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Debate: The Source of Human Morality

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The University of Maryland — Baltimore County Orthodox Christian Fellowship and the school’s Secular Student Alliance sponsored a Nov. 16 debate on the subject of “The Source of Human Morality” with about 450 people in attendance. Fr. Hans Jacobse, an Orthodox Christian priest and president of the American Orthodox Institute (he blogs here), squared off with Matt Dillahunty, the president of the Atheist Community of Austin, and host of the public access television and Internet show The Atheist Experience. The debate’s organizer noted that Dillahunty “was raised as a fundamentalist Baptist, and was on track to become a minister until he started asking questions about the reasons for his belief. He rejected religion, and now serves as a public voice for rationality and secular morality.”

The debate was moderated by John Shook, Ph.D., Director of Education at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, NY. He is the author of The God Debates: a 21st Century Guide for Atheists and Believers (and Everyone in Between).

Fr. Hans is also the editor of and is a good friend of the Acton Institute. He has long argued that Orthodox Christianity has an important part to play in American moral renewal. In his article, “Orthodox Leadership in a Brave New World,” he explains why the culture wars are basically rooted in competing visions of the human person — a fundamental conflict about anthropology. And you’ll see him follow this line in his debate with Dillahunty.

For those wanting a deep dive into the “New Atheist” polemic, Fr. Hans is recommending David Bentley Hart’s book, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies.

The Orthodox Christian Fellowship has been posting videos of the debate and some of Father Hans’ talks with students the following day on subjects as wide ranging as “The Intrinsic Value of the Human Being” and the Crusades. You can find these on the OCF’s YouTube channel, and they’re well worth the investment of time. I’ll share a couple here, from the debate Q&A and the talk with students.

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.


  • Orthodoxwannabe

    I have been following this debate for a few days – I’ve learned a lot. But, I do have trouble with some of the atheist followers and their very hurtful comments against Father Hans “The world will hate you as it has hated me.”

    I haven’t finished reading it yet, but another good book on this topic is: “Clash of Orthodoxies”

  • Becky

    Matt Dillahunty said, “Atheism is neither necessary nor sufficent for the type of ideology that ends up in Gulags.” Father Hans said, “You’re right.”
    I’m afraid that I have to disagree with these statements. Atheism is both necessary and sufficient. It is necessary because there must be a rejection of God and his Word before we will treat others badly. First and foremost, because all goodness comes from God. You cannot get it from anywhere else, so to say that you can reject God in favor of something else that will promote goodness is a fallacy. There is nothing else, except sin and death, so Atheism has no choice but to end up in Gulags.
    I think where the confusion comes in is that not all Atheists kill and not all Christians refrain from killing. That simply means that not all atheists have utterly rejected everything of God, and not all Christians have utterly accepted everything of God. Human beings are more complex than that. To say ‘I don’t believe in God’ is not an utter rejection of God, especially if you still believe in goodness of some sort. All you have done is rejected the source of that goodness and then search around to try to find another source/reason why there should be goodness. But that is not Atheism. True Atheism would be a rejection of God and everything that stems from God, including goodness. And that is both necessary and sufficient.

  • Ian Read

    Becky, you are making the mistake of stating that God is the source of all goodness without any substantiation.
    If you wish to simply declare this by fiat it makes a mockery of the debate.
    Atheism is NOT rejection of God it is the lack of a belief in one. To reject God one would have to believe in him first.
    As to morality well if Vampire bats can behave altruistically I would hope that we may also.

    For more examples of morality in the animal kingdom.

    I do have to ask though, if you are moral only because of God, does that mean you would be immoral without him?
    If so, that is not morality. That’s just sucking up.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Becky, you may have heard my words incorrectly. I argue strongly and in several places that the “Atheism Project” (as I call it) inevitably ends in the Gulags as the history of the twentieth century shows.

    The logical end of atheism in nihilism since the atheist, by historical necessity, must reject the One True God. Rejecting the God of Abraham requires a rejection of the victory over death accomplished by His Son. Hope dies, morality is subsumed by the state, and totalitarianism emerges as the expression of Nietzsche’s will to power.

  • Becky

    Ian, Firstly, When I say that God is the source of all life and all goodness, what I mean that there is nothing in the natural existence that did not come from God and everything that came from God is life transmitting. Just as if there were no gold, then there would be no gold jewelry. So ‘being moral only because of God’ it’s not a matter of ‘sucking up’, it’s a matter of no God, no morality, no nothing. Which is exactly what you find when you look around you and at history.
    Rejection vs. non-belief: If I tell you, truly, that there is a rock in your yard, and you don’t believe me, are you not rejecting the truth of my statement in choosing not to believe me? That being said I will use your term of non-belief because it then moves us into the realm of faith which is the very crux of the matter. Just out of curiosity how many people telling you that there was a rock in your yard would it take before you would believe? One? two? three? billion?
    So for me to substantiate a single source where nothing in existence exists but first came from that source, and everything that comes from that source is of and in itself good (and by good I mean life transmitting.) Then I would expect to find everything that is in existence came from a single source. Do we agree that everything that exists naturally came from a single source? I would also expect to find that everything that came from that single source to be good (In that it transmits life) – this would include animals. So the very fact that animals tend towards the good is proof of what I say. Is there anything that does not come from that source that does not transmit life? Has not science taught us that everything in existence works together to transmit and sustain life?
    Can we agree that man is only capable of conceiving those things that are, and anything else is in reference to that? So light IS, and darkness is lack thereof, belief IS, and unbelief is lack thereof. Can an Atheist in any way define itself, other than in terms of what it is not? Does not that in turn, say that there is something that conceivably exists that an atheist is making reference to?

  • Dave

    A philosophical naturalist can, and I submit is equally likely to, subscribe to the golden rule as a theist. His tendency to do so may be attributed to: regard for his selfish best interest, pressure from or empathy towards his social group or threats from a metaphysical invisible friend.

    As Fr. J. was unable to show any difference between invisible and imaginary, we may also consider that last reason imaginary.

    The second reason is real and enough to keep the entirely neutral moral position of atheism from becoming nihilist, amoral or, in the case of Godwin, actively evil.

  • Becky

    Ian, I said “it’s a matter of no God, no morality, no nothing. Which is exactly what you find when you look around you and at history.” What I meant to say is wherever there is a rejection of God then you will find a lack of morality. I apologize for not making my position clear.

  • Hermes

    Becky, I noticed that you consistently capitalize the word “Atheism”.

    Do you capitalize the word “Theism” as well?

    If this was intentional and not a minor goof, I’d like to hear your reasoning.

  • guy

    Becky, ugh
    Apparently, you can’t understand that it doesn’t require magic for people to figure out “Hey guys, what if we DIDN’T kill each other? Think that would work better?”

  • Becky

    Father Hans, I don’t know if that is what you meant to say or if you even believe it, but that is what was said. That is what I am disagreeing with. I understand that rejection of God leads to subjectivity. But the entire problem with Atheism is not that IS something, but IS NOT something. And what is not cannot in anyway transmit or sustain life, it can only lead to death. You don’t get something from nothing. You get nothing from nothing.
    I would say that Atheism does not subsume morality. I think to subsume morality you would need to first believe there was a morality, and then relegate it to a lower level of importance. For instance a person believes that they should not commit adultery, but they do it anyway because they believe more strongly that they will benefit from adultery, as opposed to refraining from adultery. However, they still retain that truth on some level, and always have the option of reverting back to that truth and re-ordering their values so that commandment has its proper place in their life. I don’t see this as Atheism, I see this is a Christian issue of transgressing the commandments, and of not ordering his life by the greatest of the commandments.
    What Atheism does, by rejecting the truth, is not live within any boundaries, except ones they determine. They do not believe in God, so they are not going to accept what he prohibits as a saving truth. They have no obstacles in their choice of action, except for one. The one they rejected as not being a viable path. This opens the door to anything goes, except God. Now if you have rejected God and the fact that God created everything in an order that transmits and sustains life, then it becomes an accident. There is no rhyme or reason. This is where subjectivity comes in. However, the problem they run into is that there are undeniable truths. They are like a man with a tree in their yard that will provide them fruit to eat and shade from the sun. As their belly gnaws, they HAVE to acknowledge that they need food. As their brow perspires, they HAVE to acknowledge that shade is good. So they cannot deny that some things are beneficial and that some things are not. So they do set up a moral order, but that order is subjective, based on what they perceive to be good and what they perceive to be evil. And not based on God, and everything that entails. So blond and blue-eyed is good, everything else is evil. Etc. Etc. Morality has not been subsumed it has been redefined. Except for those people who follow it to the logical conclusion, in spite of what they can perceive with their own eyes, and then there are no boundaries, except towards God. The only recourse from death for these people is to believe the truth.

  • Becky

    Actually Hermes when to capitalize and not is not always clear to me. I have seen science capitalized in sentences and not capitalized in sentences. So I tend towards capitalization.

  • guy

    Becky, how do you feel about slavery?
    How about gays.

    Now compare that to what god said about those things. Let us know how that goes.

  • Hermes

    Becky, capitalization rules are fairly simple, but there is some gray in odd-ball cases.

    General rules:

    * The name of a specific thing is always capitalized; Sam, Department of Energy, and the book War and Peace.

    * The name of a general thing is never capitalized; human/dog/male/female, organization, and the title of a book.

    * When in doubt, use lowercase.

    For example, the word cat is almost never capitalized because it tends to refer to a feline of some sort.

    My friend Sally (proper name) has a cat named Billy (proper name).

    Even more;

    My friend Sally has a bobcat (not a proper name) named Billy.

    The word Cat, though, when it refers to a machine made by Caterpillar corporation is capitalized. So are Bobcats (another heavy machine made by Bobcat Company). Red Cat pencils are capitalized, as would be Red’s pencil, but pencil is a generic category so the word pencil is not capitalized.

    Note also the bit of gray for “Caterpillar corporation”. Without looking it up, the word “corporation” in that instance may be part of the proper name of the company that makes Caterpillar brand earth movers. If that is the case, I would be mistaken not to capitalize the word “corporation” when used with “Caterpillar corporation”. (FWIW: Caterpillar consistently refers to the company Caterpillar with just the word Caterpillar and does not use the word corporation, company, or incorporated/inc. so the proper way to refer to them would be as they do; Caterpillar.)

    In the case of a discipline, the names are only capitalized if they refer to a specific discipline. So, a group of doctors would be doctors (lower case generic group) but a specific person would be Doctor Barnibas or have the title of and credentials of Doctor of Obstetrics.)

