Former Preacher Turned Atheist Bruce Gerencser on Lumping All Christians Together

I am sure my more liberal, progressive, emerging/emergent, non-conforming Christian readers are upset at me because I lumped them into the same group as all the Christians I mentioned in my previous post.

I understand why you are upset. I used to get upset too when I was lumped together with people I despised or disagreed with.

However…when I join a group, church,political party or family I have to accept the baggage that comes with the association.

Three of my children have taken classes at NW State Community College in nearby Archbold, Ohio. Each of them has had someone make the connection between child and father. Imagine being asked “Is Bruce Gerencser related to you?” or “Is Bruce Gerencser your father?” or “Are you related to that guy who writes in the newspaper?” or “are you related to the Gerencser that was a pastor in West Unity?”

I am their father. They bear the burden of being my children. They are judged because of what I have written or said. It’s part of the price they pay for being my children. That’s just how it is.

Several years ago I visited a Church in the area where an older member of the Church, upon hearing my name, decided to interrogate me.

* “Are you THAT Bruce Gerencser who writes in the newspaper?”
* “Are you related to ___________________ (fill in the name of one of my uncles)”

I have never hid who/what I am. I don’t write under a pseudonym. I don’t hide behind a screen name. People know where I live. (and I don’t judge people who do otherwise) I own what I write and say. However, I DON’T own what is not mine. So, I answered “yes I am THAT Bruce Gerencser.”

The second question? I thought Oh no not THAT uncle! :) But I had to own my uncle. He is part of my family.

I am a progressive. I am a liberal. I am a Democrat. I voted for Barack Obama. I am very disappointed in Obama’s first year in office. However, when I voted for Obama I bought the proverbial farm. I must own what I bought.

My wife and I were married over 31 years ago. We became one flesh. We live with that fact that what each of does reflects on the other. That’s life.

Unless my children disown me, my wife divorces me or I renounce my family association with my uncle I must live with what comes as a result of the relationships I have.

Unless I am willing to repudiate my vote for Obama and leave progressive, liberal politics then I must live with the political decisions that are made on my behalf.

I am a pacifist. Yet, when the U.S. military kills people I know they are killing in my name. This is the burden I bear as a citizen of the U.S. I am unwilling to move to Canada or Fiji (though I have had thoughts of doing so) so I must live with what people do in my name.

That’s just how it is.

As a Christian you must live with the family association UNLESS you are willing to divorce yourself from the family. That’s exactly what some of us have done. We were no longer willing to be a part of the family. We became agnostics, atheists, universalists, spiritualists, or joined another religion that offered a better family.

Link

79 comments:

Rob R said...

Let us then have no more bellyaching with the association of atheists with stalin.

Samphire said...

Except that he murdered in the name of a particular brand of communism and not atheism.

Rob R said...

...unhinged from the value of human life by the void of atheism.

Rob R said...

Of course, while I reject this line of thinking, One could substitute Dawinism here. people HAVE committed attrocities in the name of darwinism. Now, if you embrace darwinism, embrace your association as Mr. Gerencser has instructed.

Furthermore, we could articulate things this way: Those with a distorted Christianity have done horrific things while those with an undistorted atheism have also performed attrocities.

Kilre said...

I was unaware that human life had any sort of value, except that which we personally grant others.

Rob R said...

And there lies the problem!

Rob R said...

Let's be more specific. It is concievable that stalin felt the same way that you do Kilre

Bronxboy47 said...

@Rob R


With the example of centuries of Christian atrocities before him, it would have been truly remarkable had Stalin been able to resist following the precedent set for him by religious zealots.

Steven said...

Rob, you're trolling, and you know it. "While I reject this line of thinking..." ...I'm going to use the opportunity to freely bash those people I disagree with.

For someone who supposedly has such a philosophically enlightened view of his faith, you've just shown yourself to be no better than the "commoners" you often criticize.

All you've done is take Gerencser's premise and run with it. If you were really as enlightened as you claim, you would have rebutted it rather than ran with it.

I really do disagree with this line of argument, it is unfair to paint all Christians with a broad brush and hold them responsible for things like the Inquisition, or even the stuff that is happening today in Africa. Although that doesn't mean that I won't be critical if I see Christians voice the sort of opinions that leads to these sorts of things.

Steven said...

And there lies the problem!

As if moral authoritarians aren't just as as fickle, arbitrary, and capricious. Really Rob? Do you really want to go there? Or are you going to continue with your hypocrisy.

Rob R said...

Bronxboy,

So whether it is religious or secular, violence is always the fault of the religious. Forgive me if I'm skeptical against this kind of insular thinking.

Course, the fact is, Stalin and the atrocities inspired by atheistic philosophers is indeed unprecedented in it's brutality and scale that the world has never seen.


Steven,

I really do disagree with this line of argument, it is unfair to paint all Christians with a broad brush and hold them responsible for things like the Inquisition, or even the stuff that is happening today in Africa. Although that doesn't mean that I won't be critical if I see Christians voice the sort of opinions that leads to these sorts of things.


Sounds good to me. And yet, it's hard not to note that the association can be made more strongly with atheism and attrocity than Christianity and attrocity as I have explained, which is also an answer to this comment of yours:

As if moral authoritarians aren't just as as fickle, arbitrary, and capricious. Really Rob? Do you really want to go there?


I DID go there!

"Those with a distorted Christianity have done horrific things while those with an undistorted atheism have also performed attrocities."

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

Don't put words in my mouth. You're talking like a petulant child.

The genocidal mindset of the Judeo-Christian religions, the inquisitions, the expulsions, the torturing, the burnings, the beheadings, the dismemberments, all served to coarsen and desensitize mankind to the commission of acts of terror over the centuries.

No, violence is not always the fault of the religious, but they should certainly take credit where credit is due.

Steven said...

"Those with a distorted Christianity have done horrific things while those with an undistorted atheism have also performed attrocities."

That's just it though, Rob. This comment, and your general response to this thread completely discredits all of the arguments that you've made on this site. It raises the very strong question that your entire theology is not based on an honest questioning of theology but is rather based on the attempt to confirm your own preconceived notions of God, religion, and morality. Granted, you are trying to be much more sophisticated about it, but you really aren't all that much different from those that you criticise.

John's nickname for you is spot on, I think.

Rob R said...

Bronxboy,

Don't put words in my mouth.

I didn't. I interpreted you. Show me what's wrong with my interpretation.

The genocidal mindset of the Judeo-Christian religions, the inquisitions, the expulsions, the torturing, the burnings, the beheadings, the dismemberments, all served to coarsen and desensitize mankind to the commission of acts of terror over the centuries.

Yes indeed. I explained this:

"Those with a distorted Christianity have done horrific things while those with an undistorted atheism have also performed attrocities."

No, violence is not always the fault of the religious, but they should certainly take credit where credit is due.

I agree with this 100%. Those who are responsible should take responsibility. And those who are not, those who follow the specific teachings of Jesus and his apostles should not be lumped in whith the responsible parties.



Steven,


That's just it though, Rob. This comment, and your general response to this thread completely discredits all of the arguments that you've made on this site.


How? What's wrong with what I've said? Scolding me like a naughty schoolboy does nothing. And it makes a very dubious claim, that what I say is wrong on very different matters just because you don't like what I say here. If I am wrong, show me, don't threaten not to take me seriously. That does nothing but is an emotional threat that carries no weight.

Granted, you are trying to be much more sophisticated about it, but you really aren't all that much different from those that you criticise.

I don't want to be completely different from those I criticize. And if I was, what common ground could there be for fruitful dialogue. John is a trained philosopher, many of these topics are philosophical, they deserve to be dealt with through our best thinking that we can muster.

but that is just a tangent.





