On Atheism

Another post hidden in the bowels of the draft folder. I’m not sure why WordPress makes it so difficult to find these; it didn’t use to…

I have been following some bloggers who profess to atheism, and commenting on their blogs.  It is interesting how they sometimes respond to me.

As a Christian, I am definitely a “theist”; that is, someone who believes there is a God.  I find that there are two types of people who are not theists; those that believe there is no God, and those who have no beliefs about God.  I was brought up to consider that the first group were “atheists” and the second group were “Agnostics” (don’t know whether or not there is a God).  What is a bit disconcerting to me is that both people with belief there is no God and some of those who do not have any belief about God both claim to be atheist.  And when you ask them for clarification, they insist that it is a binary condition.  Either you believe in God, or you don’t.  Why is this?  I don’t know.  Perhaps they prefer the “bigger group” resulting from the combination of everybody who does not believe in God.  Perhaps the term “agnostic”, with its implication from translation of “lack of knowledge”, is disturbing to them.  Perhaps they are just so tired of some of the theists that they want to draw as far from them as is possible.  I’ve experienced some of the more obnoxious theists, so I could understand that, except I’ve also met a few believing atheists who were also obnoxious.

If you check out the current definition of “atheist”, it has indeed been broadened to cover both believers in no God and those who don’t hold any God belief.  Then the definitions note that there are qualifiers such as “strong” or “explicit” to cover those who believe there is no God and “weak” or “implicit” to cover those who have no beliefs about God.  And I would be fine with that, if the people used the qualifiers.  They seem not to.  There is also the concept of adding “Gnostic” and “Agnostic” to the terms “atheist” and “theist”, indicating where you “know” (believe) it or not.  Again, that would be satisfactory, but seldom happens.  So, I’m afraid I fall back on the original concept of the term, and assume anyone who claims to be “atheist” believes that God does not exist until I get some indication otherwise.  Note that some atheists jump on this assumption or even this definition of the term, and claim it is a “ploy” of “the Christians” to “marginalize” atheists by “turning them into just another religion”.  I’m going to inch out on a thin branch here and claim that ANY belief about God is qualification for being considered “religious”.

Another area of discussion is the relationship between “belief” and “knowledge”.  I’m often told, “belief is not the same as knowledge” and that is a true statement.  However, I claim that belief is a SUBSET of knowledge.  When you come right down to it, many of the things we “know” are actually beliefs.  If you got a “fact” from a book or a teacher or other expert, you certainly think you “know” it.  But unless that “fact” can be proven to anyone else, it remains a belief.  In order to be a “fact”, it must be undeniable.  Since “everyone” agrees that many beliefs are knowledge, I claim that beliefs about God are also knowledge.  Just not as reliable as many other beliefs.

Anyone who gives a belief, particularly one as nebulous as anything about God, the status of “fact” is at risk of being obnoxious.  In my opinion, a person is welcome to believe anything they want which cannot be disproved.  However, they must understand that if they cannot prove it, they should not be presenting it as “truth”, and especially not expending great energy trying to get others to join in the belief.  Discussing with those who have any interest, or presenting it as theory or belief, fine.  But browbeating people would seem to be a losing proposition.

How theists browbeat nontheists is fairly obvious.  There is the ever popular “I know the truth and you don’t, so quit being so stupid and listen to me”.  And of course, faulty logic, either starting with untrue or at least unprovable assumptions, or using invalid logical arguments.  Then there are the threats and insults.  “If you don’t believe ‘x’, God’ll whack you”.  “Since God doesn’t like ‘x’, we’ll pass a law so Man will whack you.”  “If you don’t know God, you can’t be moral”.  “You do something God does not like, so you are a bad person”.  Interesting approach from those who claim they are directed to “love their neighbor”.  Doesn’t love have an implicit assumption of overlooking “faults”?

