Tag Archives: Christian

Interview with the atheist, part 2: the answers

Last time, we went over the plan for this atheist interviewing operation, including the list of questions and how you can participate by sending in your own questions and answers.

The order of the answers is rotated so different people are listed first, second, etc. Note that all attempts to malign theism or Christianity or to employ tu quoque arguments in your answers were DELETED. Wherever possible, I sought clarification. I will answer the questions myself later, and then you may comment on my answers.

Atheist/Agnostic/Unitarian answers: [10 respondents]

Question 1: Is there a God? [YES: 1 NO: 8] and is he knowable in principle, if he existed? [YES: 2 NO: 1]

  • It just didn’t seem to make sense. No matter how hard I tried to include scientific fact and personal experience into religion there came  point when there was so much, indeed overwhelming evidence, that religion was based on a premise (a hypothesis) that did not stand up to testing.
  • There is no God, and we can know he does not exist
  • There is no God, I have no presumptions or beliefs concerning the “origins of the universe”.
  • Don’t know. Don’t know
  • There is a God, but he is remote, unknowable and disinterested in humans

Question 2: Which religion were you raised in?

  • Jewish. Strict
  • Atheist (x3)
  • Catholicism (x2)
  • Catholic, strict.
  • Hinduism
  • Episcopalian. They took it seriously but not literally.
  • Quaker

Question 3: Explain some events, not arguments yet, that altered your spiritual worldview.

  • I prayed to pass an important exam, and I failed (unanswered prayer)
  • None
  • Parental abandonment
  • I found the beliefs and practice of the Catholic church to be irrational and contrived
  • Unanswered questions from early age onwards

Question 4: What are your main objections to God’s existence and knowability?

  • I have nothing against religious belief. I don’t feel that I need it to cope with or explore life.
  • All religions are all man-made
  • All religions are the same
  • Religions all have the same goal, to make people act morally
  • Religions all have the same goal, to make civilization survive
  • Belief is when you suspend critical thinking because you want, so much, for something to be true. That’s not very grown up, is it?
  • Evolution shows that a Creator and Designer aren’t needed to explain life
  • The world operates according to natural laws. Even if Creator God, no obvious mechanism how this Creator can communicate with people.
  • Progress of science, naturalistic explanations of natural phenomena
  • The hiddenness of God
  • There is too much moral evil and suffering in the world
  • The suffering in the world makes me wonder whether God is good, even if he existed
  • I don’t a reason why God would allow certain instances of suffering
  • The plurality of religions, and the way your religion is set by where you were born
  • God is unknowable because he is non-material, eternal, etc.
  • I don’t find the scientific arguments from the big bang and fine-tuning arguments convincing because science changes all the time
  • I don’t to drop my own personal moral standard and purpose and exchange it for anyone’s else’s
  • As long as people are good, then then they should not be punished in Hell for an eternity
  • Biblical contradictions
  • Bible outdated
  • I don’t like the idea of Hell
  • Religion is not testable
  • There is no empirical evidence
  • Canonization was done by the victors at Nicea
  • Religious believers are not significantly more moral than non-believers

Question 5: What is the ontology of moral values and moral duties? [Individual relativism: 8] [Cultural relativism: 2] [Objective: 0]

  • Subjective. The standard varies by each individual. What we ought to do is whatever we want to do.
  • Subjective/Cultural. The standard varies by each culture’s evolved social conventions. What we ought to do is to do whatever the majority of the people are doing in the society we live in. Morality is like driving/traffic laws, just do what is right for where you live
  • Subjective. Abstract values can only exist in brain states of individual people
  • Subjective. They reflect properties of the mind. They can be codified as law and custom.
  • Subjective. Moral values are ideas that get passed from person to person.
  • Subjective/Cultural. They don’t exist. What does exist is a social contract that we make with each other so that we might have a better life.
  • Subjective. Morality exists in our minds and, given what we know about our animal cousins, likely evolved in us as a means to ensure group cooperation and safety.
  • Subjective. Moral and ethical values appear to be properties of minds (which are themselves physical entities with complicated causal explanations).

Question 6: Does your worldview ground free will, which is required for consciousness, rationality, moral judgments, moral choices and moral responsibility? [NO: 8] [YES: 0]

  • There isn’t any
  • I don’t know
  • No good evidence for free will, and people do what they do because of genes and environment. Still, to the extent that we can change our environment, it’s worthwhile to create an environment that deters atrocities.
  • There is no free will.
  • I do not think the concept of “free will” is logically coherent.
  • I don’t think that there is such a thing as free will – not in the sense that you mean anyway.

Question 7: Is there a way for you to rationally persuade an atheist dictator to grant you mercy? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • There is no way
  • I would be pleading for my life for the sake of life itself, or if I had dependents, I would ask to be spared for their sake.
  • It would be pretty pointless wouldn’t it? When bad people do things for their own good you can’t persuade them to do otherwise.
  • Would point out that international sanctions might get tighter if Kim commits atrocity
  • I don’t know
  • There’s no way to get mercy from an atheist who wishes to harm you and does not fear human reprisal.
  • I would probably ask what he wants from me to spare my life.

Question 8: Is it rational for you to risk your life to save a stranger? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • It would be an emotional or intuitive decision. Not a time for rational calculation.
  • Self-sacrificial acts are not rational on atheism, there is no reason to do it
  • No
  • Self-sacrifice isn’t necessarily rational, but not everything an atheist does has to be purely rational.
  • I use happiness in more of an Aristotelian sense.  Happiness is not something that I necessarily feel at this very moment.  I know that I would feel bad if the little girl died, but it would be more than just immediate feelings.
  • I behave in a way that I hope others will. It works pretty well most of the time.

Question 9: Could you condemn slavery in a society where it was accepted, on rational grounds? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • No. I do not believe in praise and blame and judging others. I would not try to persuade them for fear of repercussions, up to and including my death at their hands
  • I would not because slavery is the custom of that society. Each society has different customs, and slavery is their custom. If I moved there, I would not oppose it because I would get used to it
  • Would use evidence that all people are basically similar neurologically, and ask slaveowners to empathize with enslaved. Might work with Thomas Jefferson.
  • I don’t know
  • No but I personally oppose suffering
  • I can oppose slavery by merely opposing slavery.  True, moral subjectivism does not provide an objective basis for deciding the question of slavery, in and of itself.
  • If I traveled back into time then it would be me who traveled.  So I would oppose slavery.  If I were born into that time period, it would be different.
  • I would argue that people deserve the right to be free from slavery because I think that’s a good idea.
  • I wouldn’t “use” atheism as it doesn’t come with any particular tenets or morals or behavioral requirements.
  • I would oppose slavery because I would *want* to, not because I think there’s some extrinsic reason I ought to.

