Oops, I did it again…

Yesterday’s quest to comment on 100 different blogs had an unexpected side effect. I became embroiled in a “discussion” on a post on the Friendly Atheist. One where a contributor suggested that the heinous acts God allegedly commits in the Old Testament should be rewritten as a Mafia drama.

Here are some of the things the “friendly” atheists at that site had to say about me during the discussion…

“The man’s an ass. A potentially dangerous ass who seems to admire Hitler.”

“Your view is just asinine.”

“I was gonna feed the troll but thought the better of it, especially since he’s shown his psychopathic nature. Besides there were some beautiful arguments put forth here that he ducks instead of addressing so I don’t see much point. Instead, he’s rather like Linus clinging to his blanket but not as benignly.”

“Nathan your arguments have been nothing but equivocating, never answering the questions you were asked, and when you do (and attempt to explain something) you shovel out contradictions one after another.”

“As I said Nathan is hopeless. lol, this only makes me laugh now. sigh.”

Reading back through the thread there were plenty of things that I said that I probably wouldn’t in hindsight. The stuff about Hitler was dumb. And I probably strayed off message a little too much.

I find atheists who get in a huff about how a God they don’t believe in did evil things to be one of the oddest inconsistencies. They’re so passionate about the actions of a being they don’t believe exists. If they’re right, and God is a delusion, then shouldn’t the people who committed the actions be the ones they’re angry at?

I wonder if atheists would take their position on the actions of the deluded (or those thinking they are doing God’s bidding) to the natural conclusion and move to remove the defence of insanity from all criminal proceedings.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

68 thoughts on “Oops, I did it again…”

  1. The thread got better as it went along. Perhaps against my better judgement, I've chimed in. You handled a lot of ad hominem and really fallacious attacks well. For so called 'rationalists' (why do so many atheists on Twitter need to remind us that their rational? Why the need to advertise it?) there's some clear examples of lack of it!
    The bits that annoy me most are how they present you with a very loaded question and then accuse you of mental gymnastics for attempting to deconstruct that 'loading'.

    I was interested when you said that you don't think good is objective?
    I would say that God is good, and the definer of good, and in that sense it is objective, not that it exists separately from God, but it is objective to humanity. How would your view differ from that?

  2. Nathan, the quotes that you posted from the thread are definitely the most rude and offensive examples, but I don't think that they were representative of the overall tone of the discussion. You admit that your comments "about Hitler were dumb" and that was what sparked most of the abusive acrimony.

    You say "I find atheists who get in a huff about how a God they don’t believe in did evil things to be one of the oddest inconsistencies. They’re so passionate about the actions of a being they don’t believe exists. If they’re right, and God is a delusion, then shouldn’t the people who committed the actions be the ones they’re angry at?" I think in just three sentences you managed to circle right around to a good point. I for one do not get in a huff over God because I don't believe in him. I do not get passionate about God's actions because I don not believe in him. Any anger or animosity that I have is totally directed toward the individual who carries out heinous acts in the name of their particular god.

    @ Andrew when you ask why rationalists feel the need to advertise their rationality. Personally, I don't know. I don't care much for labels and I think people make way too big of a deal about them. You could also ask yourself why so many christians feel the need to advertise their christianity. I have been in plenty of discussions with people who will declare "well, I'm a christian" as a sort of armor that will protect them from any criticism or critique. Often times, they bring it up in discussions about social issues, not religious. I am not sure if from that comment I am supposed to surmise their views on the subject, but either way it comes across as lazy and inconsequential.

    1. Personally, I don't know. I don't care much for labels and I think people make way too big of a deal about them. You could also ask yourself why so many christians feel the need to advertise their christianity

      For one thing, I don't have 'Christian' as a label on my twitter account, that much should be obvious from my posts.

    2. Hi Josh W,

      They certainly weren't representative of the general tone of the conversation.

      But at heart I'm a tabloid journalist just wanting to sensationalise things… and I figured this tone was much more likely to get people from here to check out the thread there.

  3. How would you suggest anyone responded to a post that suggested that Hitler would have been the one defining "goodness" if thhe had won the war? By thanking you for your considered and constructive contribution to the debate? Or would you expect that people treat that comment, and the commenter, with the scorn it deserves?
    You have to take responsibility for your own actions, and your own comments, particularly if you are going to paddle in such incendiary waters. It's self-serving and disingenuous then to repost (with a link that doesn't work) responses to your comments (no matter how you nuance your apology at the end) and claim that this is an example of the intolerance of atheists.
    If you were honest about your contribution to that debate, you'd be embarrassed about this post and its self-serving nature and remove it from this blog in the interest of balanced and honest discussion. The alternative would be to open this post with your extraordinarily insensitive Hitler comment and show yourself to your own blog's readers as you really are.
    Honesty please.

    1. Hi Sensil,

      Thanks for commenting.

      I agree. My Hitler comments were stupid. I have an annoying habit of purposefully breaking Godwin's law wherever I post. It's like my Wilhelm Scream. My signature…

      I take full responsibility for all my comments.

      You'd have to agree, if you followed the discussion thread, that some of the comments directed at me were overreactions and unnecessarily vitriolic.

      I will fix the link.

      This post is purely self serving. It's a blog. It's not a reputable and objective website.