How can atheists browbeat people?  Or more accurately, theists?  Aha, another possible reason that nontheists may prefer being known as atheists, to only get grief from one direction.  There is the “Christianism” mindset; lumping all Christians or even all believers in God into one group, with all the negative aspects of some imputed to all.  Sorry, this is just as invalid as racism or sexism.  Plus, the same people may also claim that “all Christians disagree with each other”, which seems contradictory.  The “I know the truth and you don’t…”  and invalid logic methodologies are used by some atheists as well.  Then there is the “science can’t measure it, so it does not exist”, and “any God must follow the same need structure as does Man” outlooks.  These views have proven to be wrong in the past, so it is not impossible they could be proven wrong in the future.

Techniques include:  questioning any evidence presented while holding their own evidence inviolate, attacking the words rather than the ideas, taking things out of context, misreading what was said (which we all do) and holding onto that misinterpretation even after being assured that meaning was not intended, and even descending into insults and name calling.  Come to think of it, theists have been known to use similar techniques.  I guess what it boils down to is ANY belief tends to make us defensive if it is attacked. It is just that beliefs about God do not have any proof, and so are bigger targets than beliefs with more support.

What is interesting is that some atheists attempt to convince theists that they are wrong with an intensity which is, well, as intense as that of some theists.  Even if it were not the case that the very (or at least original) definition of the word “atheist” implied a religious outlook, the behavior of some atheists sure do seem like the behavior of some theists.

 

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An open letter to the gay community

I was looking back through my posts to see if I have any new input on things, and found this draft from a year ago.  I don’t recall why I did not post it back then, but it still seems to have value today, so here it is.

 

Congratulations, you have made great progress in social standing.  It appears that you have even achieved your “holy grail” of legal marriage.  You seem to enjoy a fairly wide based acceptance; not universal, of course, but likely by the majority.

Why endanger your progress?  There are a few in the community who seem bent on taking you from an acceptable subset of society to a danger.  If you want to avoid becoming tarred with the brush of extremism, much like Muslims have to deal with the onus of the radical Muslims, it might be in your long term best interests to weed out your own extremists while you are still on the upswing.

Whatever am I talking about, you ask?  I heard someone relate a troubling story today; I cannot verify if it is true or accurate.  If it is true, it shows how a few of your community could make yourselves appear to be a danger to society at large.

The fellow claimed to be a DJ at a club, and happened to make a comment that the Supreme Court was not doing its job correctly.  A U.S. marine came up to him and said that someone in his party was offended  and asked the DJ what he had against gay marriage.  The DJ explained that he did not say anything about gay marriage; that he personally was for it, but did not think that the Supreme Court should have quashed States Rights.  That is, that gay marriage should be decided at the state level, not at the federal level.  The marine threatened that if the DJ did not apologize, the marine would beat him up.  The DJ then broadcast an apology.

Problem number one, a person made a statement of opinion without any indication it had to do with gay marriage, yet someone assumed it was an attack on gay marriage and was “offended”.  Perhaps they would have been wiser and more social to not assume it was any kind of attack on them.  And even if it was, keep it in perspective.  After all, I’ll bet the person couldn’t care less if anyone was “offended” by THEIR position on gay marriage.

Problem number two, they sicced a U.S. Marine onto the “offender” in an effort to either extort an apology or “punish” him.  This is unconscionable and illegal.  In this case, both the marine and the offended person lucked out; the DJ would have been within his rights to have called the police.  A threat of violence is legally an assault, and to ask the marine to do it would seem to be conspiracy. But ignoring that, to use violence or even the threat of it to punish an opposing viewpoint is unacceptable behavior.

Despite the DJ’s apology and explanation, the party of the offended person went to the manager and raised a fuss, getting a refund of their cover charge (10 people at $6 each) and then the group left.  At the end of the night, the manager was hostile until the DJ was able to explain what happened.  Even so, the manager only paid him half his fee, cancelled his next nights gig, and indicated that his continued presence was in doubt.

Problem three, even though the DJ explained what he meant and apologized, the offended person still continued after him, costing him money and putting his livelihood in jeopardy.  Punishing him for even the appearance of having a dissenting opinion.

