Religion

Religious people are happier? Yeah, right.

Religion ‘linked to happy life’: Belief may make us more contented. A belief in God could lead to a more contented life, research suggests.

I am sick, which makes me extra grouchy. I don’t know how this research was conducted, but based on my completely subjective, non-scientific, anecdotal experience, this is nothing but bullshit.

Religious people say they are happy because it is frowned upon to admit that their faith isn’t giving them joy. When I went to church, Sunday service was like a big fix for the religious junkies who were afraid, stressed out, depressed, and otherwise feeling bad all week. They came to the joy-fest on Sunday to forget about their troubles for an hour or so, but all during the week they were generally in the dumps, “fighting the good fight,” “in the lion’s den,” “going through a wilderness experience,” or “wrestling with Jacob’s angel.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider that leading a more contented life.

writerdd

Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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78 Comments

  1. I could see how religion could lead to a happier life for some people. I mean, it provides nice, neat answers for most of life’s tough questions (why am I here? do bad people ever get punished for things they get away with on earth? what will happen to me after I die? etc…) And, belonging to a church brings with it a sense of community and belonging, and if you choose to participate in charity functions, that can raise your self-image.

    I was raised in a very Christian family and it was mostly a positive experience. However, I realize that religious indoctrination can also be an extremely negative experience.

    Either way, the premise is flawed, and I can’t subscribe to something in which I don’t believe. Positive or not.

  2. . . . .Sunday service was like a big fix for the religious junkies who were afraid, stressed out, depressed, and otherwise feeling bad all week. They came to the joy-fest on Sunday to forget about their troubles for an hour or so, . . .

    Yeah, I always wonder how close those “happy” people are to donning nikes, a puprple cloth, and drinking some delicious Kool-Aid.

  3. I agree, the research for this is suspect on several grounds. But even if it were an ironclad fact that religious people were happier than atheists, so what? The same goes for people on the drug ecstasy. Their subjective happiness doesn’t make their view of things any less warped; they are still ignorant and/or delusional.

    Happiness is pleasant, but I can’t imagine the condition ever being preferable to reality. There seems to be no great point to this research. I don’t see happiness as particularly seductive if it requires that I remain ignorant and/or deluded.

    ~Wordplayer

  4. I was happy at certain times in my life when I was a Christian, and I had mostly positive experiences, but to add more anecdotal non-evidence, I’ve been much happier since I stopped believing. But I’m not a joiner anyway, so I don’t miss the club aspect of church. It did take a while to not feel stressed out when I couldn’t pray about things that were bothering me. I don’t miss the guilt or fear of hell at all.

  5. Here’s an interesting quote:

    Professor Clark said: “We originally started the research to work out why some European countries had more generous unemployment benefits than others, but our analysis suggested that religious people suffered less psychological harm from unemployment than the non-religious.

    I used to sit on a committee that criticized the proposed experimental designs of researchers who wanted to use our (ahem) equipment, and even though we weren’t looking at psychology or economics research, the thing that leaps out at me here is….

    If your experiment is designed to determine factors that lead to deltas in unemployment benefits between nations, how good can it possibly be at detecting how religion influences happiness? This is just trolling through some results looking for a correlation, nothing more.

    Second important quote:

    However, he said that the nature of the surveys used meant that undetected factors, perhaps in the lifestyle or upbringing of religious people, such as stable family life and relationships, could be the cause of this increased satisfaction.

    This tells us for certain that the experiment had no controls for a long list of plausible and known to be important confounding factors.

    As far as I’m concerned, these two flaws make the value of this research near zero.

    Finally, they mention a disagreement in the research about this question, saying that some believe religiousity increases happiness, and others believe it decreases it.

    Here’s a proposed hypothesis: Religion is like a circular saw. It will make some people happy, others unhappy, and on others it will have no measurable effect.

    I’d invite them to stick that in their experimental design and test it.

  6. The problem is, of course, that you’re depending on people to answer honestly. Since you can’t just wave the “Happymeter” over people, you have to trust them.

    Since (I strongly) atheists are a little more honest with themselves about what they believe, it’s possible they’ll be a little more honest when you ask them how happy they are. For most atheists, I don’t think there’s much of a consequence of admitting you’re maybe a little down.

    In related news, I was just starting to come out of my winter funk when the sky dropped 2 more inches of snow on us here in MN. Anyone coming to the Atheist Conference later this week might have some slush to contend with.

  7. Whenever I went to church as a child I hated it, and I’m pretty sure everyone around me hated it too. We couldn’t wait to get out. Religion was always a chore.

    And some of my happiest times have been spent, alone in my room, wrestling with Jacob’s angel.

  8. Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well,

    I jacked my back out, sleeping on the floor, so I have great sympathy for all people in pain, today (and yesterday and probably tomorrow).

    On the bright side, “Happy Christians?” That’s like saying “Christians who aren’t annoying”.

    Small group, I’d think.

    An example…

    Let me brush my teeth now and SAY THE NAME OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR WITH EACH STROKE!!!

    Okay, you know what I mean.

    I’m sure all of the Christians would “say” they’re happy. But that doesn’t make sense.

    I know far more Christian women than men so I’ll stick with them.

    Since “mom’s” core beliefs are that a life of quiet desperation will lead to an eternal reward (making said “life” “worth it’ in the end) I would submit that I’ve met very few “happy” Christian women, just trapped ones. (But that’s just my expirience, I haven’t met everybody).

    They think that everything will be okay “in the end” because of the sacrifices they make now.

    So, how is that being happy??? Even if they’re correct about the afterlife they cannot claim to be happy now. It’s intellectually dishonest.

    So, we DO need that “happiness meter” to make this survey stick.

    Hey,

    Don’t the Scientologists have an E-meter we can borrow?

    JUST KIDDING!

    rod

  9. Wordplayer writes:
    “Happiness is pleasant, but I can’t imagine the condition ever being preferable to reality. ”

    Let’s see — you’re on a hike with a close friend. She falls and injures herself badly, and is in a lot of pain. You want to ease her agony before you go for help. You look in the med kit because you think there might possibly be pain pills there, but all you find are vitamins. But hey — placebos work almost as well as real pain pills, right? Why not just give her the vitamins and tell her they’re pain blockers? Or would you ethics prevent you from lying?

  10. the happiest person I know in this world is a Quaker. he posts over at JREF under Nova Land. However, I’m not sure he’d put “religion” number one for his reason for being happy. He’s happy because he’s found a way to do what he loves in life (study, write, activism, volunteer work) for most of the year, while earning enough doing something else he enjoys (picking apples) for a few months (oh can’t forget the blueberries). I’d say it’s that he’s a person that doesn’t try to find happiness in material things, but has found happiness in doing things, that works. I suppose a lot of people would describe that as “spiritual” but for him it’s a practical way to be happy.

  11. The happiness research is actually really interesting (valid, I cannot say). They don’t just ask people “Are you happy.” Daniel Gilbert is one of the most popular happiness researchers (if popularity is measured by his being interviewed in a zillion popular magazines). Here is a link to one short story about his research that tries to get at how we define satisfaction with our choices – one measure of happiness. It involves potato chips and sardines and is a quick skim: http://www.forbes.com/2006/02/11/daniel-gilbert-happiness_cx_dg_money06_0214gilbert.html

  12. I read a lot about happiness, but I am skeptical as how the experiments or surveys are done.

    Since happiness is an emotion, it depends in self-reports which alter greatly during the day and the setting.

    Most of these research lack control experiments / double blind tests. I would suspect they ask the subject if they are religious first, then if there were happy. The result would obviously show that religious people are happier than atheists. (It is, as you mention, frowned upon. Such question also angers Atheists) If they were to conduct the question in reverse, in a neutral setting, the result would tell another story.

    What the researcher should do is to “trick” the subjects. They should be asked to do something else, while happiness is measured without them knowing.

  13. Writerdd,
    I think that your ideas are based on what it may appear like. In looking at what the people at church are thinking…. If I have heaven and peace in eternity, joy becomes central in my life because it ends in victory and pain becomes peripheral (not non-existent); and if I do not believe in God or any form of ultimate justice, pain becomes central (because life is hard and when you die, there is no justice) and joy becomes peripheral because no matter how much I pursue happiness, in the end, there is only pain and loss. If you look at what the Christians believe, they say that it rains on the just and the unjust alike which means that life for them is just as hard as anyone else. What you may be hearing is them associating themselves with other people who followed the same God who also experienced troubles (i.e. in the lion’s den) and overcame them either in life or in death.

    Arguers that say people go to church because of fear and unhappiness would have to logically conclude that people avoid church because of fearlessness and happiness which is obviously untrue.

    The best argument so far was that happiness is sometimes preferred over reality. Can someone disprove God’s existence? The answer is really “no”, but usually centers around, “considering the evidence at hand I am left with no choice but to believe there is no God”. So if Atheism is a belief, what makes a belief system superior to another? Truth.

