An Atheistic Ethic: The Christian Debate Stopper

salvationfound voiced what I was waiting for a Christian to say. He or she wrote:

If someone wants to kill and they feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages why shouldn't they kill?
I'm assuming here that sf is talking about a premeditated unlawful and unjust killing of another human being. My answer?

Under these circumstances then he will kill, because that's why people get murdered in the first place by others who kill them. Since I'm arguing that every human being is motivated to act from self-interest, then if these conditions obtain for someone, they will therefore kill. And it doesn't matter what a person's religious or non-religious beliefs are at that point, because these beliefs also factor into whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Whether one is a Christian or not, people will kill under these circumstances.

There is no ethic that can stop someone from killing under these circumstances...none. Since Christianity numberically dominates in American society then a whole lot of Christians are killing other people. Men kill their wives. Women kill their husbands and children. Others kill while stealing. Men kill after raping a woman. Who do you think are doing most of the killing here? Christians. Why do they do this? Because the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Some do so while in an irrational rage, or because of paranoia, or due to drugs or alcohol. But they do it. And so do atheists and agnostics.

Christians will say that the Christians who kill others are not "real Christians." What can we make of this? According to such a definition a Christian is someone who obeys the Bible? But how does that follow from the contrary idea that we cannot earn our way into heaven? How can they have it both ways? Deeds mean little to the evangelical mind in front of a merciful God. Evangelicals will claim there is no deed God cannot forgive, so murder should be no problem for God. Christians say a person must repent before he can be forgiven, but does that mean they can fall away from God's grace, or that their repentence must be perfect before God can forgive them? And does this mean they should search out every possible sin and daily repent of it before God will forgive? Surely not. Lewis B. Smedes [in his book Mere Morality] makes a strong case that God can and does forgive suicide, and there can be no repentence after such a deed is committed.

Christians can have an excuse whenever they want to do wrong. I know. As a former Christian I knew God would forgive me if I did something wrong. So, when I felt the advantages outweighed the disadvantages I did it knowing full well God would forgive me.

Having said all of this, I dispute the basis of the question sf asked. I claim that the advantages will never outweight the disadvantages in unlawfully and unjustly killing someone, period. Give me a scenario and I doubt that rational self-interest will ever conclude the right thing to do is to kill someone (except in self-defense). My position is that people who kill are not acting rationally.

56 comments:

EvanAlmighty said...

"Christians can have an excuse whenever they want to do wrong. I know. As a former Christian I knew God would forgive me if I did something wrong. So, when I felt the advantages outweighed the disadvantages I did it knowing full well God would forgive me."

Actually this is evidence that Satan exists not that God does not exist. You were having a conversation with Satan at these times. Often people when arguing Christianity they forget that there is an adversary.

Anonymous said...

"Christians can have an excuse whenever they want to do wrong. I know. As a former Christian I knew God would forgive me if I did something wrong. So, when I felt the advantages outweighed the disadvantages I did it knowing full well God would forgive me."
Nice out of context belief system there. Do you really have that poor an understanding of the Bible's stand and the essence of repentance and forgiveness?

Situation:
There are a million situations as long as I could be reasonalby sure I wouldn't get caught that killing would be advantageous.
-Having someone who's going to expose a crime I commited.
-Those dumb kids that keep riding there dirt bikes through my lawn.
-The guy I owe alot of money too.
-The wife who I'm tired of.

The only thing that would make those a disadvantage is if I was caught.

bob said...

Anonymous said... Nice out of context belief system there. Do you really have that poor an understanding of the Bible's stand and the essence of repentance and forgiveness?

How very typical. Someone disagrees with your understanding, so your understanding must be wrong.
Thank you Jesus for making it all so perfectly clear...to Anonymous :)

John W. Loftus said...

Anon, tell us why you sin. Go ahead. Why? You know what you're doing is wrong and yet you do it anyway. If you knew God would not forgive you for that wrong and you'd burn forever in hell for doing it, you wouldn't do wrong. The whole reason you do wrong is because you know God will forgive you. Think about that the next time you consider looking at pornography on the web. Would you do it if you knew without a doubt you'd never be forgiven for it?

I'm arguing that there are more reasons than merely not being caught for doing right. Have you been reading them? Click on the "atheist ethic" tag and catch up on it.

But let's hypothetically grant you that the only reason atheists don't kill others is because they'll get caught. Then it is likewise true that the only reason Christians refrain from killing other people is because they think they might get caught too, since God will still always forgive them.

However, even if you are correct, in today's era with modern forensic science you will get caught. The odds against getting away with murder are close to zero. And even if you don't get caught the first time you'll probably kill again, and probably again. You will eventually get caught. It's not worth the risk. There are much better ways to handle situations like these than to take such a gamble. Besides, at the same time you'll become a different person in the process. Such a person will always be looking over his shoulders. He will be distrustful of most people. He will be forced to live a lie. Many such murderers, like the BTK killer, seemed relieved that he was caught. It took that burden off of his shoulders, and apparently it was a bigger burden to him than spending the rest of his life in prison.

Noxidereus said...

As an atheist, I would say that I just might think that this life is much more precious than someone who believes in an afterlife. A Christian who murders might feel as if s/he is sending the victim to heaven, and might also feel that it is part of God's plan. I don't feel that most Christians think in this way, but just wanted to mention how Christianity might possibly skew a person's morality.

