Whereas I am not finished, yet finished blogging on this, I will no longer be posting here.
On the debate…feel free to comment or message, and we may engage…
In the meanwhile I will be blogging sporadically on my new blog of no particular aim: viewtheocean.blogspot.com
Amongst the first questions, if not the very first, on religion given is nearly always evolution. This seems to be a trump card of THEM. And even amongst non-committed atheists, this is a major issue.
Scientists have a lot more credibility, towards whom theists and deists need to be apologetic towards, as opposed to the other way around. Why? That is another question for another time.
Here I want to explore its centrality in the debate. Why does it seem to universally revolve or come down to this?
Religion is a vast field of knowledge. It encompasses everything from natural sciences (albeit in a categorically non-scientific manner, more absolute) to psychology. From government to philosophy and ethics. Pedagoguery to history. And so many other fields.
In the context of religion as a whole, the creation story occupies but a tiny part, a fairly irrelevant part to religion as a whole. In fact I could probably guarantee that not a SINGLE sane person in the world bases their belief in God on the creation story. They believe in the creation story BECAUSE they believe in God, not the other way around.
I personally find it to be a minor detail in the perspective of the whole thing. So people came from monkeys and evolved into people. So? That isn’t why I believe, so it doesn’t subtract from my faith.
In every field of knowledge there will be parts that don’t seem to add up yet they do.
Here is an example: 1=1 right? Well, mathematics also has proven that .999~=1 precisely, not approximately. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/0.999…) Yes, it doesn’t add up (pun intended), yet it is true and accepted.
Truth does not need to be known or understood to be truth.
So why does it seem to be important?
Probably because most people assume that the beginning of knowledge of God is the knowledge that he created this world. In fact that to many IS the definition God; The Creator.
And if we can prove that the given STORY of creation is wrong than the purported author or revealer of that particular story is not God.
To me that is ridiculous. But I do see how others can think along that track.
The spell check device on my blog seems to be corrupted, and even when I try to correct it, it only becomes worse. So please do not judge me based on grammar/spelling as they have not been gone over yet
Thank you for your patience.
(Please note that this post is quite dogmatic, and that it demonstrates mainly from only one point of view on the religious side as I do not know enough on this issue to debate from theirs, or their views are narrower,and therefore included already in the points made here)
One of the concerns maintained by some atheists is the Bible’s bad morals.
They maintain that the Bible is bloodthirsty and misogynistic. etc etc.
These are the same people that say morality’s beginning is from within humanity. People on their own devised morality. This is possible but in the realms of unlikely. One of the first things humans do is self-preservation, even at the cost of the group and future (excepting immediate groups and progeny). Seen SAW I-V, anybody
By nature we seem to be at best utilitarian.
Now the thing with human morality is, as is often noted and argued, is that it is not set in stone. It can change according to circumstances. Red light in the night is a fine example.
You are driving at two in the morning, you are rushing toget home to go to sleep. You are stuck at a red light. There are no cars or people for miles around. Do you go or stop?
In theory, if not practice, logic will tell you to go. The red light is there to control traffic and to preserve safety. Both of these issues are irrelevant at this time and place.
Morality to a higher authority, in theory if not practice, tells you that the law is law, and it does not matter if the reasoning for the law is not applicable at the moment, it simply is, and therefore must be obeyed.
Some cops follow the first and will not ticket you (albeit, they most probably pull you over and warn you), however, they are by law supposed to ticket you. And most people agree with that.
So, by the “theist”; we have immutable morality, even when its purpose is unapparent. Whereas THEY have an moral outlook that is more subjective. Especially drifting with our social mores and ideas.
There are advantages to both sides. To theists, morality will ultimately triumph and will not waver, whereas humanist morals will change over time. What will happen if our society devolves into immoral behaviour? Will morality devolve with it, in humanistic terms? Or will it stand the test of time of religion?
Theistic morality? Gays out…? Stoning in…? Doesn’t sound moral to me.
There are several answers to this question. Together, I believe it covers the whole gamut of Orthodox Jewish Morality, of which I am an adherent to, and therefore only apologetic for it.
There is a) WE interpreting and understanding God’s morals; b) God GUIDING our morals; c) Accepting that some understanding may be beyond our comprehension and/or beyond our society’s short-sightedness; andd) or c2) Accepting that we don’t understand the full ramifications beind it.
a) How WE interpret the words can be extremely subject to personal skewing.
“Eye for an eye”; today sounds cruel and unusual (Though I am not against corporal punishment, more on that in another post). Two and a half thousand years ago, this was a very light punishment, even laughable (Especially when considering the sliding scale punishment based on status and value of the defendant).
This is a case of society changing its values.
