Fellow Atheists: Quit Bragging About Our Prison Underrepresentation

Dan Arel’s piece on atheists and the prison population has been making the rounds, along with the seemingly inevitable assertion that the statistics prove that atheists are no less (and perhaps) more moral than theists.

I understand the impulse. Truly, I do. Every time I speak at a high school or in any other context where I’m engaging a theist majority, I make a point of addressing it and I still get questions about the issue of atheist morality.

Because most forms of the Abrahamic religions set themselves up as the best, and sometimes only, sources of morality, it’s become cliche for theist to ask atheists about the origins of our morality (“Without god, where do you get your morals?”), assert that we have no morals (“Why aren’t you just raping and killing everyone?”, “So as an atheist, you just do whatever you want.”), and/or explain that any morals we do have ultimately come from their deity (“The Constitution has laws that are from the Bible”, “You can deny God but He’s the one who taught us to be moral.”)

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn's depiction of Moses
hardly a reliable source of morality

These inquiries represent fallacious reasoning, to be sure. Even within the same sects within the same religions, believers hardly unilaterally agree on which moral principles are mandatory, let alone advisable. It’s why Catholic nuns marched for racial equality while the KKK claimed Biblical superiority, or, today, Iran forces SRS on gay men while many other Muslim-majority countries put them to death and Canadian lesbian Irshad Manji advocates LGBT equality under the banner of Islam.

I’ve examined the problems with the numbers on prison statistics as well as the argument that they prove atheists are more moral before. Since then, Hemant Mehta at the Friendly Atheist has obtained better numbers, but the issues with the argument persist. Arel’s piece addresses them, even though many of its readers seemed to have ignored that part.

Atheism is a movement comprised mostly of middle-to-upper-class white people. A middle-to-upper-class white person is far less likely to be incarcerated than a poor person and/or a person of color. The only way atheists as a whole might be less likely to be incarcerated than theists would be if we were a female-majority community. Atheism is hardly the cause of white middle-to-upper-class people’s underrepresentation in the prison population, injustice in the criminal justice system is.

Marijuana leaves

Intersectional issues aside, being arrested and convicted means being caught breaking the law. Would most of us atheists consider, say, possession of small amounts of marijuana to be a crime worthy of incarceration, let alone an immoral act? Yet prisons teem with non-violent drug offenders. As for being caught, I will return to the example of marijuana. How many of us class and race privileged* atheists would be imprisoned for drug possession had it not been for residence in low-density housing  in areas rarely patrolled by the police? Living in a detached home reduces the likelihood of a neighbor or passer-by reporting drug use to the authorities but is hardly an indicator of superior moral character.

Given that we’re a movement of people not exactly known for dealing so well, if at all, with issues of race or class, it’s important that we avoid using arguments that lack nuance in terms of racism and classism. To address religious folks claiming that religion makes one morally superior, we atheists can cite examples of religious people behaving immorally, with or without theological justification, and of atheists acting in a moral fashion. We can bring up rules in religions that no believer follows or theological edicts that are not very moral (and even immoral). We can talk about how many religions claim that justice will be served in an afterlife, meaning eternal punishment for finite and often quite trivial “sins”. There are enough other arguments where we don’t have to rely on problematic and potentially fallacious arguments to make our point. We should, and can, do better than that.

* I am a person of color, yes, but part of a minority that isn’t especially targeted by the police, and was raised upper-middle-class.

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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  1. There’s also the fact that in many jurisdictions professing a Christian faith is counted as a step in the right direction toward rehabilitation. So I wonder how many of those Christians in prison are just trying to shorten sentences. I’ve got family who’ve done hard time, and while he was in prison he was the model of a Christian prisoner, services whenever they were offered, had his Bible with him all the time, could spout scripture at the drop of a hat. Now he’s out, and none of it stuck. It was a means to an end.

  2. Yeah, except GeekGirlsRule, that is pretty much the argument **always** made by theists for why they imagine that nearly everyone in prison is really atheist, and just pretending to be religious, so… yeah.. as true as that may be, they argue that its just what you say, “A means to an end.”, and that everyone in there is, “Not a true christian.”

    Personally, I just see it as a sign that it didn’t stick before they got in there, so its not going to stick after either, especially when the system is designed more towards shitty measures, like nonsense about being nicer when getting out, while the rest of the time just caging them, with no real, tangible, usable, attempt to teach skills, or how to function in society, or, usually, any help reintegrating (no, a parole officer doesn’t count.) Basically, everything a prison in some country with less obsession about incarceration and punishment, and much more interesting in reintegration of prisoners into useful roles in society, would be doing instead, while we in the good old US, do less and less of, and less effectively. Basically, a bloody angel, if such things existed, would have to use religion as a, “means to an end”, just to get decent treatment in some of the places, and by the time they got out they would probably be working for the other side anyway, due to the only thing being learned in them being how to be a better criminal, and how to deal with other criminal, not how to be a solid citizen or deal with *normal* law abiding people.

  3. This could easily be the poster child for “correlation does not imply causation”. If you can’t think of 20 possible (not necessarily plausible) explanations, you’re not trying very hard. For example, “Judges don’t like religious people, so they give them longer sentences.” If you restrict yourself to plausible explanations, it is still easy to reach half a dozen.

  4. What a terrific piece, raising a regularly overlooked point. I wish there were SEWs (Economic) to match the SJWs. The correspondence of religiosity to poverty ought never be overlooked, but it is, far too often. It’s far too easy for the armchair post-doc to criticize what the Kwazy Kwistian or Mad Mooslim did today, without examining the true roots of their despair (and, obviously, not including the predatory politicians and pundits who play their religion cards while not believing an iota of it). And needless to say, those with little to no education are easier to gull than college-educated young professionals, and fomenting their violence and intolerance is no longer a cottage industry, but a worldwide mega-multinational. Religion is less the enemy than those who profit off its application by convincing the poor that their problems are due to religious persecution rather than economic predation.

    I would also note one other confounding factor: much as in the modern military, a modern prison cellblock is probably run by hardcore devotees of some sort of faction, so to express one’s conformity with the prevailing Islam or Christianity or Nationalism or Libertarianism or whatnot is to stay in proper lockstep with those who determine your fate.

    1. I don’t think religion causes poverty. There are many other factors in there too: illiteracy being one such example. Here’s a quote about
      Francisco de Vitoria, “…a disciple of Thomas Aquinas and a Catholic thinker who studied the issue regarding the human rights of colonized natives, is recognized by the United Nations as a father of international law, and now also by historians of economics and democracy as a leading light for the West’s democracy and rapid economic development.”

      From Christianity come Human Rights. The 1948 UN Convention of Human Rights were so Christian based that a number of Muslim countries refused to sign it base on that fact. Atheists such as Karl Marx and Habermas admit that too. Right back to the Magna Carta we see the influence of Christianity.
      If we prosper morally, we prosper financially. If we realise that “we are all created equal” , then we begin to thrive in that.

  5. I’d never heard that particular bit of faulty reasoning before. The idea that you can predict morality or criminal behaviour as a straightforward conditional probability with religion (or Christianity) as the condition is truly odd. The article does a fine job of pointing out that this clearly does not work, and a few of the factors that would go into a more reasonable model. Far too often these “conclusions” are based on being able to fit a conditional probability to a single dataset for a fixed population.

    Some days I really wish people would learn a bit more statistics, and specifically that schools would teach Baysian networks (or at least the principles of it).

  6. I have to second the notion that Christian apologists (or mostly some random doofus like the rest of us), come to us with the idea that atheists are criminals. As far as my own experience goes, I have enough Witnesses contacting me to try and convince me to leave “atheism,” as if it were a religion. I’m a hellbound atheist because I want to sin and break the law. Well, the prison population statistic comes in handy.

    Even though it never goddamn works.

  7. Great argument and consider me convinced. It’s one of those things that you may even *know*—I certainly don’t think doing time is indicative of one’s moral character in many cases so much as one’s misfortune in getting caught—and yet I hadn’t put all this together. In part because while being in prison is not evidence that one is a bad person, there are more violent, evil people in prison than in the general population. The two get conflated, and they should not. In no small part because the masses of perfectly nice and non-violent people in prison are now being locked up with scary people and they have little protection and no escape. Which is one reason that I think putting non-violent drug offenders in prison is clearly cruel and unusual punishment. Having a bag of pot on your person should not subject you to being menaced by bad people. Minimum security is inadequate protection.

  8. I think you do a great job spelling out the confounders to the hypothesis that atheist’s under-representation in prison rolls proves they are more or equally moral then the religious. Nevertheless, the argument put forward by religious polemicists is that atheists must be immoral, and the relative paucity of atheists in prison rolls is still good evidence that that argument is false.

