclusive. As BenjaminS says above, if you're saying god is the source of morality, your morality boils down to simply whatever god says is the whole of the law. How are you going to gainsay it when I declare god mandated me to steal your possessions and rape your goats? You have to accept it as moral. On the other hand, if you're declaring the Bible to be your source of morality, then there is no need to invoke god as its source and author. You simply have a written code of morals, rather than everyone else's purely internal code. A pretty crappy code of morals in my opinion, but a code never the less. It would be interesting to see where you stand on this. Is the christian god allowed to redefine what is moral on the fly, and does he? --JeevesMkII 02:03, 14 December 2008 (EST)
"religion itself often follows the lead of conventional wisdom. The Bible has always been interpreted in ways that reinforce existing social prejudices. When slavery was considered moral, Biblical passages were used to support it. The same was later true of segregation. When Henry VIII found Catholicism too binding, he simply created a new church with a moral code that he found more palatable. Far from being a solid grounding for society's moral code, religion is in fact more often used to rationalize and defend a set of values society has already agreed upon."
(Taken from this essay) --Gulik 02:39, 14 December 2008 (EST)

Zig, zig, zig, what a sarabande[edit]

It was a bit strange just now when I read how the above discussion had turned out since last night, because I felt like I had read it all before somewhere. But then I realized that was not very strange at all, because I have read it all before somewhere. It's amazing how you people seem to go completely on autopilot whenever this subject comes up. This whole thing can basically be boiled down to "Christianity is teh suxxorz!" vs. "NO U!" - I mean, it's quite an impressive level of abstraction that we're witnessing here.

Just to introduce a new and refreshing angle on this whole thing, wouldn't it be interesting to try to identify which characteristics "Christians" actually have in common, instead of trying to operate with this vague, undefined notion of "Christianity" that seems to be floating around at the moment. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 07:17, 14 December 2008 (EST)

The only common element of "Christians" seems to be that they all claim to follow the teachings of Jesus. Oddly enough, perhaps 10% of them actually do. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 07:34, 14 December 2008 (EST)

Oh, and AK, we try to provide evidence for our claims, which I guess to the high-and-mighty theist must look like people saying "You suck! Because you're stinky! An', an', you have coooooties!" To atheists, however, enormous genocides and the streets running with blood seem like something that's actually important to stop or at least prevent in future. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 07:37, 14 December 2008 (EST)

That's nice. Have you provided evidence that these genocides are actually caused by religion, or is that just an assumption? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 07:45, 14 December 2008 (EST)
You mean when Jerusalem was invaded purely for religious reasons and they slaughtered just about everyone within the walls? Or is that not a sufficiently clear-cut case? WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 08:35, 14 December 2008 (EST)
That is in fact not a particularly clear-cut case, no. But that aside, I don't think the sacking of a conquered city, which was by no means an unusual incident in the Middle Ages, really counts as "genocide", unless we want to water that term so much down that it becomes practically meaningless. Also, that was in 1099. Are we going to base this discussion on stuff that happened 900 years ago? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 08:55, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Out of curiosity, when God - at least according to the bible - ordered the ancient Israelites to commit genocide was he acting in a Christian manner or not?--Bobbing up 09:21, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Hardly. But that's where the idea of the New Covenant comes into the picture. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 09:31, 14 December 2008 (EST)
So the idea is that the God of the Old Testament didn't act in a Christian manner, but the God of the New Testament did. I am not unfamiliar with this argument, and I understand that some Christians would hold this point of view. However, would all Christians agree that God acted in an unchristian way in the old testament? I rather think not. Are you going to argue they are not "real" Christians? --Bobbing up 09:46, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Well, Actually, AK, what most historians agree on about the Sack of Jerusalem was that it was unusually ferocious. Men were seen kneeling in the streets, covered in blood, crying tears of joy and thanking God for the opportunity to be there. Blood really was said to flow in the streets. Normally, you see, when you took over a town, you'd leave the peasants alive. They sort of came with the whole thing. Religious war discarded all that; infidels couldn't be used in the fields. But you know the really funny thing? The Muslims had mostly fled the city, and a lot of the Jews too. A large proportion of the "infidels" killed in Jerusalem that day were native Christians. They were virtually wiped out.
And you ask if we should base our decisions on what happened 900 years ago. Isn't it even more absurd to base your decisions on what happened 2000 years ago? Anyway, back to Bob's question first. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 09:55, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Wazza, I can assure you that you do not need to lecture me about what happened during the Siege of Jerusalem. I am intimately familiar with that incident. However, the sources are not entirely simple (as if they ever are). For instance, several of the more graphical descriptions are taken from Biblical sources - which is not to say that they didn't happen at all, but it does bring the degree of violence ("blood flowing to the horses' bridles") somewhat into question.
In any case, whatever the facts, I think that you may have a somewhat optimistic view of the nature of war during the Middle Ages. Plundering a city that had refused to surrender was a perfectly normal thing, and probably not something that could realistically be prevented, either. Also, once the Kingdom of Jerusalem had been established in all of its somewhat ramshackle glory, it had no problem at all "using infidels in the fields", as you put it.
Bob, I don't think it is for me to judge who is and who isn't a real Christian. That must be between them and the Almighty. However, I would say that there are certain parts of the Bible that are more suited as moral examples than others. I would also argue that most Christians - as well as most Jews, for that matter - have no problem at all distinguishing between the two. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 10:10, 14 December 2008 (EST)
So, there is no objective way to decide who is a real Christian. And the bible has some parts which are "moral" (or suited as moral examples) and other parts which are not. As it happens I agree with you. But I'm not sure these are ideas shared with the majority of Christians.--Bobbing up 10:18, 14 December 2008 (EST)
My point here is exactly that it would probably be almost impossible to find anything that a majority of the world's 1.2 billion Christians would agree on, other than the really fundamental stuff such as the Apostle's Creed or similar. Which in turn leads me to question whether this is really a useful category for either analysis or critique. If you guys want to criticise Christian behaviour, then by all means do so, but at least make the effort to identify the particular group that you're talking about. If you don't even do that, that's when I'm beginning to suspect that bigotry may be involved (to return to what this discussion was originally about). --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 10:52, 14 December 2008 (EST)
L::::::::::

