Contra Victor Reppert on the Emotional Appeal of Christianity

Vic had written:
I understand the emotional appeal of Christianity. I also understand what isn't so emotionally appealing about it, such as the claim that I am a sinner whose actions offend the creator of the universe. If I were to invent a religion that appealed to me emotionally, I wouldn't pick Christianity.

As a C.S. Lewis scholar Vic knows how the idea of sin plays into Lewis's whole apologetic. In Mere Christianity Lewis appeals to 1) the curious idea that human beings ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot get rid of it; and 2) that we do not in fact behave in that way. We know the Law of Nature; we break it. "These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in." (p. 7).

From this first chapter Lewis goes on to say there must be a moral lawgiver. In other evangelistic tracts this same curious idea is introduced in order to argue we need a savior. The so-called fact of sin is the basis for two powerful emotional appeals to embrace Christianity. Without it one wonders how many people would embrace it in the first place.

There isn't a person in the history of humankind who doesn't think he did not do something wrong (triple negatives!). Pointing this out and stressing it is the beginning of Christian evangelism and argumentation in most cases.

So contrary to Vic if I were to invent a religion then it seems both obvious and noncontroversial that I should start with something everyone agrees about, that we did something wrong--sometimes terribly wrong. Why? Because we have all done something we think is wrong. And we all have difficulty forgiving ourselves or receiving forgiveness. Forgiveness is a great need for most of us. There are people who spend their whole lives trying to gain redemption. Redemption for the young person who is convicted of murder, the woman who killed a family by driving drunk, the man who was caught cheating on his wife, the executive who blundered and caused his company to go belly-up, the person who lost his job and who's family suffers financially for it, and on and on the list goes.

I wonder how many religions start with the fact that we humans have done wrong? Let me guess that most of them do. It's the first step toward creating a religion. It's something we all agree on. All a religion must do after the needed psychological catharsis is to offer the answer, whatever it is for that religion.

Vic is emphatically wrong.

Let us hear of this argument ne'er again.

44 comments:

shane said...

I think fear and promise are the two main factors motivating peoples faith.

In this day and age I believe the church appeals to peoples hopes and dreams, aswell as their needs. The church in modern times offers speaches such as- (God has a plan for your life), and (God loves you and has a place in heaven for you), and (God wants to do this and that for your life).

Preachers offer these false concepts in order to appeal to humans need for acceptance, belonging, and an answer for their problems.

A few hundred years ago, the church appealed to the threat of hell and condemnation for not conforming. This was do to the power it once had.
Once democracy came in to play and banned the torturing of infidels and brang in freedom of religion and belief, the church had to resort to loving promises instead of threats!

The evolution of christianity speaks against it having a solid foundation.

Confidential for Now said...

Emotional appeal is one of Christianity's strongest assets. Ironically, it was an emotionally unappealing aspect--namely the brutality of the O.T. god-- that began the process of my de-conversion.

Hendy said...

Interesting. I kind of agree but wonder if it's more due to something akin to "religious natural selection" rather than intentionally "starting out with" the first principles of human fallenness/sin.

Somewhat of a minute point, but I think it's more like looking at the religions that worked and seeing that what they have in common as the reason they survived, but I don't see that as translating to the intended cause of that survival on the front end.

I may be wrong, but it doesn't seem like you really disagree with Vic. He's saying that the sin aspect isn't emotionally appealing, which I take to mean that no one likes being told they've offended god by virtue of being born a descendant of the first pair of sinners...

You're simply saying that this facts speaks to deep evolved emotional needs of humans such that we are prone to accept this statement as an explanation for our conflicting emotions (longing for pleasure, dissatisfaction with self, etc.) and then also accept that there must be a fix for this "brokenness." Regardless of your point that something about these religions made them "stick", I would still guess that you don't find the literal appeal of the first premise (fallenness) overtly strong?

John W. Loftus said...

Salesmen must meet a need in order to sell their product. Where there isn't a need they must create a need and show why their product fulfills it.

The human needs? Forgiveness; Self-esteem; Help in times of need; love.

The gospel story meets these needs (minus all of the bad stuff which is discounted anyway).

So to take Steven Pinker's description of this process, the producers of religion came up with answers to human needs that the consumers of religion would accept. The religion that was produced that more consumers accepted would become the dominant religion in their part of the world.

John W. Loftus said...

It's like this:

Salesman/friend:

You ugly girl, really fat too. But With my enhancement products I can make you look great and be attractive.

What's not to understand about that?

Clare said...

I certainly agree that Christianity is an unappealing religion. It is mostly negative stuff- all gloom and doom.
Typical "carrot and stick" behavioral psychology. It has been said that carrots work better than sticks on a 10 to 1 ratio. The Calvinist Christians haven't learned this yet.

Charles said...



The appeal of Christianity to the emotion has fear as its underlying
factor. The feeling of a dreadful
anxiety caused by the theist concept of "Heaven and Hell" (Punishment and Reward). Creating a negative consequence and offering a solution to that consequence sounds to me like Mind Control 101. Fear is, in Christianity, the #1 preasure point
applied to propagate the doctrine and gain adherents whom, in turn, support the proposed [solution] to the negative consequence. What's the negative consequence? "You're less than what you are. You share an inheritable collective guilt with Adam and Eve. You're worthless
and helpless; hence you're in a desperate need of salvation....or else you'll spend eternity in Hell." And this is the impetus behind convencing people to accept the proposed solution--the acceptance of Jesus as your redeemer and savior.......or else!

Papalinton said...

Religion has mastered the art of creating the problem and then offering THE solution. It's a vicious closed loop targeted directly at the most vulnerable aspect of the human psyche; the need to be loved. And if you don't accept the solution, they put the fear of bejeebus into you.

Cheers

Hendy said...

@John:

I gotcha. I like the analogy, though the only thing I'm not sure of is how much intention was involved in the origins of Christianity. In other words, would they have had 1st order awareness of what they were doing or by fluke they developed a theology like all other religions but theirs happened to satisfy the psychological needs we have?

To use your analogy, it would be like pumping out products in the dark with respect to customer needs. One day someone creates beauty products, having no idea that self-consciousness was one of the deeper needs of humans, and suddenly it just sky-rockets in sales. Perhaps he had no idea what he was doing and only after the fact is it revealed why the product was so successful.

I see similar such principles as a potential way to look at this discussion. We can use modern psychology to identify why such religions speak to built-in, deep human needs... but in 1500BC - 100AD, were the "creators" or religion aware in the slightest that these were the needs they were catering to? I'm not so sure.