    To some people, joy is knowing that there is going to be a judgment for the wrongs committed in this world, to others joy is knowing that there is no judgment. Speaking of hell, how could a loving God not have a means to punish those who choose evil? Assuming God does exist, if you take away judgment for people like Hitler, Stalin, and Ghengis Khan, that god would not be a loving god.

  14. “To some people, joy is knowing that there is going to be a judgment for the wrongs committed in this world, to others joy is knowing that there is no judgment. Speaking of hell, how could a loving God not have a means to punish those who choose evil? Assuming God does exist, if you take away judgment for people like Hitler, Stalin, and Ghengis Khan, that god would not be a loving god.”

    So, what you’re saying is, that it is just to torment someone for eternity for a finite amount of sin. Furthermore, you have no problem with this idea, even though you believe that this life is far less important or meaningful than the “world to come?”

  15. Yes, I am sure the followers of Jim Jones where deliriously happy up until the point where they drank the cool-ade.

    My point is that belief in something that doesn’t exist may make you happier, but it may not be good for you.

    -Matt

  16. Rav

    “So, what you’re saying is, that it is just to torment someone for eternity for a finite amount of sin. Furthermore, you have no problem with this idea, even though you believe that this life is far less important or meaningful than the “world to come?””

    To appropriately consider Christian doctrine and not a caricature of it, one would have to conceede that the entry into hell isn’t one being tormented by someone else, but a willful decision by its attendies including satan who is not ever identified as the king or ring leader of hell. So hell in the Christian instance isn’t a punishment but a logical outworking of willful hellish decisions.

    To address your second part… I never said that this life was any more or less meaningful because life itself includes this worldly experience along with “the world to come”. My only reference was to the finite experience of this life in comparison to eternity. If one believes that joy is attained in eternity, no pain in this worldy experience can change who a person forever is in God. Speaking of meaning, where would one derrive objective meaning in life if in death there is no meaning? How do we arrive at a meaningful existance from meaningless beginnings? Are we to punctuate our lives with little meanings for an overall meaninglessness in death?

    This fact alone is by no means enough grounds to believe, but it ought to be enough grounds to motivate research into weather Christian doctrines are true or not. Afterall, it was Pascal who said, “If I am wrong, I still have met your qualification (a fulfilling life), but if you are wrong… what then have you lost?”

    Matt,
    Much agreed! Belief in something that doesn’t exist may make you happy and not be good for you, but also this truth also applies for disbelief in something that does exist.

    I’m also sure the atheist perpetrators of Hitlers regieme were happy up until American and Russian Soldiers were placing boots up their backsides. Make no mistakes, Hitler based his entire campaign on Neitze’s “God is Dead” philosiphy. What Jim Jones did was the “illogical” outworking of Christianity. What Hitler did is the “logical” outworking of man determining his own morals.

    I am by no means saying that atheists are bad people, amoral, Stalinistic or whatever, I am just saying that atheistic morals are determined by the atheist himself and any denunciation of actions requires the espousing of a moral system. If God does not determine morals, than man must determine morals. If so, which man? Ghandi? Ghengis Khan? Mother Theresa? or Betrand Russel? and by which moral standards will we decide which is morally superior? Once that is decided either by humanism or any other atheistic -ism, how then does the moral become obligatory for anyone else? In the end, it is reduced to subjective preference and then we come back to square one, “that works for you, but why should I espouse your atheistic moral instead of my atheistic moral?”

  17. Any God that would allow an eternal place of torment is not a God that I would ever worship. What a mean prick. And if he doesn’t have the power to get rid of such a horrible place, then he doesn’t deserve to be called God anyway.

  18. Ideas like this are usually from people with not too much opposition in their lives. Someone across the ocean in Afghanistan would call a god who had no judgement for Evil people a mean prick. You want mutually exclusive ideas to exist. You are saying that if God exists, you would expect you to retain your free will and prevent you from choosing a path that would depart from him. If someone went into a school, shot and killed your friends and family before comitting suicide, you would want justice even though he is dead, yet you shutter at the thought that this justice is provided to you by way of a place that God created???????

    “By which moral standard are you discrediting this God? If you are saying that there is evil, you are saying that there is a such thing as good. If you are admitting good, you are admitting a moral law. If you are admitting a moral law, you must concede to a moral law giver.” Philisophically, this is an attempt to disprove and not prove but even the starting point of evil points to there being a God.

    There are 4 major questions that all people ask in life and their world view has to answer. Origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. For the atheist, there is no intention in origin, no sustainable meaning to life, no objective morality, and no destiny after life. To smuggle in an objective morality is logically inconsistent with an atheistic worldview.

  19. I call my favorite running shoes mothers because they work so hard. Where are its baby shoes. You must admit that since there are mother shoes, there must be baby shoes. By definition a mother has babies. For anyone too dense to understand, you are merely defining natural phenomenona as “laws”; you could call them mother nature or anything you want.
    To those christians who claim that there are absolute laws; would there ever be a good reason for soldiers to round up babies and kill them during war. Please tell me what it would be. If you say there is no reason please read the book of numbers where god commands Moses to slaughter the Midianites. Did biblegod commit evil in that story? If you want to go the Orwellian route and say whatever god decides to do is good,then there are not moral absolutes. In the case of the mother who drowned her children and claimed god told her how would you know god did not tell her to and therefore it was morally good? Its no worse than killing thousands of helpless Midianites. And by the way what did they do with the little Midianite girls… use them as slaves, human sacrifices(biblegod loves the smell of burning flesh and is unable to give forgiveness without something being tortured and killed), or perhaps prime raping material (no need to worry about STD’s and if they get an unwanted pregnancy just kill them, AH ! biblegod and his infinite wisdom).

  20. “Speaking of meaning, where would one derrive objective meaning in life if in death there is no meaning? How do we arrive at a meaningful existance from meaningless beginnings? Are we to punctuate our lives with little meanings for an overall meaninglessness in death?”

    First of all, I used to BE a born-again, apostolic, ultra-pentacostal, fundamentalist believer. And the fact remains, even if you say that god went out of his way to make an escape route from hell because we’re all headed there, etc., etc., etc.; The fact remains, I say, that it is ultimately god’s responsibility for this place, and that no amount of sin in a single lifetime can equate to an ETERNITY of infinite suffering. It is unjust.

    As to your other point–Which I quote– you DO seem to be a bit of a nihilist. Why should life be meaningless if one’s death is menaingless? How does that follow?

    Are we so weak and incapable that we must have “meaning” imposed upon us from the outside (wherever that might be)? Why can’t we create meaning ourselves? Indeed, sentience percolates upward from the evolutionary process. So does meaning. Just because WE create meaning, yet are finite, that doesn’t mean that our values are meaningless or empty.

    As a matter of fact, it is death which intensifies meaning. Our time and resources here are finite; therefore we miust make the best use of them now whilst we can.

    What is the point of wishing earnestly for a dreamworld that will never arrive?

    Why must you have an infinite Disneyworld in the sky in order for your present life to have meaning?

    I believe that because even “Meaning” itself is a product of evolutionary development, it is invaluable in and of itself as a product of the physical laws of the universe, just as we are.

    To misquote Richard Dawkins, for something like thirteen billion years, we have been unconscious and unaware. And very soon, we will return to that state. The great wonder of the universe is that for there few brief decades, we do have consciousness, sentience, love, rainbows, and all the rest of it.

    And as Carl Sagan used to say (and I simplify this greatly), we are all of one substance with the Universe. Our atoms are made up of the very particles that have been since the H.S.K. itself. And therefore our values, our perceptions, our meaning, are just as much a part of the Universe as we. Or any star, or planet, or dust cloud.

    How do we arrive at “the Meaning of Life?” It is, ultimately, an outgrowth of the Cosmos itself. It is not imposed upon us by some skydaddy from the “outside.”

  21. No coffee needed. The point is understood, and if you made any typos, I didn’t notice because I was paying attention to the content.

    I have a post on this topic on de-coversion.com today, and it’s an excerpt from an article I wrote on skepchick a few years ago, before the blog.

    http://de-conversion.com/2008/03/21/creating-our-own-purpose-driven-life/

    I’m always amazed at how nihilistic believers are, especially when they are always claiming that atheists are nihilists. Another case of their constant projection? I tend to think so.

  22. I suppose I will respond to each of you individually. John, with many of the things that are mentioned in the Bible, first lets recognize that because it records it doesn’t mean that the Bible endorses it. Also note that in instances such as the one you mentioned, let us not forget that many acts of war were conducted as a means of retribution. Furthermore, you are applying an atheistic “this life is all I have” worldview to the scenario. If I take a life, I have done something wrong (unless defending another), because I do not have the power to create life… but if God takes a life, has he actually done something wrong when he has the ability to restore that life to its eternal purpose in heaven? This may not make sense to you with your worldview, but I do think you will have to conceede that within the Christian worldview, if God initiates measures to shorten this life yet restore us in eternity, there is no logical inconsistancy.

    Lastly, Christs coming changed many aspects of the Chrsitian worldview. I see you have drawn to the Old Testament. For the Christian, Christ’s commandments are greatest. Therefore any evil done in His name is logically inconsistant with his message.