[marginally-related-aside: Here is some Christian who's morality is definitely skewed in a negative way (not that I feel he is representative of most Christians)]

I personally feel that this one life is all we have. It would take a great deal for me to decide to take that life away from anyone else. I don't need an imaginary religion to tell me not to commit murder. All I need is my humanity.

evanalmighty said...

Christ, whose words ad actions is the basis for Christianity said that if we desire to commit a sin in our hearts then it is as if we already committed that sin. For Christ, desiring to kill a person is the same as actually doing it. What do you think of that.

Morbius said...

"Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them."

Sam Harris, TEOF p.52-53; of course he does not clarify WHO will decide which propositions...perhaps teaching creationism to children and thus participating in child abuse?...are so dangerous that they deserve the death penalty.

evanalmighty said...

Atheistic Ethics is actually the ethic of popular opinion and belief. That opinion and belief may become popular by force or coercion. Meaning, who ever has the power has the say of what is right and what is wrong.
When you do not have a moral code to live by, a God who tells you how to live, then you will have people telling other people how to live. The people who are more powerful will tell you how to live. They will decide what is right or wrong and what is right and wrong will be actually what is convenient for those in power.
If there are people who oppose the people in power, for religious beliefs, then it would be convenient to kill them. According to the atheistic ethic, it would be ethical to kill them because it would be also popular to kill them. People who are members of this blog are working to convince society that it would be ethical to kill Christians and Jews because it would be convenient, and if they can convince enough people then they will actually fulfill some prophesies that they deny.
The book of Daniel deals some with this read it and you will learn the truth about the people who are members here.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Evanalmighty,
When you do not have a moral code to live by, a God who tells you how to live, then you will have people telling other people how to live. The people who are more powerful will tell you how to live. They will decide what is right or wrong and what is right and wrong will be actually what is convenient for those in power.
Where did the adherence to old testament law go? You are right. Even Christians are guilty of this. Why not kill the unruly child along with the homosexual? unfortunately it is against godless secular law, and it is obviously errant principle so neither one of us believes (hopefully) that it should be enforced.

The religions right got hold of my beloved republican party and is making a shambles out of it. They are trying to legislate morality and trying to create a theocracy, and increasing the size of government in the meantime.

People who are members of this blog are working to convince society that it would be ethical to kill Christians and Jews because it would be convenient, and if they can convince enough people then they will actually fulfill some prophesies that they deny.
this is so clearly egregious I have to wonder if you're drunk.

go preach this crap somewhere they'll put a dollar in your plate.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Morbius,
go read Deut. 21:18-21. This is so obviously wrong how can you defend it? While you say that atheist ethics cannot be right, I say that the bible is 2000 year old philosophy that is being cherry-picked by 21st century christians as a security blanket against uncertainty. You have to be told whats right and wrong because you don't have confidence enough to figure it out for yourself do you?

Logismous Kathairountes said...

John, you said:

"You know what you're doing is wrong and yet you do it anyway. If you knew God would not forgive you for that wrong and you'd burn forever in hell for doing it, you wouldn't do wrong. The whole reason you do wrong is because you know God will forgive you."

This doesn't actually follow from the Gospel, which claims that everybody sins and deserves Hell. Knowing that if you sin you'll go to Hell doesn't change whether or not you'll sin: You'll sin anyway.

So the blood of Jesus doesn't give us permission to sin - It gives us life and love, which are the opposite of sin. As Paul says, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace might increase? By no means!"

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Logismous,
I thought that jesus taking on our sins at the cross absolved us of all sins, and that failing that, once you accepted JC you were washed by the blood, saved for ever and didn't have to worry about hell anymore?
Am I Wrong?
In another post, richdurant said the following about my questioning whether since I was saved but am now agnostic/atheist can I still go to heaven.
There are many different "degrees of glory" that you can achieve. The majority will be in the lowest part of heaven, which is still heaven.
This echoes what I was taught by my last credible baptist preacher. That there are different rewards for different categories of Christians that are differentiated by their faith and works.

No one said jesus gave us permission to sin, but I do claim that logically, this is a get of jail free card.

If I say, well I'm just not strong enough to resist looking at playboy, I am at least strong enough not to look at the 'hard stuff' and my reward will match, therefore I can live with that, then I can justify all sorts of degrees of sins.

Deceiving people is good example. I have seen some doctors that would rather not tell a cancer patient how serious it is because they know that it could degrade whatever quality of life they can squeeze out of their last days.

I don't agree with this attitude but I recognize that some people would prefer to be treated this way by their doctor.

At this point, there is little value in a christian ethic because it is inherently corrupt because there is too much personal subjectivity built into it.

If the Atheist ethic can be said to have too much personal subjectivity built into it, at least it can be based on standards of reason and principles that can reviewed and subjected to scrutiny and revised as needed.

Biblical Dogma does not contain this highly valuable feature.

Richard Rosalion said...

I totally agree that if someone decides they "want" to murder they will despite what religion might say.

Couldn't it be argued, however, that what Christianity (or religion) provides is not an absolute disincentive for murder, but rather swaying the balance of "advantage" vs "disadvantage"?