Victor Reppert said...

Christianity, as you noted, begins with bad news. There is someone before whom we will have to stand accountable for our actions. Even "good people" aren't good enough. There is no room for excusing the wrongs we have done, no softening the blow by favorable comparisons with other people, "I thank God that I am not as other men." I'd certainly prefer a religion that would take seriously the kind of crap I like to tell myself about the fact that I am not such a bad guy after all, that while I may be worse than X, I'm certainly better than Y. But, but, I'm nice to my friends and family, and who told me I had to love those XXXs over there anyway. They don't coun't, they're just, well, XXXs. Besides, look at all the rules I successfully follow, at least on my good days. And as a human race, well, we'll be OK, if my party wins the next election, or when the Dialectic of Matter brings in the Classless and Stateless Society.

Although most atheists adhere to a moral code, Christian morality is tougher, and not just with respect to sex behavior. I remember reading C. S. Lewis's chapter on pride for the first time and getting mad at him. No religion built to suit our wishes would make Pride the first of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Islam tells me that if I follow the Qu'ran I can make it to Paradise by my works. If I do the Five Pillars, I'm in pretty good shape. And, I can look down on all those people who don't follow the rules as well as I do. Hinduism says that if I mess up in this life, I've got a lot more chances.

For Christians who take sin seriously, human history is no surprise. Overthrow the French monarch, and you can expect the guillotine in the streets of Paris. Overthrow the Czar, and end up with the Party Purges.

A secularist who has a guilty conscience has the chance of appealing to relativism to justify his answers. Moral codes are invented by human beings for their own benefit, so if I screw up, I at least didn't offend the Creator of the Universe.

I never said Christianity was not emotionally appealing. No belief system could survive without some emotional appeal. But there are a lot of ways that I could make Christianity more emotionally appealing than it is.

If you go on my site, you will find a few atheists making the case that there is an emotional upside and a downside to Christianity. What needs to be argued for is that there is something special about the emotional appeal of Christianity that is subversive to the fair examination of the evidence, that is somehow not present on the atheist side.

Victor Reppert said...

Further, you haven't come to terms with my observation that many of us tend to get suspicious about things that are too good to be true. Our desire to believe does have a tendency to bias us in favor of a belief, but it also makes us suspicious at the same time, especially if we have already heard that wishful thinking might undermine our rationality. In fact, people very often overcompensate in the direction of pessimism.

Ignerant Phool said...

"I understand the emotional appeal of Christianity. I also understand what isn't so emotionally appealing about it, such as the claim that I am a sinner whose actions offend the creator of the universe. If I were to invent a religion that appealed to me emotionally, I wouldn't pick Christianity."

I don't really buy this statement as is. If you are actually going to make such a conclusion here, at least tell the whole story. You can't just mention what's not appealing about christian doctrine while omitting the appealing part. You mention it has appeal but you have to include what it is, especially since in this case, the appeal emotionally satisfies the unappealing. It is misleading if you don't do this.

Even the words "I am a sinner whose actions offend the creator of the universe" is misleading because it can be used to play on people emotions when they think about or believing it's "possible" truth claims.

Now, how about trying a new statement which includes "what's so great about Christianity" while coming to the same conclusion.

Furthermore, how does the cherished free will defense come into play in your conclusion as is?

Andre

Louis said...

If I were to invent a religion that appealed to me emotionally, I wouldn't pick Christianity.

Dr. Reppert, what would a religion that appealed to you more emotionally than Christianity look like, pray tell?

Clare said...

Louis, I know you were addressing Victor, but I have a simple answer.
Which relgions are more appealing? Any of them that do not include the idea of Hell and eternal punishment. Buddism, Hinduism,Native religions etc. etc.

Victor Reppert said...

Yes, I don't like the idea of hell one bit, and I hope universalism is true.

The doctrine that any aspect of my character which I have not submitted to Christ is sinful is no fun. The fact that God isn't going to listen to all my self-justifications is no fun. There are many other things I would prefer to do on Sunday morning than attend church. All that stuff about giving to the church, yeah, I'd wish that away, too. The idea that there is someone superior to me judging my actions and not grading on the curve is something I would wish away, even if forgiveness is available. I'd like to say that my good deeds are my achievement, but, no, can't say that either. I like thinking that having a higher level of education makes me somehow better than other people, but nope, can't say that, either.

The idea that pride is a sin, or as Lewis has it, The Great Sin, is pretty tough doctrine for me. If I were an atheist I could think that my freedom from the superstitions of most of my fellow Americans makes me better than them, but since I'm a Christian, I can't say that.

The hope of an everlasting life with God is, of course appealing to me. God's love for everyone (which some Calvinists deny) is appealing as well.

So, it's a mixed bag, which is all that I have been saying all along.

openlyatheist said...

I cannot over-stress the value of reading Pascal Boyer's book "Religion Explained," when pondering subjects like this. If you're reading this thread, go get that book.

It addresses a wealth of interesting questions regarding; why some religions fail and others succeed and; why religions tend to follow an emotional pattern.

Victor Reppert said...

Another side of it is this: If there were a God who loved us, wouldn't it be a little strange if the religion He created for us failed to satisfy our deepends needs as human beings?

Wesley said...

I don't think it matters a damn whether Victor's Christian morality is tougher than other moralities, whether pride is a "real" sin or not: in BibleGod's eyes, a single, tiny little sliver of sin is enough to get us condemned to an infinity of torment (and who cares whether it's mental or "physical" torment?) Talk about the punishment not fitting the crime - and let's not have any bullshit about how in reality we are all infinitely sinful. Your theology allows God to punish me eternally for my first infraction.

You cannot possibly hold to that theology and then speak in the same breath about a God of mercy, love, and grace. As you can tell, this double-speak (of which I used to be very proficient) so beloved of christians pisses me off like hardly anything else . . .

(I know I am off topic, but I had to rant, please forgive me!)

GearHedEd said...

Victor said,

"... If I were an atheist I could think that my freedom from the superstitions of most of my fellow Americans makes me better than them, but since I'm a Christian, I can't say that."

Not speaking for anyone else here, but I don't know any atheists that think they're "better" than people who cling to superstition and religion because of their atheism. Such a person (I'm not denying that there are some like that out there) would have to be rather shallow to think like that.

Conversely, I refuse to let religious people characterize me and other atheists (at least in a broadly general way) as being somehow inferior to them because we don't believe the same things that they do. A person who fits THAT description (and I have met many!) is also rather shallow.