  23. Rav, to your first point… So what you are saying is that you would prefer that if we were created, that we have free will yet not have the ability to chose the opposite of God???? If your free will were removed from you, you would be a robot, but add free will, and you are a human. It’s like a cake and eat it too philosophy I see you driving at here. Logically inconsistent.

    I am the opposite of a nihlist. I believe that there is meaning in everything, but I believe that meaning is derrived from the fact that we were created with meaning. All atheism logically flows to nihlism. Again, any attempt to smuggle in meaning is logically inconsistent with the pretenses of the worldview.

    “I believe that because even “Meaning” itself is a product of evolutionary development, it is invaluable in and of itself as a product of the physical laws of the universe, just as we are.”

    If we are nothing more than time plus matter plus chance, our love for our children is no more real than a lion’s desire to mark his territory on the Saharra. It is nothing more than your DNA that compells you to protect your progeny for the propogation of your genes. I believe that is not the case with any of you. I believe that if you have kids, you genuinely love your kids, but I believe that your worldview does not appropriately address that love.

    If not from God, were does one derrive meaning? If from ourselves, it is subjective to the person and again is reduced to animal-like instincts. If you have meaningless beginnings, how do you arrive at a meaningful life? What I hear you saying is that if we convince ourselves that we can impact the world on our way out (Betrand Russel) we have done something meaningful, but why is it meaningful? Why does the sunset mean something to you if it is nothing more than a ball of gas that randomly occurred? I don’t see how meaning is arrived at on an atheistic platform unless it is by some form of brainwashing.

    Richard Dawkins is indeed a genius of course. Remember that there are intellectual giants on both sides of the debate. John Polkinghorn from Oxford is a devout Christian. Steven Hawking is a confused atheist. I say this not because he is an atheist. I say this because in his lectures, “Is man determined” he finished off with, “Yes man is determined, but since we don’t know what determined him, he might as well not be”. This was the intellectual giant that preceeded Dawkins. Two important facts about this statement, it is nihilistic and even after decades of bashing faith in a creator at Oxford he conceedes the point that we were created in his later years. A staunch atheist and brilliant scientist that didn’t get upset with atheism and turn aside his evil ways (as you may want to point out Christians scholars that have turned to atheism); he followed the facts and was honest with himself. “The lips of dying men seldom lie”.

    Dawinistic Evolution has been debunked time and time again to no avail in the mainstream scientific community. I will not make this longer by going into it, but I welcome the challenge if you see it necessary.

  24. One point in this discussion that is worth taking to heart is that atheists use a lot of Old Testament quotes to show why the Bible and the Christian God is bad, but that’s more or less irrelevant to many Christians, who believe that we now live in a different dispensation, under grace and not under law. So concentrating on the New Testament is a better tactic.

  25. Writerdd, I understand that you are not a nihilist although I don’t see how meaning is supported on an atheistic platform. If it arrived out of an evolutionary process, how is this figment of our imagination real? Don’t just “BS” the comment, if you can counter it, please do. I can jump on here and just say “you’re wrong” and leave it at that, but there is no substance to that type of discourse. I agree, we are under a different dispensation.

    Jon,
    First I would like to say that even if that is your opinion, that still does not mean that God does not exist (just putting that out there). If God does not fit my opinion of what He should be, that still is no argument against His existence. Secondly, you are still looking at it from the position that, “this life is all I have”, “how dare someone suggest that it is just to take it from me?”. Applying the concept of eternity AND free will to the mix, you may get vindictive and unjust from that, but that is not the understanding that several million logical people have arrived at.

    I feel as if you guys are skimming through my writings looking for something that you may have ammunition against as opposed to answering my genuine questions. I have done my best to address all of you posts in their entirety. I’m not sure that the same is being done in return. If we are discussing these ideas to arrive to an understanding that has impiracle adequacy, experiential relevance, and logical consistancy, we would do well to go about it openly. I am not here to function as a troll to piss you guys off, but I do obviously have a worldview that is contradictory to that many on here. If opposing worldviews are excluded, it is hipocracy as many on here hate the fact that Christianity claims the exlusive path to God. If I ever skip one of your arguments, please let me know and I will address it.

  26. Gerrit,
    Atheistic terrorism strikes everyday in Africa where thousands are slaughtered in the name of genocide (to weed out the weak genes). More people have been killed in the name of irreligion than religion. The 20th century is evidence enough Hitler and Stahlin made the crusades look like a car accident.

  27. One of my points is that if god can change his mind at any time and overule himself then who is to say when and where he does. How is anyone to know he didn’t overule all the new testament teachings when he told that mother to drown her children. Unless you claim to be god or know everything god decides then you can not. I am not just saying the teachings show he is bad but that because he gives a commandment and then immmediately overides it, this makes absolute values meaningless. At any time he can “trump” his rules when he changes his mind for “secret” unfathomable reasons.
    But talking about bad behavior in the new testament, why is god unable to forgive unless someone is tortured and killed. That he provides the person doesnt make it any more noble. People are expected and do forgive others without giving their own children to someone to torture and kill. Biblegod is supposed to be more noble, kind ,loving etc but still demands a scarifice before giving forgiveness. How about asking people to do acts of kindness instead?

  28. Horrific things have been done in the name of religion and atheism. It doesn’t mean anything. Humans have the capacity for good and for evil. Neither belief nor unbelief is a source of morality nor an antithesis to it.

  29. If it (meaning) arrived out of an evolutionary process, how is this figment of our imagination real?

    To see how stupid and meaningless this question is, just do a single-word substitution:

    If hands arrived out of an evolutionary process, how is this figment of our imagination real?

    Even the most extreme dogmatic creationist agrees that that, wherever they came from, organs have functions and they are not imaginary – the whole creationist argument collapses if this is not so.

    As for the rest of it, Fieldmedic’s procedure here is to lie as rapidly as possible so as to overwhelm his opponents – the old “I can lie faster than they can tell the truth” tactic. Stuff he’s made up from his imagination includes:

    — an atheist Hitler (he was a Christian who was inspired to eugenic genocide by Sparta)

    — an atheist conspiracy to engage in eugenics projects in Africa (genocide in Africa is a complex problem rooted in ethnicity and religion, and is particularly characterized by Muslim and Christian slaughter of Animists; genocide there isn’t a project to artificially select against blonde hair; and it is silly and disturbing to suggest there are vast atheist armies marching across Africa and putting people to death).

    — a Stalin motivated to kill by atheism (Stalin was seminary educated; claimed to be a follower of a Christian philosopher, Machiavelli; later adopted a pseudo-paganism; late in life once again became, and died as, a practicing Christian; often spoke of the state as his god and of Russia in spiritual terms; and probably killed so many people because he was a megalomaniacal whackjob. Sources.)

    — the notion that atheism led to nihilism (nihilism originated as a Hebrew philosophy – see the book of Ezekiel – and was later developed by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi as a handy accusation to make in order to suppress science and the Enlightenment and preserve the power of religious institutions. Nihilism was created by religious philosophers and theologians)

    — That Neitzsche was a nihilist (he wrote about nihilism to refute it).

    — that morality is inconsistent with atheism (I could go on with links like this for years and never finish this comment).

    Basically, Fieldmedic is a liar. He has no morals, he doesn’t care what kind of hatred he incites, he doesn’t care who he harms, he doesn’t care what kind of shocking false accusations he raises against his neighbors. He only cares about himself, and about winning what he delusionally believes is a divinely-mandated argument, using any means necessary. Tactics are his real god, and his technique is to lie faster than the rest of you can tell the truth. I admire several of you for your patience in dealing with him, but really, we must at some point acknowledge we are faced here with a bad person, one who deserves respect in exactly the same way we respect venomous scorpions. Let’s admit to ourselves that if this person were in our living rooms, we’d be terrified to have to deal in person with someone so totally unhinged and unable to engage with reality.

    Or maybe that’s just me.

  30. John,
    I do understand the intent behind your discussion. As writerdd previously mentioned, prior to their being a “Savior”, God dealt with man differently than He does afterwards. Not to say that he changed his mind, but that the circumstances of life changed as now an ultimate price had been paid. The link I posted was merely an indicator of the lifestyle of the midianites.

  31. Writerdd, horrible things done in the name of Christianity are logically inconsistent with Christian doctrine. How does an atheist go about espousing the moral value to which he denounces something as wrong or evil? What was done in the name of atheism is logically consistent with an atheistic worldview.

  32. Bluecollar scientist, what I see here is an outright attack on my character. To quote my sources for my previous posts, please read, “The True Face of Atheism” by Dr. Ravi Zacharias and works produced by Viktor Frankl an actual concentration camp survivor.

    To say that Stahlin was a Christian is absolute garbage and this brings your motives into question. He did graduate seminary but he radically redefined his viewpoint on life. Staunch avowed atheist. Read the book before you quote stuff you read on wikpedia.

