Atheists: Uninformed or Obstinate?

As someone who interacts regularly with skeptics of all stripes, it never ceases to amaze me the number of times I find myself having to “re-educate” them on certain subjects.  There seem to be two subjects in particular that skeptics rehash over and again: can Atheists be good without belief in God? and failing to differentiate between the Old and New Covenants.

So what is it about Atheists who continue to assert that they can be good without being religious or believing in God?  Are there any believers who say that in order to be good and moral one must be a theist?  The claim has never been, as far as I know, that an Atheist cannot behave morally without believing in God.  Instead, that their idea of what is good and moral is only a matter of preference, and not in any real way objective and morally binding.

Can Atheists be moral?

What is at the center of the debate, is how the idea of “good” and “evil” are grounded in the Naturalist’s view, not whether Atheists do good or evil things.  How can the Naturalist say something is good?  If the concept is based on the individual or society, good and evil are merely preferences.  They cannot be argued for or against since no one has a true obligation to play by the same rules.  Adherence to good and abstinence from evil is at the whim the individual(s) contemplating the action.  The notions of what is good or evil can be adjusted whenever and to whatever based on the desires of the populace, thus making no action whatsoever good or evil, but rather desirable or undesirable under the current conditions.  Most Atheists will agree and support the idea that a subjective view of morality is true.  Here is what I question, how is even the idea of a subjective right and wrong, good and evil possible on the view of Naturalism?

On the view of Naturalism everything is matter.  Our bodies are a collection of molecules, like dirt, rocks, grass, etc.  Just another grouping of cells forming an organism; we are simply cells in motion.  When we consider our interactions with others, we are not interacting with “people” per se, but molecules interacting with other molecules.  If Naturalism is true, then I do not see how there can be a true difference between intentionally causing physical pain to a child for the mere pleasure it brings someone, and a leaf falling to the ground.  The concept of personhood or the state of being a person is not possible on Naturalism.  Our bodies are matter.  Since our mind (not to be confused with our brain), intentionality, anger, and other non-physical states are not possible on Naturalism, due to their lack of physicality.  For instance, you cannot weigh your motive, or level of anger with a scale, or observe it under a microscope.  They do not physically exist and therefore do not exist on Naturalism.

How then does the Naturalist get from merely recording and describing the interaction between forms of matter, to assigning a label of good or evil to the content of the interaction without making an appeal to a non-existent, non-physical concept?  To even lay claim to a subjective morality, how can the Naturalist stay consistent with his worldview yet make any appeal to a non-physical concept such as good or evil, right and wrong?  How can the Naturalist differentiate between say, burning a child with cigarettes, and an avalanche?  Any appeal to morality, even subjective morality, violates his worldview.  The concept of morality is illusory.

Most Atheists more often than not, are relatively honest, caring people with genuine concern for their fellow-man.  I have always been intrigued by the Atheist’s claim that atheism can somehow produce an objective moral code which applies to all people at all times; and that anyone violating the moral code is morally wrong for doing so.

I am unconvinced by the Atheist’s claim that there can exist an objective morality which can be directly deduced from atheism’s necessary framework of philosophical naturalism.  What eventually emerges is some form of relativism, individual or cultural.  Both of which have no solid immovable standard.

Individual relativism, or personal ethics, is not really morality at all.  One’s moral convictions are limited only by the will power and sensibilities of the individual.  There is nothing binding on the individual to keep his or her own standards.  If someone is handcuffed, but has access to the key, can they be said to be truly bound?  When their personal set of standards gets in the way, they can be adjusted or removed at will.  If we are in control of the standard, it is not truly binding.  There is no objectivity in personal ethics, they are binding on no one but the individual.  Standards can be lowered, actions can be justified, morality is fluid.

Are Christians being inconsistent by not following the Old Testament laws?

The Old Testament laws were basically a contract with the nation of Israel.  This contract like any other contract is valid and applicable only to the parties to whom the contract is given.  I think some Christians and skeptics alike have a tendency to view New Testament Christians as a continuation of the Old Testament Israelites, and are therefore obligated to obey all the Old Testament laws as the Jews.   Unless otherwise stated, promises and Laws to the Jews apply only to the Jews.  Even Paul makes the point of making the distinction that the Gentiles, did not have the Law but did the things of the Law since it was written on their hearts (Rom. 2:12-14).

