Christians Ask The Stupidest Questions.

Christians that have commented on our Blog seem to ask the stupidest questions.


Recent ones come to mind:

Why do I value the pain of a child over an earthworm’s pain?
Why do I think rape and murder are wrong?
Why do I condemn Hitler?
Upon what basis do I condemn Hitler?
Why do I judge whether or not a miracle has occurred in the past largely based upon my own personal experiences of never having experienced a miracle in my life?
How can I say that ancient people were wildly superstitious to the core (with some notable exceptions) compared to our own day?
Why do I trust the results of modern science when future science may one day totally undercut what today’s science tells us?

I know these questions aren’t really stupid from their perspective. But they do seem stupid from mine. I’ve been answering them here for a while.

So rather than attempt to answer them here, instead, think with me for a minute.

Let’s say you were no longer fearful of doubting your faith. That is, you wanted to pursue many alternatives and hypotheses in your quest to know how we got here on earth when we did, and you didn’t fear God if you did this. Unlike how you now approach your faith, you wanted to truly investigate religious beliefs and you no longer feared that God would harm you for doing do. Can you do this? It might be a stretch for you, but try investigating your faith like you were investigating a crime scene where you spin many theories, unattached to any single one of them as much as possible, lest you miss a clue.

Anyway, let’s say you did this and you concluded none of the religious beliefs have much in the way of evidence. Many of them make mutually exclusive claims. But the adherents have sufficient reasons (at least to themselves) for why the others are all wrong. And you notice that many adherents are merely defending the beliefs of the culture in which they were born too. So you conclude they are all wrong.

You furthermore are confused between the two (western) options of One) believing that an eternally existing triune omnipotent, omniscience and omnipresent God has always existed (who, in the Calvinist way of thinking also decreed all of the human suffering we now experience to further glorify himself—is this selfishness, or what?) and Two) believing this universe just popped into existence out of nothing. You have no experience of something that has always existed, and you have no experience of something popping into existence out of nothing.

Let’s further say you finally conclude that if God exists he’s either impotent to help us (since there is no evidence he does anything to avert the many tragedies we experience everyday), or that he’s uncaring. So you say to yourself, there is no difference between a distant God and one that doesn’t exist, so you become an atheist.

I know this might be a stretch for many Christians to ponder, but try anyway. Let’s say you followed the same thinking pattern as every one of us at DC. Okay? Really consider this possibility. This is you.

Now, go answer your own stupid questions. ;-) But in doing so, remember this: just because you changed your mind about God doesn't mean anything else has changed in your life, except that you no longer go to church and your church friends may have mixed reactions to you. You will still have a mother who needs you. You still love your dog. You still must work for a living. You still like having a good reputation, and you don't want to spend the rest of your life in jail, or experince pain and suffering for bad choices you may be tempted to make, nor is suicide a reasonable alternative since people in this life are still counting on you, and you have the instinct to live. You still defend your friends, whom you still need, and you think causing others pain is wrong. You just look back and see no evidence of miracles in your Christian life, and that's all you have to judge your beliefs by, whether or not science changes in the future, too, which is wishing upon something that doesn't exist yet. All you have is the present to judge the past and the future by.

I could go on from here and describe how freeing this new perspective is in that there is not much room for guilt (especially since I no longer have any religious duties--tithing, evangelizing, prayer, Bible study, church attendance and duties--and I no longer need to feel guilty for what I think about either--just what I may do), even though I'm still the same good person I was, but that's for another time. Just answer your own questions, next time. Step in our shoes and then see them for what they are to us.

21 comments:

Kaffinator said...

Perhaps you are not aware, Loftus, that some Christians posting here may actually have been atheists themselves at one point, undertook a disciplined study of different faiths, and recognized along the way atheism’s naked inability to answer questions such as the ones you try to dodge above.

When I ask a question like “Why do I value the pain of a child over an earthworm’s pain?” I am probing to see if you have answers. But you don’t. If your beliefs prevent a rational response to even the most basic moral queries, if you must resort to emotionalism or bigotry instead, if when questioned further you simply begin to whine about how "stupid" the questions are even as you are outwitted by them ... well, do you really think you are going to convince a Christian of anything, who can answer such questions with clarity, self-consistency, and authority?