    As for the specific examples you gave, you can talk about the general group of “the sciences” or a specific category like “astrophysics” or “biology”, but when you talk about a specific building or department it is capitalized; “The Palomar Observatory” is an observatory not an Observatory, but Palomar is specific and thus capitalized.

    In the case of atheists, you correctly use lower case as that is a generic category. You can’t say much about atheists as a set anymore than you can say much about theists as a set; a Hindu has little in common with their theism when compared to a Lutheran except that both have a belief in a god or gods.

    In the case of theism you will note that unless it is meant to refer to a specific subset of belief in a god or gods, it is always lowercase. As is atheism. Neither are doctrines, but people in either category can hold specific doctrines. The capitalization would follow the specifics, not the general category. So far, I have not encountered a group that is specific enough to merit either the uppercase T-Theism nor the uppercase A-Atheism unlike Southern Baptists or Raelians (self-described atheists). Both words are simple and generic, and thus follow the ‘when in doubt, do not capitalize’ rule, where as the organizations members can be in are specific and thus require capitalization.

    Does that make sense?

  • Becky

    Dave, Actually I stated that human beings were complex and that intellectually stating that God does not exist does not mean that you cannot subjectively come to these conclusions. But that only depends on if the subjective opinion that they came to is based on truth. If they have excepted the golden rule then they are still in some respect believe in God’s precepts and therefore they have not completely rejected him.
    I have to argue that Fr. J. not being able to show any difference between invisible and imaginary does not mean that there is a difference. Unless someone gave him a definition which showed they were the same, and he wasn’t able to negate it. So we do not get to automically assign something just because someone else can’t. Logically speaking, isn’t the entire definition of invisible and imaginary different, implying that there is a difference, even if it maybe a minute one?

  • Becky

    In the reply to Dave, “not being able to show any difference between invisible and imaginary does not mean that there is a difference.” should read “not being able to show any difference between invisible and imaginary does not mean that there is not a difference.”

  • Becky

    I’m starting to get the feeling that Atheism not only doesn’t believe in the existence of God, but also believes that it is inconceivable for a God to exist. I am not implying by conceivability that a God does exist, or that it is even probable that a God does exist. I am trying to find out if Atheism rejects the conceivability of a God existing. If so, how do you justify the inconceivability of something that has already been conceived?

  • guy

    Ugh. Becky.
    Atheism in general is just a rejection of a god claim.
    Some atheists will deny all possibility of a god.
    Your inconceivable point is just retarded and an attempt at equivocation (basically a form of wordplay based around multiple meanings of words) and a strawman (arguing against a point that no one is making).

  • Hermes

    Becky, I’m an atheist because I’m not a theist. Because I try and have my beliefs follow what I know, if it seems more likely than not that some set of deities exist then I’ll in that instant become a theist of some kind.

    If you are curious, I’ve actually asked theists and atheists these types of questions and they have answered for themselves;

    Personally, since there are so many different claims about deities, I take multiple positions.

    Some deities are self-refuting, so I say that those specific deities do not exist. The omnimax deities, for example.

    Some deities are not evident, but are not self-refuting so I do not claim to know for a fact that they do not exist but I believe that they do not. Someone else with the same details might believe differently and I do not begrudge them their belief.

    Some deities are logically consistent and also do not seem to contradict reality. I’ll name two categories; pantheist and deist deities.

    So, click the link, read the descriptions, and if you want vote. Note that you can choose multiple options depending on the different deity claims you have in mind. That is what most of the atheists did in that poll, thus the numbers go well over 100% when all categories are totaled even if some of the fluff categories at the end are removed.

    I await your informed reply.

  • Roger McKinney

    If you read the great atheist philosophers ( to name just a few: Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, and the post-modern ones) they all deny without exception the possibility of morality without God. Modern atheists are highly offended at this. Why? 1) Because morality is important to everyone else and it’s hard to claim you’re a good person without it, and 2) ethical philosophers succeeded in changing the definition of morality. It’s the old bait-and-switch con-game, which demonstrates the total lack of integrity among atheists. 3) Atheists found that some things continued to disgust them and they couldn’t purge themselves of thoughts about morality.

    Until about twenty years ago, morality was defined as the code of conduct required for everyone at all times. Everyone agreed upon that definition, even atheists. People might disagree about what went into the code, but not about the definition. And most people agreed that murder was excluded. But God is necessary for that type of morality to exist because no man has any moral authority over another man. Only God has that kind of authority.

    Without God, traditional morality can’t possibly exist. All that can exist is opinions without authority. So instead of being honest, like the great atheist philosophers, modern atheists stole the word “morality”, emptied it of its traditional content, and defined it as opinions on good and bad. So they say “see, we can have opinions on good and evil just like anyone else, so we have morality.”

    Modern atheists should know that they do not have morality just because they can posit a contract between people or find some actions disgusting. You can call it morality if you want. But what you give up with your opinions-as-morality philosophy is the ability to claim any universality or authority for your opinions. You cannot claim that murdering Jews is immoral; it’s just a different morality from yours. You may find some things disgusting, but that doesn’t make someone immoral who enjoys those things.

    By making morality nothing more than personal opinion, you have actually affirmed what the great atheist philosophers said about morality without God being impossible.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Becky, second error. You wrote: “I would say that Atheism does not subsume morality.”

    I did not say that Atheism would subsume morality. I said that the state, under the atheist paradigm, would subsume morality.

    The source of authority has to rest somewhere outside of the individual (your notion that authority rests in the individual is just a post-Christian conceit). Put another way, the hyper-subjectivism within secular belief (yes, belief) cannot function in the real world. The atheist, by historical necessity, will cede his personal sovereignty to the state since there is no other god to which he can make his appeal. Those gods were destroyed when Christ, the King above all Kings, the Lord of all Lords, destroyed death, and thus the power they held over mankind.

    The fact you might not believe this has no relevance here. You are a product of your culture and from that you cannot escape, just as a person cannot change who his biological mother or father are, no matter how much he might despise them.

    You say you are an atheist Becky, but you think in Christian categories. You reflect what Nietzsche despised: Atheists who live as functional Christians and don’t examine the logical end of their presuppositions.

  • Hermes

    Roger McKinney, atheism is not theism. What specific people who are atheists have said or did not say forces no requirements on what a specific non-theist might think or believe except in the most general of cases; an atheist is not a theist.

    By contrast, I do not require that you agree with other religious sects (Christian or otherwise) or specific edicts from your own sect’s leadership or religious documents or traditions. As a simple example, there are plenty of Roman Catholics that disagree or ignore what the Pope declares. Those Catholics and I might agree in detail about why we both think that the Pope should be ignored or why we think he is wrong. There are sections of various religious texts that are no longer seen as valid and are effectively ignored.

    Making broad comments about atheists would have merit if the same were true about all theists. For example, all Hindus, all Sufis, all deists, all Lutherans, all Sunnis, all Baptists, and the countless personal intuitions that people attribute to unnamed deities. What can be said about all theists is very simple; they believe that a set of deities exists, even if they disagree on the specific constitution of that set.

    That is why I ask individuals what they think and believe and why. Without details, there’s really very little that can be said about someone accurately.

    In general, do you agree?

  • Roger McKinney

    Hermes, no I don’t agree. The great atheist philosophers of the past and present deal with logic. They do not ask you to become a member of their “church” and subscribe to their positions uncritically. Logic is universal. What I am pointing out is that the great atheist philosophers were consistent with logic and honest. New atheists are dishonest in that they have changed the definition of morality. Winning a debate by changing the definitions of words is not honest or particularly clever.

  • Hermes

    Roger McKinney, note that I am not addressing the meanings of words at this time nor am I saying that you do not have a specific point that is correct within a limited scope. I am only addressing the characterization that because (subset) thus (superset).

    With that in mind, please re-examine what I wrote.

    If we can deal with that, I will be somewhat satisfied that we can communicate effectively.

    In either case, I thank you for your time.

  • fundamentalist

    Hermes, as I wrote above, when I refer to the great atheist philosophers I’m not referring to “because (subset) thus (superset). You are trying to cast the discussion in that mode. The great atheist philosophers spanned many different philosophies in the details, but on the grand theme of morals they all agreed. However, I’m not appealing to authority in mentioning the great atheists. I’m merely saying that it is odd that great atheist philosophers would agree for over a century, even though they held to widely different details and schools of philosophy in the details, that morality is dead without God, while modern atheists think they can resurrect morals without God. That the great atheists believed it doesn’t make it true. It’s just odd to me that modern atheists are ignorant as babes of these great thinkers in atheism.

    You can call whatever you want by the name “morality.” If banana pudding disgusts you, that can be your morality. But keep in mind that your personal disgusts carry no authority with any other person. And it doesn’t matter if you have a majority of a society on your side. Morality by majority vote does nothing but add numbers. It adds no authority. If the majority decides murdering unborn babies or old people is good and beautiful, that doesn’t make it true; it’s just their opinion. And you have no logical reason to declare someone who murders all little girl babies as immoral because they have a different set of things that disgusts them. And as a result you have no authority, logically or philosophically, for punishing people who’s morality (the things that disgust them) is different from yours or the majority’s. So whether you like it or not, you end up agreeing with the great atheist philosphers that real morality is dead and nothing but opinions are left.

  • Becky

    You say you are an atheist Becky, but you think in Christian categories. You reflect what Nietzsche despised: Atheists who live as functional Christians and don’t examine the logical end of their presuppositions.

    Father I am not an atheist?

  • Becky

    I am not an atheist. And I can’t type.

  • Becky

    Roger, Amen to that.

  • Becky

    Father: “second error. You wrote: “I would say that Atheism does not subsume morality.”

    I did not say that Atheism would subsume morality. I said that the state, under the atheist paradigm, would subsume morality.”

    Can it be subumed to anything else, but the state, like science?

  • Becky

    Guy, I have to disagree that the my argument is an attempt at equivocation. If something has been conceived, how can you argue that it is inconceivable on a rational basis? If something exists how can you honestly say that it doesn’t? While I knew that atheists rejected the existence of God, I did not realize they carried it so far that they would deny everything that even pointed to the possibility of God, especially if it was fact. So I asked them on what basis they did reject that fact.

  • Becky

    Hermes, Are you trying to show that because there are so many different beliefs about the existence of god(s) that there can’t be no definitive answer? Also, does this: “some deities are logically consistent and also do not seem to contradict reality. I’ll name two categories, pantheist and desist deities.” mean that you believe in the existence of those gods?
    Would you begrudge them their belief if that belief led to them wanting to kill you?