FYI, I don't believe that atheism makes one immoral. Atheists are created in the image of God, thus they possess the moral intuition and are capable of doing commendable things. I don't lump them all together as John and Gerencser's logic suggests(implicitely of course) But of course, as they have learned to question the religious intuition, they may also deny the moral one which is connected (of course, both intuitions do not give us a complete moral or religious system, such needs to be cultivated).

Rob R said...

I don't believe that atheism makes one immoral.


let me ammend this... It doesn't make them immoral in all matters.

Bronxboy47 said...

There was no need to interpret what I said. I presume we are both speaking the same language (although I will probably have cause to regret this presumption given your responses so far); and I pride myself on being pretty plain spoken. Nowhere in what I said--not even in implication--does the word "always" appear, since such an assertion would be patently and ridiculously false. You interpreted what I said in order to attack an assertion I never made, while ignoring the substance of my remark.

It always amuses me when Christians try to excuse the atrocities committed in their name by blaming them on renegade Christians. I'm afraid a close examination of history doesn't support this theory.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

The genocidal mindset of the Judeo-Christian religions, the inquisitions, the expulsions, the torturing, the burnings, the beheadings, the dismemberments, all served to coarsen and desensitize mankind to the commission of acts of terror over the centuries.

Yes indeed. I explained this:

"Those with a distorted Christianity have done horrific things while those with an undistorted atheism have also performed atrocities."


You explained this? What did you explain? I was talking about the link between the Judeo-Christian mindset and the coarsening and desensitizing of mankind to the commission of acts of terror. How does your response "explain" or even address this?

I'm also curious to know who or what you would you accept as the final arbiter of what is genuine as opposed to "distorted", Christianity. That should be good for a few laughs, and should win you quite a few new friends, as you casually dismiss thousands upon thousands of ardent believers over the centuries as deluded.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,
Jahweh, "unhinged from the value of human life", drowns all of humanity save one family. Show me a secular ruler who can match that.

Rob R said...

There was no need to interpret what I said. I presume we are both speaking the same language

It is quite silly to suggest that there is no need for the basic human act of taking a communication and attempt to understand it. that is what interpretation is.

I pride myself on being pretty plain spoken.

Virtually all language, plain or not has potential for misinterpretation.

Nowhere in what I said--not even in implication--does the word "always" appear, since such an assertion would be patently and ridiculously false.

ah. so here's my mistake. And it is only slightly less questionable. There is no historical reason to think that Stalin committed his atrocities even in part because he was desensitized by religious violence. that is your speculation.

It always amuses me when Christians try to excuse the atrocities committed in their name by blaming them on renegade Christians. I'm afraid a close examination of history doesn't support this theory.

Close examination by non-historian New Atheists? And that's not the only close examination that is relevent. Whether they were renegade Christians or not depends on whether they were following the teachings of Christ or not.

You explained this? What did you explain? I was talking about the link between the Judeo-Christian mindset and the coarsening and desensitizing of mankind to the commission of acts of terror. How does your response "explain" or even address this?

And I was clarifying that link, that it would not stand scrutiny of the implications of Jesus' teaching.

I'm also curious to know who or what you would you accept as the final arbiter of what is genuine as opposed to "distorted", Christianity.

Jesus is the arbiter and his teachings and that of his disciples. ALL of those teachings, not just something that can be taken out of context. Jesus was even crystal clear that not everyone who claims to follow him actually does. Jesus explicitely repudiates violence done in his name or for the kingdom of heaven. He said turn the other cheek, love your enemy, bless those who persecute us. There is no room for inquisitions and religious wars in this picture which must be distorted to make such room. You could go to the old testament to find analogues but they don't all fit the pattern set by the religious wars by so called Christian Europe and we are no longer under the old covenant.

Rob R said...

Jahweh, "unhinged from the value of human life", drowns all of humanity save one family. Show me a secular ruler who can match that.

You aren't listening to the narrative. they unhinged their own value with extreme wickedness. And that value was not completely lost as this was a source of grief for God.

And I don't claim that human life is the maximum value, though it's status is powerfully established in our pattern after the image of God. But we can deeply profane that image.

When human life is to be taken and not is not our decision but Gods, and now, it's not even clear that we should at all now that we are in a context of unprecedented forgiveness and redemption after the work of Jesus Christ. But you surely couldn't justify the religious wars and inquisitions with those exceptions... at least unless you have no care for the details... and atheists often don't when they make these criticisms.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Guys,

Rob uses his idiosyncratic definition of Christianity to skirt equivocable bounds.

If you've followed his comments it is pretty clear he has little interest in uncovering what is real and instead is garden-variety defender of his fundamentalist Christianity.

Rob, here's a question since you seem to want to argue from a premise that atheism and Christianily are equivlanet modalities . . . what is the equivalent doctrine in atheism to Christianity's Holy Spirit which atomizes a level of revealed morality and justice? When you can honestly present to us a similar presupposition homogenous to all atheists (Thich Nhat Hanh and Joseph Stalin alike) then I will consider your comments something other than the fallacy of equivocation.

At least Billy Graham had the decency to announce an altar call when he was making one and didn't pretend he was a free-thinker respecting competitng points of view to his doctrine.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

So, the infants and animals of that day unhinged their own value with their extreme wickedness. Is that your justification for near universal genocide?

Rob R said...

Chuck

Rob uses his idiosyncratic definition of Christianity to skirt equivocable bounds.

Oh yes, idiosyncrasies like speaking of Christianity as adhering to the teachings of Christ. How odd. And of course it's not a black and white picture. It does make sense to speak of Christianity as defined as those who make Christ the center of their religion regardless of what they follow that teaching or not. But that shallow use of a label doesn't really tell us about what is important, about what Christ did indeed teach. And those of us who are serious about following Christ do continue to progress in that understanding and have some degree of distortion. And so growth is part of the process, but it makes sense to speak of a distortion that is so bad that the discipleship is only superficial and not indicting of Jesus' message.

Rob, here's a question since you seem to want to argue from a premise that atheism and Christianily are equivlanet modalities

Huh?

They aren't equivalent Chuck I never implied they were. Christianity entails many things. Atheism entails only one thing, no God. And while this is one thing that atheists say gets them off the hook with the attrocities of historical atheism, it is reasonable that we note the effect of holding a belief that entails nothing about morality and is thus perfectly at home with moral nihilism.

When you can honestly present to us a similar presupposition homogenous to all atheists

Why would I do something that I don't believe. I don't even think you read my comment that I don't think atheism leads one necessarily to immorality.

I don't think you even understand my original intent here, that it is not in the interest of atheists to make the claim that Gerencser made because it cuts both ways. My horrid sin here though is to insist that it in fact arguably cuts deeper the other way.

what is the equivalent doctrine in atheism to Christianity's Holy Spirit which atomizes a level of revealed morality and justice?

They don't have an equivalent doctrine to the Holy Spirit. Why would they need a doctrine of the Holy Spirit when the Holy Spirit acts upon them regardless of their disbelief, when they have the law of God written on their hearts and even display that. But of course, as they deny the religious intuition, so may the equally deny the moral one as some of them certainly have.

At least Billy Graham had the decency to announce an altar call when he was making one and didn't pretend he was a free-thinker respecting competitng points of view to his doctrine.

The only respect that competing points deserve is to consent that they are as they are believed and to affirm of them what is indeed true (as different points of view involve many things). And come to think of it, it's more respectful to be honest about disagreement and when those disagreements are important. If I misunderstand a point of view, I am happy to recieve correction and will change my opinion on it or adapt. But of course, I may draw implications out of what is believed that others don't like. Whether these implications are legitimate or not has to be dealt with rationally.


