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Atheist Community of Austin
Conflict of interest in ethics. Is atheism free from it?

For those who needs to see where this comes from, read Don Baker's comments here

http://www.atheist-community.org/boards/read_message.php?b=1&t=3270

Don, I'd like to make a point that atheists are not free from conflict of interest you mentioned and that Bible merely describes the problem. It exists independently of religion or God.

Consider the following situation: assume you have a son. And your son has robbed a bank. You know it. You saw a weapon in his hand, you saw him hiding a bag of money, etc. Assume your son was arrested and you are called to the trial as a witness. Your choices:

A) Will you testify against your own son knowing that this may put him behind bars for many years?

B) Will you bear false witness and provide a false alibi to keep him out of jail?

If (A), do you think you, in a sense, "sacrificed" your own son, a specific person who you love, to some abstract idea of "right" and "wrong" of yours?

If (B), do you believe that robbing banks can be justified by circumstances and there is no such thing as absolute "right" or "wrong", i.e. moral rules are circumstantial? After all, nobody died as he did that, and those banks are filthy rich sucking people's blood every day.

Note that this situation has nothing to do with religion and God. Just common sense, reason, and human conscience.

AG, I never claimed that atheists were immune from conflicts of interest. I only claimed that we are immune from conflicts of interest regarding "deals" with gods, e.g. killing infidels for the 72 regenerating virgin deal.

I believe that conflicts of interest with respect to gods deserve special consideration given that so many religions claim INFINITE rewards or punishments and that it's the credulous who are so drawn to these belief systems.

Don, you did not answer my question. "A" or "B"?

I would have taught my child from the beginning that he is responsible for his own actions. I wouldn't protect my child from the consequences of his actions.

Just think how much better a world this would be if Christians didn't enable the irresponsible behavior of, say the Catholic Church in its' pedophilia scandal. These moral paragons with their God couldn't solve a problem that secular juries began to solve with monetary judgments against them. They are an international crime ring. Without their Christian abettors, they could be shut down under racketeering laws and there could finally be some real justice.

DB: "I wouldn't protect my child from the consequences of his actions."

Does this mean that you would uphold your moral values, even knowing that, if you do, your own beloved son would go to jail or be condemned to death? How is it not a sacrifice? And if it is, how is it different from Luke 14:26?

Molesting children is a crime. The priests must go to jail. I agree with you. There is no point to argue, and it's not the topic of this discussion.

I don't consider compromising my integrity as a "sacrifice" or an any way noble. Would it be "noble" for me to kill Jews if I got the irrational idea in my head that God wanted me to kill them? How "noble" was Abraham's willingness to kill his son? God sure liked it, didn't he?

As for the priests, I was making an analogy. Replace "son" with "priest" and replace "robbery" with "screwing someone's son". How noble has been the Christian response to this conflict of interest? The vast majority of Christians have aided and abetted the Catholic church over the interests of the children.

I don't think that aiding and abetting harm to others can be justified in either case.

I just read Luke 14:26. If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.

I think it's only slightly more twisted than Jim Jones or Heavens Gate.

Your questions (A) and (B) didn't adequately cover the true reasons that people usually don't give false statements to the authorities; it's a crime. The decision not to lie is about not going to prison. There are many examples of god's criminal behavior including lying in the bible; in fact there is nothing moral about the bible. Most people follow the law because of real punishment. The defense attorney advises witnesses not to lie because if what they claim is proven false it is bad for the accused. The decision (not to lie) is based on the legal ramifications. "He saw a weapon in his hand, and he saw him hiding a bag of money" that is only circumstantial evidence (you do not say they saw him rob the bank) and this is not what Don was talking about.

Why didn't you ask Don if he would commit an immoral act for God? There are many examples in the bible of god ordering people to commit immoral acts or acts of violence against their fellow man. Most of the lessons in the bible babble demonstrate setting aside common moral behavior in order to please God. God frequently orders and sanctions acts that violate His own moral law. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. The Commandment against murder is suspended so that Abraham can prove his obedience to God. If God doesn't follow his own moral laws then He is immaterial for establishing a moral code of ethics.

There are many flaws associated with the bible being a motivation for acting "morally" or ethically. If the desire for immortality or avoiding burning in hell forever worked there wouldn't be a huge Christian prison population.

Bribes and threats to get someone to do "right" is not about morality at all. Why is it doing what's right if it's to avoid punishment or receive a reward? Brainwashing by reward and punishment (like Pavlov's dog) is not teaching unless you are a trained seal. Learning what words mean is not the same as just training a parrot to repeat sounds. Threatening and bribing is not teaching. If the reason for being moral is all about what makes you "joyful" or "despair" it's not morality, it's self-interest.

When rationalism is not involved in making ethical (moral) decisions it's more likely that in order to avoid serious punishment (burning in hell forever) the follower will become a crafty cunning liar. There has to be a rational basis for acting (morally) ethically.