  • Hermes

    Roger McKinney (posting as fundamentalist?), I’m disappointed that it looks like we’re not going to be able to have a fruitful conversation.

    Bottom line: If a Sunni Imam — another theist — claims or says something, are you as a theist bound by what they claim or say?

    If you don’t like the analogy, you’ll have to be explicit about what you think a theist is — not an atheist — and then explain why the analogy fails.

  • Becky

    Guy, You are going to have to be more specific. In the Bible God led the Hebrews out of slavery to the Egyptians, so I would assume he didn’t agree with it. And homosexuality was prohibited.
    I will not claim that I understand everything in the Bible, and I will say that I do have a hard time with some of what the Bible teaches – both Old and New Testament. What does that imply?

  • Hermes

    Becky, thanks for your comments.

    I don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs. Beliefs are inescapable, and do not require definitive knowledge. If they did, we’d just call beliefs knowledge and skip the word belief. Yet, we don’t always know. That’s why I included the link earlier with details you could consult and inform yourself about the actual beliefs and claims of a few theists and atheists;

    When those beliefs impact other people, though, they need to address a common understanding of reality not a solipsistic one. Expanding that out to organizational structures, we can see the impact of beliefs that are not debatable or questionable yet are written into law or enforced by social customs.

    Ideally, beliefs are informed by the best available evidence and reasoning.

    In the specific case of deism and pantheism, someone could be a pantheist or a deist but not both as the two categories are contradictory as a set. At best, one could be right.

    That said, I am not aware of any positive evidence for either position and it is possible that none could be provided. So, I could see someone believing in a deistic or a pantheistic imbued reality. For me the best available evidence does not support either, and while I do not always use that metric in my own beliefs it is sufficient to not believe either are real. In other words, my knowledge informs my beliefs about both and provides beneficial guidance for those specific beliefs.

    So, given the best available evidence, there can be definitive answers to specific claims but from what I know not to the category as a whole.

    Once again, I encourage you to take a look through the link I provided as it shows a small sample of potential theistic/non-theistic and associated religious perspectives.

    I admit that a more robust list would probably cover a few hundred different belief and knowledge category combinations, and that’s even before we get into general sectarian concerns let alone specific itemized ones.

  • guy

    Becky, You are apparently unaware that the old testament gave instructions one who you could enslave, how to do it, and how much you could beat them.

    Matt 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
    The old testament law will not be changed until all prophecies will be fulfilled; the slavery laws are still in effect. So are the rules demanding that you kill gays, witches, etc…

    The Jewish release from slavery had nothing to do with god’s stance on slavery, just his favoritism for the Jews.

  • Hermes

    I second Guy’s comments. The passages discussing slavery are explicit and are never retracted in the OT or NT.

  • Roger McKinney

    Hermes, yes, I posted as fundamentalist. On some blogs that is my handle and I forgot to change it for the post above.

    “Bottom line: If a Sunni Imam — another theist — claims or says something, are you as a theist bound by what they claim or say?”

    Apparently you are unfamiliar with the writings of the great atheist philosophers or you wouldn’t push that analogy so hard. The claim that morality died with God is based on logical reasoning, not an appeal to authority as you suggest. It’s not based on accepting their particular assumptions, either. It’s purely a logical argument that can only be defeated with logic.

    Of course, you may be operating under the delusion of Marx’s polylogism, which is the mistaken idea that their are multiple schemes of logic with differing rules. If so, I recommend you read Mises refutation of Marx’s polylogism in his “Human Action.” There is only one system of logic and one set of logical rules for all humans because humans are all alike. Marx invented polylogism because he couldn’t defend his system against attacks by economists.

    But to follow your analogy, if a Sunni Imam makes a claim based on his authority, then no I’m under no obligation to follow the claim. But if he make a claim based on logic, and the logic is sound and the assumptions are valid, then the claim is true and I am bound by the truth. I use reason to determine truth, as should everyone. And it shouldn’t matter who makes the claim. If it does, then you’ve fallen victim to the ad hominem fallacy. Any claim of truth can be evaluated by logic regardless of who made the claim. And no one has to submit to the full philosophy of the maker of the claim. Logic and reason are sufficient.

    But as I wrote before, what the great atheist philosophers believed is not important at all to my claims. I only used them as an example of irony. So don’t fixate on them. Besides, you agree with them completely, so what’s the problem? They only claimed that morality, as they defined it, dies with God. The new definition of morality agrees completely with them because it doesn’t try to establish universal morality; it merely approves of local, particular morality that can differ from person to person.

  • Roger McKinney

    guy, it’s strange to me that you can’t see the irony in your attempt to slander the God of the Bible for not having the same ethical values that you hold to. The whole point of modern “morality” is that there is no universal morality; people can have different opinions on morality and no one is correct. So you have no right or reason to judge the morality of God; under the system that you promote God’s morality is only different from yours; it can’t be better or worse. Of course, like most unbelievers you think your own list of personal disgusts should be adopted by everyone, but that’s a result of arrogance, not reason.

  • Patrick

    Sixty percent of atheists believe in heaven according to Arthur Brookes in his study on happiness. As I considered this surprising finding, I came to the conclusion that atheism isn’t too much deeper than rationalizing the comics on Sunday morning rather than going to church. Yeah, I know this is The-Little-Old-Ladies-In-Tennis-Shoes over simplification. But it’s a troubling statistic for me.
    If 60% of atheists believe, then 40% are agnostic, or do not believe. There is a lack of unity of belief in atheism that makes me feel that debating an atheist is debating an individual with opinions and not a principled belief system. Nailing jello to the wall is equally productive.
    Most traditional Christians would say that heaven is the beatific vision, the face of God. Yet, if there is no God, then of what does the beatific vision consist?

  • Hermes

    Roger McKinney: “But to follow your analogy, if a Sunni Imam makes a claim based on his authority, then no I’m under no obligation to follow the claim. But if he make a claim based on logic, and the logic is sound and the assumptions are valid, then the claim is true and I am bound by the truth.”

    Roger, thank you for addressing my question.

    My only emphasis was to show that no non-theist speaks for me either, nor does any specific interpretation of logic/reality/dogma required for all conclusions. I could provide a syllogism that demonstrates various generic theistic presumptions being fallacious, but your specific understanding and beliefs presupposing your perspective may show that my syllogism is not valid in your case even if it is for generic theism or for most members of your sect. So, I do not presume, I discuss. Hopefully things will become clear where I am going in a moment.

    As I appreciate your time, I hope we can avoid spending any more words on what other people think and deal with the details of our own perspectives without attempting to guess what generic fictional theist or non-theist we are talking with. Once again, I thank you.

    With that out of the way, the next set of questions;

    * Is any set of deities required and necessary logically for a universal morality?

    * Is any universal morality superior to no claims to universal morality?

    I can guess what your answers may be, though I appreciate your time in humoring me on these points as I do not want to put words in your mouth.

    Please keep in mind that I will be glad to hear your perspectives and insights but have no requirement for instruction and am quite educated in these issues. As I am a detailed thinker at times, I prefer simplicity in discussions whenever possible as a restraint upon myself, and thus will leave out points that can lead to side discussions not focused on the core the claims being made (or not being made). At most, I will endeavor to note the obvious points and provide brief support.

  • Hermes

    Patrick: “If 60% of atheists believe [in an afterlife], then 40% are agnostic, or do not believe. There is a lack of unity of belief in atheism that makes me feel that debating an atheist is debating an individual with opinions and not a principled belief system. Nailing jello to the wall is equally productive.”

    Patrick, the variety of theism — not atheism — should be enlightening on why the perspectives of non-theists are so varied. How many sects of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, let alone Scientology, Baptist, Lutheran, or Christian Orthodoxy there are.

    On the issue of agnosticism, I would bet that most atheists are agnostics of some sort. I’ve even asked them, and the most popular answer is this;

    * “I do not know for certain, but I think there are no gods.”

    For theists, the most popular answer is;

    * “I know for certain that only one specific god exists.”

    These answers show knowledge claims followed by statements of belief. As gnosticism deals with knowledge, and theisms deal with beliefs specifically about a god or gods, the first line describes an agnostic atheist and the second line describes a gnostic theist.

    I mention this as there is a general confusion over these issues even when we limit ourselves to either theism or non-theism categories. As I noted to Becky earlier;

    * “I don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs. Beliefs are inescapable, and do not require definitive knowledge. If they did, we’d just call beliefs knowledge and skip the word belief. Yet, we don’t always know.”

    Please take a look at the religious perspectives survey results and the associated discussion on them if you wish;

    Add your voice and vote if you want. (You can vote for multiple items if no one item in the survey fits what you think.)

  • Hermes

    Oh, keep in mind that afterlife ideas are generally popular and do not require a deity be present to manifest them.

    If someone thinks that they have an incorporeal facet or even a material essence imbued in their body that is “them” but is not their body, then they could conclude that there must be a place it goes when their body dies. Consult the religious and cultural texts of various cultures and the variety of afterlife realms, afterlife existence, and alternatives to afterlife such as reincarnation or simple cessation of being.

    These issues may be correlated with theism or non-theism or specific theistic sects or groups of sects, but are not dependent.

  • Becky

    Hermes, First thank you for your reply. I actually agree with much of what you said, but I don’t have time now to discuss it. However, I have had a few revelations that convinced me that the way we are currently trying to discuss any of these issues really hasn’t been effective. And that we could use some ground rules. I’ve made a list and posted it at If you wish, take a look, and let me know what you think. However, I won’t be able to respond back until Monday or Tuesday.
    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

  • Roger McKinney

    hermes: “* Is any set of deities required and necessary logically for a universal morality?”

    Notice that in order to be understood we must add the adjective “Universal” to morality. That wasn’t the case not very long ago. Morality meant universal. People who change the meaning of words are deceitful and destroy communications; of course that is probably their intent.

    For a god to be able to provide universal morality, he would have to be a reasonable god, not capricious like the gods of Islam and Hinduism or the Greek gods. Otherwise, morality changes with the whims of the gods and is not universal. The God of the Bible is the only God who fills the role.

    “* Is any universal morality superior to no claims to universal morality?”

    That depends upon what you mean by superior. Without universal morality, we have no right to even arrest criminals and put them in jail, let alone execute a murderer. By doing so we affirm that we believe that some morality is universal. Without universal morality, we are left with the equivalent of housing covenants. We can expel people who don’t follow the covenant, but we have no right or authority to jail them simply because they have a different ethic than ours.

    In practice, having a universally morality won’t make hardly any difference because few people care about truth or integrity. They will do what they want regardless. But for those of us who care about such things it is important.