There is an explicit separation of Israel and Christians. In Matthew chapter 16, Jesus and Peter are discussing who Jesus is.  Jesus asks “who do the people say I am?” (Matt. 16:13), and then “who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15).  Peter of course gives the correct answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16).  Jesus then responds by saying that God has revealed that truth and on that truth He, Jesus, will build His church.  I think this is an important way of wording the answer, namely in the future tense.  Jesus had not yet been crucified and resurrected which would be the event which ushers in the new covenant.  The church Jesus is speaking of is not yet in place, however Judaism and the Law were currently in place.  There is no mention by Jesus that the church is the same as the set aside nation Israel, though the first Christians were converted Jews.  There is a distinction between the church which is to come, and the “church” which is present.

God’s plan was to bring about a new covenant which would be different from the original (Heb. 8:9), or old covenant, (Jer. 31:31, 32) which was broken by Israel.  It would function in a new way.  The old covenant was a written law, the new would be written on the hearts of believers (Heb 8:10).  I take this to mean one’s conscience.  I firmly believe a believer’s conscience does more to convict of sin then any written set of rules ever could.  Jesus, God Himself, would be the one to usher in the new covenant (Isa. 53:11-12; Psa. 22:25-29; Zech. 12:10; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).  Once the new is in place, the old is done away with and obsolete (Heb. 8:13, 2 Cor. 3:6).  This means is it done with, there is no more obligation to fulfill the Law (Rom. 7:6).  There was even some debate in the early church, that some new believers had claimed it was necessary to keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5), and a letter was written in response claiming they, the Apostles, gave no such instruction (Acts 15:24), and advising they not be burdened beyond the essentials of abstaining from “things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell” (Acts 15:29).  In fact, the Apostles questioned speaking of the Law of Moses, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10).  Certainly if obliged obedience to the Law was intended for the Christian church it would have been upheld here. Now that the new covenant is in place, not even the Jews, with whom God made the original covenant, are under the obligation to fulfill the Law.  Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly by not once violating the Law (Heb. 7:27), and made the required sacrifice once and for all.

Before the crucifixion/resurrection the Law was still in effect and required to be obeyed by the Jews.  Jesus was under the obligation to obey the law Himself (Gal. 4:4), which He did to perfection. Jesus’ perfect keeping of the Law, His being crucified for the sins of man, and His resurrection from the dead conquering the effects of sin is the “until all is accomplished” to which He is referring, remember His words on the Cross “it is finished” (John 19:30).  The Greek word used in the passage, “tetelestai” is a word used in the first century to indicate that a contractual obligation has been fulfilled.  It was a release of the debtee to the debtor, the old covenant is now finished and the new is in effect.

I believe it is widely overlooked that many of Jesus’ teachings, generally speaking, were to Jews.  Jesus was not sent to the whole world, but only to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 15:24), therefore His message and His audience consisted mainly of Jews who were under the Law.  Before Jesus death and resurrection the old covenant, which was the required obedience of the Law, was still in place.  It is not until after His resurrection that the obligation is removed and abolished and the new covenant is under effect.  It is for this reason that a passage like Matthew 22:35-40, And of them, lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” is why it appears that Jesus is endorsing adherence to the Law.  Now there are a few ways of looking at this. First, Jesus is answering a question posed to Him by an individual. I would answer that question the same way Jesus did.  Just because Jesus answered the question that way, in that time, under that circumstance, does not mean it applies to us today. It was a Jewish man asking a Jewish teacher about the Jewish Law. One could ask me what the greatest traffic law is and I could give a similar answer. But traffic laws apply only to people who are driving. If I don’t drive, traffic laws don’t apply to me. Context is everything. Again pre-crucifixion/resurrection the Law was still in effect. The man inquiring of Jesus called Him “Teacher”, which implies the man was a Jew, I do not think a gentile would seek Jesus for religious or theological teaching of the Jewish Law, and thus Jesus’ answer makes perfect sense when the context is taken into consideration.  See the parallel passage in Mark 12:28-33 where the man inquiring of Jesus references Deut. 6:4-5, further indicating it was in part a Jewish theological discussion.

The Mosaic Law was a covenant made to a specific group of people, the descendants of Abraham, for a specific purpose.  Now that a new covenant is in place, the old is obsolete and done away with, and even the Jews are under no obligation to it. The Christian is not obliged to keep the Law, but will out of love and conviction from the Holy Spirit.  In the same way I am not obligated to rub my wife’s feet after a long day but will out of love for her; and she is not obligated to bake my favorite blue berry muffins for me, but out of love will.  Likewise the believer keeps the Law out of love for God not obligation.  Context is the key to understanding the promises of the bible, carefully reading the surrounding passages of a given text will help you to understand the theology of the bible.

