Thursday, April 04, 2013

Christian crimes, and the crimes of atheists

Papalinton brings up the actions of Christians in Africa who harm children accused of being witches.

Why is this any different from bringing up the crimes of communists, and the persecution of religious believers in Communist countries.


You can't have it both ways. If these horrible actions by Christians counts against Christianity, then the crimes of atheistic communists counts against atheism.

These things were done by Christian theists, but not by Christianity. In the case of Christianity, we have Matthew 18:6, which says

"If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

That's what Christ says about harming children, so Christians who harm children have to violate the teachings of its founder to do such things. I'm not even saying that the people who did these things are not real Christians. What I am saying is that they are violating the teachings of Jesus. You cannot even say that the actions of Stalin, Mao, et al, violate the fundamental teachins of atheism. Atheism does not require such actions, but it does not proscribe them either.



365 comments:

1 – 200 of 365   Newer›   Newest»
BeingItself said...

As a humanist I am comfortable condemning murderer of all stripes.

I am wondering what the Christians here think is the proper treatment of witches. It seems Yahweh is quite clear on the matter.

Matt DeStefano said...

Atheists and Communists don't argue that accepting their ideology (lumping these two together is just historical ignorance, but I'll leave that alone) will bring about moral virtue. Christianity, however, does. Here are some examples:

2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

2 Corinthians 3:18 "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

Matthew 5:13-16 "“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Matthew 19:26 "But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

No such words about the Great Commission of the Atheist or the Transformative Nature of the Communist Manifesto can be found. It's naive to act as if there isn't a salient difference.

Victor Reppert said...

Matthew 7:21

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

So finding someone who says "Lord Lord and does wicked things would be no surprise for Christians. Christianity would be false if it were not so.

Matt DeStefano said...

So finding someone who says "Lord Lord and does wicked things would be no surprise for Christians. Christianity would be false if it were not so.

I'm not convinced that other believers would see it that way. Christians have a rather poor track record with handling disconfirming evidence. I'd imagine the response would be, if this were not the case, that it was allegorical, that it was taken out of its proper context, etc.

After all, consider what the Bible says about witches. The Christians in Africa are not just doing evil things despite the teachings of Christianity -- but in fact, their treatment of witches originates from Christian Scripture.

“A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.” (Lev. 20:27)

"And I will cut off sorceries from your hand, and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes." (Micah 5:12)

The Bible is a remarkably agile book, and can be used to support any number of positions depending on the importance you assign to various verses. As a religious text, this is a great strength, as it tends to escape strict disconfirmation. As a road-map to moral virtue, however, it's a bit dangerous.

BeingItself said...

I find it sad that Victor's only way of knowing that it is wrong to torture and murder children is because Jesus told him so.

Matt DeStefano said...

I find it sad that Victor's only way of knowing that it is wrong to torture and murder children is because Jesus told him so.

I don't think Victor would agree to this and not only because it sounds bad. I think he would say that only God can ground morality (I've still yet to see a good defense of this claim, but I understand why some are inclined to believe it), although we can come to know moral principles through other means.

So, a variant of your statement might be accurately attributed to Victor: "If God doesn't exist, then it is not wrong to murder or torture children, because there is no right and wrong."

BeingItself said...

Yeah, I was trolling. But sometimes it's the right thing to do.

BenYachov said...

>The Bible is a remarkably agile book, and can be used to support any number of positions depending on the importance you assign to various verses.

In other words Luther's man made doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture without tradition is false. Something Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Rabbinic Jews have know for thousands of years. The idea the Bible is plan and should be read by the individual alone is a false belief.


2 Peter 3:6
He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

>As a religious text, this is a great strength, as it tends to escape strict disconfirmation. As a road-map to moral virtue, however, it's a bit dangerous.

It seems to me Gnu Atheist types are more often then not ex-fundamentalists and ex-Evangelical Protestants who assume the Bible is meant to be read threw those lens.

The Bible alone is dangerous we Catholics have been trying to tell the Protestants that for the last 500 years.

biblical morality must come with Sacred Tradition and Natural Law.

BenYachov said...

>Atheists and Communists don't argue that accepting their ideology (lumping these two together is just historical ignorance, but I'll leave that alone) will bring about moral virtue.

You never actually studied Communism did you Matt? Because I did. Communism taught the regeneration of society in it's evolution from Capitalism to Socialism finally almost eschatologically to a Communist state where formal Government will no longer be needed.

Since each will give according to his gifts and take according to his needs.

Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians don't believe in the whole "Salvation & holiness in an instant" that some sects push.

Sanctification is a process. Just as historical Marxist Communism didn't believe a Communist State would pop up over night not all Christians believe in instantaneous virtue from the mere first conversion.

Just for your information.

Steven Carr said...

'Why is this any different from bringing up the crimes of communists, and the persecution of religious believers in Communist countries.'

That's easy.

Because we are constantly told that we should believe Christian testimony about the existence of the supernatural.

But not even Victor believes Christian testimony about the supernatural if it disturbs his world view that there are no child witches.

Christian testimony about the supernatural can only be accepted if it is comforting.


Steven Carr said...

If you want to read about how convincing Christian testimony from the Congo is about the existence of the supernatural, Craig Keener's book 'Miracles' documents powerful Christian testimony about the supernatural.

But, of course, Westerners simply discount these people as not Christians, and say things like '"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.'

Steven Carr said...

VICTOR
"If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

That's what Christ says about harming children,...

CARR
That's literal is it?

Anybody can see that this passage is metaphorical, not literal, and Jesus is talking about believers in him (people born again recently), not children.

Victor actually quotes a bit which says 'those who believe in me', and ignores the context of his own quote - which shows Jesus was talking about people whose belief in him is young....

The trouble with Christians is that you first have to teach them what is in the Bible....

Patrick said...

Beingitself: “I am wondering what the Christians here think is the proper treatment of witches. It seems Yahweh is quite clear on the matter.”

Matt DeStefano: “After all, consider what the Bible says about witches. The Christians in Africa are not just doing evil things despite the teachings of Christianity -- but in fact, their treatment of witches originates from Christian Scripture.”

First, the question is whether or not these children are “witches” in the sense that the Bible uses this word or the Hebrew word translated in some Bible translations as “witch”. Just as with “slavery” one shouldn’t just look at the word and assume it means exactly the same we understand by the word nowadays.

Without having examined the cases of these “child witches” I very much doubt that they have done anything that would qualify them as witches in the Biblical sense. As I’m somewhat acquainted with the issue being a trained historian and having written my master’s thesis about the subject of witchcraft I assume that, ironically, those who identified these children as witches are more likely to be what the Bible means with this word. In Europe, it was often fortune-tellers who caused or reinforced suspicions concerning witchcraft.

Whether or not the treatment of witches in Africa originates from Scripture is not clear. Belief in witchcraft is universal, and it existed in Africa long before Christian missionaries arrived there.

B. Prokop said...

"I’m somewhat acquainted with the issue being a trained historian and having written my master’s thesis about the subject of witchcraft"

Patrick,

Have you read Charles Williams's book Witchcraft, a (Eurocentric) history of peoples' beliefs on the subject from ancient times up to the 18th Century?

Samwell Barnes said...

Well, in an atheistic world there is no moral right or wrong, since human beings are then fundamentally a collection of particles unraveling according to the laws of physics and are hence more accurately characterized as bio-robots. (Even Dawkins and Coyne accept that human beings are fundamentally bio-robots.)

Morality plainly makes no sense in a world of robots, so it's always amusing to see self-righteous atheists get indignant over anything while thinking that their indignation latches on to anything real. All you logically get with atheism is dissolution of humanity into the one great flux of nature. As all past events are frozen over, being the result of particles bumping around in the past, saying "witch hunts/genocide/terrorism/sexual abuse/etc ought not to have happened" makes no more sense than "the Milky Way galaxy ought not to have formed," or "evolution should not have occurred."

Morrison said...

A Christian can do many things that are inconsistent with Christianity.

But an atheist can be many things and be a consistent atheist.

An atheist can be a philanthropist, a social worker, a homeless shelter worker, a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, a Nazi, a mass murderer, a rapist, an advocate of pre emptive nuclear war, torture and profiling and still be a consistent Atheist.

Morrison said...

Matt does not know it is wrong to murder unborn healthy viable human beings.

Its sad.

Correction...its sick.

B. Prokop said...

"Matt does not know it is wrong to murder unborn healthy viable human beings."

What? When did he say this?

(Matt and I agree on little, but I don't ever recall him saying such.)

BenYachov said...

Bob is correct Matt did not say that.

Morrison said...

I didn't say he said it.

I said he doesn't know it.

Now if he will come out and say it is wrong to murder unborn healthy viable human beings, I will stand corrected.

But he won't.

BenYachov said...

>I didn't say he said it.

>I said he doesn't know it.

Fair enough.

BenYachov said...

>Now if he will come out and say it is wrong to murder unborn healthy viable human beings, I will stand corrected.

Yes that is interesting. A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood came out recently and said parents and doctors should have the right to kill children born from a botched abortion.

The Bible is according to Atheists is nothing more than stories. Ancient fiction thus getting upset over the deaths of fictional Canaanite children is morally equivalent to getting upset over GRAND MOFF Tarkin blowing up Alderaan.

Yet the pro-aborts among them want teh right to kill real children?

Let's not forget Atkins Richard Dawkins friend.

Ilíon said...

"Papalinton brings up ...


You can't have it both ways.
"

Oh! Surely you don't expect intellectual integrity?

cautiouslycurious said...

Morrison,

Just curious, what do you think the punishment should be for people who perform and get abortions?

B. Prokop said...

The punishment should be being forced to attend a live debate between Papalinton and Ilion, and having to take notes to prove you were paying attention.

Morrison said...

Curious...are you talking about the abortion of viable healthy unborn humans as I discussed?

Morrison said...

By the way, I don't equate the moral status of women who get abortions with those who perform them.

The women are generally victims, although not always, just as much as the murdered viable healthy unborn human.

The perpetrator is another story.

Ilíon said...

"The punishment should be being forced to attend a live debate between Papalinton and Ilion, and having to take notes to prove you were paying attention."

Let us thank Heaven that this fool isn't demanding we violate the Constitution (in this instance, if no others) by forcing them to pay attention to his bilge.

BenYachov said...

>The punishment should be being forced to attend a live debate between Papalinton and Ilion, and having to take notes to prove you were paying attention.

Wow Bob! Here I thought one of my many faults was I am a merciless bastard!;-)

YIKES!;-)

Don't be me dude! Stay as you are & pray for us all!:-)


B. Prokop said...

Sorry there, Ben. Kind of one's idea of hell, isn't it? (... and now for rebuttal of Papalinton's last point, we give Ilion one million years to respond.)

Ilíon said...

Now, see, the thing about Hell – even if it *is* Unending Torment ™, as is popularly understood – is that it is:
1) Freely chosen;
2) Perfect justice;
3) *and* Perfect mercy.

In contrast, being forced to listen to Prokop would be merely gratuitous torture, which is understood to be a violation of the Constitution.

cautiouslycurious said...

Morrison,
“Curious...are you talking about the abortion of viable healthy unborn humans as I discussed?”

Well, you weren’t clear when you said that so I’ll let you define what you’re talking about (e.g. at what stage of development it would be human, etc. and therefore be murder, etc.). Regardless of where you draw the line, its going to clash with current case precedent anyway.