For example, for a completely amoral individual, the only disadvantage might be that they have to face the legal repercussions (prison, etc.). For a Christian (ignoring, for the moment, the possibility of forgiveness - which seems a common stance for Christians to take when debating these things) the disadvantage would be an eternity in hell. So, for the Christian, it might be a little harder to find a situation where the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Just for the record, I'm certainly not a Christian - but this argument seems, to me, a typical Christian response to your suggestions.

Jason said...

"And does this mean they should search out every possible sin and daily repent of it before God will forgive? Surely not."

Why not?

Brian said...

Very interesting discussion... But I have yet to read a foundation for the paradox "ätheistic ethics".

There has been a number of posts pertaining to murder, sin, and the like, but who cares? In an atheistic, purely molecules & matter world, this would be "ethics":

We, who share a common ancestor with other mammals, are essentially no different than animals. In an animal world, its a foolish thought to imagine imposing ethics and laws to govern them, but since natural selection did such a great job, let it work. Why are we different? If then, since there is no absolute God, there is no absolute morality, then we should ENCOURAGE others to practice there own version of ethics. Get rid of civil restraints, laws, and uniformitarianism, and at least be consistent with our world view, and don't judge others for there own personal ethical choices.
Hitler? Stalin? Dahmer? Gacy? We who proclaim to be "atheists", and are consistent with that system, can't condemn these men for there actions, for they are practicing there own version of ethics... Natural selection, right?

As is abundantly clear, thankfully, the world cannot, and will not function in this fashion. Every reader of this post has a sense of right and wrong. One CANNOT deny absolute morality, and if they do, then they can have no judgement whatsoever, logically, of ethics and morality.

Whats all this talk of sin? An atheist can't have sin... ahh... I see something now... If sin can only be committed against God, then if I believe he doesn't exist, then I no longer have sin! Like a young boy, who throws a temper tantrum, and is angry at his father, so he covers his eyes, and says that he doesn't exist.

Or am I completely misunderstanding everything...

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Brian,
You seem to be overlooking a few things. Generally speaking a world where I have a good chance of a successful outcome is probably a good world for you too. Fair trade, fair laws, clean lakes, low gas prices etc. Also generally speaking, If I had to devote 40% of my resources to pursuits that didn't directly benefit me so that I could have 60% of resources for myself, then I could live with that. If everyone did what it took to try to ensure a successful outcome for the group rather than the individual, then more than likely most people would be satisfied enough with it to be happier than living in anarchy.

And call murder or pedophilia sin if you want, it still makes sense in the big picture to be against the law as with most things that harm.

Anonymous said...

Because the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

I did have the question in 2 parts and for whatever reason you only chose to truly answer 1 of them. But I'll still give a response to your entry.

There is a difference. When a Christian kills they are willingly betraying a lifestyle they've chosen to follow. They betray a being they've chosen to obey. In atheism there is no betrayal. You may claim they are betraying the law but that's not necessarily true. There isn't necessarily a chosen obedience to the law just a law that was forced upon them. Christian sins is about betrayal atheism is about self-interest.

I notice you didn't answer my hypothesis of Brad a Tim except for a whole, "That wouldn't happen" argument. It seems to me like you didn't have an answer. If a person is proud of a lifestyle that you find horrible what do you say to them to make them feel guilty? Any reason they should feel guilty?

salvationfound

evanalmighty said...

Lee, you never were saved from your sins, you never believed in Jesus Christ. NEVER! If you think you did you are either delusional or mistaken. Many people falsely believe that God will require a degree in divinity to get into heaven. Or that their degree in divinity is a sure fire ticket. You were probably on of those people.

Many people believe the way that you did Lee. There are many false teachers, most of them are themselves deceived as you were and still are.

You deceive others now.

Murder and pedophilia are actually consequences of sin. Sin realized or made real.

A Christian a true Christian who loves God with all of their heart mind and soul, is still a person. We must understand that being a Christian is not saying some magic words and then poof, your a changed person. No, a Christian must be in constant communication with Christ.

When we look away as Peter did on those waves we fall, however, all we need to do is remember Christ and call out to him in

!!SINCERITY!!

for help and he will save us.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Lee, you never did these things.
And you openly with a proud and deceitful heart do not do them now.

When you were a religious leader, you were a false teacher. The bible says many things about people false teachers. The world is full of false teachers.

Noxidereus said...

evanalmighty: "you never were saved from your sins, you never believed in Jesus Christ. NEVER! If you think you did you are either delusional or mistaken."

How incredibly ironic!

I come from a born again christian family. I wholeheartedly and sincerely believed in and followed Jesus Christ. I spoke in tongues. I had absolutely no doubt that I was saved through Jesus Christ and I was in constant communication with him. I was honestly as sincere as anyone possibly could be. When I was in a car accident, spinning around on the highway with an 18-wheeler skidding towards my tiny little Ford Escort 2-seater EXP, I honestly was not afraid because I knew God would save me. I had NO DOUBT of it, even when I was so close to death. Thankfully, it stopped in time.

Fast forward more than 10 years later. I am an atheist. I no longer believe in God. I am not angry at Him. If I find out that I am wrong and there is a God, I will follow Him again quite gleefully. During my deconversion, I asked God to please show me that he existed. It was not a challenge. I wanted Him to exist so very badly. It was hard letting go. There was no answer - because there is no God. If you think that it is not possible to be a true believer and then subsequently become an atheist, you are the one who is delusional.