      1. However I note that you haven't edited this to open your post with your Hitler comment so that the context is clearly set out up front rather than hidden in a link.
        You may not be reputable or objective, but if you're going to invite intelligent people to join you on your blog, as you did on that atheist blog, I would hope that you would at least aim at that. Otherwise we're just blowing in the wind here. If you want to be taken seriously, take yourself seriously. Seriously.

        1. "However I note that you haven't edited this to open your post with your Hitler comment so that the context is clearly set out up front rather than hidden in a link."

          No. I see no need to do that just because you insist I should.

          I think the quotes are funny – rather than offensive. I haven't really suggested anything to the contrary – unless you take my quotation marks as denoting anything other than irony.

          I'm not offended by them. I said something I now regret (which I indicate in the post) and see no reason to bring it up.

          See it as a self deprecating post that draws attention to the negative things other people have said about me.

          Context is king – as I've argued on both threads on the Friendly Atheist – I suggest you look at the tone of this blog to decide what sort of person I am. And how my posts should be interpreted.

          "but if you're going to invite intelligent people to join you on your blog, as you did on that atheist blog"

          If I wanted to look for intelligent people the last place I'd go is an atheist blog…

          I jest. I believe I invited people who disagree with me, or people interested in seeing how I had used quotes from the threads. I feel this post achieves both those aims. You find it disagreeable – and you've seen how I've used the quotes.

    2. sure, the link was 'broken' (it is disingenuous to imply that this is some kind of dishonesty) but it didn't take a genius to figure out how to fix it. The whole discussion was available to be read (as indeed it was by at least myself).

      1. And the disingenuosness of burying Nathan's own extraordinary (by any standard) comment about Hitler in a link instead of upfront where people don't have to dig for it? You're ok with that?
        Just checking…

        1. It's not disingenuous. I even refer to the comment in my post. I could have said nothing and just posted the quotes. But context, as you point out, is important.

        2. How is it extraordinary that a victor sets the rules? Or perhaps you misunderstood the comment and thought he was suggesting that would actually make the actions intrinsically good?

  4. I haven't read the thread at Friendly Atheist, so forgive me if this is repetitive. I think the reason Atheists bring up the evil things God allegedly did or directed to be done is that they don't understand how or why people who believe in God would want to follow and worship a being who did such terrible things. To the Atheists, such stories of atrocities (The Great Flood, Hell, etc.) appear to be simply for the purpose of creating a fear-based incentive to join the church. To say that all the innocent toddlers, infants, fetuses and animals that died during the Great Flood were killed as a result of God's Master Plan, and we mortals are simply unable to understand that Master Plan, seems like a cop-out. (I know there's a better word for that, but I'm tired.)

    1. "To say that all the innocent toddlers, infants, fetuses and animals that died during the Great Flood were killed as a result of God's Master Plan, and we mortals are simply unable to understand that Master Plan"

      I think I understand it. You're right. To say "we can't understand it so it doesn't worry me" is a cop out. To try to apologise for, or rationalise, God's actions is also a cop out.

      God did it. To us mortals it seems nasty. God says it's not, and it's deserved. I then have to decide whether I decide with our limited, and mortal view. Or if I take God's word for it.

      This might be an appeal to authority – but I don't see that as a problem.

        1. The fallacy happens when you appeal to an authority who holds a view, suggesting that because they hold it to be true, it must be. It is not a fallacy if the person is a position to decide what is true. For example:

          a)"This piece of music must be played like this because my teacher says so" – fallacy
          b)"This piece of music must be played like this because I wrote it" – not a fallacy

          I trust that you don't need me to translate the analogy for you.

          1. Andrew wrote: The fallacy happens when you appeal to an authority who holds a view, suggesting that because they hold it to be true, it must be. It is not a fallacy if the person is a position to decide what is true. For example:

            a)"This piece of music must be played like this because my teacher says so" – fallacy
            b)"This piece of music must be played like this because I wrote it" – not a fallacy
            =======

            I'll agree that when Christians say something is true because God said it, then it's not a logical fallacy because God created everything so he therefore knows everything and gets to decide what's what. But are the Christians saying it's true because God said it, or because it's in the Bible? Those are two very different sources from the atheist perspective, although they probably aren't from a Christian perspective.

            I suppose if God said something to me there's a good chance I'd believe it. If the Flying Spaghetti Monster said something to me I might even believe that, too. (I'll admit to not listening very closely for either one.) But I have a hard time believing what anyone claims either one of those beings said to them without some evidence, regardless of the age of their books or the number of followers.

        2. Indeed it might. I don't think it applies to God. Because as the authority that is wikipedia points out:

          "This is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of the claim is not necessarily related to the personal qualities of the claimant"

          When it comes to the personal qualities of God the nature of putting faith in the God of the Bible requires that you make him both an authority (personally) and a source of truth.

          "Since we cannot have expert knowledge of many subjects, we often rely on the judgments of those who do. There is no fallacy involved in simply arguing that the assertion made by an authority is true. The fallacy only arises when it is claimed or implied that the authority is infallible in principle and can hence be exempted from criticism."

          It seems to me that the fallacy is purely designed to cut God out of the equation.

          I think a lot of these accusations of fallacy are just grown up ways of covering one's ears and screaming "I'm not listening"… This is the same reason that I will breach Godwin's Law at any opportunity.
          My recent post Making headlines today… redux

  5. Nathan,

    "Here are some of the things the “friendly” atheists at that site had to say about me during the discussion…"

    I don't claim to be a "friendly atheist" and neither do you. Apparently one doesn't need to be one to comment there.

