Religion, Religion, Wherefore Art Thou Religion?

Some of my readers may have noticed that when I argue against certain social positions, I do not invoke God or religion.  More specifically, when arguing for the pro-life position, or against abortion; or against same-sex marriage, I do not make appeals to God, the Bible, or religion to do so.  In fact, I rarely if ever reference the Bible when arguing against atheism.

I affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, properly understood.  I think Christianity is true and all other worldviews in-so-far as they diverge from Christianity, are false.  I believe Jesus when He said: Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins (John 8:24).  I greatly enjoy discussing theology, the Bible, Jesus, and religion in general.  So why would it be that someone who is so entrenched in his religious convictions, would write with such negligible reference to such convictions?

First, I think I ought to mention that I think such appeals to God and the Bible are not improper.  For if Christianity is in fact true, which I think it is, it is not wrong to argue from the Christian perspective using Christian infrastructure.  To ask the Christian to forgo the use of the Bible to make his case is merely the insistence that he adopt a view he doesn’t hold i.e., the Bible is not a valid source for truth.  It would be like demanding an attorney not use the law when defending his client.  Demanding that anyone deny their position, and adopt their opponent’s view before there can be a discussion is just rigging the game.  Skeptics tend to hold the mistaken belief that their views are correct from the outset (See: Win By Default), and thus, the theist must play by the skeptic’s rules.  I think this is one of the largest barriers in many discussions.  Too many people (on either side of an issue) believe they do not have to argue for their position, and that it is the responsibility of others to argue against it.

Omitting God and the Bible from my arguments disabuses opponents of the out-of-hand dismissal they are so used to employing when arguing with Christians.  Since many people on the pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage, and atheist positions hold the presumption Christianity is false, they will use any opportunity afforded to them to not have to argue the issues on their merits.  Presenting a pro-life or anti-same-sex marriage argument laced with religion only benefits my opponent.  They (wrongly) dismiss the entire argument because of the presence of religion — Eww, you got God on this argument, you need a new one.  Dismissals come in many forms: You’re just trying to force your religion! or, You’re trying to impose a theocracy! or the beloved Separation of church and state!  No matter what other points of substance you could offer, they all will be avoided.  If it’s from the Bible it’s out-of-bounds is removed from the their quiver and they are forced to deal with the merits of the argument made.

Moreover, there are many neutral non-religious people who do not have access to Christian arguments.  In other words, many people do not read the Bible or are not religiously inclined, so arguments made from the Bible are irrelevant as far as they are concerned.  If someone doesn’t grant the Bible authority, making an argument from the Bible will not further the discussion and will not move someone toward my view.  It would be like saying, Where I’m from… They are thinking, Well, I’m not from there so

For these reasons, I make my case by invoking God or religion as infrequently as possible.  Personally, I think it benefits everyone involved, especially onlookers.  It forces people to engage the ideas and not my religious convictions.  Sure, more often than not, my ideological opponents will remain firmly planted in their views.  But the prospect of someone on the fence about a particular issue who may be moved to my side is worth the effort.  Far too many people have an impression that if you want to be a Christian, you need to check your mind at the door.  Not fulfilling the stereo-typical Bible thumping Christian preaching at you helps the cause.

Comments

  1. @ John
    You said:

    Skeptics tend to hold the mistaken belief that their views are correct from the outset

    I think this hold true for everyone, not just skeptics. A famous samurai agreed with the author of Proverbs and said something similar.

    I think not quoting the Bible is useful (for the reasons you stated), the only down side is when your real reason for believing something is because the Bible said so and you believe in the authority of the Bible. At times like that, when reasons prove not enough, one should admit that your only real support is the Bible and not reason.

    You may not wish to feel you do that, but I am sure you can see fellow Christians doing it when they interpret the Bible differently than you.

  2. Marshall Art says:

    I find it amazing how often one who claims belief will be accused of ONLY holding a pro-life, pro-traditional marriage view because of their faith regardless of whether or not one appeals to faith. As you say, one needn’t mention religion at all to show the folly of the opposing positions. I once had a disagreement with a niece over her use of profanity and her guy-pals rushed to her defense, one of whom accused me of pushing me of being a Fundie even though I never once mentioned whether or not I was even a Christian. I was merely pointing out to her how dropping F-bombs is not very classy, and worse when taking the time to type it in caps on Facebook.

    At the same time, it’s amazing how all the proper and factual socio-political positions align so nicely with Biblical teaching.

  3. I take the same approach when dealing with non-Christians. Of course I’m ultimately interested in sharing the truths of the Bible, but I’m glad to stay on topic and debate important, potentially life-saving issues with the natural laws and logic God has given us. I’ve heard of pro-choicers who not only convert to pro-life but see the merits of Christianity as a worldview because of the way it lines up with reality.

    Plus, it is always fun when they accuse me of “forcing” my religion on them (they typically see from my blog that I’m a Christian). I point out that I haven’t used any religious arguments, though I’d be glad to share Jesus’ perspectives on the topic if they’d like.

    Then I ask if they think I must vote the opposite of my religious views. For example, the Bible teaches not to steal or murder, so must I oppose laws against murdering atheists and stealing their possessions? I also remind them that the 1st Amendment protects religious freedom and speech, it doesn’t restrict it.

  4. @ Marshall
    I often get accused of being Christian because I am prudish in certain moral regards. But then in Japan, where the dominate religion was Buddhism , they thought my prudishness was my Buddhism. Moral = religious to many folks, no matter how mistaken that is.

    @ Neil
    That was a weird last paragraph of yours:

    Then I ask if they think I must vote the opposite of my religious views. For example, the Bible teaches not to steal or murder, so must I oppose laws against murdering atheists and stealing their possessions?

    (1) The Bible (OT) does teach to steal and murder — especially non-believers.
    But that was not your point, of course.
    What were you trying to say?

  5. We all, I hope, believe that our worldview is correct and consistent, and I don’t begrudge someone who wants to express religious convictions. At the same time, as you and Neil have both argued in this post, the veracity of any worldview is the degree to which it is true where the “rubber meets the road”. If the only way to hold an opinion is by turning to scripture- all the worse then for that opinion.