    Those who claim that religion plays little or no role in their lives make up as much as 21% (if I remember correctly) of the American population. That’s more than 60 million people. One would think that if atheists are immoral, they would completely dominate the prison rolls. Obviously, this is not the case and is good evidence that the apologists are wrong.

  9. Well there’s one big reason we should stop bragging, socioeconomic privilege.

    A lot of people who grow up in poor communities are surrounded by religiosity, or at least, then culture of religiosity. People who are atheists tend to come from more affluent backgrounds, and have become atheists because they or their ancestors had a lot of time away from hard day-day struggles in order to formulate a highly intellectual opinion about what’s after death.

    So when you say “but the atheist prison population is much less” it’s really saying “money & comfort breeds apostasy, and I am of that”

    1. Then, how about this for an argument, “Religion is obviously a horrible replacement for economic well being, and safety.”? It still means religions suck at making people better, like they constantly insist they do.

  10. If you presume correlation and causation are synonymous, then of course this comes off as ‘look, athiests are clearly morally superior’. And yes, if you do that you’ll have license to take out your big SJ hammer and start battering your favourite nails (class, race, the justice system…).

    The more rational deduction (and can be seen more broadly seen on a social, community and even national level) is that a prevalence religious belief (whether in earnest or out of simple convenience) does not appear to have any demostrably positive effect on the behaviour of a society or its individuals.

    It may be that in one case that you have a Catholic, who also just so happens to be an underprivileged hispanic youth from a a poverty stricken background, forced into small-time criminal activity by institutionalized employment discrimination, or, on the flip side, you might have a Jew, who also just so happens to be a white middle-aged doctor and a pillar of the local community with a six figure salary, who sometimes pays money to sleep with under-age rent-boys.

    In either case, you could point to a million different tributaries that culminated in their criminal circumstances, but the righteous would still have you believe that faith, regardless of circumstance, will always endow a person with sound moral judgement. Figures like these demonstrate this isn’t the case and that’s the point: not that atheism can make you a more moral person (though it might make you more honest) but that, given the overwhelming influence of more immediate and tangible factors (like social or ecomonic circumstance), religion doesn’t make any difference.

    The take away here isn’t ‘atheists are better’, it’s that ‘religious people aren’t’. This article seemed to even acknowledge this point at its outset in highlighting the common questions about where morality comes from in the absense of religion, but still insisted on flipping to a false conclusion (atheists are less likely to be criminals) as an excuse to discuss a range of other issues which mattered to them, which is a little disingenuous.

  11. Uh. Where did she say that atheists are less likely to be criminals? Did you even actually read the entire thing or were you so interested in explaining your point that you didn’t even bother?

    “The only way atheists as a whole might be less likely to be incarcerated than theists would be if we were a female-majority community. Atheism is hardly the cause of white middle-to-upper-class people’s underrepresentation in the prison population, injustice in the criminal justice system is.”


    You’re just repeating what she said while pretending she said the opposite.

    Yeah, totally “rational”.

    BTW: Any “skeptic” or atheist who starts off their reply with something like “The more rational deduction” is likely not actually looking for a ~rational discussion and only wants to ‘splain’ how much better they *assume* they understand a topic.

    Case in fucking point: Your entire comment following “The more rational deduction”.

  12. “Atheism is a movement comprised mostly of middle-to-upper-class white people. A middle-to-upper-class white person is far less likely to be incarcerated than a poor person and/or a person of color.”

    Right about there. Athiests are mostly comprised of middle-to-upper-class white people. Middle-to-upper-class white people are far less likely to be incarcerated. People who are incarcerated are generally known to be criminals, ergo, athiests are less likely to be criminals. I’ll admit she went around the houses, but it’s right there.

    1. Wow. You really have an issue with reading comprehension, don’t you? I suggest reading it again. Slowly. At least two more times.

      “Far less likely to be incarcerated than a poor person” **DOES NOT** equal “less likely to be a criminal.” She even explains this clearly, in several different ways, what she means.

      “presenting opposing views = ‘splainin’”

      You’re not presenting opposing views. How can you when you clearly can’t even understand what you’re arguing against?

      The reason I say you’re ‘splain’ is because it’s clear to me you *so* want to be right, and Heina to be wrong, that you can’t see that she’s actually said *exactly* what you’re trying to ‘splain’.

      What she is *actually* saying is that those who hold privilege — and most self-identified atheists do, as they tend to skew toward white and middle/upper class for various reasons** — are less likely to be incarcerated.

      THAT DOES NOT MEAN they are less likely to be criminals. For example, in NYC where the whole “stop and frisk” thing was popular for so long, African American males were far more likely to be stopped, frisked, and jailed than white males.

      THAT DOES NOT MEAN white males were less likely to be criminals. It just means they aren’t getting caught.

      For example, statistically, young adult *white* males are just as likely to partake in drugs as their young adult black counterparts. It’s just that the young black males are far far far far more likely to be profiled and therefore caught, while the young white males are ignored and can continue on with their “criminal” behavior under the radar.

      “People who are incarcerated are generally known to be criminals”

      And so are many people who aren’t caught and therefore aren’t incarcerated. That doesn’t mean they don’t partake in the same criminal behavior. It just means they haven’t been caught.

      “ergo, athiests are less likely to be criminals.

      NOPE. It just means they are less likely to be incarcerated. That’s it. That’s all she’s saying. Just because someone isn’t incarcerated does not mean they haven’t participated in criminal behavior.

      I just re-explained exactly what Heina quite clearly stated. She didn’t go around any fucking houses. She was really clear — and so were a lot of the comments in this thread you clearly didn’t even bother to read. You just didn’t bother to pay attention because you were so excited about telling someone their arguments weren’t rational (when in fact, you just didn’t take the time to properly understand their clear, rational argument).

      **This does not mean that other people who don’t happen to be white and/or middle/upper class aren’t atheist; they just aren’t as likely to be open about it, or have the opportunity to eschew their religion.

    2. The take away here isn’t ‘atheists are better’,

      Also, I DARE you to point out where she implied this even a little, tiny bit, let alone stated it. Double dog dare you.

      No one said anything about atheists being better.

      Read her post again.

      No one is saying atheists are less likely to be criminals. Just that they are less likely to be incarcerated.

      Your ability to think rationally is quite lacking. Ironic, eh?

  13. I disagree with the author. If atheists have a low rate of incarceration because they’re white middle and upper class, then as long as we are on par with theists who are white middle and upper class it demonstrates that we do not have a higher propensity for immoral acts. It’s true that it is not fair to compare atheists to the prison population in general. But comparing us to other white middle class people and their rate of incarceration is fair.

    1. Hmm. Link, cite?

      Also, as is always the case, irrelevant. Its like someone claiming that a cult of people who where Poseidon hats, while swimming, drown less often, while there only evidence is purely that, “Obviously Poseidon must be protecting us!” Their argument silly argument is usually, “Theists are more moral, because ‘religion’.” When this fails to be the case, its, “Well, god lets us make mistakes, and everyone makes mistakes, but we are still more moral, somehow, because ‘religion'”. They have fundamentally failed at the central premise – that believing in a god, and wasting time both praying, and reading their book of fantasies, creates more moral people.

      But, I would go one further than that. Religion, like any other organization whose core principle is the idea that there are fixed, but unverifiable, truths, and refuses to change with the new understanding, or to question its principles, except under extreme duress, and with great resistance, cannot be moral, because it cannot correct its misconceptions and errors at the same pace as those misconceptions and errors arise. Individuals can, but groups cannot, and its in the nature of religion, more than almost any other group, by definition of what it claims to propose about itself, that “individuals” are discouraged to truly challenge those flaws, and bring others with them, as they do so. Hence – it will always fail at being moral, or taking ethical actions, even if, in self isolation, its members sometimes can.

  14. If you actually look at the UK prison statistics, the irreligious are over-represented (unlike the U.S.).
    It should not follow that Christian teaching produces prison-character. There is nothing in the teaching to encourage such behaviour. Quite the opposite. Logically, these are the stories we should be seeing:

    I don’t think Atheism has a universally agreed-on set of values (Dawkins did try and manufacture his own Ten Commandments though). As atheism grows, I think subjective morality grows too. And thats going to be uncomfortable.

    1. It may well be that all morality is subjective, in which case, as atheism grows, there will be no change. Even if there is an objective morality, one thing is quite clear to me – it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with our evolution as a social species.