Question 10: Is there ultimate significance for acting morally or not? I.e. – does it affect your or anyone else’s destination if you act morally or not? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • There is no ultimate significance
  • Acting morally makes life easier
  • Too long after I’m dead for me to care about.
  • It always matters to maximize my happiness now. I don’t care what happens in 20 billion years.
  • There’s a preceding question that hardly ever gets asked. “Is there a meaning to life?” I don’t think there is.

Question 11: Is there an objective purpose to life, (or does each person decide for themselves)? [NO: 10] [YES: 0]

  • Mine is to feel good about myself and to feel respected by others.
  • Mine is to enjoy it. I’d hope that I go about it in a way that doesn’t interfere with others enjoyment and that when it does we can compromise.
  • Mine is to relieve inordinate suffering, while leaving room for constructive suffering that lead to creativity and progress. Based on empathy.
  • Mine is to help the species survive by having lots of children, because that lasts after you die
  • Each person decides for themselves. My purpose is to have happy feelings
  • My purpose is to have happy feelings by doing what most of the other people are doing and avoiding social disapproval
  • I have no “objective” purpose. I do what I can to be happy, all things considered.
  • To live as contented as possible. To find answers to big questions. To prepare my children for adulthood. I chose these things because that’s what I like. I don’t care what another’s purpose is as long as they don’t harm anyone.
  • My purpose is to seek happiness while doing no harm (or as little harm as is it may be possible to do) for as long as I’m alive. Of course it’s just my own purpose – I can’t presume to choose another’s purpose. That being said, I do presume everyone has more or less the same goal of happiness and fulfillment, but the precise methods of going about it are always going to vary from person to person.
  • I want to be happy. I generally like other people, and I want them to be happy too.

Question 12: Would you follow (and how would you follow) Jesus at the point where it became clear to you that Christianity was true? [NO: 7] [YES: 2]

  • I have no idea
  • I would not follow. My own goals are all that I have, and all that I would continue to have in that unlikely situation. I would not yield my autonomy to anyone no matter what their authority to command me
  • I would not follow, because God doesn’t want humans to act any particular way, and he doesn’t care what we do
  • I would not follow. Head is spinning. Would go to physician to find out if hallucinating.
  • If I found there was no trickery? I’d have to change my mind wouldn’t I! Not really likely though is it?
  • I would keep doing what I am doing now, acting morally. That’s what all religions want anyway. (In response to my triumphant scribbling, he realized he had fallen into a trap and changed his answer to the right answer) Oh, wait. I would try to try to find out what Jesus wanted and then try to do that.
  • I hope I would be courageous enough to dedicate my life to rebellion against God.
  • I would not have to change anything unless forced to and all that would change is my actions not my values.  I would certainly balk at someone trying to force me to change my behavior as would you if you were at the mercy of a moral objectivist who felt that all moral goodness is codified in the Koran.
  • He would have to convince me that what he wants for me is what I want for me.

Question 13: What would be the hardest adjustment you would have to make to live a faithful, public Christian life?

  • I don’t know
  • It would not be that big of a change for me. I already act morally, I’m already public about my beliefs, and I don’t care what people think about what I believe. I don’t mind disagreeing with people and being unpopular for it. I think the 10 commandments are good. I could find out what to do and start doing those things.
  • I would not be able to believe in miracles, so there would be cognitive dissonance
  • Sacrificing my personal moral standards to take up a standard from a book that is very old and outdated
  • The most difficult would be the fact that I believe something without good evidence.
  • I work many hours a week for institutions and organizations that are charitable. I’m certainly not going to swap those for hours for “prayer time” and waste them.
  • I would certainly balk at someone trying to force me to change my behavior as would you if you were at the mercy of a moral objectivist who felt that all moral goodness is codified in the Koran. Obviously, it is possible that if I became a Christian, then I would have different values then I have now.
  • The most difficult thing would be trying to believe the ridiculous claims of Christianity. As for what a Christian finds difficult, how would I know?
  • I could never obey God from gratitude and love, only from servility inspired by fear and cowardice. I do not see myself as servile, fearful or cowardly, and to behave in such a manner would injure my self-esteem and self-image.

To my atheist interviewees: Thank you for giving me these answers. I will be commenting on them shortly, and posted my own answers.

Bear in mind: It does not matter to me whether you can do something irrationally by an act of will, (supposing that you could even have free will on a materialistic, deterministic universe). I only cared whether you could give a rational argument based on evidence. When the chips are down, people act on what is rational to them.

UPDATE: Hot Air on the atheism agenda.

Should atheists or Christians be blamed for communism’s 100 million deaths?

UPDATE: Welcome readers from the the Western Experience! Thanks for the link, Jason!

I have had some atheist commenters lately. Initially, I try to post a provocative article to attract them, and then I make a conscious effort to be polite as they challenge my initial post. Recently, I had this exchange with a commenter called Robert, and I thought this was worth posting to see what you all thought of my style. Was I too mean?

I think it’s important that angry atheists who want to blame God for atrocities should actually know what God is like, as revealed in the Bible, and especially in the life of Jesus. For that topic, check out a post by Neil, on 4Simpsons blog, that expresses the problem that I am trying to resolve below.

Here is the initial post that generated the challenge, which talks about who is more responsible for the mass murders of communism: Christians Or atheists? (By the way, I see that Chad, on Truthbomb Apologetics, has posted a breakdown of the numbers murdered and who did the murdering)
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Here is Robert’s first rebuttal:


Communism did not arise from atheism. In fact, some of the first communists were Christians, and there are even Christian communists today. Communism actually owes an intellectual debt to Christians and the Bible. You can read more in my article on atheism and communist atrocities found here. More articles debating Christian apologists Dinesh D’Souza and Dr. David Aikman can be found at my site too (yes, these guys actually responded to me).

It’s interesting you quote Dr. Rummel as a source for your views. Do you know what else he wrote?

Q: Is atheism the principal factor in democide, such as that committed by the “Big Three,” Stalin, Mao, and Hitler?

