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January 7, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

More on atheism, Christianity, and humanism

If you want to play the church association game, we can play the science association game too (Nuclear bomb, Tuskegee incident, phrenology, various crackpots, and various guneia pig experimentation).

And every ideology has people who manipulate it for bad ends. That is the nature of ideology, but we don’t give up on it. (the Iraq war is a good example in terms of the rhetoric of human rights and democracy perhaps being abused). And there will be people who misinterpret its principals who unintentionally cause harm. And we shouldn’t forget that some Atheists back the war too (Hitches being a rather big advocate as I recall).

Its easy to provide generalization that gets us no where. No where in your diatribe did you answer why I shouldn’t follow the model of Jesus. Its sin and lust for power which are the root causes of the problems you are speaking. Ultimately, the idea of the golden rule and love solve the problesm you are speaking of–at its very root.

Your false dilemma or strawperson attack simply doesn’t hold any water. Its like saying, people from your school are criminals ergo, you are a criminal. Thats silly. Atheists should stop using this massively strereotyping line of assertion, which only serves to propogate hate (something they claim to stand against).

Again, I don’t have to defend Catholics (or Catholics who misinterpret the faith). I don’t have to defend the Jews or any other faith other than my own. The idea that I would have to defend 200+ faiths seems preposterous. Its like saying the business person (farmer or health care provider) has to defend Enron and military industrial complex. Thats just silly and not analytically helpful for providing truth or solutions to the problems that undergird society.

If you can’t deal with nuance–its going to be hard to have a conversation–an intellectual one at least.

In the real world, you do get to distance yourself–maybe certain parts of the media–but I wouldn’t say that the media should be our ceiling on ethics–they should be our floor (or our bare minimum).

The church/state separation discussion is something entirely different. Free speech thats faith based shouldn’t be excluded from the public square. Secondly, almost every explanation of faith based issues I’ve seen has included a dual justification–in other words at a minimum it included a secular justification too. That secular justification should be enough to insulate people from people spewing hate on them. That you don’t like people in power who are different than you or disagree with you–isn’t a justification for such rhetorical tirades–spewing venom (to me–thats the real poison to democracy and dignity).

To say “Christians want a theocracy” is a rather large over-generalization. Most want freedom, but also a community which they can raise a family and kids in. They want neighbors who they can trust. Wouldn’t we have a theocracy already–if this was really true after 20 years of Reagan/Bush. I think you would be surprised how kind and caring most genuine Christians are–who take their faith seriously in their expressions of love, caring, and compassion to their fellow human being.

I would be willing to have a more in-depth discussion of church/state, but don’t have the time to fully express my thoughts.


Fine tuned universe is pretty simple and straight forward. Probability is massively against us getting a universe we could live in for even one minute–yet we’ve received one we as humans can live in for 3000+ years.

Where you see a heartbeat there is probably a heart (ie where you see design there is probably a designer). It doesn’t answer the question definitively–its more based on probability.

Also, things don’t design themselves (particularly the dark empty universe). There isn’t a reason why its fine tuned from science and it suggests design and a creator. We hit the cosmic lotto, which is basically the definition of a miracle.

The rules of science say that matter doesn’t spring out of nothingness. As a pre-empt, God, by definition, is at a higher level.

Where does secular humanism get its value from? If science says we are dust in the wind or chemicals–what is secular humanism to say differently? Other ethicists in that vein tend to put us on the level of animals, yet we are obviously more than our animalistic desires given or conscience and conciousness. Civilization and relative tranquility is proof that we are not animals. Sure, some haven’t developed much beyond that–but may have seen far beyond the prisoner’s dilemma or the minute to minute and day to day thoughts of just living. In fact, our ideas of quality of life and happiness which are qualitative are established by Aristotle and John Stuart Mill and pretty much carried on beyond though Western history and thought.
Sure it doesn’t automatically lead to the God inference, but absent another explanation–its the best explanation. Especially to the extent that God explains so much else–for instance our spiritual natures (as expressed in experience & quantum physics & gestalt psychology).

The four key areas where scripture answers this back:
1. Evidence of the Historical Jesus
2. Prophesy of Jesus lines up between Old Testament and New Testament
3. Most of the answers to objections are answered in the text itself (its deep, deep document). The writers collectively had insights into the human condition as well as answering the objectors in the context of the text.
4. Success of the Bible itself.