So now that these two issues have been clarified, will the Atheists reading this continue to offer these criticisms?  Of course they will.  But now when they do, we know it’s because they find it easier to hurl the same old criticisms than to formulate new excuses to reject God and Christianity.

Comments

  1. ” The claim has never been, as far as I know, that an Atheist cannot behave morally without believing in God. ”

    This is just so incredibly and obscenely out of touch with reality, there is no point in going further. What planet do you live on?

    Reading on, it gets worse and worse…. But there just isn’t a point.

  2. “Are there any believers who say that in order to be good and moral one must be a theist?” – yes. JB for example, you say that if everything is matter, then we are justified, if we feel like it, in just murdering everyone. I would respond that religion is the most common expression of cultural relativism. There is such a great disparity in the values of self-identified Christians that we cannot see Christianity as any objective standard. What the ‘new’ versus ‘old’ covenant happens to be is equally a matter of opinion. If it’s not, then who is to say? JB, the Pope, Ravi Zacharias, Pat Robertson? Maybe Jesus is to say, but he never talks.

    But for myself, I promise to differentiate between the Harry Thunderer of the Old Testament and the Cosmic Muffin of the New Testament. God changed. It’s very clear. That’s why terms like “Judeo-Christian” are nonsense because Jews and Christians are very different.

    As for whether atheists can be good without god, you need to talk to Christians about that. We’ll say and show how we’re good without gods, and any time you like, you can get over your inability to understand the concept of secular morality.

  3. I’d like to say one thing about your morality argument: in order to argue against a position, you must be familiar with that position. That is, you must be familiar with that position beyond your own bias interpretations. Naturalism, in it’s most basic definition, is not concerned with ethics. It’s simply concerned with the nature of the universe and questions of reality. Humanism is closely associated with Naturalism – it deals with empiricism as well – but it’s main concern is morality. Confusing the two causes your entire argument to be facile. There is more to say of the two, and what I have said isn’t even universal, but I’ll leave it at that.

    As for your Old Testament argument, you’re either unaware that the canonical gospels are full of contradictions, or you’re not familiar with the history of their assembly, or you’re choosing to ignore them. Sure, you can pick a passage or two that supports your claim that Christians aren’t supposed to follow the OT, but I can do the same to show that they are. In the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus says: “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” This is from Matt 5:17. Neither of us have proved anything, however, because you’re ignoring the evolution of early Christianity. Saul and the Q, to Mark, to John, to Matthew, to Luke. Saul’s being dated ca. 50 CE, and Mark being dated between 70 CE and 110 CE. Between Saul and the first canonical gospel we have a shift of purpose. That is, we see the Christians distancing themselves from Judaism. Therefore, we see changes in who to blame for Christ’s crucifixion, and we see changes in the purpose of Christ’s visit. Indeed, we see changes in who Christ was, the deeds he performed, how he performed them, how he was viewed, accepted, rejected, etc.

    Anyway, as with your first argument, you have to be more knowledgeable than what I refer to as “surface information” if you intend to make a compelling argument. Of course, that’s only if you intend to argue based on facts, rather than what seems appealing and supportive of your position.

    • What about Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.“? In this passage is Jesus teaching the Law is in effect and will never pass away? It is true He did not come to destroy the law, which He did not, the Law was not abolished, it was completed. Before the crucifixion/resurrection the Law was still in effect and required to be obeyed by the Jews. Jesus was under the obligation to obey the law Himself (Gal. 4:4), which He did to perfection. Jesus’ perfect keeping of the Law, His being crucified for the sins of man, and His resurrection from the dead conquering the effects of sin is the “until all is accomplished” to which He is referring, remember His words on the Cross “it is finished” (John 19:30). The Greek word used in the passage, “tetelestai” is a word used in the first century to indicate that a contractual obligation has been fulfilled. It was a release of the debtee to the debtor, the old covenant is now finished and the new is in effect.

  4. ” The claim has never been, as far as I know, that an Atheist cannot behave morally without believing in God. ”

    Ok, to start with this tells me you’ve not even read the Bible. We get quoted Romans 1 almost non-stop. I hit a few highlights just from the Bible and the google a few more just because it’s so easy. That you failed to spend 30 seconds doing tells anyone who reads your blog, you aren’t too interested in reality as a starting point.