I'm confused, are are you really saying there is no objective way to describe a "Christian"? If so it would seem to be not a particularly useful word. And is making this point (or asking this question) an example of "bigotry"? Actually - knowing you - I'm sure that that isn't your point, but it's not clear what your "bigotry" point is. --Bobbing up 11:08, 14 December 2008 (EST)

To your first point, that is exactly what I am saying. Since it's not like we can genetically test for Christianity or anything, all we're left with are social and cultural factors, and those are by nature subjective. That's not only true for religious categories, but also to a high degree for e.g. nationality and ethnicity. Is there a way to objectively define a British person? Or a German, or a Russian? They can be legally defined, but even that is so much "objective" as it is the result of a political and cultural process of negotiation. These are by no means simple issues.
Looking more specifically at Christianity, I don't know which particular criteria you would use to define it. You have the various Creeds, of course - especially the Apostles' Creed or the first Nicaean Creed. Most people who identify as Christians follow those, so you could simply say that these items of faith are what a priori defines Christianity. But then you exclude a lot of other groups which self-identify as Christians, or have done so historically - the Unitarians, for instance, or the Arians. Or should we go in the other direction and simply say that this self-identification in itself is sufficient? Taking that ad absurdum would give some equally untenable results.
My point about bigotry is simply that this more or less by definition involves a degree of prejudice. And if you haven't at least taken the time to reflect on which particular group of people it is that you're criticising and why, chances are pretty good that you're working on the basis of some prejudices. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 11:43, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Well, if there is no way to objectivity define Christianity, it would seem to be impossible to make any objective comment on it - as something which cannot be defined can hardly be objectively criticized.
With regard to the second point, if we take it as read that Christianity cannot be defined then it would certainty be difficult to explicitly criticise it; though it could be argued that a philosophy so vague that it defies definition is axiomatically worthy of criticism.--Bobbing up 12:14, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Now you're making it sound as if criticism is a goal in itself - surely, that can't be what you mean? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:13, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Come, come AKj!! Criticize has two meanings - at least according to Merriam-Webster. (1) To consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly : evaluate (2) : to find fault with : point out the faults of.
I initially used the used the first definition and then the second.
So I repeat my point, well no, actually I'll copy it as you don't seem to have answered it: if there is no way to objectivity define Christianity, it would seem to be impossible to make any objective comment on it - as something which cannot be defined can hardly be objectively criticized. (criticism definition 1 here) and "it could be argued that a philosophy so vague that it defies definition is axiomatically worthy of criticism."(criticism definition 2 here)--Bobbing up 15:07, 14 December 2008 (EST)
I would go even further than that and say that it is impossible to criticise anything "objectively", since, as you've just shown, to criticise involves making a value judgment which will always be subjective.
Further, I would question whether it is meaningful to consider Christianity a single "philosophy". It is better seen as a unifying term for a whole range of related, but distinct philosophies. It's much the same with "socialism" which, at least in its widest definition, encompasses positions ranging from New Labour's Third Way all the way to communism. If you want to engage in polemics, you could of course refer to all of those under the unifying term "socialism", but it is unlikely to yield a very useful or nuanced analysis. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 15:45, 14 December 2008 (EST)
So what you seem to be saying is that there is no way to talk about, or criticize "Christianity" (and presumably Christians) because the concept is too nebulous. Frankly, I'm not sure whether I agree with you you not - but it would seem to make debating "bigotry towards Christians" pretty pointless.--Bobbing up 15:57, 14 December 2008 (EST)