Even though I conclude there is no God, I am still the same moral human being I have always been. Morals come from our own humanity. They evolved along with us, and although there are no ETERNAL consequences for committing murder, I will never murder anyone in cold blood. I love life and know other people do. I could never bring myself to take that life from anyone else. This goes for pretty much anything that causes harm. I do not wish to cause anyone harm. Not because a non-existant God will get mad at me, but because it is just who I am. Empathy is part of what it is to be human. I care very much for other people and that plus reason and logic (in determining the types of things that cause harm) are all that is required to build an atheistic ethic. I hesitate to call it an atheistic ethic, because it is not limited to atheists. By it, I only mean that it does not come from God.

tiny tim said...

"I asked God to please show me that he existed". You survived a potentially fatal accident, did you not? What else do you want?

Noxidereus said...

I understand your point tiny tim, and I attributed that to God for a long time. It was nice to believe that, but the problem for me was seeing so many other people not survive accidents. Why would God save me, but not others? Considering all of the suffering in the world, why not save someone more deserving of it? Or why not help everyone? I couldn't answer those types of questions, and it conflicted with my view of a perfectly omnipotent, benevolent God.

When I was Christian, I did feel that morality came from God and I really did wonder why anyone would bother to be good without there being an eternal reason for it. Who's to say what's truly good or truly evil? Without God, wouldn't it be arbitrary and pointless? No.

Now that I am atheist, I see humanity as so much more fragile. I see life as so much more precious, because it is merely a fleeting spark in the darkness of oblivion. I find it very poetic that there is so much beauty in the world despite there being no God. Of course there is ugliness too, but that is why we all need to be kind to one another.

Life is so short and precious. To cheapen someone's life experience by being cruel, limiting their freedom, or killing them is bad for obvious reasons, none of them having anything to do with God. Actually, so many people have suffered over theological interpretations, that I would say religion actually breeds immorality the way I see it. It causes people to hate each other for odd reasons. Of course, if you cherry-pick, beauty can be found in religion too, but it just isn't real man. It's mythology.

Anonymous said...

Lee seems bothered by subjective ethics.

Atheists are all over the board on ethics, as subjective as you can get.

Gimme a break!

Steven Carr said...

'If someone wants to kill and they feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages why shouldn't they kill?'

If God commands you to kill, what are the advantages of obeying God?

Of course, God would never ask anybody to lie to somebody else (that would be immoral), but the Bible claims he does ask people to kill others.

Following on from a comment above :=

Christians *should* think of every possible sin they might conceivably have committed and repent of it.

Even if they are very doubtful that what they did really was a sin.



Otherwise they are unrepentant sinners.


Perhaps they fancy telling their God that they didn't repent of a certain deed, because in their eyes, and in the eyes of their friends, it wasn't a sin, even if God thinks it is.

I can't imagine that line playing too well with the God of the Bible.

evanalmighty said...

Actually the Bible is very clear about what is sin.
Also, not having knowledge of the law is not an excuse.
Try telling a judge that you did not know the speed limit was only 35 when you were going 60. See where that gets you.

Stu said...

I can't stand people who stand in judgement on other people, knowing nothing of their lives and experiences and make pronouncements as to what they did or did not believe. Evanalmighty what in hell gives you the right to say what someone else believed. How dare you. If Lee says he believed in Jesus then he bloody well believed in Jesus!!

Steven Carr said...

EVAN
Actually the Bible is very clear about what is sin.
Also, not having knowledge of the law is not an excuse.
Try telling a judge that you did not know the speed limit was only 35 when you were going 60. See where that gets you.

CARR
Is speeding a sin according to the Bible?

I thought the Bible was very clear about what was moral and what was not moral.

Or do we have to supplement God's Word with rules that we have made up?

evanalmighty said...

Steve, ever hear of The Ten Commandants?
Those are God's Law.

Stu, don't get all stirred up.
(Ha Ha)

God knows everything about our lives.
And I can say with confidence that Lee never believed. He was either delusional or mistaken. I stand by that statement.

I'm not judging. I just tell it like it is brother.

Repentance and Faith Lee, Repentance and Faith.

Stu said...

Dude on what grounds can you say that Lee never believed?

evanalmighty said...

Okay, let's say that Lee did believe, then that would mean that he still does believe and what is happening to him is one of God's trials, or God is going to use him in some way, perhaps to wake up lazy Christians from their slumber.

Either way, God is using him. And he probably hates that.

People who know Jesus can say that he is real. They can say they never knew him, but like Peter, they would be lying.

However, Lee does not have an angry crowd and Roman centurions threatening him with violence and earth.

I would believe Lee if he said that like Peter he had little faith, that would be different than saying that he had no faith.

But that he say's he has no faith leads me to believe that he never had any faith to begin with, or, that Lee is lying to him self and he does have faith, just not much of it.

Hope that helps.

Oh, and thanks for the ten anon.

Stu said...

"let's say that Lee did believe, then that would mean that he still does believe"

how does this follow?

"But that he say's he has no faith leads me to believe that he never had any faith to begin with, or, that Lee is lying to him self and he does have faith, just not much of it."

Why does the fact that he has no faith now imply that he never had any faith? What's impossible about Lee, or anyone for that matter, believing something at one time and then disbelieving it later? What's the problem with that?

evanalmighty said...