  • Hermes

    Becky, thank you. I might. Family calls, so…

    Roger, thank you for the response. I have no comments at this moment but will review and get back to you.

  • Roger McKinney

    Becky, that’s an interesting list on your site. There are only three known ways for humanity to obtain truth about God: 1) revelation, 2) reason and 3) empirical evidence.

    The Western world has chosen arbitrarily to exclude the first two. Most Westerners insist that empirical evidence is the only path to truth and everything else is superstition. The motivation for limiting truth to only what empirical evidence provides is that atheists think they have stacked the deck in their favor and cannot lose. But even on that highly biased ground, creation science has handed atheists and major defeat.

    But it’s stupid for Christians to surrender reason as a valid method for determining truth. Reason is a far more certain path to truth than is empirical evidence, as Feser points out in “The Last Superstition.” After all, facts can’t interpret themselves; every fact requires human interpretation of it, which requires a philosophy and set of assumptions. Empiricists are dishonest in that they insist that only their philosophy and assumptions are valid. Empirical evidence is contingent or accidental; in other words, it could have been different. Logical evidence is necessary: it couldn’t have been otherwise.

    Ed Feser demonstrates the logical necessity of God in his book and dishonesty of atheists who claim to let the evidence speak for itself. All atheists are doing is hiding their philosophy and assumptions. And Feser shows that reason can limit the possibilities of what type of God exists, so the large variety in beliefs don’t matter. Only one fits the criteria for truth.

  • Roger McKinney

    Did you guys pay attention to the article on Angela Merkel and European values below? Here’s an important segment:

    “This makes it even more ironic that increasing numbers of secular European thinkers believe Europe can only reinvigorate its distinct identity and values through reengaging its Judeo-Christian heritage. This is certainly the conclusion of one of Germany’s most prominent intellectuals, Jürgen Habermas.

    “A self-described “methodological atheist,” Habermas has been insisting for some time that Europe no longer has the luxury of wallowing in historical denial. As Habermas wrote in his 2006 book, A Time of Transitions: “Christianity, and nothing else [is] the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of western civilization. To this day we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”

  • Roger McKinney

    PS, Hermes had asked earlier if universal morals are superior to particular morals. I think Merkel answers it well. The particular and secular morals of Europe have no choice but to surrender to the morality of Islamic Sharia simply because the Muslims will be in the majority soon and secular Europeans have no way of defending their particular morals against the particular morals of Islamic culture.

  • Patrick

    Just for the fun of it all, today’s Zenit contains an article from a Cardinal concerning this topic. Here’s his take on it:

    Cardinal: Atheism Is Irrational
    Says Man Finds Fulfillment Only in God

    VATICAN CITY, NOV. 24, 2010 ( Cardinal Walter Brandmuller is
    underlining the irrationality of atheism, noting that only in God can the
    human person find fulfillment.The former president of the Pontifical
    Committee for Historical Sciences, who just became a cardinal on Saturday,
    said this in a new Italian-language book “Ateismo? No grazie! Credere è
    ragionevole” [Atheism? No Thanks! To Believe is Rational], published by the
    Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

    It features an original interview of the prelate by Ingo Langner,
    journalist, publicist and film director, on the most debated questions:
    Does God exist? Faith or atheism? Science or religion? God or non God?

    The interview begins with Langner who asked, quoting Richard Dawkins, “Why
    still believe?”

    Cardinal Brandmuller responded: “The question is not a novelty. Friedrich
    Nietzsche makes his madman announce that God is dead and Yury Gagarin, the
    first Russian in space, on his trip of April 12, 1962, said that nowhere
    had he seen something that resembled God. Dawkins does not recognize God
    even as a hypothesis. For him God is a hallucination that exists only in
    the mind of a retarded person.”

    “In reality, the target of the atheists is not so much God but the Church,
    the Pope and the Vatican,” said the prelate. He added that the Church has
    been attacked since the beginning of the Christian era, the Pope for 2000
    years and the Vatican since its existence.

    The cardinal addressed the topic of miracles, recalling what happened in
    Calanda, a small town not far from Saragossa, Spain, where there was a
    youth named Miguel Pellicer whose leg was amputated. Two years later and
    despite the difficulty in walking, the youth undertook the journey to the
    Marian shrine of Santa Maria del Pilar in Saragossa.

    Once he arrived at the shrine, he prayed intensely to Mary to help him.
    That night an incredible event took place. When he woke up in the morning
    his leg had grown back, perfectly healthy.

    To explain the miracles, Cardinal Brandmuller quoted William Shakespeare
    who said to followers of the Enlightenment: “There are more things between
    heaven and earth than your scholastic erudition can imagine.”

    The prelate explained that “modern man wants to come to himself through
    self-fulfillment, but he doesn’t succeed by separating himself from God; he
    succeeds only if he turns to God.”

    He continued: “For modern man this means the prodigal son who returns to
    the father, hence to God. Only then does he fulfill himself, when he
    recognizes what he is and for what purpose God has created him.”

    email this article:

  • Hermes

    Patrick, on the prelate;

    Are puns and punctual precise pronouncements punished, or preferred by the people present?

    Proceed if preferred.

    Proceed *not* if prudish.

    Paragraphs and phrases put forth for pleasure not paroxysms of pain…

    Proceed? Precisely. Presently? Promptly.

    * * *

    Pontifications promoted in the press or in private by persons of a profession — practiced packaged parsons — popularly picked out for their private predatory pederasty, promotes possibilities for producing potential poppycock, but piddling else. Practical promoting of prosecution and prison of predatory pederests in public would be pleasing and productive. Popularly so. All else is the politics of pity, properly and popularly pshawed.

    Pugilistic pronouncements of philosophers are peccadillos to protecting or not prosecuting practiced pederests. Prisons preferred for particular persons; proscribed predatory pederests and pederests protectors.

  • Patrick

    Clever Hermes,
    Your attack on the problems of pedophiles in the clergy is noted, and appears to support the Cardinal’s observation about atheists:“In reality, the target of the atheists is not so much God but the Church, the Pope and the Vatican.”

    We are still left with the Cardinal’s statement: “For modern man this means the prodigal son who returns to the father, hence to God. Only then does he fulfill himself, when he
    recognizes what he is and for what purpose God has created him.”

    Hermes, you need to address the phrase “for what purpose God has created him.” I am looking for some principles from you. We have not made it passed the problem of the 60% of atheists that believe in heaven (the soul’s ultimate goal and purpose), and the remaining 40%. I’d really appreciate some principles here, or I will continue to believe that atheist thought is a combination of hormone and alcohol levels.

  • Hermes

    Patrick, as addressed, I take it you now know that agnostics can be theists or non-theists. With that as a given, on the issue of an afterlife, I wrote;

    “Patrick, the variety of theism — not atheism — should be enlightening on why the perspectives of non-theists are so varied. How many sects of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, let alone Scientology, Baptist, Lutheran, or Christian Orthodoxy there are.”

    Then, in my next message;

    “If someone thinks that they have an incorporeal facet or even a material essence imbued in their body that is “them” but is not their body, then they could conclude that there must be a place it goes when their body dies. Consult the religious and cultural texts of various cultures and the variety of afterlife realms, afterlife existence, and alternatives to afterlife such as reincarnation or simple cessation of being.

    These issues may be correlated with theism or non-theism or specific theistic sects or groups of sects, but are not dependent.”

    People in general don’t think, or they may come to more detailed conclusions on incorporeal or detached material essences being capable of floating free when the shell has lost all cellular integrity.

    The consistency you request from non-theists as a group is not evident in theists as a group, nor in human beliefs viewed broadly. We are a motley crew, mixed breeds, and likely stronger than pure breeds due to it. There’s plenty of hormones and alcohol on an individual level, theists themselves as a set not lacking these by any measure as they are humans after all.

    I thank you for your comments.

  • Hermes

    To push the diversity angle, the Raelians claim to be atheists and I don’t doubt that they are. More popularly, about 1/2 of the Buddhists could be categorized as atheists as they like the Raelians have no gods. As are the Pirahã tribe in the Amazon.

    Yet, the Mayans to the north of the Pirahã were theists and did human sacrifices. More theists make up the precursor religions of the ancient Egyptians, the Babylonians, and the Canaanites that make up the core of many derivative religions existing and extinct.

    You could say that it’s all gelatin and doesn’t hold on a pin or spike to any vertical surface.

  • Hermes

    * [ 1st response of ??? ] *

    Roger McKinney: “Notice that in order to be understood we must add the adjective “Universal” to morality. That wasn’t the case not very long ago. “Odd, I posted a comment yesterday and it hasn’t appeared.”

    Morality was implicitly tribal, because most people never left the tribe to go to another one, and had rare encounters outside the tribe.

    (A tribe being a small coherent local or regional social group that can act in consort to achieve group goals. Most tribes had one main unit, though others were larger associations of smaller tribal groups. Dozens to hundreds of individuals made up a typical tribe, though associations could rise that to thousands to tens of thousands from smaller more traditional tribal groups. Tribes tended to differentiate themselves based on cultural artifacts such as rituals and stories (true or imagined).)


    For any individual…

    Either they were born, lived, and died in an area that a healthy person can walk in a day on a well trodden path.


    They were born lived and died on a migration route that followed the seasons and the food.

    These tribal limitations were true for nearly all humans up till about 50 years ago regardless of country, and is still true for most humans.

    The tribe size was about 1-200 people, and larger towns were not the norm except where they were artificially instituted or where agrarian efficiencies allowed for excess food production.

    A real trip used to be a necessity, not a vacation to visit relatives.

    * Merchant caravans were inherently hazardous, so most production was for local consumption or had many levels of handlers.

    * Alternate reasons to travel included invading a bordering country as a tribal action or as duty to the regional leader, destroying the target tribe, taking what the target tribes had (goods, food, livestock, humans), killing and/or enslaving the males, and enslaving and/or adopting the females as breeding stock or killing the ones that weren’t viable breeding stock.

    So, until we were able to act globally the concept of universal morals really wasn’t an issue either way. There were tribal concerns that were universal in the sense other tribes were not included. Talk of morality flowed from that and still does in many cultures. A few examples should come readily to mind.

    With that in mind, you should carefully read and reconsider _your_own_comments_ made in the paragraph that followed the one I quoted above.


    More to come…

  • Hermes

    Ignore the out of place comment: “Odd, I posted a comment yesterday and it hasn’t appeared.”

    It came from another site, and I included it by mistake.