A: No. I find that religion or its lack – atheism – have hardly anything to do in general with wide-scale democide. The most important factor is totalitarian power. Whether a church, atheists, or agnostics have that power is incidental – it is having the power that is a condition of democide. Incidentally, some ideologies, such as communism, function psychologically and sociologically as though a religion. The only distinction is whether the subject is a god or a man, such as Marx, Lenin, Hirohito, Hitler, Mohammed, Kim Ill sung, Mao, etc.

Your view is explicitly debunked by the very scholar you use to support it.
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And here is my reply:


I trust Rummel’s numbers, not his personal opinions about the numbers. All totalitarian systems that murdered massive numbers of people have been atheistic, because the content of the worldview (materialism) does not forbid it. Atheism does not have a ground for human rights, human dignity, etc. The content of the worldview makes the murders possible.

Communism is a system of economics built upon materialist atheism. No Christian can believe in atheism, the two are mutually exclusive. Marx himself wrote about atheism and he was an aggressive atheist. His economic views emerged directly from his metaphysics. That is why Marx wrote that “religion is the opium of the people”, while the New Testament says that if a man does not work, neither shall he eat. The New Testament values private, voluntary charity. Marx values redistribution of wealth by a fascist state.

Here is a citation from a communist web site:

In the body of his study Marx pointed out that: “The proofs of the existence of God are either mere hollow tautologies… all proofs of the existence of God are proofs of his non-existence.” (Marx, The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, 1841, MECW 1.)

…In 1841 Marx and Bauer planned to publish a radical philosophical periodical, Archives of Atheism. The views of some contemporaries give some indication of the scope of their project.

Arnold Ruge wrote: “Bruno Bauer, Karl Marx, Christiansen and Feuerbach are forming a new montagne and are making atheism their slogan. God, religion, immortality are cast down from their thrones and man is proclaimed God.

And Georg Jung wrote to Ruge: “If Marx, Bruno Bauer and Feuerbach associate to found a theological-philosophical review, God would do well to surround himself with all the angels and indulge in self-pity, for these three will certainly drive him out of his heaven… For Marx, at any rate, the Christian religion is one of the most immoral there is.” (David McLellan, Marx before Marxism, 1970)

Flowing from his atheism, Marx opposed organised religion and the role of religion in politics. A flavour of Marx’s attitude can be gleaned from his journalism at the time.

…in “The Leading Article” in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung (1842), Marx accused the Prussian state of disseminating Christian dogma, criticised the police and the censor for protecting religion and insisted that no distinction should be made between religion as belief and the religious establishment. (MECW 1)

Robert’s comment gives me a chance to plug Jay Richards’ new book from Harper-Collins. Now Jay Richards is a Princeton educated theologian and philosopher, who writes advanced books about the nature of God. Whatever he says about whether Christianity is more compatible with capitalism or communism should be considered authoritative for Christians. His specialty is explaining what is and is not compatible with orthodox Christianity, and he is the best.

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Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem

Does capitalism promote greed? Can a person follow Jesus’s call to love others and also support capitalism? Was our recent economic crisis caused by flaws inherent to our free market system? Jay Richards presents a new approach to capitalism, revealing how it’s fully consistent with Jesus’s teachings and the Christian tradition, while also showing why this system is our best bet for renewed economic vigor.

The church is bombarded with two competing messages about money and capitalism:

* wealth is bad and causes much of the world’s suffering
* wealth is good and God wants you to prosper and be rich

Richards exposes these myths, and other common misconceptions about capitalism, and reveals the surprising ways that capitalism is, in fact, the best system to respond to the biblical mandates of alleviating poverty and protecting the environment. Money, Greed, and God equips readers to take practical steps in their own lives to conduct business, worship God, and serve others without falling into the “prosperity gospel” trap.

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You can listen to a good lecture featuring Jay Richards on the agreement between Christianity and capitalism here.

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And don’t forget agnostic historian/sociologist Rodney Stark’s book: “The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success“.

So, I think you’re mistaken. What is that noise I hear? The theme from Jaws? Oh, my God! Run! It’s ECM! He’s coming for you!

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And here is Commenter ECM, who is a deist:


Communism did not arise from atheism.

I’d say he makes a more compelling argument than you do, unless we’re supposed to simply take you at your word.

In fact, some of the first communists were Christians, and there are even Christian communists today.

Wow, no kidding: you’re telling me that in a day and age when Christianity was as ubiquitous as the preening of religious atheists on the Internet that some of them might just be Christians? Wow, my mind is, like, totally blown.

Of course there is the sticky points that WK makes and the simple fact that, based on the quotes below (and writings and beliefs) of the arch-priests of communism that the two are painfully and obviously mutually-exclusive but, hey, you’re making a point here…I think…so to hell with intellectual honesty.

Communism actually owes an intellectual debt to Christians and the Bible. You can read more in my article on atheism and communist atrocities found here.

Again, so what? Most of the philosophies in human history owe a debt, no matter how potentially perverse, to the ones that came before and is, generally, what one might call ‘progress.’ (Though i’ll be the first to admit that ‘progress’ isn’t a good unto itself.) As a key example, does it bother you that science, as we understand it, owes a tremendous debt to Christianity, i.e. it wouldn’t exist in the terms we comprehend without its influence.?

More articles debating Christian apologists Dinesh D’Souza and Dr. David Aikman can be found at my site too (yes, these guys actually responded to me).

And (again!) so what? What does that have to do with what you’re arguing here? I mean, other than self-promotion and/or auto-ego stroking.

With all that said, though, I figured I’d pull some quotes from the leading lights on communism to show the depths of their tolerance and belief in religion and how that might make Christian communists (whatever they are) sorely confused at best and devious liars using Christianity as a foil to make converts at worst:

Marx:


The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is indeed the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Lenin:


Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives rise to the belief in a better life after death as impotence of the savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labor of others are taught by religion to practice charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.

Mao Zedong:

But, of course, religion is poison. It has two great defects. It undermines the race (and) retards the progress of the country. Tibet and Mongolia have been poisoned by it.

(Note: having read several of your blog posts, I am fairly certain you would agree with the statement ‘religion is poison’, yes? Incidentally, this is why most blogs like this one require comment moderation: far too many religious atheists are unable to be civil and decent in debate, even when they are busily assuring the rest of us that they have lots of “empathy” for those with which they disagree.)