The Rabbis in the Talmud however say that the “Eye for an eye” is interpreted as “(the value of an) eye for an eye” Monetary compensation. Pretty harmless and “moral” (In fact the Talmud was about 2000 years ahead of the game (perhaps more) in awarding a victim FIVE different types of compensation: Principal; Pain; Medical: Worker’s: Embarrassment. This type of consideration for a victim did not even BEGIN to appear until well into the twentieth century(http://is.gd/tV4b) This interpretation follows strict rules of interpretation as handed down via tradition from Moses, and is held by Orthodox Judaism to be as sacrosanct and canonical as the Torah itself. (For those who believe that the interpretation only began later, and that the original Jews kept the Torah as it would be LITERALLY translated, just hang in there a few paragraphs.)
Two-thousand years ago, this punishment may not only have been deemed light, but downright IMMORAL, “a violent person ONLY pays money, why, there is no real incentive to not commit these acts of violence! Society will degenerate into lawlessness and anarchy!”
In our modern society it would be analogous to a murderer having only to do community service for a month-Outrageously immoral.
Yet the Torah and its Rabbis were ahead of the game, knowing that society will still stand, lawfulness will be abided. And it did.
This shows that the Torah’s morals as CORRECTLY interpreted are fine.
Well, this works for the most part. What about sacrifices? Even the interpretations allow sacrifices. Yet we know this to be completely immoral. A NATURAL MORAL (see chart above).
What about those of us who are skeptical of the dogmatic history of interpretation? What about that the Torah ORIGINALLY said that "Eye for an eye" meant so literally?
So, we then have b.
b) GUIDING the morals. Rambam, an eleventh century philosopher (http://is.gd/tV4u) says regarding the sacrifices, which at that time were already seen by society as immoral, that the Jewish nation is meant to be one step ahead of the game at all times in morals. At a time when human sacrifice was the norm, Jews were told to ONLY perform animal sacrifices. When society caught up with us and condemned human sacrifices, God destroyed our temple so that we could no longer offer up animal sacrifices. And so on… We are to be one ahead, so that the nations may learn from there example, and the Jewish people can be a “Light unto the nations.”
A light, but not a blinding one, not too far ahead, so that they may learn.
Stoning people as well, when the time come for it to no longer be (considered) moral, God creates a situation where the “new” morality will exist by default. We no longer have established court systems that will administer these punishments, nor do Jews have the impetus to set up a system. In fact at at least six times in history when this was attempted, they failed and were hotly contested by many of prominent Rabbis of the time (http://is.gd/tVdP).
Alternatively, as society progresses, so does our morality (post to come on the question whether empirically immoral actions now were ALSO immoral then, just condoned or whether the ACTUAL morality changed over time). Using set rules of interpretation on an irrevocable foundation (Torah) so that we don’t fall off the edge (slippery slope). This CHANGE has always been part of Traditional Judaism, the argument within it however is whether it was active or organic (This is the main ideological/theological difference between Conservative and Orthodox Judaism. (see Wrestling with God and men, By Rabbi Steven Greenberg, on the possibility of people actively re-interpreting moral law to coincide and exist within modern societal views of morality.))
One may argue that this then is quite indistinguishable from humanist morality which as stated above is subject to change.
This is a valid argument, and to answer this, let us break it up.
In the first instance that we stated, where it is through God that there is a situational change which re-invents our morality, then we have quite simply that morality is still run by God, which is the “source of all morals,” and therefore still in-step with “superior” knowledge of what morality is and should be.
In the second, then, yes, it does change, but it changes only WITHIN the guidelines as set forth by the Torah and its rules. Meaninig that the perephirels change, but the basis remains immutable.
The example for that would be back in the "Eye for an eye" example, the basis being that one must be reperated for damages done to them, and it must be equal andfair punishment. three-thousand years ago, it was literal andcorporal, two-thousand years ago it was equateable and only financial.
And how about things that even then would be considered immoral, or at least not of a higher plane within morality?
Clear genocide as dictated by the Torah: Men, women, children even the LIVESTOCK! How can one say that this comes from a MORAL God!? (as an aside, the question of genocidal commandments is perhaps one of the greatest challenges to my personal beliefs)
So here we come to c) which (nominally, for me) answers this.
It seems on the surface to be immoral, however, God knows more than us (It should also be noted that many a Rabbi have pointed out that this is one of the commandments that were “phased” out by God (see above b)) through natural events and changing society).
This answer may seem to be a cop-out on the surface, yet it is more layered than that.
Let us take a look at the verses regarding the treatment of Egyptians: http://is.gd/tVKx "Do not hate the Egyptian for you were a forogeinr in his land."
Do not HATE the Egyptian!? He enslaved you for two-hundred and ten years, he killed your sons. etc.!
This shows remarkabe; restraint, nay, kindness towards a bitter enemy, simply because of the act of hospitality (during which most of the time the nation were enslaved).