    Furthermore, this is just quote mining. You are making some quite bizarre comments over there, and people are responding.

    How do you expect people to respond to comments like: "Had Hitler won the war and been the one writing laws he would have been the one who defined “good” for those living in his world."

    The very next sentence is ridiculous on its own.
    You say, "I am not prepared to call anybody innocent. The Bible says nobody is innocent. That’s kind of the point."

    Well then the bible is stupid since babies are innocent. The only reason I can see for claiming that nobody is innocent is a moral power grab. Either that or it is a triviality which could be stated better as "Everyone is fallible". Of course, that's not the claim. The claim is that someone everyone is guilty because some dame ate an apple in a garden once.

    You say, "I find atheists who get in a huff about how a God they don’t believe in did evil things to be one of the oddest inconsistencies. They’re so passionate about the actions of a being they don’t believe exists. If they’re right, and God is a delusion, then shouldn’t the people who committed the actions be the ones they’re angry at?"

    The inconsistency is only in your mind. You are the one claiming that god, the bible, and your beliefs have moral authority. We are just questioning the moral authority of one who would find innocent babies guilty and then specifically target them for death, and presumably hell. We are questioning the moral authority of a book that would tell such stories as if they had moral bite. We are questioning the moral authority of anyone who finds moral succor in such stories.

    We are not happy at the fact that our lack of belief in total nonsense is used as a criteria for deciding we are not fit to vote, take office, marry, etc.

    1. Well then the bible is stupid since babies are innocent.
      The only reason I can see for claiming that nobody is innocent is a moral power grab. Either that or it is a triviality which could be stated better as "Everyone is fallible". Of course, that's not the claim. The claim is that someone everyone is guilty because some dame ate an apple in a garden once.

      False dichotomy. That it's actually true is still a possible reason. Everyone is guilty because everyone is in rebellion. And who said anything about apples?

      We are not happy at the fact that our lack of belief in total nonsense is used as a criteria for deciding we are not fit to vote, take office, marry, etc.

      Woah! Hold on there tiger… just where has anyone in that thread or this one said any such thing?

      1. Babies are in rebellion [against God]? You have to be kidding me. Of course that isn't true.

        I'm surprised you don't know about the apples reference. You've heard of original sin and the fall of man. An apple was involved.

        The question was why non-believers aren't "angry" at one set of fictional characters in a book vs. another. The thing is that no one justifies Christian oppression based on the authority of Pharaoh. They do so on the moral authority of God. It's not a matter of anger against either, but against believers because of the actions of those believers in the name of this fictional character.

        For example, the new Irish blasphemy law. There is a long list of historical and current oppressions if you want to get into it. It has nothing to do with what anyone has said in a thread here. It has a lot to do with what was said over there. Nathan sounds willing to do a little slaughter for god if he would only give the command.

          1. I believe it's Genesis 2 & 3 that mentions the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Generally referred to as an apple. Also generally recognized as a ridiculous story.

        1. Babies are in rebellion [against God]? You have to be kidding me. Of course that isn't true.

          "Of course"?
          Are you suggesting that babies are born Christians? I doubt it.

          An apple was involved.

          Really?

          Nathan sounds willing to do a little slaughter for god if he would only give the command.

          I read the thread, and that's a gross misrepresentation.

          1. Yes, really. Don't play cute. Eat a fruit in your religion and not only does it condemn you but everyone else who wasn't even involved.

            It wasn't a gross misrepresentation. He said he would kill for god if he got the command from god. Plain and simple. God's commanded genocide before, and usually by Jewish armies, so it's not like a Christian should be unfamiliar with the concept.

          2. Yes, really. Don't play cute. Eat a fruit in your religion and not only does it condemn you but everyone else who wasn't even involved.

            The fact that you want to push the line that it was an apple, which is nowhere in the text would suggest that you're not all that interested in actually engaging with what the Bible has to say or what people believe.

            The problem wasn't that they ate a fruit – it was that they disobeyed God.

            "It wasn't a gross misrepresentation. He said he would kill for god if he got the command from god. Plain and simple.

            I've really had enough of this line being trotted out unchallenged. I qualified the statement to suggest that it would have to be irrefutably a direct command of God independently verified and not just in my head. It wasn't plain and simple. Nor is it actually morally objectionable – unless you're a pacifist and against any form of military action, or any form of justifiable aggression.

            I don't know any Christian who wouldn't respond as I did. I don't know many atheists who would actually – given proof of YHWH's existence (specifically, not just god in general) answer differently. If God is our "king" as Christians believe then we must be prepared to serve him.

            But – you've dismissed everything further that I said on the point – like any references to what Christians (and myself) actually believe about the likelihood of this happening.

            "God's commanded genocide before, and usually by Jewish armies, so it's not like a Christian should be unfamiliar with the concept."

            You seem to be a little confused as to which camp you sit in… Did God order genocide? Or was it just a justification used by a primitive tribe? Did Israel simply think God had been leading them or is this some sort of revisionist conspiracy theory in the guise of history?

            Your stance on this matter is inconsistent. It's only if you're a theist worried that I'm actually going to receive a word from the Lord that you should be concerned about the prospect of me killing anybody.