    I have a problem with relying on a scriptural argument against abortion- because a) I know it is not necessary, and b) because the stakes are too high.
    I understand that to the Christian, bringing people to Jesus is the ultimate goal. The bible itself confirms that not all can be brought to Jesus in life. I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would be willing to gamble with lives in order to remain single mindedly focused on the Great Commission.

    @ Sabio,
    It is ridiculous to make a claim like you did in the last comment. The O.T. does not charge Christians or Jews with conquest. The examples you can provide are aimed, for better or for worse, at specific groups at specific times with specific orders. Your argument is as fallacious as claiming that because Texas has the death penalty, that murder is legal.
    Beyond that, the O.T. examples are a historic record of God’s chosen people and at no point does it give them carte blanche for barbarism and conquest. Pulling biblical verses out of context to win points is counterproductive when even a well read atheist knows you are full of shit- let alone on a Christian site.
    Just sayin’

  6. @ George W
    Thank you kindly for your generous evaluation.
    Yahweh, has in the past, at specific times ordered slaughtering innocents and specifically non-believers simply for not believing. This present dispensation only sees such revelations received by large Christian network personalities — according to them he still sends AIDS, hurricanes and earthquakes to kill and mame.

    Lots of fine Christians don’t buy into this at all, but some still do.
    “Just sayin'”
    Have a blessed day.

  7. I’m sorry Sabio,
    I forgot that I was supposed to be generous to fallacious arguments.

    Was I too rude? Maybe.
    Does that make your argument any more right?
    Not one bit.

  8. @ George W

    No need to be courteous — just depends on what you feel would be useful in the “dialogue” and what you want from it. You certainly have an excellent role model that throws over tables of the bad people in temples, so you might be standing on great ground.

    Anyway, the ‘argument’ was simply my reply to Neal who said:

    the Bible teaches not to steal or murder

    But I pointed out that Yahweh certainly told Jews not to kill Jews, but he had no problem killing many others by either commanding nature or man to do his work. I would think this is pretty non-controversial among most Christians (albeit they may not be fond of my wording).

    And the only reason I brought that up was that his last paragraph was confusing where he talking about “I oppose laws against murdering atheists and stealing their possessions.” We know there were OT commandments to kill non-believers, but I did not know what he was referring to.

    Hope that clarifies the “argument”.

    • God never ordered the killing of any innocents. God never ordered the killing of people because they were unbelievers. He ordered the killings of wholly morally depraved societies who were evil to their core who were unbelievers. Big difference.

  9. Yes Sabio,
    Jesus is my role model. John and Neil are gonna love that one……..
    I’m an atheist.
    I just don’t like bad arguments, wherever they come from. I come down hard on John all the time for tolerating some really bad arguments from people who otherwise agree with him- and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the pot to the kettle.
    I’m certainly not defending Neil- I’m telling you that you can’t argue against wrong with “wronger”.
    Fine. Here is your chance to give me the smackdown. Show your hand. Where are these Bible verses that say kill and steal from non-Jews. Make sure to just weed out the ones that are specific to one group (Canaanites, Tyre, etc.) as a one time command of God. Because those just won’t do. Those do not give Christians license to persecute outgroups- they only show that God is capable, when willing, to order his people to act for a time outside His normal Law. If it was His divine will to always persecute outgroups, He wouldn’t have to make a specific order, now, would He?
    Go.

  10. @ John:
    Have you ever lived in other countries? You don’t sound like it if you have. Have you ever known any country where EVERYONE in the society was “evil to their core”?
    Tell me one that exists today.
    If none exist today or in the past 100 years, you can be pretty sure that such rhetoric was simply Bible authors making of Boggy Man just like the propaganda making that countries often feed their population — the Bible is a national document — why should you expect anything but such simplistic propaganda?

    @ George W
    You said,

    Make sure to just weed out the ones that are specific to one group (Canaanites, Tyre, etc.) as a one time command of God. Because those just won’t do. Those do not give Christians license to persecute outgroups.

    I never said it DID give license, I just said it happened — he has done it before and thus it is false that “the Bible teaches not to steal or murder”.

    Simple as that. Also, the Bible does not have one message. It is written by lots of different authors with different intents. The ethics of the Israeli differed if they were self-rule or other-ruled, for instance.

    Somehow, I have a feel this is a large waste of time with you, but I will go a little further.

    Oh, I am far from a Biblical scholar. But I’d love to hear the apologetics for this verse:

    They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.
    — 2 Chronicles 15:12-13

    But I am curious how John will respond to my comment to him, however.

    • Sabio

      Have you read the bible, if so it doesn’t sound like it. The old testament only mentions that the societies did evil in the Lord’s sight. It is from outside ancient records that we learn of the beastiality, child prostitution, child sacrifice, ritual cannibalism and other such entrenched moral horror. What other culture do you know of from a hundred years ago that used pornography to the extent the United states does today? None. What culture today feeds people to lions for sport like first century Rome? None.

      Cultures change. Life used to be so cheap it was taken for entertainment. It doesn’t help your case to try and compare today with thousands of years ago and assume it was all pretty much the same.

  11. John,
    Have you ever known a country where EVERY individual is as corrupt and as horrible as their enemies tell you?
    Do you imagine that every Roman (fruit seller, teacher, fisherman, farmer etc) was “evil to the core”.
    You may have read your Bible, but you certainly don’t sound like you have read, or experienced much more. [To raise the chorus of the ad hominem attacks].

    Answer the question John. Do you think EVERYONE in the countries Israel was supposedly told to annihilate was, as you say, “evil to the core”?? Just answer that question.

  12. John,
    My e-mail tells me you wrote a comment saying:

    Sabio
    Answer me!! What does what I think about country’s people? I am going by extra biblical records. Why should I doubt them? Because of nations today?

    I guess you deleted it.

    But to which I reply. I don’t care what sources your use, just answer my question. No need to get all distracted about comparison to today and American pornography. Just answer my simple question which relates exactly to what you claimed:

    Her is the question AGAIN, John:

    Do you think EVERYONE in the countries Israel was supposedly told to annihilate was, as you say, “evil to the core”??