Bronxboy,

I don't know whether the flood was universal or local or literal. And that they shared in the punishment of humanity is the failure of humanity who was charged with their care. But animals do not have the same worth and value of humans anyhow and I won't take that up here because their is already a thread on that. And that is an abandonment of the topic anyhow.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

No universal flood? Okay. Gee, you guys are extremely hard to pin down. What was I thinking? Everyone knows that real Christians don't believe in a universal flood, or the sun revolving around the earth, or eternal conscious punishment in hell or.... Since Christian doctrine has been in a state of flux since the religion was founded, please bring me up to date on what it is that real Christians believe. Can you please back this up with statistical proof?

Lyvvie said...

"FYI, I don't believe that atheism makes one immoral."

Whew, I'm glad to read that, because your earlier comment made me wonder when you said;

"Those with a distorted Christianity have done horrific things while those with an undistorted atheism have also performed atrocities."

...because it certainly can read that atrocities done in the name of God (christianity preferred) are more acceptable than ones done for political control by an atheist or other religious motivation.

"let me ammend this... It doesn't make them immoral in all matters.

Oh...nevermind.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

Virtually all language, plain or not has potential for misinterpretation.

If the potential for honest misinterpretation is so great, why would God chose to communicate his will for us using such an unreliable medium? Why risk misinterpretation when a creature's spiritual fate hangs in the balance?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob thanks for admitting atheism and Christianity are not equivalent modalities and thereby refuting your original rhetorical argument. I think this discussion is over. Rob admitted he was wrong to assume the notion of moral implication is equal when considering atheism and Christianity.

Bronxboy47 said...

@Rob,

Also, when did this minority of real Christians come into being? Are they non-denominational, or have they been with us all the while, unspoiled and immune to the doctrinal misinterpretations of their respective denominations down through the centuries.

Bronxboy47 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Stalin was a monster not because he was an atheist but because he like most of the leaders of the Russian Revolution believed that the end justified the means. This puts him more in line with theistic thinking than most atheists I am familiar with.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I really like this perspective and wrote something similar at my blog here:

http://chuckoconnor.blogspot.com/2009/10/i-dont-like-buddy-jesus.html

Samphire said...

I don't know for sure but I suspect that neither Hitler nor Stalin murdered anybody. So who did all that killing? I bet very few were atheists.

And why did God's second favourite son, Kent Hovind, have an arms' stash comprising 8 guns of one sort or another? For self-defence against humanist evolutionists?

Rob R said...

post 1 of 2


Bronx,

No universal flood? Okay. Gee, you guys are extremely hard to pin down.

flexibility in a world view is an epistemic virtue. As for the rest, you don't have my claim pinned down their either, nor does it matter in this topic as there are so many red herrings.

Since Christian doctrine has been in a state of flux

It has been in a state of progress. And that is completely in coherence with faithfulness to a tradition since progress that never establishes anything (as in a tradition) is progress that never gets anywhere.

please bring me up to date on what it is that real Christians believe.

REal Christians believe many things, many different things, though they are focussed on following Christ.


If the potential for honest misinterpretation is so great, why would God chose to communicate his will for us using such an unreliable medium? Why risk misinterpretation when a creature's spiritual fate hangs in the balance?

Whether God successfully communicates to you may depend upon how you are willing as scripture emphasizes over and over again and those who are unwilling are only fed more of their own incompetence. I don't have access to your internal subjective thoughts, but God does and the Holy spirit can communicate to you. But if you do not want to accept any method of God's through revelation, through nature, through discussions with members of the church, through conscience, then God will most likely not help you. And one ought to be open to all of these.





Lyvvie,

Oh...nevermind.

What I mean behind those statements is that though I don't expect atheism to turn just anyone into a psychopath, rapist, despot, poker cheater nor gossip, nor do I believe it prevents one from doing morally excellent deeds, the disbelief in God is in and of itself immoral from the Christian perspective since worshipping, loving, and obeying God is the supreme good to which humans are intended.

Chuck,

Rob thanks for admitting atheism and Christianity are not equivalent modalities and thereby refuting your original rhetorical argument. I think this discussion is over.

Well that'd be great if conversation was over because these do go on too long. unfortunately, I have no idea how what you describe is problematic in the slightest. And in fact, my argument precisely amounts to an unequality amongst the two. Can't say I know what equality in modality is. Both views are equal and unequal in different ways.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 2,


Nick,
Stalin was a monster not because he was an atheist but because he like most of the leaders of the Russian Revolution believed that the end justified the means. This puts him more in line with theistic thinking than most atheists I am familiar with.

And yet it remains perfectly true that he is amongst those who committed attrocities in perfect coherence with atheism. And the association you make with theism doesn't amount to much since those theists who commited attrocities did so in coherence to a distorted Christianity and not in faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus. Since that has not been refuted, it remains the elephant in the room. It is the fact upon which you all close your eyes and plug your ears.


Samphire,

I don't know for sure but I suspect that neither Hitler nor Stalin murdered anybody. So who did all that killing? I bet very few were atheists.


This is no doubt a historical distortion. The atheism of the soviet union and the high numbers of atheists afterword is well documented. Course I did not say Hitler was an atheist though many Nazi's when questioned on their religion in prison camps stated that their religion was Hitler or it was nature. Doesn't sound far off to me. But I'm not making that argument Though I would note that one of Hitler's inspirations was Nietzsche. Supposedly the Nazi's distorted Nietzsche and I'd grant that this may be true. In such a case, it would only go to show that the knife of association cuts both ways and not more deeply in the atheists direction. But alas, we aren't just considering Nietzsche and the Nazi's and my contention remains.





Note also, no one has handled the stronger claim here that it is a historical fact that people have indeed commited attrocities explicitely justifying them because of Darwinism. If the claim that it matters in what name they commit the attrocity, then Darwinism is on a par with Christianity. Of course whether the asymmetry continues or not is also up in the air. Atrocities were committed because of a distorted Christianity, and arguably, some of the atrocities of Darwinism do amount to a distortion of Darwinism such as the enslavement of Africans, the subordination of various Australian tribes, and the murder of Jews. And yet, others do not depend on a distortion such as eliminating people with genetic problems.

Rob R said...

By the way, so far, unless I'm mistaken, the only one who repudiates this whole line of thinking is Steven. Seriously, kudos to him.

I'm content not to bring this sort of thing up, but when atheists do, it's really poor thinking as the claim can be made more strongly against their view and I will push that.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

Atheists do not agree to a unifying doctrine like Christians. Do you not get that? Christians claim revealed knowledge to an agreed upon invisible force as , " . . . the supreme good to which humans are intended."

And the only proof they share to this force is the "inner witness of the Holy Spirit."

No atheist would base the justification of their action on a corresponding invisibility.

Now if that invisible force tells a Christian to burn witches who are you to say that those Christians are wrong for simply applying a particular exegesis to Exodus 22:17?

Christians exhibit a homogeneity in epistemology which makes all claiming the same epistemology culpable to that epistemology, regardless of how it is practiced.

You have yet to prove that atheism holds to the same mode of epistemology. How exactly does an atheist like Thich Nhat Hanh operate with the same epistemology as Joseph Stalin and therefore be made to suffer indictment for Stalin's actions based on their shared atheism? How did their shared atheism motivate the divergent actions? Hanh's actions are not a distortion of atheism anymore than Stalin's are. Your appeal to distortion is the thing that weakens your case and exposes your equivocation.

Comparing atheism and Christianity as equal modes of thinking is fallacious.

I can however point to Fred Phelps mission to publicly decry homosexuals by picketing the funerals of US soldiers with "God hates fags" signs and rightly say that bigotry is supported by Christian epistemology. I mean all Reverend Phelps is doing is relaying what your holy book says when it reads, ""Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

Rob, your belief system makes you only accountable to your emotions and your claim that you seek honest dialogue about ideas is an obfuscation in service of your evangelism.

You are no different than someone handing out bible tracts on the subway.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

Flexibility in a world view is an epistemic virtue.

For "flexibility" substitute "disingenuousness" and you'd be much closer to the truth.