            I wonder why you're bothering contributing to this discussion if you find me so objectionable. I see no reason for you to continue.

          3. "The problem wasn't that they ate a fruit – it was that they disobeyed God. "

            … and how is this any less of a lack of engagement. A far more accurate statement would be that God set them up for a trap. He gave them no sense of right from wrong. Placed and attractive nuance right where they would find it, put a talking snake in with them to convince them to disobey his order, and all the time had the power to arrange things otherwise.

            He's the kind of god that would leave an open manhole cover in a home for the blind he was running and then blame the injured blind peoples relatives, and assess them a fine.

            The story supposed to be the basis of a morality when if fact it shows a total lack of moral reasoning, besides being a less than believable fairy tale.

            "You seem to be a little confused as to which camp you sit in… Did God order genocide? Or was it just a justification used by a primitive tribe? Did Israel simply think God had been leading them or is this some sort of revisionist conspiracy theory in the guise of history?"

            You are the only one is confused. It works either way for me, because either way shows the bible to be false. I can certainly talk about whether the Queen in Snow White is evil without conceding her reality. I can certainly talk about how Mein Kampf motivated men to evil without conceding any truth to the document.

            Don't try to project your own confusion onto me.

            "Your stance on this matter is inconsistent. It's only if you're a theist worried that I'm actually going to receive a word from the Lord that you should be concerned about the prospect of me killing anybody."

            It's about more than just your likelihood of personally snapping. You have expressed morally contemptible beliefs, while at the same time claim your religion is the basis of a superior moral order.

            Since humans are fallible they will tend to make errors about whether a God is or is not instructing them to do something. Your morality tends to amplify such errors to the point of murder and genocide. That is what is morally repulsive.

            Our moralities need to be human compatible in order to prevent harm. A belief that would tend to prevent the slaughter of innocents is superior to one that would tend to justify it.

            You've expressed a belief that would tend, all other things equal, to a greater likelihood to commit a crime. No I don't think a God will actually instruct anyone, or has ever instructed anyone to do anything, and that hasn't stopped people from acting on true belief that they are doing Gods bidding in the commission of evil.

            "I wonder why you're bothering contributing to this discussion if you find me so objectionable. I see no reason for you to continue."

            Why, did you get confused and thought I was being supportive of your position? Your system of deriving morality on the basis of the say so of a imagined deity (or deities) is inferior to other methods. Many religions do this, the gamut runs from Aztec to Zoroastrianism, and one can justify any action using it.

          4. You have expressed morally contemptible beliefs, while at the same time claim your religion is the basis of a superior moral order.

            Only if you hold that any killing is morally contemptible. I would see my actions in obeying the command of the entity I swear my allegiance to as similar to that of a soldier going to war. Do you hold that all war is immoral? Why are you prepared to allow the president a right that you won't allow God? There are plenty of people who don't believe in your president who are suffering what they would call "injustice" as a result of his commands. And if you are an aObamaist (or a Republican) then your leaders are just as culpable.

            I know suicide bombers would use the same rationale. If suicide bombers are actually acting on commands from God then I could be convinced that they are not immoral. I don't believe they are acting on commands from God, and I don't believe that God will command me to kill.

            Since humans are fallible they will tend to make errors about whether a God is or is not instructing them to do something. Your morality tends to amplify such errors to the point of murder and genocide. That is what is morally repulsive.

            I have not committed or condoned the committing of murder or genocide.

            "Why, did you get confused and thought I was being supportive of your position? Your system of deriving morality on the basis of the say so of a imagined deity (or deities) is inferior to other methods. Many religions do this, the gamut runs from Aztec to Zoroastrianism, and one can justify any action using it."

            Now that just makes no sense at all. You are just an angry pan critical rationalist looking for somebody to argue with.

            We're coming from different starting points on the question of morality and the two will never be reconciled. Unless you've got anything new and persuasive to bring up I suggest it might be time we finished this discussion.
            My recent post Eutychus in the Brick Testament

    2. We are not happy at the fact that our lack of belief in total nonsense is used as a criteria for deciding we are not fit to vote, take office, marry, etc.

      Me neither. Search my blog for "gay marriage" for my position. Or check out the tag "America as Kingdom of God"

      1. Did your search. What I see is that you are against Christians marrying non-Christians, which is bigoted. It's also bound to cause persecution of a Christian who decides they wish to marry a non-Christian. Persecution by their friends, family, etc. Obviously a lack of belief is a criteria you use to decide if someone is fit to marry.

        The search had the exact opposite effect you claimed it would. Instead of contradicting the sentence it confirmed it.

        BTW, in one of those articles on gay marriage you state: "Atheism functions on a type of rational and logical framework."

        This is a false statement. Atheism is merely the non-belief in God. It is not based on some framework. It's like not believing in Leprechauns. One can do so for rational and logical reasons, and one can do so for irrational reasons. Even if you disbelieve in God for rational reasons the rest of you life may be dominated by irrational beliefs. There are entire atheistic religions that are dominated by the irrational.

        Only some atheists arrived at their position through rationality and logic.

        1. Atheism is merely the non-belief in God.

          To clarify then; you never say that God doesn't exist, only that you have no belief in gods?

          It is not based on some framework. It's like not believing in Leprechauns.

          Except that most atheists don't go round labelling themselves aleprechaunists, now do they? So their is a practical difference.