That is not exactly what I'm saying - after all, we're talking about Christianity right now. Rather, I'm saying that such discussions often skip the essential point of clarifying how "Christianity" is to be defined, which in turn leads to the unfortunate situation that something which is properly only a subset of Christianity is put forward as representative of the religion as a whole. Again, unless the objective is polemics, I don't see why that is desirable.
I also don't see how this inevitable subjectivity of reality makes the discussion of bigotry as such pointless - the fact that a group is difficult to define is rarely of much concern to the bigot, is it? --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 16:13, 14 December 2008 (EST)
At that point we seem to have sucked sufficient air out of the debate that I'm going to bed.  :-) --Bobbing up 17:16, 14 December 2008 (EST)

Can't we all just get along?[edit]

I don't believe in god, you believe in god. Some things atheists have done have been completly deplorable, some things done by theists have been completly deplorable. We can throw rocks in every direction we want to, but in the long run, we are in this insane carnival called life together, and as such, I will refrain from joining in on this impromptu debate. steps off the soapbox ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ edits from 184.104.5.32

What are these morally deplorable things done in the name of athiesm Javascap? I'm not saying that there aren't any, it's just that a long list doesn't spring to mind.--Bobbing up 01:33, 13 December 2008 (EST)
Just out of fairness, he didn't say "in the name of" he said "by". Frohlich 01:40, 13 December 2008 (EST)
Communism springs to mind. However, unlike Ed Poor, I think atheism was incidental to the atrocities committed by Communists.-caius (spy) 01:41, 13 December 2008 (EST)
There is also the small problem that not all communists are atheists, not all atheists are communists and that communism doesn't have to be a bad thing.--Bobbing up 04:57, 14 December 2008 (EST)
I think it caused me to shout at BenjaminS at one point... WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 01:45, 13 December 2008 (EST) <-is ashamed
I forgot, is BenjaminS the kid who thought the worst thing about the Civil War was that the states got the Bill of Rights incorporated against them? that made me squander a good sock & shout at him too.-caius (spy) 01:54, 13 December 2008 (EST)
BenjaminS is the guy whose talk page we are talking on right now. I have, and have had, no socks. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 02:02, 13 December 2008 (EST)

I don't remember saying that (obviously I probably did There's a record of pretty much everything anyone says on a wiki), but I'm guessing I said that was the worst result of the Civil war. The War itself was pretty much the worst thing about the Civil War. --BenjaminS 10:25, 13 December 2008 (EST)

Woah. How the hell is the equal application of the Bill of Rights a "worst result?" PFoster 10:28, 13 December 2008 (EST)

First of all, I'm not saying that I disagree with the bill of rights. The problem is, it is an enroachment upon (I hesatate to say states' rights) the way the system was supposed to work (also the way I think it would work the best). In my opinion, the federal government should be as small as possible. The fourtheenth ammendment gave federal courts power over state legislatures. Each state legislature is the representative government of each state. It really took away (to a certain extent) the right of self-government. I don't think that was wise. --BenjaminS 10:56, 13 December 2008 (EST)

The Civil War/Reconstruction have to be looked at as a second founding, an admission that the way it was didn't work. Thus, "the way it was supposed to work" was no longer relevant as of the passage of the 13th Amendment. The only sense in which federal courts usurped power over state legislatures is that federal courts are now allowed to enforce federal rights against the states. That wasn't an issue in the pre-Civil War era, because there was a whole class of people whose federal rights, we recognized, didn't exist. The only right of self-government that disappeared from the states was the right to dip below a certain floor of due process rights. Call me crazy, but I see that as no real loss.-caius (spy) 11:10, 13 December 2008 (EST)
Further, if you're arguing that federal courts can strike down state law, the answer is they can't unless it runs afoul of federal rights. There's no jurisdiction, original or appellate, to challenge state actions on state grounds in federal court.-caius (spy) 11:19, 13 December 2008 (EST)

Can't we all just get a loan?[edit]

My credit's not good enough :(-caius (spy) 14:23, 13 December 2008 (EST)