  • Hermes

    * [ 2nd response of 2 ] *

    Superior meaning better than no claims to universal morality. Possibly ultimate morality, but not required to be ultimate.

    As for arresting criminals, or executing murderers, both are handled differently from region to region and society to society. So, what we see in practice is the progress of laws based on social requirements. I can think of quite a few differences and even contradictions between societies, and if I were a lawyer I’d probably know of other legal contradictions.

    As for ‘people will do what they want regardless’, I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment. Some people are psychopaths, but most aren’t and like to be kind to those they meet. Is that partially because they expect reciprocation? Sure it is. Yet, not entirely.

    So, I’m left looking at actual reality and not seeing examples of a legal or authority based universal morality, but I do see most (not all) people acting in a kind manner in most situations.

    Yet, not all universal moral intuitions are superior. Examine the trolley problem, for example.

  • Hermes

    I am sure that there are follow on comments to what I’ve posted so far. Be assured that I realize and expect that.

    As for Sharia courts, I’m well aware of them and almost commented on them. For now, I’ll refrain.

  • Hermes

    For what it’s worth, the SSA at UMBC has posted the first parts of the panel discussion that happened after the debate. If the first two parts are any indication, this discussion is heavy in open and honest audience participation;

    Special thanks goes to the camera operator from the OCF (UMBC’s Orthodox Christian Fellowship Chapter) for capturing the event and for providing the results of their skilled labor for all to see. Thanks!

  • Roger McKinney

    Hermes, I have had this exact same debate with many atheists in the past. Atheists seem unable to understand the distinction between how people naturally act, that is, with no reflection on their actions, and having a sound philosophy for guiding actions.

    Of course people invent ethics that suit their purposes at the time. No one has ever argued that they don’t or that they can’t. Mankind cannot live without ethics; it’s part of human nature. Yet few of those people who fabricate ethics think that their ethics are particular to their time, place and people only. Everyone thinks their ethics are universal.

    The philosophical problem is 1) to explain why humanity has ethics when animals don’t and 2) to give a reason that any ethical system might be universal instead of particular. It’s the philosophical problems, not the practical ones, that only God can solve.

    When Genghis Khan swept over the Middle East, it’s reported that he told the conquered people that they must have been very bad people for God to punish them by giving him so many victories. Is that good philosophy? Should we acknowledge that military victory gives one the right to determine morality, and the victor can murder whomever he wants? I don’t think you would agree with that. But then on what basis to we take any given morality and make it universal? It’s impossible without God.

    Yes, any society can vote to make anything immoral in their eyes. But it can’t establish a reason that its particular morality applies to anyone else and therefore has no right to criticize others for having a different morality. That doesn’t mean they won’t. It only means that they are irrational for doing so.

    The issue is not what people do, but whether they are consistent with their own philosophy and the dictates of reason and logic. Atheists are perfectly free to be irrational, and they take full advantage of that freedom. But atheists can’t be rational and at the same time insist that universal morality can exist without God, or insist that any morality fabricated by a group of people has any application beyond it’s own time, place and people.

  • Hermes

    “Atheists seem unable to understand the distinction between how people naturally act, that is, with no reflection on their actions, and having a sound philosophy for guiding actions.”

    Yet, we haven’t even gotten to that stage of the conversation.

    To be honest, I don’t think we will since that will take time as morality isn’t an easy subject and I keep having to back step to explain some basic ideas that I thought I made very very clear in earlier messages.

    For example, for some reason you keep talking as if atheists are some homogeneous group when theists aren’t. Can you acknowledge that neither groups are homogeneous and from this point behave as such, or are you indirectly telling me that actual communication with you will be impossible?

  • Hermes

    Roger McKinney, I would like to get to the point that we can actually discuss details.

    I have noted to myself multiple items in your last message and in previous messages that are demonstratively and unambiguously incomplete if not in error. I have refrained from identifying those items to you because of more fundamental misunderstandings between us.

    What I don’t want to happen is for both of us to talk and not actually understand what the other person is saying.

    With that in mind, maybe you could refrain from telling me in detail what I and other atheists must think and tell me what in detail you think about yourself?

  • Roger McKinney

    Hermes, atheists are homogenous on details that don’t matter. The thing that unites atheists is the idea that they don’t accept that God exists. That’s why they call themselves atheists.

    I won’t refrain from telling you what is rational. You seem to have an allergy to reason. Most atheists do. If you are going to be rational, that is, follow the rules of logic, then you have to believe certain things. If you don’t, then you are irrational. That doesn’t mean that all atheists believe those things. It means most atheists are irrational.

  • Hermes

    Roger, I’ve not addressed your comments yet but I will start to do so now. Let’s see if your standards apply to you.

    You wrote;

    “The philosophical problem is 1) to explain why humanity has ethics when animals don’t and 2) to give a reason that any ethical system might be universal instead of particular. It’s the philosophical problems, not the practical ones, that only God can solve.”

    Can you substantiate #1? That is, can you demonstrate that animals do not have ethics, or do you want to recalibrate that statement?

    As for #2, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I can guess, but I won’t do that if at all possible.

    * Can you tell me if there is an actual universal ethics?

    If there is, I have a few additional questions for you.

    * Is it strictly an intuitive sense?

    * If if is not, is it partially an intuitive sense?

    * Is it arrived at by logic and reason alone?

    * If not, is it partially arrived at by logic and reason?

    * Is it entirely codified unambiguously in a text or a tradition?

    * If not, is it partially codified unambiguously in a text or tradition?

    If you stand by your own claims, I await your thoughtful response. If you do not, you may say so and I will calibrate my expectations.

  • Roger McKinney

    Biology substantiates #1. I can go no further than what science knows about animals. As far as we know, they are directed by instincts not reason, and so are incapable of morals.

    * Can you tell me if there is an actual universal ethics?


    * Is it strictly an intuitive sense?

    No, it’s based on reason and revelation. Revelation fills in the details where reason can’t reach.

    * If if is not, is it partially an intuitive sense?

    No. Not at all.

    * Is it arrived at by logic and reason alone?

    Reason and revelation.

    * If not, is it partially arrived at by logic and reason?

    The basics can be reached by reason alone.

    * Is it entirely codified unambiguously in a text or a tradition?

    Yes, the natural law tradition.

    * If not, is it partially codified unambiguously in a text or tradition?

  • Hermes

    OK, spell it out. Give me a detailed road map.

    If you do not, then I’m not going to take your word for it.

    If you do, then I will give it a fair consideration.

    I only have one question before you start; Are you a Christian presuppositionalist (Van Til or Clark) or are you sympathetic to a presupposationalist position but not through either school (for sectarian reasons or some other reason)?

    * * *


    Yes, I know what you are referring to but I’m not going to guess how you specifically justify either revelation or natural law. There are several variations that I’ve encountered and if I go with one you would be justified in saying that I got it wrong and that you really meant some other interpretation. I’d really like to avoid that game.

    So far, I’ve not been impressed with either justification in isolation let alone as a set, but I’m here and I’m willing to see if you can offer an exception to what others have not promoted before. If I were, I would be in rough agreement and not asking you these questions now.

  • Hermes

    Roger McKinney: “Biology substantiates #1. I can go no further than what science knows about animals. As far as we know, they are directed by instincts not reason, and so are incapable of morals.”

    That’s an assertion, not evidence. Do you have specific *evidence* showing that all non-human animals lack morals or ethics?

    If not, then will you be willing to retract your assertion till you are able to check it for yourself?

    Will you — for now — take a neutral stance similar to this; “I do not know if animals have ethics or morals, but I am open to evidence pointing either direction if I find any or others present it to me.”?

    Alternatively, you can re-phrase your comments to make them more accurate or to narrow your claims and make them less general.

  • fundamentalist

    What kind of evidence would satisfy you?

    That is an assertion based on years of studying biology since kindergarten and of reading philosophy. According to most philosophers morality requires the ability to reason. Are you suggesting that animals can reason like humans? If so, I think you’re the one who needs to provide evidence.

  • fundamentalist

    PS, based on my knowledge of animals and what I know of biological sciences, I can say with complete certainty that animals have no moral sense whatsoever.

  • Roger McKinney

    That’s me posting as fundamentalist. Sorry.

  • Roger McKinney

    “OK, spell it out. Give me a detailed road map.”

    Sorry. Don’t know what you mean.

    And I am not a presuppositionalist.

  • Hermes

    “And I am not a presuppositionalist.”

    Good. (Hopefully you know why I say that.)

  • Hermes

    “That is an assertion based on years of studying biology since kindergarten and of reading philosophy. According to most philosophers morality requires the ability to reason. Are you suggesting that animals can reason like humans? If so, I think you’re the one who needs to provide evidence.”

    As you are well read or familiar in these subjects, tell me what are your thoughts are on the chimpanzee vs. human counting studies, bonobo socialization research, and the trolley problem.

    I’d like your insights including any refinements of your assertions if you think those are appropriate.

  • Hermes

    Sorry. Don’t know what you mean.

    Don’t you know what you mean by ‘natural law’ and ‘revelation’ in the context that you yourself use them (as opposed to someone else)? If not, I can’t really address anything about your assertions except that they are assertions and remain unsupported. Who knows? Maybe I would agree in part or in whole once I know what you actually think?

  • Roger McKinney

    “…tell me what are your thoughts are on the chimpanzee vs. human counting studies, bonobo socialization research, and the trolley problem.”

    They teach that animals can learn, not that they can reason and morality requires the ability to reason. Reason requires abstract thought and language. I am aware of no study showing that chimps can engage in abstract thought or language.

    “Don’t you know what you mean by ‘natural law’ and ‘revelation’ in the context that you yourself use them….”

    So you want me to write a book on natural law and revelation on a blog? I don’t understand what you’re asking me to do. If you want a brief intro to natural law theory Wikipedia does a decent job. But I highly recommend Ed Feser’s “The Last Superstition.”

  • Becky

    Guy, In regards to slavery, although you did point out a passage regarding the law you did not point out any passages that deal specifically with slavery to back up what you say. Until you can do that, then I need to reject your claim out of hand. If I except what you say just because you say it, then I am precluding innocence. That I will not do.