          Only some atheists arrived at their position through rationality and logic.

          True, atheists vary in their reasons, though I tend to find that the predominant framework leading to it in those who comment on internet forums is a pre-commitment to philosophical naturalism, which you may or may not hold to.

          1. Depends on the god. Some conceptions of god are self contradictory and I can say outright that such a creature doesn't exist. Others are more nebulous and since I am ignorant of what the person is trying to convey I would be an igtheist not an atheist to such a god.

            Atheists don't go around labeling themselves aleprechaunists because people who believe in leprechauns don't tend to oppress those who do not, or try to suppress the teaching of science in school.

            Philosophically I'm a pan-critical rationalist.

          2. Depends on the god.

            I thought the context of my question was pretty clear, seeing as we have been talking about the Christian God. Do you 'merely' lack belief in said God or do you believe there is no God?

            Atheists don't go around labeling themselves aleprechaunists because people who believe in leprechauns don't tend to oppress those who do not, or try to suppress the teaching of science in school.

            I'm pretty sure the term atheist pre-dates the YEC/Evolution debate (that exists primarily in the USA). And don't try and tell me that Richard Dawkins & Friends Ltd. are 'oppressed'. (Show me the last time an evangelical Christian got the same kind of platform and editorial control that Dawkins had for his anti-theist documentaries).

          3. "I'm pretty sure the term atheist pre-dates the YEC/Evolution debate (that exists primarily in the USA). "

            I made no claims about origination date. Are you having some private conversation in your mind with an imagined foe?

            I'm also pretty sure that executing atheists for nonbelief and heresy predates anything you'll come up with. Atheist was originally a derogatory label used to justify persecution.

            I'm also a heretic, blasphemer, etc. All labels I'll agree to. I'm even an Aleprechaunist.

            I label myself for inclusion as a pancritical rationalist and exclusion as an atheist.

            There is no group I could exclude myself from to indicate I was a pancritical rationalist, so I don't call myself an A-X-ist with regard to that attribute.

            "And don't try and tell me that Richard Dawkins & Friends Ltd. are 'oppressed'."

            Richard Dawkins had his rights as a parent stripped from him because of his atheism in a way a Christian would never have. So, yes, I would say he is persecuted because of his atheism.

            (Show me the last time an evangelical Christian got the same kind of platform and editorial control that Dawkins had for his anti-theist documentaries).

            Are you kidding me. Pat Robinson has his own TV show, and spews his nonsense tax free. I have to pay taxes to buy a Dawkin's book.

            Plus Dawkin's earned his position as a biologist. It wasn't granted to him, and he didn't get it via tricking people into believing that membership and payments to his organization would grant them eternal life.

            Let me know when an atheist can run for president without it being an issue.

          4. Interesting that you decided not to reply to my question: "Do you 'merely' lack belief in said God or do you believe there is no God?"

            I made no claims about origination date. Are you having some private conversation in your mind with an imagined foe?

            You linked the importance of the atheist label with the current yec/evolution classroom debate.

            I'm also pretty sure that executing atheists for nonbelief and heresy predates anything you'll come up with.

            Don't worry, people have been oppressing other people for various reasons for a very long time, be it atheists oppressing believers, believers oppressing non-believers, or for whatever other reasons. It's just interesting that atheists want to play the martyr now.

            Atheist was originally a derogatory label used to justify persecution.
            It was originally a label given to Christians!

            Richard Dawkins had his rights as a parent stripped from him because of his atheism in a way a Christian would never have. So, yes, I would say he is persecuted because of his atheism.

            Ok, I tried googling this, but I havn't a clue what you're referring to, so you'll have to enlighten me.

            Are you kidding me. Pat Robinson has his own TV show, and spews his nonsense tax free

            On a publically owned mainstream channel? Dawkins' documentery was on Channel 4. Pat Robertson started CBN. I'm sure you can see the difference.
            Of course Christians have media presence, but my off-hand comment does highlight the kind of acceptability the so-called 'New Atheist' message has in British media. Anything more than Songs of Praise is hardly going to get much airtime, let alone editorial control in the public media.

            Plus Dawkin's earned his position as a biologist.

            Indeed, he is an esteemed biologist, but he doesn't get so much favourable peer review when he wanders into other disciplines, such as philosophy.

            Let me know when an atheist can run for president without it being an issue.

            Maybe they just need Alisdair Darling to tell the media that they 'Don't do God'.
            One of the problems I see with the martyr card is that it is, like much media, unduly US-Centric.

        2. "Obviously a lack of belief is a criteria you use to decide if someone is fit to marry."

          Well I don't think you would want to marry me anyway would you?

          1. I don't object to using it as a personal criteria. I object to using it as a criteria for others. Sometimes such criteria are then enshrined in law, violating the rights of others.

        3. "The search had the exact opposite effect you claimed it would. Instead of contradicting the sentence it confirmed it."

          Why do I get the feeling that you won't be satisfied until I'm an anti-theist?

  6. I think the reason Atheists bring up the evil things God allegedly did or directed to be done is that they don't understand how or why people who believe in God would want to follow and worship a being who did such terrible things. To the Atheists, such stories of atrocities (The Great Flood, Hell, etc.) appear to be simply for the purpose of creating a fear-based incentive to join the church.