I believe you! Redchuck.gif ГенгисOur ignorance is God; what we know is science. 09:37, 14 December 2008 (EST)
I suppose we could always blame the stupid jodrell bankers. Those of a British persuasion will understand. --Bobbing up 09:56, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Actually, it's not the credit. It's that I've gotten too many for some freaking school.-caius (spy) 10:12, 14 December 2008 (EST)

No Real Christians[edit]

Ok, thanks to CPAdmin1, we now know that the Crusaders weren't Real True Christians, the Nazis weren't Real True Christians, and so on.
So....how do we know who IS a Real True Christian? CPAdmin1, if you're going to participate in this discussion, please first prove that you ARE a Real True Christian, not just another fraud making Jesus look bad. Fnord. --Gulik 01:57, 14 December 2008 (EST)

See this --CPAdmin1 02:02, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Unfortunately, it is impossible to prove whether or not someone is actually a Christian or not. It is a matter of whether that person has personally accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. And no one except God can see into your (anyone's) heart. --CPAdmin1 02:05, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Oooookay. So, Christianity, in your worldview, DOES provide a perfect, always-applicable moral code, which can be broken without any useful feedback from the Lord. Good to know. Let me direct your attention to the Old Testament, where JHVH-1 orders many, many brutal deaths, such as what His chosen did to the Caananites. Threequestions:
  1. Was that genocide 'morally right', because God commanded it?
    Does not the Creator have compete authority over the Created? --CPAdmin1 02:22, 14 December 2008 (EST)
    If this whole "free will" jazz is anything to go by, then no. --Kels 10:06, 14 December 2008 (EST)
  2. If He commands another one today, will you help?
    If God commands something, (and I know that he has) then I will do it. However, the situation is different today. At that time, the nation of Israel had a special position as God's chosen people. There is no such position today. And I know that God will not command me to do anything contrary to his word.--CPAdmin1 02:22, 14 December 2008 (EST)
  3. Will He need to tell you personally, or will hearing it from someone who sounds really sincere be sufficient?
    Someone sounding sincere (or even is sincere) =/= someone who is right. --CPAdmin1 02:22, 14 December 2008 (EST)
--Gulik 02:08, 14 December 2008 (EST)

How do you know God won't command you to do anything against his Word? The ten commandments are pretty explicit: Thou Shalt Not Kill. And that's one of the most common direct orders from God. After all, he's God. He can tell you to do anything he wants you to do. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 07:31, 14 December 2008 (EST)

God won't make commands against his Word because God's word is a reflection his character. --BenjaminS 10:45, 14 December 2008 (EST)
God has a character?-caius (spy) 13:51, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Hey! Read the Old Testament!--Bobbing up 14:02, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Jealous, cruel, bloodthirsty, and with an itchy smitin' finger? --Gulik 14:07, 14 December 2008 (EST)
That's the point, isn't it; kind of hard to pin down a mood. I'd say all New Testament, because it supersedes the old, but social conservatives seem fairly enamored of key points of the old.-caius (spy) 14:08, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Much more so than the great majority of Jews are, ironically. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:11, 14 December 2008 (EST)
The Jewish tradition actively encourages questioning religious texts to discern valid, fair morality, cutting against unflinching adherence & blind, surface-deep reading of immensely complicated texts. There's no such countervailing tendency in fundamentalist cults, encouraging its adherents to stop once they come to a colorable moral rule, no matter how offensive, nonsensical, or cruel it may seem.-caius (spy) 14:17, 14 December 2008 (EST)
Not unlike certain atheists looking for strawmen. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 14:27, 14 December 2008 (EST)
That said, it's hard to colour genocide as an allegory. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 03:28, 15 December 2008 (EST)
It's not just a question of allegory, but just as much of realizing that there are a number of different types of texts in the Bible - chronicles, law texts, prophesy, poetry, and so on - and that they each need to be interpreted according to their type. As I also said above, there are parts that are better suited to serve as moral examples than others, and most people have no problem distinguishing between them. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 08:09, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Which kind is the part that says it's all the inspired word of God? (sorry, couldn't resist :P) WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 09:23, 15 December 2008 (EST)
That is especially in 2 Tim 3:16, so that would be a pastoral epistle. Interestingly, what that passage actually says is that "(16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (17) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." That in itself seems to suggest that a high degree of interpretation is necessary. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 09:52, 15 December 2008 (EST)

Who has the time to be a bigot?[edit]

I have to worry about atheists who are bigoted towards christians or vice versa. Individuals are individuals, and usually it makes absolutely no difference to our working lives whether our colleague is a christian, an atheist or worships a flying teacup in the sky. Who cares? Who has the energy to care? Only people with such time on their hands can get actually be bothered to wrap themselves up in generalisations, and attempting to see the worst of whole groups, or picking apart the most egregious elements of their holy books. MarcusCicero 08:20, 15 December 2008 (EST)