Your understanding of belief is actually disbelief or maybe it is opinion. Perhaps Lee had an opinion about the bible and God and Jesus but then he changed is mind, this is not belief.

Try understanding it this way:What would your mother say if you told her that you don't believe in your grandfather anymore?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Evanalmighty,
the difference is that my grandfather participated in a relationship and god didn't. My grandfather was real and god isn't. Simple. Your analogy fails because it doesn't fit.

judge not lest ye be judged. and all that.

Where I am concerned, listen to your peers, you don't and cannot possibly know what you are talking about.

Brian said...

I think it would be helpful to better explain terms. I'm confused by this discussion, and I think its a bit symantical.

Belief - I believe in Hitler, in that I am confidant he existed.

If, Lee, you mean you were confidant that God existed, then sure, I buy that, sort of.

I think that salvation is a different issue. If you think you were saved before, and not anymore, than I completely agree with Evan. Impossible. If you are not saved now, then you never were. But, in a way, I cannot judge whether this is true or not. The Bible says "you can know them by there fruit", so a persons lifestyle can indicate a path (right path, wrong path), but no one but God can know whether someone will be in heaven, other than the people who have been saved.

So hopefully this helps the conversation.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Brian,
this facet of our discussion is really off topic however I was toying with writing and article on how the concept of Salvation, baptism and being born again face a dilemma with the 'once saved always saved' concept with the 'deconverted'.
Please stay tuned.

evanalmighty said...

"My grandfather was real and god isn't."

There you have it folks. Lee never believed. He mistook an opinion of God for actual belief in God.

And Lee, you are the one who does not know what he is talking about. You only pretend to know, just like you did when you were a false teacher. You are a pretender.

evanalmighty said...

Lee, you had an opinion that God might be real. You never actually believed he was real. You are all liars if you say you ever did.
Your faith was tested and you were found lacking.

Judas walked and talked with Jesus. Remember that.

Penicillin said...

"Elimination of the weak and defective, the first principle of our philosphy! And we should help them to do it!"

(The AntiChrist, sec 2, by Nietzsche the Syphillitic Atheist)

Now THERE'S and atheist ethic for ya!

Slapdash said...

***Lee, you had an opinion that
God might be real. You never actually believed he was real. You are all liars if you say you ever did.
Your faith was tested and you were found lacking. ***

Wow. I take *major* exception to this statement. You don't know the first thing about me, evanalmighty, but you have already called me a liar. You see, I have been down a similar life path as Lee and many others on this board. I had faith as solid as a rock, for 20+ years in fact. But now that faith is wavering, on the verge of extinction. That doesn't mean it never existed.

What are you trying to accomplish through your comments here, EA? If you are trying to win any of us back to the Lord, damn. Try again. Your judgment of people you don't even know isn't going to get you very far.

DagoodS said...

evanalmighty: Also, not having knowledge of the law is not an excuse.
Try telling a judge that you did not know the speed limit was only 35 when you were going 60. See where that gets you.


Er….Can I attempt to clear something up?

I often see “Ignorance of the Law is no excuse” being applied to God. Actually, that is a misunderstanding of the concept. Have you every thought why we say that?

Imagine, for a moment, that not knowing the law was a valid defense. That, in fact, if a person was going 60 mph in a 35 mph but did not know it, they would be found “Not Responsible.” What would happen? Why, each person would stand up and proclaim that they didn’t know the law! They would…dare I say?...lie. We would quickly be put in a situation where we either could not convict anyone OR be reduced to the ridiculous notion of first trying to prove they knew the law, and then prove they broke it.

The reason “Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse” has been declared, is that we have no way of determining if someone is lying about knowing the law or not. Human limitation. (And I would note, by the way, there are laws about posting speed limits, and by a governmental body failing to conform to those laws, a person is exonerated from the crime of speeding. We can’t make a section of street 35 mph, and presume everyone has read the law books. So there is more concern about ignorance of the law than you may think.)

However, a god such as that described by Christianity would not have such a limitation. It could know whether a person truly knew the law or not, and whether they were breaching the law. It could impose a rule of “Ignorance of the law IS an excuse” since it would not be restricted by our human limitations.

The question arises—what obligation would God have to indicate the law to humanity? And if he did so—how would we know?

Brian said...

"However, a god such as that described by Christianity would not have such a limitation. It could know whether a person truly knew the law or not, and whether they were breaching the law. It could impose a rule of “Ignorance of the law IS an excuse” since it would not be restricted by our human limitations."

Now thats one really big speculation. What are you basing that on? Because it would be nice?

It sounds like the world according to a majority of readers is what they want it to be, some sort of relativistic, non-logical convenience.

"The question arises—what obligation would God have to indicate the law to humanity? And if he did so—how would we know?"

The Bible? Creation? Just because you may not like these answers doesn't make them any less valid.

God has revealed himself to us through His Word, and also through the natural world around us.

I see one thing consistently when reading many forums/discussions: When a comment comes up about faith, or trust, the reaction almost immediately is something about not thinking for yourself, being mentally crippled, needing a crutch, mindless followers, etc.. Its my opinion we give ourselves too much credit... Would you tell a 2 year old he's a fool for trusting or relying on his parents? "Grow up, boy! Learn to think for yourself!" Nope. Same thing with God.