To suggest they get value from the same place is perhaps to miss the point. The enlightenment arose as a result of the Bible. It was to find Gods laws. Moreover, intrinsic value and natural law theory are more connected to spiritual laws than to more utilitarian interpretations.

Well the existence of transcendent and spiritual reality suggest the supernatural. The existence of humans is a miracle–the existence of the universe is a miracle. That you live and breath is a miracle. That seems to suggest that something beyond the physical is there.
Jesus was a feminist almost 2000 years before modern day feminists came on the scene. He washed the feet of a prostitute. Your arguments about people using the Bible as a tool which goes against its principles aren’t relevant (ie the Crusades, Iraq, any other wars and slavery). And it was faith that grounded our Constitution–so the legal basis for womens rights was provided by the enlightenment philosophers (who were faith-based individuals–specifically Locke and Kant). And the slaves received their rights based on the work of 1000s of Christians who were commited to true Christian principles.

People don’t engage in acts of charity and kindness based on eternal damnation for any extended period of time. Slowly but surely the value of giving out of their hearts becomes more clear and real. They ultimately end up doing it because its the right thing to do. Contrary to popular belief, I think most Preachers these days don’t talk all that much about Hell. Its not the days of Johnathon Edwards. And the work of psychology (motivation of rewards & punishment) and behaviorual economics (the Oddesseus conflict) says that both of these appeals aren’t particularly compelling–long term.

Wait–if mine is a Christian view of life–perhaps you’re limited by your perspective too. Moreover, I go to R movies and read mainstream books and articles. I even fell away from my faith (dedication wise–not the faith itself) during grad school. So your assumptions come up a bit short.

Well Christianity subsumes Judiasm. The evidence for a historical Jesus is pretty compelling.

If you don’t think there are problems with abortion–I would suggest you haven’t informed yourself about this issue particularly well (speaking of living in a bubble or living only one side of life).

And you don’t have any evidence that they are man-made. If they were man made–it doesn’t make sense that the disciples would have risked their lives for literally no tangible reward in this world (Rome wasn’t a nice place for Christians). Also, the prophesies of the old testament are fulfilled in the New Testament.


There has to be some middle ground between how people use the idea for good versus who abuse it for bad (again every ideology in history has been abused and manipulated).

The whole premise of a bell curve encapsulates this idea. You get to exclude the 5%, 10%, or 15% who claim your name–but don’t really live up to your principles.

People haven’t followed Jesus 100%, sure (but the principles are still important just like any type of -ism or violence should be rejected whenever possible). But there are some who genuinely make an effort do so and do it pretty well. I see some of them in my church on an almost twice a week. These over-generalizations get particularly undermined when they face up to the lives of courage, sacrifice, love, and dedication of the people that do church and follow the Word day in and day out (sure they stumble, but their striving has an incredible impact).

I think this answers the hypocrisy cant that gets repeated and repeated and worn out. Thats like telling the teacher who says to live a life of learning (aka life long learning), but doesn’t spend 24-7 learning. Obviously not, but the principles are still good–as long as their lives generally strive and push toward more learning and growth.

I think the set aside is just as great for the agnostic or atheist who just assumes the world came from nothing and nowhere (I realize you danced around this earlier, but it seems to result in the same conclusions roughly). Moreover, I’m pretty compelled by the historical Jesus. I’m also compelled by the spiritual growth that being faithful helps create within me and those I’ve seen effected by it. Thats evidence–its changed people for the better. Those that abuse it–haven’t really had a true encounter or they’ve allowed sin and temptation to get the better of them. Thats not the fault of faith–thats a problem of human flesh.

I also find it hard to wrap my brain around the assertion that we aren’t spiritual beings. The experiences of people in groups–the gestalt or collective unconcious seems to suggest a deeper connection between individuals that transcends the physical. Moreover, the work in quantum physics (and probably even the work in string theory) point to a deeper reality–one that transcends our fundamental assumptions

You raise some interesting points. It seems that Atheists mission to rid the world of religion will only lead to state power for generations. Seems like you are trading one issue for the other. Personally I’d rather have Christian culture than Mao. My guess is you do too….because otherwise you’d live somewhere else.