Whether God successfully communicates to you may depend upon how you are willing as scripture emphasizes over and over again and those who are unwilling are only fed more of their own incompetence.

Scripture also emphasizes that we are all born spiritually dead in our sins since Adam's fall, incapable of doing or willing anything that God recognizes as good. It would seem to me that someone spiritually dead can't possibly be willing to follow God's commands. (BTW, I'm sure you meant "Feed upon their own incompetence" rather than "...are fed more of their own incompetence", which would make God appear to be petty and vindictive.)

Steven said...

Rob,

I'm not making an emotional appeal to dismiss your arguments. Your arguments have been refuted, repeatedly on this site, and Chuck just handed you another beating.

I'm asking you to ask yourself whether or not you are grabbing at philosophical straws for emotional reasons, in order to continue this charade of yours.

The fact is, you continue to pick and dodge and do everything you can to avoid being pinned down on any argument (and the claim "victory"), and I'm just making the observation that maybe the problem isn't with us, but with you?

You keep making essentially the same argument that ultimately boils down to "everyone else is wrong but me, or people who agree with me," and that ought to be raising red flags in your own mind that maybe you haven't got it right either.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

I don't know whether the flood was universal or local or literal.


Rob, what gives you the right to question the details, or even the veracity, of this narrative. Given the serious implications of the flood narrative, your uncertainty about it is quite revealing. However, the bottom line of the narrative remains inescapable: God, freaked out over the wickedness of creatures he already knows are dead in their sins, decides to wipe them all out and start again. Despite being dead in his sins, Noah finds favor with God, and he and his family (all of whom remain dead in their sins and subject to Adam's curse--see what they get up to after the waters recede) are chosen to begin the human race again, with predictable results. There has been no improvement of any kind, and mankind continues on in its spiritual death. So the question remains, what was that fit of murderous temper all about? Why is such a story with so many crucial theological implications in the bible at all, if it's not meant to be taken literally?

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

The problem is, and has always been, the confusion that arises when attempting to get Old Testament scripture to support New Testament theology.

The New Testament tells us that since Adam's fall all of his descendants have been born spiritually dead, incapable of either willing or doing good. However, the Old Testament pictures God as giving commandments to creatures he knows are spiritually dead, all the while threatening and even executing horrific punishments when these spiritually dead creatures fail to keep his commandments.

As to be expected, where spiritually dead creature are involved, mankind simply continues to grow more wicked by the hour and finally provokes God into a fit of aggrieved rage, leading to an unprecedented act of wanton genocide (and so the idea that there might actually be a spiritual justification for the near complete extermination of mankind enters human consciousness for the first time. No, there's no historical proof of the coarsening, desensitizing effect of Judeo-Christian theology on mankind, other than common sense).

New Testament says all since Adam are born spiritually dead. Old Testament shows God making unrealistic demands of his spiritually dead creatures and repeatedly punishing them for failing to be what their spiritually dead condition makes them incapable of being. What's wrong with this picture?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob's "radio silence" leads me to anticipate a response in multi-part form (e.g. 1 of 3). Should be fun.

Samphire said...

Atrocities were committed because of a distorted Christianity, and arguably, some of the atrocities of Darwinism do amount to a distortion of Darwinism such as the enslavement of Africans, the subordination of various Australian tribes, and the murder of Jews. And yet, others do not depend on a distortion such as eliminating people with genetic problems.

The enslavement of Africans (say 6,000 BC as against Darwinism 1860 AD)?

The subordination of various Australian tribes? The steel axe was introduced by Christian missionaries:

www.brynmawr.edu/Acads/Anthro/anth240/sharp_1952.pdf

The holocaust was just the 1900 year-old continuance of a Christian tradition based directly upon the Gospels.

Where is a disbelief in the O.T.god in any of this?

Rob R said...

post 1 of 4



Chuck,

Rob's "radio silence" leads me to anticipate a response...

I live a life apart from this and so I can live more of it, I think I'll limit myself to one or two sets of responses a day.

Bronxboy, my answer to all of your questions was written by an atheist. Please read it here

Atheists do not agree to a unifying doctrine like Christians.

Christians don't agree to a unifying doctrine if we are speaking of Christians in terms of those who have a religion that pays lip service to Jesus. Now if we are talking about following the specific teachings of Jesus, that's different. there lies a unifying principle.

And so what if atheists don't have a unifying doctrine (whatever that means). Atheism is nevertheless perfectly cohoherent and at home with the most brutal attrocities ever foisted upon humanity. At the same time, it is at home with humanism and compassion because with atheism, you can have whatever you want. But I'll take the view that is at odds with the attrocities and promotes humanism.

Atheism which has no moral implications stands in place of a belief that has powerful moral implications on several levels, of establishing human worth and value anchored in our status as creatures created in the image of God, by linking our actions and character to ultimate consequences while providing a means of redemption, and insisting that as a part of our redemption, we take part in the present tense redemption of the world. For those who bring hell on earth, we can honestly point to the teachings of Jesus (which has yet to be addressed) and say there lies the distortion.

Whatever moral reasoning atheists have to offer, their atheism is of no help because again, the worst attrocities ever committed against humanity which was by atheists were completely consistent with their atheism. They can speak of game theory and the golden rule, but anyone can disagree with them with equal authority from the void of materialistic atheism (thank you kilre). Let me be clear here. i do not say that atheists can't be moral or have moral theories, but only that their atheism is of no help. And I am suggesting that it also can be a problem.


And the only proof they share to this force is the "inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

No, this is completely false. We also appeal to scripture, and Paul cites the law that was written on the hearts of all men. And of course, we can point to scripture, to the teachings of Jesus.

Now if that invisible force tells a Christian to burn witches who are you to say that those Christians are wrong for simply applying a particular exegesis to Exodus 22:17?

We aren't under the law Chuck. Jesus has fulfilled the law and now under the new covenant we are to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, bless those who curse us, and return good for evil. You may be able to conceive of all those things while burning someone at the stake. But that would speak more to your character than to Jesus' teachings.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 4


Christians exhibit a homogeneity in epistemology

Christians have explored a variety of epistemologies. De Carte, Berkeley, Locke, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Reid were all Christians with significantly different epistemologies. Christians today have different epistemologies with foundationalism for more conservative apologists to anti-foundationalists like myself. Even the source of religious knowledge is a matter of diversity. Sola Scriptura was a standard for most protestants, but I find the Weslyan Quadrilateral more fruitful (scripture, reason, tradition and experience).

You have yet to prove that atheism holds to the same mode of epistemology.

Atheism doesn't entail any epistemology. it's one of the reasons why it is perfectly coherent with the moral horrors commited by atheists.

therefore be made to suffer indictment for Stalin's actions based on their shared atheism?

I'm not indicting atheists. I'm indicting atheism for the moral void that it is. My first comment was only in the same spirit of the blog topic (which Steven also repudiated, God bless em!). My second post.

How exactly does an atheist like Thich Nhat Hanh operate with the same epistemology as Joseph Stalin and therefore be made to suffer indictment for Stalin's actions based on their shared atheism?

If Buddhism arises from empiricism and communism arises from empiricism, what shall we make of this? Maybe, empiricism just isn't enough. Nevertheless, back to the topic, I would note that their atheism did diddly squat for them. It gets no credit for nanh's ethical pursuits (which involved getting help from the Christian Martin Luther King), and it served nothing to make stalin think twice about his actions nor does it stand in condemnation of that which by all that is moral and true should be condemned. Truely, atheism is morally worthless. But you probably didn't want me to come to that conclusion.

Of course, Thich Nhat Nanh probably wasn't a materialistic atheist and may very well have been a traditional Buddhist with belief in karma and a goal of Nirvana, all of which provides more moral grounding than materialistic atheism. Not that it's the best moral grounding since the suffering in the world need to suffer to work off their karma. (That abused child one may rescue may very well be Hitler who needs to suffer to work off that Karma).