    Neitze was one of the most prolific writers of the “God is Dead” movement. He is quoted as saying that because of those revelations that the 20th century would be the most bloody century in history. He wrote against nihilism because he knew that the “God is Dead” idea would promote nihilism. His book, Hitler provided Mussolini with a copy of it at the onset of the war. Read historical texts. That is fact.

    Against the ovens in Auchwitz was written, “I want to raise a generation of young people devoid of a conscience, imperious, relentless and cruel.” These are not theistic ideas. Previous comittments to Christianity do not make someone a Christian when they outright deny their faith and depart from it.

    I never said atheists were amoral, I said that objective morality cannot be derrived from atheism. It becomes either pragmatic, utilitarian, or subjective. I could go on for years in opposition to your link and there are several links that carry far more PhD level weight in arguement as opposed to google’s first pop up.

    Basically, this is the way that you prefer to deal with opposing worldviews, google anything you can against what they have to say. Atempt to raise a band up against them to exclude them and return discussion boards back into a quiet protected internet world of unopposed assertions.

  33. You are beating a dead horse, fieldmedic. Neither religion nor the lack thereof have anything to do with the goodness or foulness of individual human beings. Hitler was a Christian; Stalin was an atheist. There. They cancel each other out.

    But to be honest, a lot of the atrocities done in the name of God are direct interpretations of Christian (and Muslim and Jewish) doctrine at the time. Fortunately, due largely to the Enlightenment and the secularization of Western society, Christians focus on the lovey-dovey portions of Biblical doctrine for the most part. That’s not true in the Muslim world.

    We atheist’s don’t need a book to tell us what is right and wrong. We can imagine what it feels like to be treated poorly, and that makes us want to treat others well. The basis of our morality, for the most part, is that since there is no afterlife, it is noble and good to reduce and eliminate suffering as much as possible, and to enable all people to live happy and fulfilling lives here on earth. That’s it. Totalitarianism and torture and other forms of harm that are perpetrated against humans fly in the face of this anti-suffering morality.

  34. Also since you are “?scientific?”. I can confirm that my hand exists by test and duplication. If science is the answer, how does one verify meaning’s existence? I am not sure which creation scientists you have been reading up on…..

    That door is marked “no exit”.

  35. If you were at all concerned with “PhD level weight in argument,” whatever that is, you would find Wikipedia citing primary historical sources for all the related facts I have posted – including for Stalin’s acceptance of Christianity at the time of his death – and presumably you’d go read them.

    To be fair, I count Stalin a very poor sort of Christian, if his claimed acceptance of the doctrine were even genuine; but mainly I count him a very poor sort of person. And that’s because he was – technical term here – a megalomaniacal nutjob – a pathology that transcends doctrines and appears in all types of people.

    Basically, this is the way that you prefer to deal with opposing worldviews, google anything you can against what they have to say.

    You don’t know me; the people that do know I’m delighted to lose an argument as long as I learn something along the way, and I don’t seek to exclude anyone until they prove themselves unfit for civilized company. Stop lying, stop eating babies, stop making up silly stuff about atheist armies on the march killing people in Africa to weed out what you consider “weak” genes, and then maybe you will have a legitimate seat alongside the rest of us at the great table of civilization. If your character is at issue here it is because you are exhibiting bad character and loose morality. Shape it up and be a person.

    (If you care to point out that you don’t eat babies, this would imply you don’t like it when shockingly false things are said about you. When you realize that you don’t like it, you will then be in a position to understand why you shouldn’t do it to others. I don’t care if you arrive at this ethic in the atheist way, or if you simply listen to what Jesus said to do; it is a good idea either way.)

  36. I am not in agreeance with the reference to Hitler as a Christian. A “Final Solution” for what? Killing off the Jews was not just an attempt at Genocide, but an attempt to remove the root progenitors of the three largest western religions. These are not my ideas, these are well written about ideas (Ravi Zacharias, Victor Frankyl).

    Strangely, in dealing with many athiests I have to continually prove the depravity of man. I am glad that is not the case here.

    I cannot, have not, would love to see an example of an attrocity that lines up with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Islam, I cannot defend as I am not a Muslim. I believe that the Koran gives ample ammunition for someone to within the context of the book commit attrocities.

    I think your moral there is a good one. I truly do. My problem is that it is merely your preference. Some people prefer to eat their neighbors based on preference. If preference is the basis on which we derrive our morals, what makes your “all suffering is bad” moral better than someone’s “do the most good for the most people” moral? In that instance, I could kill a person give their heart to someone needing a heart transplant and give their kidneys to someone needing a kidney transplant and been right within the limitations of the moral. I believe that the “do the most good for the most people” moral does not work as from the example I would expect you to as well. But why should anyone espouse what you prefer over what they prefer?

    Lastly, the admission that attrocities have been done in the name of irreligion does not coinside with the belief that atheists do not need a book to tell them how to act because all men have proven that with or without books they don’t know how to act.

    I don’t propose that one can read the Bible and educate themselves into being a better person because that is not natural, I think it is supernatural.

  37. So having gone to seminary, becoming an avowed atheist, comitting his crimes, and then on his death bed you claim he became a Christian still does not line up his actions being based on Chrsitian doctrine. I read that he raised a clinched fist toward the sky and then died, a fact that tormeted his daughter. Based on your facts, you claim that he was a Chrsitian from time to time, but not during the period that he comitted his evil. Then you say that he was a Christian when we spoke in reference to his killings. Does seem deceptive…….. but my character is on trial? You drew first blood on that. Instead of contesting my arguements, you went for calling me a liar instead. Then when I throw the ball back in your court, you tell me that I should learn my lesson about attacking people’s character in reference to your eating babies comments. All this does is detract from the discussion at hand.

  38. Some people prefer to eat their neighbors based on preference.

    So you have talked to someone who ate their neighbors? And you asked them why they did it? And they said it was because they preferred to?

    That would be really remarkable, because all of the cannibalistic incidents I am familiar with arose from (a) cases of extreme dietary deprivation and consequence survival desperation, (b) customs involving war upon rival groups, and (c) notions involving ritualistic revenge upon enemies, and (d) belief in the subsumation of a person’s attributes through eating them. I can’t think of a single case in which someone who has eaten a person has reported that they did so because they “preferred” to do it, and it is almost wholly certain you are making this assertion up, like so many others.

    I cannot, have not, would love to see an example of an attrocity that lines up with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    That is an exceptionally depraved desire. I don’t wish atrocities to occur under any circumstances, or on anyone’s authority. I hope never to, and would never love, to see an atrocity.

    I think your moral there is a good one. I truly do. My problem is that it is merely your preference.

    So if someone has good morals, but they don’t have a reason for them that you personally consider to be good enough, then you have a “problem.” It must be difficult to go through life having a deep need to control everyone’s thoughts.

    It is enough for me that people have good morals, and act on them; I don’t care whether they get them from their imaginary friend in the sky or from thoughtful reflection about the world around them and their place in it – as long as they get it.

    So having gone to seminary, becoming an avowed atheist….

    Again with your lying. I don’t say Stalin became an atheist; I say he became a paganist, and I point to primary source material to support that understanding.

    It is OK to debate whether these are the facts, but it is not OK to take what someone has said and change it to make it look like they’ve said something else.

    ….then on his death bed you claim he became a Christian….

    Again with the lying! I said that evidence suggests that late in life he became Christian, not that he had a deathbed conversion.

    I’ve already expressed why I believe Stalin’s religious belief irrelevant to his crimes against humanity. I think Stalin proves nothing other than that dangerous people exist in the world. But if we’re going to pick at the scab, I’d prefer to grapple with evidence that Stalin’s religious belief was considerably more complex than the “Stalin was an atheist” meme suggests, rather than take the word of some fundamentalist with an axe to grind who was seeking to blame atheism for the Purges.

    still does not line up his actions being based on Chrsitian doctrine.

    Again with the lies. I have not said he committed his crimes because of his religion as this phrase suggests; I said he committed them because he was a megalomaniac.

    but my character is on trial?

    Yes. If you can not or will not stop misrepresenting what someone else has written, your character is quite suspect.

    Disagreement can be legitimate you know. You don’t need to make things up to support your opinion.

  39. Things sure picked up whilst I was out today. Look, I have one question:

    Why should morality, sentience, and meaning be any less meaningful for being emergent properties of the Universe?

    (Oh, just as a point of order– Neither Natural Selection nor the Laws of Physics are RANDOM! There is a difference between something occurring “by chance” and something being “random.”)

  40. scientist, we have digressed. As to the verbage my apologies. To gloss over the fact that Stahlin had denounced Christianity through his reign of terror will not do. I will no longer address any attacks toward myself nor engage in any degenerate mud slinging. My points….

    – Stahlin and Hitler’s platforms were atheistic in nature. When, where, or if Stahlin later converted is irrelevant. I am not saying that atheists are by any means associated with these two characters. I am just saying that both atheistic and theistic platforms can be used to spread mayhem. However, mayhem spread in the name of Christ is an illogical outworking of his teachings and mayhem spread in the name of atheism is a logical outworking of the worldview. I say this because morality for the atheist is in my view subjective. I have attempted to sustain this assertion through this posting.