You ask us to walk a mile in your shoes. Been there, done that. They’re crummy shoes. So John I ask you to come back. Repent, believe, understand, and live.

John W. Loftus said...

The title was supposed to be an eye catcher...to get you hooked to read it. I also said I know these questions aren’t really stupid from their perspective.

I answered you. I said I need a worm to catch a fish so I can eat. That's my answer. And that would be your answer if you believed like I do.

CalvinDude said...

Are you going to return the favor?Assume the existence of God and then consider that perhaps God can really do miracles? Assume that God is a free agent who does as He wills and doesn't have to do what you want Him to do?

Of course not. We have to change our ways, not you. You claim to have already walked in our shoes. But your complete lack of understanding of our shoes indicates you were walking in something entirely different.

Kaffinator said...

John> I said I need a worm to catch a fish so I can eat. And that would be your answer if you believed like I do.

Agreed. And the paucity of that answer is one very good reason that that I don't.

Daniel said...

It seems that theists like Kaffinator and CalvinDude cannot comprehend of a universe where human need and empathy, both understandable and explainable from simple evolutionary principles, drive our moral systems within social frameworks.

Too bad they have to have some sort of supposed "transcendental morality" that falls prey to the Euthyphro Dilemma, and is sliced away by Ockham's Razor.

I hate it for them that they cannot shoulder the burden of moral responsibility, of using empathy and need, history and reason, as guides to what is good for X, where X is contextualized to society, family, and individual virtue.

Sucks to be them.

Bruce said...

Are you going to return the favor?Assume the existence of God and then consider that perhaps God can really do miracles? Assume that God is a free agent who does as He wills and doesn't have to do what you want Him to do?

Dude, you must have a short memory, because we already did that in "The Problem of Evil". But I can understand why you don't want to bring it up again.

Bruce said...

Perhaps you are not aware, Loftus, that some Christians posting here may actually have been atheists themselves at one point, undertook a disciplined study of different faiths, and recognized along the way atheism’s naked inability to answer questions such as the ones you try to dodge above.

Then you must not have been a REAL atheist.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Back to the regular discussion.

Zeteo Eurisko said...

Calvindude said
>> You claim to have already walked in our shoes. But your complete lack of understanding of our shoes indicates you were walking in something entirely different.


I think it’s a bit unfair to question the validity of a person’s spiritual experience. I am in the midst of a de-conversion similar to what John has experienced. I assure you that had we met 5 years ago, we would have communed as brothers in Christ.

My take on what John has written here. These questions – Why do I value the pain of a child over an earthworm’s pain? Why do I think rape and murder are wrong? Why do I condemn Hitler? Upon what basis do I condemn Hitler? – are worth our consideration outside the realm of incredulous flaming.

I agree that the Christian seems to have a much simpler basis for answering these questions. The Moral Argument for God’s Existence – see C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Ravi Zacharias’ Can Man Live Without God, and William Lane Craig’s essay “The Absurdity of Life without God – makes a compelling emotional case that God’s existence provides straightforward answers to ultimate law, meaning, and hope. The Apologists win over the masses because all the pieces fit together so neatly once God is used as the cornerstone.

I agree that the theistic worldview gives answers to these three neatly, but the bigger question is -- are they the right answers? Morality is easier with theistic answers, but who says that we are owed Law, Hope, or Meaning? Does this not break down to wishful thinking? When you examine the Moral Argument, you realize you have to prove God first, then use him as the cornerstone of your moral answers. Thus, your answers to these questions are not so simple to support!

Similarly, the agnostic or atheist (I am the former) has a big philosophical challenge ahead in providing a basis for absolute morality. Without describing this basis fully, let me make two assertions. First, absolute morality without God is not a proven impossibility. And second, do not think that non-theistic ethicists are all moral relativists. Too many Christians make this assumption, then beat up the straw man by asking questions like “Are there absolutely no absolutes?” If you read the works of non-theistic philosophers, they are well aware of these contradictions, and they seek a non-theistic basis for absolute morality.

Just because the aforementioned simple questions (child vs. earthworm, etc) have complex answers in the realm of atheism, do not discount them. Your route to a Christian answer entails the task of proving God first, else you are simply using God as a puzzle piece that conveniently makes your world work.

Steve said...