Personally, as someone accused of being a bigot towards Christians (I'm not, though I'm not at all down with dogmatists), it's not something you have to work at. It just happens. You hear about a group of Christians beating up a gay couple, or bombing an abortion clinic, or ranting about how atheists by definition can never be moral, and it sort of builds up, and then someone mentions something about Proposition 8, and then one of your coworkers says how glad they are that it passed, then you mention that you don't see anything wrong with gay people marrying, the conversation leads around to your personal beliefs (as these things sometimes do), you mention you're an atheist, and your coworker looks at you with a mix of pity and smug superiority and says "I'll pray for you" as though the only way of looking at the world I could ever be comfortable in is some sort of horrible disease... it doesn't take much at all to make someone think there's something wrong with dogmatic faith.
That said, one of my best friends is a liberal Christian and we get along just fine. We both know we won't convince one another and we both use the same criteria for figuring out what's right and wrong, so we just avoid the question of whether God exists and work together to make things better right now. If all Christians were like her, I'd be perfectly happy with it and promoting it to anyone who feels the need for a deity. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 09:33, 15 December 2008 (EST)
10/10. I'll use it as a "Model answer", Wazza. Frohlich 10:18, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Wazza, the things is that the type of behaviour that you describe is not limited to religious people. There is a not insignificant number of atheists as well who seem to combine a, shall we say, rather aggressive level of disapproval of religion with an unfortunately less than complete understanding of it, and who apparently consider it a personal insult that there exist people who do not happen to share their particular world view. I must admit that I don't see a great deal of difference between these people and the aggressively religious people that you describe. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 10:57, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Atheists don't knock on your door selling their ideas. Silver Sloth 11:02, 15 December 2008 (EST)
AK: If you can list 1 atheist causing physical,mental or fiscal damage to a Christian for every 100 where the case is reversed, I'll be amazed. (I don't include the mental torment of being laughed at for their ideas) Frohlich 11:08, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Right. See, this is where I could drag up 70 years of Soviet persecution of the Russian Church. But I'm not going to do that, because that is exactly the problem here. Each side in the discussion tries to reduce the other side to an ideal type characterised by its worst possible aspects and its extremists, while conveniently ignoring the enormous complexity of the middle ground that exists between these extremes.
Or to put it in another way: Do Stalin's atheist persecutions invalidate the atheist works of Bertrand Russell? Of course not. Or do Fred Phelps's religious ravings invalidate the religious works of Desmond Tutu? Of course not. This sort of discourse is primitive, polemical and unworthy of democratic citizens, and I reject it completely. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 11:56, 15 December 2008 (EST)

As usual, the Dane has hit the nail on the head. In all walks of life we meet obnoxious dickheads who want to push their ideas onto others. Ones religion makes little difference in this. MarcusCicero 12:55, 15 December 2008 (EST)

Also, as a vague and rather ominous threat, may I remark that Christianity (as with other religions, Islam in particular - it's amazing seeing the difference between Jordan and Syria vis a vis blatant signs of religion) tends to get stronger and nastier the more bigoted one is towards it? Neronic persecution, martyrdom, BAM, tons more converts, within a few hundred years half the Empire's Christian. While this shouldn't affect discussion and criticism of Christianity, bigotry towards it will only result in more, louder Andys with better ammunition. --מְתֻרְגְּמָן וִיקִי שְׁלֹום! 13:28, 15 December 2008 (EST)
That is an interesting observation. Another example would be the Russian Church after 1989 - stronger, highly conservative, and with a significant level of influence on state policy. So what would be the general message here? "Reco'nize, bitches - or phear our deterministically inevitable ascendancy as suggested by certain historical examples... uh, yo!"? :-D --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 13:35, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Word, man.
But no, it's a recognisable trait throughout history - being oppressed tends to make a group harder, stronger, and (potentially) more inclined to go around and start oppressing others.--מְתֻרְגְּמָן וִיקִי שְׁלֹום!
And, of course, Atheists have the power and inclination to start murdering Christians just because they're pissed off at them... AK, you can call Stalinist Russia atheist if you like, but if you actually take a good look at the beliefs of hard-line Communists, it's basically a religion where God has been replaced by Historical Imperative, and his reasons for hitting the church were more political than philosophical. I don't think either side in this debate can take the blame for that one. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 18:55, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Firstly, I would say that it is fairly uncontroversial to say that the Soviet Union was atheist. You could perhaps argue that the party ideology took the role of a sort of quasi-religion, but that's just equivocation in the context of this discussion. Secondly, once again and more importantly, this is not about who should "take the blame" at all - my entire point is that we should try to break away from this game of trying to assign blame to the other side that we seem to be caught in. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 16:43, 16 December 2008 (EST)