Russ said...

Victor,
You said,

Although most atheists adhere to a moral code, Christian morality is tougher, and not just with respect to sex behavior.

Bullshit qua bullshit. Complete and unadulterated in a warm, steamy pile. I know you're all philosophical and stuff, but you shoulda given this sentence a lot more thought before you hung it out for all the world to see. I truly question the value of degrees in philosophy and years of experience putting it to work when people like you and Craig and Rauser simply throw things like this out expecting them to be accepted as common knowledge.

What the hell could you possibly mean by "Christian morality" when the Christianities are nothing if not at war over which of its tens of thousands of sects gets to decree the "truth" -- we can say the "moral truth" if you prefer -- as some version of a god has given it to them?

God hates fags? True or false. This is taken as part of Christian morality, yet there is no agreement about it. Ugandan Christians now have a law which allows them to kill homosexuals. Doesn't the "kill fags" Christian morality conflict just a little bit with the not killing Christian morality?

Christian parents in Africa, exercising their moral duty to some god, kill hundreds of their own children in the most gruesome of ways, to rid them of the witches, which they are, by the lights of their religion, morally obligated to accept. That's Christian morality, too. Is driving a railroad spike through your two-year olds head what you mean by Christian morality being tough? If you've got the stomach for it, more of that tough anti-witchcraft Christian morality can be found in online videos of Africans burning their demon-possessed neighbors alive, young and old alike.

But, you probably prefer the clean-hands sterilized academic classroom Christian morality over the more feral strains which evolve away from civilized society, away from secular controls or when secular controls are unenforced. It's easy to intellectualize "Christian morality" when you're safe and secure and real law enforcement functions as an effective pesticide to wild strains of Christian morality. It's quite another experience to be an eight year old child whose mother, called to act out her Christian morality, stakes you to the ground and hacks you apart with a machete, because her Christian morality guide, the local Pentecostal clergyman, tells her you are a witch. And, your sanitized musings on Christian morality don't mean a goddamned thing to the thirteen year old child here in the US who recently spent eight weeks dying in agony from an ear infection only because the reproductive tract in which she was ensouled and wired up for original sin happened to belong to one of those Christian Scientists whose Christian morality includes allowing children to die from easily treated diseases.

Do you really think that Christian morality is tough? Does it demand anything more demanding than simply playing religious follow the leader? No, actually it doesn't. Venture forth from your self-induced bubble of Christian morality ignorance, Victor.

If Christians have moral codes that are actually reflected in their behavior, let them be shown. Let us all revere the observed behaviors of Christians that would show them to be moral exemplars. They are not and your claim that "Christian morality is tougher" is complete bullshit.

Russ said...

Victor,
Does that tough Christian morality include the Christian morality of Roman Catholics, numbering over a billion people, who, regardless of what doctrine or moral teachings might suggest, demonstrate that they support, top to bottom, the rape of the innocent by their clergy. It is immoral to pay the salaries, perks, legal fees and law suit settlements for tens of thousands of habitual rapists, many of whom often gangraped a child. What the fuck could Christian morality mean to those people when in, one instance, eight Roman Catholic priests kept a nine year old boy as their sex slave, repeatedly raping him over a three day "holiday" weekend. Knowing that the rapes happened, moving the rapists to more fertile raping fields ripe with fresh unsuspecting victims, then vilifying the victims is moral in your estimation? A billion Roman Catholics accept it and support it as moral behavior. The words they utter about morality are completely meaningless. Their responses when faced with the need to act in a moral manner show their "Christian morality" to be of no use to themselves, the children or anyone else.

Roman Catholics and Fundamentalist Christians in the US run neck and neck every year for the highest abortion rates of any religious self-identification, including atheists. Is that what you mean by Christian morality being tougher? We could labor for hour on end listing the morally abhorrent behaviors that are included as part of their doctrines and theologies, and we could spend still more hours listing behaviors which run counter to their stated morals yet constitute their observed de facto morality.

Christians lie about nearly everything related to their religion.

They lie about the Bible. Fact is, the vast majority of Christians are ignorant of the Bible and that includes a large fraction of Bible believing clergy.

They lie about how much they read the Bible.

They lie about how much money they give to their churches - and, they always lie up.

They lie about how often they attend church.

They lie in politics.

They lie in business.

They lie about science.

They lie about miracles.

They lie about answered prayers.

Apparently, you, too, will lie as you promulgate the notion that Christian morality has some redeeming character to recommend it over, what? those non-Christian moralities that are deemed inferior only according to the imaginary laudability of Christian morality. When you are lecturing others on the merits of Christian morality do you feel at all compelled to be honest by highlighting Christian morality's myriad and continuous failures. Not likely. Do you highlight humanitarian aid, which is more of a human universal than is religion or gods, and point to it as solely a consequence of this dreamed of Christian morality? If so, that would be a lie, too. Humans have been helping others since many tens of millenia before what you imagine to be your Christian moral lawgiver was pieced together from the word of mouth fireside tales prevalent around the east end of the Mediterranean. Biblical notions of morality had been alive and well in the life of the human mind for millenia ahead of the scribes who committed Bible stories to the written word.

Do you really not understand that if Christian morality induced morally superior conduct that we would see it? As it stands Christians do not impress us, or each other for that matter, with their conduct toward others, Christian or not.

Russ said...

Victor,
The US is a ship outfitted stem to stern with Christian regalia, yet in the rankings of a great many measures of societal health and well being the US is way down the list and they are especially far below countries where religion is much less important. Is it a moral concern to take care of our fellow citizens? It should be, but this highly Christian nation can't bring itself to include that in its Christian morality.

Christians balkanize themselves into True Christians -- that is themselves -- and others. They lump Christians not like themselves in with non-Christians. So, what the hell would it mean to define "Christian morality" if Christians don't even view themselves as a unified body.

Clearly, anyone can compose a moral code. They can even make it sound tough, really hard to live by. But, if it has no effect on what people do, how they live their lives, or how they treat others it is complete bullshit. It's a game. The Roman Catholic church, for instance, has morally strict prohibitions on the use of contraceptives. But, Roman Catholics don't care. In the developed world, most Roman Catholics use contraception. How do we know? The numbers: sales of contraceptives, reduced family sizes, direct surveys. This also tells us that RC's are ignoring other of the Vatican's moral dictates about sexual interaction within and without marriage.