OK, I'm done ranting for now... could be I'm preaching to the wrong choir with the last point, but its important, nevertheless, to see a relationship with God this way.

Brian

Lee Randolph said...

HI Brian,
If god is all knowing, he knows what we know and what we don't know, right? Then he knows if we are ignorant of the law, right?
Then is it fair for him to punish those that don't know the law? no. To what degree is it fair to punish those that do know the law? Which law do we use, old testament law or some kind of "New Covenant" in Jesus? Jesus evidently validated Old Testament Law, which means it should be followed, right?
If it should be followed, then there are a few laws in the old testament that would be illegal in this day and age.

So if God gave the law as scripture, and christians can't follow it because they are illegal in this day and age, are christians violating gods commands by not following them? If god should punish law breakers, then to what degree? Stoning to those that pick up sticks on sunday, or for a disobedient child or death for homosexual acts?

These sound unreasonable today, maybe not in those days, but there hasn't been any scripture that I know of that revises those laws, has there?

If you say "render unto ceaser what is ceasars and render unto god what is gods" then does caesars law override gods law? If yes then where does god fit in terms of ethics, morals and law if it can be so easily overturned by government?

Brian said...

Romans 1:18-20:

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools...

This Passage is Paul explaining to the Roman church that nature itself is a testament to God, and because of this man cannot be ignorant of who God is. This of course does not explain what the law is, but who God is.

As far as ignorance of the law... very simply, it says that "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". Everyone. Me, you, everyone who reads this. Is it worthy of Gods punishment, every one of our sins? Yes, but I think you know this line of reasoning already. Jesus died to take away the punishment our we deserve because of our sins.

As far as old testament law goes, thats a huge topic by itself, but I've found a nice summary (OK, its a bit long, but a good read for those who are interested. It is:

http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_law_hays.html

"If you say "render unto ceaser what is ceasars and render unto god what is gods" then does caesars law override gods law?"

Peter sums this up nicely with: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 ). So in this context, if there is some contention between Caesar and God, then we must follow God's word. The beatitudes in Matthew speak of being persecuted, and sometimes this can be because of the law. In China, for example, many Christians are persecuted for practicing their faith, even though it is not legal to do so. There are many examples of this. This example doesn't prove my point right, but it does illustrate it.

I hope I have answered your questions accurately. If not, just ask again. I don't try to avoid any questions, but if I missed anything, let me know...

Brian

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Brian,
when peter says we ought to obey gods law rather than men, and then you show me the result of people trying to figure out how to work ancient laws into everyday life by the "Principlism" approach, this seems contradictory.

What do you do with the laws that can't be modified using principlism such as some of the laws with the stoning or death penalty?

Deosn't it seem to be a better plan to have written the law with principlism in mind or to have provided some formal revisions?

As it stands, it seems there was quite a bit of lack of forsight on the part of the holy spirit inspiring men to write gods word.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Brian,
I was rushed and forgot to mention the fact that this principlism depends on 'new covenant' theology. The problem as I see it is that 'New Covenant" theology is not accpted by all christians and those that do argue among themselves whether moses law "can convict of sin in a saving way".

DagoodS said...

brian; What are you basing that [The God of Christianity could know whether a person truly knew the law or not] on?

Actually…the Bible! Verses that state: “You (God) alone know the hearts of the sons of man.” 1 Kings 8:39 & 2 Chron. 6:30. Or Discussions as to God thwarting the deep inward thoughts of humans in Psalm 64

The fact that Jesus knew thoughts. Matt. 12:25. John 16:19. And that Jesus knew who would not believe him. John 6:64.

But you are quite correct—it is quite possible for a person to be a Christian and to hold that God does not know the thoughts of humans, and therefore would not be able to determine whether they knew the law or not.

Is that they type of God that you believe exists? One that does not know human thoughts? What else does your God not know?

(And perhaps a little charity? We discuss with a variety of Christians—some who hold to hell, some who do not. Some who are universalists, some who are not. I can point you to a number, such as lee randolph is referring to, who believe, based upon the verses I cite, that God does know the inward thoughts of humans. Who include this ability within their definition of an “all-knowing” God.

I am most certainly not trying to trick you, or create a straw-person God that you do not believe in, just to tear it down. In fact, your God that does not know our inward thoughts is far more interesting, in my opinion.)

More: God has revealed himself to us through His Word, and also through the natural world around us.

Ahh…but this is a problem. See, just like those verses I pointed out as indicating God knows inward thoughts, some say God has revealed that means he would be aware of our knowledge of the law, you apparently say differently. Same words, two VERY different results.

And while I understand your confidence that your interpretation is correct, they assure me equal confidence that your interpretation is INcorrect. Which person should I believe? Here is where the difficulty comes in.

Further, God, within the very same Bible, states that he will send a spirit of delusion so they will believe a lie. 2 Th. 2:9-11. There are other instances when scripture does attribute deception to God, via a secondary agent (1 Kg 22:23; Ezk 14:9).

Now, if God tells me the truth (in his Bible) that occasionally he is lying—how can I be certain as to what is a lie and what is truth?

Michael Ejercito said...



The question arises—what obligation would God have to indicate the law to humanity? And if he did so—how would we know?

He is God; He has absolutely no obligations.

If you do not obey His Law, you go to Hell. And if He refuses to reveal His Law to you, you have no recourse.