So the Amalekites also mistreated the Israelites, and with that had no kindness to show for it. So the Torah should simply command hatred, surely not death!
Logic must follow (atheists will say this simply proves the absurdity of the Torah/Bible, yet most people could agree that the book has slightly more depth and genius than your average read, or even philosphical work) that certainly they have done SOMETHING to deserve this retribution and ultimate hatred.
What it is, I do not know.
But I do know that it is something.
God is keeping someting from us.
Then there is c2)
What is the difference? c) is an immoral commandment. c2) is an immoral RESPONSE to a valid commandment.
c) Is "blot out the name of Amalek."
c2) Is if you eat unkosher, you get whipped 39 times. Or work on Shabbat (Saturday), you get stoned to death.
What the what is it anyone’s business what I eat. It doesn’t harm anyone. It falls in the category of Man-to-God commandments (as opposed to Man-to-Man commandments) so why is there an earthly punishment by man.
Imagine an a fighter pilot on the USS Enterprise. He is on the deck smoking a cigarette relaxing. It doesn’t bother anyone else. Its his own personal choice to harm himself.
But, hey, isn’t that the fueling station he is leaning against? Aren’t those fumes fuel-laden?
He may think selfishly that he is only endagering himself (cancer etc.) but really he has put the WHOLE boat at risk all 450 million dollars (3.3 billion inflation adjusted) and 4,800 people. And thats excluding the billions of dollars in airplanes and other provisions and stock, the possible potential threat against the US due to the loss of the carrier etc. With untold potential deaths and monetary loss.
He certainly deserves a really harsh punishment, no? (corporal punishment not-withstanding). He doesn’t see beyond his own self and recognize the consequences of his actions, insignificant as those actions may seem, the ramifications are huge.
But there Same, too, dogmatically. God says don’t eat non-kosher. This may seem trivial. But its ramifications are huge.
What those are, I do not know.
I am that pilot.
I do not see beyond myself.
We are that pilot.
Everyone loves debates. We like to think they prove our way of thinking. We like to think we can use them to convince others of the same.
We all know its ludicrous, yet constantly fall prey to it time after time. We tell friends about debates that we had with those of opposing views. We tell friends about others who have debates on those views.
But, really, what are debates for? Does Christopher Hitchens come out to all his debates prepared for the possiblity of having to recant his views? Or even one portion of his views (Major ones, anyways). Does Rush Limbaugh expect from his callers to possibly be convinced to vote democrat?
A debate is generally there not for the debaters but for the watchers. And within the observers themselves, most have already chosen sides long before the debate began. And no matter how well each side debates, those people that have already chosen their side will see “their” debater as being the one who comes out on top, nine out of ten times. And when its that one other time, they will still not change their views by either stating that the debater was a bad one and un-representative of their views, or by saying how the debate was rigged/unfair etc.
Political debates are typically done to convince voters. Then for whom?
Rough numbers will have 30-40% of people will ALWAYS vote republican, and similar numbers democrat. so this leaves 20-40% of people that CAN vote differently, of which 10-20% will lean significantly in one direction or another, and/or will have long ago chosen which candidate they are going to vote for. This leaves about 10-20% voters undecided by the time the debates roll around, which the debate will decide for some of them; perhaps.
Rough numbers: Debates are for about five percent of people.
However, further cutting down those numbers: By politics, these candidates are relatively new. They are not something that people have thought about their whole life. So there are obviously more people who are not yet decided.
But looking at political debate as a whole (republican vs. democrat) or something like religion: More people have spent more time thinking about it. More people are more set in their ways and views.
The thing then is to realize how much this affects your own reasoning and thought.
For myself, I use the above sliding scale. Which if you notice, is quite similar to how the numbers by political debates is broken up.
The coloured lines are as follows: Depending on how CONVINCED or sure of your side of the debate, you will fall in the extreme categories (outside the green dotted line) you are committed to your beliefs, unshakable in your faiths.
Within the green lines, you believe what you believe, but you are not a STRONG believer. You may not be able to be convinced to switch sides, but you won’t call yourself a hardliner, a fundamentalist (for atheism, too).
People in the blue. they are still in the green. 99.9% of people DO identify with a certain group or set of beliefs (or lack thereof) However, these people are unconvinced. Give them a solid argument (or experience [more on that in another post]) and they will switch or affirm their commitments.
Using the same numbers and methodology, (its easy and fun to have a scale that has broad application), I am an unabashed theist. However, I am inquisitive and I search for truth. Even though I believe I already have it.
So what do I do when I am confronted with a challenge. A good one. A logical one.
Do I switch allegiance?
No, of course not.
Does this sound unreasonable?
So how does it work?
When brought a challenge. Lets go somewhere safe: Creationism vs. Darwinism. Darwinism has strong empirical evidence and backing. Creationism; not so much.