In short Christians themselves just don't give a shit what dictates their church leaders, clergy, theologians, and, of course, their gods, have deemed as moral. There is nothing in most of those moral dictates that suggests them to be anything but arbitrary personal preferences of someone in a position to inculcate them in others. Think Pope. The only morality Christians adhere to consistently is the same body of moral conduct that pervades most societies: don't kill much unless you have a contrived a plausible reason; don't steal a lot unless your social group makes it acceptable; and, try to appear honest when dealing with others unless there is a strong advantage for you. Simple observation shows these are not uniform and they certainly are not absolute. It's interesting too that, for most non-psychotics, they are not even all that tough since we observe that not killing, not stealing and not lying are quite common throughout the human community.

If you don't like your church's set of moral dictates? Well, then, just ignore them, or hike across the road to another Christian church where the moral dictates are different.

So, Victor, I would read with great interest what it is that you mean by Christian morality and especially what it could mean for it to be tougher. Clearly, your distinguishing this take on morality as "Christian" means you think the label means it has something extra special going for it. Maybe you could point us in the direction of research that demonstrates that Christian used car salesmen are more honest, that Christian financial advisors are less like charlatans than the non-Christian ones, or that Christian potlucks are populated by those who are less given to pettiness, lying, manipulating others, or skimming cash off the collection plate than non-Christians. Maybe there is research that demonstrates that, when armed with Christian morality, politicians are more apt to represent their constituency as stated in the Constitution, while being observably less self-serving than all of their non-Christian counterparts.

Russ said...

Victor,
But, my interest in perusing your litany concerning Christian morality has a caveat associated with it, Victor. It has to be more than a trained philosophy professor, whose safety and security is provided by a secular society, thinking wishfully about how his life or emotional state could be even better. You can blather along all you like about hypothetical or imaginary worlds wherein the inhabitants actually act as if they believe some god exists; that they further believe that said god has handed down a uniform moral law to all believers -- and all of whom have minds which are uniformly lead to the same exact understanding of that moral law, say, where everybody hates fags, for instance; and, that all make clear attempts to live according to those moral dictates given their uniform understanding that they will all be held to account in the same way for the same transgressions -- no indulgences paid for with money had through immoral behavior like being a lying faith healer. These make for wonderful academic what-ifs, but we don't live in some hypothetical Christian morality utopia you might posit as a test question. For me to seriously entertain your vision of Christian morality it has to show itself to be of some value.

Christian morality has had most of two thousand years and an untold number of opportunities to demonstrate that it can realize a vision of humanity and human togetherness that even marginally differs from what one would expect from our evolved biological and cultural ancestries. But, in every time and at every opportunity it's been demonstrated that Christian morality, in the best of times and the best of circumstances, merely doesn't inhibit its practitioners from reaching par with the rest of humanity's conduct. At its best it doesn't stop people from being as good. When times are not ideal or circumstances are found wanting Christian morality is itself a smite on mankind as it codifies cruelty, ruthlessness, vengeance, power, pathological hope, blind obedience, disrespect for knowledge and learning, and such a belief in itself that parents would disown, maim or kill their children in service to the faith.

Clare said...

Well said, Russ. I was goingto mention the Catholics but you did it first in a much more eloquent way than I could.
I might just add in the Christian Missionaries who love to wipe out whole cultures and civilisations-from Native Canadians and Aboriginal to Hawaiians. Now I have heard, they are trying to work on the Japanese. That's a laugh! Is is moral to have no respect for other cultures and ways of life?

Papalinton said...

Hi Russ
Your take on morality is reasoned and well put without being compromised by the very emotional and heartfelt manner in which you presented it. In matters of the African experience of religiosity I agree with you. What is occurring there under the banner of the christianities is horrifying.

For those who have experienced tragedy, or difficulty or debilitating circumstance that makes life unbearable, it seems religion has a wonderful salvific element. But it is not the only one. Great friendships, community support, caring neighbourhoods, humanitarian and welfare agencies can all play a most compelling role. I might add, sufficient money in the bank, security in one’s employment, a home over one’s head, accessible health care, can go a long way to mitigating some of the trying issues that can play heavily on one’s mind. I would say the surge to faith in Africa is not about some revelatory experience, some personal touch with god, but more a salve against the grinding poverty, terrible living conditions, non-existent medical care, and dreadful life expectancy rates. If you were one of those, and saw no end of it, why would you turn away from the only hope you have of garnering some form of relief from the mental anguish? Their condition is not one of a conceptual hole in one’s existence or some aching for meaning in one’s life, it is a survival mechanism, a yearning to protect themselves and their family. And it is from this perspective that believers and theists have such a great responsibility to not allow such terrible things to happen under the guise of religion. Yes we all need to assist the Africans out of their poverty. We all have a moral and ethical responsibility. It then is very troubling for me that any assistance we might provide comes at a cost, a price; proselytizing one’s faith when the beneficiary is at his/her most vulnerable, most unprotected. To me that is not only highly and gut-wrenchingly immoral, it characterises the very ugly nature of spreading the 'faith'. The inculcation of a religion that is alien to their culture is a catastrophic timebomb. There are too many unintended consequences. And for the faithful to be unmindful of these, or not to accept responsibility for these is truly a character of amorality. You would have thought the devastating consequences of the Conquistadores would have been a lesson remembered. But apparently not. And it is happening all over again in Africa. And as you recount Russ, witchcraft in Africa under the umbrella of the christianties is burgeoning. While there is ever poverty in the world, religion will always have a captive audience.

It is beholden to us, as keepers of humanity to do good for goodness' sake alone, without the proselytizing [you know, the 'good samaritan bit', no questions asked, no reason need be given, no strings attached].

Cheers

Russ said...

Clare,
As I wrote my comment I gave some thought to enumerating many of the horrors inflicted on indigenous peoples by missionaries. As my comment ran long as it was, I elected not to.

This notion of there being a Christian morality, distinct from the prevailing moral norms and which observably makes its practitioners better people, is laughable. A stated ideal is not morality; it is merely a stated ideal.

The Bible is held up as the most moral of books possible, the ideal in morality, but it presents Lot, who had sex with his daughters and before that he offered them as sexual playthings to a mob, as a moral exemplar, the only man considered righteous enough by God himself to be spared from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Is that not laughable? That's what Christian morality is made of.

Of course, philosophers like Victor will say that if you spend years and years learning the original languages and putting it all into its correct context, it will all come clear. Or, of course, you could save yourself the work by accepting what the Pope says, what Jerry Falwell says, what Robert Schuler says or what Kenneth Copeland says. To be sure they're the professionals each imagining different things which they will call Christian morality, but it is a nice shortcut; you can call it faith.