    Can you please state your source for Stahlin’s late life conversion? From my studies, on his death bed, he clinched his fist toward the heavens and then died. This fact will not negate my earlier points, it would be purely intellectual material of interest to me.

  41. “Why should morality, sentience, and meaning be any less meaningful for being emergent properties of the Universe?”

    Because morality based in evolution is contrary to fact. I don’t think that anyone who was alive 60 years ago would agree with you that we are progressively getting more moral. I don’t want to use percentages of violence over time because these surveys can be manipulated and misused. I believe quite the opposite is true. We are progressively becoming more amoral and I believe most of the world would agree. Sentience reduced to a byproduct of evolution reduces it to purely subjective terms that exist only in the mind of the beholder. Its like me being fully convinced that the boogie man exists even though he does not. It may be real to me, but I know that it is not just as real to anyone else, and the I have to admit that it was not real before I lived nor will it be real once I die. It exists because I know it is relevant to my experience only. Not because it is also logically consistent and impiracly adequate. To follow it logically as stated before, morality, meaning, and sentience are as real as a lion’s territory on the African plains. They exist only to him and to those who he forces it upon but it does not exist prior or after him.

    Theistically, if I were created with a purpose, my life has purpose. If I was not created for a purpose, I can do whatever with my life and my death will be the same. If then reduced to mere instinct, I should either be a megalomaniac or erotomaniac. Power and pleasure is the quest of human nature. History cries out in agreeance.

    Laws of physics…. like
    -Things move from order to disorder-
    We broke track and moved from disorder to order? The physicist John Polkinghorn has said the the chances of this universe coming about by chance is about the equivalent of taking a gun and shooting a bullseye dead on from the clear other side of the universe. I will conceede the random vs. chance discussion at the end of your post. Chances are, we didn’t arrive here by chance.

  42. “Because morality based in evolution is contrary to fact.”

    But upon what do you base this assumption?

    “I believe …we are progressively becoming more amoral and I believe most of the world would agree. ”

    Exactly so– this is your BELIEF. How do you support this?

    “Laws of physics…. like
    -Things move from order to disorder-
    We broke track and moved from disorder to order?”

    In a closed system, this is true. However, we live in an OPEN system. We are constantly being supplied with energy from the sun. Of course, in the fullness of time, the sun will indeed “die,” and we will then succumb to entropy (well, we would do, provided we would not already have been absorbed into the sun during its red giant phase).

    And your objection to chance? Well– it only had to happen once, didn’t it? You sound almost as if you’d like to resort to the anthropic principle as part of your argument. But really, doesn’t it come down to “Things would be so different if they were not as they are”?

    “It exists because I know it is relevant to my experience only. Not because it is also logically consistent and impiracly adequate. To follow it logically as stated before, morality, meaning, and sentience are as real as a lion’s territory on the African plains. They exist only to him and to those who he forces it upon but it does not exist prior or after him.”

    You are coming dangerously close to sollipsism, I think. Just because something exists only “within the brain,” as it were, is it any less real? The brain is a physical entity. And mind is what the brain does. What I call my “self” is a process– and emergent property of my brain and body. But that does not make it unreal or illusory, just because it is not imposed upon me from “outside.”

    What it seems to come down to is that you are more comfortable believing that the psychological and emotional traits of homo sapiens are given by some sort of creator. Very few sane people like the idea of death, and I suppose it is comforting to believe that one will never REALLY die. I grant that it is nearly impossible to contemplate the extinction of self, and it is a frightening thing. But reality does not cater to our desires or fears.

    And– how do you explain the existence of a creator? We understand the processes that have formed our world (by and large, that is); but what process could have brought such a creator as you propose into being?

    It isn’t logical to simply say s/he was ALWAYS there; you might as well simplify it and say that the universe was always there. That’s much like claiming “turtles all the way down.”

  43. fieldmedic, whether you acknowledge it or not, Christian morals are subjective themselves and have changed over time. You say that all of your morals derive from the teachings of Jesus. So I assume you have no problem with homosexuality since Jesus never mentions that it’s a sin. What about slavery? Jesus never condemned it even though he had a perfectly good opportunity to do so in the parable of the master and the servant in Luke 12:45-48. How about animal abuse? I don’t think Jesus ever spoke on that topic either though I could be mistaken. In short, which laws do you pick to keep from the Old Testament, which do you discard and why? I’ve yet to meet a Christian with a solid logical answer for this. My inability to answer it was one of the major reasons I abandoned religion.

    To respond to your question about meaning and get back to the original topic of the post, I agree completely with writerdd. When I was a church-goer I felt compelled to tell people how happy I was even when I wasn’t. I find life is more joyful and has more meaning now that I’m an atheist. If this is all there is then, for me, the meaning of life is to do what I can to make life better for myself and others. fieldmedic, I don’t understand your question about meaningless beginnings leading to a meaningless life. If I help Habitat for Humanity build a house for a family who otherwise wouldn’t have one how does my personal philosophy affect the meaning of that action? I’ve aided in giving a family a home and made their life better in the here and now. Hopefully having a more stable home situation will allow their children to do better in school and improve their prospects for the future. It certainly seems more meaningful then trying to convince them to jump through hoops for a god who may not exist. I’m more inclined to donate/do work for a charity now than when I was a Christian precisely because I don’t think there is any just judgment waiting for us after we die. It’s our responsibility to address injustice, no one else will.

  44. Because morality based in evolution is contrary to fact. I don’t think that anyone who was alive 60 years ago would agree with you that we are progressively getting more moral.

    I bet Rosa Parks would have had something to say about that…

  45. You are coming dangerously close to sollipsism, I think. Just because something exists only “within the brain,” as it were, is it any less real? The brain is a physical entity. And mind is what the brain does. What I call my “self” is a process– and emergent property of my brain and body. But that does not make it unreal or illusory, just because it is not imposed upon me from “outside.”

    I don’t suggest that it is unreal. I suggest that if we evolved, our ideas are nothing more than instinctual and meaning itself is stripped away. It is just as meaningful as plants using CO2 for life. It has been written “If chance be the father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky and the next time you hear youths go looting, sniper kills ten, bomb blasts school it is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.”

    To say that one turns to theism from fear is as logical as saying one turns to atheism from fearlessness. Does not work.

    Applying the laws of our existence to a being that exists outside of our laws of of physics yields no results. I contend that being exists outside of time. At least you have acknowledged the dilemma with the beginnings of the universe. Where did the ball of mass come from?

  46. “You say that all of your morals derive from the teachings of Jesus”

    I would say that Jesus’ law fullfilled the Old Testament and that Jesus’ moral is the supreme ethic. I never said that those who studied under Jesus, or walked with Him post-resurrection (PAUL) did not write doctrinal books. See 1 COR 6 and ROM 1.

    The laws of the OT are not superceded, they are fulfilled. Christ never discarded OT laws. Laws of cleanliness etc. that were Jewish specific were never applied to gentiles. Even the greatest commandment to “Love your God and love your neighbor” was OT. Most of Jesus’ teachings made the law more specific and did not go against it. Just because you didn’t have an answer didn’t mean that there was not one. Did you ever outline a list of those questions and discuss them with someone apt to the task or did you find the walk difficult and abandon it?

    Jesus never outright said Genocide was immoral either, but based on the teachings of Christ you can derrive that life is sacred and that life should be protected. The Bible is more than just a book of rules, it is a historically accurate record of events in the past, prophets, and eye-witnesses to Jesus’ life. It is the word that reveals God in His nature and action that is based soundly in the words of Christ yeilds good fruit.

    “If I help Habitat for Humanity build a house for a family who otherwise wouldn’t have one how does my personal philosophy affect the meaning of that action?”
    I never said that it was meaningless, I said that the logical flow from the worldview does not support meaning in it.

    I am in complete agreement that we should be helping people. Even if it will not cause someone to believe what I believe. I also agree that it is our responsibility to make this world a better place. Both of these ideas I gather from reading the Bible. If you are more compelled now then when you were a Christian to help others, you must have not taken Christ’s teachings to heart.

    Why would the lack of judgement for evil cause you to want to help someone else?

    “I bet Rosa Parks would have had something to say about that…”
    Classic response, but you’d probably loose your bet anyways. Now not only would she STILL have to worry about racism from whites, she could get hit in a drive by shooting in Birmingham from thugs. Or maybe she could get shot while visiting her local college or mall. Racism is still costing many people their lives these days. Just because the law doesn’t support it anymore doesn’t mean that the heart of mankind has changed. We are a more violent society now than before. To deny this is to put on blinders to the world around you.

  47. *sigh* Here goes:

    We are a more violent society now than before.