It seems highly likely that the offended person is a member of the gay community.  Who else could possibly act so viciously at so tenuous a dig at gay marriage?  And what was the result?  One person, who did not even disagree with gay marriage, was punished.

If you attack someone who does not see you have valid reason to do so, you make an enemy of them.  You make enough enemies, and your favored status may become reversed.  Right now, you are winning most of your encounters, because a majority of people are for you or at least not against you.  But what happens if 80% of the population fears you, because you attack anyone who even looks like they might disagree with you?  Don’t you think that you will start losing encounters?

Don’t you think it would be better to treat the people who disagree with you with at least the same amount of courtesy they treat you with?

 

Was this story a complete fabrication or an exaggeration?  Perhaps; perhaps not.  Is it likely?  I don’t know; I can believe possibility of the alleged behavior by every character except the Marine.  The behavior ascribed to him would seem to be un-Marinely at best and incredibly stupid and a bit criminal at worst.  But even if this story is complete balderdash, it does show how a group could arrange to eventually be hoist on their own petard.

 

U.S. Constitution does not apply in Oregon?

There is a situation in Oregon.  A lesbian couple went to a baker to get a cake for their “wedding” and the baker declined due to their religious belief that “marriage” between two women was contrary to God’s desires.

Oregon claims that to refuse to participate in a gay wedding is “illegal” and has required the baker to pay a “fine” to the lesbian couple for their “emotional damages”.  The person in the Oregon government who seems to be leading this is a real piece of work.

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian’s order requires the couple to use “personal property” rather than only business assets to pay the vast sum ($135,000) and that it “has the potential to financially ruin” the family of five. Avakian “knew that full well going into this,” said Klein.  Plus, since when is a “fine” paid to individuals rather than to the government?  It kind of sounds like Oregon is awarding “damages” without benefit of a trial.

Furthermore, Avakian has issued an order “The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries hereby orders [Aaron and Melissa Klein] to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published … any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations … will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation.”

Wow.  So Oregon (or at least Brad Avakian) is of the opinion that a person of Christian faith has no standing, and that a person who chooses to be gay has unassailable standing.  That people who disagrees with the government need to be financially ruined.  Worse, that a person who degrees with the government does not have the right to explain their difference of opinion.  Really?  Is that not the absolute basis of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which last I heard, Oregon was still a part of?

I don’t know what options the Kleins have, but it seems to me that they have options.  Or should have.

Ok, let us talk about discrimination.  In our history, we have had unfortunate instances where people were discriminated against, refused necessary services or mistreated because of their race or where they were born or their sex.  Things which they could not help and for which there is no indication that such refusal would be justified.  But that is not the case here.  This couple decided to against the natural order.  Fine, their choice.  They decided to get married.  Ok, legally they are allowed and culturally, they are tolerated.  The bakers decided to be Christian, and as such, they believe that the gay couple, if married, would likely be doomed to eternal torment.  As such, if they supported the union, they would be partially responsible for the torment, and they certainly did not want to help them be so punished.  So, not a necessary service, and in their minds, the refusal was not only justified, but necessary.  Does such torment actually await?  Maybe, maybe not.  But the Kleins are certain it does, and behave accordingly.  This does not appear to be “discrimination”.

But what about the poor lesbians?  Don’t they deserve to compensated for their emotional damage?  What emotional damage?  A sane couple would have realized that the bakers were doing them a great favor.  Making wedding cakes is an art form, and what artist can excel if they are not “in tune with” the artistic task?  If the Kleins had agreed to make a wedding cake which their God opposed, then what are the odds that the cake would have been up to exceptional standards?  Would not a sub-standard cake have been more “emotionally damaging” than being politely declined?  What, there are no other bakers in town?  Or no non-Christian ones?

In order to suffer real “emotional damage”, the lesbians would have to have something wrong with them.  Disappointment is part of life, and anyone who suffers “emotional damage” from being denied an artistic service on religious grounds would seem to have emotional problems.  Actually, I’ll bet the couple were very happy to be rejected by this bakery.  It gave them the opportunity to “stick it to” some of those Christians.  And, extort money from them.  This sort of behavior would not seem to endear the gay population to the majority.