  • Becky

    The way I see it is that people are being fed a lot of ideas along with the expectation of them swallowing it hook, line, and sinker without allowing them any time to reject, refute, digest, etc. To remedy that situation what I am going to do, God willing, is try to lay out the arguments so that anyone interested can take their time to read them over, comment on them, point out any errors in logic, add any evidence for or against, etc. I think the internet is a great forum for doing so because anyone can contribute, and if the world is such as it is these days where people are afraid of getting beaten down just for saying something, then the anonymity of the computer should help with that. If somebody is proved to be wrong, then no one should beat themselves up over it. It comes along with being human. We are all wrong about something, sometime. Also understand that even though we attempt this that we do not have all the answers and we make many errors in logic, assumptions, etc. So take it for what it is just trying to get the arguments laid out there so that people can have a chance to look them over and decide for themselves. I will be doing this at in the coming weeks if you are interested. And to prove my sincerity to Atheists I give you this one: conceivability admits of possibility, not probability. Therefore, an atheist in all honesty could state the following: I admit that it is conceivable that there might be a God, but I believe that the probability of there being a God so small that I reject the very idea of it. Which is probably what you mean anyway.

  • Becky

    Roger, I’m not quite getting what you mean by But “it’s stupid for Christians to surrender reason as a valid method for determining truth. Reason is a far more certain path to truth than is empirical evidence” How do you assume that I am surrendering reason? All I am trying to do is discuss the questions in a reasonable manner. I have every intention of using reason, logic, facts, etc.

  • Becky

    Returning to my original subject. Atheism is an idea that God does not exist. I’ve already shown in a previous post how this can lead to the rejection of those things prohibited by God, such as the commandments against killing. Ideology is a system of ideas and principles on which a political or economic theory is based. If the ideology is made up of principles derived from Atheism’s rejection of God (such as abortion and euthanasia), then they most certainly may lead to killing. To be sufficient all that is needed is an ideology that includes killing (babies, handicapped, aged, prisoners, Jews, Hutus, etc.) to be introduced into a society where the person deemed unworthy to live already exists. And that has happened over and over again.

  • Hermes

    Becky, atheism isn’t a type of religion, it’s not-theism. Theism is ‘belief in a deity or deities, as opp. to atheism.’ (shorter OED).

    As such, neither theism nor atheism are capitalized.

    As a refresher, using capitalization on either word would give the impression that you are not talking about a general category but a specific narrow and unique item.

    For example, Baptists are (usually) theists but theists are rarely Baptists. A theist can lack a religion, and as such be just a theist. As such the specific group — Baptists — is capitalized while the general category — theists — is not.

    The category atheists is even broader since it is everyone who is not a theist and as such does not dictate anything specific about any one individual. An atheist can be religious, for example, many Buddhists have no belief in deities and as such are technically atheists. Calling such a person an “Atheist Buddhist” would make no sense at all.

    * * *

    On the issue of slavery that Guy pointed out, I recommend Biblegateway;

    The NT has these items to consider on the subject;

    Ephesians 6:5-9
    Colossians 3:22
    1 Timothy 6:1
    Titus 2:9
    1 Peter 2:18

    Even the nicer passages never condemn the subjugation of humans preventing them to be self-determined; denying them freedom. As Guy noted, the OT is not rescinded in the NT; “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18

  • Hermes

    Becky: “Therefore, an atheist in all honesty could state the following: I admit that it is conceivable that there might be a God, but I believe that the probability of there being a God so small that I reject the very idea of it. Which is probably what you mean anyway.”

    Becky, as noted before, you can see what atheists and theists think about their own take on different categories here;

    If you went there, you would see what people actually think. The most popular item is this;

    “I do not know for certain, but I think there are no gods.”

    You will almost never hear an atheist talk about rejection, probability, or possibility except when talking to theists. Then you will see something like the quote above.

    If you want people to join in your conversation, you should consider looking at what others have already discussed on the topic, show understanding of what they have said, then invite them while demonstrating that understanding.

  • Hermes

    Roger McKinney, I thank you for your time. I will bother you no more in this thread.

  • Roger McKinney

    Becky, I didn’t mean you were surrendering reason in your posts. You’re doing a fine job. What I meant was that atheists will demand empirical evidence for the existence of God and will refuse to accept the logical evidence and we shouldn’t allow that.

    On the subject of slavery, the Bible does allow it, but puts a lot of restraints on it. The slavery of the Bible is nothing like US Southern slavery of Africans, which was crueler than even the barbaric Romans and Muslim slavery.

    But the irony of atheists judging God on morality is just too rich. Only blindness to their irrationality keeps them from appreciating it. As I have been trying to show Hermes, atheists have no grounds for judging other people’s morals because without God there are no morals (universal morality), only opinions about what different people find disgusting. So atheists find slavery disgusting. Who cares? They want to force their personal squeamishness on others? On what grounds do they do so? Of course, the lack of appreciation of the irony could be because few atheists have a sense of humor.

  • Hermes

    Becky, looking at my last comment on slavery I realized that I did not include the Old Testament references that Guy probably was thinking of when he mentioned it. For reference, here’s what I find when I look at the OT (all quotes from Bible Gateway using the NIV (New International Version) filter);

    Exodus 21:20-21 : 20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

    But, prior to that we get this;

    Exodus 21:2-6 : Hebrew Servants
    2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

    5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges.[a] He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

    It continues ( Exodus 21:7-11 );

    7 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself,[a] he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9 If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

    Note: You can see shades of this attitude towards women in some traditional societies including ones that are currently predominately Muslim. Want to guess where they got the ideas?

    Leviticus 25:44-46 : 44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

    There are other passages, but these should be sufficient.

    Note that going back to the New Testament (NT) does not wipe out those examples, because we see this;

    Luke 12:42, 47-48 : [42 The Lord answered ] 47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

    This is Jesus being quoted in the Gospel of Luke, not some other personage. What we don’t find is a quote of Jesus saying that slavery is against God’s will or moral commands, or that freedom itself is an implicit good granted to everyone. Freedom is specifically denied to slaves, and thus it is not a universal good. It became a universal good when we humans outlawed it in some societies but not all.

  • Roger McKinney

    Hermes, regarding the passage in Luke, you will notice from the context that Jesus is using servants as an analogy to explain what will happen to those who rebel against God in the end times when Christ returns. He is not proposing any policy on slavery or servanthood. He is using existing circumstances to illustrate an important truth.

    Besides, even if Jesus endorsed the worst kind of slavery imaginable, you have no grounds for calling it good or evil. Your disgust of it is just a personal opinion, even if millions agree with you.

  • Hermes

    Roger McKinney, thank you for your analysis, but none is actually required as there are so many ways to inventively address these passages. If you wish to consult other Christians and get them to agree with your take on this at all points in your religious texts, then you may put yourself to that task on your own time. In other words, I was talking with Becky.

    As an exercise for yourself, you may want to address other sections;

    Colossians 3:18-22 : Instructions for Christian Households

    18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

    19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

    20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

    21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

    22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

    Some entertainment on this theme of inventive interpretations and out of context quotations;

    I hope this will end our requirements to each other, and I can focus on talking with people instead of being debated with. I thank you for your time.

  • Roger McKinney

    No, there is only one way to interpret the Bible and that is with the principles of hermeneutics. I realize that truth and rules are out of vogue today with the post-modern emphasis on having passage mean what anybody wants them to mean. Hermeneutics is nothing but logic applied to interpretation. It seeks to determine the author’s original intent. What other Christians may think a passage means doesn’t matter. It’s just opinion. Hermeneutics puts severe limitations on interpretation.

    “In other words, I was talking with Becky.”

    Then get her email address; don’t post on an open forum blog if you don’t want others responding to your posts. And you’re under no obligation to respond to me.

  • Hermes

    Roger, if you have something to say about my comments about your religious texts, first get consensus with other Christians and then when I see that consensus I’ll take that into consideration. It’s your supernatural religion, not mine, and I won’t tell you how you as an individual should interpret it though it’s quite clear to me.

    If you haven’t noticed, I have a thing with words. That should tell you something my ability to read them.

    Finally, just so there is no confusion, I want you to know that I have taken a page from your mode of operation in composing this response. Not only did I disregard your most recent comments — as you ignored the trolley problem twice as well as more than half of my comments — I did not even read them. Note that I don’t plan on doing so in the future, either, as that would not be beneficial. I’m here for a discussion, not an argument.

  • Roger McKinney

    Hermes, clearly your are post modern in your thinking. I couldn’t care less about consensus. Truth isn’t a matter of majority vote. Truth is a matter of logic and evidence.

  • Hermes

    Wrong, again. Why not ask before making assumptions?

  • Hermes

    At every point, you jump ahead and address me as if I was someone I’m not. I will tell you this, everything I’ve said so far is a precursor to a specific conclusion. I’ve said very very little about what I actually think. Yet, you keep making the mistake of seeing the steps as the destination.

    If you do this with everyone, it’s no wonder you such stereotypical opinions about how things work and who people are. It’s a self-reinforcing methodology, very much in line with the Dunning–Kruger Effect.

  • Becky

    Like you Hermes I do not know what the people that I am talking to believe until they tell me. This is true regardless of whether they are theists or atheists. Therefore, I ask the questions based on the people that have been involved in the discussion and what I have deduced from the conversation. Of the atheists involved in that conversation none of them answered my question about conceivability except you. So I concluded that they may be afraid to because that would admit the possibility of there being a God, therefore I showed them how they could be both honest and still keep to their opinions.

    I will answer the claim regarding slavery tomorrow.

  • Becky

    Hermes and Roger, There are actually many ways to interpret the Bible. The Pontifical Biblical Commission released a document on this subject called The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. It can be found here if you would like to read it: I really don’t have anything else to say on that subject, other than I refuse to limit myself to what an atheist will or will not except.

  • Becky

    Hermes, The way I see it there are those educated atheists like yourself who have looked into and thought about the different viewpoints, then there are others who have not. These others are being played. They are being deluded and tricked into accepting atheist viewpoints. Their compassion is being strummed like a fine-tuned guitar. Trigger words like ‘rights’ are used to get them to stand-up for things that if they thought about them they would probably reject otherwise. Phrases are carefully crafted so that while one thing is meant, another is understood. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to intentionally lie, unless you already know the truth. They have been browbeaten into submission, so that they are afraid to even put forth an opinion or answer a question. And the result of this is that their innocence is literally being taken away. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:17-18 In the same way that Adam and Eve were condemned by believing the serpent instead of God. These are the people that concern me. Now, in that video a young man stood up and asked how could he dispute ‘All truth is relative.’ You are an educated man, what is wrong with that statement in and of itself? Yet, people are still being told that, and they are still believing it. And they are making life and death decisions for themselves and other people based on this lie and other lies. That needs to be remedied.

  • Hermes

    Unread and ignored. I’m no longer thanking you for your input. Got it?

  • Hermes

    Becky, sorry I apologize … thought Roger was posting again and I’ve had enough of him. I’m a bit groggy, and should get off to bed.