    • Sabio

      Yeah I deleted it because I missed a few words and was going to rewrite it. But I don’t care if I don’t have an analogous contemporary example. There is a historical record that is not the bible which corroborates the biblical record.

      You can impose any artificial self-serving restrictions you want in order to win your point. I’m not restricted to your arbitrary rules.

  13. John, I don’t use the Biblical argument either. Those who don’t believe the Bible is inerrant won’t be convinced by Biblical arguments because they are, after all, unbelievers. If they don’t believe it, they won’t believe the argument.

    Sabio, I don’t know how John would answer that question but this is how I answer it:.

    I read the account of Sodom and Gomorrah, and I find it hard to believe that EVERY resident of Sodom was a homosexual. I think God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because, besides those who were homosexuals themselves, ALL the residents accepted homosexuality as normal and natural and did not object to those who practiced homosexuality. They had been told and warned and they still rebelled. It was the rebellion as well as the acceptance of that rebellion that destroyed them. I’ll let you decide. Do you think willful disobedience of God ISN’T evil to the core?

    • Mark

      Apparently according to Sabio if we don’t have a contemporary example of a society that is as depraved as ancient Canaan, then there was never a depraved culture like the ones recorded. He has rewritten the way history is determined. And what a coincidence, it benefits him.

  14. @ Mark
    By your logic, because of the pornography that ALL Americans tolerate, having been given at least a 2,000 year warning not to, ALL Americans would be “evil to the core” and worthy of Jehovah’s total wrath without anyone calling foul.
    You included.

    @ John
    As I expected. The question was simple, direct and obvious and you wanted to go back to distractions to avoid the obvious corner you saw yourself in.

    You know, as well as I, that all the farmers, merchants, children, mothers and more could not have been “evil to the core” in those towns reportedly annihilated by the righteous god call Jehovah. Therefore, Jehovah kills innocents to make his point.

    You knew it was where it was going and you used rhetoric, name calling and more to slide away instead of just admitting your exaggeration and poor reasoning. You did similar in the previous post.

    I am not trying to win. I am trying to get to the truth. You are more committed to your Bible than the truth, you are good at making your Bible serve you but you only trick those who can’t see through your game.

    • Sabio

      I suppose I ought to call you out on your name calling accusation. It’s just not there, you’re making it up.

      I also don’t care how simple your question is. You are attempting to show that a fact of history is false by there being a lack of a contemporary similarity. That’s just plain nonsense. I dont need to have an example of President Omaba or Bush crossing the Delaware in a boat in order for the record of President Washington doing so to be a reliable moment of history. Here try this one, unless I can point to a Messiah living in the past 100 years, I suppose that means He didn’t live 2000 years ago, right? Is that how we’re reasoning these days?

  15. Sabio, first of all, ALL Americans don’t tolerate Pornography. My wife doesn’t. My mother doesn’t. I don’t.

    In the second place, All Americans, and indeed all humans, ARE “evil to the core” and worthy of Jehovah’s wrath. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. Romans 3:23. You can call foul all you want, but it doesn’t change the facts. You included.

  16. @ mark
    You are missing John’s logic: John wants ALL the ancient men, women and children that Israel was ordered to wipe out to be DESERVING of death because they are “Evil to the Core.” He wasn’t thinking of the Rom 3:23 clause. He said none of them were innocent and so murdering babies, pregnant women and such was justified.

    You said they were all guilty too just because they tolerate it. I am sure your wife and mother don’t tolerate porn, just as I imagine not everyone in the ancient city you imagine was “evil to the core” either.

    By Rom 3:23 logic, a person could claim the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to go on a shooting spree. I am sure this has happened.

    @ John Barron
    So you have told us:

    (1) Jehovah does order killing and stealing (already proving Neal’s original claim wrong so my job is done.

    (2) You justify Jehovah/Yahweh of killing entire cities of pregnant women, children and such because you somehow imagine they were ALL “evil to the core”

    (3) You believe that since your deity wiped ordered the killing of an entire city then they MUST ALL be guilty of being “evil to the core”.

    (4) You have no evidence in any recent history of an ENTIRE nation being “evil to the core” but you have no reason to doubt that back in the old days when miracles abounded there were such places.

    It is continually startling to me how you will go out of your way to interpret things to match your black-and-white personality.

    Interestingly, and I just noticed, you feel good with entire cities being destroyed as you are with entire parts of the prison population just to kill the guilty ones — to hell with the innocents. Well, of course your move is to declare that there is never any innocents where your god (your mind) destroys.

    • Sabio

      If you keep assessing biblical concepts from a secular or buddhist point of view, presuming the bible is just six of one… then you wont get the theology of it, you dont have to believe it, but at least you’d get it.

      To answer your question (only because I’m quite frankly tired of your silly assertion of insisting on contemporary parodies), let’s say you were mountain climbing trying to gain some inner peace and you fell and cut up your elbow pretty bad. Oh well, you shrug it off and keep climbing. After some days the cuts become severly infected with gangrene.

      You decide to go see a doctor who tells you that the infection is so bad that your arm needs to be amputated above the elbow. You then say (as you decry in your above example) “But there’s nothing wrong with my hand and fingers! They’re perfectly fine, you mean I’m going to lose them too?!” To which the doctor quizically explains “Uh, Sabio, if you dont amputate, your fingers and hand (women and children) will become as infected as your elbow. Also the infection will spread through out your entire body (all the surrounding societies) and eventually kill you”

      If you argued with the doctor like you’re arguing here you’d say “that’s nonsense, no gangrenous infection is so bad that you’d have to amputate my elbow in a way that would also lose my perfectly good hand and fingers. You’re just an evil doctor!!!”

  17. @ John,
    Living abroad for 12 years in many countries, I have heard the bigotry of generalized hatred and disgust take all sort of forms. Such behavior is universal. Thus I have no doubt that this is what happened in Israel’s documents too — the same old , same old. Greeks, Indians, Chinese, Japanese all have ancient documents declaring their enemies totally evil.