      As for your assertion regarding the UK prison statistics, the numbers don’t seem to back up your claim. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case – atheists are very much under-represented, just as they are in the US:

      1. I think that in Western society, we seemed to have adhered to Christian values and held them as “objective” in the sense that we all had a general agreement in their high ethical standard. So much so, that the UK government invited church groups into schools to give moral messages in their assemblies. Human Rights (U.N. 1948 Charter) come from the assertion that “we are all created equal”. Even atheists such as Karl Marx, Habermas and humanist philosopher John Gray admit this.

        Now that the West is moving away from this “objective” code, we find now that certain areas are becoming more subjective. Take sexuality. Homosexual practice was considered immoral not a generation ago, and now it is becoming accepted by a majority in society. Just last month the UK parliament started to discuss whether incest was OK or not! I predict in the not-so-distant future, we will be shocked by what will be allowed. Polygamy will, polyamory will.. and more. I can see exactly where we’ll end up but don’t want to say here, it is so shocking.

        As for the Scottish prison population, I linked to their official report. Perhaps I conflated “atheist” with “Irreligious”. You can be Irreligious and still be a theist of course.

  15. This article seems to be based on an unfounded assumption: that the atheist movement (whatever that is) is “comprised mostly of middle-to-upper-class white people.” Do we have figures on that? Heina dadabhoy gives no source for this claim, so I doubt it. Are the 0.1% of atheists in prison mostly mid-to upper class white men? I doubt that too.

    The claim that atheists are mostly rich white men seems to be an artifact of the recent theists’ claim that the “New Atheists” are a bunch of elitist ivory tower intellectuals, separated from reality (and God’s Truth). But is the claim really the case? I doubt it. Can the claim be applied to the wider population of atheists who don’t meet the “New Atheist” label? I doubt that too. So why is Heina Dadabhoy so quick to go along with this questionable characterization?

    Do we have data on the numbers of atheists in the disenfranchised populations that are likely to be incarcerated? I doubt it, but I would suggest that even in those populations, atheists form a larger percentage than the 0.1% that we see in prison populations. Do I have numbers to back that up? No, but neither does Heina Dadabhoy have numbers to support her assertions. Until she shows her numbers, I’m happy to keep using the “Atheists in prison” claim, because it nicely counters the ridiculous claim that atheists have no morality without a god.

    1. “because it nicely counters the ridiculous claim that atheists have no morality without a god.”
      — I don’t think I’ve heard the top Christian debaters use this accusation towards atheists. I would say that atheists are endowed with the same moral conscience as everyone else. An atheist can be as morally good as a Christian. We are programmed to feel good when we do good to others, we are programmed to feel guilty when we engage in wrongdoing (simply put).
      I think that the atheist mantra of “this life is all there is, better get the most out of it” and “there is no god I am not accountable” and “survival of the fittest” might have negative consequences for some people though.

  16. Except that “survival of the fittest” doesn’t mean what *certain* people want it to. And, by “certain people”, I mean usually those that are either a) religious, and want it to mean that, “fittest means you kill, steal from, or otherwise survive by stabbing everyone else in the back”, or by those that are not fit for society (because they believe themselves above others). In other words, the people that hold to this do so because they either want to claim that they have a higher moral standard (i.e., I wouldn’t do bad things to people because of my faith), or by those who **have** no high moral standard, and believe that success, at the expense of others, means they are fit. Funny how, in the latter case, such people eventually tend to be overthrown, jailed, or beheaded, by their *less successful* cousins. Almost as though, in general, humanity doesn’t see this as either “fit” or “successful”.

    As for the whole “there is no god, so I am not accountable”… Well, see the prior statement of just where that gets such people, when they persist, even if it takes a few generations for rebellion to happen, in assuming this is the case. Hell yes they are accountable. And, oddly enough, just like the religious, its not “god” that actually holds them to account in this world, its their fellow humans, and/or nature itself (since, if you make the world less livable, its going to either drive others to rebel, or possibly kill you directly, for that presumption). However, generally, the cost is paid to, and doled out by, other people, not some magical figure, or zaps them out of existence, renders them sterile, causes the earth to swallow them whole, or.. any of dang near infinite numbers of ways that their negative impact on people could be “punished”, or merely curtailed, without having to even rely on other humans to do it (talk about lazy, not to mention ambiguous), and with an immediate result, instead of some untestable, unprovable, maybe punishment, which not even all religions (or Christianity itself, early on, could define, describe, or otherwise explain), agree happens.

    Kind of funny, really, *most* religions tend to imply that the result of an action is going to be fairly immediate, and direct, and in this life, in some manner, or to some degree. Mind, they then excuse, deny, or ignore all evidence that horrible, nasty, inhuman, people seem to prosper rather well, in many cases, only “paying” in some vague fashion, perhaps generations later, when their blood line falls on hard times…

    Yeah, see, the problem here is… there is no incentive, at all, other than fear of something that isn’t every plausibly real, to act in the best interest of one’s fellow man **from** religion either. And, countless numbers of the religious have proven this to be an absolute fact, by being successful, fruitful, rich, and horrific to everyone else around them, even to this day. Almost as though the only “real” incentive they have to not be totally assholes has nothing at all to do with religion, and everything to do with whether or not they learned to see themselves are “part” of humanity, or somehow “above it, and thus not beholden to the same rules”. I.e., that they “are the fittest”, and they “won’t be held accountable, because they have done nothing wrong”. and (this being the most disturbing aspect of all), that they should “get the most out of this life, and then be rewarded for being lying, cheating, stealing, harming, and even killing, assholes, because it was gods work to do these things.”

    It goes right back to the old saying, that good men will do good, bad men will do evil, but… religion can drive the good man to do evil. Because, “thinking” you are good, because you have been told/taught that a thing is good is not the same thing as actually ***thinking*** about what you are doing, and being at least, somewhat, willing to reconsider whether what you there told/taught makes actual sense.

    A true believer is as bad, if not worse, than one who feels that there is no opinion or positions to take on the subject at all. Both with do what they “feel” like doing, without regard for the harm done, but one imagines they will be rewarded and praised for it, and therefor all acts they commit must be good acts.

    1. Just as we can’t make generalisations about all theists, we should equally not make generalisations about all atheists.
      As a Christian, I would certainly have more in common with a Western secular atheist than a Muslim in many ways. In fact, some Muslim states refused to sign the 1948 UN Charter of Human Rights saying that they were simply Christian values with reference to “God” taken out. Whereas, Western atheists are happy to laud the same document.

      To be fair, I also think there is a difference between what I would call a “benign” atheism and an “anti-theist” atheism. The Benign having more of a live and let live attitude, compared to anti-theists who see Religion as, for example, a virus (Dawkins and the ilk) and something to be closed down. Those that campaign for the removal of crosses from public places etc. The anti-theist ones are the ones that top the “Mass Murderers in Human History” chart (Mao, Stalin.) Mao especially had a publicly expressed agenda to eliminate Christianity from China. He stipulated that all children in school be taught atheism _exclusively_. So, you can tell that atheism was integral to his worldview, and from the statements of Marx, you can tell that atheism was a major component in his system too.
      What worries me is an anti-theist atheist with absolute power over his state.

      “Both with do what they “feel” like doing” – – The Christian life is better lived out than theorised about. I don’t “feel” like forgiving people that have hurt me, but I believe its the right thing to do. The Christian reward system is not there to help me do good things to people I like, or even to people who I am neutral about. In my experience, the reward system is there to help me do good to those who have done evil to me. Thats does not come naturally easy, it requires incentive, and God is willing to provide it.

      “Because, “thinking” you are good, because you have been told/taught that a thing is good is not the same thing as actually ***thinking*** about what you are doing, and being at least, somewhat, willing to reconsider whether what you there told/taught makes actual sense.” – – Can you give an example of this in terms of what Christians would do?

      1. Oh please, again with the, “Some guys who had lots of machine guns and bombs, which no theist, prior to that, no matter how big a war they started ever had any hope to field, are ‘worse’, because – look at all the people that died!” Also – Stalin’s best supporters, once he worked out that he couldn’t get rid of religion entirely, was the Orthodox Russian Church. One group of extremists supporting another, for mutual benefit. That said… the ego these people had wouldn’t have **allowed** them to be anything other than either a) atheists, and therefor not beholden to someone else, or b) the head of the only church allowed in their country (like most crazies tended to be in the past).

        That most Christians have as lot more in common with atheists than Muslims also isn’t saying much. Most modern Christians follow maybe 1/4 of what is in the Bible, and an absurd number of them tack on paganism, Buddhism, and every other bit of stuff they can glue on and claim, “represents the truth of god”, while also ignoring the other 75% of the things they are borrowing that say, “No, its not the same thing at all, and you have no clue what you are talking about.” How many of them ignore that “Karma”, for example, is a class system, used in India to oppress people, and instead babble about some form of it that has more in common with Wicca three fold rule?