Think of what the apologists as a body, and Victor in particular as part of that body, are saying. They're telling John Q Churchgoer outright that the Bible was not written for the man in the pew; it was written for Bible scholars and theologians. What's more, since those learned types disagree with each other and the general churchgoer is too ignorant to understand the Bible, they must have faith in what they are told it says. But, if they do that, their faith is not in a god; their faith is in an apologist. Victor regularly advocates for faith. In doing so he's advocating only for faith in another human being, not faith in a god, and his Christian morality has the same non-divine source.

When I look at actions specific to Christians which they consider to be moral concerns, sometimes to the point of branding one Christian sect as distinct from all the others, I just have to shake my head, snicker, and ask, "What could they be thinking? Do they really believe this stuff?"

Things like which day of the week to observe the Sabbath, how baptism is to be conducted; the sacredness of a cracker; allowing or disallowing dancing or music or card playing; that missing church just once, ever, forces god to send you to hell; allowing blood transfusions or use of antibiotics; celebrating birthday, holidays, even Christmas; and, whether you're Missouri Synod Lutheran or Wisconsin Synod Lutheran are the kinds of things I'm thinking of. Almost none of the faithful from those congregations knows why those are part of their beliefs. I know one person who has taught his children that it is a sin to enter the doors of any church but their own for any reason.

Russ said...

Clare,
Then, there's the whole notion that morality constitutes not only how you conduct yourself, but also the detailed content of your mind. If you're one sort of Christian, you're told that you are immoral if you do not believe that hell is a real place; and, you are certain to go there if you don't believe it. But, then there are other Christians who do not believe there to be a hell or eternal torment. Fabled deathbed conversions are based on this idea. At the very moment when life's ember goes out, the creator of the universe considers it a matter of everlasting Christian moral concern for it to cipher out the specific interconnectedness of the neurons in one's brain to see if they constitute belief in that creator.

The humorous nature of Christian morality was highlighted on a comment thread here at DC when PhD theologist Randal Rauser said that he "changed his mind" on the doctrine of eternal torment. If it's some sort of absolute and yet the individual gets to decide about it, what role does a god play in it? And, if the individual makes it up from the allowable choices in the society, how can it be called Christian morality given that it rejects what the Bible says about hell and adopts a position more in line with what non-believers say?

This is comedy; this is farce.

It is a point of Christian morality that one must rely on insight from God, insights garnered through prayer, no doubt, when questions arise about how to treat others in novel circumstances. Yet, as an unsavory example, epileptics, historically victims of Christian moral insights from God, have been burned as witches, starved to death, caged, chained, and beaten. It's a good thing that today for the most part Christian morality takes its cues from the society at large, which is informed by 100 percent supernatural-free science, so the special concerns of epileptics can be addressed with humanity and compassion rather than some of that good ol' barbaric Christian morality.

Sorry, Clare. I started down a path toward the mercilessly cruel, harsh and frequently inhuman Christian missionization, but I got tangled up in that nasty Christian morality undergrowth again. Christian missionaries show Christian morality as a showcase of gruesome heartlessness. Mass murder, slavery, seizing of property, breaking up families and destroying language and culture were, and still are, commonplace when Christianity is allowed to run wild, and especially when it can keep the media away. Christians in Africa have so exacerbated the AIDS plague that in several countries the life expectancy at birth is now nearly down to thirty. They burn condoms by the truckload that are donated by the World Health Organization, condoms that are known to reduce the likelihood of transmitting the HIV virus by a factor of 10000. This is the Christian morality Victor espouses in action. Contemporary, in your face, mass murder by those content to annihilate the adult populations so they can reach religious dominance through the children.

Russ said...

Papalinton,
You said,

For those who have experienced tragedy, or difficulty or debilitating circumstance that makes life unbearable, it seems religion has a wonderful salvific element. But it is not the only one. Great friendships, community support, caring neighbourhoods, humanitarian and welfare agencies can all play a most compelling role.

I just love your acknowledgement of the social group influences of religion juxtaposed with your understanding that, concerning such sources of personal benefit, "it is not the only one." There are many people who get no benefit from their church attendance -- they are not having their deepest human needs satisfied -- while they find great fulfillment in hobbies or sports. Engaging diversions like woodworking, model railroading, and spectator sports are shown to be as deeply satisfying for those who are drawn to them, and they make for great sources of strong supportive interpersonal relationships. Good friends are good friends whether they are religious or not. Observably, religion does not make friendships better or stronger. Our blog host, John Loftus, has attested to that in his book Why I Became an Atheist. I found that to be true in every church I entered growing up. Humans are humans first, with all of their evolved quirks and proclivities, and only then do they manifest the various social concerns that intersect in them.

You said,

I would say the surge to faith in Africa is not about some revelatory experience, some personal touch with god, but more a salve against the grinding poverty, terrible living conditions, non-existent medical care, and dreadful life expectancy rates. If you were one of those, and saw no end of it, why would you turn away from the only hope you have of garnering some form of relief from the mental anguish?

This is true. Then, too, I think it's important, Papalinton, to state this surge in faith in realistic economic terms: the wealthier religious are buying the religious faith of the desperate and impoverished, all while they claim it to be spreading for its veracity. As you intimated, if I'm starving, the stranger with food in hand, will likely be able to get me to profess anything he wants me to. Millenia of culture, experience, ritual, language, and religion can be sold out to almost anyone when times get hard enough. It degrades us all when for want of a meal and clean water, Christian religious predators swoop in and intentionally supplant what is often tens of thousands of years of cultural history, a relationship of people and place that can never be restored. Too bad, that vaunted Christian morality never considers trying to satisfy the real deepest needs of the indigenous people. The Christian pride of conquest is too great for them to do anything other than dismiss the priceless value of an ancient culture.

I really connect with your statement,

It is beholden to us, as keepers of humanity to do good for goodness' sake alone, without the proselytizing [you know, the 'good samaritan bit', no questions asked, no reason need be given, no strings attached].

I volunteer with several organizations that are run by Christians. It's bothersome to me that they demean everyone when they try to make it seem as though no one would want to help if not for the will of some god.

At Habitat for Humanity I regularly work alongside atheists, several of whom are active Christian clergy. Even though use it as a recruiting tool, I keep returning since it is good for the homeowner, the community, and it is a lot of fun for me. When I look around during their prayers, lots of others are usually looking around, too. The world is better perceived and understood with head up and eyes open.