    Likewise, in all my years I have seen miracle declared by every religion (I have lived with Buddhists, Sikkhs, Muslims, Shintoisms, and more). Yet I have never really seen one. And I have heard their justifications. I have heard of resurrections in most of these faiths too and yet have no reason to believe that they are all spinning a story just like the Jesus story. I get why they do it. It makes a great story. But just your are right, my experience and readings lead me to rule out the improbable without a significant amount of substantial evidence when other theories easily, elegantly and matching with common experience explain the same miracles and bigotry.

    Just wanted to answer your question about the resurrection. Our epistemological stances vary widely — even though I was a former, enthusiastic, devoted believer.

  18. @ John
    Perfect analogy. You feel it is necessary to kill innocents to purge the society and keep it pure. Using the same logic I hear people say that the USA should turn Iran into a parking lot. Your analogy is embraced as a life metaphor by many black-and-white thinkers. Thank you kindly.

    But the analogy can fail when you realize that fingers can’t live without the upper arm. Innocent people can be saved before destroying a city — especially if you are a god.

    Innocent prisoners don’t need to be scarified because you feel the culture is gangrenous. Your choice of analogy illustrates our difference in thinking.

    Interestingly, my neighbor had severely cut his hand on a chain saw and when it got infected, he was told he needed to take off two fingers to save the hand. He refused. I cared for his wounds daily over the next month and the whole hand lived and so did the fingers.

    I think we are done here. You have illustrated our different approaches perfectly. Our differences are clear. You can use your particular black-and-white Biblical theology to read and interpret your bible, I will continue using a larger perspective. I have had Muslims and Buddhists accuse me of judging from a secular perspective just as you have. You are all right, I don’t buy into your god-world.

    BTW, you did name calling indirectly using rhetoric: silly, tiring, insistant, self-serving. But if you don’t want to count that, you don’t have to. It is immaterial to the discussion. Move on and don’t try to add yet more distractions to the main point. which is merely your silly, tiring, insistent, self-serving habit. [see, doesn’t it sound like name-calling?]

  19. You still insist on using parochial, personality-reinforcing, religious blinders to imagine a mythical world of all good vs all bad. There is no wonder you have a difficult time with this.

  20. @ Sabio – I know you are being deliberately obtuse, but I’ll respond just for grins. The commandments are clear: Don’t murder or steal. You do know the difference between murder and killing, right? And guilt and innocence? And the “slight” difference between rights of an eternal God versus your rights as a created being?

    Liberals are quick to use the “forcing your religious beliefs on us” canard to try and silence opposing views, even though I’m glad to use purely secular reasoning to annihilate their pro-abortion, pro-oxymoronic “same-sex marriage,” etc. fallacies.

    So I just have fun pointing out how, in their hypocrisy, they never seem to oppose the views of the religious left (read: fake Christians). So they obviously aren’t trying to silence all religious views, just those they disagree with.

    And I like to point out how they only criticize my religious views that they disagree with. They have no problem with my views on murder, theft, perjury, etc. even though my secular reasoning lines up with the Bible. They just use petty and hypocritical anti-religious bigotry to try and silence my views on their pet topics. Taking to their (il-)logical conclusion, they are implying that I can’t let me religious views inform my political views (ignoring the obvious intent of the 1st Amendment). So I merely ask if they think I must vote the opposite of those religious views.

    “Our epistemological stances vary widely — even though I was a former, enthusiastic, devoted believer.”

    You apparently weren’t a very well informed “believer,” otherwise you would know that if you were really a Christian then that you’d still be one now (see 1 John). You probably thought you were a believer, though, but the less educated alleged followers are the more likely they are to hold false beliefs and “leave” the faith (that they were never really a part of).

  21. @ Neil,
    Your accusations are generic.
    “Never saved if you if you aren’t now.” (tuliP)
    Your general classification of all other Christians who don’t agree with you as “fake Christian” is also expected.
    Calling me “obtuse”, “uninformed” fits the picture too.
    My experience is that we will not have a fruitful dialogue. You can read parts of my blog if are interested in understanding my confused POV but I won’t waste either of our time here.

  22. “Your accusations are generic.”

    LOL. That’s a non-response. You didn’t follow it the first time, so how does it qualify as generic? You knew you were wrong on the Biblical commands not to steal and murder (if you are going to claim to be a “former” Christian that never heard of the 10 Commandments then I’m going to be skeptical).

    I referred to a clear Bible passage that you apparently weren’t aware of. No big deal, but ignoring my comments after I responded to your request for clarification is hardly sporting.

    I don’t call all other Christians who disagree with me “fake.” There is plenty of room for disagreement on the non-essentials. For example, I switched from Arminian to Reformed theology but don’t count Arminians as fakes, just like I didn’t count Reformed folks as fake before I became one. But the theological liberals who teach the opposite of the Bible (pro-abortion, pro-gay, anti-Jesus is the only way, anti-deity of Christ, etc.) are poster children for the false teachers warned about many times in the Bible. I will unapologetically call them fakes all day, every day.

  23. Sorry, Neil, I won’t even begin to counter or defend — as I said, I think it would be a waste of time. I don’t think we have much to share. If you really wish to understand me, visit my site. I probably understand your position far better than you’d imagine.

  24. I don’t know if it had been addressed in earlier comments. I haven’t taken the time to read them all. But Sabio is either lying or has a gross misunderstanding of Yahweh. God has never ordered the killing of “innocents” for not believing. He, as sovereign God, who has authority over his entire creation, including men, ordered the extermination of wicked societies (i.e. the Amalekites) because of their wicked pratices. The Canaanites worshipped Molech and would place their infants on a scorching hot altar to burn them alive in order to please Molech. They had their entire families around these ceremonies watching as their screaming children and siblings died on those burning altars. For this generational wickedness God condemned these societies.

    Will America escape God’s judgment as we sacrifice millions of our children to Molech on the altar of abortion? God forgive us, and change us.

    • Sabio’s response to that was, that’s only what their enemies said about them. And because we don’t have a contemporary example of such an evil society today then we should assume they were innocents who were murdered at the command of the Hebrew God, or who they thought was God just for not believing.

  25. Marshall Art says:

    I think it is far simpler than that. Like many, including some who claim to believe, they judge God by human standards and don’t allow for His total Sovereignty as well as the fact that we are incapable of knowing His Mind. Put another way, God’s idea of innocent doesn’t necessarily equate to ours, and His manner of dealing with humanity won’t necessarily be regarded as “fair”, “just”, or even “kind” considering our human understanding of those terms.