God's "moral law" should be judged the same way man's laws are judged and that is weather or not they are just and humane. The bible babble is contradictory and insane concerning what is right and what is wrong. The Bible supported slavery, and at one time so did the law, and some people decided to no longer support either one. Slavery was barbaric and unjust. People were breaking the law to help the slaves escape. They were acting against their own self-interest and biblical teachings. Paul wrote in Romans 13:1: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resist authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." However, opposing slavery is an example of going against authority. Without a reward and in the face of real punishment some people will still act ethically.

The men responsible for the revolution and writing the Constitution were men of The Enlightenment, not men of Christianity. 1 Peter 2:13: "For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right." The Founding Fathers opposed the divine ruler and defied the bible babble because they relied on reason, not blind faith. Even with all the threats of punishment, god's punishment and legal punishment, the Founding Fathers reasoned that it was a false creed that was not based on morality because the ruler and the laws were unjust. In a letter to William Bradford in 1774 James Madison the fourth president stated, "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfit it for every noble enterprise."

Thomas Jefferson said, "Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."

The main teaching of the bible is to obey god; consequently, if God is not moral then the bible isn't a moral guide. One major argument to continuing spreading the Christian belief is it's moral teachings. I guess that without these contradictory fake religions none of us could figure out all by ourselves what is right and what is wrong.

Don, Linda,

My point was not to promote the Bible as the only source of morality or find excuses for child molesting or atrocities. My point was to say that there are situations in life which have nothing to do with religion when both atheists and Christians would choose the right thing ("A"), because it's the right thing to do, even though this decision may harm their loved ones. And this is how I understand the Biblical requirements to "hate your mother and your father". These requirements do not cause me to make "deals" with God or to "please God" at the expense of my neighbor. They logically follow from both my Christian beliefs and ideas based on humanism. I can agree that reading Bible for the first time or out of context is puzzling. Many things seem plain weird. I know from experience that many of these things start making sense as you read and understand more. Most questionable things in the Bible were done by men and did not please God at all. Sometimes, these episodes are shown only to illustrate how the person was punished later. E.g. the story between David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) brought David's house to destruction. Jacob stealing the right of the firstborn from Esau did not please God at all - Jacob was himself cheated by his uncle Laban for 20 years and ended up with a troubled family himself. When you know the whole story, it makes more sense.

A few points on atrocities.

DB: "I don't consider compromising my integrity as a "sacrifice" or an any way noble. Would it be "noble" for me to kill Jews if I got the irrational idea in my head that God wanted me to kill them?"

Don, you keep talking about killing Jews. I mentioned Stalin's repressions. None of this can be justified by the underlying teachings - Christianity or Marxism. All these atrocities were committed by the fanatic followers of these teachings perverted by hypocrites. When someone uses a hammer to vandalize your car, does it make the hammer "evil" or "harmful"? The purpose of the hammer was to build things, not to destroy. If someone used it to destroy or kill, is hammer to blame or those who used it for whatever corrupt and perverse purposes? Can you blame all who uses hammers for all the killings committed using a hammer? Or should they feel, in any way, responsible for these killings? Christianity was not created to justify killing of Jews, or anyone at all. That is not it's purpose at all. Hammers can be dangerous, no question. They can cause injury, death, or loss of property, intentional or not. So can any teaching (atheism included) or scientific theory if it is used for a wrong purpose or with corrupt intentions. Are all nuclear scientists responsible for the deaths in Hiroshima or Chernobyl? Shall we ban nuclear physics because its applications can be dangerous or evil? Shall we ban hair blowers, because there are idiots electrocuting themselves in bathtubs? As true Americans, we should start printing Bibles with big warning labels and disclaimers to prevent frivolous law suits for killing Jews. The chapter about Abraham sacrificing Isaac should say "DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME".

How "noble" was Abraham's willingness to kill his son? God sure liked it, didn't he?

If anyone takes the Bible literally, it's atheists in the first place. Most of the Bible stories are symbolic. Life sacrifice is considered the largest sacrifice you can make, this is why it is used in the Bible. Not because it's barbaric. As far as I know, it's only used twice (correct me if I'm wrong. I don't claim to be a Bible expert): first time when God required Abraham to sacrifice his son (by the way, he did not accept this sacrifice), the second time - when Jesus was crucified. These stories are very symbolic to me. All God wanted from Abraham is faith, not the sacrifice. When Isaac asked Abraham, where is the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham said "the Lord will provide the lamb". Not only God did not allow Abraham to kill Isaac, but he, eventually, did sacrifice his own son (according to the NT) "so that sins may be forgiven". ("Provided the lamb", so to speak.) Then, again, considering that Jesus is believed to be God himself, God did not sacrifice his son's, but his own life "for our sins" by doing so. That's extreme. I agree. Is it immoral to sacrifice your own life for the wrongdoings of others? For a believer, the whole thing has a totally different meaning. If you don't believe and view God as some arrogant and jealous fictitious being, then, yes, the whole story sounds very ridiculous. Second point is that some things in the Bible start to make sense only after reading the whole book.