    I’ll try and post something worthy of your attention in the morning.

    I hope you accept my apology. I wish you well…

  • Roger McKinney

    Becky, there is only one way to interpret the Bible and that is by using the principles of hermeneutics. I realize that Catholics don’t agree with that and follow the interpretations of the Church. But one has to ask what is the purpose of reading the Bible? Is it not to understand what God has communicated using human language? So the point should be to understand what God intended to say and protect ourselves from making God say something that he didn’t say. That’s what the principles of hermeneutics do. Those principles do nothing but force us to be honest about what the text actually communicates.

    Hermes: “At every point, you jump ahead and address me as if I was someone I’m not.”

    I understand that you think of yourself as unique and unfathomable, but you’re not. Every atheist thinks they’re unique and have come up with arguments against God that no one else has heard. But they’re not that clever. Your method of argument and your ideas betray you, no matter how unique you think you are. You have nothing to offer that many other atheists haven’t already tried and failed at.

  • Becky

    Hermes, Guy made an accusation without any type of proof to back it up. And without proof, it is just that an accusation. For anyone who gets any kind of accusation flung at them about somebody else, even in gossip, that person needs to give some proof for it, and if we accept anything they say without proof, then we have already condemned that person (that is what I meant by precluding innocence) and we did it without just cause. In addition, it is not the defense’s job to go look up evidence for the prosecution, so no one needs to start pulling passages out of the Bible that they think the accuser might be talking about. This is why I rejected the accusation out of hand because until they provided what they thought was evidence it remained an unsubstantiated accusation. This was never done by Guy, instead it was supplied by Hermes. Just for the record I figure that anyone that can do all the things that God has done, then he is a whole lot smarter than me, and I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt for things that I do not understand in the Bible. And Christians don’t forget, you always have the recourse that Lord Jesus left us: “Ask and it shall be given you; search, and you will find; . . .” This is the entire reason for Lord Jesus sending us the Holy Spirit.
    Another thing to observe when trying to understand the Bible is that it is not necessarily translated in the way that God meant it. I blame this on the fact that God’s way and man’s way are very different and this is definitely going to show up in translations and our understanding. You have no idea how I would love a Bible translated by a saint.
    If you look at the meaning of the words used in Exodus 21:20 the word for slave owner simply means to be extant, and the word for the male slave means servant and the female slave means maid-servant. Slaves and servants are not the same thing. Although slaves can be forced to be servants, just because a person has a servant (such as a maid or butler) does not mean they are slave-owner. In addition to that there are different types of servants. Those that are hired the way that we would hire a maid/butler today. There are indentured servants who are those servants that agree to work for someone else for a specified period of time in exchange for some kind of recompense. I know of one instance today where this still occurs – among Indians. In exchange for passage to the United States Indians will become indentured. They agree to work for a specified period of time at a specified wage. Their passage is paid, and have a guaranteed income to live on, and probably some other things I’m not aware of. And the last one I can think of is the apprentice and there are many times where a parent will sell their child into apprenticeship. Here is an excerpt from The Essays, Humourous, Moral, and Literary of the Late Dr. Benjamin Franklin: ” In America, the rapid increase of inhabitants takes away that fear of rivalship, and artisans willingly receive apprentices from the hope to profit by their labor, during the remainder of the time stipulated, after they shall be instructed. Hence it is easy for poor families to get their children instructed; for the artisans are so desirous of apprentices, that many of them will even give money to the parents, to have boys from ten to fifteen years of age bound apprentices to them, till the age of twenty one; and many poor parents have, by that means, on their arrival in the country, raised money enough to buy land sufficient to establish themselves and to subsist the rest of their family by agriculture. These contracts for apprentices are made before a magistrate, who regulates the agreement according to reason and justice and having in view the formation of a future useful citizen, obliges the master to engage by a written indenture, not only that, during the tune of service stipulated, the apprentice shall be duly provided with meat, drink, apparel, washing, and lodging, and at its expiration with a complete new suit of clothes, but also that he shall be taught to read, write, and cast accounts; and that he shall be well instructed in the art or profession of his master, or some other, by which he may afterwards gain a livelihood, and be able in his turn to raise a family. A copy of this indenture is given to the apprentice or his friends, and the magistrate keeps a record of it, to which recourse may be had, in case of failure by the master in any point of performance.” So a parent selling a child to work for another does not need to mean that they have sold them into slavery.
    Before I start dealing with specific passages I would like to point out some things about the law. Laws are set up to order people’s conduct. When laws are set up, legal remedies are put in place both to discourage transgression of the law, but also so the victim will have recourse to recover any damages the transgressor caused them. So if the Bible states a legal remedy for something , then it mean that action is prohibited, and if you choose to transgress the law, then there is legal recourse for the victim to recover damages. So the accusation that Guy put forth ” You are apparently unaware that the old testament gave instructions one who you could enslave, how to do it, and how much you could beat them.” is not true. The laws were put into place to prohibit people from doing those things, and if they did it regardless of the law, the servant had recourse to the law for damages.

  • Becky

    First off, I want to apologize to any Jewish people if I mess this up. I have heard too many non-Christians make a total hash of it when explaining Christianity. Knowing that, I try to refrain from saying anything about other religions. Now, before I get started on the passages I want to note something about slavery and about the law in the OT. Slavery as I understand it, based on my knowledge of slavery in the U.S. is that slaves were treated as property. They were captured, sold, forced to do labor for someone else’s benefit. Children were born into slavery if their parents were slaves, and unless you escaped or were manumitted, then you died a slave. All this was done against your will. The law in the OT was a strict system of responsibility and justice: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, etc. By transgressing the commandments they sinned against God. The sin against God was taken care of through Temple sacrifice. But also since a person’s actions caused someone else to incur a loss, then the perpetrator became indebted to the victim and had to make retribution. Now, I don’t know how merciful in the forgiveness of debt they were to each other, but I imagine, based on NT passages, that they were pretty harsh on each other. So what happened if you incurred a debt and couldn’t pay? You either became servants and worked it off, or you were sold to someone else and that payment was used to settle the debt. In addition, they had no welfare or retirement systems. You were in pretty bad shape if you couldn’t take care of yourself, apparently some people sold themselves into servitude.
    “If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves. They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers. They shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then they and their children with them shall be free from your authority; they shall go back to their own family and return to their ancestral property.” Leviticus 25:39-41
    “When someone steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, the thief shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. The thief shall make restitution, but if unable to do so, shall be sold for the theft.” Exodus 22:1a-b
    “Now the wife of a member of the company of prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but a creditor has come to take my two children as slaves.”2kings 4:1 **Now it seems to me that if they could take their children to work off the debt owed or be sold to repay the debt, then a parent could also have their child work off the debt or be sold to pay off the debt. Whether or not the Hebrew people had apprenticeships and worked them the same way as the colonists did I do not know. I pointed that out to show that although a parent may get money by having a child work for other people, it didn’t necessarily make it some horrible awful thing. I also know, as was my father’s case, a poor family would send their child to live and work with someone else in exchange for food, clothes, etc. (there’s a special name for this and I can’t remember what it is).
    “When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.” Exodus 21:2-3
    “If a member of your community, whether a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and works for you six years, in the seventh year you shall set that person free. And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you.” Deuteronomy 15:12-14
    Now it seems to me, by commanding them to be let go after six years he is doing this so that they can’t be enslaved and so someone won’t be able to take advantage of their circumstances and make them work for them, against their will, for the rest of their lives.
    That being said, there is a passage, that I was not aware of, regarding slaves, not servants:
    As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness. Leviticus 25:44-46
    All my passages are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.

  • Becky

    The earlier part was justice, now I’ll deal with responsibility. Again, that was before retirement and welfare systems. And God was very emphatic about taking care of the widow and the orphan (fatherless). So for Exodus 21:2-6 it’s more of a responsibility issue, then a property issue. Now what happens if you had a servant and they got old? And we already know that they were impoverished or they would have simply paid off their debt. Now, the older you are the less money you command, especially for physical labor jobs. Once you fulfill your obligation as far as the debt was concerned, then it becomes a matter of loving them and wanting (not being forced) to remain a part of their household. I would say in order to guarantee that the master didn’t get rid of them once they were no longer useful, then the master had to take care of them for life. The same for the woman and children. They were the master’s responsibility. If he didn’t want them to go off with somebody that was impoverished, then I don’t blame him.
    Exodus 21:7-11 sounds more like a dowry, then anything else. I don’t know that for certain, but since they are talking about wives, then I would say so. Don’t forget women were called help-meets.
    Then last but not least, apparently Moses made some laws that didn’t necessarily agree with the way that God had set up the world. You can see this in Matthew 19:7-9: “They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”
    And I concur with Roger regarding the passage in Luke. I will also say that there are times where people are given advice on what to do in a certain situation without remarking on the morality of that situation. For instance, If you are a cashier and getting robbed, then just hand over the money and don’t fight with them.
    As far as Muslims go I know nothing about their religion, so I can’t comment on it. However, if you would like to get into a discussion of the male/female relationship and how and why that came about, I would be more than happy to give you my theories.

  • Neal Lang

    Article 1. Whether the existence of God is self-evident?

    Objection 1. It seems that the existence of God is self-evident. Now those things are said to be self-evident to us the knowledge of which is naturally implanted in us, as we can see in regard to first principles. But as Damascene says (De Fide Orth. i, 1,3), “the knowledge of God is naturally implanted in all.” Therefore the existence of God is self-evident.

    Objection 2. Further, those things are said to be self-evident which are known as soon as the terms are known, which the Philosopher (1 Poster. iii) says is true of the first principles of demonstration. Thus, when the nature of a whole and of a part is known, it is at once recognized that every whole is greater than its part. But as soon as the signification of the word “God” is understood, it is at once seen that God exists. For by this word is signified that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. But that which exists actually and mentally is greater than that which exists only mentally. Therefore, since as soon as the word “God” is understood it exists mentally, it also follows that it exists actually. Therefore the proposition “God exists” is self-evident.

    Objection 3. Further, the existence of truth is self-evident. For whoever denies the existence of truth grants that truth does not exist: and, if truth does not exist, then the proposition “Truth does not exist” is true: and if there is anything true, there must be truth. But God is truth itself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) Therefore “God exists” is self-evident.

    On the contrary, No one can mentally admit the opposite of what is self-evident; as the Philosopher (Metaph. iv, lect. vi) states concerning the first principles of demonstration. But the opposite of the proposition “God is” can be mentally admitted: “The fool said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 52:1). Therefore, that God exists is not self-evident.