Hanh's actions are not a distortion of atheism anymore than Stalin's are

yes, i said as much earlier in the thread.

Comparing atheism and Christianity as equal modes of thinking is fallacious.

I still have no idea what this means. And they can be compared, on many grounds as theologians and philosophers way smarter than you or me do. We can compare them morally. Christianity anchors morality, human dignity and worth within the image of God while atheism serves as a morally useless void.

Rob R said...

post 3 of 4


I can however point to Fred Phelps mission to publicly decry homosexuals by picketing the funerals of US soldiers with "God hates fags" signs and rightly say that bigotry is supported by Christian epistemology.

And this is justified by what statement of Jesus?

nor revilers,

Revilers (verbally abussive) like Fred Phelps?

you seek honest dialogue about ideas is an obfuscation in service of your evangelism.

You are no different than someone handing out bible tracts on the subway.


Chuck, I am not worthy of the same accolades as them. But thank you.

Rob R said...

post 4 of 4



Steven,

I'm not making an emotional appeal to dismiss your arguments. Your arguments have been refuted, repeatedly on this site,

Oh. I was just taking this comment seriously: "This comment, and your general response to this thread completely discredits all of the arguments that you've made on this site."

Now you're telling me that my comments were discredited at those other discussions. It just seems to me though that my comments on this topic primarily matter on this topic and my discussions elsewhere is relevent to the specifics elsewhere.

Thank you though for the objective neutral expert opinion, except that I have no reason to think that it was any of that.

I'm asking you to ask yourself whether or not you are grabbing at philosophical straws for emotional reasons, in order to continue this charade of yours.

Then I'll ask you to ask youself whether you really think just because someone doesn't think like you that they aren't thinking and discussing in ernest according to the best thought that they perceive?

The fact is, you continue to pick and dodge and do everything you can to avoid being pinned down on any argument

Fact is, anyone who wants to oversimplify the thinking of someone else would make the same claim that you have, that nuance and careful thought (or at least attempted carefulness) is so much dodging and picking.

(and the claim "victory"),

like this?

"Your arguments have been refuted, repeatedly on this site, and Chuck just handed you another beating."

I'm just making the observation that maybe the problem isn't with us, but with you?

Then you've just observed the basic assumption behind disagreement. Maybe the problem isn't with my way of thinking but with yours, and the obvious way to get to the bottom of it is by interacting with what is actually said. But Chuck has done far more along those lines than you have where so much of what you've said amounts to posturing and complaints that I don't agree with you.

You keep making essentially the same argument that ultimately boils down to "everyone else is wrong but me, or people who agree with me,"

Well, that is a problem if when you read what I said and that's how you interpret it, maybe you should read more carefully. I think you've done it before. You kind of intuited what I said when you wrote "I really do disagree with this line of argument, it is unfair to paint all Christians with a broad brush and hold them responsible for things like the Inquisition, or even the stuff that is happening today in Africa. Although that doesn't mean that I won't be critical if I see Christians voice the sort of opinions that leads to these sorts of things."

I really wish you'd return to that level of perceptiveness even though it displays your bias here in that all your tongue lashings are for me even though Loftus promoting Gerencser are the ones promoting the broad brush. My focus is more on the moral bankruptcy of atheism and my very first comment was about consequences of Gerencser's thinking. But I am very serious about this: Those with a distorted Christianity have done horrific things while those with an undistorted atheism have also performed attrocities.

Bronxboy47 said...
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Bronxboy47 said...
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Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

I entered the thread of this conversation with the following observation:


With the example of centuries of Christian atrocities before him, it would have been truly remarkable had Stalin been able to resist following the precedent set for him by religious zealots.

You could have chosen to ignore me, but you didn't. Here's your response:

So whether it is religious or secular, violence is always the fault of the religious. Forgive me if I'm skeptical against this kind of insular thinking.

Course, the fact is, Stalin and the atrocities inspired by atheistic philosophers is indeed unprecedented in it's brutality and scale that the world has never seen.


First, you attack an argument I never raised, and then go on to make an assertion about the "unprecedented" atheist inspired atrocities.

At this point, the logical progression of this exchange would certainly grant me the right to respond to your assertion of "unprecedented" atheistic brutality, which I proceeded to do.

I responded to your characterization of atheists as "unhinged from the value of human life" with a request that you show me a secular ruler more "unhinged" than a deity who virtually drowns an entire creation. At this point, I believe I am still on topic.

Your evasive response is worth noting on several levels. First,it simply ignores my challenge. But, it is the manner in which it does so that I find interesting. You casually dismiss the subject of the flood, one of the most theologically important passages of scripture, by confessing to an amazing amount of uncertainty on the subject. Why? Because the story of the flood is a direct challenge to your assertion of unprecedented brutality/

Rob, you want to have your cake and eat it too. You can't be the sole arbiter of the direction a conversation takes. You are certainly free not to engage me on the content of my posts by simply not responding. (You exercised that option when you responded to my request to bring me up to date on what real Christians believe. You responded to the first half of my request, but chose to ignore the second half where I asked for statistical proof.) But when you do respond, you grant me the right to follow the logical progression and implications of your responses.

So, now we arrive at what you consider to be the jumping off point. In response to your assertions about "misinterpretation", I ask another question:

If the potential for honest misinterpretation is so great, why would God chose to communicate his will for us using such an unreliable medium? Why risk misinterpretation when a creature's spiritual fate hangs in the balance?

You respond by pointing out that scripture emphasizes over and over again that God's ability to communicate successfully may depend on the willingness of the hearer. I point out that New Testament scripture also emphasizes that, since Adam's fall, man is born dead in his sins, incapable of doing any good, including being willing to respond to God's communications.

So now that were dealing with scriptural facts, instead of your private interpretations of real Christianity, you decide we're off topic. Very classy.

Steven said...

Rob,

If you had made your point about not broadly judging Christians morally and letting it go, that would've been fine. But you didn't, instead you decided to go with the fallacious morality argument against atheists.

So I'm going to counter with another fallacious argument so that maybe you can see what you're doing. Hitchens likes to trot out "Name one good thing an atheist wouldn't do because of a lack of belief in God?" The problem with the argument isn't that its wrong, the problem with the argument is that it cuts both ways, you can ask a similar kind of question about Christians too (no matter how "distorted" their view of Christianity might be).

You're never going to be able to make your ascertain stick, because we already have the statistics that show that Christians, in general, are not any better morally than atheists are (and in some cases they actually appear to be worse). The only leg you have to stand on in this argument is to say that the majority of Christians practice a "distorted" theology (Which I haven't heard you come out and say plainly, although I suspect you might believe this), and that only people that have a theology similar to yours should be considered (as they are "true" Christians). I'll also note that this puts you on even shakier ground as your setting yourself up as the arbiter of what is and is not Christian. Now maybe, just maybe, you're right about this, but I seriously doubt that you have the statistics to back it up. I will remain sceptical of your claim until you can show some real world numbers rather than mere ascertains.

If you want to play the old tit-for-tat game, go ahead, but its a lame argument and it goes nowhere. I think you already know this, and I'm actually quite surprised that you even tried it. That is why I'm not engaging you in this instance.

Rob R said...

Samphire, your observations while they may be true are also irrelevent to the point.

That these kinds of attrocities have been committed apart from Darwinism doesn't change the fact thatwhen Darwinian thought became available, people used it to justify brutality to others.

Bronxboy, whether or not the flood is universal or not is well out of the bounds of this discussion.