Hendy said...

3rd world countries are, indeed, an interesting phenomenon. Having recently finished D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity, I found it extremely interesting that he would tout the increase in Christianity in 3rd world countries as a sign that Christianity "is winning and atheism is losing" in the "war over belief." The fact that he painted so many passages in dripping military terms was also interesting.

In any case, a friend of mine served as a nurse in Tanzania and described awful practices. Female circumcisions are routine immediately after the first child is born, funerals are wrought with orgies because of an odd understanding of life/death cycles, and men constantly demanded that she come to their homes (or just over into the bushes) to have sex. I was shocked.

Then I asked what religions they subscribed to... "Mostly Christianity and Islam," she replied.

For them, belief doesn't change cultural practices. It's quite interesting that the truly "incredible" miracles we hear of occur, for the most part, in 3rd world conditions. Is it a coincidence that these places most resemble what would have been the state around 30AD?

Papalinton said...

Hi Hendy
Not 'female circumcision'. That implies something less than what it actually is. It is outright 'female genital mutilation', no less. I think we should call it like it is.
Cheers

Victor Reppert said...

I am afraid I have touched off a diatribe in response to something I didn't say. I said Christian morality was tougher than typical secular morality. I didn't even say it was a better morality. It is just that some of its teachings, in the area of pride, in the area of sexual behavior, in the area of not being able to exclude anyone from the "neighbor" category, and in the area of being required to forgive those who have offended you, are pretty demanding.

I said this in the context of John's argument that people believe in Christianity because they find it comforting.

Now, if you want to argue that Christianity causes moral harm, that's of course, a distinct issue from the one that John was raising initially. But my claim that Christian morality is tougher is not an argument that it is better. For example, a vegetarian morality is more severe than a non-vegetarian morality, but that doesn't imply that it's a better morality. A morality that proscribes lies across the board is a very tough morality, but you can still argue against it.

So, essentially, the subject has been changed here, and it is worth pointing that out, even if the subject under discussion is worthwhile.

Papalinton said...

Hi Russ
You said, ..."Humans are humans first, with all of their evolved quirks and proclivities, and only then do they manifest the various social concerns that intersect in them."

My sentiments truly reflected. I can't claim the following statement but it is well worth acknowledging and repeating: "Isn't what we don't know unquantifiable? it is therefore unknowable.  
Asserting that we know something takes faith in that knowledge. So we all have faith.  
You can't know what you didn't know before- until it has been discovered. Everything else you didn't know is still a mystery and always will be, until, of course, something new is discovered.  
Science is the tool that helps us discover new things. It is a tool, not a religion.  
As for religiosity, we hold one commonality. Humanism.  
We are all human, all our variations. It is the only perspective out of which we can experience our existence. It is very limited and yet we get unlimited interpretations of what is human. Theism, atheism, and agnosticism are just conditions of our humanity. Science expands our [knowledge] world daily, so does art, and so does human interaction.  
Call yourself as you like, it is after-all, an important construct of how you define your own humanity at this specific time and space." [Mauricio Rodrigues, blogger at http://www.slate.com/id/2258484/#add-comment]

The christianities are but forms of describing our humanity but then with foolhardy and asinine gesture ascribes our very nature to a supernatural entity.

Cheers

Russ said...

Papalinton,
I like the sentiment you shared. My only huff is with the word faith. In today's vernacular the word seems to be more of a universal permission slip that the religious grant themselves. We often hear religious platitudes such as "In faith all things are possible." This is, of course, observably false, but that's all right since what it is actually supposed to mean is I can do whatever I want, to whomever I want, with complete impunity, if I say I'm doing it as a matter of my faith -- which me or my group get to make up and decide on all by ourselves.

I agree entirely with the thrust of the quote. I'm merely niggling over a word the popular semantics of which have fallen out of favor with me. If I mean that some body of understanding has shown itself to be reliable, I prefer to qualify my attitude toward it as having confidence rather than faith.

I prefer to leave faith to bodies of religious types like Christians who assert with absolute confidence contradictory notions like "God sends transgressors to hell" and "God does not send transgressors to hell." It's good to know "faith" can settle these things, isn't it?

And, I'd prefer to leave "faith" in the hands of those who are emotionally equipped to deal with it, like Victor. Emotionally, psychologically, I need the world to make sense from the standpoint that it actually makes sense, from the standpoint that I can see how the pieces really do fit together. I can't simply imagine it to make sense because I join some group which construes its superstitions, traditions, personal revelations, and the musings of its revered authority figures as being a more accurate rendering of reality than the huge store of knowledge and understanding mankind has accrued over centuries. Emotionally, psychologically, I personally cannot accept that any religious take on the world is correct when they all conflict in so many ways, including with themselves. To me it takes a special mindset, which I cannot embrace or endorse, to solipsistically look at humankind as a whole through religious eyes and be convinced that all but me or my group have it wrong.

Russ said...

Papalinton,
I can accept the world through the eyes of the human being I am which show me that we humans generally need the solace of belonging, being a part of something, a something where we are accepted, respected and maybe even cared for a bit. I get that sense of belonging myself from people of all walks of life, races, creeds, and even religions. But those who give me that sense of belonging are those people who see their particular take on the world as provisional, not absolute in any sense and certainly not projected as binding on all mankind. I can give and get that sense of belonging from a person when they see, and I know that they see, that their traditions, though an integral substance of themselves, are not the traditions of all others and should not be expected or made to be.

Where I part ways with the belonging bunch is that point where they refuse to have a realistic look at the world in order to gratify their need to belong. When they elevate their need for group belonging to the point of a crippling insistence that are in possession of the truth -- nothing's provisional, the time for discussion is long past -- then I know they constitute a threat. When the reality where actual flesh and blood people live no longer figures into their calculations, except perhaps as confirmation bias, they're just as likely to cause harm as they are to be agents of good. We see that to be true throughout Christendom. Things are observed to go very wrong among those who are most insistent that the spookiness and mysteriousness of their religion are reliable tools for decision-making and should be coerced on everyone as with evangelical Christianities and Islams.

So, here I sit having observed that faith of the religious kind is an abject failure. However, it is also supposed to suggest a certainty that various religious propositions of one's own religion are true, like one and one making two, or gravity. So, as a matter of observable fact, the word faith is synonymous with false confidence or pathological certainty. As such I'll leave the word it to those whose psyches are mollycoddled by the certainty that God both does and does not send transgressors to hell.