Anyway, those are just a few of the big-time communists (you can, I’m sure, dig up more from, say, monsters like Pol Pot and Stalin) and how they view religion and not a one of them has a kind word for it. It’s also painfully clear that communism sees relgiion as an arch-rival that must be stomped out of existence with extreme prejudice, and that one of the pillars of communism is, obviously (yes, obviously), rabid, blood-thirsty, atheism–how anyone that’s read the Communist Manifesto or the writings and speeches of any number of communist leaders could believe otherwise calls into question the intellectual honesty of the individual in question.

Interview with the atheist, part 1: the questions

UPDATE: The answers are posted here.

Recently, I have been writing about morality on atheism. In one post, I contrasted the moral behavior of a consistent, authentic Christian, William Wilberforce, with the moral behavior of a consistent, authentic non-Christian Darwinist, Adolf Hitler. In another post, I engaged an atheist commenter about who is really responsible for the mass murders in history. And the post on British novelist A. N. Wilson’s recent return to Christian faith which was partly due to his discovery of the objective moral law.

I decided to interview my atheist friends about God and morality. Yes, I have atheist friends, and yes, they read the blog, and yes, they know the Wintery Knight’s true identity. So, I arranged some lunch meetings with them, and I asked them, and recorded their responses. Later on, I will be posting their replies and my comments about their replies, then some general comments about the Christian Life.

Who is safe to talk to?

In this post, I am going to explain to you clearly how to engage your atheist friends on these issues. But be careful. Some atheists have fascist tendencies – when they feel offended, some of them want to bring state to bear against those who make them feel bad. Atheists struggle with morality, it just doesn’t sit well on their worldview, even though they sense God’s law on their hearts, like we do.

If you want some advice about who to avoid, e-mail me. The easiest way to see if the person is safe, is to ask them for reasons why someone might accept positions that they don’t hold. Ask them: “Why do people believe in God?”, “What’s good about capitalism?”, and “Why are people pro-life?” and so on. If you can’t hear any good reasons presented respectfully, then move on.

How to organize the engagement

My advice is to meet with the person one-on-one for lunch. Describe the questions, but don’t give them the list: 45 minutes is needed to get through all the questions below. You should buy their lunch. Try to convey to them that this will be a safe place for them to tell what they think, and that you will keep what they say in confidence. Explain that you will not be responding or arguing, just asking questions.

You should definitely pray about it beforehand. Ask God to help you to keep calm. Ask him to help you not to be defensive. Also, it may help if you practice these questions on safe people, like family members, first. Yes, they are impossible to persuade, but they won’t be as inclined to censor you. You need to practice hearing views you don’t agree with, and saying the words “I’m sorry!” if you offend someone.

What are the questions to ask?

Below are the questions I used last week in the 5 interviews I did so far. I have more interviews scheduled this week with an agnostic and an atheist, so I may use different questions.

1) Do you believe that the universe was brought into being out of nothing by a person (agent)? Is it possible that this agent could communicate to us, or that we could discover something about that agent? (i.e. – does God exist, is he knowable)

2) Explain to me in which religion you were raised by your parents, if any. How did your parents approach religion in the home? (strict, lax, etc.)

3) What events in your past affected your beliefs about God’s existence and knowability? (e.g. – I studied biology, comparative religions or anthropology, or I met a girl I liked)

4) What are your main objections to belief in God’s existence and knowability today? (e.g – suffering, pluralism, hiddenness)

5) This salt shaker (grab salt shaker and brandish it in a non-threatening way) exists because it is made of matter and occupies space. What is the mode of existence of moral values and moral duties, on atheism? Where do they exist, and what do they exist as? (e.g. – in people’s minds, as descriptions of behavior, in God’s mind)

6) Free will is required in order for humans to act in ways that are morally responsible. You cannot assign praise or blame to anyone if they do not have free will. What is the rationale for free will on atheism? If there is no free will, on what grounds can atheists praise or condemn any behavior? (free will means the ability to act or not act)

7) Suppose you are an atheist journalist writing a story in atheistic North Korea in which you criticize the atheist leader Kim Jong Il. His secret police  burst through the front door of your apartment and drag you off you a torture chamber. You are told that you are about to be personally executed by the dictator himself. On what basis would you plead for your life, on atheism? (i.e. – how would you persuade a powerful atheist to do right)

8) Suppose that you are strolling along the river in the winter, and you cross a bridge. Suddenly, you hear shouts for help coming from the icy water below. A little girl has fallen in the water and will die in minutes unless you jump in. There is no one else around to save her. You have no relatives/dependents. You can swim. There is an even chance that you will both die if you try to save her. Do you try? How is this rational on your worldview? (i.e. – how is self-sacrifice rational on atheism)

9) Suppose you travel back in time to the United Kingdom, when slavery is still legal! You meet William Wilberforce. He says that he has been battling slavery hard for 20 years, on the basis of Christian convictions, but that today he wants to let you try it in his place. On atheism, on what rational grounds could you try to persuade them? (If they say yes, ask them if they are pro-life and what they have done to support the pro-life movement)

10) Consider the heat death of the universe, which is the theory that the amount of usable energy is going to run out at some point in the finite future, as it disperses in space. On atheism, what is the ultimate significance of your moral decisions? How does it does it affect your fate, or the fate of anyone else you act on ultimately? What does it matter to you and to the species ultimately whether you act morally or not? (i.e. – how do your good and evil actions change where you and everyone else ends up?)

11) What is your purpose in life, and why did you choose that purpose? Is it just yours, or for everyone else too?

12) Suppose Jesus appeared to us right now and addressed you directly with the following words: “I’m really here and you need to follow me in order to flourish and achieve the goal for which I created you”. He then glares suspiciously at me, snatches a few fries from my plate, eats them, and then disappears. Later on, the Ghostbusters show up and confirm that Jesus was no ghost, but really God stepping into history. And everyone in the restaurant saw and heard exactly what you and I saw and heard. How would you proceed? How would you find out what to do? (i.e. – the atheist now knows Christianity is true, and I want to see what they think they should do in order to act like a Christian)

13) What would be the most difficult thing about becoming a Christian for you? Would it be the moral demands? The demands on your time? The unpopularity, humiliation and persecution that you would face? How would you feel about publicly declaring your allegiance for Christ and facing the consequences? (i.e. – they have become a Christian, what is the most difficult adjustment from your current life?)