To me, the story of Abraham and Luke 14:26 carry a different message than they do to you. To me, the message is "you don't have to sacrifice your son to God, but you must be prepared to do so when it comes down to the choice between doing what's right and the interests of your loved ones." To me, there is a direct analogy with my example. As you see, we arrive at the same practical conclusions using both approaches. Both of us think that "A" is the right choice. I know, I know, "everyone interprets the Bible the way they like". That's not unique to the Bible and does not convince me. Same holds for atheism, Marxism, and everything else. I don't see how mass killings of Jews could ever please God in any way. I don't know how people come up with that idea. I don't see how killing anyone can please God. Killing myself - depends on the purpose. If it is to get "72 perpetually regenerating virgins", that's plain selfish and dumb. If it is, say, to donate my organ to save a child's life, that's something to consider. Purpose and intention determine everything.

Linda: "Why didn't you ask Don if he would commit an immoral act for God?"

Because I could not think of such example. Can you offer a specific situation, from the Bible or otherwise? You are good at finding such stuff. I'm open to challenge.

DB: "As for the priests, I was making an analogy. Replace "son" with "priest" and replace "robbery" with "screwing someone's son". How noble has been the Christian response to this conflict of interest? The vast majority of Christians have aided and abetted the Catholic church over the interests of the children. I don't think that aiding and abetting harm to others can be justified in either case."

I don't think either. I totally agree with you. As I said, these priests must go to jail. "A" is the right answer, in my opinion. Priests molest children to satisfy their lust. Church covers them to save its face and hold on to power. Both acts are wrong. Catholic church appears to choose "B". And I think, this is completely wrong. I'm trying to say that atheists and Christians can both make right choices - based on atheism or Christianity. I'm not trying to justify killing Jews or child molesting. Again, I agree, that whoever justifies these things using Christianity must not be in a right frame of mind and needs professional help. Do I have to abandon Christianity and become an atheist to condemn child molesting? Why? Isn't it just same as saying that "you need religion to lead a moral life"? Can we just stop throwing stones at each other? Stones are stones. It does not matter who throws them.

Note, I don't want you to abandon atheism and accept Christianity. I don't want to change your beliefs. I simply think that changing beliefs of others, especially by violence or insults, is wrong. That's my only disagreement with most positions on this forum. This is the very same idea that caused the killings of Jews, not Christianity. It's ironic that atheists take exact same path that lead to these atrocities, just like Christianity did centuries ago.

Everyone has their own idea of "happiness" (or, as you call it, "perpetual orgasm"). There is nothing wrong with it. "Eternal life" is not the worst of these ideas, by the way. "I want to be a billionaire so freaking bad" is a much more absurd and harmful idea which seems to be hammered into teenager's heads every 15 minutes on the radio. Is it not "brainwashing"? I agree that when people hurt others for their idea - it's wrong.

DB: "I just read Luke 14:26. If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple. I think it's only slightly more twisted than Jim Jones or Heavens Gate."

If you take it literally, you are right. Many things sound extreme taken literally. To "hate" in the Bible often means to "neglect in favor of something else". Anyway, I explained my position on this above.

Linda, your post contradicts itself (please, don't take it personally). May be, I misinterpret your statements, but in the first paragraph you say that the true reason why people don't lie to authorities is because it's a crime and, if discovered, will harm the accused. I already agreed that one does not need the Bible to know that lying is bad. I even think that one does not need reason or science to know that lying is bad. I'm sure, there is some mistake. You, probably, tried to say that the same can be deducted by reason based on consequences. OK. Point taken (I didn't mean to attack your reasoning abilities). Then, you just reinforced my point that not only the Bible and humanism, but also plain reason and common sense command the same choice (A) in this situation.

Further down, you imply that it's OK to act against the law if you think the law is wrong and immoral (slavery, American Revolution). So, shall I go by the law or by my instinct to determine what's right or wrong?

Regarding slavery in the Bible. I think, you try to take Paul's and Peter's letters literally and apply them to the modern society in XXI century. There, sure, may be some problems. What I read in these letters is how we personally should react to oppression, even if we perceive it as unjust (situations often encountered at work). If God approved slavery, no matter how unjust, the whole book of Exodus would not be there. If the Bible taught to submit to any authority, no matter what it commands, Daniel 3 would not be there either. To me, the Bible, again, confirms, your implied statement, that I should do what is right, no matter what. For me the reason is "because God's authority is higher than any other authority". For you, it can be based on humanism or evolution. I just say that Christianity and the Bible are not inherently immoral. They can be confusing, but not evil. One can make right choices using them, if understood and applied properly and in context.

Linda: "Thomas Jefferson said, 'Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.'"

I would say, millions have been killed, etc. before Christianity and millions will be after. Blaming Christianity is wrong. I also think, Jefferson got cause and effect reversed. I did not know about this quote of Jefferson when I wrote my previous posts. "Hypocrites and fools" are the true culprits. Without them, there would be no coercion. Who would coerce if not the hypocrites? Just as you don't take Bible for granted, I dare test Jefferson's quotes with my reason (oh, wait... I forgot, I'm a Christian).