That said, it is your ethical judgement that God was wrong to do what the narrative reports as he did and it is your avoidance of the issue that what God did their is not a simple matter in ethics but belongs in the flow of narrative where the wickedness of humanity and disobedience warranted it. It is is absolute primary importance that we are no longer in a similar context since through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are in a context of greater redemption and forgiveness. In that light, the teachings of Jesus are that because God has taken it upon himself to forgive us, to fully take part in that forgiveness, we must also forgive others. That such is ignored is part of the distortion of Christianity. That you ignore how the New Testament appropriates the old is a distortion. That the Christians who instigated religious wars, witch burnings, inquisitions and so on is a distortion of the Christian picture.

You dilemma about spiritual death (which is more informed by a calvinist confusion about free will than what spiritual death actually entailed) is out of the scope of this discussion.

Your really theologically uneducated claim that the flood is the most theologically important passage in scripture couldn't be more dubious nor more out of the scope of this discussion.

Your personal attacks accusing me of being disingenuous is well out of the bounds of this discussion or any fruitful discussion.

You can't be the sole arbiter of the direction a conversation takes.

No, I can't and neither can you. discussion entails some degree of cooperation and I don't have to cooperate with what I see as fruitless throwing out of red herrings. If you don't like the direction that I am willing to go, then don't go their, don't discuss. That's fine with me. And the direction of discussion has been aimed by John Loftus and it is only reasonable for me to want to stick primarily to that direction. We don't have to stick to that direction. I do follow tangents, and yet I am within reason not to do so. I can't give a complete Christian theology, philosophy and apologetic with every post so I'm not going to worry that I don't solve every problem that could be raised in the context of a discussion that is nevertheless tangential.

Your questioning on the ethics regarding the flood was loosely on topic, loosely because there is nothing explicit their about how we ought to behave in light of Judeo-Christianity when Jesus gives us precisely that. but once someone throws out several red herrings, I'm going to focus my attention on others.

True, I paid attention to stevens post which did nothing for the topic, but I'm not perfect and whether I follow a tangent or not is completely up to me and the choice is within reason provided we do not lose sight that the topic is not getting the full attention it deserves in doing so.

Bronxboy47 said...

I would certainly admit to being theologically uneducated if I had ever said the story of the flood was the most theologically important passages in all of scripture. This is the second time you have claimed I said something I'd didn't say. Or is this yet another instance of your remarkable power of erroneous interpretation?

Do you really bother to read other people's post,or do you just skim over them looking for points to attack?

The rest of your response is pure evasiveness. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

"...it is your ethical judgment that God was wrong to do what the narrative reports as he did..."(sic)

You certainly like to hear yourself talk. You appear to be addicted to making counter arguments to points I never raised--at great length, I might add.

I raised the subject of the flood with the sole purpose of comparing brutalities. Whether God was justified or not was certainly not the point. I'm sure Stalin thought his behavior was politically justified as well.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

"Your questioning on the ethics regarding the flood was loosely on topic..."

Again, I never raised any questioning about the ethics of the flood. Your hair trigger sensitivity on the subject caused you to go into defense mode and circle the waggons despite the fact that the attack was a figment of your imagination. Talk about your red herrings.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob, when you associate atheists with Stalin will you parse material vs. non material atheists? Your refutation of my illustration of Thich Nhat Hanh's atheism as non material is interesting because it is wrong. The good monk violated the isolationist buddhism he was ordained in to found an association that built schools and villaged bombed during the vietnam conflict. He contradicted the spiritual practice that claimed effort creates suffering because he believed that humans were the only solution to the barbarism humans created. His belief then influenced MLK (not the other way around) to inspire King to include pacifism relative to Vietnam in his civil rights movement. King nominated Hanh to the Nobel Peace Prize for this effort.

Also, why did you leave out my scriptural illustration of Reverend Phelps anti-homosexual missionary work? It seems perfectly in line with how the Holy Spirit has called him to promote a godly standard of human relations and one not all that different from your mother's efforts when she uses the bible to say all homosexuals are the moral equivalent of pedophiles. Do you consider your mother's religious fueled bigotry a christian distortion? It seems perfectly in line with scripture.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,
As for your objection to my use of the word "disingenuous", I think your repeated evasive attacks on points I never raised merits such a characterization.

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,

"Bronxboy, whether or not the flood is universal or not is well out of the bounds of this discussion."

Again, another straw man, which you authoritatively dismissed. But who raised this question? I certainly didn't. But it sure provided you with an opportunity to sermonize to your hearts content.

I stand by my use of the word "disengenuosness".

Rob R said...

post 1 of 3



Bronxboy, I keep misinterpreting you and it offends you so much so I will not respond to you anymore. You are correct that I am evasive. I am evasive of dialogue that I don't think will go anywhere. Your writing just seems to fit that pattern. I just don't find the problems you raise anywhere approaching anything unsolvable and it's my intuition that you aren't receptive to the explanations as why this is. You denial about raising the issue of the ethics of the flood also makes me think that your lack of understanding is to thick to wade through. If the one thing you said that made sense in the topic wasn't what it appeared to be, I don't see the point in it.

Good day.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 3



Chuck, what is a material atheist?

Buddhists from the east are not materialists who only recognize the physical world of matter and energy as what exists (which compounds the moral vacuum of atheism) except perhaps westernized Buddhists (perhaps western order of Buddhists? but I doubt even they are materialists).

I very well could be wrong about whether this Buddhist was a materialist or not. I only question how good of an example he is. But my main point about the moral vaccuum stands as does my comment that nothing moral about this man owes any credit to his atheism.


His belief then influenced MLK (not the other way around) to inspire King to include pacifism relative to Vietnam in his civil rights movement.

That's fine with me if he did. Atheism still gets no credit for it. Atheism is still morally useless

Also, why did you leave out my scriptural illustration of Reverend Phelps anti-homosexual missionary work?

Am I supposed to quote everything you say so I don't leave it out. I got a 4000 character limit here Chuck and It's a hassle doing those posts of a million parts. Phelps was in consistency with some of the concerns outlined in that passage and he lacked consistency with the part I highlighted which is about verbal abusiveness (I linked you to the text with the footnote to that effect).

Just because you are consistent with one part of scripture doesn't mean that aren't grossly at odds with another part. In other words, Phelps is a distorter who is not in line with Jesus and doesn't know that God showed his love for us by dying on the cross while we were still sinners. It explicitely says this hence Phelps is wrong that God hates homosexuals. Hence Phelps is a distorter who does not follow Jesus who will not be recognized by Jesus on the day of judgement. He will take his place with the skeptics who were so smug in consenting to his distortion of God's messge of redemption and love and latching on to that as something to reject instead of dealing with the real thing.

Rob R said...

post 3 of 3


Steven,



But you didn't, instead you decided to go with the fallacious morality argument against atheists.

I'm not arguing against atheists. I've already explained this. I'm arguing against atheism. I'm very very happy not to lump all atheists in with stallin accept for so much turn about is fair play. Take Chuck's Buddhists for example. I don't take it seriously to lump him in with atheism.

But I will also gladly point out the moral uselessness of atheism itself. It remains yet undeniably true that Those with a distorted Christianity have done horrific things while those with an undistorted atheism have also performed atrocities.

"Name one good thing an atheist wouldn't do because of a lack of belief in God?"

I can name several things that they haven't done, such as soften the brutality of the Roman empire, bring relatively great civility to the European barbarians, make hospitals ubiquitous and run them even with their own hands when they were filled with lepers in a time when doing so was perceived to be very personally hazardous, and so on.

You're never going to be able to make your ascertain stick, because we already have the statistics that show that Christians, in general, are not any better morally than atheists are (and in some cases they actually appear to be worse).

Right, because so many who claim the title of Christian are distorters or at least backsliders. And your statistics are no doubt short sighted in failing to take into account as has been highlighted here that it is a historical fact that atheists have indeed ushered in more suffering and blood shed than the world has ever seen.

The atheists that you are speaking of who may be ethical equal or greater than so called Christians are of the post-Christian west which takes the historical basis and source for its semi-Christian ethic for granted. Those atheists who do good things without immeadiate and personal religious motivation take it for granted that they didn't invent such compassion but came from a culture that valued those things and came to value those things because of the gospel.