    Nice try, but I suggest you look up actual data next time instead of relying on popular assumptions. The homicide rate 60 years ago, in 1948, was 5.9 per every 100,000 people in the US. The homicide rate in 2004, the latest year for which there were statistics from the same DOJ table was, get ready for a shocker, 5.9. The FBI reports that in 2006 the homicide rate was 5.7. You could use the violent crime rate I suppose. The 2005 violent crime rate was 469.2, much higher than the 1960 rate of 160.9 but still the lowest in the last 30 years. Both rates have fluctuated greatly in the last 60 years and the current time is by no measure the most violent. Racism and crime are clearly still problems; I never said they weren’t. But your premise that we are more violent now than at any time in our history (which is what I assume you mean by “before” since you offered no definition) is rubbish.

    Did you ever outline a list of those questions and discuss them with someone apt to the task or did you find the walk difficult and abandon it?

    I KNEW I forgot to do something before abandoning the religion that I adopted in my teens and devoted myself to for years. I forgot to ask several Pastors, discuss my issues with anyone in the church or read up on my apologetics. Oh, no wait, of course I did. What an insulting and stupid question. You’ve gotten angry with others on this board for calling your character into question. Yet the first thing you do when you find out I used to be a Christian is accuse me of not taking my faith seriously and not engaging in serious deliberation regarding my doubts. You don’t know me so let me assure you I used to take my religion as seriously as you do now and used almost every argument you’ve used here. The difference is that I couldn’t turn my back on the logical inconsistencies the produced such as:

    The laws of the OT are not superceded, they are fulfilled. Christ never discarded OT laws. Laws of cleanliness etc. that were Jewish specific were never applied to gentiles.

    So tell me, is the law in Deuteronomy 22: 28-29 (which states that if a man rapes a virgin who is not betrothed he is to pay her father 50 shekels and then he gets her as a wife) one of those “cleanliness etc” laws? Because it seems to me like rape should really be more of a moral issue than one of cleanliness, but if it’s a moral law then Jesus must not have “fulfilled” it somehow, whatever that means. It’s stuck in with a bunch of laws about how to properly stone adulterous couples to death. So again, where does one draw the line? We’ve generally decided that adultery is immoral but we’ve entirely thrown out the idea that if your daughter is raped you should sell her to the guy that raped her. I’m glad we did but where does Jesus/Paul/the NT make this distinction? Or if such laws only applied to Jews anyway, is it still OK for Jews to do that? It seems a bit odd to me that it was EVER acceptable behavior for anyone at anytime, but god said it was so it must have had some meaning right?

    Oh, and I appreciate that you brought up Paul’s writings since he twice advises slaves to obey their masters, especially if both are Christian (1 Timothy & Ephesians). It seems that those who “walked with Him post-resurrection” didn’t have a problem with slavery.

    I am in complete agreement that we should be helping people. Even if it will not cause someone to believe what I believe. I also agree that it is our responsibility to make this world a better place. Both of these ideas I gather from reading the Bible.

    That’s fine, as both of those ideas are in the bible but they’ve been around longer than the bible has and were present in cultures that never saw a bible. The ancient Greeks, Confucius, Hindus and more all had a version of the golden rule. People of all cultures and traditions have figured out that humans are happier and more productive when we work together, offering help when necessary, with a sense of empathy for those around us. Which brings us back to the original topic, one doesn’t need Christianity or any religion in particular to have a happy life.

    Why would the lack of judgement for evil cause you to want to help someone else?

    It has become obvious that your Christianity is all about judgment. Boy you sure want all those evildoers to suffer (be they Hitler or, per Paul in 1 Cor 6, effeminate men). Seriously though, I think I’ve found the source of our disagreement though in this sentence. It seems that the only reason you see to do good is because god told you to and if you don’t he’ll judge you for it. The reason I am more motivated to do good now is precisely because I took Christ’s message to heart when I was a Christian (thanks again for that attempt at judging me though). It’s not that I didn’t try to help people when I was a Christian, I did. But I also took great comfort in the idea that people who suffered unjustly on earth would have a heavenly reward. Now I believe that there is no reward waiting for them. This life is the only chance they get for a reward and it’s up to their fellow humans to make that happen. It’s not that the impulse has changed, just the urgency. I also admit I’m able to give more money to worthwhile charities now that 10% of my income isn’t going to keep the lights on in a church.

    I’m tired and I’m going to bed. I’ll leave someone else to deal with the fact that while Jesus didn’t condone genocide his dad LOVED it. See fieldmedic’s enlightening link closer to the top of the thread regarding the midianites.

  48. ‘I don’t suggest that it is unreal. I suggest that if we evolved, our ideas are nothing more than instinctual and meaning itself is stripped away. It is just as meaningful as plants using CO2 for life. It has been written “If chance be the father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky and the next time you hear youths go looting, sniper kills ten, bomb blasts school it is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.”’

    First off, I have no problem with our lives having as much meaning as the lives of plants. Life is a precious thing, after all, no matter what forms it may take.

    Mind you, I think that because of our sentience, we as humans can create more meaning for our lives than bare existence.

    But I do have a problem with the last quote you put forth. Sure, humans do a lot of ratten, evil things. They also do a lot of wonderful and kind things. Why can’t we say “If chance be the father of all flesh, lovingkindness is his rainbow in the sky and the next time you hear youths go into the Peace Corps, neighbor rescues ten after tsunami, Regia Emilia establishes schools it is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.”

    It seems that the Christian view of humanity is unrelentingly dark. Nietzche once wrote that by always seeing the world as an ugly and evil place, they make it an ugly and evil place.

    As to your final point, I understand the idea of a god outside of time and space. But then, what’s the point? If s/he is beyond, or transcendant to, the universe, how can it possibly matter to us? You put the deity beyond any sort of perception.

    Where did the universe come from? It may be that we’ll never know. It may be also turn out to be as meaningless a question as “How high is ‘up’?”

    For that matter, Where does this god of your come from?

  49. “They also do a lot of wonderful and kind things. Why can’t we say “If chance be the father of all flesh…” Just as equally true. All are just neucleic acid in action within the worldview no? Neither ought to be praised or condemned any more than wild animals in action.

    So our lives being reduced to the meaning of plants doesn’t come off as reductionistic to you? There is an Eastern group of people that believe this as well and they have pushed it to its limits to the extent that they wont even eat vegetables. They cirlce around it by going to people’s houses and asking them to give some of their left-over food as a means to ensure that nothing was killed on their behalf. If our life is as meaningful as the lives of all of the other life forms on this planet, we should not eat other life forms. This is the difference in degree of evolution vs. the difference in kind stand-point. Another interesting fact, during the big Tsunami that hit, the animals faired better than the humans. Darwinistically speaking, this does not make sense. Maybe we haven’t evolved more superior to them, maybe we are an inferior offshoot that biped-ed and grew an imagination.

    the Christian view of humanity is unrelentingly dark….
    I can’t quite disagree with you. Man does a lot of good, but does suffer from a depraved nature. Just as it is easier to sleep in than work. It is easier to buy stuff for yourself than give to others. It has been admitted on here that doing stuff for others is a sacrifice. Acts of kindness toward others are in opposition to the natural tendencies of man. I honestly believe right now if all of America had a new deal where you could get gas for $1.50 a gallon, but you had an emission free combustable option that cost $3.50 the emissions problem in America would get worse because not only would the masses selfish people not make the sacrifice, people would drive more with their new-found savings from the cost cut of reduced priced gas. To further prove man’s selfish nature, secular organizations would have to be similar to churches and get websites, commercials, teachings, and lifestyle advice to motivate people to go against their natural tendencies and buy emission free gas. The entire movement would self-admittedly go against the grain and also criticize the masses.

    Lets say for the sake of argument, PETA is a secular organization (animals are a difference in degree not in kind). Do they not have to advertize, advocate, and share their values to others through books and teaching to spread their message? It’s ok though because they are trying to stop animal abuse and it is on an atheistic platform right?

    Now if I walked into Berkely and told them that by the teachings of Jesus, all of life is sacred and we should not allow life to be destroyed even at the cost of psychological anguish to an expecting mother… I would be tossed out on my butt. Not because the fact that “all life is sacred” is a bad starting point, but because I would be considered biased and getting my morals from a theistic book or doctrine.

    writerdd said that atheists don’t need books to tell them how to act, I’ve seen plenty. The people at Enron were all given “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins from their higher ups in the company. Each year they would have the company party and award the most sharklike of them all and call out the biggest wuss that tried to respect others. This is the same company that systematically forced power blackouts through neighborhoods with hospitals and businesses. We teach people that they determine their own morals in schools and when they get in the business world and live that lesson out, we jail them for it. I would venture to say that if an atheists book is not attacking a theistic world-view, it most likely addresses lifestyle. I also see the dogma of absoultes in atheistic literature. Even the dogma of relativism dogmatically asserts the absoulteness of relativistic thinking. The same goes for skeptecism; it is unquestionably sure that everything must be questioned.

  50. “First off, I have no problem with our lives having as much meaning as the lives of plants. Life is a precious thing, after all, no matter what forms it may take.

    Mind you, I think that because of our sentience, we as humans can create more meaning for our lives than bare existence.”

    Why did you misrepresent my meaning by cherry-picking what I wrote?

  51. “First off, I have no problem with our lives having as much meaning as the lives of plants. Life is a precious thing, after all, no matter what forms it may take.”