    And that assumption, that their just 'fear-based incentive to join the church' is wrong. The objections are based on a prior assumption of innocence and a failure to understand and even sometimes recognise God's rightful justice and judgement. It is a basic refusal to refuse to acknowledge God's position and then question how he could such things. It is a little like rejecting the authority of a magistrate and then question how he could possibly lock someone up, as it's wrong to detain people.

    1. Andrew, Nathan stated: (1) "Good is what the being with the most power decries to be good" (2) "Had Hitler won the war and been the one writing laws he would have been the one who defined ‘good’ for those living in his world" certainly seem to be fear-based morality. When asked:

      3rd, are you saying that the higher life form has the right to dictate the moral standard to the lower life-form and then that the lower life-form should be held accountable for following that dictated moral standard?

      Nathan's answer:

      No, but if the higher form of life says "live this way or I will do this" and you live a different way then you’re asking for trouble. Especially if the higher form of life created the lower form of life for a purpose and the lower form of life purposefully deviates from that purpose.

      (emphasis added)

      How do I understand this viewpoint as anything other than fear-based morality?

    2. Please accept my apologies for assuming that infants and fetuses were innocent. I guess I haven't yet found the parts of the Bible where the babies got together and started raping and torturing their enemies, or their poop was excessively stinky, or whatever they did to become not innocent.

      In any case, I'll agree that God, the supreme being who created the universe, has the ultimate position of authority and can do as he pleases with any of his creations. And it naturally follows that it's God's call on what is right and wrong, evil vs. not evil, etc. Given that, why would I, as a believer, constantly praise him for being such a loving God if I believe even half of the atrocities he was responsible for in the Bible? Would I not fear God's wrath or punishment if I were to stray from his desires? Don't I expect all the non-believers to experience God's judgement at some point and suffer eternal damnation? I've always thought the term "God-fearing" was an accurate adjective when describing Christians.

      1. Please accept my apologies for assuming that infants and fetuses were innocent. I guess I haven't yet found the parts of the Bible where the babies got together and started raping and torturing their enemies, or their poop was excessively stinky, or whatever they did to become not innocent.

        Why do you assume that only extremes like that are sinful?

        Given that, why would I, as a believer, constantly praise him for being such a loving God if I believe even half of the atrocities he was responsible for in the Bible?

        Because, if like me, you read the bible, you'll see that these 'atrocities' (and yes, they are terrible) are judgement against wickedness, and certainly not arbitrary.

        Would I not fear God's wrath or punishment if I were to stray from his desires?

        Not if you believe the gospel!!

        1. Because, if like me, you read the bible, you'll see that these 'atrocities' (and yes, they are terrible) are judgement against wickedness, and certainly not arbitrary.

          And, I should add – because you would realise that all of us deserve God's punishment, but he has taken it upon himself in my place. God's love is demonstrated in Jesus, and I trust that, and praise God for it.

        2. "Why do you assume that only extremes like that are sinful?"

          I was hoping there might be something between the two extremes of "raping and torturing" and "excessively stinky" poop might be the reality. But if the sinful act was something less extreme than stinky poop I hope we could all agree that would be a very petty justification for drowning.

          ". . . if like me, you read the bible, you'll see that these 'atrocities' (and yes, they are terrible) are judgement against wickedness, and certainly not arbitrary."

          I'll admit to not reading much of the Bible, and I know different groups tend to put their own spin on it. But I'll be happy to read whatever chapters describe the wickedness either done by or inherent in the toddlers and infants that were so deserving of their non-arbitrary judgement handed down by this loving God. I think I would more readily accept that they were collateral damage.

          1. Andrew – Thanks for the links to the Federal Headship article and Romans Chapter 5. I think I now see why it's pointless to try and get Christians concerned about the atrocities in the old testament. If I understand correctly, all humans basically inherited the original sin from Adam, so for anybody who lived before Jesus died on the cross, God considered you a sinner from your moment of birth (or perhaps conception). You didn't really have to do anything evil, that's just the way it was. If Adam was in your family tree, you were screwed and quite smite-able in God's eyes.

            Then Jesus came down to earth and died on the cross for our sins, and from that point forward, anyone who accepted Jesus into his life wouldn't be punished for the original sin that is inherent in mankind. As a bonus, it seems like you might not be punished for your own sins either, since God loved us so much to send his son to die on the cross.

            Is it an oversimplification to state the following? Accept Jesus and you're going to Heaven. Otherwise, you're going to Hell.

          2. Hi DJDJ,

            Your simplification is pretty on the money.

            But the Bible (particularly in Hebrews 11) goes further and suggests that even those prior to Christ were saved by faith in God (that he would deliver on his promises).

          3. I think I now see why it's pointless to try and get Christians concerned about the atrocities in the old testament.

            Who said we are not concerned? Of course God's judgement is terrible, but what it seems to me is that you wish to either ignore or deny the rationale for that judgement. It seems that you wish to say "isn't it terrible" (to which I would agree) without understanding its legitimacy. As you've admitted to "not reading much of the bible" it's a little bit like someone watching only the section of the Matrix where Neo "dies" and then getting all worked up because he's the hero. The judgement of God in the OT was always against wickedness – you're right, that we are all guilty sinners, and God is not bound to offer us time to repent, but the acts that I am assuming you are referring to are certainly not arbitrary and involve, unrepentant, stubborn, wicked groups who refuse to turn from their rebellion – and at times, this was the Israelites too! As you haven't read it, you may not be aware, but there is more mercy than judgement in the OT, and Jesus talks more about Hell than anyone. The so-called OT 'Angry' and NT 'loving' God dichotomy is false.