        As for what Christians would do when “thinking” about what they really believe, there is plenty of evidence, all over the place, that those that think the least tend to only be less evil than extremist Islam by virtue of being denied the ability by the law, and that the more they think, the more atheistic their views are, the less tangible their god, the less of the Bible they adhere to, right up to the point where you have, in some cases, priests that continue to preach to their congregations, because failing to do so would hurt them, while not believing one bloody word they say about god, or Jesus, or anything else supernatural.

        The more anyone thinks about their morality, and reality, the less religious they actually get – its only when they merely accept what they have been told, or imagine they have been given, and *do not think* that they remain overtly religious.

        1. “Oh please, again with the, “Some guys who had lots of machine guns and bombs, which no theist, prior to that…”
          Whether there were machine guns or not is a non issue. Its just a question of time. Mao would have killed the same amount of people because he had absolute power and a huge army to back him up. It simply would have taken him longer if he had not used the machine gun.
          Mao and Stalin killed their own countrymen with their military force. Civilians didn’t stand a chance.

          When you use the term “theist”, I hope you realise that you are throwing a massive blanket over people that might have more in common with you than with each other. “Theist” as you are using it is far too wide. You need to be more specific.

          I don’t know where you get your figures from to state that 1/4 of Christians don’t follow whats in the Bible. And, again, define your terms. What is a Christian? Someone who went to church when they were a kid? Someone who was Christened as a baby? Someone who simply identifies as one? What is the criteria in your eyes that defines someone as a Christian? I’m curious.

          “As for what Christians would do when “thinking” about what they really believe, there is plenty of evidence, all over the place, that those that think the least tend to only be less evil than extremist Islam by virtue of being denied the ability by the law…” – – As I asked before, do you have a concrete example of this? Human Rights laws find their foundation in the Judeo-Christian worldview.

          “The more anyone thinks about their morality, and reality, the less religious they actually get…” Plenty of speculation and opinion, bereft of tangible facts.

          1. Right.. You want exact numbers, instead of an estimate.. Well, don’t have them, but I have seen enough to say that the percentage that take most, or all, of the Bible seriously is.. not exactly huge. All you have to do is just look at online forums to see the sort of stuff “borrowed” from other religions, though in some cases they may have no idea its borrowed (its not like you don’t get non-Biblical nonsense like, “god helping those that help themselves”, all over the place), etc.

            In any case, I stand by the statement that the less serious someone takes the Bible the more likely they are either a) not a Christian, b) not a serious one, c) leaning heavily towards some sort of secular humanism, or d) dang close to being an atheist. Heck, I find it occasionally hilarious that Christians, even the ones that don’t believe that strongly, refuse to do what Jews did, and just call themselves “atheist Jews”, and adhere to some hodgepodge of Christian traditions. Mind, this would be pointless, since, as I said someplace else, Christian traditions are so ingrained into our societies that even atheists, like Dawkins, often say and do things that “originate” with outdated concepts of superiority, and/or male privilege, etc., that stem from Biblical ideals, while being totally oblivious to doing so. Its hardly surprising that, then, that traditions are even more deeply tied in, and calling themselves such maybe.. as pointless as calling yourself an astronautical resident of the moon (if such a thing existed). Kind of redundant. But, still, why won’t any of them use such a term?

            As for tangible facts.. I don’t have hours to spend tracking down articles that I never book marked. So, no, I can’t provide you with this “tangible proof” you want, but its not speculation – rather, 10 years of reading posts, and articles, and even books, not to mention posts *by* people who where once, or are in the process of leaving, religion. The story is always the same – first, they question, then they study, then they compare, then they question even more, until.. god fails as a concept, and much/all of their religion soon becomes a question of, “Does this really make sensed in the world, or is it actually senseless?” Every single atheist he *ever* started out as religious is proof of my point.

          2. “Well, don’t have them,” “As for tangible facts…” – – Well, at least you’re honest in saying there are no tangible facts or presentable data that you can reference that will add weight to your argument. Coming up with anecdotal evidence garnered by jousting online with people who you know very little about; few people would deem that evidence to be compelling.
            There are countless people who have studied / asked questions / compared etc etc, and left atheism for theism. Take CS Lewis, once an atheist Oxford Professor who turned Christian. Take Anthony Flew, atheist debater (and required reading on some Philosophy courses) who now is a theist. Take Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, atheist turned Christian. Do a quick Youtube search on “testimony atheist to Christian” and you’ll find a good number of people.

          3. Sure. What I am saying is that there are cases of atheist intellectuals who inquired and who eventually left atheism in favour of theism, and who have personally testified to this. Does it absolutely prove a point that atheists in general who inquire turn from atheism? Of course not. It just gives you something to think about as you ponder your own anecdotal evidence.

          4. Keghei did, you seemed to be linking into him… You in the sense of “y’all” as they say here in North Carolina.

          5. Human rights existed before religion or homo sapiens sapiens would have never made it out of the trees. Well before Moses, way before Jesus, and even before the religions whose stories those myths were based on.

            In fact, I would argue that sociological morality was co-opted by religions, not the other way around. The fact that religious “morals” have changed so much even within the same religion gives light to the lie that religion came first.

            But hey, if you believe you believe. There’s no arguing about trying to prove it, especially using data that, as the OP points out, is too wonky to prove much of anything.

            GIGO as they say – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

          6. With respect, just because I don’t the data doesn’t mean no one else does, just that I don’t know, personally, where to look for it. As for the people you list…. Seriously… Each one of those people’s “conversions” have been covered in various places, and their “reasoning” either called into question (Flew had some huge “death bed” style conversion when he was known to have been under great stress, dying, and suffering from a disease that causes degradation of mental acuity, for one. Hardly the sort of person that anyone, other than a ghoul, who didn’t care how they found their convert, would laud as a “good example”. Lewis… was the product of his times, his arguments horrible and silly, and his reasoning devoid of either a) the more complete understanding of history, including Biblical history, we now have, b) our new understandings of physics and science, c) our better understanding of human psychology, etc.

            As for Collins… Seriously, every biologist on the planet that isn’t already an Christians, and quite a lot of them, groaned, and/or laughed their asses off at the silly BS he has been saying as the head of that organization, when trying to glue his new found religion to some absurd pseudo-intelligent design nonsense he is playing. I say psuedo because I don’t remember him specifically claiming those clowns are right about their absurd ideas, but he does support one of their arguments.

            Heck, there is even hilarious article I just read yesterday on IDs flip flop on the subject. See, they loved Collins, because he claimed that “translation/transposition” of the majority of our genome means it must “have a function”. Why is this a total joke, as of the lasted Disco Institute nonsense? Because they have spent years trying to claim that a) some things could be proven to not evolve, and b) that those things where designed and not random. Their latest argument is…. that some features can’t evolve, because they are too random, and “darwinists” claims that everything in the genome has a purpose and function…. Err, wait, so.. a year ago there where right, because Collins was right, and everything in the genome has a purpose, but this year they are right, because Collins is wrong, and most of it is a huge mess of totally, random stuff, whose only function is to provide things like the “beauty of flower petals”, which couldn’t have possibly evolved. rofl

            Collins’ whole silly argument for “belief in theology” is, “It transformed some of my patients!” So does having a clown visit at a children’s cancer ward. A lot of bloody things can “transform” people, including just “belonging” to something, when you didn’t before. Heck, finding myself in high school and realizing that, due to my height, all the idiots that picked on me in the past where high school students, who just graduated, was “transformative” to me. So was going to college, both learning, for the most part, what I wanted, instead of what someone insisted I had to, and later, when it turned out that I had gone to a college that is now labelled “predatory”, and nothing I came away with was enough to land an actual job. Finding that there where other people, online, who shared my views on both atheism, and *also* my rapidly changing opinions that social issues and politics actually where important, and that most people either didn’t give enough of a damn, or where, sadly, entrenched on the wrong side of many of them, that… was almost as much of a revelation as Collins had (maybe more so, since I have seen “people of faith” turn a blind eye on so many of these things, on the principle that its “how god intended”, to positively growl every time I see some of their excuses and attempts at arguing against doing anything).