“By the way, I don't equate the moral status of women who get abortions with those who perform them.”

The law wouldn’t distinguish between them; they would both be guilty of murder. If you think about it, if abortion is murder, then the woman is essentially hiring a hit man (i.e. the doctor) to kill their ‘child’ (i.e. fetus). So, would you be in favor of changing this legal principle and say that victims are exempt from murder, or maybe just apply a lesser charge (and if so what charge), or do you simply see this as a mitigating factor?

Morrison said...

Curious, now I am curious.

Your haven't been clear in what you are asking.

Are you saying that abortion is murder and what should be done about?

Or are you asking where to draw the line?

Or are you arguing about case law?



cautiouslycurious said...

Morrison,
I am asking what changes you would make to the justice system. Clearly, the justice system doesn't think it's murder, but I presume that you think that they should be prosecuted for murder, lest we let murderers roam the street, right? In order for that to happen, some changes are needed. So how do you think the justice system should handle them, what should their punishments be? And even though the women might be victims and have less moral culpability, do you think that they should still be charged with murder? Is their victim status then a mitigating factor? If they should not be charged with murder, what additional changes would you make to the justice system in order for this to be the case? Also, since the current definition of persons excludes the unborn, where do you think the law should draw the line when it comes to an entity deserving of protection under the law?

Morrison said...

It all depends on whether or not you think killing a viable healthy unborn human is murder.

Do you?

Morrison said...

Oh, and just to clarify, in case you think that killing an unborn viable healthy human is not "murder" as a matter of definition, perhaps I should ask if you think it is wrong to kill viable healthy unborn human being.

So do you think it is wrong to kill an unborn viable healthy human being?

Mark Frank said...

This comparison of communism and Christianity is poor. Although it is part of communism to be atheist there is much more to it - far more important are things like class consciousness. The murders that were done under communism were not done because the murderer's or the victims' religious beliefs(except for a small fraction of exceptions). While witches are very much killed because of religious beliefs. The fact that Stalin and Mao were atheists is as about as relevant to their atrocities as the fact they had two feet.

If you really want to draw a comparison then you should recognise that virtually every Monarch in the European Wars up to 1918 said they ruled because of the Divine Right of Kings i.e. Christianity was a part of their ability to rule and therefore every death perpetrated by every such monarch could be ascribed to Christianity. Of course it is nonsense - but that is essentially what is happening when deaths under communism are ascribed to atheism.

B. Prokop said...

"you should recognise that virtually every Monarch in the European Wars up to 1918 said they ruled because of the Divine Right of Kings"

Wrong, Mark. The idea of the divine right of kings did not really appear in Europe until the Protestant Revolt. The new nation states (another concept born at the same time) needed some sort of theoretical justification for their abandonment of the Medieval framework of the duties of monarchs to Christendom.

Prior to Martin Luther and Henry VIII, European kings were in theory subject to the Holy Roman Emperor, who in turn was "equally yoked" to the papacy. And all were under strict mutual obligations to God - no hint of any privileged position from Him. Quite the reverse.

Samwell Barnes said...

If viability is taken to mean the capacity to survive outside of the womb, the acquisition of which marks the emergence of the right to life, then it is a terrible argument for the permissibility of abortion. Technology has advanced to the point where babies as young as 20 weeks can be kept alive after being born. Does (and should) a right to life depend on how technologically advanced a given area is? Did a 20-week old have no right to life in 1558, whereas a 20-week old in 2012 did? Does a 20-week old in the US have a right to life whereas a 20-week old in Sierra Leone does not?

It strikes me as absurd to treat "viability" with any relevance at all when discussing the abortion issue.

Mark Frank said...

B Prokop

Fair enough. Let's say the role of atheism in communism is roughly analogous to the role of Christianity in the vast majority of European monarchs from 1600 to 1918. That still takes in the 30 years war and the first world war.

im-skeptical said...

Mark Frank,

You are absolutely correct about the comparison between communism and Christianity. But you are speaking to a brick wall. This has all been pointed out before in thus forum. I even provided documentary evidence, which was promptly ignored. Don't expect them to listen to something that doesn't confirm their party line.

cautiouslycurious said...

Morrison,
“It all depends on whether or not you think killing a viable healthy unborn human is murder.”

I am extremely doubtful that it is the case that your level of agreement with the current justice system is dependent on the views of a random person on the internet. If it is, you would have one of the most unstable belief systems I have ever encountered. However, this appears to be a red herring, so please answer my question. After you do, I will return in kind and answer yours.

David B Marshall said...

Both sides of the equation are bogus.

Christianity ended huge amounts of persecution of in African based on belief in sorcery. These are survivals, not things introduced to Africa by the Gospel. Atheists who make this argument just don't know much about Africa. They should read the biography of Mary Slessor.

Communism, by contrast, did in fact grow out of virulent atheism, and was based on atheist premises. Again, I recommend a book, or rather dissertation: Aikman, Atheism in the Marxist Tradition.

Hal said...

David B. Marshall,
"Communism, by contrast, did in fact grow out of virulent atheism, and was based on atheist premises. Again, I recommend a book, or rather dissertation: Aikman, Atheism in the Marxist Tradition."

Really? Can you point to some actual books written by reputable historians that substantiate that claim?

im-skeptical said...

Marshal's false assertions are debunked here in an article that includes actual quotes on the matter from Lenin himself.

Dan Gillson said...

This is how this conversation goes:

Atheist: "The Christian religion has done terrible, terrible things."

Christian: "Well, tu quoque!"

Atheist: [Buries head in sand, muffled screaming, makes no coherent or relevant point.]

Needless to say, I don't see how lining up to condemn the sins of each other is either useful or productive. People use whatever is at hand to justify doing horrible things to one another. Just because we supposedly believe the right things doesn't mean that it is any less possible that we will end up becoming monsters; a belief, like a screwdriver, can be used to kill someone as much as it can be to fix what's broken.

B. Prokop said...

As a professional Soviet analyst, fluent in Russian, having worked as such for the Department of Defense for 34 years (1975-2009), having read countless books and other source material in the original language, and author of numerous studies on the subject (unfortunately and insanely still classified and inaccessible even to me, the author now that I've retired), I can assure you that Soviet communism (I am not speaking of other varieties) did indeed explicitly arise out of a militant atheism. It did so at its founding and continued in that vein up to the day of its collapse (with the sole, pragmatic exception of the war years, when Stalin cynically dropped his objections to religion "for the duration").

Karl Grant said...

I hereby vote that Dan Gillson wins the thread.

Mark Frank said...

The bigger point is that the really awful things in history have mostly been done by rulers acting from a set of beliefs or principles which they take to be absolute and follow as it were "top down". This could be communism or any of a range of fundamentalist religions or national socialism or whatever. The antidote is to act from human compassion at an individual level - "bottom up" ethics. The religion/atheism thing is not the point except that bottom up ethics is not compatible with many religions while it is compatible with atheism (although atheists sometimes act top down).

im-skeptical said...

Where's your evidence, Bob?

Dan Gillson said...

Mark Frank's curious assertion that bottom-up ethics is incompatible with many religions, while being compatible with atheism, is an eyebrow-raiser.

Morrison said...

Curious, it is unclear what you are asking.

I never brought up the justice system, and I don't know what changes you think I would make as I have no power in the system.

My question is more basic...is it wrong to murder, or just call it kill if you prefer, an unborn healthy human? (And the red herrings are not coming from me.)

Now if you can't answer or are afraid to for some reason, that's fine too.

But the basic question needs to be answered before I would go on about the "justice" system.

B. Prokop said...

"Where's your evidence, Bob?"

There is more evidence for the connection between Bolshevism and atheism than there is for the historicity of the Holocaust. Do you deny that as well? Are you now going to demand evidence that the Second World War occurred?

Asking for "evidence" for something, the evidence for which would fill whole libraries to overflow, is like demanding evidence that the United States exists. Stop being a fool, "im-skeptical".

Morrison said...

As for Communism and Atheism, Wikipedia has an interesting article on state atheism. A lot of interesting references.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_atheism

im-skeptical said...

The Bolsheviks used atheism as a tool to advance their communist ideals. Not the other way around. It was the ideology of communism that they were all about. It was the ideology of communism that all those people died for, not atheism. Atheism is not an ideology, like Christianity.

Sure, there was a League of Militant Atheists (that wasn't its original name) set up by the communist Party to promote communism, that included a bunch of ruffians. Is that your evidence?

Show me some real evidence that all those deaths were done for the cause of atheism. The truth is it was done for political ideology, not atheism. Ideology, whether religious or political, is what motivates people to commit atrocities.

ingx24 said...

B. Prokop,

I've been wondering about this for a while: Was the "materialism" of Soviet Marxism the same "materialism" that runs rampant in science and philosophy of mind today? I looked it up and couldn't really get a straight answer.

ingx24 said...

I should clarify: What I mean to ask is whether Marxist-Soviet "materialism" is the kind of materialism that says only physical things exist, or if it means something completely different.

Dan Gillson said...

Im-skeptical,

In the case of Bolshevism, I don't think that atheism and communism were ideas separately realized.

im-skeptical said...

"I don't think that atheism and communism were ideas separately realized."

I'm not sure what that means. What I've been trying to say is that atheism is not ANY kind of ideology at all. It's not something people fight or die for. Bolshevism is, and so is Christianity.

Victor Reppert said...

If it were up to me, all the claims and counterclaims on both sides should cancel each other out. What you have to do is go through and figure out what the moral impact of theistic belief and the lack of same is. I don't want a slam dunk on this.

cautiouslycurious said...

Morrison,
“Curious, it is unclear what you are asking.”

I don’t know how simpler I could make it. It’s a very simple type of question. For example, I am in favor of same-sex marriage. So, if someone came up to me and asked me what marriage laws should be or what I would change about them, I would say right away that I think that we should eliminate gender from the criteria for marriage. It doesn’t matter that I am not part of the legislature or the Supreme Court, since that’s not what the question was asking. It was asking what **I** would change or what **I** think they **should** be. So, if this is too complex for you, just say so, it would save both our time. Otherwise, answer the question in your next post.

“I never brought up the justice system,”

I know; I brought it up.

“and I don't know what changes you think I would make as I have no power in the system.”

I explicitly asked what you think they **should** do, not whether you could actually implement said changes.

“My question is more basic...is it wrong to murder, or just call it kill if you prefer, an unborn healthy human? (And the red herrings are not coming from me.)”

You are correct to point out that murder isn’t the correct choice of words since that would assume that it would be unjustified. As for killing, no, I do not think it is always wrong. I think the consideration of the mother (e.g. risk of death, etc.) outweighs the consideration of the fetus. Since those considerations are present in all instances, then abortions are justified in all instances (given the current state of affairs). (And dodging the question by saying you have no power in the system is a red herring)

“Now if you can't answer or are afraid to for some reason, that's fine too.”

Third option: I am testing whether you can have a dialogue. I simply asked you to state your position on how we should deal with these ‘murderers’ and I have yet to get a straightforward response. As such, I’m inclined to say that you aren’t worth my time, but I answered your question just for fun.

“But the basic question needs to be answered before I would go on about the "justice" system.”

So answer it. I hope you know your own position on the subject you are speaking about. I can’t help you out in determining your own position.

im-skeptical said...

"What you have to do is go through and figure out what the moral impact of theistic belief and the lack of same is."