"Now, go answer your own stupid questions. ;-) But in doing so, remember this: just because you changed your mind about God doesn't mean anything else has changed in your life, except that you no longer go to church and your church friends may have mixed reactions to you. You will still have a mother who needs you. You still love your dog. You still must work for a living. You still like having a good reputation, and you don't want to spend the rest of your life in jail, or experince pain and suffering for bad choices you may be tempted to make, nor is suicide a reasonable alternative since people in this life are still counting on you, and you have the instinct to live. You still defend your friends, whom you still need, and you think causing others pain is wrong."

And you are positive you would feel this way if you had never been a Christian? Did you always lead a life that compares much to the Christian life, (funny how those here at DC are always comparing their values to Christians) or did you not start your teen years in a differant direction?

Bruce said...

And you are positive you would feel this way if you had never been a Christian?

Being the rare creature that I am, a "natural atheist", never having been indoctrinated into religion (I've never even been to a church service), I feel qualified to give an answer to this question.

mother who loves (I'll say 'love' because she is not old enough to need me yet) me: Yep

2 dogs/4 cats who I treat like my own children: Yep

work for a living: Unless I want to starve

good reputation: I like having at least some friends

jail: Avoid it at all costs

pain and suffering: See above

suicide: Why? I like living.

causing pain is wrong: Don't know what it is about me, but I get all teary-eyed when I see people suffer needlessly. Heck, I don't even kill spiders, I rescue them (which my wife doesn't quite understand). I guess you could say that causing pain causes me pain, and since I avoid pain ...

funny how those here at DC are always comparing their values to Christians

Just those that we admire. Besides, I'd venture to say that we both share a good majority of the same values because, as we've discussed in a previous thread, we both get our values from the same variety of sources and influences found in our society, not just one bible. And the reason it may seem that we are constantly comparing our values to Christian values is probably due to the fact that atheists have to spend most of their time convincing you that we have values in the first place.

J-Dog said...

The best thing about beig an atheist, is shopping on Sunday morning! No idiots, they are al in church!

Steve said...

Bruce, I realize that Atheists have morals that equal Christian morals for the most part. The differance being we disagree where these said morals originate. I thank you for your response and I do not need any further convincing otherwise.

My comment was in regards to JL and his original post. Having read his deconversion testimony I was curious as to where he atributes his current outlook of life.

"You just look back and see no evidence of miracles in your Christian life, and that's all you have to judge your beliefs by, whether or not science changes in the future, too, which is wishing upon something that doesn't exist yet. All you have is the present to judge the past and the future by."

Miracles? Who knows what really separated JL from the path he was on?

j-dog, All but one!

Zeteo Eurisko said...

>> Steve said…
Bruce, I realize that Atheists have morals that equal Christian morals for the most part. The differance being we disagree where these said morals originate.

Steve, I don’t think you wish to realize this -- if you wish to maintain your Christian faith. Admitting that Christians and atheists are committed to a generally equal set of morals undercuts your entire religion.

Christianity is based on the premise that we cannot be in right relationship with God without first admitting that we are operating outside his moral code. After this process, our minds are renewed, and there is a definitive moral change in our lives due to the divinely renewed moral cognition we receive directly from God.

To admit the similarity between atheistic morals and Christian morals is to deny this process – the salvation process – from beginning to end. No need for it, no effects from it.

Food for thought.

Kaffinator said...

Zeteo,

> Steve, I don’t think you wish to realize this -- if you wish to maintain your Christian faith. Admitting that Christians and atheists are committed to a generally equal set of morals undercuts your entire religion.

There are many other ways to think of this.

* Atheists may simply have pilfered the elements they like from the Christian moral framework.

* God's "common grace" descends to all, and includes some awareness of right and wrong. This is known as Natural Law. Theologians over the ages have argued that many moral principles do not require divine revelation but are self-evident from the reasoned study of creation.

Christians maintain that we are saved by grace, through faith. Good works cannot save anyone, although they certainly can bear fruit in the lives of believers and non-believers, because good works tend to have good results. But I can attest there are many differences between the pursuit of my own good, with common morality as a tool to achieve it; versus a pursuit of relationship with God, with common morality as one of the means with which I show gratitude and obedience to him.

Martin Wagner said...