Michael Ejercito said...


Now, if God tells me the truth (in his Bible) that occasionally he is lying—how can I be certain as to what is a lie and what is truth?

You don't .

Michael Ejercito said...

Then is it fair for him to punish those that don't know the law?
Fairness is irrelevant to God. The only thing relevant to God is His absolute power over us.

richdurrant said...

"And if He refuses to reveal His Law to you, you have no recourse."

Are we talking the same law already revealed to all in the bible, or some other secret law only revealed to those who are saved?

"Now, if God tells me the truth (in his Bible) that occasionally he is lying—how can I be certain as to what is a lie and what is truth?
You don't"

Now this is a little troubling

"Then is it fair for him to punish those that don't know the law?
Fairness is irrelevant to God. The only thing relevant to God is His absolute power over us.?"

Somehow you conjour up an image of Darth Sidious with hands raised screaming, "unlimited power"!!!
I don't see how God can't be fair. How can a being that loves all punish those who don't know his law? It doesn't fit. We should have the opportunity to know of the truth and then decide for ourselves if we want to follow it or not. This should be given to all, not just a select few and then to hell with the rest. This sounds a little more like someone else I know, (in my best church lady voice) could it be Satan? hmmm?

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Again, I'll get to the commenters later, but I want to start with John's main post.

John:
Over 50 years ago, in the 1st Anniversary issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, there was a very funny piece, a 'Communist explanation of baseball.' The writer was supposed to be a Soviet citizen who had come to America and was reporting on his first baseball game, and the hilarity was the way he saw everything through the warped lenses of Marxist doctirne. (I remember it, but not well enough to quote examples.)

It is less funny when people seriously take assumptions -- usually valid 'as far as they go' -- and turn them into an 'overarching theory' and try to fit their perceptions into the doctrine. Its common among believers, among polituical speakers, particularly on the extremes -- including the few Marxists that still exist -- and, of course, the whole basis of 'post-modernism' is doing precisely this. And John, I'm afraid you are falling so in love with your theory that you are doing much the same here.

It's true that 'people do kill people' whether they are Christians, non-believers, Muslims, Jains, whatever. (If this were the place, I'd argue that Christians are probably much more guilty than non-believers, and I have my own ideas why, but not now.) This is why every society requires laws and police powers, not just ethical teachings.

But your argument -- here I'm referring to your comment and not the main post -- that murder is inherently irrational because the odds of getting away with it are so low is simply nonsense -- or rather, special pleading at its worst.

Forensic science isn't that good at its best. Yes, DNA, fingerprints, and ballistics are pretty close to perfect when properly applied, but the other branches like hair and fiber analysis -- there was a NEW YORKER article on this recently -- are much less precise than TV shows us, and some branches, like handwriting analysis and forensic dentistry are extremely dubious.

But that's at its best, meaning the police have access to a high-level forensic lab, staffed by people who are, in real life, as assiduous as are Gil Grissom and his crew -- and these do exist, in some cities. But other labs are underfunded or are manned by sloppy employees, smaller cities don't always get the cooperation from big cities, rural areas may not have the access to any forensics, etc.

Furthermore, the police have to be aware that a murder actually took place and to realize that i wasn't some sort of low-priority homicide. Even if they do figure out the killer, they may not be able to develop sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute the murderer -- many more murders are in fact 'solved' in police minds than are successfully 'cleared by conviction.' Ad of course there are possibilities for bribery or simply making sure the person investigating the case is an idiot by deciding where to do it.

And you were arguing that 'risk-taking' is a personal satisfaction that could be a factor in a person's 'rational self-interest,' so if the probability of getting caught is low but not as you put it:
"The odds against getting away with murder are close to zero. And even if you don't get caught the first time you'll probably kill again, and probably again. You will eventually get caught. It's not worth the risk." then this might not be a discouragement.

I'd argue that people don't kill, not just for fear of getting caught, but because they do recognize murder as being wrong.

In fact, one problem I am having with your whole series is that you are discussing 'ends.' But, in most cases -- not all, but the vast majority -- 'ends' are ethically neutral. It is the question of how you choose to accomplish those ends that creates the ethical questions.

(But oh, did the commenters get off into other topics. I may not get to you guys till late evening, but I can't wait.)

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Wow, there is so much to discuss here. Noxidereus, you keep on making very good points. I love your point that since one life is all we have, we would be less likely to take the remainder of their life from someone else. (Of course, this implies empathy, one of the key motivating factors in ethical actions.)

Evan, you too are useful, if only to give us someone to argue against. I'm going to start with your comment at 7:19 June 25, because it is one of our favorite topics.

No, the atheistic system of ethics is not a question of 'popular belief,' nor is it any less 'manipulable' than the various supposedly religious-based ethical systems (see the way the Republican party has used 'Christianity' as a sanction for everything it has done recently, to the point where some people seem to believe that 'lower taxes' and 'no gun control' are in the Bible).
In fact, it is the history of all pre-Enlightenment Christianity after Nicea and Constantine -- even in the West -- that it was used by the authorities to sanction their own interpretations. True, sometimes you would, pre-Reformation, get struggles between the 'spiritual' and the 'temporal' realms, but usually the 'spiritual' gave way.

And once the Reformation occurred, the catch phrase was 'who holds the reign, his the religion' (sorry but I blipped the Latin).