    • Yes, as if God is just another person, and people are innocent until proven guilty by our understanding of innocent and guilty.

      I think people — to their detriment — underestimate/dismiss God’s Holiness.

  26. God’s grace does much more abound in our times, but wickedness exists on an uprecedented scale. I would wager that in the hundreds maybe thousands of years of the practice of child sacrifice that the Canaanites and the Israelites did not come near killing 50 million children like we have in America. “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

  27. oops, I messed up the HTML tags — please delete the above comment. Here is the corrected version:

    The outline of this argument illustrates why you need the Bible and how you really don’t value reason. Here is a brief outline of our “discussion”:

    It all started with Neil saying:

    the Bible teaches not to steal or murder

    Sabio says “Yahweh orders entire towns annihilated including pregnant women, children, visitors, farmers, everyone.”

    But John Barron shoots back:

    God never ordered the killing of any innocents.

    John says the people in those towns were ALL “evil to the core” or Yahweh would not have ordered the kill because Yahweh did not kill innocent people because that would be murder and Yahweh doesn’t condone murder.

    I claim that assuming this is ridiculous — “Come on, babies in the womb, pregnant women, all the farmers –everyone is ‘evil to the core’? ”

    People understand the truth of what I say (though they would never admit it), so all the rationalizations for killing innocents start to fly:

    (1) The culture condemns the Innocent

    John Barron agrees indirectly that my charge holds weight by saying that you have to kill the whole group (innocents and all) because the culture was bad. [sure maybe not everyone were innocent, but unless you kill them all, the cure will not occur.] He starts preachin’ against pornography.

    (2) Tolerating Evil Condemns Everyone

    “Mark” tells:

    It was the rebellion as well as the acceptance of that rebellion that destroyed them.

    Where as in # 1, John was making God pragmatic — “he has to kill them all to stop the evil — innocent included”
    Mark called it a simple matter of justice.
    But I point out that God should wipe out every country because they all “tolerated” evil. By letting homosexuality and pornography exist in America, because they haven’t stopped it, all are guilty.
    Another obvious way to allow the killing of innocents.

    (3) Everyone is Guilty by Birth
    Mark says, “What the hell, we are all guilty anyway”(Rom 3:23) so God needs not excuse. He can kill anyone he wants and be justified.

    Of course the argument started with John claiming God did not kill innocents but Marks wants to say there are none anyway.

    (4) America is Next !
    John’s site invites the best of the best. “DogTags” joins us and preaching that not only did Amalekites deserve it, but so does America for their Abortions. America is next — every man, woman, child — Everyone is guilty. Even Christians who have allowed this to happen in America are guilty. May Yahweh rain down his holy terror on this evil nation. You go, DogTags!

    (5) We Don’t Know God’s Mind
    Marshall, Mark and John pull the final logic plug condemning their own failed attempts at rationalizing why God kills innocents.

    “OK, we are going to stop trying to make this reasonable because it ain’t. But that is because God isn’t just another person. His [sic] Mind, his weighs and all that is beyond our comprehension. So if something is illogical, that is because we are stupid. If the Bible tells us something, we must turn off our brains because we only have human brains.”

    You all love this and chime in. But you destroyed the very point of this post. You can’t use logic or reason. You really don’t believe in it. You can’t argue without your Bible. You don’t even believe in Reason or Logic when it comes to religion. You only use it until the going gets tough and you pull the “God’s Mind is Bigger than Us” ripcord to escape using reason so you can snuggle back into the comforting mythical interpretations you so love. No you can go back hating the unrighteous world ! Yeah.

    • Sabio

      I’m actually I don’t defend “distasteful” things about God with, “we cant know his mind”. What I meant was He is the Creator, not a person. He is not just another person who is our equal. God’s justice is perfect, and therfore just because we dont know the reason, doesnt mean there isnt one. It doesnt mean anything is illogical either.

      BTW you, Sabio, were the one who dragged this off topic. Go back to the begining and see what started this mess.

    • Sabio

      I don’t know if I have always missed it, or if it is just that you have relazed enough to let it show. But you are quite condescending.

  28. @ John Barron
    (1) Saying “We can’t know the Mind of God” is used exactly like your “We don’t know God’s reason but there is one.” It is an escape clause when you can’t use reason any more — so you have to run back to your Bible. That is ironically the whole point of your post. So my apparent side-track has brought us full circle. Because your arguments dont make sense without the Bible.

    (2) I loved your accusation of “Foul, you are being condescending!” The preaching on this site and the chorus of other fundamentalists that filled this thread is loaded with condescension. But I am sure you feel it is important to call something for what it is. I do too. You so inspired me to do a post on what I learned from this dialogue with you, Mark, DogTags, Marshall Arts, and Neil. It was like going to church.

    • Actually Sabio.

      I never brought up the Bible, you did and then asked me to comment…on the Bible. My reasoning is not circular because the very thing we were discussing was…the Bible. Do you really not see this? You set up a discussion about the biblical accounts of God’s interaction with the Israelites and surrounding societies. You then asked about the Biblical accounts of why those events were perpetrated. They you decry the use of the Bible? Are you serious?

      Sabio says: but what about the biblical accounts of XYZ?

      The Christian says: Well, the bible says ABC about XYZ

      Sabio says: Ha! You say you dont need the bible, but I just showed you that you need the bible for your positions on the the bible!

      The Christian…shakes his head in amazement.

      I notice you seem to have the habit of skimming. If you notice, my post is on why I dont use the Bible for discussing same-sex marriage, abortion, or discussing Atheist arguments. Not that I never use the bible. I am beginning to find you dishonest. This is the second time you have done this.

  29. Sorry John, my post’s outline of the discussion shows the problems with your “logic”. I merely show that though you initially claim that “God does not kill innocents”, your support for this (Biblical and otherwise) falls apart. Your last resort was: “Look, if the Bible says it, it must be true. God has a reason even if I am contradicting myself. God backs me. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.”