The only leg you have to stand on in this argument is to say that the majority of Christians practice a "distorted" theology

gauging whether it is a distortion of CHRISTianity on the basis of what Christ says is a gosh darn good leg to stand on. Really, the only one necessary.

I'll also note that this puts you on even shakier ground as your setting yourself up as the arbiter of what is and is not Christian.

Jesus is the arbiter. he explicitly in more than one place said that he would indeed make such judgements on those who superficially claim to follow him. And he made his judgments clear in advance.

If you want to play the old tit-for-tat game, go ahead, but its a lame argument and it goes nowhere. I think you already know this, and I'm actually quite surprised that you even tried it.

I think it's great to show how lame an argument is on the basis of tit-for-tat. But I'm going beyond lumping people together on shallow grounds and am instead speaking to the more important issue as well of the moral vacuum of atheism itself regardless of what atheists do with that (and yet, in light of the fact that they have done the worst things with it), and that this moral vacuum stand in the way of some of our most powerful ethical considerations (even though as I happily admit that it does not render one incapable of all moral reasoning).

Bronxboy47 said...

Rob,
That's got to be the most convoluted, unapologetic admission of repeated mistakes it has ever been my misfortune to wade through. And again, total refusal to grapple with the specifics of my arguments.

To hell with how offended it pleases you to think I'm am; you simply lack the courage and the honesty to deal with the substance of my remarks.

You are a joke.

Good Day To You, Sir

Bronxboy47 said...

"You denial about raising the issue of the ethics of the flood also makes me think that your lack of understanding is to thick to wade through."

Just for the record:

If anyone reading my posts can point to a single instance in which I raised the issue of the ethics of the flood, I would be more than happy to stand corrected.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob

Let's argue like men, okay? You claimed all atheists can reasonably be associated with Stalin without insult to atheists and atheism. I showed you that Thich Nhat Hanh's atheism led him to become apostate to a theoretical religion and help injured people because he beleived that since this world is all we know to be real we must act in it. This idea - an atheistic one that there is no god - positively influenced MLK's ant-war stance. Now, please argue that Hanh's undistorted atheism is the moral equivalent to Stalin's undistorted atheism and show how it is the animating force behind their discrete moral characters.

Rob R said...

Chuck,

Let's argue like men, okay?

Well that's a relief. And I haven't even said anything negative about your mother yet nor do I wish to, common schoolground repartee as it is. I only wish her the best and good recovery.


You claimed all atheists can reasonably be associated with Stalin without insult to atheists and atheism.

Chuck, I don't think much of the association at all. I don't care to associate Thich Nhat Hanh with Stalin. My very first post is rhetoric as I thought I made clear several times. I did at least to Steven though I don't expect you to read everything that I write not addressed to you.

If atheists want to lump all who could be by any measure called a Christian, then it's equally valid to lump all atheists together. I don't think this really is a valid way to do things.

However, there is something to be said for the association of the "isms" itself with the actions committed by those who hold them and whether they are truly faithful to those ideologies or not. This is where I have been very serious about the observation that attrocities are committed by atheists in complete coherence with their atheism.

I showed you that Thich Nhat Hanh's atheism led him to become apostate to a theoretical religion and help injured people because he beleived that since this world is all we know to be real we must act in it.

I reread what you wrote about him several times and I don't recall you saying that he believed that this world is all that their is before. I got it that he went against the orthodoxy of his original tradition, but that doesn't say much. That sounds more like materialism, and yet i don't know that Buddhists have a dichotomy like typical westerners about this world and that world beyond. But as I said, if he is, it is not of much consequence as I'll explain further.

Now, please argue that Hanh's undistorted atheism is the moral equivalent to Stalin's undistorted atheism and show how it is the animating force behind their discrete moral characters.

I perfectly understand that STalin and Hanh had different morals. But I stand by my claim that their atheism was the same in it's moral uselessness. Hanh may have pursued his moral path in more ernest because this is all the world we'll ever have. And yet there's no reason to believe that STalin didn't act in his way for precisely the same reason. It makes perfect Marxist sense after all. REligion is the opiate of the masses because the proletariat is mollified to his rotten way of life because of the hope of the afterlife (which is one of those distortions where Jesus us to actively oppose evil, non-violently and to help the downtrodden and suffering and not just sit by hoping for heaven, and it is a criticism I highly value against the whole afterlife emphasis of many Christians at the expense of the wealth of this worldly guidance from scripture for us here and now). But since this is the only world we have, why should we let the bourgeoisie hoard good things to themselves, thus we must take those good things from them. And that's what Stalin did.


2 opposite moral paths attached in complete coherence to the same belief demonstrates the moral ineptitude of that belief. I'm not saying that Hanh's ethics were bad. I'm not saying that he didn't have authentically good reason for those ethics. I'm saying that his atheism is useless to those ethics and was no source of the good in them. at best, his atheism underdetermined his ethics.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob

You make no sense. You admit atheism adds nothing to one's actions yet then want to argue it is equal to a 2000 year old faith with positive theology which demands specific actions.

Hmmmm . . .

And on the mother thing, your mom's editorial work in the Toledo Blade indicates her biblical exegesis is the same as Pastor Phelps' and as such I think you owe her an apology for calling her a, what was it, "backslider".

I think your mom and Pastor Phelps however exhibit a pretty standard Christianity - self-righteousness supported by ancient myth.

I'd suggest you apologize to your mom.

Steven said...

Rob,

Actually, of all of your posts in this thread, the last one you made to Chuck finally makes it clear what you are trying to say, and frankly, I'm underwhelmed.

Basically, your entire argument boils down to something incredibly obvious: Atheists don't get their morality from their atheism. Yes, you're right about that, and my response is: So what? This is a well plumbed topic, but it also has too many landmines that are too easily set by both sides.

Your tangent to this whole thread should've been an argument about where atheist morality comes from, but you muddied the water by being needlessly inflammatory with the Stalin gambit.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Most of Rob's posts throughout this blog seem to indicate that he doesn't do much independent thinking but instead enjoys parroting what he has been taught.

It is a common form of intellectual arrogance but, Rob somehow thinks it is superior to honest inquiry.

Bronxboy47 said...

Given the number of inexcusable mistakes he made in "interpreting" my posts, I have serious doubts about his ability to read and process the English language at all. Perhaps English isn't his mother tongue.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Yeah,

I think Rob wants to be a free-thinker but he also seems to want to fit in with the community in which he finds comfort. It's something we all do but it is also something to be wary of.

Bronxboy47 said...

You folks appear to have prior experience with Rob and may, indeed, have reasons I am not aware of to cut him some slack. I, on the other hand, can only conclude that his false attributions and erroneous misinterpretations of my posts are signs of deliberate dishonesty or a weak intellect, possibly both. I apologize, if this seems unduly harsh, but I have rarely been so deliberately misinterpreted. When I pointed out his mistakes to him, he ignores my corrections, offers no apology, and severs communication. I find that behavior reprehensible.

Bronxboy47 said...

In the interest of preserving civility on this site, I will refrain from further comments on this subject, barring an apology from the gentleman in question.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I think Rob is struggling to make sense of the world given what seems a high level of intelligence and a desire to learn but may also be wrestling with serious cognitive dissonance given the context of his religion. His mom is a bomb-throwing fundamentalist who obsessively decries homosexuals on her blog and in the editorial pages of her local newspaper. I would wager that Rob is trying to navigate his relationship to inquiry and relationship to his family. He has just settled in on the William Lane Craig school of "reasonable faith" philosophy and believes it rationalizes the gap between his desire for insight and his mother's self-righteousness.

Rob R said...