Your assignment

If you are an atheist, please go ahead and answer the questions, and e-mail your answers to me. Don’t leave a comment, use e-mail. This is not about winning and losing, it is about promoting understanding between two opposing teams. I will post non-polemical atheist responses as separate blog posts, and link to your blog if you have one. Answers must be 1-2 lines, at most.

If you are a Christian, start practicing these questions on your safe or Christian friends, and write down their answers. Read the materials below and understand the arguments. Then interview some of your atheist friends and write down their answers. Send me the results of your interviews and I will post them as separate blog posts. Send me any other questions you think of, too!

NOTE: If I interviewed you and you didn’t get all these questions, e-mail me your response to the ones I missed and I’ll add your reply to the list. But you can’t change the answers you already gave!

Atheists: come up with your own list of difficult questions and send them to me. I will post my replies in a separate blog post and link to your blog. Your questions should expose my weaknesses, but not be insulting. This is getting to know each other, it’s not the time for snarkiness. I am doing an interview series on Christians in a couple of weeks, and I may include your questions in my list.

Debates on atheism and morality

My summary of the William Lane Craig (of Biola) vs Shelly Kagan (of Yale) debate at Columbia University on the topic “Is God Necessary for Morality?” is here.

Here are some prior debates on the rationality of morality on atheism.

  1. From Christianity Today, a written debate: Douglas Wilson vs. Christopher Hitchens
  2. From the University of Western Ontario, a transcript of a public debate: William Lane Craig vs. Kai Nielsen
  3. From Schenectady College, a transcript of a public debate: William Lane Craig vs Richard Taylor
  4. From Franklin & Marshall College, William Lane Craig vs. Paul Kurtz (audio, video1, video2, video3, video4, video5, video6, video7)
  5. From the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, William Lane Craig vs. Louise Antony (audio1, audio2, video1, video2)

Further study

A good paper by Bill Craig on the problem of rationally-grounding prescriptive morality is here. My previous posts on this blog on this topic are here and here. The first one is about whether atheists can use an ungrounded, arbitrary standard to judge God for his “moral failures”, the second (better) one is on why the concept of morality is not rationally grounded on atheism.

Who is more responsible for the mass murders of history? Christians or atheists?

This is presented as an exchange with one of my commenters in response to the story about the nurse in the UK who was suspended who offending a patient by asking to pray for the patient.

Here is the initial post, provocative, but regular atheist readers know that I am a lamb, and this is just a trick to get first-time atheists to comment so that I can engage them.


Here is the first rebuttal from the challenger:

1) I have never read so much rubbish as I just have. Are you seriously saying that Atheists are responsible for the deaths of millions of people and yet you include none of the religions whose wars have led to countless more deaths?

2) [Wintery Knight paraphrases]: What did Christians do to stop Hitler in WW2?

3) [Wintery Knight paraphrases]: But isn’t Christianity supportive of wars of aggression such as conducted by Germany in WW2?

4) There have been many good and bad, of faiths and of no faith yet so worried are you by the simple wish of some people to have church and state separated that you use half truths, leave out pertinent facts or omit them altogether. Some of you will even lie.

If that is the face of your christianity, then it is of little wonder that people turn away from it, either by finding another faith or by having no faith at all.

5) Your example of the nurse above, mentions nothing of the fact that she was asked by the patient to stop and or that she has a record of trying to impose her beliefs on those who wish to have none of it or are content with their own faith and have no need or desire for the zealotry displayed by this woman or indeed for others who feel they have a right to inflict their views on others.


And my first rebuttal:

Thanks for your comment. Sorry I had to edit your comment a bit, I hope I didn’t change the meaning of what you said. Now don’t be too unhappy, with me, let’s have a dialog, at least for a bit.

Here’s my response:

1) Here’s my source for the 100 million deaths due to communism, an atheist system that represses free expression of faith. I can provide you with citations of atheist leaders in communist countries explaining how war flowed from their atheist views that the universe is an accident and humans are just animals and morality is a sham. I am only interested in defending Christianity, so for this point I need you to give me the list of wars started for specifically Christian reasons, and then show me in the Bible where Jesus sanctions these wars. I also need a body count for each war in your list. You can include a body count for the Inquisitions and the witch trials, as well. Thanks.

2) On atheism, where is the moral standard that allows you criticize what the Nazis did? Let me help. Is it your personal opinion? Or is it the evolved standard in place in your culture at this time? Or is it an objective standard that governs any culture at any time in history? I need to know what you mean by right and wrong, on atheism, before I answer the charge. Next, please find for me the part in the Bible where Jesus urges his followers to engage in wars of aggression and genocide.

3) Again, I need an explanation, on atheism, for why wars of aggression are wrong, then the Bible verse that shows where Jesus supports wars of aggression and genocide. These things are not forbidden on atheism, (nothing is), but they are forbidden in Christianity.

4) Again, on atheism, what do you mean by good and bad? Also, we do not have an official church in the USA, so we do have separation of church and state. How do you think that separation of church and state should limit the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech and to freedom of religious expression? In short, why do your unhappy feelings justify the removal of fundamental human rights, rights that are grounded in God, and not grounded anywhere on atheism, I might add.

5) What do you mean when you say that the nurse was imposing her beliefs? Do you mean that speaking freely to people should be controlled by the state? If not, how do you propose to prevent people from speaking freely about whatever they wish?

Thanks. Take it easy, we’ve got time.


And her second rebuttal:

Well, I’m disappointed that you felt a need to rewrite my original email but I can’t say I’m too surprised.

I’m sorry, but when you said you had sources for the hundred million deaths caused by Atheism, I thought it would more than just a website sponsored by a discredited former U.S. President whose actions have led to the deaths of many of his fellow countrymen and women but also to thousands of Iraqis and who has postured on the world stage but done nothing for humanity.

You ask me for proof of wars started for specifically christian reasons. Well, I could start with the second Roman invasion of Britain, which also included most of Western Europe. Not a nice time to be an unbeliever of any sort, unlike during the first Romano invasion. We can then move on to the Crusades and the invasion of the Arab nations there with the subsequent savagery that attended them. Next? How about the Spanish Armada and the French/Spanish war with Britain based purely because one of our kings fell out with the catholic religion, and we should surely remember the Spanish Inquisition, that was a nasty little war all in itself.