    • Yet another false accusation. This makes two. Why must you resort to extrapolation in order to argue? I didnt say the bible says it so I believe it.

      your post’s outline leaves out all your asking for defenses. Why do you ask questions you dont want answers to? Seems a bit ridiculous.

  30. Your post is all about not needing the Bible to argue. But as your argument fell apart, you needed to go to it, or course. You do need your Bible. And when you go there, you show us your confusion. You feel the Bible does not show a Yahweh that kills innocents, but with just a few questions it becomes obvious he does and you and your cohort change course and offer Biblical reasons for why he should.
    Seems a bit ridiculous.

    • Sabio

      You really should stop skimming. You are starting to look silly. I have now said twice in the comments, and once in the post itself, Not that I dont use the bible, but that I dont use it for certain topics of discussion,\: abortion, same-sex marriage, and generally atheism. Please try to pay attention.

  31. @ John
    Your dialogue style is consistent:
    When the going gets tough you ignore the main points, and try to find distractions. These distraction techniques illustrate your lack of commitment to reason.
    You love rhetoric instead of reason.
    Your god kills innocents. You claim he doesn’t but later realized he does.
    I will keep focused on your contradiction no matter how much your try to distract with rhetoric and no matter how many arguments you ignore.

  32. Sabio cited a verse from 2 Chronicles as an argument against “God never ordered the killing of people because they were unbelievers” (John Barron). I believe John’s statement is something that he merely assumed was not consistent with God’s personality, but once he realized it was in the Bible, he knew it wasn’t evil. This verse would lead Sabio to believe that he had found something that proved that God commits evil, but a Christian would know it is not the case.

    Neil later asked Sabio “You do know the difference between murder and killing, right? “, which raises a very good point. If Sabio says God murdered someone, Neil could just say he was killing, because God by definition is one who does not murder. There is nothing that Sabio could say that would convince him that God could commit something evil, because God, by his very nature, is not evil.

    Which brings me to my point: due to the epistemological disconnect between the two parties arguing, the issue of ‘whether or not God commits evil’ will never come to a conclusion. If either side really is interested in any knowledge the other has to offer, I would suggest taking a step back, stop with the ad hominem attacks, and directing the conversation towards the topic of epistemology. Or you could continue as you are, and both sides would walk away from this argument with the ::feeling:: that they’ve won, but who wins when no one learns?

  33. Marshall Art says:

    Wow. What incredible goofiness! The Bible is not required to argue against abortion, homosexual marriage or atheism. Why should it be since, especially for the first two, science, common sense and honesty are more than sufficient.

    As to whom God destroys, their innocence is a matter of perspective. If Sabio and others like him, including some marginal christians, want to insist some of those destroyed in certain OT stories were innocent, then I have no particular problem with it, other than the fact that they are judging those people on THEIR standards and insist God MUST so align His behavior. But one of the perks of being a Supreme Being is not being beholden to the likes of a Sabio Lantz. God acts on HIS standards regardless of Sabio’s feelings about it.

  34. You guys have lots of friends!

    Coincidentally (or perhaps divinely orchestrated) Paul Myers just posted about visiting a Christian fundie group (“Creation Ministries of the Ozarks”) where their leader (Dr. Rod Butterworth):

    was trying to explain how the bloody god of the Old Testament really wasn’t such a bad fellow after all.

    “You don’t understand: all those people he had to kill, were horrible people. They deserved to be killed!”

    To which I replied, “But that’s exactly the excuse Hitler used to murder the Jews!”

    “No…” He seemed slightly nonplussed.

    One of Mattir’s spawn was there, and she explained to him that it was true, that Jews were accused of blood libel, and the Nazis claimed they used Jesus’ blood in evil rituals.

    “Oh, well, there probably were Jews who did that, who hated Christianity, and those Jews would have deserved it.”

    You could have knocked me flat with a feather.

    Unlike Myers, it would take a bulldozer to knock me over. I have heard twisted beliefs like this for decades. It is obvious some of you feel a deep sympathy for Dr. Rod Butterworth’s logic. Not only are our epistemologies different, our emotional make-ups are also very different.

  35. @ John Barron Jr, I think your original post was good, and I do appreciate it, that you try to discuss those very real and serious phenomenons you listed, without including your personal faith as a starting point. I agree, that would not do any good for the causes you are trying to promote and would easily distract the conversation from the main topic. After all they are phenomenons that do not require supernatural explanations. I also think that you have every right to call on your base values as your reasons for your chosen opinions. In fact it is good when you do so, as the conversation may be more honest from that point on. And you can actually discuss the real reasons as to why you would see something as it is in your opinion.

    As to the conversation here in the comments section, when we are talking about an alledged creator of the entire universe, we might have certain expectations towards such an entity as humans. If we are creations of such an entity, we are how we were created. That is some of us being more skeptical about some things or others. You John, are skeptical about the theory of Evolution and science in general when it contradicts your personal faith. You are also skeptical about other religions than your chosen conviction when they contradict your chosen faith or science. I am skeptical of all religions.

    If we expect the creator of universe to show “benevolence” towards humanity, we as humans have our expectations as to how that should be evident. If I, as a person do not find justification to the actions of a particular god, then it is very hard for me to accept that said god was representing benevolence.

    I suppose it requires fair amount of faith to accept deeds as horrible as genoside, to be the work of a benevolent entity. If we are required faith in an “invisible” god, should we not also be able to understand the actions and reasons by such god? Why is it, that this alledged god has given the “gift” of understanding only to some? Why is it that this understanding is easier to reach, if one is born in a family that has the shared understanding or at least comes from a culture where the particular god is found plausible at all? Why is it that some people are left out from the correct understanding of scriptures no matter how hard they read them, and some are even deprived the knowledge of their existance? If I am expected to believe something, should I not be able to reason it also? If I can not, why would I be sent to suffer for an eternity as a result?

    To have faith in the scripture that says “they were all bad” as an excuse for a genoside, would require for me to abandon what little reason I have. It would truly be a leap of faith. Why would the creator of the entire universe require me that? It is the same lame excuse used to make all genosides acceptable.