Most of what you, guys, say is very reasonable. I'm all for it. I just think that Christianity can be used to make all the same points. There is no need to change anyone's beliefs. They just need to be used properly. If someone keeps hitting his finger or someone's head with the hammer instead of the nail, may be they need to learn how to use the hammer? Religion is more powerful than the hammer. Besides atrocities, it was also an inspiration for a huge amount of art.

I need to stop writing too much. We need to keep this thread under 15 posts. I have a naive and humble hope that I may have changed a few attitudes on this forum. (Well, may be it's an arrogant hope.) I enjoy this discussion, but it gets addictive.

AG: My point was to say that there are situations in life which have nothing to do with religion when both atheists and Christians would choose the right thing ("A"), because it's the right thing to do, even though this decision may harm their loved ones. And this is how I understand the Biblical requirements to "hate your mother and your father". These requirements do not cause me to make "deals" with God or to "please God" at the expense of my neighbor.

Let me understand. You are utterly convinced that following Jesus at the expense of your family has nothing to do with you making some sort of trade with Jesus for your own perpetual orgasm? There's scant evidence that a man named Jesus ever existed. There's no evidence that the Jesus mentioned in the Bible had any supernatural powers. I don't know of any supernatural claim about Jesus that wasn't also claimed of other gods and heroes known in the Roman Empire prior to the invention of the Jesus mythology. Look up Attis, Mithra, and Krishna. "The Golden Bough" is considered to be the definitive work on the subject of ancient mythologies. See if you can find anything novel that the supernatural Jesus did. So despite the scant evidence and counter-evidence (on which I've only touched), you would sacrifice your own family to "follow Jesus"? How about when Jesus supposedly says: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." I don't know a single Christian who has done that? Do you know of one? How about you? Have you done that? It seems that you think it's ok to follow Jesus when it would be a sacrifice to your family, but not when it'd be a sacrifice to you. I have to wonder whether all your "following" is just self-serving and not because you think that following Jesus is the ideal path to virtue. I've already shown you research that confirms the idea that people invent their own notion of god.

I feel sorry for your family. I feel sorry for humanity. So much following and so little thinking.

AG: Don, you keep talking about killing Jews. I mentioned Stalin's repressions. None of this can be justified by the underlying teachings…

If you'd like to say that Christians, with their Bible, prayer, Popes, visions, and God, have no better sense of morality than anyone else, then I fully agree with you. That's the point. What good is all that? If you take an honest look at history, I think you'd have to agree that Christianity has a much higher kill rate than other movements.

You've already admitted that God doesn't provide any value as far as answering requests.

Does your god do anything? Is there any evidence at all for your god?

AG: When someone uses a hammer to vandalize your car, does it make the hammer "evil" or "harmful"?

As you've said, the hammer can't be considered evil. But let's complete the analogy, shall we? Let's say that the hammer manufacturer sold the hammer to a gullible public saying that using it to kill people would give them a huge advantage (e.g make them happy/rich). Wouldn't the manufacturer be liable for the harm?

In Genesis, your god supposedly committed global genocide on humanity because they were wicked--embryos, too! Throughout most of the OT, anyone deemed "wicked" was considered fair game for murder. Throughout Christianity, to be godly meant to suppress wickedness. "Kill them all. The Lord will know His own." was the mantra during the Crusades.

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (Exodus 22:18) was the justification for murdering hundreds of thousands of people. This is a direct quote from your god, according to the Bible.

"Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:25) has been used as the justification for Christians murdering Jews for centuries.

The curse of Ham in Genesis was used to justify the suppression and enslavement of blacks for centuries.

Here's a partial list of atrocities (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/atrocity.html). Many of these things are done by god or ordered by god. How can you say that it's not part of the core tenets of your religion? How is your religion any different than that evil hammer manufacturer? The only difference I see is that the hammer manufacturer doesn't do as good a job of spinning the facts to convince the purchasers that they're good and righteous.

AG: Americans, we should start printing Bibles with big warning labels and disclaimers to prevent frivolous law suits for killing Jews. The chapter about Abraham sacrificing Isaac should say "DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME".

You remind me of this warning sticker (http://www.zazzle.com/bible_warning_sticker-217586842335457670). I think that a warning sticker like this should be on every Bible and maybe ownership transfer should come with a million dollar tax, which could be used to compensate the victims.

AG: If anyone takes the Bible literally, it's atheists in the first place. Most of the Bible stories are symbolic.

Spin. I call the Bible "a Rorschach test for the morally challenged". Jeff Dee on our TV show calls it "the big book of multiple choice". From the atheist's perspective, the Bible stories are true exactly when they justify something that they want to do anyway and its metaphor exactly when they help Christians dodge responsibility. I doubt there are two Christians alive who would agree on what part of the Bible is true. There's money to be made in the ambiguity; power to be had.

AG: Note, I don't want you to abandon atheism and accept Christianity. I don't want to change your beliefs. I simply think that changing beliefs of others, especially by violence or insults, is wrong. That's my only disagreement with most positions on this forum. This is the very same idea that caused the killings of Jews, not Christianity. It's ironic that atheists take exact same path that lead to these atrocities, just like Christianity did centuries ago.