    Oh wait, I’ll just quote a COUPLE laid on me JUST YESTERDAY that proved I was evil…

    “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1)

    “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

    No point in quoting any one part of Romans 1, we get that all the time. And there is plenty plenty more.

    Let’s see, big name Christians in the new, in the NINETY DAYS only….

    We’ve been repeated called “terrorists” by Ken Reid in his capacity as a STATE OFFICIAL.

    Actually, I’ll just take a short cut and paste the conservapeida article on the subject…
    http://conservapedia.com/Atheism_and_morality
    “Not possessing a religious basis for morality, atheists are fundamentally incapable of having a coherent system of morality. ”

    Do you really want the rest of your text ripped apart as thoroughly?

  5. I find it funny when an atheist claims christians commit child abuse when they teach them about God and the bible. Even though it would be impossible to change someone’s mind if the atheistic worldview were true. Ever try moving a rock with just your voice? The voice has no material make-up, so how could it cause the mind or brain to start firing differently to effect a change in belief? It’s also funny how they believe they come to their belief rationally and don’t live in fear of becoming a christian. But in their worldview it would be totally possible for their mind and brain to start firing differently and they could easily wake-up one day with a belief in God. They also have no right to blame, criticize or attack christians for their belief when the atheistic worldview says that what we think is based on the chemical reactions going within us. There is nothing we could do about it if their worldview was true.

    @ R.L. Culpeper…..It doesn’t matter if naturalism has anything to do with ethics. The atheistic worldview has to deal with ethics and that is what JB was referring to. The atheistic worldview believes in only the natural and so an atheist must explain everything in the universe in those terms if he wants to hold to a rational and consistent worldview.

  6. I don’t believe in God (or necessarily in the theistic sense… maybe more per deism) but my whole problem with the atheist enterprise is they spend too much time not believing in something.

    Suing the government for the Pledge, banning prayers in school, etc. A lot of the Religious Right has done equally if not more freedom-impinging things, but the whole endeavor of “believing in not believing” is useless.

  7. Well, I suppose that’s one way to interpret that. Another would be that Jesus was supporting the OT laws, and specifying that they should be upheld until judgement day. Of course, Matthew’s intent could be exactly how you’re interpreting it; I admit, tetelestai is somewhat compelling. However, one must ask why Mark or Saul doesn’t mention this? Curious…

    As I said, arguing over these passages is pointless. What prophecy did Jesus fulfill? Did he fulfill those associated with Jewish Wisdom tradition, or was he a descendant of David – in this context Jesus was simply supposed to be a king, not a divine king, nor the son of god. Why was it so important for him to be both of Nazareth and of Bethlehem?

    None of this matters, however. You can’t clearly support the existence of Jesus as a man, let alone as the divine son of Yahweh, so everything else is moot.

  8. ” Ever try moving a rock with just your voice? The voice has no material make-up, so how could it cause the mind or brain to start firing differently to effect a change in belief?”

    Wiley, are you suggesting that communication isn’t capable of changing someone’s belief? I’m trying to wrap my brain around your argument, but I’m not sure where to start. Would you be kind enough to clarify?

    • What he is referring to is the sound waves. If we accept strict naturalism, speech is merely noise void of immaterial content. It is only on a worldview which other than natural phenomenon exist that provided content to what would otherwise be mere sound waves, or even black pixels on a white background like here, for that matter.

  9. Haha! Yes, perhaps fringe by your perspective, but not amongst those that emphasize in this field.

  10. Jason writes: ” I would respond that religion is the most common expression of cultural relativism. There is such a great disparity in the values of self-identified Christians that we cannot see Christianity as any objective standard.”

    You are missing the point Jason. Of course we have disagreements about what the nature of the “standard”. But the point is that we claim to have some sort of a standard against which we measure morality. We have a basis for our disagreements. It’s like two people arguing over the color of a strawberry. But then, a blind man comes along and says that since we disagree about the color, the strawberry must have no color at all!

    Of course we disagree about the specifics. But we (Christians) all AGREE that there is an objective moral standard.

    Then, this comes back to John’s question (which none of you have yet addressed): “If Naturalism is true, then I do not see how there can be a true difference between intentionally causing physical pain to a child for the mere pleasure it brings someone, and a leaf falling to the ground.” It’s a very valid question – and is at the core of why many, many people cling to faith in spite of doubt. The whole framework of morality falls apart if naturalism is true.