Victor, do you believe Stalin's regime is representative of atheistic morality? Do you believe the many examples of church or religious motivated killing are representative of Christian morality? I doubt it. All those things were motivated by ideological causes. If you want to discuss "the moral impact of theistic belief and the lack of same" why do you bring up these things that that represent neither the majority of Christians nor the majority of atheists?

B. Prokop said...

im-skeptical,

There is a huge difference between crimes committed by self-identified Christians (even those ostensibly done "in the name of" said belief) and crimes committed by atheist Bolshevists (a redundant phrase if there ever was one). That all-important difference is this:

When misguided "Christians", either in past times or at present, commit unquestionably heinous crimes claiming divine sanction for their deeds (e.g., Heinrich Himmler, Oliver Cromwell, George W. Bush), they are nevertheless demonstrably acting contrary to the very faith in whose name they are supposedly acting. The most cursory glance at the fundamental tenets of Christianity shows this to be the case. They stand condemned by the very creed which they profess.

In contrast, when an atheist Bolshevist imprisons, tortures, works to death, starves, and/or just plain murders untold millions of people, he is not acting in any way, shape, or form contrary to his belief system. He has no objective morality before which he stands condemned. Indeed, all is permissible in the name of expediency. The ends justify the means.

ingx24,

You won't get a straight answer from (Soviet) Marxist sources on the materialism issue. They are basically incoherent on this issue. On the one hand, they scream "dialectical materialism", all the while insisting on some mystical significance to the "sacred soil of Mother Russia" and other such quite non-materialist things.

Morrison said...

Curious, you have asked a series of questions is a somewhat confused fashion, but if you are primarily asking what I think we should do with these murderers the answer is...nothing we really can do within the "justice" system, since there are so many of them.

My original question was about whether or not if was wrong to kill, I call it murder, an unborn viable healthy human.

So I think the effort can only be to persuade people that it is wrong...after all, the unborn viable healthy human being has brain waves and can feel pain and will have the same genetic structure at age 21 as it does now.

Obviously you disagree, and if you or someone in this situation thinks it is acceptable to kill you will find a way to do so no matter what the so called justice system says.

Beyond that, I don't think you are really interested in dialog since you keep throwing out insults. If you don't think it is worth your time, though, why bother?

No need to get upset.

We simply disagree.

Time will tell who is right.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

I keep hearing from people like you that atheists don't have any system of morals - "all is permissible in the name of expediency". It isn't true, no matter how many times you say it. It is YOUR philosophical belief that leads you to that false conclusion, and it's wrong. How many times have you heard an atheist tell you "I have no morals"? You need to recognize that most people have morals whether they believe in god or not. That's the reality of which you seem to be oblivious. Morals DON'T come from your god. They are part of human nature.

Morrison said...

As to the discussion of Atheistic Bolshevist Murderers, if one wants to argue that the killers weren't killing "because" of atheism we can only hope that the victims derived some comfort from that.

In their last moments they could at least think "at least these atheists aren't killing me Because of atheism."

Face it though, people who want to kill..whether it is the unborn human they want to kill, the criminal, the political opponent or simply grandma to get her money...will find an excuse to do so.

They forget that they will someday be held accountable.

Dan Gillson said...

Im-skeptical,

I meant that for Bolsheviks, communism and atheism logically implied one another.

Morrison said...

Skeptical, whatever "morals" you claim they sure don't come from atheism.

No action, whether it is helping an old person across the street, or giving money to a bum or pushing them both in front of a bus is inconsistent with being an atheist.

ingx24 said...

B. Prokop,

What exactly is "dialectical materialism"? Does it have anything to do with scientific materialism (i.e. the belief that only physical things exist)? I honestly can't tell based on what I know about it - I can't tell if the "materialism" in "dialectical materialism" is referring to only material things existing or to the importance of material goods to history or whatever.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

Of course we know that atheism does not in any way imply Bolshevism. if they thought it did for them, it was because of their ideology. That would also explain why Victor and Bob want to pin their deeds on all atheists.

B. Prokop said...

"They [morals] are part of human nature."

Of course they are!!!

Then god said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness... So God created man in his own image, male and female he created them." (from the First Chapter of Genesis)

If the atheist has morals (as well he should), it is because he can't escape his inwardmost, fundamental nature simply by denying it. The handiwork of his Creator, to include a knowledge of objective morality (a facet of being in the image of God), remains.

im-skeptical said...

Morrison,

I didn't say that morals come from atheism. They don't. They come from being human.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

"all is permissible in the name of expediency"

or

"If the atheist has morals (as well he should), it is because he can't escape his inwardmost, fundamental nature simply by denying it."

Do you believe one of those or both of those, or neither? You aren't being consistent.

Morrison said...

Skeptical, what do you mean by "human"?

im-skeptical said...

"Skeptical, what do you mean by "human"?"

I mean the animal that evolved from apes called homo sapiens that has a higher level of cognitive function than any other animal species.

Samwell Barnes said...

On atheism, the difference between a "moral" person and an "immoral" person is completely reducible to a difference in brain chemistry. On atheism, human beings are bio-robots. There are those that are genetically programmed "badly," those that are programmed "well," and those whose "socially favorable" biomolecular substrates deteriorate over the course of time, for whatever reason. Whatever the case, a given causal brain state is generated exclusively from the interplay of inner biophysical churnings and external environmental forces. None of this molecular bump n' grind is under the control of the individual. No individual gets to choose his brain chemistry.

Atheists like Dawkins, Harris, and Coyne agree on the bio-bot bit, but lack both the courage and honesty to think their way to the end of a few simple syllogisms: Atheism hollows out the world. It is metaphysically impoverished. It allows for no coherent system of moral values and duties.

im-skeptical said...

Samwell Barnes,

You are confused. Atheism is not a metaphysical system or a philosophy. It does not imply any kind of beliefs but a lack of belief in gods. As Ben would say, "Would it kill you to learn a little philosophy?"

ingx24 said...

Atheists say that atheism is just not believing in gods, but then they suddenly start using atheism and materialism interchangeably - as if they were the same thing, or as if atheism logically entailed materialism. The way atheists use the word "atheist", it most certainly does not just mean "not believing in gods". Atheism has now become almost synonymous with materialism, to the point where no one can even tell the difference anymore.

Hooray for black and white thinking!

im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

We went over this before.

"as if atheism logically entailed materialism."

No, but materialism does imply atheism. They are not interchangeable. If you are an atheist, you might still believe in ghosts or immaterial minds(and you wouldn't be a materialist), but if you are a materialist, you don't believe in ghosts or gods.

Victor Reppert said...

Soviet communism is not typical of atheist morality, unless you add to it the belief in the secular paradise. If you do, then you really do open the door for crimes against humanity.

im-skeptical said...

Victor,

I never heard the term 'secular paradise' before, but if I think about what that might be, I'd say that it wouldn't involve any kind of Bolshevik society. It might just be a world free from the shackles of religion and superstition. Without despots like the Taliban ruling the lives of millions and idiots like Michelle Bachmann trying to run our country.

Samwell Barnes said...

im-skeptical,

"Atheism is not a metaphysical system or a philosophy."

Never referred to it as a "system." Just said that it was inhospitable to coherent moral systems. I don't know what you mean by "philosophy" in this context, but atheism is most certainly a philosophical position. It is a metaphysical worldview. It is a positive claim about the nature of reality. On what grounds do I say this? Here:


"‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God." - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2004

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/

(This is a scholarly reference, by the way, and so constitutes some of that "evidence" your "skeptical" lot is constantly harping on about.)

To deny is not the same as to disbelieve. It goes beyond that. It is to believe the negation, and hence atheism is the metaphysical belief that there is no God. Not merely some "lack of belief" that needs no defending.


Some more encyclopaedic definitions, in case you're not convinced, and in light of which I find sufficient justification in continuing to adhere to my understanding of the term "atheism":

"Atheism, from the Greek a-theos ("no-god"), is the philosophical position that God doesn't exist." - Academic American Encyclopedia

"Atheism (from the Greek a-, not, and theos, god) is the view that there are no gods. A widely used sense denotes merely not believing in God and is consistent with agnosticism. A stricter sense denotes a belief that there is no God, the use has become the standard one." - Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 1995

"Atheism is the doctrine that there is no God. Some atheists support this claim by arguments, but these arguments are usually directed against the Christian concept of God, and are largely irrelevant to other possible gods." - Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 1995

"Atheism (Greek, a- [private prefix] + theos, god) is the view that there is no divine being, no God." - Dictionary of Philosophy, Thomas Mautner, 1996

"Atheism is the belief that God doesn't exist." - The World Book Encyclopedia, 1991

"Atheism, Greek atheos - Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of God." - Oxford English Dictionary, 1989

"Atheism, commonly speaking, is the denial of God. Theism (from the Greek theos, God) is belief in or conceptualization of God, atheism is the rejection of such belief or conceptualization." - Encyclopedia Americana, 1990

"Atheism is the doctrine that God does not exist, that belief in the existence of God is a false belief. The word God here refers to a divine being regarded as the independent creator of the world, a being superlatively powerful, wise and good." - Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987

"According to the most usual definition, an atheist is a person who maintains that there is no god..." - The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1967

"Atheism (Greek and Roman): Atheism is a dogmatic creed, consisting in the denial of every kind of supernatural power." - Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol II

"Atheism denies the existence of deity." - Funk and Wagnall's New Encyclopedia, Vol I





You can see, then, why a rational person has no need to accept the modern "lack of belief" bastardization of atheism.




"It does not imply any kind of beliefs but a lack of belief in gods."


Absolutely, categorically wrong, as I've amply shown above by citing encyclopaedic definitions of the term - mostly from philosophical encyclopedias - and by not peddling definitions from wikipedia, dictionary.com, reddit, Coyne's blog, or some popular-level, anti-religious screed a la The God Delusion.

Samwell Barnes said...

As Ben would say, "Would it kill you to learn a little philosophy?"

Just a little? Then yes. With philosophy, you need to drink deep, or else the result is almost always a higher level of self-indulgent sophistry.

But if you're accusing me of philosophical ignorance, then - to put it gently - I don't want to hear this from someone who can't even properly define atheism.

Not to mention that Ben would likely direct said line at you, not me.

Mark Frank said...

B. Prokop is partly right that there is a huge difference between crimes committed by self-identified Christians and crimes committed by atheist Bolshevists. I would go a bit further and say there is potentially a huge difference between crimes committed by theists and crimes committed by atheists in general.

The difference is that theism sometimes (not always) gives people a justification and reason for committing a crime. Atheism at most can remove a reason for not committing a crime. It can never be a reason for doing something.

Of course, the other side of this is that religion often gives people reasons for doing tremendous good and atheism provides no reason for doing good either (This, to my mind, is much a stronger response to accusations such as Paplington's than saying atheists are just as bad).

It is no answer to say that Christians (or whatever) are acting against the principles of their own belief when they do harm. The fact is that theists of all sorts have interpreted their religion in all sorts of ways and used it to justify all sorts of good and harm. There is no way in practice (and probably in theory) of deciding what is the true interpretation.

The atheist must get their morality from somewhere else - and some got it from very unfortunate sources. They have found other overriding principles that justify all sorts of horrors. But these were not atheist principles - they were communist principles. Stalin did not starve the Kulaks because his atheism told him it was the right thing to do, nor did he do it because of their religious beliefs.





Ilíon said...

Hypocritical Leftist: "Stop being a fool, "im-skeptical"."

What a petty, amd disgusting, hypocrite.

Ilíon said...