In defense of the Donald

I don’t like Donald Trump.  He grates on my nerves.  I doubt I would vote for him even if we agreed on most issues, since I don’t see him as being competent in a political environment.  But I am ashamed of my country and the way they are vilifying him for telling the truth, even if it was done pathetically clumsily..

I was surprised about how hard it was for me to track down what he actually said.  You’d think that it would be everywhere, but all I found were, in articles chiding him, excerpts.  I was afraid that the excerpts might be “slanted” to support the position being slanted.  I finally had to listen to the actual speech and make my own excerpt:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.  …  They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us.  They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”

As far as I can tell, that is what he actually said which has raised such a fuss.  Poorly stated?  Absolutely.  If you want to make fun at him for the clumsiness of his speech, go for it.  But was he wrong or, gasp, bigoted?  Perhaps not so much.  Let us analyze what he said, not what it is claimed he meant.

Most importantly, the Donald left out a critical word – illegal – which, I think and hope he accidentally left out.  There are two completely different and unrelated classes of immigrants.  Those that come here legally tend to be of benefit to the country and should not be denigrated as a class.  Those who are here illegally have at a minimum, broken at least one law, and tend to not be interested in benefiting the U.S.  Anyone who makes any negative (or even positive) statement about immigrants who does not intend the statement to refer to only one of these classes of immigrant, is very likely to really be bigoted and stupid and deserve any criticism they get.

“When Mexico sends its people” is an odd way to start out.  There is evidence that Mexico does, or at least did, SUPPORT or even encourage Mexican citizens coming to the U.S. illegally.  They would tend to be in favor of it, as having Mexican citizens living in the U.S. increases the access the Mexican government has to the land and resources of this country, not to mention, reducing THEIR requirements to deal with those they perceive as being of negative impact.  Sort of a “stealth invasion” to reduce their problems and increase ours.  Although I can see why the Mexican government would consider sending people here, I don’t see any evidence that they are ACTIVELY sending them.  It does seem likely that at the very least, the Mexican government siphons off their share of the resources of this country which are sent back home by Mexican citizens illegally in this country.  And if those people are allowed to vote in our elections, they can “improve” the behavior of the U.S. toward Mexico.  So, this statement may or may not be so, but all we (or at least I) can say for sure is it is hyperbole and not helpful.

“they’re not sending their best”.  Ignoring the “sending”, per the last paragraph, it would be hard for an intelligent person to dispute the accuracy of this statement.  Who are “their best”?  Wouldn’t that be the doctors, the engineers, the teachers, the philanthropists, the geniuses, the athletes, the entertainers, the successful?  Those who have the ability and desire to improve their environment and the people around them?  How many of those people have come here illegally?  Are not most of those in this country illegally, the desperately poor, uneducated and unskilled?  Does not being in this country illegally indicate at the very least a tendency and willingness to flaunt the law?

“They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us.”  As already discussed, this is a generally true statement.  Maybe people with problems are not being SENT, but they certainly are not being effectively prevented from coming here.  And their problems do not vanish when they cross the border.  By the way, “with us”, Donald?  How about “with them” or even “to us”?  Or are you implying something about yourself?  🙂

“They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists”.  Ok, Donald, you need to fire your speech writer.  Or hire one.  SOME ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS bring drugs.  SOME RESORT TO crime, A FEW ARE rapists.  And some have a tendency to drive drunk, and some “game” the system, sucking resources which they are not morally entitled to, and some work to make here more like “home” even though they fled from home.  Basically, if someone is here illegally, it is very likely that they are not interested in improving America, they more likely only interested in getting what they can for themselves.