    The basis Christian morality is the claim that we (atheists and theists alike) are made in God’s image. As such, we have intrinsic value, we have intense creativity, we have free-will, we have appreciation of beauty, and we have a sense of good and evil. None of these aspects of life make any sense from a naturalistic perspective. The naturalists claim is that (at our core), we are just a complex machine and that our brain is just operates based on complex algorithms based on the connection of vast arrays of neurons. (no different than computer chips) I’ll take your arguments seriously once mankind develops a computer that has a moral conscience, that has true free will, and can truly appreciate beauty. Until then, naturalism is a much bigger “leap of faith” than Christianity ever has been.

  11. wiley16350 says:

    @ R.L. Culpeper…. As John explained in a previous response. Voice is just a sound wave in a completely atheistic universe. A rock can’t respond to the voice and anything that is just completely materialistic can’t respond to the voice. Also, in an atheistic worldview the mind and brain are just a bunch of electrical signals and reactions of neurons, etc and must be completely materialistic. If they are just completely materialistic, then it would not be possible for them to respond to the voice, just like the rock has no ability to respond to the voice. Therefore, when an atheist claims child abuse against a christian for teaching children or brainwashing children with religious ideas, he is really contradicting his professed worldview. Atheists are also contradicting their worldview when they believe that people can think rationally, change their beliefs using logic or condemn christians for what they believe. They should also live in fear that one day they will wake up believing in God. Since at any moment the neurons and electrical pathways could randomly fire differently or a smack to the head could cause a different belief.

  12. Sorry John, that just isn’t true. I’m working on a book that touches on this subject and I intend to upload portions of chapters. If you would like a full explanation, I invite you to subscribe and I encourage the same cordial discussion. Thanks.

  13. Wiley, atheism is not a “worldview”. The only thing atheists have in common is their disbelief in gods. You too, share this belief, with the exception of one. Besides that, there are nihilists, utilitarians, stoics, etc. Furthermore, the fact that a voice is just a sound wave doesn’t change between my beliefs and your beliefs – it is a fact – and having electrical signals in our brains differentiates us from inanimate objects such as rocks. Both are materialistic, but one contains the capacity for exchanging information. That capacity, among other things, defines it as biological. To jump to the conclusion that because both are materialistic, both exhibit the same characteristics is a logical fallacy.

  14. wiley16350 says:

    @ R.L. Culpeper……I didn’t say that both exhibit the same characteristics. I said, in an atheistic universe, if the mind and brain are just completely materialistic (as it must be if the supernatural doesn’t exist) then they should exhibit the same characteristics as everything else that is just purely materialistic. There are all kinds of electrical signals made by man, but they don’t respond to our voice unless we program them to through certain devices. In which electrical signals carry the information, but they don’t create it. They can only do what they are programmed to do. And the information doesn’t come from the materials. It comes from outside intelligence. Somehow we have been programed to process, understand, learn more and do much more with the information we receive from the voice then the computer has the ability to do. I could also put it this way. We could build a robot with all the materials it needs, electrical signals and all but without the program it would have no ability to understand us or do anything. Just like a computer, it needs the program to have any capability. There is more to it than just materials. There is information and understanding. Without those 2 things, there is nothing. Those things are not part of any chemicals or materials. They are trancendant things that have no place in an atheistic world.

  15. Wiley, first, you’re presupposing that the “programmer” has to be a conscience being, such as the relation between man and machine. The programmer could just as easily be nature itself; starting with abiogensis and working through natural selection.

    “… if the mind and brain are just completely materialistic (as it must be if the supernatural doesn’t exist) then they should exhibit the same characteristics as everything else that is just purely materialistic.”

    Second, constituting two objects as materialistic does not require those same objects to consist of the same characteristics. For instance, a car and a plane are both vehicles used for transportation. However, the plane exhibits an additional characteristic – flight.

    Furthermore, your whole argument is based on a lack of evidence. You’re simply jumping from “we are conscience beings” therefore “an outside agency programmed us to be such”. You have no evidence of such a claim; you’re simply asserting it.