    3. Andrew, Nathan stated: (1) "Good is what the being with the most power decries to be good" (2) "Had Hitler won the war and been the one writing laws he would have been the one who defined ‘good’ for those living in his world" certainly seem to be fear-based morality. When asked:

      3rd, are you saying that the higher life form has the right to dictate the moral standard to the lower life-form and then that the lower life-form should be held accountable for following that dictated moral standard?

      Nathan's answer:

      No, but if the higher form of life says "live this way or I will do this" and you live a different way then you’re asking for trouble. Especially if the higher form of life created the lower form of life for a purpose and the lower form of life purposefully deviates from that purpose.

      (emphasis added)

      How do I understand this iewpoint as anything other than fear-based morality?

      1. I'm not going to attempt to answer for Nathan, he's quite capable of doing that himself.

        But put the same statement in the context of a parental relationship. A mother says 'do this (e.g. eat this food, or put on this jumper, etc) or I will do this (send you to your room etc.). Is that child living a life of fear of punishment? Is warning of punishment necessarily a bad thing? The government tells us to live a certain way or they will 'do this' and fine us, or put us in prison – does that mean you are a good citizen purely out of fear? Do you only obey the law when the police are looking?

        Let me be clear though, if you trust Christ, then there is no fear of punishment. We do not follow out of fear, but out of love, for he has borne hmself the punishment due to me.

        1. How do I understand this viewpoint as anything other than fear-based morality?

          Firstly, why is a fear based morality wrong? I'm familiar with the idea that good done for goodness sake rather than because you're told to be good is somehow purer – but why is acting because of the fear of reprisal a bad thing?

          Secondly, Andrew has answered the statement well – I'm not personally acting out of fear.

          Fear, though, is a perfectly good place to start acting from…

          Depending on your definition of fear (awe/reverence v wanting to avoid harm)… some Bible passages regarding both types…

          Reverent Fear
          Reverent fear has a purpose. Proverbs 1 says it's where knowledge starts…

          7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

          This fear is also linked to morality in Proverbs 8:

          13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
          I hate pride and arrogance,
          evil behavior and perverse speech.

          Terrified Fear
          Isaiah 2 says:

          8 Their land is full of idols;
          they bow down to the work of their hands,
          to what their fingers have made.

          9 So man will be brought low
          and mankind humbled—
          do not forgive them. [a]

          10 Go into the rocks,
          hide in the ground
          from dread of the LORD
          and the splendor of his majesty!

          11 The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled
          and the pride of men brought low;
          the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

          And later:

          22 Stop trusting in man,
          who has but a breath in his nostrils.
          Of what account is he?

          Here's why we don't need to fear God – as Andrew mentioned – courtesy of 1 John 4:

          14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
          God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

          Conclusion
          I quote those Bible passages knowing full well how much most atheists appreciate (or don't) arguments built from the Bible.

          But I did it to show that fear is actually built in to Christianity. It's not like you've brought it up and it has never been considered.

          Only the guilty need to be fearful (terrified) of God and his judgment – eg the flood/hell. We're all guilty – but Jesus, as John says, gives us reason not to be afraid. If you're only picking on the judgmental side of God your missing half the picture. It's like judging Tiger Woods' golfing abilities on the basis of his off course indiscretions.

          1. "Firstly, why is a fear based morality wrong? I'm familiar with the idea that good done for goodness sake rather than because you're told to be good is somehow purer – but why is acting because of the fear of reprisal a bad thing?"

            If it's a rational fear, based on something close to the truth, I don't have a problem with it. For instance: "Don't play with matches because you might start a fire and injure yourself or burn the house down." That makes sense.

            It's the irrational fears, based on stuff that is made up and without any evidence, that some of us have a problem with. "Don't play with matches because they can cause brain tumors in children and make them go blind." That doesn't make sense, even if the results are the same if you tell your kids about the brain tumors when they're young and they believe it. But once they're old enough to do some research on their own, if the fear of brain tumors is the only thing keeping them away from matches, watch out.

          2. If it's a rational fear, based on something close to the truth, I don't have a problem with it. For instance: "Don't play with matches because you might start a fire and injure yourself or burn the house down." That makes sense.

            Right. If we translate that analogy back – God is the parent who 'knows best' and we are the child who thinks that it's perfectly safe to play with matches.

            It's the irrational fears, based on stuff that is made up and without any evidence, that some of us have a problem with.

            Of course, you don't know that it is made up – you have no empirical proof that the univierse is causally closed, so to assert such a thing is a faith position.

          3. Hey, I didn't have time to get back to this thread, but just came back and looked at your and Andrew's comments. I was responding to this statement from Andrew : "And that assumption, that their just 'fear-based incentive to join the church' is wrong." I was saying that the incentives you gave do seem to be fear-based, and you seem to be backing me up by saying that the fear is Bible-based, and built into Christianity. So I think your argument should be with Andrew, not with me.