It was only with the coming of the Enlightenment and finally of Democracy that this did not pertain.

In fact, if you read the posts I am putting up, and John's -- even though we disagree -- you'll find that we nowhere make 'popularity' a factor in ethical systems. (If you disagree and consider my 'developing ethical system' discussion to be saying this, reread it and you will see that I am saying precisely the opposite.)

If you consider that -- at any point -- I, or anyone here would be arguing 'If there are people who oppose the people in power, for religious beliefs, then it would be convenient to kill them. According to the atheistic ethic, it would be ethical to kill them because it would be also popular to kill them.' or the drivel that follows, you are either dumber than the nearest wall or deliberately misunderstanding what we are saying. (And you will see if I get Part II of "A Better..." out that this is specifically the opposite of my position. Since both 'communication' and 'respect' are among my highest values, I insist on the right of people to hold and act on opposing positions. In fact, maybe the most unethical act I can imagine would be to fail to speak out and oppose -- even at the cost of my own life -- any attempt such as that you suggest.

Enough for this, now to read down and see how others have handled this.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Morbius:

I don't know the Sam Harris quote you mention, but if you quote him accurately, it is yet another reason why I do not consider him 'one of my heroes.' (My primary cause is that he seems to accept a 'mystical orientation' even while he attacks religion, and the orientation is the problem, more than the religion.) If this is an accurate quote, let me say that there is no circumstance I can imagine where I could agree with this. (I can imagine killing someone to keep him from acting on certain propositions -- which is why I consider WWII a just war -- but for belief, NEVER.

Logismous: glad to see one of the sensible Christians joining in, but I have to say that the idea that 'everyone is going to sin and thus deserves hell' is one of the worst ideas in Protestant Christianity -- as I've stated, it isn't in Catholicism, which sees heaven as the 'default position' and assumes someone has to work hard to get themselves condemned to hell. (Btw, where exactly in which Gospel do you find that statement?)

Actually, Lee, you are wrong by most interpretations of Christianity. Even modern Protestantism, I believe, with its belief in 'salvation through faith alone' still requires sincere repentance. God will not forgive you unless you accept that what you did was wrong and honestly determine not to repeat the sin. Yes, you may slip, but that honest determination to avoid the sin in the future is, I believe, a requirement in most theology -- and, of course, should be or the forgiveness would be the equivalent of a 'get out of jail free card.'

(Early Christianity had its own disputes on this, with a belief -- remember, most people were converting as adults -- that faith 'washed away' your past sins, but if you sinned once you had been converted, that was it, and off to hell with you. (One group, sorry, no time to check which one now, held that you could get one more chance after conversion, but 'two strikes and you were out.' Early Christianity wasn't big on recidivism.)

Let's break this here.

Michael Ejercito said...

Early Christianity had its own disputes on this, with a belief -- remember, most people were converting as adults -- that faith 'washed away' your past sins, but if you sinned once you had been converted, that was it, and off to hell with you.
This would be incompatible with Jesus's admonition that we forgive our brother seventy times seven times.

Why would he expect us to forgive repeat offenders if He would not do so Himself?

John W. Loftus said...

FYI Prup, my wife's daughter has a forensics degree and SHE says there is no such thing as a perfect murder.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Prup,
right, I thought is was understood that a 'penatent heart' was a requirement, didn't think I needed to mention it.

but this does raise two theological questions of 'salvation through works or grace' and 'once saved always saved' doesn't it?

all,
Peoples action and repentance goes beyond ethical behaviour, good and evil, right and wrong. Not only criminals have the urge to repeat an act they regret, so do overeaters, smokers, alcoholics, etc. and then you get into the psychology of the person. For example, they may be convinced they are sorry in principle but upon closer scrutiny they may just be sorry because they got caught and may not be able to tell the difference. I have run across this in people when I facilitated secular personal responsibility seminars. I realize overeaters don't present a clear and present danger to the community, but in terms of society and figuring in economics they do. Unhealthy people create a burden on the finite resources of the medical community. that is an indirect harm.

This question of Ethics is too complex to be contained in something like the bible because there are so many factors to consider. It doesn't even touch on the "Ethical" resons to lie such as my doctor example. It doesn't touch on babies that are born destined to die within a week. This would be an ethical reason to abort wouldn't it.

sorry got off on a tangent. But it does show doubt about god as the source of ethics.

David J Boehm said...

Couple Points:

First, it is much easier to tear down something then to build something and defend it. This is why negative campaign ads work so well.

Second, you cannot claim that a belief in nothing is something that you've built and are defending well.

Third, the world is a fallen place and no matter how hard you try, you will always do wrong. I'd like to see even one of you go for the rest of your life without hurting another person. This means in terms of killing, stealing, hurtful words, ect. Even if the result was the death penalty, this would not deter you.

Fourth, the best way to change a person is not to change the consequences, the best way to change a person is to expose yourselves to them in thought, deed, and action. Look at the civil rights movement. It wasn't the law and enforcement that made things better (heck, nobody really wanted to enforce the laws!), it was the exposing of ones self to conflict and much pain that caused a change in people's hearts.


Believe what you will, but don't sit here and pretend its "so easy" to figure out life's mysteries with or without religion! Want to impress me? Build up a belief system that has lasted for thousands of years through heavy fire.