    I did not intend to. I do apologize. What I gathered from this is that you meant to say, “plants and humans have just as much meaning”. I did not mean to cherry pick. This is my complete understanding of that comment.

  52. “Mind you, I think that because of our sentience, we as humans can create more meaning for our lives than bare existence.”

    I think that this falls in line with my boogie man comments earlier. Just because we can convince ourselves that we can do this does not make it objectively so. Outside of my belief in it, it cannot exist. The earlier reference to the hand is objectively so because weather I believe it exists or not, it still exists.

    Again, I am sorry that you felt I was trying to misrepresent what you wrote.

  53. “I think that this falls in line with my boogie man comments earlier. Just because we can convince ourselves that we can do this does not make it objectively so.”

    So because atheists think that we have meaning in our lives it isn’t so but because you think your god “gave” you meaning your life does have meaning. Without god you can’t imagine that life has meaning therefore there must be a god. Everything you’ve said boils down to an Argument from Final Consequences. It’s a classic logical fallacy that many people fall into. While it may be truly how you feel that doesn’t make it a proper logical argument. I think we’ve all made very clear how our world view leads us to find our own meaning in life. Your inability to comprehend that doesn’t make you right. That would be the Argument from Personal Incredulity.

  54. “So because atheists think that we have meaning in our lives it isn’t so”

    Make no mistakes about this… I do not believe nor have I ever believed that atheists have no meaning in their lives. I believe that objective meaning cannot be rooted anywhere on an atheistic platform. I am challenging the idea not the atheist. Atheists are people who put their pants on one leg at a time just like I do. I am a Soldier and an Army Medic. All people are valuable to me and I have numerous people that I would lay down my life for that are atheists and that would do the same for me.

    “Without god you can’t imagine that life has meaning therefore there must be a god.”

    That is not my argument at all. I am saying that objective meaning cannot be rooted on an atheistic platform. We all agree that meaning exists, I suggest that the reality of meaning points to their being a creator. Not that it proves the existence of God.

    I have no more tossed a philosophical or mathmatical formula that proves the existence of God than you have placed one that disproves the existence from God. I have never argued from final concequences as evidence. I have argued from final concequences as reason to investigate the theistic viewpoint particularly Christianity.

    So from my understanding of both formal and fundamental fallacies of logic, (I’ve taken the class too) I have comitted none.

    “While it may be truly how you feel that doesn’t make it a proper logical argument.”

    I was thinking of posting the same comment to you in reference to belief in objective morality and objective meaning existing if asserted from a subjective source.

    Three levels of philosophy
    1- Theory (Bible, Dawkins, Hawking, Amenomope etc.)
    2- Media (TV, Radio, Plays, Novels etc.)
    3- Level of application ( self explanatory)

    Your arguements are at level three. This is a purely subjective stance. I can argue with you about why blue is a better color than red all day and get now where. All application is based on theory. I am arguing the theory and only illustrating at levels 2 and 3. You can’t tell me that the meaning in your life is supported by your worldview because you are an atheist and you still have meaning. You have meaning at the level of application yet it is in contradiction with your theory.

    I ask how do we have meaningful existence from meaningless beginnings, you are replying with “I have meaning in my life, that is proof enough”. Explain how the theory leads to meaning. How does Darwinistic Evolution bring about meaning?

    You ask me how do I get meaning from God and I reply, but the atheistic worldivew also has to answer this question with more than a subjective “it’s here”. I believe that meaning is a part of your spiritual make-up and not your genetic make-up. I have already said that if I was created, I was created with a purpose. If my afterlife has meaning, my life gets more meaning. Again this is not an arguement that proves God’s existence, it is only the answer to 1 measure of truth, logical consistency. There is still impiracle adequacy and experiential relevancy that must be addressed.

  55. “There is no such thing as objective meaning. Meaning is a creation of the human mind, and therefore entirely subjective.”

    Then it would be no more real than a creation from the mind of a rock. Meaning in everything then becomes purely specific to the person. Therefore all ideas LOGICALLY become equal. Ideas such as genocide become equal with benevolence because it is in the eye of the beholder. How then do you intend to condemn theism since it is a meaningful idea to the theist? Would you then impose what is meaningful to you upon them in order to condemn it? It is an idea that arrived out of the evolutionary process and the meaning espoused there is subjective to the person. What process do we then as humans use to collectively define what is meaningful? And by who’s standards will we identify one person’s meaning over another? The humanists values life, the cannibal values death. Which idea becomes superior and how?

    It has been said that for the postmodern atheist, there is a logical egaliarianism among ideas and elitism of people (by means of evolution i.e. we have all evolved differently). I say that the reverse is true, egalitarianism for people (we all are created equally) and elitism of ideas (some are down right wrong).

  56. Subjectivity in meaning does not necessarily lead to cultural relativism.

    You should read some philosophy and catch up on what rational people really think about these ideas instead of what uneducated preachers expound against the evil atheists from their pulpits.

    Besides, your examples are ridiculous. Cannibals do not “value death.” Where on earth do you get these ideas? From Chick tracts?

  57. moreover, if meaning is subjective, morality also follows that same path.

    I say morals are objective, meaning they exist weather I believe them or not. Murder is still wrong weather I think so or not. If it is subjective the person, then there is no room for condemning something as wrong for someone else. How can I tell my neighbor he is wrong for stealing my car if he fells that it is morally acceptable? In the end, I am forced to impose my subjective experience on him.

    Please answer this, “If man is the determiner of morality, which man?” Will we go with Hitler, Hugh Heifner, Dawkins (selfish gene), Ghandi, Jesus, or whomever and by who’s moral standard will we consider one superior to another?

  58. You are now reverting to personal attacks. “Cannibals value death” was an example. How about “Hitmen value people needing to be killed” Is that better?

    “Subjectivity in meaning does not necessarily lead to cultural relativism.” This is not an argument, this is a gripe.

    Logical flow is, meaning is subjective, morality becomes subjective because we gather our morality from what we value. If our morality is subjective, then condemnation of someone elses subjective experience is bigotry and logically inconsistent with any ideas of equality. Since we evolved differently, that may not be too big of a pill to swallow for you.

  59. “expound against the evil atheists from their pulpits” Never have I heard a sermon on atheism in my Church. Never have I addressed atheists as evil. I think you are getting irrational. I will not allow a straw man to be built of what I have said on here. I have not attacked any of you personally and I have been attacked by you and the science guy yet you are claiming that atheism has lead you to a more moral life???

  60. “I ask how do we have meaningful existence from meaningless beginnings, you are replying with “I have meaning in my life, that is proof enough”.”

    I never said that the meaning in my life was proof of anything. As many here have repeatedly said, evolution doesn’t offer meaning, the universe doesn’t owe us meaning, it’s up to us to develop our own meaning. You then counter with some claptrap about that inevitably resulting in a completely relativistic moral system. I’m not sure why you continually conflate morality with meaning. My claim is that morality is based in evolution while meaning is subjective and dependent on each individual. Several of us have said that our morality is based on the dictum that we should cause as little harm as possible, help who we can and try to improve the world while we’re here because joy is better than suffering. Where does this come from if not from god? A 2006 study found that mice exhibit feelings of empathy when a fellow mouse is in pain. Another study of people who’ve suffered injury to their prefrontal cortex suggest that such an injury alters our moral judgment. Then there’s the study which shows that different areas of the brain are at work when someone is face with a moral dilemma as opposed to an abstract reasoning problem. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that our morality is derived from biological sources. This doesn’t disprove god, as you will be quick to point out, but it does suggest an answer to your question as to where morality comes from if not god. It looks to be a product of evolution, something we share with other species, and something that can be altered by physical manipulation.

    I can’t even speak to your “three levels of philosophy” argument because I have no idea what you’re talking about. I looked for a better explination of the three levels of philosophy you lay out but I can’t find anyone else who lists media as a level of philosophy. Seems like you just made that up.

    Not that any of this will change your mind. You’ve stated that you don’t like to use studies/surveys/percentages (“don’t want to use percentages of violence over time because these surveys can be manipulated and misused”), so I’m not sure what type of evidence you’ll take. I imagine nothing presented here will be to your satisfaction unless it agrees with your premise.

  61. “I looked for a better explination of the three levels of philosophy you lay out but I can’t find anyone else who lists media as a level of philosophy.”

    Try Ravi Zacharias, PhD in philosophy and yes, Christian apologist. I wouldn’t expect you to get your arguements from theists. Also, does the system not make sense. Are theories not communicated through media and applied by people? Did the world embrace existentialism by reading the great works of Jean Paul Sarte or did they get it through Hollywood among others? Is your application of atheism based on mere preference or do you claim to have a theoretical basis for your position? It makes complete sense.

    So you actually propose that we are genetically moral beings? Would you also accept that our ideas are also a result of our genetic make-up?

    Our morality is based on what we value and not from God correct? How can we come up with “all men are created equal when we also acknowledge that all men have evolved differently” What then of the crimes that have been comitted (even in the name of religion I might add) across history? How are we naturally moral beings when so much of history points to the opposite.