The biggest problem with people like you is that when an atheist does something wrong its irrelevant because its just one individual. However, when a Christian does something wrong its because of this massive group mentality brought about by religion... Talk about intellectual laziness. MarcusCicero 12:50, 16 December 2008 (EST)

I am seeing on televisual devices where people are saying that atheists have no morals and are of low ways, while the followers of Jesus do no wrong. Which of us is intellectually lazy, me, who sees that atheists have no unified dogma, thus making the actions of the individual a truly personal choice while Christians are taught some forms of intolerance and hatred in their churches, or Pat Robertson, who once wrote a conspiracy theory book about liberals engaging in military preparations? (sorry for the grammar and phraseology if it annoys you, I have been reading much Achewood. If it does not, that is good.) WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 07:15, 4 January 2009 (EST)

Absolute Moral Truth[edit]

Is there an absolute moral truth? This is probably one of the biggest sticking points I have with organised religion.

Personally I believe that ethics is relativistic and evolutionary. Certain moral codes survive and become more ingrained because they facilitate a successful society. Altruism is a positive survival trait. I realise this will be seen as hard and unfeeling but I see it as just the way it is. Does the 'fact' that my love for my wife comes from the genetic desire to breed detract from the fact that it's the most wonderful thing I know? Not in my eyes.

Furthermore, I am very suspicious of anyone who claims to know of an absolute moral truth. Far too many atrocities have been committed by those with god on their side. The KKK sees it as an absolute truth that the white race is superior - and use the bible to justify it. Some Christians put their children at risk by refusing blood transfusions because their absolute moral truth is that taking blood is wrong. Some Christians tell me that some of my friends, people whom I consider caring and sharing, morally 'good' by my compass, will, according to their 'absolute moral truth', burn for eternity in hell because their partner of choice has the same gender. The rampant spread of AIDS in sub Saharan Africa isn't helped by the teaching of the 'absolute moral truth' that using condoms is wrong.

So, call me a godless commie, but keep your 'absolute moral truths' to yourself. Silver Sloth 08:42, 15 December 2008 (EST)