Dan Gillson: "This is how this conversation goes:

Atheist: "The Christian religion has done terrible, terrible things."

Christian: "Well, tu quoque!"
"

Misrepresent much?

It is not tu quoque to point out that doing moral evil is equally as compatible with atheism as doing moral good (for, under atheism, the terms 'good' and 'evil' are meaningless) -- and that, given human nature, wicked deeds are more likely to be done that good deeds.

Ilíon said...

ingx24: "Atheists say that atheism is just not believing in gods, but then they suddenly start using atheism and materialism interchangeably - as if they were the same thing, or as if atheism logically entailed materialism. The way atheists use the word "atheist", it most certainly does not just mean "not believing in gods". Atheism has now become almost synonymous with materialism, to the point where no one can even tell the difference anymore."

Western-style atheism has always been synonymous with materialism -- even 2500 years ago, long before western-style atheists were revolting against Judeao-Christianity, western-style atheism was synonymous with materialism.

ingx24: "Hooray for black and white thinking!"

Indeed! For the world happens to be "black and white" -- all those pretty shades of grey that everyone is always cooing about are just unresolved black and white.

Ilíon said...

VR: "Soviet communism is not typical of atheist morality, ..."

There is no such thing as atheistic morality of which communism can be either typical or non-typical.

VR: "... unless you add to it the belief in the secular paradise. If you do, then you really do open the door for crimes against humanity."

But the secular paradise is the eschatological promise of communism.

B. Prokop said...

"Do you believe one of those or both of those, or neither? You aren't being consistent."

Answer: both. And it is not me that is being inconsistent- it is the atheist. His inconsistency compels one to make both statements when talking about such an incoherent belief system.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

Hi folks. I have just returned from Sydney, having gone up for the weekend to see the Ballet, Don Quixote, performed at the Sydney Opera House. See HERE. Fantastic show, great weekend.

Now to the OP:
Victor comments and asks: "Papalinton brings up the actions of Christians in Africa who harm children accused of being witches.
Why is this any different from bringing up the crimes of communists, and the persecution of religious believers in Communist countries.
You can't have it both ways. If these horrible actions by Christians counts against Christianity, then the crimes of atheistic communists counts against atheism. "

Couple of things:
1. What is happening today, in the 21st C CE in Africa is being done under the auspices of Christianity, and within the sanctity of the 28,000 [IIRC from the current affairs video] houses of god across the capital, Kinshasa alone. They use the Bible as the exclusive direct and authoritative text for the identifying, sentencing and prosecuting of witches according to Christian edict.

2. Just as horrible actions by Christians count against Christianity so too do the horrible crimes count against Communism. There is no argument. Every atheist who also subscribes to freedom and democracy, of which I am one, rage against, speak out against, denounce, and completely condemn crimes committed by communists and communism. Of that there is no doubt. So I'm not sure where Dr Reppert is getting his information from, that atheism=communism, that atheism is synonymous with communism. I suspect it is part of the tried and tested Apologetical strategy of attempting to deflect and sidetrack the terrible atrocities done under the aegis of Christianity in Nigeria, perpetrated under God's watch as we speak. But then what else would we have expected? I also suspect he has never read about Christian Communism that is alive and well, particularly in South America, prominently through the promulgation of Liberation Theology. See HERE.

3. It is with great irony to note that as Communism collapsed, the vacuum was filled with the return of the Russian Orthodox Church. So it seems Communism was already dead at birth even if it took 70 years for it to abort. And also with risible interest that the recently elected President of Russia, Putin, was a died-in-the-wool and chief communist apparatchik in the KGB, only to emerge with a bare chest with a big fat crucifix conspicuously dangling around his neck. It seems the dark evil world of the KGB and Christianity aren't as strange bed-fellows as we are deceived to believe, with Putin capable of performing a miracle in the effortless segue from chief communist spook to Christian champion.

4. As Margaret Knight, famed British psychologist so astutely observed:

"The fundamental opposition is between dogma and the scientific outlook. On the one side, Christianity and Communism, the two great rival dogmatic systems; on the other Scientific Humanism."

I think these four points are far closer and a more accurate characterization than that which Dr Reppert imprudently offers.

B. Prokop said...

Damn, I'm good! I saw the "Comment Deleted" pop up, and said to myself, "Watch, Papalinton's going to show up within the next 5 minutes." And what happens? There he is!

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton is actually (half) right!

Atheism=communism is indeed a false statement.

However, communism=atheism is a true one.

Communism is a subset of atheism. Ayn Randianism is another.

Papalinton said...

Yeah, Bob

I should read my comment's a little closer than I do. Too many spelling and grammar errors to leave as is. Victor won't enable the edit function.

Papalinton said...

Yeah, Bob

I should read my comment's a little closer than I do. Too many spelling and grammar errors to leave as is. Victor won't enable the edit function.

Papalinton said...

"However, communism=atheism is a true one."

No. Only to the apologist.

Papalinton said...

David Marshall
"Christianity ended huge amounts of persecution of in African based on belief in sorcery. These are survivals, not things introduced to Africa by the Gospel. Atheists who make this argument just don't know much about Africa."

This is tripe and you know it. Yes belief in sorcery was and remains endemic in African societies. But the great tragedy is where it was once a function of shamanic practices, it has now been fully and completely transferred to the Christian memeplex, particularly to the large swathes throughout the OT and in the NT related to witches.

You see, the effortless nature of the shift of sorcery and witchery from traditional religions to the Christian religion is purely because they share a common lineage and heritage, they are progeny of the continuous and unbroken rituals of both ancient and primitive credulous belief in and reverence for [putative] supernatural agents and superstition. The Christian religion, in an undeveloped country, is both an enabler and perpetrator of atrocities, justified by scripture, that have been largely expunged by the secular nature of the modern rule of law. No self-respecting society would ever tolerate let alone entertain the Christian religious practices and activities that are the scourge of most underdeveloped nations in Africa.

Here is a timely reminder of Christian activism on homosexuality in Uganda. See HERE.

Papalinton said...

"As a professional Soviet analyst, fluent in Russian, having worked as such for the Department of Defense for 34 years (1975-2009), having read countless books and other source material in the original language, and author of numerous studies on the subject (unfortunately and insanely still classified and inaccessible even to me, the author now that I've retired), I can assure you that Soviet communism (I am not speaking of other varieties) did indeed explicitly arise out of a militant atheism. It did so at its founding and continued in that vein up to the day of its collapse (with the sole, pragmatic exception of the war years, when Stalin cynically dropped his objections to religion "for the duration")."

This is the: My dick's bigger than your dick! maneuver.
You know what an 'expert' is, don't? An 'ex' is a has-been and a 'spurt' is a drip under pressure.

Sheesh!

Papalinton said...

Victor
"What you have to do is go through and figure out what the moral impact of theistic belief and the lack of same is."

Tell me about the moral impact of that which is happening right now, in Nigeria and Uganda and other places in Africa under the name of Christianity, particularly the issues of homosexuality and child witches? Would love to hear how an apologist rationalizes the current circumstances.

Papalinton said...

im-skeptical says: "Samwell Barnes,
You are confused. Atheism is not a metaphysical system or a philosophy. It does not imply any kind of beliefs but a lack of belief in gods. As Ben would say, "Would it kill you to learn a little philosophy?""


No, not confused. Deluded.

"On atheism, the difference between a "moral" person and an "immoral" person is completely reducible to a difference in brain chemistry. On atheism, human beings are bio-robots. There are those that are genetically programmed "badly," those that are programmed "well," and those whose "socially favorable" biomolecular substrates deteriorate over the course of time, for whatever reason. Whatever the case, a given causal brain state is generated exclusively from the interplay of inner biophysical churnings and external environmental forces. None of this molecular bump n' grind is under the control of the individual. No individual gets to choose his brain chemistry."

It has all the hallmarks of a CS Lewis fantasy, not dissimilar to the best of his contribution to fiction writing, 'Mere Christianity'.

Papalinton said...

Mark Frank
"It is no answer to say that Christians (or whatever) are acting against the principles of their own belief when they do harm. The fact is that theists of all sorts have interpreted their religion in all sorts of ways and used it to justify all sorts of good and harm. There is no way in practice (and probably in theory) of deciding what is the true interpretation."

As Morris R Cohen, professor of philosophy and law at City College of New York and University of Chicago, noted:

"If religion cannot restrain evil, it cannot claim effective power for good."

Papalinton said...

Samwell Barnes
"Never referred to it [atheism] as a "system." Just said that it was inhospitable to coherent moral systems."

Not according to research and surveys. Here is one article: See HERE.



Samwell Barnes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samwell Barnes said...

"Not according to research and surveys."

"Research and surveys" cannot settle metaphysical issues. What a massive category error.


"No, not confused. Deluded."

So I'm deluded for sticking to encyclopedic definitions of "atheism"? Welcome to the wacky world of Papalinton!



"It has all the hallmarks of a CS Lewis fantasy"


This is actually a compliment of the highest order.

But if I'm deluded, then I'd like to see you also concede that Dawkins, Harris, and Coyne are deluded as well, since they agree with practically everything I said about human beings being biomolecular robots unraveling in accordance with the laws of physics. A hell of a lot of neuroscientists also believe the same thing. They just stop short of the immediate conclusion: Morality is incoherent in a world of robots. Of course, I'm not holding my breath: I don't expect philosophical consistency from a pitiable individual who mistakes using a thesaurus and throwing out links unscrupulously with making an actual argument.

Hal said...

"If the atheist has morals (as well he should), it is because he can't escape his inwardmost, fundamental nature simply by denying it. The handiwork of his Creator, to include a knowledge of objective morality (a facet of being in the image of God), remains,"

Atheism is not a lack of belief in morality. It is a lack of belief in a god or gods.


im-skeptical said...

Samwell Barnes,

I repeat, you are wrong. Atheism doesn't imply any kind of metaphysical beliefs, except that it excludes those that include gods. Atheists hold a variety of different metaphysical beliefs. There may be metaphysical or philosophical positions that include atheism, but atheism in its own right is not a philosophy.

Materialism is a metaphysical belief system, and it includes atheism. All those things you said about brain chemistry relate to materialism, not atheism. Of course, like many uninformed Christians, you come to the wrong conclusions about them.

You are also uninformed about Dawkins, Harris, and Coyne. They all believe there IS morality in a materialistic world. Harris even wrote a book about it. You would be better off refraining from telling people what they believe, especially if you are so ignorant of what it is.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

"Communism is a subset of atheism. Ayn Randianism is another."

That's a very strange way of saying that some atheists have beliefs that are very different from most atheists. Rand and communists are complete opposites in most of what they believe, except that they share a non-belief in god. Many right-wing Christians think Rand is wonderful. (Or like Paul Ryan, used to think so until he found out she was an atheist.)

You can say similar things about theists. Some of them are downright whacky, including these folks in Africa who blame all kinds of problems on child witches. Would you say their strange belief systems are subsets of theism? I don't think so. A reasonable person might describe them as 'outliers'.

B. Prokop said...

"Atheism is not a lack of belief in morality. It is a lack of belief in a god or gods."

Hal, you've just repeated what I wrote (yesterday at 7:30 PM), albeit in different words.

Interesting, by contesting Samwell's statement, "it [atheism] was inhospitable to coherent moral systems," Papalinton is also in agreement with what I wrote.

B. Prokop said...

"Would you say their strange belief systems are subsets of theism?"