    I didn’t use figures because I didn’t want them bashed as being manipulated. The polls are in and the 20th century has been not only the bearer of more deaths than the previous 19 combined, it also had a greater percentage in comparison to the population. There’s numbers for you. You can use any evidence you would like. I just want to choose my words carefully as I am the lone ranger among several people of a different worldview.

    I already spoke to how morality would be subjective even if it did arrive from evolution. If it did arrive out of evolution, which moral did we espouse. You put out your moral but you did not say why it should be considered a better moral than any other moral. Why not use the “most good for the most people” moral instead? This is also a moral system that has come about into existence and therefore by your definition a deriviative of the evolutionary platform. You still have not answered my question:

    “If man is the determiner of morality (either by evolutionary development or a product of sentience), which man?” Will we go with Hitler, Hugh Heifner, Dawkins (selfish gene), Ghandi, Jesus, or whomever and by who’s moral standard will we consider one superior to another?

    Are all of their morals not developed evolutionarily? Are you a part of the most evolved peoples on earth that you know your moral to be the best for all? If not, then you are admitting that your moral may not be the best. Would not any atheist espousing a different moral have to assert the same about themselves?

    I am glad that you have acknowledged that the existence of morals in any beings especially humans does not point to the non-existence of a creator as I come from the position that we are created beings with a moral reasoning process. I just don’t believe that it is our natural instinct to do such a thing. Would not a mouse for the perpetuation of the group desire for more of their kind to live? There is also known evidence of drone bees protecting the queen bee but I don’t think that leads to morals, I think it leads to survival.

    “it’s up to us to develop our own meaning” read my previous posts that reference the boogie man. For a system that demands impiracle adequacy, I find this hard to swallow.

    So basic arguements are:

    If morals did not come from God and we did not create them, they are evolutionarily derrived. I counter that arguement with hisorical fact that points to the opposite of us progressively becoming more moral. What then are you left with?

  62. We’re going in circles and not getting anywhere so I’ll just try to answer your last questions and put it to bed.

    I did a brief search on Ravi Zacharias and I see where you get the terminology from, though he seems to be talking about the methods of disseminating ideas rather than the ideas themselves. You’re greatly influenced by him so I’ll take that into account when I say that I don’t think any answer I give you will be satisfactory to you. Zacharias thinks no world view is complete if it doesn’t explain our origins and you obviously agree with him. I don’t. I think this is what you mean by theory, you want me to have a perfected theory about the origins of everything and science doesn’t have that. If we don’t figure out how the universe began that’s OK with me. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to know, but it’s not necessary for me to continue to be an atheist because atheism isn’t a belief system. It’s an acknowledgment that I don’t see enough evidence for god. The idea that it all came from god doesn’t help because it still doesn’t tell me where god came from. I know you say he’s outside of space/time but that still doesn’t answer the question. It’s just another way of saying we can’t understand and we’ll never know. I prefer the outlook that says: while we don’t currently understand the origins of the universe we’ll keep looking and maybe one day we will know. This is both a more hopeful and useful outlook for me.

    I don’t agree that we’re becoming less moral. I know the 20th century was the bloodiest in history, no question. But there have been mass slaughters throughout history. And your assertion that more people have been killed in the 20th century than all others combined is simply not true. (Nice example of moving the goalpost BTW. At first you say it’s empirically true that we’re less moral than we were 60 years ago because there’s more violence. Then, when that turns out not to be true, you change it to say that the 20th century as a whole is more violent.) Yes our morality is based on biology including, as you pointed out with the mice and bees, the biological urge to keep the species going. It manifests itself as empathy and kindness. No I don’t have a problem with that or think it’s reductionist. The downside is that the urge to protect the gene pool can also manifest itself in hostility towards outgroups which results in tribal fighting or international war depending on the time and place in which you live. We’ve recently developed the technology to war ourselves right out of existence. But we’re learning that the impulse to protect the species as a whole, and other species as well, is preferable to our fear of those outside our group. Slavery used to be acceptable, as did imperialism, rape, oppression of women, genocide and some more I’ve missed. In western society this is no longer acceptable and we look down on societies in which it is. It seems to me we are becoming progressively more moral, not less so. And no, I don’t believe that some people are more evolved than others and I don’t know anyone who does. You are always complaining that people are making straw men out of your arguments yet you show no compunction in doing it to others.

    We don’t have to look to one person to determine our morality. We don’t have to choose between Jesus and Hugh Heffner. It’s the morality that almost every society has come to regardless of their religious beliefs. Suffering is bad, joy is good. Treat others how you would like to be treated. The golden rule is a good one and it was around long before Jesus.

  63. Then, when that turns out not to be true, you change it to say that the 20th century as a whole is more violent.)

    Your Rosa Parks example did not hold water, remember that. 20th Century was more violent than the previous 19, not all others before it.

    “if it doesn’t explain our origins and you obviously agree with him. I don’t. ”

    So you don’t mind if atheism does not logically and coherently answer origin, meaning, morality, and destiny? I say this because from the beginning of time, man has asked this question. You are a part of the group in today’s society that is not refuting the answers of theists and longer, you are refuting the very questions themselves. To want an answer, even if it is one we don’t want to hear for the big four is part of who we are.

    Slavery used to be acceptable, as did imperialism, rape, oppression of women, genocide and some more I’ve missed.

    Terrorism, rape(1 in 4 women), genocide is still going on, now we have school shootings, mall shootings, and the greatest of all, the public shaking their finger at it while doing nothing really to prevent it. Just because man has become more deceptive and now on television says that these things are wrong does not mean that it is not in the heart of man to be evil. We have replaced power with cultural acceptance in many ways. I’ve been to Afghanistan where many mothers don’t wash their male children once a week to allow them to remain unclean for the inevitable raping by the village men. On Thursdays we call it “man love Thursday” when married men will engage in extramarital gay sex because they believe Allah isn’t looking. Even though they are theists, these are not ideas derived from theism. These are ideas derived from their own desires.

    This will be my last on these boards for a while. I believe that in the grizzly hangover of modernism, many atheists claim that man’s moral nature is an evolutionary process. Do not forget that even the most up to date atheist website identifies 21% of the world as atheist (although I believe they are encompassing spiritualists for some odd reason, I understand it was 16%, I could be wrong). This number is obviously up from years past. The earliest civilizations on this world were theistic. If you are even able to read the language I am writing in and log onto this website, you have been effected by the JudeoChristian world-view to a large extent. I don’t think you can cut off the spring from which our morals arrived and expect the pool not to stagnate.

    11 of 12 people who followed Jesus Christ were martyred because of what they taught and believed. If they did not truly see the miracles and hear the words, they should have broke trail and went back to fishing. There are something like 20,000 lines in the New Testament, 40 are in contention. The writings of the NT have been better preserved than aristotle, plato, and many other semi-contemporary books that we read today. The Bible being a pretty reliable source, Jesus saying what he said, his followers making the sacrifices that they did based on their observance of him, and the eternal promise that is included, is the world-view not worth an educated look from a source more interested in its truth than Richard Dawkins?

    Pascal said that if the Christian is wrong, he has met your challenge to live a fulfilling life. Now if the atheist is wrong, what has he lost?

    I have heard writerdd state that she wouldn’t want to be a part of any heaven made by a God that would eternally punish someone. She also neglected to mention that He just as easily eternally forgives by belief in Jesus.

    To those of you who were Christians before, there is a saying….
    “Either Christ has become insignificant to you or you have become insignificant to Him, and I highly doubt that Christ has turned his back on any of you”

    For you, IF God exists, you have allowed him to become insignificant to you. If by some unknown mathematical or scientific formula you have found the existence of God disproven, you then can say that you did not allow God to become insignificant.

    “Its not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, it is that Christianity has been found difficult and left (“truly” for prior Christians) untried.”

    May we all seek truth in our paths. I’ll pray for you all. If I’m wrong, it wouldn’t mean anything anyways right? But if I’m right, I may get a thank you someday long from now.

    Goodbye

  64. It seems like certain types of Christians can’t just have a discussion and entertain different ideas, even if they disagree with some. They have to turn everything into a debate where someone wins and someone loses. (Some skeptics do the same thing, actually.) It’s a poverty stricken way of dealing with issues, if you ask me.

  65. Many of the god justifications can be boiled down to circular reasoning. God made the universe, morals, our purpose,my hair start to turn gray when I was 16. How do we know there is a god? Well there must be because the universe, morals, reasons to live and my damn gray hair wouldn’t exixt without a god. Atheists say wait what happens if you ask the same quesions about god: where did god come from ,get his morals and what is his purpose. I dont know if god has gray hair but every painting I’ve seen shows him with white hair. Additionally, we read accounts where people used the same reasoning to deduce the tides, rain,wind,etc had to be produced by supernatural beings. Time after time reasons were found that did not involve supernatural beings. God believers just close their ears and start over and round and round we go. But sites like this are good because as I said in another post I’ve never met another atheist so its nice to hear other like minded people express themselves.

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