Kaffinator, I think this last post of yours really spells out the shallowness of what you believe to be your superior morality. Atheists engage in moral behavior because we understand that to do so is rational, and will lead to a society most conducive to happiness for all, not just the individual.

You, on the other hand, just want to score brownie points from your invisible friend.

Kaffinator said...

> Atheists engage in moral behavior because we understand that to do so is rational, [...]

So, you disagree with atheist Danny above who holds that moral systems are not driven by reason, but rather by human needs and empathy, which in turn are nothing more than accidents of evolution?

> [...] and will lead to a society most conducive to happiness for all, not just the individual.

But I say, if God exists then the society that willingly submits to him will enjoy the most happiness. So perhaps you might say, our goals aren't that different at the human level, but our methods are quite different.

But your method has an inescapable weakness. It assumes an unattainable level of unanimity in humans' use of reason, definitions of happiness, conclusions on how to get there, and even indentification of what is "human". White supremacists use reason to seek happiness for humans but I'm guessing you don't agree with their approach?

> You, on the other hand, just want to score brownie points from your invisible friend.

This last sentence of yours really spells out the shallowness of your understanding of faith in God.

Daniel said...

Kaff,

So, you disagree with atheist Danny above who holds that moral systems are not driven by reason, but rather by human needs and empathy, which in turn are nothing more than accidents of evolution?
First, reason itself doesn't mean much without the brains we have to use it, eh? And, I would say that reason is quite necessary to derive morals within the frameworks to which they are relative. Reason "rightly applied" is indeed part of the equation: weighing individual vs. collective needs, driven to meet those needs by empathy, which is the result of a cognitive development over which we had no ultimate control.

I don't know how familiar you are with physics, but every energy state in every atom in your body is determined by quantum states which are fraught with "randomness" in the same way that random mutations, coupled to the non-random selective processes [as well as genetic drift, etc.] produced the chemical modifications that are evolution -- descent with modification.

Thus, saying "accidents" in this way is shallow. Every moment, the Boltzmann distribution predicts that a statistically significant proportion of particles in your body will be at a different energy state thana larger majority...by "accident".

Using this word is silly and is a rhetorical device to try to appeal to the pride of creatures who consider themselves supercedant to the blind, indifferent and mute laws of Nature.

Anyway...we've gone over and over and over this "transcendent morality" bit, haven't we? And has the first theist on board here explained how their presuppositional worldview doesn't violate the Euthyphro Dilemma?

Kaffinator said...

I meant "accident" as in an unexpected, unforseen, secondary result. The forces of evolution only select for survival. They do not select for altruism. So if altruism happens it therefore is an accident.

And, besides, I was asking Mr. Morgan who might have the kindness to address the weaknesses in his argument that I raised.

Martin Wagner said...

So, you disagree with atheist Danny above who holds that moral systems are not driven by reason, but rather by human needs and empathy, which in turn are nothing more than accidents of evolution?

No, because I don't think Danny is saying what you think he's saying. Comprehending human needs and empathy requires reason; we understand actions, their consequences, and how those consequences fulfill or thwart our needs as a species by thinking about them.

I do agree human moral behaviors are explicable by evolutionary processes, though, as an intelligent species, we've refined what morality means to us in a way, say, other primates have not. As a social species, we cannot fulfill our genetic imperative to create the next generation unless there is a successful society for future generations to be born into. Moral/ethical behaviors are conducive to a successful society; destructive/unethical behaviors are not. QED.

But I say, if God exists then the society that willingly submits to him will enjoy the most happiness. So perhaps you might say, our goals aren't that different at the human level, but our methods are quite different.

I say that 16th-century Spain, a society that willingly submitted itself to its god, is hardly one I would prefer to live in to the one I live in right now. There's a name for the period of history when the Church ran the show; it's called the Dark Ages. History is full of examples of deeply religious societies -- from the small (individual communities) to the large (entire nations) -- that clearly would have been hell on earth to live in to anyone of modern sensibilities. Closed theocracies are historically very bad and tragic places. Concepts like civil rights, the abolition of slavery, equality for women, mass education, freedom of speech, scientific inquiry -- these are Enlightenment ideas that took root in society long after theocracies were on the wane.