  16. All experience and observation tells us that a programmer is a conscience being. There are (0) exceptions. Everything in this world that has been programmed was done so by a conscience being, (0) exceptions. Living things don’t count, since that’s the very thing we’re debating. The atheist believes that matter came before the mind in spite of the fact that we have never observed matter bringing forth a mind, information, thought or anything else transcendental. Atheism also means that matter controls the mind. In our experience, however, the mind is the one that controls, shapes and rearranges matter to fit our needs.

    I didn’t say they had to have all the same characteristics. But everything that is completely made of just materials and has no information or program built into it does not have the ability to respond to the voice. There are (0) exceptions.

    The evidence is all around us. Computers, machines, robots, etc all took a conscience programmer to make them. Nobody has went into a laboratory and made a mind, a program or any kind of thought and understanding completely out of raw chemicals let alone have it come from nature. I was asserting things because the evidence seemed so obvious to me, I didn’t think I had to spell it out.

  17. “All experience and observation tells us that a programmer is a conscience being. There are (0) exceptions”

    Except for evidence that supports abiogenesis, which in turn leads to evolution, which produces millions of exceptions to this argument.

    • wiley16350 says:

      All there is are hypothesis and ideas of how abiogenesis could have happened. No actual laboratory or real world experience demonstrates abiogenesis. In fact all actual laboratory and real world experience demonstrates that all living things come from previous living things. It’s called the law of biogenesis. I know, I know that only applies to the current situation. But what that means is that abiogenesis can only remain in the area of speculation. So that is what your argument is down to, complete speculation that goes against all observation.

  18. No my friend. We have demonstrable evidence of abiogenesis such as self-replicating RNA molecules and other enzyme studies. What we don’t have is the complete picture, so we don’t know EXACTLY how it happened, and we may never know. But what we have surpasses any demonstrable, falsifiable evidence that you can provide for a deity; especially a personal one.

    • wiley16350 says:

      That is the RNA World Hypothesis. Hypothesis is right in the name of the idea and it still starts with a molecule that has information in it and wasn’t created in the lab and has always been around. So you have an undemonstrated hypothesis that can’t be falsified because it can’t be demonstrated since we don’t have the proper conditions to test the idea. Abiogenesis needs to start from dead chemicals without any program to create and/or start life. That is what came from the primordial soup. The evidence for a deity is more about reality as a whole rather than one hard fact. Although, God did provide absolute evidence to those that were alive at the time of Jesus’s death and resurrection.

  19. Culpeper, please excuse me. I don’t normally talk like this. I’m a PhD organic chemist and have paid a bit of attention to the abiogenesis debate. You are an idiot. We aren’t even remotely close to having “evidence” of abiogenesis. Yes, there are a few (short) pieces of RNA that are capable of nearly replicating themselves *IF* they are pre-loaded with all the correct pre-activated monomers. IF there is some sort of “vessel” that maintains an appropriate concentration of the said monomers. And *IF* the vessel is protected from oxidizers, free radicals, and countless other chemical liabilities that would destroy the nascent strand.

    The fact is that, as an atheist, you have no choice but to accept abiogenesis. There is no other option. You are not a neutral observer here. You already have “skin in the game”, so to speak. Theists, on the other hand, would be glad to accept abiogenesis if there were evidence to support it. But there just isn’t.

  20. Tumeyn, I’d like to point out that I’ve been relatively respectful throughout this discourse. I freely admit that chemistry is not my area of emphasis – history is. That being said, when John proclaimed that my position on Jesus’ existence was “fringe”, I simply disagreed with him. Considering my experience in the actual field, and my close relationship with other historians, I could have just as easily called him an idiot, but I didn’t. For that matter, I don’t think that he is.

    In truth, with abiogenesis I am tempted to yield based on your knowledge in the field. It’s difficult to have a discussion with regards to the existence of gods, and everything accompanied with such an argument, without getting outside of one’s field. In fact, I think I scolded John in my first comment for just that. However, I would like to point out that these experiments have been successful and published in multiple journals. Successful to the point that we can demonstrate the process completely? No. Successful without the help of chemists? No. But is it possible given the results of the experiments, specific to RNA? Yes. You admitted as much by including some conditions which allow for positive results.

    Taking all of this into consideration, no matter how you quantify the results, they still amount to more evidence in support of abiogenesis than for creationism. Even if we can only account for 1/100000 of the process, that’s still 1/100000 more than a theist has for creation. If you think differently, point to some conclusive evidence that Yahweh formed Adam out of dirt and breathed life into his nostrils. Where would you even start? The Bible? How do you know it wasn’t Ymir’s arm sweat?