Second, thats again religion and dogma, not Christianity. Certainly Christianity has its own share of dogma–but it stands counter-culturally against the idols of the world and its basis of natural law used by civil disobediants across the world to stand up to so-called positive law.

Your argument from Sweden et all, seems to fly in the face of your argument. Faith in this case stands against bureaucracy and stands for economic freedom.

In terms of our permissive culture, we haven’t figured out how to build communities which are supportive of shared values like Sweden and others (rugged individualism got our forefathers across the plains of Kansas, but hasn’t made the jump toward a more communitarian orientation in some places). Ironically, despite the best efforts of Christians, 25% of the movies cranked out of Hollywood are ridiculous and terrible–with utterly no redeeming value. If Christians were so anti-freedom, this wouldn’t be the case.

My guess is the difference in terms of the US versus those other countries is:
1. economic/legal
2. cultural & community
3. the persistence of poverty & the class divide in the US
Our culture of freedom often overwhelms the best parts of Christian culture. With freedom comes responsibility–we haven’t always figured that last part out.

I wasn’t attempting to lump. Those are just the most prominent regimes that I know about that are Atheist or driven by anti-religious fervor. And your reference to Confusionism and Orthydoxy is interesting–but I’m not defending all religion–just one faith. At some level, it would seem that one who was defending atheism or speaking about it in an intelligent way would want to acknowledge those roots and see the seeming causal connection.

I don’t have crime & violence stats on me at the moment. I would suggest part of that has to do with the NRA and our failure to address intergenerational incarceration, particularly in minority communities. While we were footing other countries military bills via national defense, we neglected the home front.


There is something to most plausible current explanation. Its more plausible than other proposals. Essentially thats what string theory is.

1. Sure. There were lots of rabbis. None has a Bible written about them. None is followed by not a small fraction of the planet. My guess is most of them don’t live up to all the prophesy in the Old Testament. (A and B similar–ergo the same is a bit of a logical fallacy. 2 hamburgers can be similar–but one from a steak house will be different from a Big Mac)
2. Later interpolation would require a rather large conspiracy to line up the prophesies.
3. My theory is that humans couldn’t have anticipated the objections. Also, answering objections is part of logic–not circularity. Its the opposite of circularity.
4. Its more than good marketing. Its a system that works. The survival of the text itself is something to be noted and recognized. Its experiential proof.

I’m confused how Buddhism could have given rise to the enlightenment. Buddhism isn’t as individualistic or achievement oriented as the enlightenment or capitalism to which it gave birth.

I should probably get better arguments about the transcendent and spiritual nature of the universe–but I think that component is hard to deny in basic human interaction over the course of a 20 to 30 year life.

I’m confused a bit by your last sentence.

It seems that Finland & the rest are at best just an endorsement of:
1. the separation of church and state
2. agnosticism
However, you haven’t drawn a line from their policy on faith to ergo they magically got better cultures and communities. The failure to have better communities is the way in which we’re allowed to become idollically attached to our TVs (and mass media in general) and to commercials that are allowed to make promises they can’t possibly keep (I’m sorry no shampoo is truly orgasmic…I assume that’s something we can agree on).

Skepticism has an underlying critical stance toward all systems of ethics and values. It doesn’t offer much in the way of purpose, hope, or positivity for moving forward and taking action. In fact, some of that skepticism is the probably root cause of the worst forms of post-modern mumbo jumbo. Transcendance helps establish telos. Without a common telos you can’t have public policy or public goods. Moreover, if we’re just random bouncing chemical soups–its hard to put even an ethical value on that. And you can’t establish purpose much without reference to a creator.

I would say the Tea Party and the GOP are generally agents who fight against government regulation, bureaucracy, and taxes. (Note: I’m a moderate for what its worth).

Yes, the NRA has misguided idea on guns. Or at least its too polarizing and extreme in its support of guns. Its clear that states should have more rights to regulate guns (particularly AK-47 & other automatic weapons)–so that Kansas and Montana can have different gun policies than New York, LA, and DC.

My guess is that Swedens economic system, median GDP, culture, or other confounding factors reflect that difference in crime rather than
just religion or lack thereof.

I’m sorry, your mentions of Russian and Uganda are just silly. The persecution of people of faith (Christian) probably causes more net violence than the people themselves. Although the scope of actually defending that is beyond the scope of this post.

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