Let’s see, we’ve got the British civil war, again, over religion. I’m ignoring wars in Europe that don’t directly affect the UK, by the way. But let’s not forget the Spanish invasion of South America and the mindless violence that erupted from that. Or indeed, the murder of thousands of North American Indians, all done with the blessing of the church. Two examples which could justly be called Holocausts.

We have various wars with Europe after that, but mostly over Empire (but yet again, an endeavour vigorously encouraged by the church) until we come to the Great War where it was your christian duty to fight the hun as much as it was your christian duty to fight the French/British/American troops, moving swiftly on to the second Great War, where Hitler’s troops invaded Europe, sent millions to the camps, all with the motto “Gott mitt uns” giving the delusion that their “work” would be approved by a higher authority and all the while, the church, either protestant or catholic did nothing. How many dead is that? Who knows but even Stalin’s excesses are reckoned to be around the 20 million mark, leaving 80 million others according to your figures. I very much doubt China lost eighty million during the Chinese Revolution.

There have been various smaller atrocities around the world, all in the name of religion. You ask me to show you in the bible where jesus specifically sanctions these wars. Why should I need to do that, it’s your religion, and others, that have caused these wars and it has been the interpretation of those biblical words which have caused so much harm in this world. I don’t need to specify anything, you need to defend your argument about the interpretations based on this book of your god. Mind you, what is your view on Gods instruction to Moses to go out and kill everything of the Amalekites? I believe that is in your bible.

As for asking me to provide specific casualty details, well, I think asking me to provide the casualty list for an invasion two thousand years ago is being a bit silly really, you know I can’t provide such a list any more than you can. There are, of course, estimates, such as those for the English Civil War in which it has been said the dead and injured equalled that of the Great War. But then, in the examples you quote, there aren’t specific casualty lists, only approximations.

As for Atheism, why shouldn’t atheists have as good a knowledge of right and right as any one else, such as Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus or even Christians. You don’t have to be a christian or be religious at all to be aware of a moral code which embraces right and wrong. Again, I fail to see why I should provide you with quotes in the bible where people are urged to wage war, if there are any, again, you know as well as I do that the interpretation of that book by its readers who use it as the sole authority on what’s right and wrong, go out and do harm. I doubt very much there are any parts of the bible where it says go out and torture to death all those who do not believe but that’s the very thing which was done in your gods name during the Spanish Inquisition and by others throughout history. You know this, yet you argue that it doesn’t happen. I find it quite odd.

As for the nurse, she was asked by the patient not to pray or proselytise yet she ignored that specific request. She had the right to speak freely, and still does, but when a person is asked not to do something and that person ignores that request, then you are not speaking freely, your are impinging on another persons rights and no matter what your belief, you don’t have that right.

Now, ‘m pretty sure, that you will alter this reply as you did my first post into something that fits your particular world view of atheism and Christianity but all it will show me, is that your faith in religion is so fragile, that you feel you have to shield it from any fully justified criticism. As others of your ilk do, the truth will be distorted, facts will be omitted or presented in a poor light and you will think you have done the will of your god. You will, of course, have done nothing of the kind, unless your god is a cruel vindictive being which you claim he isn’t.

For me, all this nonsense about militant atheism and religion under attack is puerile and arrant nonsense. The hierarchy of the various churches see their comfortable positions under threat from a congregation now doing a bit more than just turning up and kneeling and are trying to cloud the issue with a smokescreen about how their religion is under attack. Which it isn’t.


And my second rebuttal:

Atheism’s record

Here is R.J. Rummel, a professor of political science at University of Hawaii:

With this understood, the Soviet Union appears the greatest megamurderer of all, apparently killing near 61,000,000 people. Stalin himself is responsible for almost 43,000,000 of these. Most of the deaths, perhaps around 39,000,000 are due to lethal forced labor in gulag and transit thereto. Communist China up to 1987, but mainly from 1949 through the cultural revolution, which alone may have seen over 1,000,000 murdered, is the second worst megamurderer. Then there are the lesser megamurderers, such as North Korea and Tito’s Yugoslavia.

Obviously the population that is available to kill will make a big difference in the total democide, and thus the annual percentage rate of democide is revealing. By far, the most deadly of all communist countries and, indeed, in this century by far, has been Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and his crew likely killed some 2,000,000 Cambodians from April 1975 through December 1978 out of a population of around 7,000,000. This is an annual rate of over 8 percent of the population murdered, or odds of an average Cambodian surviving Pol Pot’s rule of slightly over just over 2 to 1.

In sum the communist probably have murdered something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987. Of course, the world total itself it shocking. It is several times the 38,000,000 battle-dead that have been killed in all this century’s international and domestic wars. Yet the probable number of murders by the Soviet Union alone–one communist country– well surpasses this cost of war. And those murders of communist China almost equal it.

Communism is a worldview that explicitly repudiates the truth of religion and the idea that man is created in the image of God. If God is dead, all things are permissible. Atheism, historically, has been the moral foundation for mass murder and genocide.

Christianity’s record

For all of your examples, no link to the Bible was even attempted. The assertions that wars were conducted for religious purposes was made, but not substantiated with a single piece of evidence.

I’ll help you again with a list. There are only a few areas where Christian doctrine appears to have been a factor:

– the Crusades (between 2 and 100 thousand according to Encarta, I say about 30 thousand)
– the Inquisition (about 2000 dead)
– the Salem witch trials (about 25 dead)

I won’t worry too much about the 25 dead from the witch trials. Let’s take a closer look at the others with the help of Dinesh D’Souza, who has sustained these points in debates against Hitchens and other prominent atheists:

The Crusades:

“The Crusades were a belated and necessary Christian enterprise to block Islamic invasion and conquest. Remember that before Islam, virtually the entire Middle East was Christian. Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Jordan—these areas were predominantly Christian. The Muslims conquered the region, and then Muslim armies invaded Europe, conquering parts of Italy and virtually all of Spain, which the Muslims ruled for nearly 700 years. The Muslims over-ran the Balkans and were at the gates of Vienna. Edward Gibbon, no friend of Christianity, says that if the Christians hadn’t fought back then, today at Oxford and Cambridge—and by extension Harvard and Duke—we’d all be studying the teachings of Muhammad in the Arabic language. Western civilization, then called Christendom, was mortally threatened. The Crusades, for all their excesses, helped to prevent this disastrous outcome.”