Yes, I would. However, I do not describe myself, nor do I consider myself to be, a "theist" (which means way too many contradictory things) - I am a Catholic Christian (which makes where I stand crystal clear).

Hal said...

Bob,
"Hal, you've just repeated what I wrote (yesterday at 7:30 PM), albeit in different words."

Thanks for pointing that out. I grow so weary of the nonsense spouted that atheism entails immorality.

Samwell Barnes said...



"I repeat, you are wrong. Atheism doesn't imply any kind of metaphysical beliefs, except that it excludes those that include gods."

Sorry dude, but when it comes to the proper definition of basic philosophical terminology I'm going to believe philosophical encyclopedias over you. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the encyclopedias, not me. I cannot believe that encyclopedic definition is being disputed.


Atheism is the philosophical view that, for all entities X that constitute reality, there is no entity X such that X = God, where God is minimally the God of theism. It is a universally quantified, metaphysical belief, just as theism is the universally quantified, metaphysical belief that for all entities X that compose reality, there is an entity X such that X = God. Atheism is the negation of theism.


"Atheists hold a variety of different metaphysical beliefs."

When did I ever deny that there are different flavors of atheism? Stop reading your fantasies into my posts.


"Materialism is a metaphysical belief system, and it includes atheism. All those things you said about brain chemistry relate to materialism, not atheism."

I didn't address this point in my previous response to you, because it wasn't part of your previous reply.

Theoretically, there doesn't appear to be any immediate contradiction in believing that God does not exist while believing in numbers, universals, irreducible mental properties such as intentionality, and so on. But practically and historically speaking, in concrete social reality, atheism has been and is essentially materialism. This is the atheism I was referring to.

(*BTW, with regards to the human sphere, human beings being bio-robots is perfectly compatible with the mental being irreducible to the nonmental, numbers and universals existing, etc.)


"There may be metaphysical or philosophical positions that include atheism, but atheism in its own right is not a philosophy."


If by "philosophy" you mean philosophical system, then yes, you are right. Atheism is just one statement - it cannot be sensibly conceived of as a system. But it's nevertheless a philosophical, specifically metaphysical, position. Again, if you have a problem with this, take it up with the theistic, agnostic, and atheistic philosophers who write the encyclopedias, not me.




"Of course, like many uninformed Christians, you come to the wrong conclusions about them."


So says the person who can't even define atheism.



"You are also uninformed about Dawkins, Harris, and Coyne. They all believe there IS morality in a materialistic world. Harris even wrote a book about it."

So on top of being philosophically challenged, you're visually challenged as well. Or you have a short attention span. I specifically said, to both you and Linton, that they don't reach my conclusion regarding morality, and I was not vague about it. What I did say was that they agree on human beings having no free will - that we're essentially bio-robots.


"You would be better off refraining from telling people what they believe, especially if you are so ignorant of what it is."

This is getting unsightly.

Is there anything truly and honestly "skeptical" about you, "im-skeptical"?

You disregard encyclopedic definitions and present event the simplest claims of your opponents with horrific inaccuracy. This cannot be the modus operandi of someone who cares about truth.

B. Prokop said...

You're halfway there, Hal. Atheism per se entails neither morality nor immorality. But, if you are honest with yourself, it very much entails amorality.

I meant what I said. Any morality an atheist espouses is in spite of his worldview, not because of it.

But when someone protests that he knows many good and upstanding atheists, I must say what I posted above, that of course he does. God's morality is imprinted within all of our inmost natures - even those of non-believers. One cannot nullify this basic fact simply by denying it. The atheist who lives a moral life is still listening to God's inner voice within himself, whether he acknowledges the source of that voice or not.

im-skeptical said...

" “Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist." We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.”"
- Sam Harris

"Atheism is not an "Ism":
When people talk about "isms," they are referring to some "distinctive doctrine, theory, system, or practice" like liberalism, communism, conservatism, or pacifism. Atheism has the suffix "ism," so it belongs in this group, right? Wrong: the suffix "ism" also means a "state, condition, attribute, or quality" like pauperism, astigmatism, heroism, anachronism, or metabolism. Is astigmatism a theory? Is metabolism a doctrine? Is anachronism a practice? Not every word that ends in "ism" is a system of beliefs or an "ism" in the way people usually mean it. Failure to realize this can be behind other errors here."
- atheism.about.com

"Atheism is just one statement - it cannot be sensibly conceived of as a system."
- Samwell Barnes

"Well, in an atheistic world there is no moral right or wrong, since human beings are then fundamentally a collection of particles unraveling according to the laws of physics and are hence more accurately characterized as bio-robots. (Even Dawkins and Coyne accept that human beings are fundamentally bio-robots.)"
- The other Samwell Barnes

Hal said...

Bob,
"You're halfway there, Hal. Atheism per se entails neither morality nor immorality. But, if you are honest with yourself, it very much entails amorality."

What do you mean by "it very much entails amorality"?

If you mean by that statement that one's being an atheist says nothing about their moral system, then I would agree with you.

im-skeptical said...

Hal,

Bob seems to be saying that atheists can have no morality of their own - only the morality that God gives them, even if they don't think it comes from any god. In that sense, they are amoral, because without that they would have no morals at all. Of course, he's wrong.

"In the beginning, man created God. And in the image of man created he him."

The "objective morality" that Bob speaks of is as well defined as the shape of an amoeba. Go ahead and ask him to spell out those moral values so we can all see them and agree that they are indeed what God has decreed. Then ask him why there are so many different versions of "objective morality".

B. Prokop said...

Hal,

By that statement, I mean (as C.S. Lewis explained far better than I can in his book The Abolition of Man) that atheism, when thought about consistently, logically, and thoroughly, demolishes the concept of "objective morality". The best you can say is "I believe this, but I have no means of justifying that belief".

This in no way implies that atheists are necessarily immoral persons (for the reasons I mentioned in previous postings). It would, in fact, be an argument against a key Christian doctrine if they were.

Ilíon said...

You can't reason with people who will not reason. You can't reason with people who will say 'A' and 'not-A' simultaneously. You can't reason with people who will turn 'A' into 'not-A' or into 'B' through 'Z'.

Dan Gillson said...

... And that's why people don't talk to you, Ilíon!

Ilíon said...

^^ The people who "don't talk" to me -- even to tell the world that they "don't talk" to me -- are almost always the sort with whom it is logically impossible to reason.

im-skeptical said...

" The people who "don't talk" to me -- even to tell the world that they "don't talk" to me -- are almost always the sort with whom it is logically impossible to reason."

Hmm. That would be just about everybody.

Dan Gillson said...

You carry such a burden Ilíon. You're always sooooo logical, and you nobly try sooooo hard to get us to see reason, but we never do.

Dan Gillson said...

Anyways, the conversation between Bob, Hal, and im-skeptical has given me reason to revisit John McDowell's essay, "Singular Thought and the Extent of Inner Space." It has inspired the following thought within me: why do we call into question each other's possession of the world when we call into question each other's beliefs about it?

Ilíon said...

"Hmm. That would be just about everybody."

You're saying that most people choose to behave in ways that makes it logically impossible to reason with them.

Ilíon said...

Indeed, I am so logical (and you are so anti-logical). But being logical is not a burden.

im-skeptical said...

For YOU to reason with them.

Dan Gillson said...

Being logical may not be a burden, but being so noble surely is. That's, after all, what leads you to contend over and over again with us poor, anti-logical souls, right?

Mark Frank said...

Bob

atheism, when thought about consistently, logically, and thoroughly, demolishes the concept of "objective morality". The best you can say is "I believe this, but I have no means of justifying that belief".

The thing is that theism when thought about consistently, logically, also demolishes the concept of "objective morality". CS Lewis was a great children's writer but a very mediocre philosopher.

Morality is in the end a matter of opinion. But that does not mean it is trivial, or impossible to give reasons, it is just that those reasons are never definitive or irrefutable. This is true whether you are an atheist or a theist.

Ilíon said...

I've never claimed to be noble.

And I don't contend with fools: I do my best to ignore them.

And not everyone who post here, much less reads this blog, is a fool.

Ilíon said...

Prokop: "... atheism, when thought about consistently, logically, and thoroughly, demolishes the concept of "objective morality". The best you can say is "I believe this, but I have no means of justifying that belief"."

Mark Frank (asserting a core conclusion of God-denial): "Morality is in the end a matter of opinion. But that does not mean it is trivial, or impossible to give reasons, it is just that those reasons are never definitive or irrefutable."

Translation: You're right -- which just proves how wrong you are!

Mark Frank (asserting that sort of self-contradiction which seems to be a core value of atheism): "1) Morality is in the end a matter of opinion [where 'opinion' is being misused in the modern kindergarten sense to mean "Nya-nyaaa! That's just your opinion! My denial of it refutes it!"].
2) But that does not mean it is trivial, or impossible to give reasons, it is just that those reasons are never definitive or irrefutable."

Translation -- Morality isn't even *real*, and no one at all can give any good reasons (other than raw force) for their moral assertions. But, in spite of not even being real, much less defensible, "morality" is very important.

Mark Frank (asserting a core conclusion of God-denial): "... This is true whether you are an atheist or a theist."

Translation -- No one can know anything!

Ilíon said...

As I've said, I don't waste my time trying to reason with those who will not reason.

What I do, when I don't ignore them, is hold them up as "dis-examples"

Hal said...

Dan,
"It has inspired the following thought within me: why do we call into question each other's possession of the world when we call into question each other's beliefs about it?"

That's an interesting question. I only wish I knew what it meant.

Hal said...

Bob,
For me that would be putting the cart before the horse. I simply see no evidence for any sort of God, so I can't use God to try to explain something even if that means I have to admit to ignorance.

I don't have an answer for how humans developed the moral systems they have. However, given the fact that we are social animals relying strongly on each other for survival it does not seem all that incredible to me that such moral systems exist.

I believe too much emphasis has been placed on the importance of competition in the evolutionary process. Seems to me that cooperation has played at least as great, if not greater, role.



B. Prokop said...

" I simply see no evidence for any sort of God"

What sort of evidence are you looking for? And are you actually looking for any?

Hal said...

Bob,

It would have to be empirical.



B. Prokop said...

"It would have to be empirical."

Thank you for answering. It is a most interesting answer.

You might actually agree with my definition of the material universe as everything we can sense, by means of or artificial instrumentation. Therefore, whatever can be verified empirically is part of that physical construct we call the universe (or the cosmos, or maybe even creation).

But when we speak of God, we are referencing not the natural world (i.e., the world of the senses), but the supernatural. Can you not see that by demanding empirical evidence of something outside of the material order, you are contradicting yourself? It is akin to a blind person saying, "I simply see no evidence for the existence of music, because I cannot see it."

The the situation is not as hopeless as my above analogy, because when it comes to the supernatural (to include God Himself), you (and me, and im-skeptical, and even Papalinton) are not blind! As Paul says in Romans, "What can be known about God is plain to [all], because God has shown it to them.
Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." The key phrase here is "God has shown it to them." You'll find plenty of evidence, if you look in the right places (with an open mind).

But just don't walk into a concert hall with a magnifying glass, expecting to discover music. Or don't open a book with a microphone, trying to verify the existence of print. That is the very same disastrous category error people make when they demand "empirical evidence" for the non-material.

B. Prokop said...

Yikes! My second paragraph should have read:

You might actually agree with my definition of the material universe as everything we can sense, by means of our body's sensory organs or artificial instrumentation. Therefore, whatever can be verified empirically is part of that physical construct we call the universe (or the cosmos, or maybe even creation).