So why do I still believe?
Theologians in my religion have “reconciled” the two.
Is it a definitive answer?
WITHIN THE BLUE LINES.
See, on fundamental questions, the answers to the CHALLENGE (as opposed to the original belief, i.e. which side you take in the first place on the debate as a whole, as opposed to in the specific debate of Creationism vs. Darwinism) must be good enough to bring the question back to BASICALLY NEUTRAL.
Non-fundamental questions, such as a seeming contradiction between to random verses. Get it between the greens, its ok. (Though usually those questions are easily put into the areas outside the green, into DEFINITIVE ANSWER area.)
I don’t need to have an answer to a specific challenge that totally rescinds the question. I only need an answer that can be answered, at lest adequately.
Some may say that means to bring the Creationism theory into plausibility, and away from impossibility. Or make an alternative twist to the Darwinist theory that is still tenable, and still allows Creationism to be.
Is this fair?
But it takes two tango.
We all play by these rules.
We just don’t tend to think about it.
One of the most common things I hear from THEM (THEM being atheists) is that religion has brought more evil in this world than any good.
Whilst it is true that many people do use religion as a platform or rationale for evil, it itself is not evil.
Think this way. One very dominant theme amongst THEM is the right to choose your own fate by yourself. (The reasons for this seem to be fairly inter-connected with the idea of atheism, or the choosing of it, itself. I will post a post on that theme soon. Hopefully.) They therefore often tend to congregate on the liberal spectrum of libertarianism (sic, Penn & Teller).
An American obsession (Im a patriotic American). One of the central moralistic (as opposed to the legal, second amendment etc.) reasonings for the permissiveness of guns is that guns are not evil. Guns don’t kill, people do (http://is.gd/rh5D as quoted on http://nra.org).
This means to say that a gun has no inherent evil, it has no choice. The person on the trigger is the one to blame.
Religion isn’t evil. Evil people are evil.
Some people are predisposed towards criminal and evil activity (http://is.gd/rhmI, http://is.gd/rhoB). This is a given. There are criminals in this world. Didn’t you notice? These are rational people. Not stupid ones (necessarily) and they rationalize, even moralize their behaviour. They can even have GOOD reasons (good in theory, obviously not practically. Utilitarianism for one). Yet their behaviour is wrong.
One can argue that the rationale drove them to their criminal acts. Or you can say that they justified themselves post-facto. I think that (for the most part) chose to do bad, and only then do they ascribe a reason, perhaps mosty to themselves, for their acts.
Terrorists are often religious. Their are sociologists and criminal psychologists that try to determine the drive of these people ( http://is.gd/rhtb). They do not tend to be normal. (http://is.gd/rhtb pg. 60:) They tend to be narcissistic, low self-esteem or even psycho/socio-pathic. They then take these qualities and use them, they then try to find justification from wherever; social oppression, jealousy, religion or even in seemingly good causes, i.e. Robin Hood like rationales (communistic terrorists for one, or SLA : http://is.gd/rhx8 ) And worst of all, he has convinced himself of these justifications, he believes that these reasonings are why he does and should do what he does.
Religion is an easy one to choose. Due to its absolutist power and, any translation or interpretation as a requirement to do violence or otherwise is highly irrefutable, immutable and motivational. Mostly believing that your cause comes from a God, which God (in religion) is the creator of morals, which by the very nature of the world calls for some or much misfortune and bad to be, justifies, even morally, evil impulses, for it comes from a quintessential moral being.
Are there a large number of religious genocidal or otherwise bad people? Yes.
Is it a larger percentage against the whole of population versus evil atheists (or non-religiously motivated people)? I think not.
Crusades; Inquisition; Bosnia; Ireland; Middle Eastern/South Asian terrorists: Religious
Stalin; Mao; Hitler; Guevara; Kims (North Korea): Atheist
Rwanda; Sierra Leone; Chad; Burma; Hussein: Tribal/Ethnic
Actually: Numbers-wise atheists win as the most genocidal and murderous group.
Maybe its time to stop blaming religion, and blame the real culprits: Humans. Want to be atheist? Fine. But no need to look for further reason to disbelieve (beyond say, reason by design or reason by moral inquiry).
Essentialy all religions teach good morality. Uprightness, kindness, altruism etc. Providing many people a reason and a basis to be good people. Even to people who would otherwise be evil. Just as it is a strong incentive for some to do evil (ibid), conversely it is also a strong motivator to do good.
There are literally of billions of mainstream believers and adherents to religions of all kinds who genuinely ascribe their good actions and intentions directly and undilutedly from their theistic beliefs. There are hundreds and thousands if not millions of faith-based charities and advocacy groups.
Religion is evil. A scourge to be rid of from this world.