The Inquistions:

“Well, the best scholarship on the Inquisition shows that approximately 2,000 people were killed by the Spanish Inquisition over a period of 350 years. I would never apologize for the Inquisition, which I think represented a terrible strain in late-medieval Christianity. I am glad that Christianity is different now, and the closest thing you have to a religious inquisition today would be something like the regime of the ayatollahs in Iran. Still, how can you even compare the casualties of the Inquisition to those of the atheists’ regimes? Even a second-rate atheist despot like Pol Pot killed more people in a month than the Inquisition managed to do in three centuries.”

More on the Crusades here.

Do belt buckles on SS troops prove anything?

Here is a historical assessment by Dinesh of Hitler’s vicious hatred of Christianity. Also, I recently wrote a post where I contrasted the morality of an authentic Bible-believing Christian with an authentic Darwin-believing non-Christian. The morality you inherited today in the West is a morality left-over from the prominence of Christianity in the last few centuries. It is based on Christian ideas, and explicitly so, ideas that have NO GROUNDING on atheism.

Please explain to me how a 3-word inscription on belt buckles undergirded Hitler’s wars of aggression, and explain the real record of his hatred of Christianity in his own actual writings. On your view, you would have to argue that Barack Obama is a Christian, because he claimed to be one. Don’t we actually have do some scholarly study to link external activities directly back to specific Biblical teachings in order to claim that there was a meaningful link? If I taught my parrot to claim to be a Christian in his speeches, would he also be a Christian?

What is the ground for a moral standard on atheism?

Again, you had nothing to say here because there is no standard of morality on atheism. None. Atheists do what they please. Indeed, that is the whole point of it – to rebel against morality. If you would like to try again to tell me where is the content and being of the atheist moral standard, I would be delighted to hear.

Until then, the moral language you use in praising this and condemning that is literally meaningless gibberish. There is no standard that you can use, on atheism, in order to praise or denounce anything in the world, past present and future. I offered you 3 alternatives for the source of the moral standard, you declined to answer. Answer the question, please. Where is this moral code that atheists follow? What is the reason for following it when it goes against their own self-interest? What does it matter, on atheism, whether atheists follow the moral code, or not?

Are you familiar with the concept of “heat death of the universe”. Eventually, the usable energy in the universe will run down and no life will be possible. This occurs whether atheists act one way or another. What does it matter for atheists ultimately if they act this way or that way? Is it not the case that what is rational, on atheism, is for atheists to simply do what pleases them most at any given moment? What reason is there, given the meaningless of life on atheism, for putting selfishness second and morality (and you need to point me to the atheist moral standard) first?

The nurse

If you ask someone to shut up, and they don’t shut up, do you then remove their means of earning a living? Do you imprison them? Do you torture them? Do you murder them? Do you remove their fundamental rights by means of state coercion?

Or, do you grow up and realize that in life you are going to hear things you disagree with and that is not a justification for destroying the fundamental liberties of individuals by imposing fascism on individual values.

This is where the impulse in atheism that justifies mass murder and genocide comes from. You feel strongly in the removal of the fundamental rights of those who disagree with you. The idea of tolerating other views seems wrong to you. Instead, atheism seems to bring out the fascist impulse, and you use the very means that you condemn in others against those who have different beliefs than you do. Show me where this idea is in atheistic prescriptions of morality. (I.e. – where is “you ought to love your enemies” on atheism?)

Here’s an idea: how about going out right now and finding the first evangelical Christian you meet and buying them lunch in order to listen to why they are a Christian and what it means to them? I did that 3 times with atheists this week, and will be posting the results of my interviews in a highly-anticipated series about what atheists think. All of these atheists are my personal friends, they know my real identity and could blow my cover at any time. Do you have any Christian friends that you love with all your heart? I do. Love for enemies is explicitly taught by Jesus in the Bible.

Conclusion

Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed responding to it. Please comment again soon, I won’t mind to hear your ideas. Differences of opinions are welcome here!

UPDATE: I gave her the last word here.

Contrasting the moral values of an authentic Christian with an authentic Darwinist

Let’s start with someone who acted consistently on the plain, intended meaning of the Christian worldview, as expressed in the New Testament.

The case of William Wilberforce, an authentic Christian

Consider this article from the Wall Street Journal about the abolitionist William Wilberforce.

In fact, William Wilberforce was driven by a version of Christianity that today would be derided as “fundamentalist.”

…William Wilberforce himself, as a student at Cambridge University in the 1770s and as a young member of Parliament soon after, had no more than a nominal sense of faith. Then, in 1785, he began reading evangelical treatises and underwent what he called “the Great Change,” almost dropping out of politics to study for the ministry until friends persuaded him that he could do more good where he was.

And he did a great deal of good…[h]is relentless campaign eventually led Parliament to ban the slave trade, in 1807, and to pass a law shortly after his death in 1833, making the entire institution of slavery illegal. But it is impossible to understand Wilberforce’s long antislavery campaign without seeing it as part of a larger Christian impulse. The man who prodded Parliament so famously also wrote theological tracts, sponsored missionary and charitable works, and fought for what he called the “reformation of manners,” a campaign against vice.

Even during the 18th century, evangelicals were derided as over-emotional “enthusiasts” by their Enlightenment-influenced contemporaries. By the time of Wilberforce’s “great change,” liberal 18th-century theologians had sought to make Christianity more “reasonable,” de-emphasizing sin, salvation and Christ’s divinity in favor of ethics, morality and a rather distant, deistic God. Relatedly, large numbers of ordinary English people, especially among the working classes, had begun drifting away from the tepid Christianity that seemed to prevail. Evangelicalism sought to counter such trends and to reinvigorate Christian belief.

…Perhaps the leading evangelical force of the day was the Methodism of John Wesley: It focused on preaching, the close study of the Bible, communal hymn-singing and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Central to the Methodist project was the notion that good works and charity were essential components of the Christian life. Methodism spawned a vast network of churches and ramified into the evangelical branches of Anglicanism. Nearly all the social-reform movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries–from temperance and soup kitchens to slum settlement houses and prison reform–owe something to Methodism and its related evangelical strains. The campaign against slavery was the most momentous of such reforms and, over time, the most successful. It is thus fitting that John Wesley happened to write his last letter–sent in February 1791, days before his death–to William Wilberforce. Wesley urged Wilberforce to devote himself unstintingly to his antislavery campaign, a “glorious enterprise” that opposed “that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature.” Wesley also urged him to “go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”

Wesley had begun preaching against slavery 20 years before and in 1774 published an abolitionist tract, “Thoughts on Slavery.” Wilberforce came into contact with the burgeoning antislavery movement in 1787, when he met Thomas Clarkson, an evangelical Anglican who had devoted his life to the abolitionist cause. Two years later, Wilberforce gave his first speech against the slave trade in Parliament.