            You want real information, numbers, tangible facts… there are thousands of atheists out there who have read, written about, studied, thought over, and rethought their own views and preconceptions, who are **vastly** better equipped to give you “tangible facts” than some keyboard jocky, who has, by comparison, spent a thousandth the time on it, only dipped his toe in the arguments, read a fraction of what they have, and still, too often, face plants on subjects he hasn’t thought out well enough, and then has to apologize for getting wrong. But, you want that guy to give you “facts”…

            Sorry, but…. its the people that “have” those facts that got me to my position on these subjects. Try talking to them, instead of at them (as is so common when theists show up some place to “ask questions”). I am sure you would learn something. I sure did. But, it means stepping away from all the people, for at least a little while, who will give you a long list of excuses (most of them aimed at straw men, or which misunderstand the arguments), for why those other people don’t know what they are talking about, but someone who, basically, “saw some stuff, which they felt proved it is somehow real.”, do.

            As one author, on the subject on instinct and rational thinking once said, “Your gut is Homer Simpson. Its often wrong, and a lot of the time, even when its right, it gets there the wrong way, and following a lot of wrong conclusions.” (more or less) In short, if you are relying on the idea that something “feels” like it is true… I wouldn’t give even a genius better than 50:50 odds of actually being “right” about it. In Collins case, to use him as an example again, while it follows logically that “faith” helped a bunch of patients, it ***does not automatically follow, no matter how you feel about the subject*** that the existence of “god” is the reason that it worked that way. I dare say… you would find a damn lot of psychologists, just for starters, shaking their heads and despairing at the conclusion. Because of A, therefor B, therefor C only works if you actually know C is real and can do the bloody math to show it. When all you have is, “I decided that, since B happened, and the cause seemed to be A, I am just going to accept that C is real…” :head->desk:

          7. “As for Collins…” – – I notice a lot of ad-hominem in your response and some wild, unprovable statements such as, “every biologist on the planet that isn’t already an Christians, and quite a lot of them, groaned, and/or laughed..” – – which is completely unsubstantiated of course.
            Attack his arguments, not the person!

            CS Lewis was not a product of his time simply because atheism was alive and well in Oxford and Cambridge at that time. Its not a new phenomenon. In fact, as you know, CS Lewis was an atheist for most of his life, so I don’t know how you can assert that he was a “product of his time”.

            Flew is a very hard one for atheists to take. Did you know he was -required reading- on some Philosophy courses at Oxford and Cambridge for the -Atheist- position for years!! He even debated Lewis at Oxford. He gives his reasons for his conversion in an interview which you can check out on Youtube. Its not a death bed conversion if he is up and talking about it! Instead of attacking him, saying he’s old and seline, attack his arguments. He says that -advancements- in science have uncovered evidence that has made him a theist. Interesting.

          8. “Human rights existed before religion or homo sapiens sapiens would have never made it out of the trees. Well before Moses, way before Jesus, and even before the religions whose stories those myths were based on.”

            You know.. I just had a real funny thought on that.. See, I recently listened to a podcast talking about research done with Capuchin Monkeys and the concept of money. Turns out, you can get them to do these things:

            1. Learn to use it.
            2. Watch them make the same rational choices that people do, when there is an obvious gain involved.
            3. Watch them make the same stupid, counter productive, mistakes, when there is risk (going for the risk with the highest chance of loss, merely because there *may* be some small chance of gain instead, rather than pick the choice with a “known” level of risk/loss.

            What you can’t get them to do is play monkey see monkey do, ironically. Given the option to try out, for free, all possible choices, then having them, the next time, pay for them, upping the price, to make something look more “valuable” won’t change their buying habits, they will ignore the “pricier, and, thus to a human, more ‘valuable'” item, in favor of spending their resources on getting the things they like.

            Religions is sort of, if you think about it, both the highest “gamble”, and the “priciest” item on the table. It, on one hand, promises vast, terrible, and unbelievably bad, risks, if you play the game and get it wrong (some version of hell, or reincarnation into a snail, or…), while presenting an possible reward which everyone wants, but which comes with a stupidly absurd price tag – “Waste your entire life trying to figure out what god really wants, and hope you get it right enough to go to the good place, instead.”

            No wonder monkeys, and our other closer ape cousins, never seem to have invented religion… Buying shit, just because it looks valuable, or everyone else is doing it, is a purely **human** absurdity.

          9. I think you should look into the history of human rights and how we arrived at the 1948 UN Charter.
            If you also look at what even educated atheists say about human rights you’d be surprised too. For example, Jurgen Habermas concedes that human rights are derived from the Jewish ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love combined. Karl Marx, also an atheist, said that human rights were Christian and rejected them as such. Some Muslims would not sign the UN Charter and said, “these are Christian with the reference to ‘God’ taken out.”.

            I don’t know if you’ve heard of a humanist philosopher called John Gray (wrote Straw Dogs)? This speaks to your ape assertion. He said that human rights were Christian in nature, and elevated the value of humankind very high. He said that we need a new morality because there is no reason on a naturalistic framework why humans should be more valuable than animals.
            The fact that we are all created equal no matter of race, background, gender etc is inherently Christian. If you look at even other human cultures you don’t find it expressed in the same way. Go to India, or to an Islamic country and just see ‘how natural’ our human rights we enjoy here are. You assert that they magically evolved naturally as we climbed down from the trees. I assert that even in non-Christian cultures they are not naturally present.

            Also, while you’re on, do look up who wrote the Human Rights of the Child for the League of Nations, and look up the history of the Magna Carta and its influence on human rights, and look up Stephen Langdon and find out who he was.

          10. And that was just a list of athletes that you claim said those thing. A very ironic argument from authority.

            But then I guess it depends on your definition of human rights. If you are talking about what we (the west) would recognize today, that of course came about during the Age of Enlightenment which was a reaction to (and rejection of) religion, and that includes the UN versions. You can pretend they are taken from religion but other than making a big list of atheists that you think back you up you will have trouble proving it.

            On the other hand the first examples of human rights that are widely recognized are from the Code of Hammurabi which was written some three centuries before Moses laid out the ten commandments. And it included not only rights for men but also for women, children, and even slaves.

            But hey, if Christians say all morals derive from Christianity, who am I to correct them? They wouldn’t listen anyway.

          11. You’re wrong about the enlightenment. Where did the enlightenment originate? Have a look at the history of France. I have listed a good number of well-known atheists that agree that human rights are Christian. If I listed Christians you would not agree with me, so I listed atheists who confirm that human rights are Christian and you still won’t agree with me, because of your bias.
            You have to know where they originated from. Humanist philosopher John Gray states that the enlightenment is just a secularisation of already existing Christian values.
            Here’s what Gray says, “He [Gray] identifies the Enlightenment as the point at which the Christian doctrine of salvation was taken over by secular idealism and became a political religion with universal emancipation as its aim.”
            You have to know history and the roots of the enlightenment to know what you’re talking about.
            Also, you need to know what affect the Magna Carta had on early Europe.
            And the Human Rights of the Child were written by Eglantyne Jebb on a Christian framework, and adopted y the League of Nations (then the UN). Look up Jebb.

          12. Human right existed before Christianity.

            Human rights therefore cannot have their origins in Christianity.

            Jesus was not a fucking time lord.

            I don’t know which part of this is so hard to understand.

          13. I don’t think you understand. Laws to rule people have existed before Abrahamic times, before the Bible.
            I am talking about the UN Charter of Human Rights that have been described as “one of the highest expressions of the human conscience of our time”.
            If you look at the historic laws of India, you will find some similarity with the Hammurabi laws. But you’ll also find the caste system which is discriminatory. If you look at Sharia law, you will find praiseworthy laws that you would describe as rights, but other things that you certainly would not agree with.
            If you go to ancient Greece you would laud their concept of democracy (but women weren’t allowed to vote, and certain classes of people!)

            What we have in modern human rights is the highest expression of moral goodness, and thats from a Christian framework. Even the anti-Christian atheists I listed acknowledge that! Gray and Marx are saying, “these Human Rights are Christian, lets move away from them…” They are stern critics of Christianity, yet they even acknowledge Human Rights roots. Perhaps they know history better than you do?

            What Christianity gives you is the fact that we are all made equal, made in the image of God and thus life has tremendous value.
            If you go with a strictly atheistic, naturalistic worldview and exclude God, there is absolutely no reason at all to value mankind above the animal. We are all from the same pond, so why do humans have such a value? Human Right have a foundation in,”we are all created equal and are endowed by the Creator”. Thats the basis.
            Galatians 3:28
            There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
            – – Right in that one verse, we demolish racism, sexism, social class (caste) and xenophobia.
            Jesus, his life and actions, are the highest expression of moral goodness known to man.

          14. I also noticed that you ignored the Code of Hammurabi.

            Instead you changed the subject to John Grey, because of your bias.

            Religion has influenced human rights, but it did not originate them.