          4. Someone might quit smoking because of a fear of dying early (though there's inevitably more than just that), does that mean after they've quit, the only reason they do not go back to smoking is fear of dying? Could it not be that they prefer their healthier life, increased energy etc. Similarly, I think Nathan's point (and he can certainly correct me if I'm mistaken) is that whatever fear of hell might bring someone to a place of repentance, that certainly does not continue or constitute a part in the desire to follow Christ. The Christian life is not one of fear of punishment, for Christ has taken that upon himself – but is one of loving devotion. To suggest otherwise is a bit like suggesting that a husband buys his wife flowers only because he's scared of having to sleep on the couch!

          5. If these analogies are appropriate, you're saying that there are huge fear-based incentives to join the church, and huge fear-based deterrents to leaving the church. It's just that there are other incentives as well. That may be true, but Nathan's Bible quotations make characterizing Christian morality as significantly fear-based seem accurate. And I have trouble parsing the quotes from Nathan at the Friendly atheist (that I quoted above) as being anything but entirely fear-based.

            As to your examples of a parent or government threatening punishment, I see nothing wrong with those cases, and it is indeed possible that a God might also threaten us with punishment for our own good. However, to the extent that my actions are based on threat of punishment, that's not morality, that's just pragmatism.

          6. It depends on what you mean by 'join the church' – I suspect you are a referring to the institution and not the spiritual body of Christ. I am talking about turning in faith and repentance to Christ. And repentance is two fold – it is not just being sorry, but turning and going a different way. Fear of where a path leads is a legitimate reason for turning around and going a different way. But what you seem to be missing is that the motivation for continuing on the new path is not a fear of what lies at the end of the other path, but the striving with joy for what we realise lies at the end of the new path (indeed, what the journey itself is too).
            So even though repentance may be based in part on a fear of judgement, obedience is patently not, and this is the point you keep missing – for the Christian there is no longer a fear of punishment for sin. So no, my actions are not based on fear of punishment, just like my gift giving is not about escaping punishment.

          7. I can't know what motivations you have for being Christian, or for obedience, and since I'm not a Christian, I can't say what Christians are supposed to believe. All I can do is observe what people who consider themselves Christan do and say. I have enough experience with American evangelicals (and I suspect that you are not one) to know that fear of punishment is used as a significant motivator, not just for recruitment, but for obedience, and to prevent people from leaving. And Nathan's quotes that I copied above, as best as I can understand them (and perhaps I don't), appear to approach morality entirely as fear-based obedience. It's quite possible you would have given different answers than Nathan. I'm just saying that, empirically, people who consider themselves Christian often give fear-based explanations for obedience.

            Something about this blog keeps seriously messing up my browser, and in fact, may be setting off my virus warnings, so I'm not sure I'm coming back. If I don't, it's not you, it's the blog. :(

          8. I can't know what motivations you have for being Christian, or for obedience, and since I'm not a Christian, I can't say what Christians are supposed to believe.

            And yet in your next sentence you do just that?

            fear of punishment is used as a significant motivator, not just for recruitment, but for obedience, and to prevent people from leaving

            It seems that what you consider 'evangelical' and what I and the majority of evangelicals I know (admittedly I'm not American) is somewhat different. Having said that – none of the american evangelical leaders who I've heard / read say or do what you allege.

            And Nathan's quotes that I copied above, as best as I can understand them (and perhaps I don't), appear to approach morality entirely as fear-based obedience.

            Well one of us in misunderstanding..

            I'm just saying that, empirically, people who consider themselves Christian often give fear-based explanations for obedience.

            And if that's the case, then they clearly don't understand the Christian gospel. (I do realise that view is much more prevalent in Catholic understanding, and perhaps somewhat so in some pentecostal and televangelist circles, but mainstream Christianity it 'aint). Take the famous hymn – 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved (how that sums up my argument!), or the more modern one – "No guilt in life, no fear in death, This is the power of Christ in me".

          9. I can't know what motivations you have for being Christian, or for obedience, and since I'm not a Christian, I can't say what Christians are supposed to believe.

            And yet in your next sentence you do just that?

            fear of punishment is used as a significant motivator, not just for recruitment, but for obedience, and to prevent people from leaving

            It seems that what you consider 'evangelical' and what I and the majority of evangelicals I know (admittedly I'm not American) is somewhat different. Having said that – none of the american evangelical leaders who I've heard / read say or do what you allege.

            And Nathan's quotes that I copied above, as best as I can understand them (and perhaps I don't), appear to approach morality entirely as fear-based obedience.

            Well one of us in misunderstanding..

            I'm just saying that, empirically, people who consider themselves Christian often give fear-based explanations for obedience.

            And if that's the case, then they clearly don't understand the Christian gospel. (I do realise that view is much more prevalent in Catholic understanding, and perhaps somewhat so in some pentecostal and televangelist circles, but mainstream Christianity it 'aint). Take the famous hymn – 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved (how that sums up my argument!), or the more modern one – "No guilt in life, no fear in death, This is the power of Christ in me".

          10. Autumnal Harvest – I wasn't so much disagreeing with Andrew's position on fear – I agree with him – I was trying to explain that the Bible has two uses of fear. One is entirely appropriate – it refers to reverence, the other is not a part of Christian belief – terror. Terror can be a reason that people explore Christianity. But it's not a cored doctrine of it.

            I won't address the back and forth – Andrew has more than adequately responded to your points…
            My recent post Dead celebs society – RIP Johnny Depp – and other hoaxes

Comments are closed.