“and some, I assume, are good people.”  Thanks.for that.  Some are good people, whose primary negative is that they don’t think our laws are worth considering.  Some, provably, are not good people.  I fail to understand why anyone would want to encourage people to come here illegally.  Oh, unless you bemoan the loss of slavery and like paying people low wages and not having them gripe about horrid working conditions.  Or unless you are a politician who understands that your ability to snow the American public is fading, and want to import a new crop of useful idiots to maintain your power.  Or unless you are a compassionate person who is happier with bandaids than with cures; preferring to treat symptoms rather than the disease.

All the people and companies jumping on the Trump, get a grip.  Donald may be an ass, but it is not clear he is a bigoted ass.  Illegal immigration is causing great harm to this country and our government is not only making no effort to prevent it, but is actually supporting it.  To mock Donald for how he says it is fine, but to work to destroy him for what he said, shows you to be at best, an ignorant follower, and at worst, an evil character assassin or someone working to destroy America.  So, NBC, so Macys, which is it?  Are you spineless cowards who cave whenever a few loudmouths make a fuss?  Or do you hate the country which has birthed and nurtured you?

Gay Church Weddings?

It is likely that “everyone” has heard by now that the Supreme Court has issued the opinion that gay couples have the same right to marriage to each other that heterosexual couples do.  It would be possible, but hardly useful, to discuss the validity of this opinion.

Let us instead, consider one result of this ruling.  It is highly likely that there will be at least one gay couple who will stroll into a church and request to be married there.  And if the church in question holds to the belief that homosexual marriage is prohibited by God, then there is an opportunity for problems.

Now why did the couple want to get married in the church?  I can think of only three reasons:

– They want their union to be blessed by God

– They want to thumb their noses at the church and hope to cause it damage or even close it down

– They don’t really want to but there is some external pressure (like from parents) to do so

If the church selected does not hold the belief that God frowns on homosexual marriages, then problems (in this world) are unlikely, and the first or third reasons should seem to be able to satisfied, and the second reason would not apply (unless the couple were really obtuse). Of course, there will be some who are anti-God or at least anti-church, and deliberately choose a church they feel sure will refuse them so a fuss can be made.

In that case, the church has four possible responses:

– Deny their beliefs and agree to the ceremony, which according to their beliefs will result in them being whacked by God

– Hold to their beliefs and refuse to perform the ceremony, which according to the current social climate, will get them whacked by the media and the government.

– Have a rigorous pre-marital program designed to get the couple “right with God” before scheduling the ceremony, which could only be achieved by the couple coming to the belief that God would be against their marriage, with the alternative solution that the couple would eventually give up on the ceremony in that church

– Perform a non-religious (civil) ceremony

Something like:

Friends, we have been invited here today to share with ______ and ______ a very important moment in their lives. In the years they have been together, their love and understanding of each other has grown and matured, and now they have decided to live their lives together as married spouses.

For the opening prayer or reading, Bible verses, of course, would not be appropriate, unless the church felt the need to gently point out their view on God’s opinion of the ceremony.  This would be difficult to do without incurring the same wrath that refusing to perform the ceremony would result in, and is really kind of twinky.  If the church agrees (or is forced) to do the ceremony, they should at least live up to the standards of a justice of the peace.

Then there is usually a “definition” of marriage, pointing out the benefits and responsibilities. This can be as usual, showing how marriage is a social, and legal contract between two individuals that unites their lives legally, economically, and emotionally. The contractual marriage agreement usually implies that the couple has legal obligations to each other throughout their lives or until they decide to divorce.  Leave out any reference to sexual relations or indicate that despite the marriage ceremony, homosexual sex is believed to be rejected by God, that is, even being legally married does not guarantee that God accepts gay sex).

For instance:

Now it is generally held that by being married, sexual relations between spouses is approved of by man and God.  However, there are indications that God does not accept sexual relations between people of the same sex under any circumstances.  Therefore, be aware that sexual activity after this ceremony is likely to be exactly as legal and moral as it was before this ceremony.

The rest of the ceremony can be pretty much standard, avoiding any reference to God or holiness.  In particular, “What God has put together, let no man put asunder” and “By the authority granted to me by God…” should be definitely left out.