          15. @mrmisconception Kind of surprised he didn’t bring up, say, the code created for chivalry. lol Always the silly argument, “There is this code of conduct, which still treated some people less well, or like total shit, and actually enforced strict ideals of social structure, and inequity, even as it claimed to give ‘rights and protections’ to others, and because this thing sort of happened after Christianity came around, and it was, believers that wrote it, I proclaim that it was based on Christian values.” Only.. Like I pointed out (and somehow managed to miss post to the wrong thread – those values keep bloody changing, due to outside pressure, while the “original” values, from the prior generation are vehemently defended by radicals and “fundamentalists”, who have, from literally the dawn of the religion, screamed, “This is wrong, this is wrong. If you let this happen, allow these rights, allow morality to slip and fall in this manner, and go against god, it will end civilization as we know it.”

            Then the next generation comes along, declares that the new morals and ideals where always the right ones, notices that some group of people are getting rights, and asking for them, or arguing that something isn’t actually wrong, and.. once again, the extremists and “fundamentalists” among them start babbling wildly about the end of civilization, should we give in can claim these things are right, and acceptable, and/or actually “rights” of any sort.

            Worse, the “reasons” for them believing in the religion itself are ***always*** the same. There is not one single “new” argument that has been made on the subject, as any good look at websites dedicated to just what arguments they do make, can show, which anyone has ever come up with. Sure, it might be a tree, instead of a three part waterfall, it might be nonsense about “how it seems to help a lot of people I know, so must be caused by some external, phantom source”, instead of some other variation, but its all the same nonsense, and it all demands that we assume the cause is something “beyond humanity”, first and foremost, then add 2 + 2, and get god, instead of… any other possible explanation, no matter how much more sensible it might be.

            Oh, and, of course, much like the argument from, “I don’t know the real history, so I accept the religious one, and from that I have to assume our values come from religion, instead of the other way around!”, the faulty logic, presumptions, and vast leaps taken to simply declare it so, never change. This is what I believe, I think I have evidence that its true, therefor what I believe is true – totally scientific – only… that isn’t how the F science, never mind reason, works. You are supposed to attack your own assumptions and beliefs, to see if they hold up in the face of evidence, not just assume something is true, then go wandering around, looking for things that seem to support it (while intentionally ignoring, and disbelieving, the stuff that contradicts your initial conclusion). Its the moment you go, “That’s odd.. Why doesn’t that match what I expect?”, that creates new knowledge and understanding, not the, “Oh, well.. that is what I expected…”, ones.

            Yet, this is, among all other factors, the **single thing** that theists *always* seem to get wrong, when defending faith, and.. almost always get wrong when, if scientists, they step out of their own field of expertise, and start pontificating on some other subject, which they “think” somehow proves their theology (even while the people who did the science in that field are shaking their heads and trying to comprehend how they could, so badly, misunderstand, or twist, what they published, to do so.)

          16. What Christianity gives you is that we are all created in the image of God and thus have tremendous value, and we are all equal in that. The life of everyone is sacred. Derived from that we arrive at a lot of human rights we have today. Islam does not seem to operate at that level, Hinduism certainly doesn’t etc etc.
            This is even what Humanist Philosopher John Gray admits.
            He also indicates that we have no reason to assume that mankind has any more value than any animal. On a naturalisitc [atheistic] framework, we all evolve from the same pond.

            If you throw out the objective framework of Christianity then you will see a harmful moral subjectiveness enter, as you are now. Because as an atheist you don’t have any objective framework. All you have is the current culture to fit into. So what you might deem moral today, might not be in ten years time. The goalposts are always moving. There are people with agendas trying to change the culture through media and other means.
            We are seeing now the throwing out of objective moral values. Just last week the Scottish parliament is actually debating whether incest is OK or not! I heard a prostitute on TV the other day saying that it was her “right” to use her body in the ways he wanted to. We have an increasing number of people finding what they choose to be wrong labeled as “offensive”, and they will try and shame you into adopting their values. Subjective will replace objective moral values.
            More and more as we move away from us being in the “image of God” you will see a devaluing of life. You will see more abortion, you will see more euthanasia etc.
            Last week in Europe, doctors agreed to end the life of a 38 yr old woman who was healthy but depressed after splitting from her long-term boyfriend. Life is cheapening before your eyes.

          17. @kagehi – You know your argument fails if it could be applied to just about anything and still work as well.

            Of course Christianity has influenced human thoughts and action since its inception, and especially so since its dominance. But that is true of any wide spread philosophy, technology, or knowledge.

            So sure Christianity has influenced human rights, but so have the industrial revolution, agriculture, laws, firearms, mathematics, money, tools, art, civilization, walking upright, and breathing. So human rights are derived just as much from all those things as from Christianity.

            That and the fact that what are considered human rights changes with society, prove that they are not immutable God-given attributes but rather human-derived and most definitely changeable with time and further thought.

            tl;dr Human rights are human-derived and change with human thought.

          18. Maybe someone should, some time, try “too long, but read anyway”? lol Sorry, but seriously, my point wasn’t directly just to you, or even mostly to you, but to our.. opponent in this as well. I mean, the real joke here is that he, and his list of silly picks for people who claim Christianity “defined modern life” is that nearly everything about the modern world, and Christianities views on many subjects (chastity, for example, which the OT barely touches on by comparison, and doesn’t say what they claim about it), was influenced by “Roman ideals”. Even Democracy wasn’t a Christian idea, it was a Roman one. They slapped together a mess of prejudices and assumptions, or at least what they wanted to think where, from the Jewish faith, with a mess of the same sorts of nonsense from Roman life, and called it a new religion. Then.. every time someone tried/tries to point out that the ideas existed “prior”, or where they actually came from, they wave a Bible, and babble, kind of like a Muslim creationist would, when talking about, “All ideas from modern biology originated in the Koran, see this vague passage about fetuses looking like chewing gum!”, and declare that nothing we have today would exist, without 2,000 years of kings, slavery, oppression, and holy wars. Err.. wait, how is that accurate, or even making any sense? lol

          19. “Maybe someone should, some time, try “too long, but read anyway”? lol ” – – true, I can be guilty of reading the first paragraphs and then responding sometimes.
            I shouldn’t be spending so much time responding to posts as I’ve got other stuff to do to be honest. Have a nice weekend.

          20. Wait.. Iansafe was the one that thought I was commenting on not reading the whole post? lol That is funny.

            Then again… I don’t do sound bites. If you want sound bites, go talk to Nixon’s “TV expert”. Apparently, you can find him “Vetting” which bits of news get presented over at Fox.

            Never could comprehend the argument, “This is a discussion thread, how dare you actually post details, instead of making it simple!!!” :shakes his head:

  17. “The fact that we are all created equal no matter of race, background, gender etc is inherently Christian.”

    This as before, or…. pretty damn sure it was way after Christianity accepted slavery and even quoted things that supported it, called women “that cause of all sins, and thus unsuited to rule, or think, or do anything like a man”, claimed that “nobles” where the “those chosen to rule by god”, and…

    What bizarre historical fantasy land do live in exactly?

    And, that is without, again, this absurd assertion on your part that because some people said some really stupid things, and some other, slightly nicer, people said some good ones, and the later professed religion as the cause, it means something. Oh, and.. seriously.. I would agree with most Jews over most Christians on a lot of things, including the absolute rejection that many of them have of god. They also, very clearly, despite all the silly claims of Christians, believed in “more than one god”. Their own was merely the one who “chose them as a people.”, not the only one, the way Christians later asserted, while, **not having been among the same chosen people**.

    As for Jurgen Habermas, while he claims that Christianity has had a significant impact on many things, it isn’t the “only” thing that does so. He is often misquoted as saying that it is the “single” source for those things. I also think he is dead wrong. Christianity has certainly evolved over time. In its early days it didn’t suffer anyone that denied the “one true word of god” to live, killing other Christians, when they didn’t conform. It spend ages denying people freedom, and insisting that peasants where all but “owned” by the nobility. It flat out refuted the principle of freedom, insisting all men where owned, if not by master to to a slave, then servant/peasant to the nobility, and then the nobility to the church, and the church by god. Its idea of “a life of solidarity” was, “Conform, or suffer the consequences”. Half of its adherents insisted that there was no “autonomous conduct of life”, but all was preordaned, and the other half saw emancipation as a denial of a man’s, or woman’s chosen place in the world. There was no “individual morality of conscience”, only what the priests said god intended of man. Human rights where not at all universal, and where readily denied anyone that refused to bow to its god, or failed to show proper piety, or spoke out against their “betters” As for democracy… There is no democracy in the Bible. It is quite clear that humanity is to be ruled by kings, who are ordained to their position by god. Its practical first act in coming into existence was to uphold the new ideal of “emperor”, and crush what little democracy existed in ancient Rome. It would take revolution, and the uprising of the peasants, and the beheading of kings, to bring “democracy” back to the world. All these things are things that Mr. Habermas claim are, “is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love.” Never mind that even “love thy neighbor” was, clearly, from contexts, “Ones literally neighbor, not the guy in the next village, who worshiped the wrong god.”