I have no idea where those missing words went in my first posting.

Papalinton said...

Not one theist comment on this thread has yet provided a rationale for what Christianity is perpetrating in the name of Jesus Christ, in many countries in Africa at the very instance we debate, now, five minutes ago, last night. Not one has asked of themselves, 'How many children were exorcised in a church, the Lord's sanctified house, last night as we slept in the comfort of our own beds?'

Let's review for a few moments the documentary again to get a sense of the prominence of the Bible and the Christian message as applied to child witches HERE.

Not one theist comment has addressed head-on the dire and dangerous activities being promulgated under the Christian banner in Africa as reported in this documentary. Each theist comment on this site has been an exercise in deflection, obscurantism, diversion, aversion, and even sidetracking. The blame is everywhere but Christianity. The blame for Christian priests performing these exorcisms has been outsourced to other externalities.

Such an attitude has revealed the deeply chronic pathological character of Apologetics that underpins Christian thinking, its abstruse and obfuscatory nature of the Christian memeplex.

An example?
Dr Reppert : "These things were done by Christian theists, but not by Christianity. In the case of Christianity, we have Matthew 18:6, which says
"If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.""


A classic instance of deflection. Little does he understand that such a philosophical position is of itself utterly meaningless. He doesn't yet understand that without Christians there would be no Christianity. Christianity is what Christians do. Whether they do it right or wrong is irrelevant. The question of right and wrong is only a matter of convention and as we know convention is a fluid state that is not immune to change. No amount of philosophical handwringing is going to repair those children who have been deemed witches by Christian priests, the ardent followers of Jesus Christ that are on the ground in Nigeria right now, doing these unspeakable things according to their reading of the Bible and in the name of Jesus Christ.

An example of outsourced externalities of blame?
David Marshall: "These are survivals [sorcery], not things introduced to Africa by the Gospel."
The externality of the source is irrelevant. What is relevant here is that they have been subsumed into Christian praxis and are a central feature of Christian observance in African countries as we speak. Simply to claim that these sorcery practices are not a part of functional Christianity is to deny the obvious and refuse to accept the truth of that which we are witnessing today. Marshall's explanation is a classic example of Christian 'aversion' to accepting the reality as it is being practiced right now. As I noted earlier, a comment from Morris R Cohen, professor of philosophy and law:

"If religion cannot restrain evil, it cannot claim effective power for good."

Is it any wonder why many are seeking more substantive avenues onto which they wish to append their worldview? Dr Reppert is yet to understand that the problem with organised religion is not that it is organised but that it is religion. He has yet to also understand that the problem with religion in the public square is that there are so many religions but only one public square. What afflicts Dr Reppert is symptomatic of that which afflicts Christians more broadly; as James Buchanan, 15th US President stated:

"I have seldom met an intelligent man whose views were not narrowed and distorted by religion."






Papalinton said...

Bob
"The key phrase here is "God has shown it to them."

More germane to the issue, which God? Here is a list to chose from: HERE.

Krishna is under K
Jesus is under J
Ganesha is under G
Baal is under B

HERE. is another list of gods you might wish to peruse. And yes, Jesus, Jehovah, Ganesha, Knishna, all the current and operant illusions can be found in the list.

Victor Reppert said...

Atheists love science, or say they do, but here is an example of how they throw the scientific method out the window when it suits their ideology. How does science isolate a causal factor? It uses a control group without the factor, to see what the difference is. Do we have a comparison of people with and without religion here?

It is like that science denier Richard Dawkins, who ignores scientific evidence concerning the comparative effects of religion and sexual abuse on children.

That's right, you heard it here. I just called Richard Dawkins a science denier.

im-skeptical said...

What example might that be, Victor?

Victor Reppert said...

I was responding to Papalinton's post two posts up.

Papalinton said...

What example might that be, Victor?

im-skeptical said...

Victor,

Here's some comparative information.

http://www.explonential.com/the-stats-religion-vs-iq-crime-poverty/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201103/misinformation-and-facts-about-secularism-and-religion

http://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/religious-belief-and-societal-health/

http://www.nyu.edu/clubs/jpia.club/PDF/Spring2008_Palani.pdf

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

And still skirting the issue of the practical outcomes of Christianity as is conducted in Africa, re child witches.

What makes this so unspeakably distressing is that adults, the supposed responsible authorities in a community, both clergy and parents of the children alike, are depravedly complicit in perpetrating their harmful, illegal, and immoral actions, their grown-up Christian beliefs onto the children, the most defenseless, the most unprotected, the most vulnerable in any society, foisting all the responsibilities for the ills of the family and community onto their innocence, the culpability for which they don't even know they own. They know not why adults are singling them out and persecuting them in this fashion. These poor little minds, yet unformed, still at the very forefront of their lives, yet incomplete, yet to make any sense of the world, their little bodies totally reliant on parents for sustenance and survival, are simply cast adrift in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, through his intermediaries have declared these children witches.

And what does Reppert do? Deflect to Richard Dawkins. A pretty gutless response but not an unforeseeable one when one understands and appreciates the highly problematical and dysfunctional nature of Christian Apologetics and the inherent inertial character of the belief in supernatural superstition. No theist on this site wants to be seen defending what is arguably a most disturbing trend in Christian society and in African churches as we speak. Equally, no theist on this site seems prepared to stand up and accept responsibility for what is being under under the name of Jesus Christ in Africa today. The problem and the issue is externalized to some other amorphous, indeterminable reason. It is far easier to deflect, avert, turn a blind eye, to attack atheists for the problems of African Christianity.

It's all Richard Dawkins fault. Right, Dr Reppert?
I simply think Christians have clearly demonstrated they have no moral or ethical argument to make for Christianity. Just as with morality and ethics, religions did not invent beauty or love or awe, nor kindness, nor hope, nor generosity. These are all human qualities, and religion only appropriated them. [H/T to Dr David Eller].

Hal said...

Bob,
"Can you not see that by demanding empirical evidence of something outside of the material order, you are contradicting yourself?"

I don't see how I am contadicting myself. My standard for evidence is the same for any postulated entity that can interact causally with another entity.

Are you claiming that your God does not interact with other entities in the world?

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

"But just don't walk into a concert hall with a magnifying glass, expecting to discover music. Or don't open a book with a microphone, trying to verify the existence of print. That is the very same disastrous category error people make when they demand "empirical evidence" for the non-material."

That's a strange analogy. You are saying that as we observe the world, we need to use different eyes and ears to properly perceive God's works. I think a better way of saying it might be that we should use a different set of lenses and filters to apply the right shape, color, and tone to the things we perceive. Or we need to interpret our experience of the world the right way. This is what I have called being starry-eyed.

The most obvious problem with this is that just wanting it is not good enough. We have to actually believe it first. No matter how much we may want to change it, the way we interpret our perceptions is determined by what we believe. So it's a catch-22. We need to see in order to believe, but we need to believe in order to see.

But the problem is deeper than that. I've read many stories of people who lost their faith. These are people who were all-in believers. The thing that caused them to start seeing things differently seems to be always the same: reason. They start thinking about some of the things that don't make logical sense, and they begin to have doubts. And the more they think about it, the more doubts they have. These are people who still want to believe, but they eventually decide they can't. The starry-eyed lens has fallen off.

B. Prokop said...

"They start thinking about some of the things that don't make logical sense"

Such as? Just curious.

Ilíon said...

VR: "I was responding to Papalinton's post two posts up."

Might I recomment my method for interacting with Papalinton's posts?

Here's how it works --
1) I access my Hotmail account;
2) I see one, or generally several, notifications of postings by Papalinton;
3) I carefully click the checkbox next to these notifications;
4) then, I click the 'Delete' button.
5) easy peasey!

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

There are many books about them, but one that bothered me from the time I was a child attending Catholic mass was: why does Jesus have to die to save me from my own sins? No matter how hard I try to come up with rational justification, it just doesn't make sense. I am responsible for my own actions, and someone else being punished for them doesn't make me any less guilty. It violates my sense of fairness (my god-given morality at work?). Even as a child, I couldn't accept this.

Ilíon said...

im-skeptical: "... why does Jesus have to die to save me from my own sins?"

The short answer is that if *you* die for your own sins, rather than being saved from death (which is the point, after all), you'd be dead. Perhaps we should say you'd be Dead (rather than small-d 'dead'), because the issue isn't merely the cessation of your biological functions.

You're surely familiar with the saying that "Virtue is its own reward" Similarly with vice -- vice is its own punishment.

In Judeo-Christian thought, one of the ways of expressing the truth that vice is its own punishment is the NT verse "The wages of sin is death". That is, in Judeo-Christian thought, sin and death are inseparable: they are two sides of the same coin.

Christ's death can save us from our sin because, being God *and* man, he is able to become our own sin/death: as the NT puts it, "He became sin for us". When God died, he took our deaths with him into Death. When he rose to Life, he left our deaths dead.

Mark Frank said...

Ilion.

Translation
I am unable or unwilling to understand what you have written so I will write the word translation after your comments and then assert something completely different.

B. Prokop said...

Yes, indeed. Whole libraries of books.

But I suspect (strongly suspect, in fact) that your childhood difficulties with the doctrine of the Redemption were mainly due to an overly simplistic conception of what it was actually about. Also, you need to keep in mind that any single explanation of the Redemption is only one tiny part of a gigantic whole. For myself, I approach the doctrine as a consequence of the (for me) far deeper and more significant doctrine of the Trinity. I look on the Death and Resurrection of Christ as a physical manifestation of the Son's eternal submission to the Father, an "event" (if I can term it as such) larger than creation itself. Such an understanding places the Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection as fundamental to the very nature of reality itself. When we contemplate these things, we come as close as we ever can to grasping "what's it all about".

im-skeptical said...

Bob and Ilion,

Thanks for the responses. The matter is not simple enough for a child to understand, and I'm afraid as an adult, I still don't get it. I know the church has developed all kinds of dogma to explain it, but it still doesn't pass the gut-check. Does it make sense?

"he is able to become our own sin/death"
"a physical manifestation of the Son's eternal submission to the Father"

Those things don't tell me why or how. The explanation doesn't satisfy, unless you are predisposed to accept them.

David B Marshall said...

David B. Marshall:

"Communism, by contrast, did in fact grow out of virulent atheism, and was based on atheist premises. Again, I recommend a book, or rather dissertation: Aikman, Atheism in the Marxist Tradition."

Hal: "Really? Can you point to some actual books written by reputable historians that substantiate that claim?"

Aikman is a reputable historian. His supervisor was Dr. Donald Treadgold, head of the history department at the University of Washington and founding editor of the Slavic Review. I'm an historian, too, and showed Dr. Treadgold my own similiar analysis, with which he expressed agreement.

But I've been challenged on this point before: "Name just one historian!" I named nine or so in response, and of course that didn't make the slightest difference with the pig-headed skeptic I was talking with. Anyway, Aikman's work is chock full of solid evidence. You can't dream it away.

David B Marshall said...

IM Skeptical: "Marshal's false assertions are debunked here in an article that includes actual quotes on the matter from Lenin himself."

Don't make me laugh. You cite Ken Foshee (Arizona Atheist) quote-mining "actual quotes from Lenin himself" to prove your point? You don't think we've read Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, in the latter three cases (for me) in their own languages? Treadgold had some 22 thick volumes of Lenin in Russian on his shelf. I asked him how many he'd read: "Every word," he replied, as I recall.