I would further say that if God exists, and he agrees with you that societies that submit to him will enjoy the most happiness, then he has an obligation to make his existence unambiguously clear to create this state of happiness amongst people. The common Christian retort to this is that for God to do so would somehow eradicate our free will and turn us into mindless robots. But, setting aside the fact this isn't true, are you not suggesting that submitting to God is precisely the key to happiness? Is it only possible to submit "willingly" if God's existence is a maybe/maybe not thing? And what sort of "happiness" can a society enjoy from submission to a God known for punishing those who choose not to submit to him with eternal torture in Hell? Is this really "happiness," or is it more like the wife who always wears a big smile because her husband will slap her if she doesn't?

But your method has an inescapable weakness. It assumes an unattainable level of unanimity in humans' use of reason, definitions of happiness, conclusions on how to get there, and even indentification of what is "human".

It assumes no such thing. There is no reason to assume that all human beings will have either the intellect or will to employ reason with equal success, any more than all human beings are likely to enjoy equal financial or career success. But children who become millionaires and children who become street bums all start in the same schools. Just as in preparing people for careers, education plays the pre-eminent role in helping people learn how best to use their reason in shaping the decisions that affect their own daily lives, and those of the people they interact with.

Not everyone will be equally good at it, but everyone can, at least, learn to a degree. And educated people are better equipped to debate and argue what happiness means, how we get there, and what makes us human than the uneducated.

Seems to me that if anything assumes a "unanimity" of thought or deed, it's requiring submission to a deity and set of religious dogmas, with eternal damnation the punishment for straying. "Submit to God in order to be happy" doesn't leave much room for diversity of thought.

White supremacists use reason to seek happiness for humans but I'm guessing you don't agree with their approach?

I find this statement simply mind-boggling. Exactly how are you defining "reason" in this context? I know that racists and other kooks are good at rationalizing their beliefs and actions, but rationalizing is not the same thing as being rational, and "having reasons" is not the same thing as reason. Also, how exactly are racists seeking happiness for humans? Far as I can tell they only seek "happiness" for people with their same skin color and unhappiness for people of other colors. This is hardly a reasoned position to take.

Also, last I checked, white supremacist groups were in the habit of carrying around Bibles, burning crosses, and calling themselves things like "World Church of the Creator." Sounds to me like they're using religion, not reason, as the basis for their behaviors.

This last sentence of yours really spells out the shallowness of your understanding of faith in God.

Okay, Kaff, simple yes or no question. Let's say, for the sake of argument, there's no God, no Heavenly reward to look forward to, and no fires of Hell to fear. Do you continue to behave morally in your daily life?

Kaffinator said...

Hi Martin,

Time does not allow me to respond to everything you said, so just a couple of points in response.

When I said “the society that willingly submits to [God]” I was not advocating the kind of “closed theocracy” to which you seem to ascribe all of history’s ills. Rather, I’m talking about the kind of submission to God that led Martin Luther King to champion civil rights, or that led William Lloyd Garrison to stand up for the abolition of slavery, to name a couple.

> I would further say that if God exists, and he agrees with you that societies that submit to him will enjoy the most happiness, then he has an obligation to make his existence unambiguously clear to create this state of happiness amongst people.

If God created you, you have absolutely no right whatsoever to tell him what his obligations are.

> Also, how exactly are racists seeking happiness for humans? Far as I can tell they only seek "happiness" for people with their same skin color and unhappiness for people of other colors. This is hardly a reasoned position to take.

They redefine the word “human” to apply only in a degraded sense to other races. Based on that starting point it is perfectly reasonable to take actions to protect “real” humans. In a similar way, abortion advocates begin by defining unborn infants as somehow less than “human” so that they may be legally killed. The reasoning is fine. But the suppositions which precede the reasoning are wrong.

> Okay, Kaff, simple yes or no question. Let's say, for the sake of argument, there's no God, no Heavenly reward to look forward to, and no fires of Hell to fear. Do you continue to behave morally in your daily life?

I will do my best to answer your question, but I’m not sure what you mean by “behave morally”. I'll put it this way. If I lobotomized myself to the degree that the obvious fact of God’s power and existence suddenly became opaque, but somehow left all of my other critical faculties in place, I would have to radically re-order my life according to different priorities such that my pleasures were maximized and my pains minimized. That would pretty much instantly lead to a variety of behaviors that my current moral framework deems immoral. So, the answer is, "no".

Josh (joshster@epals.com) said...
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