    Habermas is a perfect example of the modern apologist – throw about 2,000 years of Christian historical hate, fear, kings, slavery, oppression, injustice and acts of moral repugnance, against anyone that wasn’t “the right sort”, along with another 10,000 years, or more, of wars, fictions, theft of other people’s stories, and denial of the humanity of those not “chosen”, in order to claim that every single idea we hold dear today, but which has only truly been practiced, at all, with any seriousness, in the last, perhaps 50-60 years (a lot of things, like slavery, and even kinds, still existed, right up to WWI, in so, so, many “Christian” countries), as being “defined, encouraged, and even brought forth, by Christians”. rofl or, maybe, barf. Not sure which is the proper response to this nonsensical view of history, and how any of the things we find of value today where “from” such a stained and darkened institution as “Christian faith”. But, yeah.. Democracy being one of its attributes.. that one, is funnier than all hell, even if the rest it just plain nuts.

    Has religion, even Christianity, “influenced” human rights – yes, but, I dare say, from the perspective of true history, instead of the purely fictional one that one gets from seminaries, or other “purely Christian” sources, it has gained far more “from” human rights, and the embracing of the same, than human rights *ever* gained from Christianity. On the contrary, even today, some of the worst abused of human rights are a) perpetrated in its name, and b) cheered by “true believers”, who often take the Bible’s word more literally, even if they are just as prone to cherry pick it, and follow more of its passages (when they bother to do so), than most liberal, humanist, Christians – who, all too often, refuse to even believe that the Bible contains the things the extremists follow, nor can quote more than a tiny fraction of what it says (other than what has been careful chosen, to cultivate loving, charitable, egalitarian, race friendly, truly just and righteous (always dangerous words, even when used by a liberal, when gods are involved), democrat and more or less humanist ideals, Christianity is “supposed to” have invented).

    Its convenient, after a fashion – just deny that your faith every had anything to do with *any* evil thing in the past, and insist, instead, that it was “the core cause” of every good thing, then hope no one actually reads a bloody history book, or opens the Bible to an “unapproved” chapter, and wonders what kind of crazy person inserted calls to murder disobedient children, or slaughter every male over a certain age, then rape the women, into the thing, among other crazy things. Must have been a real early April fools joke, right? Kind of like.. the Crusades, or throwing each other to lions, or.. Torquemada.

  18. Collins – its not adhominim to state what I observed biologists actually saying about the man.

    Lewis was a man of his times, as was Darwin (who dang near went the opposite direction, and may have become an atheist, except, its hard to tell, because his devout daughter (who was so devout that its a matter of historical fact she would go out in the morning to strip the grounds of her home of certain mushrooms, because she didn’t want them to “offend” the servants…), was largely responsible for helping him edit his books. Just because there where a lot of atheists around doesn’t mean that otherwise sensible people where still “trending” towards religion, for silly reasons.

    As for Flew. He never **ever** said anything to suggest, in any way, that he might believe, until he started to become ill. When he did, two things happened – 1) he gained a care giver, from a highly religious source, who “helped him” with everything, including his writing, and 2) he did a sudden, incomprehensible, 180 on the issue of religion. No one I know found any explanation given at all persuasive, but.. we did find the timing of his sudden conversion highly suspect.

    1. “This as before, or…. pretty damn sure it was way after Christianity accepted slavery” … actually if you were familiar with history you would not say that.
      After the fall of the Roman empire slavery died out because Christians were against chattel slavery. Serfdom took its place.
      In the Old Testament, the type of slavery was bondservantship which was the welfare system of the Jewish people. You could sell yourself into servanthood and your family, but you could not be bought or sold.
      Also, in Biblical “bondservant” slavery, you had freedom of movement and freedom to terminate your contract at will.
      This is precisely why Christians fought so hard to actually abolish slavery led by William Wilberforce who fought against incredible odds on a Biblical platform to do so. Thats historical fact.

      As for Flew, simply read what he said about why he converted and attack those arguments he made, instead of speculating about a caregiver who was Christian. And he didn’t turn Christian, he turned theist by the way. If Speculating without knowing the facts was an Olympic sport, I’d be putting my money on you for the gold medal.

      “Collins – its not adhominim to state what I observed biologists actually saying about the man.” Its perhaps less adhominem to state what biologists are saying about his “arguments”!

        1. No, its not. Bondservantship was the Jewish form of welfare. If a family declared themselves backrupt, they could still find work, shelter and food by going into bondservantship.
          Again, I state that they could end the relationship at any time and simply leave. It was their choice.
          Chattel slavery is totally different. There is no freedom of movement, you are sold into slavery by slave masters, and you have no rights.
          Christians fought to abolish chattel slavery.

          1. He likes to repeat this ridiculousness, apparently he’s not alone.

            Bondservantship (which was also found in the Code of Hammurabi) was hardly welfare, try indentured servitude, and was only available to Israelites. And if you think they could just “end the relationship” at any time you are deluded, they could leave after a set time (six years) but only if they didn’t wish to stay with any wife or children they had (them still being the property of the master)(Exodus 21:2-6), if they did want to stay? Permanent slave.

            What of the permanent slavery that was force on foreigners (Leviticus 25:44-46), or the conjugal slavery that was the lot of women (Exodus 21:7-11), or the hereditary slavery of those born to slaves (Exodus 21:4)? Did they care nothing for them? I know the go-to excuse of that being the Old Testament and blah, blah, blah but slaves were mentioned in the New Testament as well.

            Christians were among those who fought to end slavery (they were a large percentage of society after all) but few did it in the name of Christianity, instead the Bible was often used as an excuse to continue slavery.

            You have quite the nerve telling me I need to read history when your view of it is so twisted. Old and tired apologetics.

          2. This is where not reading the Bible but Googling atheist websites can make you fall.
            In the Bible you -were- able to walk off at any time, not just six years.
            Here’s the verse (which you won’t find quoted on
            Deuteronomy 23:15 If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master. Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses. Do not oppress him.

            Which means that anyone could walk off if he didn’t like it and there was no legal obligation to return him. Total freedom of movement and freedom to terminate contract. Look up the US chattel slave laws and you’ll find that slaves who walked off had to be returned by law.

            You have to read the Bible for yourself and study it. Don’t let read it for you, because they won’t quote the other verses and give you the full picture, and you’ll come unstuck!

          3. I don’t know what is, but what you have quoted there references slaves of others who take refuge with you not your own slaves.

            To be clear, if the Bible condones the owning of another human being, no matter for how long, (which it most certainly does) it is an immoral book. To think that it is inspired by, not only a god, but the all-knowing creator of everything is to possess a staggering amount of cognitive dissonance .

            No wonder you truly believe the nonsense you are spewing.

            BTW – I have read much of the Bible for myself, I will probably never fully finish it because it is a dreadfully dull tome of lineage and Rabbinical law that threatened to put me into a coma. Maybe someday I will lose my will to live and I’ll give it another attempt.

          4. “not your own slaves.” – – Any slave (Bondservant) could simply walk off no matter who “owned” them.
            And you don’t own or control a person if they have the freedom to say, “I don’t like working here so I’m off!”

          5. iansafe is typical of those that want Christianity to be pure as the driven snow – first, invent your own history, then deny that anyone else has any sort of point. Oh, right, almost forgot – insist that someone has “sensible” reasons for becoming a theist, when their “reasons” amount to arguments from authority, arguments from “feeling”, arguments that amount to something being not well understood, or confusing, or somehow impossible, without a god of some sort, arguments from, “We can never know this, so.. why not pick the silliest explanation possible.”