Some gay people believe in God and some do not.  It seems like it would be difficult to believe in the God of the Bible and to also believe that a traditional church wedding would be appropriate, but there are all types.  I suspect that the desire in some cases is not for the wedding, but to attack the church, as the worst elements of the gay community have already done to bakers and photographers.

Degree of Belief

Anything related to the concept of “God” is a belief, since there is no definitive proof either for or against.  And the degree of belief varies from absolute certainty in God to absolute certainty in no god.  In the middle part of this range are those who do not hold any belief about God.

Those who believe that God or gods exist are generally referred to as “theists” (or occasionally less polite terms).  Those who do not believe that any gods exist are generally referred to as “atheists”.  This latter group is sometimes further separated into those who believe there are no gods (sometimes called “strong atheists” or “gnostic atheists’) and those who do not have any beliefs about God (sometimes called “weak atheists” or “agnostic atheists” or even just “agnostics”).

It seems like it might be human nature for “all” beliefs, but certainly, when it comes to God beliefs, the stronger the belief, the more the inclination to “preach” that belief.  Many who are absolutely or fairly certain that their God exists, seem driven (at the insistence of that God, of course) to convince everybody else that they are right.  Some who have the belief that no god exists also seem driven (for the good of humanity, of course) to convince everybody else that THEY are right.  The problem is, that neither side has yet validly (or at least universally) been able to do so.  Any gods which exist have been very good at not leaving any concrete evidence.  This could mean either of there are no gods, or that gods have a reason they find adequate to hide concrete evidence of their existence.

What sort of “soft” evidence does the atheist present in support of their belief?  Several points which are certainly indicative, but so far none which are irrefutable.

– Science has a theory for “everything” and cannot detect anything in support of God.

The problem is, a “theory” is not “fact”, it is merely an explanation which has not yet been proven or disproved.  Just because something could have happened one way does not mean it did.  Also, it can be postulated that Science has the capability to detect everything in this “natural” world (that which COULD have happened without external influence) but this actually meshes with the concept that a “supernatural” world might exist, which may have at least some different laws than this world cannot be perceived by Science, which is grounded in the laws of this world.  Does this supernatural world exist?  It is likely that those living in the natural world will never know for sure.

– God is not as described.  He is claimed to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and can be shown to not be one or more of those.  He is claimed to be all loving and can be shown to be the opposite; supporting slavery, genocide, human sacrifice, murder, rape, anger, jealousy and numerous other acts of non-love.

No, I don’t think any lack of “omni” anything can be shown.  I have yet to see any presentation of this which has any merit; all have merely shown a remarkable lack of understanding of the powers which it is theorized that God possesses.  If you look at the Old Testament of the Bible, a case can be made that God allows or even encourages under circumstances, activities which at this point in time we find utterly reprehensible.  If someone wanted to argue that God was a really crappy excuse for a human being, then a case for that might be made.  But I doubt anyone seriously thinks God is just another human being.  Things which He does or commands or supports may seem “bad” to us, but allegedly He knows more than we do, and these things might serve a greater good elsewhere or have desirable results at the time in which they are alleged to have happened..

– The Bible is provably “wrong”.

In order to successfully prove this, one would have to show an internal contradiction in the Bible, that someone involved in writing it deliberately falsified something or was incontrovertibly unreliable, a contradiction with another (validated) source, or find something in it which could be shown to be contrary to known facts.  There are a number of apparent internal inconsistencies, but all I’ve heard of can be explained.  There is very little in the way of contemporary other sources, and what there is actually seems to support the Bible, although the validity of these sources is not guaranteed.  Archeology has verified some of the things in the Bible, but not everything and particularly not some of the things which are hardest to accept.  Some archeologists claim to have “disproved” things in the Bible, such as the whole Exodus story.  Those that I have seen use “lack of proof” as proof, and this is not valid.  There are a number of theories of how things “were” or “came to be” which contradict the Bible, but unless one of these is proven, they also do not disprove the Bible.  Some geologists claim that they can show that the “Flood” never occurred.  If there is no supernatural world, then this might actually be valid.  Of course, the whole basis for the Bible is that the supernatural world DOES exist.