…This idea of slaving as sin is key. As sociologist Rodney Stark noted in “For the Glory of God” (2003), the abolition of slavery in the West during the 19th century was a uniquely Christian endeavor. When chattel slavery, long absent from Europe, reappeared in imperial form in the 16th and 17th centuries–mostly in response to the need for cheap labor in the New World–the first calls to end the practice came from pious Christians, notably the Quakers. Evangelicals, not least Methodists, quickly joined the cause, and a movement was born.

William Wilberforce believed that slaves were made in the image of God – that they were embodied souls who could be resurrected to eternal life. Wilberforce believed that the purpose of human life is to freely seek God, and to be reconciled with God through Christ. He wanted all men and women to have the opportunity to investigate and respond to God’s self-revelation to them.

You can read more about Wilberforce’s beliefs here and his public activities here. And you can still see modern-day abolitionists, like Scott Klusendorf, consistently acting out their Christian convictions in the public square. Only today they’re called pro-lifers. By the way, like Wilberforce, I am also a Wesley-inspired Evangelical Protestant Christian. Hooah!

The case of Adolf Hitler, an authentic Darwinist

Now let’s take a look at the opposite of Wilberforce someone who despised and rejected Christianity entirely. Adolf Hitler was strongly influenced by the anti-Christian zealot, Nietzche, but also by Darwin’s evolutionary ideas such as human inequality, moral relativism, the non-existence of human rights, equality of humans with animals, denial of the soul, and survival of the fittest.

You can see the entire case presented by tenured professor of history at the University of California, Dr. Richard Weikart, in a lecture presented at the University of California at Santa Barbara, here:

Here’s the blurb on the lecture from the University of California Television web site:

First Aired: 11/15/2004
58 minutes

In his book, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (2004), Richard Weikart explains the revolutionary impact Darwinism had on ethics and morality. Darwinism played a key role in the rise not only of eugenics (a movement wanting to control human reproduction to improve the human species), but also on euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination. This was especially important in Germany, since Hitler built his view of ethics on Darwinian principles.

But for those who don’t like watching video lectures given by tenured professors, with nice Powerpoint slides, in front of a live audience of students and faculty, at a major university, then here is an article by secular Jew David Berlinksi writing in Human Events to give us the briefest of summaries of Weikart’s argument.

A little bio of David Berlinski:

David Berlinski received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and was later a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University. He has authored works on systems analysis, differential topology, theoretical biology, analytic philosophy, and the philosophy of mathematics, as well as three novels. He has also taught philosophy, mathematics and English at such universities as Stanford, Rutgers, the City University of New York and the Universite de Paris. In addition, he has held research fellowships at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES) in France.

He starts his Human Events piece like this:

Published in 1859, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species said nothing of substance about the origin of species. Or anything else, for that matter. It nonetheless persuaded scientists in England, Germany and the United States that human beings were accidents of creation. Where Darwin had seen species struggling for survival, German physicians, biologists, and professors of hygiene saw races.

They drew the obvious conclusion, the one that Darwin had already drawn. In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals. German scientists took the word expense to mean what it meant: The annihilation of less fit races.

…At Hitler’s death in May of 1945, the point was clear enough to the editorial writers of the New York Times. “Long before he had dreamed of achieving power,” they wrote, [Hitler] had developed the principles that nations were destined to hate, oppose and destroy one another; [and] that the law of history was the struggle for survival between peoples … ”.

Berlinski concludes by analyzing an answer given by Richard Dawkins to Ben Stein in the movie Expelled:

Would he care to live in a society shaped by Darwinian principles? The question was asked of Richard Dawkins.

Not at all, he at once responded.

And why not?

Because the result would be fascism.

In this, Richard Dawkins was entirely correct; and it is entirely to his credit that he said so.

The difference between consistent Christianity and consistent Darwinism is the difference between day and night. There is not now, nor will there ever be, an atheist Wilberforce. Atheists live their lives seeking pleasure and avoiding social disapproval, and they will never be able to consistently and rationally sacrifice their self-interest to oppose the fashions of their culture in obedience to a higher objective moral standard.

Atheists acknowledge no higher moral standard. If there is no God and the universe is an accident, then there is no way humans ought to be. The only thing to do in life is to invent your own arbitrary “morals” and hold to that, or not, (you do whichever gives you pleasure, since there no ultimate accountability one way or the other), while avoiding social disapproval for breaking the arbitrary cultural standard of your time and place. That’s atheist “morality”.

The moral character of a consistent Christian towers above the base animal selfishness of a consistent atheist like a Colossus towers over an ant. Atheists understand morality like a cat in a library, seeing the words, but lacking all understanding of their meaning.

Here is a quote I am stealing from the Anchoress to summarize: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

Other debates on atheism and morality

My summary of the William Lane Craig (of Biola) vs Shelly Kagan (of Yale) debate at Columbia University on the topic “Is God Necessary for Morality?” is here.

Here are some prior debates on the rationality of morality on atheism.

  1. From Christianity Today, a written debate: Douglas Wilson vs. Christopher Hitchens
  2. From the University of Western Ontario, a transcript of a public debate: William Lane Craig vs. Kai Nielsen
  3. From Schenectady College, a transcript of a public debate: William Lane Craig vs Richard Taylor
  4. From Franklin & Marshall College, William Lane Craig vs. Paul Kurtz (audio, video1, video2, video3, video4, video5, video6, video7)
  5. From the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, William Lane Craig vs. Louise Antony (audio1, audio2, video1, video2)

Further study

A good paper by Bill Craig on the problem of rationally-grounding prescriptive morality is here. My previous posts on this blog on this topic are here and here. The first one is about whether atheists can use an ungrounded, arbitrary standard to judge God for his “moral failures”, the second (better) one is on why the concept of morality is literally meaningless on atheism.