    In my book it is good, if christians would choose not to find justification for murder or killing from the Bible. History has proven, that many people who thought themselves as good and godfearing christians actually did find excuses from the Bible to murder, kill and torture people (other christians – of a different sect – as well as non-believers). Not all of them were sincere in their faith, but many were certain their horrible actions were good and even sanctioned by a god somewhere in the scripture. Might there be a separate section of Hell for people who had the most profound reasons to believe that the horrid acts they committed were in fact “Deus vult!”, what a god wanted from them? If they end up in Hell, boy, will they be surprized. If they end up in Heaven, and all they did in their misunderstood faith is forgiven, then it is more likely for a mass murderer and a cannibal to end up in Heaven than an average Chinese, Indian, or Indonesian caring mother to get there. Is that the logic of a god anyone could call benevolent sincerily? Is that something we should find logical and plausible, or completely random madness?

    We may not come to accept our separate views as the truth, but I think in general it is good to understand that there are different views, and especially to understand the great variety why people think differently.

  36. Sabio,

    I must say you had a lot of persistence here. Is it fair, though, to indiscriminately rake these poor pious people with the malevolent weapon of deadly reason? It’s pretty clear that this is a no-reason zone from the get-go. It’s the only kind of environment that can support such nonsensical mass hypnosis.

    Nice work.

  37. Conversations don’t die, they live within us. We can’t even begin to understand their possible effects. There is no task to take.

  38. John,

    Apologies for the snarky comment. At least you took the time and made the effort to describe your viewpoint and worldview, as far from my own as it is, and I do respect that. My own point of view is more closely in line with that of Sabio, so it’s natural that I appreciate his arguments, but I shouldn’t have fired off a poorly articulated comment that adds nothing constructive to the discussion. I’m frankly surprised you approved it.

    • Max

      Thank you for the apology. I was contemplating not publishing it, but only because it was completely irrelevant to the discussion. I don’t have a problem discussing Sabio’s objection, but its content isn’t really pertinent to the topic at hand. I did address it on the very next post, but he was silent on the issue. I guess he lost interest after his very condescending comments here and in his own post. That seems go be a common trait of his followers.

      • I guess it’s a matter of perspective. He thinks you’re condescending. You think he is. From my perspective it appears condescending to label those who share your opponent’s perspective as “followers.”

        I think his arguments were more grounded in reason, whatever his objectives may have been. That’s a direct corollary of not basing his arguments on an ancient text of arbitrarily assigned value, but on reasonable inquiry. It also appears that – condescendingly or not – he made his case well that you were unable to reconcile your conflicting position vis-a-vis the immorality of Yahweh in committing genocide without resorting to a position based on faith. If that faith is based solely upon the authority vested in said ancient text rather than reasonable inquiry, then it undermines the central point of your post.

        • Max

          The central point of my post was why I do not argue from the Bible on certain topics: atheism, abortion, and same sex marriage. So what exactly does alleged genocide have to do with the post again?

  39. As I read the post, I saw it as having a couple of thrusts. One was in regard to the points you mentioned. If you really are one of the few believers in Christian theology to argue against those three items without using arguments grounded in the Bible I am impressed. It would have helped your point, however, if you could have summarized the basis for these non-Biblical positions within the post, rather than just proclaiming that you don’t need the Bible to make such arguments.

    The second thrust I noticed was that we non-believers have a tendency to use the Bible against believers by pointing out the contradictions it contains, and therefor it was advisable in general to stay away from using the Bible in argument as its weaknesses constituted a sort of Achilles heel for your side. By keeping your arguments non-Biblical, and presumably reasonable, you could deprive your opponents of this potent weapon against you. It seemed Sabio did exactly what you had implicitly challenged him to do. He went for your Achilles heel. Not in the preferred approach you had been prepared for, that is in arguing for the three evils you were hoping to argue non-Biblically against, but in choosing an argument more in his favor. You can call this an unfair debate tactic if you like, but it seems you fell into his trap (and several of your followers fellow holders of similar perspective leaped into the trap with great gusto along with you). What followed was a vigorous re-affirmation of the need for a non-rational authority, the Bible, as a central grounding of your faith. It was this second thrust of the original post which I see as being undermined by your reflexive grasping for Biblical authority.

    • I have made several full length posts for my positions and against others, there really isnt a summary that could be offered without derailing the comments (as sabio has so handily done) off my overall point.

      But more to your concern, I dont see the bible as a liability. As the commenter Jim mentioned, you and I come from different perspectives. No matter the explaination for what might appear as a contradiction will be see by you as an excuse, not an explanation. So there isnt far we can go before you give up and consider discussion futile. To you, I just dont see it; and to me, you wont see it.

      I didnt fall into a trap, however cleverly laid. You and sabio view the bible as a non-rational authority, but that is inaccurate. It’s not non-rational, you just dont grant it authority. There is a difference. Rational and irrational have very specific definitions. Most skeptics view religious claims as irrational and illogical, but those words dont describe what it is you’re trying to get across. I get the impression Sabio thinks he is the smartest person in the room, and he talks to you like it. He injected a topic that was foreign to the discussion at hand, tried to make it relevant, and had a tantrum and left when we all didnt just concede to him. This is a habit of his. When he disagrees, and people dont give him any credence, he just says he isnt going to waste any more time on us here. Its old.

      But, I wasn’t looking for a debate on this post, because the content really doesn’t afford for one. I am not making any claims for or against anything really, just an explanation of why I do not use biblical arguments for those particular topics. It is merely a description of how I talk about certain issues. Feel free to browse my posts and see how many commentaries you can find that I grasp to biblical authority that arent directed ‘in-house’.

      • Like I said, its not that I dont think the Bible is a valid source for arguing those topics. But since many people like yourself, Max, dont grant the bible any authority, the discussion doesnt advance. Instead of arguing the inherent value of human life, we would end up discussing why the BIble is “non-rational”. I remove the excuse by my opponent to simply dismiss my arguments out of hand. I dont avoid the bible because it carries a liability, it is just a distraction, but that is only because skeptics make it a distraction.