            Like I said… there are no new arguments for theology/gods. They are all the same, and they all rely one either a denial of our ability to know things, the “need” for something to fill the imagined “gap” this leaves, or blinding ignorance about the field they insist the “proof” is to be found in. Ignorance being probably the biggest one, since, as I said – not knowing the history of the very ideas you are using to argue your case, or where they originated, or why…

            Yeah.. abolishing one sort of slavery, for another, which sounds a lot nicer, but, sort of like the industrial revolutions, “We will lend you money, and high interest, while you work for us, to pay us back…”, is just.. are you completely clueless about how the real world tends to work, when someone has power over others? Its funny, a while back an attempt as made to pass laws, not based on Christianity, or if they where, there doesn’t seem to be like.. anyone, on the right, where the majority of Christians are, who support them, to end, human trafficking, as defined as, “Acts of violence and coercion, where someone is forced to do work they do not wish to, just to survive, or where they are given no choice.” Its not “slavery” per say, but… It took less than a year for most states, including the federal government, to go, “Nope, nope, not happening. Why might have to reform things like poverty wages, if we did that.”, and change it instead into a “save the prostitutes, and pretend that other forms of trafficking don’t exist, especially if its a sweat shop, owned by a big ass election do… err – important corporation in the US economy!”

          6. Ok.. So, decided to take up iansafc on his, “Argue against Flews ideas.” Right.. So, way, way, way back he had stated something to the effect that he couldn’t see how the elements of DNA could give rise to life without some sort of god. However, he specifically stated this was “Spinoza’s” god – the one that looks absolutely nothing at all like an active god, that intervenes in the world, or would have done any of the stuff in the Bible. In other words, its the lego instruction manual god – if the universe follows the directions I gave it, you will get the Eiffel Tower. However, he **later** retracted this, stating that he had misunderstood something that he read from someone else.

            His apparent conversion comes in one final book. People who have read it, and compared it to his past work have stated that its contents don’t match his writing, interviews conducted with him, after its publication indicated that he had **no clue** what the works, or their contents he supposedly quoted in it, from other authors where, several people flat out said that his “partner” in the writing was the *major* contributor to its contents, and wrote most of what was in it. While Flew himself later claimed to stand by everything in it, this statement was made while seeming to have no clue what it actually contained. Almost.. as though he thought he was writing one book, but his “helper” was writing a different one, and, in his confused state, he actually didn’t know what was published. Put simply, the parts of the work that where purely biographical seem to be **his**, while the “god exists” bit is all Varghese’s.

            However, looking a bit farther, we can find Flews two apparent arguments (the third having been the one about DNA, which he later retracted): One – intelligence seems to be behind the universe, and Two – intelligence is somehow too complex.

            So, lets address these. The first is a Fox Mulder defense of religion – “I want to believe”, if you will. It presumes that because you don’t understand intelligence, it must be a vastly complex problem, and worse, that “complexity only come from other forms of complexity”. This is also a, “No something from nothing.”, argument. Except, its dead wrong. You get something from nothing all the time, its called vacuum energy – particles that pop in and out of existence, where they isn’t anything to form a “stable” state. As to complexity… Well, this I think presumes a few really bad things – 1) intelligence is a thing of complexity, 2) intelligence is the same thing are skill/wisdom, 3) intelligence has no negative effects, only positive ones.

            The first – is just wrong. Our brains do not take a lot of simple things and build “complexity” out of them, they take a lot of complex information, then simplify it, then run that simplified data through simplified filters, then check those against simplified responses and ideas. Half the arguments online between different factions, and heck, even statements about the use of stereo types,, and straw men, etc. are “over simplification problems” – trying to cram the complex into something simple.

            The second, and the third, are again, badly flawed. In interesting example of this came up recently – teaching monkeys about money, to see how human they acted. Turns out they do “everything” the same way we do, including the wrong things, when confronted with risks, but.. they don’t fall for the very human fallacy of, “If it costs more, it must be worth the price.” Basically, if you give them a situation where they know they will be cheated, but there is a chance where “one” of the two cheats might cheat them more (i.e., offering 3 pieces of food, but only letting them have one, instead of only giving them two, but, only doing this **some times**, they fall into what I think I will call the “broken vending machine” mistake – “I want a coke, but sometimes this thing steals my change, lets see if it gives me my coke today, or it steals my change.” This **only** happens, with both humans, and the monkeys, when you have, basically, two such machines (or two people selling food), but *one* of them consistently fails to pay out, while the other randomly robs you even more (sort of like having two machines, one that cheats every other person who puts in money, but the other which randomly cheats everyone. The safe bet is to hope you are the second guy to put the money into the “cheat half the time” machine, but people, and it seems, monkeys, will pick the, “Well, it cheated the last 4 people out of their soda, but, heh, maybe I will be the lucky one that it doesn’t!” We can’t seem to avoid taking the worse of the two risks.

            However, like I said, if you tell a human that a bottle of wine is $500, and they are, say, trying to impress a date, they won’t give a damn if the wine is actually toilet water, they will buy it because its $500. The monkey… would just buy itself its favorite beer, and look at you like you are a total idiot for going for the pricey sewage.

            There is plenty of this stuff out there. And, it seems to imply that “intelligence” is a product not so much of complexity, but.. sloppiness. We are no better than a microbe, which just reacts to light and heat, at actually **knowing** everything going on around us, we just take more of it in, smash the result up into a lot of generalizations, and hope that our “knowledge” is enough to overcome the instinct to buy a $500 bottle of rancid water (which we immediately fail to avoid).

            If one extended this idea to an intelligence “complex enough to make a universe”…. you get a being that would pull the pin on a grenade, then sit and watch until is exploded, just to “see what would happen”. I.e., the exact opposite of something that is complexly competent, and capable of “intentionally” inventing a universe.

            But, all of it is a mute point anyway. Because its all just an argument from incredulity – I can’t imagine how you get this without something smart doing it, so something smart had to do it. One of the single oldest argument for “deism”, and “deity” in the master book of, “If you can’t explain it, I will just assert that I am right!!”

            So.. even if this “is/was” Flews argument, and not the ghoul that showed up to help him write the book… it isn’t just not compelling, its not even an actual argument for a watchmaker god, who flipped the switch (i.e, Einstein/Spinoza, etc. god), then took a nap some place, never mind the “Christian” one, which is supposed to bloody get involved in, at the least, occasionally messing with the settings.

            I had really, really, hoped it was something like the, “fine tuned universe”, nonsense – that is much, much, more fun to shred. An, “I can’t imagine it existing without a vastly smarter version of me having made it, the same way I write books.”, argument… Sigh….

          7. Also– Maybe he should, like.. I don’t know… try reading history, not the apologistics list of, “Favorite ways we have sanitized, explained in more nice terms, or otherwise altered the original meaning, to make it ‘more true to what god wanted, instead of how it was actually written/practiced.'”, sources.

            Some of the gems – Did you know.. while the modern Bible has “adjusted” its contents to include hell, the original context for each of the uses in the original was a) a garbage dump, outside jerusalem, b) the Roman Hades (sort of a purgatory), and c) some place for disobedient angels. Hell, as in Dante’s Inferno style – doesn’t exist in it.

            Or, the context of the use of the word “covet” kind of strongly implies, “The intent to take, and not give back.”, while the modern interpretation, and the “sin” of lust, both seem to take this horrible “sin” in the commandments as meaning that this would be just as “evil”, “Man, I could would really love to borrow my neighbors mule for the day, or had one like it of my own.” Yep, the sin of “wanting” is really, really, evil.. lol

            Or, that while you have silly people running around arguing when the “soul” its implanted in the body, the Hebrew version actually makes distinct reference to a) that which animated the body, but does not contain the mind of the person, b) the person themselves, i.e., the bit that does the thinking, and c) the essense of the self, which lies in the blood, but doesn’t do any of the thinking. Err, more or less, on the last one. You could think of the last two as sort of the traditional “mind”, and “memory”, or some such, though, not quite. One is prescribed from drinking/eating that which has blood in it, because.. it contains the “essence of the thing”. One can have an body that is animate, but which doesn’t have a mind – also the concept of how a golem is supposed to be made. There are even bits that suggest that, without blood, the “essence” is not there, so they are not alive (a mind, without the essence it matches would, I presume, be form of possession). Make a damn mess of the arguments about ensoulment. Good thing the Romans just tossed the whole thing at, and replaced them all with some form of soul, or spirit, eh?

            Best one though has to be the Jewish individual’s article I read, ages back, in which he clearly explained that – yeah, while the Christians stick with this silly idea that there is only one god, the Torah explicitly states there are at least several, and that, furthermore, while modern usage makes “El” merely a placeholder for Yehweh, the original, historical context makes him a Zeus like figure, with three sons – a farmer god, Chemosh, a god of markets – Baal, and a god of war – Yehweh, only one of which manages to make it out of the grudge match, and handed all the trophies, at the end of all the infighting among their followers, and, one presumes, mutual commandments to, “Not go around worshiping those other bastards, if you want to be one of my chosen people!” Sort of.. the same silly thing with the, “Other people’s slaves can hide here, but.. my own stay where they bloody well are.”, thing…

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