Russ said...

Victor,
You said,

I am afraid I have touched off a diatribe in response to something I didn't say. I said Christian morality was tougher than typical secular morality. I didn't even say it was a better morality.

If you're advocating it as the only form of morality that will keep your God from setting our asses on fire and fanning the flames forever, is it really necessary for you to be explicit about it's being better? If keeps your God off our asses it's not just better, it is best by default. No other form of morality matters, does it, Victor? If your Christian morality is the only one that holds out any hope for salvation -- and even then only for those not suffering from the grave misfortune of having been conceived by parents who are the wrong kind of religious believer -- then, how can you say it is not better. You can play the stupid semantic games all you like Victor, but if there is exactly one version of morality that sidesteps that infinity of incendiary consequences you Christians are so endeared with, then that morality is best by default. By the way, can't you go to hell, Victor, for violating the Christian moral dictate that says you must consider everything your god says or does as all-perfect, and the only way for you to think that it's not is for you to be ignorant of his divine plan, you know, God swill?

So, dive into a semantics hole, Victor, and pull some philosophy brush in over yourself to provide cover and reassure yourself that given enough philosophical smoke you'll never have to face the world head on.

And again, Victor, what the hell could it possibly mean for it to be "tougher" when it is observed to be ignored anyway.

You said,

It is just that some of its teachings, in the area of pride, in the area of sexual behavior, in the area of not being able to exclude anyone from the "neighbor" category, and in the area of being required to forgive those who have offended you, are pretty demanding.

You're a sick man, Victor Reppert. Do you literally not see a broad enough spectrum of Christian praxis to know these are not only not universal among the Christianities, but that even if we were to accept that these were universal Christian teachings they have no impact.

Christians have pride about everything from their latest perms and manicures, to the number of Bible verses they've committed to memory, to how proud they are to be precisely the type of Christian demanded of all people by their God. They're proud of their music and achitectural heritage. They're proud of how generous they are, and how unthinking and blind their faith is. They are proud of their soul-saving conquests(more money for Jesus). Missionaries: Christian pride. Humanitarian aid: Christian pride. Easter bonnet: Christian pride. Nativity display: Christian pride. Worming George Bush into the White House: Christian pride. Certain they have all the right answers: Christian pride. Nationalism and dominionism: Christian pride.

Read the Christian writings wherein author after author struts and puffs about their Christian pride: you, D'Souza, Eagleton, Lewis, Strobel, Warren, Van Osteen, Plantinga. Nothing characterizes their writings as well as pride, arrogance and conceit. Many Christian writers have irreconcilable differences with others and yet they claim to be reporting from the same god. Damn, Victor, Christians are even proud of how proud they believe themselves not to be. Now, that's some kinda pride, right there. You say these teachings can be pretty demanding, but I think Christians deal with it quite well. Just as Christian tell us that they live according to the Bible but observably don't, Christians are also observably bursting with pride though they tell us they're not.

Russ said...

Victor,
Christian teachings concerning pride adversely affects us all by its forcing gratitude away from those people whose efforts are truly deserving of appreciation and redirecting it to an imaginary entity whose nature varies from church to church. You've probably thanked your version of a god Victor for life-saving technologies I developed as a graduate student. While you would never thank me, my work has helped to save many a life. Of that, I am proud to have made such a contribution. If a doctrine has the power to make believers blind to the real people who produce their food, the real people who provide them with life's comforts, and the real people who protect and serve them, then it's an immoral doctrine.

To produce a table-ready can of cut green beans requires the efforts of tens of thousands of people. That can of beans is a technological marvel and every person involved deserves their share of the gratitude pie. But, what do the Christianities do? They extrapolate their doctrine against pride to mean that others should not be prideful - that is, they should not recognize or laud their own accomplishments - and so are not deserving of due regard. Some feared deity is deemed worthy of thanks for tasks it hasn't influenced and has not had a hand in. The deity gets thanks for doing absolutely nothing while those who actually made a difference in people's lives are completely overlooked.

I can see why you like your Christian morality, Victor; it avoids you having to boost the pride of your fellow man. You heighten your abject neglect of proper gratitude each and every time you gush a prayer out to the imaginary. If you want to demonstrate true gratitude sometime, even if you risk making someone proud of their life's work, find an address or website on that can of beans and send off a note of thanks. Your appreciation will just scratch the surface of all those involved in getting that can to you, but it will be a step in the right direction since you will actually be thanking someone who was part of the process.

Pride motivates us all, Victor, even you. Go ahead, feel ashamed, if that somehow makes you feel better about it, but you must admit its true. Sadly, you appear not to recognize that there is a difference between pride as a weapon, pride of position or authority used to beat someone down, and pride as an internal motivation to excel, to reach beyond a comfortable status quo to the fringes of our own capabilities.

When I want a lightbulb, I want an Edison, a powerhouse of pride (though he was an atheist you owe him much for your way of life). I want someone whose own self-interest drives them to seek pots of gold where others didn't think to look. I want a man who imagines me looking on encouraging him to find what others failed to find. I want him to know that his success will mean benefit to himself and others. Take away pride, Victor, and you destroy incentive.

Then, too, I want my performers to have pride, pride, pride. I want them to be so full of themselves that their preparations lead to performances where none but them wishes they had ornamented a particular phrase a bit differently. I want pride and I want to see it. So do you. If you pay 100 bucks to see a concert, you want the best, and you only get the best through pride, boasting, gloating, I'm-the-best-that-can-be kind of pride.

Russ said...

Victor,
Concerning sexual behaviors, neighbors and forgiveness, I encourage you to look around the world, Victor. Christians do not excel in any of these matters. Teachings don't mean shit if the teachings have no tangible results. Look at the numbers.

Vehicle upholsteries are just as abused by sexually inflamed Christian teens and young adults as they are by any others. Christians are getting the most abortions per capita. Christians have more children outside marriage. And, heh, how about those rates of sexual infidelity leading to divorce? Again, teachings alone don't mean shit.

And, hell, Victor, Christians even exclude each other from the neighbor category. I have no idea where you might have dreamed this one up, either. Your Christianity is one of pure imagination. Do Christians see atheists today as neighbors, Victor? Go ahead, you can say no, it's okay. How about Muslims? No, again. How about the Incas, Aztecs, Mayans? No, again, huh? How about other native North Americans? Nope. Let's see, how about the Jews in Reformation Europe? No, once more. Strange, heh? If it's a teaching, it's another one Christians simply ignore.