What about the existence of 'constructed' absolute moral truths? What if, from a utilitarian standpoint, it's of net benefit to say that 'the idea of 'X' (golden rule, all humans have intrinsic worth, etc) is an absolute moral truth'? Furthermore, what about ideas that do seem universal? Most cultures have come up with some form of ethic of reciprocity, and, at their most basic level, the idea of human rights does seem pretty universal, even if it's pared down to a minimum. --מְתֻרְגְּמָן וִיקִי שְׁלֹום!
Interestingly enough, I started a short debate related to this kind of thinking recently, here. That particular debate didn't attract too terribly much attention, but the conclusion we seemed to come to (forgive me if anyone involved in that debate disagrees) is that absolute truth (in general, not just in morality) must exist for logic to work, but humans, with their flawed senses and reasoning, are extremely unlikely to ever know what that absolute truth is. I then made the small leap that we deal with this situation by approximating as best we can and that this is essentially what science is: a systematic way to test and improve our approximations on the nature of the universe.
Sorry, unnecessarily wordy. Bottom line: I assert that absolute truth exists and that humans can never know what that absolute truth is. Carry on. OneForLogic 15:26, 15 December 2008 (EST)
A WILD KANTIAN APPEARS! --מְתֻרְגְּמָן וִיקִי שְׁלֹום!
(ec) Despite the inevitable epistemological ballache, moral truth is worth arguing for, SS. If you follow the "relativistic and evolutionary" route to its logical conclusion, all you end up being able to say about horrific shit like this is No, sir, I don't like it! I don't like it one little bit! Which is obviously unsatisfactory (unless your head works in a completely different way to mine). The (rough) idea is that moral truth transcends the mores and practices of the day - i.e. slavery was always wrong, whether or not, say, the Romans were capable of knowing it. Likewise, same-sex relationships have always been fine, regardless of any scriptural or cultural prohibitions. --Robledo 15:49, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Exactly. (I apologise for the above annoying interjection - Kant was right, even if he was pipped to the post by 1 Corinthians 13:12, etc). We can't objectively prove absolute moral truth, but you can either construct it, or derive it from some religion/belief system. Sure, there are bad religions/belief systems, but there are good/helpful ones too. --מְתֻרְגְּמָן וִיקִי שְׁלֹום!
But how do you distinguish between the good and the bad religions and/or belief systems? Sure, I believe slavery has always been wrong, and that homosexuality has always been acceptable, but I have no logical reason to believe so, nor has anyone else. I'm all in favour of greatest good to the greatest number or similar systems but when it comes down to the given word of god - sorry, that doesn't wash with me. Silver Sloth 16:09, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Then you believe in moral truth, my man. :) A proper "relativistic and evolutionary" treatment of slavery would give you no basis for making a moral judgement about those who kept slaves when it was considered to be part of the natural order of things. You'd be forced to accept that it was fine because they thought so. --Robledo 16:20, 15 December 2008 (EST)
I had a point, but Robledo made it in half as many words. Also, on the subject of good belief systems, Jesus states the entire law to be equivalent to 'a) love God, b) love thy neighbour, enemy, etc, doing unto them as you would have done unto you, etc.'. No logical proof for it, but hard to argue against part b). --מְתֻרְגְּמָן וִיקִי שְׁלֹום!
It does raise the question of how we can be so certain that it is our particular values that should form the basis for these supposed absolute values. Personally, I find that pretty hard to answer. --AKjeldsenCum dissensie 16:33, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Well, you can do quite a bit by citing the way that similar value systems underpin a lot of different cultures. It wouldn't be impossible to write a vague ethical system which one couldn't tell to be from any of the major religions. Again, it's pretty much just bashing all issues on the head with a huge hammer labelled 'pragmatism', but it can help. Hell, you could just ask people if they thought it was a reasonable idea. --מְתֻרְגְּמָן וִיקִי שְׁלֹום!
@AK: That's where the ballache sets in. In terms of their "knowability", you generally end up making a kind of reverse argument from queerness. Very roughly: yes, moral properties, if extant, seem very weird indeed, but so do the key components of the mathematical/scientific edifice (number, causation, time, space, etc.) if you examine them closely enough. The immediate, intuitive appeal of statements like "wanton cruelty is wrong" (cf. Russell) suggests that there is something of substance and meaning there, even if we're never going to isolate that "wrongness" in the lab, as it were. --Robledo 17:17, 15 December 2008 (EST)
OneForLogic is right: logic demands the existence of an absolute moral law (anti-relativism) but we are never going to know it (scepticism). The real problems arise if people try and invalidate the scepticism. Some confuse scepticism with relativism. Both Silver Sloth and the theo-absolutists like Aschlafy do this, Silver Sloth reasons (or appears to, sorry if I am strawmanning you) that as we cannot know the absolute moral law then moral laws are not absolute. Aschlafy et al reason that as there is a moral law then we must know it (and, surprise surprise it's what Andy thinks). Others sort of “redefine” what we're looking for into something we can find. “Morals as social construction” or various naturalised theories of morals are ways of doing this. The problem with these is that they are just not ethics: an absolute moral law cannot be “constructed”, there is no necessary connection between a 'description' (a naturalised theory) of the way we behave and a 'judgement' (ethics) on that behaviour.
What we can do is criticise our existing ideas and get better ones. But we can't do that if we allow any non-scepticism about ethics. Truth is a place we may travel towards but we will never get there. If we pretend we have then we give up the journey. We don't know, we only get better ideas by criticising the ones we have. If we “base” our ideas in anything we stop criticising that basis and, thus, prevent progress. We dogmatise something that must be, at least in some respects, false.--Toffeeman 16:44, 15 December 2008 (EST)

Well said, Toffeeman. (I tried posting more and edit-conflicted with all of the last three posts, so I'm just going to quickly agree.) OneForLogic 16:49, 15 December 2008 (EST)