Sorry, but Ken knows nothing about the subject, and is engaged in simplistic sophistry and little more.

And my name is Marshall.

David B Marshall said...

Papalinton: "This is tripe and you know it. Yes belief in sorcery was and remains endemic in African societies. But the great tragedy is where it was once a function of shamanic practices, it has now been fully and completely transferred to the Christian memeplex, particularly to the large swathes throughout the OT and in the NT related to witches."

Baloney. Here, from a scholar who has worked in Nigeria for decades, in response to my inquiry:

2. "Children suspected to be witches are frequently taken to pastors for deliverance. The great majority of pastors will pray for the child, perhaps anoint him or her with oil and use or recommend the use of fasting and prayer and meditation and other spiritual tools to deliver the child from this witchcraft spirit. This is certainly common in Pentecostal churches but is not limited to Pentecostal churches. Many pastors perform this ministry freely but some experts have fees that they charge for their services.

3. "The people that you are referring to--the abusers of children are probably a very tiny minority--perhaps the same percentage of pastors who abuse children in America. Yes, they are there but there are not nearly as many as the western press might imply. These people are abusers and law breakers, just like Catholic priests who have abused children are abusers and lawbreakers. Some of these abusers are genuinely ignorant and because they are not far removed from the traditional religions, they use traditional means to "deliver" these children, including beating, burning and torturing the children in other ways to drive out the demons. Of course, some of the people who do these things are simply charlatans who are doing these things to get money.

4. "Are the Christian pastors and leaders concerned about this? Yes, I think that as pastors and others become aware of these abuses, they are speaking out against these things. Perhaps the majority are not as aggressive in speaking out as we might wish but I would not accuse the church of complacency on this issue."

But read Slessor, and you can see how Christianity saved generations from this sort of abuse. As I said, this is a survival. The Gospel is the hope of Africa, as it is the hope of the world.

David B Marshall said...

But honestly, PapaLinton's obscene, disgusting, and stupid response to Prokop's description of his expertise in Soviet studies, merits his posts being forthwith ignored and / or deleted, IMO.

It isn't about dicks, Linton. It's about brains. Try not to confuse the two.

im-skeptical said...

Marshall,

"Aikman is a reputable historian."

Maybe so, but he is unquestionably a religious zealot, and his bias shows. He calls atheism a "theology", and wrongly asserts that this was the basis for the atrocities of the regime. There simply isn't evidence for that. He also published "A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush". Talk about having stars in your eyes. Is it any surprise he would make his conclusions about communism growing out of virulent atheism (as if there were such a thing)?

Hal said...

im-skeptical,

I'm rather unimpressed by Aikman's publication history also.

Since Mr. Marshall was reluctant to refer me to some other works, I did some searching and found this Marx biography which looks very good.

WMF said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

im-skeptical said...

Hal,

Sperber is clearly more of a real historian than Aiken. It looks like a book that is worth reading.

WMF,

Thanks for calling out Marshall.

"It isn't about dicks, Linton. It's about brains. Try not to confuse the two."

Dan Gillson said...

Look everyone: Karl Grant, who so happens to be a highly esteemed combox umpire, already named me the thread winner about thirty comments in, so I don't know why you're all continuing on as though you my victory counts for nothing.

I DEMAND RECOGNITION.

Samwell Barnes said...

>>" “Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist." We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.”"
- Sam Harris

"Atheism is not an "Ism":
When people talk about "isms," they are referring to some "distinctive doctrine, theory, system, or practice" like liberalism, communism, conservatism, or pacifism. Atheism has the suffix "ism," so it belongs in this group, right? Wrong: the suffix "ism" also means a "state, condition, attribute, or quality" like pauperism, astigmatism, heroism, anachronism, or metabolism. Is astigmatism a theory? Is metabolism a doctrine? Is anachronism a practice? Not every word that ends in "ism" is a system of beliefs or an "ism" in the way people usually mean it. Failure to realize this can be behind other errors here."
- atheism.about.com



Okay.

If these were technical, encyclopedic, scholarly references, I would take them more seriously. But they're not. One is from an unscholarly book aimed at a popular audience, and the other is from an online article written by a philosophical layman. They're not authoritative voices.

Let me spell it out for you: "When it comes to the official meaning of a given term, scholarly encyclopedic references trump pop references." When it comes to finding the meaning of "Alzheimers," for example, I would place infinitely more weight in a neuroanatomy textbook written by a Johns Hopkins MD PhD than I would in dictionary.com, and if the two definitions conflict, any sensible person will go with the former definition. Likewise, as atheism and theism are philosophical terms, professional philosophers have the final say as to what they mean. And historically and presently, they are explicitly on my side with regards to atheism. Your silence on this point has been deafening.

Let me spell something else out for you: If those scholarly, encyclopedic definitions I cited do not characterize anything about your inner mental life, then you are simply not an atheist, and should not label yourself such, anymore than I can coherently be called and should call myself a vegetarian if I were to live off a diet of grilled burgers smothered with bacon and chipotle sauce.

The "-ism" determines the "-ist," not the other way around.


Samwell Barnes said...


>>"Atheism is just one statement - it cannot be sensibly conceived of as a system."
- Samwell Barnes

"Well, in an atheistic world there is no moral right or wrong, since human beings are then fundamentally a collection of particles unraveling according to the laws of physics and are hence more accurately characterized as bio-robots. (Even Dawkins and Coyne accept that human beings are fundamentally bio-robots.)"
- The other Samwell Barnes



Ha oh golly. The "other" Samwell. After I called you out for misrepresenting me, what do you immediately engage in? Gross misrepresentation. Did your entire cognitive capacity evaporate when I said, "Theoretically, there doesn't appear to be any immediate contradiction in believing that God does not exist while believing in numbers, universals, irreducible mental properties such as intentionality, and so on. But practically and historically speaking, in concrete social reality, atheism has been and is essentially materialism. This is the atheism I was referring to."

That you cannot distinguish atheism-in-theory from atheism-as-it-is-in-current-social-reality would normally be astonishing, but since you can't even define the atheism-in-theory part correctly, I guess it's not.

Until and unless you get that initial theoretical definition right, you'll remain pathetically confused on this issue, and I'll not waste any further time with you. In fact, I'm astonished that trolls like you and Linton are still given the time of day.

BeingItself said...

im-skeptical,

That's a great bit about "ism" from atheism.about.com

Papalinton said...

David Marshall
"Here, from a scholar who has worked in Nigeria for decades, in response to my inquiry: ..."

Is this scholar a Christian? Does he/she have a name? How does this anonymous scholar's account reconcile with the multifaceted perspective of the documentary that featured various reports from CNN, ABC, Al Jazeera, BBC, etc? Do you think there is a global media conspiracy against Christianity evident in the report?

"But honestly, PapaLinton's obscene, disgusting, and stupid response to Prokop's description of his expertise in Soviet studies, merits his posts being forthwith ignored and / or deleted, IMO.
It isn't about dicks, Linton. It's about brains. Try not to confuse the two."


Trotting out one's own credentials as if possessing authoritative provenance is not and has never been accepted source of substantive value or worth. It is symptomatic of 'big dick' syndrome, with about the same level of authority as that embedded in the ubiquitous, 'because I say so'.

David, I also noted at the OCMS site an endorsement blurb from a former student:

""The staff and scholars at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies have been an academic family. Thank you all. The community at OCMS provided an atmosphere of discussion and integration, which in hindsight was central to the shaping of the dissertation. It has been my experience at OCMS that the conversations with staff and church leaders from all over the world has brought about the catholicity we celebrate at the table of the Lord. In them mercy and justice meet; to sit at the table and to have one's voice heard is mercy, to be challenged is justice."

US Ph.D graduate"

HERE.

Is that you by any chance?

Samwell Barnes said...

Yup, it is a great bit. What's more, the form is universally applicable:

**When people talk about "isms," they are referring to some "distinctive doctrine, theory, system, or practice" like liberalism, communism, conservatism, or pacifism. Deism, theism, and Buddhism have the suffix "ism," so they belong in this group, right? Wrong: the suffix "ism" also means a "state, condition, attribute, or quality" like pauperism, astigmatism, heroism, anachronism, or metabolism. Is astigmatism a theory? Is metabolism a doctrine? Is anachronism a practice? Not every word that ends in "ism" is a system of beliefs or an "ism" in the way people usually mean it. Failure to realize this can be behind other errors here.**


inb4 "That's at odds with what Deism, theism, and Buddhism actually mean, you colossal toad of a person." Don't you get it? That's what they mean for me. I can define them however I want to. So nya nyah.



But more seriously:

Of note is the fact that this incompetent author sets up this seedy, dishonest opposition between "doctrines, theories, systems, and practices" on the one hand, and "states, conditions, attributes, and qualities" on the other. He conspicuously leaves out of both these sets the most obvious option: belief! Which is exactly what atheism is.

im-skeptical said...

Samwell,

OK, you take your definition from the Encyclopedia of Religion and ethics: "Atheism is a dogmatic creed, consisting in the denial of every kind of supernatural power."

I'll take mine from people who actually understand what atheism is: atheists themselves.

Dan Gillson said...

But im-skeptical! You don't understand yourself like scholars do! Trust the experts!

Papalinton said...

Samwell Barnes
''I'm astonished that trolls like you and Linton are still given the time of day."

Read as, 'Oh I wish blasphemy and heresy were capital offenses again as they were in the great old days when Christian hegemony ruled life and death on earth.'

Hal said...

This conversation reminds me of those hard line atheists who complain about liberal Christians not taking the first chapter of Genesis literally.
Darn those liberals for not believing what they ought to believe.:-)

Dan Gillson said...

It makes it hard to hate someone when they are so damned reasonable, doesn't it Hal?

B. Prokop said...

Well, then. I guess I'll just have to make myself crystal clear to Papalinton on this matter. Here goes:

I have probably forgotten more about Soviet communism that you've likely ever known. And yes, when it comes to me speaking on this particular subject, "'Cause I say so!" counts for a lot.

So there!

Dan Gillson said...

... and Bob pulls a "big one" out on Linton. It's all over now.

B. Prokop said...

... all but the shoutin'.

grodrigues said...

@Hal:

"Darn those liberals for not believing what they ought to believe.:-)"

The irony is lost on you, because you have just conceded the point of Samwell Barnes. From April 08, 2013 3:34 PM:

"He conspicuously leaves out of both these sets the most obvious option: belief! Which is exactly what atheism is."

Which is exactly right.

I suppose people are free to use words in any way they choose, but why ruin a perfectly good word with a settled, historical meaning and wreak terminological mischief? I could answer that, but it would not be flattering.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

And I will gladly defer to you when you make a statement about about Australian Aboriginal and Papua New Guinean traditional religions, concerning which I know nothing.

But when it comes to Soviet communism, my word is word 10,000,000 of yours. Deal with it.

Papalinton said...

I have probably forgotten more about Soviet communism that you've likely ever known. And yes, when it comes to me speaking on this particular subject, "'Cause I say so!" counts for a lot."

And I probably know more about Australian Aboriginal and Papua New Guinean traditional religions than you will ever know and forget, combined.

But I don't make any pretense of being a legend in my own mind. Jesus did that too and I can see the parallels.

Dan Gillson said...

I was about to ask how knowledge of Australian Aborigines was relevant to a discussion of Soviet Communism, but Bob beat me to the punch.