I disagree with you here. We are debating ideas. Bad ideas deserve ridicule and derision. That's how we ferret out the good ideas and advance ourselves as a civilization. If you hold and want to advance particular ideas, you must be able to defend them. I have no beef with you as a person. I don't think you are evil and need to be physically harmed. I don't think you deserve to be tortured. (I'm pretty sure that making deals with god will result in this sort of thinking, though.) Sometimes being rude is a way of getting a person's attention.

One more thought on this. I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with self-satisfaction. I think we're all programmed by our evolutionary past to seek pleasure. I think the problem lies when self-satisfaction is somehow spun as a noble goal or when it is pursued at the expense of others.

AG,

AG, My point was to say that there are situations in life which have nothing to do with religion when both atheists and Christians would choose the right thing ("A"), because it's the right thing to do, even though this decision may harm their loved ones. And this is how I understand the Biblical requirements to "hate your mother and your father".

The requirement to hate anyone that might deprogram them is standard brainwashing technique (alienation from relationship or family) by abusive authoritarian figures. You have to turn people against anyone that might inform them that it's all a big lie. Zechariah 13:3, "and if anyone still prophesies, his father and mother, to whom he was born, will say to him, You must die, because you have told lies in the Lord's name. When he prophesies, his own parents will stab him."

You don't understand that your (A) or (B) example does not describe a situation where doing "right" is all that is involved in making the decision. If the decision (not to lie) is based on avoiding punishment or getting a reward it's not about doing "right". Any witness for the defense would be advised by the defense attorney not lie under oath because if the defense presents a lie in court that is exposed by the prosecution it would not help their client. There is no "conflict of interest" to do what's "right" when you are either keeping yourself from going to prison for perjury or lying could actually be more harmful for the defense. In other words that example falls flat because neither (ethics nor morality) is required to do what's "right" and they haven't actually made the decision based on their own moral compass. You haven't proven a thing.

AG, "I can agree that reading Bible for the first time or out of context is puzzling. Many things seem plain weird. I know from experience that many of these things start making sense as you read and understand more. Most questionable things in the Bible were done by men and did not please God at all."

Not true! It proves that you are the one with limited knowledge of what is in the bible. Someone's interpretation or (excuses) for what is actually there is not what is written. Most of the lessons in the bible demonstrate setting aside common moral behavior in order to please god. We know what is right or wrong without god, but I'm not too sure god does. Under god's law all sin is equal and all sinners deserve to be condemned to burn in hell forever. This is torture which most civilized cultures denounce. Job 4:17 "Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?" Under mans law all violations of the law are not equal, and the punishments are not equivalent either. If the punishment doesn't fit the crime then it is vengeance not justice; a moral entity would be more interested in justice than vengeance.

Deuteronomy 24:16, "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin." That means no one can die for your sins? No person can receive the death penalty to pay for the crimes of another person. This is in conflict with the god/man savior sacrifice for the original sins of Adam and Eve. God was completely in agreement with the torture and killing of his savior god/human son Jesus for everyone else's sins. I would think that a perfect god could make up his mind. Many Bible passages are contradictory concerning gods moral guide, and many of them are immoral by self-governing standards.

AG, "I know from experience that many of these things start making sense as you read and understand more.

Violence and god's genocide is definitely the most often mentioned activity in the bible; there are passages where God expressly commands others to kill people, and several stories where God irrationally kills or tries to kill for no apparent reason.

Deuteronomy 20:16 "But of the cities of these people which the Lord thy god doth give thee for an inheritance thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth but thou." There is no industrialized or civilized country that would sanction genocide, but God ordered it many times.

AG, "Most questionable things in the Bible were done by men and did not please God at all. Sometimes, these episodes are shown only to illustrate how the person was punished later. E.g. the story between David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) brought David's house to destruction."

God killed a newborn for the sin of David and Bathsheba, another example of someone else dying for other's sin. Deuteronomy 24:16, "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin."

AG, "Christianity was not created to justify killing of Jews, or anyone at all."

The Romans were at war with the Jews over slavery and other issues when Constantine concocted the "new religion". Before that time the Romans didn't care what religion anyone adopted, but they were at war with the Jews. Christianity was thought up to prevent the slaves from joining forces with the Jews. There is proof of the anti-Semitism of Christianity from the beginning. Pope Innocent III called the Fourth Lateran Council 1215 CE to further influence the masses in supporting the Pope as the universal authority of the Roman Empire. One of the obvious indications of the hostility felt by Christians toward the Jews was the Council mandating that Jews wear special identifying markings on their clothing. Jews were prohibited from holding public office, and a tax was forced on them for being Jewish. This Council produced the document (Latin) Extra Ecclesiam nulla (meaning) Outside the Church there is no salvation. This is a statement that non-Christians are not considered worthy of civilized treatment and acts of violence against them was acceptable - not immoral. "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Nobel laureate Stephen Weinberg

AG, "As true Americans, we should start printing Bibles with big warning labels and disclaimers to prevent frivolous law suits for killing Jews."