    Furthermore, to exclude theists from bias on this subject is laughable. Theists have repeatedly stood in the way as science progressively explained nature and removed the need for gods. Abiogenesis, in theory, would be the nail in the coffin for theism; but even if we conclusively demonstrate it they will find a different gap to fill.

    I normally don’t get carried away with comments, but this article got under my skin. I suppose John deserves some credit for that.

    John, Wiley and Tumeyn: I appreciate your time. Perhaps we will meet on another article.

    • RL

      My saying your view is on the fringe is not an insult. I am saying that if you believe Jesus never even existed, that view is outside the mainstream view among historians both skeptical and sympathetic to theism. There is far too much tangential non-biblical historical references, in addition to the NT references, which can’t just be dismissed out of hand simply because they are compiled under one cover and attached to the Jewish Bible (OT). If Jesus never existed it makes no sense of the explosion of the Christian movement in the face of persecution in the first century. It makes no sense of the non-biblical references either.

  21. Jason Long says:

    JB,
    What type of church do you attend?

    • The church I would call my ‘home church’ is a Reformed Baptist church, though I do not assent to all reformed theological positions. If you have any other personal questions, I have written a Bio-post and will entertain whatever questions you have.

  22. Jason Long says:

    Sorry – I’m not trying to pry into your personal life. Just trying to pin down your Theology. I’m a little confused what you mean by “home church.” Is that code for you don’t really attend, or you go to a number of churches and like that one the best? If you don’t prefer to answer that on a personal level, then perhaps I can switch gears and ask what you think about church membership. I hadn’t really thought of it until you said the church you consider “home church” is Reformed Baptist. I don’t know what that means.

    • Jason, I don’t consider ot prying, I was just letting you know I did a post about my personal history that might answer a lot of questions. What I mean by home church is that while m not an official member its the church I consider my church.

  23. Jason Long says:

    Why dont you join?

    • Jason

      Because it was pretty much the only option. I’m in New England and here its either that or churches which embrace forms of universalism, women in leadership, homosexuality or some other unbiblical position. Though I’m not sold on all the points of the reformed theology, I do think its not unbiblical.

  24. Culpeper writes: “Taking all of this into consideration, no matter how you quantify the results, they still amount to more evidence in support of abiogenesis than for creationism. Even if we can only account for 1/100000 of the process, that’s still 1/100000 more than a theist has for creation.”

    Very few Christian scholars today think that the first two chapters of Genesis were written as literal accounts. Even fundamentalists such as Billy Graham and Pat Robertson (who I generally disdain) do not take a “young-earth” creationist view.

    Instead, I’ll point you to the Big-Bang. There was initially a great deal of resistance to the idea of a “big bang” because of the distinctly theological implications. (“creation ex-nihilo”) At the time, scientists were hoping for a “steady state” model of the universe, which would support their atheistic worldview. But eventually the science won out – and there is now clear and convincing evidence of the traditional Christian idea of creation (everything, including time and space, came from nothing). I’ve always loved the quote by Robert Jastrow, who was a leading scientist at NASA for many years. He writes “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

    The cosmological argument for God is probably the most powerful “philosophical” argument out there – and its power has been dramatically increased by modern science. Likewise, the teleological arguments for God are powerfully advanced by growing understanding of the complexity of just a single cell and by the amazingly precise balance of physical constants that allows the universe to even exist.

    Evidence is in the eye of the beholder. Looking for physical evidence that “proves” the existence of God is kindof like asking for physical evidence to prove that my wife loves me. Love isn’t physical – therefore there is no physical proof. However, you can ask if the evidence is CONSISTENT with the idea that she loves me. Likewise, we can ask if the available evidence is CONSISTENT with a creator-God. (and I think the answer is a resounding YES)

  25. Jason Long says:

    I guess the only thing I could say to that is – you will probably never find a church where you agree with every last point of doctrine. However, membership to a local body is important. When you are in the desert – sometimes it doesn’t matter how dirty the water is to you. Its still good for you.

  26. Haha, you remind me of Ann Coulter, or maybe just a right wing version of Bill Maher. A political circus clown.

    • Holden

      snide comments like this do nothing to make yourself sound smart. I’m guessing youre one of these incorrigible Atheists who cannot be taught. No matter how many times your complaints are shown to have inaccuracies or misrepresentations, you continue to use them, huh.

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