Chuck,


You make no sense. You admit atheism adds nothing to one's actions yet then want to argue it is equal to a 2000 year old faith with positive theology which demands specific actions.

Chuck, atheism adds nothing to ones morality like a lack of a seatbelt adds nothing to ones safety. It stands in the place of something that is needed and has been of a great benefit in the developement of the best of our cultural conscience, and it's absence. Of course people can be moral atheists just as people without seatbelts can drive very catiously and still have airbags.

As for the issue of mothers, I just noted the irony of one who asks to discuss things as adults after attacking my mother and then continues to do so after the request. As for homosexuality, I already explained to you how this works in a Christian ethic and understanding of the dignity of humanity and it is off topic here, as are your attacks on mom.

Also, the patronizing psychoanalysis on your part is no more in line with your request as well as your other personal attacks. And you know, you can continue this line if you want, but I will not continue it with you. I've discussed these things with you because you once were civil and I wish you'd return to that. But I will not waste my time further if you wish to waste it. There is no fruit in the level of hostility with which you are currently discussing these things.


Steven,

Basically, your entire argument boils down to something incredibly obvious: Atheists don't get their morality from their atheism. Yes, you're right about that, and my response is: So what?

Along with what I said to chuck above (regarding the seatbelt analogy), and as I have already stated to someone here, atheism stands in the place of a consideration that has powerful and important moral implications on several levels. The absence of the consideration of God leaves fewer resources for moral reasoning such as our status as creatures created in the image of God which gives us a sacredness and worth that anchors the morals in reality, and the eschatological picture that comes with Christian theism that gives ultimate consequences to our moral acts. Third, there is the stronger ability to shape morals due to revelation, especially the revelation of God through Jesus. One can function morally without all this and yet it is an impoverishment of resources. One does have moral intuitions and may reason from that and yet we can doubt those intuitions as surely as we can doubt the religious intuitions as they are not far apart and do serve to strengthen each other.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob

Can you point out where I insulted your mom. I used her particular form of Christianity as evidence to a legititmate biblical version. If anyone insulted your mom, it is you. You called her form of Christianity invalid.

Additionally your seatbelt analogy while cute is silly. I'd say it is more in line with the skeptic to don a seat belt. The proper analogy would be for the Theist to drive with his eyes closed.

And I am sorry you mistook my previous trepidation towards you as kindness. It was not. I was assessing if you suffered from the same OCD as your mother. You seem to share that phenotype. I feel sorry for your Rob and sorry for society. You seem intelligent. We might benefit from your skills if they weren't clouded by superstitions.

Rob R said...

Additionally your seatbelt analogy while cute is silly. I'd say it is more in line with the skeptic to don a seat belt. The proper analogy would be for the Theist to drive with his eyes closed.

Chuck, you are ignoring how my analogy works and asserting a different analogy on a completely different issue doesn't serve as real criticism of it.

And to your continued insults let me say may God bless you and may he lead you to real wisdom. And now I shall shake the dust of our contact off my feet. If you want to as you suggested, discuss things as adults, I'm willing to do so once again. Until then, good bye.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob

I am sorry you feel the way you do. I wish you well but find your belief system and ideals contrary to what makes this country free. I hope you get some help for what seems to be a psychological disorder. Good luck.

Steven said...

The absence of the consideration of God leaves fewer resources for moral reasoning such as our status as creatures created in the image of God...

That is all well and good Rob, but this only works if your conception of God is right. If you are wrong, then you have *no* other resources for moral reasoning (well, actually you do, but most believers don't like to admit that, even when they are utilizing them). God might still exist, but you could be completely wrong. In which case, your moral foundation is worse than mine, since it is based on a bronze age morality that has many short comings in our modern world. You're stuck in an ultimately amoral, authoritarian morality that is only capable of growth to within the bounds of the currently accepted theology.

You can talk about sacredness and worth and what have you, but I have these things too, and no authoritarian absolutes are required.

Basically all you've just done is pull the boiler plate argument from morality. As though having the mere existence of God grants special meaning to your life that it wouldn't have otherwise. That is a non-sequitur.

Seriously, if you're going to argue faith based morality, then you need to resolve the euthyphro dilemma before you even begin to complain about the basis of atheist morals.

Rob R said...

That is all well and good Rob, but this only works if your conception of God is right. If you are wrong, then you have *no* other resources for moral reasoning (well, actually you do, but most believers don't like to admit that, even when they are utilizing them).

Whether the resources are based on reality or not, they are there for moral reasoning.

Whether they are true or not does matter for the quality of the morality that comes of them and that is a huge issue that deserves to be dealt with in it's own right.

As I mentioned earlier, some eastern religions have a moral resource in karma and reincarnation. Do I think this is a good resource? Do I think this is based in reality? No on both accounts, but it is a resource above what materialistic atheists can have none the less.

You can talk about sacredness and worth and what have you, but I have these things too, and no authoritarian absolutes are required.

Sure you do, you just don't have the strength that some religious explanations offer behind those things. And your authority in asserting those isn't clearly better than the authority of Stalin's authority on the basis of materialistic atheism. You have an emotional basis for those, but you don't have a basis for determining that those emotions are true or when they are skewed.

As though having the mere existence of God grants special meaning to your life that it wouldn't have otherwise. That is a non-sequitur.

it is not non-sequiter. human worth and significance is at the root of morality. It is wrong to murder because other human lives have value. It is wrong to rape because our sexual nature is sacred and is deeply connected with our intrinsic worth. It is wrong to lie because truth has intrinsic value as does the relationship with whom you communicate and lying is an affront to that relationship.

Seriously, if you're going to argue faith based morality, then you need to resolve the euthyphro dilemma before you even begin to complain about the basis of atheist morals.

As far as I know, I don't... not completely. At least two of the three strengths I noted don't depend upon an answer to the question of whether morals are based on God's decisions or whether God's decisions are based on morals. That we have ultimate consequences for our acts and that we have revelation to reflect on to help us in our moral reasoning is not effected by that problem.

I'm not sure that anchoring our dignity and worth in our status as creatures created in God's image is affected by the euthyphro dilemma or not. But I'm not worried about that because my thinking on that is based upon my answer to the dilemma. I don't think true morality is based upon God's will alone nor is it independent of him. Morality is part of God and part of his personhood. The worth of humans is based upon that image, but it was God's will to what extent and how that image was reflected in us. Hence morality from us is a result of a combination of that which God did not invent, the pattern of his personhood, and God's decisions in how we would reflect that pattern.

This third moral resource of the divine image also allows me to explain why it is possible for atheists to develop morality and do good things.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob

Your epistmology resembles a Stalinistic one. You rigidly define the basis of morality dependent on your experience and dismiss alternate views because they aren't yours. I disagree with all of your premises on worth from a God perspective and would consider anyone predicating morality on those grounds as insincere and emotonally immature, if not mentally unstable. If one needs an imaginary over-lord to engender intrinsic human worth than that person does not have a basic level of self-control. Additionally, the doctrine of your faith that calls you to make disciples further weakens your moral claims. Ultimate morality can only be realized from your perspective when others submit to your definition of it (even others claiming to be Christian). That isn't a moral philosophy Rob. I'd argue it is an obsessive-compulsive disorder with borderline clinical narcissism. It also fails to respect the worth of humanity as both intrinsic and volitional. It is a common idea that has motivated totalitarian regimes throughout history. "I know what is moral based on my non-material and unchanging revelation." An atheist must wrestle with the questions you pose and not defer to the unjustified supernatural status you infer if she is to maximize her social circumstances. If her premise is challenged she must think of the real utility of her argument if she is to be taken seriously not default to "God told me to do it". And please don't trot out the notion of loving your neighbor as a hedge against "epistemic risk" because, your inability to believe humans can think for themselves at an equal moral level to your particular superstitions indicates a disrespect contradicting the unconditional love your philosophy purports.