It's a little too late for issuing that warning. The Dead Sea Scrolls tell the story of a Jewish movement based in Qumran going back at least 100 years BCE until the year 70 CE when the Qumrans were totally destroyed. They were waiting for the "mashiach" not "messiah", which is a Christian misinterpreting of the word "mashiach". The Jews were waiting on the "mashiach" to appear and deliver them from their enemies. According to the Jewish belief the "mashiach" was not a savior god/man or messiah they were waiting on the "mashiach" was an anointed King who would destroy the enemies of the Jews and regain their Holy Land. The Romans had Paul spread the lie that the messiah (not "mashiach") Jesus had come but the Jews didn't recognize him. Nowhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls is the name of Jesus. What the people who say they are Christians believe is just not based on any facts. The Romans killed off the Jews who were in protest and spread the "new religion".

AG, "The chapter about Abraham sacrificing Isaac should say "DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME"."

Well, it's a little too late for that one too.

AG, "If anyone takes the Bible literally, it's atheists in the first place."

That statement isn't very original. I posted a topic about the Vatican announcing "The Courtyard of the Gentiles" wanting to debate atheists. Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, made it clear he would not be willing to give a platform to certain prominent atheists. Such atheists, he added, only view the truth with "irony and sarcasm" and tend to "read religious texts like fundamentalists". They are only interested in "noble atheism or agnosticism, not the polemical kind - so not those atheists such as Piergiorgio Odifreddi in Italy, Michel Onfray in France, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins".

They are avoiding the high profile atheists, who would ask them the hard questions. Supposedly the bible is the inspired word of god. They really can't have it both ways, but they can try. Now saying that the bible is only symbolic after scientists have made it impossible for anyone to believe the "Creation Story" or any of the other mistakes or lies that have been uncovered, it is advantageous. It really doesn't matter to any atheist if the bible is a book of "symbolic" forgeries and "symbolic" flat out lies since they do not believe one word of it is true. That's what the people saying this are trying to cover up. The Christian belief is based on popular pagan myths about savior/gods that the Romans combined with existing beliefs to create a "new religion" that would unite the Roman Empire and make Constantine the only Emperor. Constantine called the council of Nicaea to deify Jesus. The deity Jesus' (a human sacrifice for sin comes from the pagans as well) birth date 25th of December was chosen to coincide with the pagan rebirth of the sun festival in order to entice the sun worshiping pagans over to Christianity

AG, "All God wanted from Abraham is faith, not the sacrifice."

No, that story was to gain dogged obedience from the flock. They should have no problem killing anyone if god wanted them to do it. The lesson is about obedience. It's the fundamentalist Christians that believe every word of the bible is literally true. Atheists do not believe one word of the bible is true period. There is a huge conflict between what is written in the bible and civilized people's concept of what is just, loving, caring and benevolent. God justifies slavery and defines women as inferiors and the property of men. Anyone can deny these facts, but they are the facts, and these facts seriously question the morality of the god of the Bible.

AG, "Linda: "Why didn't you ask Don if he would commit an immoral act for God?" Because I could not think of such example. Can you offer a specific situation, from the Bible or otherwise? You are good at finding such stuff. I'm open to challenge."

(Deuteronomy 20:10-14) "As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the Lord your god hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the Lord your god has given you. The bible is a book of conquest; it's god helping people enslave, rape, murder, and plunder.

AG, "Linda, your post contradicts itself (please, don't take it personally). May be, I misinterpret your statements, but in the first paragraph you say that the true reason why people don't lie to authorities is because it's a crime and, if discovered, will harm the accused. I already agreed that one does not need the Bible to know that lying is bad. I even think that one does not need reason or science to know that lying is bad. I'm sure, there is some mistake. You, probably, tried to say that the same can be deducted by reason based on consequences. OK. Point taken (I didn't mean to attack your reasoning abilities)."

Don't worry about it you couldn't offend any body's reasoning ability with a hammer. You still don't get it. There's more involved in making the decision than "right" or "wrong" (A) or (B) the fact is that if the decision (not to lie) is not based purely on ethics it's not about doing what's "right". The decision could have nothing to do with what's "right".

AG, "I already agreed that one does not need the Bible to know that lying is bad. I even think that one does not need reason or science to know that lying is bad.

The purpose of science is to find out what is true and that is contrary to any religion, which is usually hiding the truth.

AG, "I'm sure, there is some mistake. You, probably, tried to say that the same can be deducted by reason based on consequences."

Well, if it's based on consequences or reward and punishment it's not about doing what's "right". Maybe you do need to hit yourself with that hammer to get the point. I pointed out that doing what's "right" (if that's what you are really doing) isn't all that would be involved in the decision not to lie.

AG, "Further down, you imply that it's OK to act against the law if you think the law is wrong and immoral (slavery, American Revolution). So, shall I go by the law or by my instinct to determine what's right or wrong?

That's right I'm trying to show that doing what's "right" isn't as cut and dried as you have depicted.