You're going to have to prove that there logically is an absolute moral truth, even if we can't know it. In a materialistic universe, there's no need for any such thing as a moral truth. As for relativism preventing me from doing anything about what I see as wrong... philosophy is all very well when everyone's fat and happy, but when the chips are down I will fight for my point of view. The point of establishing a liberal democracy with a strong economy and wide tolerance for others' beliefs is to avoid the chips ever being down. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 19:01, 15 December 2008 (EST)
Ok, so Toffeeman's explanation may have overstepped just a little. I never said anything about there being an absolute moral truth, and I wouldn't immediately assert that such a thing exists. Proving that an "absolute moral truth" exists would first require defining such a thing, which would be extremely difficult. I asserted only that something must be absolutely true for logic to work. It seems reasonable to me that, if one were to know all the things in the universe that are absolutely true (or at least some significant set of those true things) and define "moral truth" in some meaningful way, one could use that knowledge to make some absolutely true assertions about morality. However, due to my second point, this isn't really possible. So we approximate. Because we have different sets of experiences and, presumably, reason about those experiences differently, each of us will arrive at a unique particular approximation of morality. OneForLogic 19:40, 15 December 2008 (EST)
The argument would be that if there is any moral law then there is an absolute one and a denial that there are any moral truths whatsoever is pretty well self silencing: “you cannot say there are moral truths” claims a moral truth. We can also be confident that anyone we are discussing morality with does think there is some moral law. Running on from there being moral law, let’s get all relativist:
  1. B is morally true relative to A
  2. C is true relative to D
So “B is morally true relative to A and C is true relative to D” is “absolutely” true. (Sure we could have nested relativities, but the above process would work ad infinitum.)
“As for relativism preventing me from doing anything about what I see as wrong... philosophy is all very well when everyone's fat and happy, but when the chips are down I will fight for my point of view.” That’s because you’re not being consistently relativist: when the chips are down you get all absolutist on us. But that’s absolutist about the factivity of morals, not about knowledge of morals. At least I hope you would be prepared to criticise your beliefs and improve them.
The chips get down, often and with a thump, when people refuse to do this. “Fundamentalists” have “fundamentals” which makes two claims:
  1. There exist absolute moral laws
  2. I am in possession of them
The first is true, and harmless. The second false and dangerous. Fundies can get away with this sort of shit because people do not call them on the difference between P and knowing P. --Toffeeman 05:24, 16 December 2008 (EST)
I have always held as one of my personal fundamentals that no one should ever hold a belief that they can't defend by debate. That's part of the reason I'm here; I also hold that no belief is worth holding that you don't apply to yourself. But my beliefs are not what I would call fundamental truths; rather, they're things I value. They don't have to be true, they just have to be things I like. I know for a fact there are several things that are false in my belief system. But pretending they're true has effects I like, so I will continue to argue for them. It's a huge, subjective, messy lump of contradictions... but it's my huge, subjective, messy lump of contradictions. One of the contradictions is that I believe anyone's allowed to believe whatever they want, despite what I said earlier about having to defend beliefs in debate. Another contradiction is that I will defend that last principle against anyone who believes otherwise. See what I mean about messy? :P WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 05:57, 16 December 2008 (EST)
If you tweaked that first fundamental to “Nobody can insist that someone else agrees with them without giving adequate reasons” then it would all be simpler. It doesn’t contradict the right of people to hold other beliefs to start off with. They can believe any old crap they like just so long as they don’t go round forcing it on others.
It also lets you off being contradictory about your own beliefs. You do believe them to be true. Even if you are prepared to change these beliefs, right now, you do believe them to be true. And vast numbers of them you cannot defend by debate. But that's not a problem, because you won't press these beliefs on others unless you can give them reasons. Toffeeman 10:11, 16 December 2008 (EST)
Yes, but that first fundamental gives me an excuse to entangle people in enormous fiery arguments! Which is also my reason for becoming a philosophy student... I love the cut-and-thrust. WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 10:37, 16 December 2008 (EST)

I believe Robert Anton Wilson has pointed out that the one Absolute Moral Truth that just about every culture in history has agreed upon is the necessity of punishing those who defy the rest of the local arbitrary Absolute Moral Truths. --Gulik 20:08, 15 December 2008 (EST)

Punish me if you must, but I have to say it... THAT'S DEBATABLE! There, I said it (some people think it's better to rehabilitate than to punish) WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 03:33, 16 December 2008 (EST)
I'd agree with you there. Don't get me wrong I can see the use in sticking someone in prison (stops them doing the crime, at least whilst there in there) and there are certain benefits in doing nasty things to them (deterrence). "Pure" punishment, punishment not to gain anything, not to influence others, just to fufil some idea of "deserts" is just pointless. --Toffeeman 10:15, 16 December 2008 (EST)
WARNING!! Here starts a very interesting debate on a somewhat different subject - what is the purpose of the judicial system. Crime prevention? Punishment of 'wrongdoers'? Rehabilitation? I'd love to digress into this but it's not really absolute moral truths? Silver Sloth 10:22, 16 December 2008 (EST)
And Absolute Moral Truths aren't really about bigotry towards Christians. We haven't even seen any real evidence it exist yet, apart from me admitting I feel angry about what they do sometimes... WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 10:30, 16 December 2008 (EST)
My point about AMT's was about my distrust of religion. Religion tends to be about a particular version of an AMT, as written down in the holy book. As such my distrust of AMT's logically leads to a distrust of religion. Silver Sloth 10:38, 16 December 2008 (EST)
I figured, but things were getting a little far afield. I think we already have a debate page for this one though... WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 10:41, 16 December 2008 (EST)

Since this has become such a large tangent, I just copied this section over to the previously created debate about absolute truth. If anyone's still interested, they should go there. OneForLogic 13:44, 16 December 2008 (EST)