– People who believe in God are silly, stupid, delusional, weak willed, unrealistic, unreasonable and/or pains in the rear.

Some are, some aren’t, and this has nothing to do with whether God exists or not.

– People who believe in God don’t behave like they claim they are directed to behave.

This sometimes is completely valid, but it only has implication about human beings, not about God.

– People who believe in God want to impose their morality on everyone.

This is also often valid, but again, it only has implication about human beings, not about God.  Oh, and some people who don’t believe in God seem eager to impose THEIR morality on everyone.

Now, what soft evidence do those who believe in God present?

– Logical argument

This would be good, if valid.  I’ve never heard a valid argument for God, though.  Every single one either has invalid assumptions or uses invalid logical structure

– The authority of the Bible

The difficulty of proving the Bible true is even more difficult than proving it false.

– Personal experience

Now this is very powerful evidence – to those who experience it.  It is of little or no validity to anyone who did not share in the experience.

Because each side really seems unable to make a compelling case, the typical methodology is to state beliefs as facts.  And perhaps make derogatory comments about the person who disagrees with them.  This tends to be quite distressing to those who believe differently.  Perhaps the antagonism could be minimized if everybody did not do these.  Instead, imagine if instead of “X is so”, each person said “I believe X is so”.  Moving from something which may or may not be so, to something which is undeniably so, leaving the forum open to discussion of differences rather than personal invective.  Even better would be “I believe X is so, because of investigateable evidence Y”.  But most people won’t, and the snarling back and forth will continue….

On morality

This is actually a response to another persons blog (http://hessianwithteeth.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/being-a-christian-does-not-make-you-moral)  but I thought it would be of value here too.

 

You don’t have to be Christian to be moral, and just because you claim to be a Christian does not mean that you are moral. This may fly in the face of some people’s beliefs, but it is perfectly reasonable.

That is because “morality” is not defined just one way. The actual definition is:

Morality (from the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” (or right) and those that are “bad” (or wrong).

That is pretty clear at first glance, but the problems are caused by the words “good, bad, right and wrong”. When it comes right down to it, everybody has a slightly different view (a few wildly different, many different only in a few details).  And, of course, each person often thinks that their view is the only correct view. Thus, if a person follows “my” view, they obviously are moral, and if they do not follow that view, obviously they are immoral.

A general view (of good/bad/right/wrong) is usually “built into” each culture based on the specifics of that culture, and again, people from that culture consider those who follow that morality to be moral, and those who do not follow it (particularly those darned outsiders), to be immoral.

Another problem with morality is that the obvious benefits of (popular/common) morality are all for others, not yourself. Since the natural inclination of all life is to do for itself, this creates conflict. Some people realize (or at least hope) that the “hidden” benefits of being moral outweigh the obvious benefits of immorality. Some don’t see any benefits to themselves from popular/common morality and follow a “different” morality or even no morality (amorality).

The conflict between morality and personal benefit can be eased somewhat if the morality being followed is “natural” to the person (self-generated), as opposed to a morality which was “imposed” on them. Thus, a person who did not have any interest in a “Christian” morality would have a much harder time following it after becoming a Christian than someone to whom it seemed correct even before they came to believe “Jesus said it was”.

Note that morality includes intentions, decisions AND ACTIONS. It is entirely possible (and even likely) that a person may INTEND to behave in a manner which is moral to them, but when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road, have actions which are contrary to their intentions. This is a problem for some Christians, as the moral code they are instructed to follow is rather more restrictive and even less self-serving than some other moralities, and often conflicts with the “natural” morality they had previous to becoming a Christian.

Since intentions and decisions tend to be difficult to reliably determine, generally a person’s morality is evaluated based on their actions.  The negative results of being perceived as being “immoral” can be severe.  At the low end, people might tend to avoid others with conflicting morals, while at the high end, when the behavior is significantly harmful to others, it is likely that there will be legal consequences.