What you're talking about, Victor, is Christians accepting as neighbors anyone who is desperate enough to be converted to Christianity. The vulnerable are considered neighbors by Christians, but the polls all show how much Christians hate those unlike themselves, especially atheists.

About forgiveness. Again, teachings count for squat. Christians are just as eternally hateful and vengeful as any other humans. Look at what they do. Look at the hatred and vilification spewing forth from the likes of the Christian stooges on FOX. Look at how Christians disown and disdain family members who have realized Christianity for the crock of shit it really is, and have ventured to say so. Look at Christian disdain for those who they feel have besmirched them. Christians hate each other, Victor. The only use one Chirstianity has for another is when they unite into a voting block to express their mutual hatred for other people, like gays or women or non-Christians.

Dream it, Victor. That's all you've got.

You said,

For example, a vegetarian morality is more severe than a non-vegetarian morality, but that doesn't imply that it's a better morality.

This, too, fails, Victor. Being a vegetarian is not more severe than being a non-vegetarian. It's simply different. I have Seventh Day Adventist friends whose families have been vegetarians for many generations. It's not severe. It's how they live. You make an analogy where none exists.

Victor, your Christianity observably isn't making people better or more caring. Teachings are not teachings if those being taught aren't learning them. Christian teachings frequently instruct followers to be far less caring and compassionate.

That your religion induces you to imagine the world to be very different from the way it is observed to be, is precisely why we need to guard against allowing persons like you too much influence. Your insistence that you have answers appropriate for all is clearly a mistake. You have no clear idea what constitutes your own same-named religion. You peer out from your safe little fortress of your personal Christianity completely ignorant of the fact that the teachings you think of as branding a distinct character on your Christianity do nothing of the sort. Unfortunately, your Christianity has made you lose sight of the goings-on in the place we all share called humanity.

Papalinton said...

Hi Russ
About 'faith', I am 100% in agreement with you; it is a word, among so many others in the English language, that have been commandeered and appropriated through religion's colonisation of the human experience. We cannot speak these words without theistic implications or associations, as though religious experiences are the only bona fide experiences or the genuine article.
And yes, the word 'confidence' or 'trust' may well be a better descriptor of our perspective.

Cheers

Papalinton said...

Hi Victor
It seems morality a lá christian style simply doesn't make any sense. The following is an interesting piece published in the Journal of Religion and Society, 2005:

"[Globally], higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, the U.S. ... is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly ..... No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of social health...... The more secular, pro-evolution democracies .... feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion.

"[Within the U.S.,] the strongly theistic, anti-evolution South and Mid-West have markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the Northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms."

Victor, the correlation of the statistics commensurate with the level of religiosity seems to tell us a rather dismal tale of the claims of the christianities. And when one adds to these statistics, the astounding revelations of the level of abuse of children while under the pastoral care of the catholic church, one can only surmise that any form of moral pronouncement by any of the faiths is simply ludicrous and tendentious.
Cheers

Victor Reppert said...

I was not making an argument for the moral superiority of Christianity. I was making an argument that some of the moral requirements of Christianity make it emotionally unappealing to many people.

Your counterpoints, while interesting, are off-topic. Your "criticisms" of my arguments don't address the point I was making. You go from the fact that I am a Christian to some conclusion about what I must have been arguing for. Sorry, but you missed the point.

I don't mean to be pedantic here, but you really cannot criticize someone's argument by attacking something that you suppose that person to believe. If, for example, someone believes in inerrancy, but is defending the resurrection of Jesus, you can't criticize his argument for the resurrection by attacking inerrancy.

Victor Reppert said...

Loftus: "If I see a pretty girl I can imagine what she looks like naked if I want to, and comment on her looks to the guys, so long as I do nothing about it, since I’m a very happily married man. I can drink and get buzzed if I want to. If someone does get in my face I don’t have to be a mild mannered man, but I can tell him to get the **** away from me, and I can say it like I mean it." [asterisks mine, JD]

My whole argument in this discussion has been that Christianity has its emotional downside, and atheism has its emotional upside.

That's all there is to it. And JWL makes my case in this passage far better that I ever could. Thanks, John.

Though I guess it supports the generalization that people believe and defend what they prefer to be true.

Papalinton said...

Hi Victor
You say, .."Victor Reppert said...
I was not making an argument for the moral superiority of Christianity..."

I say: Nor was I. And yes I do consider these findings directly relevant to the argument and are not off-topic. On the contrary. Before one can posit the premise that christian morality is tougher [tougher than what? atheist morality?] one ought to review the statistics, as a first step. The correlates in the statistics point to a significantly lower base for morality within communities with high levels of religious belief compared to more secular communities. To suggest that these statistics may in some way support the notion that christian morality is somewhat tougher to abide by is spurious. If it is tougher, then perhaps communities should drop all that theism stuff and make it easier for the communities to reach levels of morality consistent with the more secular parts of the population.
Cheers

Victor Reppert said...

The precepts of a morality can be more demanding even if the people who follow it are less successful in following it than others. So, if moral code A says that you must never commit adultery, and moral code B says most of the time you shouldn't commit adultery, then A is more demanding than B, and this would remain so even if there were a higher percentage of adulteres in group A than in group B.

In particular, the context has to do with the claim that all our wishes are on the side of Christianity. That was the issue. Softer moral codes are more appealing to human beings than harder ones. The traditional Christian code with respect to sex behavior is harder than that the morality that most atheists subscribe to, especially if you add in the "lust in your heart" provisions made famous by Jimmy Carter.

What I've simply been arguing is that you can't explain Christianity away in terms of its emotional appeal without at least being honest enough to admit that there are emotional perks to denying it. The wishful thinking argument, which in the logic books is identified as the circumstantial ad hominem fallacy, has limited value in the debate about religion.

GearHedEd said...

Russ said,

"... I personally cannot accept that any religious take on the world is correct when they all conflict in so many ways, including with themselves. To me it takes a special mindset, which I cannot embrace or endorse, to solipsistically look at humankind as a whole through religious eyes and be convinced that all but me or my group have it wrong."

This is, I think, what originally did it for me, even as a ten year old child. I grew up in a small midwestern town in which there were at least a dozen churches, all claiming to be the "true Christian faith". And there actually WERE people in the church my parents began attending when I was about ten that spoke badly of the other congregations where I could hear it in the parish hall after services.

Christians don't get to define what atheism means, ESPECIALLY if they can't even agree on what it means to be a CHRISTIAN!