AG, "Regarding slavery in the Bible. I think, you try to take Paul's and Peter's letters literally and apply them to the modern society in XXI century."

When do you think the American Revolution or the Civil War occurred? It was not in modern times. The letters Of Peter and Paul were based on the teaching of the divine right of royalty to rule; they were given the divine right to rule by god. These beliefs did apply to the Christian Emperor Constantine, as well as, the King of England who would have ruled over America at the time of the Revolution. These were divine rulers appointed by god according to Christians. That is not in any sense someone's interpretation or symbolic. I am writing about the fact that those letters at the time of the American Revolution meant the Founding Fathers were going against the word of god. You have a total lack of understanding of what is being said or why. You have no concept of the history of your own religion or what it's about. I mentioned Peter's and Paul's letters because the Founding Fathers didn't let the bible babble influence the decision to declare their independence or start a Revolution. I also wrote about the post-Civil War era when people helped the slaves escape. Both of these events went against (what was in the bible on slavery) or (divine rule in those letters) to obey those in authority because they were appointed by god. Even with all the threats of punishment, god's punishment and legal punishment, the Founding Fathers reasoned that it was a false creed that was not based on morality because the ruler and the laws were unjust.

No, the letters are not specifically about slavery, but Romans 13:1 Paul wrote "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities - 1 Peter 2:13: "For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution. That included the institution of slavery. Slavery is supported in the bible.

My comments were about the 18th century American Revolution and the 19th century post-Civil War era. in case you don't know when they occurred. They were "defying" the ruler or going against the law according to biblical teaching. Americans were ruled over by the King of England who was a divine ruler. The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution making America a People's Republic with a Constitution.

AG, "If God approved slavery, no matter how unjust, the whole book of Exodus would not be there."

Exodus chapter 12: 43, " The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "These are the regulations for the Passover: No foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it."

Exodus Chapter 21:20, "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property."

Genesis chapter 17: 12 - God instructs the slaves and non-slaves be circumcised.

The bible was written by men and is about what man wanted to do because there is no god. Archaeologists have never found any evidence for the Exodus story, which is not likely if there was a large number of people roaming the desert for 40 years.

AG, "To me, the Bible, again, confirms, your implied statement, that I should do what is right, no matter what.

My statement concerning your (A) or (B) choices questions if that's what either party is doing.

AG, "For me the reason is "because God's authority is higher than any other authority". For you, it can be based on humanism or evolution."

Evolution is a biological science period and has nothing to do with a philosophy. Your example is of blind faith not reason. Your idea that there is a difference in murder and killing someone with a knife because a voice in someone's head (god) told them to do it, forget it, it's murder. The stories about killing or hating relatives are to gain brainwashed followers willing to kill anyone who disagrees. All religions are cults. Christianity fits perfectly the definition of a cult.

AG, "As you see, we arrive at the same practical conclusions using both approaches. Both of us think that "A" is the right choice."

Your original post was about them both making the same decision because it's "right" meaning ethical or moral. If there are contributing factors to any decision it's not necessarily doing what's "right". They may have come to the same conclusion but it's doubtful either decision was about doing what's "right". When there are threats, rewards and advice of counsel involved it's not purely doing what's "right" that the decision is based on. Only a decision made by you alone whether to act ethically on or not could be considered doing what's "right", because whether they would do what's "right" all by themselves without any reward or punishment unknown. When self-interest is involved your (A) or (B) proposition does not prove that anyone is doing what's "right" just because it is right. It doesn't prove a thing since the choice does not require "morals" or "reason". This is obviously too difficult for you, or you can't admit your wrong. Pick one.

AG, "I just say that Christianity and the Bible are not inherently immoral. They can be confusing, but not evil. One can make right choices using them, if understood and applied properly and in context."

For you the Bible is the source of moral judgment and for me it is a crock. I find that there are many books much more intelligent and inspiring than the Bible.

Genesis 17:14, "a child should be punished if the parents do not have him circumcised." God knows it's the child's fault.

Numbers 5:12-31, "if a woman is accused of adultery, the priest take dust from the floor, mix it in the water, and make her drink it. If she becomes ill, she is guilty. I wonder why this method isn't used with serious violent crimes.

Deuteronomy 23:1 "if a mans testicles are crushed he cannot enter the assembly of the Lord. How did they know? Maybe that had people stationed outside to ask them if their testicles were crushed.

I'm not confused one little bit, no one has hit me on the head with a hammer, I just can't find a moral compass or reason in any of this rubbish.

AG, "Linda: "Thomas Jefferson said, 'Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.'" I would say, millions have been killed, etc. before Christianity and millions will be after. Blaming Christianity is wrong. I also think, Jefferson got cause and effect reversed. I did not know about this quote of Jefferson when I wrote my previous posts. "Hypocrites and fools" are the true culprits. Without them, there would be no coercion. Who would coerce if not the hypocrites? Just as you don't take Bible for granted, I dare test Jefferson's quotes with my reason (oh, wait... I forgot, I'm a Christian).