    I answer that, A thing can be self-evident in either of two ways: on the one hand, self-evident in itself, though not to us; on the other, self-evident in itself, and to us. A proposition is self-evident because the predicate is included in the essence of the subject, as “Man is an animal,” for animal is contained in the essence of man. If, therefore the essence of the predicate and subject be known to all, the proposition will be self-evident to all; as is clear with regard to the first principles of demonstration, the terms of which are common things that no one is ignorant of, such as being and non-being, whole and part, and such like. If, however, there are some to whom the essence of the predicate and subject is unknown, the proposition will be self-evident in itself, but not to those who do not know the meaning of the predicate and subject of the proposition. Therefore, it happens, as Boethius says (Hebdom., the title of which is: “Whether all that is, is good”), “that there are some mental concepts self-evident only to the learned, as that incorporeal substances are not in space.” Therefore I say that this proposition, “God exists,” of itself is self-evident, for the predicate is the same as the subject, because God is His own existence as will be hereafter shown (3, 4). Now because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition is not self-evident to us; but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature — namely, by effects.

    Reply to Objection 1. To know that God exists in a general and confused way is implanted in us by nature, inasmuch as God is man’s beatitude. For man naturally desires happiness, and what is naturally desired by man must be naturally known to him. This, however, is not to know absolutely that God exists; just as to know that someone is approaching is not the same as to know that Peter is approaching, even though it is Peter who is approaching; for many there are who imagine that man’s perfect good which is happiness, consists in riches, and others in pleasures, and others in something else.

    Reply to Objection 2. Perhaps not everyone who hears this word “God” understands it to signify something than which nothing greater can be thought, seeing that some have believed God to be a body. Yet, granted that everyone understands that by this word “God” is signified something than which nothing greater can be thought, nevertheless, it does not therefore follow that he understands that what the word signifies exists actually, but only that it exists mentally. Nor can it be argued that it actually exists, unless it be admitted that there actually exists something than which nothing greater can be thought; and this precisely is not admitted by those who hold that God does not exist.

    Reply to Objection 3. The existence of truth in general is self-evident but the existence of a Primal Truth is not self-evident to us.

    Article 2. Whether it can be demonstrated that God exists?

    Objection 1. It seems that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated. For it is an article of faith that God exists. But what is of faith cannot be demonstrated, because a demonstration produces scientific knowledge; whereas faith is of the unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Therefore it cannot be demonstrated that God exists.

    Objection 2. Further, the essence is the middle term of demonstration. But we cannot know in what God’s essence consists, but solely in what it does not consist; as Damascene says (De Fide Orth. i, 4). Therefore we cannot demonstrate that God exists.

    Objection 3. Further, if the existence of God were demonstrated, this could only be from His effects. But His effects are not proportionate to Him, since He is infinite and His effects are finite; and between the finite and infinite there is no proportion. Therefore, since a cause cannot be demonstrated by an effect not proportionate to it, it seems that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated.

    On the contrary, The Apostle says: “The invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20). But this would not be unless the existence of God could be demonstrated through the things that are made; for the first thing we must know of anything is whether it exists.

    I answer that, Demonstration can be made in two ways: One is through the cause, and is called “a priori,” and this is to argue from what is prior absolutely. The other is through the effect, and is called a demonstration “a posteriori”; this is to argue from what is prior relatively only to us. When an effect is better known to us than its cause, from the effect we proceed to the knowledge of the cause. And from every effect the existence of its proper cause can be demonstrated, so long as its effects are better known to us; because since every effect depends upon its cause, if the effect exists, the cause must pre-exist. Hence the existence of God, in so far as it is not self-evident to us, can be demonstrated from those of His effects which are known to us.

    Reply to Objection 1. The existence of God and other like truths about God, which can be known by natural reason, are not articles of faith, but are preambles to the articles; for faith presupposes natural knowledge, even as grace presupposes nature, and perfection supposes something that can be perfected. Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent a man, who cannot grasp a proof, accepting, as a matter of faith, something which in itself is capable of being scientifically known and demonstrated.

    Reply to Objection 2. When the existence of a cause is demonstrated from an effect, this effect takes the place of the definition of the cause in proof of the cause’s existence. This is especially the case in regard to God, because, in order to prove the existence of anything, it is necessary to accept as a middle term the meaning of the word, and not its essence, for the question of its essence follows on the question of its existence. Now the names given to God are derived from His effects; consequently, in demonstrating the existence of God from His effects, we may take for the middle term the meaning of the word “God”.

    Reply to Objection 3. From effects not proportionate to the cause no perfect knowledge of that cause can be obtained. Yet from every effect the existence of the cause can be clearly demonstrated, and so we can demonstrate the existence of God from His effects; though from them we cannot perfectly know God as He is in His essence.

    Article 3. Whether God exists?

    Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word “God” means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

    Objection 2. Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God’s existence.

    On the contrary, It is said in the person of God: “I am Who am.” (Exodus 3:14)

    I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in five ways.

    The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

    The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

    The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

    The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

    The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

    Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.

    Reply to Objection 2. Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article.

    From: The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas

  • Neal Lang

    “No, there is only one way to interpret the Bible and that is with the principles of hermeneutics.”

    “Though the influence of hermeneutics is so far-reaching, its efficiency must not be overestimated. Hermeneutics doe not supply a deficiency of natural ability, nor does it rectify false philosophical principles or perverse passions, nor again does it impart the needed philological and historical erudition. Secondly, of itself hermeneutics does not investigate the objective truth of a writer’s meaning, which has been established by its canons; it does not inquire what is true or false, but only what the writer intended to say. Hence a hermeneutic truth may be an objective falsehood, unless the writing subjected to the hermeneutic rules be endowed with the prerogative of inerrancy. Thirdly, hermeneutics does not inquire into the authenticity of a writing, nor into the genuineness of its text, nor again into its special character–for instance, whether it be of a sacred or profane nature. Biblical hermeneutics presupposes, therefore, a knowledge of the history of the Canon of both the Old and the New Testament, an acquaintance with the results of the lower or textual criticism, and a study of the dogmatic treatise on inspiration. The number of limitations of hermeneutics will not render the reader impatience, if he keeps in mind that he bears with the limits which circumscribe the field of other branches of learning; no one blames grammar, for instance, because it does not confer any special linguistic aptitude on the grammarian, or because it does not improve the melody or the syntactical structure of the language.” From: Hermeneutics – Catholic Encyclopedia

  • Neal Lang

    “I realize that Catholics don’t agree with that and follow the interpretations of the Church.”

    Are you saying that Protestant Denominations don’t “interpret” the Bible for their adherents? If so, then kindly explain Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. BTW, exactly how did the earliest Christians determine God’s will when the New Teatament Scriptures was not compleated until the 2nd Century.

    “But one has to ask what is the purpose of reading the Bible? Is it not to understand what God has communicated using human language? So the point should be to understand what God intended to say and protect ourselves from making God say something that he didn’t say. That’s what the principles of hermeneutics do. Those principles do nothing but force us to be honest about what the text actually communicates.”

    Since even after the Bible was finally written it was not available to every Christian in “written” form until printing was invented in the 15th Century – and even then most Christian could not read or even afford a copy, the only access to a vast number of Christians was through the “word of mouth,” including the interpretation of their local priest. Kindly explain how hermeneutics intrepretations of the “written Word” could be possible for most Christians?

  • Neal Lang

    “If you haven’t noticed, I have a thing with words. That should tell you something my ability to read them.”

    “Reading” and “understanding” are NOT the same thing!

  • Becky

    Neal, as to the Summa. The reason I said that I did not believe that we would not be able to absolutely prove the existence of God was not because there was no proof, but because I believe that God set up the world that way, and he did it for a reason. One of the reasons would be to keep us humble. By not being able to prove anything 100%, just because there is so much we don’t know, should always keep us in a level of doubt which helps to keep us humble, and that humility should keep us from pride (especially towards God) and becoming brutes. I will qualify this by saying that like any other type of knowledge the more you learn the more confident you become in that knowledge, so that the level of doubt decreases as our knowledge of God increases. In the same way humility before God will increase as awe of God increases, and chances of being a brute will decrease accordingly as love of neighbor increases.
    On top of that is free will and justice. “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.” Matthew 6:2 So while all the proofs are there, people may not be seeking those proofs, but instead seeking other things, such as fame or fortune, etc., since they are not seeking they will not find, and this is justice and of their own free will. I would also add that this works the same way when it comes to the Bible. The different methods are tools for trying to figure out what they are saying, but if someone goes in with preconceived ideas or looking for proof of what they already believe, then that is all they are going to find, and that is just and of their own free will. To truly understand the Bible requires the aid of the Holy Spirit and a pure heart (free from any desire to impute things to the Bible that were never meant).
    I’m not really going to address mercy and grace of God in correcting errors for those that may have preconceived ideas or been taught incorrectly but are earnestly seeking the truth, other than to say that God does do this.
    Then you have another type of people. Those that have been victims of the ones mentioned previously. They don’t know any better because they haven’t been taught any better. For these people to come to Christ we need to help straighten them out. This requires patience and understanding. It also requires that we be able to give reasons for our hope, and not just try to jam stuff down their throats. That denies them their free will and turns us from beggars, asking people to believe us, into brutes, braggarts, or bores. (Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, this does NOT mean that Americans cannot vote to pass laws that uphold our beliefs. As Christ showed us, even though he died for our sins, he did not change the law one iota. Therefore, we stand by, fight, and die for those beliefs.) If the Apostles still lacked understanding after being taught by God himself for three years, then we should expect that other people may be just as confused, if not more so. And we need to be prepared to address their specific questions, and not just throw things at them.

  • jaytee

    Beware Dogma and indoctrination.
    Spend more time studying Neuro-theology

    not ALL points are excellent, but some are very hard to ignore here-
    but you must remove the ‘god colored glasses’

  • Becky

    Jaytee, I’m not sure where your coming from as to dogma and indoctrination, as we’ve been discussing mostly atheism. Would you care to elaborate?
    I looked up neuro-theology and wasn’t overly impressed. It wouldn’t surprise me that people use their brains to experience God. As far as I know we use our brains for everything.
    If you would like to tell me which points you thought most excellent I be happy to discuss those.
    I have very real reasons for believing in God. I also have many things I can show proof for. But let’s say for a moment that there wasn’t a God, and I’m just foolish. After everything that has been posted here about the bloodbath that atheism leads to, why on earth would I want to take off those glasses, even if he wasn’t real?