  40. I don’t grant the Bible any special authority, but I think it’s a fascinating source of historical information and shouldn’t be purposely excluded from discussion. I just think it should be understood how it influences the views of those who do consider it a moral authority – and this seems to have been the point Sabio was making. I think the works of Darwin, Einstein, Copernicus, etc., are also great sources of information and see no reason to exclude any of them either. I don’t see moral authority emanating from any of these worthy tomes either. Moral authority is drawn from the entire gestalt of one’s experience. It is my experience, including a lot of great works of literature, that ground my understanding that a woman should have the dignity of choosing whether or not she will bring a child to term, that two members of the same sex should be allowed to choose to live together if it’s in the interest of their own well-being, and to decide for myself whether or not it makes sense that there was an all-knowing, all-powerful creator responsible for the world in which I live.

    I think it’s a mistake to restrict authority to specific doctrines, political leaders, even family members. It cedes too much responsibility that should only come from within each of us. I suspect that the universal tendency to cede this ultimate authority comes from a lack of trust in one’s own ability to know truth, and the fear that others will act unpredictably from their own fountains of wisdom drawn from their own life experiences. Fear of the unknown in other words. One of the greatest and often most destructive powers dating back to the dawn of consciousness.

  41. It appears I am, like this writer, a Gratheist.

    You might take note that this was posted on the blog of a self-proclaimed Christian conservative, Andrew Sullivan. While I am often diametrically opposed to the political and religious viewpoints of the author, I very often appreciate his blog for it’s wide open spirit of free inquiry. It’s rare to find anywhere that as strong a dissent as this from the blogger’s own is posted so prominently. Thank you again for, likewise, allowing me to state my viewpoint on your blog so freely.

  42. Instead of arguing the inherent value of human life…

    I’m not sure how one can really argue this. What is “inherent value”? How is it different from “value” or “stuff I think is worthwhile”? It seems to me that “inherent value of human life” seems to be making a value comparison; human life is better than other kinds of life. What is the justification of this assessment? Greater brain capacity? Consciousness? Modern brain science is determining that human consciousness has evolved in a continuum from prior forms of life. Chimpanzees are conscious in a different way than we are, yet still conscious. Even animals as primitive as reptiles have a sense of self.

    Regarding the topic that you seem to be applying this judgment towards, abortion, what makes a human blastocyst more inherently valuable than a chimpanzee? The blastocyst can clearly be said to be alive, but certainly not conscious to the degree of the chimpanzee or even the reptile. Why must it be imbued with a special sanctity above all else? Keep in mind that I’m not advocating a special value in abortion. I think each one is tragic, but I don’t consider the often painful choice to abort to be an act against nature (you may substitute God if you wish) any more than is the act of torturing and perhaps eventually killing a chimpanzee in medical experimentation. I believe each of these acts requires careful consideration of the consequences to all sentient beings involved. The experiments may be justified if enough pain and misery can be avoided for a large enough group of sufferers, whether they be human or not.

    The key point I would like to make is that the choice whether or not to abort is a human choice that can only be made by the responsible individual most personally affected by the act, that being the mother, and it could be argued, the father. Much farther down the line is the society in which they live and I would give no value at all to an ancient code of values far removed from the societal framework of the present.

  43. Marshall Art says:

    Just because it bears repeating over and over again until the enlightened can grasp the simple fact, a human blastocyst has more inherent value than a chimpanzee because it is a human blastocyst. That anyone would argue such a thing at all is to cheapen life for selfish reasons. By denying these people their humanity by suggesting their size and stage of development has any bearing, they abdicate their responsibilities as adults to conduct their personal lives with control and discipline.

    • @Marshall,

      I appreciate you calling me enlightened, but I’m not sure I deserve such a description. Nice of you anyway.

      a human blastocyst has more inherent value than a chimpanzee because it is a human blastocyst

      I believe this is what is known as a tautology. You haven’t made a rational case for this statement, only asserted it as vigorously as you can. I could just as easily, and just as vigorously, say a chimpanzee has more inherent value than a human blastocyst because it is a chimpanzee. Neither of us has stated anything of value whatsoever.

      A reasonable statement sounds something like this. The human being, and in particular the human brain, represents an extremely advanced stage in the development of life. The chimpanzee is also enormously complex and advanced. The value of each of these wonders is subjective. Judged by complexity, the chimpanzee is significantly less advanced than the fully formed human being, but considerably more advanced than a blastocyst. Judged by stage of consciousness as well, the human blastocyst is not in the chimp’s ballpark. a toddler perhaps. If you want to argue for the potential of each, you might have a point, but what is the basis for ascribing inherent value to potential rather than the actuality of the entity at the moment? In essence, why are human’s considered special over other natural and highly complex, even conscious creatures? We’re better because we have the potential to be smarter?

      I should remind you that Sabio’s challenge was to make such an argument without resorting to Biblically-based principles. I suspect this might be difficult.

  44. Willie R. says:

    Let me just settle this rhetorical spat for all of you: You have a date with Ultimate Truth. When you have finally died, it will be glaringly obvious.

    And not one moment before.

  45. Dear Willie,
    It is so good to see this glorious thread is still active. Perhaps my damned soul still has a chance to awake with the instruction of those with tickets to eternal security.
    Ironically, I just posted a quote from another theist group who tells me that at death my folly will be “glaringly obvious”. I thought you’d like to see that you share insights with many fine souls.

    John: your site draws such fine commentors.

  46. @ John,
    Ah, so after someone declares us blind and bound to hell, you think call me “condescending” and “elitist” are further attacks you can pile on me which will bring tears to our eyes? Or are you imagining that your further instruction will clinch the presentation and help me to see that your & Willie’s walk with Jesus is worth imitation?

  47. Well, exactly, John. And Willie’s wording prompted my response. And you felt some driving need to defend your fellow Christian.

    But I must say, no matter how you candy-coat “You are bound to hell. You are a fool.” it still comes across the same. No matter how sweetly they try to say that, or how they hide it in the text, it isn’t “all in how you say it” but what they said — content. Unveiling content or sifting reality is important, as I am sure you’d agree.

  48. Really? Sounds like you need another survey.
    But, indeed, I am a very sensitive fellow.

Trackbacks

  1. […] discussion that I found via this post of Sabio’s, which in turn traces its genesis from this post of right-wing fundagelical John […]

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