That's the problem with not having your own moral compass. I know that you do not understand that there are people that go against religious teachings and corrupt governments because they know themselves what is right. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine CE 306-337 the doctrines of the Christian church were regarded as the foundation of law. Heretics were tortured and murdered. Heresy was an offense against the state as well as the church. A major reason for the "new religion" was to combine all religions and end the Jewish wars.

The other point god-ordering killing. I Samuel 6:19, "And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter." Deuteronomy 13:5, "And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your god" etc.

The Ten Commandments came from 'The Egyptian Book of the Dead' they were not given to Moses (who never existed) on Mt. Sinai. Many authors (not one man) wrote the first five books of the bible over a very long period of time. The Ten commandments were taken from 'The Egyptian Book of the Dead', and then a story was made up to cover that up. The actual authors of the bible had no problem with killing, although the sixth commandment is "Thou shalt not kill".

AG, "Religion is more powerful than the hammer. Besides atrocities, it was also an inspiration for a huge amount of art."

Christians especially appreciate art; after all, it's why they had clothes painted on Michelangelo's nudes. Nevertheless, most of the artists including Michelangelo Buonarrati despised the Priests and didn't want to do religious art for the Church but they were under the same duress as the scientist Galileo. Michelangelo Buonarrati hated painting the Sistine Chapel.

One last thing, you have remarked that you don't want to take our beliefs away. Atheism is an absence of belief. Atheism because it is not a belief, a faith, a set of doctrines or dogmas cannot be imposed on anybody. Religion is a different story. Pointing out the deceptions; or telling people to think for themselves instead of just believing, wouldn't take anything away if it were true. The aim is to stop the forcing (or hammering) of a religion on the masses. Religion is the perpetuation of ignorance and destructive ideas.

AG, "I need to stop writing too much. We need to keep this thread under 15 posts.

Who says this thread or any other thread needs to be fewer than 15 posts? Most of them are not. You don't need to worry about the length of the thread, you need to answer the replies, and maybe that's the real problem.

AG, "I have a naive and humble hope that I may have changed a few attitudes on this forum. (Well, may be it's an arrogant hope.) I enjoy this discussion, but it gets addictive."

Well, we can all hope, but how could you change anyone mind when your arguments consist of changing what you originally said, as well as, misinterpreting what the other party said?

"The Christian resolve to find the world evil and ugly, has made the world evil and ugly." - Friedrich Nietzsche

My friend who took survival classes as a part of his work, said, there are two absolutely forbidden topics of conversation in a life boat - religion and politics. It's a matter of survival to avoid these two. Instructors in that class teach to stick to sports and women.

Great discussion. I appreciate your comments and references. You gave me many things to think about as I read the Bible. You taught me a few things:

1. I should keep my faith to myself. Other than in a church, it's not a good idea to discuss religion with anyone. Even with fellow Christians, you never know what they really believe in. It's easy to get mocked, insulted, beaten, or worse (by atheists as well). I think, people would more easily discuss intimate relationship with their spouse than their relationship with God. It's unwise to discuss both in public.

2. I will avoid using the Bible as an argument until I truly understand what is really said there, why, in what historic context, and what other meanings of the original text are possible, and be prepared to address the issues you pointed out. Most of the stuff you mentioned is true. It is, indeed, in the Bible. But I'm sure, 5000 years ago the meaning and significance was different. Just as allowing divorce in Deuteronomy does not mean that God approves divorce, having laws about slavery there do not mean that God approves slavery. Anyway, these arguments, are not going to convince anyone here. I just need to reach my own understanding, because what you pointed out does seem outrageous to an ignorant reader. You have the full right to reject the whole Bible. I think that by doing so, I will throw away tons of wisdom.

You have not changed my faith. It still appears to me very unlikely that random combinations of molecules and genes can produce human society, even in a hundred billion years. I believe, there is more than chemistry and biology that makes us human. Evolution, certainly, appears to be true. But genetic mutations do not seem random to me. I believe, there is some force driving these mutations and "pruning the branches that don't bear fruit". I view the Bible as an attempt to understand this force.

As for the moral value of the Bible, I don't know about Deuteronomy, but I clearly see the value of not worrying about the things we have no control of, not judging others, "taking out planks out of my own eye", forgiving and asking for forgiveness, resisting temptations, etc. New Testament may not be the original source of these ideas, but it gives a good summary. I will continue living by that, if you don't mind (I don't care if you do).

AG: I should keep my faith to myself.

I agree that the best way to keep a delusional belief is to shield it from reality.

Learning about the Bible is highly recommended. It's how many atheists came to be.

AG: You have not changed my faith. It still appears to me very unlikely that random combinations of molecules and genes can produce human society, even in a hundred billion years.

At the end of the day, all that Christianity has is deception, logical fallacies, and emotional manipulation. What "convinces" you is the logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance. The time to believe something is when there is sufficient evidence for a claim. If you'd really like to compare probabilities as you think you're doing here, compute the probability of an infinitely complex, all knowing, all powerful being popping into existence from nothing.

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