B. Prokop said...

Never can trust those aborigines. There's a commie under every bush!

Papalinton said...

"But when it comes to Soviet communism, my word is word 10,000,000 of yours. Deal with it."

I can and I do deal with it. And you will appreciate why it is that I take a very cautionary approach to information filtered through the lens of Catholic woo-ism.

B. Prokop said...

It's not "filtered through the lens of" - it's better described as things being made crystal clear by seeing through a corrective lens (as in eyeglasses), removing the distortions of one's own sin and fallen nature.

You, however, are tragically content to see everything as a hopeless blur. The results of such are painfully evident in every posting you make.

Victor Reppert said...

If you believe in the superiority of science, you have to accept the fact that some people, by studying something a great deal professionally, can know a whole lot more about it than a layperson can. Reading primary sources out of the Soviet Union in Russian and translating them for the US government, who, at that time had a great deal at stake in knowing what the Soviets were thinking, gives someone an expertise that I, certainly, lack.

Papalinton said...

"If you believe in the superiority of science, you have to accept the fact that some people, by studying something a great deal professionally, can know a whole lot more about it than a layperson can."

If you mean science in contrast to religion, you are correct. But I would no more lend credence to Francis Collins' book, 'The Language of God', as a scientific explanation for the existence of supernatural woo-ism, than I would imagining the Appalachian snake-handlers as a test for righteousness. It would be tantamount to combining ignorance and idiocy with lunacy, the fundaments of Christian alchemy.

"Reading primary sources out of the Soviet Union in Russian and translating them for the US government, who, at that time had a great deal at stake in knowing what the Soviets were thinking, gives someone an expertise that I, certainly, lack."

Of that, I have no doubt. And as an employee of the US military or foreign affairs, I am sure Bob contributed to American understanding of the Soviets and its impact on the national interests of the US. And he was researching for a different audience and within a very different set of objectives in mind.

But on this blog, its use has little relevance to meeting the intelligence objectives of the US. On this blog it is more about misappropriation of that information in hopes of stemming the inevitable rightsizing trend of Christian woo-ism and Catholic hegemony to a more realistic rump of contemporary society consistent with its diminishing returns.

And on this blog, it stands to reason, it is about the broad indiscriminate brush of unchecked and unsubstantiated generalities to paint atheism = communism, that is, if one is an atheist, by default one is also a communist. And to confirm Bob simply could not resist the temptation to ply a few egregious brush strokes: 'militant atheism', 'atheist Bolshevists, a sort of compound noun to 'accentuate the positive'. Such a view, nonetheless, is hilariously jejune. His self-touting expertise is delightfully droll. He seems to conveniently forget that communism is anathema to the atheists in free democratic countries such as the US, Australia and almost all of Europe. But of course, that little snippet of information simply does not register in the mind of a woo-meister as he/she views the world through the filter of a Catholic lens.

Like you, I too lack that Soviet expertise, but I feel no sense of urgency to brush up on a moribund circumstance. I understand the Soviets are gone, and all the communists have converted back into Christians. You know, just like Vladimir Putin, the Christian champion with the bare chest and big crucifix hanging around his neck, once the Head of the KGB in Communist Russia. Strange bedfellows indeed, are Christians and Soviet Communists, as they all do the big switcheroo.

Hilariously and uproariously knee-slapping. And I do enjoy comedy.

Papalinton said...

Putin Head of the KGB? Well, no that is not quite right.
Putin was 'head of the Federal Security, an arm of the former KGB, as well as head of Yeltsin's Security Council. In August 1999, Yeltsin dismissed his then-prime minister Sergey Stapashin, along with his cabinet, and promoted Putin in his place'. See HERE

David B Marshall said...

Skeptical: "Maybe so, but (Aikman) is unquestionably a religious zealot, and his bias shows. He calls atheism a "theology", and wrongly asserts that this was the basis for the atrocities of the regime. There simply isn't evidence for that."

Certainly there is. Not "the" basis, but definitely "a" basis. And he gives that evidence in copious detail. (Not that students of communism have to take his word for it.)

"He also published "A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush"."

Well, shoot the man! He's a Republican!

WMF said...

"Thanks for calling out Marshall."

Thenquote y<ou gave does contain an insult, but that's not sufficient (or necessary) for an ad hominem.
Clearly you don't understand what the term means. I'll give you a textbook example:
"Here's a historian's argument"
"But that guy is a christian"

Mark Frank said...

It is an interesting metadebate about the role of B. Prokop’s (are you Bob?) expertise – particularly comparing it to the role of scientific expertise when discussing the ability of modern evolutionary theory (MET). Obviously if someone can demonstrate expertise through titles or experience or achievements then we should take their views seriously. However, for any expert on any subject it is almost always possible to find another expert with a contrary opinion. It is reasonable to argue "I am an expert therefore you should listen to me" it is not reasonable to argue “I am an expert therefore I am right”. In the case of scientific expertise on evolution there are two other factors:

1) The overwhelming majority of experts agree that MET accounts for the complexity of life.

2) They are able, if challenged, to explain in detail why they are right.

These two additional factors make their case very strong (although clearly even the majority of experts have been proven wrong on rare occasions).

So Bob needs the equivalent if his expertise is to be a convincing argument. Who are the other experts that agree? Why are you right?

I would also add that I am not sure what it is that Bob is claiming. He writes:

I can assure you that Soviet communism (I am not speaking of other varieties) did indeed explicitly arise out of a militant atheism

“arise out of” is a vague phrase. It could mean anything from the most powerful founders and leaders of communism were atheists and this was an important part of their psychology to the main objective of all the communist regimes was to persuade everyone that there is no God. Does Bob seriously think that Stalin starved the Kulaks and murdered so many people during the terror because they were theists?

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton's latest posting contains yet another example of his being utterly incapable of learning anything, or at the least of his unwillingness to actually read what someone else posts. He writes:

the broad indiscriminate brush of unchecked and unsubstantiated generalities to paint atheism = communism, that is, if one is an atheist, by default one is also a communist.

But he conveniently forgets that just a few posts prior to his, I wrote:

Papalinton is actually (half) right!

Atheism=communism is indeed a false statement.

However, communism=atheism is a true one.


'Nuff said!

B. Prokop said...

" The matter is not simple enough for a child to understand, and I'm afraid as an adult, I still don't get it."

Fair enough, im-skeptical. But let me ask you, why should we human beings expect to "get" an infinite God in any meaningful sense? Isn't that a bit hubristic? Yes indeed, whole libraries have been written on this very thing. One of my favorite books from the Middle Ages is The Cloud of Unknowing by anonymous, written sometime in the 14th Century. It is the classic text in English on the Via Negativa, i.e., the idea that the very best we can come to in an understanding of God is to say what He is not. (By the way, there's actually a very good definition of the via negativa in, of all places, atheism.about.com.)

I myself discussed this (though not referring to it by name) in my own book (which I believe I e-mailed you a digital copy of), on pages 44-46.

Papalinton said...

'But he conveniently forgets that just a few posts prior to his, I wrote:
Papalinton is actually (half) right!
Atheism=communism is indeed a false statement.
However, communism=atheism is a true one."


Quibbling over word order. Truly, the mark of a pedant. If the bona fides of the claim for the archetypal communism=atheism correlation is defined solely by word order, then why 'atheist Bolshevist's rather than Bolshevist atheists'?

I might add a pedant is also synonymous with dogmatist, literalist, doctrinaire, casuist and sophist. And we know of the ubiquity of dogma, literalism and doctrine, seminal features in the study of Krishna, the one true supernatural entity that created the universe. The full account of God can be found HERE. In part the account reads:

"The Vedic scriptures are the oldest scriptures in the World and the only scriptures that can answer all these questions and in detail. The Vedic scriptures completely describe God. His history, address, qualities, description, how he creates and maintains and so on. That God is Lord Krishna.

1. The first requirement is that the contender for the position of the supreme has been seen.
Seeing is believing, not seeing is pure speculation.
Lord Krishna has incarnated at least 9 times so far in the current cycle of creation. In each incarnation millions saw him. There is scientific evidence to prove that he existed 5000 years ago, as stated in the Vedic scriptures. Scientists have found the city where Lord Krishna lived in Dwarka, India, as described in the Vedic scriptures. NASA has taken satellite pictures of the bridge between India and Sri Lanka that Lord Krishna built in his Lord Ram incarnation, some 1.7 million years ago."


What better proof do you need for the existence of a god?

Oops! Sorry Bob. Wrong God. I'll see if I can dig up some info on Ganesha, the Elephant-Man god, you are so enamoured of. Ordinarily I would say your beliefs are just a whole lot of bollocks. But then you along with a billion other believers think HE is the one and only true god, and who am I to say otherwise?

Damn! I'm confused. Which one of the Gods do you believe in again? Was it Appolonius of Tyana?

I'm comforted by the fact that these great myths are slowly receding into the history of human growth and development as a species.



Ephram said...

Papalinton's latest posting contains yet another example of his being utterly incapable of learning anything, or at the least of his unwillingness to actually read what someone else posts


If you believe this, then why do you continue to engage him?

Hal said...

Bob,
"Atheism=communism is indeed a false statement.

However, communism=atheism is a true one."

Perhaps you are using the equals sign unconventionally, but I don't see how the second statement can be true when the first one is false.

If a=b, then b=a.

im-skeptical said...

"why should we human beings expect to "get" an infinite God in any meaningful sense? Isn't that a bit hubristic?"

That's a good question. I guess I do expect to have some understanding of the thing I'm expected to worship, especially if I would seek to spend all eternity basking in its presence. That is quite a commitment, after all. The Via Negativa, as you mentioned, is just a way of trying to reach an understanding of God. That's something that some people spent their entire lives doing. So is it hubristic of me? I don't think so. The simple fact that it is impossible to understand everything about this God is not particularly upsetting, but we're talking about one of the prime tenets of Christianity here. Something that theists claim without any shade of doubt. I think the hubris is on their part.

Hal said...

im-skeptical,
"The simple fact that it is impossible to understand everything about this God is not particularly upsetting, but we're talking about one of the prime tenets of Christianity here. Something that theists claim without any shade of doubt. I think the hubris is on their part."

I don't think it fair to claim that Christians don't also have their fair share of doubt. Because my wife is a devout Catholic I have met a fair number of them (including priest) who express doubts about their faith.


However, I think you raise a good point about how strange (and even weird) the sacrificial system that is found in Christianity can appear to us outsiders.

B. Prokop said...

"Quibbling over word order. Truly, the mark of a pedant."

Hmmm... So according to your line of "reasoning", the following two statements are equivalent:

Arizona is a state.
A state is Arizona.

Good grief! The set "Arizona" is a subset of the larger set "states". In like manner, "communism" is a subset of the larger set "atheism" (which also includes Ayn Randianism).

Yes, word order very much matters. Not quibbling over it is the mark of a fool.

Dan Gillson said...

Linton,

Your counterexample is pathetic. First of all, Bob's formulae are logical statements about atheism and communism, i.e., they characterize a logical relationship between atheism and communism, namely that atheism is necessary to communism, whereas communism isn't necessary to atheism. Your response to that was basically to protest that you can switch around the order of genitives and still mean the same thing, i.e., you can either say bolshevist atheist or atheist bolshevist.

Wait … I think I just said something logical! Someone--quick!--get Ilíon! He'll want to see this!

Dan Gillson said...

Dammit Bob! You beat me to the punch again!

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